*Previously published by Erotic SF under the pseudonym Anastasia C.

A Tale of Love by Kate Hill
Let me remind you of a world awash in glorious blood, of dogs crying out in battle, of glistening swords and dented armor of silver mail... Let me remind you of the fever of war, of floating funeral pyres drifting on the midnight sea, the spirits of dead warriors rising to meet the smiling face of the moon mother... I still feel the warmth of your kiss, the taste of your blood when you rode home from untold sorrows and swept me into your granite embrace. I’d waited by the fire, night after night, alone in a home of rock , mud, and wood, forged by our hands. Each thread in every tapestry upon the wall was sewn with the memory of your touch, your words. The needle pierced the dyed blue fabric as longing pierced my heart each day of your absence. The brave must fight, they say. The warriors. That’s how they saw you, courageous, strong warrior. Your life was worth only the sharpness of your sword, the power of your cunning. You were much more, but only I could see it, feel it. How I felt it on the eve when you returned. . . *** Alana wrote the tale for her husband to combat her loneliness while he was away. She’d smiled at him, kissed him goodbye, and wished him luck. She’d pretended to grow hard to his duty, but inside she screamed. The woman in her continued silently, steadily with her work. As a healer, others depended on her. She wasn’t allowed the luxury of indulging her concern. Still, at night, by flickering candle flames, she dipped quill in ink and etched a tale of love, one she had lived countless times before and prayed she would live again. Then it ended. His sword of silver, set with a jewel the same dark, winter-night blue as his eyes, was returned to her, encrusted with blood and dirt. “They were outnumbered,” said the willowy boy in the King’s leather and silks who bowed before her, “but they held out until reinforcements came. He was a lion. The King remembered him with honors.” Alana nodded, tears frozen in her eyes. Remembered with honors, but only I will remember him with love... She comforted herself with the thought that such honors from the King would please him. In his way, he had loved her, but he had also loved the glory of battle. It was in his blood. Now it had his blood. Forever.

and wailed her climax to the forest outside their home. a tale that meant nothing. See if your beautiful daughter can make it for you!” Micah chuckled. Only such power could have enticed Agos to marry a small. muddy-skinned rabbit like you. strongest men in the village. He was needed. Alana stood. “Great healer.. She’d scarcely reached Agos’ shoulder in height. clasped his lean sides with her smooth. She remembered the feeling of Agos’ chest beneath her palm. “But I’m a healer. In spite of her strong veneer. She had burned a page every night from the time the King’s herald had brought her Agos’ sword. On her table. dark-eyed. curved thighs. dead—” “Silence. her eyes like molasses. It was a fine chest to clutch and rake with tense fingers when she straddled him naked. and look at you.. “Else I’ll forget to leave the salve for your twisted limbs. sharpened it as she’d seen him do so many times. the nails short. The villagers noted her discomfort. “I miss you. Alana sat by the cascade behind her empty house and cried. the small one he’d made for her out of oak with the legs carved into the shape of cats’ feet. hag!” Alana snarled close to Micah’s moldy ear. Revered by all for your skill and wisdom. So smug you looked on your wedding day. brushing pebbles and dirt from her brown dress. blond hairs. but celebrated. Agos. the skin roughened by constant washing and handling of herbs. but Agos chose you over her. His death in battle should not be mourned. rested the crinkled parchment pages of her tale. but few offered condolences. Alana sighed. It was hard. gemstone-eyed inhabitants of her village. So pleased. It was small but strong. Micah’s cruel words were true.” the old woman taunted Alana. Only Micah. but he’d been one of the tallest. and placed it in the corner where it always rested when he was home. All Alana had ever possessed were deft hands and keen intelligence. An owl perched on the tree above her hooted in answer. She looked down at her hand.But did I have his heart? Inside. but she didn’t speak again. her hair black as a doe’s hoofs. less anguished.” she said aloud. she was dark. Agos had been invited to enter the guard. after this last battle. the eel-skinned old woman with crippled hands and feet. round cheeks with her knuckles. My soul is dead. My grandchildren are many. Her husband lives. “Look at you now. the sound of bark being scraped from a dead tree. She was the wife of a warrior. Needed. she cleaned his sword. Now I’m glad of it. since no one would ever read it. wiping her smooth. and little has changed for me. pale-haired. It was a good chest to rest her cheek against. but my hands are required.” . found humor in Agos’ death. the warm flesh over muscle marked with scars and dusted with soft. It made her feel safe. Unlike the tall. His physique had shamed even the King’s guards. wife of a great. My daughter was beautiful.

gloved hands guided the reins. I’m becoming as mad as that old bitch Micah. the slow. leather-clad legs braced the saddle. dark blue eyes fixed on hers with longing. The King’s messenger brought me your sword. rocky forest floor chaffing her bare feet. pressed a soft kiss to the dried ink. and she ran to him. took up the heavy sword glistening in the firelight. “It’s been forever since I’ve touched something so soft. and placed it at bottom of the trunk at the foot of their—her—bed. like flowers and herbs. His hold was too hard. Mother of the gods! Alana’s fingers clutched the window frame. Her body hungered. Maybe Micah put her daughter’s husband up to it. Her breath caught in her throat. I’ve missed you. Draft horse. Too heavy for one of the villager’s ponies. her nails splintering wood. Why doesn’t it stop? She walked to the window and sighed. plump curves. “Alana. leather.” His voice was rough with emotion as he pulled her into his arms. She stood immobile. black waves of her hair. Dusk set in. Patches of gray sky shone through the treetops like dapples on a pony’s flanks. He dismounted. Her hand trembled on the edge of the door. Closer it came. She forgot everything except him.” He shook his head and silenced her with a kiss. A muscle flexed in his square jaw shadowed by several days’ growth of beard. Then she heard it echoing through the well-trodden path in front of her house. She stepped outside. A draft horse from someone playing a cruel joke. The rider seemed to stop breathing as well. ignoring the cold. save the frantic beating of her heart that blocked out the sound of the hooves and nearly stole her vision. “Agos?” Alana whispered. She took the last page of her tale from the desk. A fantasy.. heavy plodding of hooves.” He lowered her to the ground and took her face in his hands. though her heart pounded. yet she knew he had much to tell. her thumbs awakening her nipples beneath the rough fabric. but her spirit was still too numb to eat. Alana forced her legs to move. but she didn’t care as she buried her face in his neck and inhaled the scent of horses. The rider’s sinewy. The tall war stallion with a coat as red as blood turned down the root-strewn pathway. his thumbs caressing her cheeks. It was chaste at first. she told herself. ordered her numb feet to walk to the door and open it. He didn’t speak. a kiss of untainted . sweat. louder. Too heavy for a herald’s mount. steel: A warrior’s scent..She walked inside. “By the horns of the War God’s helmet. She forgot her shoes by the fire. His wide-set. This is a dream. Alana’s hands strayed to her breasts and traced the firm.” “They told me you were dead. and tossed it into the flames.” he murmured into the soft. “You smell so good.

but I was left. For several moments neither moved. Her arms slipped around his neck. Said I was strong in war and stupid in everything else. I passed the old woman. Many were lost.” He smiled faintly.” Alana looked up at him. seen you writing words of love to some other man.” “And you believed him?” He shook his head. more from pleasure than cold. “You’ve taken a lover. “She and her daughter are still furious about our marriage.. A sound of pleasure rose from deep in his chest. It’s expected that a beautiful woman with the power to heal wouldn’t sleep alone. and his tongue reached for hers. I never had any intention of marrying her. “No. but he clasped her hands in his and held them to his chest. stroking it.In the village. “The field was cleared. She shivered.” “Words of love?” Alana’s brow furrowed then she laughed.” “Love me?” Alana smiled softly and ran her fingertip over his jaw. “You wrote a story for me?” “When I learned of your death.” “Then they’re both insane. undecided if she was more hurt by the pain he struggled to conceal or by the sting of his accusation. He explored every inch of her warm. He never told me. teasing it..affection. She said her daughter had watched you. She laughed. against the warmth of his shaggy wool cloak. Micah. The one I wrote for you. “My story. “It was a hard battle. I burned it.” She lifted her chin. He took my sword and left me with the knowledge that you’d taken a lover in my absence. He lowered her to the bed. Had it not been for him.. It was too painful. She covered his face with kisses as he stepped inside and kicked the door shut behind them. his eyes intent. A drifter found me and cared for me.” He gathered her into his arms. I was badly wounded when the King’s brother found me. wet mouth.” “I have only one lover. and still I don’t know his name. “The King’s brother is cousin to Micah. “You must be freezing. She tore at his clothes. “Never. and she traced the shape of his mouth with the tip of her tongue..” Her dark eyes widened.” He drew her into his arms and rested his cheek against the top of her head. “You never said that . I’ve loved you since I was a boy.” “But you thought I was dead. I would have died. I thought only of you and the possibility that another man might be.” he stated.

Her heart throbbed as he moved to her other breast while his callused hands lifted her chemise to her waist and stroked her legs. It’s been so long . until his fingers dipped into her pussy. and boots followed. his hands grasping her waist and pulling her close. hard cock.. He closed his eyes and reached for her. When she squirmed restlessly against him.. though only partially aroused. then her clenching inner thighs. He placed his palm over her sex and kneaded gently. and legs. caressing the delicate curve of bone and flesh. The sensation of his tongue through the fabric drove her mad with desire. he was as she remembered.. so she wouldn’t miss a glimpse of his nude body.” “Facing death makes a man think. she smiled and stroked tendrils of thick blond hair from his forehead. Suddenly her arms locked around his neck. She clutched his shoulders as his hand explored. aching clit. Moving higher. his touch became softer. his tongue soaking the fabric as he teased her nipple to alertness. pausing only to gather more wetness from her quivering slit. She smiled wantonly and curled her small fist around the soft. already thick and long. hiding the lust she knew floated on the surface of his eyes. He grunted softly in reply. rediscovering a body he’d loved so many times and had dreamed of for months. His shirt. higher. He’s home. . Other than a slight loss of weight due to his injury. . and she climaxed. he slipped his cock inside her hot. buttocks. honey-colored hairs sprinkled his powerful chest. His golden lashes flickered against his face. She forced her eyes open so she could see his face as his orgasm approached. His tongue and teeth made passionate love to her ear. He drove her higher.” He untied his cloak and let it fall to the floor. Her sighs turned to high-pitched moans of pleasure as he slowly. part animal separated too long from his mate. He tensed with pleasure. His mouth covered one of her breasts. Thin. “Agos. Supporting his weight on his forearms. smooth shaft as she touched her lips to the new scar on his chest. he used one finger to trace tiny circles over her hard. . His finger teased. His flat. throbbing pussy. the motion causing her to sigh and turn to liquid in his arms. hard stomach tapered to lean hips and well-muscled thighs. A flush tinted his high cheekbones. .” She was breathless. . First he caressed the silky muscles of her outer thighs. biting her lobe. Her eyes focused on his cock. part man. gasping aloud. The blow that nearly killed him. Before she completely recovered. his chest hair a rough caress against her breasts.before. trousers. She tugged her dress over her head quickly. tenderly stroked her. Muscles knotted his broad shoulders. His lips parted as he murmured the endearments she’d longed to hear. her thighs clasped his hand. and a pink. white scars from old battles marked his flesh. newer one ran across his pectorals. In a moment of clarity between her first climax and the one soon approaching. She wore only a chemise of transparent cotton. he impaled her over and again with his thick. Curling.

*** Let me remind you of a world where love overthrows falsehoods. The End . where power is not only in the hand that heals or the hand that slays in battle. Let me tell you a tale of lovers who left behind a village of venomous lies and unworthy royals and traveled across plains of ice on a blood-red steed to create a kingdom of their own.

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