Winter spread its web of death over the rolling fields of Wessex. Thunder clouds as grey as disease blossomed over the heavens, covering the pale dawning sun. Molten ice carpeted everything - earth, twig and roof, blocking the tracks in drifts and halting rivers in their beds. A small dark figure was the only one moving through the frosty meadows in the low light of the December morning.
He moved through the wide open fields of angel white, leaving a trail that was soon filled behind him. Slim, strong and agile, striding through the snow, his black robe concealing his features from the biting winds as he continued ever onwards, downwards and northwards into the valley below, towards the lace lattice of white shrouded houses that surrounded the huge majestic cathedral.
The valley was, unlike the hills, not completely empty of life: there were many dark figures rushing around, sliding about the ice and making the most of the weather; the children were happy with the weather even if the parents were not. The Avon had burst her banks: that much was obvious, before freezing over. Acres of frozen floodwater spanned the entire valley in places, breaking past the deathly bare weeping willows on the river banks and into the surrounding countryside. Trenches were built in the snow like primitive desert fortifications, from which snowballs flew between rival groups. The witch's son, a tall skinny boy whose mother was the subject of many a controversial conversation in the inns and taverns of the city, received hard-thrown snow packed with sharp flint stone, and he soon had to withdrew from the scorn of the other children, his face lacerated and clothes torn.
But the traveller had no time for games. It was a peculiarly harsh winter that year, and even old Maud, the ancient widow who lived above the crooked timber bakery in the Main Street, had never seen anything like it in all her sixty years. The traveller had to keep moving.
In the centre of the small city, the blacksmith drew a crowd as soon as he opened his doors, many people eagerly absorbing heat from the furnace. But the cloaked figure did not alter his path for a second, he had to be somewhere else.
A mile or so north of the Cathedral was a larger hill than the rest. On it was a huge fortress, a building that had been built by the Barons just two generations back when they’d come from across the sea to take over the land. Called Old Sarum, it housed Richard, Earl of Salisbury, and his entourage. And as the new sun rose over the world, the shadowy figure drifted towards the Eastern Gate.
Two guards, dressed in iron, ordered him to be still as they examined him. The traveller did not aid them by putting down the hood of his robes. His face, sharp and well-defined, remained shaded, the robe dropping down to the ground to conceal even his feet.
"What do you want, vagrant?" One of the guards asked in a hoarse, deep voice. "None are expecting you."
"I have come to see the Earl's daughter," said the traveller. His voice was clear as a bell peeling through the crisp wintry air, revealing his youth but also his indubitable intellect.
"Lady Kathryn is not well, she sees no-one," the guard growled.
"I have come to entertain her."
"You have been sent for?" the huge brute took a deferential step back, cautious that respect might be due.
"People do not send for me: if I come, then they are blessed."
The guard frowned, as heavier spots of snow began winding their way out of the heavens. "There are orders that no-one disturb the girl.”
“Word is she’s dying," the other guard said, revealing the immense sadness the two of them were trying to conceal in their capacity as formidable sentries.
"Nevertheless, go and ask the girl if she will admit the storyteller." He could not have seen a score of summers in his life, yet the traveller seemed to have an odd authority to him that just could not be questioned. The larger guard, who seemed to have more influence, nodded silently and went inside.
“How long has she been ill?” the traveller asked the remaining sentry.
“Some months now,” the soldier replied, his appearance haggard and drained of all colour as though he’d been waiting outside the gate for hours and hours. “The people round these parts love her dearly, but they say there’s nothing anybody can do. The Earl’s had physicians and apothecaries from all over the known world, he’s had bishops by the wagonload and even, they say, the good Earl’s so desperate, he’s even smuggled in a witch or two.”
A woman in a long blue dress came out to meet the traveller. She was stocky and short, with a pale, worried face and many wrinkles. She frowned as she peered at the traveller.
"What do you want?" She spoke in a cold, emotionless tone.
"I’ve come to help the Lady."
"Nobody sent for you."
"People do not send for good fortune: if it comes, they welcome it."
"You are saying that you are good fortune?" She asked with cutting sarcasm.
"I will make the young Lady's life easier."
"We’ve had many physicians here before. They haven’t been able to do anything for Lady Kathryn," she scorned him.
The traveller sighed wearily, "go and ask your Lady, good nurse. Go and tell her the storyteller is here, and he promises to take away her loneliness and make her feel better than she ever has before."
"Listen, vagrant, I provide Lady Kathryn with the best of care, she is never lonely and is loved by every person within miles of here." A solitary tear was issued from the nursemaid's eye, to dribble down her wrinkled cheek.
The storyteller nodded, and gently hugged the nursemaid as her tears slipped out. "Allow her one day in my company," he said quietly, "dry your tears, good woman, I am sure you have done your best for Lady Kathryn. Let me help you."
The woman thought for a moment. This vagrant had a strange charm that she could not define. "Very well ," she sniffed, "but be careful. She is weak because of her illness."
The traveller smiled and the nurse saw a strange blue flash in the corner of her eye. He winked at her.
The room was at the top of a tower in the keep, facing west. The nursemaid came out of the large oak door to usher in the waiting storyteller.
"She’ll see you, but be careful,” she warned, “If she no longer wants you there, come out quickly. Don't irritate her, whatever you do."
He nodded, picking up a black cloth bag that the nursemaid could have sworn she hadn't seen him carrying before. As the nursemaid vanished down the narrow spiral staircase, the storyteller slowly turned the huge iron doorknob and pushed the door quietly open.
Inside, the room was round with two narrow windows and a large four poster bed with lush red sheets enveloping the restless young woman. Tapestries depicting forests and mountains hung on the walls, brightening the dull grey stone of the tower. A bear skin lay on the floor in front of a crackling fire that smelled oaky and warmed the room nicely.
Sitting up in the bed, leaning against several cushions, was the slender, pale girl, Kathryn. There was perspiration on her greyish forehead and a frown on her pretty face. She had blonde hair that flowed down to her shoulder in a bell shape, adding well to her beautifully large Norse blue eyes, but the illness had taken its toll. She was very frail.
She folded her arms over her chest. "Who are you?" she asked in a pained whisper.
"My name is Emrys: I’ve come to make your life a bit easier," the traveller answered with prominent optimism.
"Don't bother yourself, Lord knows it’s not possible," she was extremely tired, but not unpleasant. She did not look down on him like the nursemaid and the guards had. Perhaps it was because -- perhaps not coincidentally -- she looked to be the same age as him, to the very day.
"Nonsense. Now, would you like to hear a story? I know one you’ll love." The traveller dropped his hood down and underneath, he was a striking looking man, young but very sharp. He smiled, looking deep into her eyes, until eventually she was forced to smile back.
"I'm really not feeling well," she whispered and the smile lost the battle to the frown.
"Really? I would never’ve known," he said with a little irony. From his bag, he produced a vial of glass, half full of a white powder.
"Is that glass?" Kathryn said in wonderment.
"It is, my Lady," the storyteller held the vial up to the light so that she could see it more easily. “It comes from very far away, across the sea.”
"Some say it is spun water, and if you grind it up and put it in a man's drink, it is worse that the strongest poison, dissolving a man’s insides whilst he still lives. I’ve never seen it before. It’s beautiful!" She still spoke in a whisper, but louder, her eyes wide with interest. "Not even father possesses any!"
"You have a cup of water, my Lady, on the table beside your bed?"
"Then if I put some of this powder in your drink, will you take it? It will help you concentrate on the story."
"What if it’s poison?"
"If it’s poison, you will no longer feel awful, but I will be executed; so I promise you it’s not harmful, by my life."
The girl clasped the old wooden cup in both trembling hands, sipping the mixture the stranger, Emrys, had given her.
"How is it?" he asked her.
"Good, then it’s working." He took off his cloak, laying it on the floor beside the bed. He was dressed in mostly faded brown garments, tough black trousers and thin brown shoes, with no elongated toes that the girl saw on the shoes of the ghastly colourful `fashionable' courtiers who had tried in the past to amuse her in the hope of pleasing her father. He did not look Norman by ancestry, but not really Saxon, either.
"Feeling any better?" he asked softly after a few moments.
"The pain has gone," her eyes were wide with surprise. “I can’t believe it, the pain is gone! How -"
“The bark of the willow – that is the main thing, but that’s not important now. I’ll begin the story, yes?”
"Only if I haven't heard it before."
"You haven't, I assure you, Lady."
The story the stranger told was like no other tale she’d ever heard. A great hero king was forced to travel home after a gruelling war, and faced many hideous creatures blocking his path home. It was an exhilarating tale, keeping her gripped like none she’d ever heard. The hero returned home eventually, to find his beautiful queen had given him up for dead and was holding a contest to find a new husband. The hero disguised himself and entered the contest himself, which involved a dazzling display of skill with a bow.
The hero eventually won his wife back, and Kathryn clapped her hands with joy. But the tale did not end then. At the moment storytellers usually stopped, this strange young narrator kept going. The girl’s eyes widened as she heard the hero take his wife into the bedroom. The storyteller described their kiss, which was like sugar and fire as the two of them tore off each other’s clothes and the years of need flooded out.
When would the story end? Kathryn sat on the bed with her knees under her chin, hugging her thighs as she listened. So strange that a storyteller was describing things that happened long after other narrators would have brought the story to an end, but she found she didn’t want this story to come to an end yet.
The things the storyteller recounted made her tingle strangely between her legs. She’d never heard what happens between a man and his wife – though the locals fooled themselves that she’d been sick only a few months, she hadn’t been well since before she was of marriage age, so she had never been with a man. She was riveted to the tale as she heard how the hero kissed slowly down his queen’s body, tasting her skin and running his strong hands over her curves.
She heard every word as the hero took his queen’s breasts into his mouth and then proceeded downwards, to rest his head between her legs, lapping like a thirsty animal. Kathryn felt so very alive as she heard how the hero slid his hard penis inside his queen, and she felt an urge inside her as she heard the storyteller’s words that she’d never felt before.
She was very aware of the soft red sheets rubbing softly against the small round swells of her chest, gently teasing her nipples that seemed suddenly so hard and sensitive. But it was between her legs that the strongest sensations came, and she felt a hot wetness seeping out of her.
The story came to an end at last as the hero and his queen conceived what would become a handsome new prince. Kathryn’s entire body was on fire.
“My story is at an end,” said the storyteller regretfully.
“Was it true?” She asked, clasping the soft bed linen under her chin.
“Who can say,” he replied, cryptically, “it may have been.”
“Can a man really make a woman feel that way?” Her eyes were full of questions and innocent wonder.
“That part was most definitely true,” he said.
The feelings within her were very strong, she desperately wanted him to replicate the story he had recounted, but this time with her sensual body. But as much as she was turned on, the whole experience seemed to have exhausted her – it was now evening, the storyteller’s tale had gone on all day, and being that aroused for so many hours really took it out of her, especially since she was so ill in the first place. So the tiredness overcame her, and she all but collapsed, the storyteller Emrys softly kissing her forehead before retiring.
The strange storyteller continued to care for Kathryn, by order of the Duke himself: the bed stricken girl felt no pain when he was near, and the stories he told her made her feel wonderful inside. She seemed to be getting better, too, and soon she was as healthy and happy as any girl could be and the members of the castle took the storyteller into their hearts.
He was good-looking, cool-headed and interesting. He always had things to tell her, about the outside world, tales of foreign lands over the sea, histories of people so ancient they were almost mythical. But always romantic tales full of the kind of exploits of men and women that normal storytellers avoided, but which seemed to send Kathryn to Heaven and back.
He had a strange manner about him, almost indescribable, it was as though he was unreal. Sometimes, when you weren’t looking for it, there was a strange sapphire flash you could only perceive out of the corner of your eye. When you looked for it again, it was gone.
After a number of days with him, listening to his steamy words, soaking those sheets with her arousal, she felt such a strong craving for him to kiss her and touch her in the same way he described, that she secretly began to touch herself, imagining it to be him. It felt so incredibly good, her fingers surreptitiously seeking out the wetness between her legs.
That night, when he left her once again to sleep, she did not drift off, but instead, used her hands and fingers to explore herself. She experimented, trying to simulate what it might feel like to take the storyteller to bed. She caressed her skin from her neck down to her thighs, and gripped her firm little breasts, grazing her palms over her nipples, then using her fingers to squeeze them. The feelings were amazing, just as she felt like when he told her those stories, but concentrated ten fold.
After a while, her hands dropped between her thighs and she investigated her sensations, closing her eyes and imagining that he was there touching her, tasting her, squeezing his hardness into her. It felt strange that she was so wet and slippery, but after his evocative depiction of so many different sexual acts, she was unconcerned by it all.
She slipped two fingers into her vagina, dreaming that it was him, and suddenly her body was rocked by an explosion of sensation that left her feeling like pure gold, and completely out of breath. At last, she knew fully what it felt like to be a woman, and to experience the kind of loving that the storyteller had explained to her in such glorious detail. And now she wanted it for real. Desperately.
She lay there for a while, her heart thumping in her chest as her breathing began to slow. What did she do? She was definitely not sleepy – not after that much gratification – and she was so excited that she really couldn’t wait until the morning to see the storyteller again. She wanted him now.
She got up, and put on some robes, then quietly opened her bedroom door. Outside, a guard sat on a chair, holding a spear to ward off trouble. But the guard was asleep. She crept out and painstakingly slowly, she descended the spiral staircase, listening for any sound of possible witnesses and taking care to place each foot on each cold stone step without a noise.
The castle was dark and silent – everyone was asleep bar the night watchmen on the ramparts. She found it fairly easy to sneak through the halls and corridors leading to the heart of the building. Eventually, she found the room, and passed inside.
“My Lady,” the storyteller, Emrys, was inside the tiny room, sitting at a table by a lone flickering candle, a quill in his hand and a parchment underneath it. “Can’t you sleep?”
“No,” she said quietly, “I can’t.”
“Do you want me to get you something?”
Suddenly, she let her robes drop, so that she stood entirely exposed to his gaze. She watched his expression turn to surprise. “I want you to take me,” she said as he kept his eyes fixed on hers.
“Are you sure, my Lady?” he asked.
“I’ve never been so sure about anything in my life.”
She stepped forwards, so that she was just inches away from him. He drew in his breath as he observed a drop of liquid trickle down her milky white thigh. He stood up then, and she felt her entire body ignite. He placed his hands on her soft neck, wondering at how smooth her skin was. He felt his way down her torso until he got to her beautifully rounded breasts. They were firm but soft to the touch. He carefully avoided the nipple with his hands. He continued down to her tummy, which was creamy and firm. Gently, he began kissing her tiny, slightly elongated navel up to the base of her left breast.
He licked her silky skin around the enticing swell of her breast, covering every inch except the areola and nipple. Her flesh was slightly salty, from the perspiration that came with a warm room and the days of awakening sexuality. Then starting at the edge of the light pink areola, he licked in a spiral until he came to the nipple, which he wrapped the tip of his tongue around. She shivered and moaned at this new feeling but kept her elbows apart, giving him unencumbered access to her body.
Her nipples had become hard little pebbles when he started to lick near her breasts. He put his mouth over one of her tiny buds, sucking it into his mouth, and bit down ever so lightly. She thought she was going to collapse in pleasure, but she held a wide-spread stance that steadied her.
Her face was slightly flushed, easily apparent with her pale skin. Her entire body now glowed in the light of the candle, and as he caressed her breasts with his lips and tongue, she moaned softly.
He dropped to his knees in front of her, and kissed her thighs, moving slowly upwards, looking up at her beautiful vagina with those succulent lips slightly apart and the entire light pink slit glistening with her excitement. Beginning on the inside of her thigh, just above the knee he started to lick his way towards the centre of her ecstasy. Along the way he encountered the trail of her juices that dripped from her vagina, cleaning it off her skin with soft flicks of his tongue.
Then using his tongue, and only his tongue, he began to explore her labia. The thin, soft, pink lips easy yielded to his tongue. But she found it too much, her trembling becoming out and out shaking at the intensity of his attention on her. She stepped back and had to sit down on his bed.