Authors: Evie North
Copyright © 2013, Evie North
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GOLDEN LION by EVIE NORTH
(KNIGHTS OF PASSION SERIES 2)
The fever made him burn. Some days he was in hell, on fire, and on others he shivered as if he was in the frozen wastes of the north. Some days, like this one, he felt better. The injury to his head had been so bad that he despaired of surviving at all, and they still didn’t know if he would live or die.
He opened his eyes and saw the blazing sun in a sky so blue it was beyond description.
And then he blinked and he was inside a dimly lit room, in a soft bed with a scented candle burning and a woman’s gentle hand bathing his brow.
“The fighting?” he said, ready to rise up and pick up his sword and stand with his men against the enemy.
“Hush, you are safe. Sleep now.”
He turned his face away from the cool cloth, trying to remember. There were flashes, moments, where he was
in the desert, injured and dying, and then he was lying aboard a sailing ship, being tended by the ship’s doctor, and at other times he was in a cart being taken home through the English countryside.
Or was all that a dream
“I will tell you a story,
The woman’s voice was soft and clear, but he did not recognise it
nor the name she called him.
“What is my name, wench?” he demanded roughly.
The cloth again, cooling his hot brow. “Sir Garrick Morrance is your name. You are a brave knight. You went with King Richard on his Crusade.”
“Yes.” The memory was fleeting but he saw the king, ruddy haired like his father, more French than English. He saw the
crusaders with their white surcoats decorated with their red crosses, and he remembered how long was the journey to the Holy Land.
So much death and devastation. There had been little glory, and in the end, not much victory either. Richard had made a truce and then they had begun the march home again.
For a time Garrick and his men had stayed in a palace, a grand palace. Was that when it happened? The attack that left him injured and damaged?
“Let me tell you a story,” the woman said again.
“Yes,” he whispered. Anything to turn his mind from the constant seeking for answers that were not there. He fixed his gaze on her, his eyes clouded with fever and pain. “Tell me a story, wench.”
“There was a woman called Batilda . . .”
Batilda looked out through the
intricately carved screen that shielded her from the hot sun and the outside world. She was a prisoner in the palace of Aghar, a self-styled Sultan, who lived in a land not far from Cyprus. She had been here since she was very young and the ship in which she travelled with her parents struck the rocky coast. She was sold, as were all those who survived, and it was Aghar who bought her.
Aghar’s origins were unknown
. The general belief was that he came from somewhere further east but he had set up his kingdom with money which was said to have come from a wealthy prince, money he had stolen when he was the prince’s adviser. He had stolen other things as well, objects that were rumoured to be magic.
the years went by and Batilda grew into a beautiful woman she drew Aghar’s eye and he took her into his bed. At first this was new and strange, and Aghar touched her body in ways that made her cry out with pleasure before he entered her and took his own pleasure. But then he found a new girl to initiate and she was sent back to the harem. After once being the special one it was now difficult to be ignored and she became lonely and unhappy.
She hoped he would let her go and she even begged him to free her so that she could go home, but he
laughed at her and refused.
Once you are part of my harem,” he said, “then you are here forever.”
And so the days passed and then the years passed and Batilda was
still a prisoner in the sumptuous harem.
he discovered something that set her free. At least, temporarily.
, being curious and intrepid, had a habit of going into corners of the palace where she should not be. One day she wandered into a room that was usually kept locked. It was the room where it was whispered that the magic objects were kept, but on this occasion the careless guard had left the door open.
She saw a golden
orb with jewelled patterns on it, and some pieces of bone in a velvet lined casket, and a few other strange things she did not recognise. And then she saw an old roughly woven cloak with embroidered symbols on it.
Thinking that this could not possibly be anything important she
picked it up and swung it around her, wrinkling her nose at the strange musky smell of the cloth. Just then the guard came from a room next door, and Batilda knew she would be punished for being in here. She stared at him with wide eyes, waiting for him to shout at her, to drag her before the Sultan.
But he didn’t.
He didn’t even look at her.
It was as if he could not see her,
although she was standing right in front of him. After a moment he went out again, and from the voices and laughter and then the groans of passion, she realised he had a woman in the other room and that was why he was neglecting his duties.
removed the cloak and set it aside and then she crept back to the harem.
The event puzzled her but after
some time she understood what had happened. It was the cloak that stopped the guard from seeing her! It must be. And it also solved another puzzle.
For some time t
he women of the harem had claimed there was a ghost that came to them in the night. Often they would awaken to the sensation of someone touching them, only to find there was no one there. In fact, Batilda herself had once seen the woman beside her, half naked in the heat, moaning as invisible hands caressed her breasts. She could actually see the flesh being depressed by those ghostly fingers, and it had frightened her and made her determined always to wear all her clothes at night, even if it was unbearably hot.
Could the ‘ghost’ have been
a mortal man wearing the cloak? And could the cloak have the power to make that mortal man invisible while he wore it?
t so happened that Batilda was able to test her theory the next night, for as she lay half asleep in the harem she became aware that one of the other women was sighing, and then moaning. Carefully, Batilda rolled over and lifted her head so that she could see what was going on.
Several feet away from her, o
ne of the harem women lay naked upon her bed, and it seemed to Batilda that her flesh really was being touched by ghostly hands. First her breasts began rippling as if someone or something ran their fingers over the fleshy curves, and then her nipples were tweaked into firm peaks. She could see the skin on the woman’s stomach being stroked and then her mound, and then suddenly her outer lips were being pressed open. The little bead began to move about and Batilda stifled a giggle.
The woman moaned loudly, arching her body toward the intruder’s busy hands, and
a moment later she cried out as her climax came. The next moment she was sitting up, eyes wide, shrieking about the ghost.
Batilda heard footsteps moving by her and quickly put her leg out. She felt some
thing strike her shin and then there was a grunt and a tumbling sound as the invisible person fell. A moment later she heard him get up and run for the door.
She smiled to herself. Whoever it was, and she was pretty certain it was the randy guard, would return the cloak
to the locked room. But now she knew its powers Batilda was determined to use it for herself. Suddenly the world outside her sumptuous prison had opened up to her and with a little bit of planning and luck she could escape.
It wasn’t difficult.
The next time she went wandering she bribed one of the slave girls to tempt the guard away. She waited until the girl was kneeling before him in the other room, her mouth filled with his cock, and he was too far gone to notice Batilda as she quickly snatched up the cloak, put it on, and walked boldly out of the palace.
Her heart was beating fast but no one stopped her
because as difficult as it was to believe, no one could see her.
hat day was the best she had ever known. She visited the markets and ran her hands over the fine rolls of cloth and breathed in the scent of the spices, and finally she stood on the dock and looked out to sea and thought about climbing aboard a ship and setting sail.
But where would she go? It was so long since she
had been taken into the harem that she no longer remembered where she came from or who she belonged to. At least inside the Palace she was fed and cared for and she was safe. It was still a prison, however, and she’d hoped that one day she might find the courage to escape. And now she had the means to do so.
“She could go wherever she wished and no one could see her?” Garrick said sleepily. His eyes were closing.
“That’s right. She was invisible when she was wearing the magic cloak.”
She watched him as he slept, knowing he was dreaming of Batilda.
She lay down herself and closed her own eyes, and prayed that tomorrow he would be a little better.
“So of what use to her was the invisible cloak if she was still a prisoner in the harem?” Garrick said, as soon as she entered the room the next morning. He was awake and he had been thinking about her story.
She smiled. “We are coming to that, Garrick.”
He settled down and waited for her to begin.
“One day she
saw a golden lion . . .”
A golden lion? Were there wild beasts there in the palace?”
“The golden lion was what she called him
to herself, but he was an English lion, really.”
“An English lion?”
“Hush, Garrick. Let me tell the story.”
standing in the inner courtyard, walking with the Sultan’s adviser, and they paused by the fountain, with its cool water and flower petals floating on the surface. He looked up toward the carved screen where Batilda was watching him.
He was glorious.
Tall and broad shouldered, with golden hair and blue eyes, and dressed in fine clothing.
Her body, which was no longer innocent of course, grew warm and desire filled her.
Before she had pretended at being lustful, for the Sultan’s pleasure, but she had never really felt lust. She had never really felt love. Not for any man. But at that moment, gazing down at the golden English lion, how she wanted him!
But she was in the Sultan’s harem
, and she could not look at another man. It was not allowed and she knew that to do so would be to risk her life, and yet the vision of this man took root in her mind and her heart, and she determined that whatever the risk she would have him.
It so happened that the Sultan
wanted a feast for his English guests, who had been stranded on his shores when their ship was wrecked on their way home from the Holy Land. The night of the feast he commanded some of his women to dance. Perhaps it was because the Sultan wanted to show the Englishmen how lucky he was to have so many wives, or perhaps he genuinely wanted to please, one never knew with Aghar, but whatever the reason Batilda made certain she was one of the dancers.
She was good at dancing.
The music seemed to creep into her blood and bones, and she moved sensuously to the sounds. Tonight, she knew that the golden lion would be watching her and she was determined to dance even better than usual so that she could capture him.
costume was made up of a number of silken veils in pale colours, and with the sinuous movements of the dance, her flesh was revealed tantalisingly and then the veils were cast aside as the dance grew more intense. Not all of the veils of course, but enough to cause the men to wish they could take the dancing women to their beds.
Batilda danced as she had never danced before, turning and spinning,
her hips gyrating, her long dark hair tumbling about her, her eyes flashing over the silken veil across the lower half of her face. Her shapely legs and arms moved with the rhythm of the drums and the pipes, and she swayed and circled, faster and faster as the music grew frantic. And then she fell to the floor, her hands stretched out before her in supplication, her face upturned, her eyes on him.
And he was watching her,
her gaze fastened on her as if he had never seen anyone as fascinating and as beautiful.
up, her breasts heaving, their rounded shape barely covered now, her nipples hard with excitement. Perspiration made her skin shine and the veil that lay between her legs was damp enough to outline her shape to any who looked. Her hairless mound, the swollen lips of her sex. She may as well have been naked.
The Sultan was smiling but there was a glitter to his eyes that she knew meant he would
call for her tonight. And then she saw the golden lion lean toward him and ask him something, and the Sultan’s shake of the head. And then he asked again, more insistently, and again the Sultan shook his head, and this time he was adamant.