Ravendorf Ch. 01byBelle_in_south©
It was summer in Bavaria. The jagged snow-capped peaks of the Alps extended above the lush evergreens. Margaret of Ravendorf stood on the small balcony outside her bedroom, gazing to the Zugpitz and the Austrian border. She could see the glistening of Ravendorf Lake a quarter of a mile away from her father’s castle. The water was like crystal. Even from this difference, she could see the sun reflecting off the blue surface. A pleasant breeze coasted down the glacial valleys, ruffling her blonde hair and the folds of her heavy dress.
She thought about Austria as she gazed across the German valley that bore her father’s name. Her father occasionally traveled to Vienna and had once taken her. She had loved the scenery through the winding mountain paths and the way her pulse had seemed to quicken while walking down the streets in Vienna. She longed to go back someday. She wanted to travel to Athens and visit the ruins of the Greek gods. She hungered for Florence where artists and scholars were flourishing. Ravendorf had even see visitors from Paris. Whenever travelers sought to board on Ravendorf’s grounds, she yearned to hear of their adventures. She loved Garmisch, the town that linked Ravendorf with the other manors in the area, but she wanted to see the rest of the world for herself. She wanted to go beyond Munich.
Near the lake, she could see the brightly colored tents and wagons of the traveling musicians who would be performing at the banquet hall tonight. She wanted to know where they had been and where they were going, but it was inappropriate for the Lady of Ravendorf to speak to the minstrels without her father’s presence.
“Mistress,” a soft voice whispered behind her. She sighed, turning from the majestic view that offered so much unspoken opportunity. Her maid, Elaine, stood just inside the door. Elaine was a small woman close to Margaret’s age. In their childhood, they played near the lake together. She had been called into service as Margaret’s maid when she was thirteen and Margaret was glad to have her friend nearby. “Your father is calling for you.” She motioned for Margaret to have a seat so that she could fix her windblown hair. Margaret sat down and Elaine began using combs to pin hair away from her face. “Master Phillip has arrived. He is so handsome. Your father made a smart match for you.”
“Yes,” Margaret replied, releasing a long breath. Phillip von Goring was her fiancé. The marriage had been arranged before Margaret was a year old. Phillip would take her back to Vienna where he would work in service of the Holy Roman Emperor. He was from a wealthy family, but as the second son he had not inherited the Baron’s title or land. Margaret was an only child. After the wedding, Phillip would have the Ravendorf lands and title.
Phillip was not a stranger to Margaret. She knew many of her contemporaries dealt with that fate. Some of them never even saw their betrothed until their wedding night, but Phillip had been to Ravendorf many times. She had visited him on her trip to Vienna. He was a gentle man. He would be good to her. Elaine was right. He was a handsome man and a smart match.
She looked longingly toward the open window one last time before following Elaine into the corridor.
The great hall was filled with flowers and the wafting smell of the hog roasting outside. Father had personally selected the meal for Phillip’s arrival and Margaret had overseen the decorating. The room was filled with vases of flowers from every field on Ravendorf’s property. On the main table were two bouquets of roses from her mother’s rose garden. She had insisted on the roses. Her mother had spent hours among the bushes. The presence of the delicate red buds made her feel like her mother was there.
“Everything looks so beautiful, Miss,” Elaine said in the same soft, subservient voice that Margaret was accustomed to. She turned to Margaret one more time, making a few final touches to the girl’s hair and dress. “So do you. You will take Master Phillip’s breath away.”
“She always does,” a deep voice rumbled from behind. Both of the women turned to find Phillip standing nearby. He was tall, with sandy brown wavy hair and warm grey eyes. “You look ravishing, Lady Margaret,” he said, taking her hand and bending over it. His soft lips touched the back of her hand. “Hello, Elaine.”
“Master von Goring,” she mumbled, backing away from him hurriedly, her cheeks a bright pink.
Margaret laughed lightly, looking into Phillip’s face. “I think she wishes she could marry you instead of me.” She slid her hand into the offered arm and allowed Phillip to guide her into the great hall. “How was the trip, Sir?” she asked casually as he escorted her to her father.
“It was long and dusty but uneventful, thank goodness. I will be glad when we are married and are able to stay in one place. Thieves and marauders like the seclusion of the mountain roads. I am surprised that I have made as many trips as I have without being ambushed.”
“That’s because you travel with your guards and under the banner of the Emperor,” she laughed. “We’ll stay in Vienna, won’t we?”
Phillip’s brow creased as he thought about his answer. “I will one day be Lord of Ravendorf. I think we should stay here so I can work with your father and learn all I need to know about the land and the people.”
Margaret felt the blood drain from her face. She had so wanted to escape Ravendorf for a while, even if it was only to Vienna. “What will you do about your duties at court, Sir? The Emperor relies on you.”
“The Emperor needs a governor in this district,” Phillip replied. They had reached the head table and her father. Phillip bowed sharply before shaking the hand of his future father-in-law. “Lord Ravendorf, your hospitality is generous as always.”
Margaret quietly kissed her father’s cheek and sat down at the table between him and her betrothed. Neither man noticed her sullen silence as other visitors entered the great hall and graciously greeted their hosts and the future Lord of Ravendorf. Margaret politely greeted those who spoke to her. They were mostly people she had known her entire life. The other nobles from the Garmisch district and their families had come to inspect the man who would soon be their neighbor.
Margaret wasn’t aware of the musicians entering the hall until the first gentle cords of the lute filled the cavernous room. The crowd had enjoyed Lord Ravendorf’s food and wine and were well sated as the garishly dress minstrels played a familiar tune. There were five men in the group and one woman.
Margaret’s eyes were drawn to the woman as she moved to the center of the floor and began to dance. The woman had long, midnight black hair that swirled around her body as she moved to the music. Her skin was olive and after a moment of her twirling it glistened in the firelight. She wore a gauzy white blouse and a billowing skirt that wrapped around her waist. The bright red of the skirt flared as she danced and swayed across the floor. Her hips were slender and her legs were long.
Margaret felt her mouth go dry and she sipped at the wine in her glass, trying to look at anything but the dancing woman. As her eyes swept the guests, she noticed most of the men were also enraptured by the swirling mass in the center of the room. .
Margaret was sorry that the dance was coming to an end. The gypsy was smiling as she moved around the room, her long, olive arms flailing in rhythm. Her entire body was involved in the music. Her hips swayed and the gauze slid over her breasts. She batted her eyelids, the full dark lashes fanning on her cheeks. She was breathless as the music came to the stop and the captured audience broke into an appreciative round of applause.
The gypsy bowed deeply and Margaret thought she saw a few men straining to see through the gap the bow created between her shirt and her skin. She backed away and three of the men came forward to do some acrobatics. Margaret tried to concentrate on the performance, but her mind returned to the gypsy. The dark woman was talking quietly with the older man who seemed to be the leader of the group.
When the acrobats finished, the men returned to their instruments. The wooden flute played a haunting melody. The voice of the woodwind was soon joined by an even more haunting sound. The lovely gypsy was singing now. Margaret focused on the movement of the full red lips as the woman lamented a forbidden love lost. Her voice was husky and strong. Margaret felt goose bumps form on her skin as she listened to the melody. She leaned forward in her chair, moistening her lips. She was transfixed.
The night was a series of climaxes and plateaus for Margaret as the woman would perform and then step to the back of the stage. Later, she couldn’t recall what the other acts were. She only remembered the heady sound of the gypsy’s voice and the way the woman’s body moved in perfect time.
Elaine was waiting in Margaret’s room when Phillip escorted his bride-to-be down the hall. She helped Margaret undress, asking questions about the party and the entertainment. “I watched from the entrance to the kitchen,” she whispered. “That woman had a beautiful voice.”
“Yes, she did,” Margaret mused distractedly as she slipped her sleeping gown over her head. The arms were cinched and the hem brushed against her ankles. The bodice of the gown had laces across it, but she never tied them very securely. She stood in the open window, again staring across the valley to the mountains. The campfires of the minstrels’ camp caught her eye and she gazed longingly in the direction. The gypsy’s face flashed across her mind again. Margaret closed her eyes, reliving the incredible dance sway to sensuous sway.
Her mouth went dry again. She felt her breasts straining at the bodice of the sheer gown. There was a yearning in the pit of her stomach. Her nipples, brushing against the fabric, were connected directly to the juncture of her thighs. She heard the door connecting her room to Elaine’s close and she turned to see the handmaid had turned back the blankets. With the burning between her thighs, the bed was the last place Margaret wanted to go. She slipped into a pair of soft shoes and put a heavy robe over her arms. She went to the window and looked over the grounds, making sure that no one was nearby. She swung her leg over the edge of the balcony and with sure footing made her way down the latticework.
She strolled through the rose garden, wishing her mother was there. She longed to talk to her mother about the turmoil she felt. She liked Phillip. Her mind told her that he was a good man and she would learn to love him. Her heart screamed for her to escape Ravendorf before Phillip took her to his bed. Her mother would clear her head. She breathed deeply of the roses, loving the fragrance.
She did not linger in the rose garden. Soon the heavy scent of the roses had her mind back on the gypsy. She didn’t even have to close her eyes to picture a rose tucked into the entertainer’s bosom. Margaret wanted to know what kind of smell the woman had. Phillip always smelled of tobacco and horses.
Her wondering thoughts were not easing the throbbing in her body. She couldn’t put a name to her feelings, but she knew what would ease them. Elaine had made her feel this way when they were young teenagers. Elaine’s shift would cling to her body when they swam. Elaine had developed faster than Margaret, and Margaret had been unable to help staring. She had felt the same stirring then as she did now, though it was much more intense now than it ever had been with Elaine.
Ravendorf Lake had offered her solace as a thirteen year old. The cold water had always quenched the thrilling sensations. She glanced toward the house to make sure that no one was watching or following her before she slipped through the hedge and into the forest. The moon in the cloudless sky was full, but she wouldn’t have needed a light anyway. She knew the path to the lake well. Her steps became quicker and surer as she walked along the hard dirt path toward the calling crystal water. She shed the heavy robe as she ran. She removed her shoes to feel the soft grass and sand near the lake. Her fingers worked on the laces at the bodice of the gown. By the time she was a few feet from the lake, she was completely nude, her pale body glowing in the moonlight. She was about to dive into the cool water when nearby splashing froze her.
She froze in mid-step, grateful that she had not yet passed the last clearing of trees. She stopped and crouched, hoping to make herself invisible as she peered through a break in the hedge. The gypsy woman was in the water, enjoying the coolness as much as Margaret had anticipated that she would. The stranger was a good distance away from the camp and Margaret suspected that the woman had sought a spot far away from the potentially prying eyes of her band mates. Margaret knew she should retreat and allow the woman to continue her bath in private, but she felt glued to her spot. She was as transfixed now as she had been during the dance earlier.
Her black hair seemed to be just a shadow in the darkness. It was wet and clung to her head and back. When she stood, the tips of it brushed the backs of her thighs. Margaret yearned to touch it. She wanted to feel the weight. She could imagine the smoothness of her hair. She wanted the woman to lay her head in her lap and spread that black mane like a blanket over her thighs. She wanted to put her nose to it and breathe deeply.
The woman exploded out of the water with a powerful thrust of her legs. Margaret’s breath caught as the dark body was silhouetted against the moon. The water pearled on her body and in this light glistened like pieces of gold. Margaret strained to get a better view. Unbound, her breasts were heavy. Her nipples were surprisingly light for the darkness of her body. Margaret did not have to struggle to see that the woman’s nipples were hard. She wondered what they felt like and blushed as she thought about how they must taste. Unconsciously, Margaret’s fingers moved to her own small, pert breasts. They were half the size of the woman’s globes. Her fingers brushed her nipples, rolling them between her fingers. She bit back a moan as she imagined that her own hands were the woman’s.
Margaret’s eyes followed the drops of water down the gypsy’s smooth stomach. As if she knew she was on display, the woman spread her legs a little, bracing herself in the soft sand that formed the foundation of the lake. Margaret shifted a little, trying to see in the darkness the juncture of the woman’s thighs. The apex was smooth. When the woman lifted her hands over her head, the moon light seemed to highlight the area. Wishing she could get a clearer view, Margaret’s hand now snaked between her legs, touching her own soft blonde curls in curiosity. She had never paid that much attention to that part of her body but she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the gypsy’s dark sex.
The woman turned her back to Margaret. Margaret allowed her eyes to study the gypsy’s bottom. It was firm from her dancing. Margaret was most captivated by the consistently of the woman’s coloring. There was no change in colors where her clothes should be. The olive tint that had captured Margaret’s attention during the dance didn’t just touch the woman’s arms and face, but her breasts, legs, and that inviting smooth juncture at the top of the long legs.
Margaret almost moaned in disappointment when the gypsy sat down in the water. It broke the spell for a moment and she started to turn away, but the gypsy moved again. She lay back in the shallow water, arching her body to the moon. She rested on one elbow. The other hand moved over her breast, touching and tugging her nipple. The hand snaked over the olive ribcage and into the dark valley. Margaret returned to her hiding place, leaning forward. She could only see the woman’s profile. Her neck was tilted back and her breasts thrust toward the cloudless sky. She could not see what the woman’s hand was doing between her legs, but when a low moan escaped the gypsy’s throat, Margaret shuddered. Her eyes widened at the incredible sensation and she lost her balance, tilting noisily into the shrubbery.
She gasped and stumbled back, scrambling away from the bush as the gypsy quickly sat up and turned toward the shadows. Margaret heard the water sloshing as the stranger rose from the lake bed. Margaret grabbed her nightgown and shoes, hugging them to her as she hurried in a low crouch through the trees, hoping she would be far enough away that the woman would never catch her. She bent to pick up the long robe that she had shed in her desire to cool herself in the lake, never breaking her stride.
As she rose, she ran straight into a wall. She staggered back for a moment, adjusting her eyes to the shadow. She was certain there had never been a wall in this part of the forest before. It was not a wall, but the tall barrel-chested man who had formed the base of all the human pyramids during the performance tonight. He had sandy brown hair, but the rest of his body was hidden in the moonlight. Margaret stepped back, using the bundle of clothing to attempt to cover her breasts.
“Well, well, well,” he said in a deep, menacing voice. Margaret wished that the ground would swallow her. She glanced around nervously, trying to find a means of escape. “What do we have here?” He easily pulled the bundle from Margaret’s arms, his eyes sweeping over her nude body. He reached out to touch her breast and she cringed as his rough fingers moved across her soft flesh. “Don’t be so shy, missy. A young lass who wanders around the woods without any clothes on must be looking for something. It seems something has found you.”
“That’s enough, Quinn,” a husky voice hissed from behind Margaret. They both turned as the woman emerged from the bushes. Her clothing clung to her wet body as she stepped into the clearing and bent to pick up Margaret’s clothing. Margaret tried not to stare at the outline of the nipples on the gauzy material. “This is the Lady of Ravendorf. You’ll keep your hands to yourself or Poppa will break them.”
Quinn scowled at the woman as her body blocked his view of Margaret. She bunched the material of the gown in her hands and held it above Margaret’s head. “Damn it, Lila, she’s naked. She was watching you take your bath.”
Meekly, Margaret held up her arms as Lila dropped the gown into place. “Speaking of my bath, what are you doing so close while I am taking a bath? Poppa will do more than break your hands over that.” She handed the robe and shoes to Margaret and turned on Quinn. He was nearly half a foot taller than the woman, but she did not back down a bit. “We are under the protection of Lord Ravendorf. If his daughter was to show up soiled, they wouldn’t have to look far to point an accusing finger, and this time they would be right. You would find yourself on the business end of a long sword, I think. I don’t care if she was running around the camp naked; you will keep your hands to yourself.”
Quinn glowered at Lila, his jaw set in frustration, but took a step back. He put a finger in Lila’s face. “Watch yourself, girl,” he warned before turning and stomping through the forest for the camp.
Lila looked over her shoulder at Margaret, who had finished putting on her shoes and pulled the robe over her shoulders. She still wished the ground would consume her. “Quinn really isn’t a beast, but he can be a dangerous man when he’s had too much wine. I should walk you back to the castle. What are you doing out alone tonight, anyway?”
“I had thought I would take a swim,” Margaret answered timidly. She was surprised to hear Elaine’s submissive tone in her reply. She fell into step beside Lila, still embarrassed to have been caught watching Lila bathing. A red flush crept into her cheeks as she thought about what else she had seen Lila doing. The flush flowed down her body in the silence as they walked. Her nipples tingled and the lower portion of her body burned. She would never fall to sleep now. There would be no relief for her body tonight.