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Three tense days and three sleepless nights passed. Inga watched and waited for the raven to return, for Lord Eldritch himself to arrive at her door. By the third night, she discredited the raven as nothing more than a simple bird, perhaps even a figment of her imagination. In need of rest, she stretched upon her reed mat and bundled under soft, warm layers of downy coverlets and patchwork quilts. Through half-lidded eyes, she gazed across the room at the hearth. The glow of the embers faded, the cottage gradually going dark.
Suddenly, all around her grew light again. Inga found herself standing beneath the wide blue sky. She danced and sang in the poppies, her arms opened to the gossamer clouds above as her legs glided and twirled through the tall waves of grass. The thrushes and the grouse joined her song and wove around her, their wings beating in time with her movements.
Could this be a dream? Inga asked herself. But no, it seemed much too vibrant and real to be a dream!
The shrill cry of a raven pierced the air, causing the flock to take flight. A swift, riderless steed emerged, the waves of grass parting in its wake, and headed straight for her. Inga flung herself from the black beast's path and fell to the ground, narrowly escaping the wrath of the horse's hooves as they trampled a cluster of poppies near where she had danced.
She lifted her head and peered through the reeds from where she hid. Her heart leaped as she sighted Lord Eldritch striding upon the path cleared by his steed. The heel of his tall black boot crushed a crimson blossom and scattered the seeds to the wind. As he drew closer, Inga did not run, for though her legs trembled in fear, herheart raced with desire. She stood straight, revealing herself, and held her ground.
She waited for him.
He was upon her in a few easy strides. With one gloved hand, he seized her by the curls and drew her face close to his; with his other, he dug into the plump, rounded flesh of her buttocks and pressed her against him. The cold, hard stare of his mask chilled her to the marrow, yet his strong, firm hold stirred the heat of her sex. He threw her to the ground and pinned her wrists above her head as his fur-lined cape enveloped them both. He pushed between her thighs and shoved her skirt over her hips, exposing her womanhood. Clutching the cuirass across his broad chest, she wrapped her legs around his waist, and slowly, surely, began to grind her lower torso against him until at last she experienced the same throbbing waves of pleasure as before.
She cried out and found herself not on the grass but upright against the wall of the cottage by her sleepmat, her face mere inches from the masked countenance of Lord Eldritch. In the morning light, she made out his fierce eyes as they shone through the slits of his mask, burning the same deep shade of blue as the sky in her dream. With one strong hand, he circled his gloved fingers around her wrists and pinned them above her head. With his free hand, he stroked her loose curls. She gasped and struggled against his grip even as the flame between her legs threatened to engulf her a second time.
"How can this be?" he hissed through the grate over his mouth, the lines cut too thin and close to make out the shape of his lips. "But it ... it cannot be." His eyes traveled up her arms to her hands. "Yet you wear her ring."
For a brief moment, his eyes softened and bespoke confusion. A sudden clamor arose from behind him. Distracted, he jerked his head aside, allowing Inga a clear view over his shoulder. To her dismay, a swarm of soldiers were busy wrecking her cottage. She watched, aghast, as they ripped down curtains, turned over furniture, and smashed crockery. One soldier knocked a row of herbs from the shelf with a single swipe of his arm. The contents spilled as the jars hit the floor and shattered into jagged shards. Another soldier reached into the alcove and retracted the keepsake chest. He snapped the lid, breaking the container in two with a splinter of ivory. He held up Aunt Saera's handfasting ribbon to inspect it. He snorted, carelessly tossing the strip of scarlet aside as though it were a piece of refuse.
"Stop!" Inga cried, her fear and shock giving way to anger. "Pick that ribbon up off the floor!"
Lord Eldritch's head snapped back toward her, the links of his ringmail coif rattling against the edge of his mask. His eyes, no longer the brilliant shade of blue from just seconds before, had gone hard and black, the dark pupils indistinguishable from the rest. He raised his voice to a commanding tone, one that spoke of unchallenged authority and matched the coldness of his gaze.
"Witch! You practice magick and, in doing so, are in direct violation of royal decree."
"No!" she croaked. "No, I never--"
"Do not lie to me, girl!" He tightened his hold on her wrists with one hand as he twined her curly tresses with the other and jerked her head back against the wall. "My men have found more than enough evidence in this cottage to incriminate you."
"I have only prepared medicines and used what exists in nature."
"Confess now, or I visit your neighbors and make them talk." He gave a cruel, mocking snort. "I will start with the children. The little ones are most easily frightened, and their parents break soon after."
Inga's jaw dropped at his cruel threat. It was said he had the power to read the innermost thoughts of others; he had no need to intimidate them in order to extract information.
Why, he does not even need my confession! she thought.
"Aye, but I will not be satisfied unless I hear it from your own lips," he said, the sneer evident in his tone, confirming all she had heard of the knight's omniscient ability. He enunciated his next sentence with deliberate care, each word hitting her with great impact. "Say it now, or we go next door."
Inga paused and considered the plight of her neighbors. Because of her desire to help them, they now faced punishment at the hands of Lord Eldritch. She shifted her eyes from his intent gaze.
"I confess," she muttered in defeat. "I ... I surrender."
"Oh, you surrender now, do you?" His voice boomed as he stepped back at arm's length, still pinning her wrists, and turned to his men. "So, she will go with us of her own volition!" His laughter reverberated through the metal of his mask. The soldiers joined in his mockery and jeered at her.
He turned to face her once more. "Foolish girl, watch what you say. My men might think it an invitation to partake of your charms." He pushed his body back against hers and lowered his voice to a whisper so that only she could hear. "But I am feeling selfish, for I have seen more in your thoughts than mere witchery. I know your passion burns for me."
"No," she hissed, meeting his gaze through the slits that allowed him sight. "I never ... I would never!" She was not certain who she meant to convince--Lord Eldritch or herself.
"We shall see about that, my sweet." Turning, he bellowed at his soldiers. "Leave us! I will bring her out shortly."
The soldiers filed out the door one by one, a few of them grumbling in disappointment. Others leered in her direction with blatant lust in their eyes and knowing smirks upon their lips.
Once she and Lord Eldritch were alone, Inga felt the smooth grain of leather against the flesh of her thigh as his free hand pushed up the hem of her chemise. He traced his palm over the rounded curve of her hip, the narrowed dip of her waist, and found the rising swell of her bosom where he cupped one breast. The whimper escaped her throat before she could stop it. Chagrined at her show of weakness, she tried to squirm from his grasp. She could no longer deny her desire, but she was determined not to succumb to the power of his touch. He pressed her harder against the wall and crushed against her with his codpiece.
"Your efforts are futile," he growled in her ear. Hot breath puffed through his vented mask and scorched the tender spot where her pulse quickened beneath the skin of her throat. "I will take you if and when it pleases me."
He rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, teasing it to a stiffened peak, then offered it a sharp pinch. Inga gasped at the pain, but her sex twitched and warmed in response.
Eldritch released her breast and slid his hand down her quivering belly to the curled tendrils above her mound. Inga pressed her legs together, but her private thoughts, exposed to the dark lord, revealed her fight to control her growing arousal. Eldritch shoved one knee between her legs and parted her thighs. His access granted, he pried the swollen lips of her womanhood and located her most sensitive spot, pinching the small sliver of delicate flesh with a quick, cruel twist.
Inga bit her lip and stifled the deep, guttural moan rising in her throat. She could not understand why her own body betrayed her with this vile man whom she had feared since childhood, why she could not resist the forbidden pleasure brought forth by his hands upon her. She gasped in shock, her resolve further broken as two long, gloved fingers invaded her virgin walls. His deft fingertips scraped against the small, hard kernel of sensation upon which her entire being was now centered.
In a moment of weakness, she caved to her desire and wilted against him. Her knees buckled, and she threatened to fall, but Eldritch supported her with his firm grip as his leather-tipped fingers continued working her into frenzy. She threw her head back against the wall and cried out in hoarse, ragged breaths as her body convulsed and her mind shattered with a blinding ecstasy.
When the waves of bliss receded, Eldritch released his grip upon her sex and showed her the glistening sheen of his gloved fingers, the slick wetness undeniable proof of her desire. He took her by the chin and slipped his fingers into her mouth, forcing her to taste of her own juices. The flavor was sweet as the purest honey, and for a brief moment, she wondered if he might remove his mask and sample a taste as well. Strangely, the idea of looking upon his true face, whatever his disfigurement might be, only served to stir the blood in her loins again. His dark eyes flashed blue a fleeting second, and in that brief moment she caught the same expression as earlier--one of longing, confusion, and what she surely mistook as sorrow.
His eyes grew cold once more. A snarl escaped from behind his mask as he released her wrists, grabbed her by the hair, and tore her away from the wall. Seizing her roughly by the waist, he threw her across his shoulder and marched toward the door. Inga yelped as he kicked aside a wooden chair and splintered it with the toe of his heavy boot.
Once outside, he flung her into the waiting arms of his soldiers. Greedy hands clutched and pawed at her as she strained against them and tried to wriggle from their filthy grasps. Her protests only served to excite the men more. One of them tore the sleeve of her chemise at the shoulder. She spat in his face and kicked him in the shin, her bare toes coming into contact with his metal-plated greave. Fiery pain shot through her leg, only adding to her fury.
"A curse on all your mothers!" she shrieked.
A ripple of ribald laughter coursed through the group.
"Aye, she be a feisty wench!"
"Full o' piss 'n' vinegar, this one!"
"Is it our turn, milord?" another asked, his tone all too eager.
"No," Eldritch barked. "You are not to touch her. She is mine and mine alone. I will kill any man who dares defy me."
The soldiers' crude attentions ceased. "Sorry, milord," they mumbled in halfhearted unison.
"Take her to the dungeon and leave her in the cell at the end of the third corridor." He cupped her chin and stared at her, his gaze heating the fire inside her yet again. "We once interrogated witches there, though in light of your confession, I have no need for further questioning. No, for you, I have a much different purpose in mind."
Posted February 26, 2011
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