The King and Her Queen

Chapter 13:  Sealed with a Kiss



"Now I can sympathize with ye... I understand what it means to be confined." 

From her stool, Airianne looked up at Arturia inquiringly.  "Confined?  Of what do ye spake of?"

"This... I must spend every morning to refresh the spell.  Is it not the same for ye?"

Airianne stood up and wiped her hands on a washcloth.  "Tis true that I may not leave the Aerie.  But in time, I will be able to."  She inclined her head.  "Ye speak as if ye hath yer freedom taken away."

Arturia paced within the triangle and wrapped her arms around herself.  "I do... tis unsettling.  I feel... trapped... Do ye not feel that way?"

"Nay.  Though I often wonder what the world is beyond the Aerie, I hath ne'er felt trapped.  In fact, I feel most secure here."

Arturia sighed.  "Tis yer home... of course..."  She sat of the cot.  "Ye hath lived here o'er thirty years.  Doth it not tire ye?"

"Nay.  There is always something new for me everyday.  I must admit that I feel lonely when Mother is away.  But Mama is here.  We keep each other company."

"About that... may I ask why yer mother can not walk?"

"She is very old."

"As old as Merlyn?"

"Nay.  She is about 90 years old."

"But Merlyn is older than that... and she still looks spry."

"Most mages live longer than common folk.  And most of mine ancestors hath lived o'er two centuries."  Airianne studied the wilting yellow rose on the ground.  "But Mama... is not a mage.  She ages like everyone else.  Almost all of the children born to the House of Emrys have no father.  To bring a child into this world, both mothers give up some of their magic and their life.  Since Mama hath no magic, she gave up more of her life to compensate.  That is why she is so weak.  She is beyond her normal lifespan, and hath only lived this long by using the mana in the Aerie to slow her aging."

"I did not know that... forgive me for prying."  So the rumors were true.  When she was young, she heard that Vortigern was advised to sacrifice a child who had no father in order to appease the spirits that plagued his fortress.  Merlyn was brought to him.  It was then that Merlyn displayed her skill as a Seer and saved herself from being sacrificed. 

"Nay... I am not ashamed to show it.  In fact, I am proud to.  If she hath not done so, I would not be here."

"But... she hath aged before her time..."

Airianne sighed sadly.  "Though I dread the day when she will return to the Great Light, I must live on for her sake.  She hath loved mother so much that she gave her life for me.  She hath loved me e'en before I was born.  For as long as I live, I will honor the love that she hath shared.  Thus will she live on within me.  One day, I will give up a part of mine life to have a child of mine own.  And that child will also have a part of Mama.  When ye have a child of yer own, I am sure ye would feel the same."

A face flashed in Arturia's mind.  Her eyes brimmed with tears at the sight of that face.  She closed her eyes to hold them back. 

"Sir Arturia... have I troubled ye?"  Airianne sat beside her on her cot. 

"Nay, tis I..."  Arturia raised her hands.  "I hath committed a murder most foul... With these two hands, I hath slain mine own child.  Oh, God!  Forgive me!"

Airianne put her arm around her.  "Ye must be mistaken!  Mother ne'er saith that ye bore a child."

"Nay... Guinevere... mine wife did."  Her tears were falling freely now.  She used the back of her palms to brush them away.  "E'en though I was not Mordred's sire, I pledged to raise her as mine own."

She remembered the cold grip of Guinevere's hands as she pleaded her to save Mordred from the rebellion that she unleashed.  Guinevere believed that Mordred was misguided and must be convinced to lay down her arms.  And then she remembered the promise that she could not keep.

"But Mordred took up arms against me.  Before I left to confront her, mine wife made me promise to save her for she knew that I was not Mordred's father.  I thought that Mordred knew who her true father was.  But in the end, Mordred didst not know, for she calleth me 'Father' with her dying breath.  And now mine sin doth grow heavier knowing now that Morgan was her mother." 

Arturia stood up and walked away from Airianne.  "In one fell swoop, I hath doomed the line of Pendragon.  Revile me as ye will.  I deserve it."

Instead, Airianne went to her and hugged her from behind.  "Who am I to pass judgment on ye?"

Arturia did not know what to say anymore.  She hung her head in shame.  They stood there in silence.

After a while, Airianne spoke.  "Do ye want to speak to Mama about it?"

"Nay... I doth not wish to trouble her with mine sin."

Airianne went over and held her hand.  "If ye e'er change yer mind, let me know."  Arturia nodded silently.  Airianne noted her expression and took it as a sign that she wanted to be alone.  Quietly, she gathered her tools and left the rose garden.

Arturia stood alone in the rose garden.  She raised her face to the heavens and crumbled to her knees.  The tears would not stop.  She bowed her head in prayer and hoped that God would forgive her.


----------------------------


It was late in the afternoon when Bedivere approached her while she was raking the leaves by the lily pond.

"Arturia, canst thou come with me?"

"Yea... what is it?"  Arturia leaned her rake along the wall and walked behind Bedivere.

Bedivere led her to one of the library's private rooms.  "There is someone whom thou should meet."  She opened the door and ushered her in. 

An elderly priest stood up on their entry.  His face was lined with cares but his eyes were gentle.  He wore a simple brown frock and straw sandals.  A small wooden cross hung from a skinny leather strap around his neck. 

"Tis Father Benedict.  He hath agreed to intercede on thy behalf."  explained Bedivere.  She turned Father Benedict.  "I have brought thee a lost sheep.  When thou art done, I will be outside this room." 

"Mine thanks."  replied Father Benedict.  Bedivere bowed and left the room.

"Peace be with ye."  He lifted his hand to bestow the sign of the cross.  "From this moment on, I am an instrument of God's grace.  All that ye say will be for His ears alone.  Come... sit... and let God lift the burden in yer heart..."  He pulled out a nearby chair and let Arturia sit on it before sitting on his own.

Arturia hung her head.  "I hath sinned so much... Father..."

"If we saith we hath no sin, we art only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.  But if we confess our sins to God, He is just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong."

She looked up and gazed upon his face.  His calm manner radiated an inner strength.  His eyes did not judge her at all.  Instead, they reached out to her in compassion.  Arturia drew a deep breath and began her confession.


-----------------------------


The clock struck two.  Bedivere shifted in place to ease her lethargic muscles.  She peeked around the corner and confirmed that Arturia was still in absolution.  She was dressed in a simple white gown and knelt in prayer.  In her hands, she held Father Benedict's wooden cross.  She had been in that position since an hour before dinner. 

At the thought of dinner, her stomach growled in complaint.  She had started her vigil since then and only had a sandwich which Airianne secretly brought to her. 

Only one more hour remained before she would ask Arturia to stop.  By Merlyn's instructions, she would have to persuade Arturia that it was enough.  After the largest battle against the Saxons, many Britons died and Arturia felt responsible for their deaths.  She was in a similar state of penitence which bordered on self-inflicted punishment.  Pity welled within her knowing the burden she bore on those slender shoulders.  She knew all too well for she made every effort to be by Arturia's side during her rule.  Like then and now, all she could do was be there when she needed her.

At last, the clock struck three.  Bedivere shook off the stiffness in her legs and went to Arturia.  She touched her shoulder gently.

"Tis enough, Arturia... rest now."  she said softly.  When Arturia ignored her, she shook her a bit more.  And when she ignored her once more, Bedivere knelt next to her and whispered a threat in her ear.  "If thou would not rest, then I will withhold a message from Rhynne."

Slowly, Arturia lifted her head and faced Bedivere.  "What... didst thou say...?"

Bedivere stood up and began to walk away. 

"Wait..."  Arturia tried to stand up and stumbled on the ground.  "I... I will rest."

Bedivere strode over and helped Arturia to her feet.  She glanced down and noticed the reddish stains on her gown.  Alarmed, she scooped Arturia up and laid her on her cot.  She pulled the gown over her knees and gasped.  The skin on her knees was raw and bleeding.  She threw a reprimanding look at Arturia who refused to meet her eyes.

She huffed in exasperation.  "Stay here... I will be back anon."  She hurriedly fetched some salve and bandages from the medicine room.  When she returned, she cleaned Arturia's knees and applied some salve on them.

As Arturia watched Bedivere dress her knees, she asked, "Whither is Rhynne's message?"

"I will give it to thee after thou hast rested."

The corners of Arturia's lips drooped to a frown.  "Thou art cruel.  Canst thou not give me a piece of it?"

"Nay."  Bedivere tied the bandage securely.  "I know not its contents.  Sleep now.  I shall yield it to thee tomorrow."

"I see..."

Bedivere walked to the door of the rose garden.  She was about to exit when Arturia spoke once more.

"Bedivere... I am sorry for the troubles that I hath burdened thee..."

Bedivere closed her eyes, drew a deep breath and turned around.  "There is no need to apologize for I perceive no trouble."  Arturia was watching her from the cot.  The soft moonlight glistened on her golden hair and illuminated her emerald green eyes.  In her simple white gown, she seemed so innocent.  Bedivere paused at the sight before wishing her, "Good night, Milord..."

"Good night, Bedivere..."


--------------------------------


After lunch, Bedivere led Arturia to one of the library's private rooms.  She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and pressed it into Arturia's palm. 

"Rhynne sends her love, sealed with a kiss."

Arturia blinked.  "Is that it?"

"Yea."

Arturia looked at the handkerchief and then at Bedivere.  Bedivere's vacant expression showed that she was just as puzzled. 

"So... how was thy first kiss?"

Blood rushed to Arturia's face.  She turned away in embarrassment.  "How can thou ask that?  Tis... tis inappropriate!"

Bedivere held out her hands.  "Oh, come now!  Dost thou not tell me everything?"

Arturia clutched the handkerchief to her breast.  "But tis... tis very... intimate..."

"Who listened to thee when thou wert disturbed by thy visions?   Who lent thee a horse and waited for thee to come back?  Who ..."

"Oh, very well!"  Arturia sighed and sat down on a chair.  She frowned at the smug expression on Bedivere's face as she sat down next to her.  She looked at her expectantly.  She sighed once more and closed her eyes to remember that wonderful night.

"Twas..."  Slowly, her cheeks began to burn.  "...incredible... she was so soft... so warm... so sweet... I felt that I could melt into her."  Her hand leapt to her mouth.  "Ah!  What am I saying?  How can I think like that..."

Bedivere chortled.  "Thou art in love... tis expected that thou would desire her."

Her thoughts flew to the morning after.  Arturia's face burned even more as she remembered undressing Rhynne.  Bedivere seemed to sense her thoughts.

"Didst thou do more than kiss?!" exclaimed Bedivere.

Arturia stood up.  "Nay!  Well... we did... but... tis not what thou thinkst so..."

Bedivere's lips drew to a mischievous smirk.  "Then, pray, enlighten me..."

Unable to stand Bedivere's scrutiny, she turned around and looked at the handkerchief again.  It did not have anything written on it.  The only thing that broke its simplicity was the lace stitching around its borders.

Arturia's eyes grew wide when she recognized the stitching.  She had given Rhynne the handkerchief after she told the tale of Mulan.  If Rhynne returned it, then it must hold some secret.  She held the handkerchief close to her breast.

"Mine thanks, Bedivere, for the message."  She hurried out and scarcely heard Bedivere's protest.  She went to her room and locked the door.  She held the handkerchief next to a lamp and tried to see if anything was revealed.  Then she went to the bath and dipped a corner in water.  Nothing happened.  She went back in her room and lay on her bed.  She scrutinized the stitching on the handkerchief in an attempt to decipher any codes.  She did not find any.

Arturia groaned in exasperation.  What could it be?  She tried to remember what Bedivere said. 

   "Rhynne sends her love, sealed with a kiss."

"...sealed with a kiss..." repeated Arturia.  She stared at it.  Could it really be as simple as that?  She brought the handkerchief to her lips and planted a kiss on its silky surface.

To her great delight, words began to form on the handkerchief.  She read them hurriedly.

   "To mine dearest love,

    I hope that thou hast read mine letter.  If thou hast done so,
    return this handkerchief upon mine pile of laundry with thy message. 
    To write thy message, rinse this with hot water, and write upon it
    with tea.  Then affix thy kiss to seal it.  Thy message will
    disappear and will only be seen by me.  When I have a message for
    thee, I will drop this down the chute a day before laundry day. 
    I await thy reply.

    Truly thine,

    Rhynne."

Arturia quickly went to the bath and washed the handkerchief.  She hung it on a chair to dry and got a cup of tea from the kitchen.  When the handkerchief was dry, she dipped a quill in the tea and began to write.

   "Dearest Rhynne,

    Mine heart leapt with joy upon reading thy letter.  Forgive mine
    awkward script, for mine hand trembles with exhilaration.  I miss
    thee terribly... the warmth of thy hands, thy deep blue eyes,
    thy beautiful smile that brightens up mine darkest nights.
    If only I could show thee how much...
    Why must we be apart?  Is this Merlyn's doing?  If so, I will
    convince her to release thee.
    Alas, I should have given thee a larger handkerchief.  For now, I
    will await thy next missive.

    Until then,

    Arturia"

She kissed the handkerchief and watched the words fade away into the cloth.  The next day, she dropped the handkerchief in Rhynne's pile. 


------------------------------


Rin skimmed through her basket of clean laundry.  A small cry of joy leapt from her throat when she found the handkerchief.  She unfolded it and quickly kissed it.  Her eyes scanned the letter it revealed.  The temperature of the room rose as she read it again.  She grimaced when she realized that her method of communication was flawed.  To reply, she would have to erase Arturia's message.  As she picked up a parchment and quill to copy the letter, she cursed herself silently.  When she was done, she prepared the handkerchief for her reply.

   "Dearest Arturia,

    Thou art quite a flatterer to say such sweet speech.  Thy words
    stirred mine heart so much that I was almost unable to write
    mine reply.  But I wish to hear from thee, so mine hand bent
    to pen the stirrings of mine heart. 
    As for Merlyn, stay thy hand.  Tis of mine wish that I accepted
    her as mine Master.  As her apprentice, mine seclusion is
    necessary to devote mineself to mine studies. 
    And belittle not this handkerchief.  Tis thy first gift to me.
    I shall treasure it always, as I treasure each moment with thee.

    Sincerely,

    Rhynne."


-------------------------------


   "Beloved Rhynne,

    I doth not understand why thou must seclude thyself.  Airianne
    studies in the library.  Why must Merlyn treat thee differently?
    Our separation wounds me like a slash from a blade.  I spend
    mine days searching for the entrance to the east wing, but it
    eludes me thus far. 
    Mine heart aches to see thee.  I will climb the shaft again
    if thou will consent, but I will be guided by thee to advise me
    when the moment is right.

    Thine always,

    Arturia"


--------------------------------


Rin read Arturia's reply.  She had a point.  After Morgan's death, Merlyn forbade her to see Arturia because she was grieving over Morgan.  But Arturia did not look like she was grieving anymore.  In fact, based on her observations, she was doing laundry on the day that she met her in the shaft.   If that was the case, then Arturia was allowed to do chores. 

She drummed her fingers on the table.  There was no reason for Merlyn to separate them anymore, and yet, she was not allowed to venture out of the east wing even for a meal.

Rin's eyes narrowed.  Although she was grateful for Merlyn's instruction, she felt that it was unfair that she could not see Arturia.  Merlyn must have a reason why.  She would have to wait for a good opportunity to ask her without arousing suspicion.  But for now, she must reply to Arturia's letter.

   "Dearest one,

    Tis part of Master's instruction.  Be patient, for I will surely
    finish mine apprenticeship in time.  As for the east wing, Airianne
    told me that one will not find it unless one was taken there before.
    Furthermore, one needs a token to pass the enchantment in its halls.
    I wish to see thee too, but I fear Master's discovery.  Ne'er has a
    day passed when I wisheth for thy letter to reach me.  I apologize
    for mine awkward method.  I merely wisheth to avoid her knowing.

    With all mine heart,

    Rhynne."

Rin sent the handkerchief down the chute.  In an hour or so, Merlyn would be coming by to give her more exercises to improve her magesight so that she could sense and identify different types of auras, mana and illusions.  She laid down on the bed and massaged the areas around her eyes to prepare herself for the exercise.

Finally, Merlyn came and they went to a practice room.  She practiced on several enchanted items and described the aura around each one.  On some items, she was able to see past the illusion. 

"Well done, lass."

Rin smiled at the compliment and turned around.  "Mine tha---"  Her jaw dropped.  Merlyn was no longer an old woman.  Instead, she looked more like Airianne, with just a slight hint of wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth.  Her hair was no longer dull gray but a lustrous shade of silver.

"Master... ye..." 

Merlyn raised an eyebrow inquiringly.  And then she realized what Rin saw.  Her face became serious.  "If ye can see me, then dinna tell Wybrenne."

"Why, Master?  Ye art so beautiful!"

Merlyn actually blushed.  "Aye!  And there's the rub.  I cannae be like this when Wybrenne is not!  I do not wish to remind her about our differences in aging."  Her hand passed over her face and reinforced the illusion.  She was an old woman again.  "Once again, dinna tell Wybrenne.  I ask ye as yer Master."

"Yea, Master."  Rin was touched by Merlyn's empathy.  She wondered when Merlyn started using the illusion.  She watched as Merlyn rubbed her forehead in a gesture that she understood as exasperation.  She seemed a little off-guard by her discovery.  Maybe she could take a chance without arousing suspicion.  "Master, when will I be able to leave the east wing?"

Merlyn looked at her critically.  "When ye art ready."

"When will that be, Master?"

"I will let ye know."  Merlyn picked up several enchanted items.  "Now help me put these back."

"Yea, Master."  Merlyn could be cryptic when she wanted to be.  This was one of those times.  She would have to keep trying.  She picked up several nearby items and helped put them away.


-------------------------------


They exchanged words of love and comfort for the next two weeks.  At last, Arturia received the letter that she dreamed of reading.

   "Dearest Arturia,

    Merlyn will leave tomorrow to meet with the Chief Druid.  She
    will be gone for a day.  Meet me in the laundry room at one
    o'clock tomorrow night.

    Until then,

    Rhynne."

Giggling like a court lady, she held the handkerchief to her heart.  Then, she went to her closet and perused her wardrobe.  What should she wear?  When her mind drew a blank, she tried to think of what Bedivere would do.  She snapped her fingers.  Of course!  Those hard won lessons should provide her some insight.  After some thought, she selected a dress shirt, a pair of breeches and a dark blue formal coat.  She also picked out a nice pair of gloves just in case. 

Flowers... she would need flowers.  She searched for Airianne and found her in the library.  She cleared her throat.

"Lady Airianne... forgive me for intruding in yer studies, but I have a favor to ask of ye."

Airianne looked up from her scroll.  "What is it?"

"I would like permission to pick flowers near the Lily Pond."

"Oh, of course.  Ye dinna need to ask me fer that."

"Mine thanks..."  Arturia smiled gratefully and turned to leave.

"Is it fer Rhynne?"

Her heart leapt into her throat.  "Er... tis... tis for mine room... I prefer having fresh flowers nearby..."  She bowed slightly.  "Please excuse me."

Airianne watched Arturia hurry away.  She smirked at Arturia's behavior.  Tomorrow night's entertainment would be quite amusing indeed.


---------------------------------


It was fifteen minutes to one.  Arturia checked herself in the mirror once more.  That stray strand of hair was sticking up again.  She tucked it under some hair, but it slowly sprang up.  She checked one more time before fetching the bouquet of flowers on the table. 

Then, as quietly as possible, she made her way down to the laundry room.  When she got there, she put the bouquet in a basket and positioned herself under the opening of the shaft. 

A few minutes later, a light reflected off the surface of the shaft.  Soon, an orb of light descended and heralded the arrival of Rhynne who was dressed in a simple nightgown.  Arturia raised her arms to receive her.  Rhynne floated gently onto them and put her arms around her neck to embrace her.  Then she drew away slightly and greeted her with a kiss.

They kissed several times before Rhynne remarked, "Thy kisses seem refreshing tonight..."

Arturia smiled.  "I rinsed with a mint draught.  Is it to thy liking?"

"Yea..." She wet her lips.  "It tempts me to consume thee..."

She was not sure what Rhynne meant by that.  Her own imagination betrayed her by presenting some rather provocative images.  Warm blood rushed to Arturia's face.  She drew a deep breath and mentally herded them into a closet.  Then she cleared her throat.

"I have something for thee..."  Arturia walked to the basket with the flowers and knelt on one knee next to it.  When she had balanced Rhynne on her other knee, she reached over and presented the bouquet. 

"How thoughtful of thee!"  Then Rhynne's face melted with worry.  "Is this from the Lily Pond?"

"Yea, but be at ease.  Airianne gave permission to pick them."

"That is kind of her."   Rin inhaled the fragrance from several blossoms.  Then she noticed that there was only one red rose in the bouquet.  Her heart leapt when she remembered its meaning:  I still love thee.  She looked at Arturia with adoration and kissed her tenderly.  "Mine heart hath received thy message."

Arturia beamed with joy and kissed her back for words failed to express what her heart wanted to say.

After exchanging several kisses, Rin planted her feet on the ground and stood up.  "This place is cold.  Let us go to mine room."

She led Arturia under the shaft.  She removed the sash from her waist.  "Hold this and follow me up."  Then she gathered her mana and chanted, "Levitiam". 

They floated up the shaft until they reached the barrier.  Rin handed a sash attached to a rope to Arturia.  "Hold on to this sash and release the other for I must pass through the barrier."  Arturia complied.  Rin yanked the bed sheet off the noose of the rope and threw it over her. 

"Aenderungs."  The bed sheet completely covered her and she willed herself to float across the barrier.  After she was past the barrier, she undid the spell and floated to the top of the shaft to put the flowers aside.  Then she floated down and slid the bed sheet to Arturia.  "Please put the sheet over thee.  I will envelop thee with it."  Then she grabbed the noose of the rope and cancelled Levitiam.

After Arturia did so, she cast Kinensis to make her float and then Aenderungs to cover her up.  Her hand trembled with concentration as she willed Arturia across the barrier.  Once she was across the barrier, she cancelled Aenderungs. 

"Grab... the... rope..."  she said slowly while trying to maintain Kinensis.  Rin held the spell until Arturia gripped the rope.  She exhaled sharply as she released the spell. 

"Art thou well?"

"Yea... tis difficult to maintain several spells at once.  Come.  Let us climb up."

Rin crawled out of the shaft first and then helped Arturia out.  They grinned widely in triumph over their imposed separation.  Then slowly, they inched toward each other and kissed.

Somehow, they wandered near the bed during the exchange of many kisses.  Rin sat down on the bed and leaned back to bring Arturia with her.  Arturia kicked off her shoes before crawling over her. 

Rin grasped the lapel of her coat and pulled it over her shoulders.  Arturia helpfully allowed her to take it off.  She tugged on the tie around her collar and undid it.  Then she reached around her neck and yanked the ribbon that held her hair in place.  Her fingers threaded through her hair to let them cascade in a golden shower over her cheeks. 

Her hair was so soft... so silky.  She let it glide between her fingers to enjoy its coolness.  During the war, when Arturia was unconscious after being injured by Berserker, she took a chance and touched her hair. 

"I hath always wanted to do this..."  Rin whispered.

"Since when?"

"Since... since the day I saw thee in the forest."  She did not dare mention the day when they first met.

Arturia smiled to hide her disappointment.  Rin still did not want to reveal her past.  She took it in stride and asked playfully.  "Didst thou do anything to me whilst I was betwixt life and death?"

"Well... I had to dress thy wounds... so I had to do this..."

Her hands methodically unbuttoned her shirt and exposed her pale shoulders.  Arturia was not wearing a bra.  Rin's breath caught at the sight.  She had seen her naked so many times, but each time felt like the first time seeing her.

But a warning rang in her mind as her hands attempted to remove her shirt.  Rin gathered her wits and pulled the shirt over her shoulders.  Arturia's eyes pleaded and inquired at the same time.

Rin cupped Arturia's face in her hands.  She whispered, "I keep forgetting about that map."

Arturia's faced paled and then broke into a frown of frustration.  She protested softly.  "But tis late.  Surely, Airianne must be asleep."

"Thou may be right.  But... there is one way to find out..."  Rin sat up and adjusted her gown.  "I will be back anon."

Rin padded into the hall as quietly as she could and went to Airianne's study.  She listened at the door before opening it.  The room was dark.  She breathed a sigh of relief.  She was about to leave when she thought of checking the map.  She closed her eyes and opened them with her magesight.  Her eyes focused on the map.  Her teeth ground with irritation and her eyes scanned the lamps in the room.  The sinking feeling in her stomach grew as the lamps confirmed the residue of mana.  With a wave of her hand, the lamps lit up.

"Yer eavesdropping is not appreciated."  When nothing happened, she went to the door in the corner of the room and opened it.  She gasped in surprise.  She expected to find Airianne, but Bedivere was there as well.

She glowered at them as they filed out of the closet.  "I am sorely disappointed in both of ye..."  she managed to say.  "In mine land, we have a name for eavesdroppers like ye:  Ecchi."

Airianne held up her hand.  "We apologize.  We shant look at that map anymore.  Good night, Lady Rhynne."  She grabbed Bedivere's hand and quickly left the room.

Rin followed them with her eyes and watched them enter Airianne's room.  She sighed and caught herself rubbing her temples in the same way that Merlyn did.  She shook the gesture away in hopes that she would not be influenced by any of her mannerisms.

She went back to her room.  Her face must have shown her irritation for Arturia narrowed her eyes on her entrance.  She flopped down on the bed in resignation.

"I fear that thou hath discovered the worse." Arturia whispered. 

Rin kept her voice low.  "Yea... I found not one, but two mice."

Arturia's eyebrows shot up.  "Two?!  Art they still watching?"

"They went into Airianne's room."

"Tis strange... why would Bedivere go to her room?"

Rin's hand flew to her mouth.  "Perhaps... she fancies her?"

Arturia shook her head.  "Nay.  She doth not."  Since she was not sure how Rhynne would react if she told her who Bedivere loved, she prudently decided not to mention it.  However, there was still a puzzle to solve.  "Is there more than one map?"

Rin swallowed at the possibility.  If there was more than one, and if a second map was in Airianne's room, then that would explain why they went there.  "I know not.  But tis possible."

Arturia hugged her from behind.  "Let us forget them for now.  Our time is better spent on other things."  She nuzzled Rin's neck.  "I just want to be with thee..."

Rin squirmed at Arturia's ticklish ministrations.  She turned around and pushed her down playfully.  And then she ran a finger along Arturia's cheek and asked softly in her most seductive voice, "Dost thou have something in mind?"

Arturia smirked mischievously.  "Many things... but only few are innocent to prying eyes.

Rin leaned down until their lips almost touched.  "Is kissing one of the few?"

"Yea..."  Arturia slipped her arms around Rhynne's waist and pressed their bodies and their lips together. 

Arturia's kisses were very refreshing.  It was like drinking sweetened iced tea during Japan's dry summer heat.  She savored each one and became unaware of the time until her arm began to cramp.  She shifted slightly to relax the muscles.  Something brushed up against her chest.  Her eyes flew open when she realized that Arturia's shirt was still undone, and that her breasts were brushing up against her.  She grinned wickedly.  Revenge would be sweet. 

She broke away from her lips and went directly to her target before Arturia could realize what she intended to do.  Once over it, she opened her mouth and enclosed as much of Arturia's breast as possible.  Arturia gasped loudly before her hand clamped around her mouth to stifle her cries.   

Rin continued her revenge until Arturia's hand pushed against her shoulder.  She rose on her elbows and looked at Arturia who was breathing heavily.

"Cast Silentium... if thou knowst it... I... I can not bear it anymore..."

Rin's face fell.  "I do... but I dare not.  Master's magesight is keen.  She will sense the spell upon the bed.  I was confident in casting the other spells because twould not be likely that she would look down the chute.  And e'en so, I used as little mana as possible to avoid her notice."

Arturia pulled her up and spoke with teasing reproach.  "Thou art cruel to tempt me with that.  And tis not fair that I can not give thee all that I can give for fear that thy 'malady' will overcome thee."

Rin blushed sheepishly as she twirled a lock of Arturia's hair.  "Perhaps... with practice... I can overcome it in time."

"Then we must practice as much as we can."  Arturia captured Rhynne's lips and caressed them with increasing passion.  When Rhynne sagged against her, she broke the kiss and carefully laid Rhynne on her back.  The glazed expression of Rhynne's face caused her heart swell with pride over her skill.  She had done this to her.

She waited until Rhynne's breathing returned to normal.  She caressed Rhynne's face.  "Shall we continue... or do something else?"

"Perhaps... something else... lest I swoon from the immensity of thy loving.  I doth not wish to spend mine time with thee sleeping."

"Shall we dance?"  Arturia's hand slithered over the curves of her body.  "I love to feel the grace of thy body next to mine."

"Flatterer!  I wonder how many ladies hath fallen under the spell of thy sweet speech."

Arturia laughed softly as she remembered those balls that Kay forced her to attend in hopes that she would fancy someone to be her queen.  "Mayhap a few, but none after I married."

"Oh."  She had forgotten about that.  Now that the topic came up, she wondered if Arturia loved Guinevere.

Rhynne's playful smile melted away and her eyes grew distant.  Arturia sensed that her marriage disturbed Rhynne, so she embraced her to reassure her.  "Fret not.  I did not love her.  Twas Lancelot that she loved."

Rin remembered Morgan's revelation sadly.  "If I may ask... why didst thou marry her?"

"For duty."  Arturia got out of bed and tugged at Rhynne's hand.  "I hath instructed Lancelot to take care of her.  She hast been reunited with him and her true son."

At Arturia's urging, Rin got out of bed as well.  She let Arturia sweep her away into the silent rhythm of a waltz.  Their dance was slow and sensual as they gazed into each other's eyes, green mirrored with blue.  Their bodies swayed in unison, the result of practice and an uncanny anticipation of each other's intentions. 

Rin dreamt of moments like these ever since she argued her way into Shiro's house.  Her imagination fell horribly short of reality.  The beating of her heart, the tingle of her skin and the warm glow spreading over her body was unimaginable.  Her senses were overloading and she loved every moment of it.

She almost did not hear the muffled toll of the hallway clock.  It struck three.  Without warning, Arturia twirled her and dipped her.  As she held onto her upper arm, she felt sinewy muscles contract under her clothes.  Those same muscles held her in midair as she watched Arturia's lips descend.  She closed her eyes as they made contact.

Arturia's kiss seemed more passionate than before.  The warm glow over her body intensified.  She was floating higher and higher.  Then a wave of red washed over her senses and she let herself drift away in its torrent.

Then the next thing she felt was a sharp poke on her head.  She reached over her head and touched cold metal.  It was the cuckoo which was set to peck in order to wake her up in the morning.  She turned it off, sank into the pillow and groaned over the lost time.  She glanced down to see Arturia snuggled against her with her head on her shoulder.  She kissed the top of her golden hair and held her closer. 

With a wave of her hand, she parted the curtains slightly to peek at the horizon.  Soon it would be dawn.  She nudged Arturia gently and hoped that she would not mind waking up.  Arturia simply snuggled closer.

Rin grinned wickedly when she decided to try something else.  Her hand flipped  the unbuttoned front of her shirt to expose her torso.  Her fingers went around her breast and played with it.  Within twenty seconds, Arturia's eyes jerked open. 

"Good morning."  greeted Rin softly.  She continued to trace circles around Arturia's breast.

"Good morning..."  Arturia's face soured into a frown as she caught Rhynne's hand.  "Thy stamina was severely lacking last night.  Thou art a skilled physic.  Canst thou not cure thy malady?"

"Mine apologies... I was confident that I could overcome it.  I will try to restrain its effect."  She caressed Arturia's cheek.  "But I am uncertain of mine success, for thou arouse such great fervor within me."  Her eyes noted the light near the horizon.  "And I apologize for waking thee.  I wanted to watch the sunrise with thee."

The curtains parted with a wave of her hand.  The transparent walls of her room revealed the dim valley.  The sky was slowly lightening up.  When Arturia turned around to see the sunrise, Rin cupped her body against her and hugged her from behind.

Soon, the sun began to peep over the hills that formed the horizon.  Its rays raced across the valley and lit the golden fields of wheat.  Rin felt Arturia squeeze her hand. 

"When I am well, I will take thee to the lake again.  And thou must get well too.  There will be no prying eyes and no malady to overcome."

Her heart wrenched.  She knew all too well what needed to be done to cure Arturia.  She held her closer and kissed the back of her neck.  It was enough to hold her like this.  She steeled herself and replied softly, "I look forward to that day."

They watched the sunrise in silence until they heard the creaking of a door.  Rin sighed.  Airianne would be getting up to prepare breakfast.  She kissed Arturia's cheek.  "Though it wounds me to say this, but it is time for me to return thee."

Arturia turned around and wrapped her arms around her waist.  Her eyes pleaded.  "So soon?"

With great reluctance, Rin pulled away.  "Yea.  I know not when Master will arrive, and I must mask the spells that I used on thee.  Furthermore, the spells would be more difficult to detect with the passage of time."  Then she added sadly.  "And thou must refresh thy spell."

Arturia sighed.  "Thou art right."  She got up and gathered her clothes while Rhynne changed to her robe.  When they were ready, they passed through the barrier and levitated down the shaft.  Then Rhynne wove her hands before her in strange gestures.  When she was done, she embraced her tightly.  She hugged her back.

"I will leave word of when we can meet again.  And I will have thee know that I enjoyed every moment with thee."

"And I as well."  She drew away slightly and kissed Rhynne.  "I love thee."

Rin kissed her back.  "I love thee very much."  She kissed her one more time.  "Go now.  Refresh thy spell."

Arturia nodded and moved away reluctantly.  She walked toward the door but stopped to see Rhynne ascend into the shaft.  Rhynne waved and she waved back.  When she could no longer see her, she walked up the stairs with a heavy heart.


-------------------------------


Merlyn returned an hour before dinner.  During dinner, she could not help but notice the stifled yawns and drooping eyes of Airianne, Bedivere and Arturia.   She clucked her tongue and wondered whether Airianne had tricked them into doing some unusual entertainment last night.  Before she could restrain herself, she yawned as well.  But she had a long day.  She deserved a good yawn.


 

Chapter 14 Omake

Arturia:  For you, I will climb the highest mountain.
Rin:  Oh, Arturia... *kiss*
Arturia:  For you, I will sail the stormy seas.
Rin:  Oh, Arturia... *kiss*
Arturia:  For you, I will overcome time and space.
Rin:  Oh, Arturia... *kiss*
Arturia:  For you, I will change my gender.
Rin:  Uh... you don't have to go that far...


Chapter 14
Table of Contents
Hosting by WebRing.