Cadvan knew it to be a prodigious mistake- the wine, the music, the dancing…every event in the last year had culminated to this single moment when all previous courtesies would become devoid of meaning. Gone was the plight of fighting Hulls and Wers, of defending himself against outrageous odds. He was now faced with a greater test, a challenge that he was bound to fail, for Cadvan of Lirigon could not resist the aphrodisiac that was Maerad of Pellinor.

o-0-o

The grandiose Library of Lirigon was much like Maerad had expected it to be: a broad building filled with many references and scrolls she could not understand the importance of until Cadvan brought her to the third level. It was an unpolished and vacant room. A few stray books lined the dusty shelves, which were simple and plain compared to the extravagant collection downstairs. It was beautiful nevertheless and Maerad couldn't contain her curiosity. "When was the last time anyone visited this floor?"

Cadvan brushed off an aged trunk. "Only the Light could tell," he answered. He shuffled through its contents until he found a scroll. "As you can tell, it was never quite finished; it has served only as a useful storage area until these pieces can be copied."

Maerad nodded absent mindedly as she fingered through the pages of a nearby book; it was clear through the thin, tattered edges that they were in need of rewriting. She thought about all the work that would go into writing it anew, of how much she would enjoy being able to write such a long book if she knew how to write.

"Aha! This would be a good lesson," Cadvan announced. Maerad turned to watch him unravel the parchment on the long table in the center of the room. "Read this."

Maerad licked her lips and wandered over. The runes she found scratched onto the paper were difficult to read and with untrained eyes, she could barely comprehend their meaning. She sighed in frustration. "It looks quite difficult."

"Aye, it is. Written by one of the greatest mystics, Lorica of Turbansk," he confirmed. "Long did she study the silence of the White Flame, until the very last years of her life. But alas, you have enough knowledge to read her work," he assured. "I have faith."

Maerad smiled wryly. In her lessons with Dernhil, she had learned much of famous scholars but never of this woman; her writing seemed strange, truths held within words that had no meaning. However, being within reach of such great achievement made Maerad relish the moment and clear her throat. If Cadvan had faith in her, she would try her best.

"Love, that most enduring of emotions,

No man or woman can resist its pull

upon their soul. It is that which causes

the greatest joy, and the greatest heartbreak.

Love, that which takes your heart and

gives it to another to keep or to torture.

It is that which causes such great acts,

but may cause evil in thoughts and deeds."

Maerad paused as she felt Cadvan lean over her shoulder, his warm breath caressing her neck. The poem was beautiful and moving, but she could not bring herself to read further; Cadvan was too much of a distraction.

"Love, that which causes jealousy in the

greatest man, and timidity in the smallest.

It is that which prepares a man for sacrifice

or murder just the same to protect their love.

Love, that which makes life unbearable,

or causes your heart to lift and your soul

to brighten as you look at them. It is that

which makes two souls become as one."

Cadvan finished speaking and waited for her reaction. "It's undeniable," she whispered, delighted when he kissed her cheek. The sensation felt so new, so right, an awareness she had awakened to when he cradled her so tenderly after the singing. So many moments had passed; awkward, confusing, even times of anger, but through it all, Maerad learned to realized that she loved Cadvan and everything about him. The way his dark hair felt running through her fingers, the brilliant smile he reserved for her eyes alone, the way his lips felt against hers, all made her itch with desire.

"Love is a mystery even the greatest Bards have yet to unravel," he laughed softly into her ear. "But Lorica certainly captured its traits."

Maerad shrugged him off in play. "And what does that mean?"

His face glowed with joy, an indescribable happiness that radiated through his every movement. "I love you and everything about you. Is that enough explanation?" he whispered against her ear, his hot breath stirring her hair. Maerad found herself unable to move when he stepped closer, placing his hand on the wall behind her. He had her boxed in, trapped against the edge of a bookcase, his arms to either side, his hips even with hers. "I want you. I want to be with you." He nuzzled her neck and murmured against her skin. "And…" he trailed off.

Maerad could almost hear the rumbling thoughts echoing in his mind. "And?" she smiled mischievously.

"It was nothing," he smiled crookedly. "Just thinking out loud."

He straightened himself and he made to move away, but Maerad pulled him gently against her. "Maerad, I'm sorry if I upset you. I didn't-"

"I am not angered," she murmured as she slid her hands up his torso. "But you will tell me what you were going to say."

A profound sense of relief such as he never thought possible seeped through him, enriching his blood with a glorious tingling heat. She was so beautiful and so close that he couldn't deny the searing heat that coursed through his veins at her innocent touch. Surely she wasn't aware of what she was doing to him; she had never been with another man. And yet in this moment he found himself so desperate for her, to feel her wanting through trembling fingers that teased his senses and drove him wild with ravenous hunger.

"Maerad," he mumbled as she kissed him. He could not appreciate rational thought when she did this to him, the very essence of his morals fleeing from the room as he wrapped his arms about her small waist. He never wanted this feeling to abandon him, for Maerad to cease her ministrations. And from Maerad's lack of hesitation, he considered it an invitation. "Love," he whispered into her mind. "My heart is filled with jealousy for you. Never have I craved to hold someone so close or to feel as I do for you. I have never wanted anyone as I long for you, but we cannot do this here."

"Cadvan," she breathed, ever so lightly stroking his cheekbone and the faint scar that burdened his face. "No one will find us."

His head pounded with a rush of confusion, so much that he had to lean against her before he toppled over. For the savior of Edil-Amarandh, for the one people followed in admiration, being found in a library making love would not be the most becoming situation. But he couldn't bring himself to part from her luring touch, her soft skin. Instead he kissed her hungrily, passionately, with all the fire within him. His hands slid down her back, memorizing the slope of her spine, and when he reached the more lush curves of her bottom, he could not help it; he pressed her more firmly against him. He was aroused, and wound more tightly than he'd imagined possible; all he could think- if he was thinking at all - considering what he was doing and where, was that he needed Maerad close, closer. "Maerad," murmured again, one of his hands moving to the spot where her dress touched her skin, just at the collarbone.

Cadvan felt her flinch at his touch, and he stilled, barely able to imagine how he could tear himself away. But her hand reached up and covered his and she whispered, "Don't stop."

It was only then that he once again breathed.

Fingers shaking slightly, he traced the delicately edge of her bodice. Her pulse seemed to leap beneath his touch, and never in his life had he been so aware of a single sound- the quiet rasp of air, brushing across her lips. Looking back into her deep blue eyes, he couldn't help but smile. "You're so beautiful," he whispered, as he continued to trail his hand over her body. Softly, gently, he bowed his head and brushed his lips along the hollow at the base of her throat. She gasped then, or maybe it was a moan, and her head slowly fell back in silent agreement.

Her arms were around him and her hands in his hair, and he could hardly breathe or think of the consequences that could come of this. All he knew was that he was with Maerad; his friend, his love, his life. He raised his lips to kiss her, his hand moving down the side of her face to her shoulder, then to her hip. His passion grew deeper, and hers seemed to as well; she returned his kiss fervently, leaving him breathless with desire.

"Cadvan," she moaned, her voice lost in the warmth of his mouth. "I am not afraid."

Cadvan found the hem of her dress and slid under, grasping the slender circle of her ankle. And then up to her knee, and higher. Until he could bear it no longer, and he moved, partially covering her with his own body against the towering bookcase. He kissed his way down her neck again, to the gentle swell of her breast, his lips finding the very spot at the edge of her dress that his fingers had so recently traveled, causing her to arch her hips beneath him.

Maerad couldn't possibly comprehend what that movement had done to him, that ever-so-slight pressure raising up against his own desire, bringing him to the very peak of need. She waited. She gasped. She even jumped, just a little, when his fingers slid along the outer curve of her breast. She watched as he leaned back enough to fumble with the fastenings of his breeches with frantic fingers, and she almost laughed at his urgency.

Moving closer, he lifted her up and set her on the casing. Maerad opened to him immediately, without reservation, without fear. It had been so many years since she had first laid eyes on him, so many moments she had denied these emotions. She never wanted to stop kissing him, to let him go. She finally felt safe in his arms, and she wouldn't let that feeling escape without a fight. His touch was gentle, but still, she thought she might scream from the shock and the wonder of it; his fingers explored her in a manner so intimate it left her breathless. She let out a loud gasp.

"Shh..." he scolded. "This is much more precarious than you know."

"Cadvan, I need you, " she said quietly. "I care not who hears us. As of right now, you and I are alone." Cadvan did not reply but continued to gaze into her deep blue eyes. "I will never speak to you again, Cadvan of Lirigon," she panted, trailing her hands over his body. "You cannot ignite a inferno and expect to douse it with kisses." She scarcely noticed when he settled himself between her legs and thrust himself into her, so enduring was her longing. She clung to him tightly as rippled of pleasure stole through the portals of her body. But she couldn't resist it long, for the desire he brought to life within her was as unfathomable as the sea and just as timeless. "Cadvan," she murmured over and over.

His answer was to increase the tempo of his motions until she moaned and writhed against him, seeking the satisfaction that eluded her. "By the Light," he thrust in. Maerad dug her fingernails into his back as he pulled back. He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. This was more than a union of two bodies; it was the union of two souls, which had pined for one another far too long.

"Maerad," he breathed. "Moan for me."

Despite his previous warning, she agreed, expression her commitment and satisfaction through each wave of pleasure that washed over her. She clung to him as he brought her sensual gifts she'd never dreamed existed. All were whispers and thunder together, passion and strength and sweet success. Her head fell back as her body was rocked with tremors, then jolts then quakes of pleasure.

Suddenly he strained against her, and she felt his warmth flow into her as he reached a pinnacle of fulfillment he never thought possible. The tension slowly left his body as he leaned against her and gasped in aftershock, still moving gently against her. "Maerad," he murmured into her skin, his breathing labored. "My dearest Maerad."

Maerad smiled and tilted his head to see him properly. He was so handsome and she couldn't believe she hadn't thought so before Hekibel had mentioned it. Despite the smell of salt and hot breath against her face, she had never felt so content. "I suppose this is what the poem meant?"

He grinned and wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead, her tousled hair mingling with his own. "I suppose so, Elednor."

o-0-o

*One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.*