The group of us made good time coming down from Bitola, in Macedonia. We were only a few days later than promised after having to repair a broken axel on the way back home. We spent a total of four days at the Bitola Fall festival.
A little over a moon before equinox we received a messenger from my father’s old friend, Jordan. He was the master fletcher of Bitola that tested me for my own master’s mark. At the time of his visit, Telequire had entered into a limited agreement for his specially designed arrow heads. He promised to teach us the method of their construction and we pledged to buy from him for the first two sun-cycles, and transport the goods from his city to Telequire. He also mentioned that his town might be interested in trade with our nation.
When we received a messenger from Jordan, most just assumed it was to tell us the arrow heads were ready. Besides the usual notice of shipment, he also included a request that we bring olive oil and figs for trade. Just learning that a small group was going to Bitola was enough to interest me. I wanted to meet with Master Jordan again, if only to see how his new apprentice was working out. He had asked me once, a lifetime ago it seemed, but I turned him down to follow my heart. When the messenger also mentioned that their local trade days also featured a popular archery tournament, I became determined to make the trip. There was only one thing stopping me, or rather, one person. Our very own Queen Orianna, the light of my life and my bond mate.
We had only been joined for a little over a season, and I had only been back with Telequire a little more than two. After I spent nearly a year as a slave and Roman gladiatrix, Ori was understandably concerned about me leaving again. I knew my queen, and I knew her heart as well as I knew my very own. If something were to happen to me again she would not survive it. Before even approaching her with my request, I spent nearly a day in the trees around the nation, mending ropes for the scouts who depended on them. It was certainly no task for the Queen’s Consort. But I had only ever been me, and no matter my title I had always been one to fill in where I was needed. Besides, it gave me plenty of time to think about my request. As I ran, her words to me after my return from presumed death echoed in my head.
“…I would move the heavens themselves to make sure you stay with me. I would resign my monarch’s mask if need be just to search for you and bring you home.”
I remembered being distraught by her declaration at the time. Her words shocked me to my very core because I had been unable to see my own worth after taking so much emotional damage in the lands across the Ionian Sea. . “But…you cannot do that. You are the queen! The nation needs a strong leader, they need you.”
She would not let me protest and I remember how soft her finger was against my lips, stilling my words. “Shh…I need you more than the nation needs me. I would not survive without you again, the blackness of loss did not sit well with my heart.”
That was why I knew my request to go visit Jordan would worry her. But I also knew that neither of us could live in fear. We both had lives and responsibilities to the nation and I suspected if she let me go at all, it would only be with a large contingent of guards.
As we rode through the woods toward the village, I thought back to the day I asked to go on the trade trip. Ori sent a runner to me earlier in the day to ask if I’d like to take a light meal in the smallest bathing cave. There was no way I’d turn down such a request. I arranged everything, from the oil lamps scattered around the cave, to the platter of figs, olives, and sliced tree fowl. As an added bit of bribery, I laid out a thick pad of furs next to a jar of lavender scented olive oil.
I was already submerged when she pushed through the heavy hide that covered the doorway. I rose from the water after rinsing the soap from my hair and the breath caught in my chest from the look on her face. Her eyes were unreadable from where she stood ten paces away, but her intent was clear. With lips parted slightly and a look of controlled lust, I felt awed by her admiration. Though tall, I was average in most other things. While I had enough scars on my body to be self-conscious, I had enough love from my queen to walk confidently down my path. And I knew the look she bestowed on me better than our priestess knew the will of the goddess. Artemis herself could not resist such a look from her chosen and I was glad that it was meant for me alone. My words were soft around the smile that sat shyly upon my face. “Will you join me, my queen?”
She made a little growling sound and I could not help but laugh. It was an old playfulness between us and even after we were bonded I still loved taunting her. “I am not your queen, Kyri Fletcher! I am your bond mate so stop using title with me.”
I waggled a finger at her as she started to undress. “Ah, but you are the queen of my heart…” She finished undressing and made her way slowly down the carved steps into the pool set in the floor of the cave. “You are the queen of my smile…” Once in the water she waded the two paces between us. While the water rested just above my areolas, it came up to the hollow of her throat. She had an annoyed look on her face but I knew she didn’t mean it, so I finished making my point to her. “…and you are the queen of all that I love. Why would I not call you my queen?”
“You are full of the prettiest words as always, my love.”
I shook my head and smiled at her because she knew truth better than most. “Only you would think so. Everyone knows that I fumble and stutter on the best of days when trying to speak my heart.”
She took another step until the entire front of our skin slid together beneath the water, causing me to suck in a breath. “But I already know your heart and it speaks beautifully to me. Now…I believe you had something give me beyond words?” Confusion ran roughly across my thoughts for a heartbeat until I saw that familiar smirk on her face. Just the kiss alone threatened to buckle my knees and leave me gasping for breath. Our lips slid together as they had so many times before, our tongues caressing all the parts that formed such pretty words. When I moved my hand up to tangle in her shorter hair she moaned and pulled me closer. Her own hands wandered lower beneath the dark water, stroking my skin to a greater heat than even the cave and pool could provide. When we finally broke for air we were both panting and desirous. I looked at her swollen lips and admired how dark they had become in the heat. I remembered thinking that there could be no one as fair as my love, no one more deserving of being the goddess’ chosen and queen. “I love you, Ori.” My words were a pale substitute for expressing how I felt.
When she reached out to touch me again it took me by surprise. In that moment a rare flashback came to me and I closed my eyes as a shiver raced through my body. Darkness threatened and she withdrew. “I’m sorry.”
Hearing the tone of her voice I immediately opened my eyes and pulled her to me. Sometime I was taken by the events of my dark past and I could not control my reaction. The pain in her words at my perceived rejection snapped me out of it. “No, do not be sorry! Nothing of my past is of your doing and I regret that it colors us with such sorrow.” I drew her to me again, with desperate shaking arms. I was afraid to wake up some days, afraid that my return had only been another untrue dream. I began kissing her face, starting at the temple and working my way down to her jaw and neck. She canted away from my mouth to give me greater access and I could feel the movement of her chest against my own with each breath. My voice was practically a whisper as it came out, nearly drowned by the sound of trickling water along the channel that led out of the hot spring. “Please let me touch you…”
Her own answer was loud in the warm space, her word nearly a hiss as it met my ear. “Yes…” I turned her slowly within the circle of my arms. We had discovered a solution to my fears when I first returned to Telequire after my time as a slave. From behind I was free to caress her breasts in full, reveling in the feel of hard nipples beneath my palms. I grazed my teeth along her neck and toward her shoulder. I bit down lightly at the same time I squeezed those hardened nubs of flesh between my fingertips. She arched her back into me and moaned my name. “Kyri, please!”
I moved up to whisper in her ear. “Do you beg of me the way you beg your goddess for release? Have no fear, I will touch where you will it...” My lips found their way around the back of her neck to nibble on the opposite side, and at the same time my hand wandered down the center of her body. Both our breaths came in panting gasps by the time I caressed the very heat of her. She cried out just once and I quickly wrapped my free arm around her waist when her legs began to tremble against my own. “I have got you love, I will not let you go.” I stroked the full length of her then, moving my fingers down as far as I could reach, then sliding them back up to circle around that hard node of pleasure. We were born with such a thing like a gift, who was I to ignore it? I inserted a knee between her legs from behind to give her something to rest on as her strength flagged. Despite being fully underwater, there was something special to the slippery path that my hand tread between her legs. It seemed no time at all that I felt her skin grow taut beneath my fingertips. That node of pleasure grew impossible hard as my whirled pads drew the circles tighter. I knew she had mere breaths left when I whispered in her ear one last time. “Tell your goddess of our love, scream it to her…”
Whether it was my words, the scrape of my teeth along her earlobe, or the way my questing digits caressed fully her most intimate point, I knew not. But she yelled into the silence of that chamber. The water sloshing around us as she jerked against my palm. Her voice rang loudly in my ears and heart. “Kyri!”
My breath froze in my chest and tears sprang to my eyes. Never once had she called out something other than the name of her goddess, never had any word but ‘Artemis’ left her lips in peak pleasure. I did not know what to say as I held her shuddering body to the front of my own. I only knew that her single word was profound and it overwhelmed my understanding of us. When that shuddering turned to sobs I was quick to turn her around and pull her to the carved bench below the surface. “Shh…it is okay my love. Tell me what is wrong, have I hurt you?”
Her crying eased and I gently wiped the tears from her face with a hand that was already wet. After a candle drop she stilled my motion and turned her red-rimmed green eyes up to meet my gaze. “It’s okay, Kyri, I’m fine. I will always be well with you in my life. But you know that I fear losing you again.”
I looked into her sad gaze and I knew that she knew. “You already know of my request.” She nodded at me and I remember feeling profound sadness in that moment at the look in her eyes alone. “I will stay if you need me.”
She reached up to gently cup my cheek. “My love, I will always need you. But I learned long ago that you don’t keep a bird from the sky because you fear the fall for them. You must turn it loose to live in freedom. The bird will return if Artemis wills it.”
I sighed and closed my eyes to revel in her touch. “We will only be gone half a moon, there is no need to worry.”
Her indrawn breath caused me to open my eyes again. “The last time it was only a moon, and that lasted nearly a sun-cycle. It was a year that I never want to repeat so you better make sure those two promised seven-days stay at that or less. You hear me, Kyri?”
My words were a promise straight from my heart to hers. “Have no fears, Ori. Nothing will keep me from you again. Of all the pledges I have broken, I have always kept this one to you. As you have said many times, I am the arrow of Artemis and she will bring me back. Do not fear.”
As much as I loved seeing Jordan I was happy to be home again. As soon as we entered the village proper I sent the wagon of goods off to the supply master and the rest of us went to stable our horses. A runner found me nearly as soon as I dismounted, she must have been waiting for us to return. “Consort, the queen is requesting your presence at the temple as soon as you have finished bathing.”
I looked up at the young woman in concern. “The temple? Is everything alright?”
The woman shrugged and her name eluded me. “She seemed fine to me, Consort. She said she wanted you to come to her before the sun was gone from the sky.”
I smiled at how demanding my queen could be when she was feeling in fine mettle. “I guess I better hurry then, if you will excuse me…” I paused, non-verbally prompting her for a name.
She blushed even as the words came out of her mouth. “It’s Mara, Consort.” Her blush flushed even deeper red with the stumble.
“Thank you, Mara.”
The smallest bathing chamber was taken by a couple with more amorous intentions than mine, so I ducked into a larger thermal cave. There were two scouts and a council member inside but the pool was plenty big enough. I wasted no time washing up after greeting my sisters. They asked no questions, perhaps suspecting where I was headed next. After dressing quickly made my way to the western side of the village. I paused inside the great carved doorway of the Telequire temple. The full moon was just rising and I knew that sunset could only be a quarter candle mark away. There was a single torch lit on the far left side of the dais, far to the back of the chamber. A large statue of Artemis loomed over the dais and smaller statues of a bear and stag stood near to her. I picked my way to the rear of the massive cave, the light was so dim that I had a hard time making out anything in the gloom. I gazed up again at the intractable gaze of Artemis, wondering if at last she had finally cast her judgement onto me. Before my mind could trip that familiar path of confusion, my named echoed around the chamber. “Kyri Fletcher!”
I spun in place, unable to pinpoint the location of the voice at first. When my gaze fell upon the altar I lost every bit of breath in my body and I grew lightheaded. Ori was nude and gleaming, lying on a pile of furs atop the stone altar of her goddess. Her name slipped out like a prayer. “Ori…”
“Breathe love, and come to me. Your queen demands it.” She held out her hand where she remained reclined on the covers below. I was jealous of the way that soft fur caressed Ori’s skin. My feet moved to her before my mind had even fully recognized the demand. As I drew near she spoke again. “I want to feel you.”
I quickly removed my gorytos, halter, and skirt, then my boots and knives. The stone of the carved dais felt cool to the soles of my feet. I walked to the end of the altar and slowly crawled up to submit myself to Ori’s embrace. I shuddered at the first touch of her against my skin. The hottest part of our love pressed together and I looked into her eyes. Ducking down to bring our lips close together also brought the smell of lavender oil she used on her body. She was slick as I held myself up, both of us panting slightly in anticipation. “I have missed you.”
She arched upward to press our centers together, eliciting a gasp from me. “I think you know how I feel.”
I brushed my lips against hers and felt the gentle caress of Ori’s tongue as it begged for entry. I let her in and slowly pushed my body against hers. My arms trembled and I fought the pleasurable need to collapse on top of her. I wanted to meld our skins together, to forge one new being with eight limbs and two heads. A new person with only one heart and one soul. She pulled her mouth back and gasped as I ground against her again. “Please love, I need you…I need more…”
Her needs eclipsed my own, her needs were mine and I moved down slowly to grant her desire. As I slid lowerI stopped to take each breast into my mouth. I teased and played with her nipples, grazing them with my teeth and bringing them to full hardness while she writhed beneath me. Her wetness painted a slick circle on my stomach as she thrust upwards. I continued my path, stopping briefly to play in the center of her navel before moving on to kiss each hip bone. She fisted my hair and shoved me lower, impatience fueled by her desperation for release. I did not make her wait. The first two fingers of my right hand found her wet and ready as they easily slipped inside. Ori moaned and I began slowly thrusting as I lowered my mouth to her slick need. As soon as my tongue ran the length or her I knew that she would not last long. From one stroke to the next I added another finger to her silky depths. My queen groaned and began aiding in my thrusts. Despite the chill in the air of the cave, I could feel sweat trickling down my temples. I feasted but tried to avoid that place she loved best. I wanted it to last for her, I wanted to prolong that pinnacle of pleasure. Her grip abruptly tightened on my hair, forcing me to still my fingers deep inside her and stop the motion of my tongue. When I looked up at her Ori’s eyes were wild and dark, her gaze was hot where it met my own, burning me with passion. Her single word struck me like lightening, causing me to throb where my own center pressed into the mounded furs below me. “More.”
I grew concerned because we had rarely gone beyond three. “Are you sure?”
She gripped me even harder and I gasped at the surprising pleasure of such a feeling. “More!” I thrust downward at her grasp and became pleasantly surprised to find that the furs had bunched even further below me with our motion, giving me sufficient purchase to find my own release. Her words and firm grip prompted action as I pulled my fingers out and added the fourth. Everything was so slick and it was only then that I suspected she had used lavender oil to aid in her request. My four fingers slid in easier than ever before and I thrust slowly to give her time to become accustomed to the feel. I moved my arm further to the center of my chest so I could curl my fingers upward, at the same time I lowered my mouth to her again. I pushed against the furs below me in time with the thrusts into her body. I could feel her gradually loosen and wondered if I could go further. Ori’s labia and opening were soaking wet and slipperier than I had ever known. Despite the length of my fingers, my hand was quite narrow. I turned it ever so slightly as I lapped at the very essence of her, curling my thumb to the center of my palm. I slowed down my thrusts again and she whimpered.
“What are you doing?”
I glanced up and met her eyes, she was nearly undone. “Trust me.” I slowly pushed in again as I ran my tongue up and around her sensitive swollen flesh and felt when she took me beyond the knuckles of my fist. She started keening as I pulled back and slipped even further inside. My own body following its natural inclination and continued thrusting into the altar below. I went further until the only thing stopping me was the widest part of my thumb. I whispered into her flesh, hoping to breach that last barrier, wanting to be inside her full. “Relax…”
Something small gave way and suddenly I was in. She pulsed around my hand as I moved it ever so slightly in and out. I tried to curl my fingers but she had a tight grip and the most I could do was thrust with shallow motion. But it was enough for her voice to suddenly change in pitch and urgency. Her keening got louder and then she began to speak. “Oh my Goddess, Artemis! Kyri, my love, my light…I feel you inside and I cherish your heart within my own…” I lapped at her feverishly and her rough-voiced rambling continued for only moments more until a great shout tore from her body. It was a scream with no name at all being called. It was a primal exaltation of glory as she clamped tight against my fist and her entire body arched off the altar. She shook with tension and release for nearly a candle drop before finally collapsing back to the furs in a faint. I had found my own release but it paled in comparison to the beauty of her voice and motion. I slowly removed my hand while she was unconscious, lightly massaging the flesh of her intimacy once I was out. Then I crawled up the altar to lie next to her and wait for Ori’s light to return. It was good to be home.