a
Latest Forum Posts:

Categories

HomeFantasy StoriesTo Catch a Merchant Princess Ch. 06

To Catch a Merchant Princess Ch. 06

Alicia confronts her father and sets forth to make her own way in the world at Thakkor's side.

Reader discretion advised. 

The story you are about to read contains mature content that some may find offensive. By choosing to read this piece, you agree that you are 18 or older and do not object to content of a sexual nature.

Alicia rode at Thakkor’s side down the hill, once more traveling on the well maintained roads of Freeland. After four days of easy riding, she and Thakkor were within a day’s ride of the city.

As on their previous journey, Alicia’s coin purse proved a welcome asset on the trip. Rather than spend the money on lodging, Alicia purchased serviceable clothing from a traveling vendor, and paid the man to pass a message to her father through a nearby fort. She and Thakkor rode on, ensuring that they would be far past by the time the slow wagon reached the fort. While she couldn’t conscience letting her friends and family worry, she intended to avoid a military escort home this time.

A stop in a charming little hamlet netted the couple saddles for their horses. The animals balked at first, but soon grew accustomed to the feeling, and after a time, even seemed to approve of the better balanced riders on their backs. Alicia also purchased food and two bottles of wine to supplement the supplies Redbear had provided.

Each night, the couple adjourned to their magical tent, shared a bath, and then each other. More than once, the tent had arisen in a secluded section of woodland or field during the day, as well. Alicia toyed with the sculpture that summoned the tent and offered a sultry smile when she saw Thakkor’s eyes following the bounce of her breasts caused by the horse’s gait.

"Sorry, hard to ignore," Thakkor offered with an apologetic shrug.

"You are incorrigible," Alicia declared with mock indignity as she turned away with a haughty tilt of her chin.

"But you love me anyway."

Alicia couldn’t maintain her pose in the face of those words. "Yes, I do."

"I need to water the bushes. We should probably make a stew or something to use up the last of those vegetables before they shrivel up, too."

Alicia pointed to a pair of trees some distance off the road ahead that she thought would probably have enough deadfall underneath for a cooking fire. "There?"

"Good a place as any – if I can make it." Thakkor turned his horse toward the trees and urged a little extra speed from the animal.

Alicia laughed as Thakkor vaulted from his horse upon reaching the trees. He hastily wrapped the reins around a low hanging branch and went to work on his trousers.

Alicia leaned in her saddle as she reined in, miming an attempt to peek at him as he answered nature’s call.

Thakkor sighed in relief, and then noticed Alicia. "Now who’s incorrigible?" He finished his business as Alicia laughed and dismounted her horse, and then said, "You know, I’m not even sure what that word means."

"Unruly – impossible to correct," Alicia explained.

"Ah, I get it." Thakkor finished tying his trousers and looked around for firewood. "Sounds like somebody took uncorrectable and made it sound nicer."

Alicia reached into her saddlebag and pulled out the tin pot she’d purchased. She then located the small burlap pouch of vegetables and walked toward where Thakkor had already dropped a promising dry limb. She knelt down on the grass near where she thought was a good place to dig the fire pit. "It’s rather sad that I don’t even know how to prepare these."

"Well, I’ll teach you how to burn supper, and you can teach me how to speak cityfolk." Thakkor picked up another thick stump of a limb and flipped it over atop the first.

The sound of fast galloping hooves pounding the hard-packed road attracted Alicia’s attention. She turned back toward the road and could just make out four riders in the distance.

"Somebody’s in a hurry," Thakkor remarked, straining his eyes toward the approaching riders. "Looks like two men and two women. No – wait. Two men, one woman, and a man in a dress?"

Alicia stood and stepped to Thakkor’s side. "I think that’s a robe," she offered with a bit of laughter in her voice. "Perhaps he’s a..." She trailed off and stared harder. "It can’t be..."

One of the men pointed, and the horses veered from the road. This combined with Alicia’s reaction set Thakkor’s nerves afire. His hand snapped to the hilt of his sword as he slipped into battle mode. "Who is it? Someone else working for that Count what’s-his-name?"

Alicia continued to stare in disbelief, doubting the evidence of her eyes. "No, it’s Gwen."

"The Baroness?"

A feminine voice, still faint in the distance, sounded out, "Alicia!"

"And Trell," Alicia added when she recognized him riding a jet-black warhorse at Gwendoline’s side.

Thakkor relaxed and pondered, "Wonder how they managed to find us?"

"The wizard, most likely," Alicia answered as the riders slowed.

"Alicia!" Gwendoline called again, waving as she reined in.

Alicia waved back, glad to see her friend, but a little disappointed that she wouldn’t have one more night alone on the road with Thakkor.

Gwen slipped out of her saddle almost before her horse stopped, hurrying to Alicia’s side to hug her with a complete lack of ceremony. "Thank heavens you’re safe."

"Aye," Trell declared as he wheeled his horse in close. "My Lady didn’t give me the opportunity to do more than snatch up Ronald here and ride out after her like we were running from demons."

Gwendoline looked back over her shoulder and declared, "I have apologized, Trell."

Trell dismounted and said, "And I accepted. It doesn’t change the fact that if we’d ran into trouble, we were sorely unprepared for it." He then put his hands on his hips and smiled. "That sword looks fine on your hip, Alicia."

Gwen’s eyes darted to Thakkor for a moment and she twitched her eyebrows, causing Alicia to blush. She then turned to Thakkor and said, "Greetings, Thakkor. It seems I have you to thank for Alicia’s safe return, yet again."

"We took care of each other," Thakkor responded, reaching out to caress Alicia’s shoulder for a second.

"Oh," Gwen responded while looking at Alicia out of the corner of her eye.

Alicia knew that her expression was confirming every naughty thought her friend was entertaining.

"I am famished," Gwen said to spare Alicia any more embarrassment. "Let us prepare food, and the two of you can tell us what happened."

Ronald and Trell joined Thakkor in gathering wood and preparing the fire pit while the Baroness sat down on the grass and gestured for Alicia to begin.

**

The Baroness let out a sharp little high-pitched growl as she rode alongside Alicia. "I cannot stop thinking about that blackheart, Count Yeltsin. I have always suspected his hands in black deeds, but this is absolutely unconscionable."

"We’ll have the proof to have him arrested as soon as Ronald’s detail makes it out there to dig up Armand’s body and bring it home," Trell counseled, having sent the younger soldier riding hard back to Osterfayre shortly after Thakkor and Alicia told that part of the tale.

"I am of half a mind to encourage my husband to have the scoundrel publicly drawn and quartered," Gwen declared, the tone of her voice causing her normally docile white mare to nicker and roll her eyes back toward her rider.

"My Lady, Satin is getting a little riled – and if you can pardon my candor – we’re close to home. You’ll need to put back on the airs," Trell warned.

Gwen sighed. "You are right, of course."

"Let me have a chat with him before you lock him up. He’ll happily rot in his cell for the rest of his life by the time I’m done telling him what I’d like to do to him," Thakkor suggested.

Gwendoline burst out into silvery laughter. "You are a positive delight. We shall have to see if that can be arranged."

Alicia smiled at Thakkor, knowing full well what had prompted his anger. His expression softened and he smiled back.

Trell said, "Shouldn’t take too long. Ronald’s sweet on your handmaiden, Denise. He’ll push as hard as he can without making the horses unsound to get back in a hurry."

"You might tell him to press his suit – and soon. Denise is growing frustrated with his cautious approach."

Alicia let out a sigh and Thakkor took advantage of a wide spot in the road to ride up beside her. "You okay?"

"I’m simply not looking forward to this."

Thakkor said, "Wish I could make it easier."

"You are," Alicia responded.

"I think we’d better make camp, Trell suggested. "We lingered a little long over lunch, the moon isn’t going to offer much light with that overcast creeping up on us, and Satin is looking worn down."

Gwen patted her horse’s neck. "Yes, the poor dear simply isn’t used to riding so hard, or for so long."

"Please," the usually silent wizard that Gwen had recruited to find Alicia begged. "This animal’s backbone feels like a knife."

Thakkor sized up their location, the time, and the weather in his head. "Think you’re right. We might be able to make Aldurvale a couple of hours after dark, but the road winds like a drunken snake laid it out up ahead."

Gwen piped up, "It will provide an excuse to see this marvelous tent you have acquired as well, Alicia."

"I would like to examine it and the other items of magic you acquired," the wizard added.

Thakkor pointed to a stand of pines off the road. "There. Should help keep some of the rain off of us if those clouds open up."

Trell nodded and turned his horse toward the trees, leading the way. "I managed to snatch up a tent before riding out, but it will only fit two of us."

"I can provide my own accommodations," the wizard Glanster revealed.

Trell grunted in approval and said, "Suppose that settles sleeping arrangements. Now, what do we do for food?"

A beating of wings provided the answer, the birds barely missing Thakkor as they took flight. "How does pheasant sound? Think I can bring down a few if I can spot them before they get off the ground."

"Keep an eye out for rabbits, too," Trell suggested.

Thakkor adjusted his bow as the group rode up to the trees. He could already see a perfect campsite just inside the tree line. "Good idea. Haven’t had rabbit in a dog’s age. Time to see if I’m worthy of Redbear’s gift."

**

Thakkor’s hunting proved fruitful, netting two rabbits and five pheasants. He even managed to salvage all but one of the arrows. Contrary to his earlier flippant remarks, he cooked everything perfectly.

Glanster ate little, too anxious to examine the magic items Alicia had acquired. He summoned up his small, dome shaped tent, which surprised everyone by vanishing as soon as it appeared. He likewise vanished upon crawling inside.

Alicia called up her tent, much to the delight of Gwendoline. The pair immediately retired inside to bathe. Gwen naturally pressed Alicia for details of her time with Thakkor not included in the earlier recounting. Reluctant at first, Alicia soon opened up to her friend, telling the Baroness everything in hushed whispers.

Trell finished setting up his tent, and then walked over to Thakkor, who sat tending the fire in the twilight. Thakkor chuckled as the older soldier approached and said, "You’ve been sizing me up since this afternoon."

"Alicia is as dear as a daughter to me," Trell said as he sat down.

Thakkor tossed another log on the fire, the remaining pine sap in the aged wood hissing almost as soon as it touched the coals. "It shows in how well you trained her to fight."

Trell smiled. "Glad I am to have shown her the skills she needed to escape the Count’s schemes." He paused, and then asked the question Thakkor had awaited since the soldier’s arrival. "So what are your intentions?"

"I’m going to stand by her side as she faces her father. Beyond that, we haven’t really discussed it. Whatever we decide, we’ll do it together."

Trell clapped Thakkor on the back and said, "That’s the answer I wanted to hear, and what I suspected anyway. Alicia’s a free spirit."

Thakkor relaxed, now confident that Alicia’s teacher approved of him. "That she is. Never thought I’d find a woman that beautiful – let alone one that can hold up her end of a fight."

"She has natural talent. I knew it from the first time I crossed swords with her. She’s not going to be happy just sitting at home waiting for you, you know?" Trell pulled a metal flask from a pouch on his belt and passed it to Thakkor.

Thakkor accepted the flask with a nod and took a sip, the potent liquor surprising him a little. "Going to be a hard road if she’s going to take up selling her sword with me, though."

"Aye, true," Trell agreed as he took back the flask and took a drink. "Something tells me that the two of you can defy the odds, though."

"Think you’re right." Thakkor looked over toward the tent, the sounds of whispering and giggling carrying on the night breezes. "What do you think they’re talking about?"

"We probably don’t want to know."

Thakkor and Trell laughed, knowing he was likely correct.

**

"I am so happy for you, Alicia," Gwen said, hugging her blonde friend. "My husband would likely thank you for telling me all the naughty details – if he knew that it was the reason I was ravishing him when I return home."

Alicia laughed, still blushing from relating the intimate parts of her relationship with Thakkor to Gwen. "You’re terrible."

"I need something to tide me over until Ronald gives Denise stories to tell." Gwen’s grin slowly faded as she considered something, which she then voiced. "I wish I could counsel you on some way to handle your father’s displeasure every time Thakkor comes to call."

"I’m not going home," Alicia responded, a little surprised by her own words. Now that she’d spoken them, she knew them to be true, however.

"What will you do, Alicia? Surely you do not mean to become a simple housewife."

Alicia knew deep in her heart what she wanted. "I haven’t spoken to him about it, but I want to travel at his side."

Gwen’s eyes widened and her tone was filled with disbelief when she said, "A sellsword?"

"Yes. I want to share in every moment of his life."

"I... I simply do not know what to say. I fear for you, Alicia."

"You don’t believe I’m capable," Alicia said quietly, and then hung her head with a sigh.

Gwen paused, seemingly at a loss for words. Finally, she said, "I do not know. Trell is honest in his praise, and surely you have proven your ability during the trials you have endured. Even so, it is so dangerous. You know the adage, He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."

"Would it be better to wait for him to return, forever worried that he might not? Together, we would be all the stronger."

The strength of Alicia’s conviction stunned the Baroness. "I know you more than well enough to know that you have come to a decision, and that you will not be swayed. I may not approve, but I will aid you in any way I can."

"Thank you, Gwen." Alicia smiled, and then yawned.

"We should seek our rest. Surely Trell will have us rising with the dawn. My husband will send out the entire army if we have not returned promptly on the morrow." The Baroness slipped beneath the covers, and then turned toward Alicia with a grin. "Do try to remember that it is I who shares your bed this night. You have grown accustomed to certain activities that I am quite incapable of."

Alicia slapped her friend’s shoulder. "Oh, stop."

"And no sneaking out in the middle of the night, either."

Alicia sighed dramatically and joined the Baroness beneath the covers after dimming the magical light above.

**

True to Gwendoline’s prediction, Trell roused the camp as the sun was just breaking the horizon. Alicia opened the tent flap and winced as dew dripped down to spatter on the end of her nose. She wiped away the water and then stepped outside so Gwen could exit. Thakkor immediately stood and walked toward her.

"Morning," he greeted her when he reached her.

"Good morning," Alicia replied with a wide smile, wanting nothing more than to gather him up in her arms.

"Oh, kiss her. We are all quite aware of your relationship, and you look positively silly standing there staring at each other," Gwen declared as she walked past.

Thakkor chuckled and leaned down to kiss his love.

Everyone jumped when the wizard suddenly appeared from his invisible tent, having almost forgotten about him. He looked heavy-eyed, but also excited. He reached back into the tent to retrieve Alicia’s magical items and several sheets of paper.

"What a truly wonderful night. I have notes concerning the results of my divination. The staff has a remarkable array of offensive and defensive magics, of which I’m quite sure the previous owner was unaware if he did not carry it at all times. The stone amulet confers the same magical properties as the stone skin spell, upon as many as four people, and its magic refreshes after a day has passed."

Trell laughed and remarked, "I haven’t heard that many words from you in all the years I’ve known you, Glanster."

"I... Oh dear, I do seem to be running off at the mouth. My apologies," Glanster responded, and then chuckled. He then walked over to Alicia and handed over everything. Thakkor had to help hold it as Alicia put the items away in her magical bag.

"My notes should be quite sufficient. If you should wish to sell any of these, please think of me first?"

Alicia leafed through the notes, rather stunned by the sheer amounts of magical power at her fingertips. "I will. Thank you for your hard work in this."

"Oh, no need. Fascinating – truly fascinating!"

"Well, unless one of them summons up breakfast, we should mount up," Trell suggested. "We’ll break our fast in Aldurvale, and then return to the castle."

Thakkor said, "I know the perfect place. The woman’s cooking makes me think of my dearly departed Mum’s."

Gwen’s tummy rumbled loudly enough for everyone to hear it. "Please do stop speaking of food until we have some."

Trell chuckled and pulled one of the stakes from his tent. "Strike the camp and let’s move out."

**

Alicia felt both relief and dread as the towers of Osterfayre castle loomed larger with every beat of a hoof.

"I’ll have a bath drawn, find you a gown, and have the carriage made ready..."

Alicia interrupted, "Gwen – thank you, but no. I will face my father as I am. It is the least of the revelations he will face this day."

Gwen nodded, her lips slightly pursed and her expression showing an edge of sadness. "Very well. I hope you do not think ill of me for my less than subtle attempt to steer you from your chosen course."

Alicia smiled and answered, "I know you simply wish the best for me, and fear my choice is the wrong one."

The Baroness shook her head emphatically. "Not wrong, just rife with difficulty and danger. I should not feel such worry, considering the recent stellar examples of how you handle such adversity."

"Maybe we should head into the city and find a room before we go," Thakkor suggested.

Gwen didn’t give Alicia time to answer. "Absolutely out of the question. If you will not remain on the Nash estates, you will guest with us here in the castle."

"Up to you, Love," Thakkor said to Alicia.

Alicia shuddered and sighed. "Do feel free to call me that whenever you wish." She then turned back to Gwendoline and said, "We will return. Thank you, Gwen."

"You are quite welcome, and that invitation remains open from this moment into perpetuity."

Alicia laughed as the group reined in near the castle stables. "Perpetuity?"

"Yes – perpetuity." Gwendoline looked away and stuck her nose up high in the air. "I have waited weeks to use that word, and now you have ruined it for me."

"I pray you can forgive my opprobrious behavior," Alicia responded with a bow of her head.

Gwen’s hurt expression faded in an instant and she laughed. "You are a delight. Now I have two words that will prove quite stunning when I speak of Count Yeltsin."

"And I don’t have the foggiest clue what either of them mean," Thakkor said with a shake of his head and a hearty laugh as he dismounted.

"I’ll make sure the horses are fed, brushed, and rested for you," Trell said and signaled to one of the stableboys.

Gwen patted Satin’s neck and walked over to Alicia. "Speaking of the despicable Count, you should truly remain here until such time as we have charged him with his foul deeds."

"You’re right, of course," Alicia responded.

"We can take advantage of the opportunity in the courtyard," Trell suggested. "The two of you could benefit from sparring together – and perhaps challenging each other."

"Not a bad idea," Thakkor agreed. "Getting to know each other’s fighting style when we’re not worried about dying in the process should help us work off each other’s strengths."

The Baroness smiled as Alicia linked arms with Thakkor. "You speak as though of a brother in arms, more so than a woman."

"She’s both, and that’s what I love about her."

"And what I love about you," Alicia echoed.

Gwen wiped away a tear and said, "I grow more confident by the moment in the path you have chosen, Alicia."

Alicia leaned in closer to Thakkor and said, "So do I."

The Baroness gestured for the couple to follow and said, "Your horses are not the only ones who will benefit from food and rest."

Thakkor and Alicia joined hands, and followed Gwen inside.

**

Alicia reined in, her golden hair flowing in the summer breeze, reminiscent of a battle pennon in Thakkor’s eyes. He urged his horse forward to her side, close enough to reach out and touch her.

From atop the small rise, the couple looked down upon the Nash estate, surrounded by its magnificent gardens and lawn. The great city of Freeland formed the backdrop, the travelers and merchants that served as its lifeblood flowing to and from the city along the roads stretching out to the horizons.

"Ready?" Thakkor asked.

"No, but waiting will only increase my anxiety."

He reached out to pat her leg. "There’s still time to change your mind, you know?"

Alicia smiled at him, and then answered by urging her horse forward.

A strange, alien sensation crept through Alicia as she rode through the opening in the low stone wall surrounding her home. She absently wondered why there was no name for the opposite of Deja Vu, because that was the exact feeling that assaulted her.

A wide-eyed gardener dropped his rake as the couple passed, and then hurried toward the house after a moment or two of stunned surprise. Other servants reacted in much the same way upon noticing Alicia, and she could hardly blame them.

Years of conditioning caused Alicia to turn toward the stables, though she’d never actually ridden onto the grounds before. Her father strictly forbade horses beyond a certain point, to avoid damage to the decorative paving stones. Upon reaching the stables, the stablemaster and two grooms stepped out, wearing wide smiles.

"Good it is to see you alive and well, Lady Alicia," The stablemaster declared.

"Thank you, Noelt," Alicia said as she reined in.

Noelt stroked Alicia’s horse’s neck and said, "It’ll be my pleasure to watch over these ponies for you."

"Hasn’t been but a few miles since they ate and rested, and we rode ‘em easy," Thakkor explained as he dismounted.

The stablemaster asked, "Should I unsaddle them?"

"I will send word," Alicia answered.

Noelt nodded, his suspicions confirmed, "Very good, Lady Alicia." He then directed the grooms to take the horses inside.

As the couple walked toward the house, Thakkor said, "Sort of expected everyone waiting for us in front of the house."

"Father expected us to arrive by carriage. Most likely, everyone ignored us because we were mounted. The servants will regroup and meet us in the entrance foyer."

Thakkor shook his head and remarked, "There’s a back up ceremony for everything, isn’t there?"

Alicia nodded, offering a half-smile. "Such is the necessity of politics."

The couple reached the three wide steps leading up to the house and ascended. At the midpoint of the final step, Alicia blinked her eyes as if to signal, and the door opened, right on cue.

"W-welcome home, Lady Alicia," the butler greeted her as she approached, his stutter a telling sign.

Alicia took a deep breath and turned to gaze at Thakkor for strength before continuing toward the portal. As expected, a collection of servants awaited in the foyer to greet her, forming a corridor leading to her mother and father.

Alicia’s mother wavered, her eyes wide with surprise – yet another startling divergence from the rigid, perfect protocol to which Alicia was accustomed.

Alicia’s father maintained his composure, though his eyes were hard with irritation. "It seems we are in your debt again – Thakkor, is it? Come, and we shall discuss proper compensation for the safe return of our Daughter."

Having recovered from the shock, Alicia’s mother said, "Come, Alicia. We will find you proper attire while the men speak."

Alicia curtsied, though she knew the tiny deference to proper behavior would matter little after she spoke. "I’m sorry, Mother, but I have something to tell both of you, and it will not wait."

Her father’s expression hardened to match his eyes. "Daughter, I will not hear such disobedience. Already you try my patience by arriving dressed as a vagabond – and under arms."

Somehow, his words burned through Alicia’s reluctance and fear. For the first time in her life, she squared her shoulders and stood up to her father. "I’m afraid that you will need to grow accustomed to such, Father."

"Preposterous!" Alicia’s father declared, sweeping his hand in a sharp, dismissive gesture.

"I have chosen to find my own path in life, Father," Alicia declared, growing bolder by the moment.

He opened his mouth as though to retort in anger again, but instead clenched his teeth. Without another word, Alicia’s father turned and ascended the stairs.

Alicia sighed, knowing that the conversation was over. She turned to her mother. "I must follow my heart, Mother. I have found love in Thakkor, and in life."

"Where did we fail, Alicia? We have given you all that anyone could ask for."

Alicia walked up and took her mother’s hand. "Mother, you haven’t failed. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you and Father have given me. I hope you can come to understand in time."

Though she maintained her passive expression, Alicia could see her mother’s eyes misting over. "Where will you go? How will you live?"

"We’ll be fine," Alicia answered as Thakkor joined her. She took his hand and smiled, adding, "Together."

Alicia’s mother took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "This is foolishness, Alicia. I will hear no more of it."

Thakkor clenched his teeth as Alicia fought the tears welling up in her eyes from watching her mother ascend the stairs. After a quavering sigh, Alicia turned away from the uncomfortable looking servants.

Thakkor held his tongue until he and Alicia passed out of earshot of the servants, and then incredulously remarked, "That’s it?"

"It’s their way."

"Well, their way is wrong," Thakkor responded, taking her hand.

Alicia caressed his hand with her fingers and said, "Please don’t hate them, Thakkor."

"I don’t. In a way, I pity them. Do you think they’ll come around at all?"

"I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter." Alicia looked up at him and offered a sad, half-smile. "I’ve made my decision, and I couldn’t be happier."

Ever one step ahead of those he served, the master of the stables had already ordered the couple’s horses brought out. He stood with the animals and said, "This will surely be a sadder place without you, My Lady."

"Thank you," Alicia said as she accepted the reins of her horse.

The stablemaster offered his hand to Thakkor along with the reins. "I’d tell you to take good care of her for us, but I don’t think I have to."

"You don’t, and I will," Thakkor responded as he shook the man’s hand.

Once the couple had mounted, the stablemaster stepped back and said, "Fare thee well, My Lady."

Alicia nodded her head and said, "And you as well. Please convey my well wishes to all the servants – and my thanks for putting up with an ofttimes spoiled girl."

"I will."

Alicia then looked to Thakkor and offered another smile before nodding toward the gate.

"The horses seemed to have a mind to gallop on the way here. Want to indulge them?"

Alicia’s smile brightened and she answered, "Yes – Let’s."

**

Alicia awakened with a start, deep in the night. Though she’d tried to put up a brave front, the cold dismissal from her parents had affected her. For the last two days, she’d had little energy and felt melancholy. Thakkor, seemingly in perfect tune with her emotions, had sensed her needs and acted accordingly. Though she surely knew he wanted more, he had simply held her for the past to nights as they slept.

Her nightmare faded – a remembrance of the fight with the brigand in the sod house. She knew what had triggered it – the news that the Count had circulated a story concerning his dismissal of Armand. Trell and Gwen swore that such a flimsy excuse would not hold up to scrutiny, but Alicia had her doubts.

She shuddered from the fading dream image of the man dying from her blade, and snuggled up closer to Thakkor. Even in his sleep, he squeezed the arm draped over her even tighter.

Alicia reveled in the feeling of his muscular body and his warmth beneath the sheets. Her body responded to the closeness, tingling with powerful desire. She fidgeted as she tried to control the surging emotion.

Her movement awakened Thakkor, and his eyes blinked open in the moonlight streaming through the nearby window. His voice still heavy with sleep, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Alicia answered, her face flushing when she could hear the restrained passion in her voice. "I had a nightmare."

Thakkor shifted and kissed her forehead. "It was only a dream. You’re safe."

Alicia’s tenuous control over her desire shattered with that kiss. Her liquid blue eyes locked with his, and she moved closer to kiss him – releasing her passion.

Thakkor let out a surprised moan as her lips found his, her tongue tickling his gums as she rolled over atop him. He returned the kiss with equal ardor, his manhood swelling.

Alicia broke from the kiss with a gasp, and sat up over him. She could feel his erection pressing against her bottom, and reached for the hem of her nightgown.

Thakkor breathed heavily and caressed her legs as Alicia pulled her gown over her head. She wore nothing beneath, her body fully revealed to him in the soft moonlight as she tossed the gown to the side.

"I need you," she whispered.

"I need you, too," Thakkor responded as she tugged down the loose cotton breeches he’d worn to bed.

Alicia caressed his swollen organ, feeling the contours and hardness of it as it twitched beneath her fingers. She leaned forward, angling his manhood upward toward her already damp sex.

Thakkor’s groan mingled with Alicia’s shuddering whimper as she sank down on his erection, the thick organ filling her so full.

"You’re so beautiful," Thakkor whispered, his voice husky as her velvety soft walls squeezed tight around him.

"S-so good," Alicia breathed, and then rocked her hips, emitting high-pitched moans as his erection stroked her depths. She undulated her body in a slow motion, feeling every inch of him, and letting him feel ever inch of her.

Thakkor’s hips twitched up toward her with every motion, pressing him even deeper inside her. Alicia could feel a hot bubble of energy building behind her mound. She sat up straight with a gasp, giving her easy access to the swollen pearl at the apex of her nether lips.

Alicia’s fingers flashed over her bud as she gyrated her hips, stirring her depths with Thakkor’s thick shaft. He flexed his muscles, thrusting up into her as she stoked her fires even higher.

Alicia’s heartbeat and breathing quickened, her fingers a blur over her sex. Small sounds of pleasure – whimpers and moans – bubbled from Alicia’s lips as she built toward orgasm. Alicia had just enough presence of mind to contain the screams trying to escape her as she moved closer to the edge, realizing that the entire castle was sleeping around her.

She began to bounce over Thakkor’s hips, in perfect time with his thrusts. Her bottom slapped against him with quiet smacks, her pleasure swelling with every thrust. She pursed her lips tight, trembling from the energy building inside her. Finally, she slammed down once more and froze in place.

A long, quavering squeal fought for escape between Alicia’s tightly clenched teeth and lips. Her trembling body continued to move his manhood inside her, prolonging her ecstasy. When the first wave of orgasm released her, she sucked in a sharp breath, and then fell forward as that breath blasted from her.

Thakkor swiveled his hips, causing Alicia’s orgasm to spike again and again. She whimpered and gasped with every swell of pleasure, finally collapsing atop Thakkor to pant for breath when he stopped moving to give her respite.

"Oh, Thakkor," Alicia moaned when she caught her breath.

Thakkor stroked her hair and said, "I love to watch you come."

Alicia let out a contented moan and snuggled up against his muscular chest for a minute or so. She could feel him throbbing inside her, begging for release as well. Summoning up a burst of energy, she pushed up onto her arms. She didn’t have to say a word. Thakkor knew what she wanted.

Alicia groaned as Thakkor’s fingers curled around her buttocks. She then let out a little oh in response to the first powerful thrust. This time, Alicia could not contain her vocalizations, which built in volume and pitch along with the speed of his thrusting hips.

When she could manage to keep her eyes open, Alicia could see Thakkor’s features tightening, evidence of his own approaching climax. Soon enough, her vision blurred into a fog of pleasure. The angle was perfect for his fast thrusting shaft to rub her bud with every stroke. Alicia climbed toward another orgasm, her whole world comprised of the pleasure coursing through her.

The world snapped back into focus in a moment, twin cries of simultaneous release bursting from her lips and from Thakkor’s. Alicia’s walls squeezed tight around him, letting her feel every throb and pulse as he spurted jets of warm seed deep inside her.

Alicia’s next moment of clarity came with her next orgasm, a second climax hot on the heels of the first. She was lying directly on top of Thakkor, and could immediately feel that he was breathing just as hard as she was. He groaned as her canal gripped him again, his sweat-dampened body writhing beneath her.

After only a few seconds, he could no longer endure the tight squeeze on his sensitive member. He jerked free of her with a gasp, followed by heavy, panting breaths. By contrast, Alicia squealed as the power of her orgasm doubled from the hot friction of him slipping free. She fell limp after the spike ebbed, occasional aftershocks tightening her muscles a few times as the minutes passed.

Thakkor groaned, looking just as exhausted and satisfied as Alicia felt when her eyes fluttered back open. His cream bubbled from her, dripping from her labia to spatter against him below her. She moaned when he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her neck.

"That was so wonderful," Alicia breathed once she recovered.

"Uh huh," Thakkor responded in an exhausted moan.

Alicia’s blue eyes widened when she realized something, and her start drew Thakkor back out of his torpor. "What’s wrong?" He asked.

"I... I forgot to cast my spell," Alicia whispered.

Thakkor winced. "I’m sorry. I should have reminded you."

"It’s not your fault," Alicia said as she summoned up the strength to rise. His cream decorating her folds and the curls surrounding them served as a stark reminder of her forgetfulness.

A war raged within Alicia. Part of her dreaded the possibility of his seed taking root in her womb. She knew it would throw all of their plans into chaos. At the same time, she felt warmth spreading through her at the thought of bearing his child. Only one thing was clear – she had to know.

Alicia crossed the room to her magical bag and opened the flap. Thakkor reached down and retrieved his shirt to wipe away the evidence of their lovemaking from his body while she searched for the necessary ingredients to cast her spell.

A bright flash of light caused Alicia to snap her eyes shut. At the same time, she heard Thakkor curse and the sound of the bed creaking. When she opened her eyes again, she saw a man in a black, hooded robe aiming some sort of a crystal-tipped wand at her. Thakkor bounded to his feet in front of her from where he’d rolled off of the bed, and jumped toward the wizard.

The wizard vanished in another burst of brilliance, only to reappear in the corner of the room, once again aiming his wand. Alicia’s hand had closed over the staff within the bag as she searched for her pouches, and she instinctively jerked out the magical weapon.

The wizard’s wand discharged just as Alicia withdrew the staff. One of the myriad enchantments on the arcane object caused the bolt of energy from the wizard to dissolve into harmless, drifting motes. The assailant had no chance to fire a second burst, because Thakkor was upon him. The wizard tried to blink away again, but reacted too slowly. Thakkor’s fist contacted the man’s chin, and the wizard reappeared lying on the floor, shaking his head in groggy disorientation.

Thakkor let out a roar and charged the wizard. The man’s eyes snapped wide open in fear, and he fumbled in his robes for something. Just as Thakkor reached him, the wizard hurled something. An ice blue nimbus of magic surrounded Thakkor, and he stiffened as though turned to stone. His momentum caused him to fall over, remaining in the same stiff position in which he’d frozen.

The sight both frightened Alicia beyond belief, and sparked memory – a command word, one of many documented by Glanster after studying her magical items. Alicia shouted the word, aiming the staff at the wizard, who had raised a second wand – one that crackled with ominous energy.

As had Thakkor, the wizard stiffened, surrounded by a blue nimbus. Flashes of light erupted from rings on his fingers, and the nimbus wavered. Alicia felt the staff grow warm in her hand as strong vibrations shot through it. She nearly panicked, fearing that the staff might explode in her hand and do the work of the attacker for him. Fortunately, such was not to be. The power of the magical artifact she held overcame whatever protections the wizard possessed. The man fell backwards and thumped into the wall, as stiff as a board.

A second command word, the reverse of the first, burst from Alicia’s lips. The blue light surrounding Thakkor winked out as she aimed the staff at him. He sucked in a great breath and sat up, trembling from the aftereffects of the magic.

Just as Thakkor rose, the double doors of the bedroom exploded inward. Both dressed in nothing more than their breeches, Glanster and Trell burst into the room. The former held a sparking orb, the latter a gleaming sword. Both turned their backs when they realized the danger was past, but not quickly enough to prevent Alicia’s face from burning. Both had seen her standing nude in the moonlight, Thakkor’s cream running down her legs.

"Are you both okay?" Trell asked with nervous embarrassment.

"Yeah, I think so," Thakkor answered as Alicia grabbed a sheet from the bed and wrapped it around her.

"Stand aside," Gwen demanded, and then rushed into the room. She scowled at the paralyzed wizard, and then turned back to Alicia. As she turned her head, her eyes widened and she pursed her lips in surprise. Thakkor walked unclad toward the bed, his impressive manhood swinging between his legs. Alicia’s tales of passion took on a new dimension, forcing the Baroness to fight down a shudder.

"Did you use the paralysis enchantment in the staff upon him, My Lady?" Glanster asked.

Alicia nodded, and Gwen relayed the message as she sat down next to the blonde. "Yes, Glanster."

"We should bind him before the magic wears off. With a little time, I can contrive the means to question him without fearing his magic. In the meantime, we should strip him of his robes, bind his hands, and prevent him from speaking."

Thakkor let out a growl and turned around, seeing Alicia in good hands. "Not a problem." He walked up to the paralyzed wizard and grasped the neck of the man’s robe. Thakkor’s muscles bunched, and he ripped the robe from neck to waist in a single, powerful tear. A few more rips allowed him to remove the man’s clothing completely.

Gwen pulled a sheet over her as well, as she was covered only slightly more than her nude friend. "We are covered," she announced to the two men waiting in the doorway, who immediately turned and stalked toward the wizard. Gwen glanced at the still nude Thakkor for a second, and then turned to twitch her eyebrows at Alicia.

The familiar gesture helped calm Gwen, though it deepened the color of her cheeks. She playfully slapped Gwen, but couldn’t help smiling as well.

Trell bound the man’s hands and feet with torn bits of his own robe while Glanster retrieved Thakkor’s breeches so he could dress. Once he was covered, Thakkor asked, "Can he hear me? It seems like I could hear when he got me."

"Yes, he is simply unable to move his body. As you can see, he is blinking," Glanster answered.

"Good. Give me a second," Thakkor said as Trell prepared to put a makeshift gag in the paralyzed wizard’s mouth.

Thakkor leaned in close to the man’s ear and whispered something. The wizard’s eyes widened, causing Alicia and Gwen to glance at each other in confusion. Thakkor turned away from the man with a satisfied smile, and Trell fixed the gag over the man’s mouth.

A few minutes later, Alicia’s magic wore off. Trell threw the bound man over his shoulder and carried him elsewhere for interrogation. Gwen and Glanster left as well, allowing Thakkor and Alicia to clean up and dress.

Perhaps an hour later, a weary-eyed scribe put down his pen when the intruder finished relating everything he knew. The count had sent him to kill Alicia in a last ditch attempt to prevent the inevitable accusations to come.

Gwen, now dressed in a far less scandalous manner, turned to Thakkor and asked, "What did you say to him? I would think that he would have resisted to at least some degree."

"I told him that he’d best sing like a bird or I’d slowly twist his nuts off with my bare hands and then feed them to him."

Every other man in the room stiffened and winced upon hearing those words, while Gwen and Alicia fought back chuckles. The wizard in question turned very pale.

Trell closed the cell door, confident in Glanster’s magic sapping crystals to prevent the wizard’s escape. "His testimony alone is enough to bring charges against the Count, but Ronald should be back tomorrow or the next day. The more evidence we have, the better."

"I agree," The Baroness announced, drawing a nod from her scowling husband at her side.

Trell suggested, "Let us return to our beds, then."

Thakkor gave Alicia’s hand a squeeze and said to Trell, "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Certainly," Trell agreed.

Thakkor gave Alicia a brief kiss, and then said, "I’ll be up in just a minute."

"I will accompany you, Alicia," Gwen offered.

Alicia nodded and said, "Thank you," knowing full well that Gwen’s reason for doing so had everything to do with seeing the both of them naked earlier. She also felt more comfortable casting her spell, previously forgotten in the excitement, with Thakkor out of the room.

When the magic confirmed that she was not in a fertile part of her cycle, she wasn’t sure whether to be relieved, or disappointed.

**

"Point!" Trell called, and then laughed.

Thakkor nursed the sore spot in his abdomen where Alicia’s wooden sword had penetrated his guard.

Alicia, feeling some bruises of her own, stood with one hand gripping her mock weapon while the other supported her on her bent knee. Sweat soaked the clothing of both combatants, as they’d sparred for more than an hour under the hot sun of the cobblestone courtyard.

Alicia had scored the first point, taking advantage of Thakkor’s reluctance to engage her with the fullness of his ability. After she admonished him for not giving his all, Thakkor tossed away his reservations – as much as he was able – and fought back to take the lead by one point.

Alicia’s unexpected and skillful thrust from a kneeling position had just evened the score.

Around them, the soldiers of the barony applauded, feeling a little lax in their own efforts after watching the energetic spar between the two lovers.

"Draw?" Thakkor suggested, panting for breath and wiping the sweat out of his eyes.

Alicia nodded in agreement, desperate to remove the thick, dark blouse she wore. An attempt to preserve her modesty once sweat soaked her clothing, the blouse had also served to absorb the heat of the sun and hasten the process.

"Off to the bath with the two of you," The Baroness declared. "You must be ready for this evening. We will dine in celebration of Count Yeltsin’s rightful justice."

Alicia couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. Though he must still stand trial, Alicia had given her testimony. With the evidence piled up against him, the Count would surely spend the remainder of his life in prison. Justice in Freeland rarely meted out the death penalty, and even the Count’s foul crimes were not enough to cause consideration of it.

More importantly to Alicia, the men sent to take the Count into custody had searched his home. The information there uncovered a far wider plot, one aimed almost exclusively at destroying her father. With that information in hand, he would be able to circumvent the disasters, some of which were already in motion.

With the last of her obligations now complete, Alicia felt the call of the road. After retiring for the evening, she fully intended to speak to Thakkor about leaving to seek their life together.

For now, the bath called to her. She could tell by the glint in Thakkor’s eye that he was thinking about sharing the bath – and more – with her.

Already surging with excitement from the mock combat, Alicia wholly approved of that notion.

**

The dinner proved a lively and heartwarming evening. Alicia felt positively buoyant as the evening wound down to a close, and felt as though it was a perfect transition from her old life to the new one she would share with Thakkor.

Though he showed few outward signs, Alicia could tell that Thakkor was growing impatient and nervous as the night wore on. The connection they shared went deeper than anything she’d ever dreamed of, unto the point that she often knew what he was thinking. She also knew Gwen well enough to know that the Baroness was anticipating something, and was positively ready to burst waiting for it. When the Baroness started glancing with an obvious lack of patience at Thakkor, and Trell couldn’t manage to contain a smile, Alicia narrowed her eyes and turned to her love.

"Exactly what sort of conspiracy is afoot?"

Thakkor cleared his throat and blushed, which caused Alicia’s eyebrows to twitch upward. Thakkor pushed his seat back and stood, wearing a look similar to the one he’d worn during the ceremony marking Alicia’s return home after her abduction.

"I’ve been doing some thinking," Thakkor began.

A thousand possibilities – most of them bad – flitted through Alicia’s mind. Looking forward to finding her true place in life, she now feared that Thakkor had changed his mind. Yet somewhere deep inside, she knew the truth.

"You’ll have to pardon me if I screw this up. I’ve never done it before, and I have no real idea what you’re supposed to do." Thakkor reached into his pocket and pulled out something, keeping it in his closed hand. "Most people I know would probably call me a damn fool for this, but I think I’d be a damn fool if I didn’t."

After saying those words, Thakkor cleared his throat yet again, and sank to one knee. Alicia’s eyes filled with tears as the part of her that knew his heart cut through the dark ruminations attempting to dissuade her of his true purpose.

"Alicia, I’ve never met a woman like you, and I know I never will again." He opened his hand, revealing a beautiful, antique ring. "This was my mum’s. I asked Trell to send someone to fetch it when we finished wringing out that wizard. Anyway – uhm – Alicia, will you marry me?"

Her heart soaring and tears of joy rolling down her face, Alicia slipped down out of her seat to kneel before him. "Yes – oh yes," she answered, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him.

The room broke out into applause and cheers as the couple embraced. As Thakkor helped Alicia to rise, his expression a mixture of amazement and fear, Gwen quieted everyone else with a wave of her hand. "You could not possibly know how difficult I found it to hide this secret from you."

Alicia chuckled and wiped her eyes, snuggling up closer to Thakkor at the same time.

"I absolutely insist that you have the wedding here – as soon as possible. I also have gifts for the both of you in honor of the occasion." She clapped her hands, summoning servants who wheeled in two sheet-covered objects.

"I will not take no for an answer, as I have already went to exhaustive effort to convince my husband to spend the money."

Alicia had to purse her lips to avoid laughing when she saw color rise in the Baron’s cheeks. She had little doubt as to the method of Gwen’s convincing.

Gwen nodded, and the two servants whipped away the sheets to reveal wooden mannequins displaying suits of shining chain, and swords.

"Gwen, I will be exhausted after a minute of wearing that," Alicia argued, though her face certainly showed how much she appreciated the gift.

Gwen shook her head. "No, no – I said no arguing. Now, go see – the both of you."

Thakkor led Alicia to the mannequins, and reached for the suit of chain obviously meant for him. His eyes widened in surprise as he grasped the chain. "This doesn’t weigh more than a leather jerkin."

Alicia weighed her own chain shirt in her hand and had to agree. "I don’t understand?"

"Magic," Glanster explained. "That chain is elf-forged, and imbued with fey magic. The swords are of the finest Dwarven steel, forged by master blacksmiths of that race and blessed by their gods."

Gwen walked over and took both Thakkor and Alicia’s hands. "If I cannot dissuade you of seeking a life of adventure, then I will ensure that no harm befalls you while you do, if such is within my power."

"I don’t know what to say," Alicia said.

"Thank you is usually considered appropriate," the Baroness responded in her instructor’s tone, used so often over the years as she taught Alicia the ins and outs of behavior in proper society.

Alicia laughed and said, "Thank you, Gwen."

"You are quite welcome. Now, you should seek your rest. I fear I shall give you little opportunity from this point forward, until such time as I have you safely and well wed."

**

Gwen proved true to her word, and Alicia scarcely had a moment alone over the next several days. What few minutes Gwen wasn’t pressing decisions about settings and flowers upon her, she spent with Thakkor. The days flew by, and before she knew it, Alicia stood outside the great hall, dressed in her flowing white wedding gown.

A servant rushed in as Alicia awaited the music that would signal her entrance into the great hall. At her side, Trell stood ready to walk her down the aisle and give her away in her father’s stead. Gwen covered her mouth for a moment, and then whispered back orders.

"What’s wrong?" Alicia asked with great trepidation, fearing as nearly every bride does that disaster was lurking, threatening to destroy her special day.

Gwen sniffled and dabbed her eyes with a kerchief. "Nothing, dear Alicia. Nothing is wrong. Quite the opposite, in truth."

The door through which the servant had exited opened once more. Alicia’s eyes welled up with tears and she sobbed, "Mother."

"Alicia, my dear, you look beautiful."

"I thought... I never expected..." Alicia stammered, too stunned for words.

Alicia’s mother took a deep breath. "I do not approve of the decisions you have made. I will not condone them or support them." Her expression then softened, and she smiled. "I will not, however, miss the wedding of my only daughter. Nor will I refuse to offer my blessing to a union borne of love."

"Oh mother," Alicia sobbed, throwing her arms around her mother, who reciprocated the embrace.

Alicia’s mother pushed her daughter away a few seconds later. "Now, enough of that. You will rumple your gown, and you have already ruined your face."

Gwen clapped her hands and gestured for the servants to fix Alicia’s makeup.

"Thank you, Mother. I’m so sorry if I’ve disappointed you."

"You do not disappoint me, Alicia. You are a fine young woman. I question your wisdom, but my parents thought no better of me when I ran off with such a miscreant as your father."

Alicia scoffed as she stretched out her hands so the servants could adjust her gown. "Surely Grandmother and Grandfather didn’t think so of Father."

"Oh, they most certainly did. We proved them wrong. I hope and pray, despite my misgivings, that you do the same."

"I am quite sure that the guests are growing impatient," Gwen suggested. "I will ensure that you have time to reach your seat before the bridal march."

"Thank you, My Lady." Alicia’s mother then turned back to her daughter. "I am happy for you, Alicia."

"I love you, Mother," Alicia responded, taking her mother’s hand.

"And I, you. Now go. Your happy day awaits."

A few minutes later, Alicia stepped into the great hall with a heart made even lighter by her mother’s unexpected blessing. Thakkor looked resplendent in his formal wear – if a bit uncomfortable.

Alicia floated across the red carpeted aisle, flowers strewn across her path, and there married the love of her life with a joyful heart.

After two days of celebrating their union – mostly between the sheets – Thakkor and Alicia donned their new armor, mounted their plains horses, and set off in search of destiny.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

To link to this story from your site - please use the following code:

<a href="https://www.storiesspace.com/stories/fantasy/to-catch-a-merchant-princess-ch-06.aspx">To Catch a Merchant Princess Ch. 06</a>

Comments (0)

Tell us why

Please tell us why you think this story should be removed.

Reason