Author's Note:

This is currently a work in progress manuscript that I am posting online so that I can get some reader feedback. The novel itself is about halfway written now, and I felt that the plot had solidified enough, and that I had enough actual content for people to read and get a feel for the story. Any and all feedback is welcome.

Warning

The following story contains violence, bad language, mushy romance, sexual relations, and plenty of spanking.

Enjoy.

Prologue

Somewhere deep within the forgotten heart of the Black Forest in southern Germany, the winds of changes were beginning to stir.

Lord Graham, Marquess of the once great and powerful Northern Kingdom of Frelia, stood gazing pensively out from the wide floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the northernmost wall of his fourth floor study, watching idly as the last faint glimmers of the day's sunlight disappeared behind the tops of the massive trees lining the borders of the valley below on all sides. The crimson twilight thrown up by the sinking sun seemed to twist and warp the jagged uneven profiles of the trees so that it seemed as through the forest itself was the gaping maw of some terrible beast that was about to swallow the inhabitants of the tiny kingdom whole, plunging them into an age of perpetual darkness.

Or not.

The truth of the matter was that the panoramic view of the darkening sky looming high above the village in the valley below looked just the same as it had the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that. And Graham knew it. He was just letting his foreboding and apprehension over the sudden and unexplained swelling of energy that had been roiling its way angrily through the Current ever since earlier that morning start to get the better of him.

"Come on Graham," he chided himself in a low murmur, shaking his head as if he could throw off his misgivings, "You're not some wide-eyed novice channeling for the first time, get it together!"

Graham sighed.

Under normal circumstances a mana swell would hardly be cause for concern for someone as experienced in the ways of magic as he was. Fluctuations in the raw primeval energies that made up what was collectively referred to by the mage community as the Current were quite common. More often than not these swells were the precursors to powerful natural events such as thunderstorms or earthquakes, and were for the most part harmless, being largely ignored by both mages and non-mages alike. They were a natural part of the ebb and flow of the Current, and for those skilled and brave enough, they could be harnessed to give spells and enchantments an extra bit of oomph.

But even so, there was something about this particular swell that didn't sit right with Lord Graham.

Over the course of the last several hours he'd been very carefully skimming his way along the turbulent ethereal waves of the Current in an attempt to try and discover what was causing the swell, as well as hopefully pin down what consequences its presence might have for the physical realm, but so far he'd been unable to discern much of anything useful. All he'd been able to figure out for certain was that this particular swell was big, far bigger than any mana swell tied to natural weather patterns should have been, and would more than likely begin to manifest itself physically sometime in the coming day or so. Anything beyond that though was just baseless speculation.

Letting out another long frustrated sigh, Graham pressed the heels of his palms against his tired eyes and began to rub them in small hard circles, trying to scrub away some of his fatigue and anxiety before running them up over his forehead and through his long disheveled silver hair.

It was times like these that made him wish that he'd trained to be a seer rather than following in his father's footsteps as a mage.

Well… almost.

There was just something about the prospect of spending his days living alone in a cold damp cave, subsisting off of a diet of roots, berries, and hallucinogenic fungi that just didn't appeal to him for some reason. No matter how many visions of the future – real or imagined – that he might be able to pluck from the Current as a result, it just wasn't worth it. He enjoyed the company of others, and regular baths, too much to become a proper hermit.

Besides, as his master had often been fond of saying during his training as a boy and young man, "The future is forever in motion upon the waves of the Current, and we can no more predict where it will take us than we can stop the sun from rising again each morning. Now stop slacking off and get back to work!"

Graham couldn't help but smirk to himself in mild chagrin as he remembered how the last part of this advice had always been accompanied by a sharp blast of energy to the seat of his apprentice robes, which never failed to wrench him free from his daydreams and send him scurrying off to practice his spells or attend to some chore, lest he find himself having to eat his supper standing up that evening!

It hadn't been until much later, long after he'd finished his training with his master and taken up the mantle of leadership for the Northern Kingdom, that he'd finally understood what she'd been trying to teach him with that particular pearl of wisdom over the years. That being that the will of the Current, and the course it chooses to take, are things that can only be grasped gradually over time, rather than by longwinded pontification and esoteric speculation. Therefore a mage must learn to be patient and cultivate their abilities so that when the right opportunity presents itself, they can act without hesitation.

Doing anything else would just be asking for a headache and a sore bottom.

With the sound of his master's firm hand and sage advice still ringing in his ears, Graham forced himself to take a deep breath and relax his tensed up shoulder muscles. Whatever was happening, would continue to do so whether he liked it or not, and he'd just have to wait patiently until the way forward revealed itself to him.

"Patience…" he murmured quietly to himself with a wry smile.

"And what, pray tell, has my Lord Graham so preoccupied this evening that he must spend all of his time brooding alone in his study and neglecting his wife, hmm?" purred a sultry voice against his right ear, as a pair of slender arms snaked their way around his waist from behind and pulled him in close against a set of warm familiar curves.

"Louise!" Graham half-laughed and half-gasped, jumping involuntarily in his wife's deceptively strong embrace, "By the gods woman, you nearly gave me a heart attack!"

"Oh did I really?" asked Louise, her voice positively dripping with honey as her hands began to wander lasciviously along her husband's body, "Surely you mustn't think that I would intentionally try to startle you dear husband?"

Electric shivers of pleasure cascaded up and down along Graham's spine as his wife's warm breath tickled his earlobe and her delicate hands found solid purchase below his waistline. Turning to face her, her arms still draped comfortably around his waist, he pasted an expression of mock-stern annoyance onto his face and said in exasperation, "Louise my dear, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times! You are the ruling lady of House Frelia, and I shall not put up with you skulking about in the shadows trying to scare people like some disobedient prankster child!"

"I wasn't skulking!" protested Louise indignantly, her unrepentant grin giving proof to the lie in her words as she needled her husband further, "I was merely stepping lightly. In fact, I've been standing behind you for nearly a quarter of an hour now! I can hardly be blamed if you were too busy daydreaming about some mystical nonsense to have noticed my presence. Perhaps it is you who needs to stop acting like a dreamy adolescent who's just caught sight of the butcher's daughter bathing in the river!"

Graham could feel his heartbeat beginning to intensify. Louise's eyes were positively glowing with the wicked light of mischief.

He loved it when she got like this.

Neither of them could say for certain just when this little game of theirs had first gotten started, although Graham was willing to bet that it probably stemmed from one of the many times during their courtship when he'd lost his patience with his then betrothed's naturally impish personality, but it was one that they'd been playing with each other for nearly two centuries now, and which never failed to drive them both crazy. For despite all of her claims to the contrary, he knew for a fact that the only thing Louise loved more than making use of her finely honed stealth abilities to sneak up on and scare the daylights out of her husband, was what invariably happened next.

"Oh my, a sneak and a fibber! You really are quite the naughty one aren't you dear?"

"Well…" admitted Louise with a coy smile, "Perhaps only a little."

"And do you know what happens to naughty girls who sneak around and tell fibs to their husbands, hmm?" asked Graham, wrapping his powerful arms around his wife and giving her firmly toned bottom a meaningful squeeze.

"They get presents?" suggested Louise, darting in a quick kiss to her husband's lips and thrusting her hips provocatively up against his own in an attempt to help sell him on her idea.

"No… not quite, try again," said Graham, as he captured his wife's lips in a far more passionate kiss of his own and began digging his fingertips in hard against the delightfully soft and yielding flesh of her buttocks, eliciting a tiny gasp of pain from her in the process and forcing her to grind her hips even harder against him as she struggled halfheartedly to escape from his clutches.

"Oh… oh!" Louise finally gasped after several long moments of squirming and grinding, "They… they get spanked!"

Having successfully obtained his wife's surrender, Graham eased his grip on her bottom with a satisfied smirk, and inwardly breathed out a sigh of relief that he'd been able to withstand her frantic gyrations against his groin for as long as he had. If she'd kept at it for much longer, he would've lost it and then wound up as the one on the receiving end of what came next.

After their little battle of wills, he found that he had to take a moment or two to catch his breath before he was able to slip back into character and rumble out, "That's right young lady! Naughty girls who disobey their husband get their bottoms spanked long and hard until they're sobbing and can't sit down for a week!"

Then before she could give voice to another protest, Graham brusquely spun his wife around by the shoulders and marched her the short distance across the smooth obsidian stone stile floor of his study and over to the massive and ornate mahogany writing desk that stood at its center.

"Bend over!" he barked at her, pushing her roughly against the rolled edge of the desk hard enough so that she lost her balance, or at least pretended to for the sake of their game, and was forced to unceremoniously jackknife herself with a heavy thump onto her elbows among the stacks of books and scrolls of parchment strewn haphazardly across the highly polished surface of the desktop in front of her.

With his wife now in position face down and bottom up over his desk, Graham planted the palm of his left hand firmly in the middle of her lower back to steady them both for what was about to come next.

"I'll teach you to disobey me you impudent little brat!"

Raising his right hand up high over his shoulder, he quickly brought it back down in a wide and fast arc that terminated in a hard open-palmed slap dead center against the pastel-pink cotton fabric of his wife's skirt covered bottom, rocking her up onto the balls of her feet with the force of its impact. The meaty "Thwack!" that reverberated off the hard tile floor and lines of bookshelves that surrounded the room certainly sounded impressive to Graham, however Louise's only reaction to this first swat was to giggle softly and waggle her hips suggestively at her husband in a silent taunt.

Graham smiled tightly.

That was a challenge he was only too eager to accept.

Neither of them spoke for the next several minutes as Graham poured himself into delivering a blistering rain of hard heavy swats all over his wife's squirming bottom, while she in turn occupied herself with alternating between grinding her hips against the rolled edge of her husband's desk and thrusting her bottom back out for even more punishment. As the minutes slowly ticked by, her giggling and non-verbal taunting gradually gave way to pained grunts and low moans, which in turn gave way to yelping and cries of pain as the burning sensation in her bottom continued to steadily intensify until finally reaching the point where she was no longer able to stop herself from serenading her husband – and all of the members of the household staff who happened to have found a reason to be nearby at the time – with a continuous litany of very loud "Oh"s, "Ah"s, and "Ouch"s!

Graham had always thought that his wife had a lovely singing voice, and right then she was caught up in one of his favorite melodies.

By the time they reached the unspoken moment where they both knew that she'd had enough, they were both breathing heavily and were covered in a fine sheen of perspiration.

Gingerly massaging his right hand in an attempt to ease away some of the ache out of his palm, Graham stepped back and took a moment to enjoy the sight of his wife's lovely form.

She was still bent over his desk and moaning softly to herself, although whether that was due entirely to the fires raging in her nether cheeks was doubtful, and small traces of pink could be seen edging their way out from underneath the hem of her skirt along the two or three inches of bare skin that were visible above the tops of her lavender thigh-high stockings.

During the course of her spanking, her blouse had somehow managed – with the help of his left hand – to become ridden up all the way to her shoulders, revealing the flawlessly smooth pale skin of her well-toned back muscles and the bare under-curves of her pert breasts. Graham could see that a thin rivulet of sweat had managed to trickle its way down from in between her shoulder blades and had come to rest in a shallow pool at the base of her arched lower back. The sight of it was enough to cause his manhood to strain powerfully against the inseam of his trousers, and he found himself having to clamp down on the sudden impulse to lap it up with his tongue.

There would be time enough for that later he knew, right now he still had a job to do.

"Are you ready to apologize now my dear?"

Several long seconds passed by in a pregnant silence while he waited for Louise to answer. Graham was just beginning to think that maybe his wife hadn't heard him, when she tossed back her hair to look at him over her shoulder with a sassy pout as she griped, "Why should I? It's not as if I did anything wrong in the first place you brute!"

"Oh Louise, why must you insist on being so difficult?" admonished Graham with an insincere smile, "It's not as if I enjoy having to discipline you like this you know, but if you insist on being disobedient, well… then I suppose we'll just have to move on to something a bit more... severe."

"Do your worst you villainous cur!" spat Louise, sticking out her tongue and blowing a raspberry at her husband as she thrust her bottom out at him in defiance.

Graham smiled in amusement at his wife's over-the-top bratty antics, and was pleased to hear that she wasn't ready to call an end to their game just yet either.

"Very well my dear, if that is your desire, then so be it."

Stepping in close behind her, Graham ran his fingers delicately along her waist until he found the cleverly concealed button clasp for her skirt. Freeing its small metal discs from their cloth restraints, he tugged the now loosened garment from around her hips and allowed gravity to pool it in a ring at her feet. Next he hooked his thumbs into either side of the delicate pink lace trim of her panties and slowly peeled them away from her bottom, squatting down as he did so so that he could plant a quick peck to her newly-exposed perineum just before scooping up her discarded clothing.

Louise let out an excited gasp as a jolt of pleasure shot through her body at the unexpected sensation of her husband's lips against her smoldering loins, but it was quickly replaced by a frustrated moan of disappointment as he stood up and tossed her clothes into a heap on top of the desk next to her.

With her skirt and panties no longer obstructing his view, Graham was now able to fully appreciate the results of his earlier efforts as he spent several long moments drinking in the intoxicating sight of his wife's fully exposed lower half. He was pleased to see that from the tops of her cheeks down to just below the invisible demarcation line of her sit-spots, her normally alabaster skin was now painted a vivid shade of dark pink, and based upon what was visible from in between where her thighs were parted, it was clear that he hadn't been the only one to have thoroughly enjoyed her spanking so far.

This was always Graham's favorite part of their game. The beautiful tableau of his wife's well-spanked bottom presented submissively to him for even more punishment. The vicious atmosphere of sexual tension that threatened to swallow them both whole in the moments of silence right before they began again.

It was all sublime.

Reaching down to his waist, Graham unfastened his belt and pulled it free from his trousers, doubling it over and gripping it firmly by the buckle in his right hand.

They had reached the final stage of their dance. The only thing left to them now was to see how long Louise would be able to hold out for before she inevitably gave in. Neither of them knew for certain, each time was always different, and that was the most thrilling part of all.

With a skill born of years of practice, Graham lined his belt up with the center of his wife's bottom, tapping it gently a couple of times to sure up his aim, before bringing it up over his shoulder and then back down in one smooth motion that left an inch-wide band of angry red flesh in its wake. This time Louise didn't bother with trying to act stoic, and instead let loose with a howl of agony that would surely reach all the way to the servants' quarters as the highly concentrated sting of the belt's caress carved out a trench of white-hot pain across both of her cheeks.

Over the course of the next fifteen minutes, Graham slowly and methodically applied his belt over and over again to his wife's naked bottom and thighs, carefully painting stripe after horizontal stripe down from the crowns of her buttocks to just above where her stockings ended halfway up her thighs, pausing for nearly half a minute after each blow to allow the pain to fully sink in and to let her recover before he delivered the next one.

With each impact Louise cried out in pain and ground her wet mound as hard as she could against the hard rolled edge of the desk in front of her.

As her husband's belt relentlessly continued to fall, rising up vividly distinct welts across her flesh as it went, her world shrank in around her until the only things she was aware of were the nearly unbearable pain in her bottom and thighs, and her ever increasingly frantic need for release. Then, just as he was about to begin working his way back up her thighs for a third time, her mind went blank and she was swallowed up by waves of ecstasy as her desire gave way, seizing her in the grip of a climax so powerful that she found herself having to cling desperately to the edge of her husband's desk in front of her to keep from collapsing into a heap on the floor at his feet.

Picking up on the sudden change in his wife's cries and body language, Graham lowered his arm back down to his side with a satisfied smirk and tossed his no longer needed belt onto the pile of discarded clothes that had been knocked to the floor – along with most of the books and papers he'd had stacked on his desk– during the course of her belt whipping. Content to let her ride out the rest of her orgasm against his desk in peace, Graham began to disrobe, carefully folding up and arranging each piece of his clothing on the floor next to him while he enjoyed the show his wife was putting on for him.

By the time Louise had come back down to earth and managed to catch her breath, her husband was ready to claim his prize for a job well done. Stepping in close behind her, he slid the fingers of his right hand down in between her cheeks and along her still smoldering mound, coating them in her arousal before rubbing them against her other opening. While he repeated this process with the tip of his eager manhood, she reached back and spread her scalded cheeks as far apart for him as she could, reveling in the sensation that so roughly kneading her welted flesh produced.

"Are you ready my love?" he asked softly, the tip of his helmet already coaxing its way past her puckered hole.

"I am yours to take my lord."

And so he did.

In the quiet afterglow following their furious lovemaking, Graham and Louise lay in bed entwined in one another's arms, neither saying anything as they listened to the sounds of one another's breathing.

"Has your puzzle managed to become any clearer my love?" murmured Louise, her head nestled against her husband's broad chest, counting the steady rhythm of his heartbeats.

A low chuckle rumbled up from inside of Graham's chest, and he kissed the top of his wife's hair affectionately.

Leave it to Louise to know just how to take his mind off of his problems long enough for him to gain a new perspective on them.

"Yes my darling I believe it has. Although much still remains shrouded in uncertainty, some pieces have managed to sort themselves into place."

"Oh..?"

"I believe that the wheel has begun to turn once again, and the servants of the Dark One are about to make their move."

"That's not… very nice…" yawned Louise.

"Heh, yes I suppose not, but on the bright side the Maidens of Light and Shadow will soon be coming together once again as well. We will need to begin making preparations for their reunification on the morrow."

"Mmmm…"

Louise was asleep.

"Oh well, never mind," sighed Graham, "We can discuss it in the morning."

Closing his eyes, he soon joined his wife in the land of dreams.