|wl_mods (wl_mods) wrote in wizard_love,|
@ 2008-03-15 16:45:00
|Entry tags:||*fic, rowena, salazar|
Special delivery for sappholococcus
Recipient's LJ name: sappholococcus
Pairing(s): Rowena/Salazar, implied Rowena/Godric
Word Count: 6761
Authors notes: You asked for plot, and plot you shall receive, in veritable spades. ;) This thing rather got away from me and developed a life of its own. I hope this is pleasing to you, sappholococcus! My many thanks go to H. for being such a patience and lovely beta. :)
"This cannot possibly end well."
Helga had leaned over from the back of the cart, looking down the path ahead of them at the aggregation of colourful tents, bright flapping banners, and the vast assembly of wagons.
"Oh, you worry too much, Helga," Godric said, grinning as he spurred their horses on.
"No, I worry precisely the right amount. There is simply no way this many witches and wizards can gather in one area without attracting the wrong kind of attention."
"I am quite sure the proper precautions have been taken," Rowena said, from her seat beside Godric. "As long as some people--" Her eyes flicked sideways slyly, "don't take it into their heads to start up impromptu games of Creaothceann within sight of Muggles."
Godric coughed. "If you didn't want me playing the game," he said, rubbing at his copper-coloured beard, "you shouldn't have let your clansmen teach it to me." Rowena rolled her eyes, but Helga hmphed quietly, settling back against her cushions.
"We had just best be careful," she admonished. "You know how they can get, all gathered together... you remember the festival at Scarsborough..."
"'Twill be nothing like Scarsborough," Rowena assured her. "I am relatively certain the faire's organisers have placed wards against fires over all the grounds."
Once they had pulled off of the road and paid a lad to see to the horses, the three friends went separate ways: Helga wandered off to the weavers to look at tapestries, some with moving pictures, or the power of speech; Godric had a mind to visit the corner of the faire where the animal handlers had their displays. "Just as long as you take care not to bring back anything particularly venomous," Rowena teased. Godric laughed, and pressed a kiss to her forehead, and bounded off.
Rowena, by contrast, had no destination in mind. Whenever she attended faires, whether local Muggle gatherings or these broader wizarding unions, bringing together the magical-blooded from across the British Isles, Rowena preferred to wander, ambling through the maze of tents and booths, rather than trying to set herself any schedule. It generally worked to her favour; somehow, the very thing she didn't know she was looking for would land right in her lap, and Rowena always returned home with a new manuscript, or a rare talisman, or something else special and wonderful that seemed to have been brought to market especially for her.
Large wizarding get-togethers tended to err on the side of the spectacular, and the Yorkshire faire was no exception. As Rowena meandered down the aisles, she passed wonders, not just from the local nations of Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex, western Wales, and northern Albion, but from the counties of Ireland, from Francia and Moorish Al-Andalus and the broken kingdoms of Italia, and even from regions beyond, the corners of the world that held secrets Rowena yearned to know. A dark-skinned wizard in turquoise robes displayed an array of colourful feathers, which he assured passers-by would make quills that could only write the truth. A wizened Chinese woman tempted Rowena with tiny bottles; she was an apothecary, she said, with knowledge of uses for dragons' teeth and tigers' claws that European wizards had not yet dreamt of. A pair of Wendish twins dangled talismans and charms, promising the protection of their Teutonic gods. Throughout there were locals, blond Norsemen; only recently the city of York had been the capital of Viking Jórvík, and the settled ex-raiders had wizards among their number the same as any nation did; no few of these offered runestones among their wares, fashioned of gold or jade or jasper. Rowena smiled, and admired, but nothing yet had called out to her, nothing that demanded to be her possession.
Until she found her attention drawn to a tent on the outskirts of the faire.
It was simple enough: grey fabric, an azure fringe, not nearly as ostentatious or impressive as many that surrounded it. But something about it compelled Rowena, and as she drew near, a woman came out from the folds of the tent, glanced her over, and beckoned her near.
She was not young, or comely, but there was something appealing in her face nonetheless. Her figure was indeterminate, buried beneath layers of skirts, kirtles, and scarves. Her heavy mantle hung down to her waist, but when she pushed it back off of her head, it exposed a mane of vivid red hair, shot through with only a few grey streaks. "I have something for you," she said. "It will cost... I cannot say what."
"I only have a few coins," Rowena said, though it wasn't true. Always best to say that at the start of any haggling.
The woman snorted, and spit on the dirt. "Keep your coins," she said. "What I want from you isn't pewter, nay, nor gold, neither."
Rowena tilted her head. "Then why can't you say?"
"Because I do not know, foolish girl," the woman snapped. "It may be a promise, or a memory, a trust or a truth. I will not know until I have said." Rowena blinked several times, not sure if she was more startled or bemused. "But you will not regret the price, I can tell you that true."
Rowena considered the woman: she had eyes that were older than she was, and so, Rowena nodded. Her skin was weathered, but not leathery or wrinkled, simply browned and toughened by years of exposure to the elements, and her hands, as she grabbed Rowena's to lead her into the tent, were calloused, but strong.
Her eyes, though... Rowena knew about strange eyes. She'd been called cursed as a child for her own, too milky-grey for the comfort of ignorant villagers. But the soothsayer's were troubling in a different way: their hazel seemed to blend all the colours there had ever been, spinning them about and churning them into mud. And deep, so deep, Rowena was afraid to look directly in them for very long. These were eyes that had seen the rise and fall of a hundred civilisations, that had born witness to the passing of epochs, that watched tyrants and heroes alike vault to prominence and fall into obscurity. Her eyes had seen time, and thus, if they saw something in Rowena worth commenting on, Rowena meant to listen.
Inside the tent were piles of pillows and rugs, and a warmly burning brazier. "Sit. Sit, sit," the woman said, fairly jerking Rowena down onto a cushion. "And I will say what I have to say." Rowena let the woman stare at her hand for a long moment. She had heard of many kinds of fortunetellers, the Greek sybils, the Roman augers, wise men of the north who put out their eyes to receive wisdom of the beyond. But Rowena knew little of this method, only whispers, of witches from the east who could see secrets through their fingers. "You have a great destiny ahead of you," the woman said, rubbing her thumb over Rowena's palm. "But you already know that, don't you? You've already decided it." She snorted derisively, as though doubting that Rowena's own willpower had anything to do with the matter. Her nail traced over two of the lines on Rowena's palm: two which linked, forming a little chain pattern near the edge of her hand. "There is great strength in you, little eagle," she said. Rowena started; 'How could she...' But she was going on; there was no time to ask. "Great strength, but terrible weakness, too. Strength in the mind, no doubting there. A once-in-a-century mind, perhaps more, perhaps a mind that will never be matched... curious, probing, creative... but the weakness lies in the flesh." Rowena fidgeted, feeling a blush crawling up onto her cheeks. "Temptations... and how you will ache to succumb... The flesh is weak..." Her fingers pressed at the mound just beneath Rowena's thumb. "The heart, particularly. It isn't craven, or crass, or base... the weakness comes from a fractured heart..." Suddenly, the woman's strong fingers seized around Rowena's wrist, and she looked up, meeting Rowena's frightened eyes. "Your greatness will echo down through the ages, but your weakness will doom the future just as certainly. The highest flights and the deepest falls, both are in your destiny. Your blessing, your curse. Without one, you cannot have the other. If you would be great, so too must you be small."
Then she released Rowena, without further statement. Rowena realised she was trembling, and pulled her cloak tighter about her shoulders. "Should I thank you?" she asked, quiet-voiced.
"I only told it to you," the woman said, sitting back. "Find me in twenty years, or forty, or sixty, and tell me then if you should thank me or not."
Rowena swallowed, feeling a hard lump in her throat. "S-So what's the price?, then" she asked, somewhat hesitantly.
The look in those strange hazel eyes utterly terrified Rowena: it was pity. "A sorrow," the woman said. Her hand raised to Rowena's tumbling raven curls; her thumb pressed at Rowena's forehead. "The price is a sorrow. You will give it many times, ere all is done."
Then she broke away, rising, and turning away from Rowena. "You will go now. Go, before too much future spills into my poor hands."
Rowena rose quickly, nearly tripping over a pile of cushions in her haste to depart. 'How in the heavens I'm going to explain this to Helga and Godric, I really don't know...'
But neither of her companions could be found. The Yorkshire faire was larger than others they had attended, and half an hour of wandering in circles didn't bring Rowena into contact with either of them. Eventually she gave up, and settled down on a bench, with a cup of hot mulled wine bought off of a Frankish wizard, watching a round of dancers in a clearing. The music was improvised, instruments and players brought together from half a dozen countries: two had drums, another a magical fiddle, which every so often would pipe out a birdsong in harmony with his notes; one man in thick furs played a pipe, a woman with streaming black hair held a set of jingling bells fastened to a wooden frame, and two foreign wizards had instruments Rowena had never even seen. But despite the barriers of their different languages and separate cultures, the musicians had found a common expression, and played a merry tune. Rowena smiled, and listened, letting the cheerful symphony, along with the wine, drive away the chill the fortune-teller had put in her bones.
The dancers, too, hailed from all over, and likewise put their motions together piecemeal. No formal rounds, no proper steps or sequences, merely the exuberance of happy people, so filled with joy that the only way to keep from bursting with it was to move their feet.
'If Helga were here,' Rowena thought, watching the dancers enviously, 'I would drag her out in an instant.' But years of shyness had never fully worn off, and Rowena could not be so bold on her own. 'Godric would be,' she thought. 'Godric would be dancing with every lass out there -- aye, and no doubt kissing them all, too.'
She sighed; for all Godric would protest his love for her, swearing devotions in the overly emotional fashion only one of true Saxon blood could achieve, Rowena knew how easily his head was turned by a pretty face. Godric had a thorough appreciation for all things female. 'He may swear his heart to me,' she thought, 'but could he ever promise the rest? Could he ever promise all?' She took a sip of her wine, and chastised herself. 'Be fair. You never swore to him even that much. There are things easier to give than a heart... and he seemed satisfied enough with that.' Still, though, she had to give thought to it. Someday their studies would be over, they would be their own masters, all three of them, no longer under a superior, but free to go their own ways in the world... would they choose to? Would there be something, some force strong enough to hold them together, once their apprenticeships had passed? Rowena frowned, staring down at her wine, and wondered.
"You wish to dance, fair lady."
Rowena startled at the voice that broke her from her reverie; it came from just behind her, deep and dark as an icy loch. She turned on the bench to see the source, and felt her breath catch in her throat.
It wasn't that he was handsome. His features, though attractive, were not much above ordinary. Certainly, standing next to a solid Saxon hero like Godric, he would suffer from the comparison, slender and dark-haired as he was. But the man had an aura of power, something emanating from his emerald-green eyes, a seriousness to his face, so strong that Rowena momentarily could not find her voice. Then she felt a rush of blood to her cheeks, and tore her gaze away from him. "Aye, sir," she replied, embarrassed further at the tremor in her voice. "But I fear I lack for a partner."
He sat next to her, his charcoal-grey cloak snapping behind him. "A fair maid such as yourself, traveling alone?" In Godric's mouth, the words would have been elevated and grandiose, his typical flamboyantly enthusiastic praise; in this stranger's cool voice, they seemed almost mocking. "I refuse to believe it."
"Not traveling alone, sir," Rowena said, pushing her hair back from her face. 'And no maid, either,' she thought, though that was hardly the sort of information one blurted out to strangers -- even if something about him seemed capable of drawing her secrets out of the darkest corners of her heart. "And even if I were, I am hardly incapable of defending myself." She flicked her mantle aside so that he could see the wand sheathed at her hip.
He laughed; the low, rumbling noise nearly made Rowena shiver. "No doubt that's true of nearly every witch here," he said. "Though I daresay none other would present such a temptation to potential troublemakers."
"You flatter, sir," Rowena said, emptily echoing what she knew was the proper response.
"Nay," said the stranger. "I never do." And she believed him. Already she could tell this was not a man who wasted time with empty words.
The compliment brought a deeper blush to her cheeks, and she turned her head, hoping he wouldn't notice. "Do you dance, sir?"
"Not if it can be helped," he replied, so dryly that Rowena had to laugh. "Foolish and frivolous, I think."
Rowena's lips pressed together slightly. "Nothing is frivolous which lifts the human spirit."
"I might agree with you," the stranger countered, "were the human spirit not so easily lifted. What value can you place on something with such abundance? 'Twould be like trying to use grass as a bartering tool."
Now Rowena could feel her blood heating for entirely different reasons: the thrill of a challenge presented, an intellectual and philosophical hurdle to be surmounted. "I think it beautiful," she said, lifting her chin slightly. "No matter how drab or dreary one's life may be, there can always be something found to lighten it, if even for a moment. A spectacular sunset makes a man think of the life beyond this one. An infant's smile makes a mother think of hope for future generations. A dance--" She flicked her hand at the jubilant crowd. "--has the power to unite, to cross boundaries of nation and faith. I think it speaks something marvelous. Look." And she indicated with such surety that he did, intently. "See how different they all are, and yet they all find joy in this, together. I can call nothing foolish which brings people together in love instead of in hate, and nothing frivolous which has the power to stir hearts."
The man turned his head, and Rowena felt that his gaze seemed to be sizing her up, taking in not only her appearance, but something deeper within her. It was as if he was measuring the total substance of her being, with only his strangely piercing eyes.
"Perhaps you are right, my lady," he conceded, at long last. "You must forgive my cynicism."
"I might," Rowena said, looking down at her lap, then flicked her gaze over at him. "If you would offer me a dance."
He gave a small little smirk, and said, "Alas. I shall remain condemned."
"If 'tisn't small pleasures such as these you care for, sir," Rowena said, "then what brings you to this faire?"
"Business," he replied, simply.
"Business," she repeated.
"And politics." He gestured out at the diverse assemblage; his hands were very pale. "Interesting, isn't it? Their home nation may be bitter rivals, embroiled in territorial wars, despise each other on the basis of religion... and yet they come together here, in the name of trade." Something played at the edges of his lips; it wasn't quite a smile. "Gold, it would seem, is a powerful motivator."
Straightening her back, and unable to kept the pertness out of her voice, Rowena said, "I prefer to think them motivated by goodwill."
"You prefer that," the stranger commented, "but you don't really believe it."
Rowena opened her mouth to contradict him, but while the music jangled to one side of her, on the other, she could hear haggling and hawking. And the stranger's eyes had a glint in them, not so much superior as a hint that he knew she knew better. 'Helga could say it, and mean it,' she thought. 'Helga has the faith.' So Rowena's lips quirked slightly, and she admitted, "Well. Perhaps a combination of both."
A low chuckle rumbled from the stranger's throat. "You did ask the reason for my presence, lady. Yet I wonder what is yours."
Smiling, Rowena tilted her head, and answered, "Curiosity."
"Ah." He nodded. "In some rare few, a far more powerful motivator than gold." He raised his eyes to meet her gaze, and she could see a fierceness, latent beneath the apparent nonchalance. "And have you found aught that satisfies?"
Rowena couldn't explain the heat crawling over her skin; it was a simple question, with a simple answer. "I-I haven't, sir," she said, wincing internally at the uncustomary stammer which had invaded her throat. "Not yet, anyway."
"I had supposed not," he said. He lifted his hand, pale fingers brushing a curling lock of hair back from her cheek; Rowena did her very best not to tremble at the uninvited, unexpected touch. With utter certainty in his voice, he continued, "I would imagine it takes quite a bit to sate a woman like you."
Blinking rapidly, Rowena could feel her mouth drop slightly open in surprise. "You sound as though you know a surety, sir." Was he sitting closer to her, or had she imagined it?
"I expect, if pressed, I could come up with something."
His touch drifted down, his fingers light against the skin of her throat, bare above the fabric of her mantle. She felt a draw, a magnetic pull, urging her to lean towards him...
"Salazar! Gods be damned, man!"
Rowena's head snapped about at the familiar, Saxon-accented voice, and she jerked back from the stranger as though scalded. To her surprise, the dark-haired man had reacted to Godric's shouting as well.
Tall, solid Godric pushed through the crowd and clapped the stranger on the shoulder with his customary hearty cheer. "Salazar, it has been an age! What brings you all the way up to York?" His eyes flicked over to Rowena and, without waiting for an answer to his first question, he ran on, "And with darling Rowena! Faith, I had no idea the two of you knew each other."
"And we did not, ere today," Salazar said, standing and extending his arm to Godric. Rowena rose as well; the two men clasped wrists amicably, and Rowena detected, for the first time, a real sense of warmth behind Salazar's green eyes, the threat of a real smile playing at his lips. "'Twas a chance encounter."
"How lucky for us all!" Godric exclaimed. "Rowena, Salazar is a very old friend of mine. We studied under the same master for a time, as children, in the south. Then he took up with the Ipswich fellow, wasn't it?" Salazar, seeming to understand that his input was not strictly necessary, only nodded. "And I came north, as well you know." He grinned proudly. "Salazar, Rowena here is far and away the brightest witch in all the Isles and beyond. You'd not find her match in Europe, I vow it."
"I have no doubt." And there she saw, those eyes again, so appraising.
She cleared her throat lightly. "Godric and I have been working together for some time, with another lady--" 'And where is Helga, anyway?' she wondered, a tad desperately. "The three of us have found we compliment quite nicely."
"The ladies are good enough to tolerate me," Godric said, laughing at himself. "Salazar, as long as you're up north, you should come stay with us for a time. Helga has – that would be our other companion, Helga, half-Welsh, divine cook -- she has a keen interest in herbology. I vow you'd find her gardens fascinating. I can't identify half the things in there, myself."
Salazar inclined his head politely. "I may well take you up on that offer, friend. I should love to see what has kept your hot blood in the frozen north for so long."
A lively spark flashed in Godric's eyes as he turned to Rowena. "No mystery there, Salazar. I remain for the company."
"I have no doubt they are both most captivating ladies," Salazar said, and this time Rowena could detect an edge to his courtesy, and she did not know what to make of it.
It passed Godric by, however, whatever it was, and he was bending over her hand. "Rowena, my dove, I have been terribly remiss. You must be dying to join the dance."
"She was just saying so," Salazar commented, before Rowena could say anything.
"Smart as a Sphinx, and graceful as a nymph as well," Godric said, taking both of Rowena's hands. "Our Rowena is a marvel, Salazar, you'll see."
One eyebrow lifted slightly; he almost looked amused. "I'm sure I shall."
Rowena let Godric lead her out among the throng, but she found her heart somehow no longer in the dancing spirit. Something had muddled in her brain, and it left her feeling distinctly discomfited. But, for Godric's sake, she put on a smile, and followed in the steps. The dancers had organised loosely into a country dance, familiar throughout the Isles; details might vary between hamlets and shires, but the theme was the same: a celebratory dance, merry and lively and thankful, for good health and bountiful harvests. Rowena had learnt it as a child, and she tried to push her confusion over Salazar behind the easy comfort the steps and tune.
The dance moved them in a circle, but however boisterously Godric lifted her in the air, however many times she was twirled, cerulean skirts fanning out, she could still feel Salazar's eyes following her.
After the dance, Godric made more idle conversation, and invited Salazar to sup with them. Rowena couldn't say if she was more relieved or disappointed when he declined.
She went to bed troubled, and hardly slept.
It was well after midnight, perhaps closer to dawn; Rowena slipped out of her bedroll and tried to pull her mantle, cloak, and boots on without waking Helga. From the other room of their spacious, three-room tent, she could hear Godric's solid snores; no concern there, at least. She pushed aside the thick hangings at their tent's opening, and stepped out into the night.
The chill outside the tent was a welcome relief. Rowena tilted her face to the moon and breathed deep, letting the air cool her flushed cheeks.
'Why does he concern you?' she asked herself, as her boots moved softly through dew-damp grass. 'A man you hardly know, barely met... an old friend of Godric's, no one more... likely you shall never see him again... and even if he does take up Godric's invitation and come back north with us, well, what of that?'
Irritated with herself for even holding the interior conversation, she scuffed her feet against the grass. ''Tisn't as though you are beholden to Godric, either,' she considered. 'He need not figure into it... no need to feel guilty there...' But even as she thought this, another voice whispered inside her, 'He does still love you.'
She frowned. 'And what of that? 'Tis only because he has not the sense to... oh, we tried that... He needs to put it behind him...'
Pursing her lips tightly, Rowena lifted her chin. 'I will not think of it... I will not let him -- either of them! – so dominate my thoughts.' And so, in an attempt to push all thoughts of either Godric or Salazar from her consciousness, as Rowena walked under the hazy starlight, she began reciting The Aeneid to herself. It was easier not to think of the difficulties presented by men when she was thinking in Latin.
By the time she had reached the middle of the second book, her wanderings had brought her to the bank of the river Ouse, and her footsteps fell gently on its grassy banks. She no longer had an awareness of how near or far from the safety of the faire she was, though the white walls of York loomed closer. There was a security in being surrounded by only others of wizarding kind, and Rowena had abandoned it.
"Wandering so late, and so alone, fair lady?"
Rowena whirled about, ready to draw her wand. If the intruder on her thoughts meant her harm, Rowena had no compunction about dealing with him; she was a fair duelist, in a pinch, and any non-magical assailant would certainly be in for a nasty surprise. But after a moment, she recognised the dark silhouette, and relaxed. "Sir," she said, exhaling deeply. "You frightened me."
"'Twas not my intention," Salazar said. He angled slightly away from her, looking out towards the river. "A more honourable man would offer to escort you back to safety at once," he said, and Rowena thought she saw the shadow of a smile on his lips. "I, however, shall assume you have your own reasons for a midnight excursion."
Feeling a slight chill, Rowena tugged her cloak more tightly about her shoulders. "I often walk at night," she said. "Up north, it is not... 'tis no danger for a woman to walk alone. In truth, our nearest neighbors are so far removed..." She drew a deep breath, raising her eyes to the stars. "I find it an excellent means of organising my thoughts. A time to sort things out." For a moment, she thought her rambling had lost his interest, but Salazar nodded -- barely, as subtle a motion as could be, the slightest rise and fall of his chin, but enough that she knew he had been listening. "So... why are you here?"
One of his dark-clad arms swept out, gesturing at the river. "This. The moon on the water."
She found herself drifting closer to him. "'Tis worth rising in the dead of night for? Worth braving the cold and dark?"
He flashed her a brief look of amusement, but then some of the sharpness in his eyes unfocused. "The water where I come from is not clear, nor moving... fens and bogs and marshes, all. No reflections, no silvery sheen..."
Rowena smiled. "I would not have figured you for one with so much poetry in his soul, sir."
"And I shall expect you to keep the secret to yourself," he smirked.
Her eyebrows lifted. "You seem accustomed to always getting what you expect."
He turned fully towards her, lifting one hand to her face. "Should it be otherwise?" His thin fingers danced on the surface of her skin; his touch was so different from Godric's. Godric had ever been heated passion, all fire and fury, sweeping her up in his delightful romantic madness. But Salazar...
"The world fits my expectations because I force it to do so," he went on, as his hand explored the delicate curves of her face, the high arch of her cheekbone, the dainty line of her jaw.
The passion was there, and no mistaking. Rowena could sense it, lurking like an adder coiled beneath a cool rock. It didn't leap out to possess her, as Godric's did, and for that reason, she did not know how to handle it.
"The only way to get what you want in this world," he said, in a voice as dark as the sky above, "is to take it."
And then he stepped back from her.
Only a few inches, but Rowena could feel the absence, a physical void where his nearness had been.
His face, to some, might have looked impassive, but Rowena could see the emotions flickering beneath the surface, could read the complex expression, and knew what he was demanding.
Not his move, but hers.
Her hand trembled at her side, as though shuddering with the force of trying to move and remain still at the same time. 'You want this,' she told herself. 'You want him. So what, praytell, is stopping you?'
Her pale skin glowed like moonlight as she reached out for him, her fingers sliding into the dark silk of his hair. She had to go up on her toes to reach his lips, but once she did, once she crossed that final bridge between them, the flood of passion she had sensed behind his guarded courtesy broke free, crashing over her. One hand grasped at the back of her head, the other around her waist, and his mouth became hungry, possessive, his searing hot kiss seeming to brand her.
Swiftly, he pushed back her mantle so his lips could reach her throat, and Rowena impatiently tore the garment from her shoulders altogether, hurling it to the ground before wrapping her arms back around Salazar, clinging to him as his tongue explored her tender skin. Instinctively, he found the most sensitive spots, the places that made her mewl with pleasure and grip at his back.
He drew her down onto the grass, both of them half-sitting, half-kneeling, grasping at each other. With a gasp, Rowena realised he was plucking at the laces of her kirtle. Once it was loose enough, he shoved it down, and her chemise, too, drawing her arms out of the sleeves and bunching the fabric around her waist and baring her breasts to the night sky. Her shiver seemed to delight him.
He rolled her over, the dew-damp grass prickling at her bare skin. With the moon behind him, Salazar was silhouetted in front of her, his shadowed eyes barely discernable. Not for the first time, Rowena wondered what it was, this heady, helpless sensation, this trembling need he engendered in her. Godric never made her feel like this, so overwhelmed, so careless. Her breath caught in her throat; there were words, she was sure of it, the one thing Rowena could be certain of in her life was always having words, but none managed the journey from her mind to the air, and when he dipped his head to one chill-peaked nipple, all hope of rational speech fled. His lips closed over the tight bud, and his tongue flickered rapidly over it, teasing, provoking. Those long, pale fingers of his found her other breast, cupping softly at first, then a tighter squeeze, then finding the nipple and giving a savage pinch. Rowena bucked up from the ground with a soft cry, but Salazar did not relent.
Salazar alternated from one breast to the other, occasionally lifting his head to press her with another burning kiss, or to nibble her throat, until both of her nipples were fairly throbbing from the lavished attention.
Finally, both his hands moved to her breasts as his lips drifted downwards. His mouth explored the gentle curves of her stomach, tongue stroking the swell of her ribcage, teeth nipping lightly at her side, just above the rumpled barrier of her disheveled clothing. Rowena fisted a hand in her own hair to keep from thrashing, her soft moans swallowed by the black night.
Still he prolonged the torment, rolling her swollen nipples between his fingers as his lips and tongue discovered every inch of skin available to them. When one hand stole down to draw up her skirts, lifting the fabric inch by excruciating inch, Rowena fought to keep from screaming with pure, twisting need. Once he had hiked the fabric up enough, his head dipped lower, his mouth drifting over her hips, almost too much to be withstood.
Her legs parted eagerly for him, but Salazar had no intention of fulfilling her desires quite so readily. His lips mocked her, hovering just above her slit, his slow, even breath torturous to her. When his tongue did dart out, it was to lap at her inner thigh, painfully close to the area so desperate for attention. "Salazar..." she breathed, and she could feel the grin sliding over his lips.
"Ask me," he whispered. "Beg me."
His fingers twisted wickedly, and as his tongue traced the flash of skin where her thigh met her hips, Rowena dizzied, losing all semblance of control over herself. "Please," she urged. "Please, I need more than that... "
"What a sweet voice you have, Rowena," he said, his hands moving down to grip at her waist. How he kept his tone so maddeningly even, Rowena couldn't begin to guess. "I thought so before, but I like it even better now..."
The noise that escaped her was embarrassingly like a whine. "Stop teasing, I beg you," she pleaded. "I can't bear any more..."
"Please, Salazar," she whimpered, well aware of how pathetic she sounded, "I need you inside me..."
He gave a long, low chuckle, and Rowena felt certain he could see her blush even in the dark. "As the lady wishes..." Rowena closed her eyes, throwing one arm over her head; she couldn't look, it was too much, too tawdry and inescapable, but she heard the rustle of his clothing being adjusted, and she felt his hands, sliding along her legs. And then she felt him, nudging between her thighs, taking a tantalizing position just at her opening. Salazar leant over her, bracing his arms outside of her shoulders, pressing another searing kiss to her lips. Rowena whimpered, arched, canted her hips towards him, until finally, when she felt certain she would fall to pieces without imminent fulfillment, he plunged into her.
Rowena moaned against his mouth in satisfaction, and as their bodies began to move together, her head grew heavy, dizzied, overcome by the sensual onslaught. Somewhere, beneath the churning sea of tumultuous emotions, a small voice was still asking her what she was doing, how she could do this, but the more Salazar moved within her, the more frenzied their rhythm became, the less she could hear the protests.
As his cock drove in and out, spurring on her mewls of pleasure, his mouth pressed savage kisses up and down her neck. His hands slide over her arms, gripping tightly at her wrists, pressing her firmly down against the grass. Rowena thrashed beneath him, driven wild as something inside her tightened and coiled, racing relentlessly towards ecstasy. With each thrust, she felt certain she could take no more, could surely not endure another moment at such heights, and each time, he pushed her further.
Then, quite suddenly, the coil that had wound so tightly within her unleashed itself with startling force. Rowena choked back a scream as her entire body tensed and curled, waves of pure rapture rollicking through her. Salazar's own release followed soon thereafter, and he stiffened above her, his fingers pressing bruises against her arms.
A moment later, he tumbled off of her, leaving Rowena feeling quite exposed to the sky and the stars. She rolled to her side to face him. For one, fragile moment, Rowena reached out to touch Salazar's face; but she faltered before her fingers could make contact, and jerked her hand back. The night air suddenly seemed much cooler than before, and she sat up, jerking her shift and kirtle back up, fumbling with her laces, startling when Salazar moved to help her.
"Anon," Salazar said to her retreating form. It was not a farewell, but rather a promise.
Rowena did not return to her tent, but rather paced until dawn, and if Helga found anything strange about Rowena being the first awake, already preparing breakfast by the time she rose, she said nothing of it. Rowena could scarcely bear to meet her gaze; Helga's pale blue eyes had a deep way of knowing, an acute awareness beneath the placid surface. Rowena did not yet deem herself ready for their confrontation.
Godric chattered as they packed, and his bluff storytelling spared Rowena having to answer questions about her own reticence. She brushed and fed their horses, leaving the packing of the tent to Godric, and the cleaning of the campsite to Helga.
"Deuce take it, where is the man...?" Godric grumbled, breaking off from his previous monologue expounding on the virtues of an ivory-handled dagger he'd won in a dicing game off of a group of Frankish merchants. "I should hate to start north without him. Afoot, he might not catch up with us until after we break camp for the night."
"And why, praytell, are we leaving in such a hurry, anyway?" Helga teased, tossing a pile of blankets in the back of their cart.
Grinning sheepishly, Godric rubbed the back of his neck with one rough hand. "Faith, Helga, I cannot fathom what you might be implying."
"As long as it does not resemble our hasty departure from Shrewsbury," Rowena muttered. "I hear tell the lord there still curses your name nightly."
"No, no, nothing like that, not in the least..." But his eyes scanned the horizon with a trace of worry crinkled in the edges. "Ah! Excellent well, there comes the devil."
Rowena's head snapped up, to see the dark-cloaked figure approaching at a leisurely pace. "Godric," he said, nodding his head. "Ladies."
"Good morrow, sir," Helga said, barely sparing him a look as she continued bustling about her work. Godric clapped him on the back with a cheery welcome, but even as the men started to converse, Rowena could feel Salazar's eyes on her, and a hot blush came to her cheeks.
"--and that was when I told the Carpathian juggler not to-- Salazar?" Godric tilted his head at his friend. "Something troubling you?"
"Nay, I thank you," Salazar said, a touch quickly, giving his head a shake. "My sleep was unsettled last night. I often find it so in a place such as this, with so much noise and activity, so many people."
"Ah," Godric said, though his brow was still furrowed in confusion, and his eyes darted over at Rowena. "You should take up strolling. Ro always tells me how restorative it is when she finds her sleep similarly plagued."
She knew she would regret it, but Rowena looked up, at Salazar, and felt his keen gaze piercing straight through her. "Is that so?"
Godric looked from Salazar's serious countenance, to Rowena's discomfited blush. Then he stared at Rowena for a long moment, a cloud of suspicion casting unaccustomed darkness over his typically bright eyes. "Well!" he exclaimed, sounding a little more strained than he had a moment earlier. "We had best be off. Salazar, I hope riding in back with Helga will not trouble you, but I need Ro up front with me, else we're like to take a wrong turn and end up in Wales."
"Again," Helga merrily chirped, hopping up into the back of the cart. Salazar climbed in beside her, settling himself on the blankets. Godric hauled Rowena up beside him, and it seemed to her that his large hands grasped her a little more tightly than was their wont. And even though Salazar wasn't looking at her, or speaking to her, Rowena could feel his presence, an icy infiltration beneath her skin. Her eyes flicked skyward, and she wondered, 'What have I started?'