Life in Therin returned to relative normality over the following weeks. With the exception that Daien was now able to spend time with Tarienne when his daily training and tasks were completed because Aidan did not believe in class distinction as his father did. Aidan believed in love. He wished to marry for love rather than duty.
Daien spent most nights with Tarienne too often slipping back to his own bed in the early hours of the morning to avoid gossip. Tarienne constantly entered Daien’s thoughts, distracting him. When they were apart he couldn’t wait to get back to her. Daien marvelled at that realisation. He’d never wanted to spend time with a woman as he did with Tarienne, never dreamed that he could feel so many emotions at once and never felt so protective of anyone. Damn, he was getting soft. A grin curved his lips.
Much of Tarienne’s time was taken up assisting Aidan with the day-to-day running of the castle. Aidan, she noted proudly, was quickly gaining a reputation as a very fair and patient King. He ensured that he personally heard the grievances of all those villagers who travelled often long distances to seek an audience with him. After one particularly long session, with Aidan granting audience to an unusually large number of outer villagers, all of whom had problems they wished his help or advice with, Tarienne decided it was time to implement her plan. There had been many reports of raids on local farms and reports of wild beasts killing livestock. Tarienne didn’t know how long Therin would remain at peace so she didn’t want to wait any longer to make her relationship with Daien public.
The King’s Guards always flanked the aisle via which the villagers were admitted as protection for the King. As usual, after the last of the villagers had been dismissed, Aidan rose from his throne and stretched. Tarienne pulled in a deep breath determination to fulfil her promise steeling her resolve. The King’s Guards turned to leave and Tarienne rose speaking in a quiet, yet commanding tone that filled the air with it’s power.
The solitary word compelled all in the room to turn and face the Lady Tarienne, questioning looks passing between them. Tarienne flowed slowly yet purposefully down the stairs toward Daien. Aidan’s mouth quirked into a small smile, one eyebrow raised. He guessed her intent. She approached Daien like a cat approaching it’s prey, moving up within a whisper of this heart achingly, gorgeous man. No-one existed for her but Daien. Standing perfectly still, he followed Tarienne’s approach, his emotions carefully masked. The slight twitching of his fingers hanging at his side the only indication of any uncertainty.
Silence hung heavily in the air. Tarienne and Daien’s gaze locked on each other for what seemed like an eternity. Tarienne’s tongue slid out moistening her suddenly dry lips. A soft groan escaped Daien’s lips. Swooping down, capturing her mouth in a gentle kiss his arms snaked around her holding her close. Tarienne’s heart thumped erratically and her body responded, melting into him. A flush crept up her neck and her dress rubbed her sensitive breasts. Despite the onlookers Tarienne’s arms swept around Daien’s neck and they deepened the kiss. Eventually, Aidan cleared his throat loudly. Smiling against each other’s lips they reluctantly pulled apart to cheers from the onlookers.
The final corner of Daien’s heart opened for this amazing woman. He was unbelievably touched at Tarienne’s gesture of complete trust, announcing their relationship in front of the King and Daien’s fellow guards. She’d brought his dream to life. He was speechless with love, desire and a burning passion that he was unable to sate until later. Daien wanted to sweep her away and prove the strength of his love for her,instead he kissed her hand and bowed deeply unable to keep a huge grin from breaking free. Before he left with Aidan, Daien moved up close to her, injecting his fiery desire into a promise.
“Later, Sweetheart, later.”
Tarienne gasped, her hand fluttering to her chest, a beautiful pink flush creeping up her neck into her cheeks. Daien chuckled as he headed down the corridor with the other Guards.
A short while later as Tarienne walked along the chilly corridors of the castle to her chambers a hand darted out yanking her behind a stone pillar. Squealing, then instantly relaxing when she recognised the delicious male scent of her man sweeping her into his arms.
“I wanted to thank you for today, Sweetheart. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Thank youmy beautiful love.”
Daien kissed her with such passion that Tarienne wished they were back in her room so they could take it further. When they broke the kiss, she took a moment to catch her breath.
“I’m sorry it wasn’t exactly like your dream.”
Daien gifted her with the heart stopping smile that he reserved for her alone.
“It was better. In my dream, you kissed me. Today, you allowed me the choice.” His voice took on a huskiness that betrayed his desire, “I love you, Ren.”
Daien kissed her until she was dizzy, then whispered, “Meet me at the training yard in one hour.”
Slipping away before she could respond Daien left Tarienne breathless and wanting. He strode down the corridor shafts of sunlight lancing through the windows, creating sun kissed streaks in his brown, shoulder length hair.
Unsteady after their passionate kiss behind the pillar Tarienne slowly made her way to her chambers. Changing into her light brown riding pants and a soft, taupe, linen shirt that would allow her to move freely, she left to meet Daien for her first sword fighting lesson. Excitement lanced through her and her heart thumped wildly. She was breathless before the training started.
Daien was impossibly aroused even before they began the lesson. He couldn’t resist occasionally slipping his arms around Tarienne to demonstrate a move. She proved to be a talented swordswoman and a quick learner. Daien’s pride in her escalated his desire to the point where he could not resist moving closer so their bodies touched in the guise of helping her perfect a technique.
Her soft curves moving against his body heated his blood. Daien’s hands slid down her arms, capturing her back against his chest. Gripping her hands on the hilt of her sword he demonstrated the technique of spinning the weapon around. His heart thumping erratically he struggled to maintain focus on the training. His body ached with the power of his desire and his trousers were so tight that he was certain they would rip any minute. Dragging in a few deep breaths he managed to grasp the edges of his self control and finish the lesson.
Betraying that she was similarly affected Tarienne sent him a heated gaze that was almost his undoing before she turned and stiffly walked away. His gaze locked on her retreating form Daien panted heavily, not entirely due to the exertion of the training. The sway of Tarienne’s hips pulled a low growl from his lips. Fisting his hands Daien forced himself to turn away before he followed after her. If he pursued her right now he didn’t think they’d make it back to her chambers before they ravaged each other. Daien sucked in a few deep breaths striding to the armoury to clean his sword in an attempt to regain some measure of control.
Despite cleaning his sword more vigorously than ever before and waiting until after the evening meal to return to Tarienne, their passion flared white hot again. Daien marvelled at the heat they shared. Tarienne never refused him, never seemed reluctant and always met him with desire equal to his own. He’d been told that women often refused their husbands and lovers. Tarienne was different. He was incredibly grateful for that. Despite making love often and spending as much time as they could together Daien still couldn’t get enough of her. He briefly wondered if she’d cast a spell on him then just as quickly discarded that thought, because, above all else, he trusted her.
Whenever they were able they trained together. Tarienne began to gain a strength and agility with the sword that pleased Daien. She spent what was left of her days with Aidan discussing the running of the castle. Tarienne was never far from Daien’s thoughts even when they were apart. He found himself uncharacteristically distracted and collected a few bruises and cuts from his training matches with Orien. It helped when he cleared his mind before a match but inevitably Tarienne crept back into his thoughts.
When the King came to the practice yard to train Daien forced himself to focus. It took every ounce of his concentration to remain competitive against Aidan who was one of the most highly skilled swordsmen Daien had ever met. Aidan grinned when he managed to twist Daien’s sword from his hand. Daien, never one to give up on a challenge, dropped low and swept Aidan’s feet from under him. Aidan thudded to the ground. For the briefest of moments Daien faltered, breathing again when Aidan chuckled as he rose accepting Daien’s hand to haul him upright. He thumped Daien on the back.
“Nice move. I thought I had you for a moment.”
Daien grinned back at his King. “I thought you had me for a moment.”
They laughed and returned inside to clean up before the evening meal.
Word soon spread through the kingdom that Aidan was a fairer and more tolerant King than his father had been. Tarienne noticed that Fae and Elven folk had started visiting the local market stalls. They were disguised but she could sense the tingle of their magical presence when they passed her in the streets. Most avoided making eye contact with her however occasionally one would allow their gaze to briefly flick in her direction. When they did she would smile and nod almost imperceptibly to acknowledge them, hoping she could convey that they were safe. She couldn’t fight the sliver of worry that Aidan might dislike their presence in Therin.
Tarienne had managed to convince Daien to join her while she wandered amongst the market stalls searching for some herbs she needed to replenish in her healing supplies. They sauntered, hand-in-hand, his thumb absently caressing the back of her hand as they talked. Tarienne was surprised to see a large number of Fae and Elves entering the city both shopping at the market stalls and milling around in groups. She was just about to mention it to Daien when a terrifying feeling of impending doom, gripped her. Quite suddenly weakness and nausea caused her to stumble. Grabbing at Daien Tarienne leaned heavily into him for support. Catching her as she swayed, concern etched across his face.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
Pulling in several deep breaths to steady herself Tarienne scanned the crowd using her Fae vision, attempting to identify the cause of her reaction.
“I’m not certain,” she managed weakly, “It feels like ...something ...,” she struggled to explain, “something evil just passed by.”
Daien immediately shifted to shelter her body his hand moving instinctively to the sword hanging at his side. Narrowing his eyes he scanned the crowded streets with practiced eyes, assessing the danger.
“Daien, please take me back to my chambers, I need to speak with my brother.”
Wrapping his arm protectively around her shoulders Daien pullied her close as he escorted her through the streets his eyes scanning for danger while they hurried toward the citadel. Daien’s right hand rested on the hilt of his sword ready for action should it be necessary. When they reached her chambers he shoved the door open scooping her up into his arms and deposited her gently on the bed.
His voice was filled with both concern and the authority that came with being confident of the ability to protect those he loved.
“Sweetheart, tell me what happened.”
“I’m not completely sure, will you stay with me while I speak with Raef?
Daien nodded but sent her a questioning look.
Tarienne explained. “We, the Fae, have the ability to project our thoughts to each other over quite long distances. If you hold my hand I’ll project what Raef says so we can both hear. Is that alright with you?”
Daien nodded, his trust in her implicit.
Tarienne held out her hand, Daien’s fingers curled protectively around it. Drawing strength from him, she silently called her brother’s name. Almost instantly, Raef responded.
Daien jumped a little at the voice in his mind. Tarienne smiled reassuringly and Daien settled back into the chair beside her.
“Raef, Daien is here with me, listening.”
Raef did not respond but Daien felt a sense of approval filter through his mind. It was a strange sensation to have someone else’s thoughts in your head. Daien cleared his mind as he did when training, so he could focus on what was being said.
Raef’s voice entered Daien’s thoughts again. “Are you sure you don’t have Fae or Elven blood in you, Daien, you have instinctively cleared your mind to receive my communication?”
Daien did not know how to answer, looking at Tarienne for assistance.
“Think your words as if you were saying them,” she offered, ” Raef is strong, he will hear you.” She smiled encouragingly.
Daien drew a breath, relaxed his body and pushed his thoughts out. “It is something I do when I fight. I have no idea about my heritage, my parents died when I was quite young. The sensation of communicating like this is odd, but strangely familiar.”
Tarienne broke into their conversation, causing Daien to smile at her frustration.
“Raef, can we get back to the reason I contacted you, please?” Tarienne was impatient, concerned at the intensity of her reaction in the market place earlier.
“Sorry, Sweetling, continue.”
“Daien and I were in the market place a short while ago. I noticed a large number of Fae and Elven folk were entering the city and milling around the stalls, when I felt something that I can only describe as a wave of evil intent. I couldn’t identify where it came from, but it felt as if it was sucking the strength out of me. It frightened me Raef, I’ve never felt anything like it.”
Raef cursed. “It’s happening more quickly than I expected. The balance is failing. Evil creatures are escaping from the deepest crevices of the land. I’ve had reports of gargoyles and other blood sucking creatures terrorising the outer villages. I’d thought it was only a few we could manage but given the influx of Elves and Fae into Therin it must be more wide spread than I previously believed.”
Tarienne interrupted Raef again.“What can we do?”
“This is about magical creatures, evil ones. We can no longer hide this from Therin and its people. Aidan must know and you, Ren must reveal her abilities to do so.”
Daien joined the conversation. Tarienne briefly marvelled at how quickly he had accepted and learned to project his thoughts. She stood too soon and Daien caught her as she swayed slightly.
“How soon must we do this?” Daien’s concern echoed through his thoughts.
Raef did not hesitate with his response. “Now, before it is too late! I will leave for Therin immediately.”
Daien and Tarienne’s eyes met. He hauled her to him for a quick reassuring kiss then they hastened to find Aidan. They were hurrying through the practice yard, after checking with Orien and Elnath on Aidan’s whereabouts when what sounded like an explosion ripped through the stone roof over the throne room. An unearthly shriek pierced the air. They both looked up. Tarienne paled.
“Saints preserve us, Gargoyles!”
Daien heard her voice across his thoughts contacting Raef as they ran. He didn’t have time right then, to wonder why he could hear her when she wasn’t projecting her thoughts to him.
His sword drawn, Daien bellowed. “Run, get everyone inside.”
Orien and Elnath sprang into action swords at the ready shepherding everyone inside. Tarienne dashed toward the throne room her cumbersome dress swishing around her legs threatening to trip her. Grabbing at the sides she lifted the hem off the ground as best she could and ran.
Daien sprinted along the stone path close behind watching her back and wondering what they’d find inside. His body tensed ready to fight, his battle calm suffusing his body. Nothing could have prepared him for what they saw when they skidded into the throne room together. Aidan battled a huge, green skinned Gargoyle with jagged, yellow teeth. It’s skin resembled dark green roof shingles and it’s eyes bulged like a giant toad. It’s vicious claws swiped ever closer backing Aidan into a corner. Daien swore hurtling into the combat to aid his King.
A deep rumble and the cracking of stone drew their attention upward. The roof was collapsing. Without hesitation Tarienne began chanting, using her magic to hold the ceiling in place until they could get Aidan out. Her voice rose strong and confident above the din of the battle.
Darting in behind the Gargoyle Daien launched himself at its back, sword held high. His blade penetrated it’s thick, gnarled skin and an ear shattering screech gushed from its mouth. The creature swung its log like arm backwards sending Daien sprawling across the room into the throne. Pain shot through him as his ribs cracked and his head impacted with the cold, unyielding granite of the ancient throne. For a moment darkness filled his vision then sparks flashed across his sight followed by a splitting pain in his head.
Tarienne heard a loud grunt as Daien impacted with the throne. Snatching a sharp breath, fear plunged through her. A sliver of relief penetrating the terror ripping through her as Daien shook his head, attempting to regain his feet before the creature attacked again. Aidan spun his sword stabbing at the creature’s back.
Despite its size the creature was surprisingly agile grabbing Aidan before he could sink his blade into it. Cold fury coursed through Tarienne at the sight of those she loved in danger. Words of an ancient spell thought long forgotten surged from her mouth, the Spell of Retribution. She had no idea how she knew the foreign words but did not question the incredible power that surged through her like a tidal wave as she spoke them. Allowing the magic to build she unleashed it on the Gargoyle and the other fell creatures that had been drawn by the smell of blood to surround Aidan.
Screaming the final words of the spell over the din of the battle, ” ...Gargoyle MORDEN!” Tarienne held her breath.
The beasts exploded in a bloody mess. Part of the roof collapsed sending choking dust spewing through the now partially destroyed throne room. Daien rose, grimacing but held his sword defensively moving up behind Tarienne. Tarienne’s eyes focused on Aidan as he rose from the gore that had been the giant Gargoyle watching him limp slowly toward her. She was unsure if the blood on his clothes was his own or the creature’s. His gaze bored into her assessing her as if she were a stranger, a threat.
“What did you do?”
Tarienne did not answer, nor flinch from the accusatory tone, instead raising her chin defiantly. Despite his injuries, Daien moved in front of Tarienne his sword half ready, a low warning on his lips.
Aidan shook his head as if shaking off a nightmare.His eyes cleared and the frown across his brow eased.
“You have magic.”
Tarienne nodded, an almost undeniable urge coursing through her to step back from Aidan. By sheer force of will she held her ground and Aidan’s gaze. Aidan seemed to know what she was thinking.
He offered quietly, almost gently, “I am not my father, Tarienne. Thank you for saving my life and my people.”
Relief almost overwhelmed Tarienne, her legs buckled exhaustion finally claiming her. Both Daien and Aidan leapt forward to stop her falling. Catching her under the arms, they lifted her gently onto the now, half shattered, throne.
“Sweetheart?” Daien’s voice was laced with concern.
“I’ll be alright, I’m just exhausted after calling the ancient power.” She smiled weakly at Daien and to Aidan, added, “More will come. I need to tell you why, I need to tell you ...”
Before she could finish, she slipped into unconsciousness, driven by utter exhaustion.
When Tarienne opened her eyes she was in her bed with three sets of concerned, male eyes staring down at her.
“Raef!” she cried, flinging her arms around her brother’s neck.
“You gave us all quite a fright, Sweetling.”
Raef’s handsome face broke into a smile. Tarienne knew he had ridden hard with the use of magic to reach Therin so quickly. He had smudges of dirt on his clothes and his shoulder length, blonde hair, hung in ratty ropes over his eyes and around his face. His bright blue eyes sparkled in his dirty face as Raef’s strength flowed into her via his murmured healing spell.
“It’s time we told Aidan everything, Sweetling. Rest awhile as we talk.”
Raef stroked her hair tenderly, then pulled up a chair, straddling it backwards. Aidan perched on the end of the bed one leg hooked under him. Daien settled into a chair next to Tarienne. He captured her hand planting a gentle kiss on her palm. She shivered in response and smiled, her eyes full of love for him. Raef caught the exchange a pleased grin crinkling the corners of his eyes.
Ever impatient, Tarienne urged Raef on.“Raef, we need to leave as soon as possible, I can ...”
“Hush, Sweetling, our brethren are bringing in the outlying villagers as we speak, accompanied by Orien and Elnath. The Elves are repairing the damage the Gargoyles caused and fortifying the castle. We have people bringing in food and other supplies and we’re about to tell Aidan what has been and what needs to be.”
His calm demeanour eased the tension in Tarienne’s shoulders. Temporarily appeased, Tarienne pulled in a deep breath, relaxing back onto the pillow, her fingers entwined with Daien’s as Raef began.
“Firstly, Aidan, you must understand that Tarienne and myself are of the Fae and are the son and daughter of the King and Queen of Darewood. As the eldest we are the Crown Prince and Princess. I tell you this not to intimidate or boast but to impress upon you the gravity of the situation that would see us both risking our lives to protect you.”
Aidan nodded, his eyes wide waiting for more. Tarienne could see the tension in his body but he was at least trying to accept who she and Raef were which was way more than his father would have done. She wondered how he would receive everything else that Raef was about to tell him.
Raef continued. “Many years ago, a prophet came to our Kingdom, declaring that Tarienne and I would be instrumental in helping find the Golden Stone and returning it to its rightful place thus restoring the balance of magic to the world. The prophecy began, when several hundred years ago, the Elders of the immortal races fought a deadly magical war against a powerful Sorcerer named Rantar. Half Fae and half Elven, Rantar sought to hold the balance of magic for himself. His greatest desire was to destroy the Elders and gather the power within them for himself. He managed to kill five of the twelve Elder council and, drawing on dark magic, sucked the power from them as they died. This was no easy feat. The Elder are the most powerful and experienced of us.
The sheer intensity of the power Rantar gathered, eventually sent him more insane than he already was. The remainder of the Elder council, gathered an army finally managing to trap and kill him. Unfortunately many of the evil creatures he created had already escaped. The council spent many years tracking these fell beasts down and securing them in caverns deep in the bowels of the earth using powerful containment spells.
Before Rantar died the Elders were able to extract the power he had stolen, but could not absorb it themselves for fear they too would be driven mad. They decided to contain this immense power in a precious golden stone and leave it where no-one would think to look for it, in the care of a human King. For many years it was kept safe in the Keep here at Therin.”
Raef paused, “When your father became King he buried everything he believed to be magical in a deep cavern several weeks ride from Therin. Someone or something has now found that cavern and is systematically freeing the creatures trapped beneath the earth using the power of the golden stone. It seems the creatures have been breeding in their dark prison, creating twisted, mixed breeds, possessing dark magic. The Fae and Elven folk sensed the change in the balance and began moving in to Therin where they believed that their people would be safe. Until recently they hid their presence despite the tales they had heard of your tolerance and fair judgements, Aidan.
When we realised it was to be your destiny to return the balance of magic to Therin we knew we had to protect you at all costs so Ren and I moved to the castle at Ferngrove. Your father allowed her to live here as you are aware believing Tarienne required royal guidance. We have been watching over you to keep you safe, until, as the guardian of the Golden Stone we could help you return the balance of magic to the Kingdom. We must now move with haste to find and retrieve the Golden Stone before the situation worsens further.” Raef held Aidan’s stunned gaze.
Aidan was unable to speak for a moment, when he did, he sounded overwhelmed by all he had heard.
” ...and how do you expect me to do that?”
Tarienne finally broke her silence. She knew that what Raef had just told him was a shock, a great deal to process in a brief space of time.
“We will help you as best we can, Aidan. Now do you understand why I was so upset when you wouldn’t allow me to accompany you, when you battled Lemere with your father?”
Aidan nodded, his eyes betrayed his bewilderment. ” I could not have known ...”
“I realise that, Aidan, but you need to understand now that you cannot exclude myself or Raef from anything until the Golden Stone is found and the balance is returned. It is our destiny to help you regain it.”
Aidan’s thoughts raced, his head hurt, trying to process all that he had been told. His eyes slid to Tarienne. How had she hidden how powerful she was, especially from him, when they’d been so close? He suddenly felt grateful that she’d been able to hide her magic from his father. If she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have been by his side to be his pretend love, to support him when his father died. She’d become such a very important part of his life.
Aidan frowned, remembering what they’d said about protecting him, how he always felt better when Tarienne was close by. She’d introduced him to the warmth and affection of touch. He didn’t remember his mother and his father had rarely touched him save for a thump on the back if he’d done something well. Tarienne had listened to his opinion, argued, agreed and laughed with him, hugged him, held his hand, kissed his cheek and massaged his neck and shoulders when he was tense. Had she been using magic on him all this time? He couldn’t stop a small grin tugging at his lips. A little of the tension he’d felt eased. He wouldn’t be alone on this quest. His attention was dragged back to the present by Raef rising to his feet and yawning widely.
“Now, If you wouldn’t mind, Aidan, I need a bath and something to eat.”
Tarienne wrinkled her nose at Raef. His tall, muscular, yet lean body, was covered in dirt, yet he was still so impossibly handsome that the maids would be falling over each other to help him when all he really wanted was to rest. She smiled to herself, he would however, be kind and accepting and each one would fall a little in love with him. If only they knew that the only woman he would ever be interested in was Elyssia, the exquisitely beautiful half Fae, half Elven woman. Elyssia had arrived many years ago with her brother Fienn, to live with them in Darewood after their parents had both been killed in battle.
Tarienne’s focus shifted back to Aidan as he flipped from just Aidan, into his role as custodian of Therin. She smiled, proud of his acceptance of everything he’d seen, everything he’d been told today.
“The guest chamber next door is currently unused. I’ll send someone to draw a bath for you.”
Raef waved his hand, “No need, I can do this for myself as long as there is a tub in the room, but I would appreciate if you could arrange for some food to be sent up.”
“Consider it done.” Aidan rose to leave. “I’ll have the kitchen begin preparing travel supplies. We leave on the morrow.”
Aidan’s eyes, flicked to Daien and he nodded almost imperceptibly acknowledging that Daien would be staying. Aidan left to organise the management of the castle and Kingdom in his absence.
Raef slipped quietly out of the room with a soft, “Goodnight, Sweetling, sleep well.”
Neither Daien nor Tarienne spoke for a long time. “Stay with me tonight, Daien?”
He moved to sit beside her on the bed, his gaze hooded. His hand covered hers then he tipped it over linking his fingers with hers. Bringing her hand to his lips his eyes held concern.
“You frightened me today.”
Tarienne reached for him, placing her hand gently on his cheek.
“I am stronger than you realise, Daien. The spell I worked today was one thought long forgotten, raised, I believe out of dire need. It drained my strength. I just need to rest some more, Raef has replenished most of my energy.”
“You should not have healed my wounds, Sweetheart. I felt the tingle of your magic flowing into me.” He chastised gently.
Stunned by his statement, Tarienne gripped Daien’s arms. She searched his face, frowning.
“You can feel my magic?”
He nodded. “It’s like a tingling feeling. I noticed something similar when you tended my leg after the boar gored it, when you came to me after the jousting tournament and again today, just before you felt the evil at the market. I even sensed it when you were nearby, feeling a warmth, nay a comfort from your presence. I just didn’t know what it was until recently.”
Excitement tinged her voice. “You sensed the magic of the Elves and Fae at the market? Raef must be correct, somewhere in your heritage is a non-human. I must talk more with him on this. Perhaps if he tries, he will be able locate a hidden memory or something that might tell us more about.”
Daien growled, pushing her gently back onto the pillow, claiming her lips for a dizzying kiss. All thought of anything but each other, fled their minds. They explored each other’s bodies, their passion igniting over and over until the early hours of the morning.
Tarienne had never felt so relaxed, so treasured. Her heart bloomed with love for her warrior. She marvelled at the contrast between the powerful and skilled fighter that Daien was and the tender, gentle passion that he showed her. She finally drifted off to sleep securely snuggled into Daien, his arm wrapped possessively around her.
The next morning, Tarienne awoke early, feeling warm and achy in the most intimate of places. Daien slept on. Slipping carefully from his embrace so she didn’t wake him she turned, unable to stop herself from gazing at the gorgeous man in her bed. He looked sated and deliciously tousled, the sheet draped across his taut, scuplted stomach, one leg casually bent on top of the covers. She grinned. Mine. On an impulse she decided to surprise Daien with breakfast given this would be their last day in a real bed and alone for many weeks. Tarienne warmed the bath water with a whispered spell so Daien could bathe if he woke before her return.
She tended to her needs before slipping down to the kitchen. Locating a tray she grabbed several pieces of fresh fruit, filled a bowl with freshly cooked oats pouring a little honey over it and filched some fruit filled pastries left over from yesterday. Her stomach rumbled as the delicious aroma of hot porridge drifted to her nose.
When she nudged her way into her chambers with the tray, Daien was washed and dressed in dark brown trousers and a black shirt not yet laced up over his muscled torso. He was so handsome he took her breath away all over again. He looked up as she entered and swiftly moved to take the tray, placing it on the small table beside the bed. When he turned back to her, his eyes were dark and hooded with desire.
Prowling closer he took her hands in his, dropping a gentle kiss on her lips. He looked so gorgeous she desperately wanted him to kiss her again until they both couldn’t breathe. Drawing her toward the chair beside the bed he motioned for her to sit. Tarienne looked up at him a question forming on her lips. Daien smiled the special heart stopping smile he reserved for her alone.
Before she could ask he dropped to one knee, gathering her hand in his. Her heart began to pound a staccato beat. She drew in a sharp breath.
“Tarienne,” he began his voice husky with emotion, “Sweetheart today we depart on a long and dangerous journey. Before we leave, I want you to understand how much I love you, how much I desire you and how much you mean to me. Before you came into my life, I was happy enough with my lot, but I did not realise that something was missing. You have shown me a depth of love and passion that I did not know existed. You are the other half of my soul. I can’t imagine a future without you. I love you so much, Sweetheart. Will you marry me?”
Tarienne slid to her knees in front of him tears flowing freely down her cheeks.
She cupped hos face in her hands and kissed him with every ounce of love and passion she could pour into it. When they pulled apart, they were both panting. Daien searched her face, a sliver of concern furrowing his brows.
“Is that Oh ,Daien yes, or Oh, Daien no?”
His eyes crinkled with the beginnings of a smile.
“Yes, my Daien. I will marry you. How could I not? You are the very air that I breathe.”
Daien’s smile spread wide. He stood, drawing her up with him and wrapped his arms around her so tightly she could barely breathe. He gathered her up swinging her around, planting a bruising, joy filled kiss on her lips. Lowering her feet back to the ground he fished around in his pocket.
Tarienne was struggling to produce a coherent thought. What was he doing? When Daien produced the most beautiful golden ring she had ever seen with a crest surrounded by rubies and diamonds, her tears began afresh. Daien grasped her hand, tenderly sliding the ring on her finger.
Tarienne gasped. “Daien, it is so beautiful!”
Admiring the setting of the stones and the crest she watched it sparkle in the light. Her love for Daien swelled. Her eyes sought his. Were there tears in his eyes? Tarienne flung her arms around his neck, hugging him hard, then kissing her way along his jaw, to his lips. Eventually, he slid her arms from around his neck, capturing her hands. Tangling his fingers with hers he lifted the ring up between them, to eye level.
“This ring was my Mother’s. It has our family crest on it though I’ve never been able to find out more of its history.” He kissed her fingers one by one, sending a shiver through her. “I wish we could marry before we leave, but it will be something to look forward to on our return.”
Daien continued kissing her hand and then flipped it over to kiss her palm. The action sent delicious little shocks through Tarienne’s body. Desire flooded her and a little moan escaped her lips. Daien worked his way up her arm kissing her neck, then the sensitive spot beneath her ear at which point, all coherent thought left her.
Groaning as she arched her body against him Daien swept her up sliding her onto the dresser and shoved everything to the back with his free hand. He moved up between her legs, evoking a little whimper from her. Impatient for the feel of his skin, Tarienne grasped the edges of Daien’s shirt, dragging it over his head. He hardly broke the contact of his lips with her skin as they scorched their way down to her breasts. Daien suckled the tight buds of her nipples through the thin material of her blouse.
A cry slipped from her lips when his fingers slid beneath the waist of her riding trousers seeking her warm wetness. Her body clenched as his fingers slipped inside her and she couldn’t stop herself from rocking back and forth as he pleasured her. A long tortured groan slid from Daien. When he removed his hand Tarienne moaned, protesting the sudden loss of the sensations rocking her body.
Daien pulled her toward him off the dresser, pushing her trousers down her legs, then bent to pull them over her feet. Hurriedly, he removed his own trousers and lifted her back onto the dresser. The silky skin of his manhood strained to enter her. Her heart thumped loudly, her breasts rubbed against the material of her shirt. Heat and dampness pooled between her legs accompanied by a needy ache.
“Now, Daien, now,” she pleaded against his lips, as he nibbled and licked her sweet tasting mouth. Her appeal shredded the last filaments of his control. He stilled then slid himself into her heat, sighing with pleasure. Tarienne clamped her ankles around his waist drawing him in deeper. The shift in position nearly brought him undone. Daien let go succumbing to the powerful desire coursing through him.
Their lovemaking was fast and hard and Daien’s climax built quickly. He groaned allowing his eyes to trail over the sensuous sight of his beloved Tarienne as he thrust into her. Her head thrown back, she was panting hard, her expression almost one of pain. Daien was blindsided by the realisation that the intensity was too much for her. With a supreme effort he sucked in a deep, steadying breath and began a slow, sweet, torturous rhythm of passion that took them both higher than ever before.
The heat within Tarienne increased, the pounding rhythm and the intensity of her desire for Daien suddenly too much. Her back arched involuntarily and she threw her head back. Before she could cry out, Daien slowed their tempo, turning their mating into a sensuous dance, their bodies sliding together. The delicious ache within Tarienne built with every stroke, with every touch, with every kiss.
When her crescendo hit tidal waves of ecstasy rolled through her. Tarienne dug her nails into Daien’s back screaming his name. He slanted his mouth over hers, muffling her cries. Her muscles clenched rhythmically around him as Daien thrust several times more crying out her name as his own release hit, his hot seed, pumping into her. Touching his forehead to hers, Daien leaned into her, catching his breath.
They held each other until well after their panting had eased and their heart rates had returned to normal. Eventually they parted to clean up, dress and eat breakfast,knowing this would be the last time for many weeks they would be able to indulge in such pleasure.
Settling into the chairs by the window to share breakfast Tarienne lifted pieces of fruit to Daien’s lips, eating some herself as they talked. When they’d finished Daien captured her hand sucking the remaining juice from each finger, then kissing and licking her lips. The action was so sensual that Tarienne wondered how they were going to keep their hands off each other during their quest. Unable to keep the smile from her face, Tarienne slid onto Daien’s lap, kissing him tenderly.
Next door, Raef smiled, pleased that his sister had found someone who loved her for herself. He delayed for some time, before knocking on her door.
“Come,” Tarienne called, happiness lacing her voice.
Daien looked up, smiling, one long, leather clad leg, propped on a chair and the other hanging over the edge of the table, where he perched, polishing his sword.
Raef walked straight to Tarienne, collecting her hands in his. “Is there something you wish to tell me, Sweetling?” A mischievous smile lit his face.
Tarienne lifted the ring to where Raef could see it, her face splitting into a huge grin. Raef whooped, sweeping her up in an enormous hug. “Congratulations, Dear heart, I’m so very happy for you.”
Raef kissed her cheek noisily, then returned her feet to the floor. His heart was filled with joy for his sister. Striding over to Daien, Raef offered his hand. “Congratulations, my friend.”
When Daien grabbed his hand Raef shook it vigorously, pulled him in for a quick, brotherly, hug then stepped back surveying them both, his eyes sparkling with joy.
A grin tugged at his lips but his tone was serious. “When we return from this quest, I might ask Aidan to provide a room a little further away from yours.” Raef raised one eyebrow. Tarienne blushed furiously and Daien laughed.
Attempting to divert the conversation Tarienne decided it was a good time to ask about the ring’s history. “Raef, would you please have a closer look at the ring Daien gave me? It was his mother’s and it would be good to know more of his heritage through it if we are able.”
“Show me, Sweetling.”
Raef captured her fingers, carefully examining the ring. Twisting it into the light, he frowned, then uttered a few words of magic. Daien watched the exchange, feeling the tingle of magic as Raef examined the ring. When he’d finished, Raef turned to Daien.
“Would it be alright if I look into your mind to search for your childhood memories?”
Daien nodded, he already trusted Raef more than some humans he’d known far longer. Raef closed his eyes, deep concentration etched across his features. Daien sensed Raef probing carefully and methodically through his memories, sifting back to the hazy days of his youth before the loss of his parents. His heart lurched as long buried memories passed fleetingly across his awareness. Daien’s mother’s image unexpectedly flashed into his thoughts, her deep green eyes and ethereal beauty catching him by surprise. Suddenly it all made sense.
Raef opened his eyes, smiling. “I suspected as much. From what I can tell, Daien, your mother was a Druid. I believe your father to have been human. This family crest is of Druid origin and represents a family with deep Druid roots, one with the gift of great strength and love for their people. This symbol on the ring,” he pointed to the symbol that appeared to be three, tiny interconnected spirals, “represents strength, the pattern of diamond and rubies indicates the power of undying love.”
Daien lifted Tarienne’s hand to his lips. Deep, unconditional love, swirled through him through the soul deep connection they shared.
His voice was thick with emotion, “Then it is perfect for, my Ren.”
He couldn’t resist leaning down to take her lips in a slow, sensual kiss. Lifting his head, his gaze shifted from Tarienne. Lifting one eyebrow at Raef Daien tapped his head with one finger.
“You found out all that, in there?”
He whistled through his teeth and a chuckle rippled around the room.
Raef responded through his laughter. “I assume your parents told you all this at some stage, presumably hoping you’d remember your heritage after they were gone.”
“Yes, I believe they did. You seem to have stirred some memories of my mother.” He paused thoughtfully, a faraway smile lighting his eyes.
“Thank you, Raef.”
Tarienne glanced a little apprehensively at Daien. “Raef, may I speak with you outside for a moment?”
The mood had suddenly turned sombre. Daien’s expression was one of curiosity but he returned to the table to clean his sword. Tarienne drew Raef outside conspiratorially.
“I wish to give Daien the gift of immortality. Father entrusted me with the magic to gift it before we left Darewood.”
Wringing her hands apprehensively Tarienne awaited Raef’s response.
Nodding thoughtfully Raef responded.
“I believe it to be appropriate under the circumstances, however, you must explain everything about the spell and its consequences, before you can bestow this upon him. You should understand that he may not agree. It’s a difficult things for humans to accept and despite his heritage, Daien is still a human.”
“I know, it will change nothing if he does not accept. I need to be with him, Raef. There’s a connection with Daien that I can’t explain.” Her heart clenched with the power of her love for Daien. Then she realised that Raef already knew how it felt. “It’s the same as you feel for Elyssia, isn’t it. I never understood before.”
“I know, Sweetling, I know.” Raef smiled, leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Now go to him and make haste, for the hour of our departure approaches.”
Worry sliced at the edges of Tarienne’s thoughts as she wondered what Daien’s response would be to her offer. Taking several deep breaths to steady herself she slipped quietly back into the room. Closing the door she moved toDaien’s side. His eyes lifted from his sword, his brows drawing together in a small frown. Placing his sword carefully down on the oiled cloth that he had been using to clean it he stood opening his arms. Tarienne walked into his embrace lingering there for a moment.
“What is it, Sweetheart?”
She loved that he knew she had something on her mind, that he understood her better than anyone, even Raef. She reached for Daien’s hands clutching them tightly.
“Do you remember when I told you that I was Fae?”
He nodded, waiting.
“I didn’t tell you then that the Fae are immortal.”
She searched Daien’s face for a reaction, but seeing none, assumed he had already worked this out and chosen not to mention it. Forging on before her resolve crumbled she moved forward, so close that she could feel his reassuring body heat. She forced herself not to lean into him.
“When Raef and I left Darewood my father gifted me with a very special, magical vial that would bestow immortality on my chosen partner should he not be of an immortal race.” Barely stopping to breathe, she plunged ahead, her hands trembling. “I ask you nowsh,“She paused swallowing down the fear that he would refuse her gift. “Will you allow me to gift this to you with the knowledge that as an immortal being many mortal friends will age and die before your eyes? It is not an easy thing to do. You should understand that it does not mean you can’t be killed but that it is more difficult to do so. If you do not accept this it will make no difference to how I feel about you. Will you spend the rest of eternity with me, my Daien?”
Tarienne’s eyes sought Daien’s, attempting to decipher the play of emotion swirling there. Daien pulled her to him locking her against him with his powerful arms and gently stroked her hair. Her pulse escalated when he moved her a few scant inches from him, just enough to look into her eyes. She was stunned to see that his eyes were moist. Gods she loved this man.
“My beautiful Fae Princess you’ve already given me the most treasured gift of yourself. To live the rest of eternity with you is my heart’s desire, more than I ever dreamed possible.”
Tarienne’s heart soared and tears drizzled down her cheeks. Daien bent his head to kiss them away his lips trailing down to hers to steal a kiss.
“What do you need me to do, my love?”
Tarienne marvelled, not for the first time at the ease with which Daien accepted her magic and the unconditional trust that he placed in her.Withdrawing the vial from the folds of her jacket where she had tossed it on the bed, she removed the stopper and held the container under his nose.
“Inhale, my love.” She commanded softly.
Daien breathed deeply and Tarienne caught the rich, thick scent of the sweet potion. Her voice was almost unrecognisable to her own ears as she voiced the spell. Laced with the power of the ancient incantation Tarienne’s words echoed through the room enveloping them both in its potency.
“A posse ad esse, citius altius fortius, concordia salus, fac fortia et patere.”
She could have just touched him to impart the final magic, instead she kissed him letting the spell flow through their connection. Daien inhaled sharply. It was the power coursing through him, like the lick of a flame around a burning log. Tarienne knew the moment that the heat subsided.
“Is it done?”
Daien scanned his body, twisting around to search for physical evidence of the change within. Tarienne nodded, flinging her arms around his neck, unable to speak through the intense emotion spiralling through her.
Whispering against her hair Daein sent shivers along her spine with his words.
“What I really want to do now is show you how much I love youbut we must leave soon.”
His voice was filled with deep regret. Holding her close his fingers splayed low on her back, his knee pressed between her thighs. The heat radiating from him warmed more than her skin and her heart drummed so hard that she was certain Daien must be able to feel it.
When she lowered her hands to rest against his chest the rapid beat of his heart echoed hers. With the incredible gentleness she knew him to be capable of Daien lifted her chin with one finger, dipping his head to kiss her tenderly. He was so intoxicating that she slipped her arms around his neck again urging him to continue, plastering their bodies together. A growl rumbled through Daien as he deepened the kiss.
Aidan chose that moment to knock on the chamber door. Relinquishing Daien’s lips, but not their embrace, Tarienne called. “Come in, Aidan.”
Aidan strode into the room, looking magnificent in full battle regalia not questioning how she’d known it was him. He stopped midstride half way across the room noticing Daien and Tarienne in each other’s arms. Without a word Tarienne held her hand out. The ring glistened in the early morning light streaming through the window.
Aidan strode the last few steps across the room his eyes wide, smiling broadly at them both. “Well, congratulations!”
Opening his arms to Tarienne Aidan hugged her hard, kissed her cheek then grabbed Daien’s hand shaking it vigorously. “Well, well, well.”
He clapped Daien on the back, his grin huge and genuine. At the last moment Aidan pulled Daien in for a quick brotherly hug. Aidan’s eyes flew to Tarienne momentarily uncertain of the propriety of the gesture. He visibly relaxed when Tarienne beamed back at him nodding her approval. She was amazed at his desire to please with his tactile approach.
Raef appeared at the door dressed as a warrior ready for battle.
“Are we all ready?”
Daien nodded, sheathing his sword with a resounding metallic ring. Tarienne buckled on the hilt of her smaller, lighter, Fae sword and swung her pack onto her shoulder.
Aidan nodded, his hand resting on the hilt of his father’s sword sheathed at his hip and they filed out of the room. Tarienne looked back wistfully then squared her shoulders and followed the others to the stables. So much had happened in the last few days even she was struggling with it. She marvelled at Aidan. His judgement, his trust, his strength laced with compassion, that was why he was such a great King.
The windy cobblestoned streets were filled with people going about their business, noisy children playing, the clang of the blacksmith and people chatting as they queued at the food vendors. Women rifled through bolts of cloth to find the one that either most appealed or that they could afford to purchase. Those on the street parted respectfully to allow the riders through, bowing low when they realised who rode the majestic war horses draped with gold and maroon. The royal colours of Therin.
Tarienne rode in front of Daien. She knew his eyes roved over her back and lower, she could feel the heat of his love and desire through the already strong bond they’d forged. Straightening in her saddle she spoke into his thoughts.
If you continue that train of thought, my Daien, I just might have to join you on your horse and lead Lacey.
Chuckling to herself she turned in her saddle to witness his reaction. The grin he shot back at hertransformed his face so that he was even more breathtakingly handsome. Her heart and body warmed instantly especially when his gaze filled with sensual heat and promise. Dragging in a deep breath to steady herself she turned back focusing on Raef who managed to look relaxed and imposing at the same time.How did he do that?
Raef, dressed in the soft green colours favoured by Fae of the Royal blood looked exquisitely handsome and commanding on his black stallion. Women whispered and giggled admiring him as he rode past, disappointed when he didn’t look their way. Tarienne’s eyes flicked further forward to Aidan. He acknowledged his people with a smile and a wave. He was a good King and she was proud of him for that but she loved being around him even more when he was ‘just Aidan’. Tarienne worried that this quest may be his last opportunity to be himself without his kingly responsibilities. She fervently hoped not. The group clattered through the castle gates and Tarienne wondered how long it would be before they returned to life behind the walls of Castle Therin.