A/N: Good morning and happy Friday!
I was going to begin posting on Monday (Halloween), but I've split the first chapter into two because it's a really long one, so I'm giving you guys the first part as an early Halloween treat.
The regular posting schedule for this story is at the end of the chapter, as well as a few other things you may want to know, BUT if you're all in and plan to read the story no matter what, then don't even bother with the A/N below past the posting schedule. :)
Michelle Renker Rhodes is my sweet beta again. (But I still make changes until the very end and mess things up, so that's all still on me).
Banner is by the wonderfully talented and super sweet Ceci Lolypowski. Gosh, I love that girl!
Most characters belong to S. Meyer. The rest is mine.
Let's get started.
Chapter 1, Part 1: It Is Said…
It is said that the legend originates here, in 1086 A.D. – 20 years after the Norman conquest of the Anglo-Saxon lands now known as England…
The urgent pounding of hooves over muddy earth rumbled under the soles of my feet. They were faint at first, yet as the gallops drew nearer, their reverberations intensified, rattling up my spine and throughout my limbs.
I shifted my gaze from the rich earth I toiled, the land I worked day in and day out save for the days of servitude to both baron and king. Yet the land would never be mine, not truly. I was as much serf and vassal as I was warrior and knight. But I worked the land with pride, and in doing so, I served my lord faithfully. I carried out all that my lord requested: fought in his tournaments, participated in his jousts, and rode in defense of him, God, and king in battle. I heeded all of his commands…save one.
The horses pulled to a stop before me. Behind me, I sensed my wife's approach. She must have heard the hooves as well and left our cottage to probe, for she was naught if not inquisitive. Nevertheless, I kept an even gaze on the rider in front, for he was my most trusted man. He sat impatiently upon his mount, both his and his beast's flaxen manes wild from the swift run, their eyes wary as a threatening storm, and their chests heaving from exertion.
"My lord, the baron returns from London as we speak! He rides to the castle with the rest of the council!"
The sharp yet quiet hitch of breath which left my wife fanned across the nape of my neck. Nonetheless, I acknowledged this information with a composed exterior.
"Thank you, Jasper. I will ride to the castle and meet with him."
"I will ride with you, husband."
Upon her declaration, I turned to face her, for she was the reason for all this frenzy. The breeze whipped up her long, dark hair, chasing the cascading spirals down to her slim waist. The dim afternoon sun reflected off of her rich, brown eyes. Yes, she was my reason for all.
"No, my wife, you will remain here."
"Edward…" At her sides, her hands curled closed then opened - an inclination of hers when uneasy. I took her restless hands in mine, courage and determination intensifying like a feverish flame within me at the feel of her warmth.
"Bellaria, I will face the baron on my own as a man, as a knight in his fiefdom…" I cupped her chin, "and as husband to his daughter."
"Edward, by marrying, we have disobeyed my father. You know full well he does not take kindly to disobedience. He will be displeased with us both."
"Which is why you will remain here. I will bear the wrath of his ire on my own."
Her dark eyes sparked with indignation, causing equal parts impatience and desire to war within my breast and groin, for I wished to be on my way almost as much as I wished to fill her and quell that defiance. Her beguiling gaze, her resistance to man's will – even my own will at times, her unwillingness to remain submissive in a world where submission was expected from her…these and countless more were the reasons I loved my Bellaria.
Smiling, I cradled her soft face, which framed rebellious lips. "Bellaria, you must resist the urge to challenge me in this." Leaning forward, I whispered in her ear, "And you must not question me in front of Jasper and the others, for they are at ages where men seek wives, and your defiance will have them wondering what to expect of women."
Behind me, I heard more than one man stifle a chuckle. Jasper cleared his throat, signaling for the others to recall their place. Yet as I pulled away from my wife, I grinned at the amusement her beautiful, expressive eyes were unable to disguise, for she knew I teased her.
"They will expect that women have minds, and they will learn that true men, like you, are not afraid of their use. Edward, I worry. Father is a hard, unyielding man more likely to act than to think."
"He is a hard man, yes, but he has known me since I was twelve years of age and was brought to the castle as a squire. He has watched me grow into his strongest knight, into a warrior who time and again rides into battle in his name. If sentiment does not stir him, then I will appeal to his love for power and might."
Her dark eyes held mine with a tenderness that gripped my soul. Reaching up, she palmed my cheek as I did hers, her soft thumb brushing over my coarse stubble and the now discolored imperfection running in a thin line to just below my jaw.
"You have fought bravely and loyally in my father's name, and you bear well the marks of a fine warrior. Your honor is beyond merit." Her nostrils flared. "Yet none of it was sufficient for Father to grant us permission to marry. Husband, hear me; I am frightened that he will discount your numerous acts of chivalry and only count your one act of disobedience. Perhaps we should just flee, Edward, disappear into the woods and live among the forest creatures."
"I will not have you live like a savage in the wild. Do not worry, my wife. The union between us is done, and the baron must accept it, for it cannot be undone by lord or king. We are man and wife before God, and what He has joined no man can separate."
Her full lips pressed together into a straight line as she fought the urge to challenge me once more.
I chuckled at her expression. "Bellaria, this time I will do better in laying before your father the benefits to our union. I will make clear how it increases my strength and thereby my value to him. Then he will see that no duke, count, or baron in the kingdom could ever offer him such fealty, for no man could ever love his daughter as I do."
"Edward…" She held my eyes, searching them thoroughly before crashing her mouth to mine, her lips supple as a flowing river yet fiery as a scorching fire. She cared not if Jasper and the other men bore witness.
"We will do as you say, my husband," she agreed on a quickly stolen breath.
"Bellaria…" I pronounced her name as she pronounced mine - as a whispered supplication, for we worshiped one another. "It is all I can do to resist carrying you into our home and bedding you right now…pushing up your skirts and thrusting myself deep within the eager heat of your body."
"You know I will welcome it," she murmured.
With difficulty, I pulled back enough to meet her gaze. "Wife, you tempt me, but first, I must needs speak with your father. Prepare yourself, for when I return, I will bury my cock inside you for hours upon hours until you are sore from sheathing me."
Displaying that irresistible defiance of hers, she lifted her noble chin and raked her nimble fingers through my hair. "I will await your possession, my husband, for we both know I possess you as well. You are the only man who will ever tame me - as always…for always."
"As always…for always," I echoed, and for an immeasurable moment, we held one another's gaze, conveying more than mere words ever could.
"Jasper, you and the others will remain with my wife."
"But, my lord," Jasper, protested, fisting his ivory hair, "allow me to ride with you."
"A warrior heeds without question, Jasper of the white locks, or he shall never be a knight." Even as I said the words, I saw the hypocrisy in them, for I was a knight who did not heed without question. But Bellaria's father left me no choice. "You will stay with Lady Bellaria."
"Yes, Sir Edward. I shall heed and protect my lady. Shall I fetch your sword and armor?"
"No. I will not meet with the baron in combative mode. We will meet as men."
"Aye, my lord."
Before mounting my black beast, I turned around to drink in one last view of my wife. At the same moment, she turned slowly as if my gaze was a physical being reaching out to caress her soft skin. The growing breeze blew through her long, green tunic, causing it to dance around her perfect form while her long tresses wrapped themselves around her angelic face. And when the heavy mist rolling in from the forest completely hid her from me, I mounted my horse and rode.
First, a couple of basics for EVERYONE:
As of now, updates are scheduled for Mondays, unless something comes up (in which case I'll try to let you guys know on Facebook or twitter or something beforehand). I've got about a billion things going on in RL right now - not necessarily bad things, just really busy things (like a high school senior applying to college and all the wonderful paperwork which goes along with that, a high school freshman who's just discovered the wonders of high school and must constantly be reminded that H.S. isn't merely for socialization, but for actual work as well, and a 6th grade overachiever who has to be reminded once in a while that a 90 isn't the end of the world, and that constantly staying up until midnight to make sure she achieves those extra 10 points probably isn't the best idea. And also, huge projects at work.) So yes, I may need to prioritize.
Nasty reviews or pms will be completely ignored whether they're anonymous, signed, whatever. If you don't like what you're reading, stop reading and move on. I don't have the time to feed into your madness by replying. Period.
Related to #2 above, this is all for fun, guys. It's a way to escape real life for a little while, for me as the writer, and for you guys as the readers. My grammar, spelling, and punctuation won't be perfect. I'll probably make glaring errors every once in a while (or more often). I'll spell "their" when I mean "there" and then hate myself because it's one of my pet peeves. I'll get names, places, times, etc., wrong or mixed up. But if we can all remember that this is supposed to be FUN, it will be more enjoyable for all of us. (And I won't end up in a corner curled up into a fetal position and therefore, unable to update). :)
I will answer reviews and pms as much as I can. If something confuses you, of course, I'll try to clear it up, but if it requires my having to give away plot points, I may have to tell you to hold on until the story itself clears up your question.
Okay, that was the end of the basics.
NOW ONLY READ THIS IF YOU'RE THE TYPE WHO NEEDS TO KNOW MORE OR LESS WHAT YOU'RE GETTING YOURSELF INTO!
*So here's the thing. I'm exploring my darker side in this fic. That doesn't mean rape, incest, bestiality, etc., but…well, it will get dark as in you may bawl your eyes out at some point(s). That being said, if you're willing to take the ride with me, I promise to try and make it worth your while.
THERE WILL BE NO MORE WARNINGS. Please don't send me nasty pms telling me you weren't warned that there were dark times ahead. (You can send me nice pms telling me you weren't warned, but not nasty ones. The nasty ones, I'll ignore, as per #2 above). ;)
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See you all again on Monday (aka Halloween)!