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Fitz and the Fool- New Adventures Part 2

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Chapter 4-The Return

As we approached the long tree lined drive way to Withywoods I became aware of a trickle of fear on the skill link between the Fool and I. I pulled My Black up sharply. The Fool stilled Malta and walked her beside me. ‘What is the matter?’ he queried in a soft tremulous lilt. ‘You are leaking fear, Fool. I can feel it, and if I can feel it, others strongly gifted with the skill can feel it too! What scares you so, Beloved?’ A tear fell from his left eye and rolled over his cheek to rest at the corner of his mouth. ‘I am scared that something will get in the way of our happiness Fitz. Something always does. The thought of being without you again would end me.’ He admitted plainly. ‘Beloved, I have no intention of letting anything or anyone part us again. I would slay a thousand men who stood between you and I. I would travel to the farthest reaches of the realm to find you. But none of that matters Beloved, we will journey this life together until our final breaths. I will not allow us to be parted’ I reassured him. In the cold light of day, I knew I could not guarantee we would never be parted. Fate appeared to enjoy putting the Fool and I in testing situations. This was no different! ‘Fool, lay your skill fingers on my prints. I need to strengthen your walls’ I directed. He did so. We touched and locked eyes. I moved into him and he welcomed me like a flower blossoming to the waking sun. I gave him my strength and instruction on protecting himself. He already had this thoughts invaded by Regal many years ago. I knew he would have been an easy target, should another skill user who wished us ill, try to usurp his mind. He did as he was instructed and when his walls were raised, I retracted my skill. The process appeared to have erased his doubt. He looked at me with relief and raised a hand to caress my scarred cheek. I moved into the comfort of his touch, like a puppy. I took his hand and kissed his fingers. His smile was reflected in my eyes. For a moment I remembered where we were, on the drive way to Withywoods. I let his hand go and said in my ‘Tom Badgerlock, servant to Lord Golden’ voice. ‘Forgive me my Lord, I quite forgot myself. We are but a quarter mile from Withywoods at my best guess. We should not linger in the open!’ ‘Fool raised his hand to his mouth, also realising our public intimacy. ‘Very good Tom Badgerlock, lead on’ in Lord Golden’s haughty tone. Keeping our hands off one another was indeed going to be more difficult that we had both imagined!

We arrived in the courtyard to Withywoods to a reception of the stable boy, my Steward and Molly. We dismounted and I retrieved the large sack of Scrolls I had removed from the cave. ‘Lord Golden will be staying in the yellow room, please see that it is refreshed and hot water is drawn for a bath’ I ordered the steward. He nodded and rush on his way. Molly lurched in for a clumsy hug. I felt a sudden pang of guilt for what I was to do to her. I glanced over at the Fool who met my eyes as Molly clung to me. I returned her hug with my free arm. ‘Is all well?’ I asked. ‘You took a long time!’ Molly reprimanded. ‘I had to retrieve some scrolls’ I explained in half truth. ‘Oh, if I had known you were going as far as Buck Keep, I would have given you candles for Nettle’. I did not reply, but moved off into the house. ‘Mabel, can you arrange tea in the drawing room please’ I requested to the passing maid. ‘I will just leave these at my study, we shall take tea and then your room should be ready’ I said quietly to the Fool, who was at my back. Molly followed, took his arm once more and led him to the drawing room, chattering like a bird.

I hurried to my study, retrieved the key from behind a hidden wall panel and unlocked the door. I moved into the room. It was in disarray, just as I had left it! This would not do, the Fool would be disgusted by my slovenliness! I stowed the bag of scrolls and began to move around the room, collecting the detritus of spoiled discarded parchments, and set them in the hearth to kindle a fire. I drew back the heavy curtains and opened the window. As a fresh breeze blew in, I realised just how stuffy the room had been. I took a brush and swept the floor. I gathered the pile of dust on a ruined sheet of parchment and disposed of it out of the window. I set new apricot scented candles in all of the holders and then removed the rugs from the flag stone floor and shook them out of the window. I puffed the cushions on the chairs and positioned the chairs facing one another by the hearth. Then I set to tidying empty cups and bottles on to a tray. I had been gone from the Fool for too long. I lifted the tray to leave then paused. I set the tray down again and moved to the back wall of my study. I lit a candle, and then pulled the secret notch to release the door to the spy passages of Withywoods. I moved stealthily along the passage, clearing cobwebs as I went. I stopped and peered though a small spy hole. The yellow room! Perfect, I thought. I blew out the candle and set it on the floor to the side of the panel door. I returned to my study in the dark, closed the window, retrieved the tray and left the room. I locked the door securely before continuing on my way. Walking down the long corridor, I passed the open door to the yellow room. I was happy to see two maids working quickly to ready the room for Beloved. A third maid walked towards me. ‘Could you take this to the kitchen and please see that a tray with two clean cups and a bottle of Apricot Brandy is left outside my study’ I instructed. The maid took the tray and bobbed a curtsy. I overtook her and walked rapidly down the corridor, towards the drawing room.

I heard Molly’s high pitched giggle echo as I reached the door. Fool was obviously using his charms to entertain her. I entered to find them both seated at the small round tea table by the window. The view from the window took in the vast gardens leading onto woodland surrounding Withywoods. The sun shone and danced on the Fools blonde hair. His green eyes were alive with mirth. He must have told a most pleasing story, for Molly also wore a face of jollity. She had no idea I would steal that smile from her soon. A pang of guilt stabbed me. I re centred my self and put on a smile. ‘What have I missed? ‘I queried. ‘You know me, Fitz, a million and one Jests for all occasions!’ the Fool replied. Molly giggled in a way I had not heard since she was a girl. A knock at the door bought Cook Jessie into the room.
‘Begging your pardon Lady Badgerlock…tonight’s dinner? Do you require anything special made for our guest?’ she asked. Molly looked at the Fool questioningly. ‘Chicken cooked with apricots? He suggested. ‘Yes, an excellent idea’ Molly agreed. The cook nodded, curtsied and left the room. I took tea from the pot, slices of ginger cake and then joined Molly and the Fool at the table beside the window. The view offered me much distraction from the tugging in my heart. Fool and I shared furtive glances. The conversation rose and fell, punctuated by Molly’s laughter. She appeared to enjoy the Fools company. It would be another pain added to her heart that this man had taken me from her. A knock to the door silenced the reverie. The steward entered and said ‘Lord Golden’s chamber and bath are ready’ with a solemn bow. ‘Excellent’ exclaimed the Fool. ‘I have enjoyed your delightful company so, Molly, but I must rest and refresh myself after our long journey.’ He started rising from the table. ‘I will return to my errands then, if you no longer need me’ stated Molly. ‘And, I to my study. Dinner will be in the Great hall at seven of the clock, Fool’ I relayed. He nodded to Molly, and then to me, adding a wink as he turned to leave. Molly moved to follow Fool from the room. I reached for her arm. ‘Molly, wait, we need to talk’ I stated in all seriousness. ‘Fitz, can it wait? I really must be getting back to the chandlery. Later, we will talk later’ she decided. A sudden rush of frustration leapt and calmed. I had tried to broach the subject of the Fool and I leaving. I would talk to her later. I could not continue with another shadow in my heart.

On my way back to my study I came to the door to the yellow room. I knocked. ‘Enter’ the Fool called. I opened the door and moved stealthily into the room, locking it behind me. Fool had been unpacking his clothes from his travel sack. I could not believe the array of beautiful clothes he had stowed in such a small space. I recalled with amusement, the mess I had made of Lord Golden’s clothing when I had once attempted to re pack his bags. His eyes lit as they met mine. He stopped what he was doing and came to meet me. We both smiled knowingly. ‘Fool, I need to show you something’ I said suspiciously. He raised a brow. I tutted at his one track mind! I took his slender hand and lead him to the window. I pulled back the curtain from the wall and directed him at a whisper to the wooden rail that edged the window. I pressed on an area just below the curtain tie back hook. The panel door to the left clicked open. ‘Oh’ the Fool gasped. I turned to meet his eyes and smiled. His smile met mine. There was all sorts of mischief behind those eyes. I retrieved the candle I had left on the floor of the passage way. I lit it from a taper at his hearth. Then, taking his hand I lead him through the passage to my study. I instructed on how to open my door. We were cheek to cheek in the cramped passage way. The touch of his skin intoxicated me. We both turned and exchanged stolen kisses. We pulled apart and moved back through the passage to his room. I extinguished the candle and returned it to the floor of the passage way, inside his door, then sealed it. ‘I do hope the accommodations are to you liking, I announced to the room. The Fool followed in step, ‘Yes Tom Badgerlock, I believe I will be most comfortable. I will join you and your good lady for dinner at seven, is that correct?’ he replied with an aristocratic drawl. I winked at him and he stifled a giggle. ‘Later’ I mouthed silently, and offered a tender kiss to his cheek. I left the yellow room to the sound of a maids footsteps scurrying down the corridor. It did not surprise me; I knew Lord Golden had always attracted far too much attention for his own good!

I stalked quickly to my study, to find that the tray containing two cups and a bottle of Apricot brandy had been left at the door. I unlocked the door and carried the tray in, placing it on the side table beside the hearth. I moved to sit at my untidy desk. I saw the scroll I had ruined before the Fool had re entered my life, but three days ago. I recalled the man who had sat in this very chair. The man who had scribed so obsessively, so as not to think of the loss of his Beloved. I felt such pity for that man. For I was now the luckiest man alive. I rubbed my face in disbelief; two days of stubble scratched my palms. All that the Fool and I shared washed over me and my mouth could not stop smiling. I longed to be near him. Even these few rooms and few minutes that parted us felt too far. I stood, giving in to temptation. Like the Fool, I had never been wise! I opened the spy door. I felt my way, in the dark, through the passageway following the scent of apricots from the extinguished candle. My foot kicked the candle, and I stopped. I moved to the spy hole and the blood from my whole body seemed to flow into my manhood. I saw the Fool, wearing a golden silk robe, readying for his bath. He had tied his blonde hair into a top knot, revealing his graceful long neck. He untied the robe, allowing it to fall open. I saw the nakedness beneath, and the bites and bruises I had given him in our lust. I remembered each bite and the throbbing between my legs resumed its pleasing ache. The Fool smiled and looked toward the spy door. He knew I was watching him. The silver finger prints on my forearm itched. He looked directly at the spy hole and let his silk robe fall to the floor. His arousal was evident. He stepped into the copper bath, sank down into the warmth and sighed. I could not help myself. The sight of him in the bath left me breathless. I reached down unbuttoned my trousers and freed my stiff member. I began to stroke rapidly, watching the Fools every movement. He sat up, reached to a side table for a sea sponge; he took soap from a pot and rubbed it vigorously on the sponge, creating foam. He began to wash himself in long slow strokes. The foam left a pearly whiteness on his pale skin. My stroking eased and followed the rhythm of his washing caresses. He gripped the sponge in his left hand, dipped and drenched it and then held it aloft and squeezed. Rivulets of water jettisoned out and ran down his torso. I sighed loudly. The Fool chuckled, obviously hearing me through the thin panel door! I wanted so much to join him, wash him and take him again. But I could not chance it, not yet. I could see from the movement of his right arm that he too massaged himself. He lay back and closed his eyes. I reached for him on our skill thread. We met and mingled wordlessly, swimming around one another like beautiful fish for what felt like hours. Suddenly he stood, sensing I was close to completion. He stepped out of the bath, dripping with sweet scented soap and water. He rushed to the spy door and released the catch. I moved aside to allow the door to open. In the semi darkness, he fell to his knees and took me in his cool mouth. I held his head still and bucked my hips urgently in repeated spasms to his waiting lips. It was all I needed. I came hard, trying to stifle my passionate cry as I emptied myself into his throat. After a moment to lick and savour, he rose swiftly and kissed me, my own saltiness on his lips. Without a word he turned, and closed the door. Spent, I fell forward, leaning heavily on the door, trying to catch my breath. I looked through the hole again, watching his taut bare white buttocks walk away from me. He stepped back into the bath, the soles of his feet, calves and knees muddied from the spy passage floor. He licked his lips and smiled widely, revelling in the taste of me. Beloved, I owe you now! I thought with a grin. I would give him such pleasure later; I promised.

Chapter 5-Dessert

Molly and I were seated either side at the top of the long oak table in the Great hall. It did seem ridiculous to use such a vast room to dine three people, but Molly insisted on airs for the Fool. I could not deny; he deserved the best of everything I could offer. The Fool entered the room gracefully attired in a Buck blue embroidered Jerkin, with white silk shirt beneath and tight powder blue hose. He wore white stockings, showing his lean, well muscled calves and dancing slippers for comfort. His long blonde hair was flowing freely, apart from a plait either side, pulled around his crown and secured at the back with a thin blue ribbon. I beamed when I saw him. I had not chosen such fine attire, I was ashamed to be in my usual dark homespun shirt. He looked me up and down and tutted. ‘Some of us know how to dress for dinner!’ he exclaimed. Molly laughed. ‘I did leave out clothing for him, as I always do, but some men are so stubborn, don’t you think?’ she said with amusement. I wrinkled my nose at both of them, as they laughed at me. I directed him to sit in the empty chair at the head of the table. ‘No, no, this will no do’ he said with sudden seriousness. ‘Molly, you are the lady of the house, therefore you should sit at the head of the table…I insist’ he declared. Molly smiled at his courtesy and rose. The Fool pulled out the chair for her to be re seated at the top of the table and he took his place opposite me. I understood why he had done this. Not only to watch me, but so that Molly would not catch our furtive gazes. I poured a goblet of wine for the Fool and we toasted our good health. The maids entered the hall and began to load the table with a variety of dishes. The main course of Fowl baked with apricots wafted sweetly as it was bought to the table. The scent of all of the meats, vegetables and pulses reminded me just how famished I was. The Fool and I had barely eaten a crumb since we had left our cave. We ate heartily, as if we had not eaten in days. Molly picked at her food in her usual bird like fashion, talking about the children, the chandlery and her bees as she ate. The Fool delighted in the chicken with apricots and joined the conversation between mouthfuls. I ate wolfishly, as if my plate would be stolen from me at a moments notice! The Fool looked up at me with amusement and gestured to the side of my mouth. Embarrassed, I took my napkin and wiped a dribble of cream sauce away. ‘I can’t take you out in polite society Fitz’ she scolded with a sigh. I felt like a chastised child and a stab of anger rose and fell. Let it go, I told myself. The Fool and I would leave soon; there was no need for a scene. We continued eating, course after course. The cook had done an excellent job with our meal. ‘Please send my complements to the cook’ I instructed Mabel, as she cleared the last of the dishes. She returned with a tray containing sweetmeats and a sweet plum and grape liqueur wine from our own vineyard. ‘I could not eat another morsel’ declared the Fool. ‘It was fare as fine as Buck Keep!’. He sat back in his chair, his green eyes appearing sleepy and his accent beginning to slur. I mirrored him, sitting back, my gaze darting from him to Molly. My belly was full to bursting. Molly was silently watching the firelight flicker in the great hearth. The silence echoed around the huge hall. It began to feel uncomfortable. The Fool shot a darting glance at me. We both wanted this meal to be done. He stood abruptly. ‘I am afraid I must bid you both goodnight, these past few days have tired me more than I realised. I must take an early night.’ He stated. Molly spoke, in agreement. ‘An early night would suit me also; age is catching up with me all too quickly Fool!’ ‘Up you go then, my dear, I will ensure the house is secure and will do some reading before I rest’. We all left the table. I offered Molly a peck on the cheek and bid her goodnight. ‘Goodnight Fool’ I said as he passed me in the hallway. He turned to me, with mischief in his eyes. ‘Goodnight Fitz’ he replied, with a grin. ‘One hour’ I mouthed. He winked and moved gracefully off down the corridor.

It was nine of the clock. And I busied myself with my usual nightly routine of a lonely man. I walked out into the crisp night and checked on the horses in the stables. I paced the perimeter of the house and sent out my wit to quest for any foe. I made sure all windows were locked. I noted with relief, the lights were being dowsed in the windows around Withywoods. The maids were to awaken with the rooster to start the day’s bread and draw water. They would be asleep soon. Molly’s night light still shone in her window as she readied for bed. I renewed my skill walls and returned to the house. I locked and bolted the main oak front door and proceeded swiftly to my study.
On approaching the door of my study, I could see a dull flickering light emanating from beneath it. I located the key and unlocked the door. I entered the study to the scent of apricots and the sight of candle light. I locked the door behind me and moved to the unoccupied high backed cushioned chair beside the fire. I turned to be seated. The sight that greeted me made my knees give way from under me. I sat heavily in the chair and gazed in awe at the Fool. He was skilfully arranged for my pleasure. He sat slumped back in the cushioned chair, his rear resting on the edge of it. His legs were apart. The tight powder blue hose were wide open and pulled down a touch, revealing his sharp narrow hips. His white silk shirt was also open and his pale hairless athletic torso shone in the candle light, his semi erect penis lay atop his belly. He had one hand resting on his chest and the other, placed on the arm of the chair, held a cup of Apricot brandy. His blonde hair was like a halo around his sleeping head. He pretended to be asleep, I was sure of that! I feasted on the vision before me. I seared the image on to my heart. Moving my elbow to the arm rest, I put my hand over my mouth. I loved every curve, every angle. Beloved was a work of art. He opened an eye and beamed at the expression of awe on my face. ‘You are so…Beautiful’ I gasped. ‘As you are to me, Beloved’ he replied softly. He sipped from his brandy cup, and then placed it on the side table. Regaining my strength, I stood and removed my dark homespun shirt. Luckily, Molly and I did not even share a bed any more, so my love bites and bruises would never be seen by her. I rubbed my chin. ‘Rough or smooth skin?’ I asked. ‘Shave Fitz!’ he demanded. ‘I dread to think of the rash you would give me with those bristles!’ I laughed. Our evening entertainment would be quite obvious if the Fool arrived to break his fast with a stubble rash! I moved to the jug and basin on a side table and poured some water into the bowl. I soaped my hog hair brush and painted it roughly over my face. I saw the reflection of the seated Fool in my mirror. He watched me intensely and began to trail a finger lazily up and down his member. I retrieved my cut throat razor and worked swiftly, making only one mistake where the stubble met my old scar. A drop of blood mingled with the soap and stung. The Fool was still rapt in his observation of me. I dowse my face with water and wiped away the soap. I looked in the mirror at the middle aged man I appeared to be. His eyes told me all I needed to know. I could not keep my hands off the Fool. I would happily surrender myself again, in my own home. I cared not for the risk. My study was farthest from all bedrooms in the house. We would love without fear this night. I turned my fresh face to the Fool and he grinned in appreciation. I moved to him, removing the cushion from my chair. I placed it on the floor at his feet and then I fell to my knees in between his thighs. I rubbed my hands up and down the soft powder blue silk hose covering his skin, as our eyes met. I leaned forward to his waiting lips. He caressed my soft freshly shaved face and inhaled my musky sweat. ‘Much better’ he said in approval. I offered him butterfly kisses to his lips and I cupped his face. ‘I owe you!’ I whispered between kisses. ‘That was quite a display this afternoon!’ I added. ‘Your assassin’s training was put to good use this day!’ he said salaciously. ‘I could never refuse you Fitz! I could not let you waste a drop, you taste too good’ he added with wicked grin. ‘Well, this night, I aim to please you Beloved’. ‘Anchor me, Fitz’ He said, with all seriousness. I looked deeply into his eyes and saw the trickle of fear had returned. ‘Beloved, I would be happy to sit wrapped in your arms if that was all you desired, but I know you want more. You are tied to my heart. I will anchor you and we will take our time. Tell me if you need to stop and I will obey.’ ‘I want you inside me again, Fitz, so very much’ he said softly. ‘As you wish’ I whispered to his waiting mouth.

I took his long lithe tongue into my mouth. Slowly and rhythmically our tongues danced between gasps for air. My mouth was afire, and from the moans escaping from the Fool, he felt the same heat. I pulled away and gazed at him, cheeks flushed and eyes alight. I moved my attention to his nipples. While I sucked and bit one, my fingers pinched and teased the other. I switched my attention and repeated. The long guttural moans that escaped from his throat made my throbbing member ache for release. I had to breathe deeply, centre myself and remember my sole aim was to please the Fool this night. His shaft pulsed against my naked chest. Slowly! I reminded myself, reigning in the desire to go down on him. I moved my hands down and under his rump. As I did so I roughly pulled the powder blue silk hose down, and stripped them from his long legs. He gasped. I would keep him guessing my next action. I stood and walked away from him to a side cabinet. I retrieved a small bottle of oil of olive I used to keep my brushes soft. I returned with the bottle, to kneel between his porcelain white thighs. He reached out a slender hand and caressed my face. I took a finger in my mouth and sucked. Moving my hands beneath his thighs I lifted them and hooked his legs left and right over the cushioned arm rests of the chair. He was splayed open for me and panting with anticipation of what was to come. My fingers trailed up and down his inner thighs. He moved his hand to the back of my head and pulled me down to his crotch. I took his stones in my mouth. He groaned as my tongue rolled over the wrinkled salty skin. Prolonging the anticipation, I avoided his manhood for a long while, moving instead to his cleft. The change in pitch of the Fools purring amused me, as my tongue worked around and flicked at the rim. I knew he enjoyed this, from our previous luxurious lovemaking in the cave. Without stopping, I opened the bottle and poured some oil onto my fingers. I pulled my mouth away and introduced an oily finger. I ran it gently around the rim and then gradually penetrated him, moving my thick oily finger slowly in and out. His hips bucked to meet my probing; I gazed at the otherworldly rapture on his face. The fact I could give him this much pleasure made my own blood pulse through my veins with joy. I leaned in and at last my mouth gave his hardness the attention it deserved. I ran my tongue up its length, the throbbing veins through thin porcelain skin looked like they had been painted. On reaching the tip, a dash of clear sweet pre cum awaited me. I took him into my mouth, while still working my finger slowly in and out of him. He gripped the arm rests of the chair and called ‘Oh Fitz’ between purring breaths. ‘I don’t know if I can hold on much longer. I need you inside me Fitz’ he gasped urgently. I stopped my sucking and probing and quickly unleashed my hard shaft. I rubbed some oil up and down the length and said ‘Lay your skill fingers on me Beloved. I will keep you safe’. He reached out and gripped my forearm, laying his silvered fingers atop the prints he had given me. We moved into and around one another. I wove myself around his essence, binding him to mine. ‘Are you ready’ I asked urgently. He nodded and I penetrated him with ease. A sharp passionate cry of ‘Ahhh’ escaped the Fool’s mouth. He repositioned his feet up to stand on the arm rests and begin working himself up and down on my hardness. He moved rhythmically in this position for an age. His agility amazed me, as it always did. His silvered fingers gripped my arm and my free hand massaged his erection. In the skill link I could feel his essence wriggling and fighting to be free. I held him tight. I would not loose him. ‘I’m close’ he panted. I could not hold back any longer either. I pulled out and lay myself atop his belly. He massaged me over the edge and came on his chest. At that, thick white seed pulsed from his own member. I took him into my mouth and drained him. With consummation he massaged my seed into his skin, moved his feet to the floor and then fell forward into my arms. I moved the cushion from beneath my knees and lay us down in front of the fire. He was trembling. I had no idea he had been so terrified. I cradled him and caressed his hair, whispering ‘You are with me, you are safe’ until he slept.

We were exhausted and slept in each others arms for hours. I was awoken by an urgent need to urinate. The fire was at its last embers. ‘Fool’ I whispered,‘I need to move’. He stirred and shifted his weight off me. I rushed to the chamber pot I kept stored in a cupboard and relieved myself. ‘Fool, you have to go to bed, you are freezing’ I said. ‘Very well’ he groaned sleepily, but made no attempt to move. I buttoned my trousers and searched for my shirt. I gathered the Fools clothing under one arm, then lit a candle and opened the spy door. A chill wind escaped nearly blowing the candle out. I moved stealthily down the passageway to the yellow room, opened the panel door and entered the Fool’s chamber. I deposited his clothing on a chest and added a log to the fire. I moved to his luxurious feather bed and drew back the covers. A warming pan had been left there, much to my relief. I removed it, and then strode back to my study. I gathered the sleeping Fool lovingly in my arms like a child, and carried him down the passage way to his chamber. I laid him in his warm bed and tucked the covers around him. He stirred at the welcome heat and smiled widely with satisfaction. ‘Good night Beloved’ I whispered and kissed him on the brow. ‘Good night? …yes indeed, it was Fitz’ he declared, as he reached to grip my shirt and pull me in for kiss. ‘Thank you’ he whispered seriously. ‘Sleep now my love, it is nearly dawn’ I whispered. I turned and left him, extinguishing the candles and closing the door to the spy passage. I returned to my study, added a log to the fire, found a blanket and curled up like a wolf in the spot Beloved and I had shared minutes before. It already felt too far away.

Chapter 6-Reckoning

I awoke to the click of the spy door. Turning from the cold hearth I saw the Fool standing at the door. ‘Is everything ok?’ I slurred sleepily. ‘It’s mid day Fitz! A light luncheon has been prepared if you would care to join us?’ he relayed softly. I startled at this news, and rose to a sitting position. I could not believe I had slept so long. ‘Why did you not wake me?’ I complained. ‘This is the third time I have checked on you. You were exhausted Fitz, and slept so soundly I could not …’ he trailed off. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, untied my warrior’s tail and ruffled my hair. Fool smiled at me, before snapping out of his reverie. He stepped in to the room and came to kiss me. I had not bathed in days; yet the Fool still kissed me hungrily. I will do better, I promised myself. 'I had better go; I’ll see you in the drawing room when you are ready’. He left through the spy passage. I stood up, then slumped in a hearth chair. I was dazed with tiredness and gazing across as the other chair; the one in which I had found Beloved displayed so invitingly. I recalled the vision. That is a memory that even forging could not erase. I sat staring into the chair as if it would make my memory come back to life. A few minutes later a sharp knock came to my door. ‘Yes’ I called loudly. ‘Oh, you are in there Fitz’ Molly called. ‘Is all well?’ she asked. I moved to the door ‘All is well, I fell asleep, and that is all’ I called with irritation through the closed door. ‘Luncheon will be served in the drawing room, should you care to join us!’ Molly relayed. ‘I will wash and dress, and be along shortly’ I called. I knew she was irritated calling to me though a locked door. In my own home this room was my only sanctuary. I would not give her entrance. When the Fool and I depart, she can turn it into a sewing room if she pleases, I thought, with venom. Then immediately I felt guilty for my negative thoughts. I unlocked the door when she had gone, moved into the hall, relocked it and stowed the key. Then I rushed down the corridor and up the main stairs, hoping not to meet any of the staff while I looked and smelled like a wolf. I arrived at my room without seeing a soul. I was surprised to find a warm bath had been left for me. Oh Beloved! I thought with a sigh. I was humbled by such a sweet, thoughtful gesture. I stripped quickly and stepped in, using a pumice stone to rub every inch of my skin. These past few years I had lost interest in my appearance. There had been no reason for me to make an effort. I did not seek to attract Molly, or any other woman to my bed, so I did not see the point. But now I had every reason to make an effort. I had to have soft clean skin for my Beloved. I soaped and scrubbed my hair then ran a comb through painfully snagging on tangles. The whole process took far too long and I was famished. I rose from the bath, and dried swiftly. I chose black trousers, a white cotton shirt and a buck blue jerkin. When my hair was tied back in its warrior’s tail I looked surprisingly presentable.

I stood in the open door to the drawing room. The long table was filled with platters of food, Bread, cheeses, fruit, and meats. Beloved stood alone pensively gazing out of the window. He looked sad. I hoped I had not caused this dampening of mood. He wore a forest green jerkin, with loose white Jamaillian trousers; his hair was in a warrior’s tail. I entered the room and closed the door. He turned and our eyes met. His sadness evaporated, replaced by a wide smile and a glint in his eye. ‘My, my Tom Badgerlock scrubs up well!’ he exclaimed with amusement. ‘For you, I will make the effort’ I conceded, holding his lingering gaze. ‘Are we to wait for Molly? I’m starving!’ he said softly. ‘Luncheon is quite informal, please eat Fool. I said, as I moved to the table. He walked to stand close beside me, and we began to fill our platters. Our hips brushed and we stole coquettish glances. ‘Hmm… so much choice’ he said with a musical lilt. ‘I would love some of this!’ he exclaimed reaching and placing his hand on mine. I laughed, raising my hand to shake his away. ‘Not on the menu for this meal? Such a shame’ He sighed playfully. I sent a gentle elbow to his rib, and he stepped aside from it with a whoop of laughter. ‘Well look at you both, giggling like children!’ Molly exclaimed as she entered the room. She paused and looked at the Fool and I pensively for a moment. ‘I have washed and dressed today!’ I exclaimed foolishly, like a child wishing to impress his mother. ‘And a fine job you did of it too Fitz, you look like a …different man!’ she replied mysteriously. I could feel a tension in the air. Did Molly know about Beloved and I? I could not let this opportunity go, I had to address the situation head on. ‘Molly, can we take a walk after you have eaten, I need to talk to you.’ I asked. ‘Oh yes Fitz, the day ran away from me yesterday. We shall eat, then I will be tending my hives, come find me there and we will talk’. I nodded, and glanced at the Fool feigning ignorance, seated by the window, enjoying his meal. ‘Do you have plans for this afternoon Fool? I questioned conversationally. ‘I will take a stroll into Withy for some supplies’ he replied. ‘Ah, I have a list of a few things I also require, could you get them for me?’ I enthused. He knew what I meant. I had jotted a list of all we would require to leave. I would send word with him to the Wainwright in Withy for a travelling wagon, something we could live in on the road. Money would not be an issue. Fool could decorate it with colour and carvings. It would be a perfect home for us on our quest, and useful to disguise ourselves as travelling troupers. The Fools jesting could convince any of our vocation. I sat in a chair opposite the Fool and Molly joined us. We ate, the silence punctuated with trickles of conversation. It felt like the beginning my parting from Molly. We had once been so at ease in one another’s company. That ease was gone. We had drifted apart years ago. My leaving was the kindest thing I could do for her.

I took the Fool to my study after our repast and furnished him with the list of supplies and the missive for the wainwright. When I shared my idea to buy a travelling wagon he gathered me a tight hug. ‘I have always wanted a travelling wagon Fitz, this is perfect, just perfect’ he enthused. ‘I expect you will buy some new carving tools, and some paints and make it our own. We can take furnishings from Withywoods; we just need the wagon in two days Fool. I know you will take the best on offer. I plan to skill to Chade and tell him to send a fortified carriage to collect my scrolls. I will delay until the day we leave. He is the one man who could try to prevent our journey’’ I continued. He nodded tensely. We knew I had arranged to talk to Molly now. He saw the discomfiture on my face. ‘A kiss for courage?’ he offered as he pressed his sweet lips to mine. I clasped his lithe frame to my broad chest. ‘We will soon be free to live our life’ I said ‘With no limits on our love’ he added. Yes, yes my heart cried yes!

I found Molly in the clover meadow ten minutes walk from the house. She had six hives in the field that produced the most delicious honey and wax for candles. We waved recognition as I approached. I sat on the grass, waiting for her to join me. My belly writhed uncomfortably. I felt like I was going to vomit. Several minutes later Molly walked over to me. She was in her fiftieth year, her black hair streaked with grey. She wore a dark bee keeper’s smock over her dress. She removed it and her net hat before she sat opposite me with her legs crossed. ‘What’s this about then Fitz?’ she asked plainly. I looked at her and felt a deep sadness for the words I was about to say. I would break the heart of my first love. The woman I had first made love to, and given a child to. The woman I strived for sixteen years to get back to. I felt a deep shame wash over me. Beloved is worth this pain, worth this and a thousand times this, I reminded myself. I reached out and took her hand in mine. ‘Molly, this is not working’ I said solemnly. She snatched her hand back and stared at me with pain in her eyes. She knew instantly what I meant. The words tumbled out. ‘Molly, You know our marriage has not worked for years now. We are strangers living in a huge rambling house. We barely converse unless the children are home. We have not bedded in more than two years... I am so sorry’ I paused for a breath and then continued softly ‘I had no right to offer my heart by the witness stones, Molly. It was not mine to offer. It has taken me all of my life to realise it has always belonged to another'. She had stilled her sobbing and looked up at me with tear stained pink cheeks and reddened eyes. ‘I think, that with Burrich’s death we both thought we could rekindle the love of our childhood. But that was the problem. We were children playing adult games. Burrich was the right man for you. I could never live up to what you had shared with him’ I continued in earnest. ‘You love the Fool’ she stated. ‘Yes. I love the Fool’ I admitted to the world. It was the first time I had relayed this to any other than him. I felt the surge of rightness in my heart. ‘I suppose I knew. From the moment he arrived it was like a shroud had been lifted from you’ she sighed. ‘Molly, you and Burrich were meant for each other. You shared a great love and bore him six children. How many people find the one they will love for their whole life? How many people are as lucky as we? I asked. ‘I guess we wanted the fantasy of what we once were, and if we are both honest with ourselves, we both knew that could never be‘. ‘So that is it, You don’t love me and will walk away from our life? What about the children, and Nettle? You would loose all of this to be with the Fool? She asked incredulously. ‘Yes, I choose to loose everything to be with the Fool. I have lived a long life, filled with much loss and pain. I have search for home, for peace. The only home I know is with him. The only peace I know is with him… We are leaving in three days...the Fool and I. Withywoods is yours. I need nothing else but to leave and know you are well. There need not be scandal. You could say I had left on a quest for the crown, no one need know our personal circumstance’ I urged. ‘Oh, so you leave me with the stress and expense of running an estate and just go’ she spat. ‘I know you can cope, You have been coping through my long absences. You are going to be ok’ I said, before realising how patronising it sounded. Molly stood up and walked away. ‘MOLLY, wait!’ I called. ‘I need to think Fitz…leave me be’ she called back. I sat and watched her march down the track way back to Withywoods. I had made a mess of everything. Again!

Chapter 7-The truth will set you free

It was dusk and the sun was beginning to set. The Fool had been gone for eight hours. A seed of worry began to grow in my gut. What could have become of him? My heart lurched and I could not sit a moment longer. I paced the study; I tried to skill to him, but nothing. I strode rapidly down the corridor and out into the courtyard. ‘BOY, BOY’ I shouted urgently. The stable lad came rushing to me. ‘Ready My Black’ I barked. He ran into the stable and I paced again. I stared down the driveway willing the Fool to be walking back to me. The boy led My Black out of the stable and without a pause I mounted and was galloping down the tree lined drive from Withywoods. At the end of the road I headed west toward Withy. I had broken out in a cold sweat of panic and my heart pulsed in terror. I met a caravan of carts coming toward me down the road. They were traders who had packed up their market for the day. I slowed and moved to the side of the road to let two carts and a wagon pass. The drivers nodded recognition and thanks. To my deep relief the forth wagon was driven by Beloved. My heart near burst. ‘Fool’ I called to him. He manoeuvred the wagon to the side of the road. He stood and with a grin presented our new home to me with hand flourishes. I walked My Black beside the two mares driving the wagon, dismounted and tied him. The Fool was inside the wagon, I leapt up the timber step to join him. ‘Oh Fool ‘I spluttered as I took him in my arms. He held me tight. ‘Fitz, what ales you?’ he asked fearfully. ‘You did not return, I thought…I thought…I don’t know what I thought’ I rambled. ‘Come, sit’ he beckoned gently. I slumped down on the floor and he turned the lamp light up to illuminate our surroundings. He sat opposite me. He wore a purring smile. I caught my breath, taking his hand for comfort. As my awareness returned and my heart slowed its rhythm I began to take in the cabin of our wagon. It had a large interior and was constructed from weathered timber, a beautiful silvery grey Cedar. It had a double bed to the rear, with cupboards and shelves on either wall, and a storage space beneath the bed. I leaned and opened a cupboard to find it fully stocked. ‘Beloved, you did all of this in one afternoon?’ I asked incredulously. ‘Report!’ The Fool laughed with satisfaction. ‘When I arrived at the wainwright I found this wagon at the rear of the holdings. It had been a bespoke order, the buyer had reneged on the agreement so they had abandoned work on it. I explained that I was a skilled craftsman and offered to assist in the work if I could take her this day. We struck a deal, it was easy work Fitz! She is longer and wider than the average Troupers wagon, weathered and unpainted, but we can take our time with that. Isn’t she a beauty!’ He beamed. I ran my hand over the smooth silvery grey cedar and inhaled the woodland scent. It reminded me of nights spent in the Cedar woods in the mountains with the Fool and Nighteyes on our quest to find Verity. ‘She is perfect’ I whispered in amazement. ‘The horses are on loan. I said they would be returned on the morrow.’ He added conversationally. My mind was racing. We need not even go back to Withywoods. All I needed was here with me now. I opened and closed more cupboards, then lay on the feather bed and threw my arms above my head. It was and excellent fit. Beloved dived on to the bed beside me. We lay in a proper bed, in our own home together. I reached to grasp his hand. Our skin to skin contact awoke our skill thread. It resonated with the happiness we felt. He rolled and snuggled into my side. ‘We could just go, Fitz’ he said tacitly. ‘Yes, we could’ I agreed. ‘All I need is here with me… But I must end my life as Tom Badgerlock the right way. I must say a proper goodbye. You understand?' ‘What sort of man would I be if I denied you proper closure of this chapter in your life Fitz. Of course you must say a proper goodbye.’ He paused. ‘If you will not be Tom Badgerlock, or Fitzchivalry Farseer, who will you be next?’ he queried. ‘Who will WE be Fool? I leave it to you to choose our names!’ I offered with a grin. ‘You trust me THAT much Fitz. Now I know you really love me!’ he said in jest. ‘Fool how could you ever doubt it’ I said, exasperated. I rolled into his arms and held him in the warmth of our featherbed. I breathed in the scent of the new cabin. ‘We will be happy here’ I declared to the world.

We sat together on the front seat of our wagon. Fool had the reins. Our conversation and lilting laughter leapt onto the cool evening breeze. We glowed with happiness. It was really happening, we would really be free. ‘Fool, will you help me strip my study this night? I want to stow all the things I am taking. I want us to be ready to leave at a moments notice.’ I said. ‘Of course I will help you strip in your study’ he said salaciously. I gave him a playful slap on the thigh. ‘I’m serious Fool!’ I retorted. ‘Do you think there will be a problem…with Molly? You said she guessed we were lovers because your melancholy left when I arrived. Will she try to prevent us leaving?’ he queried. ‘Molly is not a vindictive woman; she is hurt, and smarting. I’m sure deep down she knows this is for the best. She never really had my heart, so she has not lost it. I do think the social embarrassment will be a problem for her, so I suggested she tell people we have gone on a quest for the crown.’ I replied. ‘And Chade?’ I felt a lurch to my gut at the mention of his name. How was I to tell Chade I was leaving and would, most likely never return? ‘ I will write to Chade, Nettle, Dutiful and Ketricken and offer our farewell. I will skill to Chade before we leave and request he clears the scrolls in my study. He is the only one I fear Fool. We both know far too many secrets. But I am a secret best left buried.’

When we arrived at Withywoods, not a soul came to greet us. It was close to midnight and all were long abed. I took the reins from the Fool and drove the cart to a disused barn in the lower paddock. Beloved jumped down and removed the bar from the doors. They swung open with loud creaking sounds. I manoeuvred the horses into the dark space. They did not like it at all. Whinnying and shaking their heads wildly. When the wagon was inside, the Fool and I quickly unbridled the horses and lead them out of the dark barn. He took both of their reins, pacified them and I secured the barn doors. We lead the horses back down to the stables. The stable master Jonas, came to greet us with lantern held aloft. ‘Master Badgerlock, it is you! I heard horses whinny and thought there was mischief afoot in the stable.’ ‘Ah Jonas, could you see to the horses. They belong to the wainwright in Withy, they will need to be returned to him on the morrow’ I instructed. We handed the reins over and bid him goodnight. The house was quiet and dark to my relief. I locked and bolted the main door after we had entered and Beloved lit a candle. We were both famished so preceded to the kitchen to scavenge whatever we could. Our long night would continue in my study. We laid a tray with a platter of cheeses, thick slices of ham off the bone, yesterday’s bread, butter and some fresh apricots. Fool lead the way with the candle light and I carried the tray to my study. I placed the tray on my desk and the Fool used the candle to light the fire and the candles around the room. We sat on cushions, on the floor by the fire and ate. The firelight, the food and the Fool relaxed me to near sleep. He gave a playful kick to rouse me. ‘We have work to do Beloved’ he said seriously. My awareness returned, I sighed and I offered him both my hands. We pulled one another’s arms and rose in unison from the floor. I tugged him to my chest and held him fiercely, my face buried in the perfume scent of his golden hair and nuzzling the nape of his neck. He purred and his hands moved to my rump, he squeezed, pulling me closer. I moved my head to meet his brow. I stared into his striking green eyes and we breathed each others exhaled breath. ‘We could make love and deal with the scrolls in the morning?’ he offered hopefully. ‘Two hours, that is all I ask. And then I will take you to bed and I will sleep in your bed if that pleases you’ I placated. ‘It would please me if there was not much sleep to be had at all!’ he jested raising an eye brow. ‘Very well Beloved. I believe we have struck an excellent deal!’ I said agreeably. We parted and got to work. I asked the Fool to sew coins into the lining of our clothing. I gave him bags of small Gold coins, my cloak and other items I had previously hoarded from my bedroom. He used the spy passage to return to his room and collect some clothing. Then set up beside the fire and happily sewed as I roughly sorted though the scrolls and placed items in a number of wooden fruit crates I had scavenged from the orchard. I would take a supply of pen’s, inks and parchment, letters from my father to Verity, Patience and Burrich, Verity’s sword, the memory stone block and the woodcarving of Nighteyes that the Fool had made for me, my assassin roll of lock picks, my box of poisons, powders and salves, a crate of Molly’s candles and the two crates of Apricot brandy I had left. I decided not to burn any of my personal thoughts. They would be stored safely in the scroll library at Buck Keep. Fitzchivalry Farseer was now a storybook character of sorts, in Buck. I would take on a new name and take another step away from my past. Chade could destroy the scrolls if the thought they were too dangerous. The Fool sewed and I sorted for two hours, as per our agreement. I had filled four wooden crates with what I wanted to keep. So many items had awoken memories. I willed myself not to dwell, I had no time to dwell. I looked up at Beloved, he was wilting. ‘Right that is it!’ I exclaimed. I rose from my desk and moved around the room extinguishing candles, leaving a low flickering firelight. I took both of the Fools hands, and he dropped what he had been working on. ‘A deal is a deal!’ I said softly as I pulled him with me toward the spy passage door. He followed willingly, suddenly no longer appearing tired. He retrieved the small bottle of oil of olive from my desk as we passed.

The feather bed in the yellow room was indeed deep and wide. I added a log to the fire in the hearth. It threw up sparks and gave an intimate illumination. I cared not if any heard our cries of passion this night. The Fool made me feel free and shameless. We would complete our packing on the morrow and be gone, should we even have to abscond in the dead of night! ‘How do you want me? I asked conversationally. He gazed at me and smiled widely, tapping a slender finger to his bottom lip, appearing deep in thought. ‘On your belly?’ he suggested. He bound his long hair back. I stripped and crawled to join him naked on the bed. His arousal was immediate. A charge of excitement rushed through my blood as I placed my lips on his member and slowly moved down its length. ‘You are hungry!’ Fool exclaimed. My hands gripped his taut buttocks. He thrust his hips to meet me and grasped my head in his hands. His nimble fingers untied my warrior’s tail and my long dark hair fell loose about my muscular shoulders. He gathered up my hair and twisted it around his hand. I felt a sharp pain as he pulled purposely. I realised he would use the pain to control my actions, so I was to surrender and obey. He guided my movements with sharp pulling and releasing. I worked my mouth for his pleasure and gained my own peculiar thrill from being dominated by him. To release control was a new sensation; I had always been the controller, the changer. Beloved had opened me to new ways of thinking, of being, of loving. After a time he pulled my hair back sharply. I released his hardness and glanced up at him. ‘On your belly’ he commanded with the tone of Lord Golden. ‘As you wish my Lord’ I replied in my meek servant’s voice. He released my hair and watched me as I moved to lie atop the bed on my belly. I pulled my loose hair to fall over my right shoulder. I lay, waiting, pulsating with excitement for what he would do next. I felt his weight leave the bed and heard light footsteps pacing its perimeter. I turned my head to see he was appraising me, and biting his bottom lip in thought. ‘When you are quite ready!’ I cajoled. ‘SILENCE’ he snapped. Chastised and confused, I glared at him. I felt his weight return to the bed and then a keen edged slap to my buttocks. ‘BELOVED!’ I exclaimed in a shocked gasp. I attempted to roll over but he swiftly straddled me and lay forward, moulding into the contours of my back. He pinned me with his slight frame. Again I tried to struggle and flip him off me, but his strength astounded me. I felt him nuzzling and biting the nape of my neck as he pressed his manhood to nestle lengthways between my buttocks. He rotated his hips in a rhythmic grinding motion, pressing my own trapped hardness to the bed. I was weak with pleasure; a thrill ran through my body like a lightening strike, followed by a surprisingly deep wolfish growl. ‘You…are…mine’ a purring whisper to my ear. ‘Yes my Lord’ I whispered in submissive reply. He moved his icy kisses down my spine. I relaxed into pleasure as his nimble fingers and mouth adored the contours of my muscular physique. When he arrived at my buttocks I cried out, the pain of teeth on skin jolting me from my reverie. The Fool chuckled to himself. He roughly parted my buttocks and I felt his cool tongue darting around my fissure. The sensation sent me to rapid panting breaths and groans of ‘Oh Beloved’. He took his time, licking biting and sucking until I begged an urgent ‘PLEASE!’ He paused and shifted on the bed, again making me wait, anticipating his next move. I felt a cold liquid trickle along my cleft and then a probing finger. I gasped, moaned, and responded by elevating my hips to meet his finger. He straddled me once more and swiftly replaced his oiled finger with his hard slender manhood. I braced to accept him, expecting pain, but he slotted inside me with ease, as if I were made to fit him. He lay forward again, moulding to my contours with his feet entwined around my ankles. He ran his hands down my arms, his skill fingers found the silvered prints, and our connection was complete. I bound his essence to mine once more and he began to thrust gently into me. I moved my head to the side to take his tongue into my mouth. We were one complete being. A thrusting, writhing, moaning animal. He began to buck his hips and I lifted my own to allow him to penetrate deeper, we rose on a wave of bliss, the sound of the rhythmic slapping of his stones to my flesh joined our chorus of ecstasy. We moved in unison, revelling in our physical bodies, and writhing together like serpents in our skill link. His stamina was incredible, as he thrust without pause for long ecstatic minutes. The pleasure was so intense I near forgot where I was, who I was. The Fool paused and pulled out; he flipped me onto my back and spread my legs apart. He swiftly moved into me again, laying his cool torso down on the full length of my own, trapping my engorged member between our bodies. At last, I was able to see his beatific face, and touch him. We kissed with deep probing tongues, resumed our skill link and continued hungrily making love. I claimed him between my muscular thighs and with my free hand placed behind his head, secured him in my gaze. His large green eyes glowed ethereally. I had to continually remind myself to keep our binding strong. I could not allow him to float away from me. His free hand nestled between our stomachs and he massaged me in time to our rocking rhythm. Elation pulsed through our bodies, an elation that intensified each time we made love. I wanted to give in, to allow us to become the beautiful welcoming evolution that fate offered us. It would be so easy for us to blend, let go and follow the skill river. That wisp of a thought was curtailed swiftly by a change in rhythm to long sharp strokes. He was close, I could tell. I looked into his eyes; and he smiled knowingly. He moved to pull out and snaked his body around to position himself so that I could take him in my mouth. He took me to his cool lips and we writhed until we drained one another. When he slid off me, the Fool let out a laugh of sheer delight. He fell beside me on the feather bed, glistening with sweat. ‘Amazing!’ he exclaimed, as he threw his arms over his head, panting for breath. ’We are’ I agreed. Exhausted and spent, I rolled and lay my head on his chest. I listened to his racing heart relaxing to slow steady beat. He caressed my hair and in that satiated comfort I fell into a deep satisfied sleep.

I awoke to the sound of frantic knocking on the chamber door. The Fool and I were warm and sleepily entwined under the blankets. I wriggled out of our tangle, which shook the Fool from his deep slumber. He looked at me in confusion. ‘The door!’ I whispered to his ear. The knocking began again, and a maid’s voice said ‘Lord Golden, I have an urgent missive for you’. The Fool rolled out of the bed, and reached for his gold silk robe. I moved stealthily, collected my clothing and opened the spy passage door. The Fool replied ‘One moment’ in Lord Golden’s voice. I watched through the spy hole as he tidied the bed and glanced knowingly towards the spy door. He moved gracefully to his chamber door and unlocked it. ‘Begging your pardon Sir, A rider came from Buck keep with this missive for you. He was told it was urgent’. On hearing this, a chill ran in my blood. Who at Buck keep knew the Fool was at Withywoods? The maid handed the scroll to the Fool who nodded thanks and closed the door. He waited at the door, listening for the fading footsteps of the maid. He locked it and looked up towards the spy door as I rushed out, discarding my clothes on the floor. Beloved held the scroll out to me. ‘I’m guessing this is for you!’ he said querulously. I took the scroll and moved to sit in the middle of the bed with my legs crossed. The Fool mirrored me. I broke the seal and unravelled the scroll. I read it out to him.

Can you please relay to Fitz that I know he has blocked my skill sending’s because you are returned. Could you also remind him that his loyalty is to the Farseer line. It is expected that this fact should be uppermost in his mind. I would urge him not to make any hasty or unwise decisions! I understand his deep affection for you, however, you must understand Fitz’s place is at Withywoods and within the protection of the crown. I will be following this missive myself on horseback and look forward to our re acquaintance within the day.
Chade Fallstar

The Fool and I sat aghast staring at the scroll. Anger rose from the pit of my stomach. ‘How dare he?’ the Fool spat. ‘Indeed, how dare he! We must away, today Fool! I fear that Chade does not ride alone and will try to prevent our passage.’ I said with urgency. ‘Fitz, where does the spy passage end?’ Fool queried. ‘It goes as afar as the kitchen I believe’ I replied, as a seed of understanding grew in me. Of course, we could store our belongings in the spy passage in the kitchen, cause a distraction to clear the kitchen and remove our crates and bags. I could find a cart and use it to take our things to the lower paddock. ‘Fool; wash, dress and pack with haste. We will take our belongings to the spy passage kitchen door and be gone by mid day.’ He leaned in and cupped my face in his hands. He kissed me hard. ‘Our life begins!’ he chirped as he bounded from the bed. I jumped up and swiftly donned the clothing I had strewn around the floor. Molly did not know that Chade was on the way. We could not tell her of our full plan, the less she knew the better for her. ‘When you are packed and have left all in the passage, break your fast as usual. I will collect blankets and cushions, and anything else I can think of and leave them in the spy passage.’ I relayed ‘What time is it?’ Fool asked, I moved to the window and from the position of the rising sun estimated it was seven of the clock. Chade would have rested for the night; he was far too old to ride without an overnight sleep. We had time, I hoped. I blew Beloved a kiss as I disappeared into the spy passage once more. I returned to my study and gathered all of our clothing the Fool had been sewing, forcing it into a sack. In several journeys, I moved the crates back down the dark passage and stored them beside the kitchen spy door. I observed through the spy hole that the cook was kneading today’s bread dough. I glanced over at the open pantry door. It would also have to be raided for food before we left. I heard a noise and felt the Fool on my skill thread, he moved up behind me in the darkness. ‘Fitz’ he whispered, I glanced behind and took his travel sack from his hands, placing it with the crates. I took his hand and guided him to nestle in front of me to look through the spy hole. We were cheek to cheek. ‘After we break our fast we will take My Black and Malta, as if to go for a long ride. We will circle back, take the horses to the lower paddock, and ready them on the wagon. We then come back here. If Molly is willing, I will ask her to call all of the staff for a meeting in the great hall to explain that I leave on a quest. I will unload the crates into a cart; you will raid the pantry, over there! Take whatever we need. No one here will starve!’ I explained. ‘You’ve done this before!’ Fool whispered to my ear with amusement. Then brushing my stubbled cheek with his lips, he strode away from me and back down the passage. I left several minutes before I followed in his footsteps. When I arrived at my study, I swiftly scribbled five short notes to Molly, Nettle, Chade, Dutiful and kettriken. All were sealed with wax and then with one last look around my study I said goodbye to Tom Badgerlock and Fitzchivalry Farseer.

I had washed, shaved and dressed. For appearances sake it looked as if I would partake of a normal day. I entered the drawing room to find Molly and the Fool sitting together at the long table. Her hand was atop his gloved skilled hand. They both looked up at me with surprise. ‘Good morning Molly, Lord Golden’ I said as I bowed. ‘There is no need for formalities Fitz’ Molly placated. ‘Oh’ I uttered with surprise. ‘We have talked Fitz…we have...reached an understanding’ Fool said tremulously. I joined them both at the table, sitting beside the Fool. He poured tea for me, and I filled my plate with pastries, cheese, fruit and meat. ‘Something you said yesterday struck a chord with me Fitz.’ Molly began. ‘You said ‘How many people find the one they will love for their whole life? How many people are as lucky as we?’ …Burrich was the love of my life Fitz. I do not believe I will ever recover from his loss.’ She paused and appeared to be searching for words. ‘I clung to you for…familiarity, for safety, I suppose. But you are correct; we have not had a happy marriage. We have both been grieving alone for our lost loves. Your love has returned to you, and for this you are truly blessed Fitz. If Burrich were to return, I know I would go with him, without a pause for a breath. I want you to be happy, and love as deeply as I have loved' She paused again. I sat humbled and in awe at her eloquence. ‘So…I release you from your vows Fitz.’ Tears ran unchecked from my eyes. I looked at Molly anew, as I woman I did not recognise. She was not the distant memory of a young girl in red skirts running down the beach at Buck. She was a woman in her later years, who had loved and lost her soul mate. I admired what strength it must have taken her to move on, to try and allow me in her life, in her bed, after such a loss. I do not think I could even try to love again if I lost the Fool forever. I would rather die than consider life without him. A lump rose in my chest, I stood and leaned across the table. I kissed her tear stained cheek. ‘Thank you’ was all I could find to say. I sat down and Fool reached to take my hand. Molly looked at us sitting side by side. ‘How long has your love been hidden?’ she asked. ‘My love had been denied for thirty years’ the Fool said softly. Molly shook her head piteously. Molly had given us such a gift. I felt I needed to offer her the truth about the man she mourned, to help her understand the depth of my love for the Fool and what Burrich had given us. ‘Molly, I do understand how deeply the loss of Burrich has affected you. I need to speak plainly, to share something that Burrich never told you… about my death. I need you to understand Molly…’ I paused, searching for the right words. ‘I lost the Fool… on Aslevjal island, when we quested there with Dutiful. He died Molly, a true death, and a painful death’ Molly looked at the Fool in confusion. I squeezed his hand, he knew I must share this, but he grimaced and his skill link receded. I continued. ‘The Fool had been dead for three days when I discovered him. I gathered his body and took him through the skill pillar to a place in the mountains. I grieved deeply for his loss.’ My voice began to tremble as the painful memories flooded me. ‘I recalled how Burrich had returned me to my body, using his wit. I remembered at that moment, as I held the Fool in my arms, that I too had been truly dead, Molly. My essence rode inside my wolf, and Burrich bought me back to my own body. Burrich used his wit to give my life back to me. I would not be here; WE would not be here if it were not for Burrich.’ A gasping sob came from Molly’s mouth. Tears were running down her face. ‘I didn’t know…all these years...I didn’t know’ she sobbed. I glanced at the Fool, who also shed silent tears. I continued. ‘Using all I recalled from what Burrich had done, I used my wit to restore life to the Fool. And in that restoration we blended into one being. We are one being.’ There was a silence for a moment before Molly spoke. ‘Yet you walked away from him and returned to me? After pulling your love from the hands of death? She questioned in confusion. She was right. What had I been thinking? ‘Yes’ the Fool said softly. ‘That was…my decision. I wanted Fitz to have a chance at happiness, of having the family he had so longed for. He had been so ill used by …so many. I told him to go to you and find happiness. I walked away from him…and I regretted it from the moment we parted.’ Fool turned to me and wiped the tears from my cheeks. Molly looked at us in awe. ‘You have both known a true death, and both been returned miraculously to life by those who love you.’ She stated. ‘I could never, never deny you your happiness…either of you. I cannot imagine the pain you have both been through to find one another.’ My heart swelled. ‘My Burrich truly was a remarkable man’ she said in a sob. ‘Yes’ I agreed, ‘and he will always be missed’.

Jonas and the boy walked My Black and Malta from the stables. I spoke cordially to Jonas about the weather. ‘The horses were returned to the wainwright first thing’ he added to the end of our conversation. I nodded thanks and waved as the Fool and I trotted down the tree lined drive. I felt a calm assurance wash over me. Our talk with Molly had lifted a huge weight from my heart. I had given Burrich back to her in a way. She now knew what he had done for me and understood him with greater depth. I could see it had given her great comfort. I had told her we needed to be gone as silently as possible, the fewer people who knew how and when we departed, the better! I asked her to call the staff for a meeting in the Great hall at ten of the clock, and when Chade arrived, to stall him. She had agreed to do so. I explained that I could share no more of our plan, for her own safety. Fool was unusually silent as we trotted. I quested for him on our skill link. He shuddered from his reverie and turned to me, reaching out his gloved hand. ‘I am ok Fitz’ he assured softly. ‘I was just thinking about what you said to Molly…about Burrich. It is true that we would not be here if it was not for him. He never received the recognition he deserved. It saddens me, that is all!' After turning off the driveway, we galloped east, up the road for half a mile and then circled back through the woods towards the estate. We lingered in the trees for several minutes, ensuring the lower paddock was clear. I quested with the wit to double check no one else lingered near, and then we walked our horses to the disused barn. Opening the doors of the barn to the sight of our wagon sent a tremulous thrill along our skill link. The Fool glowed with happiness at the sight of our new home. We lead the horses in. Bright sunlight broke through holes in the roof, sending shards of light dancing like fireflies around the barn. We removed the saddles and rigged the horses to the wagon. Beloved took the saddles and stored them in the cabin, under our bed. I had not noticed in the darkness of the previous night, that the barn had doors to the front and back. I closed the front doors and walked to the rear of the barn, my wit on high alert. I opened the back doors to the Fool seated and at the reins; he clicked his tongue and chirruped. The horses began to walk slowly out into the paddock. I closed the doors when they had passed, and the Fool bought the wagon about to be hidden snugly behind the barn. The reins were tied off to a ring on the wall of the barn. We then moved off silently into the trees, back toward the house.

We crept to the woodshed and took the cart and mule to the side of the house, close to the kitchen. We then entered the house unseen, and rushed to the yellow room the Fool had taken as a bed chamber. We gained access to the spy passage and moved along in the dark towards the kitchen exit door. The scent of roasting meat and baking bread was a feast for the senses. We reached the spy hole as Mabel, the housemaid ran into the kitchen. ‘Mistress wants us all in the Great hall at ten of the clock. There’s an announcement’ she relayed breathily. ‘Ooh, I wonder what that’s all about’ Cook Jessie exclaimed. She called orders to the scullery maids ‘We got time to take those fowl off the spit, and get them loaves, and spice honey cakes out of the oven. I don’t want nuthin’ burning while were gone.’ The Fool stood behind me, his arms wrapped around my waist. We were cheek to cheek in the cramped passage way. He nuzzled the nape of my neck. ‘You smell so…masculine’ he purred in my ear. ‘I’m more concerned with the roast fowl, bread and honey cakes’ I whispered, receiving a finger jab to the ribs. ‘Seriously, Beloved! We need all the honey cakes, 2 loaves, 2 fowl…and that is just for starters.’ ‘You are salivating like a wolf on the hunt!’ he whispered in jest. He was right. It was my food, after all! We waited in the hidden passage for what felt like hours for the ovens to be emptied and the fowl to be removed from the spit. All the food was laid out to cool on the large oak kitchen table and covered with clean linen cloths. The Fool and I parted in preparation for our dash. ‘Alright, I’m comin!;’ we heard Jessie call and then the sound of her footsteps on the flag stone floor leaving the kitchen. When all had been quiet for several minutes I released the catch on the door. It clicked open. I crept out into the kitchen. I walked to the main door and closed it. Then I opened the back door. I quested with the wit to be sure no one else was around and then pulled the cart around to the back door. I began loading our belongings on to it. The Fool was in the pantry frantically pushing food into the two sacks he had found. I would have no idea until later what treasure he had purloined! I quickly completed my task and then joined the Fool, taking up a burlap sack and stuffing loaves, honey cakes and roast fowl. I did not take all of the freshly baked goods, I did have the heart to leave some for Molly! We were finished and dashing out of the door, the sacks of food and bottles of wine to added to the cart. We jumped on the cart and began our comedically slow trot down to the lower paddock. I felt a pressure at my skill walls, Chade was close. We reached our wagon and without hesitation we jumped off the cart. The Fool stood on the step of the wagon and I passed each item to him, he hurriedly stowed them. We would organise later! It took several minutes to complete our unloading. When we were done, I jumped up beside the Fool, he clicked and chirruped and the horses moved off. I took one last look back at Withywoods as we departed. This was the house my father had ended his days at, I would not have the same fate as he!

Chapter 8-We are Beloved

We drove the horses and travelling wagon for six hours before we felt we could stop by a stream and let the horse’s water. I knew we had driven them hard, we would continue at a slower pace for several more hours before stopping for the night. The Fool and I had taken turns on the reins, and he had begun to stow our belongings around the cabin. Remarkably, there a lot of space. The Fool took delight in discovering the inbuilt surprises in the unusually designed cabin. He found the floor had been constructed as a series of hidden storage lockers. We could remove the panels and stow the majority of what we had bought under the floor boards. The walls were not, as we had thought single timbered, they had been doubled, leaving a space between. We could access this space by siding panels aside to reveal a space in which we could store valuables and clothing. There was a carefully disguised fold down table. It was hinged in the centre, and could fold out fully to make a table for two, or fold in half to provide a writing slope. Most surprising of all was a beautiful stained glass window. ‘FITZ’ the call came from inside the cabin. We were travelling on a dusty road, with verdant forest either side. I bought the horses to a rapid halt and then walked them off the road into an open meadow clearing. I made my way inside to the cabin. On the silver grey timber wall at the back of the cabin, a circular piece of stained glass had been recessed into the wood. Fool stood gazing at it, in awe. He held in his hand the circular timber that had covered it. Light could not penetrate the glass, and I guessed a similar wooden panel obscured it on the exterior of the wagon. I turned and jumped out, and walked to the rear. Sure enough a circle of timber was secreted, matching perfectly with the wood grain. Four small movable pegs held it in place. I gently moved each of them to the side and prized the timber circle out with my belt knife. As I gently removed it, an audible gasp came from inside the cabin. I returned inside, lay down the timber circle and moved to stand beside Beloved. We were both reverentially staring at the glass. The early evening sunlight was causing an array of colours to flow into our home. The design in the stained glass panel was of two trees, one silver, one golden. They met and entwined, their trunks wrapped around one another. The tree grew on as one, and formed a canopy of beautiful multicoloured leaves. The craftsmanship was of the highest order. Glass was rare enough in the six Duchies, so this was a very expensive window. ‘I reached for the Fool’s hand, and saw rays of colour had bathed his pale skin. Silent tears flowed down his cheeks. ‘Beloved? I queried in concern. ‘This is significant Fitz. I know where this was made.’ We moved closer to the glass and he pointed at initials ‘WV’, and then put his hand to his mouth in a sharp gasp. He sat down on the bed. I joined him, waiting for an explanation. ‘Years ago’ he began tremulously. ‘After I had left you on Girl on a dragon, I had visions of a slave boy, with tattoos on his face. I was drawn to Bingtown, and lived there in the guise of Amber. Do you recall all I told you of the liveships, of Paragon, the ship I re carved in your image?’ I nodded, curious as to where the story was going. ‘Well, the boy I sought, the boy who was significant was on a live ship. His name was Wintrow Vestrit. He was the son of a Bingtown trader family. As a child he had been sent to a monastery to become a priest of Sa. He made his visions into glass Fitz. This glass was made by him while in a trance. He foresaw what we would become’ the Fool said in amazement. ‘And we are beautiful’ I added. He turned to me, placed his hand to my scarred shaven cheek, he leaned in to kiss me with such tenderness it took the breath from my lungs. I enfolded him. ‘This path is true Fitz’ he whispered to my ear with a childlike awe. ‘Did you ever doubt it?’ I inquired with a tinge of confusion. He pulled away, but held my hands. ‘Yes…I always have doubts. That is the nature of prophecy, my catalyst. Happiness is not something we are used to, is it Fitz? Sometimes it is easier to doubt, than to believe and have your dreams crushed once more.’ He paused and looked up at me, his eyes luminous with tears. ‘Each time we have made love...I have told myself it was the last time…that something would part us’ he admitted in a whisper. I had no idea he had been so insecure, even in the midst of our love, a spark of doubt had plagued him. I cupped his face in my hands, and brushed stray strands of golden hair aside. ‘Beloved, we are right and true. There is no need to hide your doubts any more. I am here to hold you, and I intend it to be forever.’ I am sure it was the scars of the torture we had both endured that kept that shard of doubt between us. You never do get over the unwilling surrender, helplessness and shame that torture makes you feel. It puts you in a place in your own mind where you cannot see the joy of life, or ever believe that the sun will bathe your skin again. The soul protects itself, draws away from the pain of the fragile breaking shell that encloses it. After all of the passing years, his scars were still raw. I wrapped him in my arms and lay us down atop our feather bed. We clung to one another and in our shared comfort we dozed.

I awoke to a fretful whinny from My Black. Guilt consumed me for a moment for not seeing to the horses. I moved out of our embrace, the Fool slept on. I returned out to the wagon seat to see the sun was setting. I quested with the wit and found a family of deer close by, drinking from a forest stream. There was water close by; we would set up camp here. I moved our wagon to shelter between two large ancient oak trees. I lead the horses to the stream and saw the deer scatter in fear. I had begun to brush down the horses when the Fool joined me, wiping the sleep from his eyes. ‘We are stopping here? ‘he asked. ‘It’s as good a place as any. We are off the road, and there is this stream’ I explained. ‘I will make the fire and food’ he relayed. When the horses had been brushed down and had drunk their fill, I led them back to the meadow and tied their reins to trees so they could eat the sweet meadow grass and rest. I walked to the wagon to see the Fool has set the fire across from the root hollow of a tree. He had set a blanket and cushions in the hollow for our comfort. The welcoming scent of food and brewing tea made my belly growl, I had not realised just how hungry I was. Another surprise addition to the wagon greeted me. It was a long flat piece of timber that had been concealed above the front left wheel arch. The Fool had pulled it to the side, and it formed a work surface at hip height. He was preparing our meal on it. ‘Are there any more secrets in this wagon?’ I laughed as I approached. He glanced up at me, smiling widely. ‘The wainwright told me it was a singular design, he was not wrong Fitz!’ ‘I forgot to ask what you managed to purloin from the pantry’ I said conversationally. ‘Oh, we have enough to keep us eating well for several weeks, at least! He enthused ‘Strings of dried sausage , a smoked ham, cured bacon, oats, around of cheese, flour, honey, a cone of sugar, dried fruits, two jars of preserves, a large pat of butter, some vegetables, and of course, as you required…the honey cakes, roast fowl and bread! He ended his list with a wide satisfied smile. My belly growled loudly and I salivated at the list of foods. I leaned and kissed his cheek. Then I moved off into the cabin to find a bottle of wine. I opened cupboards randomly, realising I knew not where the Fool had stowed anything! ‘Fool, could you come here for a moment’ I called. He jumped the steps to join me. ‘I don’t know where anything is’ I admitted abashed. He chuckled to himself and as if he were performing to the court, he moved around the cabin in a display of hand flourishes and a lilting cadence. ‘On the left, are food stuffs, platters, cups and cutlery. On the right is everything else we would need to hand- lanterns, candles, bottles of wine and Brandy. Our clothes are stored along the walls here’ he said directing me to sliding panels. ‘Under the floor I have stored the meats, oats, flour, fruits and vegetables… Cedar is an excellent insect repellent. Your personal items from your study are stored in the hidden locker under our bed, as are the saddles. I had nothing more than my travel sack, so did not require much storage space.’ He finished with a bow. ‘You, my love, are a wonder’ I complemented, he blushed like a maiden. I retrieved a bottle of wine and two cups and moved out towards the fire. ‘Fitz, there is one secret I have not told you’ I looked over at the Fool who stood at the top step to the cabin. ‘Come’ he beckoned. I set the bottle and cups on the blanket and returned to his side. There was a mask of concern on his face. ‘What is it? I queried. I moved up to join him on the porch of our wagon. Fool pulled the doors closed. ‘I have been…reluctant to tell you this Fitz. I know our last experience with it was…difficult’. My hackles up ‘Fool, speak plainly’ I said roughly, immediately regretting my tone. He glared at me, his striking green eyes wounded. ‘The wheels of our wagon are inlayed with Wizardwood... and the lock on the wagon door is...wizardwood too Fitz. We are to smear a drop of blood on the lock, then only we two can gain access to our home. It will not open for anyone else.’ He stated tremulously. I gasped, and held a hand to my mouth, a heat rising in me. I was sickened at the thought of either of us blooding wizardwood. ‘NO!’ I said fiercely. ‘NO Beloved, I will not do it, WE will not do it. Blood is memory…NO’. I turned angrily and walked away from him, from the suggestion. I could not even consider the implications of putting our blood on a wizardwood lock. I felt a stab to my heart. I turned to see he was still standing out side the wagon a look of bewilderment on his face. Our eyes met and I ran to him. ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ I said gathering him in my arms. I was so thoughtless and clumsy. I did not even wait for his opinion. I did not want to be THAT man, the one who lays down the law and discounts any thought but his own. I eased us down to sit on the steps. ‘I’m sorry’ I said again, softly. ‘Tell me, Beloved, tell me your thoughts on this.’ I took his hands in mine and locked his eyes. No limits, I reminded myself. ‘It…scares me Fitz, just as it scares you. We know the power of wizardwood. The wheels will resist wear, which is agreeable to me. The lock is a different matter. The thought that part of us would dwell together in a lock is…quite poetic, I suppose, but…I too have deep reservations about putting our blood in the wood.’ He explained. ‘Who was this wagon made for? To have all of the secret panels, the glass and wizardwood.’ I asked incredulously. ‘I know not…but, I will add a latch and padlock to the door, we do not have to deal with this now, or any time soon’ he placated ‘Come, lets eat’ he said softly as he stood and pulled me to stand. I tugged him in close to me. I nuzzled the nape of his neck wolfishly, the lavender scent of his golden hair delighting my senses. He giggled, and ran his fingers through my warrior’s tail. The closeness melted the discomfort of moments before. We parted. I moved to the fire and settled on the blanket, Fool joined me, bringing a tray laden with bread, butter, cheese, chicken, some plums, apricots, and a honey cake. It was a veritable feast! He sat cross legged beside me. The firelight reflected luminously from his pale skin. We ate, with the sounds of the crackling fire, rustling of the forest canopy, and calls of birds heading to roost as our music. I felt a deep contentment from my circumstance. The company, the food, the forest setting…all were perfection. We were the only two in the world, to my mind. My skill walls were strong. I had felt a subtle beating of wings against them for days now, but the longer I was with the Fool the less those who sought to skill to me mattered. When we had eaten our fill, the chicken bones were thrown in the fire. I took the tray into the cabin and returned what we had not eaten to our larder. We could not leave any food round that would attract scavengers! I returned to sit in the hollow of the tree and Fool moved to sit between my thighs. He lay back into the curve of me and rested his cheek on my cheek; I moved my hands under his shirt to lie atop his cool full belly. He laid his hands atop mine. We sat in our embrace, in satiated silence, watching the mutable sky grow dark and the firelight dance hypnotically. Neither of us needed to utter a word or move. The world had stilled and centred, in response to the steady beating of our hearts.

The Fool raised a hand to my cheek and turned my head to face him. He kissed me in slow, sensual waves. He stirred, moving from our embrace and turned to sit between my legs, facing me. He touched his brow to mine and we swam in one another’s eyes. Our mouths met with deliberation, sharing long, slow, deep kisses. Neither of us allowing lust to overwhelm. There was a meditative quality to our kissing. We found a place of such calmness, tenderness and deep comfort, that neither of us moved to further our love making for hours. Eventually the Fool parted from our long embrace and sighed ‘Take me to bed Beloved, I am so happy I cannot move’, I caressed his silken cheek, and then pushed myself up from the forest floor. I scooped the Fool into my arms and carried him to our wagon. I sat him on the edge of our feather bed. He had the spread blankets and pillows I had taken from Withywoods, creating a nest of comfort. I lit a lantern and hung it on a hook in the ceiling. I vacated the cabin to bank the fire and relieve myself, returning to find the Fool as I had left him. I closed the cabin doors and undressed swiftly. He gazed at me as if I were the candle light, his eyes following my every move. I stepped to take his hands and pulled him to stand in front of me. I began to unbutton his shirt. As I pulled the shirt over his head, he raised his arms in compliance. I loosened the knotted belt on his Jamaillian style trousers, they fell to the floor and he kicked them aside. We stood naked in the lantern light. There were none but we two in the whole world. I moved around him and threw the blankets back then gathered my naked lover and laid him atop our bed. I joined him and we lay facing one another. It was with deep satisfaction that I saw he was indeed weak with happiness. The man who had dominated me the previous night was as helpless as a newborn pup in my arms. ‘I am so happy’ he whispered again, with a smile that lit his whole face. ‘Allow me to make you even happier’ I suggested. He ran his fingers over my muscled rump. ‘If you insist!’ he sighed. With a wolfish growl I rolled to kiss and bite his throat. ‘We can be as vocal as we desire, here!’ I reminded him. He rose to my challenge with arms thrown wide, releasing a long pleasured moan, writhing as I bit and sucked his nipples. We rolled and wrestled, exploring the width and length of our new feather bed. Our rocking motion created a music of creaking wagon timbers. I found he had hidden the small bottle of oil of olive beneath our pillows. During our lustful wrestling I grabbed his ankles and pulled him so his long legs were either side of my own. I was kneeling above him. I reached for the bottle of oil, unstoppered it and began to pour tiny deliberate drops on his skin, from his chest, down to his belly, to then let it drizzle over his proud engorged member. He cooed with pleasure. I stoppered the bottle and rolled it to where the mattress met the cedar wall, so it would not get broken. I ran a finger down the Fools chest, joining the drops of oil. Using both hands I massaged it over his skin, lingering over his sensitive bruised nipples, making him glisten. He released loud punctuated cries of ‘Oh Fitz!’ as I repeatedly ran oiled fingers around his nipples. I loved hearing him cry my name with such passion. I moved down to massage the oil into his manhood, over his stones and into his cleft. He bucked his hips up to meet my probing, with cries and gasps of pleasure. I watched his ecstatic face, his blonde hair splayed like a halo once more. I ran my oiled hands over my own member and readied myself to take him. Clasping his supple long legs I pushed his thighs back to his meet his own chest. I leaned my body in to rest atop his thighs; the Fool hooked his calves over my shoulders. We were brow to brow, eye to eye. ‘Yes’ he offered as question and permission. He gripped my forearm and laid his skill fingers on my prints. We swam into one another’s essence. With my free arm under his back I lifted Beloved’s folded body from the featherbed and impaled him on my hardness. As I entered him his head flew back with a shriek of pain and passion. I pushed him against the cedar wall of our cabin; he gripped me with his calves and ankles crossed behind my back. Animalistic, lascivious grunts came from a place deep in my being, as I thrust deeply in long, slow strokes. I kept the eyes of Beloved locked hypnotically in my own, watching to ensure I pleased him. He called to me wordlessly with each thrust and I responded with another. This was more than a physical joining. In our skill link something was being broken and mended. I felt the damaged part of my soul, the part that had receded as Regal’s guards tortured me, crumble away, and a part of Beloved came and made me whole. I moved into Beloved and found the scars his torture at the hands of the pale woman had left, and I set my whole soul into him to fix him and make him anew. This blending and mending tested our skill link. I was aware that our physical bodies still moved and thrust in sweaty sexual congress. ‘We are Beloved’. For blissful moments, we were. But no, I had promised I would anchor him, I would not let us float way and ‘Become’. I withdrew the tendrils of my soul slowly from his. ‘NOOOO’ he cried out in a long keening wail. ‘I promised you! I cried with urgency. Tears rolled unchecked down his face. ‘I will not let us go. I will anchor you to me, to this life’ I cried passionately. I lifted him from against the wall and laid him on the soft feather bed. I released his calves from over my shoulders and he splayed his tired legs apart. I moved in to lick and kiss the salty tears from his face. I pressed my brow to his and claimed his tearful gaze. ‘YOU…ARE…MINE!’ I reminded him fiercely, driving home each word with a powerful thrust. ‘YES…yes my Lord’ he replied submissively as he arched his back to accept my thrusts. We both knew it was the only truth that mattered anymore. I pulled myself out of him and moved to straddle his sharp hips. I inserted his hardness inside me and began to move atop him. He bucked his hips up and down urgently crying out once more, the tears still falling. He took my oiled member in his hand and kneaded me, gripping tightly. He quickly gushed to completion inside me. I extricated myself from him to offer my seed to his waiting lips. He took me, enthusiastically, gripping my buttocks until I was spent. I fell beside him on the bed. We faced the glorious stained glass window. Moonlight cascaded in, bathing our naked panting bodies in all the colours of a rainbow. We ARE Beloved.

Chapter 9- Journey

‘Fitz, are you awake’ The voice skilled to me. ‘Fitz’ it said again with greater urgency. ‘Yes, I am awake Fool, what time is it?’ I skilled in reply. I opened my eyes, in shocked awareness at realising what I had just heard. I reached out a hand for the Fool and then turned sleepily to him. He lay beside me, propped up majestically on one arm. He was facing me, his long golden hair draped over his shoulders. ‘You just skilled to me! I exclaimed out loud. ‘We shared more than our precious seed last night Fitz! You shared your magic with me…I have the skill and the wit’ he explained calmly. ‘WHAT?’ I sat up. I rubbed my hands over my face in disbelief. ‘This is…remarkable Beloved’. I sat shocked for a moment; trying to comprehend the enormity of what we had done. The White Prophet now had the Skill and the wit. Did he give his catalyst his visions? I wondered. ‘Did you not feel it Fitz? The blending and the mending of our wounds.’ He queried softly. I reached out to caress his cheek. ‘I was with you, every moment, and every breath. You wanted to complete our merging and I denied you once more.’ He nodded. ‘It is my nature Fitz, I want what I cannot have!’ he mused wryly. ‘I promised to anchor you, and I will’ I warned fiercly. ‘We have waited too long for our love to be realised. No matter how many times you try Beloved. I will not allow us to complete this prophecy.’ His eyes looked down, abashed. ‘I do not say these words to shame you Fool. I say them to reassure you. I am your safe harbour.’ He moved closer into the arc of my arms. ‘Thank you my love. I needed to hear that’ he skilled. I was taken aback again by the sound of the Fool skilling to me. I looked at him nestled in my arms and a chilled panic ran through me. He looked serene in the circumstances. ‘Be calm my love!’ he skilled. I gazed at him and an unwilling smile broke on my face. ‘It’s rather wonderful Fitz. Now I can annoy you with filthy songs all day!’ he skilled. I reached out and tickled him. We rolled and wrestled around our bed, the Fool whooping and giggling until tears rolled down his face. I held him in the warmth of my embrace. ‘I have to teach you how to use the magic’s properly Beloved. Please don’t use them until we have practiced together’ I said out loud. I lay with my lover in my arms. I attempted to wall him out and found I could not. There were no barriers between us, none at all. My walls were strong enough so that the Kings Coterie could not breach them, but with Beloved, this was something different. I discovered he need not even place his silvered fingers on my skin any more, we were so eternally entwined. ‘Shall we stay in bed today? I offered. ‘Mmm, yes Fitz, that would be a most agreeable plan’ the Fool sighed sleepily. We were far away from Withywoods, and had camped in a pleasing forest clearing. There was no rush for us to be on the road again. I rolled out of the bed, pulling Beloved with me. ‘What!’ he queried with agitation. ‘Last one to the stream makes breakfast’ I said and forced a dash for the door. With a scream of delight we jumped out of our wagon and into the meadow. Naked as children we raced through the long grass then through the trees. The Fool overtook me, screaming with laughter at his ruse and I reached out to pull him back. He snaked from my grasp with a whoop of delight and reached the stream. He stepped in gingerly before I had reached him and met me with a wave of icy water. I rushed in and joined him, splashing and kicking water at his luminescent nakedness. We were both drenched and laughing. We fell into one another’s arms and kissed sensually. His arms were draped over my shoulders, and mine cradled his comely buttocks. ‘I won!’ he delighted in reminding me. I brushed his dripping blonde hair from his face. My heart was swollen to bursting with happiness. ‘Then I am at your service this day!’ I relayed courteously. ‘Run along back to the wagon and get the soap and sponge. I want you to wash me...thoroughly!’ he skilled. ‘Beloved!’ I exclaimed. ‘Very well, I will not skill until you have taught me’ he placated. I ran to the wagon. On re entering the cabin the wolf in me noted it smelled of my sweat, sex, cedar and food stuffs beneath the floorboards. It made a heady perfume! I retrieved the soap, sponge and a linen towel, and left the doors open to air the cabin. I bounded back toward the stream, questing to be sure that we would be uninterrupted. I was stopped in my tracks. There was a life force I did not recognize. My hackles up, I crept stealthily toward the stream. The life force I sensed burned like a smithy’s forge. As I rounded a willow tree I saw who possessed this blazing life force. It was Beloved. I had never been able to sense him with my wit before. Clearly he had been correct. Our lovemaking had changed us both forever. ‘Beloved’ I called as I neared the stream. ‘You are in my wit. You have the most incredible life force.’ I enthused. He stood in the stream with a fish in his hand, and tossed it back to the water. He looked up at me knowingly. The green forest to his back, in his nakedness, with long wet golden hair, the Fool was incandescent, like a magical creature from a fire side story. His green eyes claimed me, and I forgot all else. I moved to join him in the water. He cupped my face, rubbing his hands over my stubble. He unbound my warrior’s tail and let my dark hair fall down my back. I looked around for a deeper part of the stream. I saw a wider section several meters up from us. Taking the Fool’s hand and we walked in the water up to the place where we could bathe properly. I threw the drying linen on a rock, and the Fool propped himself beside it. He had not said a word since I had returned. ‘Is all well?’ I asked as and took a small scoop from the pot of soap and massaged it onto the sponge. ‘It is remarkable Fitz…the wit sense. I can feel all life resonating around me.’ I offered a hand and he took it. I pulled him into my arms and began in slow strokes of the sea sponge, to wash his back. He laid his hands on my buttocks and we kissed. The energy of our natural surroundings flowed through us. I sighed as the taste of him intoxicated me. How could this one man make me feel so alive,I pondered? I moved the sponge down to massage his rump. I felt his manhood pulse, and mine followed suit. He turned and rubbed his slippery soaped buttocks against me, as I resumed moving the sponge over his chest, belly and awakening hardness. He placed his hand atop mine and guided me in circular movements over his manhood. He strained and arched his back, gasping sharply, pushing and grinding his rump against my shaft. With his free hand he pulled my head down to kiss the nape of his neck. The morning bird song confirmed that this was indeed a time for lovers, as we writhed together. He moved and ground himself against me until I was painfully hard. Before I could reach completion, Fool abruptly took the sponge from my hand and moved behind me. ‘But I am to serve you today’ I offered in protest. He moved my hair to fall over my shoulders then lay gentle butterfly kisses down my spine. He followed the kisses with strokes from the sea sponge. I offered hard pinches to my own nipples. When my back was soaped he threw the sponge to the bank and began with nimble fingers to massage the tightness and knots from my shoulders, down my spine and to my muscled rump. I surprised myself with the growling sounds I made. It reminded me of the low guttural sounds of pleasure Nighteyes made when I massaged his aching limbs. My reverie was dowsed by a wave of icy water. ‘BELOVED!’ I exclaimed with a laugh and turned to join him in splashing and wrestling once more. When we had washed every drop of soap away, he allowed me to dry his skin. He had purposely left me unsatisifed and my stones ached for completion. I towelled myself roughly as he walked away. The view was most pleasing. ‘See you in bed…You have work to do!’ he skilled. I returned to the cabin with a kettle of hot water, and prepared food and tea for us. We settled in a nest of cushions in our bed, the tray of food between us. The open doors to the wagon framed the meadow and woodland like a painting. We ate, dozed and made love for the rest of the day. These days with the Fool had been the most wonderful of my whole life so far. We awoke and lay in our embrace. We spoke at length about what we would do next and decided to head toward the Mountain kingdom. We were in no rush and agreed to spend our days leisurely, and quietly, avoiding large towns. We did not seek to draw attention to ourselves. We both knew taking a man as a lover was frowned upon for males in the six Duchies. Many men did have a male life partner, but to all intents and purposes they had to appear to the world as friends or brothers. What ever happened when the doors were closed was between them. The Fool informed me of the salacious goings on at Buck Keep. Lord Golden was sought as a bed partner by many men of the court, wed and unwed. ‘You never told me!’ I could not disguise the hurt from my voice. ‘Beloved, it was all a ruse…on my part anyway. I cannot help that I am the flame and the moths of the court could not resist my charms’ he teased. I gave his rump a stinging slap. He giggled coquettishly. ‘You were never drawn to any other man or woman’ I asked with jealous urgency. ‘Of course I was drawn to other women and men, Fitz! I am a lover of beauty. We flirted, and jested but I would not allow even a kiss. I drove them mad to distraction, and then returned to my chambers and dreamed of Tom Badgerlock, asleep in the room across from me’ he sighed dreamily. ‘I wish with all my heart I would have been brave enough to realise what we were, Fool. I hate to think of all of the times we were close and you needed me, but I failed you’ I admitted with chagrin. ‘Come now Fitz, what is past is past! We love as deep as the oceans and as high as the heavens. Thirty years of longing has been melted away by these past six days of love’. The Fool rolled to lie on his back, his hands behind his head. ‘I have decided on our names!’ he exclaimed with satisfaction. I had been laying on my belly and moved on to my elbows. I looked at him in anticipation. ‘We will of course call each other by our true names when we are alone. But I think it best if, in company I am your wife Amber, and you are my dear husband Paragon.’ I laughed ’You are naming me after a crazed liveship!’ I exclaimed. ‘No, not only that! A Paragon is someone with exceptional merit. I can think of no other name that would suit you better my love’. I smiled. ‘Very well my darling wife Amber.’ I said. She reached out her hand and caressed my cheek. ‘Beloved husband Paragon’ she said, in a feminine voice I did not recognise.

The months that followed were filled with simplicity. We travelled back roads and avoided towns and villages. Only venturing close when our food supplies became depleted. We loved one another with a ferocity that astounded us both. I taught the Fool how to use his skill and wit to the best of my knowledge. Our skill link became as strong as iron. Tied to one another we were one being, as we always should have been. It was as if joining in our love making made us evolve. I knew intuitively which roads to take to lead us back to the mountains kingdom and we felt the skill hunger grow stronger as we neared Jaampe. After stopping in Jaampe for several days and visiting with old friends, there came a time when we both felt we could no longer stay. It was as if we were being pulled by an unseen force. I knew not if it was the skill, or the silver river at Kelsingra. We needed to understand what the silver that ran through all of the magic of our world was. Where was its source? Did the silver give the Farseers the skill? Why could dragons consume the silver and human could not? As we journeyed up into the mountains the conversations we shared revealed that Beloved and I had more questions and fewer answers as to our own situation. Did any other know about the scroll the Fool had found and its prophecy that the white prophet and Catalyst would ‘Become’? We could only think of seeking the counsel of dragons. They had the memories of their ancestors in their blood. Maybe a dragon could tell us what our fate would be.