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The Book of Water

By JW Whitmarsh All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

Ever wondered what desires lie in the hearts of others? Caleigh, a young handmaiden in the unremarkable town of Connlad, knows exactly what everyone wants. What she doesn't know is how she comes to have this gift and what it means nor does she have much time to find out, as with her new knowledge come visions of a terrible past whose return in already in motion. Meanwhile, the knowledge that she is the object of many a man's fantasy is having an effect on her that her squire lover may be unequal to containing. Where to turn for advice? With only her free-spirited best friend and a maker of remedies to confide in the chance of answers seem slim. Fortunately, there is one wizard left in the world and she has met him - the only trouble is everyone knows he's only pretending. Follow Caleigh, as she struggles with the burden of her message and the burning desires with which she is beset. From her sleepy town to the high towers of a great and secretive fortress lies a journey not just of self-discovery, in a land where the magically-gifted are often persecuted and slain, but the burden to carry a warning that may very well save the world.

1. Awakening

1. Awakening

As the unremarkable dawn light filtered through the window into an unremarkable room, in a seemingly unremarkable town, there was nothing to suggest this day would be anything other than…unremarkable. Yet for one resident of this said unremarkable town, this day was to be a watershed by which she would reckon her life for all her days to come; for unremarkable depends on what is being looked for and how closely one looks.

It is true that the town of Connlad to look at did not stand out from many other like settlements across the Western Lands and it is true that the room in question was similarly commonplace. Were people of these parts to remark about Connlad, they would likely do so in reference to Sir Marc, the lord of the castle to which the window and room belonged. Sir Marc was an honoured and honourable knight who had proven himself in battle and in fealty to his liege lord, Earl Cynric, and King, Aethelwine.

Sir Marc, however, was not the occupant of this third floor room whose day was to be remarkable, that honour fell to Caleigh, a chambermaid to his wife Edith.

Caleigh, by contrast with her surroundings, was very remarkable. Indeed, people made remarks about her most times they saw her. If they men, then the remarks would almost certainly be of a complementary nature as, from a male perspective, there was so much to compliment. Though she was enjoying her seventeenth summer, there was nothing childlike about Caleigh’s appearance. She was taller than was common for a woman of these parts and a favourite topic amongst the men of Connlad was her startlingly womanly form, particularly her magnificently full and heavy bust that pulled her dresses in such a way that people were sometimes thought she were heavier all round than she was. This misimpression was soon put right if ever they saw her stretch and noticed the huge contour that was formed when she did so.

When women remarked of her it was also usually in a complementary fashion. Pretty as she was, it was a soft and welcoming prettiness rather than the dainty prettiness of a princess of tales though no less appealing for it. When she gave one of her frequent and always genuine smiles, even the most hard-hearted would struggle to stop themselves smiling back. Equally, it was hard to be resentful of Caleigh because she was so unassuming that it seemed the thought she might be an object to be envied would never cross her mind.

At times when people were not remarking on her looks, the thing most remarked upon was her kindness. It was well remembered in the town how after every tragedy, even as a young girl, she had given her time to be with those affected. More surprisingly still, she had been successful at giving solace, always knowing what to say or do in a way that completely belied her years. Her parent’s inn soon became the most popular in the town for more than the ale. Caleigh would work the tables and when she wasn’t lending an ear she would be asking questions, always choosing the right person for each piece of knowledge. It was a running joke that it was the only time people ever felt cleverer for a drink.

In turn, when Caleigh’s parents died people from across the town tried to comfort her and before they knew it she was the one patiently listening to their troubles or making them feel they were helping her in a tangible way. Whatever other faults she might have had, it was acts like these that stayed in people’s hearts.

Everyone assumed this was why she had been selected as a chambermaid after her parents died and in the year she had been performing this service both Edith and Sir Marc had made use of her sympathetic ear on many occasions.

For her part, she was grateful to be given such a role and it was not one she had expected. She could still scarcely believe it that the vassal of Connlad and his wife had requested her specially. So as she stepped out from her third floor room of the castle of Connlad, she did so with her normal happy heart ready to go about her day on this apparently unremarkable morning.

While this day may have been unremarkable to most, for Caleigh it was a special day for today she was going to make someone very happy. The morning came and went and between lunch and her afternoon duties she wandered through the cloisters to the training yard. Two pairs of feet circled in the middle kicking up sand in hasty streaks. The sound of wooden practise swords clipping against each other and clunking against shields echoed through the shaded arches where she stood, anxious not to show herself fully in case she put off the fighter she was here to watch. He was taller than the other: he was taller than most. His blond like his height indicated his membership of the ruling tribe of their country of Sommerwold.

His name was Penric and he had lived in Connlad for four years training as a squire under Sir Marc. For all that time he and Caleigh had been close friends and since she had moved under the same roof they had grown closer still. It would be true to say this was his idea more than hers yet she had never objected and found much agreeable about it. He was handsome, strong and athletic, destined for nobility and most importantly of all he cared about her very deeply as she did about him. Tonight, she had decided, she would show him how much.

In the yard, Penric’s opponent tumbled to the ground under his attack and almost immediately he looked up and noticed her. Quickly stacking away his gear, he bounded over to her, wrapping her up in his arms and kissing her in greeting. “You came to see me win?” He asked jovially.

“You always win, it seems. I came for a brief reprieve and now I must return to my duties, sadly.”

“I can think of more appealing duties.” He said jostling her slightly as if to guide her away.

“Come now, you’ll not become a knight by forgetting your chivalrous code every time a young maiden walks past.”

“You are not a simple young maiden; knights would fight battles to be at your side.”

“They must become knights first before they can quest for the sake of their hearts. I will see you at dinner” then with a wink added, “and after.” Caleigh gave Penric a quick kiss on the cheek and detached herself offering a small wave as she parted from his view.

When dinner had finished Caleigh returned to the room she had watched the light filter into hours earlier. Afterwards, she wondered if she had been granted foresight at that point whether she would have treasured these last moments of innocence or not. Ultimately, she always decided not, for while she was happy in this life it was for the most part unremarkable and what would come would come with or without her and at least she would not be left passive by events like so many would.

At the time, Caleigh had no gift of foresight and could not contemplate how her life would change and the directions these changes would take her. She wondered instead about what was to happen in the coming hour and how she would approach it. The one remarkable feature her room possessed, and had so since she was placed in it, was a full length looking glass with which she could appraise herself from head to ankle. Mirrors such as these were very rare in Connlad and not common anywhere in Sommerwold. Caleigh was well aware she was lucky to have one and after a year of its presence struggled to imagine how others coped without knowing what they looked like when they stepped out in the morning.

She caught sight of herself now naked all over in between trying on various garments and flicked her hair over her shoulders. The summer sun had turned her brown hair dark blonde in streaks in a way that she thought better set off her hazel eyes. In public she never gave a sense of being overly aware of her beauty but this did not mean she was blind to it. She noticed how men looked at her when they thought she could not see them looking.

If she were to contemplate someone of great beauty, she would not have thought of herself yet neither did she feel any envy towards how others looked nor feel uncomfortable with any part of her face or body. She looked now at the curve of her breasts and the finger width space between them where her cleavage parted. They were certainly among her favourite personal features, although she did not think they were as big as everyone else seemed to believe. Then again, she knew that even with a mirror she could never see herself quite as other people saw her.

In the end, she hardly cared what outfit she chose and for once it was not important. The whole point was to remove it and return to her current state of nudity. In the moments before Penric arrived she went through the advice she had been given one more time. Her friend and fellow chambermaid, Ellie had been further with men than she had and her words were simply to find as much pleasure in it as she could. Dana, a widow from the town who she had been close to for a few years, had warned her that it would be uncomfortable, painful and possibly a touch farcical the first time. “Then why does everyone wish to do it so often?” She had asked. Dana looked up at her with a gleam in her eye and replied, “Like anything worth learning, it gets better with practice.”

Neither Penric nor Caleigh said much when he entered both finding anticipation giving way to nervousness. There was a difference between hearing how something is done and doing the thing in earnest. To her own surprise, though this night had been more at Penric’s instigation, it was she who found their confidence first. “Be not afraid, it is only we two here.” She stated softly taking his hands in hers.

“I am not afraid.” He answered eventually. “I am wary, lest I err in some way. I have had no instruction for this.”

“No instruction is required. We must have the instinct within us or else our ancestors would never have had any children.” Caleigh reasoned. “Did you have instruction when first you kissed me?”

“No.”

“Then let us start with a kiss and see where our instincts take us.” At these words the concern melted from Penric’s face and he reached down to touch lips with his love. Here they were safe and here they were comfortable. Here too was enjoyment for Caleigh, and if what was to come held discomfort at least in these tender touches and embraces she could draw pleasure.

Feeling her excitement kindling, Caleigh pulled away and moved to the bedside. Her practises in front of her mirror gave her confidence enough to start shedding her garments without fear or embarrassment. Penric stood agape when her heavy bosom bounced free of her under dress, a moment so long imagined in realisation every bit as wonderful as had been in his fantasies. Immediately, she could feel his loins stir to stiffness as if her body was somehow connected to his and causing her arousal to flow in turn.

They rustled with his clothes and kissed each other vigorously until they were both intertwined naked on the sheets. He fumbled with and fondled her longingly causing Caleigh to laugh with joy and then inhale in sharp arousal when his touches passed over her taut nipples. When the moment came and he entered her it was uncomfortable as she was warned yet to her surprise as he stroked within her she felt a rush of pleasure that seemed to have no origin within her body. At first, she thought it was the pleasure of knowing the pleasure she was giving to her partner. Soon the excitements her body were offering were building to a climax and she knew for certain that this was no contented warmth but the stirrings within Penric.

Her mind went wild with excitement at the knowledge and the sensation. She clamped her knees around her lover’s rump and moved his hands to her chest feeling at once the rise from inside. His pleasure and hers had become fused and as she could feel the arousal her body gave to him overwhelming his control so Caleigh also felt the urgency for release. “Forgive…me…” Penric panted struggling to keep his stimulation in check. Caleigh kissed him hard on the mouth and looked him in the eye.

“Let it go.” She bid. At once he released inside her and the instant his orgasm echoed through Caleigh her womanhood responded in kind.

Long after talk and tenderness had ceased and Penric had returned to his own room, Caleigh lay wondering about what had happened. These were not the thoughts that often come to those in her position at that time. She felt neither regret nor fear about how things would change between her and Penric. More than anything else she felt curiosity, and longed to know whether it was always like that. Had what she felt been the thrill of intimacy or something else? But then, she asked herself, what else could it be?

Sleep took her without warning and her dreams passed by gently, reconstructions of her recent memories with only mild hints of the surreal. Within this context, parts of her conscious mind were stirred when she moved from familiar surroundings to a place she had never been but felt dimly that she knew, or knew of at least. It was ancient in design and in truth, a jumble of cracked stone and sprouting weeds, vines and broken archways.

Into these ruins Caleigh felt herself drawn deeper and deeper to a room opening onto a sheer precipice that on the far side rose into the green cliffs of a towering mountain. Beside this precipice, standing exactly halfway between the walls either side of the opening there was a figure robed head to toe in shimmering white. Caleigh’s stomach tightened involuntarily, not from fear but from a strong sense of anticipation.

Stepping tentatively closer, she could deduce two things about this stranger; first that they were tall and second that they were a woman. The angle the stranger stood at afforded a slim outline that curved noticeably around the hips and swelled out distinctly at the chest. As she drew nigh, the woman seemed to turn slowly and the swell became an unmistakable shape of a large and firm right breast. Strands of hair, light brown and dark blonde snaked out beyond the edge of her hood and for the briefest of moments Caleigh caught a flash of pale skin before the light of her dream faded to the shade of her flickering eyelid.

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