Sticks & Stones Ch. 04byBlack Tulip©
Still fuming with her own stupidity, Deirdre stomped out of the cave, nearly forgetting to check the surroundings before crawling over the big shielding rock in front of it. It had stopped snowing, but there was enough there to make sure it would take at least another day or two to melt - if it would start to thaw. The temperature was still below freezing.
She was already halfway down the path to the timberline and she never realized what a beautiful day it was. The sky was an endless stretch of blue over the sparkling, snow-covered rocks and boulders that dotted the mountainside. The air fresh and crisp, giving her cheeks a rosy blush. None of it penetrated her anger and her worry. Her feet carried her robot like to her message box, the old oak with the hollow at its foot.
The few messages were not urgent and she tucked the jug of ale in her haversack, together with the small bag of flour and a piece of cloth. Gifts in return for the last batch of medicines she had left there. With a sigh she brushed the snow of a fallen tree in the vicinity and sat down. Suddenly sad she looked around her. She would miss this all terribly.
The thought shocked her. She had not even consciously contemplated leaving the area, but it could easily come to that. The idea to stick it out in the cave till the snow was gone, was no longer a good one. She would never be able to get Rory down the mountain without him noticing where the cave was. So there was no point in keeping him hidden any longer. He could walk back on his own two legs. That meant she had to abandon her safe haven.
Leaving the cave would hurt, maybe even more than leaving the house had. She had found the cave by accident when running from the priests for the first time. Scared and cold she had crawled inside the tunnel, only venturing deeper inside the mountain after she had come back from the village the next week.
She smiled as she thought back. Following the tunnel inside the mountain, she had come upon a big cavern. The funny part had been, that is was a furnished place. Carpets on the floor, there was a fireplace and it looked very much inhabited. She had no idea who could be living there, but it had scared her to know there lived someone on the mountain without the people in the village knowing it.
Next time she needed a safe place, she had hesitated for only a moment before creeping into the tunnel again. The memories made her shiver, even after so many years. The cave had not been empty then. He had been there. He had been living there and it almost looked as if he had been waiting for her.
Johan, I still miss you. He never told her how he came to be living there, only that he had needed a hideout after deserting his unit. He had been sick of being a mercenary. At first it had been exiting, leaving his own corner of the world, seeing other cities, other countries even. After a few years he had been less eager and with every new contract he had felt more reluctance, till the last one. They had hired out to a man of the church and before they knew it, they were hunting down so called heretics and witches.
Johan had confided in her, told her he was not even catholic. He came from across the sea, where a lot of people were rebelling against the Mother Church. They called themselves Lutherans after a priest who had openly criticized the clergy. He had fled his contract, not wanting to fulfill it.
Johan had been good to her. She had fallen in love with him almost right from the start. He had been so different with his blond hair and the startling blue eyes, the funny accent he had and the way he had treated her. No fear there, not Johan. They had been so happy, even though they had to hide it. She had managed to sneak to the cave for close to every night since she lived alone in the cottage by then.
She sighed. It had not lasted very long, no more than a few months. One night she had found the cave empty and the nights after that as well. Finally she had heard a rumor about a deserter that was caught on the other side of the mountain. He had been hanged as an example to others. Careful questioning had confirmed her fears that it was Johan. Not long after she had fled to the cave to live permanently in his hideout. And now, now she was forced to leave again.
Think, Deirdre, where can you go? It was no use, thinking back to better times. She had to find a solution for the mess she was in. She thought it highly unlikely that Rory would back off. Now that he had finally tasted the pleasures of a woman's body, she suspected he would want more. She had no intention of going along, however, no matter how long it had been, she would not be sleeping with him again. Therefore, she had to get out. He would not leave her be and she could not rely on him to keep her secret.
Without realizing it she had been sitting there for a long time. Her feet were getting cold and her bottom was a little damp. She fished the messages out again and had a second look. Tugging on a loose curl she studied them. The butcher's wife wanted her help for one of her daughters; the girl was coughing again. That should be no problem. Next was a tiny slip of paper telling her the merchant was leaving town for a few weeks. Since he was the one who wrote the messages for most of the village, she frowned. In the past it had never been a problem as old Duncan had been able to write as well, but Duncan was dead. Damn that priest! If he had not been there, maybe she could have been on time for the old man.
Deirdre got up and brushed her skirts. She had calmed down now and for a moment she considered descending all the way to visit the village. Just in time however, she remembered the troops she had seen the night before. If they were still searching for Rory, she had better stay out of sight. Shit, that meant she would not be able to have a word with the merchant either. Leaving a return message was no use. He would not come back because he would not expect something and there was no one else who could read.
Pursing her lips in frustration, Deirdre started climbing up again. Her footsteps left a clear trail but she could only hope no soldiers would be coming up this high. The path was nearly invisible and with snow covering the track it was non-existent if you didn't know it was there. She hoped they had no reason to start a thorough search of the mountainside. To be on the safe side, she took the same route back however, climbing along the edge of the ravine, hiding her tracks as best as she could.
Back at the cave, she stood for a moment inside the entrance tunnel. Looking out over the mountains, she tried to visualize her next home. Where could she go to find a safe place? She sighed and, not for the first time, wished she could have returned with Johan to his country. She took off her boots and placed them side-by-side near the entrance to the big cavern. Her coat went to its place on the hook-like protuberance of stone above the boots. She smiled at the sight, so much like a normal hallway and yet so different.
Although she knew Rory would be waiting for her, his reaction startled her nonetheless. The minute she stepped inside the cavern, he jumped out of the big chair in front of the fire and approached her almost eagerly. Not sure what she could expect, Deirdre eyed him a bit warily. She had promised herself not to give in to him again and she was determined to stick to that resolve.
His face did not look like he had more plays of the flesh in mind. She studied him in more detail and noticed the red rims of his eyes, the tired slant to his shoulders. His hands grasped each other in a nervous gesture and he kept twisting his fingers.
"I'm glad you're back. We need to talk." He realized he still did not know her name. For a moment he thought about what was said about names in theWitches' Hammer. "Demons could be controlled if you knew their real name." Could the same be true of witches? She had refused to give her name this past week.
"Will you give me your name? You know mine and after we, ... uh, ...well, you know..."
Deirdre sighed a bit wearied. "I thought it safer for you not to know." She shrugged her shoulders and walked towards the bench in front of the fire. "Deirdre."
Rory felt the tension leaving his body. Not that he had believed her to be a witch of course. He watched her sit down and stood with his back to the flames, an intense look on his face.
"About what we did... last night I mean..."
Despite his resolve to withstand further temptation, he had a vivid image of her without her clothes and he felt the heat creep up to his face. He shook his head to get rid of the picture.
"I have been thinking..." He found it hard to go on and had to take a deep breath. "You warned me."
Deirdre flicked a gaze to his face. He looked utterly serious. In addition, he looked troubled. It was obvious he was trying to tell her something he found extremely important, but equally as difficult.
"You were right." He took a deep breath to steady himself. "I am a priest. And I want to stay one." He nodded as if to confirm his resolve. "I know we sinned, but I also know we can be forgiven if we show true remorse."
He looked at the woman, expecting some sign she understood at least, if not in agreement with him. However, all he saw was bewilderment. She watched him with those beautiful violet eyes, but nothing in her face showed him she had grasped the importance of his words.
"You have to show remorse, ask for mercy so your soul will not be lost. I will help you. That will be part of my penance."
Now that he had started, the words came tumbling out of his mouth like a torrent.
"I have to show remorse too. But I feel sure it is not too late. We will leave this cave tomorrow. I thought it best to go and see Father Edward. I am his assistant, you know. I'm sure he'll help us save our spirits."
"Really? Save our spirits, huh?"
Deirdre's face turned almost ugly with the rage she felt welling up inside her.
"Will he put you to the stake too? To save your spirit?"
Her voice got ever louder. With her fists on her hips she stood yelling at him.
"You'll help me all right! Don't play dummy with me. You know what your Father Edward is doing to women like me! He burns us, as witches. Not to save us, but to make sure we will be beyond salvation. He won't help me and I doubt he will help you either. Not if he hears what we have been doing, he won't."
The stricken look on Rory's face only served to add fuel to her rage.
"You are a fool if you think you'll be forgiven. And if you think for one minute, he will lift so much as a finger to save my soul, you're an idiot. You can't be that ignorant!"
Rory looked hurt and bewildered like a little boy. He wanted to tell her she was wrong, that she should have more faith. He opened his mouth but she cut him off.
"You know he is working for the Inquisition. You must have seen dozens, maybe hundreds of executions. Maybe even witnessed the interrogations. You know I deal with sickness, give out potions and ointments. You probably even wondered if I maybe am a witch. Didn't you?"
She didn't give him a chance to reply to that. In her fury she went on to mock him.
"Who knows, maybe I put a spell on you. Made you a victim of your lowly lust. Maybe the devil put me up to it. Would that make you feel better? It wasn't you, it was me, making you do it?"
Deirdre was so furious; she hardly knew what she was yelling at him. If she had, she would have been a lot less sarcastic. She would have considered the fact that he might not grasp her true meaning. As it was, she never gave it a thought. Mad as hell she stalked back out, yanking on her boots and still busy wrapping her cloak around her when she stepped out. Not even the fact that it was near sundown could stop her from leaving right then.
Without conscious thought she roamed the mountainside, not wanting to go down to the village and not wanting to go back inside either. Jesus, she was so fucking mad. That blubbering imbecile. Did he really believe his own sanctimonious claptrap? Deirdre shivered violently at the thought of going to see that Father Edward of her own free will. He had a reputation as a fanatic. Nothing or nobody could make her do something that self-destructive.
Deirdre climbed over rocks and boulders, slipped on icy patches, stumbled across drifts of snow till it was too dark to go on. She stood with her arms wrapped tightly around her torso, trembling with fear, nerves and cold all at once. She felt like screaming to get rid of the tension that had been building inside her. The fact that she was outside was the only thing that kept her from doing it.
Although the sun was already down, there was still some light reflecting from the snow and she had a careful look around. Her anger had taken her to the other side of the mountain. Right now she stood facing toward the town where the feared Father Edward resided. That was definitely not a direction she would be taking. She could go back to the cave, but it would be a bit tricky in the darkness. Besides, she was not sure she could stand more of that God-fearing raving.
A heavy sigh escaped her, as she came to the only possible conclusion. She would have to use the main road and take the branch that looped back to the village. Duncan's daughter was maybe willing to give her shelter for the night and she had at least no small children that could be endangered. Deirdre nodded to herself and headed down the mountainside, carefully picking her way to reach to path that curved between the huge outcrops, trying to be as silent as possible. She had no desire to encounter those soldiers she had spotted earlier.
* * *
Rory watched her go with a sense of loss, hurt and anger. Why wouldn't she listen to him? Didn't she know he could save her soul? Didn't she care he needed her? How could he repent without bringing her back from her erring ways? The longer he stood there, the more the anger took over. He had tried, hadn't he?
Finally he understood she would not be coming back soon and he let himself down into the big chair again. After a while his stomach started to rumble and he remembered the bread and cheese she had cleared away. How long ago had that been? Had that been only this morning? He found the food, filled his empty belly, and drank from the trickle of cool mountain-water. He rubbed his face and looked at his surroundings. The bundles of herbs dangled everywhere, the rows of bottles held God-knows-what. Her last words came back to him. 'Who knows, maybe I put a spell on you. Made you a victim of your lowly lust. Maybe the devil put me up to it.'
Tired to the bone he crawled under the furs and tried to sleep. In the morning he would go find Father Edward. He would know what Rory should do. He would give him guidance. Rory felt comforted by the thought of getting counsel. He never had learned to take responsibility for himself and this small taste of it had brought nothing but disaster.
The woman had said it herself and now he heard her saying it again. Your lowly lust is called forth by the devil, your lowly lust... your lowly lust. She came into the cave with swaying hips, her long, slender fingers trailing the buttons of her shirtwaist. He swallowed and his eyes became glued to her hands as she started unbuttoning the purple garment. Halfway through she stopped however, leaving him with a tantalizing view of cleavage and no more than a hint of nipples. By now she was standing in front of him and she licked her lips provocatively. Her hands slid down to her waist, slipped behind her back and within moments her black and white striped skirt fell away, leaving her standing in a white see-through petticoat.
His cock came to attention as he watched her with her arms behind her head, loosening her braid so the black hair fell like a cloak around her shoulders. He reached out and his fingers stroked her skin from the hollow at the base of her throat to just beneath her breasts, stopped by the last three buttons still in place. She wriggled a little and his hands took hold of her hips, scared she might walk away again. To his delight she proceeded to unbutton the rest of her shirtwaist and with a sensual movement of her shoulders it slipped down to the ground.
His mouth was drawn to the lush flesh in front of him, the pink nipples calling to him like a magnet to iron. He closed his eyes in bliss as he licked her flesh, touched her soft skin and felt the weight of her breast on his palm. His cock stood to full attention and he felt the tension building in his balls. Still licking and sucking on the hardening nipples, he used both hands to push the petticoat down her hips.
With his hands on her hips he forced her to take a step back so he could gaze at her naked form. He felt his cock jump at the sight of the dark triangle between her thighs. That's where he wanted to be, between her legs, his erection buried in her hot wet flesh. He wanted to feel her move around his cock, the friction adding to the itching, making him shoot his fluids ... Ahhh.
His groan and the simultaneous wetness woke him up. Startled Rory shot bold upright, but then he realized what had happened. The woman had visited him in a dream and had lured him to spilling his seed again. With a look of distaste he threw the soiled fur to the side. Unclean, that's what she made him. He never experienced this kind of thing before he had met her. It was definitely her doing. She had said so herself: "I put a spell on you."
Shivering in the cold he noticed the fire was almost dead. Again he had forgotten to add fuel to it before going to sleep. He poked at the fire to coax it back to life, put on a big log and stood for a while watching the flames leap higher and higher. The first time something like this had happened to him, she had warned him. She had given him something to drink to make him dream. She had said so. This dream must have come from her as well then. She must have told him the truth in her anger. This Deirdre was a witch.
Trembling with fear, he searched for his cross and his beads, needing the support of those familiar objects. He knew beyond doubt that he was in big trouble. Surely the Prince of Darkness was after his soul, tempting him with the pleasures of the flesh, sending his witch to seduce him. Rory spent the rest of the night in prayer, kneeling on the hard stone floor where he had pushed the carpets aside. He deserved to suffer, he was well aware of that.
Relieved that it was finally morning, the priest climbed to his feet. His knees felt stiff from kneeling so long, but his mind was glad his body suffered. It meant he was already doing penance. His body needed to be punished, so he took nothing of the bread or the cheese. He allowed himself only a few sips of water before he left the place of his downfall.
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