My heart rate slows down until it is down to only a single beat every second and a half. The quivering pulses of my heart are so powerful that my chest rises along with every contraction.
The copper basin between us along with the fact that I’m kneeling and the well’s opening right behind her are enough obstacles that I can’t just directly throw myself at my Lady despite wanting to so badly.
“I don’t want to break your heart unless I get to devour the pieces.” I tell her. Expressing my feelings helps control my desire to tackle her right this instant.
“I knew it, you have designs on my flesh!” She exclaims with feigned outrage. She lifts her hand to place its slender fingers over her mouth in a shocked gesture.
“No such thing, my Lady, you are simply too much of a temptress for an innocent, inexperienced, honest peasant such as I!” I reply, taking to her game. “You’ve judged my intentions in an unfair manner!”
“Lies! Fabrication! Untruth! There was no ignorance in your gaze when you laid it upon me, a poor Countess gullible enough to fall for your silver tongue.”
“Alas, you’ve pierced my deception at last!” I take my hand to my heart. “I would devour you this instant if only I had the tools for the task. But, tragically, I do not and I cannot bear to let even a single drop of your invaluable blood go to waste.” I sigh with despair.
We pause, gazing upon each other with sunny expressions on our faces. A scene in contract with the decreasing sunlight in the valley as the brightest star begins its descend behind the mountainous ridges.
“I’m not sure where to go from there.” Lady Lance admits with a giggle.
“Too far, huh?” I ask.
“I didn’t expect you to stick to a literal desire for flesh.” She raises an eyebrow and throws me a questioning look.
“Well… You didn’t hit very far from the truth, I feel like I want to eat you sometimes.” I shrug unconcernedly because I am used to feeling that impulse. “Although, not quite literally.” I add with a grin that widens as my Lady’s cheeks take a deeper red tint.
I’m not entirely sure about the meaning of what I said, but I have a vague enough understanding of what it signifies to use it.
“Let’s go back.” She utters shortly. “Before your wicked wit gets you in trouble.”
“By my Lady’s will.” I lean my head in a small bow.
I struggle a bit to get up to my feet from a kneeling position because I haven’t had much practice doing that with a single arm while maintaining my balance. Once standing, I extend my hand out to my Lady who remained sitting on the well’s low-wall, patiently waiting for me.
Lady Lance takes hold of my fingers with her own with a grip that is more tenuous than any we’ve shared before. And yet, it feels like our relationship is stronger than it ever was.
My Lady doesn’t use my hand as a support to help herself to her feet even though she awaited me before she did. I realize that the discreet courtesy is one that a Lady would observe for a suitor, I feel myself blush and my feelings for her gain in strength.
We make our way back to our sleeping quarters, holding hands in contented silence. My insecurities about us and my uncertainty about the future remain in the pit of my stomach as a small ball of worry but the promise of a future with her is now firm enough that I can keep forging ahead.
Once inside the building, Lady Lance accompanies me to the side of my bed. She helps me get over the wooden frame and lay down on the sheet mattress. We remain holding hands for a long moment until she decides to chastely kiss me on the tip of my fingers before letting go.
“Good night, my sweet Jessica.” She tells me with an affectionate tone.
“Good night, Lady who ravished my heart.” I answer with fondness, closing my eyes.
I listen as she walks away, the haze of slumber already spreading over the edges of my mind after a full day of exertion.
— — —
I am awakened by a shaking of my shoulder in the middle of my sleep. I startle, a cold fearful shiver drowns over the warm feelings that embraced me in my slumber. I snap my eyes open and find Lady Lance looking down at me.
“Having fun?” She asks in a tone that tells me it’s a friendly jab, not a real question.
I look back at her, puzzled. Her gaze travels down, following the length of my arm. I follow the direction that her eyes indicate and find that my hand is stuck between my thighs, it slipped under my pants during my sleep.
“You want to take over?” I throw back at her without thinking. “Your slender fingers always seemed designed for the task.”
The compromising position and the fact that she is watching are two things that hit me for real as I speak. My hand moves slightly by reflex, the base of my thumb brushes against the small mound of flesh that brings so much pleasure when given enough attention.
My lower back arcs up slightly in reaction, pushing my waist towards Lady Lance’s direction. She snaps her mouth shut, her chest jolting as her breath catches. She then extends a hand and grabs me by the front of my shirt, pulling on it to lift me up closer to her face.
“My adorably clumsy Jessica, once we’re free and clear, I’m going to mess you up so…”
“Leomi, not the time!” Yvonne speaks out from somewhere else in the room, interrupting my Lady as she was about to declare her intentions towards my body.
“We’re escaping, get up.” Lady Lance tells me in a serious tone despite her obviously short breath. She then let’s go of my shirt and I drop back down to the bed. The space between my thighs drenches in desire for her.
I stay stunned for a long moment. Long enough that Lady Lance ends up throwing a meaningful stare at the space between my thighs, no doubt telling me to cut it out.
The intensity of her gaze makes me close my legs and squirm my thighs against each other. Those impulsive movements press the wet lips of my most intimate place together. The middle finger that I placed there in my sleep becomes entrapped between them, sliding further in as I push on my flesh and concertedly rub it. My lustful actions quickly provoke an exulting wave of pleasure that shakes me deeply, an unmistakable moan of gratification escapes me. “Uhm!” I gasp immediately after to suck a breath in.
I can’t believe she made me dance with a just single glance.
I watch my Lady Lance gulp visibly in reaction to my actions. My eyes never wavered and remained fixed on her face for this entire time so I know that my Lady didn’t miss a single thing. She kept staring, drinking me in as I touched myself in front of her.
Lady Lance takes a deep breath that she powerfully exhales soon after. She holds her hand out for me, leaving it hanging just over the bed’s frame. Her fingers are shaking, betraying their obvious desire to move but her arm remains in its position, if unsteadily.
I manage to gather enough of myself to tear my hand away from my most intimate place. I hurriedly wipe my fingers on my shirt before accepting her help to get out of bed. I regretfully didn’t get to go all the way, but I’m pretty sure I just hooked her hard.
Once on my feet, she doesn’t immediately let go of me. Instead, she takes my hand up to her lips and lays a chaste kiss on the tip of my fingers. It would have been innocent in any other circumstance, but considering where they were just a few seconds ago…
“Let’s go, my Lady.” I stammer out, my overwhelming emotions affecting my voice.
“Let’s go.” She echoes me with a nod, her voice is about as steady as mine was.
We break our hands apart by common accord. Both conscientious that any further contact between us from now on will contain a promise. A commitment to sharing an intimacy beyond what we’d ever experienced with together before this.
As I walk out of the building behind my Lady, I sharpen my mind to put myself on full alert and observe our surroundings. The sun is just now rising above the valley’s ridges, it is the dawn of a new day.
There are three tall figures in hard leather and chain-mail waiting outside. Two of them are holding swords and kite shields with silver lion heads engraved on them. The last one has the same equipment as the others except the lion heads are golden instead of silver.
Exemplar. My Lady’s mother. I avoid her eyes when the turns to look at me. I am unsure of how I should face my crush’s parent immediately after I shared such an intense moment with her daughter, a binding vow.
“We need to get moving Vikiana. We’re done for if a Princess catches wind of us here.” One of the two male Templar says.
“Agreed.” My Lady Lance’s mother replies. “We’re taking the same path out as we did in, keep your silence until we’re out of the city itself or if it is an emergency.”
I throw a glance at my Lady and she nods, immediately understanding what I mean to communicate to her.
“Give me a minute.” My Lady says, fast-walking towards the corner of the building.
I turn around and walk back inside, quickly finding the raw iron bar that I left against the wall. I grab it and get back out. Almost exactly a minute later, Lady Lance rejoins us with the two other bars of iron. She hands one of them over to Yvonne.
“We’re moving.” The Exemplar orders.
Our group of seven folds into a two by two column with her as the rear-guard. My Lady takes the spot next to my own and as we walk together, the back of our hands occasionally brush against each other.
Each of her touches is a boon that helps me cope with the fear of getting caught, the anxiety of possibly losing my future with Leomi. Something that I desire to the point of sometimes feeling its physical pull on my heart.
As we are about to pass through a street crossing, a group of workers emerges from a side street and makes a turn that puts them on a collision course with us. I tense, tightening my grip on the iron bar in my hand, but my Lady touches my arm just for a split-second to tell me to calm down.
I follow her order. The group slows down to let the group of workers pass in front of us, they don’t react to our presence at all. What the hell was that? I ask myself as we resume making our way out of the city.
As we walk past the last building on the outskirts of the Rykz city and engage on a path that cuts between two mushroom pit fields to head towards the edge of the valley, to higher ground.
“They’ll see us on the horizon if we go too high.” I warn them before thinking my words through.
“You’ve spent a week running away and being held captive by the Rykz, surely you’ve noticed that they have no eyes by now.” The Exemplar responds. I lower my head in embarrassment. Of course, the first thing I do in her mother’s presence is put my foot in my mouth.
“Why did those workers ignore us?” My Lady speaks up to my rescue.
“Something straight out of the University.” She replies without explaining further.
“What are the limits?” Patrick asks.
“Doesn’t last longer than a day and you four aren’t affected since we used it without you being present. We can do it a second time but it would be better to save it until we really need it. Don’t worry though, the Rykz will ignore you as long as we are there to escort you.”
She explains further but avoids mentioning what specific method is being used to trick the Rykz. A secret in case we are recaptured. The other Templar was afraid that a Princess would spot us so it won’t work against Celyz. With luck, she won’t check on us anytime soon.
“We brought six horses along with us, it should be enough for the eight of us to outpace the Rykz if we rotate the riders. Can all of you ride?”
“I can’t.” I admit. There is probably a fourth Templar guarding the horses. “What direction are we taking to get out?” I ask with some hope.
“We entered the valley through the tunnel west of here, the stone gate should still be open since the Rykz guarding it weren’t ordered to close it behind us.” The other male Templar answers me.
“We need to head east if at all possible.” My Lady’s mother interjects to my despair. “They’ll have tunnel exits dug all over the twins, you can’t outrun an encirclement, horses or not. The only viable escape strategy is to head straight towards Meria before they spread over the Izla like a plague and we lose our chance.”
“I am positive that there is a tunnel entrance east, if I am wrong then we’ll find one north or south. It will still be preferable than heading west even if we lose some time searching.” Patrick says.
My teeth clench together in reaction to his words despite how logical the decision to head east seems, I have a hard time making myself accept it. My lady places her free left hand on my shoulder in a gesture that comforts me.
“Joan is inside a mountainous cove further ahead with the horses.” One of the Templar says.
However, all three of them seem to grow tenser as we approach and my grip on the raw iron bar tightens once again because of their agitation.
“What’s going on?” Lady Lance asks.
“That’s the entrance.” Her mother replies, pointing at two large rocks with a space just large enough to let a horse pass between them. “Joan would normally tie the leashes together and attach them somewhere to come out and wait for us. She isn’t there.” The Exemplar pauses. “No sense in waiting. Edward and Emffrey, you take point. I go second. The rest of you stick to the back.” She orders.
I follow behind them as they enter the cove, looking over their shoulders. My pulse quickens nervously. The three Templars in front of me stop short right after taking a turn.
I take one more step. The scene revealed to me is horrendous. I gag and my stomach at the sight of a human body burnt to a crisp, a chain-mail is still covering the charcoal-like remains of a Templar.
There are eight dead Rykz scouts scattered around the cove, each felled by a single strike. Two scouts are still alive and seem to be standing guard over the corpse. They do not react to our presence.
The six horses are lying dead in a corner, a sickening pool of blood surrounding them and coloring the ground red. Their throats were all pierced through and through.
“Joan…” The temple guard on the left calls out.
“Fuck.” The other one simply swears.
“Don’t move.” Vikiana snaps at the other two Templars before they can approach their fallen comrade. “Don’t touch anything, Emffrey. We’re leaving, right this instant.” She begins retreating backward, forcing me and the others behind her to do the same.
The Templar must not have had enough flow to overwhelm the fire construct. I shiver and feel a pang of sympathy as she suffered a fate that I avoided by the thinnest margin. Once our group of seven is fully out of the mountainous cove, my Lady’s mother speaks up again.
“I should have taken a couple more cases, maybe two doses would have masked them.” She says with sadness and self-reproach.
“Shit, Joan.” Emffrey utters weakly.
“You couldn’t have predicted any of this, Viki, it isn’t your fault. You’re right, though, they must have smelled them out from afar.” Edward agrees sadly.
“We move east, now. We kept going along the valley’s flank to get as close to your location as possible so the distance to either end is about the same. Even if they sounded the alarm.” Vikiana explains, swallowing her grief for later.
I turn towards my Lady, finding her standing deathly pale at my side. She must have known that Templar. I let go of the iron bar, laying it against my leg. I reach out to Leomi’s left hand to hold it and possibly provide her with some support.
As soon as our fingers touch, however, she reacts by recoiling away from me. Pulling her hand close to her chest in a protective gesture. It seems to me that she reacted as if what made contact was not flesh but fire. I stare at her, baffled and worried by her reaction.
“No… This can’t be… Not after everything. This can’t be happening.” She mutters in a low tone that barely reaches my ears.
“Leomi, get a grip, we’re going now.” Vikiana tells her daughter in a harsh voice.
I take my iron bar back in hand as the column reforms to start making its way east. This time I travel alone in the center of it. My Lady chooses to walk side by side with her mother. The Templar’s death must’ve shocked her.
She hasn’t seen her mother for a long time and after the ordeal we went through… I know I would behave similarly. It’s natural of her to seek her parent after seeing this scene, especially if she knew her. There is nothing odd about her behavior towards me.
I forge onward, repeating the reasonings to myself in a loop until I believe them wholeheartedly. The Rykz might already know of our escape, my Lady has to be ready to fight. I have to be ready to defend her with my life if need be.
I assemble both a strengthening construct and a lion strike one after the other, leaving both in an idle state. My precaution serves to reassure me as we keep trekking along the valley’s walls.
A few hours of walk later, we spot a patrol of ten Rykz scouts moving in the opposite direction from ours. As the others before them, they don’t change their behavior and let us pass without incident.
As the sun reaches the noon position, the mountainous ridge to our left becomes sharper and sharper while there is an increasingly high number of trees growing over the area’s flat ground, the angle must be too acute for even those trees.
“We should take a break, it’s becoming more likely that we’ll find a tunnel entrance as we approach the eastern end of the valley. A full stomach won’t be a luxury if we run into trouble.” Edward suggests.
“Alright, let’s stop there.” Exemplar Vikiana points towards a small hill that will provide us with a wide plunging view of our surroundings.
We sit down in a broken circle since most of us keep our sights turned towards the city and lake at the center of the valley. My Lady doesn’t sit next to me. The Rykz Queen’s huge silhouette planted in the middle of the water is still barely visible from here despite the fact that we’ve traveled a full dozen kilometers away already.