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The Cord and the Chalice

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It’s midday, the sun high in the sky, unrelenting in its assault on the sandy beaches of the Nocen Sea. Although Vanora much prefers the familiar sting of the sun to the frigid winters of the South, even she knows her limits. Abnormally fair skin does nothing to help with a long day spent on the beach. If she isn’t careful she’ll end up burning herself, something she’s worked hard to avoid thus far. The freckles that have broken out across her face are bad enough temporary damage to her skin. They’ll fade, of course, they always have in the past, but for now, there’s no ridding herself of them. Not when she’s still spending so much time on the beach. Maretus is another story entirely. From the almost blue-black of his hair to his golden skin, he screams Tevene, and as such he’s much better suited to the sun. Years of training in it have no doubt helped his body adjust, but if she thought he’d been tan to begin with it was only because she hadn’t seen him during a Tevinter summer. His skin has deepened to a dark golden hue, still lighter in places that were usually covered by his clothing. Days spent on the sunny beaches, however, have helped even out his complexion as much as they have muddled her own.

Though it sometimes feels that the summer estate is out in the middle of nowhere, no large towns or nearby homes to disturb them, it is not so far away from civilization. A day’s ride from Vyrantium meant that they have all the comforts of the Tiberius’ estate in Minrathos without all the hustle and bustle. Nobody would be making house calls or hosting dinners. It is the perfect place to unwind, and Vanora loves it dearly. Maretus certainly seems to have no complaints about the property. Already they have spent hours together on the sand, going inside when the sun was just too hot to tolerate to read or lounge in the gardens. Vanora would stay there forever if she could, living in that perfect little bubble with Maretus, not a care in the world. But, alas, they cannot stay forever. It could be, however, that knowing they would have to return makes their time even more precious.

Driven off of the hot sands by the sun at high noon Vanora heads for the water, eager for a respite from the heat. With nobody but themselves for miles Vanora sheds her light summer clothes without blinking, the gentle rustle of fabric next to him drawing Maretus’ attention. He squints, trying to see her despite the bright sun, and she smiles, sauntering over to the ocean and wading in. When the water is to her hips she slips under the surface, swimming out far enough that she can no longer touch the sandy bottom with her toes. The ocean soaks away the excess heat, the waters warm enough from the sun to dispel any possible cold spots. It’s lovely, floating on her back, the cool water tempering the hot sun on her body. A minute passes, then another, and another after that, but no Maretus. Rolling over to tread water again upright she sees that he hasn’t moved a muscle, still laying out in the sun. Perhaps he’d fallen asleep.

Maretus!  she calls, the man stirring and propping himself on his elbows,  Come on, the water’s perfect! 

Even then he doesn’t move, and she can see him shaking his head,  The view here is much better.

Rolling her eyes she waves him off, slipping back under the surface to swim closer to shore. When she resurfaces he’s laying down again, apparently not enjoying the view as much as he claims. Floating a minute more she smirks, eyes glinting mischievously as an idea forms in her head. Untying the end of her braid she separates out the three major strands. When all her hair is free, floating around her like a halo, she submerges herself one final time. Standing up she wades back to shore, soaked from head to toe and leaving a trail of wet sand behind her.

You’re being stubborn again, husband dearest,  she chimes, slowly closing the distance between them.

The sudden closeness of her voice has him sitting up in a moment, staring at her with a mix of surprise and something a little less gentlemanly shining in his eyes.

I don’t mean to be stubborn, I was simply enjoying the sun.

And leaving me to swim alone? What would happen if you sat up only to find me drowned, hm?

Amused now he shakes his head, lowering himself back to the sand and propping himself up on his elbows,  I think if either of us is liable to drown it would be me. You have spent much more time in the sea than I.

Still, it’s hardly polite to leave me to entertain myself in peace,  she responds matter-of-factly, biting back a smirk as his eyes begin to wander down from her face,  And that behavior is simply rude.

Eyebrows raising he looks back up at her face, lips parting with a retort that doesn’t quite make it out. The gap between them is closed faster than he expects, Vanora settling herself right on top of him, knees on either side of his hips, the water from her hair and body effectively soaking much of his trousers and dampening his bare chest. He splutters, almost slipping onto his back in the sand, but manages to keep himself propped up on his elbows, staring wide-eyed at her. It only serves to embolden her more.

Smiling innocently at him she trails her hands over his chest, tracing a mindless swirling pattern around some of the scars on his ribs. Maretus’ breath hitches as her hands move lower, fingers curling around the top of his trousers and brushing against his hips. Satisfied that she’s got his attention and he won’t be going anywhere she slides down, away from his hips, settling at his thighs, and begins undoing the knot that keeps the fabric in place.

Vanora.

It seems that it’s meant to be some sort of warning, but his voice is deep and husky and sounds a bit more like a groan than any sort of attempt to get her off him.

Yes, darling?  she chimes, fingers making quick work of the knot. She leans forward, stretching to place a kiss on his jawline, then another on his collar bone. By the time she gets to one of the scars on his ribs his breathing is shallow and quicker than normal, eyes closed as she smirks and moves lower, placing another kiss on the skin just beside his belly button. Vanora glances up once more, smiling innocently when her eyes lock with Maretus’. Then, slowly, she pulls on the waist of his trousers, pulling them down enough to expose his hips. Once more she looks up, keeping her eyes on his face as she places another kiss on his hipbone. Maretus’ cheeks are flushed, though she doubts it has anything to do with embarrassment if the firmness in his trousers is any indication.

Now  will you swim with me?  she questions, fingers trailing over his hip bones,  Or shall we go inside and get out of the sun? 

Swimming was all well and good, but now she thinks it’s time for a different activity. Below her Maretus groans, closing his eyes for a moment. When he opens them, looking almost hungry, he flips her over onto her back. It is Vanora’s turn to widen her eyes in surprise, Maretus smirking down at her.

I think we ought to spend a little while longer on the beach.