Blessing the Fields
It was the evening of the Summerday festival. All day long, the farmers and their families at Caitlin Hawke's country estate had celebrated with good food, music and plenty of mead. A huge maypole had been erected on the green between the manor house and the farmhouses, and a bonfire had been built of hawthorne and juniper boughs. Tomorrow, on the first day of Bloomingtide, the herds would be taken out to their summer pastures.
Fenris and Caitlin had been asked to preside over the festivities. It was their first annum as lord and lady of the manor, and they still felt slightly uncomfortable in their new roles. Only a year ago they had been living in Kirkwall, fighting rogue Templars and blood mages, until the Chantry explosion had put an end to their life there. Now here they were, feasting and drinking, as if no bloodshed and terror had ever happened.
When dusk fell, the fire was lit and the music began. A small group of peasants took out their fiddles and tambourines, and immediately a catchy dance tune was ringing out. The young people eagerly took to dancing around the flames, their faces happy and carefree, drunk with mead and excitement. Caitlin's feet began to tap the rhythm and her face lit up when a handsome farmer with curly brown hair bowed deeply before her.
"Lady Hawke?" His grey eyes flashed a daring grin at her as he held his hand out to her, asking for the dance.
"Jacob!" Caitlin threw a quick glance at Fenris and saw that he was scowling at the muscular young man. But oh, how she longed to dance! She gave her lover's hand a quick squeeze and jumped to her feet, joining the farmer in the whirling steps of the country dance.
Fenris was amazed to discover that she fell into step with the other dancers with an easy grace that spoke of long practice. Her partner was easily the best dancer on the green, but Caitlin, dancing barefoot, her long skirt twirling around her strong legs, was a perfect match for him. The first dance was a simple polka-like routine. The dancers were changing partners and positions frequently, and Fenris, who couldn't work out the complicated pattern, was amazed how assuredly his beloved wove through the crowd, returning unerringly to her partner's strong arms at the end of it.
Jacob was beaming with pleasure at her grace and skill. The musicians immediately started a new tune, a very fast pair dance this time, which included lots of turns and lifting. The young farmer easily twirled Caitlin around, his grip firm on her slim waist. She was laughing breathlessly, her white blouse sliding off her shoulder, her hair flying and her face flushed with the exertion. She had nearly forgotten how much she loved these simple country dances, their jauntiness and zest for life.
Fenris watched her dance, torn between desire and jealousy. He'd had no idea she could dance so well, and he couldn't help but admire the sinuous, graceful movements of her body. Her eyes were sparkling with joy and he felt a brief pang at being unable to join her. Everyone was watching her and her partner, he realized. A pretty blond girl sitting on the sidelines couldn't take her eyes off them, a deep frown on her face.
When the dance ended, Caitlin was panting and sweating, and had to lean briefly on her partner for support. The musicians began to play a slow, sensuous melody, and Jacob pulled her closer. Fenris tensed. I am not going to watch this, he thought incoherently. Then Caitlin pushed the young farmer back with a radiant smile and beckoned to the blond girl to take her place. Turning her back on the dancers, she walked back to Fenris, accompanied by the farmers' cheers. The fire had mostly burned down in the meantime. He was sitting almost in the dark, so she settled on his lap, leaning back into his embrace with a long happy sigh.
"Where did you learn to dance like that?" Fenris' voice sounded grumpy, almost grim, and she let her hand trail softly along his jaw and up to his ear, stroking the sensitive lobe, eliciting a brief gasp from him.
"We had similar country dances in Lothering. I used to enjoy them as a young girl. We were really not much more than peasants, you know. Besides," Caitlin pointed out, "it's important for the lady of the manor to join in the fun. It shows them that we care about them and their lives."
"You seemed to care a lot about that handsome young farmer," Fenris grumbled.
Caitlin threw back her head and laughed merrily, nodding towards Jacob and his girl who were absorbed in a slow and passionate dance now, their bodies pressed close together, their eyes firmly focussed on each other. "See them? They're going to slink off into the night any minute now, find a barn or a haystack somewhere..."
Fenris raised an eyebrow. "Really? What would the Chantry say to that? Surely good Andrastians don't-"
She cut him off with a soft laugh. "They are first and foremost farmers, Fen. She's probably betrothed to him anyway, and as soon as she's with child, they'll get married. No point in marrying a barren girl if you have a farm and need an heir. Besides, it's bonfire night, and they believe all the love-making will bless their fields for the coming season."
Fenris smiled wickedly, moving in closer and whispering in her ear. "Then wouldn't it be all the more effective if the lord and lady of the manor were to... bless the fields?"
Caitlin giggled and looked up at him. "Are you serious?"
He pulled her closer, letting her feel his reaction to her proximity. "Does this answer your question?"
They watched the fire burn down for a few more minutes, his hand caressing her back, his lips nuzzling her neck and her bare shoulder. The green turned quiet as the younger couples disappeared one by one into the darkness and the older people turned in, yawning. When only a few embers were glowing weakly, Fenris got to his feet and pulled her with him into the night, out into the fields.
Caitlin followed him to a large haystack, feeling like a young girl again. They lay down on the soft hay, looking up into the starlit sky. The night was balmy and quiet and they seemed to be alone in the world, despite the fact that all around them others were doing the same, seeking out secluded places to make love, to honour the forgotten gods, to celebrate the coming of the growing season. There was ancient magic in the air and they felt it thrumming in the ground beneath them as they embraced and kissed deeply.
When they threw off their clothes, the hay was slightly prickly on their naked skin, prickly and not altogether comfortable, but they soon forgot about the discomfort as their kisses grew more heated. It was almost completely dark, and they had to rely on touch and hearing far more than eyesight. There had always been a fire, or moonlight, or a lamp, if not broad daylight, when they had lain together. Now they had to feel their way across each others' bodies, listening for each sharp intake of breath, each little sigh that told them they were doing the right thing. It was slow, gentle, and incredibly sweet and when Fenris entered her deep, Caitlin arched up high against him, offering her body in a silent prayer to whatever gods were listening.
Later that night they snuck back to the manor house, happy and sated and in dire need of a bath. When they climbed into their bed, Caitlin yawned widely and snuggled against her lover. "I predict a good harvest for this year," she muttered contentedly. A sleepy chuckle from Fenris was her reward.
When Summerday came around again a year later, Caitlin and Fenris were there for the celebration, but this time she didn't join in the dancing. Her feet were swollen and she was heavy with child. Fenris couldn't take his eyes off her as she sat enthroned on a bale of hay, the perfect image of a heathen fertility goddess. Jacob didn't dance either. He was sitting next to his young wife, watching her suckle their newborn son. It had been a good year for all of them.
As usual, a huge thank you to zevgirl, the best and most patient beta ever.