There was no sound other than the drip-drip-drip of running water somewhere that only enhanced the damp feeling in the dungeon. Mold crawled slimily along the walls, breeding a fuzzy layer of slick green wet that coated each brick and stone with a clammy skimming of slop.
In the center of the aisle a gutter ran the length of the hallway, and a horridly putrid stench rose from it, indicating that it was all the prisoners had regarding a sewage system.
Rusty bars spanned the length from floor to ceiling, and thick iron chains clinked gently in the gentle zephyr of breeze that hummed from some distant opening in the walls. Stiff-faced guards, filled with ennui and fidgeting wordlessly in their heavy chainmail and thick lances, stood before every three cells, keeping a silent watch over the prisoners who were caged there. The air was unbelievably foul, and the only relief from the smell was the continuous caress of fresh air that brushed against each unyielding wall like the touch of a lover.
She sat dazedly in her cell, crouched in the corner, shivering. Her knees were locked to her chest, and her arms were wrapped like vices around her long legs.
A pair of smoky blue eyes, the color of a tempest-tossed ocean, regarded the floor seriously and studiously as she trembled to herself, wishing she were wearing something less revealing and more warming. The plain dress she had worn when she had been taken had been thin enough to begin with; now, after nearly three months of captivity with no fresh clothes in sight, it was positively bone-chilling, and tattered to boot.
Her hair, which had once hung in corkscrewing golden curls around her rounded face, now draped limply over each shoulder in a matted mass. Her unkempt appearance was supplemented by her slightly-hollowed cheeks and several fresh cuts tattooing her legs and arms. One or two of said lacerations were still oozing a scabby droplet of blood, but most were healing rapidly. For a brief moment, she closed her remarkable blue-gray eyes and willed herself to relax.
The moment she began to loosen her tensed muscles, the cold seeped in without restraint. Hurriedly her muscles went taut in an effort to stop her shivering. A good nights sleep was a luxury she had not indulged in since she had been brought here; the only thing that served as a bed was a pile of dirty straw in one corner that was crawling with lice.
No blanket or pillow had been provided for the young girl - indeed, she wondered if she even remembered what it felt like to be covered with something clean and warm. She had not been here long compared to her other inmates - one man had been here for coming up on seven years - but the daily tortures of living so rustically was enough to rob anyone's head of good memories.
Suddenly the metal door clanged open with a loud report that made every hair stand on end and every muscle jump wildly. Both guards and prisoners alike turned instinctively to the noise that had shattered the dome of glassy silence that had descended over the dungeon, but upon seeing who it was, inmates folded themselves farther into various corners.
Only the girl had not moved, keeping her stormy blue eyes on the cracked, slimy dungeon floor. The sound of boots thumping dryly on the wet floors permeated the air, along with the occasional gentle splash as afore mentioned boots walked through one of the many puddles that dotted the landscape of the floors.
The noise seemed to go on forever, unceasing, but then they stopped when they reached her door.
There was the almost unheard-of sound of a rusty bolt being drawn back; the heavy rattling jingle of keys being thrust into locks, and the door swung open with a squall of pain.
She didn't dare flick her eyes upwards to the man who entered her cell; it was forbidden to look upon the jailers - or the Lord who owned all of them. There was a muted squeak of leather as the man crouched down to look at the very young girl who sat positively stiff with terror in the corner, her jaw locked to keep from trembling. He extended one hand - clad heavily in a leather glove - and turned her cheek with one finger.
Still, she didn't look at him as he inspected her lowered lashes. "Look at me." he commanded. She did so reluctantly, lifting her tempest-tossed eyes to his torso, noting the royal indigo color of his richly embroidered tunic and the heavy muscles that rippled beneath it. His leggings were black in color, and also equally embroidered with intricate weavings of gold thread. The leather boots that had alerted every man and woman to his presence were freshly polished, and the stitching on the thick leather was beautifully complex.
Slowly, hardly daring to do so, she raised her stormy blue-gray eyes to his face. It was a broad, handsome face, with a rugged jaw line and stubble-covered cheeks. His eyes were a bright shade of emerald green, and his hair was dark brown. It hung loosely around his shoulders in the typical style of modern Lords; it suited him greatly, and made him appear even younger. Hardly daring to breathe at this unexpected pleasure of being allowed to gaze upon the face of her captor, she studied him carefully.
And he also studied her. She intrigued him, and he remembered her since the day they had brought her here. Her figure was slim and lithe, small-breasted and slender, with glossy golden ringlets and an imperial face and nose. But what had struck him, what had managed to seize his attention so thoroughly, was her eyes.
Those once-shining gray-blue orbs were dull with fatigue and hunger, now rimmed with pink from being denied sleep. He had strictly forbidden his soldiers to touch her, but he doubted his orders had been carried out. His men were rough and savage, loyal but occasionally dim-witted. Even a sharp order from their Lord wouldn't be enough for them not to have their way with the young girl who crouched shivering before him.
It angered him, but it was to be expected. They were men, and she was a beautiful woman. Abruptly he stood and left with an impressive click of his heels and a swirl of his plum-colored cape. He turned to the helmeted guard who stood rigidly at attention in front of her cell, and the guard saluted brusquely.
"Bring the girl upstairs and have her bathe," he ordered in a low, commanding bark. "When she is presentable, escort her to my chambers.
I wish to speak to her." It was unheard of for the lord who had taken dominion over these lands to send for a lowly peasant girl who had been captured from one of the villages; but he was, after all, Lord Tristian, conqueror of the Northern Slopes and the Smoky Mountains.
If he ordered pigs to fly, every soldier in the Keep would do their best to fit wings on swine. So the guard nodded smartly and rapped on the bars to get the girl's attention. "Girl! Bring your things to the door and I shall unlock your manacles. Quickly now, you are wasting my time!" Lord Tristian almost said something, but he bit his tongue.
The guard would not harm her unduly; and he had things to attend to. He left the reeking dungeons, and banged the metal door shut behind him. Wide-eyes, the girl shuffled to the front of her cell. She nearly laughed at the thought of bringing her "things". No prisoner was allowed to own anything. Even her worn dress was not called her own. God only knew how many times the soldiers reminded her of this as they ravaged her and stripped her dress from her slim body.
Ruthlessly the guard snatched her thin wrists and unlocked the rusty manacles that swung lazily from her arms, tossing them to the floor with a metallic clank.
She followed him up the stairs to the outside world, the rooms and halls above the dungeon that she had never known. ( ~ * ~* ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~* ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~ * ) She stood in the bathroom uncertainly, clutching the tattered dress closer to her slim frame. The sparkling cleanliness of the bathroom only reminded her of her current state of dress.
One of the maids, a iron-haired woman with deep lines around her mouth and eyes, entered hurriedly and eyed the girl with something approaching distaste. In as few words as possible, the maid ordered the girl to strip and wait for her to bring hot water for a bath.
Then she left with a slam of the oaken door. Her head still reeling, she obeyed quickly, stepping out of the flea-ridden garment that had provided her with only limited modesty. Standing naked in the sprawling bathroom, she chanced a look at herself in the mirror. Her body was remarkably unharmed from her months of solitude; she had seen men and women studded with scabs and scars from only days of living in the dungeons.
Other than a few cuts on her arms and legs and the occasional scar from an overly zealous rapist, her porcelain skin was rather unharmed. The girl hurriedly used the chamber pot before the maid came back in, then stood once more before the mirror, foolishly wondering what was expected of her. Then the maid came back in with two steaming buckets of hot water, and behind her came another maid, this one closer to the girl's own age, carrying two more.
The large circular wooden tub in the corner was now brimming with steamy water, and the girl hesitantly stepped in. The hot water burned her ankles and calves for a moment, and tears unexpectedly sprung to her eyes. Seeing the water in her smoky-blue eyes, the stiff older maid softened slightly and handed her a dish of soft soap.
Hardly daring to believe her good fortune, the girl began scrubbing herself. The younger maid took it upon herself to begin untangling the massive snarls that had massed together at the base of her neck. It took some time, but she eventually stood out of the tub feeling clean and warm for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. Her golden hair was once again restored to its usual shimmering flax, and her eyes were once more bright and animated again.
The maids left, murmuring quietly to themselves and remarking what a pretty little thing she was underneath all those layers of dirt. The girl shifted uncomfortably, wondering what to do.
Her unspoken question was answered when the door opened again and a thin silken robe was placed over her shoulders. "Outfit time, dear," said the younger maid softly. Silently the golden-haired girl followed her.
( ~ * ~* ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~* ) ( ~ * ~ * ) ( ~ * ~ * ) She knocked one at the door of his study, her heart hammering, palms sweating. There was a brusque word - "Enter!" - and she opened the door tentatively, slipping around the frame of the solid oaken structure like a shadow. He rose when he saw who it was, and she wondered why he was bothering with this display of chivalrousness.
If he wanted her, he should take her now, while she was still sleepy and clean. She stood silently at the doorway, one hand plucking nervously at the silvery gown the maids had selected for her.
Dressed as she was, he wondered if she were related to royalty. Her clean profile, light blonde hair that curled deliciously down around her still slightly hollowed profile, all spoke of a noble birth.
Her figure was slim and beguiling, teasingly beautiful in an elegant way. He ached for her. It had not been long since he had taken a woman to his bed, but it would be a tantalizing distraction to his busy life.
He beckoned to her once, noting the elaborate silver gown that slid off of one shoulder, leaving one side of her vulnerable neck bare. She did not look at his eyes, did not acknowledge him when he began tracing patterns on the top of the scarred wooden table with his gloved palm. Up close, when she wasn't dazed from the frigid cold, she could see that he was quite handsome.
He was lounging regally in a chair, his tunic open at the collar, exposing the notch of his collarbones and a few inches of tanned skin. He was tall, broad-chested, with deep-set green eyes which were flecked handsomely with gold.
His leather gloves went up his arms, his shirt sleeves tucked into them, and her quick blue eyes noticed that his cape had been thrown lazily over a hook near the door.
There was a fire roaring in the hearth, orange and crimson blossoms flicking eagerly around blackened logs. Off in one corner, shrouded by silk curtains, was what she presumed to be a bed, although it looked more like a luxurious pile of satin, pillows, and furs. "Do you have a name, young one?" He asked, deep voice breaking the silence.
He had a rich, rumbling voice, tinged with the accent known to those of the Northern Slopes. It sounded as though a lion had been caged in his chest, and his voice suited him. She started guiltily, realized that she had been daydreaming, and quickly bowed her head. "Amariel, my Lordship," She said softly. He nodded once, as if the answer pleased him, and then gestured for her to sit. "Come, Amariel, sit. I have prepared some food for you - no doubt you are hungry." He said, eyeing her carefully.
She glanced at him, and the look was full of suspicion and rife with wariness. For the first time, a smile quirked the side of his mouth. "I promise it is not poisoned." He added, and sliced off a delicate wedge of soft cheese.
After eating this, he raised an eyebrow in an expectant manner. Hesitantly, she allowed Lord Tristian to pour her a chalice of red wine, the color indescribably deep and more crimson than the fire. It was sweet, slightly tart at the finish, but complimented the bread and cheese nicely.
It took every shred of her manners not to cram everything she saw into her mouth at once - and if she had, there still would have been food left over. Two loaves of bread, still steaming from the ovens, were sliced carefully and covered with a napkin to keep them warm. Tiny wooden bowls were filled with spreads and spices, butter and cream, to compliment the sweet white rolls.
At least three different kind of cheeses had been artfully displayed, and a bowl of glossy red apples stood sentry at the opposite corner. The wine thickened her tongue and created a dull, numb feeling around the base of her neck - it was pleasant, and for the first time in almost half a year, she felt her muscles relax.
The meal was taken in silence, and Tristian kept a laugh at bay. She was trying so hard not to eat everything in sight, but there was no doubt she was more confused than hungry. She knew of his intentions - she shot him a warning look every now and then, between bites. But she seemed to be relaxing, just slightly, and then she pierced him with those tempest-tossed eyes again. "Lord Tristian, may I inquire as to your intentions?" She asked, her voice low and carefully tinged with just the right amount of respect and confusion.
He hid a smirk behind his hand as he looked at her one last time - she was related to royalty, she had to be; her etiquette was impeccable. "I will not hide my intentions, Amariel," He said, and looked her firmly in the eyes. "I brought you up to my chambers to request the pleasure of your company for the evening." All at once, she felt them on her - hands, twisting, pinching, grabbing, ramming.
Her small breasts chewed and mauled as they brutally used her, pinning her down with weights and ropes, fucking her like a dog. Their raucous shouts and whoops as they came into her, on her, throwing her back into her cell like a piece of laundry. She could see their jeering faces through the bars, and her hands began to shake. Tristian noted her abrupt change in demeanor, and shifted his weight to attract her attention and keep her eyes on his.
"Lady Amariel, I can promise you one thing - if you accept my proposition, I can see that this evening is mutually agreeable and pleasurable for the both of us." He said, trying to keep her attention in the present. "Animal," She hissed, on her feet in a flash. Her eyes were panicked and jittery, and her limbs were shaking as she scowled at him. And even that motion made him want her more - he could take her by force, but he didn't want to.
He wanted to undo her slowly, savor each moan and cry and kiss and truly take his mind off running his kingdom for perhaps a few hours. "All of your men are pigs! Selfish, greedy, terrible men! And you're no better!" She cried, backing up against the door. In an instant he was on his feet. Terror hit her hard, realizing again how tall and broad and muscle-bound he was.
"Lady Amariel, if you do not wish to accept my offer, than I shall return you to your cell and the hands of the guards. But whatever you decision is, do not impeach upon my honor or my dignity. I brought you up here on respectable circumstances, and you should consider yourself fortunate that I did not merely take you the instant I saw you!" He was angry, she could taste it in the air and feel it in his words.
She cowered, fearing a strike, but instead of his gloved hand hitting her unprotected, slender body, she felt his touch in an entirely different manner. He lay a hand on her shoulder and his voice dropped lower. "Amariel, I cannot take away the damage my soldiers have caused you. But I can help you forget, at least for a moment." She looked at him with zero trust in her eyes, but her shoulders slumped, hands dropping away from their defensive position by her face.
He tilted her chin back, tucking her thick golden curls away from her stormy eyes, and just looked at her. Her breath was warm on his face, her silence tentative. And then, with barely enough motion to warrant the action, she nodded.
He leaned forward, his hand reflexively settling on her hip, and brushed his lips to hers. It hardly qualified as a kiss, merely a touch, and she relaxed slightly. It might have been the wine, it might have been her weariness, but she felt safer. He wouldn't hurt her, she could tell. He seemed to be testing her response, gauging the look on her face, and then he kissed her again, their lips making full contact and parting slightly. Her hands - still trembling - slid along his wide torso and settled on his broad shoulders.
She didn't quite know what to do with her hands, wasn't sure she even wanted this to happen. His gloved fingers tangled through the blonde curls which fell in a curtain down her back, and the kiss he graced her with again was deeper, but still just as restrained. He broke the kiss softly, slowly, and her eyes opened slightly. She hadn't even been aware that she was now leaning against the door and enjoying his kisses, but apparently she had been, because he was interlacing his fingers with hers and bringing her hand up to his mouth.
The kisses he bestowed on her inner wrist and up to the sensitive spot on her elbow were more of warm mouthings, humming over nerves and making a line of heat pool in her lower belly.
His gloves were stripped off and tossed on the table, and now she could feel the rasp of his calloused hands across her skin. She felt a blush coat her cheeks as he palmed her left breast, his touches feather-light but somehow reassuring and controlling. He had a scent, a deep, wild musk which reminded her of horses and open fields, a grassy, primal scent which tingled her senses and nerves. She didn't quite remember how they ended up near his bed, but she remembered with diamond-edged clarity the feel of his work-roughened hands slipping off the strap of her fancy dress.
The silver sheet of material slid off her body in almost a liquid, pooling on the floor and was forgotten by the two partners. She wanted to pace, to fidget, to tap her fingers against her knee, but his drawling kisses and calloused palms were keeping her frozen. Not to mention the shame of what she was doing - her mother would have died if she knew that she was lying in Lord Tristan's bed, with his palm stroking the satiny skin between her breasts.
Not that it mattered - she was dead anyway. But with the war over and the valley where they lived now under the domain of Lord Tristian, nobody cared much about honor.
His mouth on her ear suddenly brought her sharply back to the present, and she realized that whatever he was doing against her neck was doing deliciously sinful things to the trail of heat between her thighs. And his touches, those sure, strong touches as he began working at the thin strap holding her undergarments together. And oh, his bare hands on her exposed skin was heat, just pure, raw, heat, and everything burned as he began to work his way down to the velvet of her breasts.
As soon as his mouth drew her beaded nipple inwards, her back arched and she couldn't restrain the gasp of vulnerability, a ragged breath which betrayed her baser emotions.
His touches burned, but the heat was so good, and she was craving something she couldn't think of, a need which had to be filled. Tristan had never seen such a responsive body - every touch, every kiss, it all lingered in his mind and she showed her pleasure in that simple, innocent way of which all girls new to the sexual experience did; she wove her fingers through his hair, her hips rising as her eyes closed, and he finally gave her what she wanted, his left hand traveling lower as it finally brushed against the soft golden curls between her thighs.
She was wet, and he could feel the tension and heat rolling off her in waves, and he teased those dewed folds with two fingers as he flicked at the sensitive bud with his thumb. Her response to that was an open-mouthed moan and a spasmodic jerk as the alien sensation sparked the heat in her body. Every nerve was fraying as he stroked her slickness again, and this time she cried out, a noise fraught with pleasure and sheer agony. Her sanity seemed to be shattering piece by piece as his teeth closed lightly over her nipple again, and then everything broke at once.
Sights, sounds, and emotions all blurred together in one piece as the primal pleasure savaged her. The heat had exploded like a thunderclap, a white-hot sheet of pure ecstasy, her back arching, head falling back as he kissed her, this time plundering her mouth with his tongue. And oh, the sensations were overwhelming, and tears slipped out of her eyes in spite of herself as she gave a quivering, raw, moan and then sank back into the pile of furs and pillows.
His fingers were sliding through her beautiful gold hair, and he dropped a kiss on her parted lips, tugging her lower lip into his mouth.
He seemed wont to prolong her pleasure as long as possible - his fingers were still lazy stroking her soaking core, and his hand was still rubbing her taut nipple, his calloused hands rasping over her soft skin. "Y- you are a wicked man," Amariel breathed, her voice breaking as her breath still danced elusively out of her reach. Embarrassing whimpers were still trying to break free from her chest, and she kept them at bay with only the greatest possible self-control.
How could he make her feel like that, such a sensation, when there was still cloth between them? His tunic and leggings were still intact, and her hands fluttered, then came to settle on his shoulders.
He was looking down at her with something like a rueful smile; even in the dim light from the ever lowering fire, she could see the leashed passion in his eyes. This was a man doing everything he could to hold himself in check.
"Am I?" He asked, slowly tracing patterns up her side. He sat up and then tugged his tunic over his chest, flinging it carelessly to the floor. Now that his chest was bare and exposed, she could see the tapestry of roughly hewn muscles, carved from sword fighting, training, and hard riding.
A dark ridge of hair led downwards and disappeared into the buckle of his pants, and she was seized with a drowsy urge to run her finger down this novelty. She lay there, uncertain what to do, and then he rewarded her with a searing, distracting kiss which banished every thought or memory from her mind in an instant. Oh, his kisses were as kingly and elegant as he was, full of power and dominance, just as he was.
He trailed his proud kisses down her neck, and before she knew what was happening, there was skin on skin. Skin on skin. She had thought his touches burned - this was torture in the more exquisite form. She could hear his heartbeat, a steady, rapid thump, a soldier marching towards battle.
And oh, with the full contact he branded her, made her skin crawl in a sensitive, delicious manner which made the recently dimmed heat in her thighs flare suddenly.
He plundered her mouth with his kisses, a dominant and just ruler as he settled himself on top of her. Her head tilted as he trailed hot, misty kisses down her neck and down past the pale jut of her collarbone. She had no idea that one could feel so completely surrounded, encased in warmth, and the furs beneath her seemed too hot, too rough, compared to the easy, swift touches he gifts her with.
She took him by surprise, her fingers tangling through his mane of chocolate hair, bringing him down for another of his deep, heady, passionate kisses which were causing a swimming, arousing feeling. It was like drinking too much good wine too quickly, and all of the sensations and feelings were rushing to her head with lightning accuracy and electric timing. She felt the hardness against her soft folds, and she tensed in spite of herself.
"Relax," He told her, more of an unwilling plead than a command, his voice roughened with desire.
And she did, more to follow his command and ease his frustration; this had never happened to her before. She had known about the exchange between men and women before, but the soldier's harsh, cruel beatings and raping had merely increased her fear of the secret communion.
And here he was, delicately pulled past the curtain of her fears, and showing her how it was, how it should be. She arched up, and then plunged him into her liquid heat to the hilt with one sure, smooth stroke. For an instant, there were no words.
No thoughts. Nothing could have described the utter sweetness of being inside her, of having her beneath him and twisting in the furs in agonizing pleasure. She fisted the sheets, her hips rising and begging him silently to move, because the sheet of flames was back, and now it seemed determined to bring her down to where her soul and heart combined.
His teeth had closed around the smooth patch of skin beneath her jaw, marking her with a sharp red mark which would no doubt stand out the next morning. But the pain only seemed to aid the pleasure in a crescendo, the pinnacle of a mountain, the eye of the storm. Their rhythm was the same, their heartbeats matching each other, and her nails raked desperately at his back, his shoulders, anything to draw him farther and faster and now. Her cries were becoming louder and increasingly pleading, and he captured her lips once more in a kiss as he brought them, shuddering, to the brink of their pleasure.
With a single sobbing mewl, she spiraled into a searing, scorching cocoon of ecstasy, their dual pleasure linking them and causing everything to tense, every muscle on steeled, frayed alert, and then it was over.
How long they lay there, panting and still clinging to each other, neither of them knew. But she finally let her head fall back, and he turned to the side, easing himself off her, his warm, calloused palm skating down her side, still damp from their connection. He pressed a kiss against the smooth line of her throat, and she released her grip from his shoulders, relaxing on her back and allowing his lazy, searching motions to continue.
He was still exploring her, still examining every inch of her porcelain skin, and then she heard his low, appreciative growl rumble through his chest.
"Am I still wicked, Amariel?" He asked, his voice soft and almost sleepy. She felt smug; she had made him feel like that.
She would take these memories with her when she was cast back down the dungeons; despite what they had told each other, what their bodies had shared, she was a captive and he was a lord. Their culture and honor prevented them from ever bonding like they had, and yet they still did. After tonight, they would cease to be lovers and continue to be enemies once more. The thrusting, snatching, gagging hands of the guards would be her home, and the rats, their red eyes glinting at her from the darkness, would be her friends.
Tristan would stay in the light, his powerful build and striking looks ensnaring him a queen sooner rather than later, and would be hailed as a conquering hero.
But for the next few hours, they would stay equals. Lovers. "No." She breathed.