Warrior’s Bride (PT 14)

Chapter Fourteen
Tialla felt her mouth growing dry as her eyes rose to meet his. Even this look seemed so personal, her eyes finally dropping as she coughed slightly, looking around herself. “What now, oh great warlord?”, her words filled with a note of teasing.
Laughing, Cadell stepped back, he too scouring the area, now his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Well, I would say that perhaps the best thing to do would be to find shelter. I had some of my men explore the area”, his eyes widening innocently as she gasped.
“That’s cheating!”
Shaking his head, his finger wagged before her. “Absolutely not Tialla. Smart. Any good ‘warlord’ is going to only move when they have information. So, not cheating.”
Rolling her eyes, her head cocked to the side. “OK. And what did your scouts find out for you?”
Grinning, he moved to one of the larger trees, Tialla’s mouth falling open as he began to scale it, she amazed how quickly and gracefully he moved up the trunk, his actions making it seem almost effortless. When she could no longer see him for all of the branches and greenery, she began fretting on her lower lip. If he got stuck, there was no way that she could help him.
The sound of his moving back down was a strange relief, he jumping the last ten feet with ease before turning to her. “I found out that there is a section of this forest comprised of rock, where a waterfall hides many caves. Caves, that we can use for shelter”, his tone now becoming more sombre. “While we possibly could be safe around a camp fire, I prefer to have more solid protection”, his eyes glinting with fun now. “Especially when the rain comes, and from my research, I happen to know that happens regularly.”
Tialla could not help but be impressed with the warrior. He was certainly not the man she had thought she might have to endure Tol Dor with. Nope, not by a long shot. Indicating a certain direction, he gallantly offered to carry her bag, she chuckling as she shook her head. “I appreciate that, but I’m fine.”
Flicking a look down her he nodded, before leading the way. The hour long march through the dense foliage was gruelling. She admired the way he cleared them a path with the large machete which magically appeared from his backpack. It certainly made traversing the area easier. Despite the way she would often trip over the long skirt of her dress, he never once commented, only ever offering her a hand or catching her.
As they walked she became aware of a low sound, that noise growing louder as they seemed to grow closer to the source of the sound. As they cleared through one particularly almost impenetrable area of greenery, the noise filled the area, he giving a grunt of satisfaction, Tialla coming level with him. Gasping, she could only stare at the beautiful vision before her.
Now stood in a clearing, a waterfall thundered into a pool of blue-green water, she seeing fish swimming around the large watering hole, the water clear enough to see right to the bottom. Looking up, she could see the tall wall of rock, the dense forest hiding the outcrop, even while they had been close.
Turning, he gave her a pleased smile. “OK, now, let’s go home hunting shall we?”, he pulling his backpack from his shoulder as he pulled out several weapons, the knives quickly disappearing into previously hidden slots in his tunic and trousers. Raising an eyebrow, she looked surprised. “Are we expecting company?”
Flashing her a warm grin, his head shook. “Probably not, but I think it prudent to make sure that we have some protection. You never know if some of this area’s less friendly inhabitants have had the same thoughts as us. I heard that you have some nasty animals living here, including a bear. Now in my experience, bears have a liking for caves.”
With the vision of a bear now firmly seated in her mind the two moved towards the oasis, she unable to stop staring at the natural beauty of it. Holding down the chuckle, she allowed her eyes to slide down Cadell. Not many would have been so prepared, would have thought to send scouts out ahead, even for what was meant only to be a getting to know each other exercise. Now, it looked like they would be spending the time in some relative comfort.
As they got closer, the sound seemed to strangely diminish, she realising that when they were lower, they did not get the effect of the sound echoing around the rock face. However, it was still loud enough to make hearing him talk more difficult. Together, they made their way around the back of the sheet of water, the water falling far enough forward to allow them to follow what appeared almost to be a path to the rocks behind.
Gasping, her eyes blinking from the sudden darkness fear thudded into her as Cadell disappeared. Rushing forward, the strangest sense of fear for the man gripped her. Had he fallen into a crevasse? His name left her lips on a high cry, the man himself appearing almost instantly, anxiety deep in his eyes. “What? Are you OK?”, the genuine concern for her safety making something deep within her warm.
“I thought you had fallen.”
His lips curved into a grin as his handsome head shook. “No, there is a cave here. I was just checking it out.”
Relief swamped her as she nodded, trying to regain her composure. As though sensing her unease, he stepped forward, reaching out and taking her hand, his voice gentle. “Why don’t we look together?”
Nodding, she gave him an approving smile, not aware how this made her large eyes glow, even in the half light, nor how this more intimate look made his stomach pitch. She really was the most stunning woman he had ever met.

next installment (7th May)

Warrior’s Bride (Pt 13)

Chapter Thirteen

The next morning, Tialla strode into the grand hall. Cadell was already waiting with his second, Nadia walking demurely behind her having begged for the position as her lady. As was traditional, the magistrate was present to ensure that both adhered to the rules, taking with them only what they wore and what could fit into a backpack.
Bowing, Cadell seemed surprised as she moved alongside him, his mouth quirking into a playful smile as he leant in closer to her, Tialla clenching her fists at the awareness which ran through her at just having him that near. “Princess, while you look beautiful as always, I should perhaps point out that the forest might not be the best place for your current ensemble. A long train and cape?”
Dropping her head to hide the smug smile, she finally turned to him, Cadell surprised at the quick wink she gave him, her back to the magistrate. “On the contrary Cadell of Karok. I think you will find that this is the perfect outfit for the terrain. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised just how much thought I have put into this.”
With eyes slightly narrowed Cadell was already getting to know the signs that Tialla was up to something, his mouth curving into a smile as he cocked his head. “Then I withdraw my comment, and look forward to our time together.”
The magistrate stepped forward, his eyes examining the backpacks both wore over their shoulders. As was tradition, he was not allowed to see what each carried, and in a sign that perhaps the two could learn to trust, Cadell and Tialla had the night before agreed who should carry what. Cadell insisted on ensuring he brought weapons and asked Tialla if she could bring utensils for cooking and other needed items for a week of living rough.
At the time she had snorted at his assumption that she was a homemaker, her head rising as she considered arguing that she was every bit as capable of handling a weapon as he. However, the sense of his words finally saw her nod. It would be pointless for them to duplicate their provisions, though she still carried a large knife on her belt buckle.
Seeming happy with what he was seeing, the magistrate again went over the rules, both listening patiently, both very aware of them already.
With the legalities seen to, Cadell stood back slightly, his hand gesturing towards the man stood just behind him. Tialla was surprised to see the man, he, like Cadell, not the normal warrior. He was tall and handsome, his intelligent eyes sparkling with fun as he gave Tialla a ready smile, his head turning to include Nadia. “It is an honour to make your acquaintance Princess, and it will be an honour to be of service to you when you are my queen”, his eyes flicking to Nadia. “I will endeavour to ensure that the lady Nadia is well protected while we await your return.”
Tialla could see the way Nadia’s eyes dropped, a small blush on her cheeks. It seemed that she was not the only one who thought the warrior handsome. Cadell chuckled. “Princess and Lady Nadia, may I introduce you to my right hand man and good friend, Zandria?”
Nadia bowed deeply, while Tialla inclined her head, her look flicking to Cadell. You could tell a lot about a man by his friends, and Zandria seemed charming and respectful. Tialla liked the man, not sure why this made Cadell seem even more likable also.
As was the rule, once they reached the outskirts of the great forest, both Tialla and Cadell were blindfolded, each led by their second to ensure neither came to any harm, while the magistrate and a small garrison led them for over an hour into the heart of the forest.
Finally the blindfolds were removed, Tialla hugging a nervous and wary Nadia, her handmaiden constantly reminding her that she should not put herself in peril, Tialla grinning as she shook her head, her eyes filled with mirth. “When do I ever?”
Nadia managed a laugh as she stepped back, a rueful line to her lips, as she shook her head, “When do you not!”
A little way from them, Zandria and Cadell seemed deep in conversation, both men serious, before Zandria flicked a look towards the two women. Once more his eyes filled with humour as he said something to Cadell, the leader shaking his head as he laughed, both men quickly embracing in the way that men did.
Moving over to stand beside Tialla, Cadell gave her a reassuring grin as the magistrate and the soldiers stood back. Zandria bowed to Nadia, offering his arm, Tialla having to resist rolling her eyes at the speed with which her lady took it.
“Cadell of Karok and Princess Tialla, we shall take our leave”, the deep voice of the magistrate filling the silence, the man’s voice full of honesty as he bowed to the two. “I, along with your entire region, look forward to the marriage a week from today Princess”, his look sliding to Cadell. “Take care of her my lord. Our princess is this region’s most precious jewel.”
Smiling, Cadell bowed back, his look turning to Tialla as he nodded. “I will ensure that she comes to no harm. I promise to lay down my own life if need be”, Tialla surprised at the passion in his voice. He really sounded like he meant it.
With that, the procession turned, disappearing into the dense undergrowth of the forest, both knowing that the group would wait on the outskirts until the week was over when Zandria and Nadia would come to retrieve them. Waving a final farewell to her lady, she turned, hearing the loud exhalation of breath from Cadell, his features full of warmth. “I am relieved that is over. I find the pomp tiresome”
Chuckling, she nodded in agreement, a small grimace crossing her perfect brow. “However, perhaps you should have thought of that before agreeing to be my husband. My people have a great liking for traditional events, so you may come to regret your decision.”
Stepping closer, now there was a light of something more heated in his look. “I think to be with a woman like you Tialla a man can put up with some pomp and circumstance.”

next installment (24th April)