|Woman of Fire, Man of Ice
Author: BethanyWrites PM
A cursed king seemingly as cold as the ice flowing through his veins. A princess chosen to produce an heir. As she unearths the truth behind the dark rumors surrounding her groom, will she find more darkness? Or something to set her heart aflame?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Chapters: 14 - Words: 80,188 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 33 - Follows: 56 - Updated: 05-10-13 - Published: 12-26-11 - id: 2982843
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Xenos paced in his room, walking along the worn path in the stones that proved how often he tried to sort out his thoughts in such a manner. His fire wasn't lit, but he had no mind to call the servants nor to light it on his own. His thoughts were consumed by his kingdom. Could he really save it?
It would take all of his power, all of his authority. He would have to take his army to the border straightaway- in a week if Orion's prediction about the weather was correct- and crush the Galinian forces. If he didn't immediately conquer them and reclaim the border, his people would think him weak, rather than useless and fearsome. After the borders were tightened, he'd have to knight men in the hopes that they would go through the kingdom and help restore order. His guard and his army were trained simply to fight and kill, but his knights would need to be solid men of justice. Men that, sadly, were nowhere to be found in Malum.
Xenos considered the matter of bribery. The treasury was still full of gold that his parents had stolen from the subjects, but it would not hold out indefinitely. If he started paying knights and building prisons-for most of the ones from before his parents' time had been burned to the ground- as well as helping farmers with their crops… well, the treasury would run out within a few years. And then what?
Then you become a real king, a voice inside Xenos whispered. He would have to pay to get his kingdom back in order, but if he succeeded… If the kingdom was restored, he could collect taxes like any other king. He had never collected taxes from his subjects, as his parents had left the subjects with nothing left to pay with, but once his subjects had money, they'd hopefully be willing to contribute in order to keep the kingdom on its feet.
"But what does it matter?" Xenos said out loud, taking a break from his pacing. "Even if all that could be accomplished, I'll still be dead in the spring."
"Not necessarily, my boy," Orion said from the doorway, startling Xenos. The dark king turned to glare at him. Orion raised an eyebrow. "Or should I say, Your Highness?"
"Enough of your foolishness," Xenos said. "I could leave in a week and quell the Galinian forces, I can start finding good men to become good knights, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm cursed. I'd be better off preparing the castle for my demise, so that Janoah will be taken care of when I'm gone."
"And do you think that's what Janoah wants? For you to stay here and wait to die?" Orion asked sharply.
"Then go, fight for your kingdom. Right the wrongs your parents made. Even if you do die, you'll have started fixing things. Janoah can carry on from there."
Xenos looked at Orion; looked at his mentor, his prisoner. The man who had been more like a father to him than the man who was responsible for his life and for- because of the curse- his death. "She won't be able to do it by herself."
"Because she is a woman?" Orion asked. "Lesser women than her have done great things. Your queen is no timid bride to be knocked aside and swept away under the rug," Orion said. "Also, I thought that you had planned to grace her with your heir? Then-"
"Then even if I did die, my heir would be there to rule," Xenos said. "I believe that she could rule, but not alone. She would have you beside her until our son was old enough to take your place." Xenos turned and saw that his friend had the oddest expression on his face. Xenos scowled. "Not like that, not to take my place," Xenos snarled, exasperated. "Just to ensure that she was not alone."
"Ah," Orion said. Xenos knew that he was itching to tell him that it wasn't necessary, that Xenos would find a way to break the curse, but Orion had always been far too optimistic. "So, you've come to care for your new bride?" Orion asked, feigning disinterest.
"It's the least I can do, to keep her comfortable," Xenos said.
"Comfortable? Don't you mean happy?" Orion asked. "Isn't that what you're trying to do?"
"I thought I was trying to fix my kingdom," Xenos growled.
"Of course," Orion said, nodding. He looked like he was going to say something else, but apparently thought better of it. "Whenever you wish to speak to Janoah, Udele and her are in the library. Thought you might want to know."
"You may leave me now," Xenos said, turning away to look out the window. The glass was frosted over in places, but he could see that it wasn't snowing. The sky was spotted with clouds, but the sun still shined bright, making it a beautiful morning. If the sky stayed clear, the snow that had fallen would be gone in two days, if not sooner.
You have better things to think about than the weather, Xenos chided himself sternly. However, it was the weather that would dictate if he would be leaving within the week. The next variable would be Janoah. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to have to hunt down his bride. Luckily, Orion had made his job a lot easier for him.
Xenos found her without too much trouble, for her and Udele were talking at a volume unfit for a library. He watched her for a short time, hiding behind a precariously stacked pile of books, and was bemused to see that she was looking through the law section. He almost laughed. The law in Malum was not to be taken seriously. That he had any material on the law in his library was a surprise to him. He supposed that they could have- must have- been from the time before Malum, before his parents.
"Xenos," Janoah said, not sounding surprised to see him as he stepped out to reveal himself.
"Janoah," Xenos replied. "Looking for something?" he asked.
"Yes, but I think we have it. Waite will help us if we need anything." Janoah turned back to look at the scroll she currently had spread out over the table. Xenos had no idea who Waite was, but he recognized that she was trying to ignore him. Even if the weather was fair, Janoah's frosty attitude would be enough to freeze the entirety of the grounds.
"Your Highness," Udele said, curtsying, then turning back to the table. She looked very much like someone who was trying to sink into the floor and stay out of the way.
"Janoah, I have something I wish to discuss with you. May I have a moment alone?" Xenos tried. He did not wish to create a scene like the one from breakfast, for both his sake and Udele's.
"Only if you wish to tell me that I'm right, you're riding to the border, and you're living until you're an old man," Janoah said breezily. Udele snorted, then again tried to sink into the floor. Xenos ignored her and put a hand on Janoah's shoulder. "If you think you can force me to go anywhere..." Janoah started. She trailed off when she glanced at Xenos. "Oh. Are you actually...?"
"There are things we must discuss," Xenos said. "I would prefer not to do so in the library."
"Of course not," Janoah said. She looked at her friend. "We'll be right back. You can just..." She spread her hands to indicate the papers on the table before them, and Udele nodded. Xenos was vaguely curious as to what they were getting up to, but he had something else more important on his mind.
"Shall we go to your bedchamber?" Xenos asked as they walked out of the library and into the hall. Janoah's hand was on his arm, and she kept looking up at him with the most hopeful look that it almost caused him physical pain. Why get her all excited over the prospects of saving Malum when, in all likelihood, it wouldn't work and Xenos would still be dead?
"No, my bedchamber is so cramped," Janoah said. "Might we go to yours? I heard rumors that there is an entire additional sitting chamber to entertain guests in."
"There is," Xenos confirmed. He turned down a corridor, pulling a surprised Janoah with him. Apparently, she didn't know where his bedchambers were. "I was not aware that you were unsatisfied with the size of your room. Accommodations can be made, if it would please you, but-"
"It's fine," Janoah said, sounding quite amused. "It just isn't the best place to entertain. It's a bit awkward to have to offer someone my bed to sit on."
"Ah," Xenos replied, for he didn't have anything else to say to that. They reached his room and he took her inside the sitting chamber, which was as sparsely furnished as his bedchamber and twice as cold, as he rarely used it. "I'll start a fire," he said upon seeing Janoah's shiver.
"You don't have to..." Janoah said, but she didn't bother protesting further as Xenos began arranging the logs in the fireplace. She sat down on the couch closest to the fire and found a dusty blanket to pull over herself.
"So," Xenos said, standing once the fire was started.
"So," Janoah said. She smiled. "I believe you were about to say something about me being right?"
"I would like for this to be a serious talk," Xenos said.
"I know." Janoah's smile faded. She shivered again and patted the seat beside her. "Don't just stand there looming over me, you're making me nervous. Sit down."
"But you're cold," Xenos said.
"Then come warm me up," Janoah replied. Xenos raised an eyebrow at this, but found that he couldn't resist her command. He sat next to her, leaving a respectful distance between them, but within seconds Janoah's head was on his shoulder and they were sharing the blanket. "You're cold too," Janoah pointed out. Xenos snorted.
"Yes, well, I think it best if we get on with what I brought you here to talk about."
"Sorry, I didn't mean to get off topic." Janoah sobered, her little half-smile that Xenos had been admiring out of the corner of his eyes faded. "Are you really going to Carn's village?"
Xenos took a deep breath. "Yes."
"Thank you," Janoah said. "I know you're not doing it for me, but thank you."
Xenos was doing it for her- or at least, mostly for her- but he kept that to himself. "There are arrangements that need to be made before I leave. The guards, including Noxum, will be staying here to guard you and the castle. A small portion of the army will be left at the base of the mountain in the small chance of Malum being invaded, though it's more likely that you will use them as messengers if the weather is fair. The running of the household will fall entirely on your shoulders, and I will be gone for at least a month. Even if the snow makes the mountain passable, it is likely that I will be gone for more than two months."
"Okay." Janoah nodded slowly. "I can handle this. Is there anything else I'll have to do while you're gone?"
"No," Xenos said. "In the winter, the castle is quite isolated." Janoah frowned at this, but said nothing. "There won't be much that needs done, and I will ensure that there are plenty of supplies to see you through to the spring."
"What about Orion? Is he going or staying?" Janoah asked. She pulled herself closer to Xenos, and for a moment he forgot how to speak.
"I haven't decided yet," he replied after a pause. "Also, there is one more stipulation that goes along with me leaving."
"And what would that be?"
Xenos took a deep breath, not sure how Janoah would react. He very much hoped that she wouldn't hit him. Surely, she'd understand why it was necessary. "I would like for you to share my bed every night until I leave."
"That's all?" Janoah asked.
"Okay. I thought it would be something like I had to feed your dragon," Janoah said. She shivered. "Is that everything?"
"Thank you, again," she said, hugging him. "I'm so proud of you for doing this. I know how hard it's going to be, and I know what you'll be up against to fix Malum, but I know you can do it." She stood up. "If that's everything, I think I've left Udele alone for enough time. I'll see you at lunch?"
"Until then." Janoah kissed him on the cheek- what was it with her and kissing him on the cheek, as if that was something people did everyday, as if she didn't mind the huge scars she was setting her lips upon-and let herself out.
"Yes," Xenos said to himself, still caught up in the feeling that came with her easy acceptance of his condition. He knew, for her body had told him, that Janoah enjoyed being with him physically, but she made it sound as if it was nothing, as if her and Xenos were like a real husband and wife.
Xenos frowned. Perhaps there was something else she wanted? Unless she genuinely enjoyed his company… which he found to be a highly dubious possibility. He glanced at the spot where Janoah had just been. There was a good chance- even if he did break the curse and live to be a very old man- that he was never going to understand his wife.
Janoah slipped into the room quietly, noticing immediately the tense lines of Xenos's shoulders. She frowned and went to him, laying her hands on his back. He jumped at the contact.
"Janoah," he said, turning his head in surprise. He was sitting at his desk. Papers were spread all around, and Janoah wondered how he managed with such a clearly uncomfortable desk chair. "I didn't hear you come in."
"Obviously." Janoah slowly worked her hands under Xenos's thick fur cloak. He must have been outside recently, perhaps visiting the dragon. It would explain why he missed dinner, though she wouldn't ask him about it directly, as he would have a lot to deal with before he could leave. "Something wrong?" she asked when she had the cloak off and could more firmly feel Xenos's tense muscles.
"The army has grown too fond of lazing about at the base of the mountain. I possess one of the most fearsome armies in the land, and they are unwilling to go out and prove themselves. Apart from that, the guard resents me for having them stay behind, though I expect they'll get over it. I don't know-" Xenos cut himself off as Janoah began massaging his shoulders.
"You don't know what?" Janoah asked.
"I don't know what it is you're doing," Xenos said. He stood up and tower over Janoah for a moment. Then he took her hand and kissed it.
"Well I do," Janoah said. Janoah herself had never given a massage, but she had had a woman in Blairford who would give her massages and turn her bones into jelly. She hoped that she would have the same affect on Xenos, as she felt vaguely guilty about pressuring him to do so much work in such a short amount of time. Not that that meant that she changed her mind about the work needing done, she just wished that it was easier for him.
"Take off your clothes and go to the bed," Janoah ordered. Xenos raised an eyebrow. "What? Haven't you heard that Blairford is known for its practiced masseuses?"
"I have not." At Janoah's expectant look, he began stripping anyways. After his many layers were off, he paused, but Janoah didn't think to turn to give him any privacy. Therefore, Xenos somewhat shyly took his shirt and trousers off, then followed the rest of Janoah's instructions and closed his eyes on the bed.
"Believe me, you'll enjoy this," Janoah said. She took off her outer dress and sat on the bed in nothing but her slip. She was glad that the rooms were warm. For once. "Just relax."
Xenos did not reply, so Janoah slid part of the bedding over his nakedness so that she could concentrate and have a place to sit. Her husband made a small sound of surprise when she straddled him, but any protests died away when she started working at his back.
He's so solid, Janoah thought wistfully as she kneaded the tense muscles. Slowly, she progressed to his lower back. Xenos seemed perfectly content, so she skipped down to his feet and began moving back up. She took her time, rubbing solidly at the muscles in his legs and enjoying the feel of the wiry dark hair under her hands.
By the time she reached the area that was covered by the blankets, she had thought that Xenos had fallen asleep. However, once Janoah dismounted and began rubbing at the now bare area, it was clear that her husband was awake.
Definitely awake, Janoah thought as Xenos began squirming against the bed. She rubbed between his thighs and reached the soft area below his shaft, and Xenos let out a soft groan. Janoah herself was not unaffected by Xenos's reaction, so she took her hands away and asked Xenos to turn over so that she could continue the massage.
Oh, Janoah's internal voice said as it became clear what her massage was doing to her husband. His manhood stuck up. bold and proud, and she could see the heat in Xenos's eyes. She reached across him to start working at the muscles of his arms, but Xenos took a hold of her and pulled her to him, stealing a fierce kiss as their bodies pressed up against each other.
"Janoah," Xenos groaned, struggling to take off the rest of Janoah's clothing. She helped him the best she could, and soon they were both naked. Xenos began alternating kissing and sucking at her neck, which Janoah found to be a very favorable sensation, while one of his hands worked at her breast and the other ran up and down her body, setting her on fire.
After a while, Xenos tried to roll them both over. There was something else Janoah wanted to try, so she kept him pinned firmly on his back and slipped out of his grasp. She slid down his body gracefully until her head was positioned above Xenos's hardness. Smiling, she took his shaft in hand and gave it a firm stroke. Xenos involuntarily thrust upwards. Encouraged, Janoah bend down and licked the entire shaft, from the base to the head.
Xenos grunted something unintelligible that sounded suspiciously like a string of curse words. However, Janoah knew that he was feeling anything but cursed as she put her mouth over the tip of his hardness and ran her tongue all around it, getting it wet, before pulling back and blowing on it lightly. Xenos cursed again, this time louder, and clenched his fists around a handful of bedding, but Janoah simply ignored him and took his shaft into her mouth, going as far down as she could without gagging.
While it had not been their main focus, Janoah and Udele had managed to find a few scrolls on love making in the library. Janoah was soon learning that the techniques she's read about were, indeed, very effective.
"Enough," Xenos managed to ground out as he began thrusting up off of the bed. When Janoah wouldn't heed his command, Xenos dragged her mouth away and pulled her up for a passionate kiss. "Naughty vixen," he chided. He didn't try to roll them over again, but instead positioned himself under Janoah's entrance. Janoah found herself whimpering with need as Xenos toyed with her, thrusting against her folds but not allowing himself to enter her.
"Xenos," Janoah said, struggling to bring them together. Xenos looked quite content to tease her all night. "I-" She cut herself off. She had been about to say "I love you." But that wasn't right. What she wanted to say was "I need you."
"Yes?" Xenos asked, rolling one of her nipples between his fingers. That cut off any other thoughts Janoah had, and she bucked against him once more. Finally, with a smile, Xenos put his hand on his shaft and guided himself into her. Janoah thought that the new angle was exquisite, and as she began moving up and down she realized that Xenos was perfectly happy with watching her work them both towards their peaks.
Xenos's hand soon found its way down Janoah's body, and the pleasure built to a climax quicker than she would have thought possible. As she was coming, Xenos took her by the hips and began thrusting in earnest. Janoah started to reach a second peak, and she cried out as they came together. She collapsed against his chest, curling around him with a contented smile. Xenos's arms came around her, providing some needed contrast for her almost fevered body. They laid there for some time, and Janoah was almost asleep when Xenos spoke.
"Janoah… I-" He stopped himself and rubbed a hand along her spine. Janoah feared that she was dangerously close to purring.
Janoah nudged his head with her own. She would have slapped his chest if that wouldn't have taken entirely too much effort. "I'm your wife. You are my husband. There's nothing to say thank you for."
"But-" It wasn't too much effort to shut him up, so Janoah kissed him, lighting sucking on his bottom lip and nipping at it gently. Why hadn't she noticed what a nice mouth he had before? "Okay," Xenos conceded once Janoah released him. He opened his mouth to say something else, but apparently thought better of it. Instead, he pulled the blanket up over the two of them and shifted so that they could both comfortably sleep together. Janoah allowed the feeling of laying with him to fill her up. In a way, she was glad that he would be leaving soon, because if she spent any more time with him and this strange emotion that occupied her chest, she feared she would burst.
Asaph enchanted the grappling iron, ensuring that it wouldn't make a sound. He handed it to Rai- that took some time, as himself, Rai, and Darion were all invisible under his spell- and eventually Rai threw it up to the princess's windowsill and managed to get a firm hold. Since he was the slightest of the three of them, Darion went up first. With some fumbling, he managed to open the window and slip inside. Asaph had forgotten that Darion might make noise when trying to open the window, and so he cursed to himself, hoping that the princess had not been roused by the noise.
However, a second later, Darion shook the rope, signaling that it was safe to go up. Asaph climbed next, dropping into the room and shaking the rope for Rai. He saw that Darion had moved the rope so that it was tied around one of the princess's bed posts- that was good, as Rai was a good deal heavier than either of them, and the bed would be solid enough to hold him- but that also drew attention to the fact that the chamber was empty. No princess in sight.
Asaph cursed violently as Rai pulled himself through the window.
"These are her rooms," Darion said, defending himself. "I've seen her pacing in here, looking out the window, and writing at her desk."
"Are you sure?" Asaph asked angrily. "Are you sure this is her room?" He was about to comment on the lack of a desk, but Darion had simply pushed it aside.
"Perhaps she is with the king," Rai said in his slow, simple voice. "Darion said the princess's room is here, but they are married. I know where I would want my wife, if I was married."
Asaph swore again. Would they really need to creep into the room of the king- of Xenos the Horrid?
"I know where his room is, approximately," Darion said. "If we stay silent, I could get us there."
"Are you sure?" Asaph asked. Darion didn't reply. "I said, are you sure?"
"Oh, sorry. Yes, I'm pretty sure I could do it."
Having no confidence in his friend, he allowed Darion to lead them out to the hall anyways, linking hands so that they would not lose him. They were silent and invisible, and they encountered no one in their wanderings. Darion led them to a few doors, creaking them open and quickly shutting them again, before finally finding Xenos's room.
Asaph tapped Rai on the shoulder, signaling for him to guard the door. Asaph and Darion slipped inside. Asaph dropped Darion's hand and pulled out a short, simple blade. It became visible once it left Asaph's cloak, and he knew that Darion was watching the sleeping couple intently- waiting for signs that they were waking- as Asaph approached the princess- Queen, technically, he thought to himself- and held the blade out.
Gently, Asaph freed a lock of hair from under the princess's head. Ensuring that this had not alerted her, he quickly severed the end of the lock, cradling the piece of hair in his hand and tucking it away with the blade.
Xenos- who he'd been trying very hard to ignore- rolled over. Asaph froze. Then, almost stopping Asaph's heart, Xenos opened his eyes. However, he didn't see Asaph or Darion- he wouldn't, they were invisible- he simply looked down at the princess, propping himself up on his elbow to look at her.
"I need you, Janoah," Xenos whispered. Asaph wondered if Darion was as shocked by this as he was. "I need you to stay with me. I know you're my wife, my queen, but…" Xenos trailed off. "I want to live. I want to live to be with you."
Asaph was breathing as little as possible. What was Xenos doing? Would he wake his wife? Stay up? Get up and move about the room? How long would Asaph and Darion be trapped there? What if Rai got concerned and opened the door, and they were found?
"You are perfection. I don't deserve you," Xenos continued. He leaned down and kissed the princess on her forehead. She didn't stir. Xenos sighed. "If only I could say these things to you while you were awake to hear them." Though the words still shocked Asaph, he was glad to hear them. This would ensure that his plan would work. "Janoah, I…" Xenos scowled and shook his head. Then, looking at his wife again, his face relaxed. "I need you."
After what felt like hours, Xenos put his head back to the pillow. More time passed, and his breathing evened out, signaling that he was asleep. Asaph quickly moved to where he'd left Darion. He grabbed his shirt and pulled him towards the door. Only opening it enough to slip through, they managed to escape into the dimly lit hallway, and after groping in the air for a second, Asaph grabbed Rai too. They all but ran to the princess's room- they'd pulled the rope up, but it was getting too close to sunup for Asaph's liking, for people would be awake soon- and Asaph's heart didn't stop trying to escape from his chest until they were safely riding back down the mountain.
"That was close," Darion remarked, looking over his shoulder for signs of pursuit. Asaph wasn't as worried. No one had seen them, and it was unlikely that the princess would immediately notice the missing hair. They hadn't taken anything else, so they would be fine.
"But he have what we came for, and our plan can now be put into action."
"I still think it's a stupid plan," Darion muttered. Asaph glared at him.
"It will work, and when it does, we'll finally be paid."
"That's what you said last time. I'm getting tired of always risking my neck for you."
Asaph ignored him. His plan was going to work. He knew it. Now all he needed was to pay a visit to the prince of Yacia.
IT'S BEEN SO LONG. My bad. Haha I'm working on five different stories at the moment. I think I'm spreading myself a little thin. I'm only telling you this so that you understand why it takes so long to update, because while I'm writing a lot only a portion of that writing is this story. But I'm not just being a lazy butt.
So yes. Sorry about how long between updates. I'm no longer going to post weekly. I'll try for two chapters a month, but I'm not promising anything. This story should only have like five or six chapters left anyways, at the most. But yes, I'm rambling.
Don't forget to review :)