Lionheart – C J Lewis [Short Story] Pt 1

Alright folks, fresh off an awful week of being terribly sick with a head cold, and spraining a muscle in my neck, ATWC is back with a story! Fair warning, its not Tudor, but takes place during the Crusades. I allowed this one, for two reasons. One, a little change is a good thing in my mind, and two, who isn’t interested in the turmoil of the 1100s?!

This story has been brought to us by C J Lewis, who has become a repeat submitter! You can read her other post by clicking here. Todays post is only the first half of her story, check back tomorrow for part 2!

Lionheart

I have followed Richard for more than half of my life. I supported him and his mother when they plotted to usurp his father, King Henry. I followed him to Jerusalem on the Holy Crusades; I bought the Manor of Fordleigh from him to help fund his endeavours. And I followed him here, to Normandy. We’ve been at war with Philip of France ever since, and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of war, I’m tired of Richard, and I just want to go home. Perhaps this battle will be the last one I have to endure. Perhaps I can go home to Fordleigh and the life I have imagined there; managing the land and the peasants who farm it. I dream of raising fine horses and fine sons. This life as a warrior was sweet to me once; now it is as bitter as gall. I have seen my king for the hopeless dreamer he is. I will not be named a traitor – he is my king – but if this battle should be the end of his campaign, then I won’t pretend to be sad.

“Sire? Are you awake? Sire? Can you hear me?”

The voice was insistent, and it carried through the fog in which I seemed to be trapped. All around me, fog and silence. Like a blanket, it shrouded me with pain and fractured memories. I saw the battle; the final assault on the castle at siege – a battle fought because my king coveted a treasure that would never be his. And then I saw Richard, shouting at the enemy and daring them to leave their fortress.

Then another fragment; I was on a boat, crossing an angry sea. I remembered the ceaseless rolling of the boat on the waves and the sickness that had held me prisoner, even as I drifted in and out of consciousness.

And now? Where was I now? The voice was familiar – my squire, Thomas – he was here with me. But where was here? And what had happened after I watched that crossbow bolt find its mark in the shoulder of my king? The blanket of fog won the victory and my consciousness lost ground. I submitted to it, allowing it to wrap me in its hold and take me to oblivion.

“The wound is healing. There is no more that we can do for him. Take him home – his life is in the hands of God now.”

I looked up and saw the face of my squire and another man; a priest. So, I was with the Hospitallers of St John. I opened my mouth to speak, but my lips and throat were so dry, I couldn’t form words.

“Sire, please don’t try to speak.” Thomas looked frantic.

“Thirsty.” I managed to get the sounds out through my parched lips.

The priest looked at me and then spoke to my squire. “Let him drink. The small beer is safer than the water. Give him a little of that.”

I felt the warm, sour brew flow into my mouth as my squire held my head up so I could drink. I swallowed hungrily until the wooden ladle was empty, then I let Thomas lay my head back down on the straw-stuffed pillow. “Where am I?”

“Dover. You wanted to go home to Fordleigh, but this is as far as I could get you. You’ve been here, with the order of St John for near a fortnight.”

“I don’t remember what happened.” The words came hard, like pulling a deep root from the soil. “Were we victorious? Does the king live?”

I watched as Thomas’s face fell. “No, Sire. The king took a bolt in the shoulder. He died soon afterwards. You were wounded in the battle that followed; you were run through with the point of a halberd. It pierced your armour and went into your leg. I tried to get you home, Sire, but you succumbed to a fever on the boat.” He reached for another ladle of the weak ale and when I nodded, he helped me to drink it. “I have been tending you e’er since.”

“Help me to sit up, Thomas. I want to see what ails me.” My young squire put his arm under my shoulder and helped me into a sitting position. I looked down my body. I had shrunken during my time in this narrow cot. “Is my armour ruined?”

“Yes, Sire. I have it all, and the blacksmith may be able to repair it.”

“No. It’s for the best. It would clearly be far too big for me now.” I looked then at the large bandage that covered my left leg from hip to knee. I could see the site of the wound as there was a spot of fresh blood that had made its way to the surface. “God in heaven, it looks like I came close to losing my cock.” The wound was at the very top of my leg. “An inch to the left and I would have been a eunuch.”

“Yes, Sire.” Thomas chuckled and helped me to lie back down. “Do you think you can travel?”

“By the gods, yes. Take me home.”

Three pain-filled days later, the wagon in which I was travelling drew to a halt at the top of a hill. Thomas helped me to sit up, and I saw the gentle slope of the hill that led down to Fordleigh. I had spent just one week at this Manor before leaving for the Crusade, and that had been nearly nine years ago. But looking at it now, my whole mind and body recognised it as home.

“We’re home, Thomas. We’re home.”

“Yes, Sire. It’s but a mile further. We’ll be home by nightfall.”

The wagon continued on the last part of our journey. One of my men rode ahead to let the house know we were coming, so when we approached the gates a while later, they opened for us and we trundled into the courtyard before coming at last to a halt. I felt my whole body relax with relief as the wagon finally ceased its swaying.

“My lord! What joy!” An elderly man who I vaguely recognised rushed out through the great door of the manor house, wiping his hands on a cloth that was hanging from his belt. “Oh, God be praised that he has brought you home safe to us after all these years.”

“Thank you – it’s good to be home.” Thomas and another of my men, Gerald Baliol, began to lift the litter on which I was lying off the wagon. The pain went through my leg like a hot blade. I winced and tried not to cry out.

“Sire, please, be at ease.” The old servant, whose name I now remembered was Hugh, went ahead of the litter, opening doors and leading the way to the narrow stairs which led up to the solar. “I have sent a girl to fetch Lady Lovell. She will be here shortly.”

“Lady Lovell? My mother is here?” I must have looked as confused as I felt about this. My mother, last I heard, was happily married to her fourth husband and living with him in Wales.

Hugh laughed nervously. “No, Sire. Lady Emma Lovell. Your wife.”

“My wife? Oh – yes, of course.” The seventeen-year-old girl who had come as part of the deal I had struck with Richard for Fordleigh. The Manor had been in her family for generations but some kind of debt to the crown – real or otherwise – had led to it being offered for sale. The girl’s father had insisted that I marry her so that she could stay in her family home. I had not objected – she was pretty enough – and the likelihood that I wouldn’t return from The Holy Land was fairly strong.

I remembered the wedding day. A cold, wet day. Only her father, the old servant Hugh and my man Gerald Baliol witnessed the ceremony – it would be easy enough to have the marriage annulled. I was a little surprised that she had not already sought that on the grounds of desertion – I had been away from the marriage bed for nearly nine years, after all. Which led me to thoughts of the marriage bed. The consummation of our union was witnessed by my man, and the local midwife – on the insistence of her father. Not the most romantic of ways to start a marriage. She was scared to death, and I could barely get a cock-stand, but we managed somehow, and the old woman had inspected the bed and Emma’s bloody thighs and declared that the marriage was true in the eyes of God.

When we had been left to ourselves, she smiled at me and stroked my cheek. I remembered that now; she had hair and eyes the colour of warm honey and her skin looked like the cream the dairymaids took from the top of the churn. I ploughed her for a second time and, because she felt no pain, she welcomed my body into hers. The next morning, I climbed on my horse and left to follow Richard on his Crusade. When I looked back, she waved.

Alas, I must confess that I gave her scant thought after that. There were always women in the camps, and I availed myself of their wares many, many times. I like to fuck – especially if the woman is willing. I’m not enamoured of the ‘reluctant virgin’ types, though I know a lot of my comrades enjoy that. I like a woman who enjoys cock and isn’t afraid to show it.

A woman like Sabrina. Oh yes, Sabrina. The dark-haired beauty I had spent many nights with in Jerusalem had no problems showing me how much she liked to ride my cock. She would often wake me in the night by mounting and riding me like a horse.

“Here we are, Sire. You should be comfortable enough here. I’ll bring you something to eat.”

I was pulled from my thoughts of Sabrina’s wicked thighs by Hugh’s voice. I had been laid in a large bed. I recognised the heavy drapes; this was the bed in which I had spent my wedding night.

“Is there something special I can get for you, Sire?”

“What? I’m sorry – my thoughts were elsewhere.”

“Of course. Do not worry. I will bring a tray with a selection of things from the kitchen, and you can choose what you’d like.” He turned around left me alone.

I don’t know how long I slept. I woke from a fevered dream, crying out to dead men in the horror of a battle relived in all its bloody glory. A cool hand on my forehead brought me round, and I stilled, breathing heavily, and looked up into a pair of honey-coloured eyes.

“Be still, my lord. You are home and safe now.” Her voice was like honey also, and she smelled as sweet as a garden in summer. “I’ll get you a drink.”

She got up, and I looked across the bed. Had she been sleeping beside me? I tried to pull myself up but failed, slumping back against the pillows. Emma returned a moment later, and I saw her lithe body outlined beneath her nightgown as she stood with her back against the light from the fire. She had grown up since I saw her last. Her hair was held back in a large plait that reached past her waist and the neckline of her simple gown, gathered with a silk ribbon, dipped low enough to reveal the promise of a bosom worthy of some attention.

“Here. I’ll help you sit up.” She put her arm under me, and I felt her strength as she helped me to sit up against the pillows. “I brew the ale here myself. This small beer is refreshing but not strong enough to upset your stomach.”

I took the cup from her and sipped at the weak beer she gave me. It was good. Much better than any I had drunk for a long time. “This is good. Thank you.”

She blushed a little at my compliment; in the dim light from the fire and the lamp she had lit, I could see the pink flush spread down her neck and into the soft valley at the top of her breasts. She watched me drink then took the empty cup. “Can you eat something? You were asleep when Hugh brought the tray, and I didn’t like to wake you.”

“Emma.”

“Yes, my lord?”

“My name is Danyell. It would please me to hear my name on your lips.”

She bowed her head. “I’m sorry, my lo – Danyell. You have been gone such a long time. Perhaps we need to get to know each other again.”

I lifted my hand and stroked her cheek. I don’t know why I felt so tender towards her. Hours ago, I had entertained thoughts of having our marriage annulled, but something in her sweet countenance was making my belly clench. She was mine. “We knew each other well enough. Seeing you now, grown to womanhood, makes me regret not being here to watch it happen.”

She blushed again but held my gaze. “I have missed you, Danyell. I am very glad that God brought you safely home to me.”

“Aye. A little broken and battered, but I am home. With you. And I’m planning on staying this time.” I tried to move a little and winced as the pain in my leg increased. “Right now, though, I need to get to the garderobe. Can you help me?”

She shook her head. “I’ll get you a pot. I don’t think I can lift you.” She went around to her side of the bed and picked up a large, clay pot. She put it on the floor and began to ease the bed coverings off me. “I’ll help you sit up.”

I let her help me, though it injured my pride to need her assistance for this most basic of needs. She held the pot for me, and I lifted my shirt far enough to get a hold of my cock to aim. She watched me take myself in hand, and I looked at her. She was beautiful. I felt a sudden shot of desire go through me and I cursed my body for not being able to act on it. Another desire filled me then; the desire to heal and return fully to my life here at Fordleigh.

Weeks passed, and I healed. My wife took care of me, helping me bathe and dress. I grew stronger by the day. I learned what a truly remarkable woman I was married to. When John’s men had tried to sabotage the crops of the tenant farmers, she brought in sheep and goats. When nobody would buy the wool from the sheep, for fear of retribution from John, she filled the old Saxon great hall that stood in the courtyard with looms and spinning wheels. The women from the farms on the estate came every day to spin and weave our wool into the fine fabric that Emma sold directly to traders in the nearby city. Fordleigh was flourishing, despite the best attempts of the King.

We were walking in the herb garden – I had been able to take short strolls with her for a few days now. I looked at her; the sunlight made her hair glow like gold. I would have to have her soon. “How many times have John’s men come?”

She stopped walking and held her face up to enjoy the soft sunshine. “They come every year. It’s always the same. They say that the land is forfeit because the debt was not paid when you bought it from my father. Each time, we go to the Assizes, and I show the document that proves you bought Fordleigh and that my father’s debt was paid in full.”

“You stand at the Assizes yourself?”

“Aye. There is no one else who will do it. I must defend my land and my people. And when they attacked the Manor once, I helped to defend it then, too.” She smiled knowingly. “I can shoot a bow as well as any man.”

I saw her for what she was; a woman of courage. Ready to stand against attacks on those she cared about. For she did care. The work she had created in the weaving house to keep the peasants fed, the many loaves baked in the kitchen every day that were sent out to stop the children crying with hunger. “You are a remarkable woman. I am fortunate to have you as my wife. Your father was right to insist that you were part of the debt.”

She looked at me, scrutinising my face. “There was never any debt, you know?”

I nodded my head. “I know. Richard needed money for his campaign, and I was happy to go along with it. Why were you so happy to go along with it? You needn’t have married me.”

A sly smile crossed her lips. “I wanted you the first moment I saw you. It was I who suggested the marriage to my father. Does that surprise you?”

I reached out and touched her face. “Emma, after everything I have learned about you, I don’t think anything could surprise me.” I leant forward and kissed her. “Methinks I followed the wrong Lionheart all these years.”

She laughed and stepped away from me, continuing our walk amongst the herbs. “Methinks you are right! But you are home now. And I am glad of it.” She took another step then turned again. “If for no other reason than we should be spared John’s attention now that you are back. And we can start to get Fordleigh back to normal.” Her laughter echoed through the walled space as she skipped away from me.

“Your bath is ready, Sire.”

“Thank you, Thomas. You may go. Lady Lovell will assist me.” Emma had helped me bathe several times, and I liked her gentle touch. She had been shy at first; turning her head away when she washed me. But the last time, she had gazed at my nakedness without blushing.

The bath had been set up in the usual place, in front of the great hearth in the solar. When I entered the room, I saw her; she was bending over the wooden tub, adding some sweet-smelling oil to the water. “You wish to make me smell like a flower garden, my love?”

She looked up at me and smiled. “The lavender helps with the healing. And I like it when you smell like a flower garden.” She swirled the water with her hand. “The water is hot. Come, husband. Let me help you undress.”

I walked to her. Unaided by the stick I had been using, I felt like a complete man in her presence for the first time. And I realised that was as much to do with her as my healing body. I let her help me out of my shirt and boots. She stood back to allow me to unlace my breeches myself as I had done every time before. But I straightened my back and looked directly at her. “No, my love. Tonight, it would please me if you undressed me.”

I saw a moment of indecision pass over her face, then a quick nod of her head. She knelt before me and reached for the laces that held the two halves of my breeches closed. I watched her slender fingers pull at the fine leather strands, and I gave in to the temptation to push my fingers into the soft curtain of her hair. She raised her eyes to me and a sly smile formed on her lips. Without breaking eye contact with me, she continued to unfasten my breeches before pushing them down so that I could step out of them. She sat back on her heels and looked at me. “Husband, you are healing fast. And I do believe your armour will fit you again afore long.” She reached out and brushed her fingers over the puckered, pink skin of the newly healed scar at the top of my thigh.

I heard a groan escape my lips as her fingers caressed me and I leant into her touch. Unable to stop the desire that was now coursing through my veins, I laid my hand over hers and curled her fingers around my thickening cock.

She gasped and looked up at me for assurance. Then I felt her brave fingers cupping me of their own accord, and she licked her lips before leaning forward and placing a whisper-soft kiss just below my navel.

My cock leapt in her hand, and I heard her chuckle with amusement. I stroked her cheek again, her smooth skin warming my palm. “Aye, my lass. Name me as husband again for it pleases me to hear it.”

“Husband.” She smiled and turned to kiss my palm, “You have come home to me. I intend to make sure you stay.” She stood up and took my hand. “Now, let’s get you into this bath before the water turns cold.”

I reached for her and turned her around so that I could begin to unfasten the ties at the back of her surcoat.  “There is room for two in that magnificent tub. Join me, wife. For I long to see you.”

She turned her head, and I thought she was going to object, but she said nothing, just nodded and allowed me to continue. After I had (with her help) stripped her of various layers of clothing, she turned to face me. She held one arm over her breasts, and the other was laid over her belly so that her hand covered the soft mound between her legs. She shivered a little in the golden light from the fire, and her eyes asked an unspoken question.

I took hold of her hand – the one she was using to cover her womanhood – and lifted it to my lips. “You are beautiful Emma. You have no need to cover yourself when we are together.” In truth, I had never stood completely naked before another human being since my mother last bathed me as a child. But Emma’s shy gaze emboldened me to want to experience this state with her and to experience it often. I saw her relax a little at my words and she let her other arm fall to her side. As her breasts came into view, I felt desire pool in my belly like a hot liquid. “Come, let us bathe together. For I am anxious to have you in our bed.”

She turned away from me and walked towards the steaming bathtub in front of the fire. I watched her hips sway as she walked; she had blossomed into a fine woman.

I caught up with her and put one arm around her, pulling her against my back so that I could kiss her neck. Then I reached down with my other hand and cupped the soft flesh of her buttocks, pushing between them until I came across plump lips that were slick with her desire. She was wet for me. My cock surged against her back at the discovery, and I heard her sigh.

Emma helped me into the fragrant water and stepped in after me, settling behind me so that I was cushioned against her body with her legs holding me tight. She reached for the washing cloth and the precious cake of soap that we had bought at the market the week before. She reached around me and washed my skin gently, smoothing away the aches I hadn’t realised I was feeling.

 When her soapy fingers edged towards my cock, I stopped her going any further. “No, my love. If you touch me there again, I will shame myself in front of you.”

Emma stood up behind me and moved around to sit down astride my legs. She lifted the washcloth and soap and began to rub them in slow circles around her breasts. My cock stood to attention, and I saw her smile as if in triumph.

I was hit by a sudden wave of doubt. The girl I had deflowered all those years ago had been a willing lover once our audience had departed, but she had shown no knowledge of the act itself, or indeed of how to encourage my desire. Yet, here she was, straddling me like a tavern whore and caressing herself for my enjoyment. I grabbed her wrist and stopped her. “Where did you learn how to do that?”

She looked at me with shock. “Wash myself? I have known how to do that since childhood.” She pulled herself out of my hold and sat down quickly at the other end of the bathtub, crossing her arms over her breasts to cover herself. “What are you asking, husband?” The last word was emphasised with a note of accusation.

I stopped myself from saying anything to make the situation any worse. The look of abject misery on Emma’s face was enough to bring me to my senses. I shook my head and looked away from her. “I don’t know. I’m sorry. It’s just that …”

There were tears beginning to run down her pretty cheeks now. “You doubt my fidelity?” She sounded incredulous, as though I had accused her of something terrible. “I … I’m sorry.” She stood up, covering herself as best she could with her arms. I watched the water stream off her lovely body as she stepped out of the bath and reached for a drying cloth. “I will ask Thomas to come and assist you. I will leave you in peace.”

I felt her grief; misery was pouring off her along with the bathwater. “Emma – please – I didn’t mean to make it sound like that. Please – don’t leave.”

She turned to look at me. “I can’t imagine how you meant it to sound, then. I have been faithful to you all these years. Can you say the same?”

I couldn’t, and the look on my face probably told her that.

“As I thought.” She wrapped the drying cloth around her and turned to face me again. “I sought simply to try to encourage you to become my husband again. That night we spent together has stayed with me all this time. I fell I love with you, and I have longed for you. I saw how you reacted to my body. That is all.” She turned and picked up her clothes before walking through the solar and leaving.

I didn’t call after her. I just sat there in my cooling bathwater like the idiot I was.

Two days later, I was sitting in the late autumn sunshine, looking over the ledgers for the Manor. Emma had stayed out of my way since the bath; I had seen her at breakfast and supper, but she had not spoken much, other than to answer the questions I asked about her welfare.

Gerald Baliol came and sat next to me on the stone bench. After a moment, he looked at me. “Danyell, I have been with you for many years, and I’ve watched you do some stupid things. But this? You are a pillicock.”

My first thought was to shout at him for insubordination. We may no longer be fighting men, but he was still my man. But he was also my friend, and I knew he was right. I was indeed a pillicock. I sighed and looked at him. “Yes. I do believe I am.”

“So, what are you going to do to put it right? You have a beautiful woman who’s just desperate to have her husband back. She’s up in the library, sobbing. And what are you doing?” He took the ledger from my hand and looked at it. “What is this?”

“It’s the accounts for the Manor.”

Gerald took a closer look at the pages covered in small, neat script. “This says you’re a rich man.”

“I am. And it’s all Emma’s doing. She is an extraordinary woman.”

He sat back and blew out a breath. “Go and talk to her. Tell her you’re sorry – for whatever it was you did to upset her.”

“I accused her of being unfaithful.”

There was a silence that seemed to stretch on and on, then finally, he spoke again. “I’m not going to comment on that because I have no idea what caused you to think it. But I know you – and I know that there was barely a night in the last nine years when you didn’t have your cock buried in some wench. You two didn’t know each other when you married. But if you were to meet her now, would you want to marry her?”

“Yes!” It came out in a rush before I had time to think about it. “Yes, I would.”

Gerald stood up and handed the ledger back to me before laying his hand on my shoulder. “Tell her that, Danyell. Go and find her and tell her just that.”

I found her in the library, just where Gerald had said she would be. When she heard the heavy, wooden door open, she looked over. And when she saw me, she quickly wiped her eyes and looked back to the leather-bound volume she was pretending to read. I walked over and sat down next to her. “What are you reading?”

She answered without looking up. “This book belonged to my mother. It is a breviary. My father gave it to her as a wedding gift.”

I looked at the brightly illuminated pages. There was an image of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel; the Annunciation. “Tis very beautiful.”

She said nothing, keeping her head down. I watched as a large, wet drop fell from her downcast eyes and landed on the vellum page.

“Emma, I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I said what I did. You have every right to be angry with me.”

“I’m not angry.” It was said so quietly that I barely heard her words.

“You’re not?”

She looked up at me then, and I could see that her eyes were rimmed with red. She had been crying for some time. “No. I’m not angry. I’m hurt and sad.”

That I had made her feel that way caused an ache to bloom in my chest. “I very much regret the way our bath ended. You gave me no cause to suspect you. And, as Gerald so kindly pointed out to me, I had no right to do so either.”

The first hint of watery smile arrived on her lips. “Gerald Baliol?”

“He called me a pillicock.”

She smiled truly then. “I would agree with that.” She looked at me for a long time; scrutinising my face. “I was faithful to you all those years.”

“I know. But I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t been. I was away for so long. And Gerald made me realise something else too.”

“What was that?”

“He asked me if I was to meet you now, would I want to marry you?”

“And what did you say to that?”

“I said yes. In fact, the word came out of my mouth before I even had a chance to think about it. You are remarkable as well as beautiful. Please say you’ll let me show you how much I mean that.”

She closed the book and laid it carefully on the reading desk in front of the bench where we were sitting. “I won’t ask you if you were faithful to me while you were fighting with Richard. I can’t believe for a moment that you were. But if you are going to be my husband, you will honour the vows we took from this day on.”

I didn’t need to think about it. I wanted the life that was within my grasp here at Fordleigh and that included the woman whose tear-stained face was tilted towards me. “You have my word.” I took her hand and raised it to my lips. “Did you really fall in love with me after just one day?”

She blushed, the pink flush spreading down her face and neck. “I did. I thought you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.”

“And what do you think now?”

She looked me up and down, scrutinising my appearance. “You need to put some more flesh on your bones. But you’re still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

I couldn’t hold back any longer; I reached for her and sealed my mouth over hers. She opened her lips with a sigh, and I plundered it with my tongue. I could feel her heartbeat where her breasts pressed against my chest. When I pulled away from the kiss, her skin was flushed again, and she shuddered as she let out the breath she’d been holding. “Will you come back to our bed this evening? I have missed you.”

I'm a lover of all things Tudor, and historical - fiction or fact. My aim is to bring together writers of all calibers to share their work with like minded people!

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