Fiona Macpherson, a lady in waiting, looked up from the brightly plumaged bird she was embroidering. “Everyone knows strange things happen in forests.”
“Especially this one,” Cecilia said darkly, “the Forest of Ettrick is an awful chancy place.”
“What sort of strange things?” Lady Margaret was ready to be beguiled.
Fiona said in a low voice, “Did you know that near here there’s a well guarded by an Elfin knight?”
Moira crossed herself, fearful yet deliciously intrigued. “Why does he guard the well?”
Fiona leaned forward and whispered, “The roses that grow round the well have magic powers for women. But don’t even think about picking one – ’tis said a terrible fate befalls any maid who does so.”
Moira’s eyes were round with interest. “What fate?”
“He takes a forfeit!” Fiona said.
“What forfeit?” Cecilia’s eyes were wide.
“Can you not guess?”
“Not that?” Cecilia was shocked.
“Yes,” said Fiona, “that! He casts a spell and takes her maidenhead!”
“Margaret’s heart beat even faster. “How did you learn of this?”
Fiona said, “My waiting woman had it from an old crone who comes to the kitchens for broken meats and tells tales by the fire.”
“And what would a maiden get by picking the roses if the Elfin knight didn’t stop her?” Cecilia asked.
“Her heart’s desire, of course: beauty, riches or a handsome lover. I’d choose the lover, every time.”
Margaret thought the others must be able to hear her heart beating, it seemed so loud to her. “Did the old crone say where this well can be found?”
“Aye, in Charters Wood, but to get your wish you must go there at dusk.”
“We’ll not be going then,” Moira said, “No sensible girl would dare to go there in the gloaming; she’d be in danger from wolves, wild boar and the outlaws who roam the forest.”
“Meggie would dare,” said Cecilia. “She’s brave enough to ride alone and to defy an Elfin knight.”
“I wonder what he’s like?” Moira mused.
“Handsome, I’ll warrant. Have you ever noticed that everything desirable is forbidden to women?” Fiona said bitterly.
“You would dare to go, wouldn’t you, Meggie?” persisted Cecilia.
Margaret laughed shakily. “I might if I’d a mind to, but I doubt I’ll be seeking the Elfin knight.” She crossed her fingers under her embroidery.
The next day, the weather improved. In the afternoon, Margaret pretended to have a headache and retired to her chamber. She swore her servant Janet to secrecy and bade the girl to dress her in her best green riding gown. She made Janet brush her long auburn hair until it shone.
“Don’t braid it,” she said,”put that gold filet on my brow and leave my hair loose.” She took her dark frieze cloak from Janet, put up the hood to cover the glint of gold and wrapped herself in the cloak’s anonymity. She paused at the door.
“Mind now, Janet, you’re not to let anyone in my chamber whatever happens, not even the Earl himself. You’re to say I’m sleeping and cannot be disturbed.”
She slipped out of the castle and across to the stables unobserved. Once again, young Jockie Scott took Margaret into the Ettrick Valley and pointed out the edge of Charters Wood. She dismounted and handed him her reins. “Wait for me whatever happens and however long I’m gone,” she commanded.
The dark forbidding trees in the gathering dusk gave Margaret a feeling of foreboding: once she slipped between the trees she would be committed. But to what? Remembering Fiona’s tale she shivered.
The grass and moss underfoot were wet with evening dew; long shadows fell across her path. As the dying sun slipped below the horizon, the trees were stark black against its crimson glow. An owl hunting early flapped out of a tree startling her and making her heart race. She calmed herself and pressed on deeper into the wood. At last, she came upon the well standing in a glade, encircled by a low stone wall. Over it arched an iron hoop wreathed in roses.
The light was going fast as Margaret, her heartbeat like thunder in her ears, stepped forward. Boldly she snapped the stem of a rose and held the crimson blossom before her like a talisman.
A shiver ran down her spine and the hairs on the back of her neck rose as she heard the sound of hooves and the chink of a bridle. Through the trees came a silvery horse that looked as if it had bathed in moonbeams. Astride the horse was the handsomest man she had ever seen, sitting tall in the saddle, his long legs encased in fine leather boots. His shoulders were broad, his tanned face framed with blue-black hair. Wide grey eyes looked at her sternly.
“Why did you pick my rose?” His voice was deep and cultured.
Margaret was trembling but she returned his look with a haughty stare. “Yours sir? Who are you to claim them yours?”
“I am Tamlyn, knight of the Queen of Darkness, guardian of the well.”
Margaret, daughter of an Earl, straight backed, chin in the air matched his arrogance. “The Forest belongs to the King of Scots: the roses are no more yours or your queen’s than they are mine – Lady Margaret Dunbar.”
He dismounted lightly, threw his reins over a branch and came to stand insolently close, looking down at her. “They do belong to my mistress, pretty lady, because they are magic. Did you pick a rose to have a wish granted?” There was amusement in his voice. “And what was the wish?”
Margaret sensed that he knew her wish and that he was only too willing to make it come true. This infuriated her: faery or mortal he was male and like every man she knew, arrogant. He would not take her easily like a village girl. She would not stay and bandy words with him. She tried to turn and leave but she couldn’t move: her feet were stuck fast as if she were caught in quicksand. When Tamlyn, who had been watching her closely, laughed at her struggle, she lost her temper.
“This is your doing! Release me at once!” she cried, beating with angry fists against his chest.
Tamlyn grinned, he put out a hand and stroked her russet hair. “Ask nicely little fox.”
“I’ll not say ‘please’ to you!”
“Then here you’ll stay , young vixen.” Still laughing he began to walk towards the moonbeam horse.
At the thought of being left alone in the darkening wood, Margaret’s defiance collapsed. “Wait! Please, sir knight, release me.”
As soon as she said ‘please’, he plucked a white rose and handed it to her. When she touched it, the spell broke and she could move again.
Tamlyn looked down, smiling into her eyes. “You are free to leave.” He moved closer until their bodies were touching.
Margaret’s knees were weak, she had no desire to go, she desired only him.
As if he could read her thoughts, Tamlyn picked her up and carried her to a bower among the trees where he laid her on a bed of bracken.
“You’re beautiful,” he said sitting down beside her and taking her in his arms. As he covered her mouth with his, her eyes closed. This was bliss, she savoured his touch and her lips parted as the kiss deepened.
“Your mouth is warm, your tongue is sweet: you’re mortal!” she murmured in wonder when his mouth moved from her lips to her ear and he began to nuzzle it.
He laughed and spoke softly and intimately. “As warm and mortal as you, my lady, as you shall see.” He unlaced her gown and slid his hands over her body, finding all the secret pleasure spots upon which he lingered, giving her sensual enjoyment so intense that she could hardly breathe. Dexterously he removed his clothes and lay naked upon her, flesh on flesh. “Shall I make you mine?” he whispered.
“Yes!” Margaret felt as if she were a harp expertly played by a master harper. Never had she wanted anything so much. She held him close and pressed her lips to his, tasting his sweetness.
The consummation surpassed anything she had imagined. As he thrust deep into her body, moving rhythmically, she felt as if she were flying like a bird, gliding through water like a swan and dancing like a firefly on the marsh. She clung to him, she a limpet and he a rock: never did she want to let him go. At last, delirious with delight, she reached the final chord, then lay at peace in his arms.
“So, Lady Margaret, you’re mine now – now and forever.” He covered her face with gentle kisses like a butterfly alighting on a flower.
“If only it were so,” she said sadly, reluctantly rolling away from him and reaching for her gown, “I am to marry Sir Nigel Douglas and you – did you not say you belong to your queen?”
Slowly Margaret put on her gown and turned for him to lace it. He said nothing as he did so, then he dressed himself. It was nearly dark now but still light enough for Margaret to see that he was frowning.
“I spoke the truth when I said I was as mortal as you. I am called Elfin knight but I promise you I am mortal. I was lured away from human haunts by the Queen when I was just a boy. I’ve served her since, guarding the well, claiming forfeits from maidens who pluck roses.”
Margaret felt a stab of jealousy. “Was that a forfeit you took from me?”
His smile was loving. “You know it wasn’t. The moment I saw you I fell in love, even as you did. Can you deny it?”
She shook her head. “Why don’t you leave the Queen and come back to the real world?”
“Would that I could but she has cast spells to hold me in thrall.”
“Can these spells not be broken?”
He shrugged then smiled. “Why don’t you leave the world and come and live with me?”
She sighed. “I too am bound, I have to do my father’s bidding: I owe him that. I love you, Tamlyn, but our case is hopeless!”
He lifted her to her feet and enfolded her in his arms, her head against his heart. “I love you, sweet Meggie; we have to be together. We will find a way.” He kissed her lingeringly, “When will I see you again?”
She clung to him, not wanting the glory to end. “I’ll come if I can.” Margaret wished it were true: she did not expect she would ever see him again for her wish had only been to know true love once and that had been granted.
Taking a last, long look at the man she knew she would love forever, she tore herself away and ran through the wood to the place where Jockie was patiently waiting to take her home.
I want to share some posts which also have a historical erotica theme:
Lascivious Lucy : Iron – in which a blacksmith is attracted to a faery
: Salem’s Charity – a series set in Salem about a young, scandalous witch
Cousin Pons : The Handkerchief – a story which inspired by a work of art and the model who sat for the artist
: The Shoemaker – recounting a cobbler’s passion for a refined lady
May Moore : Craving Absolution – a two part series (for which Cousin Pons wrote the male PoV and May reciprocated with the female) which features an unhappily married lady and a gentleman who offers her absolution while yearning to assisting her sin.
Cara Thereon : She’d Learned a Lot from Books – a series featuring young lovers who slip into kinky scenarios depicted in books.
A further extract from Emma Payne – my guest blogger’s book is Here. It was inspired by a traditional folk tale about Tam Lin or Tamlyn.
This piece is linked up to #WickedWednesday for the prompt Medieval – why not see what others have shared.