A Thousand Shades of Feeling,
© By Taleweaver
Sexual Disclaimer I'll warn you, there are same sex goings-on in this story. If the thought of two women making love makes you uncomfortable, drop this story or hit the back button now. But if I may borrow a line from Lucy Lawless herself..."This is a story of two people, two souls, in love..."
Life has no meaning but that which you give it
To me, the gender of our soul's shell is unimportant. What matters is the search for our soul's other half.
I welcome constructive feedback at Taleweaver
It is a book whose pages are blank
Waiting for the pen of experience to leave its mark
And yet, trembling on the edges of vision
Are the shadowy words which,
If read by the pure heart
Lead the way to what might be.
With Merlin in a comfortable chair, Morrigan settled herself close by and began to read from her first draft.
"In the age of ancient Kings, brigands and ruthless warlords, there lived a warrior and a bard. They traveled the land together, fighting for justice and understanding and shared many adventures. This is a tale of just one of their adventures..."
An hour later…
..."They worked feverishly side by side but they were unable to staunch the flow of blood. When the child gave his last shuddering breath, the bard raised her eyes to the heavens and bellowed her rage to the Gods.
'Why??? He didn't have to die!!'
The warrior gently closed the child's eyes and drew the bard close, allowing her to mourn the loss of such a young life."
Morrigan looked up from her paper to see Merlin watching her with rapt attention; waiting for the next word, the next sentence.
"That's it Merlin, that's all I have written so far. Just those few chapters."
"Wow, that's captivating Morrigan. Will you read me the rest when you finish it?"
Morrigan smiled, those were the words she'd been hoping to hear.
"Of course." She crossed the room to peer studiously into Merlin's eyes, and not just because she liked looking into them. "Your eyes look better, you can probably sleep now. How do you feel?"
"More solid, less rubbery." Merlin stood up and tested her legs, knowing they would support her now. "Still tired though."
"Well come to bed then."
Merlin raised her left eyebrow as a teasing grin settled on her face.
"Was that an invitation?"
Morrigan smiled innocently. "Not how you hope I mean it until you're healed. I want to be close to you with that head injury, and beside me in my bed is as close as I can think of."
Settled in the large bed beside Morrigan, Merlin had to admit that she felt better despite her splitting headache.
"About earlier...I wanted to..."
Merlin rolled over and put a silencing finger on Morrigan's lips.
"I know what you're about to say. Don't thank me Morr. It changes the feeling, trust me."
When the finger had been removed Morrigan propped herself up on one elbow and studied Merlin.
"I was about to say that I wanted to do the same for you when you're feeling better." Morrigan smiled as she brushed gentle knuckles along Merlin's cheek. "The waiting will be hard, but hopefully I'll make it worth your wait."
"Mmmn, I'm sure you will." Merlin leaned into Morrigan's touch enjoying the sensation.
"Roll over Merl, I'll rub your back."
Merlin did as she'd been told.
For a woman who lived on a farm and made a living with her hands, Morrigan's touch was feather-light and soft as down. Her fingertips skipped over Merlin's skin tracing designs and names and just barely touching the scars beneath her fingers. In no time at all she heard Merlin's breathing change and deepen, and she knew that she'd put her friend to sleep. Morrigan smiled and lay down, feeling very proud of herself. In her mind, she knew everything she wanted to do to Merlin. She wanted it to be perfect for the tall woman with so many scars inside and out, she wanted to show Merlin they were destined to be together. But most of all, she wanted to ask Merlin to stay with her. She knew now that, despite what she'd thought earlier, she wasn't just a pleasant distraction for Merlin. But she couldn't help but wonder if they had a future together. With these thoughts running rampant through her mind, Morrigan closed her eyes and went to sleep. It was a restless sleep filled with images not unlike those in her book. The bard and the warrior lived not only in the pages of her prose, but also in her dreams. This night with the power of mystical, ancient patterns, they battled an evil sorceress. It was a hard battle, barely won. But it drew the warrior and bard closer together than they already were. As they walked down a non-descript road, the warrior spoke quietly.
"Who knows? Maybe we've walked down this road before huh?"
She smiled and Morrigan finally noticed that the warrior's eyes were the same as Merlin's. With the image fresh in her mind, Morrigan was jolted from sleep and sat bolt upright in bed.
The writer sat in the predawn light going over her dream so she wouldn't forget anything about it. Not the deep, raspy sound of the sorceress's voice, not the intense, sharp pain she'd made the friends feel with her dark powers, not the graceful, inscrutable designs that gave the warrior and bard the power to dispel the darkness. She made sure she had committed each detail to memory, kissed her own warrior lightly and left the warm bed for her computer. It was there that Merlin found her an hour later, typing furiously with an intense look of concentration. Merlin tiptoed out of the living room and back into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. Just as the dark, pungent liquid filled the carafe; Morrigan stepped behind Merlin and wrapped her arms around the thin waist.
"How's the head?"
Merlin turned to face Morrigan and took the writer in her arms.
"Better. Thanks for keeping me awake. I enjoyed what you read to me. How long have you been up?"
"An hour or so. I had a dream that practically cried out to be included in the book. Let's go watch the sunrise out on the swing."
"Tell me about your dream?"
"Only if you pour the coffee." Morrigan laughed.
They sat on the swing out on the large porch, cuddling under a blanket while sun spread its first rays over the farm. When the sphere's glorious display was over, Merlin asked about the dream that had pulled Morrigan from her bed. Morrigan told her everything she had seen, everything she had felt, the sounds and smells that had made it so much more than just a dream.
"There was this feeling that I sometimes get with certain dreams...Like the whole thing isn't a dream, but a memory. This one was different though. I saw the whole thing through the bard's eyes, I felt everything she did. I felt like she was...me."
"You say the warrior had my eyes?"
"And your smile, the eyebrow thing you do...There was so much of her in you, or you in her...I don't know."
"Are you sure you aren't projecting me into your dreams?"
"My dreams, the special ones anyway, started before we met and she's been in them from the beginning. There's something to these dreams, I just don't know what..."
Silence settled over them as they listened to the sounds of the farm in the early morning. Merlin got them both more coffee and snuggled in the blanket again, surprised at how natural it felt.
"Do you ever get the feeling that we've done this before?" Morrigan rested her head on Merlin's shoulder.
"I don't know...It feels right doesn't it?"
"Mmmm, sure does."
They finished their coffee in silence.
They were in the expansive garden weeding in the mid-morning sun when Morrigan's mind drifted again. The weeding was automatic work and it was difficult to keep her mind off the thought she'd had earlier. In her heart, she was beginning to believe that she and Merlin had known each other's souls when they'd met. It was an intriguing thought that would explain some of the attraction they felt for one another. Kneeling between the onions and garlic,
Merlin glanced up at her companion and shook her head.
'Off in her head again...' She thought while a small smile slipped onto her features.
"Penny for your thoughts Morr."
"Hmm?" Morrigan blinked at the carrot patch she'd intended to weed but hadn't touched. "Oh...drifted off again didn't I?"
Merlin grinned at what she hoped was a blush and not sunburn. "Why don't you take a break...?" She straightened and stepped over the vegetables to Morrigan."...And grab us something cold to drink while I dump these weeds in the burning barrel. I'll meet you on the porch and we'll sit on the swing for a bit. You look like you could be getting burned, maybe you should sit in the shade."
"Sure, it's getting warmer than I expected it would. A break sounds good."
Merlin watched her stroll toward the house and up the steps, then pushed the wheelbarrow over to the burning barrel.
From the shadows of the furthest end of the driveway, he watched them. When they sat on the swing holding hands, he lowered the binoculars with a sneer on his wide face.
"The first step is to get rid of her...friend." He whispered to himself. "Separate them, deal with them one at a time. I can take my time with her then..." He raised the glasses again and watched them talk, touching tenderly every so often. It was obvious even to him that they cared for one another. "Maybe that's the ticket...Use the dark haired one against her...Yeah..."
Merlin wove her fingers between Morrigan's and enjoyed the breeze that ruffled her hair. With the trim form of the writer tucked close beside her, the wind in her hair and the turquoise sky above, Merlin could almost forget the reason she was there. She looked down at the blond head nestled in the hollow of her shoulder and smiled softly. Laying her cheek against the golden crown, Merlin breathed in the scent of Morrigan's shampoo and sighed happily. But reality and logic crept in, and Merlin's smile faded as she lifted her head and squared her shoulders.
"Hey..." Merlin nudged the silent body beside her. "...Why don't you work inside where it's cooler? Maybe write some more."
Morrigan lifted her head and peered up at Merlin.
"You trying to get rid of me?"
"No, of course not." Merlin tried to sound reassuring. "But I have to paint the chicken coop while the temperature is right, and you look like you've gotten a bit too much sun. Those weeds won't go anywhere on their own..." Merlin looked at her companion winningly, "Besides, I was looking forward to hearing more of your story tonight after supper."
Morrigan smiled back lazily. "Okay. You want another glass of lemonade?"
"Not yet, I'm just going to get right to it." Merlin stood and stretched, feeling her bones pop back into place.
Morrigan accepted the outstretched hand and stood also, but was drawn into a kiss before she could stretch.
"Be careful on that ladder." She said softly before going indoors.
Trying to ignore the gnawing feeling of unease deep in her gut, Merlin threw herself into her task and had the coop painted sooner than she expected. With the paint and brushes put away, she wandered through the barn in search of a jack. By the time Morrigan came out on the porch to call her in for dinner, the old green truck had been stripped of two of its slashed tires.
Even before she'd reached the foot of the stairs, Merlin could smell the tomato sauce and garlic bread. Her mouth was watering by the time she stepped into the kitchen and joined Morrigan at the stove.
"What can I do?"
"Um...set the table?"
As Merlin flipped her shower -damp hair over her shoulder, she took a deep breath.
"Morrigan, do you think you could stay indoors as much as possible for the next few days?"
"Why? What's up?"
The bodyguard set their plates out and leaned on the back of a chair.
"I've got a feeling...And there's a chicken missing. I think you'd be safer indoors that's all." Morrigan finished putting the pasta, sauce and garlic bread out on the table and leaned on an opposite chair. Merlin could tell by the set of the blonde’s jaw that she was in for an argument.
"I'm not afraid Merlin. I'd rather face this head on instead of hiding out in here while you put yourself in danger." Morrigan's words were quiet but her tone was firm.
"That's what I do Morr. I put myself in danger to keep people alive...To keep you alive."
Morrigan looked down at the table for a long, silent minute and then back at her friend.
"Where you go, I go." Then she deliberately turned her back on Merlin and busied herself retrieving a bottle of wine from the fridge.
Merlin blew out a frustrated breath and looked at the floor.
"Grab the wineglasses, would you please Merl?" Morrigan was cheerful and bright as if their disagreement hadn't even happened.
When they'd eaten their fill, Merlin pushed away from the table and groaned.
"Man, am I full...Where did you learn how to make spaghetti like that?"
Morrigan gathered up their dirty dishes before answering.
"Verne taught me. Still interested in that story?"
"As soon as I change into something more...stretchy."
"I'll meet you in the living room with the wine." Morrigan smiled brightly and filled the sink with hot soapy water while Merlin groaned all the way upstairs.
With a fire crackling in the hearth and the wine close by, the two friends settled themselves comfortably at either end of the sofa. Morrigan flipped through her papers, looking for the right paragraph, while Merlin looked on expectantly.
"Oh...okay, I've found it. Ready?"
Merlin nodded and Morrigan cleared her throat.
"J’Dar was bitter and angry with the Gods for a long time and withdrew into herself, deep in confusion and depression. The warrior came to miss her friend's cheerful chatter and story telling around the fire at night..."
Merlin's eyes flicked to the fireplace and then back to Morrigan's face.
"...And so tried everything she could think of to bring her friend out of the depths of her depression. Nothing worked. Not long swims in sun-drenched lakes, not stays in comfortable inns, not even shopping excursions in the best markets. Finally one morning when J’Dar, the bard, hadn't touched a bite of food for the fourth day in a row, the warrior made a decision to head for the mountains. After camp was broken and the horse saddled, J’Dar settled herself behind the determined warrior without argument on the dappled steed. They rode all day with few breaks and by sunset were outside the cave that Athyn had been headed for."
"Not far off, there was a small lake surrounded by good grass and it was here that Athyn took off Garo's tack allowing the mare to roam free. As melancholy as J’Dar was, she still performed her share of camp duties. Retrieving wood and fresh water offered a small sense of continuity and solace, so it wasn't long before the expansive cave began to take on a comfortable feeling. By the time Athyn came back with two wild fowl for dinner, their blankets had been laid out and tea was made. While J’Dar went to the lake to roll the cleaned birds in mud, Athyn poured out the bard's tea and made a new cup with herbs from a pouch. By the time the quiet storyteller came back, she was innocently sharpening her sword. J’Dar silently watched the fowl bake in the coals while she drank her tea and by the time her cup was empty, the warrior suspected her companion might be ready to talk. When Athyn asked J’Dar for a story, the bard merely shook her head and claimed her heart wasn't in it and rolled up in her blankets. When Athyn pointed out that she hadn't eaten anything yet, her friend mumbled that she wasn't hungry. Athyn sighed and put her sword down, then went to sit at her companion's back.
'Tell me what's going on, please. This isn't like you.' The bard answered so quietly that anyone else wouldn't have heard, but Athyn's keen hearing picked up every word.
'I don't know who I am anymore...' came the whisper.
The warrior put a comforting hand on J’Dar's shoulder and waited. 'Every time I think we're making a difference, the Gods play a cruel trick on us. Sometimes I wonder if maybe...I should stop trying so hard. Go home and admit I was wrong.' Unseen by the self-doubting bard, Athyn lowered her head and allowed silent tears to fall. She swallowed and prayed for the right words.
'I won't tell you what to do; only you can decide that. Let me tell you this though, you have grown so much from who you were when we first met that sometimes you're like a completely different person. You're more mature, wise and even more determined than you were then. If you really want to...go home...I'll respect your decision but I will miss you. I value our friendship more than you'll ever know. Your input means a lot to me. Your sense of peace, of justice, your...light...guides me and keeps me on my path.'
'How can I be your light when I'm lost myself Athyn?'
'Love J’Dar, love. That's what keeps me fighting for the greater good, my love for you. I love you. Use that as a guide to get through this. Don't question whether you make a difference, think about all the people you've saved every time you've kept me from returning to my dark ways, think about the war you stopped, the peace you created when we took that child back to her birth parents...'
'I didn't do that.'
'Yes you did. You convinced me to take her back when I argued against it, and because of your belief in the good of humanity, a truce was created and lives were saved.'
'Wait...you said...you love me?'
Athyn took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
'Yes, I did. It's the truth. I do love you...' Athyn’s voice failed her when the bard sat up and wrapped her arms around the leather-clad body. They held one another in the firelight, J’Dar shedding tears of relief and Athyn shedding tears of release over a secret kept too long. They talked long into the night, each of them confessing their love for one another and admitting why they'd been afraid to acknowledge it. The sun poked its rays into the mouth of the cave the next morning and woke a warrior who'd wrapped herself around the sleeping bard. When she peered down and witnessed the peaceful expression on her friend’s face, Athyn knew that everything would be alright and indulged in a couple more hours of sleep.'
When Morrigan glanced at Merlin over the rim of the wineglass, she was surprised to see tears in the pale blue eyes. With her dry throat parched, Morrigan went to kneel beside her friend.
"I could see them so clearly, almost feel their anguish...I've never been so moved by simple words Morrigan..." Merlin rose quickly and went to poke at the fire.
Morrigan knew the dark woman was trying to deal with emotions she wasn't used to feeling, so she refilled their glasses slowly to give her companion some space. By the time she'd finished, Merlin's breathing had evened out so she went to sit beside her on the hearth. After giving Merlin her glass, Morrigan sat silently with her arm around Merlin's shoulders pleased that she'd been able to move a bruised heart towards it's own healing. At the end of a long silence, Merlin's put her arm around Morrigan.
"Ever since my mother died, I swore I would never love anyone that much again. I was convinced that love led to loss Morrigan.... I closed off my heart so that I wouldn't be hurt again. And then Nikky came into my life..." Merlin grew thoughtful, and when she spoke again it was in an emotion-choked voice.
"I was very close to her, almost in love I guess...but when she was killed I was heartbroken. The police never found the killer..." Morrigan took her arm off the wide shoulders and intertwined her fingers with Merlin's and then took a deep breath.
"Our justice system has a lot of loopholes and a lot of people feel there is no justice...I think Athyn would've understood."
Merlin looked out the corner of her eye and waited.
"When the dreams first started, it really bothered me that she killed so many. But after awhile I began to see that she killed when there were no other choices. Their system was like ours, based on punishment and reform. Overcrowded jails, false claims of reform, lenient sentences...there are times that natural justice is the best kind. But you know, I've learned that everything has a balance. For every act of evil, there is an act of kindness; for every pain inflicted on a heart, love will soothe and heal another..."
Morrigan raised their clasped hands to her cheek and lightly kissed Merlin's knuckles. "Think about that the next time your nightmares haunt you Merlin, and remember I love you." she whispered. Then she got up and went to bed, leaving Merlin with her thoughts.
Continued: Chapter 5