Giggling from inside the carriage bought a temporary halt to Ayla and Kira’s serious conversation.
“Is Hope equal to the task of guarding the princess?” Ayla mused aloud.
“As long as the carriage keeps moving at a decent speed, yes,” Kira replied. “I doubt the blonde will risk the jump.”
A fresh burst of laughter from the interior made Kira’s stern demeanor crack slightly. “I barely remember what it was like to be that young, that happy. One’s wounded, one’s been kidnapped and yet neither of them care. The young feel no sorrow.”
“That’s not entirely true,” Ayla said. “Besides, you are not as old as you think you are. You’re still a sapling my by reckoning.”
“Well nobody is as old as you,” Kira said, her lips twisting into a broader, teasing smile. Her dark eyes danced with amusement. “I’m not sure how you get around without a cane.”
“I use my cane for things besides walking,” Ayla said, her tone suggestive of trouble for the warrior if her teasing were to continue. Continue reading
“Kira, we should speak of this matter,” Ayla interjected gently, distracting Kira and her ire. “Let Hope drive. You and I will converse in the carriage.”
“With the princess listening to every word? No,” Kira refused adamantly. “You want to put a scout in charge of our fate, with two armies bearing down on us? I think not. I will keep the reins. You may ride up front with me. Hope will ride with the princess. Hope, ensure that she does not escape.”
Hope seemed eager enough to escape Kira and her rapidly multiplying punishments and quickly disappeared into the interior of the carriage. Ayla hiked up her skirts and Kira assisted her up onto the driver’s seat. Continue reading
After easing the princess out of her cleavage, Ayla turned her attention to the reason for the sudden halt. There was no obvious sound from the exterior of the carriage, but that didn’t mean all was well. She waited for long moments, but eventually curiosity required her to put her head out of one of the shuttered windows. She saw nothing. Nothing at all.
Hope leaned down from the driver’s seat. “Kira’s having a turn, I think.”
Frowning with concern, Ayla disembarked the carriage. Hope’s assessment seemed accurate at first glance. Kira was staring at the road in front of them with a fixated expression.
Once Hope had departed the interior of the carriage, Ayla reached out and removed the gag from Nive’s mouth.
“I don’t think this is necessary,” she said kindly. “Once more, I must say how sorry I am you’ve been through such a traumatic experience. If it were possible to have conducted affairs more gently, we would have done so.”
Nive squirmed around to a seated position and gave Ayla her best expression of princessly refinement. “How much ransom will you be asking for?”
“No ransom,” Ayla replied. “We are not interested in returning to your father, or Iskendar for that matter.”
Nive frowned. “What use have you for a princess?”
“Fairly little,” Ayla confessed. “None, in fact.”
How long had she known Ayla? Longer than time itself, or at least it seemed that way. Kira drove the horses on, her eyes scanning the landscape while her mind drifted to thoughts of her passenger. The witch. The one who had always been there.
Immortality was not easy.
At first it had seemed like a blessing to stay strong while others grew weak and passed, but Kira now realized it was as much a curse. The world was a very lonely place when one faced the fact that all relationships were fleeting, ardent lovers turned to old women in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Only Ayla remained constant in an ever changing world.
Kira could not stop her mind from wandering along the curves of Ayla’s body. It had been a long time since the notion of intimacy between them had been a possibility. Ayla had first seen her as nothing more than a whelp to be whipped, and then a warrior to be healed, and then, well, the passing of centuries somehow did not afford an opportunity for any physical romance. Continue reading
As the carriage pulled away and gathered speed, a dark figure appeared at the side of the road up ahead. Kira drove on, apparently unconcerned by the sudden apparition, and the carriage did not slow at all as the dark figure half-vaulted, half-scrambled up to sit next to Kira, who did not so much as bat an eyelash as the carriage was boarded.
The new passenger was a young woman with a round face, bright smile, and dark glossy hair which was cut short after the fashion of a page. She stared at Kira with a very pleased expression on her cherubic features, blue eyes brimming with pride. “There was an enemy scout,” she said. “There isn’t one any more.”
“Good,” Kira nodded, keeping her eyes on the road, scanning the path and bushes ahead for any signs of danger. One she was satisfied that they were safe for the moment, she risked a glance over at the young lady, letting her dark gaze run over her agile form. The young lady was clad in very light armor, black leather from head to toe, every bit of it sleekly oiled.
“Are you wounded?”
There was a nervous silence and a distinct aversion of those bright eyes before an answer came. “…No.”
“She stole my clothes, you know,” Nive said, her grievances not close to being at an end. “And my jewels.”
“That is because a young lady in finery is rather distinctive,” Ayla explained. “We prefer to operate more discreetly, you understand.”
“I am never discreet. I am a pretty princess!” Nive declared proudly.
“You’re much more than that,” Ayla replied. “But we have time to discuss all that later. For now, we must move.”