Savea knocked on Kerrigan’s door, wondering if she were awake after having to be carried to bed the night before. She waited until she heard Kerrigan bid her enter. Savea opened the door and poked her head inside. She smiled to see Kerrigan awake and dressed for the day. Kerrigan smiled at Savea. “Good morrow Savea.” Kerrigan seemed alert and chipper today. “Please, come in.”
“You look well.” Savea smiled.
“I feel fine.” She said.
“I was wondering if you might show me around since I will be staying here.”
“It w-w-would be my honour.” She said, coming to the door. “I know just w-w-where t-t-to t-t-take you.” The two of them wandered through the halls of the palace and headed outside. “You seem in better spirits th-th-this morning.”
“I talked with Dixon this morning, and I have to admit he made a few points I could not refute. I have decided that while distasteful, I might as well make the most of my time here.”
“Does th-th-this mean you have made peace w-w-with Dixon?”
“As it stands, I am to have every meal with him, and each morning, we shall play a game of chess.” Kerrigan grinned. “What?”
“It sounds like you might have enjoyed yourself.”
Savea grinned. “Well, I suppose it was not all bad. He is an accomplished chess player.”
Kerrigan chuckled. “Dixon has a sharp mind.” She said as they stepped out into a courtyard that was surrounded on all sides by high stone walls. There were trees and bushes with various coloured leaves all over the enclosed space. There were flowers and a stone pathway that led through the beautiful garden. There were stone benches throughout. It was early autumn, and the leaves had just begun to change and fall. It was so beautiful. She wondered what it might look like in the dead of winter when there was nothing but snow and ice.
“I had no idea you had a secret garden.”
“It is w-w-within th-th-the palace w-w-walls. Dixon had it constructed just for me. So th-th-that I might have a sanctuary.” Kerrigan explained. “Th-th-this is one of my favourite spots in th-th-the palace.”
“Good morrow, Your Majesty.” A man’s voice distracted them. Kerrigan and Savea turned to see a warrior standing in the entranceway.
Savea grinned. This man was attractive. He had to be thirty at the very least, but for an older man, he was stunning. Like most warriors, he was tall and broad solid muscle. His hair was a bright golden hue, and it hung loose, his chiselled jaw shadowed by a short beard. Like most Norsemen, he had bright blue eyes. Because of years of war, he was dressed in his armour, his sword at his side. However, when he looked at them, he had a bright smile.
“Good morrow Nori.” Kerrigan offered him a shy smile back. “Nori, may I introduce you t-t-to Savea.” Nori respectably bowed his head at Savea. “Nori, here is my unofficial nanny,” Kerrigan explained. “Dixon has him check in on me t-t-two or th-th-three t-t-times a day.”
“I am more of a personal guard. With the war, it is my duty to know where the Princess is at all times, and to find and protect her from the enemy with my very life if I must.” He smiled at Kerrigan and Savea was almost certain Kerrigan was blushing as she pushed her hair behind her ear and subconsciously bit her lower lip. “And it is my extreme honour to do so.”
“As usual, I am w-w-well,” Kerrigan said softly. Save was picking up hints from both of them. “I am w-w-with my new sister. I am showing her around th-th-the palace.”
“I could escort you…” he smiled at her, “both.” He added quickly in an afterthought.
“Th-th-there is no need.”
Nori seemed disappointed even though his smile never left his face. “As you wish.” He bowed his head respectably and left the women alone.
Savea could not stop grinning. Kerrigan looked at her with confusion. “W-w-what?” She asked as if she had not seen the look that gorgeous man had been giving her.
Savea laughed in disbelief. “Do not tell me you could not see that?”
“That man fancies you.” Save filled her in.
Kerrigan blushed. “No, he does not. He is just kind t-t-to me because my brother w-w-would kill him if he w-w-were not. Th-th-that is it.”
“Then you are blind because the desire coming off that man was so obvious; he did all but grab you and carry you off to his bed.”
Kerrigan looked down at her fidgeting hands. “You th-th-think he fancies me?”
“You must be mistaken. W-w-why w-w-would, he w-w-want me. I am so simple?”
“Having a stutter does not mean you are unintelligent. It just means you have a harder time expressing yourself.”
“But he is so… attractive; and I am so… plain. W-w-why w-w-would, he w-w-want me?”
“Beauty is subjective. What one man finds attractive another might not. Nori sees something in you that you do not see in yourself.”
Kerrigan’s mouth twitched in a shy smile. “You th-th-think I have a chance w-w-with Nori?”
“I would be surprised if you did not.” Savea giggled. “You should give the man a chance. You may like it.”
“Th-th-the same could be said for you.” Kerrigan grinned. “You should give Dixon a chance. You may like him once you get t-t-to know him. He is abrasive, but under th-th-that hard outward exterior, he is a good man. You w-w-will see th-th-that if you let him show you.”
Savea thought about poor lonely Kerrigan and the handsome disappointed warrior. “I will make you a deal.” Savea finally spoke.
“W-w-what kind of deal?”
“I promise, on my honour, to give Dixon a fair chance to woo me if you promise to spend time with Nori and allow him to do the same.”
Kerrigan blushed a bright red. “Th-th-that w-w-would be far t-t-too bold of me.”
Save shrugged her slender shoulders. “Then, I guess I continue to reject Dixon.”
“W-w-well w-w-wait just one moment. If I do th-th-this you w-w-will t-t-try t-t-to know Dixon better?”
“On my word.”
Kerrigan thought about Savea’s deal. “So be it. I w-w-will spend t-t-time w-w-with Nori if you spend t-t-time w-w-with Dixon.”
“Deal.” They shook on it, then Kerrigan continued their tour of the palace.
Mar lunged, and Cain deflected. Mar spun around to catch him on the backside, but Cain ducked and kicked him onto the floor on his hands and knees. Mar picked himself up and growled in frustration. Savea was always better at this then he was. It infuriated him to be outdone by a girl, especially one Savea’s size.
“You are overthinking. You have to learn to make snap decisions in the heat of battle.” Cain told him.
“Ease up on the boy,” Tait said from the table he was seated on watching the training. “I was no better at his age. Perhaps like me, he would be more apt with a different weapon.” Tait suggested.
“Tait has a valid point Cain, perhaps Mar is not meant to be a swordsman, perhaps he would do better as an archer, or maybe an axe is more his speed,” Mani said from where he was seated next to Tait.
“I suppose we can try a different weapon.” Cain agreed. “Which would…” He stopped mid-thought when the doors to the hall opened, and his guards escorted six of Dixon’s men inside. “What is this?”
At the head of the pack like a silver wolf stood Hoth, looking as harsh and as deadly as ever. Hoth glanced momentarily at Mar with no expression, then he looked back at Cain and bowed as a sign of respect. Mar could think of nothing, but the last time he spoke to this man on the border between their lands.
“My King has sent me to fetch the Princess’ personal effects,” Hoth announced, looking Cain dead in the eye. “More specifically, clothing.”
“That seems reasonable.” Cain agreed. “I will have a servant put together a few things.”
“I have been ordered to bring back all of her things,” Hoth told him.
“That is a lot to carry,” Mani said.
“We have a horse and cart. We are more than equipped to take it all now.” Hoth assured them.
“It will take time to pack all of Savea’s things. You and your men are welcome to stay the night. I will assign some servants to pack up Savea’s possessions, and you may be on your way come dawn.” Cain suggested.
“That would be acceptable.” Hoth agreed. “Where may my men and I get a drink?”
“The tavern is open, and they may even allow you to sleep in the back rooms if you slip the tavern owner a little silver.” Mani piped up.
Hoth took a moment to converse with his men then he turned to face Cain. “That is where we shall be. We will leave the cart at the palace doors so your servants may load it. We will return at dawn.”
“Understood.” Cain nodded. Hoth glanced Mar’s way one more time before he turned, and the group of Dixon’s warriors exited the hall. Cain looked at Mar and sighed. “The lesson is over for today. I must go find someone to task with packing up your sister’s belongings,” Cain said as he left the room.
Mani jumped off the table and stretched like he had been sitting for far too long. “Come, boys. The Wekslers have the right idea. We should get drunk. The night is young, and I still have many poor decisions to make before I am too old to enjoy them.”
Mar laughed at his grandfather. For a man of 65, Mani still behaved like as though he were 25. Except for the gray streaks in his dark hair and the faint lines on his face, Mani could easily be mistaken for a young man. Mar liked his paternal grandfather. Where Cain was kind, he was also firm and serious; but Mani was fun, relaxed, and adventurous. Where Cain groomed Mar for leadership, Mani would play with him as a child, and even now, though the games he would admit had changed with age, Mar still loved spending time with Mani. Both of his grandfathers were wonderful but different men. Mani said the difference was because Cain had the weight of the world on his shoulders, whereas he had not a care in the world. Perhaps he was right.
“What bad idea are you thinking of?” Tait asked mockingly.
“I suggest we go down to the tavern and talk to the warriors from Grangely, find out how your daughter is faring,” Mani suggested. “I, for one, am dying to know how she is adjusting to her new home.”
“Fantastic idea.” Tait agreed and then looked at Mar. “Are you coming, boy?”
Mar thought it over. He did not know if sitting around with Hoth getting drunk was a good idea. Then again… “I am defiantly coming.”
The three of them walked down to the tavern across the village. The sun was setting by the time they reached the tavern. Stepping through the door, they scanned the room until they spotted the Weksler warriors seated at a table hassling bar wenches and drinking ale. They walked over and instantly had their attention. “Mind if we drink with you?” Tait asked.
Hoth looked up at Tait. “Tis your kingdom.” He then looked at his men. “Shuffle down and make room for the royals.” The men grumbled, and they all slid down the bench, making room for Mar and his family. Tait and Mani sat down on one side, and Mar looked at the only seat left right next to Hoth. He sat down, trying not to draw attention to the fact that his thoughts were perverse. Much to his dismay, Hoth barely glanced at him once. Mar might as well had not even been there. It was as though he were invisible.
Hoth and his men made conversation with Tait and Mani, each telling some tall tale and the others laughing. No one acknowledged Mar at all. He always felt like such an outcast. As the night went on, they drank and drank. Mar did his best to keep up, but he was not faring as well as the other men at the table. One by one, each man either headed off with a woman or passed out drunk at the table. Mar himself was having a hard time seeing straight. Tait had left early to go home to his wife, and Mani had stayed a few more hours before doing the same. The rest of the men slowly dropped off, and soon Mar was sitting at the table alone with Hoth.
Deciding, he ought to find his bed while he could still walk Mar made to get up. He paused when Hoth’s hand reached under the table and grabbed his thigh, stopping him from leaving. “Sit,” Hoth said, turning his heated gaze up at Mar. Oh sure, now he noticed him. Still, Mar sat down as ordered. “Good boy.” Hoth teased, and Mar snickered himself. He should be offended, but surprisingly, he was not. Hoth leaned in and lowered his voice. “I have a room in the back.” He whispered. “Follow me back there, and this old man will teach you a few tricks you will never forget.” Hoth then stood up and walked away from the table.
Mar remained seated at the table. His hands flat against the table. Did Hoth proposition him? Did he dare follow him? Mar’s pulse was racing. The prospect of making his fantasies reality excited him. He should go home. Yes, he should defiantly go home. Mar rose to his feet and went to the back of the tavern. He found the closed door and knocked, then he reached for the handle and let himself in. Stepping into the room, it took him a second to notice Hoth was leaning against the wall behind the door. He reached out and shut the door. The heat in his eyes was stimulating.
“Remember when I said men never submit?” Hoth asked, walking toward Mar.
“Yes.” Mar breathed.
Hoth stood toe to toe with Mar. “Tonight, you will.”
Savea hauled the last cauldron of hot water to her bath. She supposed she could have requested a servant do it, but she had nothing to do anyway. Why make another do what she was perfectly capable of doing? Returning the now-empty vessel to the stand by the fireplace, Savea undressed. She had been wearing the same dress for days now. She needed a new dress, but since she did not have one, she would settle for just a bath. She had thought about requesting one of Kerrigan’s, but Kerrigan was much bigger than she was, and Savea did not think any would fit her.
She took her hair out of the braid and climbed into the washtub. She sat down, enjoying the hot water. It was so relaxing. Savea closed her eyes and slowly sunk in the water until she was completely submerged. She lay under the water holding her breath. Under the water, she could hear nothing, smell nothing, feel nothing but warmth. It was tranquil.
Savea opened her eyes while still emerged, and she spotted Dixon standing over the tub, looking down, watching her. Startled, she screamed, and her lungs filled with water. Reaching up, she grabbed the sides of the washtub and pulled herself up into a seated position. With her head above water, Savea coughed violently, trying to expel the water from her lungs. Still coughing, she grabbed the robe next to the tub and pulled it into the water using it to cover herself.
“What is wrong with kings that they never knock?” Savea growled, doing her best to keep herself covered. She did not dare get up out of the water; he would see more than he already had.
“This is my palace; I am free to go wherever I so wish. Besides, I did knock; you did not hear me.” He smiled at her.
“What do you want?” She barked, embarrassed to have had him see her undressed.
She glanced up at him as Dixon held up a dress. It was very plain, a servant’s garb, but it looked like it would fit. “I had to search the whole village for someone your size. Eventually, I had to buy this off one of our youths, but I believe it will fit. I thought you could use a clean frock.” He was right. “It is not suitable for royalty, but at this point, it is the best I can do. I have sent some men back to Vremore with a cart to bring back your belongings. When they return, you will have your dresses, and we may discard this drab, but for now, it will have to do.” He said, walking over to the bed and laying the dress out on the mattress for her.
“Thank you for the dress.”
“You are more than welcome.” He said, coming back to the tub and looking down at her. Dixon knelt on one knee next to the tub, so he was eye level with Savea. “I am sorry I missed our meals today. The running of a kingdom is often time-consuming. I promise I will not miss our morning meal or our game.” He said, reaching out his hand to stroke her wet hair.
“You are forgiven.” She said, wishing he would leave.
“You ought to allow me to make it up to you.” He said, reaching for the robe she used to cover herself. Her grip tightened on the garment as he slowly began to take it from her. “Let go.” He purred in her ear. “I am your intended. It is alright to let me see you. Release it.” Nervously Savea let go, and Dixon took the sopping wet robe and threw it on the floor, leaving a large puddle of bathwater beneath it. She tensed as he looked her over. “Look at you; you are so alluring.
His hand captured her chin gently, and he turned her face toward him. He leaned in and kissed her lips. Her head spun, and she parted her lips, allowing his tongue to invade her mouth. His kiss made her melt, and Savea was soon kissing him back. Dixon’s hand boldly cupped her breast as his thumb toyed with her stiffening nipples. His touch was so stimulating Savea soon found herself lost in the moment. She knew she should not allow this, but it felt so good.
His hand slowly slid down her belly, caressing her as it moved ever lower. His lips lifted from hers for only a moment, and he whispered in a commanding way. “Open your legs.” She knew she should not. “Now.” Consumed by the pleasure he invoked, Savea’s knees fell open, exposing herself to his view. Dixon kissed and nipped at her earlobe and neck as his hand slipped between her legs, stroking her silken folds. She gasped with pleasure when he forced two long fingers inside her.
When he began to thrust them in and out of her, Savea’s breathing changed. Her head fell back against the edge of the washtub and closed her eyes, enjoying the way his touch made her body ache most deliciously. Soon she was panting and moaning. The pleasure was so much; she rocked against this hand as she arched her back. Dixon’s mouth moved from her neck to her breasts as he closed his mouth around her breast and sucked, his tongue toying with her nipples. His hand moved faster, and soon an explosion of white-hot sensation washed over Savea, and she cried out as he brought her to the heights of ecstasy.
Dixon pulled his hand away and then placed a soft kiss on her forehead. He then brushed his lips over her ear as his fingertips traced over her sex. “Be a good girl and shave it all off. When I come for you again, I want to see you bare.” He purred against her ear. “Obey me, and I promise a tongue lashing you will never forget.” He then rose to his feet and smiled down at Savea. “I will see you in the morning.” He grinned and then Savea watched Dixon leave, pulling the door shut behind him.
She had no idea what had just happened, but she had enjoyed it immensely.
Mar pulled his trousers up around his hips and tied the laces in front to keep them up. He turned to face Hoth, who lounged comfortable and relaxed in his bed. The blanket draped over his waist. He had not bothered to dress as he watched Mar dressed. Mar felt conflicted about what they had just done. He knew it was wrong, but it felt so great, and he could not stop smiling. “Are there others like us?” He asked as he picked up his tunic and pulled it on over his head. “Men, who do what we just did?”
Hoth snickered. “Bored of me already?” He teased.
“No, just wondering. For so long, I thought I was the only one.”
“There are a few, but even less that are willing to admit it, even to themselves.” Mar sat down on the edge of the bed as he began to strap his armour on.
“How did you know?” Mar asked. “That I was one of them?” He needed to know if everyone could tell.
“Do not fear, it is not obvious. I could see the look in your eyes. That look of fear and confusion. Other men would never notice it, but I knew that look. You looked like I did at your age.”
“What is wrong with us?”
Hoth sat up and moved closer. He grabbed Mar by the back of the head once more and pulled him close, looking into his eyes. “There is nothing wrong with us. We have different preferences. I share your secret, and I speak from experience. This secret will either make you strong or kill you. Be strong. Make peace with what you are. You will be happier once you do.”
For so long, Mar had believed he was the only one. Meeting Hoth had changed everything. Not just because he finally realized he fantasies but because it proved he was not alone. He was not the only one. That made him feel better about what he was. He no longer felt hopeless. He did not know if he would ever see this man again, but tonight had changed Mar and his outlook on life.
Mar rose to his feet as he strapped on the last of his armour and belted his sword to his hip. “Will I ever see you again?” Mar asked.
“I imagine we may run into one another from time to time.”
Mar nodded and then left. He would head back to the palace. It was late, and his bed was calling to him.