BtQC-Chapters 7 and 8
Garan awoke with a start and looked around. He’d heard something, or rather, felt something. He glanced across the dying embers of the fire to Brenna’s bed roll and realized that she wasn’t there. Then, he heard it again – a calling, soft and low and lilting. Someone was calling his name. No, that wasn’t right. He wasn’t hearing it, he was feeling it. It was a pulling, a yearning, a calling in his mind. Was it Brenna?
He followed the pull through the oak copse and into a small, circular clearing, colored silver, indigo, lavender and violet in the moonlight. Brenna stood in the middle of the clearing with her back to him, completely unclothed and hair unbound, arms overhead as if embracing the moon, which seemed to fill the sky directly over the clearing. It was breathtaking and Garan stood for a long moment, unwilling to break the spell of the vision of Brenna drawing the moon down into her arms. She lowered her arms and turned to face him, then, a tranquil smile on her lips and no trace of shame at her nakedness. She seemed to glide across the clearing, stopping directly in front of him and holding out her hand, beckoning him to enter. He was lost in her fathomless, grey-green eyes and he took her hand, stepping into the clearing to stand directly in front of her. He felt a ripple pass through him as he stepped into the moonlight, and she smiled up at him, leading him back to the center of the circle. Turning to face him again, Brenna put her arms around his neck and moved into his embrace. “I knew you’d come,” she whispered and then kissed him, deeply and hungrily. As their lips met, the electric shock of recognition and passion passed through them, and Garan groaned, tangling one hand into her silver-streaked hair and pressing her closer. “Hmmm,” Brenna said, leaning back slightly to slip Garan’s shirt off and pulling him down into the soft clover.
Their lovemaking seemed to last for hours, both rediscovering every inch of the other’s body after too long an absence. They were uninhibited, as if they’d been lovers for an eternity. Both seemed to know exactly what to do to please the other, and when they finally drifted off to sleep wrapped in each others arms, both were completely satiated.
The next thing Garan knew, it was late morning. He stretched like a cat and opened his eyes, then sat up in confusion. He was back in the oak copse, fully clothed and lying in his own bed roll, the ashes of the last night’s fire barely smoking in the ring next to him. On the other side of the fire, Brenna lie sleeping on her side with her back to him, wrapped in her cloak and apparently fully clothed as well. “What a fantastic dream,” he thought, although the pleasant ache in his groin insisted that it had been very real. He could still taste her lips, feel her hands on his skin, hear her moans of pleasure. Still, if it had been real, why didn’t he remember coming back to the fire, when did he get dressed, and why were he and Brenna sleeping apart from one another? No, it had to have been a dream, and a magnificent one at that. Garan laid back on his bedroll and smiled to himself. He’d know soon enough, when Brenna woke up. He’d be able to tell by her demeanor.
Brenna soon stirred, stretched and rolled over to face Garan, blinking awake. She murmured “Good morning” to him, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from her eyes before standing to straighten her clothes and shake out her cloak, as she did every morning. She didn’t seem to be self-conscious or embarrassed, and Garan frowned slightly. He was sure they’d made love, but Brenna didn’t seem to be affected by it at all.
“Good morning, Brenna. Did you sleep well last night?” He watched her face carefully, looking for some indication that she too had experienced the pleasures of the previous night. She was unbraiding her hair and brushing it out, as was her usual morning routine, and he remembered the feel of it in his fingers, the sweet, floral smell of it as it fell around her shoulders in the moonlight. His groin stirred at the memory.
“Very well, thank you. I think that’s the best night’s rest I’ve had on our journey so far.” She finished brushing her hair and began to braid it again, her fingers nimbly catching the loose strands and entwining them in a small coil at the nape of her neck. She fetched her little cauldron from her pack then and headed toward the stream before glancing back toward him. “When are we starting out this evening?” she said.
“We’ll leave at moonrise so we’ll have the light to travel by. It’s the full moon, so it should be plenty bright.”
She glanced down slightly and then flashed him a shy smile through her lashes. “Indeed.” Then she turned and headed toward the stream.
Brenna walked the short distance to the water, looking forward to a quick bath before starting her day. She smiled to herself, lost in the pleasant memories of the previous evening. The night had invigorated and energized her and drawing down the moon had been particularly stirring during last night’s ritual. To be in sacred space, to be filled with the power and beauty of the Goddess and to have the God present himself as Garan for her fulfillment and pleasure had been one of the most powerful and magical experiences she’d ever known. She was sure now that they were soulbound, that they had known each other for time immemorial and would know each other again. She wondered if he remembered anything from the previous night – not being a follower of the Old Ways, she wasn’t sure he’d be aware of the experience. It seemed best not to mention it unless he brought it up first, but as she washed herself she gave thanks to the Goddess for her blessing and relished the memory of their lovemaking.
By the time she made it back to camp, she could see low, dark clouds looming on the far horizon, in the direction they were headed. Garan scowled as he looked toward the oncoming storm, announcing that they would be leaving earlier than originally planned with the hopes of reaching shelter before the storm hit. “There is a small cave in that outcropping of rocks,” he said, pointing to what looked like a pile of reddish boulders far off in the distance. Brenna started to protest that they couldn’t possibly outrun the impending storm, but the thought of delaying their trip one more day worried her as well. And surely the tribes would be hunkered down somewhere, waiting for the rain and winds to pass and not out harassing travelers on the roads. She shouldered her pack, picked up her staff, and steeled herself for what she feared would be a wet, cold dash across the desert.
Garan scanned the wide expanse of dirt and sand at the edge of the copse, looking for signs of danger, and then urged Brenna forward at a swift pace. They headed straight toward the rocks, many miles away, and Brenna felt terribly exposed and vulnerable. The wind, which had started to pick up, was turning brisk and beginning to blow sand into her face, and she pulled Lorianne’s shawl across her mouth and nose, yanking the hood of her cloak low to shield her eyes as well. The sky grew darker and the wind grew colder, and Brenna could hear low rumbles of what she hoped was thunder and not the tribes off in the distance. Neither she nor Garan spoke, both intent on moving as quickly as possible toward the rocks and the shelter they would provide. Garan searched the horizon frequently, looking for any sign of approaching danger, but thankfully saw only the occasional flashes of lightning off in the distance and the ever-thickening clouds.
They continued on for several hours, not stopping to eat or rest, and Brenna found it harder and harder to keep pace. She was shivering, wind-chapped, hungry and tired when the storm hit them, and they still had a few miles to go before they reached the cave. As the rain lashed them and the lightning and thunder crashed around them, Garan urged Brenna on, helping her to scramble over piles of rocks and finally into a shallow cave in the side of one great, redstone tower. There was nothing they could use to make a fire with, but they were out of the rain and the wind. Brenna shrugged out of her pack, sunk down onto the sandy floor and huddled against the back wall, pulling her cloak tightly around her. Garan sat down next to her, handing her an oat cake he’d retrieved from his pack and wiping the rainwater from his face. When he noticed that she was shivering, he took his own cloak off, spread it on the ground with the dry side up, and beckoned her over to sit on it next to him. He instructed her to take off her wet boots, shawl and cloak, which she did with a half-hearted protest. Once she was sitting next to him, he pulled her cloak around both of them, wrapping his arms around her and pressing her back against chest. Brenna started to pull away, but Garan held her close. “It’s going to be very cold tonight and we can’t have a fire to warm us. We’ll need to take advantage of our body heat to keep from freezing. Besides, if you catch your death, it will significantly delay our journey and I’ll not carry you across the desert.” He said this last bit with a teasing smile, and Brenna smiled too. He was right, of course, and truth be told, she really didn’t want to move out of his embrace. She was starting to feel warm and drowsy, and as the crashing thunder moved off, the steady beat of the rain and wind began to lull her to sleep.
“This is turning into quite the adventure,” she mumbled as sleep overtook her.
Garan smiled down at the top of her head. “It is indeed.”
At some point in the middle of the night, Brenna woke up. The winds had stopped and the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. Goddess willing, it would be dry by morning and they could continue their trek, probably at nightfall, as was their original plan.
Brenna noticed that she was lying curled up slightly on her side, her back and hips pressed against Garan’s chest, stomach and groin, their legs entwined. Garan had one arm around her, pulling her close against him and his face was buried in her hair, which had come partially loose from its braid. They’d gone from sitting up against the wall to lying down at some point during the evening, evidently. Their bodies fit perfectly together, and for a moment Brenna felt completely comfortable lying in such an intimate position with a man she’d just met and had known for less than a month. Even as she thought it, though, she knew it wasn’t true. She and Garan were long lost lovers and had been together throughout all time. It had only been a matter of time before they found each other again, for they were as essential to one another as air, water, life itself. That the Goddess had seen fit to bring them together now, when Brenna was committed to her duty to Alamara and the king, and Garan had no love for the court or the Old Ways, was a conundrum Brenna couldn’t begin to unravel. Indeed, Garan himself seemed to notice and acknowledge their connection, but didn’t appear to have any romantic feelings for her. The Goddess knows all things, she told herself, and all would be revealed in its time, of course. For now, Brenna was content to lie in Garan’s embrace, even if it was only for a few short hours and only for the sake of practicality.