A Royal Sacrifice Ch. 03
This story is part of a chain. Although it can be read on its own, parts of it may make more sense when read in order of the chain. However, I highly recommend reading all of the chapters anyway. I hope you enjoy! Please take the time to vote. If you have enjoyed this please recommend these to your friends.
John, Champion of the Crown, dodged around a tree and thrust. His opponent's weapon smacked into the trunk and only his foe's fumble, born of inexperience, cost John the fatal blow. His back pressed against the tree as he spun a reverse course. As expected, another slash followed and met with naught but empty space. John's sword was already in motion. Quick as an arrow, it reached the foe's throat and froze an inch from the man.
His opponent's neck was tense with frustration and fear. "I yield."
John laughed as his sword lowered to his side. "This is divine right! You are proven false. You must make restitutions for your egregious slander of her majesty!" The bigger man merely glared down at the exuberant champion. The corner of the giant's lips began to twitch. A moment later he couldn't keep the mocking smile from forming. John glared up.
"John, you worthless stable-hand! Where are you?"
John's glare melted as he turned to look over his shoulder. David, the royal ostler, came around the corner a moment later and glared at the two delinquent young men. John heard the branch drop and felt Eric's gigantic hand seize around the back of his neck. His body practically dangled as Eric dragged him forward, towards his doom. David was notorious for harsh punishments, and John was particularly prone to his ire.
"There you are!" David had spotted Eric and his captive. "Shirkin' responsibility, to be sure. I swear on my fathers bones, how you ever expect to be more than a shiftless layabout is beyond me. The emissary from Prince Drest is just about to arrive." John's hopes rose. With the number of horses associated with a delegation's entourage, surely he would finally be allowed to show his skill as a groom. David wasted no time to dash his dreams. "We'll be brushin' them down, and we need you to make sure the stalls are in order and feed's ready."
John's shoulders slumped. Eric let go of his neck with a friendly shove towards the stables. A glance over his shoulder revealed the big man's apologetic shrug. Both men knew that John had a way with horses, all animals in fact, but he was the youngest of the hands, not to mention the lowest of birth. "And be sure to pull the good feed! These aren't just nobles, they're royal emissaries you worthless whore-son!"
John bristled at the insult. He had to remind himself, for the thousandth time, that David meant nothing by the comment. Everyone beneath him received the same insult from David at one point or another. John was merely more sensitive to that particular aspersion. While, in truth, his mother was an honest washer woman, who had caught the eye of one of the lamp-lighters, his maternal grandmother had indeed been a lady of the night. That fact led most of the village to assume that his mother had also followed in the 'family profession' in order to supplement her meager earnings. She was simply frugal, a trait she had ruthlessly passed to her son.
John sighed as he entered the stables. He quickly went through and opened all of the doors and window panels for the empty stalls. Not only would this allow them to air, it afforded him the best method to quickly inspect them. Most, he discovered, would not need to be cleaned. A slight layer of chips, from the local mill, would suffice. He grabbed the tools and went about mucking the few stalls that required more.
This was the worst part of his life. John knew that many people had far worse fates than he, but the mindless labor left him far too much time to think. He wandered from thought to thought, often with little segue. In this case, his mind naturally gravitated towards Rogers. The young man had been a good friend to John. From a young age, the two had sparred with twigs. When Rogers joined the guard, he made sure to visit with John and teach him all of the fundamentals of sword work that he learned. It was as if the two had joined together.
John frowned as he moved on to clean the second stall. They attempted to join the guards together, but John's questionable lineage earned him naught but derisive laughter. No one even knew who his grandfather had been. Perhaps, even Gram Brigit didn't know. She never spoke of it if she did. How could he be trusted when his entire family could be nothing more than well connected spies.
That thought brought John's mind back around to his departed friend. Rumors were rife about the guard's death. The one advantage to life within the manor was the gossip. Most of the nobles held their tongues loosely around the servants, and even most of the servants saw the stable hands as little more intelligent than the beasts they maintained. He took exception to the inference, not so much for the insult implied to him, but to the one leveled against the horses. Although perhaps not as smart as humans, they were very intelligent animals. And their instincts usually far surpassed the theoretically-more-sophisticated brutes that rode them.
As if in answer to his thoughts, the horse in the stall across from him began to whicker with nerves. John looked up in time to see a dark-clad man stride arrogantly into view. He'd seen the man frequently around the manor. The guards completely ignored him, which led John to suppose he was an important figure but not important enough to bow and scrape to. The man's arrogance and self assurance labeled him, as surely as his finery, as a noble. John had no reason to suspect the truth; that the guards never reacted because they didn't see him.
A quick command, and a wondrous, pale-hued, mare walked over to the dark man, already saddled. The man was graceful as he swept into the saddle and rode out of the stables. John watched him go, from the deep shadows of the stall, shrugged, and when back to his cleaning.
Spies! That was the theory that John supported. He'd heard all sorts of rumors about Prince Drest. To listen to everyone speak, he wanted Vix by any means. He would come in, with an army of demons, to take the land by force. He would marry Queen Evelyn and then lock her in her chambers and rule in her stead by day and do unspeakable things to her at night.
That last thought made John's blood boil with anger. With no little embarrassment, he realized the thought of a woman tied helpless to a bed made his blood stir in other ways as well, queen or no. It was shameful to find such things enervating. Well, even more shameful than such base and lustful thoughts would normally be. John would one day be the champion of the realm. It would be his responsibility to protect the fair maidens.
Besides, the queen was nowhere near as glorious, in John's biased eyes, as Laurel, the manor baker's daughter. Was that treason; to think another woman more beautiful than the queen? It shouldn't be. But John had known more than enough women in his life to know that wouldn't stop them from leveling the charge were they in power. Especially the most vain of women. It would be safest to simply never admit aloud, except perhaps to Laurel, such thoughts.
"John, you worthless layabout!" John jumped as David's voice broke his rambling reverie. "Make haste! The delegation is here and we'll be needin' the stalls soon enough."
"Aye sir! Just one more to go, then I'll get to the feed." John heard David's satisfied grunt even inside the stall. It was high praise from the ostler, one that seldom graced John's ears. It spurred him to hurry into the third and final stall to be cleaned. He focused entirely on the task at hand, and miraculously it seemed to speed by. If only he could keep his thoughts from wandering more of the time, perhaps he'd have more time for himself. No, likely David would simply find more mindless work for him rather than allow him to groom or exercise the horses.
He finished, and began to stow the tools just as the rest began to lead horses into the stables. John smiled inwardly the moment David reached the stall set aside for the emissary's horse. Like all the rest of the stalls, John had already laid out the grooming supplies for him. This time the grunt held equal measures of surprise and approval. John pretended not to see the appraising look the stable master gave him, as he picked up the pitchfork and left the stables to get the feed.
Unlike most stables, David insisted that the feed and hay be kept in a building separated from the horses. If a fire should break out, it would be a much more simple matter to water down the wood chips and prevent it from spreading too quickly to retrieve the prized animals. It worked well, for they had never lost an animal to fire, despite the storage barn burning down twice. But it meant that John's task bore some resemblance to hell during the heat of summer and cold of winter. Funny how cold could burn as surely as a fire.
The cart was already full of hay, so John tossed the pitchfork on top of the pile and wandered inside in search of the quality grain. He knew right where it was. After all, he'd had to retrieve some on the day the king died and his estranged daughter had been brought in to fulfill her obligations. Likely he would need to remind David more often to replenish their supply.
King Richard had had little time for riding his horses. He had spent too much time riding his wives in a futile effort to produce an heir. Queen Evelyn, however, rode her own mount to the manor. She had even looked to want to brush it down afterwards, much to the chancellor's disapproval. David had approved highly, but smoothed things over with assurances that the mare would be well cared for.
John heard the slight noises that came from the rear of the barn and slipped into the shadows. A couple had managed to slip away from their duties for a roll in the hay. He managed to give them a wide berth as he went to the back corner for a cask of the good feed. He began to hug the wall once more, in retreat, when his curiosity got the better of him.
Even from a distance, and hidden in the shadows as he was, John could tell the hawkish, angular features of the earl of Westlake. An overweight man who had seen nearly fifty summers, he had a shrew of a wife. It didn't surprise John that the low ranked noble would seek out someone for his pleasures, what surprised the young man was that any woman would willingly give herself to the contentious twit. And there was no way he would have been able to get a woman to come out here with him, alone, without her understanding exactly what was intended.
The man's soft body heaved up and down as he pushed himself in and out of his apparently willing victim. John couldn't see the woman, half -buried as she was in the straw, but he could see the delicate arms and hands as they tenderly gripped the obese man's hips. The angle seemed completely wrong but John couldn't figure out why. He was fascinated and horrified all at once. He settled himself into the shadows as his curiosity overpowered his revulsion.
John had been told, by those men with far more experience than he, that any woman could be identified by her noises. In John's very limited experience, two fumbled attempts with different women, they all sounded alike. All the same, not only could he not mark the identity of the woman in question, her moans seemed somehow false to him.
All at once, the reasons for the false note in her voice and the strange placement of the hands became unmistakably clear. Earl Westlake reared backward and the woman followed him forward. At first John could not figure out how or why her face seemed to be glued to his groin, then he suddenly understood. Despite his completely lack of experience with the position, his own loins jumped and burned in voyeuristic delight at the implications, as if to insist he find a suitable partner to experiment with.
The earl's hands clawed at the woman's curly, black, hair and feeble muscles seemed to press her harder against his hips. The man screamed his release and John blushed as he realized the woman now drank his seed as the guards often drank from the kegs of ale. And still, John's own manhood pulsed in anticipation. He sank even further against the wall, sure that his flushed skin would show like a torch and reveal him to the couple.
After a minute or so, the earl released the woman's head and she fell backwards with what sounded like a satisfied groan. John heard her mumble something but was too far to hear the words. Earl Westlake heard and his eyes flew wide in surprise and greed. Her hands came up and began to stroke the now flaccid member. A quick shift in position and the nobleman lay back in the hay while the woman straddled his legs. Her head once more dived between the man's legs as she devoured his manhood.
Straw still clung to her body, but now John got a much better look at her. He still couldn't identify her, nearly doubled over as she was, but he could understand very clearly what drove the other man to adultery. Every inch of the woman's body seemed comprised of soft, silky curves. He could imagine the feel of her skin, as if his hands glided across pure cream. Half hidden, the sight of the full round globes of her breasts sent fresh blood downward. The sight of her head, as it bobbed up and down around the earl's small shaft, though masked by her hair, threatened even John's virtue.
But of all things, it was the bright pink, inflamed, lips between her legs that spurred John's lust. As she knelt over the earl, her butt thrust in the air, she was angled slightly so that he saw her sex clearly. She glistened with moisture in the pale light and virtually throbbed with need. The position sent thoughts of the horses when they mated and his body urged him, at the sight of such undeniable need, to take the woman from behind.
All too soon her head pulled free. Her body surged forward and she impaled herself on the nobleman's insatiable weapon. A toss of her head, as she bucked up and down, revealed her face at last. John's breath caught in horror and he clutched the forgotten cask tight as if it held his sanity.
Laurel, the baker's daughter, rode Earl Westlake with such abandon. Worse still, despite the young man's trauma, John's body ached all the more. She had been the object of his romantic dreams for two years now. His body had transformed that into a very healthy realm of fantasy. And now she stood completely bared before him. Better still, to his body's perspective, or worst still for his heart and mind, her every action screamed a profusion of experience. And since the earl only came around once a year or so, it could not be he who had taught her such skill.
John's learned ears heard the deception in her moans. He doted on every word he had ever heard her speak, he could read her expression like scholars read their books. Although she screamed her release, none of the rest of her body lent credence to it. If the earl noticed, he didn't care. Moments later he grunted his. Laurel was lifted as the earl's deceptively strong hips crashed upwards numerous times.
Finally, Laurel collapsed to her side. John felt like his world had shattered. She was his angel. She was the very image of a pure maiden that he, the righteous champion, defended.
Earl Westlake mumbled something as he gathered his clothes. He donned them, much quicker than his hearty bulk suggested was possible, and scurried for the door. Laurel shifted to her side, propped herself on an elbow and watched his departure with cold eyes. The moment the corpulent man disappeared around the front doors, her ice blue eyes slowly tracked across the room. John's heart stopped as they locked on him. A satisfied smile spread across the demonically angelic lips. "I don't know who you are, but I know you're there. You might as well show yourself."
John shook as he slowly stood, the large cask clutched beneath an arm. Laurel's smile widened into something downright predatory. Her eyes softened and widened in surprise. "I know you! You're the stable hand who loiters about my father's kitchen. In search of a sweat treat I presume?"
He couldn't keep his eyes from wandering across her bare body. Her legs were slightly splayed by the position and clearly showed her greatest treasure. His body did not care that is had been plundered, even if his heart did. Her eyes glanced down his muscular body and settled at the large bulge between his legs. "Or perhaps it is a sweet treat of another kind that you have longed for?" Her body undulated slightly as she shifted position to more greatly display her feminine assets. Once more his body lunged in desire and only his virtue held him steadfast.
"Perfect." Somehow, the single word reminded John of a cat. Laurel's low slung stalk, as she crawled slowly, purposefully, towards him only aided the image. She was a predator of the savannah and he was the prey. "Not only would you increase the chances I'd quicken, and be able to trap that fool earl, but you can quench the inferno he rousted. And when he sets me up somewhere, I'll make sure to bring my very own ostler. You can instruct me on the proper way to ride." Even John knew the true meaning of her suggestion.
John's eyes flew wide as the full extent of Laurel's devious nature uncoiled before him. Not only was she not the angel he had envisioned, in truth she seemed a succubus! The terror and heartbreak shattered the demon's control of his body and his legs found strength for flight. The forgotten cask of grain pumped in time with his heaving arm.
"There you are! Blast it you useless whore-son where have you been?" John nearly ran straight past the stable when David's bellow brought him short. "Where be the hay? Blast it, boy, how're we to feed the horses if you don't bring the hay? Well, at least you brought the grain for the emissary's and his wife's horses. Now get yourself back there and bring back the hay!"
Caught between two terrors, John slowly turned back to the storage barn. His fear of David easily overcame his fear of temptation and mortal sin. "Saints be damned boy, are you touched?" John looked back in bewildered confusion. "Give me the cask first!" John looked down at the cask of grain beneath his arm. He was to numb to understand anything. He walked back and placed the cask in the stable-master's grip.
The ostler braced himself, both arms around the cask, and still nearly doubled over as the full weight was released to him. David knew the young lad misunderstood his own strength. Once upon a time he, himself, had been one of the strongest in the manor. Mucking the stalls, lifting the feed and tossing hay tended towards those results. But John, and his giant friend Eric, surpassed everything from David's youth.
John stumbled back the way he had come. With every step he expected Laurel to jump from the shadows, toss him to the ground and steal his virtue. It wasn't that he was untouched in the ways of a man and a woman, but Laurel had been his ideal for so long, that it seemed only natural for her corruption to infect him. A mere one time and he would gladly follow her suggested life of deceit, as she preyed upon the earl and flaunted John before their benefactor. He wanted to find his maiden and protect her from all the world's ills. She would be the one he shared himself with. The way he figured it, God wanted the act between two who loved each other, and all else was unimportant.
Fire burned in his muscles. He began to sprint the moment he spotted the cart. He was in the clear. He could grab it and be gone. Frustrated moans came from within the barn, and John briefly wondered if women could relieve their own tension in the same way a man could. If so, how? He knew to look would be a trap to his immortal soul, so he fled. To his relief, he managed to push the heavy cart back to the stable in no time at all. In fact, he would have been surprised to see one of the horses push it faster.