A brief note...when I upload, my stories never hold onto the dividers I set in them to seperate sections of the stort. Therefore, I have made the first word of each new section bold to set it apart.

Chapter 9

"Loves Madness"

Rhiannon stood gaping at him. "Tomorrow?" She sputtered.

Dagonet wanted to laugh, but held it in check. "Yes, why not? We are to be wed anyway, and can you think of any reason why we should not tomorrow?"

Rhiannon cast around in a panic. She was stunned by the suddenness of this move. "Are you sure you are quite well? You can't ride a horse yet, and..."

Dagonet smiled warmly, and indulgently at her as he cut her off. " You will admit though that I was well enough to spend a day with you in these woods. And as far as me not being able to ride a horse, that will hardly stop me riding anything else that I take a mind to."

Rhiannon could only stare in disbelief. His words, his actions...they didn't make sense, and she wondered if somehow, somewhere along the way she hadn't missed something. He had been deliberately coarse with her, but his tone held a hint of teasing.

"I, um... well..." Rhiannon was red to the tips of her ears. She couldn't stop stammering.

" Do you not wish to be wed to me after all then?" Dagonet asked conversationally as he advanced on her. Rhiannon had an impulse to back up from him, but knew she would only find herself against a tree, so she helplessly held her ground. She might have remained nerveless but for the open challenge he was issuing. It shone clearly in his eyes. That brought her pride back in an instant, and she dug in. Dagonet was now so close to her body that a simple leaning forward would have had her pressed against him. She met his eyes and refused to look away, nor did she lean despite the temptation. The remembrance of his firmly muscled chest caused her to groan inwardly.

"I will marry you, as I have said that I would. If you wish it tomorrow, then so be it my Lord Knight. I will be ready."

" You are certain that you do not wish to go plead with your Uncle to free you of this and take pity on you?" Dagonet's voice was deceptively soft, the husky, tantalizing sound - so like a purr - at odds with his sharp, probing eyes. Aggravation began to swirl through Rhiannon.

" I most certainly do not, and I have not the faintest idea as to why you would think that I would wish such a thing. I have opened myself to you and you know my feelings for you."

"But I don't. You have failed to tell me how you do feel about me.", Dagonet argued, still in a pleasantly nonchalant tone. He knew he was pushing her, plainly irritating her, perhaps even hurting her, but he had to know the truth behind her emotions. It was all too likely that she had become overly invested in him while she had cared for him. That would explain her reluctance in saying whether or not she loved him. Women seemed to do it all the time, so he didn't see why it would be difficult for her. They were, after all, the softer sex. Such open sentiment was to be expected. Additionally, he had spent too much of his life longing for what seemed impossible for him. He had imagined that he would die alone one day. Not only imagined, but had known it in his soul. Love and companionship had always been so elusive. He had hated Bors at times for the life he had with Vanora and all the healthy children that he had fathered. He had been utterly alone for so much of his life. Then all of a sudden there was this peculiar woman, existing in all parts of his life, even in his dreams. He had taken it upon himself to bargain with her Uncle, if it could ever be called that, and he would honor his word no matter, but he had to know what he was getting into. Rhiannon was so unexpected after he had spent so much time trying to rid himself of any feelings at all concerning the love he suffered never to have. Rhiannon's words as he had held her close in the forest had been the sweetest of his life and it had left him feeling bare, knotted inside, and maddened to have her love. He wanted her need for him to be gut wrenching and constant, as his need for her was growing to be. Dagonet felt sick with it even now. The urgency to know her heart had leapt out of control sometime in the last hours, and would not be stemmed. It was all so hard to absorb, just as it had been last night. He had risen this morning wondering if his memories of the previous night were not just another dream. She was, in his estimation, too good to be true. Far too good, and perhaps even, too good of a fit.

"Why are you doing this?" Rhiannon asked, her voice and face calculating. The change in him was too sudden and she was sure that there had to be something to have caused this.

" I have a wish to know what I am getting." He wondered why he could not make his mouth shut. He begged himself to stop. This was not going to further the cause of calming the storm between them.

Rhiannon continued her even gaze. "What do you mean?"

"Though I must wed you, I would know what is here." He answered, eyes kindling, as he laid his fingers briefly on the swell of her left breast, feeling her pounding heart despite her calm face.

Rhiannon never moved her eyes from his and never flinched under his scorching gaze, though she had from his touch. " That is what this is about." She nodded and smiled humorlessly. "You would not give me an answer when I asked you your heart either. It is convenient for you to forget that. I thought we had an agreement about that anyway?"

Dagonet admitted to himself that she had cornered him neatly with that, but he refused to give in. He chose another tack. "Why would you be so willing to wed a man you hardly know?"

Rhiannon's eyes lit up as heatedly as Dagonet's at his question. "It is hardly unusual for arranged marriages to take place between those who hardly know each other, or indeed, those who know each other not at all. Aside from that, you mock me. You held me as I told you all of the things that were in my heart. The pain I had suffered because you suffered. I told you that I wanted to be wed to you. I am devoted to you. I am bound to you now no matter what should happen between us. I do feel a fool that my feelings for you have grown to such a measure in so short of a time, but I care for you nonetheless. I cannot deny that in the least way."

Dagonet admired the haughty tilt of her head as she spoke, the cool expression on her face that was contrasted by her emotions running wildly through her eyes. The fire in her voice, even with the aloof tone that she had used, pleased him in some odd way. She had a way about her that was both vulnerable and proud. He knew perfectly well that he was being selfish, yet he would not give in. He was driven. The thought that he had been gentle all of his life when he could afford to be, seemed far off and laughable when she looked at him in that particular accusing way she had. Part of him wondered why he really found this confrontation so necessary. She had proven herself to him completely, she had given him her affection, had even offered her untried body to him. She had promised him an answer as soon as he could give one to her. It was unfair. He couldn't seem to stop himself though. He kept thinking that it was all too good, too perfect for him. He had known in the deepest part of his heart that he would die in this wild land, had prepared himself for it for a long time. His day had come on the ice, yet he breathed. 'Why in hell would she want me!" His mind demanded loudly. ' Why me!'

" Only me? Why not Gawain, or Galahad? You seem to like Gawain, more particularly." Dagonet's voice and eyes were full of his doubt. He knew that she and Gawain shared a certain camaraderie, and that the blonde knight was somewhat taken with her. The idea filled him with sudden ire.

Tears of anger and hurt pride stung her eyes with force. Rhiannon might have struck him in that moment, she was so filled with hurt and disgust with him. Part of her was still unbelieving, uncomprehending that he would even suggest such a thing. She had all but professed that she loved him. The only thing left was simply to say it. However, once she said those words, she could never erase them. It would leave her too vulnerable if his feelings were any less. She had seen women crushed by the men they loved. Marius' wife had been among those unfortunates. Dagonet was certainly not Marius, yet her reasoning would not let her rely on her heart alone. She had done too many foolish things because of a lack of good judgement in her life. She could not deny though, that this was a man that took her breath away constantly. He was everything to her. 'How can that even be possible?', she cried out in her mind. What a monstrous moron she felt for revealing herself to him as she had. A raw scream of frustration was building in her chest. The wounded part of her wanted to roar out the worry and pain she had borne so long, as an animal would have. What stopped her from breaking down completely was the interruption of a hugely unwelcome voice cutting sharply into her ears.

"See, there they are, and looking as though they are about to begin again in the debauchery I caught them at!"

Dagonet and Rhiannon both snapped their heads toward the sound of an ugly voice, issuing from an equally ugly woman. Aria's face was contorted as she pointed accusingly at them. Arthur, Gawain, and Murrelus were with her.

" You see Senator Volumnius! It is as I described. They cannot possibly deny it." Aria crowed hoarsely. Her dark eyebrows were drawn down, as her brow furrowed deeply. She radiated with enjoyed malice.

Rhiannon looked to Arthur and saw him ignoring the woman pointedly, and looking to her and Dagonet instead. Gawain was watching all of them in turns, his horse flanking the others. Rhiannon wondered how in the world they had managed to come upon them with horses without either of them hearing. Only Aria was on foot. How had they come upon them so closely, so silently, and not been realized?

Dagonet was trying to figure that out as well. He hadn't realized how focused he had been on the now baffled looking healer. It did not weigh well with him that his senses seemed to be lacking in their usual sharpness. He locked eyes with the Senator who was staring at him with an unreadable expression. Arthur was the first to speak. Dagonet did not look away from Volumnius.

" Aria came to the Senator's chambers to inform him that she found you together in the woods. He in turn came to me, and insisted that we should find you."

Murrelus picked up there. " If what this creature says is true, then we have some things to discuss. If you are up to tupping on the forest floor with my niece, I suspect you could do it equally well in a bed. A wedding bed I think. I must insist that the ceremony be performed quickly now. If there should be a child from this, then at least it will be born into wedlock a reasonable amount of time afterward. That is assuming that there was any truth to you two not having been lovers before." He was needling his niece with the last part of his speech. He would not risk work reaching Rome of this affair if he could. It might jeopardize his lovely Daphne. He should not have left her, but he was so worried that his plan of deliberately keeping Rhiannon from Rome would be apparent if he took his wife on such a journey. He was growing older, and losing some influence to younger and richer Senators. The one who most threatened was Tiberian, the poisonous bastard who had nearly raped Rhiannon years before, but for interruption. He remembered the fear he had held for the child after her parents were both gone. Tiberian had not been in the Senate, though his father had been, and it had then been easy to exile Rhiannon far enough away, that he felt she was safe. He had surmised that even in a hard exile, she had a better chance of survival than she would have had with that evil pup. Tiberian coveted her, and Volumnius was relieved that he had kept his niece out of his grasp. When the option of sending her to Britain came in a reasonable guise, it had seemed brilliant. Then, as fate would twist itself, Tiberian took his fathers seat of influence, and insisted that Murrelus bring Rhiannon to him to wed. Murrelus knew that Tiberian wanted her solely to punish her and humiliate her, probably to kill her in an agonizing fashion. Awful poisons seemed to be a favorite game of his that he played with prisoners. They were brought to his dinner parties and he delighted in their agonies publicly whilst he feasted. It was said that he had killed men and women in this way, even using them to ease his sexual appetite as they thrashed in the final throes of death. As her only guardian left, he could not let him have her. He only prayed that this move would not cost him Daphne or his own life. The boy was vicious and baneful. He wore his crimes, and aberrations as jewels. News of his plan, though not even close to his most cunning work, could not spread. He hoped his ideas were not as transparent as he feared, but he hadn't had a lot of time to think about the situation. Dagonet was truly a blessing. The Knight has spared him having to murder the child, who while beyond aggravating, and peculiar to him, was still his brothers child. He thought it perfectly natural that an intended couple behave as they were. He had once. It was however, another situation for him to manipulate. Amazingly Rhiannon didn't look angry, but was instead laughing quietly and shaking her head at the ground. He had no idea why she might laugh when only a moment before she had obviously been squared off with the big Knight. She had looked close to murdering him, anyone could have seen that.

Rhiannon just laughed harder. She really could not help herself. Her nerves had grown so taut that she felt she might snap any moment. She looked up at her uncle who appeared just as confused as everyone else seemed to be by her soft mirth. "Uncle, while the accusations against us are somewhat false, it really doesn't matter. Sir Dagonet has insisted himself that we be wed on the morrow. I have agreed, and so it shall be. Also, it will be a Pagan wedding according to his beliefs. That is the grooms right. Now if you will excuse me, I have herbs to tend to, and wedding preparations to make."

Rhiannon started to walk toward the fort, but was stopped by Aria blocking her path. Rhiannon eyed her evenly. " Shall she not be punished for this? She is disgracing you!" , The drawn up harlot declared, waving her finger at Volumnius accusingly.

Murrelus looked on the woman with complete revulsion. "This is none of your concern woman. Your part is done. Go elsewhere to brood about losing a source of coin."

"There will be nothing lost I promise you." She answered more silkily than Rhiannon would have thought possible. Aria turned with a sneer to the healer in front of her. "I will congratulate him on his coming vows tonight in my bed...perhaps tomorrow after they are taken as well."

Aria never saw the punch coming. There was a quick movement from Rhiannon and then stunning pain burst from her mouth, and then again from the middle of her face as a fist slammed into her nose. Struggling and disoriented, Aria pushed herself onto her elbows and realized that she was on the ground. Warm fluid ran over her face. She dabbed her fingers in the blood that ran from her broken nose, and busted mouth. The pain was immense. She lay back in the litter of leaves and twigs, groaning, and loosely clutching her spurting nose. Rhiannon looked at her just as calmly as before, ignoring the pain in her hand. That had been far too satisfying. She felt...better.

Arthur sat on his mount before her looking somewhat amused. Gawain openly smirked, and looked impressed. Volumnius looked on his niece with the same unreadable expression that he usually wore. Turning to Dagonet, Rhiannon found his expression a curious mix of anger and amusement. She was not amused. She was tired, and worn down. She went to Dagonet, and spoke so softly that his ears alone caught her words. "Now you know what you are getting. I will not share you, nor will I betray you. I wonder that you could think such things about me wanting other men and yet demand a quick marriage." Rhiannon looked thoughtful for a moment before her anger returned. "Now, kindly leave me the hell alone till the ceremony." And with that, she turned and stalked back to the fortress.

Dagonet had started off obeying the angry order that Rhiannon had issued, until he'd had time to think about it. Then his anger and exasperation took hold. That was what was currently propelling him with such determined strides down the corridor to the pharmacea. There were few people in the passageway as the evening was deepening, but the few who did pass him, consciously drew nearer the opposite wall and did not think to speak under the set glower he wore. His ire was palpable. He was tired and out of sorts to say the least. His nerves felt positively unraveled, and that feeling, such an unusual one for the quiet Knight, only made him worse.

He strode toward the pharmacea, not thinking to look in her chamber. Rhiannon would not be there and well he knew it. Since the day of his initial meeting with her Uncle, he had kept tabs on her through serving maids, Guinevere, and whoever else would tell him of her goings on. He couldn't seem to stop worrying and wondering over her. She bathed, and took meals in the pharmacea. He knew that the couch was put into place for her there when she could not sleep in the bedchamber provided for her. He had flattered himself with the passing fantasy that she had been unable to find sleep because she longed for him too much, but he had scoffed the happy idea away as a foolish trifle. Every step brought him nearer to wanting to wring her neck.

Reaching the sturdy door of the pharmacea, Dagonet all but crashed through it as he made his entrance. He was stopped momentarily in his tracks, surprised at the sight of all the plant matter in the room, all of the cloying aromas thick in the air. There were drying racks set up everywhere full of herbs, flowers, ferns, and barks. He knew Rhiannon had been hard at work to accomplish so much in just hours. A surge of pride for her went through him, and he looked to her. Rhiannon had spun is shock at the violence of the intrusion, and stood staring at him with wide eyes. Dagonet took in her startled eyes, her loosed curls, and her softly parted lips though it did nothing to soften him. He took long steps toward her, his gaze intense and furious. Rhiannon's breath had grown shallow in obvious apprehension of his demeanor, though she never budged. The large warrior grabbed her by the shoulders, and brought her toe to toe with him. She looked lovely in the simple woolen gown she wore. It was a shade of green that suited her beautifully, the bodice clinging temptingly over the swells of her breasts. Her eyes told him that she was afraid of this moment, her eyebrows drawn upward in apprehension. He let the suspense of the moment build as he took in his bride to be, knowing that he would die for her, indeed do anything for her. It made his heart ache, but he kept his eyes hard.

" I am not a child to be cast off from you woman. I will be your husband, and you will not treat me as some foolish boy." Dagonet gritted the words out, and saw her lips press slightly as she nodded almost imperceptibly."Are you certain that you understand me?", he growled. Rhiannon was nodding, refusing for once to look him in the eyes. It infuriated him further. "Look at me. Now." Dagonet commanded with a hard voice. Rhiannon obeyed, her face nervous and pleading.

" I will never require you to be a slave to me, but you will honor me as your husband and protector. Is that understood? You will not humiliate me by turning away from me publicly. Any issue you may have with me, can and will be settled privately. Do not dishonor me."

Rhiannon had looked stricken when he had uttered the last sentence in his ultimatum.

Dagonet loosed his grip on her though neither moved apart, and Rhiannon remained perfectly still. The thought occurred to him that perhaps he had in fact really frightened her. She was rubbing her arms gingerly where his fingers had cut into her. He was sorry that she would undoubtedly be bruised from his grip. The tension stood thick between them. "You must have been hard at work since you returned from the woods.", He heard himself saying quietly. " Yes...I have." Rhiannon answered haltingly, her eyes falling to the floor. Dagonet stood enduring the silence without knowing how to effectively break it, and it was making him sorely ill at ease. He had no desire to hurt her, but he had to make her understand that she could not treat him in such a way. ' Leave her the hell alone indeed!' He had done too much in his life to be dismissed like a whipped dog, even by someone he cared for so much. Dagonet continued to watch Rhiannon, wondering at her curious and uncharacteristic lack of fire, when a brisk knock at the door diverted him. Without waiting for a summons from Rhiannon, the old servant Elspeth led the way of six young male servants with a large, sloshing tub of water that they were all but bent under the weight of. Elspeth ignored Dagonet, looking instead at Rhiannon who was now finding the stones of the floor incalculably interesting. " I bade them fill the tub in the kitchen before bringing it up to insure that it would be warm enough for you. I certainly wouldn't wish to do anything to displease you, what with the great and powerful Senator in our midst." The old crone sneered all of her words hatefully. Rhiannon looked at her then, merely rolling her eyes, and waving her hand in dismissal. Elspeth all but stomped from the room, the six men following dismally behind, only slightly interested in the sight of Rhiannon so intimately near the respected Knight. All of them looked pained from their exertions, at least two that Rhiannon took note of, were rubbing their lower backs. She mentally cursed the old woman's increasing hostility toward her.

" Is she always like that with you?", Dagonet inquired softly.

" It seems to be getting a bit worse, but yes.", Rhiannon answered with a small smile, looking at him at last. " I have dealt with worse." She added reassuringly, the wry smile curving her mouth even more, though it did not reassure Dagonet at all. It only brought the urge to protect her from such foolishness to the fore. Dagonet saw her staring fixedly at the tub of steaming water that now sat near her couch in a puddle. She looked as though she were a million miles away, and he wondered what she might be thinking of, but he brushed it aside.

"I have come with news." He announced simply and waited for her acknowledgment that was quick coming. Her eyes were on his with anticipation.

"Tomorrow, we will remain here the night after the wedding, but after that, we will remove ourselves to an old weavers cottage that Arthur has overseen the necessary repairs of at my request. I was hardly in the shape to see to it myself at the time that I asked him. I want some time for us to be alone and there we will be granted that time along with the protection and proximity of the fort. There are too many things wrong between us and I am tired of interferences." To his surprise she smiled in delight. "Really?" Rhiannon asked the question with so much enthusiasm that in her excitement, she looked like a child suddenly. Dagonet only grinned at her in return, pleased deeply with the reception of this idea. His anger began to fade. Seeing all the work in her pharmacea, he had expected a sound refusal that he would be forced to deal with accordingly. He had envisioned himself carrying her out of the fort by force, like a sack of grain over his shoulder, and he had been somewhat amused by the idea. This however was admittedly better and relieved him. He felt a measure of tension slide away. He noticed with relief that most of the strain between him and the lovely woman in front of him had slipped away as well. The problem that remained was that he wanted sorely to be angry with her, and that brought his frustration back afresh. He wanted to make her ill at ease for awhile...unsure of herself with him. An idea suddenly struck him. Walking leisurely toward her couch he sat down and began the process of unlacing his boots, deliberately not looking at Rhiannon.

"What are you doing?" Rhiannon asked with a curiosity laden voice. Dagonet looked up to see her coming toward him, a half smile on her small lips.

"Did you not intend to bathe?" Dagonet asked nonchalantly, as he went on to another boot, ducking his face to hide the smile that would not stay behind his mouth.

"I did." Rhiannon answered warily.

"Well, I don't suppose it would do for me to smell like a horse on my wedding day would it?" Dagonet asked as if it were the most common sense thing he could say. He could not look at her without laughing and so he kept busy with his head down, until he felt that he could mask his amusement from her.

"Would you like me to leave?", The befuddled healer asked as she stood at the cold fireplace watching Dagonet's bent figure. 'How long can it possibly take to unlace those boots?' She pondered. Just then, Dagonet pulled both of them off, and straightened. "Why would I want you to leave? Now undress before the water grows cold. After all the trouble Elspeth went to for you, it would be a shame.", he teased.

Rhiannon cocked her head and stared at him, lips parted in surprise. Dagonet stared back, raising his eyebrows in question. It took everything he had in him to keep a straight face as her composure was so obviously crumbling. He stood and grasped the edge of the simple shirt he wore, easily pulling it over his head, and tossed it just as easily onto her couch without looking behind him. He kept looking at her as if she were a simpleton, and waited. She read his expression plainly, and it baffled her. She reasoned that he had seen her naked, practically. Despite her desire, she lingered. With an impatient air, Dagonet finally began undoing the lacings of his pants. Rhiannon eyed him with a mixture of hunger and alarm before reigning herself in. His chest and shoulders were broad and heavily muscled, and her hands itched to touch him everywhere. She wanted the opportunity to touch all the scars on him again, as she had when she had cared for him. The recalled taste of his heated tongue in her mouth, sent a tremor through her pelvis. She took a breath to still herself. She considered the intimacies that they had shared, and acknowledged that he would see her unclothed on the morrow anyway. What did it matter that there was not a physical introduction to this? Surely she would be expected to disrobe before him without caresses each time... Those thoughts did not reason away her nervousness, nor did it ease it. She watched as Dagonet pushed his pants around his ankles and sat back on the couch to pull them free of his feet. His thickly muscled legs, thighs and buttocks were beautiful, but what made her mouth go dry was the erect penis that presented itself. The picture that he made was so different than the one when he had been unconscious and in her care. This was a vital man with a very obvious agenda concerning her and her tub of water.

Dagonet stood and once again fixed his attention on her. He looked on her in silence for a moment and then began moving toward her slowly. When he reached her, he gazed down into the upturned face that looked so dismayed.

"You were hardly so shy in our earlier...experiences." He pointed out, as he stroked a stray curl over her shoulder. His voice was stern, giving nothing away. 'You seemed, in fact, eager. Was I mistaken?"

"I don't know what is the matter with me. You are right of course, I...I just don't know." Rhiannon sighed deeply with frustration.

"I know what the problem is.", Dagonet answered, his voice soft, with a hint of taunting. "The problem is that you are inexperienced in these matters, just as I am inexperienced in dealing with women's emotions. I hope that tonight you will learn a lesson about dismissing me. I am a peaceful man when I am allowed to be, but make no mistake, I am a man. I have faced too many trials, lived through so much death, and will not, will not, be brushed aside. Right or wrong, you will not treat me in such a way. Do you understand?"

Rhiannon nodded slowly, whiskey eyes wide and wary. His eyes were a mixture of so many feelings, and she was a little troubled, a little more in love for what was in them. There was such warmth and depth as he spoke, though he was keeping his eyes hard, guarded from her. That stung her deeply. When they had last spoken in the woods, she had considered only her own feelings when he had pressed her. She had not considered his at all, and now she was struck with the knowledge that he was perhaps as worried as she about being at someone else's mercy for the sake of emotions. Her own eyes widened at the thought that she had in fact been right in considering that he might be insecure and a look of pure revelation came over her. Dagonet gave her a quizzical look when he saw the surprise come over her face, but did not ask. He knew that she had read his curiosity already, and was about to answer him. It was a source of satisfaction to him that they were growing to understand each other, at least in this way, so well. It also satisfied him that she really did not take pains to hide much from him, but that feeling was short lived as he recollected her reticence in the forest. 'Could she not see how important that it was for her to answer me?' Once more, he blocked out the irritating thoughts that said he was being unfair in exactly the same way that he reckoned her to be.

Rhiannon saw Dagonet's eyes grow ever more steely against her again. She was confused by his sudden withdrawal when he had seemed to be calming down. Instantly, she reached upward and caressed one rough cheek, stroking the corner of his mouth with her thumb. Total awareness finally flooded through her of his nudity, and the level of intimacy already between them. She wished more than anything that she could press her naked breasts into him. The coarse patch of rough hairs on his chest caused her nipples to harden at the thought of nestling them against him.

Dagonet had caught his breath when she touched him. He had wanted to smile, hurt as he continued to be, when the expression she wore changed from worry to worried lust. He began to wish that the sexual tension between them didn't exist, or at least would lessen itself. It was too difficult, it seemed, to move beyond it to other issues, and it was forever clouding both of their judgement. This time it was his doing and he knew it, but brushed it off. He had wanted, once more, to use her naivety against her to make her pay for how she had hurt him. Now, he just wanted to beat his fists into the stone walls. Maybe if he just bedded her till both of them got the need for it out of their systems, they could at last deal with other issues. The problem with that was that he had given his word to the Senator that she was still a virgin and that it could be easily proved on the morrow. Still, there were ways around it...A discreet cut from somewhere on his body would provide more than enough blood to provide the necessary proof...That was probably what the Roman was imagining the source of her virgins blood would be anyway. It had been done by many others in the past whose brides weren't quite as pure as might be dictated; it was brilliant in Dagonet's current estimation, and completely dishonorable. He had no love lost on Volumnius, but Dagonet was a man to stand by his word as closely as he could, and he had given his word to the Senator. He gazed at the bewitching woman stroking his face, gazing into him as though she could read his thoughts, and he hugged her to him so hard and swiftly that the air left her in a soft 'whoosh.' It was all he could do to keep himself from dragging her to the cold floor.

Temptation had taken a near painful hold on him, and Rhiannon felt his penis, hard against her belly. "Undress.", Dagonet murmured against her neck as he dipped his head to press kisses against her throat. They were brief but heated, and Rhiannon shivered each time his lips touched her. Stepping back with a great breath, Dagonet waited for her to obey. As she lowered her head and clumsily began undoing the clasps on the sides of her gown, Dagonet stepped away. She looked up just in time to see him stepping into the tub. He presented such a picture of beauty, and her hands trembled even more as she watched him settling himself in the steaming water. She never would figure out how her fumbling fingers managed to get her gown off, and she would never recall completely taking her shift off. Blood pounded in her ears, and felt as though it were boiling in her veins. The next thing she would clearly know was that she was walking toward Dagonet, wanting his nearness, but more nervous than she could remember ever having been in her life. She wondered as she approached, what she looked like through his wandering eyes, and she said a brief prayer to some unaddressed deity, for a purpose that she really wasn't sure of.

Dagonet stared in frank approval as she approached. The full picture of her nudity was what he had imagined it would be, but this was so much more potent than the vision. This flesh and blood woman was looking at him as though he were the only man in the world. He felt longing come over him once more for her to truly care for him, to love him as she would love no other, and his heart continued to hurt. He tried to push all that away, caring only that he not miss a detail of her.

Rhiannon's hair was a cloud of the uncombed curls he loved so much, a few stray locks curling over her plump breasts that swayed softly as she walked. Her nipples had puckered in the cool air, her belly was nearly flat until it reached the swell of her abdomen he had admired earlier. The nest of brown-gold curls between her thighs made him long to stroke them again, and he recalled the sweetness of her as she came to pleasure with him in this very room only the night before. Her arms were toned, but not masculine, her legs the same. Her legs began with the full, almost heavy hips he recalled so well, and tapered to thick ankles and wide feet with very round toes. Her feet was what made him nearly break the spell by laughing, and it was fortunate that he kept his delight to himself. That would have been just the thing to send Rhiannon scuttling back into her clothes and away from him in mortification. He admired that she was not petite, and was pleased that she could be so strong of frame and feminine all at once. The only thing he could find fault with was that she was not a bit taller.

Reaching the side of the tub, Rhiannon faced him with a little bit of doubt as to how she was meant to get in the bath with him. It was a large tub, but he took up so much of it. "Like this..." , Dagonet said as he grasped the arm farthest from him, and twirled her backward into the water. With a great splash, Rhiannon fell backward against the great Knight, and thrashed a bit trying to get her new bearings. She didn't have time to slosh around long however, as two great arms encircled her middle, and her back was drawn tightly against Dagonet's chest. The heated water was something of a pleasant shock to her cooled skin, and she took a moment to let all of those pleasant sensations wash over her, and to realize new ones. She was now nestled snugly between Dagonet's bent legs. He was still hard, and his erection pressed strongly against her tail bone and upwards. She wiggled the tiniest bit against him to adjust herself, and heard him groan with pleasure. That sound, so deep and sensuous, had caused her to contract deeply within and she knew that she was growing ever more wet for him.

Two great hands came upward and cupped her breasts. A moan that echoed Dagonet's came unbidden from somewhere in her throat as Rhiannon laid her head backward and dropped it to one side. Dagonet took advantage of the moment to drop his lips once more against her neck. He began with soft kisses, wetting his lips often, and stopping just as often to blow warm breathe over her. She shivered against him, and he smiled as he kneaded her breasts, pinching her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers. "I had meant to bathe you my love, but it seems that the soaps have been forgotten in all the thoroughfare concerning your bath water." Rhiannon made some dismissive sound, and Dagonet lowered his lips to her once more, but rather than kisses, he began to suckle gently on her ear lobe. He grew harder as her shoulders pressed with strength into his chest, and she gasped with pleasure. Chill bumps were visible on her arms. Dagonet wanted so much to touch the heated flesh between her legs, and slide his fingers into her, but his promise came back to him, if in fact it had ever gone away. He would have to be very careful to keep control of them both.

"Rhiannon...", Dagonet whispered fiercely, just as the door to the pharmacea came flying open.

"Here is your soap, and linens my fine lady. I hope the water hasn't grown cold while you waited for them..." Elspeth had come through the door hateful and blustering, but her words died at the sight before her. Rhiannon had straightened in alarm when the heavy door had been thrown open, and her body remained stiff. If Dagonet hadn't been so angry, he would have again been reminded how much he adored her pride. He wrapped his broad arms around Rhiannon to hide her bare breasts.

"Damn, and blast you old fishwife. From now on you will knock before you enter into any chamber belonging to my wife or myself. Is that understood?" Dagonet looked so dangerous at that moment that Elspeth had honest fear for herself. He was shaking from choler and need combined.

"I apologize Sir." The old woman crooned, trying to rectify the damage she had done. "It is just that the lady is so ill tempered with all who serve her, and I am so old Sir. One as old as I hardly feels up to dealing with..."

Dagonet's icy stare told Elspeth that she was not diffusing the situation at all. "Your insults will not be borne either. You will cease or I can make it so that your life will be just as miserable as an ancient scold like you deserves."

"Sir you do not truly know her." Elspeth protested taken aback. This was not the self contained Knight that she had served for years. "She is not yet your wife, so you cannot know her true nature. She is a Roman, Sir."

"I am running out of decent names to call you. Rhiannon is my wife. You will treat her as such...My threats are not idle." Rhiannon relished Dagonet's arms tightening about her, though the feeling of being talked over as though she were not even in the room did not please her at all. Still, she could see no way around it. Dagonet took it upon himself to have this conversation with the old servant. Rhiannon could not remember anyone ever defending her before.

"Sir, you saw what she did to my beloved niece! You yourself seemed to care for my poor dear!"

"You would do well to leave now." Dagonet growled impatiently. "You will recall, when consequences for this has been dealt to you, that you are the cause for them."

Elspeth nodded dumbly, knowing her stupidity in not prudently keeping silent. She hurriedly escaped the room, dread growing in her. Dagonet had a reputation of kindness, and she had never heard him speak crossly to anyone that had served him. How she hated the evil influence of the Romans.

"Her niece?" Rhiannon questioned.

"Aria." Was the simple answer.

"Well then, that explains a lot." Rhiannon answered drily, as she relaxed into Dagonet's chest. His arms slipped once more around her waist, and she could feel him relaxing by degrees till they reclined together. The heat radiating from his chest amazed her with it's intensity.

"I should have bade her start a fire while she was here." ,Dagonet said lazily, and with a trace of humor.

Rhiannon had meant to hold her tongue awhile longer, but found herself blurting, "You said that I am your wife."


Rhiannon tried to turn to look at him, and he knew what she wanted to ask, so he saved her the trouble.

"You are mine. I do not require a Roman ceremony to make that so, though there must be one to appease Volumnius. I told you this already. I will not tolerate you being mistreated. Also, there isn't a man in this world that could take you from me now or ever. If any man were foolish enough to try such a thing as fighting me for you, he would definitely lose." Dagonet closed his eyes while he spoke, letting the pleasures of the heated water Rhiannon had savored earlier, come over him. He could feel her staring at him, and he opened his eyes at length to find that she looked, what could only be described as, bewildered. "Why do you look so confused? You are willing to fight over me." ,Dagonet pointed out, grasping her swollen right hand gently and raising it for inspection. Her knuckles had been cut by Aria's teeth when she had hit her in the mouth, and the entire hand looked painful. "You did clean this didn't you?"

"I did."

"You should not have hit her in the mouth. This may become infected.", Dagonet stated sternly.

Rhiannon turned a bit so that she could look straight into Dagonet's face. "Perhaps now she will think before she opens her mouth again, particularly about you. What would you have had me do?"

Dagonet couldn't stop his lips from meeting hers with a definite smile, and a chest swollen with pride. Rhiannon was all willingness, grasping his hands to draw them back to her breasts. She thought Dagonet might crush her with the sudden tension she sensed in him. It was a weight that came down upon her, and she drew back to look into his glazed eyes. His fingers rubbed gently, and near absently over her skin as he stared with starvation at her lust brightened eyes. "Dagonet...", Rhiannon breathed, "Now, please, now. Why wait any longer?"

Dagonet didn't think he had ever felt so trapped, especially by his own attempts at integrity, or his attempts at retribution. He dropped his hands over to the upper swells of her hips and let his head drop backward as he closed his eyes with a groan of unwillingness. "I gave my word."

"To whom?" Rhiannon's stomach felt like it had clenched into a tight ball.

"The Senator.", Dagonet answered tonelessly, head still dropped back.

"He already believes that we are lovers.", Rhiannon grumbled. She couldn't believe that whining tone had just come from her mouth, when all she had wanted to do was state a simple fact.

"I know love, however, I told him otherwise when we spoke earlier. I gave my word that you would remain untouched till the wedding. The Roman wedding I mentioned a moment ago."

Rhiannon was growing desperate and angry. "What about my wants?", she asked evenly. 'He called me love again..' Dagonet finally straightened and looked at her, resolution all over his face.

"I know that your Pagan beliefs are likely to make you perhaps more liberal, but you are Roman as well. This is one of your conventions, and I did agree to it. You told me only that your beliefs are a mixture of your upbringing. Will you tell me that lying about the origin of the blood proof would not bother you?" Dagonet's deep voice was reasonable and unyielding, but she could still feel him fully erect. She thought of wiggling against him once more in an effort to persuade him otherwise, and had she known the extent of his reasoning for getting her into the tub, she certainly would have been merciless. As it was, at that moment she did not know, and so she let it go, though she was sure that she would be driven to extreme measures if on the morrow, they did not become the lovers they had been so consistently accused of being for what seemed like an impossibly long time. A sigh of acceptance escaped her and she relaxed into him again.

Dagonet felt mildly sorry for tormenting her, but the spite in her words earlier had cut him, though she had been hurt herself. He had his revenge for what good it did him. Slowly, and tenderly, Dagonet began to bathe Rhiannon with his hands. He scooped up handfuls of the heated water and poured over her, rubbing her with his hands. She began to relax, and at last lay pliable against him, and he basked in her surrender to him, her seeming trust, and the sheer feel of her. The bottom part of her hair had grown wet, and was plastered to his chest, her back, and even parts of his arms; it was a pleasure to bathe her, and acquaint himself with her even more. He wanted so much to kiss her neck again as she had once more dropped her head to the side, but resisted. He consoled himself instead with exploring the undersides of her breasts thoroughly.

"Dag?", Rhiannon murmured, almost trance-like.

"Um?" Dagonet poured a handful of water over one heavy breast, watching the water sluice over it, and droplets form on her hardened nipple.

"It is true that I have no experience with men. I know though that common sense should have told me that I should not talk to you like I did, simply on merit of being my friend..., but I was stung. I don't know what to do, or say, and I don't want to be hurt simply by revealing too much. I must sound a complete fool to you...I never meant to anger you."

Dagonet had stopped his ministrations, and sat considering for few moments before he replied. She had called him her friend and that touched and worried him simultaneously " You must say what you mean, love. That is something I require and admire in you usually. You are often so forthcoming, so why not now?"

"Because, I am so confused!", Rhiannon blurted passionately. "I feel things that make no sense to me, and I want things I have never really wanted before. I have never felt for anyone as I do for you, and...and I don't know what you want from me. I don't know how you feel and you haven't told me what you think of all of this... I know you grow angry with me because I don't say things that you want me to say...I feel like I am being eaten alive. I really am at a loss over what I am to do. I have been given no time to sort this all out."

Rhiannon had covered her face with her hands as she had finished speaking, and Dagonet once more took the time to consider all she had said. At last he spoke, just when Rhiannon had grown positive that he would not.

" I came here with the intention of punishing you for hurting and embarrassing me. I think perhaps we are both fools in this matter. I know so little about women..."

"How is that even possible?", Rhiannon asked, amazed.

"I am aware of how their bodies work, but ,until you, I had never before dealt with a woman who did not have an agenda."

A shiver passed over Rhiannon. She had not noticed the rapid cooling of the water. It would not have turned tepid so quickly had there been a fire, but the cool night was sinking it's claws into the fortress. She rose wordlessly, slowly, and began to step out of the tub. He had seduced her once more with intentions of causing discomfort, to say the least. Her thoughts were in a jumble.

Dagonet did not stop her, but rather, enjoyed the view of her full back side so close to his face and then flexing as she stepped over the tub and walked toward the linens. Grasping one, she wrapped herself quickly, and turned back to Dagonet, whom she found relaxed in the water, watching her.

"Why weren't my words in the forest enough?" Rhiannon asked without thinking. Dagonet noted the look of surprise as her eyes widened and her mouth clamped firmly shut.

"They were enough for the moment that you said them..." Dagonet had no reasonable answer to give her. Not really. He felt the paltry quality in what he had said, and felt foolish for even having spoken what he perceived as silly words.

"Why not now? Do you think that I lie to you?"

Dagonet took a moment to study Rhiannon's face, and found himself wishing that her normally expressive countenance would give something away. For the moment though, there was nothing but her steady gaze, and equally steady question. She was getting better at that. "I think that you have admitted not having any experience with men...I think that it is very possible that you became overly attached to a stranger when you cared for me so devotedly...I think it is possible that you might eventually want another man. I do not believe that you are a spiteful woman...still, you may find in time that I am right." There. The thoughts that hurt him so terribly, spoken. He did not feel the relief that he thought he might. He throbbed horribly for want of her body, and he knew that even now she would be moist enough for him to slide into, virgin or not, angry or not. Beyond the ever present lust, there was also the fact that speaking his doubts had not freed him of them at all. If anything, the fear was now more palpable to him than ever. She looked lovely to him, the linen wrapped snugly about her body, water still beading on her arms. Some of her curls, darkened by the water, hung lankly over her shoulders. The only thing that had changed about her since he had spoken was her eyebrows. She had raised them, and nothing more.

"Did I not tell you once, that my attraction to you began when I first laid eyes on you at that horrid estate?" Rhiannon was using every bit of inward control to keep her face and voice blank. She refused to be so openly vulnerable anymore. Her body hurt her constantly it seemed, her mind hurt her constantly...she felt positively bedeviled. She was becoming ever more unhappy that he would use her desire for him as a way to punish her for slighting him.

"Yes, you did say that..." Dagonet answered reluctantly, as though he had more to say. Rhiannon wanted none of it.

"What can I do to make you believe that I want no other?" This question brought the tell tale softening to Rhiannon that showed Dagonet some true emotion.

"I really don't know."

Rhiannon walked toward the big man, his knees looking suddenly ridiculous, bent upward out of the water as they were. She recalled the first time that she had seen him...she hadn't been able to tear her eyes away. She wondered for the hundredth time if she hadn't loved him on sight. She remembered when the Knights and Arthur had returned to the rough caravan the villagers had formed after the first skirmish with the Saxons. She had been paralyzed momentarily, unbelieving that the big, beautiful man she had grown almost obsessed with watching could be dead. Rhiannon also remembered all the trials afterward...fear of hypothermia, blood poisoning, of death in any of it's forms. Dagonet had been so weak, so very, very ill. Looking back, she really thought she might have died herself had he not lived. She would have made scoffed at others who might have said the same things about the men that they loved, but not now. Not ever again.

"Big man...let me tell you something." Rhiannon knelt down by the tub and caressed Dagonet's face between her cool hands. "I will be your wife, I will never disgrace you, and you will never want for my affections. You will not bully me into telling you that I am in love with you, sweet man. When I tell you such a thing, I will do it when I am ready." She spoke with a soft smile and only kindness in her tone.

Dagonet had worn a passive expression, nearly a mask of Rhiannon's just moments before, and wordlessly began to rise from the tub. He did not look at Rhiannon, but went on to the linens to dry himself. Rhiannon watched him, standing up now, with her brow furrowed, and unconsciously ruffling her hair into quite a tangle. While she did enjoy the back view of him, his behavior bothered her. It seemed ominous.

As if she were not present, Dagonet returned to the couch by the cold fireplace, and began to stretch his legs into his breeches again. An alarm went off in Rhiannon that he meant to leave without a word, and the impulse to stop him almost made her run and beg him to stay. Pride delayed her long enough for Dagonet to get his pants laced, and his boots done up enough that they would stay on. Bare chested and without a word to her, he strode out of the pharmacea, slamming the door behind him. Rhiannon thought that her legs were going to give out under her, and she made her way slowly, and somewhat unsteadily to her soft couch. She sat in the same spot that Dagonet had just occupied, staring into space for a few seconds before a knock came at her door and jarred her attention back to the moment. "Come.", she called. A pretty female servant furtively opened the door and peered in.

"The Knight Dagonet told me that I should come and make a fire for you."

"Oh, no. I should have done it myself, and I can I assure you." Rhiannon felt idiotic facing this young woman with such a trivial thing that she really ought to have done.

"No trouble at all. Please...", and the woman came near and within seconds a fire was beginning to catch. Rhiannon watched the flames, ready to be alone, and puzzle through what had just happened when the young servant - hardly more than a girl - was speaking again.

"Sir Dagonet says that you are to stay in your pharmacea, and that he will return tonight. He also said..." A blush was creeping over the petite woman's face. "...that you are to remain garbed as you are." Aside from the oddity of the instructions, Rhiannon was momentarily distracted by the fact of a modest young servant. That was very unusual to say the least. Most uncommon.

The servant was most relieved when Rhiannon dismissed her. 'What does this all mean?' The healer pondered. Thinking about the issue from all angles left her nowhere, and soon the warmth of the fire and spread through her chilled limbs, the flames lulling her. It puzzled Rhiannon greatly that when bad things happened, the urge to sleep always overtook her. It didn't seem to her that it should be so. She had no way of knowing that two hours had passed while she had been deep into her thoughts, when, at last, sleep took her. Her last thought was to wonder what she had done wrong.

First, Dagonet had gone to see his brothers. He needed to ask some questions that would definitely determine the outcome of what he was planning for the night. He had grilled Arthur, Bors, Galahad, and Gawain, perhaps a bit more than the others, about what they could remember of Rhiannon's behavior since they had first met her. Had she been as single mindedly devoted to him as he observed her to be or had that been a sweet fantasy that he had let take hold of his lonely emotions. Could she be so sincere? He had seen what the wenches at the fort could be like...trying to manipulate themselves into the mens pockets and whatever titles they might hold. There was a large portion of the bastards at the wall who were living, breathing proof of the plots of the women to better their conditions. His doubts were getting worse by the second, and Rhiannon's reassurances weren't helping for some reason.

Gawain had been startled by the focus of so many of Dagonet's suspicious remarks toward him, until Bors had burst into raucous laughter, hollering about Dag finally getting a good dose of jealousy. Yet even he calmed himself sufficiently of his drunken mirth to agree with the other men, that she had been Dagonet's from the beginning and they knew she loved him. Galahad pointed out the many times that he had seen Rhiannon watching Dagonet from a distance, with what he referred to as a 'sickening expression of devotion imprinted on her face'. Bors spoke of respect for her, and all that she had done for Dagonet; Arthur had listened attentively, to Galahad and Bors before he spoke. "Dag, I have no doubts of her affections for you. I hope that you will be very happy with her for a wife. She is an interesting woman, and no one doubts her loyalty to you."

"Except for you." Gawain cut in, glaring at Dagonet. "You are a fool, my friend. You are a fool if you cannot see the love she has for you. If I thought for a second that I could take her from you, have no doubt that I would. I would!" , he barked at Galahad who was trying to still him. Gawain stood and took a quick sip of ale. "As it is, she does not want me. Nor any other man here, save you. I don't love her, but you do. Why do you make this so hard?" Gawain's eyes glittered in the torch lit tavern, that was unusually slow at this hour.

Bors stood and clapped a hand across Dagonet's back as he too rose from the rough bench he had been resting on. "The man is right. You think she wants him?" Bors gestured toward Gawain with a tilt of his head. "Nah. Sweet Rhiannon wants me!" Bors' loud laughter was cut short by Vanora throwing a cup at him from a few tables away, that skittered somewhere into the shadows noisily.. He gave the woman a playful, scolding look before turning his attention back to his dearest friend. Arthur was smiling at the friendly banter, while Galahad continued to watch Gawain who'd had a bit much to drink and always loved a fight.

"Why don't you go bed her. Really. You're both acting horrible." Dagonet looked at Bors and smiled a little. He couldn't help it. He knew Bors was being sincere in his advice.

"He gave his word that they would not till they were wed." Arthur reminded as he too rose. "Dag is a man of his word." Arthur sympathized with the Knight though, and agreed with Bors wholeheartedly. Surely, all this tension would end as soon as they were wed and removed from the distractions of the fort. He was amazed that Senator Volumnius had remained so detached from all of this. He wasn't interfering at all with...anything. He kept mainly to the solitude of his room.

Dagonet stood there, seemingly in deep thought. He looked at Arthur silently for a few more moments. "Take me to the Senator, Arthur."

"At this hour?"

"This minute."

Arthur nodded and without another word they walked out of the light together and were soon invisible as they headed into the darkness toward the sleeping Murrelus's chambers.

Gawain took a gulp from his flagon, draining it. "Well now. If that little drama is over, I have some of my own to take care of." And with the self-assured, jocular nature that was his personality, he headed toward a lovely whore he had spotted alone at a table. With a few whispered words, they were up and moving toward some convenient shadows, Gawain's hand firmly grasping one cheek of the woman's behind.

Galahad watched all this as he sank down onto a bench at the nearly vacant table. "Well, at least that one has most of her teeth. The last one Gawain chose didn't have a tooth left in her head."

Bors erupted once more into his startling laughter.

Volumnius was still awake when the heavy, insistent banging began at his door. Hurriedly he rose from his sleepless bed, worried over what this might mean. Had some catastrophe happened in Rome? Why had he left Daphne over this child that meant nothing to him? If he lost his wife because of that bothersome child, he thought he might really kill her after all. Paranoia was working hard on him these days and he despised it. Flinging the door wide, he braced himself for the worst. He found a serious Sir Dagonet staring him down, and Artorius looking curious but stern as always somewhat behind the Knight.

Arthur was the first to speak. "My Knight has asked to speak with you. We apologize for the late intrusion."

"Not at all Artorius, not at all. Both of you, come in." Murrelus stepped aside to allow entrance to them into the dimly lit room.

"What can I do for you?"

"I want to marry Rhiannon right now." Dagonet stated the words plainly.


"There is too much damned confusion here, interruptions, misunderstandings, and I can't stand anymore of it. I want to marry her now. You will have your precious proof of her virginity, and then after we have rested, I will take her from this place while it is still early on the morrow."

"Have you gone mad?" Murrelus could hear the anger becoming ever more apparent as Dagonet had spoken. "Artorius?" The Senator looked blankly at the commander, now King of sorts, and waited for something that sounded sane to come out of him at least.

"Senator, there have been many set backs in what should have been a period of acquaintance...I do not doubt that it is causing hardships for them both..." Arthur really had no argument. They were set to be married in the morning anyway, but he had known Dagonet long enough to know that his nerves were obviously frayed for him to be so impulsive. His unrest was visible anyway, but this whole evening with his loyal brother was proving it all the more.

"I want it done now. I will sign over your land to you, and it will all be finished. I have had enough." Dagonet's eyes were growing fierce, though a small trace of embarrassment seemed to have wormed it's way into him. He looked near sheepish to Murrelus.

"Very well then. I have no real objection with it. I will marry you myself. My title allows me to make certain declarations. Remember your agreement with me Sir Dagonet." Murrelus Volumnius warned him. "You keep her out of Rome for the rest of her life."

Dagonet nodded grimly.

"After you are wed, I understand that you intend to drag her off to a cottage in the forest? Well, in any event, God help you." Dagonet merely gave a brief, humorless smile.

Rhiannon jolted awake as her door banged open. Scuttling upward from where she had slumped over on the couch, she hugged the linen drying cloth to her, trying to clear the sleep from her brain, fighting to understand what was going on. She knew Dagonet and Arthur had come into the room, and then she saw her Uncle proceed after them. Dagonet came toward her before she realized and had bade her stand, while he exerted a gentle pressure on her arm. She swiped distractedly at her sleep filled eyes, and then she at last regained some sort of focus. Shame slammed over her like a wave as she realized what she was still garbed in, but no one really seemed to care. She looked to Dagonet, waiting for him to explain whatever was going on now. Had Elspeth tattled like her niece had earlier? 'Ah...that must be it.' Rhiannon thought, everything making some sense to her finally.

"Your Uncle has agreed to wed us now." Dagonet watched as Rhiannon's face very slowly registered stunned surprise. He thought she might protest, and prove everyone wrong about her, but at length, she nodded her head. Her honey eyes, never left his dark ones, though her worry was evident. In his eyes, she looked aghast.

Rhiannon turned to look at her Uncle and Arthur who stood close together. The Senator was unreadable to her as he usually was, and Arthur looked perplexed and entertained at once. Turning her head back to Dagonet, Rhiannon tried to whisper something about how she was not attired properly. Dagonet watched a wide blush spread over her face, so lovely in his opinion, as he reminded her that she would not be in need of anything that he would only be removing from her shortly. This was not the charming blush that he had grown delightedly accustomed to. This was the one that told him he was being a jackass. He didn't care. As far as Dagonet was concerned, this was the only way that he would prevent himself from losing his mind completely. This felt as though it had been going on for years, rather than hardly over a week.

Rhiannon was numb. Exhaustion wouldn't let go even with the adrenaline trying as hard as it could to pump through her. What had happened? It really didn't seem all that clear. Dagonet had stormed out after an intimate bath, half clothed, and then was back and they were being married? She too wondered if he had gone mad. Dagonet's grip on her arm was soft, but firm as though he thought she might try to bolt. Her Uncle was speaking in lovely, fluent Latin, words that were binding her to her new husband. She watched distractedly as Arthur poured wine into an ornate chalice that a servant must have brought in while she slept. She didn't think any of the three had carried it with them when they came in, but she wasn't sure. Volumnius took the proffered vessel, and passed it carefully to Dagonet, who released Rhiannon to hold the cup of it tenderly in both of his hands. Rhiannon watched breathlessly as he held her gaze, and tilted the rim to his mouth. He never looked away from her during that binding drink, and then he was holding it toward her. Rhiannon slid her hands along the sides till she touched his, and for a moment they stood taking comfort from that moment. At last, Dagonet released his grasp, and Rhiannon brought the rim near her own lips, but paused briefly. She held Dagonet's gaze as steadily as he had hers, while her hand reached to caress the deep, fresh scar he bore near his heart. Rhiannon saw something move in his eyes at the contact that made her smile lovingly at him, then she tilted the chalice and let the sweet wine flow over her tongue at last.

Hi. Thanks for checking out my story, and I hope this update is to everyone's satisfaction. It took forever till it made me happy. This chapter is a bit darker than the others, I think, though nothing like it started out being. Dagonet and Rhiannon are ready for the retreat to that weavers cottage. They're stressing me out with all this emotional strain! Please R&R. Thanks to everyone for the sweet reviews.