I sincerely hoped he was not too upset with me and quite a bit afraid that he probably would be. I guessed that in his eyes I had probably committed some form of betrayal, much like that thought he’d had about me turning the robe from matching black to my own colour of blue and green.
I couldn’t see him ahead on the road, and I couldn’t sense him either. There was a hill rising ahead and I remembered a long stretch of empty road. I urged the horse to run faster and it powered its way up the hill, bringing its strong back legs underneath it and exploding forward on every stride. At the top of the hill I slowed him and looked ahead.
Lucian was nowhere to be seen. The road stretched for miles and miles and nothing moved on it at all. I scanned for life signs and found the root digging family, weary to the bone and hungry, still at work. I found a shepherd far from the road. I found small creatures of all kinds and slaughter beasts in their paddocks, and a group of children playing in a glen a long way off, but not a hint or a trace of Lucian nor his horse.
Frustrated, I reigned the horse in to a full stop. My thighs were burning from the saddle, my bottom was sore and I had a gathering knot of fear in my stomach.
Lucian! I called in my mind as clearly as I could. Lucian, where are you? and without me wanting to, a small, I’m sorry …attached itself to the second call.
The wind blew lightly, the sun continued to sink towards the horizon, the horse moved randomly beneath me and the leather tack creaked, my own heart beat loud in my throat and that was it.
I felt a strange sense of panic rising. Was he this angry with me? Or had the Serein come and taken him and left me here, all alone? Was he hiding or had something terrible happened to him?
And then, from out of nowhere, his presence appeared strongly, down below and to the left from me, a good way from the road, as though he had winked into existence that very moment.
Come, I felt his familiar touch inside my head, how long are you going to keep me waiting here? I have something to show to you.
I nearly staggered with the sheer relief of having him back in my world to orientate myself by. Dear sisters of conscience, but how I had become attached to him in this way. I was not used to feeling like this and I didn’t like it, yet the relief was blissful and I had already thoughtlessly turned the horse towards the direction of his call. We cantered swiftly down the hill and then off the road and into the brush land where there was no trail nor road.
Not long later, there was a rise in front, like a low plateau. The black rushed up it in a fluent fashion and I saw a flat, bushless grass area stretching out straight and circular. In the centre, there were some large stones and I could see framed against the evening sky, Lucian’s black grazing peacefully.
The closer we came to the stones, the more I noticed that there was something very strange about that place. It had a strange spiralling energy, very dense, very old, very powerful that got stronger and stronger and slowed my horse without any doing of mine first to a short canter, then a trot, then a walk, then a very reluctant walk.
Lucian? I called out in my mind, unsure, but the strange heavy energy muffled and distorted my call and it died at the distance away from me.
He stepped out from behind one of the massive stones which were three times higher than he was and waved to me.
I got off the horse with a great sense of relief and noted in passing that it made straight for its companion. I made straight for mine.
He met me halfway and looked down at me expectantly.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked out loud, for the energies here were now so high that I could neither sense him in our usual way nor link to him.
“What is this place?” I asked back, too loud and as though the storm that was around my mind was noise from a real wind.
He actually chuckled in return.
“This is a very old holy place,” he said. “It has been here for many thousands of years. No-one knows any more who built it.”
I found it hard to breathe or concentrate and my eyes flashed from one stone to another – there were quite a few, more than ten, anyhow – until Lucian reached out and took my hand in his. Immediately, the storm subsided to a whisper around us and I felt better. I tried to reach him and link with him but still there was nothing there.
“If you ever need to hide away from all sorcery, this is the place to be,” he said to me and smiled.
I was extremely aware of his big, hard, cool hand around mine but still had trouble focussing properly.
“Why I didn’t I feel this from the road?” I asked. “This is so …”
“Powerful,” he finished my sentence for me. “Yes it is. But you have to be here, all around there is some kind of shield that keeps all of this inside. I think that’s why it’s so dense in here, or why you can’t do a damn thing in here.”
A thought occurred to me. “If we are here, can the Serein get us?”
He looked down at me and smiled. “I don’t think so.”
I looked around at the stones, the plateau, the grazing horses, the emptiness and strangeness of the place. I smiled too, a little sadly.
“We can’t hide in here forever, can we.”
“No. But just for now, there’s no-one looking in, no-one watching, no-one who can pull you out just like that,” he snapped the fingers of his free hand. “I come here sometimes just for that feeling.”
We looked at each other, briefly, then simultaneously broke eye contact. It was disconcerting to not be able to know exactly what he was thinking, but also quite exciting in its own way.
He led me silently into the centre of the circle and released my hand. I ducked at the expectation of the storm coming back, worse than ever but instead there was a total calm that fell all over me like a waterfall.
I closed my eyes and let my head drop right back. “Aaah. This is bliss!”
He didn’t respond and for a while, I just enjoyed the calm and absolute silence in my ears and in my mind. This was extraordinarily wonderful. A truly holy place.
I sighed deeply and came back to the now.
Right in the centre of the circle sat a huge square stone, black and casting an angular shadow with the ever lowering sun. Lucian was standing in front of it – it reached up to his chest and was at least twice times his length and as deep as he was tall – touching it with both hands very reverently.
I joined him and touched the stone too, but could not feel anything other than its strangely smooth glass-like texture and that it was very cold. The calm and peace of the place was absolutely overwhelming and I turned my back to the stone, slid down and leaned against it, legs stretched out long on the short, moss-like, interwoven carpet grass.
Lucian sat down beside me and sighed.
“I sometimes wish I could stay here forever,” he said, his voice rough and sounding so very human and normal for a change, devoid of all double and triple meanings and interlacements that confounded all of our interactions.
“Me too,” I said and wriggled my toes inside my new ladies boots. After a moment’s consideration, I took them off and placed them carefully next to me, returned to my previous position and enjoyed the evening air cooling my hot feet.
“It is said,” I heard Lucian say dreamily, “that in the olden days they used to sacrifice virgins on that black stone to their ancient gods, it used to be their altar.”
I was really not in the mood for his games, not here, not this evening.
“Their gods must be very hungry by now,” I said.
Lucian laughed briefly and slid even further down the stone until he was lying flat on the ground. He crossed his arms behind his head and stretched all over.
I looked down at his face, lit by the now fiery orange sun, and had an overwhelming urge to touch him. With no mental contortions in the way, it was quite easy to give in.
I stroked his hair and the side of his head, lightly with the back of my fingers. He closed his eyes and seemed to enjoy the touch. I ran my fingers down the side of his neck, across his jaw line and traced his lips. He opened them slightly and I could then no longer resist, I had to bend over him properly and to very gently touch his lips with mine.
There was a small stirring of warnings and old memories somewhere but they soon faded in the peace and calm of this place, and I brushed his lips with mine again. He did not object and lay perfectly still, breathing regularly and as though he was asleep. I moistened my lips and this time, lightly kissed his closed lids, his temples and his forehead, before returning to his mouth once more. He brought his arms around me and took my head into his hands and kissed me back, easily and lightly.
I rolled across to him and lay on top. His body was beneath me and I let myself sink onto his chest. He stopped kissing me, rolled me over and now he was looking down on me, calm and steady. I put my hand around his neck, stroked his strong neck then pulled him down towards me and we kissed again, yet all the passion was mine and he was simply obliging me.
I drew back and looked into his eyes.
“What are you doing?” I asked, sadly.
He leaned on his elbow and with his free hand, stroked a strand of hair from my temple. I loved his touch. I hungered for it.
“I thought you wanted this,” he said softly.
“You know I do, but – there is something wrong.”
He sighed deeply and his beautiful pale grey eyes seemed to widen, to darken. Lightly, he placed his hand on my breast and began pushing, moving through the fabric. It send shudders all through me.
“You’ll soon forget about that,” he said and kissed me again, his hands stroking down my sides, across my buttocks and onto my legs. I arched myself towards him and hugged him tighter, and when he pushed my gown up my legs, my thighs and started to stroke the bare skin of my stomach and hips, I began to tremble all over. Far in the back of my mind I was acutely aware of his detachment, that he was working on me rather than sharing the experience, but my body had a mind of its own by then and I raised my hips and twisted them to meet his hand and to be touched where a tension like a pain resided now. He drew me up and pulled the Serein garment over my head with ease, pushed the undergarment up until my breasts were exposed to the evening air, and put his mouth to my nipples. I arched my body this way and that, my hands around his head, drawing him tighter towards me, and when he slid his hand between my legs, stroking the insights of my thighs, higher and closer, I actually started to moan and whimper. He touched me between my legs and at the same time, lightly bit my nipple and I let out a scream of surprise and a pain like sensation like I had never felt before shot from my lower parts straight up to my breasts and set fire to my entire body. I spread my legs wider for him and arched my hips up towards his wonderful hand and he released me and settled back from me.
I was breathing hard and ragged, entirely open, entirely naked and vulnerable to him, entirely in pain and in hunger. “Please, Lucian,” I said, and reached towards him.
“Please what?” he asked gently and I bit my lip and said, “I don’t know, please just make it better, make it go away, I need you to make it go away.”
He reached down to me and put his hand back between my legs and I couldn’t help but moan again. He started to move his hand against me there, all of me was there and so hungry and such tension, my hand went to his and pushed it down harder, the other holding on to a fistful of fabric on his shoulder. Like waves crashing, the rhythm of his hand made the pain get higher and higher still until finally there was a white hot explosion that charged all through my body and made me cry out his name, a sensation that lasted for what seemed a very short time and then there was peace in my body, merciful peace restored, and I could breathe again.
I opened my eyes, shivering, and tried to roll to the side and curl up into a ball but Lucian steadied me and looked down at me with a strange expression in his face.
“It’s alright,” he said sincerely. “All is well. It’s all exactly as its supposed to be.”
I drew my legs up nonetheless and shuddered again.
“Here,” he said, and wrapped my robe loosely across my shoulders, then as an afterthought, drew me into his arms and folded himself around me. I was shivering again but grateful through all the confusion and snuggled into his embrace.
He stiffened fractionally in response but then relaxed again and actually rested his chin on my head.
“You did very well,” he said into my hair.
I wasn’t altogether sure what had just happened. My body felt strange, my lower parts were still twitching strangely and my mind felt bruised.
“Am I not a virgin now?” I asked in an embarrassingly small voice.
There was a smile in his voice as he replied, “You’re still a virgin. On the physical level, at least.”
My feet were cold now and I drew them in tighter.
“Why did you do that, Lucian?”
He picked up a strand of my hair in his teeth and pulled it lightly before answering.
“It was necessary. You needed to discharge.”
I felt his whole body sigh.
“There was too much – energy between us. We don’t need that on top of everything else.”
“And you? Do you need to – discharge?”
He sighed again. “I can handle it,” and then, adding more gently, “I’ve had years of experience in the matter.” Before I had a chance to say anything to that, he hugged me briefly and tightly, then got up.
“Come on,” he said, with his eyes towards the horizon where the deep orange red, glowing sun was just about to touch the line of the distant mountains, the shadows from the stones now so long that they nearly reached into the centre and were about to touch the black altar. “Get dressed. It is high time we went back.”
He led me by the hand across the storm beyond the centre of the circle and not until we had completely cleared it, did he let go of me. He called the horses and they came, in perfect unison trotting side by side, even the empty stirrups swinging in time. He offered me his folded hands as a stepping stone up to the horses height and lifted me easily into the saddle. I settled myself down, feeling strange and uncomfortable and looked down at him at the same time as he straightened and looked up at me. The old familiar link sprang into place, and with it the confusion of who was seeing what and who was remembering what and whilst we were at it, we also traded the experiences as to what we had done/felt/thought amongst the standing stones and experienced from each others points of view.
Whether we were both tired or just getting used to it, neither of us shut off the link this time until the exchange had been quite completed and it undid quite naturally, leaving just the usual resonant trace between us that was there at all times and underlying everything.
He mounted and we set off, back towards the keep and with our backs to the sinking sun.