She loved her wife so much that it was easy for Niketa to forget that Laurel came from a very different place, with ideas and concepts that Niketa's mind simply refused to fathom. It was only times like this, when the odd rituals of the diminutive female knight proved the vast difference that her brain opened up to the realization that her wife hailed from a strange place indeed.
Where Laurel came from being a knight was a very solemn, sometimes bordering dour, as well as a deeply religious thing. Honour was nearly everything, coming only after religion and loyalty. As a woman, she had been thought of as a second class citizen and had to work extra hard to prove herself as deserving person, and had to work a hundred times that hard to prove herself a worthy knight. She had given up much, when she had chosen to stay in this realm, including many of the beliefs that had been ingrained into her from birth. She was finally able to admit her 'shame' of being attracted to women and find a mate with whom she could be happy spending the rest of her life. She had slowly come to accept the idea that in this place she was considered an equal with all knights, no matter their gender, race, or species, until she proved herself lesser or greater in game, shame, or battle. There were still some things she never gave up, when she started her new life in this new place. Such as her dedication to work hard and forever improve herself, as a person and in skill. Many of her rituals, no matter how ridiculous they seemed to Niketa, remained, also. Including the one she was performing now.
Since Dawn the day before, Laurel had been standing facing the direction the sun had raised. Her legs were apart, squared with her shoulders, the knees bent ever so slightly, because locked knees for too long caused dizziness. Her head tilted upward, toward the sky. She held her arms our from her body, at what would be a right angle, save for the slight bend of her elbows, her hands open, palms upward. Her joints remained relaxed, despite nearly every muscle in her carefully toned and honed body being taut. Occasionally, she would sway ever so slightly, barely even bringing a sound from the heavy metal and stiff leather of her armour. However, for the most part, she stood stark still, eyes closed, face blank of expression. Nikita had to squint to be sure her beloved was still breathing.
A grey blush of light began to barely lighten the dark sky, near their forest home. The pre-dawn cast its eerie hue on the land, slowly growing brighter as the sun grew closer to the edge of the horizon. Nikita shivered, the slight glow of light seeming to bring a chill with it, and she wrapped the blanket around herself tighter. Her hair was still disheveled from sleep, body telling her to just crawl back into the bed. She had gone about her normal activities for most of the day, just as Laurel had requested, but in the night, she missed her wife and worried at her standing in the open, dark forest alone, and in such a deep trance, so she had spent much of the night standing in the doorway guarding her wife. At some point, she had lain down on the porch and drifted off to sleep. She woke with a start a few hours later and resumed her vigil.
The sun burst over the horizon, cladding the land in a golden light, spotted and striped with deep forest shadows. A long sharp gasp, resounded from Laurel, as her slowed, steady breathing, rushed back to normal, forcing air rapidly into her lungs. Just as she had warned Nikita, Laurel fell to her knees and immediately was overwhelmed with violent shaking. The strong warrior woman's first reaction was to rush to her and help her into the house, but Laurel had also warned her not to touch her until she had made her way into the house on her own.
Laurel's eyes darted around, as if she was unsure of where she was. The ritual had not only been a test of body, but as near Niketa could understand it, a vision quest of the mind. There was no telling where Laurel's mind had been just before the dawn had brought it shattering back to her body. Despite the shaking that racked her body, Lady Laurel Duval, former knight of the third degree, under the crown of the Cordelon, Order of the Scarlet Rose, now Knight of the 7th degree, Royal Guard under the crown of Darkon, Order of Iron Wolfe, pulled herself up and walked of her own volition into her home. As soon as she crossed the threshold, Niketa was allowed to aid her if she wanted.
The Warrior dropped the blanket where she stood and rushed to her wife's side. Laurel's shaky hand was trying to remove the armour. Niketa gently placed her hand over Laurel's, as she pressed lightly against the other woman's back, a tender shush issuing from her lips. Laurel let her hand drop, allowing her life's mate to cater to her. It had been another of the things she had to force herself to learn to do. She was not used to giving up any control of herself, but it was just as important to Niketa to be able to take care of Laurel, as it was for Laurel to take care of the beautiful warrior woman, with whom she had chosen to spend eternity.
Deft hands worked buckles, laces and latches, quickly removing plate mail, chain mail, leather, and under padding., leaving Laurel feeling as if she were suddenly too light to hold herself up. Strong arms wrapped around her, pressing her sweat soaked clothes against flesh that was chilled to the bone, from the cool winter weather.
The tall, muscular woman easily swept the seemingly delicate and petite knight into her arms, cradling her like a child, as she walked her over to the bed. Lovingly, tenderly she shifted Laurel against her body, holding her easily with one arm, as her other arm, swept the covers back, and moved the bed warmer out of the way. Laying her wife on the bed, she reached over to lift one of the clean rags she had ready. Dipping it in a bowl of water, she then put it to Laurel's lips. Her lady had not eaten nor drank, for the duration of her ritual trance, and Niketa did not want to put too much into her at once, and cause her stomach to cramp.
She left Laurel long enough to retrieve the kettle of hot water that was always kept going on the stove, and poured it into the basin of cool water, until it was a satisfying warmth. Carefully she removed, Laurel's clothes, tossing them aside, then gently used the other clean rag she had set aside and the warm water to wipe the sweat off of the porcelain-esc skin. She tried not to let her hands linger over the scars, as she often did when they were curled up together after making love. As delicate and frail as Laurel might appear to most, she was a mighty fighter, and the many scars on her body were a testament to how hard she worked, how far she had come to prove herself worthy of her title of knight, and just how brave she truly was. Many may shy away from the sight or feel of a scar, but to Niketa, it was just evidence to one of the multitude of reasons she loved her brown-eyed lady.
A frown creased Niketa's brow, as she made the decision to leave Laurel's pleated hair unwashed until the smaller woman was feeling stronger. Even underneath the sour smell of the sweat, Niketa could still smell the sweet rose and vanilla of Laurel's shampoo, tinged with the natural aroma of her body. As she set the rag aside, she could feel herself getting aroused, simply from Laurel's nearness, and the familiar and enchanting smell of her. She dried her hands thoroughly then warmed them on the rapidly cooling bed warmer. Placing some liniment and oil on her hands, she rubbed them together to warm it, and then began massaging Laurel's cool flesh. Slowly tight, knotted muscles began to relax, and the shaking started to ease some. Niketa had started at Laurel's feet and worked her way up every inch of her body, taking extra special care at the more severe knots. By the time Niketa reached Laurel's neck, a small hand reached up to stop her, and brown eyes met her eyes with loving passion.
Laurel pulled her down beside her in the bed, sitting up enough to help Niketa off with her clothes. Drawing the covers over them, Laurel snuggled close. "Now I remember why I married you," she smiled brightly, just before kissing her wife deeply. If Laurel was tired from her ritual, it did not show in the way she thanked her wife for taking care of her. By the time most people were rising to start their day, Niketa was already screaming out in her fifth bout of desirous pleasure.
Original work and all revisions © SAM Blaize and Self-Spirit Jo