Claiming an Ally Ch. 06


His straining body relaxed on top of her, and her own climax had begun to subside. She felt the reeling pleasure slowly bring her down, landing her softly in his arms. The world of thoughts began to gradually form once again. She lie, with her arms still around him, her finger tips softly caressing the exhausted muscle under them. She had allowed him to fuck her again, and while that particular need was sated, she found there were others. She exulted in the feeling of him at her finger tips, to touch him, tenderly, lovingly.

It was not some minutes afterwards that she realized she was struggling to breathe. The giant man of stone lying atop her, while pleasant in feeling, was slowly crushing her. She pushed at him with all her strength, managing to nudge him up. His sleeping form responded by rolling over, freeing her at last.

She laid uncovered, panting in the cold dark. The sweat from their amorous activity evaporated from her skin, causing goose bumps to form, sending a shiver racing through her. She looked over at the king who was in a similar state. Though, he probably needs to cool off, she mused. She quickly got out of the bed and redressed in her nightgown. She stoked the fire back to life and laid herself on the large fur in front of it.

She watched the flickering, deep in thought. With her sexual needs met, some normalcy of thought returned. Good lord! she moaned, I just raped him!

Surely not. He was the one that initiated it. He was the one caressing you, remember? You even tried to get away but he overpowered you. It isn't wrong that you stayed to enjoy it.

Yes, but he's incapacitated! He is so sick he isn't aware of anything, let alone what he is doing!

True, but he always wants sex from you. Sick or not, if you had been lying in that bed he would always try to seduce you.

Regardless, he wasn't culpable. If the roles had been reversed, and I had been overly amorous in my sickened nature, it would not have been honorable if he had taken advantage!

Fine. You took advantage, but only of his own nature. You didn't rape him.

Not fully convinced, but not overly guilty in feeling, she left the subject to other troubling thoughts. Why was she so eager to be close to Edrich, to allow such great intimacies? She wondered if any man would want her now that she was no longer a virgin. What does it matter? The only man I want, wants me, she thought.

She gave a small smile as she thought about the man she wanted. She truly had come full circle from her initial attraction to her justified hatred, to her now joyous desire for him. But where did that leave them?

That familiar fear at losing Edrich was creeping back causing her heart to race.

Perhaps it had been a mistake to give in once again, though she regretted none of it. But she knew it only strengthened the pull he had on her. Not again, she decided.Not until I know his desire for me matches my own. I can't lose my heart if he won't keep it.She sighed, sadden she couldn't join in him in bed. Though she would not leave his side, she wouldn't keep exposing her heart to possible disappointment that would most likely kill her.

Emera stood and walked over to his side. He laid naked, arms strewn out and legs tangled in sheets. She pulled, dislodging the material from around his legs before flinging it into the air, sending it billowing out sail-like to fall silently back down to the bed, covering his body, but not hiding his form. She adjusted his head so he looked more comfortable. She leaned in, running her lips ever so gently over his, bidding him goodnight. She stretched herself out on the large chaise that sat near the fire and drifted to sleep.

Her father found her in the afternoon. She was sitting on a chair next to his bed, her body fallen over onto his mattress, her arms tucked under her head. He approached the charming scene and gently rubbed her shoulder, stirring her awake.

"Emera, my dear, wake up." She sat to with a jolt, her chest heaving from fright.

"Oh, father, you scared me," she chuckled, clasping her hand to her chest. She could feel the thudding of her heart.

"Sorry. How goes it with our guest? Belinda reports he is still having fits?"

"Yes. He woke me this morning, screaming incoherently," she said as she looked at the subject of their discussion. Despite his battle, or perhaps because of it, he was resting peacefully, the look of terror gone from his now placid face. Emera restrained the urge to reach out and stroke his cheek, knowing her father would most likely find it inappropriate.

"I see. Emera, dear, I am very pleased you have been able to make a friend with this man. However, I don't know that it is entirely proper for you to stay here with him...alone, tending to him."

She spoke quietly as she continued to look at the man she wished nothing was improper between them. "He saved my life. He is sick, because of me, because he fought for me. He killed nearly ten men, father, trying to ensure my safety. I know it may seem untoward, but I cannot leave him, not when I am alive because of him."

Arnold sighed, knowing he would not be able to persuade her away from his side. He let her continue her vigilant care over Edrich with the agreement she would eat with him at dinner. They discussed terms of the treaty and improvement of security for the borderlands.

Through the next two days, Emera attended to Edrich with Belinda's guidance. She ensured he had the broth, washed him from his fever-induced sweat, and comforted him when is nightmares returned. But she never lied next to him again, knowing she was not to be trusted. Edrich had lucid moments when he was able to communicate his thirst or the fact that he was freezing from chills. Emera attended to each need, speaking reassuringly to him that his illness would pass, that he would feel better soon.

Robert and Glenna arrived at the castle early the second morning of Edrich's condition. Robert was brought to the king's chamber, surprised to find the princess sitting on the edge of Edrich's bed, talking soothingly to him. "Please, Edrich. Shh, my love, you are safe." She was stroking his face with a wet cloth, touching him reassuringly. The king was thrashing wildly, screaming out.

"May I be of assistance, your Majesty?" he asked as he approached the disconcerting scene.

Emera looked up in surprise, relief washing over her features. "Robert, you've brought Glenna?" When he nodded, she smiled. "Thank you," she said with meaning. She turned back to Edrich and chuckled, "Out of the frying pan, no? Yes, you can help. Dish me out some of that broth. Belinda, our healer, has put calming herb in it. It seems to help relieve his anxiety somewhat."

As Robert obeyed he asked, "What has happened?"

"I was attacked during my escape. So many men, and I couldn't outrun them. Though I was able to kill one, I couldn't have fought them all. Edrich came. He saved me and then he told me how Glenna had been captured and explained everything.

"Hold him, so I can get him to take it," she instructed once Robert handed her the bowl of the steaming liquid. She blew on the spoon and forced it in his mouth. Together, they continued to force the soup down him until the bowl was emptied. Robert released him and Emera began wiping his face, cleaning away any of the spilled broth. He was still muttering to himself and shivering slightly, but his fight was gone. Emera tucked the sheets and coverlets around him tightly and then threw on a fur for extra measure. "Shh, Edrich, rest," she said, stroking his brow.

Content that he was at peace, she led Robert to the sitting area. "Where is Glenna?"

"She retired to her rooms, I believe. A bath, she said, was the first order of business." Emera smiled, happy to know her faithful servant was safe.

She noticed Robert's attention on Edrich. "He was injured during the fight, you see. Stabbed quite deep in the side. Though it didn't damage anything internally, he caught an infection. He rode like a man determined to bring me safely home. He collapsed upon meeting my father," she giggled at the double meaning in that. "He has been seeing things for the past day and half. Our healer says he will recover, but I..."

Robert turned to watch the pained emotions dance across her face. She was looking into the fire, slightly shaking her head.

"Is it foolish? To feel as I do about a man that has treated me villainously?" She asked, before directing her gaze to Robert, an incredulous smile on her lips, tears in her eyes.

"You care for him?" Robert asked, not overly surprised after witnessing the princess' care of Edrich in the past half hour.

She smiled genuinely at that. "Truth be told, I think I love him. But how?" She looked down, trying to reconcile the emotions deep within her.

"When Edrich was only 17, he led a small group of his best warriors out to find and destroy a small gang of men near our western border. The reports regarding their deeds were chilling, to even the most stalwart of men. But my king was not afraid. He knew there was evil and he was charged with plucking it from his country. At last, we had trailed the men to a very small farming village. Upon breaching the valley it sat in, we saw the utter destruction only capable by mad men. The fields were burned and the livestock were slaughtered in grotesque ways. I will save you the hearing of what we saw, but believe you me when I say no man ate dinner that evening for the sickness that came at such a sight. When we entered the village, we saw no one. There were tracks and signs of great struggle, but the villagers were gone. Edrich ordered we spread out and find what we could.

"Someone called from the far end and we all rushed to the source of the cry. The small meeting house was on fire. But what had caused the alarm was the fact it was chained from the outside. Cries could be heard from within and Edrich bolted forward, using his sword to undo the binding. When the doors flung open, people fell out. Some were on fire. We rushed in, carrying out as many as we could. The building was beginning to collapse, but an old woman started screaming her husband was still inside. Of course, we all thought he was dead, and as the timbers groaned and started to fall, only one rushed in to save the old man."

Robert stopped his story, his voice constricted with emotion. Emera sat, watching in a mixture of amazement, fear, and anticipation. Robert cleared his throat and continued. "Just as the last of the walls caved in, Edrich emerged, carrying a small man over a shoulder. They were both blackened from the smoke, and Edrich struggled for breath when he sat the man down.

"When we returned, after having found the gang and slaughtering them (which was less than they deserved), the king wanted to flaunt his heroic son by giving him a large gold medallion and a celebration in honor of his victory. Do you know what Edrich demanded instead? He wanted that the money that would have been spent on his prize be instead given to the village to help repair the damage, and to be given relief of their taxes for that year." Robert laughed at that. "Of course the king wouldn't allow not making money from his subjects, but he did agree to give the reparations in place of the medallion. Edrich was also able to talk him into sending a few of his less needed soldiers to help with the replanting of the next season's crops."

Robert watched Emera as she processed his story. He sighed as he tried to mold his thoughts into his purposed speech. "I say all this, your Majesty, to tell you, I know not what the king has done to you, nor do I know all that you have done to him. But my experience of knowing him since he was a boy is that he is a good man, an honorable one that fights for the right and just cause. Yes, he may be a bit arrogant, but he is also at times humble when he has made a mistake. If you find yourself torn by your feelings for him, trust your heart that he is a good king, a good man."

He stood and bowed. "Now, I am off to locate the kitchens," he said with a smile. As he reached the door he turned to her once more. "I am happy to see you are not broken, but well."

Emera was touched by his sentiment. Robert was a good and reliable man. She reasoned that such a man would not be loyal to a bad king, nor was he likely to be duped into believing his king was good when he was in reality a villain.

Throughout the day, Edrich began to slip in and out of sleep, waking to ask for water or to stand to relieve himself. He was never hungry, but was cooperative when Emera told him he should eat the broth as it was making him better. When Emera joined her father for their midday meal, he broached the subject again.

"Emera, I know you have been very loyal to your new friend, but now that his man is here, he can attend him. With Belinda's skills, hopefully, the king will be well enough to join us for dinner tomorrow night, and you may see him then."

In spite of her superior argument and reasoning skills, Emera tempered her obedience often, and chose very few battles with her father, thinking this made her bargaining power even greater when she chose to use it. She knew he was right, even though she did not wish to leave Edrich. Deciding rest would be good for her, she agreed, and retired to her own chambers. She called for her chamber maid and ordered a bath and to be waited upon. Usually, Emera tended to her own needs, bathing herself, dressing herself, occasionally finding her own food if she was riding out for the day. But she knew there were times that pampering did wonders for her spirits.

There was also the small, slightly hidden motive that she wanted to appear as the royal she claimed she was when Edrich felt well enough to join them. He had only seen her as a rugged, capable maiden, often times caked in mud or sweat, or occasionally a half-drowned rat. Was wanting to be thought of as beautiful wrong? The decadent grooming session lasted for the better part of the evening. Emera was lightly napping on the chaise in her room when a knock at her door awoke her. Slightly drowsy, she stumbled to the door and straightened immediately upon seeing Glenna. She broke into tears and grabbed her maid in a crushing hug.

Glenna was overtaken by similar emotions. Emera dragged her in, seating them in her sitting area. "You are well, my lady?" Glenna asked, touching her cheek maternally.

"Yes, oh Glenna, I am so relieved you are safe. If I had known the journey would have been so treacherous, I never would have allowed you to accompany me. I never meant for you to be in harm's way."

"Oh, dear me, no, my lady. I am so happy to have been able to help you. Though there were parts that were uncomfortable, I am glad to have been able to convince his Majesty that you were the princess. When they took me to the castle," she said, tears beginning to well in her eyes, "I feared for you so. I was certain you had been unjustly murdered." She began crying fully then. Emera smiled sadly, knowing their journey had been more than likely unnecessary. "But the king, he didn't yet know you were the princess. When I showed him your letters to prove you weren't the spy he thought, he realized who you were. And when he realized you weren't trying to steal information, only hoping to trust him, the look that overcame his face," she said, her eyes wide as she shook her head.

"Yes, well, I believe the king is very sorry for accusing me, for the entirety of his behavior. In the end, I think we have been successful. The king is willing to negotiate. Glenna, I am glad you are here, because I wanted to discuss certain aspects of our trip. My father, well, actually no one, knows of how Edrich responded, of what transpired. Everything is fine now, and therefore, for the sake of the peace of our country, please, please speak to no one of what happened."

Glenna, understanding the need for discretion, nodded her head in her consent. "Yes, your highness, as you wish."

The two parted and Emera walked out onto her balcony. She was where she had hoped she would be, though not exactly in the same state. There was still work to be done, both inside her heart and between their countries. She sighed when she was summoned for dinner, leaving her sanctuary for thinking another time.

That night, Emera asked that Robert and Glenna be allowed to dine with them, telling her father they had done her great service over the past week and should be rewarded so. They dined pleasantly, and Robert, following Emera's lead, regaled the king with funny and heroic stories of Edrich. Per her plan, her father was quite eager to meet the dashing king.

In the morning, Edrich found himself clear of fever. He had no aches or chills and thought clearly, though he was tired from the ravages of the illness. He had no memory of the past two days, but was relieved to see Robert at his side. He relayed to the king much of what had occurred, reporting he brought Glenna with him and the welcomed reception he and Edrich's men had received.

Edrich dressed and was welcomed at the breakfast table with Arnold. Emera, however, was not present. Not wanting to appear overly attached, he made no mention of it, but tried to remain pleasant with the older man. Eventually, their talks turned to the treaty signing. Edrich shared with the king his original concerns regarding the protection of the borderland. Arnold consented that he had been too lax in the protection of his lands. He continued amiably discussing all his many faults as ruler until Edrich was amazed that Emera was his daughter. The two were completely different in their approach. Adalynd would be lucky to survive Arnold's reign, and blessed once Emera took over. If only she could rule with me, he wished sadly.

At long last, they left the table to make for the king's study. They sat and drew up the treaty together, discussing the ins and outs of border protection. Edrich, seeing the king's deficit in understand tactical protection, guided the old man he had hoped he could call father-in-law. The only times he acknowledged Arnold had a good idea, it came out that it was originally Emera's. Finally, as the afternoon sun shone through the large windows of the room, the two men had an agreement on paper they were both satisfied with.

As Edrich reached for a quill to sign his name, Arnold spoke up. "There is one more thing, if I may ask, Edrich." Edrich's eyebrows drew together in question, but paused and motioned for the king to continue. "You see, for some time now, I have been contemplating who to marry my daughter to. She is such a unique diamond, that not any man I have known would be worthy of her. I must admit my surprise when she so faithfully succored you during your illness. Until your man arrived, she never left your side except to eat a meal with me at my adamant request. I know my daughter, you see, and I recognize her affection for you. I understand if you hesitate, but I would like to put my daughter's hand in marriage on the table, so to speak." The king waited, watching the young man sit in utter shock. "Well? What say you?"

"You honor me greatly. There is no greater honor than your daughter's hand. An honor I would die for," he said quietly. "However, despite any feelings you believe your daughter may have for me, she does not want me, would not marry me. In fact, I remember at one point her venomous words that she would choose any other choice in the world over staying near me."

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