The Sorcerer's Bridebycymry©
Samis was barely able to suppress her scream of terror when her foot caught on a projecting root and she toppled over. She held utterly still, the muscles in her legs screaming in pain, and listened for any sound of pursuit. She'd been running nearly all night now and her body just couldn't take much more. If she didn't lose them soon she would be captured and her flight would have been for nothing. She cursed her own stupidity. If only she'd done as Dunen had asked then she wouldn't be running for her life now. Guilt crashed over her at the thought of her beloved old mentor lying on the side of the King's Road drowning in his own blood. It was her fault he was dead. He'd only been trying to protect her. She wanted to give up, lie down on the carpet of damp forest leaves and give herself over to despair, but she couldn't let them take her so easily. Not after what they'd done to poor Dunen and the two palace guards who'd been escorting them home.
When she was satisfied that they hadn't heard her fall she got quietly to her feet and started forward again. No matter how many times she'd backtracked over her own trail she hadn't been able to lose the bastards. It was as if they could sense where she was no matter how she tried to fool them. Several times she'd been forced to dive through thick briar patches to avoid them. Her face stung from the scratches she'd gotten and her tunic was torn in several places. Not that it had done her a great deal of good anyway, they'd still been able to find her trail again, but it had bought her precious time.
She trotted through the undergrowth at a slow but steady lope, though it cost her dearly to keep even this pace. Just as she was beginning to think she'd finally given them the slip she heard a shout from a few hundred yards behind.
No! She groaned to herself. Not so soon!
She broke into a run, her leg muscles protesting forcefully. She could hear them, calling back and forth to each other as they closed on their prey. They couldn't be just ordinary robbers or they'd have given up hours ago. No. Most likely they were minions of the Black Prince. He wanted her badly for some reason, and was obviously prepared to go to great lengths to get her. Even so far as waylaying an escort of palace guards. It had to be him as no one else but the emperor had that kind of power. And she was beginning to suspect he'd given these men a charm to help them find her. There was no other explanation for their uncanny ability to track her every move.
"There she is. I see her over there."
The grating voice sent shudders down her spine. She'd been spotted and there was nowhere for her to hide now. No more briar patches for her to shelter in. She was tempted to stop then. Just give in and let them take her. But she couldn't make herself do it. Even if the Grey Prince had ordered her capture these ruffians would make her pay for the chase before she was delivered. She was positive that she'd wish for death before they were through with her.
Suddenly a huge form cloaked in shadow stepped from behind a tree right in front of her. She slammed right into his hard chest with a thump. This time she didn't hold back her scream and she was too exhausted to fight anymore. They had won. As the powerful arms lifted her from her feet she let herself fall into blessed unconsciousness.
Samis sensed warmth surrounding her; light bright enough that she could see it through her eyelids. She smelled something cooking nearby and the savory scent made her mouth water. She hadn't eaten anything since morning. She wondered what Dunen was cooking that smelled so enticing, especially since he was a terrible cook. It must be one of the guards, she thought. She wondered why she'd been sleeping when she couldn't even recall having made camp.
The memories hit her all at once, like a clap of thunder. The murdered guards, Dunen gasping his last breath, her headlong flight through the dense Blackweld Forest, and finally her capture. She wondered if they were watching her right now, laughing at her helplessness. She tried to hold still so they would think her still asleep but the horror of her situation overwhelmed her and she started to tremble. The more she tried to calm herself, the more she shook. Her fear built until it was at a screaming pitch and her stomach was starting to turn over violently. She tried to push her fear aside and take what stock she could of her situation. She was wrapped in a warm blanket, laying on something hard. She still had her tunic and breeches though her belt had been loosened. Her pack was gone, but at least her hands were not bound. Maybe they weren't going to torture her after all. She was just working herself up to open her eyes when someone nearby spoke.
"You need not fear. The ones who sought you will trouble you no longer."
This caught her completely by surprise. She'd expected jeering laughter at the very least. This mellow rumbling voice seemed unreal. Giving up the hope that she could fake sleep a little longer she opened one eye to peek at the person attached to that voice. Kneeling a few feet from her was a man, or at least what she thought was a man, wrapped in a black cloak. The hood of the cloak concealed his face but she could tell from his bulk alone that he was enormous. For a moment the fear returned but when he spooned some of the stew he'd been cooking into a rough wooden bowl and held it out to her. She put her fear aside in favor of hunger and sitting up on what she now recognized as a bench of some sort she took the bowl. She put the bowl to her lips and took a few sips without even waiting for it to cool. It burned her mouth horribly but she was so hungry that the pain barely registered.
Her eyes darted around trying to make out were she was in the dim light from the fire. It was apparently a small stone cottage, though where it was located she couldn't say if her life depended on it, which it very well could. The stranger cleared his throat softly and her gaze swung back in his direction.
"You must be hungry. You have slept through the day without waking," the stranger rumbled and Samis thought she could detect a faint trace of amusement.
"Who are you?" She knew she was being rude even as the words left her mouth. The last thing she needed was to anger her captor. Cursing her idiocy she ducked her head and quickly apologized. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound like that. Thank you for the food."
He chuckled, the sound like rolling thunder in the distance, but said nothing as he spooned himself some of the stew. She finished her meal in silence, peeking at him over the rim of her bowl. With his hood hiding his face she couldn't tell if he watched her in return or not. It was an uncomfortable feeling but her instincts told her that she had nothing to fear. Her instincts were usually right though hey hadn't been when she'd decided to press on past that small inn last night. Her fear resurfaced, despite sensing that she was safe now. She'd been wrong before.
"I can understand if you don't trust me. You should not. There is a price for my help," his quiet statement sent a shock through her. How could he stay so maddeningly calm?
"P-p-price?" She stammered. "What price? What will you do to me?"
"I will not harm you, if that is what you fear. No, little dove, I would never harm you."
"What do you want then?" This was too much. Samis just couldn't wrap her mind around what was happening to her. It was just too unreal.
"What is your name, little dove? I have waited all the day through, letting you rest so that you could regain your strength," he reached out a large gloved hand and Samis shrank away until she realized he only wanted to take her empty bowl. She stared at it, realizing for the first time she'd already eaten the whole thing. She shook her head mutely when he offered her more stew with a gesture. "You will take no more? As you wish, little one. Tell me your name."
His quiet words were a subtle compulsion. She answered, unable to do otherwise.
Why had she told him that? It wasn't like her to blithely give out her name especially to men she didn't know who rescued her from murderous thugs for nefarious reasons. Then it donned on her.
"Oh Gods, you're a mancer!" The words were past her lips before she could stop them. She gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth in dread. A mancer! She'd been rescued by a mancer! Talk about jumping from the pot into the fire. A man who could bend others to his will with a thought was much more dangerous than thugs with a location charm. She was truly helpless with him, whereas she could at least have fought the men chasing her. The reality of her situation finally hit home and a groan of despair escaped her throat.
"Yes, I am a master of the forbidden arts, but you need not fear me Samis. That is a truly beautiful name. Samis. It suits you well."
The way he could completely change the subject without seeming too unnerved her. Samis felt more and more that she was trapped in a strange dream, or nightmare. She had yet to find out what he wanted from her. Before she could ask he started to speak again.
"I have watched you from afar Samis, nearly all your life to be honest. Not only are you a beautiful woman, you are very intelligent as well. I suspect also, that you harbor some small gift of magic. I have a great need for one such as you. I had hoped to persuade you to my cause but, alas, you have managed to elude me each time I would speak with you."
As she listened he removed his dark gloves, revealing huge callused hands though strange enough, with neatly trimmed nails. She stared dumbfounded as he then reached up and lifted back his hood. Her breath caught in her throat. He had to be the most handsome man she'd ever seen, in a way. His face was solid, well defined, but sharp. His hair was nearly white, though it did not look as if from age, and his skin was so pail she could almost see a tracery of blue veins underneath. His eyes were an intense blue and he focused on her with staggering forcefulness. Her overall impression of him was of a falcon when it has sighted prey. Shivers ran up and down her spine. She was so enthralled by his appearance that she nearly missed what he said next.
"If the emperor's cutthroats hadn't come for you in the exact place they did I might never have had the chance at all. It is a sign I would think."
"What do you mean the Emperor's cutthroats? I had thought them sent by the Black Prince. Emperor Augastine had just offered me his protection. He sent two of his own personal guard to escort us," Samis couldn't believe it. I just wasn't possible.
"I speak the truth. They were the emperor's men. What are two palace guards to one such as him? For our beloved emperor the life of an innocent is a small thing, not worth his attention. I am surprised that you did not realize this yourself."
"Dunen warned me. Why didn't I listen to him? He was my mentor, my trusted friend. I've never brushed off his advice like that before. What was I thinking? And now my stupidity has cost him his life. Oh what a fool am I!"
She was a fool. Now that her strange benefactor had said it aloud she knew it was the truth. Her special instinct, the one that lay deep inside, told her she had been deceived by Augustine.
"Do not feel you have failed dear Samis. You simply had a compulsion laid on you. That is why you did not listen to your mentor. It was no fault of your own. Augustine is a treacherous man. Now you have some idea of what he is capable, why I have set myself against him."
If anything his gaze became even more intense as she pondered his words. This obviously powerful mancer had set himself against the emperor? Only one man had the power to defy Augustine and he was the Black Prince. Samis began to tremble.
"Ah, I see you understand now who I am. Do you still believe me an evil demon?"
She wanted too, more than anything, but her gift was always doing that to her. She could never deny that inner truth. It always managed to strip her of her certainties when she least expected it. She wanted to scream in frustration, all this time she'd been hiding from the wrong man. But he still had not told her why he wanted her so badly. She took a deep breath and asked him, point blank.
"Why do you want me? I'm asking for the truth, I will know if you lie."
"I would never lie to you Samis, for I would have at least trust between us."
She didn't speak again. She wouldn't until he'd told her once and for all what he wanted. When he saw her jaw stiffen in resolve he sighed.
"I had hoped to have some time to gain your affection but it is now far too late for that. There is little time left now and I dare not delay any more. I need a child Samis. I want you to bear that child. That is what I would have from you for saving your life. It is a high price, but know this, I do not ask lightly."
Samis nearly fell over with shock. A child? From her? She didn't understand why it must be her. Surely there were many women willing to give him what he wanted. Why her? But she knew from the way he was looking at her that if she did not agree he would force her anyway. With a sinking feeling she realized she had no choice. He would have his way, no matter weather she was willing or not.
"I am truly sorry. I had not meant for us to meet in this way. I would rather you had felt some affection for me first, though now time grows short and I have not that luxury. I must have a child of my blood by mid-winter and to do so you must quicken with my seed by the next moon."
She couldn't bring herself to speak. Too many things were whirling through her head to allow for words. Numb with shock she could only stare at him. Then it began to sink in what they would have to do for her to get with child and she became distinctly aware of him in a new way. Shivers ran up her spine again, though now for a different reason altogether. She'd never lain with a man before. Dunen had explained to her the ways of a man and woman years ago, but she'd never been interested in anyone like that. No one had ever struck that chord in her, though many had tried. Now she was going to have to be intimate with a man she barely even knew. She glanced at him and the power of his presence took her breath away. She started to tremble again.
"Why me?" she whispered the question, barely able to get even that much out.
"I have already said you are beautiful, though of course that is not the only reason. I also admire your intelligence and wit. But most of all you have the truthsayer's gift. Combined with my powers your gift will make our child a mighty sorcerer. One powerful enough to break Augustine's death grip on this land. That is my goal, though I would hope that you could come to feel something for me as well. I am lonely Samis. I desire the companionship you could provide. You may even grow to love me in time, if you allow for it in your heart."
He stood then, and with a feline grace removed his dark cloak. His breeches were black as well but he wore a simple white tunic wrapped around his wide chest and held fast with a thick leather belt. The clothes were simple, yet finely made. Her first impression had been right. He was enormous though she could tell from the way he moved not an ounce of it was fat. He stood at least six feet tall and his wide shoulders rippled with muscle. She felt light headed just looking at him. She was certain he could crush her without much effort. He was easily the biggest man she'd ever seen. His size coupled with his sheer presence set her heart to thudding painfully in her chest.
He had said she was beautiful, but she'd always though herself to be a little on the plump side though her own tall stature for a woman lessened some of her curves. She was five foot six, very tall compared to most other females she'd met. His towering height made her feel somewhat like a child. He held a hand out to her and without thinking she took it. His palm was rough but warm. As he helped her to her feet she caught his scent. He smelled of good dark earth mixed with a hint of something musky that she didn't recognize. It was a good scent, decidedly male, and it made her stomach flutter as if she'd swallowed a hand full of butterflies. She hazarded a glance at his face and was caught by his intense blue stare. Those eyes had a power of their own, unrelated to his sorcery. Unable to look away now that she was trapped in that stare she didn't notice that he'd pulled her close until she felt his hand at the small of her back.
"I am truly sorry Samis. I would that we had more time to become accustomed to one another but I dare not wait," with that he leaned down and captured her mouth in a kiss. His lips barely brushed hers but it still made her knees weak. Without moving away he murmured. "I will be gentle, I promise. If you relax, and do not fight me, I will give you pleasure as well."
His deep voice rumbled through her setting off an answering chord deep in her belly. The fog on her senses lifted and she became painfully aware of his huge hand at her back, of his face so close that his breath stirred a loose lock of hair across her cheek. His breath was warm, almost hot and the tingling in her stomach spread to other regions of her body. She started to speak but he kissed her again. This time with more force and she completely forgot what it was she was going to say. She closed her eyes, lost in the sensation of his full lips pressed firmly to hers.
His free hand cupped her face while the one at her back began to trail softly up and down. The intimacy of the touch made her gasp. He took that as a sign of acceptance and slid his tongue over her quivering lips deep into the warm softness of her mouth. A moan nearly escaped her at the sensations this provoked. With a shock she realized that she wanted what he was doing to continue. She'd never had these feelings with any other man. There had been a few who had kissed her before but they had been clumsy attempts that left her feeling a little queasy. No so now. This man's touch had almost an intoxicating effect on her.
She relaxed into his embrace, letting her body mold to his as the hand on her back trailed down again. This time it didn't stop at the small of her back but continued down to lightly cup her round buttocks. This sent sharp thrills through her body and she shuddered, encouraging him further. His other hand left her face to trail softly down her neck leaving fiery tracks in its wake. This time she did moan, deep in her throat.
Her moan had a pronounced affect on him. He pulled her tightly to him and broke off his deep probing kiss to move his lips along the line of her jaw with a rumbling growl. He took her ear lobe into his mouth and sucked on it gently. The feeling of his hot mouth on such a sensitive place was almost more than Samis could take. She placed her hands on his chest, splaying her fingers out across the hard muscle, making soft noises of encouragement.
He pulled away from her and a feeling of utter loss overwhelmed her. She opened her eyes to find him staring at her with a look that shook her completely. It was desire, that special intuition she had screamed it at her. He desired her and it only made her want him that much more. She leaned forward to kiss him again but he gently held her back.
"Do you come willingly to my bed? I must know before we go further."
His face searched hers looking for something she couldn't define. She could barely get the answer out, but answer him she did.
"I am willing,"
He grinned fiercely and it transformed his sharp features completely. He truly was the most handsome man she'd ever seen. Suddenly he scooped her up into his arms, earning a startled squeak from her.
"Then, my lady, let us retire."