Hepsie cries for help

Hepsie heard Mella’s terrified screams and rushed into the room. She was greeted by the sight of the nun frantically clawing at her face, her hands covered in blood.

Mella_20

“Sister!”, she cried, “What are you doing… stop it… your face!”.

Mella did not respond, only scratching at herself more desperately, whimpering pitifully like a dog that has been struck. Hepsie caught a glimpse of long, bloodied cuts running across her face.

Hepsie_Mella_6

She could not stop the other woman from injuring herself with words only, so Hepsie ran towards her pinning Mella’s arms to her side. Now that she was close she could see the deep gashes made by Mella’s fingernails, and the rivulets of blood running down her face.

Hepsie_Mella_7

Mella squirmed for a moment, fighting against Hepsie’s grip, but for such a small woman Hepsie was very strong and eventually she gave up and went limp in her arms.

Hepsie carefully let go when she was sure the other woman’s hysterical frenzy had subsided.

“Mella! What are you doing? … your face! What has happened?”, she tried to order her thoughts but the questions came out in a jumble. She could not understand why Mella would want to injure herself like this.

She was horrified when the other woman began to laugh, a soft chuckle which gradually became a hideous cackle. She felt sure now that the Sister had completely lost her mind.

Hepsie_Mella_8

She was even more disturbed when the nun began to stare at her intently, as a hawk may watch a small mouse far below him, waiting for the right moment to swoop down and tear apart its body. Mella was biting her lower lip so hard that a dribble of blood had begun to run down her chin adn drip onto the whiteness of her nightgown. Her face was twisted into an ugly grimace, a look of rage directed at Hepsie.

Hepsie_Mella_9

Even so she was not expecting it when the woman suddenly leapt at her her fists clenched and her eyes vacant and mad.

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The first blow collided with Hepsie’s soft face with a loud smack. The pain immediately shot down her spine as her head jerked back. Her eyes filled with tears as the second blow hit her in the stomach, pushing the air out of her. Mella was growling now, gnashing her teeth and speaking grating words that Hepsie could not understand. She did not even know if they were real words.

Hepsie_Mella_11

Hepsie tried to defend herself, but the other woman seemed to be infused with a superhuman strength now and she could barely protect her face from the fists which rained down upon it. She became certain that that the nun was intending to kill her.

“Help me… someone… Steen!!!”, she screamed out her voice shrill with terror, hoping that it would carry far enough for Steen to hear her, “STEEN!!!”

Mella had now wrestled her to the floor and was clawing her body with her fingernails, kicking her as Hepsie moaned in pain and terror. She felt her ankle twist at an awkward angle beneath her body and heard a dreadful crunching noise. She shuddered in agony as she lay cowering on the floor.

Hepsie_Mella_12

Then she heard heavy footsteps and the sound of a body being thrown into the wall. Two strong arms were wrapping around her battered form and she felt herself being lifted off the floor. She wrapped her arms around Steen’s neck and began to sob as he carried her out of the room.

Hepsie_Mella_Steen_1

Mella sees her reflection

“Pisliskurja, réveillez-vous”, she heard his voice rasping in her ear, like the heavy damp tongue of a persistent cat. She awoke, her heart pounding, terror constricting her throat.

Mella_11

She sat up, desperate for some light in the small dark room. She carefully lit the candles, fumbling a little with the flint that had been left next to her bed. She felt better for the light, basking in the flickering glow of the candles.

Mella_12

Suddenly one of the candles wavered and then went out. It was followed closely by the second, and then the third as though someone was snuffing them between two closed fingers, one by one.

Mella_13

She gasped, the fear now wrapping around her like damp cloak, suffocating her and hindering her movements.

She stumbled past the mirror, turning briefly to look in it, then staring transfixed by the image that greeted her there. It was her own face, but hideously changed, the skin of her face hanging in rotting tatters, the eyes dead and dulled.

Mella_14

She almost shrieked in horror, but the sound caught in her throat and all that came out was a strangled moan. She buried her face in her hands in the hope that when she looked up again the apparition would be gone and she would be returned to normal.

Mella_15

“Mella… you cannot hide from me Mella… I am still here… come back and look at me”, the voice from behind the mirror croaked, the sound of her own voice which had not been heard for so long, but terrifyingly wrong.

She tentatively looked up and as she did the horrible creature surfaced from below the edge of the mirror, her mouth in a grimace showing rows of cracked and jagged teeth.

Mella_16

“Mella, you should not be afraid. You are the chosen one. You are the shebari and he is coming for you very soon. He is longing for you, you know he is, you can feel it thrumming through your body with every breath you take”.

The expression on the malformed face could have almost been one of desperate longing and sorrow, and Mella knew that the words it spoke were true. She could feel his presence with her now almost all of the time, lying coldly beside her in the dark when she tried to sleep, clinging to her throughout the day.

Mella_17

She shuddered, tears welling up in her eyes, whimpering softly in fear. The image seemed to like this and began to laugh, an awful scraping sound, the large grinning mouth a mockery of humour.

Mella_18

“Oh little Mella, little pisliskurja, do not cry, you are so very, very lucky”, the laughing began again, the mouth wide open so Mella could see into the hollow blackness that was inside.

She turned away from the mirror, clawing wretchedly at her face and now she truly was screaming, the sound reverberating over and over in her ears.

Mella_19

Hepsie sits up late

Hepsie had helped the other young woman into her nightgown and she stood facing her. She could not help but be slightly disturbed by the blank look on the Mella’s face. Hepsie hoped she had not hit her head too hard when she had fallen. Hepsie had examined her when she arrived back at the ships and decided that Mella had not suffered any external injuries, concluding she must have hit her head.

Hepsie_Mella_1

Not that she was able to ask the nun whether she was hurt. She would not speak a word to her and Hepsie had been told that she never talked.

“Let’s be taking your hair down for you now dearie”, Hepsie said as cheerily as she could muster.

She maneuvered Mella over to the mirror and began to carefully pull out the pins holding her hair in its place.

Hepsie_Mella_2

Mella stared intently at her reflection as though she did not recognise what she saw there. Hepsie stole the occasional glance as she unpinned her hair and began to wonder if perhaps the nun was having some form of memory loss, so frightened and confused was her gaze.

As her dark hair began to flow out in luxurious waves, Mella closed her eyes and would not look in the mirror again even after Hepsie had finished.

Mella_10

“Why look at all this beautiful you’ve been having up there under you hood”, she admired, trying to make the older woman smile.

It did not work and she kept her eyes shut tightly until Hepsie had turned her away from the mirror.

“Now you just be waiting yourself there for a minute my pretty while I fix up this here bed for you”, she leant down and vigorously plumped the pillow, which unfortunately did not do much to make the lumpy sack more comfortable.

Hepsie_1

“Come on now dearie… a sleep is what you be needing and you’ll be feeling like everything is being better in the morning”, she gently reached out and touched the other woman’s arm, leading her over to the bed.

Hepsie_Mella_3

She stood over her as Mella carefully got into bed. Hepsie could see her trembling and she felt a strong feeling of pity for this young woman, not much older than herself who had endured so much.

She bent down to fuss over Mella, pulling the blankets over her and tucking her in. She thought that the nun needed someone to take care of her for a change and she didn’t mind being the one to do it.

Hepsie_Mella_4

She sat in the room for a long time until she saw that the other woman’s shivering had ceased and she could hear from her heavy breathing that she was soundly asleep.

Hepsie_Mella_5

Harndall is afraid

“What do you think it means Father?”, Lochan turned to Harndall one eyebrow raised quizzically.

“Were you referring to the strange inscriptions beneath our feet, or to the candles mysteriously lighting themselves or to some combination of the two?”.

Harndall_Lochan_4

“Erm… I guess all of the above”, Lochan replied.

“Well…”, Harndall started confidently as though he had already discovered a solution to these questions, “to be perfectly honest, I have not the faintest idea what any of these things mean. Actually I am choosing to ignore the disturbing behaviour of the candles at this moment, as I have no hope of even beginning to explain that, and focus instead on these strange tiles”.

Harndall_Lochan_5

Lochan squinted at the colourfully painted tiles beneath his feet.

“Well, it does look like a family insignia”, he peered at some of the crude images, “and although it is very worn I think I can make out some birds on this part, actually that one rather looks like a raven”.

Lochan_1

“What say you brave Sir Arwaduhn?”, he asked Cordell who had reappeared out of the shadows he had been lurking in.

“I… I do not know Lochan, I… I am not feeling very well”, Cordell replied shakily, rubbing his head with a dazed expression on his face.

Cordell_6

They were suddenly interrupted by what sounded like a muffled scream from above them.

“Mella!”, Harndall’s hand flew up to his chest as though to still his pounding heart and he was running up the stairs before the others could even register what had happened.

Harndall_5

“Harndall! Wait! Slow down… we do not know what is out there… it could be a wild animal”, Lochan said sprinting up the stairs behind Harndall.

His cries fell on deaf ears, as Harndall was oblivious to everything except the terror that scream had instilled in his heart.

Harndall_Lochan_6

He raced up the hill towards the church yard, the direction he thought he had heard the scream coming from. He was the first to reach her.

Harndall_6

He saw to his horror, the crumpled figure of Mella motionless on the ground, lying at the base of a statue. He had seen it before when they explored the ruins earlier, and had thought it a particularly gloomy choice for a grave marker. He had wondered then who was buried here, but right now all these curious thoughts had left his head entirely and been replaced by a steadily rising fear.

Mella_6

“Mella!”, he bent down to kneel beside the figure, checking her neck for a pulse, “Mella… wake up… it is me, Father Harndall”.

She did not stir and he became more insistant, shaking her gently by the shoulders. He was relieved to see her chest rising and falling, even if her breathing was far from steady. He quickly checked her over, unable to find any external injuries whatsoever. Perhaps she had fallen and hit her head on the base of the statue.

Harndall_Mella_1

“Mella… please wake up”, he said a silent prayer that she be spared, “Open your eyes, we are here to help you”.

To his great surprise she did open her eyes, blinking up at him in confusion, tinged with fear.

He gently helped her to a sitting position. She was mumbling to herself, not words but sounds of animal distress.

Harndall_Mella_2

Suddenly, she pulled herself away from his helping arms, and began to weep, thrashing around in distress, her hands occasionally colliding with her head. She was panting like a caged animal throwing itself against the bars that imprisoned it.

Mella_7

He looked at her with growing distress, had she finally lost her mind completely. He had been so concerned about her since they had arrived on Mhalwae but watched in despair as her condition slowly worsened till he was beginning to feel she was almost beyond hope.

That did not mean he would stop trying to help her.

Without warning she turned her face upwards, raising her hands in submission, as though to ask God why he was doing this to her.

Mella_8

She lowered her hands, evidently dizzy from whatever injury she had suffered. Her eyes closed and she began to fall backwards, her body shutting down again.

Mella_9

Luckily, Harndall was standing close to her and gently reached out his arm and caught her before she fell. She groaned fearfully as he put his arm around her to hold her up.

Harndall_Mella_3

“We need to get her back to the ships right now”, Harndall said, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.

He did not want the others to know he of all people was frightened. There were things going on here that he could not explain, but the last thing the people needed was an unsure priest.

“Do you think you can carry Sister Mella, Goodman Cade, I do not think she can walk back”.

Steen mentally flexed his muscles and picked up the semi-concious nun. He need not have worried, she was light as a feather. As she rested her head on his shoulder, Steen was disturbed by the faint metallic odour of blood that filled his nostrils.

Mella_Steen_1

Mella visits the church yard

They stood before the ruins of what must have in its day been a magnificent chapel. Now it was nothing, the tattered remains of former glory, clinging feebly to the hillside.

Harndall et al_1

Lochan was annoyed. Mella has insisted on coming along with them, following Harndall wherever he went like a faithful puppy. She was only going to cause them trouble. She had already caused enough, what with her late night escapade. And this was the place they had found her. It did not bode well.

Lochan sighed, and led Harndall down below the chapel, into the crypts which lay beneath. He wanted to show him something which he had seen when they found Mella. It had been weighing on his mind for many weeks but the weather had not permitted a trip to the ruined church until now.

Cordell and Steen had come along too, to see whether some of the once-impressive stoneworkings could be harvested for the building of the new church.

Lochan carefully led them down the cracked steps into the tunnels beneath.

“So Father, what do you make of this”, Lochan gestured to the gargoyle on the wall and the brightly coloured tiles that lay beneath their feet.

Harndall_Lochan_1

Harndall scratched his head, “I do not recognise this insignia, have you seen it before… I cannot quite make it out. Perhaps we need some more light, good Master Cade, would you be so kind?”.

Harndall_Lochan_2

Steen, glad to be of some assistance while these clever men discussed what the placement of these tiles could mean, pulled his flint out of his pocket and began to scrape at it.

Steen_1

The candles suddenly flared to life, one by one, their fires burning hotly, so Steen had to jump backwards to avoid burning his hands. Unfortunately he was not quite fast enough to save the entirety of his eyebrows.

Steen_2

Harndall and Lochan where so fixated on th tiles they do not observe this oddity.

“Thank you Goodman, that was very quick of you, you must have fast hands”, Lochan praised him distractedly.

Steen turned to face them, “Uh… the thing is, I had not even got a spark yet going with this here flint, they have just been lighting up all by themselves”.

He grinned sheepishly because he did not know what else to do.

Steen_3

Lochan and Harndall both stared at him.

“Well”, Lochan breathed, “That is very strange indeed”.

Harndall_Lochan_3

Mella had not gone into the crypts with the men, preferring to stay outside in the brisk, autumn air. She walked further up the hill, behind the ruined church to the churchyard.

She walked among the tombstones, trying to imagine the people who had once lived here, who had died here on Mhalwae. The descriptions had long since eroded away, leaving nothing but a hint at who lay in the soft earth, beneath her feet.

She came to a halt in front of the highest grave on the hill. Instead of a tombstone, this grave was marked by the dark statue of a menacing, hooded figure with a spear clasped in its hands.

Mella_1

Mella felt a thrill of terror shudder down her spine until it found her stomach so she nearly vomited in panic.

She turned away covering her face with her hands, trying irrationally to somehow hide herself from the dark face in the depth of the hood.

Mella_2

“Non, non… Mella, ma belle, ma pisliskurja”, the dreadful crooning voice was there again, “ne cachez pas votre visage”.

She felt compelled to look up again, staring at the statue, unable to turn her face away.

Mella_3

She clasped her hands over her ears to try and keep out the sound of his rasping voice, to free herself from the hold he had over her. But it made no difference, his voice was inside her head, mentally caressing her, making her feel stained somehow, ruined from the inside out.

Mella_4

She looked up at the statue towering above her and was filled with all-encompassing terror. It loomed above her and she screamed as she saw the hands holding the spear slowly begin to move.

Mella_5

Valeriya lights a candle

Valeriya bent down to light the offering candle. She spent a lot of her time in the small chapel these days praying for forgiveness and thinking of the baby she had lost.

Valeriya_4

The candle was for him or her, its white purity somehow significant. She felt stained and used in comparison, so filthy that she did not know if she would ever be completely clean again.

Valeriya_5

But in the month since she had lost her baby she had begun to heal not just her external wounds but on the inside as well, to be able to begin to forgive herself for what she had done. She had the Father to thank for that, without him she would have sunk into depths of despair so low that she knew she would never been able to claw her way back out again. He was a good man and she felt now that she truly had a friend in this lonely world of hers.

Valeriya_6

Radomir had not visited her since that night, she had not seen him. She dared to hope that perhaps he did not want her anymore, that he had grown tired of her and would discard her like a used cloth.

The tiny flame flickered as a gust of air was brought into the room with the opening of the door.

Valeriya did not turn around, she knew that it was Harndall, she could feel the warmth of his presence like a comforting blanket as soon as he entered the room.

Harndall_Valeriya_8

Harndall was expecting to find Valeriya when he walked into the room. She was there most days sitting in the dark, like a pale moth furtively enamoured of the light of the single candle.

“Good day My Lady, although you would not know it was the day sitting here in the stuffy darkness”, he smiled at her, unable to hide his gladness at finding her here.

Harndall_Valeriya_9

She looked at him expressionless as she always was, unless she were sobbing quietly into her hands. There had been many meetings like that, but now she seemed better to Harndall, her eyes brighter, the dark circles that surrounded them disappearing.

“Greetings to you too Father”, she said standing and walking over to the small candle which was threatening to die out, “Perhaps you are right and I should get some fresh air”.

Harndall_Valeriya_10

He knew the reason she would not go outside, she felt safe here in the chapel, safe from her beastly husband. She would remain in here like a daffodil, cocooned safely in the darkness waiting till Spring came and it could show its lovely face again.

“I think that a fine idea, you seem to be growing quite pale these days”, he knew she would understand the joke.

And then something unexpected happened, her mouth twisted upwards at the corners, and like the sun breaking through dark clouds she smiled. It was rather tentative, the smile of an outsider standing at the edge of party hoping someone will break their solitude and talk to them, but it lit up her entire face.

Valeriya_7

His heart leapt at the sight of that smile, but as suddenly as it appeared it abruptly fell from her face, replaced with a look of distress.

Valeriya_8

He heard the door to the chapel slam shut behind him, and the heavy footsteps of another person. He did not need to turn around to know that it was Radomir.

Radomir_1

She wrapped her arms protectively around her stomach as though protecting the child that was no longer there, the child she had not done the same for before. Harndall turned to face the other man.

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Radomir stood in an agressive pose his feet spread wide, his hands on his hips and a scowl set into the features of his face.

“I thought I might find you hiding here you little whore”, Radomir spat, “I am suprised that they would let you into this place after what you have done, perhaps you have not told the good Father”.

Radomir_2

Harndall found himself instinctively stepping in front of Valeriya to protect her from the wrath of her irate husband.

“She has confessed to me her sins and has asked for God’s forgiveness, which he will gladly grant her repentant soul.”, he was finding it difficult to keep the bitter sting of anger from his voice, “Perhaps it would do you some good to also confess your sins to me, I have not seen you in the chapel for a very long time”.

Harndall_Valeriya_12

Radomir lost any farce of control he had been keeping, “You can not speak to me that way! I have not done anything wrong in the eyes of God! She is my lawful wife and I will do what I see fit to her, including punishing her as I wish! And now I have come to take her with me… there will be no more of this nonsense about sleeping in separate rooms. She is mine and she should be back with me where she belongs!”

Radomir_3

He heard a gasp of terror from behind him, a sound that made his heart shudder with distress.

“Your wife is under the Lord God’s protection and you shall not take her from this room”, his voice was echoing loudly from the walls of the wooden room giving him the appearance of more confidence than he felt, his hands trembling with barely contained rage.

The thought of this filled him with horror, that he could become so emotionally involved with those under his protection. He knew he should be calm and composed but he felt nothing but anger and something disturbingly close to hatred.

Harndall_Valeriya_13

Radomir strode towards him until he was standing so close to him that Harndall could hear the angry panting of his breath. Valeriya stood beside him and he could hear her whispering a prayer to God to deliver her from evil. Radomir was much taller than Harndall and he loomed above him ominously. Harndall sent out a silent prayer for strength against his adversities.

“I shall take her now”, Radomir said in a chilling voice, empty of emotion.

Harndall_Radomir_Valeriya_1

Harndall’s words were propelled by the force of his anger at this man, the man who had destroyed the delicate creature who stood paralysed with fear beside him.

“You most certainly shall not… you are in the house of the Lord and I would not dare raise a hand against her if I were you or you will be severly punished”.

Harndall’s words carried a certain weight and he knew that despite his anger, the other man would not destroy the sanctity of the church. He desperately feared for Valeriya if Radomir found her alone in some other place.

Harndall_Radomir_Valeriya_2

Radomir sneered at him, his lips curling cruelly at the sides, his face a mask of anger at his thwarted mission.

“All right Father, I will not take her now, but she is mine and there will come a time when I claim her again as such. You cannot protect her forever.”

Radomir_4

He turned and thundered out the door slamming it shut behind him with a bang. The last words he had spoke rang true in Harndall’s ears, he could not protect Valeriya forever from this raging beast and the thought filled him with despair.

Radomir_5

He stood beside her now, close enough to hear her shuddering breath, close enough that their hands were almost touching.

Harndall_Valeriya_14

Going to Göteborg

Hi guys, once again I am heading off for a conference… this time in Gothenburg/Göteborg. Still in Sweden and only a train trip away. And I can still phone my boyf for free :). And only till Friday when I will be back and posting again. I wanted to get one out tonight – I even have all the pics ready but unfortunately writing a presentation for the conference had to take precedence :) wish me luck… it is my first presentation… aaaagh! I don’t think I will have internet connection so if I don’t reply to you that is why.

Have a nice week!

Madlenka is visited

Madlenka awoke pressed up against the warmth of her husband’s back. She did not know what had caused her to wake but she felt distinctly uneasy and nauseous. Also she desperately needed to go to the bathroom as she often did during the night lately.

Madlenka_1

She gently wiggled over to the side of the bed, sitting up and pulling back the covers carefully so as not to wake the sleeping figure next to her. Not that she could have woken him, Eallair slept like the dead, a trait she had often thought, not particularly useful for a king to possess. Luckily she slept so lightly that the slightest noise would awaken her, and so was the best guard of all for her husband while he snored beside her.

Madlenka_2

She did not light a candle, despite all the evidence that it would not disturb Eallair, instead choosing to shuffle blindly to the door. It did not seem so dark to her anyway, in fact there was a red glow coming from the chamber next to theirs, as though someone had already lit a candle in there.

Madlenka_3

When she looked into the chamber she saw that there was no candle lit, and there was a figure standing facing her. She screamed filled with sudden heart-clenching terror, but even this did not wake Eallair.

Madlenka_4

A woman stood in the room before her, clutching a tiny baby in her arms. She seemed somehow ethereal, surrounded by a mist that seemed to emanate from the space she occupied. She did not seem to notice Madlenka standing at the doorway but was entirely focused on the tiny baby she held in her arms.

Madlenka_Laela_1

Madlenka choked back a gasp as she recognised the woman standing before her. It was her very own mother, wearing the regal robes of Lomorrad, the very robes they had buried her in. Madlenka could have been staring into the mirror, she bore such a close resemblance to her, but Laela’s skin was pallid, her eyes sunken and hollow, the skin on face drawn back slightly revealing her teeth more than was normal.

Madlenka_5

Madlenka felt a confusing blend of emotions, terror at the apparition standing before her, wonder at seeing her mother again and a desperate longing to be wrapped in those cold dead arms and bury her face in the red hair that hung limply around her mother’s face.

She felt a sharp tongue of jealousy wrap itself around her heart and squeeze. Her mother did not even notice her, oblivious to all but the babe she clutched to her chest.

Laela_1

She remember the day they had buried her mother, the sky had been filled with dark clouds as they stood before the family crypt. As they carried her to her final resting place, the skies had suddenly opened, rain pouring down on the mourners and on the body of her tiny, frail mother and the dead baby she held in her arms. She remembered the sharp prick of the raindrops, millions of tiny needles burying themselves deep into her arms, the rising smell of the cemetery soil in the rain and the salty taste of the tears that ran freely down her face. She had only been ten shivering as she clutched tightly at her younger brother, fused to him in sorrow. Her poor mother, whose body had seemed averse to bearing children, to lose her life giving birth to the last.

Suddenly her mother seemed to notice she was there, staring at her hollowly, a flicker of recognition in her dulled eyes.

Madlenka_Laela_2

She moved slowly towards Madlenka, her walk marred by an unnatural stiffness in her limbs.

Madlenka’s heart was pounding in her throat, as she stood unable to move, paralysed with fear, a sick feeling growing in her stomach.

Madlenka_Laela_3

Her mother smiled at her, a dreadful cracked smile, which contorted what had once been a beautiful face into something horrifying.

Madlenka understood she meant for her to take the baby from her, the woman was trying to press the squirming thing into her arms.

She looked down at it, her dead brother and was shocked to see Eallair’s eyes staring back at her. She reached out her arms tentatively as her mother placed the baby in them.

Madlenka_Laela_4

Madlenka awoke with a jolt, sobbing uncontrollably with tears pouring down her face.

Eallair was awakened at the sound of her distress as she pushed herself out of bed and crashed into the wall beside it.

Madlenka_6

He ran around the side of the bed, pulling his shaking, weeping wife into his arms holding her tightly against his chest and stroking her hair. He did not know what else to do.

Madlenka_Eallair_1

Boots dreams of herrings

Alexis was watching his wife converse with her pet cat with barely contained amusement.

“Look at you, you poor fat lady”, Morven crooned to the cat, “I bet your feet are really hurting, I know mine are”.

Morven_Alexis_Boots_1

Alexis stared at the enormous cat which was now purring furiously. He had not idea how many kittens were inside that thing, but it looked like it was bursting at the seams with them.

Speaking of which is wife was looking rather rotund herself, despite the fact that she was not due till February. He had been comparing her figure closely with that of the other pregnant women on the island and had come to the conclusion that his wife was in fact, larger than normal. Especially after a thorough visual comparison with one of the peasants Darina, who was the same size as Morven was now, even though he had heard Darina was due in December. He had also noted with joy, that his wife’s breasts had swollen to a much bigger size than Darina’s.

Morven_Boots_1

“Maybe you should not eat so much candy and that cat a little less herrings and you would both be a damn site thinner”, he said, chuckling, unable to hide the smile that had crept unbidden from beneath his moustache.

Alexis_1

Morven’s face contorted into an expression of mock horror.

“Did you hear what that nasty man said Boots? What a terrible thing to say. Are not men horrible… especially when they are to blame for this uncomfortable state we now find ourself in”.

Morven_Boots_2

Boots meowed in agreement. She had not seen the tomcat who had got these kittens on her since that fateful night in the ships hull. She rubbed her face against her mistress, purring louder still, grateful to find someone who understood.

Morven_Boots_3

Morven nuzzled her back, stroking her soft, black fur.

“Hey! What about my snuggles… what about my nuzzling”, Alexis demanded from the bed.

Morven looked over at her husband who was lying expectantly on the bed with his hands folded over his naked stomach.

Alexis_2

She gently put Boots onto the floor, and turned towards the bed.

“Oof… I just felt the baby kick… what have you put inside me Alexis”, she grinned despite herself, “It feels like it’s dancing the polka”.

She rubbed her belly gently, grinning at Alexis.

Morven_1

“I guess he’s his father’s son”, Alexis said, “I have always been a fantastic dancer… that’s probably why you married me in the first place”.

Morven had started to move around the bed. Alexis lost his train of thought as he watched the slow progression.

He thought he would not have been interested in Morven when she was pregnant, that he would have needed to find his pleasure elsewhere. But he could not have been more wrong. She seemed more beautiful to him now, if that were possible, her skin glowing, her body round and curvy and her breasts deliciously swollen.

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She carefully lowered herself onto the bed beside him, “So how do you know it’s going to be a son?”.

“Because I just know these things my dear, call it a very strong feeling I have of sonliness emanating from you round belly”.

He wrapped an arm around her and gently pulled her closer to him.

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“Now that I have you all to myself finally…”, he began to gently stroke her stomach.

Suddenly there was a thud on the bed as a furry black creature landed next to them, purring madly.

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“Or not”, Alexis sighed.

He did not mind his wife having that cat, he knew that Boots made her very happy. And he was oddly attached to the fat black thing but it always interrupted them at the most inopportune of moments.

“This my dear, is what is known as catus interruptus”.

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Morven giggled as he whispered in her ear, “Do you think she will go away if we close our eyes and pretend we don’t see her”.

“I do not know Alexis, maybe we can give it a try”.

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They both shut their eyes tightly, but Alexis felt Morven laughing against him and so opened his again.

Boots had squashed herself into the hollow at the back of Morven’s knees, burying her face in the folds of dress.

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“Well that worked well”, Alexis smiled, “Well my dear, Boots is just going to have to cover her ears because I find you way too enticing today to be deterred by a small, furry person invading our bed”.

He gently kissed her soft lips, his kisses becoming gradually stronger and moving down her neck towards those swollen breasts.

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Boots was exhausted, as she lay curled up on the blankets oblivious to what was going on around her. It was hard work lugging around a belly full of kittens, and she slept soundly, purring softly, dreaming of buckets full of herrings.

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Lisbet’s fire is rekindled

As always when they happened to be going to bed at the same time, they went to their respective beds, not even saying goodnight to each other.

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Cordell sat on the edge of the bed, purposefully looking at Lisbet as she tucked herself into bed. He was desperate to start a fight. Things had been very different between them since he had woken from his coma two weeks before. Where there had been a plethora of screaming and yelling before now there was only silence. And he could not bear the silence. Anything would have been better than this.

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Lisbet rolled over and was soon sleeping soundly, but sleep would not visit him tonight. It was not the pain of his wounds, which were slowly healing, although it seemed his face would be marked with a scar permanently now. No, it was a different pain, a pain pounding in his heart, making him dizzy and sick. He felt light-headed as he stood, supporting himself on the bedpost so he did not fall.

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He silently crept to her bedside so he could see her sleeping face, lit by the golden candlelight. Her features were soft, but he could not help but notice how sorrowful they were even in sleep. It also occured to him that she wore her hair differently now when she slept, she had forcefully tied it back, although large pieces fell around her face refusing to be tamed. Her mouth was open slightly, her cheeks flushed pink with sleep. Cordell longed to feel the touch of those soft lips on his, to rub his face against those warm cheeks. It was too much to bear.

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He gently shook her awake, thinking dolefully of all the times she had not been so polite in raising him from his sleep. She mumbled and stirred, rolling towards him, her eyes blinking sleepily. When her eyes met his, he noticed they widened slightly, a look of suprise clearly written on her face.

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She pulled the covers back as he stood watching her. How had he never before noticed the way the folds of her flimsy, white nightgown clung to the curves beneath. His heart was thumping in his chest so loudly now he felt sure she must have heard it.

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If she did she gave no sign, carefully smoothing the hair that had broke free of its confines back into place.

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She put her hands on her hips the way she used to before a fight but all the fire had gone out of it, leaving only the glow of deadening coals.

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“What do you want Cordell?”, she sighed deeply, her hair falling in front of her face again. This time she did not try to straighten it as though the effort was too much.

He searched her face for some sign that the passionate, angry woman he had married was still inside there, anything but this marionette standing before him. Had she really changed so much in the weeks he had been ill. He had only now realised that though fire could burn if you stood too close, or tried to smother it with your hands, it could also warm and comfort if you let it flicker. Now he feared that the fire had gone out.

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She was staring at him, her eyes still dull from sleep and he suddenly realised how close his hand was to touching hers and with a burst of courage he reached out and took it.

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She pulled it away as though he had burnt it. He looked at her face searching for some anger at his actions but saw none there, only confusion and sadness.

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After gazing at each other for some moments, she finally spoke, “Cordell… I am tired… can you let me go back to sleep”.

She said it with a half-laugh, but there was no joy in it and it sounded hollow to his ears. She started to move back towards the bed.

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In a moment of clarity Cordell realised that this was it, his last chance, after this there would be nothing. All of the heat of the fire would be gone, the coals too cold for any kindling to relight them.

He reached for her, pulling her firmly into his arms, so the entire length of their bodies was pressed together. He could feel her trembling against him, her breath coming out ragged between parted lips, her pupils dilated. His mouth was so close to hers he could almost taste those lips.

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“Cordell… let me go”, she said but there was no resolution behind her shaking voice, “I am tired”.

She stared at him, and he finally saw the flicker of a small spark of defiance behind her gaze, as though she was daring him to comply. It was enough and he tilted her back so far that she had to cling to him to stay upright, his mouth hungrily finding hers. She kissed him back with a passion equaling his and he felt the fire flare up between them.

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She moaned as he nipped at the soft skin of her neck, her fingernails digging into his back as she fought to stay upright. He could feel her nightgown riding up her leg and he was suddenly desperate for the material that separated them to be gone.

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He turned her around and began to untie the laces of her gown.

“It should be my ladies doing that for me”, she joked, though he could hear her voice shaking.

It reminded him of their actual wedding night when he had found she had dressed herself again after her ladies had left, and had refused to let him touch her.

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It also reminded him that he had never seen her naked body before and he pulled frantically at the laces. It should not have been so difficult but his fingers were nervously fumbling and he felt like cheering when finally her gown slid to the floor. He was quickly distracted from his small victory by the sight of her.

She was no longer laughing as he stood behind her so close she could feel his hot breath on the back of her neck. His hands caressed her sides, slowly moving down to rest on her hips.

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“Cordell,” she whispered, the tiniest sound he had ever heard from her, “I am very sorry”.

“Me too Lisbet… for everything”, he gently turned her around kissing her deeply, her hair falling over their faces.

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He maneuvered her over to the bed and gently laid her down, still kissing her, his hand stroking the smooth curve of her thigh. Her arms were wrapped around his waist and he found himself not quite believing this could actually be happening.

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He stopped for a moment, looking searchingly at her face, but he saw there no hostility, only warmth and the hint of something else. He was not able to ponder what that might be as she grasped a fistful of his hair in her hand and pulled his mouth to hers, kissing him fiercely.

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He gently moved inside her, kissing her hard to distract her from the pain. He felt her arms tighten around his back, then go soft as she relaxed letting him in.

“Lisbet”, he murmured softly in her ear, “Now we truly are married”.

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The pain was great for Lisbet but so was the pleasure as she hugged her husband to her, tears running uncontrollably down her face.

“I love you Lisbet”, he managed to say between ragged gasps, “I love you… I love you so much. I thought I was dead and I would never be with you but then you saved me from the dark”.

“I love you too Cordell”, was all she could reply but it was more than enough.

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