Waking the Dragon Ch. 06byBelle_in_south©
The sun filtered through the window as it crested over the cliffs as Bane finished reliving her story. The girl slept close to Bane, calmly tucked against the warrior's side. Bane dropped a kiss on the girl's head and untangled herself from the blankets and walked over to the balcony, peering over the grounds. She wanted to rescue the girl. Bane knew about having her freedom snatched. She had seen her mother-figure, her best friend, her teacher, and her lover turned into a slave. Bane had been unable to rescue Nyte. She had been too weak. Now, she was strong. She could save the Princess from this life, but first she had to save the King.
Along the cliffs, a solider picked his way through the narrow path toward the entrance of the same cave she had watched yesterday. He carried a full sack and disappeared into the yawning mouth of darkness.
Soft lips touched her back and a warm arm snaked around her waist. She sighed softly, leaning into the caress. Teeth scraped against her earlobes, sending delicious sensations radiating through her body. She turned her head toward the teasing embrace, her lips parted as she attempted to reach the girl. The girl met her halfway, pressing her mouth and body into the warrior. Bane turned, holding the girl's face in both of her hands so she could deepen the kiss. Bane sucked lightly on the girl's upper lip before sliding her tongue into the welcoming mouth. The girl closed her mouth around the invading tongue as it explored. It tickled lightly behind her teeth, sparking shivers in her body.
The warrior left the Princess's mouth, moving over her cheek and gliding down her neck. She encountered the metal collar circling the girl's throat and growled low in frustration. She pulled back, eyeing the band of silver. She worked her fingers over it, searching for a clasp. "I want this off when I make love to you, Princess," she grumbled.
"It's solid," the Princess answered, closing the short distance between them. She put her arms around Bane's shoulders, her pert breasts pressed against the warrior's. She bowed her head, her rough tongue circling Bane's nipples. Bane moaned softly, holding the back of the Princess's head to keep the warm mouth in place. The girl opened wide, covering as much of the firm flesh of Bane's breast as she could. Her lips massaged lightly as her tongue rubbed over the nipple. Teeth scraped against sensitive flesh causing Bane to release a soft sound of pleasure.
Bane remained steady for as long as she could. She closed her eyes and ran her fingers over the Princess's soft flesh. The girl's mouth was hungry as it focused on the warrior's supple breast. The girl's tongue created such a strong stirring in Bane's body that she could no longer tolerate the teasing, swirling instrument. The warrior pulled away, holding the girl's upper arms with her strong fingers. She pushed, effortlessly tossing the slight girl onto the bed. Bane followed immediately, straddling the girl as she crawled onto the soft mattress. Her mouth traced the girl's nipples and danced down her ribcage. The warrior's strong arms pushed beneath the girl's thighs, opening her nether lips to the Dragon's hot mouth. She teased and prodded, avoiding the girl's swollen nub. The tip of her tongue circled it, but did not touch. The girl twisted, trying to bring herself into contact with the skipping probe.
The girl was whimpering as she struggled, her hips moving in a constant motion as Bane continued to tease playfully. Bane anticipated each movement of the girl and managed to counter it. Soon, the Princess was breathlessly begging for release. Bane continued her torment, pausing at the bud, flicking it, pressing it, and then moving away. The pleasure inside the girl built with each touch. She squirmed and moaned, her insides tightening in anticipation. Bane waited until she thought the girl could tolerate no more. The Princess's body was flushed and tense with anticipation as Bane focused her attention fully on the nub. She began lapping roughly on it, not wavering from the spot. Her tongue rubbed it, swirled over it, and brushed it. Her teeth scratched and bit. Her lips massaged. The Princess cried out as wave after wave of pleasure washed over her.
The Dragon suddenly stopped her relentless attack, extending herself above the girl. Her face was focused on something other than the Princess. The girl reached up, trying to draw the warrior back into her arms. Bane pulled away, sitting up beside her lover. "I know where your father is."
The Princess sat up, her eyes wide with surprise. Bane thought she saw a glimmer of hope in the slave's expression. "What?"
"I know where your father is." Bane went to the balcony and looked at the cliffs again, her eyes finding the cave where the soldier had disappeared. Her mind immediately began formulating a plan.
"What are you going to do?" the girl demanded.
"I don't know," she stated, turning away from the window and looking at the small woman in her bed. "Somehow, I'll free him, and then I'll come for you. There is a dagger in the Queen's chamber. I hid it in the cushions of the settee. When the time is right, use it."
"How will I know the right time?" she questioned, her brows drawn together.
"When you remember your name," the warrior whispered. Bane sat down on the end of the bed, taking the girl's hand and kissing her fingers as she thought of her answer. "You must wait at least twenty-four hours. I have to have time to free your father and get him to a safe place. What will the reaction be here when they discover that he is missing?"
"They'll go crazy. No one has defied Matayla since she took the throne from my father. There will be no question that you did it."
"Will Matayla take out her anger on you?"
The Princess lowered her eyes, not wanting to hinder Bane's strategy. If the warrior was concerned about her, the Dragon might falter in her attempt to free the King. "Yes," she finally answered, unable to lie to her lover. Bane sat back, thoughtfully rubbing her chin. The Princess pushed forward, gripping Bane's hand tightly. "I'm tough. She can't hurt me."
"My brave girl," Bane muttered, reaching up to caress the Princess's face. "She can hurt you, and that would hurt me."
"Free my father," the girl pleaded. "Don't worry about me. I would rather die and know that he is free. If you can free him, then Matayla can be defeated. The people will rally behind my father. They will rebel against her. Lead them well, my love."
Bane roughly gripped the girl's shoulders, pulling the small body against her for a long, hard, rough kiss. Bane broke the kiss with force, stepping out of arm's reach of the girl. The warrior turned her attention to the wolf as she finished gathering her belongings. "What about you?"
The wolf looked at Bane. The animal had been the warrior's companion for many years. The wolf had fought alongside the Dragon and nursed the warrior when necessary. The animal went to the Princess's side, laying her soft muzzle in the woman's lap. The girl ran her hands over the gray fur. Bane chuckled softly. "Traitor," she grumbled good-naturedly. Bane shifted her eyes to the girl. "I'll go now, before the whole palace is up."
"Please, be careful," the Princess pleaded, pausing her stroking of the wolf's head to scratch behind the pointed ears.
Bane nodded, staring at her lover as she stood at the doorway. She felt the pain of the words they did not speak, but she could not bring herself to express the deep emotions burning inside her heart and gut. With a deep breath, the warrior left the room, cautiously moving out of the palace. She raced across the open courtyard and faded into the tree line while the girl watched from the window. The girl offered a prayer to Dracona for her lover before returning to the bed. She decided to lay there until Matayla came for her. She wouldn't face the Queen until she was forced to do so. She didn't want to have to face her tormentor while she was worried about Bane. She didn't want to give anything away. She felt confident that she could feign ignorance but she didn't want to test that theory until she absolutely had to.
Bane crept among the trees as she neared the path leading to the caves, her eyes darting between the trail above her and the palace. She used the window from her bedroom for a reference point and didn't allow herself to admit that she hoped to see the Princess there watching. The girl had disappeared as soon as the warrior had slipped into the brush. Bane used her ears to tell her if there was any danger. Once she reached the cliffs, there would not be many places to hide. Her sword rested comfortably against her spine. She could have it and her shield in her hands in the blink of an eye, but she still gripped a rapier in her right hand. Her left hand trailed along the rocks as she moved.
She paused as she reached the entrance of the path to the caves. She knew from watching the soldier that the trail meandered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to draw the map in her head. She would help no one if she became lost on the escarpment. With the picture in her head, she began the slow ascent up the path. She still used the palace as a marker but she no longer thought of the girl. She paused behind every outcropping of rocks to search the path ahead of her and review the path behind. She weaved along the track, barely breathing as she focused on her task.
When the entrance to the cave came into view, she knelt behind a large boulder, watching the dark, yawning cavern. She closed her eyes again, pulling herself into a single focus. She imagined the inside of the grotto. It would be dark after twenty-five feet. The sun was not at an angle that would penetrate deep inside the prison. There would be firelight wherever the guard was stationed. He would not be expected to sit at his post in the dark. That would benefit her. She could lurk in the shadows and access the situation. For the guard, this was grunt duty. He wouldn't be the best fighter in Matayla's army. He would be bored and annoyed at being assigned this task. He would be unprepared to face a challenge. No one who had drawn this duty had ever had to defend his post.
Bane tried to picture beyond the guard. She wanted to see where the King was held but she couldn't draw the image in her mind. She wanted to be in and out quickly. She tried to penetrate the darkness of the cave but did not see anything beyond the guard.
She twirled the grip of the rapier in her hand before tightening her fingers. She didn't want to have to battle the guard. If the rapier could do the job, she could move much quicker. She lifted her eyes to the sky. The sun was high in the sky. She didn't need to pull the King out until darkness descended. She didn't want to risk anyone from the palace seeing them. Her eyes swept the distant walls, wondering if she had already been spotted by Matayla's men.
She also knew the guard had just changed. She had time now to get the King someplace safe without someone new checking the prison. With a deep breath, she stepped into the cave, hugging the wall as she moved toward the darkness. The cave branched and she paused, searching both dark hallways with her senses. The guard was on the left branch. She turned to study the right path. She felt a breeze flowing from that direction. She dismissed it and crept down the left hall, moving as quietly as possible. One wrong scuffle would alert the guard of her presence.
When the first flickering glow of the guard's fire began dancing along the wall, Bane stopped again. The guard was sitting at a table lit by candles. His arms were crossed and his head hung forward as he dozed. Bane turned the rapier till she gripped the blade. Her eyes measured the steps to the guard before she flicked her wrist and sent the weapon sailing through the air.
The guard heard the whistling noise and lifted his head, turning toward the sound. The sharp point landed between his eyes. Bane's body was following the spinning knife, her sword raised. A half second after the tip of the rapier embedded itself into the guard's young brain, the sword slashed through his tunic and chest. He collapsed onto the table, blood pooling into the floor at his feet. Bane pulled the knife free as she walked through the light. She grabbed a candle and marched toward the darkness.
"Who's there?" a rough voice called out as the circle of light moved forward. The warrior remained silent as she stepped toward the voice. The glow fell on bars. A man stood pressed against the metal. He squinted and blinked rapidly as he adjusted to the sudden light. "Who are you?"
"I am a friend of your daughter's, your Highness." Bane bent to study the lock, and then quickly walked back to the guard's station to find a key. It was clipped to the guard's belt. Bane yanked it free and moved back to the King's cage.
"My daughter is alive?" he breathed quietly as Bane worked the skeleton key in the rusty lock. The door swung open and the King stepped into freedom. "Take me to her," he demanded eagerly.
Bane swung the candle, examining the cave. The cage stretched across a dead end. Bane directed the light to the man. He was pale and his hair was a dignified salt and pepper. She had expected him to be slim and shattered, but he still had a healthy build across his chest and in his arms. The King had not wasted his time in captivity. "Let's go," she ordered, not giving him the answers he desired.
The King stopped as they walked by the guard. His expression did not change as he regarded his tormentor. "Your Highness," Bane said. "We do not have much time."
"We have plenty of time, Dragon," the King said. "Where is my daughter?"
"She is a prisoner, too. I have to get you to safety before I can go for her. Please, sir, let's move."
The King nodded, taking another candle from the table and stepping passed Bane. Bane frowned but followed. They reached the branch and the King examined the walls of the cave in the flickering light. "This way, Dragon," the King ordered, taking the right branch instead of heading toward the exit. "I explored these caves as a child. I knew them as well as I knew my own home. This will take us away from the palace."
Bane trailed the King, pleased that the man's mind had not deteriorated in his confinement. They moved in silence, winding deeper and deeper into the cavern. The King paused periodically to choose paths. He moved the candle along the walls. Bane didn't know what the King was seeking, but she didn't question his decisions. The Dragon rarely put her trust in others, but the King knew what he was doing. The caves wound deep into the bowels of the cliffs. The warrior lost all track of time. When they finally stepped out of the darkness, noon had passed. The sun had started its descent behind the cliffs. The palace was a distant dot on the horizon. The King looked to the warrior. "It's up to you now," he said in his gravelly voice. "I am free. Go to my daughter."
"You are not safe, your Highness." The warrior's eyes searched the landscape. The path looked clear so they moved easily toward the Forest. They skirted the village, moving quickly and effortlessly. The King now trusted his rescuer, following without question through the trees and brush. They marched around fields and crossed the dirt road.
The field still smoldered as they neared Roane's property. The warrior signaled for the King to wait as they came closer to the warm house. Gwen spotted the Dragon before the warrior could hail the family. She was on the porch sweeping and when she saw Bane crossing the barnyard, she threw her broom down and ran forward. "Dragon! You came back! I knew you would!" She wrapped her arms around the warrior, tears shining in her eyes.
Bane allowed the girl to hug her but did not return the embrace. Roane emerged from the barn. His steps faltered for a moment as his quick, tired eyes scanned the scene. Gwen pulled away, frowning at the warrior who had shown so much tenderness in her bed just a few nights before. Bane saw the farmer making his way across the yard to the trio, his face stern. "Welcome, Dragon. Have you changed directions?"
"Nay," Bane replied. "My friend needs a safe place to rest, a warm meal, and a change of clothes. Can you help us?"
Roane shifted his steely grey eyes to the pasty old man. His clothes were worn thin and a thick, knotted beard hung to the middle of his chest. "It also looks as if you would borrow a razor."
"I would be grateful for your assistance, Sir," the King responded without revealing his identity. "Anything you can do would be appreciated."
Roane shifted his attention back to the warrior. "I owe the Dragon much. Gwen, have your mother prepare for our guests." For a moment, no one moved. "Go, daughter," Roane ordered, his eyes not wavering from the Dragon's face. Gwen whimpered but gathered her skirts and ran into the house. "How much before my debt is repaid, Dragon?"
"This will be a price you will be glad to pay, Roane," the Dragon assured. Bane turned to the King. She gripped his arm and steered him toward the house. Roane returned to the barn. "I think it is best that we keep your identity a secret until we have dealt with Matayla. When I have conquered her, you can announce your presence to the entire world and reclaim your throne."
"I don't care about the throne, Dragon. I want Lara to be with me. Promise me that you'll free her."
"Lara," Bane muttered with a dreamy smile. "Your daughter's name is Lara?"
"I thought she was your friend."
"She is," Bane assured, coming back to her stoic self. "I need to know everything you know about Matayla and the castle grounds in order to best plan Lara's rescue."
The King stared into the distance, but the warrior knew he wasn't seeing Roane's fields and the surrounding Forest. He was looking at the past. "I often wished that Matayla had just killed us. Instead, she broke us. She forced us to watch as she allowed her soldiers to take Lara. My wife died of a broken heart. They separated me from Lara. It was torture. They took me to the dark cave. I wanted to die, but they wouldn't let me." He shook his head. "No, Dragon, it is too dangerous. You must rescue Lara and flee. No one can defeat Matayla alone."
The backdoor flew open and young Jem burst onto the porch, calling for his father. He stopped halfway down the steps, turning to look at the duo standing at the railing. "Dragon, thank goodness you are here. The Queen has gone mad! She has ordered every building to be burned. Her troops are already marching toward the village with torches."
"The people will follow a good leader, Dragon," the King assured. "You can rally them and lead them to victory."
"I will fight alongside you!" Jem exclaimed. "The people are ready for Matayla to be gone."
Bane looked at the King. "I will go with you," the man insisted.
"No. You must stay here where you are safe. I am not a leader. I'm a warrior. I can lead in battle, but the people will need someone to lead the kingdom."
Bane walked down the steps to meet Roane as the old man emerged from the barn. "I will need a horse."
In moments, Bane raced across the fields on a gray steed. Jem followed, determined to show the Dragon that he was a capable warrior. As they galloped toward the palace, villagers watched their passing. Men grabbed their courage and followed, some on horseback and some carrying weapons, but all determined to reclaim the kingdom from Matayla.
The band met Matayla's troops in the village as the butcher shop and blacksmith's forge burned around them. Bane gave a rallying cry and chaos erupted, the villagers pulling troops from their mounts, wrestling weapons free, and driving the sharp blades into their enemies. The angry mob pushed the Guard until the soldiers fled in terror.