Rosalyn longed for the simple comfort of facing down a hundred screaming barbarians charging at her with swords drawn. Or marching through the Direwood Forest, black as night even at the highest noon, a brigand behind every tree. Anything to avoid spending another minute listening to these selfish old windbags and their small, petty desires.

“No, absolutely not,” was her response to the latest scheme. Once again Lord William, Duke of Ambrose, badgered her for more men and resources. A full detachment, this time.

“Come now lass,” he said, “even you must realize that the mills need to be protected.”

This had been Rosalyn Emory’s dream. Ever since she was a little girl. Ah, to sit on the Council of Arms. The greatest warriors in all the realm, nobly fighting for the safety of all the realm. What a joke. This ‘noble gathering’ was nothing more than doddering idiots and the self centered fools that thought to prey on them.

“Is that supposed to be a joke?” Rose snarled. She instantly regretted it. Already the frowns began appearing. Scowls of disapproval from her fellow councilors. That hadn’t come out the way she’d meant. The mills and granaries were important, no question about it. Yet not six months had passed since the Duke forced her to pull troops away from the estates of Count Layland. Sure enough, they’d been burnt to the ground while she was out on patrol, too even for retaliation before they escaped.

“Don’t be silly. Of course they’re important,” he chose to take her words the wrong way. Intentionally, she could see it in his eyes, but the others were swayed.

“After all, what will our people eat if raiders carry off all our grain. Again.”

“That wasn’t our fault. I mean, you shouldn’t blame us for it. I mean-”

“Are the Border Guards no longer responsible for guarding the borders? Oh dear me. I must have missed that meeting.” Rose flushed at the chuckles. She’d meant to point out that it was his machinations that had lost them those resources. The blame lay at his feet, not hers. The words just refused to come out right. She had them all mapped out in her head, arguments lined up perfectly. Yet when it came time to speak, her composure slipped and all that escaped were shallow retorts.

“Now, now, Will,” said the king, “the Lady Emory has been a fine marshal so far.”

Duke Ambrose’s expression slipped for a moment, but he composed himself so quickly that Rose doubted anyone else noticed.

“Of course, your majesty. I have nothing against the good marshal. Indeed, her talent on the battlefield is miracle enough. It was… most unkind of me to hope that she also grasp the finer points of strategy.”

There were murmurs of agreement, and the king looked pleased by the backhanded apology. Had any man dared speak that way to her father, all would have felt a duel justified. Yet even her supporters would condemn the slightest challenge as “emotional overreaction”.

Though she’d earned her position by right of inheritance and proven her fitness on the battlefield, many still cried out against a woman marshal. The king’s support had only moved that criticism behind closed doors. Even the king had misgivings. His support had come as much in memory of her father as for her own sake. Some of her critics had his ear, and none more Duke Ambrose.

“See. Isn’t that better,” said the king. “You are right, though. It’s hard enough keeping the army supplied. We can’t afford to lose those mills.”

Rosalyn seethed. Those mills were almost thirty miles from the border. What of the towns and estates that lie closer? Were they any less vulnerable? Better to meet the threat at the border and be done with it. Were she free from the meddling interference of this very council, she could defend them easily.

Yet she was not free of that meddling, and apparently never would be. The king had spoken. No matter how ill conceived this notion was, the king’s word was law. She had failed.

“Thank you, your majesty. A wise decision, as always.” Duke Ambrose said, delivering a bow towards the king. His head, however, turned just slightly towards Rose, making sure she saw his smirk.

“Good, good. I’m glad we got all that nonsense taken care of. Off with you now. Meeting adjourned. Wouldn’t want to be late to my hunt, after all.”

The councilors started to disperse. Some stayed to mingle, but most left for other business. Or pleasure. A good number of them were invited to the king’s hunt. Rosalyn started to leave as well, but a hand caught her by the elbow.

“A word, marshal,” said Duke Ambrose. The last person she wanted to speak with.

“What do you want,” she said, doing little to hide her distaste.

He towered over her, his hand seemed massive as it gripped her elbow. Huge next to her own.

She twisted from his grip. Large or not, her hands were enough to hold a sword. Enough to skewer the raiders he was practically inviting. Still, it rankled her that she had to look up in order to meet his eye.

“I thought we could meet over dinner tonight, to discuss how we might fulfill his majesty’s order.” Rosalyn felt like murder. The nerve of that man, to come gloating so soon. She was about to tell him exactly what he could do with his invitation, but he spoke first.

“Of course, if the task is too difficult for you, I would understand completely. It is rather complicated, after all. I would be more than happy to take care of all the-”

“No,” she said. There was no way she would give him any excuse to go an inch beyond the king’s order.

“No, dinner will be fine.”

He smiled, reaching out to take her hand. He started to lift it, as though to deliver a kiss to its back. None of that now, she thought as she pulled it down. He didn’t let go.

“Excellent my dear,” he said, “I’m sure it will be a most… productive discussion.”

The room spun for a minute. Rose looked into the Duke’s eyes, which almost seemed to grow. They snapped into focus, almost as though she were looking through her spyglass.

Rosalyn blinked, snapping back to the present. The Duke still held her hand, his thumb gently tracing circles along the back. What had she been about to say? Oh right, dinner.

“Of course, my lord,” she said, “I’m sure it will be. But if you’ll excuse me, I have other business to attend to.”

Perhaps this wasn’t a total lost cause, she thought as she walked away. The order was given, true, and there was nothing she could do to change that. Still, there was always room for negotiation. Perhaps there was still time to outmaneuver him, if she was clever enough.

It would take all her cunning and stratagem.

“Draw up a bath,” she told the servant when she swept into her chambers. The girl hurried to comply. Time was short, and there was much to do. This could be her last chance, and she had to be prepared.

Rosalyn was up to her neck in maps, supply routes, and quartermaster reports when the servant announced that the bath was ready. Rose thanked her and stood with a sigh. Though she hadn’t been at it long, she was glad for the distraction. It was probably just her fatigue from the vexing council meeting, but the papers were starting to give her a headache.

Everything felt better as she sank into the warm, perfumed water. Like the dirt and grime, her cares melted away into the water.

After idly soaping herself for a few minutes, Rosalyn caught herself paying particular attention to her more personal areas. Well, why not? She rarely had the opportunity to indulge. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

“Milady. The hairdresser will be arriving shortly.”

Rosalyn snapped to attention. The water was lukewarm. Had she been bathing so long? The girl left the room, and Rose turned bright red when she realized where her hands were. For a minute, Rose was tempted to continue. Though her explorations had been pleasant, relaxation had sapped all urgency. The deed was still incomplete, and all she had accomplished was to leave herself more on edge, more sensitive.

So be it. Nothing she could do about it now. Too much time had been wasted on that bath, and she still had to get ready.

Wrapped in her towel, Rosalyn pulled open the doors of her wardrobe. Though she normally preferred uniforms of a more military cut, that wasn’t what she would wear tonight. No, her usual tactics wouldn’t work here. Fortunately, Rosalyn had a plan, and that plan called for a gown.

She knew exactly which one, too. It was new, something she’d commissioned to placate her dear old mother.

Mother had always been difficult, though Rose suspected she would say the same of her. Mother had always wanted a little girl. By all accounts she’d been overjoyed when, after two sons, one finally came. She’d never forgiven Rose for preferring swords to dolls, or trousers to dresses. Nor her father for indulging it.

Then again, her mother would hardly have approved of this gown. It wasn’t the sort to please a mother.

The dress was expensive, made from sheer imported silk. The material was thin, for all its finery. Not quite transparent, but suggested much about what wasn’t shown. When the chambermaids finished lacing her in, the gown fit like a second skin, clinging tightly and highlighting her body’s every curve.

It was a good body, one Rosalyn took pride in. Not so curvy as was fashionable in court, but at least she needed no constraining corset to maintain her slim figure.

The men had certainly been interested. Not so long ago she’d had many suitors. Important ones too, even though she was a younger child with little chance at a meaningful inheritance. It wasn’t that she’d been uninterested in the prospect of marriage, either, but few persisted once she made it clear that she would abandon the battlefield for no man.

When all was ready, Rose looked into the mirror one last time. The effect was stunning. A far cry from her normal style. So Duke Ambrose had a problem with her being a woman, did he? Fine! Rosalyn would refuse to hide from it. Quite the contrary, she confront him with it from the start. Force him to accept her for who she was. If nothing else, it would put him off guard.

The tight, body hugging gown, the plunging cleavage, her dainty shoulders left bare by the off-shoulder straps of her dress, all screamed femininity in unmistakable terms. Let him deal with that.

During the entire carriage ride to his estate, Rosalyn’s head spun, giddy with anticipation at the meeting to come. Everything felt detached, abstract. Almost like the anticipation before battle, except pleasant instead of fearful. Tonight would be perfect. Her plan was genius. It would catch him totally off guard, no way he could have seen it coming.

“The Lady Rosalyn,” called the doorman as she entered. That was wrong. It was supposed to be “Marshal Emory”. Her military title took precedence. No matter. It fit perfectly into her plans. Let them announce her as a woman. Even the Duke’s careless servants were playing towards her strategy.

“Ah, you look positively enchanting, my dear,” Duke Ambrose said as he took her hand. Gently, softly, he brought it to his lips.

Ha! He was buying it. This would be easier than she’d thought. Just to be sure, Rose sank extra low during her curtsy, offering unrestricted view down the front of her dress. It worked. By the time she rose, he was openly staring at her chest.

“You look quite dashing yourself, my lord.” Ha! That ought to confuse him. Though she had to admit, it wasn’t completely untrue. After all, he wasn’t bad looking. A little older than her, true, but maturity suited him. If nothing else, he kept himself in shape. Greedy and opportunistic though he might be, he wasn’t a bad looking man.

They spoke for several more minutes. Mostly trivial niceties, though she began to admire his wit. Not that she needed any reminder, after the way she’d been outmaneuvered in the council, but it was far more charming when not used against her.

“Shall we eat?” he asked.

Good. About time they finished the chatter and got down to business. Smiling, she offered her elbow, and he took it. Rosalyn continued smiling as he led her to the dining room. It was almost sad. After such clever maneuvering in the council chamber, he was completely blindsided by her new tactics. Here he was, leading her off as though they were some couple courting, and he didn’t even realize it. How delightfully perfect. What better way to make him accept her as a woman.

The lamps were turned low in the small intimate room, leaving the candelabra on the table as the chief source of illumination. Had this been anything but a business meeting, it could almost have been called romantic.

The small table held two place settings side by side, but only one chair. Rosalyn almost laughed. That fool. She couldn’t have set him up any harder if she’d made the arrangements herself. With only one chair, protocol demanded she be allowed to sit on his lap. With their bodies so close together, it would be utterly impossible for him to ignore her femininity. This was almost too easy.

They sat, and Rose ‘accidentally’ rubbed her behind into his crotch. Subtlety was key here. Just enough to get a reaction without giving any cause to complain. As expected, he did indeed react. She could feel it through the thin fabric of her dress.

Ha! They would see how well he could negotiate with such a distraction. Finally they would be on even grounds again. If she was still aroused from her interrupted session in the bath, it was crucial that he struggle in the grips of arousal as well.

Rosalyn leaned back into her host, and soon exposed another flaw in his plan. With her on his lap, there was nowhere for his hand to go except her breast and waist. Of course, once his hands were there he wasn’t able to resist playing with them. What man could?

Tisk tisk, such amateur mistakes. He was skilled with his fingers, though, so his folly was her gain.

A servant brought out the first course, a selection of fruits and tasty looking appetizers.

“If you don’t mind, my dear,” said the Duke, gesturing towards the food. That’s right. He’d been so utterly outmaneuvered. With his hands already occupied, he couldn’t handle the food himself. He would have to rely on her.

With great delight, Rosalyn reached down to the platter and pulled out a bundle of grapes. Savoring her small triumph, she pressed in closer and began to feed him. Wrapping one hand around his neck while the other slid the fruit into his mouth. She leaned her head in closer, that she might better enjoy the occasion.

Perhaps catching on to her strategy, he was able to pull his hands away long enough to place a handful of morsels in her mouth. They were every bit as tasty as she’d imagined. Of course, she couldn’t let him pull ahead that easily. When he brought the food past her lips, she made sure to take his fingers in her mouth, sucking lightly on them as she ran her tongue across. After all, she had to show him who was in control.

“You truly are a delight,” he said between bites. “A beauty such as you was made for the bedchamber. Not playing at swords like some heathen savage. Wouldn’t you agree, my dear?”

“Oh yes, my lord,” she said, batting her eyelashes as she snuggled against him. All the better that he underestimate her. If he didn’t grasp the power of a woman in the bedchamber, then he was already doomed.

He slid the last piece of fruit past her lips. They were close together now, her cheek nestled up against his. How easy it was to find their lips locked together. Delicious, wonderful. He was practically hers.

As they kissed, his fingers slid down her neck and back until they found the ties of her dress. Perfect. Still playing into her plan. All that stood between him and her body now was that gown. With it out of the way, nothing could conceal her femininity.

His lips trailed from her mouth, little nibbles down her neck and across her shoulder. The strap slid away.

All it took was the barest of shrugs, and the dress was on the floor. She stood before him naked in all her glory. Just let him try to ignore that anymore. He wasn’t able to. How could he? No sooner was the dress discarded than he was back on her. His hands ran up her thighs, the fingers of one finding their way inside her. His head lowered to her breast, peppering it with tiny, gentle kisses.

He was hers now, and he never even realized it was happening. The best part was, now that she’d won she was free to indulge herself a little too. So while he attended to her body, she could freely explore his to her heart’s content. She paid particular attention to the hard bulge hidden by his trousers.

When the trousers were finally gone, she couldn’t resist running her hands along it. So beautiful. Soon touching wasn’t enough, she had to take a closer look.

He, of course, was so far gone that he didn’t even breath a word of protest when she dropped to her knees and moved her head in to see it more clearly. It was almost mesmerizing, she couldn’t get enough of it. How might it taste?

As wonderful as she could have imagined, yet while her head bobbed up and down its length,Rosalyn began to think of her own unfulfilled need. Her bathtime explorations were still incomplete, and she couldn’t help but remember how his finger felt as it slid inside. There was a longing, a terrible emptiness within. If only there were something that could fill it.

“Do it,” she begged, lying back on the dinner table with her legs spread apart. He was standing between them, his naked body everything she had imagined.

“Stick that big thick thing in. I need you inside me.”

Was there any question whether he would comply? Of course not. Not after the way she’d won this evening.

Rosalyn cried out in pleasure, fingers rubbing between her legs as he pushed in and out. She could feel it, just barely out of reach, and rubbed herself harder. Then she looked up, seeing the twinkle in his eyes as he grinned down at her.

Bam! That did it. The wave finally crested. Sweeping through her body, overwhelming her with pleasure as the long awaited climax hit.

Her cries only spurred him harder. Merciful god, her body was so sensitive now. The way his hands rubbed, and the way he moved inside her. It was just so good. Not long after she came down from that first climax, another hit. Then another, and another.

Finally he tensed, grunting and shuddering in release as he spent himself inside of her. How wonderful! He’d done it. He’d actually done it. Somehow, she’d been able to make him spill his seed into her womb.

Perhaps it would be productive. Nothing else could prove her point better. After all, who besides a woman could bear a man’s child?

She smiled at him, still wrapped in a daze of joy from their intense coupling. She reached up, kissing him once more. As their mouths parted, she noticed something in his hand. An odd pendant of some sort.

It was so… shiny.

He held it before her face. Rosalyn was struck by the strongest sense of deja vu. She had seen that before. Somewhere.

Rosalyn looked closer. She tried to remember. This was important. Understanding was just at the edge of her mind, tantalizingly out of reach. She had to figure it out. Had to keep staring until she remembered.

Had to keep looking.

Had to-

Rosalyn jerked awake, realizing she’d zoned out and missed what he said.

“I’m sorry, my lord. What was that?”

“Don’t worry about it, my dear. I was just commenting on our arrangement.”

“Oh, yes. Of course.”

The two were seated next to a roaring fireplace, just as they had been since dinner. It must be getting late for her attention to wander so. Truth be told, it had been an uneventful evening. Indeed, the entire dinner was little more than a blur. At least it had been productive, and they’d finally come to a working arrangement.

September 2018
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