In the light of half a dozen candles, Morgan’s chamber appeared half as big as the grand hall. Her bed, fashioned in the old Roman style that you rarely saw anymore, was draped with thick, rich, woven wool blankets. In front of a cozy fire were a couch and a table that would be perfect to put your kaffka on if the gods would just get off their dead asses and start growing it here.
Morgan led me over to the couch and got us settled. The servant followed shortly with the wine, nodded as he left and closed the door—a real door, not just a curtain—behind him. Morgan added a couple of lumps of charcoal to the brazier, then sprinkled on a few more chips. The odor was much more intense here, perhaps because the brazier was closer, or maybe because I was becoming more sensitized to it.
“What is it that you are saying when you put the incense on the fire?”
“It’s an old traditional Welsh blessing. It means, “May you bring thoughts of peace and clarity of vision to all who breath you.”
“Say it again.”
Morgan spoke some words, slowly and distinctly this time. I could make out the meaning to be what she’d described, although my command of Old Welsh is spotty at best. It didn’t sound like what she’d been saying before, but maybe I was mistaken.
“Come look with me.”
On the table sat a silver basin partially filled with water. The engraving and filigree work featured intertwined vines, in the manner of the Celts, although the workmanship was far beyond what I’d seen from any local artist. A thin layer of dust lay on the surface of the water; Morgan added to it by sprinkling a tiny bit of hot ash from the brazier using a silver spoon, her movements delicate and graceful.
“Think of Elaine in the moment in which you felt the strongest attachment to her.” Well, that was easy enough. I imagined standing in the garden, holding her in my arms, her lips burning on mine.
Morgan glanced over at me with a strange expression, then returned to the basin. She spoke some harsh words that were definitely not Old Welsh, tapped the bowl three times with the spoon, and then blew lightly on the surface. The ashes parted willingly, leaving a clear pool in the middle.
And suddenly Elaine was there, standing in the garden exactly where we’d been. Her image was a little misty, but real enough to make my heart leap. She was staring upward—at the moonlight, I guessed—with tears glistening in the corners of her eyes.
“Elaine.” The name escaped my lips before I recognized that perhaps it wasn’t prudent reveal my emotions. Elaine looked around, slightly puzzled, just as if she’d heard me speak. Her lips moved, as if she was saying my name.
“Did she hear me?” I realized I was gripping Morgan’s arm way too tightly and let go, leaving white marks where my fingertips had been.
“Hello, Sister.” Morgan’s words elicited no response. “Elaine. Hello.” Shaking her head slightly, Morgan made the tiniest noise with her lips as if she were sucking in a spoonful of a breath and the ash moved back over the surface of the water.
“I could have a conversation with Merlin using a scrying basin. I might be able to get a simple message through to Nimue. But a person with no command of the arts—no. Nor can a person with no training hear words sent through the spirit space. At least, they shouldn’t be able to.”
“And yet she clearly heard my voice.”
“T’would seem so. And I dislike not knowing how or why. Perhaps your strong emotional connection has served to establish a link that mere art would find difficult? Hmm. Something I’ll have to explore later.”
It didn’t seem worthwhile denying that Elaine and I had a strong emotional connection, so I remained silent.
“You are hot.” Morgan’s exclamation startled me back to an awareness that I’d been off daydreaming of Elaine. She touched my forehead, then my cheek and the back of my neck. “I didn’t realize that the fire was too much for the night. Why don’t you take off your tunic?”
I hadn’t realized how hot I was, but Morgan’s words brought to mind that, yes, it was quite warm in here. Far too warm. My face broke out in a sweat that I could feel duplicated on my chest and under my arms. Suddenly getting out of my tunic seemed not only like a most reasonable thing to do, but something that it was absolutely essential that I do immediately.
A knight with his shirt off, even forty-five year old specimen who has the best of his own kitchen and wine cellar at his disposal, would never be mistaken for a merchant his age. Better than three decades of constant practice swinging a sword had seen to that. I might have a little more of a belly roll than I’d worn when I was twenty, but my shoulder and chest muscles were still hard.
“Oh, very nice.” Morgan purred as she traced a finger along my jaw line down my chest to my nipple, which she pinched lightly between her nails. “My husband was a slovenly pig of a man who fancied himself still a warrior but in the end turned out to be a pathetic little fuck. Fortunately, I discovered knights before it was too late.”
With the back of her hand, Morgan drew her nails gently down from my chest to my belt, then gently tugged on the hairs that grew there and kissed me ever so lightly under my jaw. Her lips shocked my skin, as if I’d shuffled across a rug on a dry winter day and then touched a sword. I reached up and brushed the place where she’d kissed, then traced my finger across her lips. Such a move should have felt totally inappropriate—and indeed, I marveled that I even considered it, much less actually did it—but somehow did not. Her tongue darted out and licked my finger as it ended its journey.
“It’s so hot in here!” Morgan cried, breaking my reverie. “I thought the night would be colder than this, what with the rain and chill wind. I should summon Geoffrey to bank the fire, but he will have retired for the night and I’d have to go awaken him myself. Here, Kay, unlace my gown. Quickly.”
Morgan turned away and lifted a double handful of lush, thick raven hair off her back to expose the ties of her dress. Not to mention a thin, delicate neck of creamy skin so perfect it had likely never seen the sun. I reached for the ties but got totally distracted by her neck instead. The bones at the top of her spine pressed gently against her skin, creating the most delicate hills and valleys. I bent forward and kissed one of those valleys. Morgan sucked in her breath and arched her back, pressing the soft skin against my lips.
“Oh, Sir Knight, the heat is killing me. I shall die if I have to stay in this garment another minute. And my death shall be on your hands, because only you can save me.”
Well, put that way, her request seemed more than reasonable. My hands trembled only the tiniest bit as I undid the knot and loosened the long thong that threaded the length of the slit up the back of the gown.
With the back opened, Morgan’s gown was loose enough for her to work her arms free, one at a time. She was as lithe as a cat, although her movements had a certain deliberate languidity. Morgan drew the dress down over her hips, which involved some extremely intriguing contortions. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the thin white shift and the delights of the form beneath that her efforts revealed, although gentlemanly behavior seemed to proscribe what I was doing. Or did it? My thoughts were blowing hither and yon like leaves in storm, and I didn’t seem to be able to catch hold of anything solid.
Morgan allowed the gown to drop to the floor and stepped back out of it. She then bent to retrieve the garment, pressing her barely covered posterior into me as she did so. I’d been so preoccupied up to that point that I hadn’t even realized that my rod had turned to iron, but her movements made it quite evident. There’s no way she couldn’t have noticed as well, but she neither reacted nor pulled away. I involuntarily laid my hand on the side of her hip just below her waist before she stepped away to a nearby chair and draped the gown over it, then turned to me.
In front of me was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. The shift was molded to her breasts, hard nipples straining at the delicate fabric. Her hair, so perfect before, was mussed just enough to invite my hand to straighten it—or to disarray it even further. She touched her upper lip with the tip of her tongue, then closed her eyes, arched her back and stood for a moment with face upturned and palms toward me. Kiss me, her posture screamed. Kiss me like you kissed my sister.
Elaine. The memory of that earlier kiss—was it only yesterday?—flooded back. Elaine. I was in love, and here nearly naked before me was the wrong sister. I lunged to grasp that thought, but it to twisted and spiraled away.
Morgan smiled gently before taking my hand and leading me back to the couch without protest on my part. She took a sip of her wine, then held her goblet for me. Unused to another holding my drink, I allowed a trickle of the red liquid to escape. Morgan leaned toward me and flicked her tongue to clean it from the corner of my mouth, resting her hand on my thigh as she did.
She then turned away and fed a few more chips onto the embers in the brazier. Her words were definitely not Old Welsh, but I felt a tremor in my chest as she finished speaking.
“Let us see what else the basin might have to tell us,” Morgan whispered, her lips mere inches from my ear. “Hold in your mind the moment you first saw me when I turned without my gown.”
The image sprang forth easily. I closed my eyes to cling to the beauty of the goddess there in my mind, enflamed by the picture she was demanding me remember.
Morgan spoke the words and repeated the tapping and blowing ritual, her hand resting lightly high on my thigh. I could clearly hear her breathe onto the water, followed by a little gasp.
“Look, see what the basin has to foretell.”
There beneath the surface of the water I held Morgan tightly in my arms. Her shift was down to her waist, revealing taut breasts that so far I’d only seen veiled. My lips devoured hers as we moved in a slow dance back toward her bed.
“Ah.” Morgan made that tiny sucking sound and the ash once again covered the surface. I felt more than heard myself groan.
Morgan stood and tugged me to my feet, taking both of my hands as she did. “I feel no guilt in taking you from Arthur. He and his Ice Queen have robbed me of so much: first my innocence, and now my kingdom.” She reached up and placed two fingers on my lips, brushing them gently back and forth. “Although I confess I feel the slightest twinge of guilt in borrowing you from my sister, to whom life has been every bit as cruel as to me. But take heart, dear one.” She raised her voice slightly, “And you too, dear sister.” Her lips curled into that enchanting little smile again. “It is not my intention to keep you, merely to use you for a little while.”
She took a step backward toward the bed, and then another. On the third she seemed to stumble a little and as I caught her, I realized that, except for our mouths, we were in the same position as in the basin vision. Morgan smile hinted that she knew what I was thinking before she pulled my lips down to hers.
It was nothing like kissing Elaine had been. Morgan’s lips were full and warm, perfectly moist, and very much alive on mine. Her breath was so fresh it was like chewing a clove while drinking from a mountain stream. But the emotions that filled me were desire and passion rather than—what what missing? Dare I say love?
When our lips finally separated, Morgan spoke again. A throaty whisper from deep inside. I turned my ear so as to not miss her words.
“I have slept with many men, but loved only one of them. You have doubtless slept with a few willing wenches as well, but not the woman you believe yourself to be in love with. Life is like that. Love is a rare and precious gift. The act of lovemaking does not have to be so rare, although when they overlap, it is truly wondrous indeed.”
She stood on her tiptoes and nipped my earlobe before continuing. “I am going to give you another rare and precious gift. I’m going to teach you how to pleasure a woman. Your lessons will be long and arduous, but perhaps not totally unpleasant. And then if you have the will and the courage to share that knowledge, my sister will be repaid.”
Morgan crossed her hands in front of her body and pulled her shift down below her breasts before pulling my lips back to hers. And we began again that maddeningly slow, inexorable dance toward her bed.