The Wolf and the Dove

By: Kathleen E. Woodiwis

“Nay, nay, my dove.” He grinned and reached out, giving the rope a tug, pulling her sprawling to her hands and knees. She stayed there, gasping with pain and frustration but raised her head to glare her hatred. With a half snarl upon her face and her long hair tumbled, glowing with reddish gold lights, she seemed again as some feral beast crouched wild to do him battle. There was a quickening in his loins and a yearning for her grew with every moment. His eyes darkened.

“Aah, no dove at all,” he murmured huskily. “But a vixen, all in truth. If you will not come to me, then I must come to you.”

He rose from the bed, and Aislinn gasped, for he stood there before her bold as a man can be. He strode forward, desire burning in his eyes and a half smile playing on his lips. Aislinn straightened and backed away cautiously. An icy riverlet of fear ran along her spine and cold trickles spread through her body until her breath came fast and ragged, almost in a sob. She wanted to scream, to cry out her terror much as Hlynn had done. She felt the burgeoning wail congeal in her throat, and she fought the suffocating dread of utter hopelessness. Still he stalked her, the same evil leer twisting his lips, the same bold, unblinking hawk-like stare eating of her every move until the tight rope brought her in a circle against the foot of the bed and she could retreat no further. Her limbs hung like leaden weights and refused to obey her will. The shadows blurred behind him, and the handsome, cruel face filled her vision. In the flickering firelight his long, lean body seemed lightly furred. The panic rose and choked her until she could barely breathe. He reached out a hand and laid it against her breast, and with a cry Aislinn twisted away, but he held her and pressed forward until they tumbled onto the furs spread upon the bed. She was caught, pinned beneath him. The room swam before her, and his voice was oddly muffled in her ear.

“You are mine, damoiselle.” His words sounded slurred and indistinct He brushed his face against the slim column of her throat and his breath, hot and heavy against her flesh, seemed to sear her to the bone. His mouth caressed her breast as he muttered again. “You are mine. I am your master.”

Aislinn could not move. She was in his power and she ceased to care. His face swam close before hers, her vision blurred. The weight of his naked body pressed her down deeper into the furs. It would soon be over—

Maida gazed down at the entwined couple now silent and still. She threw her head back and let her laughter override the waves of merriment from the hall. The peal of a hungry wolf rent the night and the two sounds were mingled. Below in the great hall, the rowdy invaders were silenced as a chill spread its cold fingers up their sturdy backs. Some crossed themselves, never hearing the like before, and others, thinking of Wulfgar’s rage, thought he had already come.

Aislinn woke slowly, hearing her name called from what seemed a long distance away. She struggled to awareness and pushed at the heavy weight across her bosom. The Norman stirred beside her and rolled away, freeing her from the dreadful burden of his arm. In slumber Ragnor’s face seemed innocent, the violence and hatred hidden behind the mask of sleep. But as she gazed down at him, Aislinn sneered her contempt, loathing him for what he had done to her, remembering too well his hands upon her body, his hardened frame pressing her down into the furs. She shook her head in distraction, knowing now she must worry that she would bear him a child. Oh, God forbid!

“Aislinn,” came the voice again, and she turned to see her mother standing beside the bed, wringing her thin hands in a fearful worry.

“We must hurry. We’ve not much time.” Maida pushed a woolen gunna at her daughter. “We must leave now while the sentry still sleeps. Make haste, daughter, I pray.”

Aislinn heard the whimper of terror in her mother’s voice, yet no emotion stirred within her own bosom. She was numb to all feeling.

“If we are to escape, we must hasten,” Maida urged pleadingly. “Come, before they all wake. For once think of our safety.”

Aislinn struggled from the bed, tired and bruised, and pulled the gunna over her head, unmindful of the prickly texture of the woolen material without the familiar kirtle beneath. Afraid she would rouse the Norman, she cast an uneasy glance over her shoulder. But he slept on undisturbed. Oh, she thought, how pleasant his dreams must be for him to rest so serenely. No doubt his victory on her had sweetened them considerably.

Aislinn whirled and went to stand at the window, flinging the shutters open with an impatient movement. In the sharp white light of the dawning sun, she appeared pale and wan, seeming as fragile and delicate as the morning mist rising from the swamps beyond. She began gathering her hair, raking knots from it with her fingers. But the memory of Ragnor’s long, brown fingers thrust through it, hurting her, forcing her to bend to his will, made her stop abruptly. She whipped the heavy swirling mass forward over her shoulder, letting it tumble loosely down over her bosom to her thighs and strode across the room.

“Nay, Mother,” she said in firm decision. “We will not flee today. Not while the honored dead lay prey to the ravens and wolves.”

With purposeful strides, Aislinn left the room, leaving the old woman to trail behind in helpless frustration. Scrambling in her wake to the hall below, Maida stepped gingerly over the snoring Normans sprawled carelessly in drunken slumber upon the floor.