Category Archives: Chapter 4

Chapter Four

Emera’s eyes slowly opened, focusing on a pillow near her face. On her stomach, her hair was strewn about. She lifted up onto her elbows, wincing at the pain throughout her body. Her face was still sore from Jenner’s fists, and she felt a dull ache between her thighs. All of her muscles were sore from exhaustive use, and she was incredibly thirsty and hungry. She was also naked, she noted. The front of her body was still red with a few bruises over some of her bony prominences.

The sun still sat below the horizon, gaining energy before it rose in the morning sky. The cool air drifted easily in the windows, sending a chill through her. She grabbed a sheet and tied it around her, partly to warm herself and partly to hide her injuries. It then occurred to her that she was no longer bound and was free to move about. She wondered just how free she was.

Emera made for the door, took a deep breath and tugged at the handle. It was bolted; she was locked inside. She huffed and looked around the dimly lit room. The fire that had raged in the night was nothing more than smoldering embers.

She put a couple of logs on the fire, nursing it back to life. While she slept, someone had brought up a plate of food and a pitcher of wine and sat them on the small table. Her tattered dress that had been shredded from her body was gone. She noticed the leather bottle with the water Edrich had left. She opened it and drank, grateful to relieve her parched throat. When her thirst was quenched, she began picking at her food. Though she should have been starved, as she mulled over the night’s events, sickening apprehension crept up on her turning her stomach to knots. Despite the discomfort, she ate knowing she would need her strength.

She sat on the edge of the fire pit, warming herself. Slowly, she threaded through the words and deeds of the night. She tried to set aside emotion to allay the overwhelming anxiety that threatened to overtake her.

She was still a captive, for what purposes remained unknown, however. He hadn’t bothered to question her further. He only seemed interested in dominating her desire while she fulfilled his. Without bidding, the passion from the night before swept over her, and she suddenly felt warm at the thought of his touch on her lips and neck and breasts and…she stood and began pacing.

She had succumbed to his touch just like he had taunted. Not only had she enjoyed it, she’d begged! She would have let him take her soul away if he’d asked. She’d been a mindless idiot. She had so easily given in to her body’s hunger. Even now, the pull of her desire for him was overpowering. Despite any logical argument against him she could devise, she knew her longing for him would forever pulse through her veins.

And that sickened her. He was her enemy now. He was at this very minute poising his army to decimate everything in Adalynd in his bid to conquer. Her mind quickly flew through her confrontation with him in his tent. He had told the general to prepare to defend against an attack and to also prepare the troops to begin the siege. Her heart began thumping wildly at that. He had also called for Glenna’s capture. The whole of her country is on the brink of a devastating attack, and she let herself be seduced by the leader. She clenched her fists in grave determination, squeezing so hard they shook.

If she let him rule her, she wasn’t fit to be queen. She shut her eyes at the thought of her consequences. It seemed that her presence in Lidio was the cause for the upcoming battle. It was she who had catapulted the entire affair out of order and into chaos. She steeled herself against the onslaught of guilt. I will defend my people. I will be as strong as any man and prove I am fit to rule, she thought.

She began pacing again as she planned. She had to warn her father, save Glenna, prepare for battle, something! She felt so entirely impotent at the top of the ridiculous tower. As she saw it, there were several ways out of her present predicament. Firstly, Edrich would kill her immediately, either by his sword or some barbarous torture. Despite the hatred she had seen in his eyes, she didn’t think that was likely considering he had provided sustenance for her after he had used her. That reasoning brought her to her second option. He would keep her as a slave, for sexual deeds or otherwise. This was the most likely solution since he kept her alive and secluded. If he had meant to interrogate her further, she thought he would have chained her back up and withheld rations. However, she had the freedom to move about in the room at least, with appetizing food and wine. The question then became, how long would he keep her?

Would he plan to use her a few more times and then kill her or throw her to his men or simply make a common slave out of her, or would he keep her indefinitely? She allowed her mind to wonder down both possibilities before her thoughts drifted to the reasoning behind each. When she felt somewhat warmed by the possibility he would want her forever, she shook her head and scolded herself. This line of thinking is irrelevant. If he plans on doing anything with me any longer than today, I have a chance to make it home. I don’t care what his plans would be and why he would make them, she lied to herself.

If he wasn’t going to outright kill her, she needed a plan of escape. However, before escape, she wondered if an alternative could be reached. Could she negotiate with him somehow? Would finally telling him she was the princess and her entire scheme produce any fruit? Not likely. The dolt wouldn’t want to trust me enough to believe it, she bemoaned. Plus, at this point, she didn’t want him as an ally anymore. Granted, not all men could be as kind and gentle as her father, but at least they could be honorable. She felt a little dejected at the thought that war was now inevitable, despite all her planning and maneuvering to avoid it.

She felt used, both physically and mentally. Her thoughts drifted over what Jenner had said. The king had laughed at her? Even though she was a woman, Emera knew her skills with the bow rivaled any man’s. The soldiers in the tent, she remembered, had stared at her with awe. The young one said they were all impressed by what the king had told them; he had extended his protection over her since she had saved his life. She felt the dissonance in what she witnessed and what the snake Jenner had claimed. Slowly, her initial distrust of the man reemerged, warning her that he was a liar and manipulator.

Emera was pulled from her thoughts when a screeching click indicated someone was unlocking the door. She stood and tied the sheet about her more tightly. The sickening butterflies returned to flutter in her stomach as she waited to see Edrich’s intimidating form. Relief washed over when a very thin, old lady carrying a tray walked through the door.

Emera noted the wary look the lady gave her as she nodded and approached the table. She placed the meal down while picking up the dirty plate. As she turned to leave, Emera reached out for her, calling, “Please, what is your name?” The woman only turned to look in a fearful manner. “My name is Emera. Please, won’t you tell me who I am to thank for this food?” she tried to smile pleasantly to ease the woman’s tense countenance.

The older lady did straighten a little more confidently at that. “I am Alma, miss. My husband is the cook.”

“You are married to Leonard?” Emera asked amiably, brightening at the mention of the sweet old man.

Alma mirrored her obviously pleased face. “Yes, you know my Leonard?”

“Yes, I helped him in the king’s tent when I was traveling. He was very kind to me because I actually do not think I helped at all. I’m not a very good cook, you see.” She smiled sweetly, blushing at the admittance, looking sheepishly at the frail old lady.

“Ah, I see.” But her face suddenly dropped as she realized the young girl was obviously a prisoner. And by the look of her dress, or lack thereof, undoubtedly the king had availed himself of her beautiful charms. She noticed her face looked ill-used and wondered at the state of her. She had never known her king to behave in such a dishonorable manner before. She knew she should leave and curtly bowed.

“Please, I know it may be asking a lot, but, I am rather cold, you see, and my own gown was…” Emera’s eyes blurred with tears, “taken. It was so dirty and torn. I was hoping I might have a dress, maybe a robe as well? Please, I am so cold.” She gave a small shiver to punctuate her need.

Alma looked concerned, both for the girl’s plight and also the danger at angering the king if she aided his prisoner against his wishes. However, the kind lady could not refuse such a pitiable sight as the beautiful, shivering girl. She gave a slight, reluctant nod. “I will see what I can do, miss.” She finally turned and left.

As Emera began to eat her meal, she sighed. Well, that is one less thing I will need to worry about, should I need to escape. She decided she would keep the clothes hidden until it was time for her to leave. That brought her to her next hurdle. Exactly how was she to escape from a locked tower?

She began to thoroughly examine the room, searching for any weakness or clue. Alas, no stone was movable, the solid wood door only locked from the other side, and the outside walls were not scalable. Obviously, the only way out would be when someone opened the door. Thus far, only two people had entered the room. If she planned for it, she might be able to subdue him and make good her escape. She’d rather not implicate the innocent woman during her flight, so she would leave her be if at all possible.

Another possibility occurred to her. He may not keep her in this room forever, but send her to sleep in the servants quarter, giving her more freedom. Of course, what would precipitate a change of rooms? Trust, she mused. He would have to trust that she would stay, not leave, not betray him. She could pretend to reluctantly want him, demonstrate a need for him that would keep her bound to him. She winced at the thought of that. The problem lied in the fact that she wouldn’t be pretending. She didn’t trust herself to allow him to touch her again; she would be completely under his control. It was better, for her own resolve, to openly deny him and never again submit to any of his wishes, no matter the pain in the refusal. Back to designing a more straightforward escape plan.

The ray of light that poured in with the bright morning moved across the floor as the sun rose high in the sky. Emera yawned loudly. Acknowledging she was still exhausted from the night before, she went to sit on the bed. She wasn’t so comfortable with her situation as to lay down fully vulnerable so she propped herself up against the headboard. Despite the slightly disagreeable position, she was soon asleep.

Emera woke with a start. Alma’s hand was on her shoulder, her kindly face peering in at her. “So sorry to startle you, dear, but I’ve brought you dinner.” She then presented the folded package to her. “And also a dress and clean underthings. I had to guess your size, so I hope it fits adequately.”

Emera was touched by her kindness and thoughtfulness. “Thank you,” she said with some relief. “It will be nice to be completely warm again. Not to mention female modesty,” she said with a growing blush.

“Yes, well, dress and eat. I brought you plenty of food since you looked so thin, dear.” She smiled and patted her on the shoulder then left. Emera quickly snatched up the newly given wardrobe and looked through it. All the clothing items were clean and tidy, if not new, and there was even an over coat and perfectly sized shoes. Grabbing the bundle, she looked around for a secure hiding space. Given the bareness of the room, she decided upon stashing it under the bed.

Once she had finished off her food, she walked to the window overlooking the courtyard and watched the activity of the day. There were a few soldiers, but the majority of the people seemed to be servants and peasants. She was taking note of exits and guards when the door opened.

Edrich hungrily eyed the picturesque beauty standing at the window, a sheet tied provocatively around her chest, hanging down in sensuous folds, smoothing over curves that were seared in his memory. He watched her form stiffen slightly, still looking out the window, but very aware of his presence.

Edrich had awoken during the middle of the night, her warm form laying over him. Before he opened his eyes, he gently squeezed her sleeping body and nuzzled his face into her hair. Contentment washed over him as he thought about breakfast in bed with her. Then his eyes flashed open and reality crashed down like a bucket spilling ice cold water. He was in bed cuddling his prisoner as though she were a treasured lover, even a beloved wife. He stiffened, suddenly extremely uncomfortable. Edrich gently slid out from under her, eager to escape the uneasy feeling.

He found his way to his room and stood before the fire. He didn’t know what to think about what had transpired between them. He only knew he was damned. He had set out to simply break her by using her own passion against her. He wasn’t ashamed to admit it served the second purpose of satisfying his own lust, but there was the rub. Despite his powerful attraction to Em, he thought, or rather hoped, he would tire of her. And yet, the moment he tasted her, he knew none other could compare. And then she’d begged. She said the most erotic things in such an innocent, lust filled voice.

Innocent. She had been a virgin. Something he didn’t expect, despite all the signs he had witnessed in the short time he knew her. Jenner’s man insinuated she was well versed in the art of seduction. He knew, even though she responded passionately, she had been innocent.

When he brought her to her second orgasm, his only thought was that she belonged to him. Forever. One part of him easily accepted the new acquisition into his life. He should be happy that he had found a body he desired with his whole being, a person he enjoyed entirely. But that wary side nagged him; the happiness he wanted to feel was a problem. Don’t you see, wanting her so entirely weakens you. It makes you bound to her, dominated by her. You aren’t in control if you want her so completely, so thoroughly that you’ll never be satisfied, he argued. With a sigh he crept into bed, knowing he didn’t have the mental or physical strength to confront the issue further at the moment.

He awoke that morning with an instinctual expectation. With a dream-laden smile, he reached out for his enchanting bed companion, only to feel cold sheets. He opened his eyes unhappily, only to remember his bed partner remained locked in the old turret he had run from during the night. The wariness at feeling so needful of Em returned as well. He expelled an angry huff and flung back the covers. He was tempted to return to her room and use her bewitching mouth to relieve his morning erection, but decided against it. He might still crave her scent and touch as he did no other, but he also felt that danger lied in his surrender to her pull. He wanted to clear his thoughts and come to an agreement with himself before he approached her again.

As a result, the battle plans he should have been contemplating all morning went undecided as he sat at his desk and mindlessly sketched a perfect mouth with his quill on the edge of one of the maps. Despite the danger that lay in his capitulation to his obsession, he knew life offered no other options. He couldn’t live without Em. He couldn’t give her up, either to leave him or die at his hand. He wanted to possess her eternally.

His anger at her vocation had faded somewhere in his sleep and he no longer cared where she was from. Granted, she wouldn’t be going back and he would make the daft old king pay for his deceitful dealings. But he no longer saw why Em needed to remain in the equation of the feuding countries. After all, she was just a citizen doing the bidding of her king.

Regardless of the accusation that she meant to kill him eventually, he was confident in his assessment of her nature; she wasn’t an assassin, and she wouldn’t have harmed him. He remembered her genuine distress when she’d slain the two men in the forest. She had never killed before and it wasn’t likely that she would enjoy doing so again.

Perhaps, given a few more encounters with him, she would hand over her loyalty to him. If she craved him to any comparable depth he did her, he knew she couldn’t resist forming an attachment for long. He had already proven to himself she desired him. Hell, she wanted him enough that despite the fear of death or enslavement she still responded to his caresses, came under his touch.

At the remembrance of their night together he felt his lust stir once more. He quickly ate his midday meal and freshened up. His mind was decided, and he felt almost giddy as he ascended the stairs to her room. In the back of his mind drifted thoughts of when her room would be next to his, making access to her an easy thing whenever his passion swelled. He smiled at the thought of how frequent that would be.

Leaning against the door, arms folded, he watched and waited. He was patient, unnerving his prey with his silent study. At last, she straightened and turned from the window, looking at him with quiet resolve. He moved away from the door and poured wine into the goblet. Neither spoke as he downed the warm contents, coating his tongue in the heady flavor.

As he stood watching her, she could feel the desire radiating off him in powerful waves. His obvious lust-driven purpose in spite of her demeaned and defenseless state angered the last of the remaining dignity in her. When hell freezes over, she fumed.

Edrich sat in the chair, propping his feet on the end of the bed, hands clasped behind his head. Emera rolled her eyes in annoyance and turned back towards the window. “And how do you fare today?” he asked easily.

“Still a prisoner, king, so not as well as other days,” she quipped tersely.

He squinted his eyes at that. “Yes, well, I suppose your position here is dependent on your will.”

She turned to him, angry and skeptical. “You are mistaken there. If it were up to my will, I would never have been brought here. I would not be a prisoner, and you would never have touched me. But as it is, all this is because of your will,” she said waving angrily at her body and stone surroundings.

He grunted in disagreement. “As I recall, it was you who first touched me. And it was your will of deceit that brought you here.” He watched her huff and turn away again. It wasn’t going as well as he had hoped, but given their history, he had to allow for some conflict. It was best to get it out of the way now and leave nothing but their pleasure for the future.

She sighed. “And what can my will decide now?”

“There are several ways to proceed. Which one you take is your choice. But do not deceive yourself. No matter your choice, I will have what I want.”

She stiffened and turned to him, questioning him warily. “And what is it you want?”

His half-cocked smile turned his face rakishly handsome. “Just you.”

Her heart fell out of her chest and fire rose to her cheeks. Her surmise that Edrich would keep her as a slave rather than kill her had been correct. And though she knew the knowledge could serve her no purpose, she couldn’t keep from asking. “For how long?”

“How long what?”

“How long do you intend to keep me?”

“Only until my death. I hope by then to be rid of this desire for you,” he stated somewhat comically, somewhat irritated.

She knew she shouldn’t have asked. Her dejected face was covered by her hand as she stroked her brow in pained thought. He narrowed his eyes at her. “Though, you don’t seem happy or relieved to learn the king, with the power to end or save your life, is inclined to keep you pleasure-bound forever.”

“I’m sorry, your Majesty,” she crooned in mock apology, her voice dripping with sarcasm, her hand over her heart, “if I have not responded with the heart-felt glee and thankfulness you were hoping for at learning you intend to keep me as a sex slave forever. In order to ease your confusion so clearly marked upon your face, let me explain, and please do tell me if you cannot follow my reasoning, for I would not want you to be mistaken.”

Her voice lost its satirical air and dropped to deadly gravity. “I would rather die a thousand deaths than stay locked by your side in a life of slavery where my every breath only exists to fulfill your sexual needs. Had I any other choice in the world, I would not choose to remain near you. The very thought of your touch sickens my heart.

“You are a villain of the worst kind. You send false information to your neighbors in hopes of luring them into war, drawing them in by duplicitous means. Those are the actions of a power-hungry man out to destroy and conquer. But you,” her voice breaking with emotion, “you do not stop there. You seduce innocent ladies into debauchery and then beat them for fictitious crimes. And not only am I to be taken prisoner and treated barbarically, you chain me to the wall, strip me naked and then rape me!

“And yet, you expect me to happily and willingly allow you to fulfill yourself with my body over and over again? Until your death? Where is a sword and I can bring us happily to that end.” Her eyes were enlivened by rage and she was shaking fitfully. Her breathing was ragged as she stared at him.

His face had lost all its humor. He clenched his jaw tightly. He was angered by her accusations and summation of his character. Rape her, indeed. She had begged him! “Your memory seems to be a bit defective. As I recall, you kissed me first in the forest. You kissed me back last night. Your body responded eagerly to my touch, or do you not remember the liquid heat from between your thighs? You cried in pleasure over and over again. And despite any denial you promised, you did beg me.” He stood and was stalking to her, backing her up against the wall. “You begged me over, and over, and over.” The heat of his voice poured out like lava, enveloping her in his anger and lust. He drew his finger up to run down the side of her face, down her neck, running over the top of the fabric at her breasts. “Or do I need to remind you just how joyful you were in allowing me to fulfill myself with your body.”

Despite the thudding of her heart, she mustered her courage to fight him back. Looking up into his darkening eyes, she challenged. “Do you really think a woman means ‘yes’ just because you are able to provoke and draw out a physical response with your well trained caresses? A body can respond to anyone’s touch given its skill. It is the heart you must conquer, not the body.” She folded her arms obstinately and sneeringly said, “Besides, as your man tells it, I have no genuine feelings for you. I was only in your presence to seduce you, bending you to my will, remember? And yet you are trying to convince me that I am a victim of my own desire for you. Make up your mind, Edrich, you cannot have it both ways.”

“Don’t start trying to play innocent, now. Or else do you wish to recant on your earlier confession?”

“I only confessed to being from Adalynd. How that is worthy of this punishment, I have yet to see.”

“Because you were sent by the king,” he prodded.

“Yes. To discover what sort of man the king here is. As you said before, our countries were feuding at the border. After receiving information, from your own man, nonetheless, that you were mounting an attack, how did you expect me-us to react?”

He took a step back. She was trying to evade guilt by this new, yet reasonable explanation. He paused mainly because it was far more in line with the woman he had come to know than that of the deceitful seductress. He narrowed his eyes at her. “What man?”

She rolled her eyes and stepped around him, trying to put distance between their overheated bodies. “No need to play coy with my, your Majesty. He has already explained that it was a set up crafted by you, and that no matter what our response had been, you would have inevitably attacked Adalynd.”

“Now I really demand to know what you are talking of. Who is this man?”

She smirked at his acting. But it was rather good acting, and she hadn’t known him to pretend with her before. She decided to play along, seeing where it would lead. “Why, Jenner, of course. He came to the palace telling my fath-king that you planned an attack. He gave him locations of your troops and intended movements. Of course, one should never outright trust a traitor, and so I came to Lidio to confirm or deny the reports.” Her hands were on her hips waiting for his next move.

He cocked his head, eyes slanted in mistrust. He mulled over her accusation. He never had liked or trusted Jenner, but she was a spy; did she deserve any more trust? Despite his doubts, her claims did agree more with her behavior and mannerisms than that of Jenner’s charges. She most certainly was not an assassin or seductress. And, despite being able to get close to him, he didn’t think she was an exceptional spy. Why had the king sent her? Why not secret military spies who could infiltrate the area undetected and leave the same?

Emera was slightly confused at his reaction, subdued as it was. If he had been part of the plot, she imagined he would have cruelly laughed and elaborated on his scheming since she was no longer a threat. He wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to flaunt his superior machinations. And yet, he was considering the truth of her words, which only meant that he hadn’t been a part of Jenner’s deeds. Suddenly, all the doubt and mistrust she held for that evil man came rushing forth. He had duped her, that much was clear. Though she was convinced of his treachery, she could tell Edrich still held reservations about her confession. Perhaps she could convince him still.

“Edrich, you must let me go.”

He harrumphed at that. “I’ve already told you your future. You stay with me.”

Her face darkened at his denial. “Is war what you really want?”

Edrich sighed loudly. “I am tired of discussing this topic. Come, let us move on to more pleasant things.” He sat on the bed and leaned back, propping his feet up in relaxed repose.

Her hands were on her hips as she scowled at him. “How can you disregard the needs of your nation for the needs of your body? Have you no honor that all you can think of is…” she lost the courage to continue. “Only a few words more and countless lives will be spared. How can you so easily…” she stopped again, trying to organize her thoughts. She had begun pacing, and he watched with slight amusement mingled with annoyance. “Can you not postpone whatever it is you are planning, invite the king here, on your territory (where you will be safe), and discuss with him? I assure you, we do not want war,” she took a pleading step toward him. He saw the sincerity in her eyes and was disconcerted by it.

“What I now choose to transpire between Lidio and Adalynd is no longer your concern.”

“Adalynd is always my concern. I will not so easily abandon my country, my people.”

“You will because I command it so.” He stood and moved around the bed, walking to her.

“You cannot dislodge my duty, not by words or deeds.”

He was standing toe-to-toe with her, glowering down in growing frustration. “I can and I do. Your duty is now to me and me alone.” He grabbed her roughly, exhibiting his frightening power. His mouth crashed down upon hers, causing her to gasp in surprise. He wasted no time in plunging his tongue possessively into her mouth, stroking her tongue. She tried to wriggle away, but a hand held her head firmly in place. His lips moved against hers in bruising force, causing her to whimper at the show of unbridled dominance.

Her hands moved to his chest, pushing back against him, even as her lips moved tentatively with his. At the increase of her whimpering, Edrich pulled away violently and rasped, “You belong to me. You cannot continue to deny this any longer.”

“I can and I do,” she ground out, throwing his words back at him.

Her statement set him alight, his fury burning loudly. He threw her to the bed, ripping the sheet from her body as she went. Emera landed on her stomach and quickly crawled to her knees, making for the other side. He was upon her as she was kicking her feet off onto the floor. He flung her back, pinning her down. Before she could scream in protest, his lips were covering hers again in a savage kiss. She was able to flick her head away. “Stop!” she screamed. She was able to wiggle her hands free and began to push and hit at him.

He was undeterred and simply took her hands in his own, immobilizing them above her head. He resumed his assault on her mouth, his tongue relentless in its pursuit to make her respond. She still fought him with her body, thrusting against him, wiggling in desperation. But the friction of his clothing against her sensitive skin only served to arouse her further so she stopped.

His lips felt as erotic as ever, igniting the intimate and delicious burn deep within her. She wanted him, so much of him. But she knew if she abandoned herself to his darkness, she would be forever lost. She whimpered again as the misery of her situation washed over her. Emera begged one last time, but this time, for an entirely different release. “Please, Edrich, please stop.”

His own desperation to hear her longing pleas for pleasure snapped his restraint. “If you can’t beg me to fuck you, don’t say anything!” His mouth ground harshly against hers. “Tell me,” he growled. “Tell me you want me.”

She shook her, holding out with the last of her strength. He unleashed the full fury of his desire. Unlike the night before, he did not seek to seduce her to give into her own longing. If she wanted to fight the inevitable, unparalleled affinity that ran through them like an undertow, he would let her. But he wouldn’t be denied. Holding her hands with one of his, he used the other to snake down his body to unfasten his breeches. He shoved them down past his hips and drew her leg over him. He gave no warning and no reprieve as he impaled her mercilessly. He had yearned for her too long, his entire being a pent up ball of explosive energy.

She cried out against his lips. He held the position as his head dipped to her ear, then her neck. His searing breath scorching her a moment before his lips and tongue attacked her sensitive skin. Her tunnel had been dry, but the pain from his invasion coupled with his masterful seduction on her neck quickly aroused her body. When Edrich felt her cunt gush with liquid fire he began thrusting into her, bent on finding his incensed release.

Though Em refused to give in consciously, her hands stopped their struggles to lace their fingers with his own. They then grasped his shoulders. Her nails dug into his flesh, leaving angry imprints through his shirt. Her head was tossed back as he devoured her neck. Her eyes were squeezed shut, trying to block out the sharp, electric thrumming coursing through her. The pleasure was building unbidden and unwanted. Without thought, her leg that was wrapped around his hip tightened, pressing him more firmly into her.

Given his angrily aroused state, and the tight slick channel he was burying himself into, he didn’t last long. With one loud growl he emptied himself into her, knowing she had not reached her own release. Good. He flowed in rushed torrents into her, seeking to claim her from the inside out. The deep black fire that had possessed him finally settled into a tempered, waiting flicker. He lay on top of her, panting, trying to focus his mind to a single thought. It took many minutes for the loud water raging through his ears to ebb away, his heart no longer thumping in his head. He raped her. That was the single thought that came when all died down.

Disgusted with himself, he eased off her, suddenly anxious to be as far away from her as possible. The shame threatened to crush him. He dared a look down at her tortured form. Her eyes were still closed, but a copious amount of tears had escaped. Her breathing remained ragged, and her hands laid over her chest, covering herself protectively. Seeing her distressed state agitated him beyond all tolerance. His longing to ease her discomfort rivaled his desire to satisfy himself within her. Without thinking, he fell between her thighs seeking to comfort her.

Her eyes shot open when his firm lips settled on her pussy, licking her slit hungrily open. He pressed into her tightly, shoulders digging comfortingly into the backs of her thighs. His right arm wound possessively around her thigh and laced it over his shoulder, affording him better access. His other hand wound round to her stomach and slid higher, claiming a breast in erotic caresses.

He drew her soft flesh into his mouth and suckled the smooth, delicate flesh. He moved over her knowingly until he found the tender nub at the apex of her sex. In a hungry kiss, his mouth opened over it, teeth grating over her flesh in agonizing pleasure. His tongue flattened against it and then sucked it into his mouth. Over and over he lapped at it, making love to her cunt. She was biting her fist, fighting the blissful waves he was building in her again. Involuntarily, her hips shot up hard into his hand as two fingers delved inside her, stroking her. She let a ragged breath draw; she hadn’t realized she had been holding it.

“Please, Em,” he moaned into her flesh. His ‘mmm’ was long, causing his lips to vibrate against her. The raw edge to his voice was cutting at her again. Her body responded to it as acutely as it did to his lips or fingers. He sucked her clit again, his fingers strumming that magical spot. “Please,” he begged. It was her undoing. She cried desperately as her inner walls clamped repeatedly around his fingers, her orgasm rushing through her, tearing her apart.

He did not stop his loving touch, but continued fucking her with his fingers and mouth, pushing her through wave after wave of mind-controlling bliss. He tasted his own cum as he lapped up the last of her sweet essence. When he felt her body slide down from her orgasm, he crept back up her body and settled next to her. Her head was still turned to the side, eyes closed again. Her breathing was under control, but her lungs continued sucking air in deeply. He could see her heart beat thumping at the side of her neck. He bent his head down, rubbing his lips softly over the spot, feeling her life flow beneath them.

“Em,” he hunted for the words. “Em, I’m sorry. I-,“ he wanted to justify his rage, his possessiveness. “It hurts. It hurts to want you so entirely, need you so powerfully, and yet your resist me. Your refusal to admit the bond between us…it’s killing me.” He was stroking her dampened hair from her face, running his lips over the line of her jaw. “Please, I don’t give a damn about who you are or why you’re here. I’m keeping you,” his rough voice promised. When he felt her stiffen slightly, he sighed in resignation. He kissed her brow and rose. “We can talk later. I’ll give you time. Don’t worry, I won’t force you again.” He waited for a response, but when none came, he left heavy-hearted, screaming internally for death.

When she heard the door shut and the bolt slide into place, Emera turned onto her stomach, her face buried in the pillow. She cried rivers, her whole body convulsing violently.

Edrich marched empty headed to his room. It was approaching the hour for supper, but he had no appetite. He had much to mull over, but no thought formed in the dark eddy of his mind. He could grab nothing solid. He was standing before the gallows and all that awaited him was a vast black nothingness. Its cosmic vacuum sucking his soul from his burdened flesh.

“My Lord, I have drawn a bath for you before the evening meal.” Robert’s voice caused the dark fog to lift, allowing him to focus on the steps of the evening.

“Thank you. Bring my meal here; I am in no mood to see anyone tonight.”

“Yes, sire.”

As Edrich bathed, Robert went to the kitchens to fetch his food. He noticed Alma preparing a tray. Obviously, it was meant for the captive in the tower. He approached her, avoiding the notice of the others bustling about. “Tell me, Alma, how does the Lady?” His voice was low, full of caution.

Her wary and worried eyes shot to his. She looked about for ears that might be listening. “The young miss fares tolerably. Her face has received too many hits, though. And I’m afraid his Majesty has… “ her eyes knitted together in anxious reproach, “used her disgracefully.” She said the last bit as low as she could. She knew it was never her place to judge the king. However, the obvious, distressful plight of the sweet, innocent girl touched her heart and tugged at her loyalty. She didn’t want to be a part of any nefarious dealings.

Robert’s stomach tightened. He had served the king since Edrich was a youth. He taught him how to fight, even. He had been proud to witness the stern, but just punishment Edrich dealt out over the years. He had always believed his king was honorable, a man truly worthy of loyalty. But this entire affair revealed a villainous nature that he was loathsome to serve. He nodded to the lady, allowing her to take her food away.

After placing the tray of food on the table in Edrich’s chambers, he laid out his clothing. Edrich was still soaking in his bath. He left quietly and slipped through the shadows of the castle to the turret. At the top of the stairs he unlocked the door with the key that hung just outside it. He knocked gently as he opened it. The fire was dying, its glow dimly illuminating the gloomy room. He laid a few more logs on the fire. As it grew, casting its light about, he scanned for Em.

The table Alma had laid the food on sat near a wall, an empty chair beside it. The bed was empty as well, though it bore witness to vigorous activity. The coverlets and furs were scattered about on the floor and only the bottom sheet remained. Then he saw her to the far side of the bed. She was huddled down against the wall, a sheet wrapped haphazardly around her. As he slowly approached her, he saw her face was streaked with dried tears and her hair, once long and silky, was now a disheveled, ratty mess.

He knelt before her. “Miss,” he called softly. “Miss, please look at me.” When no response came, he reached out a hand and stroked her hair. “Em, please.” Her eyes finally moved to his, though they were lifeless. They moved him beyond words. “Come, little one, I’m getting you out of here.” He pulled at her arm, helping her to her feet. When the sheet began to slip, he tightened it up for her. “We’ll have to get you clothing,” he said more to himself than to her.

“I..I have clothing. Alma brought me a clean dress and things.”

“Alright, then. Here, I’ll let you dress while I pack this food up for you. You will need to eat while you have the chance.” He turned to give her privacy. He quickly thought further along the escape plan. He contemplated giving her a horse. However, it would already be extremely suspicious to find her missing; very few knew of her existence there, but if a horse was to go missing as well…he didn’t think he could risk it.

“I am ready,” she said approaching him. She was fully clothed, including a cloak. Life was beginning to sparkle in her eyes once more, even if severely muted in comparison to its previous dazzle.

He felt as though he should explain his actions, partly because he felt the girl deserved an apology and partly because he never wanted to be disloyal. However, even though the air fell heavy with need, he remained wordless and led her to the door. They descended the staircase in darkness and silence. She followed him through a short maze of empty halls, though she could hear voices reverberating off the stone corridors. Within in no time, he was standing next to a large entrance that opened into the main hall. Emera could see a few people about as the evening supper finished. She immediately sucked herself against the wall and looked to him with frightened eyes.

“Do not be so afraid. The king is in his chambers. No one knows of your presence here with the exception of Alma and myself. We will walk along this wall calmly and out into the bailey. The strength of this castle is that it has no other entrance or exit. That also means there is only one exit from the courtyard, and it is guarded by at least two men. Now, I will approach them first and distract them. When their backs are turned, that is your only chance of escape. I am sorry, but I cannot give you a horse.” He looked around once more. With a sigh, he reached into his tunic and pulled out short sword and passed it to her. She hid it under cloak as well as the small parcel of food.

As he had planned, she stood to the side in the shadows of the courtyard waiting until the three guards around the castle’s gate were gathered around Robert. Ta-dunth, ta-dunth, ta-dunth her heart in her ears beat. Deep breath in, she slipped through the raised port-cullis and into the darkness of the open valley.

She followed the muddy road for over an hour, the occasional animal screech the only accompaniment she took with her. The moon only half full gave enough light she could see a step in front of her, but not further. Her ears were trained for the sound, looking behind her, listening for her fear to approach on dread hooves. As she neared the woods Robert had described, her ears lit at the distant dampened ba-da-rrump, sending terror shooting through her.

Advantageously cloaked in the black obscurity of the night, Emera dashed from the road, concealing herself behind two trees. She waited, listening, as the oncoming horses drew closer and closer. With much relief, she realized the sound had been coming from in front of her, and was therefore not the doom of a search party. After a few minutes of waiting, two horse sped by, the riders barely discernable silhouettes against the vast darkness. Breathing for control over her fears, Emera stepped back onto the trodded path and entered the woods.

“Your Majesty,” Robert entered Edrich’s chamber and found the king on the floor, his body leaning against the hearth with his knees drawn up so his arms could rest leisurely on them. He turned towards his trusted servant.

“Yes, Robert?” In his broken position before the fire, the flames cast light and shadow across the king’s face. His power highlighted in the strength of his jaw and cheeks, and forehead and his agony deepened by the shadows at his eyes and mouth.

“Your Majesty, the…accomplice to the alleged spy has been brought to the castle.”

His eyebrows cut thoughtfully at that. Robert thought he saw the faintest tightening of his body, jaw clenched in restraint. “Did Jenner accompany her?”

Robert kept his eyes focused on the floor. “No, your Majesty. Before I left the camp yesterday, I took it upon myself to personally instruct the scouts looking for the woman to bring her directly here. I wanted…to ensure her capture and thorough interrogation by you, sire.” He dared a glance at him, hoping to find the king pleased. Instead, he found him pensive, but not angry, so he accepted it with caution. “She is in the great hall.”

Though Edrich had dispensed with his anger against Em, he knew truth was still hidden in the muddy waters of the entire incident. He needed to confirm exactly what information Em gathered and attempted to send to Adalynd. It would serve to both protect his troops’ positions, but also to satisfy the hope that somehow, Em hadn’t betrayed him as deviously as Jenner had claimed. He nodded and stood.

Robert followed behind, anxious to hear what the woman would have to say. Though he generally trusted his instincts, he prayed he was not wrong in trusting Em. The king stalked slowly into the room. The scout, tired and dirty from constant travel stood in front of the woman he recognized as Glenna. Two guards stood at either side of her. Her hands were tied together in front of her. She was dirty and her face looked wearied and full of fear.

As Edrich approached, the two guards forced her to her knees. The scout took a knee as well. “Sire,” he began, “I captured the spy on the far side of the mountain. She was traveling alone and had this bag of supplies. It contained a letter.” He handed the folded, sealed paper to Edrich.

The king took it silently as he continued to study her face for any hint of truth. She only gave him fear. “You know why you are here. You and Em are spies from Adalynd. I want to know what your exact mission was and what information you carried back to your king.”

Glenna had begun shaking her head. “No, no, your Majesty. We are not spies-“

“The espionage is assured. Do not wiggle now that you are caught. Tell me, what I want to know.”

Her voice quivered as tears welled deep. “No, not spies, your Majesty. My mistress only wanted to know what sort of man you were, what sort of king. When that man came to the palace, the king, he was afraid you were planning an attack, he wanted to believe. But the princess-“she stopped, eyes wide as she realized her slip.

Edrich narrowed his eyes. “Princess? What has the princess to do with this?”

Glenna only mutely shook her head, no more breath to speak with. He scowled at her. When her fear took over her senses, her eyes drifted to the letter. Edrich looked slowly down at the missive in his hand. He watched the woman as he broke the seal and unfolded the crisp paper. He finally, slowly turned his eyes to the exquisite script.

Father,
All things are well in the beautiful land I find myself. The trees here are larger around than those of the forests near our home. There is plenty of wild game, providing adequate sport. As you know, I can never refuse a hunt, and have thus far killed enough to feed an army. Of course, the boar was incidental to defending a newly found friend. I am enjoying the liberty that travel provides and anticipate when we will be together again.
All my love,
Emera

“Emera,” he whispered. “Who wrote this?” She made no reply. “Who wrote this!” he raged.

“Th-the princess, the princess of Adalynd. Princess Emera.”

He was breathing torrents of air. “When did she give you this letter?”

“In the village. In Clearvalley, after we left your camp.”

Through the whirling buzz in his head he grasped for what he could to anchor him to his honor. “You lie,” his voice wavered, his uncertainty clear.

“Your Majesty, that is only one letter. I have another. Another that tells the information you want to know.” He did not object as she reached into her bodice and pulled out the secreted letter. In trembling hands, she held it to the giant man.

He took it and opened it quickly. The same hand filled the small page.

Father,
If, by now, you have read my other letter, you know I am well and happy. We are quite fortunate that I left to corroborate or disavow the information the man Jenner brought to us. I hope you will join me in taking delight in the truth. Edrich is not interested in making war on us to amass more territory. He is concerned only with the peace in our borderlands. He does not think our forces adequately protect and guard against the brigands that roam the land so freely. I believe he is willing address the issue with you, father. Please, come at once to Clearvalley or at the very least send a letter to him, inviting him to discuss the protection of these lands. Please make every effort to seek peace with this man. Not only because it affects the well-being of our country, but because I would like to keep the friend and ally I have made, forever.
My deepest love,
Emera

Edrich could only stare numbly at the writing. Em was the princess of Adalynd. She came to him, seeking an alliance, not to steal information to harm him with. His eyes began to cloud with moisture, blurring his vision. His fingertips felt the condensed thump, thump, rap against the paper. His thumb rubbed softly over the fallen sprinkles of his eyes. The ink smeared, rubbing off slightly onto his thick digit. He stopped rubbing and let the tear soak into the thick paper, bubbling it in rounded deformity. Emera, Emera, Emera. The lyrical sound reverberated through his soul, his mind. His heartbeat. He felt his heartbeat.

He lifted his eyes to the woman, whose fear shifted into bewilderment. Glenna recognized something in the king’s eyes that made her feel as though her position was safe. “Your Majesty, where is my lady?” The question left dangerous answers hanging in the air.

“Emera? She is the princess, Emera, yes?” He had to hear it. Had to have the verbal confirmation. The sound had to be expelled into the air, confirming his fears and hopes.

“Yes, your Majesty. The girl, who you knew as Em, is the princess. Please believe me, her intentions were good. She wanted to stop war, not make it. She is the best ruler there is.” Her eyes pleaded.

Edrich turned from the group, his purpose clear. “Treat her as a guest,” he directed Robert on his way out.

Not a traitor. Not a traitor. Wanted to save her people. Stop war. Not a traitor. She wants me as an ally. She wants more. She wants me. She wants more. Not a traitor. Not an evil traitor. She wants peace. She wants me. He ascended the stairs, his heart flying to her, his heart pulling him through his chest. Soft light falling down the steps, sweeping up the walls began registering in his mind as out of place. The fall of his footsteps slowed and then stopped, his eyes flooded with the open door. The light from the fire pit running out of the room, flashing past him in haunting taunt.

The door was open.

Rushing in, he slashed around, looking frantically. Empty. She’s gone; she’s not here. Rushing to the window, he leaned out into the dark. “Emera!”

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