The Empty Tower
“I learned a lot from her,” Marie-Simone said. She ignored Luc’s darkening eyes preferring to stare out at the snow-covered land, their land, Middlenorth land. Breathing in the cold air, she could feel his glare on her.
Closing the distance between them, “You learned from her? What did you learn?” he said.
She turned sharply to face him. Lisette Covington had been her first teacher truly when Marie-Simone had been the Queen’s valuable captive in the southern court. Wise Master Gibby, their tutor, strict Sister Lucy, her governess, even her Lady Mother, and her Lord Step-Father, all tried, all taught her letters, her numbers, her arts, her stories, and songs. All for nothing. Lisette taught her the truth of the world. Showed her the monsters in the world. She taught her that women have many weapons in their arsenal. Marie-Simone didn’t tell Luc that, she was a lady and didn’t talk about those things.
“She taught me about strength and weakness and power,” she said. And she taught me what you do for love, Marie-Simone thought. She didn’t tell Luc that either.
Brushing past her stepbrother, her shoulder touched his and she heard him inhale deeply. Luc had been crowned King of Middlenorth barely two days. Already he does not want to listen to me, she thought.
“We’re finished with this conversation, my lady?” he said while she was still close enough to hear his low voice.
“I have duties to see, too. As do you, your grace,” she said to him stopping her stride for a moment. She did not turn to look back at him. She did not need too. He was behind her now. She could feel his strong presence. If she leaned back, his arms might wrap around her.
“Marie-Simone,” he said in her ear.
“Luc, I’m to see to the repairs that must be finished before the next storm. There are messages to send.”
Luc said nothing more to her. She walked down the battlements back toward the stairs that would lead her to the yard. Behind her, she heard a guard approach Luc, their captain of the guard needed the King’s attention. Good, see to your duties, Luc. Forget about our fight, she thought.
They had disagreed earlier in the Grand Hall before the Lords and Ladies. She was trying to help him. Marie-Simone wrung her hands as she walked down the stairs. They had to be careful. Lord Lovell would look for any reasons to withdraw his support from Luc.
Lord Lovell it was not Lisette, Luc had wanted to discuss. Had he seen the look Lord Lovell gave her in the Hall? She thought not. She hoped not. The man never stopped trying to catch her eye or whisper in her ear. Trying to turn her against Luc.
The training yard was a buzz with activity. It was not enough to still her wondering mind. She thought of the night of the feast before Luc was crowned. They had argued at first. Luc hated that Lord Lovell was at Auroris. And then…then…she had begged him not to be foolish. He promised her he wouldn’t. He promised. It was just a small kiss. Hector had kissed her, Lord Lovell always kissed her in Mistyvalle.
Luc was her king, she had made sure of that. Why should she deny him a few small kisses? To thank him, to show her love. Love no one but your family Lisette had told her. Surely it was fine to love Luc. He was her family, her only family. They could love each other, and laugh and be silly like children when no one saw.
She walked the yard, speaking with the stablemaster, then the new steward. Marie-Simone liked to watch the repairs being made. Imagining how beautiful Auroris would look when they were finished.
The very fat Sir Albert Aquavie approached her, “My lady, excuse me, might I have a word about the repairs?”
“Of course, Ser,” she said to Lord Aquavie’s only remaining son. He had made himself more useful than expected. Helping to oversee the workers finishing repairs the Highhallow’s had started. Perhaps he was attempting to make up for his father’s lack of support during the Battle for Auroris or attempting to present his daughters as useful marriage candidates. The thought made Marie-Simone’s head hurt.
“His grace, wanted the Empty Tower repaired,” he said. Marie-Simone pursed her lips. Yes Luc had insisted on it being fixed.
“And there is a problem?” she said.
“My men are concerned it is not fixable,” Ser Albert glanced toward the Old Keep and the Empty Tower. She remembered her younger brother who had almost died falling from it a few years before. Her heart sunk. She had dreamed of rebuilding the Tower, cleansing it of all the tragedy.
“I’ll speak with his grace. We may need the Tower, yet.” Marie-Simone thought for a moment gazing at the abandoned building, “Perhaps there is a way.”
Ser Albert bowed and left her in the yard. Marie-Simone felt eyes on her, his eyes. She turned looking up and found Luc on the covered walkway. Darkness clouded his face, his hand clutched his sword.
Night came earlier and earlier. Marie-Simone was forced inside the Great Keep to sit with messages and letters that must be sent. The table in the room Luc used as his solar was covered in parchments. She started going through their messages. The message from Queen Lisette on top.
Much as she tried to collect her thoughts and respond to messages sent from Middlenorth Lords, Marie-Simone failed. A woman’s best weapon… It was only a few kisses from a brother to a sister. They only played for a bit after. He used to wrestle with Denys and Hugh when they were children.
Why, just the night before she had helped him write the announcement declaring him King of Middlenorth. Luc had asked for her specifically to write it. It took too long to finish only because he kept teasing her while she sat on his lap. Every time she put the quill in her mouth to think, he would suggest some silly word. In retaliation, she used the quill to tickle his neck. When she finished, he praised her words and handwriting. Marie-Simone was so happy, she wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him lots of soft kisses. Oh let him think on that and forget our argument today.
Marie-Simone wondered if he would come to see her. She thought to send Jocelyne to find him and then stopped. It wasn’t proper to summon a King, a king who was already cross with her. She refused to give him any more reasons to make a marriage alliance out of her and send her away or even worse find a new Lady of Auroris.
The solar grew hot and stuffy. Marie-Simone remembered Ser Albert’s concerns about the old Empty Tower, she decided she would go see it’s condition for herself. Taking her cloak from a hook by the door, she wrapped herself in the fine silken wool. Pulling the furlined hood of her cloak up, she went out into the coldness of the winter night with a torch lighting her way. She was halfway to the tower when she saw the lynx came up next to her. Luc was close behind, a torch in hand.
“You’re walking alone in the dark, my lady,” Luc said.
“Better to turn an ankle, your grace,” she replied. Luc snorted.
“I looked for you in the solar,” he said.
“Ser Albert has concerns about repairing the Empty Tower,” she said. She thought she heard him grunt, ‘Ser Albert’ but decided to ignore that.
“And you decided to check on this late at night?” he asked.
“I wanted a walk,” she replied.
“I told you. It’s not safe walking by yourself around the castle at night. Not with all these Lords and their men here,” he chastised her.
“I’m fine, you don’t need to join me,” she said but you could if you wanted, too. Luc continued to walk alongside her. “You want the walls repaired, the tower repaired. I’m trying to fix things. To keep us safe,” and be useful so you won’t send me away. Marie-Simone was becoming impatient with his silence. Luc walked ahead of her finding the entrance to the tower. He wore only his woolen jerkin and gloves with his heavy breeches. He didn’t seem cold without a cloak. Shadow plopped himself down at the entrance. She placed her torch just inside the entrance. Following Luc as he led the way up the stairs.
The stairs wound up to the very top. Marie-Simone was breathing heavy, the brisk cold air winding her. It did not seem to bother Luc. She admired his strong legs in the tight dark breeches. His wavy dark hair was pulled back from his bearded face. He had become a handsome man if a bit serious at times.
Luc circled the room at the top of the tower. Marie-Simone stood in the middle surveying the space. It was still sturdy. They will need this tower if the Great War. If Lisette sends her armies to suppress them . Or…or…if darker enemies from further North come upon them. Marie-Simone shuddered to think about it.
One could see to the North or the South from it. If they took the time to make the repairs, it would make a useful watchtower.
There were stones and broken pieces of wood laying about. The ceiling open in some places. The stone floor had been covered with straw recently Marie-Simone thought. Luc had stopped at an old hearth built into the wall. He squatted down taking off his gloves to begin cleaning it out, peering up the chimney stack to see if it was clear. Marie-Simone distracted herself by peering out the only window in the room.
“Careful,” Luc called to her. “Isn’t that how Hugh fell?” he asked. She stopped. Luc hadn’t said their little brother’s name since they were reunited at the Snow Forte several moons ago.
“I doubt it,” she replied. No one had ever told her or Luc how Hugh fell. She doubted anyone knew. “He was always good at climbing.”
Luc snorted, “He was a kid.”
Exasperated, did Luc not remember what a good climber Hugh was? Not looking at him she said, “How would you know?”
Marie-Simone went back to looking at the few stars she could see. It was a cloudless night which meant tomorrow would be frigid. There was an eery silence behind her. She realized that Luc had not made a sound, even the breaking of wood to build a fire had stopped. Marie-Simone turned to see him staring at her, his face shrouded in shadows. She stared back.
“Nilel…” he started to say then shook his head. “Eee…” he tried again and shook his head again. It seemed an eternity before he said, “Mari-Si, Mari-Si bring me that wood.” and he turned back to the hearth.
Marie-Simone picked up the pieces of wood he had pointed to and brought it to him. She had heard the first name he uttered before. He once called her that at the Snow Forte. The Highfolk women whispered it when they thought she wasn’t listening. But the ‘Ee…’ was he calling her Esmi? She had never told him the secret name she used in Mistyvalle. The minute he heard Lord Lovell, pretended to be her father, and she his bastard, he would hear no more about it preferring to hit the wall then go destroy a few training dummies.
Luc had fallen into a deep silence. Marie-Simone could only squat beside him, handing him pieces of wood. He used the torch to light the dry wood. The fire smoked for a bit and Marie-Simone coughed so hard she laughed. He fanned the smoke coughing and laughing with her.
Growing quiet, Marie-Simone said, “This is a good watchtower. To protect us from the North or South.” Luc nodded. She thought again about Lisette’s message. The last time the Queen was in Auroris was when Hugh fell. She told Luc this, she told him she wished King Thomas and his Coving Queen had never come to Auroris. Luc said the same thing he always said, How could they know. How could they know the tragedies that would come?
“I looked for you?” she said.
“At the feast, when King Thomas was here,” she said. “You promised me a dance.”
Luc remained silent. Marie-Simone chatted on, “I know I danced with Prince Christofre first. Then I went to look for you. Denys said you were out in the yard. You had promised me.”
“I’m sorry, Mari-Si,” he said.
“You always said, ‘You’ll dance with me, later,’” Marie-Simone mimicked Luc’s gruff voice. He smiled giving her a shy sideways look. She bit her lower lip and swallowed. She thought about his short beard scratching her lips when she kissed his cheeks.
“Truly, I’m sorry,” he said again. “If I had known…” he shook his head.
“Dance with me now,” Marie-Simone requested. Luc looked at her sideways for a second time.
“Now?” he said. Luc ran his hand over his head. His hair was pulled back.
“If you dare say, later…Luc Wake,” she threatened. He sighed and nodded. She stood unfastening her cloak letting it fall to the ground and straightened her purple-grey skirts. Luc stood and took her hand, placing his other hand at the small of her back. They were the same height and their dark eyes met.
“There’s no music,” he said.
“I’ll sing,” she responded. In another time there was another song. A song she sang with a battle raging outside the castle walls. There was no battle tonight. Luc was her king now and she would gladly give him a song.
The first song she thought of was the sad ballad telling the story of Queen Nelis and her beloved brother the Lionknight. Perhaps she should sing something happier but she could not think of a happy song. They moved slowly to the rhythm. She continued humming when she couldn’t remember any more verses. He drew her closer to him and she pressed her cheek against his, letting his beard scratch her.
Marie-Simone listened to Luc’s breath and wrapped her arms around his neck leaning her head on his shoulder.
“Careful,” he said to her. Luc was always telling her to be careful.
“I’m careful,” she said. Luc pulled her closer to him, slowing the back and forth motion of their dance. His hands wrapping around her waist.
“No, you were not careful the other night and the night after, my lady,” he said.
“What do you mean,” she asked all innocence. He means the kisses.
“You know what I mean,” he responded.
Luc forced her to look at him, “Marie-Simone we aren’t children anymore. You said so yourself.” She blinked back at him hearing his words thinking how long it had been since she danced.
“You smell of smoke,” she said to him.
“So do you,” he told her shaking his head. He started to loosen his grip on her. No, Not yet.
“Take off your jerkin,” she said adding “To air it out.”
“Besides, the fire made it warm in here.” She was relieved that her excuse was true as long as they stood near the fire that had grown large in the fireplace.
“Only if you take off yours,” he challenged her. Marie-Simone’s eyes widened.
“Luc, I’m a la..”
“Don’t say it Marie-Simone Saye,” he commanded. “You were no lady after the feast.” He stood close to her starting to undo the black jerkin he wore over his grey tunic.
“We were playing,” she defended herself. “You and Denys used to wrestle and Etoilie always kissed your cheeks.”
“I don’t remember playing with Denys like that,” he responded. Marie-Simone pretended to pout.
“Off,” he said again to her.
“You first,” she countered. He shook his head, lifting the jerkin over his head. She bit her lower lip again and began to unlace her dress. She had been wearing a simple purple grey wool gown with a fur lining. It tied at the side with three sets of laces. Marie-Simone undid the first two letting the front covering her chest fall open. She could feel the cold air on her breasts underneath her white woolen shift.
Luc sucked in. Marie-Simone didn’t take her eyes off him. If he wanted her to take her dress off that is what she would do. Just like when they were children running in the woods or swimming in the hot springs. She undid the third lace letting the front of her skirt fall open. The dress slid off her shoulders, falling to the ground. Marie-Simone thought she should be cold but the fire still crackled.
He reached out pulling her towards him. She placed her arms around his neck.
“Are we still dancing?” she asked.
“Do you want to keep dancing?” he said. It had been so long. She nodded. They moved together. His hands glided up and down her waist. She ran her hand through his hair to loosen the tie that held it back from his face.
She placed a soft kiss on his cheek and he sighed. “Marie-Simone, we’re not children.”
“I know,” she agreed, resting her cheek against his. If we were children we could stay at Auroris just like this. No one would ask to marry either of us. He wouldn’t send her away for an alliance. She touched her nose to his and Marie-Simone knew what she must do. She couldn’t play the girl anymore. Didn’t want to play the girl anymore. She would keep both of them safe, here in Auroris. Seduce him. A women’s weapon.
Pressing her lips to his full ones, Luc gasped in surprise. He kissed her back. He was hungry for her mouth, forcing her tongue open with his. Marie-Simone surprised herself for she was just as hungry. Luc turned with her, pushing her against the wall. She could feel his cock harden in his breeches. Her hands went up underneath his tunic clawing at his chest. She let her right hand slip down lower and lower until it loosened the laces on the breeches and slipped between the fabric of his small clothes. His cock was warm and smooth, she found she liked the feel of it in her hand.
Marie-Simone let Luc pull up her wool shift exposing her thighs to the frigid air. He lifted her wrapping her thighs around his waist. Her hand had to leave his cock to hold onto his shoulders. Pressed against the hard stone wall, his hand found his way between her legs and underneath her small clothes. He rubbed her nub making her moan before putting her fingers inside her moving them back and forth.
Luc growled, “Yes,” he said. “That’s it.” A fire rose in her belly and she moaned. She bit his neck to try to slow the sensations rolling through her body to no avail. Her head lifted and her eyes rolled back when she cried out.
He pulled his hand away and she whimpered. “Nooo..” she moaned breathless. “Don’t..don’t stop touching me.”
“Aye, you’re greedy, now,” he said. She watched him put his hand to his mouth licking the wetness from between her legs.
“Yes,” she said taking his finger to put them into her own mouth.
Luc growled again grabbing her legs and turned to lower her on to the straws covering the stone of the tower room’s floor. Luc pulled her boots, stockings, and small clothes away leaving her only in her shift. Rubbing her nub a bit more before he used one arm to pull his grey tunic over his head.
Marie-Simone kissed his chest running her hand on his scars down to his stomach before fumbling for the laces of his breeches to loosen them further. His cock popped out hard and already dripping. She moved her hands up and down not letting go as he pushed the breeches and small clothes to his knees and eventually all the way off in between kisses.
They were near enough the fire that she forgot about the cold. Luc rolled onto his back pulling her on top of him bringing them closer to the warmth. She was looking down at him her hands bracing his chest like the night of the feast only this time there were no heavy skirts, no woolen breeches, between her sex and his manhood. She could feel it twitching against her inner thigh.
He leaned up on his elbows to suck on her tit. Oh, gods that was wonderful. She moved back and forth against his hips. His cock so near the entrance to her sex. He turned his attention to the neglected breast sucking on that one while squeezing the other. Her nipples hard and pointy.
When Luc laid back again, he ran his hand through her hair. Marie-Simone leaned down to kiss his chest. She could feel him shift underneath her.
“Marie-Simone,” he said. “Marie-Simone look at me.” Rising up to gaze at his face. He asked, “Do you want this?”
“Do you?” she asked back. He kissed her and she shifted until his cock was almost inside her.
“Tell me you want this,” he said. She thought of the North, of Auroris, her home, her family, of him. There was only one answer.
“Yes,” she said with more love in her heart then she could ever understand. She kissed him again their tongues pressing against each other. Luc pushed his manhood inside her as slowly as he could. It hurt for a moment and she grasped. It had never been like this. She had never desired it like this.
Marie-Simone raised up for a moment so just his tip was inside her and lowered herself again taking him in fully. His eyes widened and he placed his hands on her hips. Holding her, Marie-Simone rocked gently back and forth on his cock. Luc reached for her breasts, he even rubbed her nub while she moved up and down. She leaned forward to kiss him. He held her tightly thrusting his hips up, pushing his manhood deep into her. She moaned. Her mind went blank.
Luc flipped her onto her back slowing his movements. Marie-Simone was lulled into calmness, her thighs wrapped around him, her hands caressing his back. She thought she could stay like this forever, with him inside her just like this. She ran her tongue back and forth along his collarbone and neck even in the cold she could taste the salt of his sweat. Luc groaned and thrust his cock harder into her. Marie-Simone’s breath grew heavy again and that same feeling began to rise in her belly. She tried to hold it in. She gripped his back tighter digging her nails into his skin. She pressed her lips together.
“Let it go, Mari-Si,” he growled.
“I..I..” she said. “Ohhh gods, oh my gods.” It was a fire she couldn’t put out, didn’t want to put out. It made her shake and moan and cry out.
Luc grunted, “I can’t..much longer,” he said between heavy breaths. He thrust into her again and held it there, letting out a deep groan.
He supported himself placing his hands on the stone ground on either side of her head. He kissed her and pulled his wet cock out of her. He rolled to the side of her and propped his head up with one hand, running his other hand over her soft stomach.
Marie-Simone’s breath was slow and heavy. Words had left her entirely, her eyes glazed over.
“Are you ok?” he said. She turned to him. Luc searched her face. “Say something.”
She locked her fingers into his, pulling his arms around her as she turned onto her side, her back to his stomach.
“Marie-Simone,” he said again.
“I’m cold,” she finally replied. He kissed her neck. Untangling himself from her, he stooked the fire until the room was blazing hot. Then he found her dress and cloak. Wrapping them both in the heavy wools and fur, they laid in each other’s arms on the straw covering the stone floor.