Age of Edward Contest

LJ Summers

Title: She Was His First

Type of Edward: Ancient Celtic Edward

A/N: The Celts were, in their prime, a vast collection of people that reached from what is now Ireland, to touch on Eastern Europe and down to the Roman Empire. Their artwork has been found to be some of the most intricate of the ancient world, used for trade and adornment, still being uncovered. The Hallstatt Age is known for its abundance of Celtic finds. It is approximately 500 B.C. as we enter the Age of Edward.

The fire snapped as Edward, the Lord Emrys, stepped past it, flipping the edge of his dark blue cloak over his shoulder. Under the fading sunshine of the late spring day, his skin glowed with a faint light that also glanced off the gold torc at the base of this throat and the bronze pin keeping his cloak in place. It wasn't that he required the cloak over his torso, for even the coldest winter night was comfortable to him. He wore the cloak to look like he belonged. Not for the benefit of the man standing in front of him, no. The shaggy dark hair on Erik's head didn't move a breadth in consternation, nor did his thoughts betray any untoward leanings. Erik was an entirely trustworthy servant.

"I'll be bringing my bride with me before the full moon. She will require fresh bedding in my chamber. And the new blankets are to be ready," Edward informed his servant. "See to it."

"Will she be...eating, sir?"

The Emrys – a title given to him by the Celts far beyond this region that would one day be called Germany – smiled crookedly and cocked his head in a manner so human that Erik was aware anew of how inhuman his lord was. "Yes. So bread and cheese would be good for her to have upon our return. Hunt for boar as well. When she arrives, you will all feast together." Wild boar was actually good prey – a challenge to hunt and catch without damaging his clothing – but it took more than a couple of them for Edward to feel satisfied. "Fresh greenery would be pleasant as well. Something aromatic." He gestured about his circular home with its lime-coated walls, the thick grass thatching overhead, supported by heavy beams, and the woven grass and reed floor coverings on the earth floor. "She is coming from the Rhine people, and I want her to have a sense of her new home as soon as she arrives."

"Yes, Lord Emrys." Erik nodded, already thinking hard about the order of how he would accomplish all his lord had asked of him. Edward could see the images as they lined up in the human male's thoughts. The grinding stone for the grains, the cook-fire, the water and the women who would oversee the baking... Erik was rather interested in one of them, actually, and planned on asking the Emrys for permission to wed her. A tiny, dark-haired widow named Alis who had been discovered half-dead after a local tribal skirmish. Her husband had been a minor king, a yellow-crowned warrior whose reputation had traversed the forest. The warrior had died with seven spear wounds in his chest and stomach. Alis herself had been out of her mind with grief until Edward had found her by tracking the source of a tangled assortment of powerfully-held thoughts. Together, they returned to the site where her husband lay, his body surrounded by a multitude of crows who seemed to wait with an ominous purpose as if guarding the body of the lesser king.

"Crows...crows... Death and death and. Dead and dying, Emrys," Alis had said, her voice rising and falling in odd intervals as she continued. He had stilled in sheer astonishment to have her call him Immortal – for that was what Emrys meant in a language of a people across the lesser sea. It was a title that had traveled with him, over the centuries. A title and legends that followed him a flock of crows, seeking death. Or at least recognition. "They do not wait for you, Emrys. They wait for others. Dead. And dead and dying."

They ran ahead of the band of the triumphant tribe, Edward carrying her in his arms as he would a little child, cutting through the heavy growth more swiftly than any deer, knowing that the warriors who would have pursued him and taken the woman in his arms thought he was a god or a ghost of the dead chieftain.

His servant Erik had taken Alis to his heart almost immediately and his thoughts were always a little awestruck when he considered her. Edward considered this to be a good thing, though seeing them together had only amplified his recent loneliness. It was time to claim his bride.

} ~ {

The forest was lush, but he could see the horror that lay hidden in her green-scented, overgrown depths. Bones of lost travelers, gnawed by animals who would always know more about the damp bowels of their home than any human who tried to navigate a path through the dark. Some of the bones were pathetically small. Children who had either wandered or been abandoned in times of great strife or famine. To live or die as the gods willed, the humans believed.

Edward had once found a raggedy remnant of humanity still stubbornly alive once. A girl with hair the color of grain in the sun who was called Rose, like the flower. It was this golden Rose that had sent the Emrys searching, years past, for a mate of his own. It was time. He was surpassingly lonely and asked her if she might consider it. "No, not me, Edward. I'd as soon have you drain me than be your wife."

"Really?" He had been amused.

"Really. You need to find yourself a girl who knows who you are and what you want. Someone who isn't expecting anything other than what you'll give her."

"You make it sound like a curse, Rose." But she was right. He was accursed and, though he lived well for a man in this time and place, his existence was not something he wished to pass on to anyone. Rose had made that more than clear. She knew his secret, too. Everyone in his household came to, eventually, from the herdsmen with their beasts – his beasts and sometime sources of the necessary fresh blood – to the weavers of cloth and Erik, the senior of his servants.

Rose shrugged and looked beyond his shoulder, caressing the thick braid that slid between her breasts over the tunic she wore for every day. "You have wealth, my lord Emrys," she said with an exaggerated obeisance before him. "And you've great manly beauty. But you're cold."

He knew this. He also knew she'd probably despise him if she knew he could see that her thoughts were much more harsh than her words. Rock! Blood-drinker! Unnatural! Gratitude slipped through her thoughts, but only lightly. She considered that she had served him well for fully ten cycles of the seasons. She wanted a life of her own.

"Well your forbearance is appreciated," Edward said wryly. "What can I give you in return?"

"Emmett of the Alemanni." He saw the enormous man in her mind. He knew him. Another local lord. "He wants me, too." Of course he does, she reflected, her memories of his skin and touch and kisses affecting the Emrys not at all.

"If he has half your strength, he can ask for you himself. You know where I am. And you'll keep my secret?"

At this, Rose stilled. Edward caught her thoughts, the times she had almost told Emmett, in their brief meetings. But she had not. Relief swept over him. Those who knew were, by and large, beholden to him. Others had heard the legends and rumors, but knew nothing for certain. "I will, Edward."

And she had. That had been fully ten cycles of the seasons past. Rose had borne Emmett of the Alemanni two sons and a daughter before dying of lung-rot. But she hadn't given up her life until he had seen her.

"Do you want to join me?" he had whispered in her ear. Emmett had been seeing to their children on the other side of their round, thatched dwelling. Rose had been stimulating company and would make Edward a fine companion to spend long dark nights with, when humans were sleeping, if she wished to join him. "I can still make it so."

Her eyes were surrounded by fine lines and there were already gray streaks in her hair, near the temples. Her body, once ripe with promise, was worn with childbearing and sickness. Still, she smiled at him, her blue eyes not having faded with time. "No. Let me go, Emrys. I am not of the everliving. Claim your bride. You did find someone?"

His bride had been fully five turnings of the seasons on the earth when he had seen her first. The cherished only daughter of a twice-widowed king. Car was wealthy as such things were understood. Five villages, connected by blood and bonds of war, looked to him for leadership.

"Yes," he had whispered to his dying Rose. "I have. And she has been told to expect me, as you recommended."

She grimaced, but then smiled again before coughing. The blood was a trial to him, but he did his best to clean her up while her husband kept dry-eyed in front of the children. "Good. Be good to her."

He had given Rose's children gold for their futures. It was all he could do for the girl he had found near death in the forest.

Two full seasons had he seen since then. Not being limited as the humans were, he could find his way easily from village to village, petty king to larger lord through the dark mystery of the forest. He was returning to the River Rhine, where King Car waited with the woman who would be his wife.

Edward tried to imagine how she might look, now.

} ~ {

She had been a slender, pale wisp of a girl helping stack wood under a rain shelter in their village the day he had chosen her. He had not chosen her out of any sort of lecherous desire – he had long ago acknowledged that sexual desire was out of place in his life – but rather because when she had seen him, her first instinct had been to run to him. In all his time of walking the earth, no one had ever done that. No one had run to him, a smile on their face. Not even a child.

Additionally, he had been unable to find her thoughts unless he shut the doors on every other corridor of his mind. Then, he heard her scattered imaginings and had been enchanted.

He is a warrior! I see his long knife. But he has no scars! He has a torc like Father. Eyes like the gold metal bracelets. He came through the forest. He must live nearby. He does not bow to Father. His skin is whiter than mine. Oh look, the sun is coming. Pretty sun. No more rain.

Edward had bolted for the cover of the forest then, beckoning to Car to follow.

Still he focused on the child. So brave, she was. So observant. The first mind he had actually had to look for in all his long, long existence.

"Emrys," the minor king had said, calling him from his reverie. "You have not been seen in these lands for a very long time. What brings you?"

"Her," he had whispered, nodding at the girl. "Prepare her for me."

King Car had blanched, his heart stuttering and almost stopping within his ribs. The strange, wetly strangled sound in the man's chest grabbed the rest of Edward's attention. "Buh - but, my lord..."

"Not like that. No. You have heard of me." It was not a question.

"I have. I have heard that you do not...misuse your people."

"And my wives? Have you heard of them?"

"Only tales," the king rasped, his hand on his chest as if assuring himself that all was still moving and breathing as normal. "It is said that you cannot have children, but that you do not die, so don't need an heir." Car got all that out with one terrified breath, the scent of fear bursting like water into the air around him. "So do you join with your wife?"

"Sex?" Edward asked, hearing the king's thoughts and wincing internally from the imagined, gore-flecked pictures in his mind. Sprawled limbs and blood spilling from multiple wounds inflicted upon bare breasts and pale skin. "No." When the curiosity moved over the images of sex and death, Edward set his hand heavily on Car's shoulder, making the man flinch. "Your daughter will be safe with me, Car. She will live long as the lady of my home. She will never face childbirth," he continued, his mind entirely absorbed in the brown-eyed man's thoughts. The loss of two wives in childbed weighed heavily upon Car so this argument had much merit. The girl-child was of great value to her father. "She will have good food, servants, warm blankets and hot fires. She will want for nothing so long as she lives."

"And how long might that be...?" King Car had heard all of the legends. Visions of blood and death followed the Emrys...

"That I do not know. But her end will not come by my hand." Or any other part of him, he thought with a flash of humor. "In return, I will send bring you cattle. Warm blankets. All that my people can make and can spare."

"And gold?" The king was mindful of the tangibles. He eyed Edward's torc with keen interest.

"Gold, too. This very torc, if she lives to her womanhood and comes to me freely. I would not have an unwilling bride."

King Car straightened, his demeanor abruptly proud and confident. "It shall be so, my lord Emrys. Isa will be your wife."

Edward bowed his head in acknowledgment of the effort this took the human to give this gift to him. "I thank you."

"Warrior!" The high voice of the girl-child, Isa her father named her, reached him as she ran through the sun-lapped meadow to the tree line. "Warrior! Don't leave!"

He shut out King Car's busy thoughts, filled with images of furry cattle, richly-hued blankets, cloaks... Instead, Edward sought the elusive, butterfly-beautiful thoughts of the little girl. Isa. He's so pretty! Oooh, what's that on his arm! It's pretty too.

No thoughts of avarice reached him from her. She was just honestly intrigued by the thin bronze band he wore. It was a twisted decoration with configured knots on each end. Isa's wide eyes smiled upon it. Edward smiled at her – the motion felt strange on his face and he realized he hadn't smiled so broadly in quite some time.

"Little One. Isa."

She beamed a grin up at him. "Warrior! How'd you know my name?"

King Car opened his mouth to speak. The Emrys ignored him, kneeling down to come closer to the girl's eye-level. "I was speaking to your father about you. So, you like my arm-band?"

Her hand moved quickly to brush against it. "It's pretty and bright. Like your hair in the sunshine."

He didn't think about it, he merely removed it from his wrist. "Here. Keep it for me, Little One, until we meet again."

"It's cold," she whispered, holding it carefully in two hands. Curiosity swam through her foremost thoughts as she watched his face and touched his hand. "You're cold, too. Do you want to come in to our fire, Warrior?"

"He is The Emrys," King Car stated, his voice ringing with the flat determination of uncertain authority. "He has a fire of his own."

Young Isa flipped a section of tangled brown hair over her shoulder and glared up at her father with the confidence only a favored child could develop. "He'll have a long trip back to it. He could stay with us."

"No," King Car blurted. "He'll be back soon enough."

Isa's expression was suffused in childlike pleasure. "Oh! Good! Well, then. I'll take care of this until then, Emrys."

Pushing up to his full height, Edward nodded down at her. "Thank you."

} ~ {

The village had grown since he had been here last. A few small dwellings had been planted and thick, ancient trees had been felled to make more. King Car has been prosperous, The Emrys reflected. Good.

The aroma of venison over an open fire reached him. Smoke trails of oak-fires wove around the meaty smells. Was he expected? He had not sent word – he had no one in his service who would reliably traverse the forest's depths and return. Perhaps it was just an ordinary celebration. Or a good hunt.

He lurked in the tree line as the sun shone still over the village, occupying himself in searching for Isa. Which of the young ladies was his promised bride? That one had dark hair, but she turned and it was not her. Brown eyes would not change to blue. Another woman was small, seen from the back, her hair braided, but she turned and he saw that she was pregnant. So no, not his Isa.

Then, he heard laughter, a squealing sound that tickled his ear and tugged at the corners of his lips. "Stop! Put me down!" A sunbeam glinted off the bronze arm band she wore. His heightened vision saw that it was the very same one he had entrusted to her long ago. A growl rumbled deep in his chest. He could flash through and take her away from the man who had her captive –

"Not yet, Isa. You have to finish what you started," a hulking creature called, his voice loud and raucous. Edward stiffened, his fingers curling as he dropped instinctively into a hunting crouch. The laughter belonged to his promised wife. What was that man doing?

"Carolus! Put your sister down."

Edward relaxed as King Car emerged from the largest of the low-roofed dwellings. Isa was set gently on the ground and the young man, her brother, smoothed a hand roughly over her hair.

"Your wish, my command."

Edward paid them no more heed, choosing instead to watch Isa. A smile was still on her face as she moved toward one of the fires where a leather pot hung. Erik used that three-stick method to cook soups. They often smelled vile, but he and the other servants seemed to enjoy the soups. Isa rolled a hot rock from the fire and dusted it off with a small leafy twig before wrapping her hand loosely in leather and picking up the hot rock to drop it in the leather pot.

She smiled a little and stroked the arm band he had given her after she unwrapped her hand. Then, she paused. Perhaps she had felt him watching her, for she turned and scanned the tree line, body stiff. Edward shut out all other sounds and thoughts and tried to find her mind again, that private place of enchantment.

He's here. I know he's here. The Emrys. He's here. Yes! Yes! There he is! Oh, he's so beautiful...

Edward tried to relax as she crossed the grass to where he was. She stumbled, but didn't fall and just accepted it, he could see in her mind, as part of her walk. Oh, look, he's wearing his torc. And his cloak is such a deep blue. I can't get my blues that deep. What does he use...?

"Isa," he murmured as she drew near. Of its own volition, his hand lifted to cup her face. She gasped and he dropped his hand. Of course, he felt so different. He should have moved more slowly. "Sorry. I see you've kept my arm band."

A pink hue washed under her skin and he heard her heart speed up. "I have, my lord Emrys. Just as you told me. I've not forgotten." But I didn't remember you right at all. So cold, but so beautiful. Your jaw, my lord Emrys. Oh, it is like granite, but perfect. "My father has spoken often of you," she said, her voice trailing away. Smoothing her dress down, she bit lightly on her lower lip. Edward felt like she was weaving a spell around him. Never had he been so completely possessed by a human. It was as if he didn't smell her blood at all – it was not an issue with him. His preoccupation was entirely, well, human.

He could study the clarity of her skin, the elegant line of her throat all day, all night. Her bones pressed delicately under her skin, teasing him to follow their contours. He drew in a breath and traced with his eyes the round line of her shoulder down her bare arm to her hand where it was still occupied in smoothing linen fabric over a gentle hip.

"My lord?"

"Edward," he said softly, dragging his eyes from the dark triangle he detected beneath her unbleached shift. He knew that it was only his enhanced vision that would detect it, so that other male eyes would not have had the opportunity... He hoped. If King Car had done as he promised.

Why did it matter? The other women he had chosen for temporary companionship – his previous wives, in other times and places – hadn't aroused this much protective concern in him. Neither had Rose, and he had wanted to keep her by his side. He hadn't felt like this about her. But with was different.

"Ehd-ooahrd." She did her best with the unfamiliar syllables. "Ehdooahrd," she said again, more fluidly. He watched her lips form the sounds that meant his name, wondering if she would say it against the back of his hand, so he could feel it.

He smiled, thinking of how strange this was. Strange, but oddly welcome. So rare was there anything new in this existence. "That's very good. Thank you."


"Father!" Isa shot Edward a wide-eyed glance and whispered excitedly, "Is it time, my lord Emrys?"

"Edward," he reminded her with a smile.

Blood rushed under her skin again. "Ehdooard. Is it time?"

Huffing and gray, King Car half ran to assure himself of his daughter's safety. He stopped several steps away. Ah. He's returned. She'll be leaving... Regret pulled at his face. "Emrys," he puffed before drawing in a long, ragged breath. "You've returned. But where are the cattle? The blankets?" He won't hurt her. She won't die like her mother did.

His thoughts were not truly on the goods, Edward noted. They were on his daughter, her life flashing in his mind and all the times they had spoken of this day. Edward felt something inside himself relax. She was prepared. She knew who he was and yet she came willingly to find him, a smile on her face and welcoming thoughts in her mind.

He waited until Car reached him and extended a hand out. They gripped one another's forearms as equals did; Car managed not to flinch. "Emrys."

"King Car." Releasing his hold on the old ruler, Edward tugged the gold torc from around his throat, holding it flat on one palm in presentation. "She came to me willingly; here is what I promised."

Car's expression was impassive. "And the rest of her bride-price?"

"I will bring it myself as soon as she is settled in her new home." He smiled down into Isa's eager eyes. "Only I can lead the procession and bring my people back home, you see."

"I suppose I have to trust you, then."

"Father, I'm ready. I want to go." All my life, he's all I've been waiting for. She brushed the bronze arm band again and her gaze dropped as the shy thought passed through her mind. I know Father said he doesn't take his wives like most men do, but surely the Emrys...can? He looks to be in all ways as all men, just more. Better. Perfection, as if the gods themselves made him. Where did he come from? How did he find me? What about his other wives? I want to ask him. Will he answer? Might he change his mind about me...? I want... She sighed and Edward saw the path her imagination took and his own breath caught in his throat. That she had witnessed sexual activities did not surprise him, of course. Humans lived mostly in one-room dwellings and sex was not, in his experience having lived with humans, a private activity.

Would he do that...? Her mind imagined him with an uncanny accuracy, considering she had only just seen him again. She pictured him as if she were watching him from across an expanse of earthen floor. For Edward, this was not a new experience, except that Isa had a better sense of how he would actually appear than other human women had before. How his body would move during sex, the musculature of his back, the motions of his head, the way the firelight would catch in his hair. The Emrys felt himself becoming aroused by just seating himself within her imagination.

That was something that had not happened since he had become The Emrys. It was disconcerting and worrisome. How could he keep her safe? He would deny himself and cease to share these imaginings with her. That was all he could do. His brows drew together as he withdrew from her mind. Reluctantly.

King Car turned to his daughter. "You are certain, my Isa?"

Mine! Edward snapped in his own mind. My Isa! He inhaled and exhaled quickly. Unnecessary but also very much required. He breathed in the scents of the food cooking, the turned earth of spring, the sweat and leather and wool from Car's garments and unwashed person. But over all of these, there was Isa's own personal scent. Lilac and honeysuckle... Divine, truly.

"Yes, Father. I have my cloak and new shift ready." She slid Edward a shy, entirely innocent glance. "If you still want me, my lord."

"Yes, yes I do." He extended his hand formally to her. "Will you accept me as your lord, my lady?"

"I will." She took his hand in her own and did not flinch. On the contrary, she brought her other hand to surround his large one, smiling in a way that he had seen women do when they were particularly pleased.

King Car grimaced, but visibly forced himself to smile as the sun set below the trees. "Then come, Lord Emrys. Let us send her off with a song. She will wish to collect a few things, as well."

"Yes!" Isa whispered, the pink color rising along her cheeks again. "Yes. Let me just do that. Yes." She smiled at Edward, her dark eyes glowing in the low light before dipping her head in an obeisance.

"Stop. None of that, my Isa. You are my wife." Their acceptance of one another in front of her father, the ruler of his people, was enough to formalize the union.

Your wife, she mouthed, eyes wide and – for a moment – anxious. Then, she seemed to recall that she had nothing about which to be anxious and her face relaxed. "I'll meet you by the fire," she murmured.

King Car coughed and Edward heard a heaviness in his chest. He was relieved that he had come that season for his bride – King Car might not survive another winter. The lung-rot was, for some, inescapable. "Come, then, my lord Emrys. And I will look forward to seeing all the beasts and blankets. Soon."

} ~ {

The trees served as their own kind of dwelling for the first night Edward spent with his bride. Not that it was a humanly conventional bridal night. The Emrys slung Isa's bundle in his own cloak and tied it about his torso as they entered the deep darkness of the forest.

She hesitated. "I've never...never gone in there more than a few steps, my lord."

"Edward," he teased, his hand extended to catch her own. "Come. You are safe with me."

She shivered and clutched her dark blue cloak about herself in one hand before allowing him to take the other. "I know it. I do. I'm sorry." He angled what he hoped was a playful glance at her – he had little practice with those. She ducked her head. "Ehdooard," she said. "Ehdooard." The repetition was more smooth. "How far will we walk tonight?"

They walked and talked as long as Isa was comfortable. As the moon rose high over the trees, slanting down its light through breaks in the foliage, the conversation faltered.

"Shall we stop for the night?" he inquired with what he hoped was an appropriate amount of warmth. He had dedicated himself to staying out of her mind this evening. What she had been imagining had been...far too tempting.

"Y-yes, please. Thank you." She looked about. "How? Where?" Her heart started to beat fast and the very specific odor of fear slid from her.

He moved, faster than human eyes could follow, to gather dead wood for a fire. Though she gasped, she didn't protest. He never left her alone and, indeed, it must have seemed as if he did it all by some sort of magic or something. Applied friction set the wood on fire. Not enough to cause him concern, but enough to reassure and warm her against the chill of the spring night. "Now, between our cloaks and the new blanket you have here, you should able to sleep in relative comfort."

"Tell me about your life, Ehdooard," she asked as he settled her in his arms, wrapped in two cloaks and a blanket. "I want to know..."

Instead, he sang to her. A wordless melody of the sun and sky, and of a long, lonely time existing under both. Once she slipped into sleep, he took advantage of their position and indulged himself, wading in her dreams with a smile.

He himself figured prominently in the wanderings of her spirit during this time. Since these thoughts were largely nonsensical, he did not fear that they would cause him to feel anything more than he could control...

But he was wrong.

Soon, Isa's dreams lead him down paths that made her heart pound in her breast. Her breath came in soft, fragrant gasps as her body moved restlessly against him. The heat of her beckoned to him, his senses acute. That distinctive smell of feminine excitement, enticement slid secretly from her to assault his senses and his own lagging idea of honor for his lady. Why her? Why now? Why did this young woman reach him in a way that he had never been touched before?

His body responded without his permission and he found himself rocking against her, burying his nose in the loose draping of her hair over his arm. Her dreams provided him with he then brushed his lips over the curve of her ear. She knew he would be cold to her senses and she seemed to take enjoyment from that, even in her sleep.

Rose had told him to find someone who knew what he was. A very intelligent woman, his lost Rose. Emmett of the Alemanni had never truly appreciated her.

"Edward," Isa whispered, saying his name as perfectly as he could wish while she dreamed. "Edward... Please say you will..."

And her body moved independent of his own and Edward stilled, his body coiled against something he knew only in the thoughts of others. No, he couldn't...could he? Dare he?


"Isa," he murmured just over her ear. "What is it?"

"Please," she whispered and then her eyes opened and her lips parted with a gasp. "My lord!"

"Yes?" he murmured as a breeze moved the leaves with a near silent blessing above them. "What is it?"

"I – I'm sorry. Did I keep you awake?" Her heart was still pounding and that so-delicious, intriguing scent did not diminish.

Edward shifted uncomfortably, his manhood still surely pressed too tightly against her soft flesh – through blankets, but still, he knew it and so she likely did as well. She shifted a bit and he felt the increase in friction. His eyes widened. So did hers.

"I am sorry, I made a promise to your father..."

The deep, dark wells of her eyes shadowed and he thought a suspicious glistening came to them. Salt. He smelled salt water.

"You're...crying, my Isa?"

With a wrench, she flipped over, cloaks and all. "No. Of course not."

He judged it best to keep silent, holding her as she slowly drifted back to sleep. He did not join her in her dreams again that night.

} ~ {

"If we run, we'll get there more quickly," Edward told her after she broke her fast on cold venison. She hadn't wanted to meet his eyes all day and The Emrys found himself hesitant to pry into her mind to find her thoughts. He had hurt her. Not her body, but her heart. That much he knew.

Isa stepped around a tree so thick with age that it would have taken three of him to encircle it. She was having a very human moment and he kept his senses trained on the area around them to give her what privacy he could. Most creatures stayed away, for his presence was unnatural in their domain. Birds, though, sensed that they had nothing to fear from him. A blue-feathered creature made harsh, aggressive sounds from its little throat, as if offended that Isa had chosen its tree to do what she must.

"I need water, my lord," his wife called. He heard leaves rubbing against skin. "How much farther are we going?"

"As I said, I can run us there much more quickly. But..."

"But what?" she snapped, sounding irritated.

With a sigh, he moved a few steps closer to her, still on the other side of the trunk where he could hear her smoothing fabric over her body. "But I don't want you to be angry with me," he admitted. "I've had more than one wife in my existence on the earth, Isa," he told her, believing she knew this already but not sure how to make it right between them. He had no set discourse, wanting merely to talk until she reappeared.

"Did you really never...never join with them? Like men do with women?"

"I never have, no. It's dangerous, my Isa." Her feet moved restlessly on the ground; he heard leaves and small rocks move against her leather-soled shoes. "I'm sorry about last night. I never meant to make you cry."

Her heart skipped a beat and then thundered loudly enough that he heard it. "How dangerous?" She gasped a little and he heard her step around the tree, stopping close enough that he could have touched her if he had moved his arm. He chose not to. If she was going to trust him, she would have to make these overtures on her own; he would not initiate them. Not right now. This was the first movement she had made in his direction since the morning started to lighten the leaves overhead – he wasn't going to move precipitously and frighten her. Leaning against the tree, she braided her hair and didn't meet his eyes. "How dangerous, Edward?"

"How much did your father tell you about me?"

"How dangerous?" she insisted, tying off her braid with an abrupt motion of her fingers. Flicking it out of her hands, she finally – finally! – turned to meet his gaze. "Will it kill me? Is that why? Or are you afraid I'll be injured?"

Edward set his jaw and allowed himself to read her thoughts. He had to know. Cold. Father said he was cold and couldn't be hurt or killed. Is that all this is? Is he worried about his skin? Or about his manhood? It felt so hard last night. Good. Right. I was only sorry he stopped... That hurt. Hurt to have him stop. Alanna said that it hurt when a man took you, but I wouldn't mind if it were Edward...

Immersed in the heat of her memories, Edward felt himself responding again and clenched his fists before he gave in to the urge to crush her against himself. He couldn't do that to her. Not what she wanted. "I – You may have noticed that I don't eat, Isa. Not as you do."

What? Why is he talking about food? "What? What does that have to do with making me your wife in every way?" she demanded reaching to wrap her heated fingers about his cold forearm. Cold. Right. I like it. He feels strong. Yes, this is a good thing. "Do you think I'm afraid of what you eat? Father said you didn't eat. Exactly. You drank blood. But that you would not drink mine."

"I do, and I won't, yes. I have no blood of my own, Isa. No fluids flow in my body."

She peered at him closely. He does not look dry. There is something making his eyes wet. I've seen dry dead eyes and his are beautiful. Gold and beautiful and bright. "Something makes your eyes shine."

He smiled and reached to cup her face, finally feeling as if it were his Isa back in front of him again. The little girl who had approached him fearlessly. The woman who had sought him out and told him she was ready to be his bride. The heat of her skin pleased him so much, made him so vitally aware of her. She stepped into his embrace, so he allowed himself to enjoy it. "It's venom," he said in the air over her head before he pressed a kiss to her hair. "It's the only thing within me. It's dangerous, my Isa. It's with venom that, that my kind make more."

"You have babies?" she asked, her mind drawing pictures of tiny golden eyed beings with stony skin. "Really?"

He sighed wistfully and nuzzled her hair again. She smelled so delightful to him. Feminine, beautiful, sweet and vibrant. "No. Not babies, dear one. In order to be like me, an immortal, a blood-drinker, one must be changed from a human. I used to be human, like you. I don't remember much of it, but I used to be a man like other men."

Her heart leapt against him and he closed his eyes, regret slicing through him as if it were a mishandled knife. "Oh. So someone made you this way?"


"And it was with the ... with the venom? Like a spider? They bite and a person can get sick or die..."

Edward held her a little away from him and waited until she tilted her head back to meet his eyes. "Yes. If my venom met your blood, my Isa, you would feel such pain... Pain that I would never want you to feel. Ever."

Comprehension rounded her eyes. Images in her mind of her virginal blood and how she imagined his venom to be, her own body swelling with the memories of a baby dying from a spider's bite... "Oh. I...I understand... But..." Edward marveled as he held her, for she drew herself even closer to him, her arms all the way around his bare torso, her cheek pressed hotly into his chest. "But husband, I know you wanted to, last night. You did."

"I did," he confessed. He had to be honest with her and it wasn't as if she hadn't been aware of his arousal. Just remembering now brought it back.

She sighed and pressed her belly against his cold but rising flesh. "You do now, too. So how can we..."

"Isa..." He was failing her. None of the other women with whom he had passed years had ever been so persistent. Or so tempting. "We can't."

His wife rubbed provocatively against him. "So what happens to you now?"

His laugh was short, sharp and surprising. "You are a curious woman! I suppose I just will run with you't a problem anymore."

"And what will I do, husband?" Her voice was beguiling, her thoughts swirling with memories of women experiencing sexual satisfaction – a sound The Emrys had heard many times since he had taken on human servants – in the dim, fire-lit edges of a round dwelling.

"You'll come home with me." For truly, that was the only surety he could give her now, when all that he wanted to do was selfishly damn the consequences and – No.

Her mind was busy, however, and her thoughts were far away from running anywhere. "You said you have venom. Is it in your mouth, too?"

"Persistent, aren't you?" He both wanted to halt her line of questioning and encourage her to continue. Her thoughts raced over scene upon scene of men and women. As if she had chosen to train herself in this manner, as a warrior might learn to fight.

Her smile was impudent. He grinned in response as she repeated her question. "Yes," he said, a warmth building within him that he had never felt before. It felt like it suffused his chest and lifted his lips and made him want to stay right here, where that warmth originated, forever.

"But – you kissed me last night." Her cheeks heated with her life's blood. "I felt you."

He blinked for she was right. He had. Their eyes met, a light in hers that seemed to ignite something within him. Carefully, he lowered his head. He had done this and she had not suffered for it. She wanted him to. Her lashes lowered and in her mind he could see she gave her entire attention to the shape of his mouth. He skimmed her skin first. He had done that the night before, while he learned from her dream. Pink-under-pale cheek, jaw, clear forehead. Her scents surrounded him. The floral of her skin, that beckoning scent of her arousal. Again. It was all he seemed to want to breathe...

With a quick sliding of her head, her lips met his and he froze. But only for a moment, making sure that no venom pooled, nothing to harm her. No. Just his lips. Her lips. Open, meeting, melding, breaths mingling as they came together and apart. Isa's heat warmed his own skin as he swallowed her breath. A burning spiral began low in his abdomen as he carefully held her closer.

Smooth. Beautiful. Her thoughts focused on how he felt to her and on a heated feeling of her own. Edward was feeling himself becoming lost. Lost in a haze of amazement like he'd never felt before. Then before she could think it and warn him, he felt the tip of her tongue meet his lower lip and he froze.

Sweet! Good, good, yes more yes...

Edward wanted to taste her in return. He didn't. Instead he moved back – just enough to take in her flushed countenance as he listened to her bliss-filled thoughts. Wordless colors and feelings that swirled in her mind.

"Thank you," she breathed, her eyes slowly opening.

He slid her up his body until her face was level with his own. "I never knew what it meant," he whispered, studying the tiny golden flecks in her deep, wonderful eyes.


It was a little overwhelming for him, to experience and acknowledge something he had heard and seen but had never felt. His chest felt tight and he couldn't seem to breathe. "Love. I love you, my Isa."

Her answering smile could have brought the sun's rays to the darkest heart of the forest. "I love you, too. I always have."

} ~ {

The cluster of round buildings that constituted a small village was situated on a hill, draped by grazing cattle and, farther out, ringed by ancient forest. This was "home" and it had looked much the same to him with every return he had ever made after a hunting journey or the rare trading ventures. He had brought at least one other bride back to this particular hill, and still The Emrys could recall nothing particularly memorable about any of those homecomings, save that he could of course remember them. He had no choice but to remember everything, but now that he had delivered his bride price to King Car, it felt like the first time he was seeing his home. It was exciting. Anticipation brimmed over within him.


"Isa!" he shouted in return, waving as she did in a gesture so human it was foreign to him.

Erik, who was walking beside him, chuckled in honest amusement. "My lord, it is a wonder to see you happy like this."

Edward grinned. "It feels strange, but wonderful as you said. So, when will you make Alis a happy woman?"


The men laughed together and Erik slowed down. "A moment, my lord. Let me catch my breath. Alis will be trying to steal it as soon as she –"

"Erik!" The small woman with an affinity for crows and odd timing shouted, waving next to Isa. "Hurry! Bread's perfect!"

"Want a ride?" Edward asked his servant, gesturing with a thumb to his own back.

"How embarrassing." Still, he consented and the Emrys removed his cloak and its carried burden so that Erik could ride like a child on his lord's back up the hillside.


"Put him down. Alis wants him. She's planning on making it permanent tonight, you know."

The Emrys swept his love up into his arms and nuzzled her jaw. This much, he could do without worry. Open-mouthed explorations of her body.

More...I want more, my Edward...

He stopped and looked into her eyes. There was a determination, glinting with a deep brown sparkle. Knowledge and new wisdom, too. He was intrigued and worried. "What is it, my Isa?"

"Tonight. After we've welcomed you home," she whispered, sliding her hand up to tangle in his hair. Around them, the servants moved with elements of a human feast, as well as lighting the fires in the beaten earth of the yard.

The Emrys found himself in a strange state for the rest of the evening. Never in his recollection had he looked forward so much to time alone with anyone. Not even Isa on their first night. Of course, that was before he knew how brave she was, and how much she had thought of him over the years. It was before he knew how close they could be, physically and emotionally.

He had never known himself before her.

Crows swept low in the sky, prompting Alis to point to them even while she held Erik's hand in a grip tight enough to make her knucklebones press hard against her skin. "Be wary, Lord Emrys. Death and death. And dying." She ran around the fire to take her lord's hand in her thin fingers before whispering, "You have died. Others will die. But the crows die, too. She knows. You know. He knows. Crows know."

By his side, dipping a ragged strip of bread into the fatty juice from the roasted boar, Isa paused, her wide gaze sliding from Alis' face to her husband's. "Edward?"

The Emrys regarded his wife while keeping Alis' hands in his. "Later, my wife. Now, we must make a wife of Alis!"

Cheers erupted from the smattering of humans about their fires. Edward had ten servants now, if one numbered the two surviving children. "Erik! Come join your chosen woman!"

Wiping his hands off on the slides of his waist-belted woolen wrap, Erik grinned and leapt over the low fire at which he and Alis had been eating. "Yes! Lord Emrys, I stand ready to heed your bidding!" he shouted with a triumphant lift of his fist.

Alis beamed and joined Erik, her short tunic falling neatly at her knees, before she straightened the sun-bleached cloak she wore against the evening's light breezes. Edward rose and pulled Isa up to join him. The others took that as their signal to wipe off greasy fingers and gather round The Emrys' fire.

"We are few, here," Edward began. "I know all of you are trustworthy and keep the secret of my life within your minds and hearts. I hope you know how much I appreciate that and each of you."

"We do! Yes! Thank you, Emrys." Nods accompanied smiles and eager expressions.

Edward laced his fingers with Isa's and relaxed his abdominal muscles. He knew there was no one he need concern himself with here, excepting his wife. "It was a sad morning when I found our Alis here, but joy followed quickly for us and for Erik, especially." Raucous laughter and teasing went around the small circle. Edward noticed that Isa laughed as well and his own heart was lighter to see and hear it.

"Alis." She knew what was coming and appeared appropriately aware of the responsibility as well as aware of her happiness and Erik's, he could see. Her thoughts were – as always – tangled, knotted messes of omens, recipes and faces. "Do you accept Erik to be your husband? To look to him as your spouse and partner in all things?"

"I will!"

"Erik. Do you accept Alis as your wife? As your spouse and partner in all things? Do you promise to look after any children the gods bless you with if they so choose?"

The dark-haired man nodded vigorously. "I will."

"Then you are wed. Now go to bed!" Edward directed, pointing in the direction of the small, circular dwelling where Erik had taken Alis some time ago. This declaration was just for custom. Ceremony.

Erik picked up his diminutive new wife and dashed back with her to the fur-covered wooden door to their house, the rest of the men pretending to give chase. It was something they had always done, Edward recalled. For seasons upon seasons.


"Yes, my Isa?"

"Do you need to hunt this evening?" She came behind him and he shut out all other distractions, allowing himself to slip into the butterfly beauty of her thoughts. I just want you to know I know, my husband. If you hear me, press my hands against your stomach.

Sheer shock kept him motionless before he did as she asked and used the lightest pressure to bring the heat of her skin to the bare chill of his own. "Isa...?"

I used your time away to learn everything I could, my Edward. I love you more than my own life! You must know that. Can't you tell?

He turned, still wrapped in something between fear and wonder. "Who...? Who knew this?"


Of course. He nodded slowly. "Come, my love. I have missed you," he murmured.

With a few understood gestures, Edward made sure that the fires would be put out. With another glance at the crows, most of which were picking at something on the ground at the bottom of the hill, he followed Isa into their home.

It was another round dwelling, though larger than the others. He had a central fire circle and woven mats on the floor as well as logs and a small boulder he had brought in for when the others joined him so they could all sit in relative comfort. His home was the central gathering place in wet weather, and during the colder days and nights of winter, all of those who looked to him moved in, sharing warmth and food and company. Tonight, though, it was empty of everyone save himself and his wife. And the fire that she had banked before the feast. It crackled with welcome.

"I missed you," he said once more, gathering her up in his arms, lifting her off the floor and up to bring her eyes on level with his own. "We hardly had any time together before I left."

"I know...I've missed you too."

She wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders, bringing her lips to his. They had kissed – often – carefully but thoroughly. The venom threat did not keep them from that much, anyway. Edward held her carefully, cupping her bottom in his hands and shifting her so that she could use her legs to wrap around his waist.

Of course, his manhood responded immediately, making her gasp against his lips. "Edwa- ward," she breathed. He felt her heat, smelled her arousal and sighed coolly in answer. Please...she thought, her mind obviously making this a purposeful communication.

"Please what?"

"The water in my mouth doesn't hurt you..."


She pulled back and bit her lip a moment while giving him an image in her mind. He was lying down on the bundle of furs and grasses that served as their bed. Entirely naked in her idea of him, Edward watched Isa's imagination show how she wanted to...taste him. All over, apparently. All over every single part of him.

"Isa..." he moaned, involuntarily thrusting into the juncture at her thighs. The heat called to him, her thoughts beckoned, her scent and thoughts wove through the more settled parts of his thinking and he found himself ripping her long tunic from her body, straight down her spine.

"Edward..." Her fingers tightened in his hair, flexing restlessly as he smoothed over the skin on her back.

Bare skin. The heat of her was amazing. Beautiful. Impossibly appealing. The soft indentations over her bottom, the curves of her hips. He felt them all, urgently but making sure at all times that he kept his touch to what he knew she was comfortable with from him. She had never shied away from the cold flesh he offered her, not ever.

Even now she moved, pressing her soft heat against the straining erection under his wrap. Please, her mind whispered. The word was surrounded by impressions of her mouth on his skin, his mouth grazing hers, of the idea of their bodies coming together fully...

He growled, but she wasn't afraid. Her heart sped. In less than the time it took her to draw a breath, she was on her back on their bed – not the image of her mind, but one he could not help but explore. With a flick of his arm, the rest of her tunic was gone, her body exposed to his eyes, flushed and hot and perfect.

You too, she thought, her eyes heavy as they swept over his body.

He complied without thought and she reached for him. Her fingers spread, she dragged her hand through the hair on his chest, his stomach and below the dip of his navel. He inhaled sharply, closing his eyes but still seeing himself through hers. Her thoughts were filled with love and adoration.

So beautiful, my Edward. Perfect. Feel me feel you. Oh, I want... I want...yes...

He saw her before she moved, saw the intention of her mind as her fingers slipped the scant span to his manhood, which she brushed and, upon his appreciative gasp, grasped within the hot circle of her hand. His body acted without his thought, but he had seen this too often in too many minds not to know what to do and how. "Isa," he sighed, his voice coming out in two separate parts to his ears. Smooth and broken. Young and old.

Bending, he did as he wished, opening his mouth and breathing her in through dry lips. Her blood pounded below her soft pale skin, but he slipped right over it, instead catching the unique taste-aroma of her throat, the flesh of her breasts, their hard pink peaks. She cried out, her voice high and surprised. The hand on his erection tightened, her other hand pressing his head to her breasts.

Edward! Oh! So good, my husband!

"You too, my Isa. Yes..."


He stopped and pushed up on his arms a little, wanting more, wanting that heat she promised to surround him. He waited until her eyes were open. "I want to try something."


A quick check reassured him that she had suffered no scrapes or cuts from his rough handling of her, so...he bent his head again to trace the skin between her breasts with his tongue. Slowly, savoring the flavors she secreted from her body.

Yes...yes...more. I'm fine, Edward.

Her skin suffered not at all, her thoughts were ecstatic, so he grew bolder and tasted her breasts, her belly, holding her hips between his hands as she plunged both hands into his hair. Her breath came out in fragrant gasps, encouraging him, daring him to go further.

It was all he wanted. She was the first he had ever wanted like this. The last he might ever want – but he banished that thought. Now was all there was. Her arousal, her personal aromas were there, curling under his nose. Mindful that having his venom enter her body would be a death decree, he used his nose and buried his awareness in her love of him, her welcoming of the pressures of his breathless circling.

"Ed- Edward... Oh...!"

He kept his attention split so that he could find in her thoughts what she wanted. More. Pressures, yes, she had talked to Alis and others and had paid attention – in training, as he had deduced before – as to how to please and be pleased.

He swallowed any residual venom in his mouth and dared to do it. Dared himself to taste that intense heat with just the barest tip of his tongue on the nub at the peak of her most private area. Where her hair held her aroma, tickling the sensitive stone of his skin, he licked and tasted and sighed and she began to cry out loudly, her mind exploding in a shower of fire-sparks and heat and color. too, my Edward...You too...

"No, no Little One," he murmured, moving to cover her with her cloak that had been dropped not long ago. That he had brought his wife, the woman he loved, to feel this degree of pleasure was all he could ask of himself. Of her, too. He was proud in a way he had never before experienced. He felt as if he were more fully a man, like other men. He understood how his wife's body responded – none of his other wives had enticed him so. "No, that you more than enough, believe me." He did not trust that his venom could be fully contained if she were to bring him to such a peak of satisfaction.

Her eyes were still glossy with erotic pleasure. Edward couldn't hold back his smile as he bent to kiss her softly.

Mmm... That's me? Nice... Yes... You too, Edward...

Quickly, she found his impossibly hard manhood. He had decided to find his own release, to experience in some way what he had just given to her, but she took the matter out of his hand – quite purposefully – and stroked him, pulling him closer and sitting up.

Beautiful. So strong, my Edward. So big... I love to feel you like this...

His breath – he had never been aware of the sheer act of breathing so intensely before. "Careful," he gasped. "Please, Isa..."

She smiled quickly into his eyes, her own alight with joy and that same determination that he had seen there before, just before their first kiss in the forest. "Yes."

Friction was light, but he only seemed to need the heat of her, the heat of her hand and the pressure of each span of her flesh. He knelt between her spread knees, clenching his fists so as not to hurt her. Not to touch her and risk bruising any part of her. A tension spiraled inside of him. Tighter and tighter as he thrust and she held him in both her hands.

"Isa... Isa..."

Yes, my Edward, let me... Her head tilted to watch, her gaze hot, she murmured nonsense sounds that meant I love you to him.

From his thighs, from his chest, forces seemed to converge and he was overtaken by a pleasure so intense that his hips shot forward fast and hard without regard to the fragile human woman he loved. He grabbed her shoulders and thrust, his body only reacting to the strength of the new sensation, the joy he felt in sharing this, the feeling of an immortal blood-drinker with his mate, his love –

Whose blood spurted from under The Emrys' hands, her neck broken, his venomed ejaculate still pulsing from his body even as he roared his anguish.

Outside, the crows all cawed in unison.

Edward... My love... Sorry not stronger... Like you...

"Lord Emrys!"

"My lord!"

"No!" he roared, frozen while his mind raced faster than any mere mortal could comprehend.

A woman's voice shouted, "Get Erik!"

Edward shook his head. He knew what he had to do if he wanted her with him. She loved him. She wanted to be him...

So he did what he could to make it so. Eyes blurred with venom, he held her broken body in his arms and bit through the delicate skin of her throat. So sorry, my Isa...

} ~ {

Crows ringed the bottom of the hill as The Emrys stood stiffly at the end of the shallow grave. He held head-sized rocks in each hand. "Erik was my friend as well as my most trusted servant," he said. "He never failed me. He never failed his wife, Alis. He never failed his children. He was a man that all men should be." At a loss for anything further, Edward placed the stones on either side of Erik's gray head.

"Erik was my husband," Alis whispered, her voice scratchy and no longer lilting with the strange tones of her younger self. She had not seen anything in quite some time – her eyes were milk-white. Too weak to hold anything larger than a fist-sized stone, she knelt and let the young woman to her right help her place one on the body of her husband. "He was all that I never knew I needed when my world ended."

There were twenty-five people around the cairn of Erik, Chief Servant of The Emrys. Around the grave, they laid their stones and artifacts. Fine artwork it was, too. The Emrys himself had shaped the metal ornaments. Spirals, a knife's blade, carved bronze by The Emrys' own hand all went into the cairn of his favorite human.

"It is time," the braided woman at the foot of the cairn said, her young voice rich and beautiful. The fading light of the sun glinted off the silvery scars that ringed her throat, but those were generally covered by a thick golden torc that matched the Emrys' own. She tossed that torc in with Erik's body before closing the final gap with a hefty stone of her own.

"Lady Isa," Alis' firstborn protested. "Your torc!"

"Erik is worth it. Let him go with all my honor," Isa murmured.

At a speed no human could follow but that all those around the cairn were familiar with, Edward, the Lord Emrys, reached for his wife's hand and ran into the trees of the dark forest, where they disappeared from all knowledge.

The crows followed.

} The End {