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Ladyheart
by Lobo De La Sombra
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© Copyright 2009 - Lobo De La Sombra - Used by permission
Storycodes: M/f; bond; kidnap; fantasy; nc; X
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Ladyheart by Lobo De La Sombra M/f; bond; kidnap; fantasy; nc; X
 

It was approaching sunrise as the rider drew near his modest home. As the large bay stallion ambled through the gate, the rider shifted in his saddle with a soft curse. Damn these state dinners, he thought. And damn these pompous fools, with their secret smiles and hidden lies.

Though not a large man, the rider was obviously a warrior, and not even the purple and cream silks he wore could hide the lean strength of his form. No longer young, he yet carried himself with an easy erectness, relaxed and yet poised to spring should the need arise. Perhaps his most striking feature was his eyes, deep wells of emerald green. More than one woman had felt her warmth grow at his gaze, and more than one foppish noble had found himself turning away from the steady gaze that seemed to look into his soul. Now, approaching his home, those eyes took in the peaceful silence, the modest beauty of his surroundings, marred only by the form at his door.

With a curse, the rider swung from his mount, bending to examine the body. It was his housekeeper, a stout, faithful old woman who’d been with him for years. She lay now in a pool of her own blood, her body showing the marks of savage sword strokes. For a long moment, the rider gazed down in silence, then, abruptly, he turned and moved inside.

His home was now a shambles. Everywhere he looked, he saw furniture smashed, hangings ripped from the walls. And bodies. Moving slowly from room to room, he found his household staff and most of his guards, all cut down. This was slaughter, not battle, and the growl that rumbled through the silence of the house boded ill for whoever had wrought thus.

Suddenly, he spun, sword in hand, only to lower the blade as he recognized one of his guards. Limping, bloody bandages attesting to the savagery of the fighting, the guard approached him slowly, then dropped to his knees.

“Forgive me, Master Wolfe,” he said softly.

“What happened here?”

“Master, they came without warning. We were attacked before we knew they were here. Many of us didn’t even have a chance to draw steel. The rest of us fought, but there were too many of them. We were forced to flee.”

For long moments, the only sound was the soft growl of the man called Wolfe. Then, placing his hand on the shoulder of the guard before him, he spoke softly.

“Relax, Gunter. I know you did everything you could. Who else is left?”

A shiver ran through the kneeling man’s body. “Myself, Master, and Rolf, Wil­liam and Steven.”

Wolfe nodded slowly. “And all others are dead?” he asked, a savage glint grow­ing in his eyes.

“Not all, Master. When the attackers left, they took one with them. Alive.”

“Who?”

For a moment, there was silence. And then came the whispered reply.

“Master, they took Ladyheart.”

The wagon creaked and jolted along the rutted road. Inside, the girl known as Ladyheart lay, with only a rough blanket to cover her nudity. Tossed about by the lurch­ing of the wagon, her wrists and ankles aching from the tightness of the ropes holding her helpless, she could only moan softly through her gag and try to comprehend the events that had brought her here.

Awakening to the sound of battle, she had emerged from her bed, only to be seized from behind. Before she could overcome her surprise enough to resist, she’d found herself bound hand and foot. A wad of cloth was stuffed into her mouth, more cloth circling her face to hold the gag in, muffling her cries. Brawny arms had appeared, and she’d found herself lifted, carried through the house, and tossed into this wagon. A rough blanket had been dropped over her, and then had begun this jolting, jostling ride of fear and helplessness.

Through the fear that tried to engulf her, only one thought repeated itself. He had not been there. He yet lived. And despite the pain and fear, a smile formed. For she knew that He would come for her.

By the time the sun cleared the horizon, Wolfe was ready to ride. Gone were the silks. Dressed now in faded buckskins and light mail, he stepped from the house to ad­dress his remaining men.

“Gunter, go saddle the black. And put me together a travel pack. The rest of you, is there anything you can tell me about who did this?”

As Gunter hurried toward the stables, Rolf stepped forward. “One thing we can tell you, Master,” he replied. “Sathas was with them.”

“Are you sure?” Wolfe asked, startled.

“Aye, Master,” spoke William. “I’d know that scarred face anywhere. It was he who struck the first blow. And it was he who carried Ladyheart from the building.”

“Fair enough,” Wolfe growled, watching Gunter approach with his black. That gives me someplace to start.”

“But what of us, Master?” Gunter asked, as Wolfe inspected the packs slung be­hind the saddle, then attached shield and axe to their hooks. Wolfe swung into the sad­dle, then looked down at the small group.

“Clean this mess up,” he commanded. “Bury the dead, tend your own wounds, then take care of things till I get back.” Then, with a wave, he turned and thundered through the gate.

Sathas. As he rode away from his home, Wolfe pondered the implications of that name. Oh, he knew Sathas well enough. A braggart and gambler, Sathas had long nursed a burning hatred of Wolfe, a hatred strengthened by his desire for Wolfe’s woman, the girl named Ladyheart. And when Ladyheart had refused his advances, going instead to share her life and her love with Wolfe, Sathas had sworn he would take revenge. And now, it would seem, he had.

“But not for long,” Wolfe growled softly. “I know where you hide. And I will find you. And I swear, if you’ve harmed one hair on her head, I’ll make you beg for death.”

In a darkened room, Ladyheart lay quietly, exhausted by her ordeal. Bound se­curely to her bed, she had been helpless to resist the advances of her captor. Well enough did she know Sathas, and all too well did she know his cruelty. And now she was in his hands, his to do with as he wished. But he would find no pleasure in her, she knew.

Laying there, she could still smell him. Only moments had passed since he had stormed from the room. Her skin crawled at the memory of his hands upon her, the feel of his lips, her own shame and anger at the need he had called up within her, a need that only one Man had the right to call forth.

And yet, in the end, she had beaten him. Even as she writhed in her bonds, squirming in her need, she had not given in. Over and over he had tried, using every trick he knew, and still he failed to drive her over the edge.

And then had come the crowning defeat. When, exhausted, he had drawn back, leaving her unfulfilled and yet unbeaten. When, his voice rough with anger, he had asked her why he had failed.

Even now, his reaction to her words filled her with a pleasure he would never un­derstand, the look in his eyes when she had answered, simply, “Because i have not my Master’s permission.” It was then, she knew, that Sathas had realized he could never have her completely. And it was then that he had stormed from the room.

Alone now, Ladyheart savored her victory, and at the same time, feared what might lay ahead. Beaten by her, she knew Sathas would somehow revenge himself. For herself, she feared little. But for the One she knew was even now searching for her, she feared greatly. He was the ultimate source of Sathas’ defeat, and upon Him, she knew, would fall the weight of Sathas’ wrath.

The Broken Sword was a mean place. Dank, gloomy, it’s shadows filled with menace. And yet, the old inn was familiar enough to Wolfe as he stepped through the door. He knew this place all too well. Here could be found smugglers, slavers, thieves, and swords for hire to the highest bidder. And here, he hoped, he would find word of Sathas.

His eyes adjusting to the gloom, Wolfe scanned the dark interior of the inn, now and then exchanging wordless greetings with faces he knew of old. Then his gaze fas­tened upon a man in the back corner. A smile, totally devoid of humor, appeared on his lips as he moved through the inn, dropping into a chair at the man’s table.

“So, Amric,” he growled softly. “What brings the looter of King Elam’s tomb to this place?”

The man named Amric winced. “Damn you, Wolf-man, not so loud. I could lose my head if the wrong people heard you.”

“Just a reminder, old friend,” Wolfe assured him. “The gold from that tomb bought you a new life, away from the executioner’s axe. And a word from me could put you right back under that axe.”

“I know, damn you. And I know you wouldn’t be here without a reason. What do you want?”

“I want Sathas.”

A wary look came into Amric’s eye. “Sathas? Why would you want that old thief for?”

“He has something,” was the growled response. “Something of mine. Something I intend to recover.”

“Something of value, it would seem.”

“You could say that.”

Now the look in Amric’s eye was pure greed, warring with nervousness. “And what would it be worth to you to know where he is?”

“Your life, perhaps.” And with these words, Amric found Wolfe’s dagger pressed against his throat, the point barely piercing the skin, allowing a thin trickle of blood to come forth.

“Easy with that thing,” Amric grated. “Killing me won’t help you any.”

“Maybe not,” Wolfe agreed with a nod. “But it just might make me feel better.” He started to say more, but broke off as a shadow loomed over the table.

“You having problems again, Amric?” rumbled the large man who now stood be­side the table.

“Nothing that can’t be dealt with privately, friend,” Wolfe replied, his voice a soft growl. But the stranger seemed not to notice the menace in the sound. Instead, he reached for the hand holding the dagger.

“I don’t think so,” he said in his rumbling voice. “Amric is a friend, and I don’t like my friends being threatened.”

“Fair enough.” As the descending hand neared his, Wolfe’s dagger suddenly swept away from Amric’s throat, the razor tip slicing through the throat of the man lean­ing over them. With his other hand, Wolfe pushed the dying man away, his dagger once more touching Amric’s throat.

“Now,” he growled, “tell me what you know of Sathas.”

“South!” Amric blurted, his face ashen. “He went south. Said something about his mountain estate. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“Now what would Sathas be doing with a mountain estate,” Wolfe asked quietly.

“He won it, I think. A few years back. Used to brag about it. Talk to Eshe. She knows.”

“I think I’ll do that.” Slowly, Wolfe withdrew the dagger, then wiped it’s blade on Amric’s shirt. Then, stepping over the body beside the table, he strode outside.

In her room, Ladyheart paced slowly. As she moved, her eyes roamed the room, returning now and then to the shackle on her ankle, the chain connecting it to an eyebolt set in the wall. All was of sturdy steel. There was no way she could free herself of them, even if her hands weren’t shackled together behind her. Free to move, she was yet help­less as she pondered this, Sathas’ latest move.

What was he up to now, she wondered. What could he hope to gain by giving her this limited amount of freedom? Her gratitude? At that thought, she suppressed a laugh, then froze as the door opened.

“Now, my dear,” Sathas smiled as he entered, “we shall see who is truly your Master.”

Eshe lived in a small hut deep in the foothills of the southern mountains. A witch, it was said, with powers no mortal could comprehend. Wolfe wasn’t sure he believed those tales, but he’d long counted Eshe a friend, and he hoped she could help him now.

As he brought his black to a halt outside her hut, the door opened, and Eshe emerged. As she approached him the thought came to him that, in all the years he’d known her, she never seemed to change. Her long brown hair, piercing blue eyes, and lush body looked exactly as when they’d first met.

“Wolfe!” she cried, throwing herself on him as he swung from the saddle. “Whatever are you doing here?”

Though he found it difficult, Wolfe released her and stepped back. Friend or no, Eshe was easily one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen, and she made no secret of the fact that she found him equally desirable. If not for Ladyheart………….

“I’m looking for Sathas,” Wolfe told her, the name emerging as a low growl.

“Sathas, is it?” For a moment, Eshe gazed at him, then nodded. “He’s taken your woman, and you want her back, is that it?”

“Something like that,” Wolfe replied, unnerved as always by the way she always seemed to know. “Amric told me you’d know where to look.”

“Oh he did, did he?” Eshe smiled. “That old liar would say anything to save his neck. But this time, he happens to be telling the truth. Come.” And with that, she turned and entered her hut. With a shrug, Wolfe followed.

Inside, Eshe gestured him to a chair. Wolfe sat, trying not to notice the things he saw lining the walls. Many of them he didn’t recognize, and the rest, he didn’t want to. Finally, he turned his eyes back to Eshe, who now sat facing him.

“Sathas is close, Wolfe,” she told him. “In fact, he’s less than an hour’s ride from here. No!” as Wolfe made to rise from his chair.

“Why no?” he growled. “Just tell me where he is, and I’ll make an end of this.”

“You go rushing in now, my friend, and it will be your end,” Eshe told him. “Sathas has a strong position, and many men. And he knows you’re coming. He may not know when, or how, but he knows you’ll find him eventually. And he’s counting on it.”

“Well then, tell me where he is, and I’ll give him what he’s counting on. Though maybe not the way he expects.”

“No, my friend.” Eshe shook her head. “Sathas can be defeated, but not by an­ger. If you would win, you’ll have to use cunning and stealth.”

Wolfe leaned forward. “What did you have in mind?”

Ladyheart moaned softly into her gag, her body writhing against her bonds. Stretched across the bed, she fought to pull away from Sathas’ hands, fought also the need that urged her to press closer instead.

Inwardly, she shuddered, knowing full well what he was trying to do. For what seemed like an eternity now, she had been given no peace. Sathas, or one of his men, had been with her constantly, teasing her, driving her almost insane with need. And with each new torment, Sathas’ words echoed in her mind.

“Bow to me,” he had whispered. “Acknowledge me your Master, and this can end.”

No! she cried silently. Never! But she could feel her strength fading. Sooner or later, she would give in. Sooner or…………

The crash of the door slamming open shattered her thoughts, froze Sathas’ hands upon her. With a growl, he turned toward the man who burst into the room.

“Sathas!” the man cried. “They’re gone!”

“Who is gone?” Sathas asked, rising.

“The gate guards. Just a few moments ago, I saw them, as I did my rounds, and now they’re gone, both of them.”

“Show me.”

As the door slammed shut behind the two men, Ladyheart collapsed in her bonds. No matter the reason, she had been given a brief respite, a chance to regain her strength. Sathas would be back, she knew. But if she could get her strength back, her will to resist, then he would have to start from the beginning again. It was a slim hope, but she clung to it, and prayed for her Master to arrive soon.

Outside, Wolfe crouched low against a tree, dagger in hand. All around him, men with torches searched the grounds of the small mountain estate. He had counted nearly a dozen, and he knew there were others he hadn’t seen.

Wolfe growled softly. Killing the gate guards, hiding their bodies, then scaling the wall, all had gone without a hitch. He’d even managed to scout about half the estate. One guard, wandering off to answer a call of nature, had changed everything.

Wolfe glanced down to the body at his feet. The man had died quickly, but not quietly. The one yell he’d managed had been enough to turn the whole estate into a bee­hive. And Ladyheart was still in there somewhere.

Breaking from the tree, Wolfe circled toward the rear of the main villa. Moving slowly, ducking from shadow to shadow, he managed to evade the guards and make his way to the rear door. Slipping inside, he put the frenzy of the search behind him.

Moving quickly, he began to search. Room after room met his gaze, each empty. Finding the ground floor clear, he moved upstairs. Once again, he was met with silence. Finally, in a room at the back corner……….

Growling, Wolfe leaned over the bed, slashing with his dagger, then drew Ladyheart into his arms. Convulsively, her arms wrapped around him, her head dropping to his shoulder.

“Oh, Master,” she sobbed. “Master, I knew you’d come for me.”

Wolfe’s hand softly stroked her hair. “It’s ok, love. I’m here now.”

“Master, it’s Sathas. He tried to make me bend to him. But I didn’t, Master. He couldn’t make me.”

“I know, love. I know. It’s ok now. I’m here to take you home.”

“I don’t think so.”

Wolfe spun, pushing Ladyheart behind him. In the doorway, Sathas glared at them. Behind him stood his guards, blades ready.

“It would seem,” he said, “I didn’t give you enough credit. I knew you’d be here sooner or later, Wolf-man, but I never expected you to make it this far. Not that it mat­ters.”

Sathas smiled. “In a few minutes, you’ll be dead. And I’ll have all the time I need to break her will. By the time I’m done, she’ll belong to me more completely than she could ever belong to you.”

“I don’t think so.” As Wolfe spoke, his sword cleared leather for the first time, it’s double edges glinting. He stepped forward, blade rising. Then, as Sathas stepped back, Wolfe spun, grabbed up Ladyheart under one arm, then flung them both through the window behind him. He hit the ground hard, rolling to absorb the impact, cradling Ladyheart to him protectively.

Above, Sathas’ face appeared at the shattered window. “Damn you, Wolfe!” he cried, then spun away. “After them, you idiots!”

Still holding Ladyheart to him, Wolfe rose, cursing. His right leg felt like fire, and he knew there was no chance of outrunning the guards. Slowly, limping, he drew Ladyheart with him into the shadows, moving toward the front gate. And he almost made it.

Crouched in the shadow of a small tree, his arm curled protectively around his woman, Wolfe glared at the line of guards blocking the gate. Alone, uninjured, he might have been willing to take them on. But now………..

“Wolfe!” Stepping from the line of guards, Sathas gazed around him. “Come on out,” he yelled. “There’s nowhere left to hide. And when the sun comes up, we’ll hunt you down. Make it easy on yourself.”

Wolfe glanced down at the woman beside him. No matter what, she had to es­cape. “Stay here,” he told her. “And when you see the chance, run.”

“Master, no!” As Wolfe made to rise, Ladyheart wrapped her arms around his waist. With difficulty, he extricated himself from her grasp, then held her to him.

“There’s no other way,” he told her. “I’ll distract them, and you run.” Twisting away, he rose to his feet and moved to face Sathas.

“Ah, good,” Sathas smiled. “But where’s the girl? No matter, we’ll find her soon enough. For now, I salute your courage, useless though it may be.”

“Enough talk,” Wolfe growled, raising his sword. “I’m here. Take me if you can.”

With a snarl, Sathas raised his hand to send his guards forward. Growling, Wolfe set himself to face their onslaught. And then came an interruption.

Howling, one of the guards spun from the line, hands reaching for the feathered shaft protruding from between his shoulder blades. As the man collapsed, another spun from the line. Suddenly, arrows seemed to be raining down on the line of men.

Startled, Wolfe halted, watching as the guards spun and dropped. Then the ar­rows stopped falling, and a small group of men emerged from the shadows to fall upon the stunned guards. Seeing them, Wolfe smiled, then barked a short laugh. Raising his sword, he limped forward into the fight.

Stunned with surprise, the guards fought, but they couldn’t stand against the blades assailing them. One by one they fell, until none stood between Wolfe and his benefactors.

“Gunter!” Wolfe bellowed. “Rolf! What are you doing here?”

“We got a message,” Gunter replied, drawing his blade from the body of a guard. “Right after you left, telling us to come here.”

“Eshe!” Wolfe laughed. “Damn her hide anyway. She knew!”

“Eshe the witch?” Rolf shook his head. “Of that, I can’t say, Master. We thought the message was from you.”

“No matter,” Wolfe told him. “The important thing is, you made it just in time. No let’s collect my woman and get out of here.”

Just then, a muffled scream sounded behind him. Spinning, Wolfe saw Ladyheart standing rigid, arms pressed to her sides. Behind her, arm around her waist, was Sathas. Wolfe jerked forward, only to halt at the sight of the blade held against her throat.

“You think you’ve beaten me?” Sathas sneered. “You think you’ve won? You’ve won nothing! And now you can stand and watch as I kill her.”

“Go ahead,” Wolfe snarled, moving slowly forward. “You’ll be dead before she hits the ground.”

Sathas laughed. “No matter. I’ll still have won. I’ll still have stolen from you the one thing you prize most. No closer!” Wolfe halted. “You’ve slaughtered my men, but I still command here. Now watch as she dies.”

Wolfe tensed, bracing himself to leap. Suddenly, Sathas screamed, a high pierc­ing sound. His hand wavered, the blade moving from Ladyheart’s throat. His other arm loosened it’s grip, and Ladyheart slipped away, revealing the dagger thrust into his groin.

“No, i don’t think so,” she hissed, plucking the blade from Sathas’ wavering hand. “This girl lives and dies at her Master’s command, not yours. Never yours.” And her hand swung forward, burying Sathas’ own blade beneath his breastbone. Turning away, she stepped clear, watching as Sathas fell at her feet.

For a moment, Wolfe simply stared. Then his hand slapped at the sheath of his dagger, coming away empty. He started, then threw back his head and laughed.

“Why, you little imp,” he roared, stepping forward and sweeping her into his arms. “That’s my blade you skewered him with.”

“Yes, Master,” she replied, snuggling against him. “It seemed appropriate that my Master’s blade be the one to free me.”

“So you stole it from my sheath, when you were pretending to try and stop me.”

“Yes, Master,” Ladyheart whispered. “Please don’t be angry with me.”

“I’ll spank you later,” Wolfe laughed. “After we’ve washed all the blood off that beautiful backside.”

“Yes, Master,” she purred. “Master, can we go home now?”

“By all means,” Wolfe replied. “By all possible means.” Turning, his arm around his woman, he faced the others.

“My friends,” he said, “I thank you. What you’ve done today can never be re­paid.” He smiled. “Which doesn’t mean I won’t try. Now, let’s go home.


05.04.06

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