Warrior’s Bride (Pt 12)

Chapter Twelve

This time it was Cadell who laughed, his head shaking, giving a teasing grimace “I wish I could be sure you are joking princess, but in my experience you women never joke about clothes”
Tialla gave a small snort, before she flashed him another wicked smile “It is not the clothes you should worry about. It is when I need to ask for your space to fit the shoes”
Cadell joined in with her teasing, his features scrunching up in mock pain “Dear Gods save me from that”
Another tinkle of laughter escaped Tialla, before she seemed to become more thoughtful, regarding him warily “I know so little about you Cadell. Your words out there were not what I expected. Did you mean them?”
Returning her look with surprise the laughter left him, as a gentleness descended upon him, his head nodding “Yes, everyone”
Dropping her eyes from his, pleasure infused her, before she allowed herself for the first time to think of herself “I will be your queen. What are the tradition of your province with regards to other wives – harems?”
This time Cadell moved closer, his hands covering her upper arms, her eyes lifting and colliding with is “When I take a queen, then I forsake all other women. I do not claim that I have led a pure life Tialla, far from it, but my queen can be reassured that she will be the only woman in my bed” his voice softening “Our children will be the only heirs to my provinces. Does that answer your question?”
Tialla could feel her heart jackhammering in her chest, as she gave a sharp nod, the smallest of smiles playing on her lips. Then he was dragging her closer, his head bending as he laid his mouth over hers. There was no attempt to take, or force himself, his lips only just touching hers, he pausing as though waiting.
Tialla moaned. She wanted him to kiss her, wanted it badly, she rising onto her tip-toes to bring her mouth harder to his, this all the permission he seemed to be waiting for as his mouth crushed hers, his arms wrapping around her, dragging her harder to him. She did not fight him, but surrendered, her arms snaking around his neck. As her lips parted, he surged in, his tongue exploring the softness of her, puling an even hotter reaction from her.
Tialla was ablaze. She felt like she was crawling out of her skin with the need surging through her. She had never before felt so out of control. Her life was filled with the need to serve, to maintain a calm ability to rule, yet at that moment all she could think of was the man bringing such disruption to every cell in her body.
She was unaware of him moving, stepping with her, until she felt the hard wall at her back. His hands dropped, sensually caressing her waist, moving upwards until she felt them cup her breasts, his thumb and fingers sliding over the nipples.
Molten hot lava shot through Tialla, the sensations zipping down her belly, an ache building between her legs. She wriggled against him, frustration building. She wanted…She was not sure what she wanted, only that he was the person who could douse the flames enveloping her.
“Sir. The council will be ready in five minutes to bestow their official blessing on you and the princess”
The cried voice from the other side of the door made both jump. Their lips torn from the other, the moment of almost desperate mutual need gone. Groaning, he cried back “We will be there” before dropping his forehead onto hers, his voice a little breathless “By the Gods. I don’t know how long I will be able to keep my hands from you. You excite me more than any woman ever has”
Tialla could only stare back, she panting as her breasts rose and fell as though she had been running a mile. “I…I’m sorry. I don’t know what just happened”
His lips twisted into a rueful smile “What just happened princess is evidence that my fidelity to you will be an easy promise to make” he taking in a deep breath before stepping back, a smile on his handsome features. Lifting his hand in offering, he looked as disappointed as she “I think that we should go” adding in a voice more than just a little husky “Before we get to the point that Tol Dor becomes a moot point”
Pushing from the wall, she managed a nervous laugh, taking his hand. “Yes. We should not leave our invited guests waiting”
Tialla moved to the official blessing in a partial daze. Her uncle walked her down to the two thrones, were Cadell waited, he stood before them awaiting her as was expected. Harbin winked at them both as he placed her hand in Cadell’s, his voice raised as he declared his blessing for the union. Then, hand-in-hand the two moved to the thrones, Cadell ensuring that she was seated first as was her place, before he took his seat. Then Harbin turned addressing the gentry of the realm, his loud booming voice declaring that Tol Dor would take place the next day, and a week from then the official crowning ceremony would be celebrated by all.
The assembled dignitaries stood, silently bowing to the pair, before the entire hall erupted into spontaneous applause. Once more Tialla held back the sigh. It seemed that the fact Cadell had attacked them was most definitely old news. From the looks on the people’s faces, he was already liked. Darting a quick look at him, she remembered the kiss. Would having this man as her husband be so bad?
Lifting her head proudly she once more pulled her protective cloak of suspicion around herself. Only time would tell, until then he was still an invader, though as his hand squeezed hers, she felt the way her heart quickened, for once hoping that perhaps he really was the man he seemed.

{next installment 10th April}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 11)

Chapter Eleven

Now it was Tialla’s turn to look, the surprise, despite her best efforts to hide it, evident. Her eyes dropped as her brows furrowed in confusion. Did he really mean it? Her mouth flattened. Of course not. None of them had. Her uncle thought her choosy, refusing all of the many suitors who presented themselves in her court. However, he was wrong. She refused them because not one showed real interest in her vision for the future, they only seeing a province they could rule.
Once more sliding her look to Cadell she pondered his words. He did not have to say what he had, the deal was struck, she was to be his queen, he her king. His word would be final, so why had he bothered?
His hand squeezing hers just as his head turned once again made the breath in her throat stall. His eyes were full of an intensity she had never before seen, and for the first time Tialla dared to hope. Out of such a terrible betrayal and act of violence, had she somehow found the one man who might actually share her vision?
As he lifted their joined hands, the crowd once more began to cheer, before seeming to settle into a chanted chorus.
“Tol Dor…Tol Dor…Tol Dor.”
Cadell chuckled beside her, the tradition of Tol Dor already explained to him. Dragging her in closer, his mouth tickled the soft hairs of her ear, a jolt rushing through her. “How in the many lands did your province come up with such a tradition? Having encountered many of the rulers who must have sought your hand – I find it hard to believe that they would last an hour in the jungle, never mind surviving a week.”
Laughter spluttered from Tialla, her head nodding. It crossed her mind also when some of the more foppish suitors presented themselves, that she would have to save herself on the week-long right-of-marriage tradition.
Looking back at him her chin lifted, though there was still fun in her look. “Indeed, which is why I have spent many years learning appropriate skills to ensure my own survival – not my fault if the poor hapless groom cannot take care of himself. It never says that the groom has to survive the ritual – just that I do.”
Cadell laughed once more, nodding, “Yes you did seem a little handy with that knife”, she not able to retaliate as his arm once more rose. Instantly silence fell, Tialla holding down the groan at how quickly and completely he had won over her people. It seemed that despite the fact he was an invader it no longer seemed to matter, instead he was quickly becoming seen as a rescuing hero. Yes, Cadell of Karok certainly could charm the masses, she having to fight the urge to roll her eyes at the way her own ladies seemed infatuated by the man. She would not be such an easy conquest.
“The tradition of Tol Dor will be upheld, as is right.” Another cheer rose from the audience below. “Tomorrow we shall set forth and one week from then the joining ceremony will take place. I look forward to combining our provinces and our peoples.”
As though on cue, his men, who till then had stood motionless in the background, moved forward. From their sides, all produced a sack and began to remove sweet tidbits before moving into the crowd, offering the delicacies.
Tialla’s mouth dropped, her gaze disbelieving seeing the seemingly ruthless cut-throat army smiling and handing out the treats. “As is traditional in my province, please accept sweets to signify the sweetness of our union.”
Below Tialla could see the people swarming around the soldiers, the men only moments ago feared and avoided, now laughing and joking with her people, they shaking hands and conversing happily.
Tugging on her hand, Cadell pulled her back, the two leaving the large balcony hand-in-hand.
Tialla was still shaking her head at her last sight of the scene below. Only minutes ago she had stood concerned that her people would never accept the man who swept into her province, a hostile would-be ruler. Now they jostled with each other to shake hands with the very same soldiers who would have sought to rule them. Her look turned to Cadell, he had completely and utterly charmed them, her head once more shaking.
Cadell smiled at her. “What?”, his question tinged with laughter seeing the obvious bemusement on her features.
“Is that really a tradition of your province?”
Now he chuckled, his shoulders shrugging as he gave her a conspiratorial wink. “Is now. Traditions have to start somewhere right?”
Tialla could not hold back the peel of laughter which left her, her large eyes shining with admiration. “You really are a cunning man Cadell of Karok.”
He however, turned from her, Tialla not seeing the flash of heat in his eyes. Since the moment they met she had been tense around him, holding herself back, but that laugh had been genuine and carefree, her shinning features almost glowing. She truly was the most beautiful woman he ever met. But it was not just that. It had taken the knowledge that her people would accept him which made this transformation possible. She was no selfish, tyrannical ruler, she was a good and compassionate leader. She was as beautiful and true inside as outside. Cadell was not sure why this unsettled him, made his insides heat.
Shaking himself from his fanciful notions he turned once more, a smile on his lips. He should consider himself fortunate. He was at least marrying a woman he could respect, like even, definitely more than he ever expected. Most of the daughters of war lords or province rulers were concerned only with their own happiness and self-satisfaction, caring little for those of their people. Tialla of Leando was unique. She was intelligent and nobody’s fool – a very seductive combination, he suddenly finding his voice husky, “We should prepare for tomorrow. I understand that we are only permitted one shoulder bag each.”
Nodding, her eyes shone with fun. “Yes, not sure how many days’ worth of gowns I am going to be able to fit, bit I will endeavor to do my best.”

{next installment 28th Mar}

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 10)

Chapter Ten
For the next two days Cadell had been the perfect gentleman, his attentiveness to her needs seeing all those in her palace soften their opinions towards him. Tialla however, continued to hold herself aloof. While she ensured that she was always polite, she never allowed herself to be alone with him, not sure how long her hard fought-for indifference would last if they were.
He had watched her with eyes which seemed to be amused in the way she would stand stiffly beside him, or avert her eyes – and hand if his ever landed on hers. While she hoped she was coming off as regal, she had the impression that he was humouring her the same way one would with a huffy child, this thought making her want to hit the man. Why did he get to her so?
On the third day, as was the tradition of her kingdom, the two, having sent out proclamations of their intended union, moved together onto the large balcony overlooking the palace courtyard. Tialla was touched to see as many of her subjects congregated below, her eyes not missing his soldiers strategically stood on the periphery of the assembly.
While the people had been peaceful towards the soldiers, both were only too aware how quickly that could change. Hostile armies were never fully welcomed, although their kindness and helpfulness to the population had gone a great way to stopping any signs of unrest. Even so, Tialla knew that the next few minutes would be crucial. It was important that her people accept Cadell, her mouth firming – even if she did not.
Tialla raised her arms. Instantly a hush descended upon the throng. Beside her Cadell held his breath. The fact that the people below loved and respected her was clear to see, their expressions rapt, waiting for their princess’s words.
“People of Leando.” Her voice, while normally soft, carried over the crowd, her words spoken with an authorative note. “It has been a tumultuous few days to say the least.” A small ripple of laughter moved through the crowd below, Cadell feeling the tension lesson slightly. “We find ourselves between two great warring armies, our little province by no fault of its own thrust into the middle of a war.”
He could see the way people fidgeted, their looks flicking briefly to his men. “We found ourselves attacked, with no warning”, the words full of accusation as Tialla briefly cast her look to him. “Fortunately, we were lucky not to suffer any fatalities and those injured have received assistance.”
Now her features became sadder, more melancholy. “Unfortunately, the ease with which we were overpowered shows how ill-prepared for such attacks we are – how easy a target we are.” Taking a deep breath, she held a hand up indicating Cadell. “The leader of the army who attacked us is Cadell of Karok, and he is in dispute with a warlord who some of you may already be familiar with – Garel of Drakel.”
From the crowd he heard some gasps and even a few low screams. It seemed that some were indeed familiar with him. Lifting her hand once more for silence she ploughed on. “As strange as it may seem, we should consider ourselves fortunate that it was Lord Cadell who first entered our province. It has however highlighted a major problem we have, and while my uncle has offered his support…”, again her eyes flying briefly to his, the message clear that she was not going to be pushed around, “It is perhaps better to take a more long-term approach.”
For the first time Cadell could see a slight tremor in her hand, she quickly bringing it down and holding both together. “Therefore, it has been decided that the province of Leandro and that of Karok should be united in marriage.”
From below there a moment of silence before the crowd erupted in cheering. Cadell felt himself breathe out. That had been far easier than he expected.
When the noise died down Tialla once more cleared her throat. “May I introduce you to Cadell of Karok – your next king.”
As she spoke she turned facing him, her head bowing respectfully while her lovely eyes glared at him.
Cadell felt his lips twitch. She really was going to be a handful. Tialla would never be a woman who meekly obeyed. She would always fight her corner, challenging him, Cadell strangely looking forward to it.
With humour now in his eyes he stepped forward, the people below once more becoming hushed. “People of Leando, sometimes when one is steeped in war, we forget that there are those for whom violence and bloodshed are not a fact of life. We forget that there are those who live peacefully, creating a society we all crave – a society worth protecting. Leando with its culture of beauty and peace is one such province.”
He paused, Tialla surprised to see what seemed like real regret cross his handsome features. “If I could turn back the hands of time, then I would approach your princess with an offer of protection and not take those actions I did”, his eyes passing over all below.
Tialla saw how her people seemed to be enamoured with the man, her hackles rising. Damn him and his seemingly endless charm. “However, I do have it in my power to make amends, and I intend to offer my armies in the defense of Leando. Lord Harbin and I have talked at length, and we feel confident that with his and my forces united that we will ensure that Garel thinks twice before marching on Leando.”
A loud cheer rose from the crowd, Tialla seeing the relief in her people’s features. Now Cadell held out his hand to her, she forced to place her own in his as he pulled her by his side. “A wise man once told me that winning a war is not the hardest part. It is keeping the peace, and I must agree. It takes a very special person to win the peace. I have learnt of the many initiatives your princess – soon to be my queen – has implemented, and the many more she has proposed. I consider myself blessed to have found such a wonderful person, and it will be my greatest pleasure and privilege to support her in the future.”

(next installment 14th Mar)