A Moment Before the Storm

Written by Sharma Wild. First published on Thursday 23 September 2010.

An Erotic fantasy short story set in the world of Annwen. Arthos Merddyn, an apprentice Knight of Avalon, meets Prince Emrys, the young Captain of Ithindor, on the eve of battle.

The party was a lavish affair. Fires lit the skies with the brilliance of daylight while lords and ladies, dressed in their finery, fluttered about like butterflies or rested on marble benches, drinking wine and nibbling on delicacies, talking and laughing, playing the games of court with much finesse and elegance.

It was strange to think that on the other side of the high walls that encompassed the royal palace men prepared themselves to ride into to battle, kissed their wives and children and told them that they loved them, looked upon those dear faces for perhaps the last time.

Arthos Myrddin found that thought strangely disturbing and a frown shadowed his smooth forehead. He glanced at his master. The Knight was talking to a noble looking young man dressed in silk and velvet embroidered with goldthread and adorned with pearls and jewels. It was for him this party was being held. Eamon, King of Ithindor, Guardian of Caer Arian, the White Citadel, had announced that his oldest son, Brennain, would be Crown Prince and lead the army into battle.

Rather than disturbing his master and asking his permission to leave, the Apprentice took a couple of steps back, allowing the shadows to swallow him. He slipped unseen towards an orchard of tall, willowy trees that seemed to promise solitude and tranquillity. White flowers grew amongst the dark green leafs, and in the moonlight they seem to shine like silver.

Arthos took a deep breath, breathing in the sweet, honeyed scent of the flowers as he walked deeper into the orchard, following a small, natural path.

The journey from Avalon had been a long one. Everywhere they came they had been met with strange rumours. A darkness had risen in the east and old evil had once again re-entered the world. Aye, the rumours had been many but they had found very little evidence, if none, that there was any truth to it. What they did know was that the creatures of the dark mountain lands where gathering, growing in numbers and strength.

When they came to Ithindor they were met by the stoic, stern soldiers of the White Citadel. Here the ancient war between the two realms had never ended. There would be a slight respite, enough of a gain to cause the people of Caer Arian to dress in their rich clothes and parade their wealth as the courts did in the days of old. Then, tomorrow the news would come again and the women would weep, don their veils of mourning once more and kiss the soldiers goodbye as they left for battle once again.

A soft ruffle of leafs made him turn around to see a boy, perhaps three years younger than himself sitting under the low sweeping branches of one of the trees. The silver crown that had rested upon the youth’s brow during the crowning ceremony dangled nonchalantly from his fingers as he looked up upon the young man in the silvery grey robe.

“Have you too come to escape the twittering lords and ladies, Sir Knight?”

Arthos bowed to Emrys, the King’s youngest son. “I didn’t know anyone would be here, your highness.”

The boy gave him a small grin. “I thought you Knights of Avalon knew everything and saw everything.”

“Not everything, your highness”, Arthos replied. “But we do know many things and we see even more.”

“And what do you see when you look on me?” Though his tone was light there was a seriousness in Emrys’ blue eyes as he gazed up at the tall young man. A longing for someone to see beyond the title and the mask he so carefully held up to the world.

The knight’s apprentice knelt in front of the boy, bringing their faces into level. “I see sadness”, he said softly. “I see longing-“

“My father doesn’t love me”, Emrys suddenly interrupted. And it was as if those words were puss seeping out of an infected wound. “He only sees Brennain. He hasn’t even spoken directly to me or looked at me since mother died.” The young prince turned eyes, churning with agony and sorrow, glistening with tears to the knight. “I thought I had become invisible and when you stepped in amongst the trees and didn’t notice me I believed that it must be true.”

“Nonsense, my prince”, Arthos said, his voice firm. “You are not becoming invisible. Your father is preoccupied with the loss of his queen, it is the grief that makes him act as he does. And I didn’t notice you because you sat as still and silent as a shadow.” He took a seat next to the boy, leaning his back against the smooth trunk of the tree. “Sorrow might have clouded your father’s mind but it will clear again and he will understand that he is blessed with two fine sons.”

“Aye…” The boy mumbled but there was no conviction in his voice.

Moments passed without any of them speaking, both finding solace in the quiet company and the sweet scent of the flowers that bloomed overhead and in the illusion of intimacy the shadows offered them as they watched the celebration go on without them.

“Tell me, Knight of Avalon, what are the trees like where you come from?” Emrys’ voice broke the silence.

Arthos could not help but to smile to himself. The question was such an innocent one, but the pensive tones that gave voice to it were that of a man even as blue eyes reflected the stars and cheeks held the rosy hue of youth. “The trees are tall, my prince.” He responded quietly. “Their roots travel deep within the earth and their branches stretch far and wide like arms yearning to embrace their lost lover, the sky.”

“Tell me more.” The soft request followed his silence.

“Their leaves are green both summer and winter and the lacework of their branches shine like silver in the morning light and like gold at sunset. Vines adorn them, entwining with the canopy and during summer it looks as if trees are decked with garlands of white flowers, as though Nature herself laid them as decoration upon their boughs.” His eyes danced in the dark as he described the isle beyond the mist.

“What a beautiful home you have”, the prince breathed. “I would like to see Avalon’s trees someday…”

“Perhaps it will be so, my prince”, the young Knight responded softly. Silence once again spread its soft wings around them. And once again the prince spoke.

“Tomorrow I will ride into battle.”

Arthos glanced at him, trying to hide his shock. Was the king mad? How could he send a boy that couldn’t be a day over fifteen into battle?

“I am to hold the western flank with a gwaith of archers under my command.”

“I see”, Arthos felt a pang in his heart. Even if the boy beside him survived his baptism in fire, he would be changed forever. Gone would be the child who had asked about the trees of Avalon.

“The men will follow me even if they will do it only because the king has ordered them. But they need a leader, not a spoiled prince.”

Hardly spoiled, Arthos thought but he kept his peace.

“I am not like my father or my brother”, Emrys continued. “I have nothing of their commanding presence, their charisma.”

“You will, one day”, Arthos said. “Forgive me for saying so but you are much too young to ride into battle.” He expected a protest but the boy just sighed.

“I know. Everyone knows. Brennain has tried to talk father into at least letting me ride with him but father is persistent. He says that every able bodied man must be ready to take up arms against the dark hordes, that it is time that I earn my keep and prove myself worthy. And that is what I am afraid of…” Dark hair fell forward shielding those large blue eyes of his as Emrys bowed his head, his voice a whisper as he continued. “I fear that I will fail, that my youth and inexperience will cost the lives of those I have been set to lead. I… I don’t know what to do…”

Arthos felt another pang in his heart for this boy, for the heavy burden that rested on his too young shoulders and for the courage he showed by opening his heart and acknowledging his fears.

“I am only a Knight’s apprentice”, he said softly. “I haven’t enough experience to give advice. But on Avalon they teach us that fear is always constant. By accepting it, it makes you stronger. And that in the end a warrior’s true strength is the man next to him. Give respect and honour to him and it will be returned and he will see beyond the crown and the title.”

The boy raised his head, meeting Arthos’ gaze and he found himself looking into deep silvery depths. “Your advice is wise”, the prince said, feeling a little breathless all of a sudden, his heart fluttering like a caged bird in his chest. “I thank you.”

From the other side of the wall voices suddenly rose in song:

At the gates of hell
We make our way to heaven
Through enemy lines
Calad Eglerio!

We lead the way
With sword, lance and bow
Aiming for heaven though serving in hell
Victory is ours their forces will fall
Calad Eglerio!

The song rang out strong and triumphant as of the battle was already won.

“They sing to dispel dread from their hearts”, the young prince said. “They sing and drink and spend this night celebrating life, seeking courage in the arms of loved ones.”

“And how will you spend the night?” Arthos couldn’t help himself to ask.

At this the young prince smiled, the first real smile Arthos had seen on his face, and he was taken aback by how beautiful the young Captain of Ithindor was.

“I will spend it with you.” Emrys could not believe his own boldness. He took in the sight of the knight’s apprentice, the way the moonlight fell through the lace work pattern of the tree’s canopy, creating the illusion that he wore a crown of cascading silver. In the misty light, the fair, defined features appeared magical.

“You lack the subtlety of your title”, Arthos said, the softness in his voice completely taking the sting out of the remark.

“Subtlety is a game I have never had any talent for”, Emrys replied. “And it is an artifice that is wasted on you. You must know that all who look upon you also desire you.”

Dark eyelashes, contrasting with the pale hair, lowered over those silvery churning eyes of Arthos. “You don’t know what you are saying. You are merely a boy.”

Something flared in Emrys’ dark blue gaze. “Not anymore”, he said with heat in his voice. “Tomorrow I ride into battle, tonight I am a man.”

Slowly, as if to test his resolve, Arthos reached out and took Emrys’ hand in his, turning it palm up. He watched the blue gaze turn black, as with one finger, he drew a spiralling circle upon the prince’s palm.

“I must confess”, he said. “That I don’t have much skill in the ways of the court either. What we lack in subtlety we must make up for with honesty.”

Emrys nodded, a blush had risen to colour his pale cheeks. His darkened eyes followed the path of Arthos’ finger as it drew its maddening pattern upon his palm. “Then believe that I want you”, he whispered.

He watched as Arthos trailed his finger to the sensitive skin of his wrist. The young knight let his fingertips brush lightly back and forth, quickening the beat of the pulse there.

“Believe that you drive me mad…”

“Believe…” Arthos purred, raising the boy’s wrist to his mouth, “that I have wanted you since I stepped into your great hall and saw you standing there next to your father and your brother.” He used the tip of his tongue to retrace the path his fingers had taken. Within his grasp, Emrys’ hand trembled. “Believe that every time I see you, I want you.”

Arthos pressed his open mouth to the tender flesh, glancing up. Desire had brought a faint lustre to the prince’s face. Pink lips where parted and those wondrous blue eyes were rimmed with lust. And there was surprise there as well, and a vulnerability that made Arthos realise that brazen though his words had been, Emrys was an innocent.

He smiled.

“What amuses you so?” Emrys asked.

“I am merely laughing at myself for daring to touch you. I never thought it would be I who could tease such response from you.”

Emrys stiffened, tried to pull his hand away. “You see me as a conquest? A trophy to boast of to your friends?”

Arthos held him tight and brought the prince’s hand to his mouth once more. Firmly, but gently, he pried apart Emrys’ fist until he could plant a gentle kiss on his palm. “You are no man’s trophy, my prince”, he whispered. “I am truly honoured that you have chosen to share this night with me. If you let me I can show you what it means to me to be with you. Or perhaps you prefer to continue listening to the bold soldiers singing?”

Emrys smiled, devilry glinting in his eyes. “Given the choice I would prefer to hear you sing. Or rather… moan…”

Arthos felt a hot shiver of desire running through his body, settling in his loins. Wanting to share the sensation, he once again raised the prince’s hand to his mouth. He let one slender finger slide deep inside his mouth and ran lips and tongue wetly along its length. His eyes never left Emrys’. He savoured the vision of the boy’s eyelids fluttering shut as swelling desire visibly overcame him. The smooth lips parted, short breaths issued raggedly and a half-articulated protest escaped him when Arthos let the finger slip from his mouth.

“Soon, I will wrap my tongue around more than just your finger”, the young knight to be promised, sliding his hands up to cup the fair face. He meant to say more, fuelled by the excitement Emrys did not attempt to hide. But before Arthos could utter another word, the boy kissed him.

Emrys was not shy, but inexperience made him timid. He could not hold back a moan. His hand travelled up Arthos’ back and came to rest at his neck, lean fingers greedily digging into that silken, blond hair. Arthos pulled the boy even closer, pressing their bodies together, unable to get enough of the strong, hard line of his body, of the soft pliant lips that readily opened themselves to him.

Everything was wetness and heat. Emrys felt as if he was drunk on desire as Arthos filled his mouth, tangling their tongues together. The knight tasted of wine and spiced almonds and of something sweet and elusive like crushed honeysuckle. It was, he decided immediately, the elixir of life.

As the kiss deepened Emrys slid his hand under Arthos tunic, wanting to feel his heart beat against his palm. He marvelled in the silken texture of the skin, the well-developed muscles and the way Arthos gasped as he slid his hands over the sensitive nipples. When Emrys pushed him back against the smooth bark of the tree he let him, and when he felt him press his young, strong body against his own and felt the fine tremble he could feel desire almost overwhelming him. Heat spread from his loins to his stomach and up his chest.

Emrys sat back, kneeling over his ardent conquest. Arthos shirt had been unbuttoned and parted, revealing his torso, and the insignia of Avalon tattooed into the perfect skin. He reached out, longing to trace the dark, intricate pattern, but not daring to.

“Did it hurt?” He asked instead.

“Aye”, came the reply. Arthos looked down on himself, on the mark; deep black in the evening shade against his pale skin. He put his hand on it and instantly felt that strange pull connecting him to the Isle of Mists. “But it was a sweet pain…” His smile was a strange mix of feelings, of pride and devotion, and of an old pain, not a physical one, Emrys guessed, but an emotional one. He wanted to ask more but instead his lips were claimed by Arthos in another breathtaking kiss.

“One day”, Arthos whispered against those pliant lips. “One day, my prince, you will experience how pain can make pleasure even more intense.”

“Will you teach me?” Emrys asked as the knight laid him on the soft grass next to him. Arthos shook his head.

“You need someone more experienced in the art than me, sweet prince. I can only teach you about pleasure.”

“Then teach me that”, Emrys whispered. “I ache to learn…”

Incensed beyond words, Arthos untied the lace that held the front of Emrys’ britches together and slid his hand down the flat, taut stomach and touched him, bringing a gasp and a moan from the boy.

Arthos planted burning kisses along the throat’s pale column and down the collar bone. His exploring lips found a budding nipple and he began to teas it mercilessly. Then he moved further down, revelling in the beauty of the body so willingly laid out for him.

Emrys arched into the sensation of the knight’s lips moving across his incensed body, his fingers curling into the pale, golden hair that veiled Arthos face as he moved down and down until…

With shaking fingers Arthos pulled down the boy’s britches. He paused there, looking up, not wanting to take this too far. But the roses of desire that bloomed on Emrys’ face and the dark pools of his eyes told him that the prince had totally succumbed to passion, that he was a willing and eager student.

The sweet sensation of Arthos’ hot breath against his throbbing manhood made Emrys moan. The touch of lips made him cry out softly, burying his fingers in Arthos’ golden hair.

Arthos took him into his mouth as though he would swallow the young prince whole. Emrys was fire and silver, his skin the softest velvet. Arthos caressed him without mercy, dragging lips and teeth with a hunger he’d never felt before.

He set a rhythm that goaded the Prince’s hips into concert. Soon, Emrys was thrusting deeply into the other’s mouth, short, static cries bursting from his lips. After several minutes, the hands tangled in Arthos’ hair clenched suddenly. They tried to pull him away. “I need to feel you… all of you…”

“My Prince”, Arthos whispered, his voice low and purring. “If that is what you want.” Arthos slowly kissed his way up until they were face to face. Strands of dark hair clung to Emrys’ reddened cheeks.

“That is what I want, Knight…” the boy breathed.

Fierce desire welled up in Arthos. He stroked the damp hair. “I want to bury myself in you until we are as one”, he murmured hoarsely. He could not hold back the groan that rumbled out of him as Emrys slid his hand inside his now too tight britches and encircled him with strong fingers. He set a quick pace that sent Arthos already enflamed senses over the edge. His body begged for release within Emrys’ hand, but he managed to reign in his rapidly unwinding control. He grabbed the prince’s wrist, stopping him.

“Enough”, he gasped.

The barest hint of triumph crossed Emrys’ face. “‘Tis easy to make short work of you”, he teased.

In answer, Arthos spun the younger boy around. He pushed his manhood against the other’s tight opening. “Let’s discover how very wrong you are, shall we?” he growled into a dainty ear. He flexed his hips, pushing the head of his erection slowly, inevitably into the tight heat of the other’s body, and then he stopped, knowing that it wasn’t pleasure alone that made Emrys groan and grip the grass with whitened fingers.

But the boy pushed back against him. “More…” he whispered, his voice shaking. “I want more…”

“As you wish, my prince.”

Despite his confident words, the slow slide inside Emrys nearly undid Arthos. His grip on the slim hips was hard enough to bruise.

After what seemed an eternity of torture, Arthos sheathed himself completely within the young prince. They both sighed. Arthos bent forward and placed a kiss upon the back of Emrys’ sweat-slicked neck before pulling his hips back. Delicious friction assailed his nerves. He had to steel himself so not to slam forward and hurt the inexperienced boy beneath him. Instead he moved tantalisingly slow, driving moans from them both, giving Emrys a moment to get accustomed to the feel of him. When he felt the boy relax he pulled back again. But this time as he stroked forward, he changed his aim slightly. Emrys jumped beneath him, a cry of pleasure slipping from his lips.

A triumphant smile curled his lips as he continued to thrust into the boy, to find that secret spot inside the boy’s heat. He became greedy for more of Emrys’ cries. Steeling his control, the blond man put aside his pleasure in pursuit of the other’s. Relentless, he stroked the core of Emrys’ desire, craving more and more of his wanton responses.

“Oh, Arthos!” Emrys’ jagged cry shot an arrow of passion straight to his heart. As his lover bucked and shuddered around him, Arthos felt his control shatter. Gripping the boy against him, he made one final thrust into the consuming heat. He heard and felt Emrys explode in release. The sudden clenching waves sent Arthos tumbling after. With a throaty moan, he spilled himself into the boy.

He fell against Emrys’ back, cradling the young prince as they lay together on the soft grass, a sigh of satisfaction welling up from inside of him.

Emrys echoed the sigh, feeling more at peace than ever before. He lay contentedly in the arms of Arthos, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking. He could still feel him; feel the connection they had created. It was like a fire within him. Rolling over so that he faced the young knight, Emrys wrapped a lock of the golden hair around his finger.

“You are light”, he whispered, gazing into eyes that held the colour of storm clouds passing over a deep lake. “A light that will shine for me in dark places…”

Arthos leaned forward, brushing a kiss on Emrys’ the sweat-dampened temple. “You honour me, my prince.”

They lay there together, embracing. Lovers for the night. Arthos watched as Emrys eyelids grew heavy, as dark eyelashes lowered to hide blue eyes that seemed to reflect the entire spectra of a starlit evening sky…

Arthos softly kissed those lovely pink lips, parted in sleep and swollen from the rough kisses of earlier, then left the sleeping prince and made his way back to the castle.

As he stepped into the rooms they had been appointed he wasn’t surprised to find his master standing by the window, gazing out at the approaching dawn.

“You left the party early”, Keldan said, not turning.

“I am sorry, master”, Arthos said, sitting down on his bed. “My mind was troubled.”

The knight turned to him. Deep set, brown eyes took in every detailed of his dishevelled appearance. “You found some solace, I think.

Arthos dipped his head, avoiding the too knowing gaze. “I did”, he replied.

“And so did the young Captain of Ithindor too, I hope.”

The young knight to bee had the good taste to blush and Keldan chuckled.

“Get some rest boy”, he said, turning back to the window and the beautiful view outside. “We leave at sunrise.”

“Yes, master.” But instead of getting undressed, Arthos rose and came to stand next to Keldan. “Master, what will happen tomorrow? Will Emry… will the prince return from the battle?”

The taller man turned to him, his strong, leonine face held an expression of calmness and of compassion. “You should keep your focus to the here and now.”

“Master Yorrick says I should be mindful of the future”, Arthos replied.

“But not at the expense of the presence, my young apprentice”, Keldan chided him gently, an amused smile curling the corners of his mouth. Then he became serious, clasping a strong hand on Arthos’ shoulder. “I do not know what will become of the so very young Captain, Arthos. It is reckless of his father to send the boy into battle. I have told him so but…”

“It is as if he wants Emrys to come to harm”, Arthos continued the sentence.

“Aye”, Keldan mumbled. “It seems as if the loss of Queen Liliana has brought forth a streak of madness in King Eamon.”

“What are we going to do?” Arthos asked, feeling the metallic taste of fear rise up through his throat.

“Nothing”, came his master’s gentle reply.

“No!” Arthos turned away from the older man, his golden hair flying.

“Arthos!” The tone in the knight’s voice was sharp. “We do not serve any throne or crown. We serve the Balance. Our mission here does not include watching over members of the Royal House. We were sent here to see if we could find out if there was any truth to the rumours that the hordes of the dark realm somehow has begun to manipulate the Balance. We have done so and now we will return to Avalon and give our report to the Council. Is that understood?”

Arthos’ hands had curled into fists, his eyes were flashing but he bowed his head. “Yes, master.”

Keldan sighed as he regarded his apprentice, the set jaw, the tension in that lithe body of his. Talented and gifted as he might bee, the boy still had to struggle to keep that temper of his under control. “Arthos.” This time the voice was filled with warmth and compassion. “Young Emrys has been trained in the art of warfare since he was three years old. He is a dutiful and intelligent young man and his role in the battle will be as a defender and not an attacker. He should do fine.”

Arthos felt something of Keldan’s calm confidence seep into him, loosening the knot in his stomach. “Yes, master.”

“Now get some rest.”

Arthos nodded. As he made himself ready for bed his mind wandered. Vivid images of Emrys passion stricken face filled his mind; the way those dark blue eyes of his had widened, the perfect lines of the slender body. The texture of his skin, the taste of him… And the young knight couldn’t help but to sigh at the prince’s beauty. Little did he know that years would pass before he and Emrys met again and that then it would be on the battlefield itself and not in a secluded garden moments before the storm…