The Claim

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This is a backstory installment to my Madelyn series. It is fully possible to enjoy this story on its own, but I would encourage you to go on to read Madelyn after you read this.

Fantasy / Romance
Age Rating:

The Claim

He was decorating the tree on a cold December night when she came in with a tray holding two mugs of steaming hot chocolate and a plate of decorated sugar cookies. She held the tray higher than she normally would have, due to her large belly being in the way. The due date was this Saturday, but he knew his wife hoped the baby would come sooner, as this pregnancy was weighing heavily on her, no pun intended.

“Thank you, darling,” he said as she handed him a mug. He placed a hand to her belly after taking the mug from her. The baby promptly kicked his hand several times in succession. He smiled before bending and pressing his lips to his wife’s belly. “Hello there, little one,” he said to the unborn child. “This is your Daddy. I’m looking forward to holding you, and watching your Mommy nurse you, and watching you grow. Please come soon. We’re anxious to have you in our arms.”

His wife smiled as she watched and listened, her hand moving to caress his cheek gently as he glanced up, his eyes meeting hers. Rising to his feet again, he kissed her tenderly and looked into her shining eyes. She was so beautiful and he always thanked the fates for having brought him to that mountaintop a year ago, for had he not been there, they wouldn’t have met.

Outside, the snow fell silently as the two cuddled close to one another, mugs of chocolate and sugar cookies in hand. Their eyes were on the fire as Bing sang of dreams of a white Christmas and he thought back to that day...

10 months earlier...

He steadily made his way along the trail toward the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Forest in California. There had been reports of strange happenings in the area, and a caravan of lights heading up toward the area of the tree every night for almost a week.

Richard Randell was an adventurer, an avid pursuer of tales of strange happenings, of myths and legends. Over the past three years that he’d been doing this full-time, he had proven several tales and myths to be just that: tales and myths. The snow monster that supposedly appeared every New Year’s Eve in the forested mountains of Colorado: myth. The dancing trees every year on the first of May in an apple orchard in Washington State: myth.

He’d packed a few things: camping equipment, some books on cultures and religions, and made certain to bring along a few MRE’s in addition to fresh provisions. The MRE’s could come in handy in case of an emergency. He’d rejected the “four fingers of death” (aka frankfurters with beans) when the manufacturer offered them to him. Having been in the service a couple years before, he knew a little about the ‘wonderful’ creations they called MRE’s, or Meals Ready to Eat, and was thankfully able to stay away from certain ones. Rumor was, there’d be some new ones released next year. Hopefully they would be more palatable.

A few MRE’s were packed in his backpack, the rest of his provisions still in the cabin back at Grant’s Grove. He would have stayed in Azalea Campground, had there not been a full blanket of snow on the ground. He was an adventurer, but was not crazy. The hike from Grant’s Grove Village to the General Grant tree area wasn’t too bad. It was one of the easier trails in all of Sequoia/Kings Canyon, but still a lovely one, even in the middle of winter.

He walked along steadily; there was no need for him to hurry and risk slipping in the snow and hurting himself. As he finally reached the General Grant Tree parking area, he first stopped by the restroom and then went in search of evidence of the light-wielding procession that had been seen every night of the past week. There were plenty of human shoeprints. This was a popular area, even in the dead of winter. People would come up here near Christmas to see the Nation’s Christmas Tree.

Moving off-trail, he explored the area above the tree everybody else’s attention was on. As he walked along, he noted a few odd things. A rune was scratched into a rock in one place. In another, there was a circle of stones laid out. Hanging from a low branch, he discovered a scrap of cloth the likes of which he’d not seen before. Pocketing it, he continued on his search.

After searching a good hour and finding little more than a pendant made of a stone he couldn’t identify without consulting a book, it occurred to him that he would learn nothing more. It would do him no good to search during the day. He would have to wait until nightfall, would have to be waiting here for whoever was in the procession.

Having come to a decision, he returned to the rock with the rune, drew it in his notebook and made his way back to his cabin to take a nap. It would be a long night and he needed as much rest as he could get before he returned to await the procession to return that night.

* * *

Six hours later, he awoke later than he intended. Something was...strange. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was exactly, but he was certain he’d find out soon. Quickly pulling on some warm clothing and replenishing his pack with water, he pulled out his flashlight and set out for the area he’d explored earlier.

As he walked, he noted the place where he’d found the rune earlier. ‘Damn,’ he thought as he looked at it. He’d meant to wake with enough time to consult the book of runes he brought with him. He wasn’t sure why he’d brought that particular book along with him this trip, but he didn’t question it as he was packing to come here; he only questioned it after he arrived and discovered it among the things he’d brought along. Continuing along the trail toward the circle of stones, he felt the hair on the back of his neck raise.

He couldn’t clearly see into the center of the circle. The stones that made up the circle were there. Oddly, he could make out each one of them, even the ones at the far side. In the center was a strange haze that prevented him from making out what was going on there but didn’t hinder his sight of the opposite side of the circle. It would be hard to explain if he tried, so he ignored the logic that was trying to force its way into his brain and continued moving closer.

Arriving at the edge of the circle, he thought he could make out something inside, but it still was very hazy. Without thought, he pushed on, stepping inside the circle. As he did, all perception shifted, and everything within the Circle was clear. A stone table stood in the center, a young woman bound to it with thighs spread wide, her center wet and ready.

Before he knew what he was doing, he was undressing, leaving his clothing in a heap. A few minutes later, he was standing at the end of the table, his cock erect and felt as though it was pulling him toward this lovely creature. The table was at just the right height that would allow him to claim the woman comfortably. She started as his hand touched her thigh. Eyelids parted to reveal lovely violet eyes. She gasped softly as she looked him over, eyes widening slightly when her gaze lowered and took in his body and the size of the cock moving toward her.

Placing one hand on her thigh, the other went to grasp his shaft as he pressed it to her entrance. Her eyes rose to look into his. Locking his eyes on hers, he began speaking the words of an ancient ritual he’d never known existed as he pressed into her with gentle pressure. He didn’t know how he knew the words, how he knew that what he was doing was what he was supposed to do, but he knew this woman was his and he was claiming her here and now.

“I claim thee...thy body, heart, mind and spirit: mine,” he spoke the ancient words of the claiming, his cock coming to a stop at the barrier that announced to him this young woman was still a virgin. Pulling back slightly, he leaned down, his eyes still locked on hers, and said, “You are mine!”

“I am yours,” she echoed a moment before he thrust, breaking her hymen in one stroke, both crying out together as he did so, “Malit zho!” She knew it was an Elven term that meant ‘May the Circle bring it about.’ He knew what it meant, but didn’t know how he knew.

They both felt the air charge as he claimed her on the stone table. Their words echoed through the Circle, her heart warming to him, her body feeling as though it were on fire with the passion of the moment. As their coupling progressed toward climax, he became faintly aware of chanting, but it didn’t interrupt Richard and the lovely woman beneath him as they climbed ever higher to their pleasure. They came together, their orgasm shining brightly in the Circle, the chanting lessening as they came down from their sexual high until it was nothing more than a hum.

Richard slumped over, his body covering hers, both losing consciousness, the magic claiming them as he had just claimed the young woman.

* * *

Richard awoke shivering. He tried moving his half-frozen limbs, but they protested. Opening his eyes, he noted he was naked, in the snow, a strange and lovely young woman beneath them. In the next moment, he realized they were joined at the hip.

Confused, he pulled out, his cock recoiling as the cold hit it. He remembered being here to seek out information on the light seen here, he returned after finding a rune. Quickly pulling on his clothing, he glanced to the shivering form still lying in the snow. Looking around, he found a full length hooded cloak. He helped the young woman up, wrapping the cloak around her shoulders. Another quick search revealed where he’d left his clothing. He dressed in record time then picked her up, cradling her tight to his chest. In a rush, it came back to him. She was his. He was hers. They were mated. Gasping softly, he moved as quickly as he could, getting her to the cabin before she caught her death of cold.

She trembled in his arms as he hurried up the steps and into the cabin. Setting her down on the bed, he closed the door and stoked the fire. She moaned softly and he glanced back to her, finding her shivering terribly as she lay there on the bed. Stripping, he moved to her side, pulling the covers over them both as he climbed into the bed with her, sharing his warmth with her. Within a few minutes, her shaking settled into a tremble, and before long, the trembling stopped and she slept peacefully at his side, her head resting on his shoulder, an arm draped across his waist. He studied her face. It was simply lovely, with a head full of curly hair the color of spun gold. Her heart shaped face contained high cheekbones and two perfect lips that were dusty pink in color. Her violet eyes were hidden for the moment behind lids that seemed as though they were the lightest pink rose petals, soft and lovely.

He raised one hand to brush her hair back from her face, revealing a delicate-looking ear that was slightly pointed at the top. He smiled gently, thinking it was perfect for this creature he held in his arms. His little elf, he thought gently, thinking it’d be a perfect nickname for her.

This young woman was beautiful. He couldn’t stop marveling over her loveliness, and over the fact that she was his, however it was that it’d happened. It didn’t matter. She was his. And he was hers in return.

Her eyes fluttered open. Lovely violets stared into his deep blues. For a moment, confusion knit her brows together, but it didn’t take long for recognition to settle into those beautiful eyes and she smiled. The smile lit up the room as surely as a ray of sunshine would. Her radiance filled him with love and laughter and need.

Bending over her, he touched his lips to hers. His arms wrapped round her, pulling her atop him. Her legs straddled him. Moving his hands to her hips, he guided her down till the tip of his cock rested against her entrance. Looking deep into her eyes, he nodded and she pushed down, her velvety softness enveloping his cock in heaven.

She gasped, a combination of pleasure and soreness entering her consciousness as she slid herself down his hard shaft. Not long ago, she had lost her virginity to this man beneath her, yet here he was taking her again. And even though it hurt slightly, she loved it. She moaned out loud as he pressed against her cervix. He was in so deep; she was so very full and loved every moment of it.

She rested there a moment, not moving, just enjoying the feel of him inside her. As the soreness melted into pure pleasure, her rose petal lids lowered over her eyes halfway, her head tilting slightly back and her hips began rocking slightly. Richard moaned gently as she moved around him. Reaching up with one hand, he tweaked a nipple gently as the other hand moved to her pussy, thumb quickly finding the sensitive bundle of nerves that waited for his attention. Rubbing it in circles, he watched her face as her body moved more urgently. She cried out as pussy muscles began clenching round his hard cock.

In one quick movement, he maneuvered her onto her back and began thrusting into her. His movement sent her further over the edge, causing her to scream in ecstasy. Leaning down, he captured her lips with his, kissing her deeply as his orgasm overtook him and he filled her waiting womb with his seed.

His lips locked on hers in gentle yet passionate kisses, he pulled from her and settled himself beside her. They cuddled for a while before they fell asleep in one another’s arms.

* * *

Richard jumped out of his reverie as he felt his wife’s belly tighten. Looking into her face, he noticed her flinch slightly.

“Are you alright, darling?” he asked her softly.

“I’m just a little tired, my love,” she responded. Another wince accompanied by another tightening of her belly caused him to move quickly.

“Tired, my ass,” he retorted. “You’re in labor.” Moving quickly to the side table in the hall, he picked up the receiver of the phone and dialed their midwife. His wife had insisted upon a midwife instead of an OB/GYN and had even chosen the midwife to take care of her and their unborn child. All he had to do was say two words to the woman to get her to rush over to their home: “It’s begun.”

Replacing the receiver, he went for the list and began preparing for the midwife’s arrival. She’d have many of the things they’d need with her, but there were several things she wanted him to have ready when she arrived. He bought an air mattress and two sets of sheets for it a couple weeks ago. She’d also wanted a small plastic toy pool. He was to fill it four inches deep with hot water. It would cool to the right temperature in the time it took her to arrive.

Retrieving both, he filled the pool and prepared the air mattress. As he finished with the mattress, he looked at the time and knew she would be coming through the door any moment now. Moving to his wife’s side, he noticed she was very pale, so he went to the kitchen and prepared some of the special tea the midwife had left for during labor.

“Sip on this, darling,” he said as he returned to his wife’s side. She took the cup and took only two sips before her face contorted in pain. Taking the cup back, he placed it on the table. A sound of agony escaped from his wife’s lips as another contraction tore through her belly. She struggled to rise from the couch, saying she felt she needed to lie down.

Richard’s heart was in his throat as he watched the blood spill from between his wife’s legs as she stood. It was all he could do to remain calm as he helped her to the mattress. At that moment, the midwife hurried into the room. He glanced at the woman, who had just noticed the blood. Richard saw the look of dread enter the woman’s eyes as she turned around and rushed to the phone. Dialing quickly, she said some words he couldn’t make out and dropped the receiver back on its base to run back into the room with Richard and the laboring woman in her care.

A few minutes later, Richard was being ushered out of the room by two smallish women. Standing in the hall, he was joined by a tall, regal-looking man he was sure he’d seen before but could not figure out when. Nor could he figure out who the man was.

* * *

Two hours later, Richard sat on the third step of the staircase leading to the second level of the home he shared with his wife, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He suddenly realized all of the sounds coming from the living room had stopped. Looking up, his eyes met those of the man who sat beside him on the stairs of his home. Together, they looked toward the door of the living room.

It was a few minutes before one of the young women attending his wife emerged from the room, a small bundle in her arms. Richard stood and approached her quietly. Their eyes met and though she offered him a smile, her eyes were full of tears. She passed him the tiny bundle quietly before moving past him to go to the other man who still sat on the step behind him. He barely heard their conversation as he stared down into the tiniest, the most beautiful face he’d ever seen. He watched his new baby girl in awe as she experienced her first few moments of life outside the womb.

One hand was balled into a fist beside her head. All of a sudden, her mouth opened and the hand opened as she yawned a huge yawn for such a tiny creature.

“Madelyn,” he whispered softly as he held her tight to his chest. “My Madelyn.”

It was in that moment that he returned his attention to the young woman who’d brought his baby girl to him and realized her distress. He watched as she spoke words he did not understand to the man who’d kept him company the past couple of hours during the delivery of the baby he now held. The man looked up, noticing him watching them and shot the woman a look, hushing her without saying a word. Rising from the stair, he walked over to Richard and looked down at the infant in his arms.

“She is as she was meant to be,” the man said cryptically. Raising a hand, the man pressed his thumb to the child’s forehead and uttered a few words Richard did not understand. In that moment, Madelyn opened her eyes. Brilliant violet eyes stared into the eyes of the man looking down on her. For a moment, Richard could have sworn his daughter smiled at the man. He blinked and the smile was gone, and the infant’s eyes were closed.

Richard looked at the man momentarily and considered asking him what just happened, but the midwife came from his living room at that moment, quickly passing a small bundle to one of her attendants.

“Richard,” she began in her lyrical accent, “I have done all I can,” she paused and glanced to the man standing with Richard. Nodding almost imperceptibly, she continued, “Your daughter’s twin brother did not make it, but you needn’t worry over that now. We’ll discuss it later. For the time being, you’d best go be with your wife and show her your daughter in the time she has left.”

His heart skipped a beat and shook his head to clear the spinning that suddenly overwhelmed him. A split second later, he felt his daughter leaving his arms as one of the attendants took her from him, afraid he’d drop her. The midwife took his arm and spoke gently to him, her melodic voice lulling him from his confusion.

“Come, she needs you, Richard. She needs to see her remaining child, and see that her daughter is safely in the arms of the man she loves, and has since that first night you two met.” The midwife gently guided him to the living room, where his wife lay laboring to breathe after her ordeal. “Go to her,” the midwife whispered as she went to fetch Madelyn from the attendant.

Moving to his wife’s side, he reached out and took her hand in his. Her head moved slightly as she felt him beside her.

“Richard,” she whispered almost too low to hear. “Our baby, Richard...”

“I know, my love,” he said as he took the baby from the midwife, who’d returned to the room with her cradled in her arms. “But look here, darling. Here’s Madelyn. She’s just fine, and she’s perfect, darling, with your eyes and hair.”

“Our baby, Richard,” she whispered, looking into his eyes with her half-closed violets. “She’s so special.”

“Aye, my love, she is,” he said to her. “Just like her mother.”

“Richard, take her,” she labored to tell him something. “”

“Yes, my love, she will be cared for.”

“No, Richard, you...” she fought for breath. “You don’t...understand...” her eyes closed momentarily before she finally took one long breath and whispered, “Careful. She is no ordinary child.” Her eyes closed.

“Please, my love,” Richard said softly, dismissing her words. “Please rest, save your strength.”

A small smile touched the corners of her lips as she whispered to him, “I love you, Richard. Remember, my love: I am yours, always.”

“And I am yours, my love, always,” Richard said to her. And as her last breath left her, she whispered along with her husband those words that had sealed their union only 12 short months before this night: “Malit zho.”

* * *

Five days later, Richard sat in a small cafe with his newborn daughter cradled in his arms. It was Christmas Eve and he was alone with an infant and wondering over the words his wife had whispered to him about their baby girl. “She is no ordinary child,” she’d said to him that fateful night.

The bottle he fed his daughter was empty and she stirred, kicking him as if to say “I’m still hungry, daddy.” Smiling down at his little treasure, he reached into the diaper bag to find he hadn’t packed the other bottle. Cursing himself for being so careless, he began packing his and his daughter’s things to return to the hotel room when he looked up upon hearing a soft giggle.

“I thought you -- and she - could use this,” the young woman who stood there said softly, holding a full bottle out to him.

“Um, yeah,” Richard stammered as he reached for the bottle. As he grasped the warm bottle, his fingers brushed hers and he started as a tingle made its way up his arm and through his body. Pausing, he looked into her face as he tripped over a soft “thank you.” She smiled brightly to him then sat across from him.

“What’s her name?” the woman asked him.

“,” he said softly.

“She’s beautiful.”

“Thank you.” He looked at the young woman a moment then back at his daughter, who was nursing hungrily on the bottle. The infant’s eyes opened a moment to look into his. He stared into those beautiful violet eyes, tears threatening to fall from his blues, as they reminded him so much of her mother’s eyes. Glancing momentarily at the young woman sitting across from him, he asked softly, “Would you like to hold her?”

“Really?” she said, smiling. “I certainly would.” She reached across the table as he held Madelyn out for her to take. Cradling the infant to her breast, she held the bottle firmly as he watched her speak softly to his daughter. He felt as if he should understand what she was saying to his child, but couldn’t for some reason.

He ate his meal in silence as he watched the young woman hold and feed Madelyn.

“What’s your name?” he eventually asked between bites.

“Marie,” she said softly, not looking away from the infant she held except to grab a burp cloth from the diaper bag on the table. Setting the empty bottle on the table, she tossed the cloth over her shoulder before settling Maddy’s belly against her breast, tucking the infant’s little legs under her with her left hand as she patted her back with her right hand. A small satisfied burp erupted from the tiny baby and Marie smiled and praised Maddy before settling her in the crook of one arm as the infant slipped into a contented sleep.

“Would you like a job, Marie?” Richard said suddenly.

“A job?” she repeated, looking at him curiously.

“Yes. A nanny job,” he replied. “Would you be a nanny for my Maddy?”

“Well, I could use a job,” Marie said. “But will her mother be ok with another woman caring for her child?”

Richard flinched at the mention of his dear wife.

“She doesn’t have a mother,” he whispered, fighting back tears.

Marie looked at him, then at the baby in her arms. She smiled gently as she glanced back up at Richard and said, “I’ll care for your child, Richard, on one condition.” He never realized he’d not given her his name.

“What is your condition?”

“We marry on the morrow and I adopt Maddy and raise her as my own daughter.”

Richard was tempted to snatch his daughter back and leave immediately, but something stopped him. One side of common sense told him this woman was a stranger and he should look at this demand as being unacceptable, given that they’d just met a few minutes ago. The other side of it told him Maddy needed a mother. His eyes moved from studying Marie’s face to the face of his daughter who slept in the woman’s arms.

In a split second, he made his decision. For better or for worse, it was the only option he felt he had. Upon agreeing to the arrangement, they left for the local clerk’s office to obtain a marriage license. The next day, they returned and a local judge officiated. The same judge arranged for Marie to adopt Madelyn and the day after Richard and Marie were married, Marie’s adoption of Madelyn was final.

In a span of 7 days, he’d gone from happily married and expecting, to a widower with an infant daughter, to married to a complete stranger who he trusted for a reason he could not explain.

Eight months later...

Richard and Marie sat in the office of an attorney they’d recently retained for legal advice and the handling of their affairs. They also inquired as to a trust for their daughter, Madelyn. Attorney Brian Hemming glanced at the infant cradled in her mother’s arms, and was alarmed to see the eyes his late wife had once told him to watch for, those beautiful violet eyes that were so very rare.

The young couple looked at one another lovingly, then back at Brian as they handed him all of their paperwork. They watched as he looked it over, signed on a few lines, made two copies, and filed one in his personal files before handing the other back to the couple. As he did so, he glanced at the child from time to time, puzzling over this development and why they’d specifically placed him on retainer over any of the other capable attorneys in the city.

“So, is everything on track for that property you told us about when we first spoke?” Marie asked as she bounced the little girl on her knee. Brian smiled as Maddy smiled up at him.

“Yes, it all appears to be in order. But, you won’t be able to move in just yet, as there are a few more formalities to go through. I’ll call when you can move.” He smiled to Marie and Richard as they rose and thanked him.

Richard smiled to the woman beside him who had truly become his wife over the past months as they rose then shook Brian’s hand. They left the office, confident they were on their way to their new life together, with this beautiful little girl and with each other.

As Brian watched them leave, he couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for him, the couple, everyone back home, but most especially, he wondered for Madelyn. At that moment, he made the decision this family would remain his personal clients and no other attorney in the firm would touch their affairs. As for Madelyn, he knew fate had special plans for her and would do everything in his power to ensure her safety, now and in the future.

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