The King and Her Queen
Chapter 9: On the Night of the Ball
Rhynne wandered into the dining hall. Airianne put her muffin
down. "Good morning."
"Good morning." Rin sat down and picked up a muffin. She
started nibbling on it.
Airianne glanced at the sun above the horizon. Rhynne was
early. She listened for more footsteps from the hall, but
detected none. "How odd." she thought. She made a
pretense of reading her Mother's messages and glanced several times in
her direction. There seemed to be dark shadows under her
Rin munched on the muffin to feed her grumbling stomach. After
Arturia ran away so suddenly, she waited for her to come back until the
clock struck one. Finally, she gave up and went to her
room. But she kept worrying about Arturia and could not
sleep. After she finished her muffin, she poured herself some tea.
Footsteps and voices in the hall declared the arrival of Bedivere and
Arturia. From their voices, they seemed to be talking about
horses. They entered the dining room dressed in riding
cloaks. Their hair was tousled and there were several small stems
of hay stuck to their cloaks.
"Good morning." They greeted them and took off their
cloaks. Bedivere sat next to Airianne while Arturia sat next to
Rhynne. They both reached for a muffin.
"Art we late?" asked Bedivere.
"Nay, we hath just started." replied Airianne.
Bedivere noted the wrinkled parchment. "What news?"
"Mother and Syrowe attended a ball." Airianne giggled.
"Poor Syrowe hath so much trouble with the ladies. Mother and he
had to leave early."
"Tis well that they left. Some art rather desperate to catch a
"Doth I hear the voice of experience?" asked Airianne jokingly.
"Methinks this conversation hath exceeded the bounds of
propriety." said Bedivere dryly. "Anyway, dost thou have a
spindle? I wish to sew banners for the ball."
"Ye can sew?" exclaimed Airianne.
"Yea. Twas part of mine studies at Rosenharte."
Rin sipped the last of her tea and put it down. She watched
Arturia warily from the corner of her eye. Arturia picked up the
teapot. To her surprise, she poured tea into her empty cup.
Rin blinked several times before she responded, "Mine thanks."
Arturia smiled slightly at her. "Thou art welcome."
Rin felt relieved at those words. She was so worried that Arturia
would not speak to her. She looked at the stack of freshly baked
muffins. She picked one and bit into it. She was much
hungrier than she thought.
For the rest of the day, Arturia acted as if last night's incident did
not happen. Rin felt very relieved at this, but kept observing
her for any sign that she might be upset with her. The day passed
quickly and Bedivere began their dance lessons once again.
She and Bedivere waltzed for about half an hour before she commented,
"Thou hath improved vastly. Shall I give thee a reward?"
Before she had a chance to react, Bedivere twirled her about and
released her. She spun awkwardly and felt someone catch
her. When she looked up, she found herself gazing at Arturia's
face. Just behind them, Airianne waltzed with Bedivere.
Rin quickly checked her hand position and was surprised to discover
that Arturia was wearing gloves. She returned her gaze to
Arturia's face. She smiled calmly at her. Rin smiled back
and did her best to keep up with her.
After waltzing for ten minutes, Rin felt that this dance was different
from last night. Arturia's guiding hand seemed more confident and
her steps were more evenly paced and smooth. And the way that
Arturia gazed at her seemed different as well. Rin shook the
thoughts from her mind. It must be just her imagination.
But she was happy that Arturia did not seem upset and that she had
another chance to dance with her. Furthermore, she did not have
to worry about the marks since Arturia was wearing gloves. At the
thought that was she wearing it for her sake, her heart became giddy
with joy at her kind consideration. She enjoyed the rest of the
dance in a state of bliss.
After the evening's entertainment was over, Bedivere and Airianne
wished them good night and left the sitting room together.
Arturia's eyebrows rose with an unspoken question and she looked at
Rin. Rin answered back with upturned palms and a shrug.
They walked back to their rooms.
"What art thy plans tomorrow morning?" asked Arturia.
Rin was startled a bit. She tried to figure out what Arturia was
thinking. "I hath not planned that far ahead."
"Then will thou be interested for a morning stroll?"
Her question perked her curiosity. "Of course. Whither
shall we go?"
Arturia held her index finger to her lips and winked briefly.
"That... is a secret."
Rin forgot her nervousness and chuckled at the sight. Arturia
looked so cute for a moment. "When should I wake?"
"I shall wake thee when tis proper. But I must advise thee to
sleep early, for we shall rise early." Arturia paused and added
as an afterthought, "Oh, and I will need permission to enter thy
Rin opened the door to her room. "Thou may enter whenever thou
wish. Thou art always welcome in mine room. Now I shall
take thy advice and sleep. Good night."
Arturia was a bit surprised at Rhynne's gracious reply. She
regained her composure quickly and replied, "Good night." Then
she made her way to her own room to sleep.
It was still dark when Arturia woke her. She dressed up and met
her in the great hall. Arturia was carrying a knapsack and a
traveling pack. Rin offered to help her, but Arturia refused and
insisted on carrying them. They fetched Haut from the stable and
secured the knapsack and the pack on him. Then they descended on
the platform and made their way out of the mine.
Arturia handed Rhynne a dark red riding cloak. "Please wear
this. Tis a bit chilly in the morn."
Rin slipped the cloak on and flicked the hair caught under it.
Arturia nodded appreciatively at the sight of Rhynne flicking her
hair. "This hue suits thee well." She offered her hand to
help Rhynne into the saddle.
Rin noted her gloved hand. With a smile of relief, she grasped it
in hers. Arturia helped her up and then mounted Haut behind her.
They galloped down the path with only the crescent moon to light their
way. They continued down the main road and took a side road that
cut into a forest. After about twenty minutes, Arturia slowed
down a bit and guided Haut down a narrow path. The branches
blocked the light of the moon so she dismounted and lit a small lantern
in front of Haut's chest. Then they resumed their journey.
Soon a small river broke the path. Arturia backed up Haut about
thirty feet from it. Her arm slipped around Rin's waist.
"We shall jump over it. Fret not. Haut can do it easily."
"All right..." said Rin. She grabbed the rim of the saddle and
steeled her nerves.
Arturia urged Haut to a gallop and then pulled up with his reins just
before the river. With a mighty leap, Haut jumped over it.
Rin felt her stomach flipping over as they sailed through the
air. Leaves brushed her face and hair.
Arturia slowed Haut down to a canter. "Did the leap alarm thee?"
"Nay." Rin felt for Arturia's hand on her waist and squeezed
it. "It was an exciting leap." She chuckled. "I felt
mine stomach fly."
Arturia felt Rhynne's squeeze. Her heart leapt at her
touch. Then she laughed at Rhynne's last statement. She
reached up and slowly removed a leaf from Rhynne's hair.
"Methinks I made him leap too high." This time she removed a
Rin felt her cheeks get warm as Arturia took her time to remove the
leaves and petals from her hair. When she was done, they resumed
their journey. They exited the forest and galloped across a
meadow. Then they returned to a paved road that entered another
forest. When they exited the forest, they came upon a small
meadow that ended at the shores of a lake.
They dismounted near a clump of bushes. Arturia went into the
bushes and pushed a small rowboat out on the lake's sandy shore.
Once again, Arturia refused Rin's offer of help. She helped Rin
into the rowboat before fetching the knapsack from Haut's side.
Arturia pushed the boat into the water and hopped in with the grace of
a cat. She picked up the oars and rowed into the lake. Rin
watched her with a puzzled look and then watched the shore. The
light from Haut's lantern grew smaller and smaller.
Finally, Arturia stopped rowing. She secured the oars. Rin
rubbed her hands and blew into them to warm them up.
Arturia noticed Rhynne. She reached for the knapsack and pulled
out a quilted blanket. To prevent the boat from rocking, she made
her way slowly towards Rhynne and sat next to her. She put the
blanket around her shoulders.
"Mine thanks." said Rin with a blush. "But this cloak is
quite warm. Only mine hands felt the chill."
"Is that so? Shall I warm thy hands instead?" Arturia held
out her hand.
Rin stared at Arturia's hand for a moment. She remembered
Bedivere's advice. "Oh, what the hell... I'm too lazy to
think of excuses right now." she thought. She gathered her
courage and put her hand on Arturia's.
Arturia put her other hand on top. As she pressed her hands
together, Rin's fingertips edged forward and touched the cold skin of
Her heart warmed with Arturia's act of kindness. With a
half-joking voice, she playfully told Arturia, "How can thou warm mine
hand, when thy own skin is just as cold?" She pulled her hand
away and lifted the edge of the blanket. Then she scooted closer
to Arturia and draped the blanket around Arturia's shoulders to enclose
them together under its warmth.
Arturia was surprised at Rhynne's behavior. Her sense of chivalry
prompted her to refuse, but the feel of Rhynne's bosom pressing against
the side of her arm barred the refusal from leaving the tip of her
She regained her composure and stammered out, "M-mine thanks...".
"Tis thy blanket. Thou should enjoy its warmth as well."
Rin withdrew her hand under the blanket and attempted to rest it on her
own leg. But instead, she missed and landed on Arturia's upturned
palm. Since she did not intend to do that, she began to move her
Arturia felt Rhynne's hand on her own. Thinking that she still
wanted to be warmed up, she enclosed Rhynne's hand with her both of her
hands. Rhynne's hand felt so small even though they were almost
the same height and build. Her chivalric nature told her that
something so fragile should be protected. She cradled it gently,
like holding a delicate sculpture.
Rin felt the warmth of Arturia's hands around hers. As she gazed
back at Arturia, her heart decided to beat faster. That
self-conscious feeling rose again, and she broke the gaze to stare at
the bottom of the rowboat.
They sat in silence in the rowboat. It was very warm under the
blanket but Rin felt even warmer with Arturia's hands around
hers. In fact, it reminded her of the time when Arturia held her
under the blanket in the wagon. She closed her eyes to experience
the memory again.
Arturia saw Rhynne's eyes close. A sense of alarm filled her when
the thought entered her mind that Rhynne may be tired because of her
malady. Remorse began to fill her heart. It was selfish of
her to forget. For now, she had to make do with the
situation. Her hand left Rhynne's and went across her back to
grasp her shoulder. Then she pulled Rhynne to her so that she
could rest her head on her shoulder.
"Mine apologies. I hath awakened thee too early. Please
rest a bit. I will wake thee when the time comes."
Rin was surprised when Arturia pulled her close and even more so when
she thought that she was sleepy. Because she was so close to
Arturia, it took a while for her to sort her thoughts.
Eventually, her mind processed the words, 'when the time comes.'
"I am not sleepy." However, she made no effort to lift her head
off Arturia's shoulder. It felt too nice. "But for what
shall thou wake me for?"
"Thou shall soon see. Please abide patiently until then."
Rin waited with curiosity. With her head on Arturia's shoulder
and her body under the same blanket as Arturia's, Rin felt that she
could wait forever and not care. They waited for about twenty
minutes before Arturia spoke.
"Behold. Cast thy eyes at the horizon." Arturia gestured
Rin did and saw the sky change color to herald the coming of
dawn. The first rays of the sun peeped over the distant
hills. As more rays escaped from behind those hills, they ran
over the water of the lake, leaving sparkles on the tip of its small
Rin's eyes grew in wonder as the sun rose and illuminated the
lake. The lake shimmered as the sun's rays glittered on its
surface. But there was a white patch on the lake that interrupted
the golden tide. She wondered what it was. As if to answer
her question, the white patch stretched out wings into the sky and
dispersed into the air with a flutter. Rin watched in amazement
as a flock of swans rose majestically into the sky and formed a pale
formation against a background of orange and blue.
"Beautiful..." thought Arturia as she watched Rhynne's varying
reactions. She smiled with satisfaction. It was worth all
that effort to bring her here.
"It's beautiful..." said Rin softly.
"Verily." Ever since the breaking of dawn, her eyes had not left
Rhynne's face. Underneath the blanket, her hand shifted to
intertwine her fingers with hers. There was slight tingle in her
Rin felt Arturia's hand move. She shifted her head on Arturia's
shoulder to look up at her. She did not know that she was looking
at her, so her lips ended up brushing against the side of her jaw as
she moved her head. She pulled away abruptly and blushed.
"Mine apologies... I did not mean to..."
Arturia touched the spot on her jaw. Only an inch more and she
would have grazed her lips. The image of Rhynne meeting her lips
flashed in her mind. She blushed slightly and pushed the image out of
her mind. She was a knight and not a wanton knave. Such
thoughts were unbecoming.
She looked over at Rhynne who seemed to be in a state of panic.
Technically, it was her fault for having her face so close to her
head. Hopefully, Rhynne would not realize that she did so because
she was looking at her. She had to divert her attention.
"Be at ease. There is no need to apologize. Tis but a small
matter and not worth missing God's blessing upon the world." She
gestured again at the rising sun. "Behold."
Rin turned to look at the sun. The morning haze was slowly
dispersing and the sun was becoming more blinding to look at. But
it did look like that the sun was slowly pushing aside the
darkness. She remembered her basic catechism, and quoted, "And
God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. And God saw
that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."
"How true..." remarked Arturia and watched the sunrise with
Rhynne. They watched it until it was too bright to look at.
"Methinks that now would be a good time to have breakfast."
Arturia began to move to take her seat, but Rhynne's hand on her arm
"Allow me to help thee."
"Tis a tiring task, and may blister thy hands."
Rin held out her palm. "I already have calluses." It was
true. She had formed some during all those chores.
Arturia shook her head. "I hath awakened thee too early.
Please rest. I doth not wish to tire thee."
"I am not tired. Allow me to help. Please." With the
best of her ability, which was not much, Rin tried to create similar
puppy dog eyes that Sakura would often use on Shiro. She hoped
that she did not look too silly.
Arturia blinked several times. For some reason, Rhynne's eyes had
changed from her usual serious gaze to one that seemed absolutely
adorable. Her heart melted at the sight and she had a sudden urge
to hug her. With all the discipline at her disposal, she
"Oh, very well... but thou must promise not to tire thyself."
Arturia put the other oar in its brace and handed her the handle.
As they rowed back to shore, Rin cursed Merlyn for whatever she said to
make Arturia think that she was sickly. As soon as Merlyn gets
back, she would convince her to correct Arturia's misunderstanding.
They climbed out of the rowboat and beached it. Then Arturia
fetched the pack from Haut. She laid out the blanket under the
shade of a tree and began to lay out their breakfast, plates and
Breakfast composed of warm bread, butter, grapes, and
strawberries. Arturia poured tea from a clay jug into small tin
Arturia picked up a strawberry by its stem and held it in front of
Rhynne's mouth. "Try this. Tis very sweet."
Rin's first inclination was to refuse and say that she could feed
herself. But the very thought of Arturia feeding her spurred her
imagination. She decided to make it a reality. She leaned
forward and touched the tip of the strawberry with her lips and bit
halfway into it. "Tis good!" declared Rin after she ate it.
"I am glad." said Arturia who finished the rest the strawberry.
Rin's jaw fell at the sight. She had just shared food with
Arturia. In school, she had overheard many conversations of girls
sharing their drink with a boy they liked. She laughed at their
giddy expressions. But now, she could laugh no more. At
last, she understood.
Arturia reached for some grapes and popped them in her mouth.
When she finished the last one, Rin reached for some grapes.
Emboldened, she held out a grape by its stem in front of Arturia.
She smiled winsomely. "Allow me..."
Arturia smiled and leaned forward to envelop the entire grape.
Her lips touched the tips of Rin's fingers. Rin sucked her breath
in at the sensation of those moist warm lips. Arturia pulled
away, leaving the stem behind.
"Dost thou... want another?" asked Rin, her cheeks burning.
Arturia observed Rhynne with amusement as her cheeks took on the color
of the strawberries nearby. "Yea." she replied and accepted
the offered grape.
While they fed each other fruit, a thought occurred to Rin.
"Dost thou come to this lake often?"
"Nay. I hath found this lake yesterday while trying to find
Bedivere. I was tracking her, but a wolf scared mine horse and we
fled over yonder river. Twas amazing that the horse managed to
jump across it." She chuckled. "I tried to find the main
road and return to Bedivere. I found this lake during mine
Arturia's face grew menacing. "I wish that I hath a sword with
me. That wolf caused me to lose mine way."
"I am glad that thou wert not hurt." said Rin. "But... tis
not always bad to lose one's way. One can discover new things
sometimes. For if thou hath not lost thy way, thou would not have
found this lake. If thou would not have found this lake, I would
have never seen such a beautiful sunrise."
"Mine thanks." Arturia's heart soared with Rhynne's words.
It was a pleasure to see her happy face. Rhynne finished the rest
of her tea and sighed with satisfaction. Airianne was
right. She was so amusing to watch.
Though it was a little reckless of her to invite Rhynne to come despite
her malady, she was happy that the trip was going well so far.
She had one more task to do. She got up. "Please abide here
a moment. I will be back anon."
Rin watched with curiosity as Arturia mounted Haut and rode back into
the forest. She nibbled on strawberries while she waited for
her. About five minutes later, she heard hoof beats and turned to
the direction of the sound.
Arturia was carrying a bouquet of flowers. She dismounted and
offered them to Rhynne.
"For thee. Tis small recompense for thy timely aid in mine hour
With eyes shining with overflowing joy, Rin accepted the bouquet.
It was a myriad of lilies, daisies and other blossoms that she could
not recognize. They were held together by broad leaves and a
small vine. Fresh dew glistened from their petals and the air
around her became suffused with their fragrance. Rin's nose
sampled several flowers.
"Tis a gift fit for a queen! Thou undermine the value of thy
Arturia laughed and sat down next to her. "If tis truly a gift
for a queen, then tis appropriate for thee." She smiled at her
Rin blinked several times before she realized what Arturia meant.
She blushed greatly. Somehow, she had to hide her
embarrassment. "Is that so? Well then..."
Rin untied the vine and laid the flowers on the blanket. Then she
selected some with pliant stems and fastened the vine around them to
form a small garland. She went up on her knees and held out the
garland over Arturia's head.
"A queen must have a king." said Rin jokingly as she laid the
garland on top of Arturia's head. Then she sat back to enjoy the
Arturia blushed as Rhynne smiled at her. She could only imagine
how silly she looked with a crown of flowers. But two can play at
this game. She picked out some flowers and made a similar
"A queen must have a crown too." She carefully placed it on
Rhynne's head. Then she sat back to admire her handiwork.
They stared at each other for a while.
"Beautiful..." said Arturia softly.
"Thy garland was well crafted."
Arturia smiled. "I spake not of the garland."
Warmth spread across Rin's face and to her ears. Her mind shut
down. She ran out of things to say.
"How adorable..." thought Arturia as she watched Rhynne's ears turn
red. With her sense of propriety forgotten, she gazed at her with
After a while, Rin could not bear her embarrassment anymore and broke
the gaze. She glanced quickly at her watch. "Mayhap, we
should go back..." she said softly.
As if a spell was broken, Arturia returned to her senses. She
noted the height of the sun. Rhynne was right. They should
go back since Bedivere would be waiting for them at the platform two
hours after sunrise. She sighed. Time had passed quickly
when they had taken their time rowing to shore since it was so amusing
meandering back and forth across the lake. "Yea. Let us do
They packed the utensils and the blanket. Arturia helped Rhynne
on to Haut and then sat behind her. She slipped a hand around
Rhynne's waist. During all those times when she felt like hugging
Rhynne, she restrained herself. And now, with Rhynne so close,
she could not resist anymore. She shifted slightly and let her
settle against her.
"Come Haut. Take us home." With that, she urged Haut to a
gallop. They rode back in time to catch Bedivere exiting the door
to the platform.
"Good morning." greeted Bedivere with a knowing smile. She
"Good morning." replied Arturia. She noted Bedivere's hand
signals: 'How was it?'. She waved back: 'Tis well.'
"Good morning." replied Rin. Bedivere's presence was not a
coincidence. She had a feeling that something else was
afoot. She looked warily at Bedivere and hoped that it was just
Bedivere closed the door of the private room. "I want
details." she said as she sat down on a chair.
Arturia scratched her jaw absentmindedly. "Well... tis not
much. We watched the sunrise, then we ate breakfast, and then we
Bedivere slouched back and regarded Arturia critically. After a
moment, she asked, "And what of the petal in thy hair? Surely,
thou did not roll among the daisies."
"Oh, that... tis from the crown, I suppose."
"Yea... Rhynne made a crown of flowers and laid it on mine head."
Apparently, more had happened than what Arturia had told her.
"Methinks thou should start from the time that thou hath left the mine."
For the next fifteen minutes, Arturia condensed their entire trip to
the lake for Bedivere. After she was done, Bedivere smiled
"Well, now. Methinks that thou should have an answer to thy
question. Thou only need to pursue it further."
Arturia sighed. "E'en so, methinks that tis all in vain."
Bedivere's smile faded. "Why dost thou think so?"
"Because... she already hath someone dear."
Bedivere leaned forward. She had not heard of this. "How
dost thou know this?"
"When we first came to the Aerie, Airianne asked Syrowe and Rhynne if
they hath someone dear. Strangely, Syrowe hath named me e'en
though we hath known each other briefly. And Rhynne saith that
she hath someone."
"Did she saith who?"
"Nay. Merlyn came and Airianne did not ask her." She
sighed. "I know not what to do."
But Bedivere was sure, so sure that she almost wanted to shout, "She
fancies thee, thou loggerheaded flax-wench!" However, it was very
unbecoming of a knight to use such language. Instead, she
swallowed her words and counted to three. Though it was typical
of Arturia to be very oblivious, it sometimes tried her patience.
She returned her thoughts to Arturia's predicament. She sat
before her looking so forlorn, with a countenance matching that of a
lost kitten. Even her sigh echoed her despair.
She had never seen her so despondent. It was a large contrast to
King Arthur who had an uncanny sense of purpose and would forge ahead
regardless of any obstacles in her way. If only there was a way
to infuse that kind of purpose on Arturia, then she could break out of
her melancholy. Bedivere tapped her fingers on the table in
thought. The idea that came to her could either spur her to
action or depress her even more. She had to be careful.
"Dost thou recall her visage when Airianne asked her?"
Arturia tried to remember. "Methinks... she seemeth rather
reluctant to admit it."
She sighed dramatically. "I suppose that's it then. Let us
hope that he is a man of honor." She paused for effect as Arturia
looked up with questioning eyes.
"I doubt that he is a knight, though. He must be a mage.
From Merlyn's knowledge of Nee-hun, tis customary for parents to
arrange marriages for their children. Tis likely that she was
promised to him since birth. Her reluctance may stem from
that. Mayhap, she is unsure of her own heart and thus hesitated
in answering Airianne's question."
She was stretching the cultural aspect based on Syrowe's
memories. Hopefully, she sounded convincing.
Arturia's eyes grew wide. "Thy argument hath some merit... but
tis mere conjecture until proven true."
"Suppose then, that she is betrothed to him, but hath not yielded her
heart to him. What dost thou think of that?"
"Methinks she would not be happy if she married him. And, if she
doth not love him, then she should tell her parents that she doth not
want to marry him."
"I see no ring upon her finger. Hast thou?"
Arturia sat up straight. "No... I hath not seen one e'er since we
met." Bedivere's argument started to make more sense.
Bedivere put a hand on her shoulder. "Tis mine opinion then, that
thou may still have a chance to win her heart."
"But... what if she truly hath someone dear?"
"Then, she will let thee know. E'en though I have known her for a
short time, methinks she will not lead thee on. She is a very
"Yea, she truly is very considerate." Arturia stood up. Her
eyes shone with determination. "He hath an advantage of meeting
her first. But I will not be outdone. I shall prove to be
better than him!"
"Nay, Arturia. Methinks that is not enough." Bedivere stood
up and put both her hands on her shoulders. She spoke
firmly. "Thou aim too low. Rather than being better than
him, thou must aim to be the only one for her. Thou must be her
ideal, so that she would only want to love thee and only thee."
"How can I become that?"
"Patience and observation. She will let thee know the way to her
Arturia nodded in understanding. "If that is what it takes, then
I shall do it."
Bedivere grinned widely. "Then I shall pray for thy success."
"Mine thanks." Arturia paused in thought. "Bedivere, I hath
always wondered. Thou art very knowledgeable in the matters of
the heart. Whither hath thou learned all this?"
"I hath learned the art when I was studying at Rosenharte. But
most importantly, sometimes only a lady can understand another lady's
heart." She winked.
Arturia giggled. "How true..."
Bedivere laughed with her. "Now then, fellow teacher, I have some
lessons to teach and so doth thee. Shall we?" She opened
Arturia smiled at the prospect of teaching Rhynne. "And so we
Whenever they were not busy with chores, dancing or preparing for the
ball, they went to the lake. Most of the time, they rowed across
it and explored its many hidden spots. They saw a variety of
birds, flowers and turtles. On other times, they just ate under
the shade and practiced conversing in Welsh. Sometimes,
Arturia would bring a harp and she would sing.
It was on one particularly hot afternoon that they did something
entirely different. They were in the middle of conjugating verbs
when Arturia closed the Welsh book. As Rhynne stared at her in
puzzlement, she declared, "Methinks tis too hot to study. Shall
we refresh ourselves in yonder lake?"
Rhynne's jaw dropped. "But... we did not bring any swimsuits!"
"Swimsuit? What is a swimsuit?"
"Oh... I am unsure how tis called in thy tongue. It means a
garment that one wears when one goes swimming in public."
Arturia inclined her head in thought before she answered, "Tis not
customary to wear such a garment. Tis difficult to keep clothing
secured in water."
A drop of sweat trickled down Rin's forehead. She realized that
Arturia meant to swim in the nude. Her mind started
crunching. If she agreed to swim with Arturia, she will get to
see her swim in the nude. However, she would be expected to swim
naked too. She had seen Arturia naked in the bath, but that bath
was secure from prying eyes.
Before she could stop herself, she protested, "But what if someone sees
"Haut can easily drive them away." replied Arturia casually.
"Yea. He is a trained warhorse." She walked over to Haut
and patted him gently. "Thou will protect us, right Haut?"
As if in response, Haut neighed and stamped his hoof.
Arturia turned to Rhynne. "See?" She walked to Rhynne and
sat down next to her. She picked up the Welsh book. "But if
thou art uncomfortable swimming, we shall continue thy lesson."
Was swimming with Arturia no longer an option? Her heart rebelled
and spewed forth a small cherub with black wings. The cherub flew
up to her brain where a button marked 'Inhibition Override' was and
"Nay! Let's swim!!!" cried Rin as she stood up with a fist
towards the sky. Her jaw fell when she realized what she had done.
Arturia giggled at Rin's sudden enthusiasm. She stood up and held
out a gloved hand. "Come this way to change, Milady."
Arturia led her to a clump of bushes close to the shore. She
pulled some branches aside and let her slip into a small enclosed
space. Then she followed her in.
"Shall I help thee undress?"
"If it doth not inconvenience thee..." Rin turned around to give
her access to her back. Arturia had undressed her on numerous
occasions, but she still could not get used to it. At least, she
could look forward to undressing Arturia. Oh, what fun!
They hung their clothes on an overhanging branch of a nearby
tree. Arturia offered her gloved hand once again. Hand in
hand, they waded into the lake. The water was cool and Rin
shivered slightly. When they were about waist level, Arturia
suggested, "Shall we swim to the end and back?"
Rin stiffened. She was not very good at swimming. But she
did not want to disappoint Arturia, so she nodded, "All right."
Arturia dove into the water like a fish. Rin watched her pale
lithe form disappear under the waves. Her arm resurfaced about
ten feet away. She continued to swim further.
Rin swallowed. She had to follow. She squatted until the
water was to her shoulders and dog paddled to Arturia.
Arturia switched from the breaststroke to the backstroke to get a view
of Rhynne. When she turned her head left and right, she did not
see her nearby. Alarmed, she stopped and looked around some
more. Then she saw her splashing around about thirty feet
away. She swam to her until she was about five feet away and
watched her dog paddle.
It was obvious that there was great gap between their
proficiencies. She took a deep breath and dove under about five
feet underneath Rhynne. She had seen children swim like this
before, but when Rhynne does it, there was a certain kind of innocent
charm to her efforts. She tried to maintain her position and
continued to watch silently.
Rhynne hoped that the cool water of the lake would extinguish her
burning cheeks. She watched nervously as Arturia stopped, turned
around and swam back to her. But when Arturia suddenly dove out
of her sight, she looked around her. She was not to her left or
to her right. She was not behind her either. There was only
one more direction left. Rin stopped paddling and dipped her face
into the water. Slowly, she opened her eyes.
Through the blurry water, she could see Arturia looking up at
her. And it seemed that she was getting closer. Rin
resurfaced and began to thread water. Arturia surfaced next to
her and took a few breaths.
"Mine apologies. I did not realize that thou art not as adept as
I am, and caused thee to accompany me across the lake. Though thy
skill will keep thee afloat, it will tire thee faster. If I may
be presumptuous, I would be glad to instruct thee in the finer points
"Nay... I can't possibly... ask that... of thee..." sputtered Rin as
she bobbed up and down trying to thread water. She was barely
Rhynne was obviously having trouble. If she were at sea, she
would have a hard time fighting against a strong current. Arturia
did not want to be insistent, but she felt that Rhynne needed to
understand that her swimming was very poor.
"As thou wish." Arturia submerged herself underwater and swam
underneath Rhynne. She swam to the nearest clump of reeds and
resurfaced to conceal herself behind it. She picked out a long
hollow stem to use for breathing and dove under the waters to
stealthily watch Rhynne.
"Oh no..." thought Rin as she submerged her face to look for
Arturia. "Did I offend her?" Her eyes followed Arturia for
as long as she could. Then she resurfaced for air. She
looked again, but could not find her. Her eyes quickly scanned
the waters around her. She dog paddled in the direction that she
last saw her. She hated to admit it, but she was getting a bit
tired. She dipped her face in the water again and tried to look
for her. She did this several times before she decided to head
for the shore.
The shore seemed farther than she thought. Her face was bobbing
underwater more frequently. It felt like she was not making much
progress. Panic began to well in her. Before she realized
it, she called out, "Arturia..." There was no response.
"Arturia!" Then she sank into the water up to the crown of her
head. She thrashed about to stay afloat. When she
resurfaced, she heard a splash next to her.
"Art thou all right?"
"Arturia!" Her hands reached out to her with relief.
Arturia caught them in her own. When she realized what she had
done, Rin blushed and looked away. "Umm... I... am fine."
"If thou saith so." Arturia let go of her hands and submerged
into the water.
Rin panicked. Her hands darted down to grab Arturia's. She
managed to grab her hands, but was jerked down as Arturia descended.
Arturia felt Rhynne grab her and looked up. She was spewing
bubbles into the water. Alarmed, she swam up, wrapped her arms
around Rhynne and covered her mouth with her own. She blew a bit
of air into her. They resurfaced together. Rhynne coughed
and drew several gasping breaths. Then she wrapped her arms
around her neck.
Arturia felt bad for leaving her alone. She held her
closer. The effect of doing so startled her a little. She
could feel Rhynne's heaving bosom as she drew her breath. Even
with the cool water, she could feel the warmth of her skin against
hers. She had never held her this close before. It felt
They floated in the water for a few moments before Rhynne spoke.
"Mayhap... I may need more instruction in swimming."
"As thou wish. Let us move to the shore first, so that thou may
have stable footing." Reluctantly, she unwrapped her arms around
Rhynne and held her waist.
Arturia waited for Rhynne to remove her arms around her neck.
When she did not, she smiled in amusement and cleared her throat.
"E'en with mine skill, methinks twould be difficult to swim to shore in
"Oh..." Rin pulled away and blushed in embarrassment. "Mine
"To get to shore quickly, I must ask thee to lie on thy back.
Please turn around." Rhynne complied. Arturia raised her
left arm over Rhynne's left shoulder and placed it across her chest so
that her left hand would be under Rhynne's right arm. Then she
tilted her back until her head rested on her shoulder. While
keeping Rhynne's head above water, she swam to the shore with steady
As Arturia swam underneath her, it seemed that she was lying on a bed
of water. The sky was the canopy and the clouds served as
decoration. And Arturia was... her pillow. Rin smiled at
the thought and forgot her embarrassment.
Arturia stopped when the water was about four feet deep. Then she
began to instruct Rhynne with breathing exercises and basic threading
technique. When she was satisfied with her progress, she started
to teach her breaststroke. When she had learned the basic
motions, she swam about thirty feet away.
"Swim to me." said Arturia. She held out her hands.
Rin was eager to comply. Her motions still felt awkward, but
Arturia's smiling face caused her to redouble her efforts. She
was really enjoying her instruction. Internally, she berated
herself for refusing in the beginning. She could have spent more
time learning how to swim better.
Slowly, she swam towards her. When she was about three feet away,
she kicked with all her might and grabbed the tips of Arturia's fingers.
"Good. Thou hast done well." said Arturia approvingly.
Rin beamed happily with her praise. Suddenly, their lesson was
interrupted by the call of the cuckoo.
"Ah..." Arturia sighed regretfully. She glanced at the mechanical
bird on the blanket. Time had passed quicker than she
anticipated. She shifted her hand to intertwine her fingers with
Rhynne's. "Tis time to go back."
"Yea." agreed Rin with the same regretful tone.
Hand in hand, they waded back to the clump of bushes to change.
After changing, they packed up their things and mounted Haut.
Arturia slipped her hand around Rhynne's waist. There was no need
for her to invent chivalric reasons to explain why she did it. It
had become a habit, and a good one, too. For at least once a day,
she could hold her closely without waiting for an event that would
allow her to do so. The thought brought a wide smile on her
face. Then she pulled on Haut's reins and prompted him to bring
It was time. A regal melody filled the hall as Bedivere pushed
Wybrenne's wheeled chair in time with the melody to the raised stage in
the middle of the hall. She positioned the chair at the middle of
the stage and faced the entrance of the sitting room. Although
Wybrenne wore a conservative gown as appropriate for her age, she held
herself in an elegant manner. Bedivere stood beside Wybrenne with
an air of poise and noble calmness. She presented a dashing
figure in her white and gray waistcoat, half-cloak and breeches.
If someone were to take a picture of them, they could easily be
mistaken as a noble mother and her son.
Arturia and Airianne took their cue. Arturia offered her gloved
hand and Airianne put her hand on top of Arturia's. Then Arturia
escorted Airianne to the stage. Airianne was stunning in her
pearl colored gown. Arturia looked just as dashing in her blue
and gold waistcoat and white breeches.
When they were about two feet from the stage, they bowed in courtly
fashion to Wybrenne and Bedivere. Wybrenne nodded while Bedivere
bowed to them in return. Arturia and Airianne took their places
beside Wybrenne while Bedivere walked back to the sitting room.
She stopped at the entrance and offered her hand to Rin. Rin put
her hand on top of Bedivere's and let Bedivere escort her to the
Arturia watched Rhynne approach the stage. In her flowing dark
red velvet gown, she was like a flower in bloom. She could almost
imagine her scent upon her nose. In retrospect, she should have
insisted in escorting Wybrenne to stage. That way, she would be
the one escorting Rhynne instead of Bedivere.
When they were close enough, Bedivere and Rhynne bowed to them.
As she bowed back, Arturia noted grace in which Rhynne did so.
Her eyes drunk the sight of Rhynne's braided hair, her half-lidded
eyes, the elegant curve of her pale neck and the depth her
cleavage. When she realized what she was staring at, Arturia
wrenched her eyes away with great effort.
Bedivere cleared her throat. "Ladies, we art gathered here today
to witness the coming of age of Lady Airianne who is of the most
esteemed House of Emrys. Let us welcome her warmly into our
embrace. Glory be to the one who will gain her favor
tonight." Bedivere knelt before her and offered her hand.
"If it pleases thee, may I have thy first dance?"
Airianne placed her hand out to accept. "Yea, twould give me
great pleasure to dance with thee."
Bedivere smiled roguishly and led Airianne to the dance floor.
Rin turned to the musical instruments hanging under a potted tree and
snapped her fingers to change the tune. The instruments faded the
current melody and started playing a slow waltz.
Meanwhile, Arturia asked Wybrenne to dance. Wybrenne accepted and
Arturia pushed her chair toward a padded swing hanging under the
intertwined branches of two trees. Gently, she moved Wybrenne
from the chair to the swing. Then she secured her to the swing
and adjusted its height with a nearby pulley. Arturia and
Wybrenne assumed the proper waltz hand and arm positions. Then
they began to waltz in place.
When the song finished, the dancers exchanged the customary farewell
bow and went to find a new partner. For the next dance, Arturia
partnered with Airianne and Bedivere partnered with Wybrenne.
When they assumed the starting position, Rin snapped her fingers again
to change the tune.
Wybrenne chuckled at the sight of Bedivere dancing with her. She
spoke softly. "Thou art too charming for thy own good. What
is thy proficiency in Advanced Charms and Allure?"
Bedivere matched the softness of Wybrenne's voice. "Twas the
highest the academy e'er awarded when I finished mine studies. I
know not if anyone hast bested it."
"Was thy nickname 'Dangerous Beauty'?"
"Why... twas so..." replied Bedivere with a note of surprise.
"Thy name was whispered as a legend within the halls when I studied
there long ago."
"Then I shall have to live up to the legend." Bedivere dipped her
backwards slightly and gazed into her eyes.
Wybrenne laughed softly. "Art thou trying to make me feel like a
maid again? Cease thy seduction, sir knight. Mine Merlyn
will be sore with thee. Besides, I am old."
"If thou art old, what am I?"
Wybrenne gazed back with a puzzled look in her eyes before
understanding reflected on them. "I see... so tis true.
Thou art fortunate in that respect."
"Since I am thy elder sister, thou art certainly a maid. Allow me
to treat thee as such."
"Merlyn will not let this go lightly."
Bedivere winked at her. "Tis our secret then."
They broke out into soft laughter and continued their slow waltz.
Since she was not dancing, Rin just watched the couples dance.
When Bedivere and Wybrenne started talking softly, she pricked up her
ears and tried to catch their conversation. Amidst the flirty
conversation, she deduced something that seemed illogical.
Bedivere was older than Wybrenne. And yet, Wybrenne looks very
old. She glanced at Airianne. Airianne said she was
thirty-six. She added twenty years to Airianne's age to estimate
Wybrenne's age to be fifty-six. Her jaw dropped. That would
mean that Bedivere was at least fifty-seven or more. Her eyes
drifted to Arturia who did not look a day over twenty. Bedivere
was supposedly older than Arturia, but certainly not thirty-seven years
older. In appearance, Bedivere was between twenty-five to thirty
The sight of Arturia offering her hand to dance interrupted her
thoughts. Hastily, she placed her hand on Arturia's and snapped
her fingers to start the next tune.
As she gazed into Arturia's eyes, she could not help but wonder how old
she really was. However, her thoughts melted away when Arturia
"I would like thee to know that I hath been looking forward to this
Bells were ringing with joy inside her mind. Rin felt so
happy. "M-- me too..."
Arturia pulled Rhynne a little closer. This beautiful blossom was
hers to hold for this dance.
When the dance was over, they reluctantly separated and bowed.
The dancing continued for five more songs before Bedivere announced
that they would break for dinner. They adjourned to the dining
room and ate a five-course meal. A set of flutes played while
they ate. Airianne's cooking was far more exquisite than before,
and she earned everyone's high praise.
After dinner, they bade Wybrenne good night. While waiting for
Bedivere to escort Wybrenne to her quarters, they went to the sitting
room and listened to Arturia play the harp.
When Bedivere returned, they continued to waltz for about twenty
songs. After each song, they exchanged partners. For three
songs, Rin was entertained by a waltz with Airianne while Bedivere and
Arturia challenged their skill in waltzing by switching between the
male and female roles in the middle of the song.
"Thy skill is not as lacking as thou hath spake it to be."
remarked Bedivere as Arturia led her in time with the music.
"Methinks that e'en though mine memory was lacking, mine body
Bedivere chuckled. "Indeed." She glanced over at Airianne
and Rhynne. "Her gown is quite fetching, is it not?"
Upon hearing Bedivere's statement, Arturia was speechless for a
moment. Then her eyes narrowed and a scowl formed on her
face. "Bedivere! Must thy tongue speak of Rhynne like an
"Rhynne? I spake not of her." replied Bedivere calmly.
Arturia's voice caught in her throat like a boar in a trap.
Bedivere smiled roguishly. "It seemst that thy thoughts art
preoccupied. If I may venture to suggest, please take Airianne
into consideration. Tis her ball after all."
Arturia cheeks burned with embarrassment and she did not bother to meet
Bedivere's gaze. She increased the rhythm of their steps and
hoped for the song to end.
Meanwhile, Rin tried her best to lead. There were several moments
where she almost stepped on Airianne's gown, but managed to reposition
herself at the last instance. So far, the most enjoyable waltzes
were the ones she danced with Arturia. Whenever she gazed into
Arturia's eyes, she was fairly certain that she felt the same.
After the last song, Bedivere clapped her hands and announced, "Tis
time for Lady Airianne to announce the one who hath won her favor
Airianne went to the stage to stand in its center. She looked at
everyone and declared, "Twas a difficult choice, for I hath enjoyed
mine dances with thee. But tonight, the one who stirred mine
heart the most was..." Her eyes alighted on Bedivere.
Rin gaped in astonishment. A quick glance at Arturia and Bedivere
indicated that they were surprised as well. All three of them
stood in silence until Bedivere began to clap her hands.
"Hail, Sir Arturia. The chosen one."
Arturia walked to the stage to claim her prize from Airianne. She
knelt before Airianne and offered her hand. Airianne placed her
hand on Arturia's and Arturia kissed it. Then Arturia stood up to
kiss Airianne on the cheek. But instead, Airianne moved slightly
to capture Arturia's lips with her own.
Arturia's eyes widened. At first, she wanted to push Airianne
away, but that would be humiliating for Airianne. Suddenly, the
cherry stem jest leapt into her mind. Since it was Airianne's
ball, she could be magnanimous. Her hand snaked behind Airianne's
head and her lips parted Airianne's. She guided her tongue in and
showed her what she wanted to know.
Rin stared in horror at the spectacle before her. As it went on,
she could not bear to watch anymore. She turned to run away, but
Bedivere was standing behind her and blocked her path.
"Nay... Please abide a moment." asked Bedivere. "She is
As if on cue, Airianne went limp and swooned. Arturia caught her
in her arms. Bedivere put her hand on Rin's shoulder.
"I shall not be outdone!" declared Bedivere. She pulled Rhynne
towards her and cupped the side of her face. Her large gauntlet
slightly obscured Rhynne's face from Arturia's view. Then she
dipped her and lowered her face towards hers. Before she touched
her lips, Bedivere whispered, "Count to three and pretend to
faint." And then she added, "For revenge."
Arturia watched in horror as Bedivere dipped Rhynne into her trademark
kissing position. "Wait..." she cried out and stepped toward
Bedivere and Rhynne. But she was too late. Bedivere cupped
Rhynne's face and kissed her. After a few moments, Rhynne swooned.
"Bedivere!" growled Arturia.
"Be at ease. I shall take her to bed." said Bedivere. She
took Rhynne in her arms and with long powerful strides, exited the hall.
Arturia stared after her in confusion. She told herself that
there was nothing to worry about, since Bedivere would take Rhynne back
to her room. But her mind narrowed in on Bedivere's words 'to
bed'. Her first inclination was to assume that those words
indicated Rhynne's bed. However, an insistent voice in the back
of her mind told her to make sure.
Arturia carried Airianne to the sitting room and laid her on the padded
bench. Then she hurriedly went to Rhynne's room and found it
open. She peeked inside before she entered. Rhynne was not
Arturia checked her room, then Bedivere's and even Syrowe's.
Rhynne was not there either. Where did they go? Arturia
punched her fist into her palm. With patience born out of
knightly discipline, she had endured Bedivere's teasing during the
ball. But now, she had gone too far. She would pay dearly
When Rhynne opened her eyes, they were walking hurriedly in a strange
corridor. The walls were etched with many arcane symbols.
Every twenty paces or so, they passed by a suit of armor or a statue of
a mythical beast. When they passed by a window, Rin realized
where they were when she saw the village illuminated by
moonlight. They were in the east wing.
Bedivere entered a room which appeared to be a study. Several
desks and chairs were up against the walls. A large tapestry with
faces of people was hanging from the wall. There were cabinets
full of scrolls and bound books. But what caught Rin's eye was a
cabinet full of several types of round crystal balls and other strange
trinkets. Bedivere sat her down on a chair.
"Whither art we?" asked Rin.
"We art in Airianne's study."
"Why didst thou bring me here?"
Bedivere chuckled. "Can I not engage thee in friendly
conversation? These past few days, I hardly spoke to thee unless
I was instructing thee. Besides, thou seemeth to be disturbed by
Arturia's conduct recently."
Rin bowed her head as she remembered the kiss. Her heart ached as
the image flashed in her mind.
"Fret not. Arturia is not like me. Methinks she hath done
so as a boon to Airianne." Bedivere stood up and offered her
hand. "Forgive her, and I will show thee something that will
surely interest thee."
Rin looked up. She wondered what Bedivere meant by something
interesting. She thought for a moment. Her experience with
Arturia seemed to coincide with what Bedivere said. So she put
aside her doubts, put her hand on Bedivere's and replied, "I
understand. I was just surprised, that's all."
Bedivere laughed. "Verily. She surprises me all the
time. Come. I shall show thee thy reward."
Bedivere escorted her to another room. She struck the flint by
the door to light the lamps in the room.
Rin's jaw fell in astonishment. The room was full of paintings of
Arturia. The paintings were arranged in chronological order from
her birth until the formation of the Round Table. Rin's eyes
devoured the rows of paintings.
"Incredible, is it not?" said Bedivere.
"Yea... verily." said Rin with undisguised awe.
Bedivere waited until Rhynne was done with all the walls of the
room. Then she strode over to a set of curtains. "If thou
art done, please look here."
Rin turned around to look at Bedivere. Bedivere pulled a brown
sash and drew the curtains back. Rin sucked in her breath when
she saw what was hidden behind them.
"Behold, " proclaimed Bedivere. "King Arthur."
She was majestic. No, she was beyond majestic. Arturia wore
an intricately wrought golden crown upon her head. Her intense
green eyes spoke of a calm strength and a noble heart. A blue
cloak lined with white fur and decorated with ornate silver stitching
was secured around her shoulders with a golden chain and a blue
sash. On the side of cloak was an emblem of a silver and gold
dragon. Over her blue tunic and skirt, she wore a polished set of
silver armor with embossed markings in blue. Just under the
cloak, her left hand held a golden scabbard which in turn held
Excalibur. Since she had never seen Avalon before, she could only
guess that the scabbard was Avalon.
Bedivere smiled with pride as Rhynne gazed in wonder at the painting.
"I want a copy..." thought Rin as she gazed at the painting.
"Actually, I want a copy of EVERYTHING." She would have to fetch
her camera and take pictures. And perhaps, she could spare a
jewel or two to make a duplicate of the King Arthur's painting.
A thought suddenly occurred to her. "Sir Bedivere, why didst thou
show me this?"
"All the paintings in this room were commissioned by Merlyn. As
thou can guess, she thought of Arturia as her own child. Airianne
hast a similar room, but larger." Bedivere paused. "Merlyn
loves Arturia very much, and so doth I. We would be very, very
displeased if someone were to break her heart."
Rin swallowed. Did she just hear a threat? She had to show
that she was on their side. "I understand. I, too, would be
very displeased if someone did Arturia ill."
Bedivere smiled wolfishly. "Then I am glad that we art in accord."
The door to the room opened. Airianne walked in. "Oh, so
here ye art. I was wondering where ye were." She cast a
stern look at Bedivere. "Ye dinna show her mine room, did ye?"
Bedivere laughed. "And earn thy ire? Of course not."
Bedivere drew the curtains close. "Methinks, we should adjourn to
Airianne turned to Rin. "Oh! Sir Arturia was looking for
"All right, let me go find her."
"I'll show ye where to look."
Rin and Bedivere followed Airianne into her study. She went to a
map on a table and waved her hand over a crystal ball. "Sir
A tiny figure of Arturia materialized on top of the map. She was
at the lily pond and was walking about.
"Can this map show ye where everyone is?" asked Rin with a sense of
"Aye." replied Airianne. She waved her hand over the
crystal. "Lady Rhynne and Sir Bedivere." They showed up on
the eastern part of the map.
"Amazing..." said Rin.
"Verily." Airianne pointed to Arturia's little image.
"Methinks she's going to the lower levels now."
"I beg thy pardon. Allow me to go to her."
Bedivere nodded. "I shall escort thee to the sitting room."
They walked through that strange corridor again. Rin's mage sense
indicated that the entire hallway was enchanted to only let certain
people pass. That was probably why Bedivere was escorting her to
the sitting room. She glanced at Bedivere and wondered how she
was granted access to the east wing.
When they reached the sitting room, she bade Bedivere good night and
went to search for Arturia. She found her as she was descending
down the stairs to the laundry room.
"Rhynne!" cried Arturia with obvious relief. She reached
out to take Rhynne's hands in her own. "Art thou well?"
"Yea. I am."
"I am glad!" Her face grew dark. "Did Bedivere do anything
unusual to thee?"
Rin shook her head. "Nay. Be at ease."
Arturia sighed with relief. "Thank God! I feared that she
was going to..." She stopped abruptly and berated herself.
She almost let out an indiscretion.
Arturia shifted her hand to intertwine her fingers with Rhynne.
"Tis of no matter. Shall we leave this place?"
Rin nodded and so they made they way back to their rooms. When
they were near Arturia's room, Arturia turned to her.
"If it pleases thee, may I have the last dance for tonight?"
Rin's eyes grew wide and her heart leapt with anticipation. She
smiled at Arturia and replied, "Twould be mine pleasure."
They entered Arturia's room and selected a wide space to waltz
on. Then they began a slow waltz. The only music that Rin
could hear was the beating of her own heart in her ears. And the
only thing that she could see were Arturia's intense green eyes.
Arturia held her so closely that she could almost feel her breath upon
Arturia gazed in wonder at the beautiful flower that she held in her
hands. The familiar scent of camellia wafted in the air. It
felt so intoxicating as she inhaled its fragrance. She gazed into
Rhynne's eyes and felt trapped in its deep blue depths. Those
eyes seemed to pull her in and she bent slightly closer to
comply. It was then that she saw her own face reflected in
Rhynne's eyes. It was then that she knew the answer to her
Her face inched forward until the tips of their noses touched.
She paused for a moment to observe Rhynne's reaction. Rhynne's
eyes indicated surprise, but her lips parted slightly. Arturia
smiled at the invitation and bridged the distance to accept it
When their lips touched, a tingling jolt spread out from her spine to
her hands and feet. Her heart began to beat rapidly as she
caressed Rhynne's lips slowly. The taste of her lips seeped onto
her tongue. Its sweetness spread across her mouth and she savored
it. Her hand left Rhynne's waist to snake its way behind her
She could no longer resist. Her tongue parted Rhynne's lips and
entered her mouth. She shifted slightly to deepen the kiss and
the hand behind her head helpfully assisted in the effort.
Rhynne's hand trembled in her own and told her what she needed to know
as she explored her mouth. As she sampled the luscious nectar of
this beautiful flower, she thanked God above for his kindness.
But God was not that generous. Rhynne suddenly went limp in her
arms. She drew back in alarm. The blood dripping from her
nose proclaimed the reason why. She gritted her teeth in
frustration as she carried her to her bed. As she applied the
usual treatment, she was reminded of the first time Rhynne fainted in
her arms. In her mind, the last piece of a puzzle fell into place
and her heart filled with delight at the discovery.
The wonder in her voice was louder than her whisper. "Didst thou
love me then?" She cradled her closer and kissed her cheek.
When the bleeding stopped, Arturia changed out of her coat and breeches
and into her sleeping gown. Then she took off Rhynne's shoes,
loosened her gown and undid her braids to make her sleep more
comfortably. When she was done, she gazed at Rhynne's face and
stroked her cheek.
It was her fault. She should have restrained herself. It
was God's punishment for her indulgence. Next time, she would be
more careful. She doused the candles and drew the curtains
shut. Then she planted a gentle kiss on Rhynne's lips to wish her
good night. She snuggled against her and for once, dreamt of a
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