It was said that long journeys on the road were not made for women.
It was said because it had always been said, not because of prior failures but because no one had yet tested the hypothesis. That to travel across the lands, often through uncharted territories, often inhabited by unfriendly others, you needed more muscle. One on a journey needed thick skin.
Strength, the talk was around the fires and the trading posts. A willingness to expose themselves to danger and to the weather, to bath in fetid water and be impervious to insults and intemperate needling and the burning sun on their skin.
What they were really saying was, women were not made for the journeys.
But in the second year of Wasnicht, the Vice Knight (Clairn) and the Dark Knight (Koss) were sent to the boundaries of the empire where a wave of Huns was involved in seducing and appropriating small villages and villagers for their own purposes, increasing their number and resources for some unknown eventual violation. Or possibly they were just barbarian tax collectors, extorting money that wasn’t tied down.
Was there a true princess who could have motivated Knights Clairn and Koss to conquer and return draped in gold spoils, in lamé and glory? The fair daughter of the king, Melissa, might have sufficed but she had been shamed by a dalliance with a commoner during the spring festival a fortnight ago and been banished to a secret hut location. Her father didn’t want her showing her visage in public afraid she would be stoned or worse, and she was also fair with red hair, pale skin and a quiet way of speaking. She’d possibly give the wrong example to the knights, and probably not make the extent of the journey in one piece or unmolested if she became their mascot, not being – on the face of it and to the common wisdom – made for it.
This tale takes place in a land that doesn’t exist. Or rather, exists everywhere. It existed and its remnants remain in the secret creases of our own culture, in whispers and gestures hidden by the night and dreams that cloud reason. The king had to find another one to accompany Clairn and Koss, both rough and cocky and with hair growing in locations most men didn’t even know the names of. There was also a scribe, whose name is lost to us, he had to put his hands on for the trip.
Rules of science and atmospheric conditions shape and define the landscape, as a landscape defines the weather back by its specific traits. By the way it diverts wind and runs off the rain, flat expanses or fertile hills are encouraged or suppressed. How trees bloom and spread their seeds in bloom, spreading up a berm instead of down into a gully, thereby adding to a meadows windbreaks and the direction the paths of large mythical creatures and noblemen on quests pass through on their ramblings.
The king did not give the matter sufficient attention and sent Gwen, a female warrior who had dark strong arms and small breasts. Her hair was long on the sides and short across the top. She could split an oak stump with three well-positioned strokes in the main square on Boxing Day and wouldn’t attract the immediate ardor of the two knights – unless she chose to try. She could fight them off if she needed to win at checkers. It was expected the three warriors might have a gaming chance against the first wave of Huns at the border – and having a woman would confound them enough to make the first strike, although she would probably be the first to die.
Gwen followed behind, wrapped in leather and tinfoil and watching the two Knights as they led her on their steads, smelling the leavings of their mounts and the remnants of their boasts. Due to the rolling gate of Knight Clairn, who let his stead lead him rather than the other way around (the horse between his legs was large and stubborn and a bit deaf), and the amiable and lackluster Koss who had a tendency to mutter darkly to himself rather than speak up, they ended up travelling past a thick rivulet of white pasty water that ran along the narrows at Lowry’s Bridge, which was partially protected by the highest gaze of the noon sun. The path also ran along a forgotten glade where the hut in which Melissa had been hiding (in rags to cover her pale skin, and so as not to reveal her satin undergarments and thereby expose her regal dynasty). After unsolicited words were spoken and the blacksmith accidentally beheaded, she joined them on their journey to the boundaries. Which some would call coincidence.
Knights Clairn and Koss, along with the warrior Gwen and the disguised Lady Melissa (whom they suspected was of a higher station than she’d confessed and was as tantalizing to the knights as lemon custard was to a hungry bear) traveled east, encountering rumors of the invasions and poor pilgrims asking for alms.
This is a fairy tale and generally in fairy tales there are mythical creatures who serve as metaphor for unspoken fears. The mythical creature in this case is a witch. She had a power never witnessed and the people denied her existence, already fearful in the Wasnicht era although the land was cursed somehow anyway. While mortal men salted the creases of the earth the women stayed home exercising and worrying – then forging other relations with nearby farmers – then forgetting their men altogether.
The witch will not appear again in this story.
At night the air stayed warm and Clairn, Vice Knight and saddled with paperwork, tried to talk with Koss, who nursed his own dark mathematics in the psychotic recesses of his own personality. The task of keeping Melissa comfortable and safe fell to Gwen, who tucked and hid her away in her saddle blankets. When her hand brushed against Melissa’s red hair and swollen skin, she smiled and found herself becoming aroused.
“Do you want me to show you your place?” Melissa suggested, not flinching from her touch. “Your hand is familiar.”
“Accept my apology, my lady, as that is what I think you are,” Gwen said, “You are as bright and luminescent as the moon. There is something more bewitching to you than this noble quest we’re on.”
Melissa placed Gwen’s hand again on her chest and moved it down to the fleshy orbs in her blouse. Her nipples became stiff under Gwen’s fingertips.
She was quiet. The men talked at the other end of the clearing. Melissa confessed. “My father has sent you on the quest. Yes, the king is trying to protect his borders as he protects his shamed daughter, by keeping them as far away from him as possible. They frighten him.”
She nodded towards the Knights. Indeed, the Knights, already bold with drink, were growing stronger with each passing day. Gwen stayed downwind from them, but her monthly cycle had just ended and she was horny as hell.
Gwen pulled her straps aside and let the fabric wrapped up between her legs fall away. “They are watching,” Melissa warned, even as she moved to the left to get a better view.
“They don’t watch me. They only see my dark skin,” Gwen said, smiling. “My muscles. They’re afraid of what I hold beneath my armor. This foreign warrior.”
She put aside her axe, carved with a green flowery pattern that looked like tangled vines. And pulled her lips open with two fingers and showed Melissa the pink crevice hiding in her thatch, and already moistening. “Afraid of this.”
Melissa sighed. “Not at all like mine. Mine is so much sweeter. And round.” And she touched the button of Gwen’s strength, her feminine dynamite and with a wet wick, attempted to make her ignite like the ancient stories she’d been told in grade school.
Gwen had been handled roughly before and crawled in with the Lady Melissa. While she didn’t admit out loud that tangling with the daughter of the king made her much more horny, the transgression of the classes got her blood boiling and it was obvious her lust had overtaken her. She reached with an unskilled hand and tasted Melissa’s royal secret. Indeed it was sweeter, and pink as ginger. Gwen used a careful stroke and conquered the Lady in quiet aggression. Her flashpoint quivered in ecstasy, a fervor without violence.
Gwen breathed longingly and made the Lady unravel and arrive at a new plateau she’d never travelled to before with another person (her hand was skilled and her imagination was fueled by public exhibition). Certainly not with a woman.
And as Gwen’s ardor turned foolishly to Melissa and her future she wondered if Melissa’s favor would likewise rest with her. She began to plan how to distract and abandon the knights on their quest, to fine a new kingdom far from the rules and the eyes of Melissa’s patronage but such neat plot contrivances were not to shorten this tale.
Lady Melissa would not demonstrate any preference, as she knew the dynamics of group politics better than Gwen ever would. The next morning they travelled as before battling away ironic remarks from passing young princes and boys looking to gain favor in the crowded court of her love. Melissa rewarded Clairn with oral attention to his nether regions when he beat the interlopers away who were unaware of the importance of their journey and threatened to detain them. And she allowed the Dark Knight Koss, onanistic and anti-social, to watch her as she relieved herself in the fields, the only visual reward she was willing to relinquish upon him.
When Gwen unsheathed the sword of her fury Lady Melissa stayed her hand with excuses and promises. Her loins were otherwise not stirred.
The two men knew this and suspected perfidious collusion, but due to the lady’s attentions (whom they still didn’t realize yet was indeed a lady, not had the power within her grasp and between her legs to profoundly change their lives) they set out to impress her at the conclusion of the journey to the border. They hastened to cleave through the peasants and the bramble and inconvenience of their discomfort and fought among themselves rather than enjoying the ride.
The second night Gwen lay far from the rest at the river, keeping watch and jealously listening as the others apparently toyed with curiosity and with Melissa. Little did Gwen know that due to the uneven balance of power the two knights avoided personal contact with Melissa until they thought they’d have her for themselves. Why show each other their dicks? Later Melissa found her and took her sexually, kissing her stomach and kneading her breasts, fingering her ass and making her own hand slick with Gwen’s emissions for her own use.
Instead the next day, fueled by his own frustration Knight Clairn fucked a sheep found wandering in the thick briars of the berms that had been shaped by winds and the hard sunshine into tall creases of dirt.
The lady Melissa was expert at diverting attention, delivering them through the waves of barbarian tax collectors who surrounded the outer limits of the king’s property. At the milestone Melissa held back in her canvas bed dress while Gwen led the chevron of horse and men through the loose weave at the castle of the invader’s primary base.
Gwen looked cautiously up at the upper square battlements. They were swollen and pink in the sun, and she fully expecting to be struck down by some sharp arrow or fling of molten lava poured loose from fired cauldrons. But there was nothing there.
Indeed the castle was practically empty, more for bravado than an actual working bastion of power. Distant and out of sight except to those who were right upon it, its masculine intimidation was all a show.
The Huns, a tough and tendonous group so dug in and comfortable they refused to leave or let any messengers with royal missives return with responses, held firm and waited, a defensive game inviting the Knights Clairn and Koss to finally demonstrate their acumen and battle sense.
They took the empty castle with aplomb and Gwen, waiting and bleeding and cautious, contributed nothing to the storming.
It was Lady Melissa who egged them on. When she was out of eggs she used ripe beets and allspice, thick on the ground in the cold climate of these parts.
Gwen hacked at the cables by which the power traveled to their radio instruments and cutting tools. Our Knights, befitting their training and foresight, went chopping heads off every Hun and whore unfortunate enough to have not escaped around the back to circle around.
And indeed, Melissa watched them as they hacked deeper into the morass of their own downfall. Beholden, aglow, she said nothing and raised no weapon but her gaze. The Huns at the watch recognized her for the distraction she was and advanced on the two knights instead.
They were less in arms but greater in number. Gwen tangled in sparks and wire then stood behind Lady Melissa and bid her to follow her, a display that caused the Knights to explode in a violent fury of the maelstrom of their enemies.
Koss saw the odds turning before Clairn did and eyed Gwen who had been his inadvertent guide for the last 99 lengths. At once he saw in her eyes, do not try to conquer and save this place, save her, save Melissa.
She was the bedrock, she was the emerald of the realm. It was time to escape to her.
She left it all to them. The message, though silent, was lost on Clairn.
Nothing if not stubborn, determined to go through to the back he was soon surrounded by mites with rags. Hairy and burdened by the heavy brown horse hanging between his legs, Clairn was tangled in his leather straps and his own arrogance. He pleaded with the Huns, now about ten in number, offering his waterskin, his mount, even Gwen. They laughed and banished him to the deepest cut of the pool, counting the bubbles as they rose above his submerged head.
Koss, the Dark Knight, was equally as unlucky. Ignoring the next advice from Gwen, which was run like hell, he became victim to his own rage, smiting all who stood in his way in a fit of pique, including two Huns, a ragman’s second wife, a basket of garden gnomes, the latest addition to the bookbinding guild, a fishmonger and a stuck pig who spilled his dirty blood across the edges of their own best cornfields.
This was in vain. Angered and vowing revenge, the barbarian tax collectors trapped him in debt and placed lien after lien upon his chest and buttocks until he was unable to breath and could no longer turn around without tightening them with every move, and he was finally bled dry.
Gwen, smart and quiet and looking more like a boy than a warrior, survived and waited patiently beside the white brook until Melissa had quelled the rest of the Huns’ energies. She emerged having not revealed her royal lineage, only her determination to be unmoved by any bodily insults.
“My lady, you survived.”
“And you did too.” Lady Melissa looked down at Gwen’s torso. The blood on her biceps were not her own.
“I knew you were the prize,” Gwen whispered. The love in her eyes, foreign but sincere, reached the Lady.
“You gave up your maidenhood for you.”
“No sacrifice is worth that value which others place on it.”
Gwen fell into embarrassment, standing half a league from empty castle, run from the clutch of the Knights’ darkest need.
“Gwen, you look exhausted.”
Gwen nodded. She was angry, and spent. And afraid she’d lost the favor of Melissa before she had a chance to consummate their love outside of duty. Her tone telegraphed that to the lady.
“Have no fear, Gwen,” the lady said, wiping the blood and spittle from her own cheeks. “You acted as you had to act. You took the rear, for were there no more intrusions upon us while you stood by this brook and didn’t fight a battle you could not contribute to?”
That was the case. And Gwen let Melissa understand she was only a poor warrior dark of skin and unfamiliar with books. She had wanted to run like hell because she was afraid.
Lady Melissa didn’t even want the outskirts of her father’s kingdom and craved to return to the center of civilization. She felt, in some unconscious need, that knowing there was no threat at the edges allowed her to appreciate and enjoy life in the civilized and more cultured center of commerce.
And while Gwen followed behind her, it actually was Gwen who talked her into the decision and while trailing and asking questions, she was the one who took charge with looks and gestures.
Melissa set up Gwen in her adjunct kingdom as her personal stewardess, to caress and minster to her skin care and the braiding of her private hair. Installed like a concubine, rumors in the palace were rife that Melissa had taken Gwen as her lover, a strong and quiet supplication of the dark manly warrior.
But in truth it was Gwen who had taken Melissa as her own. The soft flesh and the careful manner of the Lady Melissa carbonated Gwen’s hormones the way no man, muscle or rapist ever had. Gwen had found the secret to her other side, the seductive pull of being able to possess that which could not entirely be tamed and which, at the same time, wanted to submit.
And through the years, because of superstitions of class and propriety, Gwen couldn’t have had access to the royal purse strings otherwise.
Gwen lived in the highest splendor available to her within the land, and was kept from the sight of the fishmongers and the courtswomen who would have cast disparaging eyes upon her, even when she hid her skin behind cloaks and her small breasts in a leather truss.
But in Lady Melissa’s embrace she didn’t hide. The castle opened up at the ceiling to a bright sky and stars that twinkled and formed into new constellations whispering uncharted futures. Gwen discarded her leather straplets for good, letting the children of the realm cut them into friendship bracelets.
Wasnicht continued for another decade. Gwen breathed in the perfume of Melissa’s exploitation and slept among the velvet sigh of her thighs. It was a sleep without dreams.