Dragons of Challon ™
Unease rose in Julian as he felt almost alone in the strange fog. A foreboding? Guillaume either sensed Julian’s warrior disquiet or shared it for he stepped closer, placing a hand on his shoulder. Glancing over to check on Destain where he sat in the chair, his eyes were drawn past his brother.
Damian stood off to the side, talking with four strangers. Having accepted the oath of every villein and serf of Glen Shane and Kinmarch, Julian knew they were not of his holding. He blinked twice for the small group was more than passing odd. One, obviously of Norse descent––judging by the white blonde hair––stood a head taller than any man present. He was not someone you would ever forget. Clearly a warrior, he took up a position of deference and protector behind the three younger, slighter men. Dressed too fine to be anything but high born, all three were the exact image of the other, same pale red hair and narrow faces…triplets. Not something you saw often. In earnest conversation with his cousin, the middle one offered Damian a horn of drink.
Julian had not partaken of the mead being offered, for fearing losing his head around Tamlyn. Mayhap, the herbs the priest tossed upon the fire affected him similar to the mind-bending potions oft used in the Holy Land. Yet, after he blinked thrice trying to rid the strange image, the trio remained with their pet giant.
Suddenly, a feral war-scream split the night’s revelry, jerking Julian’s attention back to the balefire. A man soared over the flames of the sunken fire and through the smoke, making it appear as if he materialized from the blue fog. Clad in doeskin breeches, molded to his body by the lacing of leather thongs up to his mid-thigh, he wore nothing else, though upon his head was a half-mask with antlers of a large buck.
The man-stag executed several high leaps, kicking gracefully to fly through the air, then spinning from leap to leap, until he came to a stop before Julian. Oddly, he stood perfectly still, barely more than an arm’s length away. Vivid lavender eyes glowed behind the animal mask, locking with Julian. Then, with a magician’s pass, he extended his hand. Held between his thumb and first finger was a single fresh-picked violet. Julian glanced down at the purple flower, a shade similar to the eyes of the masked man, unsure of the significance. Julian sensed this was a test––that he was supposed to take it. So he did.
“Your first gift as Lord of the Glen.” Malcolm materialized, once again, just behind Julian’s shoulder. “On the first violets of spring, one may maketh a wish and it shall come true. Wish carefully, my lord. What will you wish for?”
Julian warily lifted the flower to his nose. There was no scent. The delicacy belied the endurance of the plant.
What should he wish for? Images of Tamlyn rose in his mind, of him touching her, her scent, her heat. He wanted to plant his seed within her body, for them to create a son. That need, that hunger, was crippling.
“Wish, Lord Challon. It shall be so.” The stag-man said with a small half-smile, touched with a hint of wickedness. Then, he spun in a circle and vaulted away from Julian.
He continued to leap, capering around the bonfire with a vertiginous force, the jumps rising higher and higher, almost gathering power from the bluish smoke. His bare chest glistened with sweat. His arms flung open and closed with each revolution; his head snapped about as he spotted his turns to keep from getting dizzy. Julian saw with each rotation, the lavender eyes fixed on him. Again and again.
So absorbed by the athletic display, Julian failed to notice four men stepping out of the shadows. Unlike the leaper, they were dressed in the green garb of hunters.
They began a hypnotic mime of the four hunters chasing the male stag, pursuing, spinning and leaping through the smoke. The hunters drew closer, closer, miming shooting arrows at the man-stag from bows. Finally, the man-stag was brought down from the invisible arrows. He staggered and fell to the ground, representing death. So bound by the performers, the crowd groaned in agonized empathy, as the male-stag suffered death-throws. The four hunters bent down, each taking a leg or arm, and in solemn respect made a full tour about the balefire. The blue smoke grew thicker, until it swallowed the hunters and their fallen prey, whilst the pipes wailed in a dirge. Then, a lone skirl of the bagpipes tore through the hush, as suddenly, a man leaped through the flames to the exaltations of the people of the clan.
Malcolm explained, “The stag has been reborn––the young Highlander now be Lord of the Forest.”
Malcolm explained, “The stag has been reborn––the young Highlander now be Lord of the Forest.”
No longer clothed in the leathern chausses or wearing the animal mask, he was dressed in a plaide of black and green. He carried an ornate claymore, the sword nearly as long as the man’s height. Instead of performing the high leaps and spins, he moved in fluid motion, demonstrating the skill of a man and the Highland great-sword being one. He slashed the air and parried with power, force and control as Julian had never seen, turning the weapon into an extension of his body.
Before, Julian had sneered at the Scots’ claymore as too long and clumsy. He now saw the fluid swings, thrust and parries meant for offense and defense were anything but cumbersome. With a magical skill, the warrior almost seemed carried by the drums, pipes and flutes. The magnificent sword seemed a part of the warrior, his artistry one Julian envied. Mesmerized, he watched and memorized the sinuous, elegant movements of the young, muscular Scotsman, and knew on the morrow he would seek him out to learn this mastery.
The volume of the melody slowed and lowered, stilling until it was only two pipers playing a low haunting refrain. A whispered hush descended over the whole gathering. Everyone held their collective breaths while all focus left the braw Highlander, and shifted to the opposite side of the hill.
Then, Julian saw what drew them.
In long robes and bearing torches, two men approached from the south entrance to the tòrr, solemnly promenading down the long avenue of trees, in front of a figure covered completely in a net of spun gold. Two female attendants trailed in her wake––Raven and Rowanne––each holding a corner of the gold netting train. The procession had the feel of a mock wedding march. The veiled figure came to a stop, as the robed escorts stepped to the side.
Taking hold of the veil, she drew her arms out before her and then raised them skyward. She stayed in that position, in supplication, then slowly allowed the net to slide back revealing Tamlyn, standing there in the flickering torchlight. She wore a kirtle of gold, spun from Highland magic, molding over her curvaceous body, with splits up to both her thighs. The heavy golden torque was about her neck. A chaplet of apple blooms crowned her unbound, honey-colored hair, which fell in waves down to her hips. Wide gold cuff surrounded her wrists, and reflected the torchlight. The only thing on her bare arms.
Two tin pipes played a slow, haunting tune as Tamlyn rose up on her bare toes. She swayed, rocking to the accent of the drum, the heavy, throbbing beat of the bodhrán, providing cadence for the wanton roll of her hips. When the music swelled, the bagpipes joined in. Her body undulated in a dance so carnal, so profane, that a crippling wave of lust seized Julian’s whole being. Flames of desire roared through him. The pain tripled as Tamlyn began her dance, circling the fire, her lithe. Her sensual movements gained force, matching the power of the melody, as she kicked her legs out, spun, arched and leaped. She flung the net about, trailing behind her so it appeared she had wings.
Julian stared. Awestruck. Entranced. The pounding of his heart echoed the bodhrán; his blood thickening until the drum set the rhythm of his heart. She held him spellbound, breathless. He was unable to take his eyes from her as she danced on air, lifted by the strange music. A music that had a life all its own.
The tall Highlander stepped back into the light, swinging the claymore again. Tamlyn spun around him, and almost in pantomime he followed her, his circle turning inside of hers until they finally came face-to-face. The music lowered as the pair slowly began to move in unison, the sword and the net symbolically working as counterpoints in the blatantly sexual dance. Tension of the watchers rose, the crowd drinking in the wantonness exuded by the athletic pair. The very air was laden, thrummed with the erotic heat conjured by the earthy man and woman. The dancing drew them closer, Tamlyn’s body arching toward the Highlander, each feeding off the radiant sexuality of the other. Voices here and there began to hum the music, adding to the potent brew of this magical spell.
A fine sheen of perspiration coated Tamlyn’s golden skin. She glowed with an inner light.
And the force with which Julian wanted her nearly drove him to his knees.
Julian’s possessiveness howled. No man should dare dance in such a manner with his lady. He took a step toward them, but Guillaume grabbed his arm to stay him. Shaking his head, his brother silently saying, do not interfere.
Once again, the music lowered, and three other couples entered the circle of light, their sinuous movements mimicking Tamlyn and the Highlander. All eight pranced around the fire, swaying, almost touching at times, only to have the females twirl away playfully, taunting the males to follow their lead. Three more pairs joined the mating dance―for Julian could call it nothing else––provoking the whole crowd to feast off the high intensity of sexual emotion created by the enthralling dancers.
They revolved around and around the fire, yet almost seemed a part of it. The whole scene binding his senses.
Julian could only see Tamlyn.
The other dancers were vague, faceless figures, mere shadows moving about Tamlyn’s golden presence. He burned for her. Jealousy ripped through him with talons every time the Highlander accidentally brushed his arm against hers. Each time Tamlyn looked into the man’s eyes. Julian would have marched over, claimed the woman that was his. Only, Guillaume’s cautioning hold bid him not to interfere. Emotions were so violent within him it nearly saw him nauseous, kept only at bay by the overpowering lust, lust so ravenous he never felt the like before.
Each time the pairs circled, three more joined the swaying and spinning, until they numbered three circles of thirteen couples. They wove, first the men around the women, then the females circling the males. Teasing. Luring.
And it was slowly killing Julian.
The music rose, driving the dancers onward. Then, it would fall again and slow as the couples drew closer together.
Rage and lust surged through him to the point of blindness. He flung Guillaume’s hand away and stalked into the circle of blue light.
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#ScottishRomance #MedievalRomance #HistoricalRomance