Chapter Twenty-Three

Awen was delighted with her catch of the day. A betrayer, a sibling for further leverage, and a mother. Her former lover. Who would be again. Awen rarely let herself think about it. Whenever she had, she had been filled with a rage and sadness so complete it had ripped her heart to shreds; over and over again it hurt so much. Eventually, she had learned to be patient.

Now, as she walked through the woods that became more and more blackened with each mile that passed, she led her army home and thought about the past, now able to think about it with quite a bit less anger. It had been a much happier time in the world. The trees were healthy and full of vibrant green leaves and colorful flowers. Awen and Gabriella were teenagers in the same village, which happened to be the village that housed the royal family. Awen’s family had been high in the ranks of the king, King Gregory at the time, Gabriella’s father. Awen’s father, Leon, had been Gregory’s Advisor of War. But it was peace time, and all was well, and relaxed. The local villages were paying their taxes and no neighboring village advanced. It had been like this for many years.

Awen and Gabriella grew up close friends. They ran through the castle like wild things, and ran through the village causing mischief. They ran through the woods, and found the perfect tree to build a tree house. They used magic to protect it, and it became their private fortress. They slept in there sometimes. One night while watching and catching fireflies, Gabriella accidently brushed hands with Awen’s trying to catch the same fly. It was something that had happened a million times before. But for some reason, this time had been different. The touch had electrified Awen, sending electricity and shivers down her spine. The electricity made the firefly dash away and they watched it fly away, and then they both froze. Awen searched Gabriella’s eyes, and leaned towards her. She slowly touched her lips to Gabriella’s soft lips, and they both gasped at the contact. They slowly broke away.

“Should we—“ Gabriella started to whisper.

“I don’t know,” Awen cut her off. She turned away and gazed at the fireflies. She was lost. She didn’t know what to do or say. It was so confusing. She turned back to Gabriella who looked just as lost. “I mean, we’ve known each other for twenty years. How could it change like this? Why?”

Gabriella walked up to Awen and held her finger against her lips. “Shh. It doesn’t matter. It happened,” she said, her voice husky. She ran her fingertip down her chin and across her jawline. With that single finger, she tilted Awen’s down pointed face up towards her. She claimed her mouth with a soft hunger that grew. She grabbed her waist and drew her nearer. Awen yielded, protesting with her body.

“I don’t know if we should—“

“And why not?!” Gabriella said heatedly. “I want you. I can feel it. I want what I want.” She pulled Awen to her body. “And,” she kissed her neck, “I will,” she tugged at her earlobe with her teeth, “have it,” she growled, claiming Awen’s mouth with a passion that Awen had never felt before. She’d had crushes on guys in the past and had sexual encounters with some of them, but she had never felt this level of passion or intensity before. It was something she felt in her skin, her heart, her mind, her very being.

All thought left Awen’s mind. She just did what she felt and she gave in, against the nagging idea that the king and queen wouldn’t like this dalliance. She ran her fingers through Gabriella’s soft hair, massaging her scalp as they kissed. She moaned into her mouth when Gabriella took Awen’s breast in her hand, gently kneading the soft tissue. Fire was lighting through her veins at the touch and she couldn’t get close enough. Gabriella pushed her up against a tree, continuing to play with Awen’s breasts, which were now spilling out of her dress as Gabriella unlaced the front facing corset, her nipples slightly chilled from the night air and Gabriella’s touch. Gabriella’s mouth left hers in favor of her breast, gently suckling while playing with her other breast, nipping with her fingers. Awen moaned, feeling herself grow wet. She wondered what Gabriella tasted like.

Gabriella finished disrobing Awen until her toffee colored skin bathed in the moonlight, so dark and beautiful, then removed her own dress. “I want you,” Gabriella whispered, laying on the moss covered base of the tree and pulling Awen with her.

“I want you too,” Awen whispered and stared at her beauty, crawling on top of her, taking Gabriella’s breast in her mouth as she had done to her. Gabriella moaned, writing under the touch. Awen ran her fingertips down Gabriella’s side, continuing across her thigh and down her inner thigh. Gabriella shuddered and closed her eyes. Awen kissed Gabriella’s smooth skin, her mouth moving from her breasts as her hands went back to the moist mounds, gently kneading as she licked and kissed the length of her body. She stopped just above Gabriella’s sex.

She lightly ran her finger along the outer lips, making Gabriella gasp and quiver. She stroked her there for a few moments, drawing out the moment. She slowly pushed her finger just inside to the inner lips and felt the wetness. So wet she withdrew her finger and brought it to Gabriella’s mouth. She tasted her own sex before Awen put her finger back inside, exploring the hot wetness. She stuck another finger inside, pushing her fingers deeper in until they couldn’t go any further. Gabriella moaned and wriggled her hips as Awen stroked her fingers in and out, slowly. She leaned her mouth down to Gabriella’s clit and started licking, methodically as her fingers pumped in and out. She curved her fingers upward, looking for that sweet spot.

She knew she found it when Gabriella started gasping and kept gasping, thrusting her hips upward. Awen pumped her fingers faster, massaging that spot inside of her, licking Gabriella’s clit, matching the movements to her fingers. Gabriella screamed and her whole body shook as she came, and Awen kept licking the wetness of her pussy through it all, until Gabriella quieted save for her heavy breathing and soft moans, her body still clutching and shuddering as the mini orgasms rode her from Awen’s mouth still on her. She finally stopped and crawled up to kiss Gabriella.

Gabriella rolled them until she was on top, reaching down to massage Awen’s pussy while kissing her mouth and massaging her breast. Awen was on fire and she could feel every molecule and atom crashing together. She felt the magic in the earth and sky and it was almost overwhelming. Gabriella moved down to lick Awen’s breast before biting it, making Awen scream. Her back arched and she shuddered with pleasure. What was that? Why had it felt so good? She wasn’t sure but she wanted to feel it again. “Bite me again,” she whispered breathlessly, her wetness making Gabriella’s fingers slick.

Gabriella bit Awen’s other breast and Awen clutched handfuls of moss. She almost orgasmed from the contact, especially once Gabriella’s fingers were moving rapidly in and out of her. Gabriella moved down to Awen’s stomach, nipping her with her sharp teeth. She moaned, shaking. Her entire being felt like it was almost being ripped apart. The orgasm was building within her as Gabriella’s teeth grazed her skin again and again in razor-sharp kisses. She bit down on Awen’s flesh just next to her belly button and that was her undoing. Gabriella’s thumb kept firm pressure on her clit as her curved fingers reached ever deeper inside of her and Awen convulsed around her fingers, tightening as the orgasm ripped through her. Her moans and screams were released into the night air as her entire body shook with a passion she had never felt before in her life. She came back down slowly, slowly aware of her surroundings and Gabriella’s gentle murmurings in her ear as she kissed her neck in the afterglow.

What had made that so powerful? She could barely think as she tried to force her breathing back to normal. They lay in an embrace, not speaking, simply surrounded by the forest and its creatures. Through a break in the trees, they could see the stars. Every once in a while a dying star zipped by. The air was so clear and clean, and they soon fell asleep in each other’s arms. When Awen awoke, she was alone, and her dress covered her. She shivered in the pre-dawn mist, and sadly felt the absence of Gabriella. She wondered why she had left. Everyone knew that they sometimes left and slept overnight in the forest, why was it a big deal that Gabriella would wake up in her royal bedchamber the morning after they had re-discovered each other?

Gabriella soothed Awen later that day, running her fingers through Awen’s hair. Everything was secret with them. They didn’t show untoward attentions toward each other in the presence of others, even though Gabriella consumed Awen’s mind at all times, and her skin was alive with fire whenever they were intimate. She longed to be able to be with Gabriella in the open, so that she was no longer a secret. She wished for it every day, hoping that someday it would be okay.

“Let’s meet tonight,” Gabriella whispered in Awen’s ear with a grin, five years after they had been seeing each other in secret. She ran her finger along Awen’s palm once she looked and made sure no one was looking. Awen’s pussy tightened at the intimate touch and the danger of being seen. It was a high that she never got tired of, heat running through her veins. She was so in love with Gabriella that she would do whatever she wanted her to do. All day she looked forward to the meeting. Her skin buzzed with excitement. At dusk, she took off for the woods alone. The animals seemed oddly hushed and ominous, but Awen didn’t let that dampen her mood. She was already wet for Gabriella just thinking about her.

Once she got close to their secret tree house, Awen decided to surprise Gabriella with a wicked grin. She removed her dress, placing it in a safe place and sauntering up to the house. It was dark, Gabriella wasn’t here yet. The slight chill hardened Awen’s nipples and that excited her even more. She went up and lay on the bed in a provocative pose, waiting for her love and lover. She must have fallen asleep, because the next thing she knew, she was yanked out of the bed. Her eyes flew open in surprise at the rough grip, definitely not Gabriella. She saw the King’s guards and fear gripped her heart. They were discovered! In a panic, she wondered about Gabriella and if she was okay, trying to break free. Heavy footsteps sounded on the wood and her father came into view.

Awen’s heart sank. She desperately wanted to cover up, but it was impossible, as one guard held each of her arms firmly to her side. She couldn’t move. Awen’s father gazed at her coldly and dispassionately.

“I had hoped this wasn’t true. I am so disappointed in you.” With a single movement he raised a hand to her face and a sharp crack resounded, echoing off the wood. Her head whipped to one side from the force, her hair covering her face. It hurt, but still Awen whipped her head back to face him, and even though her face was burning with shame and her lip bleeding, she raised her chin and stared at him defiantly and with pride, not saying a word. She had to be strong. She had to know what had happened to Gabriella. She felt panic inside, but didn’t let it show.

“Get dressed,” her father hissed, barely restrained in his anger. He tossed her dress at her and turned on his heel. She knew she would have an audience so she dressed as efficiently as possible once the guards released her arms. There was nowhere to go. She had to go back with her father to the castle, because that’s probably where Gabriella was. She needed to talk to her, to tell her how much she loved her and that they needed to stay together no matter what.

She went with the guards and her father back to the castle, the walk silent. Now she knew why the animals had been quiet; they had known there was going to be a disturbance in the energy. She felt the energy around her, choking her, suffocating her. She put one foot in front of the other just for Gabriella. She felt defeated and dejected inside, as well as pride. She knew inherently there wasn’t anything wrong with loving another woman. It’s something that happened a lot with everyone. It was completely natural. But for some reason, there was still a lot of stigma with royalty, and the thought that royalty shouldn’t mess with people less than royalty, and that the relationship needed to be heterosexual so as to maintain the bloodline. The princess also had to remain pure for her wedding night and new prince. Awen almost snorted, but she held it back because she knew her father would react poorly and probably hit her again.

Leon was taking her directly to the royal throne room. This wasn’t a good sign. Awen’s palms started to sweat and she felt nervous. What awaited her, she had no idea. The royal guards stood at attention at the doors to the room, holding lances at an angle that crossed each other above their heads. Awen gulped; glad no one was really paying attention to her too closely. The guards saw her father and moved the lances to stand straight while they stared straight ahead, looking at no one. Her father pushed open the doors to the throne room with both palms laid flat on the ornately carved and heavy, tall doors. Her breathing was coming in short puffs now, her heart crashing inside her chest. Her stomach was filled with acid.

She saw the king in his throne and the queen stood by his side, just behind the chair. Her father’s footsteps rapped sharply on the marble until he made it to the red carpet. He kept moving until he got to the end, made a crisp bow to the king, and moved to the other side of the throne as the queen, except below the stairs. He turned and watched without emotion as his daughter was escorted down the carpet. Her dragging dress had gone through mud on the way back and was now dragging a streak of mud down the marble and onto the carpet. The guards once again had an arm each. Even if she could, she wouldn’t have picked the tail of her dress. An act of defiance.

She didn’t see Gabriella in the room. As she made the long walk, her father had turned and briefly talked to the king in quiet terms, so quiet their voices didn’t even echo in the empty hall filled with cold and swirling marble. The king nodded once and went back to his perfect posture, with his arms outstretched on the throne’s arms and his back straight. Awen kept her chin up. She could not let herself feel ashamed for her love. She got to the end of the carpet and the guards didn’t loosen their grip, not allowing her to curtsey or even bow. Her heart was pounding so hard she wondered if anyone else could hear it. No one said anything for a few moments.

The King looked at her with eyes that didn’t betray anything. His wife remained just as stoic. Awen didn’t flinch from his gaze. “What were you doing in the woods tonight?”

Awen didn’t know what to say at first. What did they know? What had Gabriella told them? She found her voice, and said, “I was waiting for Gabriella.”
“And why were you waiting for her?”

“We had made plans to meet.”

King Gregory pursed his lips at her general answers. She wouldn’t give up any specific information voluntarily. She desperately hoped that Gabriella was okay. She didn’t think the king would hurt his only daughter.

King Gregory tried a different approach. “Are you in love with my daughter?” Direct. Straight to the point.

Awen didn’t want to show any weakness, but her breath caught in her throat and she felt it difficult to breathe. She didn’t know how to answer. Finally, she settled on the truth. She raised her chin and looked him squarely in the eyes. “Yes.” The king sighed and out of the corner of her eye she saw her father flinch.

“Have you had sexual relations with Princess Gabriella?”

A tear fell from her eye and rolled down her cheek. She knew this wasn’t going to end well. She started shaking. The situation was starting to get to her. All she wanted was to hold Gabriella in her arms. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“I see,” the king said, looking old, as though his grey eyes had aged just in these few moments. The queen had pursed her lips, disappointment evident from both of them. “This will end now. There will be no more secret rendezvous in the woods. Your little house is burning as we speak.”

“You can’t do this! She is your daughter! I love her! We want to be together!” Awen started to struggle against the hold of the guards, although she knew it was fruitless. She wanted to run and find Gabriella, to tell her that they should just run away.

“Stop!” The king shouted, standing. He looked furious. “You will be exiled, and Princess Gabriella will marry Prince Brock.” His tone suggested finality. Awen screamed and kicked and it did her no good. She felt the hot and salty tears running down her face but she didn’t care. She had given up the façade of calm and in control. Her heart beat wildly and she sank to her knees as she gave up fighting. The guards were still holding her arms above her head now as she sobbed, her face looking towards the floor. The red carpet and marble were a haze through her tears as she looked downward.

“Bring in the princess,” the king said, his voice weary. Awen looked up at him, hatred seething in her veins. She slowly stood again, but her head was hanging, no longer held high. She was heartbroken. Had Gabriella agreed to this? Had she defended their relationship? Had she given in? She waited quietly as Gabriella entered the throne room, taking her place beside the king. Once Awen finally dared to glance at her, she saw that Gabriella’s eyes were rimmed with the redness of tears. No tears fell now, but they were on the surface. Her heart beat painfully in her chest.

“Gabriella,” the king began.

“Yes, father?” Awen watched Gabriella carefully, but she wouldn’t look back at her. She was gazing across the room at nothing.

“Are you in love with Awen?”

Gabriella paused for just a moment, but then dragged her gaze over to Awen. Somehow she had made her eyes cold and unfeeling. “No. I do not.” Awen felt betrayal immediately stab her in the gut. How could Gabriella do this to her? She barely knew what she was doing, but she started screaming. She couldn’t exactly hear herself. Time had slowed down as she tried getting away from those damn guards. She needed to get out of here. She wanted to kidnap the princess and they could live their happily ever after. They could run so far away no one would ever find them. They could create their own kingdom.

“Gabriella, please,” she whispered as tears slipped down her face. Gabriella looked at her with sadness and a tear slipped past her own eye. Awen knew her feelings were there. But she was giving in. She was giving in to her father, to the “way things were.”

“I’m sorry,” Gabriella whispered back.

Awen looked on with shock as a numbness gripped her, holding her tight. There was nothing she could do. She held herself firm, the tears drying into stiff tracks from the salt.

“Enough of this. Go, now. You will be escorted out of the kingdom. If you shall ever return or attempt to return, you will be executed on the spot. The ward will alert us of your presence. Do you understand this?” The king stood, looking down at her. She wouldn’t look him in the eye.

Awen nodded, not speaking. She would not give him the pleasure of calling him “sir” or “Your Majesty.” He took Gabriella’s arm and guided her from the room, the queen trailing behind. Gabriella didn’t look back even once. Awen’s heart being broken was complete. She hadn’t fought for her. Hadn’t fought for them. The door shut firmly behind them, echoing in the empty chamber. Her father said nothing, simply looking at her in disgust. After a moment he turned on his heel and left the room. He hadn’t said goodbye. The hurt in her heart returned as even her own father disowned her.

The guards holding on to her arms took her from the room. They were joined by four more guards; two in the front and two in the back. As they marched from the castle, then from the courtyard, then from the city and finally into the country, they were looked at through curious eyes. People wondering what she had done to deserve exile. She stared straight ahead and met no one’s eyes. Once past the confines of the kingdom, the guards left her. She had nothing. She had no one. She stared at their retreating backs for the longest time, until she could no longer see them. She wondered what she was to do. She sat at the side of the road and wept.

 

As Awen’s army and her prisoners marched back to the broken city, she fumed. Anger was good. It was better than hurt and pain. She intended on making them pay. They all had to pay. Nothing would be good enough until everything was destroyed.

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