Authors Note: This is going to be quite a long ride :) I hope you'll all enjoy it. Fair warning, there is going to be some heavy f/f scenes later on, and some pretty gritty content as well. Reviews are most welcomed.
The girl's feet thundered along the ground beneath her. Apart from the veins throbbing in her temples, it was all she could hear. Her heart drummed dramatically, pumping blood through her body and oxygen to her lungs. Finally breaking through the edge of the forest, she breathed a sigh of relief. The night was dark and clouded, blocking out most of the moon's scant light and avoiding the tree roots and fallen branches in the darkness had almost gotten her caught.
Purple eyes flashing, she looked over her shoulder at her pursuers and planted her heels into the ground harder as she ran, propelling herself as fast as she could towards a long two-story building. It was set in the middle of the large clearing, and pushing through a small side door, she was determined to find somewhere to hide – she knew she was starting to get tired and that she wouldn't last much longer at this rate.
Charlotte sat in her room in the knight's barracks, alone with only her thoughts to keep her company. Her short dark hair was a mess that contrasted sharply with her pale skin; also a mess, but with sweat instead. Her loose tunic was a dark brown, an earthy colour she supposed, which suited her blue eyes. She heard a disturbance outside, angry yells and the sound of hurried footsteps. Someone was being chased in the corridors. She stood and went to investigate, slipping through her door to locate the source of the noise.
A young girl, barely 15 was running as fast as she could, but even in between gasping breaths and the ache of her screaming muscles, she couldn't help but laugh a little at her own predicament. She knew where she was- the knights barracks- but she hadn't known when she'd first entered, and as she ran past door after door, she realised that at any second some great knight could emerge and capture her instantly. Another hysterical laugh escaped her lips as she saw someone in the distance stepping out of their room and right in front of her.
Charlotte stared dumbly at the poor girl running towards her and raised an eyebrow in disbelief. She had not expected to bare witness to some adolescent girl running through the barracks; maybe some child or troublemaker, but definitely not her. The mysterious blond had long sweeping hair and worried eyes that contradicted her lingering mischievous smile. She wore an elaborate violet dress befitting of a lady and looked to be some kind of noble. Charlotte didn't even bother to contemplate her next move and grabbed the blond as she made to run past her, dragging her from the corridor and into her room before shutting the door quietly behind them both.
A small squeak escaped the girls' lips as she struggled against the firm hold on her arm, although immediately she felt a slight weight lift from her shoulders. With any luck, the blond hoped she was safer in the dark room. She straightened herself after she had recovered from stumbling over and smiled at her (hopeful) rescuer.
"U-uhm. Hi..! Thanks for that…" she mumbled in between trying to catch her breath.
Charlotte blushed when she realised the frustrating situation she had just landed herself in. It had only been three months since that fateful morning when a fellow knight in training had slashed her throat and collarbone with his sword during an exercise routine. She often forgot what a lifetime of the contrary had taught her. She was now unable to speak, essentially a mute. She shrugged at the mysterious girl who was obviously waiting for some kind of response and smiled warmly through the darkness of her room. The blond seemed a little put off, and leant against the wall at her back as she tried to regain her breath from running so hard. She froze for a moment when she heard her pursuers dash straight passed the room, and for that second her body was stiff with anticipation- not fear, but more nervousness. She tried again. "So, uhh… Won't you get in massive trouble for this?"
Charlotte shook her head 'no' and released a small breath of air that came out as something between a huff and a sigh. It was small noise that she hoped the stranger wouldn't take offence to, but she felt her muscles tighten in frustration anyway. She hated not being able to speak; it was frustratingly inconvenient and just made her feel like a fool. She moved over to her bedside table and picked up a loose bit of paper that was lying there. It was a letter from the higher ups that recognised her resignation as a knight in training. Feeling ashamed of herself for resigning, Charlotte handed the letter over to the blond hoping hat it would explain things for her.
The young woman accepted the sheet of paper, still wondering why the person who had dragged her from certain capture wasn't speaking to her. Maybe she realised after rescuing her that it was dangerous? Perhaps she regrets her actions now. Shaking her head, the blonde held the paper close to eyes and tried to read it in the dim lighting of the shadowy room, with little success. Frustrated and extremely curious about the contents of the sheet, she sighed and dropped her arms by her side.
"I uhm… It's too dark. Do you have any candles?" she asked quietly, waiting for a response that she suspected probably wouldn't come. "Okay, uhm.. I want to use magic. But I could… kind of… uhm. Blow up the room." She looked down sharply, trying to hide an awkward and embarrassed smile.
Charlotte was caught off guard by the blonde's confession, and released a breathy laugh; it was the closest she could come to producing an actual laugh, more whispery and soft. She herself possessed no magical gift at all, and was always a little fascinated when she encountered individuals who were blessed with it. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded, figuring that with her resignation she was leaving the barracks soon anyway, and that the room was no longer her concern. She found herself wishing to know the strangers name.
The blond laughed a little, realising that the soft whispering noise that Charlotte had released was also a laugh. "Was that a shrug? Well, if you care that little, I can try to make some kind of light for us. I mean, if you'd like that…" she smiled broadly, taking Charlotte's quiet and reassuring composure as a positive response.
The ex-knight hoped that if the blond hadn't realised that she was unable to speak yet, that she would when there was some light in the room to illuminate her nasty scar. It was an impressive sight, trailing from across her neck into the curves of her collarbones. She'd almost died that day, and was grateful that Tithiel had such good healers.
The young woman felt slightly put off by the continued silence, but she understood that there must be some kind of reason for it. She tried to make herself ready to use her uncontrollable magic, pushing harder against the wall so that she could focus on the space that was farthest from them both on the other side of the room.
She took in a deep and shaky breath, trying to locate the huge ball of magic in the back of her mind. With great difficulty (it never came easily to her) she concentrated on unwinding a single thread of magic and then letting it slip from her body through to her hands. A strand began to unfurl itself from her to follow the path she'd opened for it, reaching through her fingertips to the air and beginning to take form as a glowing orb of light, just as she had envisioned it in her minds eye.
For a single moment, the blond stopped to congratulate herself and smiled with satisfaction, it was rare she succeeded on producing something so stable on her first try. But in doing so her concentration over the big ball of magic inside of her slipped and a huge gust of roaring wind burst forth from her body and rushed into the room, ripping at her clothes and hair, almost pushing her to the ground. Charlotte gasped and grabbed her own ears to protect them from the wind.
Then, as quickly as it had come, the blond regained her control and the raw magic was once again concealed it inside of her, leaving only the yellow orb of light to float calmly in the room, sitting on her palm.
"O-Okay!" the blond stuttered with embarrassment, trying to overcome her own shock.
As the yellow light began to slowly fill the room Charlotte winced slightly, begging her eyes to re-adjust from the darkness. Her short-cropped hair was even messier now, and she noted offhandedly that the girl was most certainly not lying when she said that she might accidentally blow up the room. She imagined that the explosive force of the wind she had just witnessed was only a small fraction of the true magic residing within the blond.
Charlotte lifted her eyebrows slowly; she was very impressed. She had a sudden feeling of irony overcome her when she realised how ridiculous it was that this girl could be absolutely brimming with raw magic, while she herself had literally not a single drop of it inside of her. One day, if the girl ever learned to control it, she might really be unstoppable. But the moment passed and Charlotte shrugged it off.
She wasn't interested in saving the girls life because she was particularly gifted. She smiled at the blushing blond and clapped her hands together in applause. The mysterious stranger had done well to produce such perfect light. She glanced at her curiously and wondered if she could see her scar now.
The blond smiled broadly and took a tentative step towards the bed so that they could sit down together. "Oh my, I didn't realise you were a woman!" she blushed and laughed a little, and then looked up again at the strong shorthaired woman. "And a beautiful one at that!"
Charlotte grinned a little and looked down at her own chest. Honestly, sometimes she forgot that as a Knight many people assumed she was male. Former Knight, actually.
The blond noticed the long scar across Charlotte's neck and her smile fell from her face. The edges of the wound were still very pink and swollen- the injury was rather new, and judging from the severity, the woman was lucky to be alive. She decided to ignore it and tried not to stare, but acknowledged that it was probably the reason her companion couldn't speak with her. "Now that you can see me, I should probably introduce myself. I'm May."
Charlotte wished that she could say the girls' name, like she often wished she could say many things. She felt that sometimes the words in her head held less weight to them because they were mere thoughts, not sounds. Sometimes she even wondered if they lost their meaning inside of her mind. The weight of May's name was still heavy on her lips, despite no sound escaping her. She smiled briefly.
May cleared her throat under the intensity of the other woman's gaze and looked down at the paper still in her hands. Holding the orb to it she began to read, her eyes growing softer and sadder as she did. When she was finished, she placed it down on the bed beside her and looked at Charlotte, her name had been written in the letter, with great sympathy. "I'm so sorry that this happened to you, I really am. It must have been hard getting used to it." She murmured apologetically.
Charlotte watched May's face grow sad and anxious and she released another whispery laugh. The poor girl only looked to be about 15 years of age and she was obviously on the run from something. She shouldn't be feeling sorry for a broken dropout knight like her.
Suddenly something fell into place in Charlotte's mind and her eyes widened comically. She had heard of such a girl before. May… May.
Seihara of Llewellyn, as she was formally known. Every Knight in Tithiel had heard her name. Their neighbouring ally Ayleth wanted her desperately after her family had exiled her. In fact, Ayleth's own Spy Master, Callias herself was after her. The poor girl had been deftly evading both their countries for just over a year now.
Charlotte was overcome by the desperate urge to pull the poor girl into a hug, and grabbed her into her arms. May's eyes widened and she blinked in surprise at the sudden embrace, but she soon settled into it, putting the arm that was not holding the orb of light around Charlotte's body and resting her head on the older woman's shoulder.
"Hey, it's okay. What's wrong?" she asked softly.
Charlotte realised too late that she must look absolutely absurd, and once again she cursed her inability to speak. She released the girl and moved over to the bedside table, rummaging through a small draw until she had gathered what she was looking for; and old notebook and pencil. She sat down beside the blond and wrote hurriedly, hoping that the noble-born was well versed in reading and then laughing internally. Of course she was.
After she finished writing she handed the notebook to May. It read, 'you are Seihara of Llewellyn, Ayleth. I should have realised sooner, May.' She hoped that the blond wouldn't fear for her capture, she had no intention of turning the runaway in to the authorities.
May read over the quick passage quickly and looked up at the shorthaired knight. She felt dread consume her and she tried to smile. "Yes, I'm sorry to cause you so much trouble…" Charlotte shook her head dismissively and tried to convey with her eyes that everything would be all right. The blond took hold of her hand delicately and seemed unafraid, but still nervous. "Thankyou so much. Really, thankyou… Because your country is allied to my own, if they'd caught me I'd be sent back to my parents. Even though they exiled me in the first place…" she sighed heavily and laughed.
Charlotte's thoughts began to race with ideas and plans. How would she do this? What was to happen next? She squeezed the girls' hand reassuringly (hands had become somewhat of an obsession of hers since she'd lost her voice, as she felt it was easy to convey her thoughts with them.) and grinned, trying to push her own concerns over her actions away. Her quick decision to rescue the blond from capture had landed her in a tight spot, but she had made up her mind then and she would follow through with the decision now, she would help May. She took her notebook back from the blond and scribbled down another short message, 'I'm going to help you sneak out of here before the sun rises, so calm down May. You can even hide with me for a few weeks if you'd like. You can trust me.' Mays' eyes grew wide with disbelief as she read her scrawled note and she looked at the silent woman, completely fascinated by her kindness. "Y-you'd do that for me? But why? You have no responsibility to me… You owe me nothing, I owe you so much…" She felt her face grow red, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. She wasn't sure why, but she didn't feel suspicious. There was something about this knight that seemed oddly genuine.
Charlotte shrugged and pulled the smaller girl into her side again. To be honest, she felt equally surprised with herself. She wasn't even sure why she'd be willing to risk so much for her. All she knew was that her life had been left empty and unfulfilled when she had lost her voice and her knighthood on the same day; eight years of training laid to waste. Every direction and plan she'd had for the future had been stolen from her. But the idea of helping the blond filled her with a sense of purpose she thought she'd lost forever. The answer was simple, when she thought about it a little harder. It was simply the right thing for her to do now.
May laughed a little harder and pulled herself in closer to Charlotte, placing the orb of light on the beside table and the book in the woman's lap. "Well.. Thankyou, Charlotte. Uhm.. So what do you prefer to be called? Charlotte seems a little long for you, like it doesn't quite… suit you."
Charlotte agreed with the blond, showing her teeth in a wide and humouring grin. She wrote lazily on the notebook with her free hand (she could write using either hand with relative ease, being somewhat ambidextrous), 'Charlie.'
May smiled and laughed at her grinning rescuer. Charlie suited her so much better.
"Charlie? I love it." She paused thoughtfully, unsure if she should ask the question that had been plaguing her thoughts since she first saw Charlie in the yellow light.
Eventually, she found herself giving in, especially when her eyes met with Charlie's open blue ones.
"If you don't mind telling me… uhm. How did you…? What happened to… your throat..?"
Charlie winced slightly, but nodded in understanding. May knew virtually nothing about her, and with Charlie's inability to speak it was going to be very difficult to bridge the communication barrier between them. It doesn't do well to be wary of someone simply because they haven't explained themselves well enough, and her career as a Knight was ruined now anyway. She decided to be blunt and honest, hoping that she wouldn't disgust the blond she picked up the notebook and confessed the reason she had gotten the scar in the first place. 'I slept with the sister of a fellow Knight. He became so ashamed with the knowledge of what she and I did together that he decided my actions deserved fair punishment. This is his work; he slipped during sword practice and sliced my throat.' Charlie waited as May's eyes fell to the paper and forced herself to remain strong as she anticipated the other girls reaction. She knew she shouldn't be embarrassed or upset. She should have been quicker and dodged his blow.
Once again May's eyes grew wide, a mix of disgust and understanding on her face. The shorthaired woman noted that the disgust was clearly not directed at her though, and relaxed a little. May seemed livid at the thought of what he had done to her.
"I'm sorry," she murmured. "What happened to him? Is he being punished?"
Charlie shook her head 'no' and laughed another of her whispery laughs. The knight who had attacked her was not being punished, the whole incident was being brushed over without enquiry and she didn't have the strength or resolve to fight it. What she had done with that woman was not entirely acceptable behaviour in Tithiel, it was heard of but no one spoke about it. She decided to resign instead.
"That's ridiculous." May exclaimed abruptly and then blushed, afraid she had overstepped some line. Still feeling upset she continued in a softer voice "he could have killed you," and frowned. Charlie squeezed May's hand. The puffy red skin around the scar was still sore and it prickled at the mention of it. She tried not to think about it too often, or the failure it represented in her life. Whenever she did it seemed to act up and hurt again.
May tried to calm herself down and mumbled quietly, "So have you been with many girls before…?" she blushed a little at her own question, but decided to leave it be and see how Charlie answered her. The dark haired woman's shoulders began to shake with contained laughter and she nodded at May in reply. She had been with a few women in the past, not a huge amount, but the Knight's sister had certainly not been her first. She wondered if May looked upset by her answer, but decided that the expression on her face was one of curiosity, not disgust.
May examined Charlie's face for a short moment with a scarlet blush marring her own and smiled. She looked so kind, not at all bitter as would be expected of someone in her situation. May decided to tease her a little, amused by how open the silent woman was being and how happy she seemed. "What? So you're a womaniser then? Is that it?" she accused playfully, laughing and leaning into her side.
Charlie grinned and shook her head. Probably not. And with such an ugly scar and the inability to tell another woman how beautiful she was, she may never be with another again. She was happy to see that the blond was calming down a little though, and dragged the notebook across her lap to write down a question of her own. 'What about you? Have any men captured your attention or a Fiancé?'
May read the words as she wrote them and began to laugh as loudly as she dared with so many other Knights' surrounding them. "Me? Boys? Never. I've been with women since I was 13 years old…! Sleeping with a girl is why I got exiled in the first place…!" she continued laughing at her own joke.
Charlie nearly choked with surprise and then joined the blonde's laughter with her own. The knights were never told –why- the young noble had been exiled. In light of this new information, she suspected that the girls' family had been too ashamed to say it. But to find out it was for the same reason Charlie had received her scar seemed oddly comforting. It was almost as though they were in the same boat. She scribbled hurriedly in between laughing, 'When you were 13?' and grinned.
May agreed all too enthusiastically and laughed. "Yes! Age 13. Have a problem with that?" She was surprised to see how happy it made her to talk to Charlie about this. It didn't seem to faze the ex-Knight at all. They were like two peas in their own unique pod, joined by their amazing similarities. Charlie wrote her reply, 'Of course I don't have a problem. I just thought that you'd have a fiancé who was waiting for you somewhere, I know that nobles tend to save their daughters for marriage.' She smiled apologetically and watched as May collected her thoughts.
The blond struggled for a moment, trying to work out how to best explain this situation. "Well, I don't know if it's the same here, but in Ayleth things are a little confused regarding what women are supposed to be doing. You can't really hold onto the idea of women growing up to be married and then living with their husbands when the woman in question is a Captain in the army or a Knight by the time she's reached a marriageable age." She paused thoughtfully and then continued, "There's a lot of contention on the subject," and then shrugged.
Charlie smiled; amused by the small speech the young girl had just given her. She nodded her head in understanding. It was the same in most parts of Tithiel. She herself had chosen a knighthood over marriage, and while some fiefs liked to hold true to old traditions, such instances were becoming more commonplace these days.
May seemed to read Charlie's thoughts and elbowed her gently to gain her attention. "I can't really picture you being married. The image is sort of… scary." She laughed and smiled broadly up at her. Charlie agreed with the blond, but couldn't help the depressing thought that lingered in her mind at the mention of marriage. She wrote on the notepad, 'I can't imagine myself with anyone now. My father tries not to speak about it, but even he is worried for my future. No one will desire a woman like me, a scarred mute with no future.' She smiled painfully.
May frowned at the sight of her rescuer looking so worried and dismayed. "It's not true, you know. If you're worried about being lonely there are so many girls who would be interested in you. And I- I'm sure if you want marriage to a… man, that you'd be able to find one who would have you. Does your father know about the girls?" she asked quietly.
Charlie shook her head 'no' in reply. She wasn't interested in marrying a man, or marriage at all, and her father had no idea about her preference in women. She smiled at May, silently asking her not to fret over it.
The blond returned the gesture and grasped her hand firmly. "You're far too kind, sweet and beautiful to be alone. Someone will always want you."
Charlie smiled awkwardly and nodded, despite her disbelief. Standing silently, the ex-Knight roamed over to her drawers in search of some clothes for May to change into. The purple dress she wore now, as stunning as it was, would be a dead give away if anyone spotted them. She pulled out a brown tunic and a pair of training slacks, which she knew were probably going to be too big for the 15 year old. Perhaps the blond would try to magic them smaller? And she also needed some food.
Charlie watched the blond carefully, trying to gain her attention. She pointed to her own mouth; wordlessly trying to ask the blond is she was hungry. She realised offhandedly that she was going to have to work out some signals with her, so that they could communicate more easily.
May stared at her for a moment, clearly confused and then confirmed in a small voice, "…Am I hungry? Uhm… not really." For a moment May was struck by the fact of how tall and lithe Charlie was. Training to be a knight had complemented her body well. She really was handsome with her short-cropped hair and pale skin.
Charlie nodded and threw some garments at the blond, satisfied with how everything seemed to be going.
As May turned the borrowed clothes over in her hands she had to admit to herself that the plain clothes made her a little sad- she loved being able to wear lavish dresses in bright colours and fine fabrics far too much for her own good. However, she reminded herself that it was necessary and resigned herself to the fact that she had to wear them.
"Th-thanks Charlie…" she mumbled in a voice that sounded less than appreciative. She couldn't help herself. She stood from the bed and carefully began to undress from her elaborate attire, removing the bodice and overdress first, leaving her in her underdress and undergarments, all pure white. The tunic wasn't too large around her, and the belt that encircled it helped to hold it in place against her body more comfortably, but it was extremely long on her and for a moment she was tempted to wear it as a dress. The splits in the side of it were a little too high and revealing however, and resignedly she pulled on the slacks which were far too long and loose. "How do I look" she grumbled unimpressed.
Charlie smiled sweetly at the angry May and nodded her approval. She knew the clothes were ill matched for such a dainty and feminine frame but that couldn't be helped right now. Instead, she mouthed the words 'I'm sorry' and grinned.
May continued to stare at her glumly. "How long must I remain in these?" she asked, almost dreading the answer. Charlie innocently shrugged in reply. Unwilling to submit to the act of whining any further, May concentrated on refastening her money pouch to her waist and looked away from the ex-Knight to stare at a wall with a sullen pout. "Where are you planning to take me?" she asked eventually.
Charlie walked over to the notebook on the bed to write a quick reply. She decided to keep it fairly simple, as she wasn't sure of the exact specifics of her plan yet. 'My late mother left her old estate to me, the one she lived in before marrying father. We'll stay there.'
May sighed in relief, glad that there was actually a destination and that they wouldn't be camping or hiding in an Inn. She moved over to Charlie and wrapped her in a tight embrace. "Thankyou so much, I am so sick of sleeping in a tent! And I had to leave most of my belongings behind when I was spotted earlier…" she tensed a little at the memory. "I'm so glad we have somewhere to go." She buried her face in Charlie's chest and hugged her even tighter, exhaustion slowly creeping up on her.
She quickly added in a small, sweet voice. "Though I'm sure, even if you didn't have the property and we did have to sleep under the stars that you'd make it more than bearable." May grinned up at Charlie, worried for a moment that she was portraying herself as some royal pampered noble-girl.
Charlie agreed happily with the blond. Going to her late mother's house would be good for her in more ways then one right now. It might offer her some reprieve from the changes in her life over the last three months and help sort out a plan for the future. She was glad she had a place to go to. The thought of having to abandon her own belongings over and over as she fled some giant invisible enemy was a haunting one, and she frowned at the feeling it left inside of her.
Hopefully she would be able to have some new clothes made for May, seeing as her only garment now appeared to be her beautiful purple dress. Charlie would get her whatever else she needed too. She patted May's shoulder comfortingly and smiled.
May struggled with the kind gesture and found it difficult to digest the entire situation. "I don't understand why you've decided to do this for me, though. Why did you do it?" She glanced thoughtfully at the ex-Knight and looked a little worried.
Charlie realised that May desperately needed an answer to her question. She knew the blond must be a ball of nerves right now. She probably even suspects that there's some ulterior motive that she can't see. Charlie knew the whole situation probably seemed too good to be true for the blond, so when she picked up the notebook to offer an explanation, she made sure each word she wrote, she chose carefully. 'When I heard the commotion and saw you running from those men, I was left with no choice but to help you. There was no other option. You needed to be saved then and it had to be me.'
May smiled softly and regarded her rescuer with new, tender eyes; her lips stretching as a broad grin slowly swept her face. "You're so…." She laughed a little, "Knightly! Look at you, with all that honour and bravado. It's adorable!"