Full Circle: The Tale of Siian and Maiandria
Book One: WINTER
By: Susanne M. Beck (SwordnQuill)
Disclaimers: The characters in this novel are of my own creation but will most definitely bear a strong resemblance to the wonderful characters created for us by RenPics and the beautiful actresses who brought them to life for us. The story itself is owned and copyrighted by yours truly (that being moi) and may not be shared without my express permission, and so forth, and such like that there stuff.
Subtext Disclaimer: Yup, theres that too. This piece deals with the love and physical expression of that love, between two adult females. There are some graphic scenes located within this piece, but I have tried to make them as tasteful as possible so as to not offend anyones sensibilities. Let me know if Ive succeeded.
Genre Disclaimer: Im taking a bit of a turn here from my usual "present day" ubers to give you one that is in the past. Way in the past. Way way in the . . .well, you get the picture. I like to think of this as a "pre" Uber. Detailing, after a fashion, the lives of Xena and Gabrielle before they were Xena and Gabrielle. Heck, sounded like a fun thing to do at the time. J
Important Pronunciation Disclaimer: The name of one of the lead characters, as noted in the title of this here piece, is Siian. The correct pronunciationfor reasons which will become evident as this novel progresses-- is "sigh-ann", better known as "Cyane".
Serialization Disclaimer: Like Topsy, this story just growed. Its hit over 300 pages and theyve just started. For this reason, Ive decided to break it up into four books, named for the seasons that they travel in. All four books will be direct sequels of one another, continuing the journeys of these women until they reach their ultimate destination. This first book, Spring, is complete, down to the last punctuation mark. I will be posting it, as I always do, in parts, one part a night until its done.
Feeback: As always is more than welcomed. You can reach me at Swordnquil@aol.com with any comments, questions, concerns and/or criticisms.
The hospice was dim, quiet, and empty of women as the three entered silently. Yanit led them past the large patient area, then past the Sheas much smaller personal quarters, and through a narrow crevice in the rock wall, which yielded yet another open space of accommodating size. Small enough to be intimate, but large enough to be able to move freely within, the area had furs liberally scattered across the floor and a small, glowing brazier near the center which gave off a calming, sweetly scented smoke.
"Please, make yourselves comfortable." Yanit gestured toward the furs as she added some powdered herbs to the brazier, bringing it back to life once again and filling the air with a pleasant scent. When she looked up from her task, she noticed her two guests still standing, staring at her with identical, intent expressions.
With effort, she summoned her brightest smile, and gestured again. "Please. Sit. We have much to discuss."
After a long, speculative moment, Siian and Maia lowered themselves as one to the fur at their feet. Their hands, still tightly clasped, rested on one of the warriors well-muscled thighs. "Out with it, Shea," Siian said in a tone that brooked no argument. "What kind of spell were those women under. And what does it have to do with us."
None of Siians words were questions, and Yanit hid a wince. She needed time to order her thoughts, but the piercing glare she was receiving from such a short distance away let her know that time was a precious commodity indeed.
Shifting a bit on the furs, she straightened her shoulders, and gave each woman an intent, measured glance before beginning her tale.
"There is a word in our language, ci. Your people," she said to Siian, "know it as Xi. And yours," she looked to Maia, "Im afraid there isnt a corresponding word in your language. The closest meaning I can give it is a sort of . . .energy . . .that flows through everything in the heavens and the earth. It has no beginning, nor does it end. It simply exists, as does all Gaia has created."
She paused a moment to observe her audience. Siians face, as usual, was stoic, not betraying any emotion. The warriors eyes, however, were bright with interest, though she well knew the concept of Xi, having immersed herself in its study for many long years of her life.
Maias eyes were shining with a hungry curiosity; her expression like that of a child seeing the world beyond his homestead for the very first time.
"Our legends tell us that once, when this world was very young, every man, woman and child commanded ci, much as they commanded their lungs to breathe and their hearts to beat. But then, as is often the way with the world, they began to impose their will upon this gift and to use it for evil purposes. Many died. Many more were condemned to a soulless, brutal existence."
Eyeing each woman in turn, she sighed. "And as also the way with the world, in their terror and desolation, people stopped blaming themselves and started blaming the gift, condemning it as demon-spawned and enacting strict laws against its use. In less than a generation, it ceased to be a force for evil or for good."
"But you still use it, dont you?" Maia asked, fascinated with the story being told.
The Shea nodded. "Yes, but as you can see, we are condemned as demons for doing so. Our covens, once large enough to span these mountains from top to bottom and back again, have dwindled to a few scattered refugees barely hanging on to our traditions. More are murdered every day, simply for using the gift our goddess has so generously and so lovingly given all of us."
"How horrible!" Maias eyes were dark with anger, but even as Yanit watchedsuppressing a smile of triumphthe anger dimmed as Siian, seemingly without thought, ran a gentle thumb against the back of the hand she so tenderly clasped.
And so it begins, the Shea thought as she looked on, feeling joy, and an odd sense of sadness as well, knowing that the birth of this nation signaled the death of her own. Not quickly perhaps, but the end was nearer to hand than it had ever been.
"It is simply the way of things," she said softly, as much to herself as to her guests. "Life is given, and it is taken away. The world turns regardless."
"Thats a very sad way of seeing things," Maia interjected, unconsciously leaning closer to the woman seated beside her.
"Is it?" Yanit smiled. "Perhaps to the young who have yet so much of life ahead of them. To me, its a rather comforting thought, to know that life will go on, even when mine has ended."
As always, Siian righted the drifting conversation. "What does any of this have to do with what happened out there?"
"Patience, warrior," Yanit chided. "All things in their time."
Siians eyes narrowed, and the Shea held up a hand. "Patience. You shall have your answers. Or as many of them as I can give to you. As the world was not built in a day, neither can this thing be understood in an instant."
Quickly ordering her thoughts, she continued the tale. "It is said that even the gods feel anger, and Gaia is no exception. When she saw how the gift she had given had been perverted and then outlawed, she vowed that never again would she be so generous with her favor. It is said that she decided, then and there, to create a new race of beings. Humans, yes, for they are her favorite creations, but more even than human. And because the male of our species perverted her gift, she would bestow her favor only upon the female. And furthermore, to ensure that her gifts would never again be used by the undeserving, she imbued each woman with a special forcemuch like the ci, but infinitely more powerful."
She met each pair of watchful eyes with a pointed steadiness, willing them to understand the importance of her message. "This energy would not flow through them, but rather from them."
Siian nodded almost instantly, her expression much like one for whom the last puzzle piece has suddenly fallen into place.
Maiandria was slightly slower to catch on, but the smile that flickered across her face told the Shea all she needed to know on the matter.
"And as you now know, you are those special beings. The Daughters of the Moon. The Daughters of Gaias heart. Like the universe itself, each of you has an infinite power within which flows from you without thought or effort. You are its beginning and its ending. It is your gift from the Great Mother, to use as you will. It is yours to control, and when you cease to exist, so too does it."
"Why us?" Maia asked finally, softly.
A smile spread across Yanits face. A full, open smile as rare on that weathered face as it would have been on Siians. "You are her blessed ones, child. There is no why about it. It simply is."
Maia returned the grin. "In other words, dont look a gift horse in the mouth, right?"
"Exactly right," the Shea replied, with a chuckle even more rare than her smile. Her hand went up again. "Im getting to the rest of it, Siian. Calm yourself."
Scowling, Siian nonetheless settled back down into the furs, then quirked a half smile at Maia when she felt the smaller woman give her shoulder a teasing nudge.
Both women turned their attention back to the now composed Shea.
"Siian, I assume you already know the answer to this, so I will ask Maiandria. Do you know what a catalyst is?""
Maias brow furrowed for a moment, then cleared. "Its something that causes something else to happen, right? Like maybe when a spark starts a forest fire?"
"Very much like that, yes." Leaning forward, she rested her elbows on her knees and looked intently at them, long, gnarled fingers steepled before her. "To understand why a catalyst is needed, you must first understand that each of you is a complete being unto yourself, with no needs which you yourselves cannot provide. In this way, you are much like a group of individual islands, surrounded on all sides by a vast sea. Alone, you, much like an island, stand little chance against a raging sea. But when islands unite to form continents, they become too powerful to be submerged, even by the largest of waves. Do you understand this?"
Both women nodded.
"Knowing this, Gaia created two souls, and placed within each a piece of her own essence. That essence lay dormant inside each young woman as she grew, existing only for the time when each piece would reunite with its other half. When reunited, the now whole essence would cause the very souls of these two women to merge together into one, and in so doing, provide the catalyst which would bring each Daughter together, linked through this special bond the two shared."
The old Shea straightened and her chin lifted proudly. "I had an inkling of this before, but now I am assured. The two of you are those women."
Ignoring the looks of stunned disbelief for the moment, she continued, needing to have this message understood above all others. "When you came together this night, that which had been broken apart was made whole once again. Your souls melded together as one, and the power of that fusion flowed out from your union, seeking out and finding every gifted woman on this earth and binding them to one another, and to you. Your binding is the catalyst. Where a large group of individual women once stood, there now stands in its place a unified whole, stronger by far than the sum of its parts. You have formed a Nation this night, with the two of you standing in its center. Two distinct bodies, who now share one soul. A soul from which all power flows."
As she wound down, Yanit steeled herself, mentally and physically, for the reaction sure to follow. The world, too, seemed to hold still on an in-drawn breath. Around them, a nation poised, waiting to be born.
Siian was the first to react, jumping fluidly to her feet and staring down at Yanit with eyes blazing in anger. "Pray that your words were a lie, Shea," she spat, before turning to leave the room.
Shaking herself from her own shocked reaction, Maia jumped to her feet. Reaching out, the very tips of her fingers brushed against Siians arm before slipping ineffectually away. "Siian! Siian, please wait!"
The warrior stopped, then turned, the full force of her unchecked anger lancing into the young woman just inches away. With an inchoate cry, Maia crumpled, falling to her knees and cradling her belly against the searing fire of Siians rage. A rage which was now, courtesy of Gaias fusion, as much within her as without.
Siian spun to the Shea. "I thought you taught her to shield!"
"Not against you, Siian," Yanit intoned calmly. "You are a part of her now. Your anger is within her. There is no shielding against that."
"Take it off then! Take it off!"
"What was done this night cannot be undone."
The warriors large, strong hands went to the hilt of her sword. "Then damn you, Shea. Damn you and damn your goddess." Her words were deathly soft; a silken purr and in them Yanit saw the end of her own life. She closed her eyes and prayed it would end swiftly.
Maia cried out again, and fell fully to the floor, retching weakly and trembling against the fury fully consuming her.
Siians eyes darted immediately to Maiandria, and her hands tightened on the sword hilt, knuckles white and bulging through her tanned flesh. Her soul was screaming in rage and her body felt an overwhelming need to lash out at something. Anything.
But that part of her where compassion lived, that part of her where Maiandria now lived, somehow managed to hold that urge in check. Her rage flared against this new constriction, and Maia, linked deeply to her, cried out again, her back arching as fresh pain lashed through her.
Slowly, deliberately, she loosened her grip, then clenched her jaw, and closed her eyes, summoning her will to battle against the fury within her.
Seconds passed with only Maias tortured gasps to mark them.
When Siians eyes opened again, they were clear, and calm, like the pristine surface of a lake at dawn, easily hiding any danger that might be lurking underneath. Very slowly, she lowered herself to her knees, and reached out, stopping just short of touching the heaving back of her companion. "Maiandria." Her voice was soft, but without inflection.
When there was no answer, she tried again. "Maiandria, its alright. It will be alright. Breathe through the pain. You can do this. Breathe and relax. Breathe and relax."
The calm voice penetrated the agony, and Maia listened, trying her best to relax her tortured muscles. Her stomach spasmed one last time, then the muscles loosened their cramping hold and she collapsed fully, groaning out her relief.
Unable to hold back her need any longer, Siian gathered the spent body into her arms and cradled the young woman against her with infinite tenderness. "Im sorry," she whispered into sweat-soaked hair. "Im so sorry."
Completely spent, Maia could do nothing but lean into the body surrounding her and allow its strength and warmth to infuse into her, steadying her heart and calming the turmoil in her soul.
For a long period of time, the two women simply rocked together in silence.
Yanit looked on, torn between needing to leave them to their privacy, and needing to stay and see this through to the end. Though the eyes that met hers over Maias bowed, blonde head were calm, the old Shea could see her death in them as easily as she could see the reflection of the brazier in the colorless irises. Her throat convulsed as she swallowed, but gathering her courage, she remained seated, waiting and praying to her goddess with a fervor shed never before felt.
With Siians strength flowing through her, Maia was able to recover more quickly than normal, and when she gathered enough energy, she lifted her head from the warriors strong chest, and looked intently at the quietly waiting Shea. "Why?" she asked softly. "You knew. Why didnt you tell us?"
"I was not entirely sure. Not until the very end. And when I was," her hand lifted, as if in supplication, then dropped back to her lap, "it was too late."
"Too late for what?" Maia asked with a sharpness to her voice that the Shea hadnt expected. "Too late to stop us from getting sucked into something beyond our knowing? Too late to figure out that we didnt even have a choice in the matter?"
"Oh, but youve always had a choice in this, Maiandria. Always. Both of you."
Gathering her strength, Maia pulled slightly away from Siian, yet still remained within the warmth of the warriors tender embrace. "Always? How can you say that, Yanit? Didnt you just finish telling us that this soul fusionor whatever youre calling itwas destined since before we were born? Where is the choice in that?"
"There is no choice in that, I agree. But there is more to it than that."
"Then please explain, because Im afraid I dont understand any of this."
Yanit looked down at her hands for a long moment, cursing inwardly at her seeming inability to bring her points across easily. "If Gaia had wished the decision to be taken from your hands, your souls would have melded together the very instant you met for the first time. And as you know, that did not happen."
"Maybe not," Maia countered, "but I felt a pull toward Siian from the start. And the energy that I felt when I grasped her hand . . .well . . .its nothing Ive felt before, or since."
"Yes," Yanit agreed, nodding, "that was the energy working within you and responding to the nearness of its mate. However, the fact remains that you and you alone are the keepers of your souls, and of the energies which reside there. Gaia merely placed the potential there. She did not force it to be fulfilled."
"And we did, apparently. How?"
The Shea examined her hands again. "In life, there are very few things which stand as separate entities, yourselves partially excluded. Even a catalyst must have a catalyst of its own to guide it forward. The spark you spoke of? The one that set off the forest fire? Could it not have simply died away, scorching nothing but the earth beneath it, unless a wind gave it strength to burn? And what caused that wind to blow across that spark at that very second in time? And what caused the event that caused the wind to blow? And so on?" She smiled. "Life is little else, Ive found, than an unbroken chain of events, one leading to another. It flows seamlessly sometimes, chaotically others, but always toward a goal we often have no way of understanding."
Voice hoarse and weary, the Shea lapsed into silence and waited for the next question to come. As she waited, she observed her listeners. Siians eyes were closed and it was quite obvious she was struggling to contain her continued anger, this time for Maiandrias sake. And as for the young empath, her eyes were deep and distant as she mulled over Yanits words.
Her eyes cleared, and she looked at the Shea, lips poised to articulate the only question she could think of asking. "If you say that everything is linked, and every catalyst has a catalyst, then what was ours? What made this thing happen now instead of before?"
Yanit smiled softly. "The easiest and most complex answer of all, Maiandria. It was love."
Brow furrowed, Maia looked back at Siian, who remained with her eyes closed, giving no visible reaction to the Sheas pronouncement. She turned back to Yanit. "Love?"
"Yes. Love was the key. Specifically, the love between the two of you. When you came together tonight, it was your love which ignited the fusion, and the rest flowed from there."
She sighed at the strange look on the young womans face. "This is a truth you must at least admit to yourselves, if not yet to one another. You must understand that the fate of your people rests on its acknowledgement. For if you deny that which exists between you, you deny your nation the strength it will need to persevere against the overwhelming odds still standing against it."
"But . . .you said that the bond between us was already in place. You told Siian yourself that what was done tonight cant be undone."
"Not in that sense, no, it cannot. But this melding can either be for good, or ill. It can be encouraged, with love and effort, to grow and flourish, or it can stagnate and never become more than what it is today. How it evolves is up to the two of you alone. Which is why I say that it is of the utmost importance that you come to some decisions between you, and as soon as it is possible to do so. Admit your truths, and your bond will deepen. Deny them, and it will stagnate. The choice is yours."
Hands on her knees, she pushed herself up to her feet, and stood looking down at them both. "I will leave you alone for the rest of the evening and will return in the morning with food, and to answer any questions that I can, and that you might have." She bowed her head slightly. "Until then, I bid you good night."
Turning, she slipped through the small crevice in the wall, leaving the two women to their much needed privacy. As she slipped into the warmth of her private quarters, she murmured a quick, heartfelt prayer to Gaia that what she had told them would be enough.
Siian loosened her hold at the same time that Maia pulled fully away. Instead of coming to her feet, however, the smaller woman simply resumed her place close by the warriors side. Their shoulders brushed gently together as Maia adjusted her seat.
A pregnant silence sat in the tiny space between them, and with each second it lingered, it seemed to grow until the entire room was filled with it, dimming even the normally cheerful sound of the glowing brazier.
Finally clearing her throat against the quiet, Maia worried at her lower lip, her eyes darting in a ceaseless line between her clenched hands and the soft fur beneath her legs. "Well," she began with a mirthless laugh, "that was certainly an . . .enlightening conversation, wasnt it?"
With continued silence as her only answer, she turned her head slightly and peeked at Siian through her lashes. The tall womans head was deeply bowed; her long raven hair hanging loose and providing an impenetrable curtain which concealed her visible emotions.
Sighing, Maia looked back down at her hands, then over at the brazier, allowing her eyes to shift out of focus until the muted red glow filled her vision. "I . . .Im . . .ah . . . ."
"No." The word, softly spoken, had the weight of the world behind it. "Dont apologize. Not to me. Youve done nothing wrong."
"You havent either."
Siians head came up then, blue eyes meeting, and blazing into Maias. "Havent I? I lashed out in anger. And to do that to anyone, especially an empath, is an unforgivable insult."
"Did you do it on purpose? Did you mean to hurt me with your anger?"
Though there was no verbal answer, Maia could see the truth in the silver-blue eyes so very close to her own.
"Then you havent done anything wrong either," she pronounced with finality. The corner of her mouth quirked up in a smile, though it was a somewhat bitter one. "After all, I was angry too. For me, because I felt like some pawn in a war I didnt even know was being waged." She laughed, almost silently, and it too was somewhat bitter. "And I was angry for you. Being tied against your will to some half grown kid who has more guts than sense."
In a blur of movement too quick for Maias eyes to follow, a searing hot hand suddenly encircled her wrist in a firm, but not painful, grip. "You are no such thing. Never say that. Never even think it."
"But I do," Maia countered, tears filling her eyes. "I feel . . .sometimes I feel like a frightened child. Like Im the only one who doesnt know whats going on and Im spending half my time just trying to catch up." Seeing Siian about to speak, she raised her free hand. "Its ok, though. Because I have friends now. People to guide me, to teach me what I need to know."
Sniffling, she used her raised hand to wipe the tears from her eyes. "Still . . . I know this isnt something you would have chosen. And for that, I am sorry."
Slowly, like the sun melting a mound of snow, Siians eyes warmed, and her grip softened, then shifted, until she was once again clasping Maiandrias hand.
Looking into those eyes, Maia felt a current of something indefinable flow through her, warming her spirit as the touch of Siians hand warmed her flesh. It was this warmth which enabled her to gather about her the scattered pieces of her courage and continue on.
"When I was here in the hospice, learning how to shield, I spent a lot of time thinking. In fact, it was one of the things Qian Xi insisted on." Smiling at Siians soft snort of commiseration, she continued. "And during that time, I came to realize several things about myself. Things that maybe I was too scared to admit before."
Looking down at their clasped hands, she absently ran the tip of her finger against side of the warriors callused index finger, blushing slightly as her courage faltered, then steadied. "Id . . .Id always been . . .attracted . . .to you. From the first time we met. When you took off your face cloth and turned to me in that shack, I thought . . .I still think . . .that you are the most beautiful person Ive ever seen. And at first I thought it was, you know, just a simple crush. Harmless." She laughed, speaking almost entirely to herself. "I mean, who wouldnt have a crush on you?"
Her blush deepened, and Siian looked on, unable to tear her eyes away, completely captivated by the young woman bearing her very soul to her. Her mind was a torrent of conflicting emotions, each begging action, and yet all she could doall she wanted to dowas to sit there and simply listen as this brave young woman spoke her heart.
"But as I sat there, alone with my thoughts, I came to realize that what I was feeling for you went far beyond a simple crush. Believe me, I tried to talk myself out of it all. I tried. But some things are meant to be, I suppose, and this is one of them."
Gathering her courage around her like a cloak, she looked up into the warriors piercing eyes. "Ive admitted it to myself, and now I need to admit it to you. Ive fallen in love with you, Siian. And I know . . .I know that its a lot to dump in your lap, but its also the truth, and one I cant hide anymore. From either of us."
Suddenly, a strong tide of emotion washed over Siian, and she knew without knowing that it was the love Maiandria felt for her entering through this bond theyd developed between them. It was as if Maias speaking of those words broke the dam around her heart and allowed the love she felt for the warrior to flood over them both.
Overwhelmed by the emotions, Siian could do little else but hold on as Maiandrias incredible love broke down the barriers around her own heart to reveal the carefully guarded truth hiding there in the darkness.
Slowly, tentatively, like a childs first steps, that truth reached out, blindly seeking, and was immediately engulfed in a warmth and a radiance that literally took the warriors breath away for a long, heart-stopping second.
Gone was the anger, and the doubt, and the worry. Gone were the dark emotions always simmering just beneath her usually calm surface, beaten down and beaten back by a love so strong and so pure that nothing else stood a chance against it.
She looked at Maiandria, her eyes bright with wonder and unshed tears. A beautiful smile spread unbidden across her face. "I know exactly how you feel."
Their lips came together with incendiary force, touching and tasting, seeking and giving. Hands moved next, soothing and stroking, trailing over uncovered flesh, raising trails of pure erotic fire in their wake. Moans were uttered, only to be swallowed as two bodies moved together in the braziers glowing light; a dance of twin souls meeting all over again for the first time.
All around the camp, those soft moans were echoed as passions sweet fire moved through them all. Those who were alone reached out and clasped a dream lover close to their breast. Those who were partnered did the same in reality, surprising themselves with this new, unexplored depth to their loving, and giving into the moment without hesitation or question.
In the confines of the hospice, the kiss deepened. Maia gasped into it as Siians warm, knowing hands brushed gently against the outsides of her covered breasts. Long fingers danced over their fullness, skimming lightly over her sensitive nipples, and flooded her with liquid heat.
A brief second of blind panic rushed through her, then was quickly gone as her body responded fully to the tender caress and the strong current of love flowing through their bond.
Siian, however, felt the panic as if borne in her own soul, and moved her hands away, slowly breaking the kiss.
"What . . .why are . . ." Confused, and not a little breathless, Maia moved forward again, seeking out the warriors soft, full lips.
"Shh," Siian countered, easily evading the searching mouth, and nuzzled into Maiandria, brushing against the younger womans silken cheek with her own. "We need to slow down."
The feel of Siians warm breath gliding across her ears caused another surge of heat to rush through Maias body, and she moaned softly in response. "If youre trying . . .to slow down . . .its not. . .not working."
Laughing softly, Siian pulled gently away, then lowered Maia carefully to her back on the thick furs.
Though the young womans eyes were dark with arousal, a quiet sort of hurt lingered there as well, pulling at the warriors heart. "Is something wrong?" Maia asked in a small voice.
Siian smiled tenderly, and grasped Maias hand, bringing it up to her lips and pressing a gentle kiss against her knuckles. "No," she whispered. "Nothings wrong at all. We just need to slow down."
"Why? I dont understand. I thought this was something we both wanted."
"It is," Siian reassured her. "And it will happen. But I also know that we both have things in our past that we must deal with before moving forward."
Maiandrias eyes narrowed.
"I felt your fear," the warrior intoned softly, pressing their joined hands to the warm flesh above her heart. "And if I could have only one wish in my life, it would be that you would never fear this."
"But I dont fear it. Because I know its you. Its us. Not . . . ," she sighed, looking briefly away, "Not my past."
Coming to lay down beside Maia, Siian propped her head up in one hand and gently trailed the fingers of the other in soothing circles on Maias arm and shoulder while looking deep into her eyes. "Whats happening between us has waited our whole lives for this moment, I believe. I dont think the goddess will mind if we wait just a little longer."
"But I dont want to wait. I want to touch you. To love you."
The warrior smiled. "You already are."
Lowering herself so that she was lying fully on the furs, Siian guided Maias hand to her face, then released her, even as her own hands reached out to gently stroke and touch the velvet skin of the woman who would be her lover.
Emboldened by the warriors actions, Maiandria allowed her own fingers to skim along Siians face, smoothing over her darkly arched brows, dusting against her soft, long lashes, brushing feather-light over her proudly chisled cheekbones and the hollows beneath them, and sliding smoothly over full, wetted lips.
Time slipped away, its passing measured only by the beating of their hearts, as each woman lovingly explored the other, taking care not to stoke the fires of passion simmering so near the surface. They fell into a shared, comforting warmth, and without even realizing it, they fell asleep in each others arms, the twin smiles on their faces seen only by the cavern walls and the gently glowing brazier.
Silent as ground mist, Yanit stepped into the small enclosure bearing two steaming bowls of porridge. Her slightly seamed face creased further in a smile as she saw the two women curled tight against one another beneath one of the furs.
The smile faded slightly as she became aware of a pair of very awake and very aware eyes tracking her every move. Nodding to the watchful warrior, she entered fully and carefully set the brimming bowls on the ground.
Casting a more or less covert look around, the Shea was surprised to find no clothing scattered over the ground. Given the rather euphoric mood of the camp this morning, shed felt sure that her two charges had fully celebrated their new bonding. Apparently, her assumption was incorrect.
As if reading her thoughts, Siian raised an almost challenging eyebrow, as if daring her to comment on what she saw . . .or rather what she didnt see.
Yanit raised her own eyebrow and maintained her silence, crossing her arms over her ample chest and remaining near the slowly cooling porridge.
The scent of food brought Maia gently awake. She stiffened for a brief instant when she became aware of warm arms wrapped around her body, then relaxed with a happy sigh upon realizing exactly who those arms belonged to, and how they came to be where they were.
She also gradually became aware that she was being watched. Not just by one, but by two sets of eyes. Grumbling softly, she shifted in Siians arms and, wiping a hand over her face, gradually sat up, blinking owlishly into the dim lighting of the cavern. "Morning, Yanit," she mumbled through an immense yawn.
"It is that," the Shea replied in a rather chipper, for her, voice. Bending down, she retrieved one of the bowls at her feet and handed it to the young empath, together with a spoon she retrieved from the folds of her robe.
Maia accepted the fare with a nod of thanks, and immediately dug in, slowing down only when she realized that she was still being stared at by those same two sets of eyes. "What? Do I have something on my face? Did I grow a third eye in my sleep?"
Chuckling softly and shaking her head, Siian eased up to a sitting position and accepted the second bowl of porridge from Yanit. Spooning the sweet grains into her mouth, she eyed the Shea. "Hows the camp this morning?"
"Remarkably . . .chipper, Id say," Yanit replied, trying very hard not to smirk.
Siians eyebrow lifted slowly. "And the reason for that would be . . . ?"
The Shea eyed the womens state of dress again and lost some of her smugness. "I had originally assumed that it was because the two of you had . . .resolved your differences."
Maias spoon froze halfway to her mouth. "What does that have to do with the price of tea in Chin?"
Yanit cleared her throat and looked to Siian. Seeing she was going to get no help from that quarter, she returned her attention back to Maiandria. "The bond between you is very strong, and will only grow in strength as time passes. It also links you to the rest of your sisters in a way that wasnt there before. Strong . . .passions . . .shared between the two of you are felt, at some level, by the rest of your sisters because of this link."
Maia blinked. Then her jaw dropped open as a scarlet flush rose from her breasts, up her neck, and over her face and ears. "Please," she choked, "please tell me youre joking."
"Would that I were."
Dropping her bowl and spoon to the ground, Maia covered her flaming face with both hands. "By the goddess."
Reaching out, Siian laid a warm hand on Maias bowed back and rubbed soothing circles onto the chilled flesh while glaring at Yanit with enough intensity to fell a stag at fifty paces.
At a loss, Yanit gave a weak shrug.
"We didnt even do anything," Maia mumbled into her hands. "I mean, what happens when . . .if . . .we actually do . . .something?"
"Your sisters have no way of knowing that these feelings are stemming from the two of you," Yanit gently corrected. "These feelings, these . . .impulses, come from within their own hearts. There is no difference."
"But there is," Maia countered, taking her hands away from her face. "Theres all the difference in the world, because we are the cause of those feelings. I mean, love is one thing. And expression of that love is one thing. But what if . . .what if we were to get angry with one another? What would happen then? The entire camp would become angry, because of us. Cant you see how wrong that is?"
Yanit nodded, finally understanding the cause of Maias angst. "Everything we were taught from your ancestors leads us to believe that this hyper-awareness will fade with time as your sisters become used to the bond. There is nothing to fear."
"Well I am fearing it, if its all the same to you. I dont like knowing that Im manipulating someone elses emotions, whether Im meaning to or not."
"I can understand your concern, though I feel it is groundless. As I said, this new awareness between yourselves and your sisters will fade into the background with time. However, it might be a good idea for the two of you to perhaps work together to erect some sort of shield until that happens."
Maia looked thoughtful. "Will that . . .do you think it will work?"
"Dont see why not," Siian answered with a small shrug.
"And you wouldnt mind . . . ."
The warrior smiled and grasped Maias hand. "Not at all."
Releasing a long held breath in relief, Yanit collected the now empty bowls. "I shall leave the two of you to work this out, then. My only request is that you stay together as much as possible over the next several days. It will give your bonding time to settle and strengthen. Ill be back with the evening meal. If you have any questions of me before then, call out. I wont be far away."
When both women nodded their understanding, the Shea gave a short bow, and then exited the small room, bowls in hand.
To Be Continued - Part 8
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