United Help Ukraine is, tragically, my charity of choice this time. I knew I needed to find some way to support Ukraine right now, and Move On backed and promoted just what I needed. In fact I’ve donated already. I’ll donate one more dollar for every view of this blog post, and two dollars for every comment.
“United Help Ukraine” provides direct assistance to those impacted by war in Ukraine, including providing medical supplies, food, and other humanitarian aid.
The story I’m sharing has very little connection with current events, but it does take place in a long-ago historical era of war and invasion, and in an area not so far from Ukraine, Armenia. The time is the Mongol Invasion in the 12th Century of the Middle East and parts of Europe. I suspect that Putin, the current war-monger, has a trace of Mongol blood. The hero of my story, though, a Mongol General, turns out to be a good guy, for complicated reasons, and a match for the fierce hereditary Lady of Aragatsotn. This is one of my very rare heterosexual stories, under my real name, published in an anthology edited by Delilah Devlin eight years ago, Hot Highlanders and Wild Warriors. It’s not erotica per se, but it gets wildly hot toward the end. Feel free to scroll on by to get to that part.
A Falcon in Flight
By Connie Wilkins (aka Sacchi Green)
“Georgia will fall within the year.” Father Kristopor drew a careful line across the map before him. “The Mongol hordes spread like a rising sea, though they throw up clouds of dust instead of salt spray.”
“They will come here, as well.” Ardzvik paced the length of the hall and back. “We will be destroyed in days, however well our few men fight.”
“We must pray for another way.”
His pious words did not deceive her. The priest’s devious turn of mind was legend. She would gladly lead her people in battle, or barricade as many as would fit inside the ancient fortress of Anberd at risk of being starved out, but too many would be lost. If there was a better choice, she must take it.
When word of defeat came from Georgia’s capital Father Kristopor searched Ardzvik out on the mountainside where she hunted with her falcon Zepyur. She knew, seeing him from far above, what his mission must be, and cursed fate for robbing her of the longed-for solace she reserved for such fine, cloudless days when the blue sky went on above her forever and Zepyur soared high and free with no likely prey in sight. At least the priest had not discovered her in the midst of what he would surely consider sin.
“Now is the time,” he called, and then, when he was closer, “Send at once to the Mongol general! Say that the Province of Aragatsotn in Armenia has long been a vassal of Georgia, so it is only right that its people offer fealty to the new rulers. I will bear the document myself. The Mongols are quick enough to sack churches, but I have heard that they retain some degree of respect for holy men of any faith.”
“Surrender without a battle.” The words, bitter on Ardzvik’s tongue, burned even more in her heart.
“Without blood. Surely they would rather have the wine of our vineyards and grain of our fields than the lifeblood of those who tend them. Dead men cannot be taxed.”
So it was done. Ardzvik Zakaria, Lady of Aragatsotn, signed above the seal presented to her father’s father in Tbilisi by the legendary Queen Tamar of Georgia.
As soon as the priest rode his mule northward Ardzvik retrieved her falcon from the mews and rode again high onto the mountain. Zepyur was still as swift and graceful, the sky as blue, but now the Lady of Aragatsotn could not shed her duty, her constraints, and be pure flesh and spirit. Lying back on tufted mountain grass she envisioned, as she had so often, the airborne mating dance of the wild falcon pair who had produced her own sleek hunter, but she could not rid her mind of earth-bound turmoil.
Her hands knew all the ways to pleasure herself, the places to twist or stroke or beat with rough force while a part of her soared aloft with the falcons, the earth dropping away, away, until they plummeted together as one through space. Falling, falling, diving faster than anything could fall, cold air ripping past, battering, the ecstasy forced deeper and deeper, keener, unbearable...and her own ecstasy bursting forth at last like the cataclysm that had torn open the mountain’s peak.
But this time, no matter how hard she rubbed or deeply she probed, she achieved only a sharp burst of sensation as much pain as pleasure. The scream forced from her throat was of rage, not triumph, and tears flowed hotter on her cheeks than the rivulets of sweet release between her thighs. Surrender without battle. Dishonor. But duty nonetheless.
The Mongol general returned a provisional acceptance and sent men to assess an initial amount of tribute. Within months he was appointed Governor, or Darugha in the Mongol tongue, of southern Georgia and northern Armenia.
Now, weeks later, the mighty Yul Darugha had come to view the corner of his territory dominated by Mount Aragats, the highest point in Armenia.
It was rumored that he toured the land to view more than mountains and plains and vineyards. From priest to priest, monastery to monastery, landholder to landholder, the rumor spread that Batu Khan, grandson of the great Ghengis, had withdrawn to his new city of Sarai on the lower Volga, and encouraged his troops and officials in conquered territory to ensure the Mongol heritage by mingling their blood with that of the local population.
It was rumored as well that the Khan appointed only Governors with no family ties of importance in their homeland, the better to ensure their loyalty to him and no other, and keep them in their posts. The old nobility, what was left of them, hid their daughters or put them on display, according to their level of ambition. The young Lady of Aragatsotn would neither hide nor put herself forward, whatever her half-sister Leyli might do.
This Mongol was less ugly than expected, Ardzvik thought. Perhaps even handsome if one became accustomed to his shaven head, bold, high cheekbones, and tilted eyes beneath eyebrows with the graceful swoop of a hawk’s wing. Muscular, as well, which would please Leyli, and a fine rider, though Leyli’s interest in riding did not always involve horses.
Ardzvik sensed the shift in Leyli’s mood. One form of tension had yielded to quite another. “So, sweet sister,” she murmured, “are you still of a mind to slay this Governor should you get the chance?” She would not permit Leyli to do any such thing, of course, bringing the fury of Batu Khan’s forces down upon them, as Leyli knew quite well.
“Yes, I will kill him if I can! For the sake of poor Mihran! But…not, I think, right away.” Leyli allowed her milk-white mare to fidget under her, enough to draw the Mongol’s attention away from Father Kristopor’s diplomatic speech of welcome. The man had already surveyed the mare with all the admiration due her, and Leyli too, though less overtly. Now, as the girl peered flirtatiously through lowered eyelashes and fiddled in feigned nervousness with her long golden hair, it seemed that he could scarcely wrench his gaze away.
Ardzvik’s own high-bred bay mount had been assessed favorably as well, though she herself elicited a puzzled frown. Just as she had intended. Despite Father Kristopor’s disapproval, she was dressed soberly in garb so simple that she might have been mistaken for someone of much lower rank, in contrast to Leyli’s azure robes gleaming with gold brocade. All the easier to assess his reaction to her half-sister’s charms before Ardzvik had cause to care. Not that such a thing was remotely possible.
She had not much cared that “poor Mihran,” a minor prince of Georgia sent officially to court her, had lost his heart and whatever virginity he might have had to Leyli instead. Ardzvik was sorry for his death during the fall of Georgia, but not on a personal level. Better she should never care over-much for any man.
Father Kristopor closed his speech with an offer of the hospitality of the castle as lodging for the Darugha and his men. The interpreter did his part, and the Mongol said a few words in response. The priest signaled for Ardzvik and Leyli and their retinue to advance. They rode forward out of the shadow of the ancient stone church at a stately pace.
This encounter had been staged in the town’s center as a diplomatic compromise. The ruling family need not go as supplicants to the Darugha’s great golden tent, nor he with his men as conquerors to the gates of their castle. The Lady of Aragatsotn was a vassal, not a slave.
The interpreter, a handsome young man with Persian features, spoke toward the space between Ardzvik’s dark head and Leyli’s fair one. Good. Father Kristopor had obeyed her order to be deliberately vague as to which was the ruler and which was not. “His Eminence Yul Darugha thanks the Lady of Aragatsotn for her offer of the hospitality of her castle. However, it is his custom to sleep only within his personal tent.”
Ardzvik felt the gaze of Yul Darugha sweep over her, linger on her horse, then return to her face. She met his keen eyes, saw that he had not been deceived after all, lifted her chin proudly, and spoke not in Armenian but in the basic Turkic tongue most often used between tradesmen in the various countries of the lower Caucasus. “If Yul Darugha pleases, we would offer a feast in his honor tonight, to be held in the gardens of the castle.” It was well known by now that the nomadic Mongols were ill at ease confined within rigid walls.
With no pause for instructions the interpreter began to decline this invitation, too, as expected—the Governor had not been known to dine with any of such noble families as remained--but a rich, deep voice startled them all.
“Yul Darugha will be pleased to accept.”
That voice penetrated all the way into Ardzvik’s bones. For a moment she did not comprehend the words, though they were spoken in the same tongue she had used. So the interpreter had been merely a formality! With an effort she inclined her head briefly. “We shall be honored by his presence, and that of his men.” She looked up to see a hint of amusement on the Governor’s sun-browned face. Without another word, to her disappointment—why did she wish so to hear that voice again? To feel it?—he turned his dun horse and moved away toward the camp outside the town with his two dozen soldiers following.
“Father Kristopor said the man would never accept the invitation!” Leyli trotted at her side as they turned toward the road to Aragatsotn Castle.
“Yes, he did.” The priest had looked more pleased than surprised. Ardzvik would have words with him later. “So now there is much to be done.”
“And outdoors—well, it is very warm today, and the sun sets late. But what shall I wear? Did you see how he looked at me? And that voice!”
Ardzvik urged her high-strung horse forward to let him stretch his legs after standing so long in the town, and to leave Leyli’s prattle behind.
The castle was built into a rocky outcropping on the lower slopes of Mount Aragats. From its gardens, enclosed, by low walls, the wide view swept from rolling fields and wooded valleys in the southeast to the Caucasus mountain range in the northeast, still snowcapped in midsummer. The steward set up trestle tables outdoors while Ardzvik worked with the kitchen staff to prepare a creditable meal, not elaborate but representing the best the province offered; lamb rubbed with herbs and grilled on skewers, chicken in walnut sauce, bulgur-stuffed grape leaves and eggplant, and sweet pastries topped with honeyed apricots and cherries.
The Mongol rank-and-file soldiers, when they came, kept largely to themselves at one side, not quite at ease but taking good advantage of the repast, especially the wine from local vineyards. Yul Darugha ate and drank sparingly, needing only occasional recourse to his interpreter to converse with Father Kristopor. A Mongol priest, or shaman in their tongue, sat with them but ate little and rarely spoke. Leyli, though she understood only a few of their words, listened with rapt attention and leaned forward the better to display her bountiful charms.
Ardzvik listened as well when she was not directing the servants, who were flustered by the exotic strangers in their midst. The rise and fall of the Governor’s deep voice had a hypnotic affect on her, so that only the occasional phrase registered. Father Kristopor, who had traveled extensively in his youth, led the conversation into talk of distant lands, never alluding to the fact that their guests had been in those places for the purpose of pillage and conquest.
“Truly? A real Sultan’s palace!” Leyli’s high voice jolted Ardzvik into attention. “Did he have a harem? What did the ladies wear? They would have finer silks than we can purchase here!” She took the occasion to stroke the bodice of her own silk gown languidly while the interpreter, stammering a bit, relayed her words.
Ardzvik was not close enough to kick her sister under the table. Leyli ignored the priest’s frown. “The Sultan’s ladies must have been much more beautiful than we here to the north,” she went on, then stopped abruptly at Yul Darugha’s fierce scowl.
“Can you know so little of war?” The deep voice that had flowed so smoothly took on the edge of a scimitar. “The women of the seraglio, taken by surprise, fled in fear of their lives, some wearing little or nothing at all. As to beauty, many had been sold into slavery for the sake of that beauty, especially those few with golden hair such as yours!”
Leyli shrank back at the demonic cast to his face. Ardzvik saw something deeper in his eyes, like the fury of a stallion who has come through great violence and bears invisible scars. She rose and went to stand beside him, wishing she had not thought of stallions.
“Come, Governor,” she said, “while there is still light enough, let me point out the villages and places of interest to be seen from here. You must wish to be familiar with the territory under your rule.”
“Yes,” he said, his face relaxing a degree. “Thank you, Lady Ardzvik,” and she knew his gratitude was as much for the interruption as for her suggestion.
After she had shown him the major towns, they stood together in silence where the low wall curved to the brink of an outcropping and the mountainside dropped steeply away. The sun had edged behind a shoulder of Aragats, but shone still on the distant mountains and gilded their snow-capped peaks. “Always before,” he said at last, “I judged land as to how a battle should be fought, or how many horses could be sustained. Often both. But a governor must learn to look with different eyes.” He glanced down at her, then said, as though reading her mind, “No, not merely to plan how much tax can be raised from the flocks and crops and craftsmen before they are bled dry. Your people are well fed and housed, and productive. You understand the long-term value of their well-being.”
She forbore to mention that thus far she herself had borne as much of the cost of tribute as possible so that her people would not suffer more than could be helped. Better to lighten his mood further, and her own as well. This close to him, the reverberations of his voice and his aura of power affected her so strongly that she could barely keep from quivering like a mare in heat when the stallion comes near. How could she be so foolish? “My father and his father before him were good stewards of the land. My family’s only taste for extravagance has been in our horses, though I do not keep so many in these times.” No need to say how many had been sold to pay the tribute he had levied.
“Take me to see your horses,” he said abruptly. Ardzvik heard movement at the table they had left, along with Leyli’s ever-resilient voice raised in laughter, and understood his request. She led him quickly to a gate that gave onto a path leading downhill to a cluster of stables and a fenced field. A dozen horses grazed there, while others, including those of the visiting Mongols, could be seen on a plateau slightly lower on the mountainside.
Leyli’s white mare came up to the gate at once, snuffling hopefully for treats. Yul Darugha ran a hand along her neck until she moved petulantly away since nothing edible was forthcoming. “A pretty creature,” he said, “like her mistress.” He looked to where Ardzvik’s blood bay advanced and retreated, wishing to come to his mistress, displeased by the stranger’s presence. “But yours, Lady Ardzvik, is the nobler beast by far. A touch of the Arab for grace and beauty.” She nodded assent. “I knew at once,” he went on, “that the rider of such a mount must be the true ruler here.”
Ardzvik felt her face redden at the reminder of her earlier attempt to confuse him. It seemed a good time to redirect the conversation.
“Please forgive my half-sister for her foolishness tonight. She is not always so lacking in sense.” Defending Leyli to this man was like probing a self-inflicted wound, but it needed to be done.
Some trick of the fading light made Yul Darugha’s eyes glint in his shadowed face. “The fault is mine. I should not have frightened her. But I have seen such things…” His voice dwindled away until she could barely hear him. “And done such things…”
She knew he must have done terrible things, slaughtered people cruelly, destroyed cities. Such was the way of war. Her father’s grandfather had fought bloody battles to drive the Seljuk Turks out of Armenia, and her own castle had passed though many previous families by way of arrow, sword and siege since its first stone towers had been raised. The Mongols were more successful at warfare than any since, perhaps, the great Alexander, but they would not be the last.
As for women and war…her mind leapt to a vision of naked, terrified harem girls fleeing from Mongol invaders. From one tall, deep-voiced Mongol warrior in particular. If his face could blaze with fury, how might it blaze with lust? She looked away, hoping the twilight hid the flush of arousal mixed with shame on her own face, then turned quickly back. He must not think that she was repulsed.
“If you wish to speak of this, I am not so easily frightened, nor so ignorant.” Whatever he had seen or done--she did not think it was a matter of rape alone--had scarred him. She would not add to his pain. When he remained silent she longed to touch him, for comfort, but instead gave a low whistle that brought her horse to the gate.
“You must meet Bakhshi,” she said softly, and only then lay her hand briefly on Yul Darugha’s arm to show the horse that she trusted this man. The beautiful bay head lowered to take in the newcomer’s scent, then allowed itself to be stroked and scratched by him in all the right places. Ardzvik, her shoulder brushing her companion’s, breathed in his scent as well, of horse and leather and sweat and some indefinable element that was his alone. She felt some of his tension recede. Here in the twilight, with their shared love of horses, it was as though they had always known each other.
At last he did speak, continuing to stroke the horse’s glossy neck. “It is an old memory, raised anew when I saw you and your sister side by side in the town square. I have seen others with such golden hair from time to time, but there is one I cannot forget; scarcely more than a child, in the Sultan’s harem, naked, shrinking into a corner in terror of my men, of me. Such a look on so beautiful a face!” He retreated silently into his own thoughts for a moment, then went on. “Another naked girl, fair skinned with dark hair, faced us in a passion of rage, seeking to defend the younger. She wielded the jagged shard of a great broken vase, but the threat of its sharp edges was as nothing beside her snarling face, as wild and fierce as a she-wolf’s.” He paused again.
“There is more to tell?” Ardzvik braced to hear the worst, but would not prod him further.
He drew a deep breath and let it out. “The men behind me cheered, seeing a battle worth enjoying, its outcome certain. Their blood was up, as was mine. But a voice I scarcely heard—my own voice--ordered them back, and when some tried to rush past I turned my sword on them. On my own men! One I killed. A friend. A bastard like myself who had risen in Batu Khan’s service. A man who had fought beside me for half my life.” His hand clenched in the horse’s mane.
“And the girls?”
“They escaped us, but there were other bands of men sacking the palace. I doubt they survived.” A pause, and then, so low she barely heard; “Yet I cannot forget. They come in my dreams.”
A full moon hovered above the distant mountain range, leaving every vale and hollow still in darkness. Torches burned in the castle gardens, and one moved along the path they had taken, coming toward them. Ardzvik yielded to impulse and put her hands on his shoulders, but Layli’s voice rang out from above them, and then the Persian interpreter’s.
“My lord, the men grow restive.”
Leyli added with a giggle, “They have finished all the wine the steward would supply.”
“It is best that I go now.” Yul Darugha’s voice was rough. He stepped back from Ardzvik’s touch. She watched as he joined the other two and saw by the torchlight that he took Leyli’s hand from the Persian’s arm and offered his own as support along the steep path.
The next morning Ardzvik rose early after tortured dreams. Never had she needed the solace of the mountain and her falcon more. Bakhshi carried her with Zepyur tethered to her leather hawking glove along trails and then trackless reaches until his mistress was sure they could not be followed, and then she dismounted, slipped the hood from Zepyur’s head, and loosed the bird to the breeze.
Today she had brought her bow in hope of flushing larger game than the falcon could hunt. Wild goats were often seen at this height, and even boar might come to root among the tubers of mountain flowers. She pulled off her leather glove and kept an arrow at the ready, but her mind was not focused as much on the outer world as on her inner one.
Why did she yearn so for a man who might well not want her, or, if he did, might value her title more than her body? And if he wanted golden-haired Leyli, how could Ardzik bear it? Their father had not wed Leyli’s mother, but he had acknowledged the child, and if Ardzvik bore no heir one of Leyli’s would be accepted as ruler of Aragatsotn. Illegitimacy was not such a barrier in the ancient traditions of this land.
It was the begetting of children that obsessed Ardzvik now, not the bearing of them. She wanted this one man and no other, foreigner, destroyer, conqueror though he might be. She had known a mare who would let no stallion mount her save the one of her own choice. The horse had broken out, gone to her chosen mate in spite of her owner’s different plan, and their offspring had turned out to be the finest the herd had ever known. Perhaps bodies knew things that minds did not.
Ardzvik’s mind might be preoccupied by her treacherous body’s needs, but her eyes caught the hitch in her falcon’s flight and her ears caught the changed sound of the bells on the bird’s ankle. Suddenly Zepyur was not hunting, but fleeing. A great white hawk more than half again her size rose over the mountain’s shoulder.
A falcon of the north! A female Gyrfalcon! Not native here, but the royal family of Georgia had possessed one when Ardzvik was a child, and she had seen it hunt. It was clearly hunting now.
Zepyur twisted and dived, eluding her pursuer again and again, but the other gained ground each time. Ardzvik shouted and raised her bow. Something moved below on the mountainside, but she had no time to look. Zepyur dived again, opening space between herself and her pursuer, and Ardzvik’s arrow sped sure and true—until another’s arrow met it in flight, and both spun together toward the earth.
Arsdvik whistled for her bird and quickly donned the hawking glove. Another whistle, yet more piercing, came from somewhere below. Zepyur soared to her mistress and perched, quivering, on the thick leather gauntlet. The white intruder glided down past the man whose dun horse raced up the steep slope, to land on the arm of a second rider following more slowly.
Yul Darugha gave a roar in a language Ardzvik did not understand, though the words were clearly curses. She swiftly hooded Zepyur, stroked her feathers to calm her, and set her to perch on a rock in a sheltered hollow, tethered to a wiry shrub. Bakhshi grazed nearby, the sounds of his browsing familiar enough to reassure the hawk.
Ardzvik advanced toward the approaching man, another arrow at the ready. Her heart still pounded from her sudden terror for her hawk, but fear had transmuted into a glorious, intoxicating fury.
He leapt from his horse, bow in hand, and ran toward her, coming to a sudden stop as she raised her own weapon in warning.
“You…if you…when I saw that it was you…” His deep voice cracked. “If you had killed my gyrfalcon, with my falconer as witness…” He stopped for breath. “I would have had no choice! You know that!”
“I aimed between them to distract your bird,” she retorted in a cold rage. “If she did not veer off the next arrow would have found her heart. And if your arrow had killed my falcon…”
“I aimed between them as well,” he said, his voice steadier now.
Ardzvik clung to her anger, reveled in it, allowed it to spark from ice into fire. “For the sake of my people I surrendered my province, but this is my own land! Here I will stand and fight!”
Yul Darugha’s eyes lit with a flame that was not anger. He set down his bow and shouted a command to his falconer waiting below. The old man shook his head doubtfully but moved away with the gyrfalcon on his arm and was soon out of sight.
“So there is a she-wolf in you after all! When I first saw you I thought--I hoped--but I could not be sure.”
“A she-wolf?” Ardzvik’s laugh was scornful. “Look higher. My name means “eagle” in the old tongue. I am Lady of Aragatsotn, and more. My mother’s line is said to be of those warriors from the lands beyond the Black Sea called Amazons by the Greeks.” True, only the oldest grandmothers said this, but Ardzvik still felt it to be true. “I will defend my own!”
“I see in you that warrior girl who haunts my memory.” Yul spoke now not as the Mongol Darugha but as a man who needs no title between himself and the woman he desires. “It is she I dreamed of, before last night, and then it was you. The only prize worth winning.”
The heat of Ardzvik’s anger flowed effortlessly into arousal, but she did not forsake her proud stance. “How can you be so sure of me? Was she not naked, that warrior girl?”
He stepped forward; she stepped back. Her own hand drew the rough tunic over her head and loosed the drawstring of the men’s trousers she wore for hunting. Her strong, slim body stood bared to the summer sun, and to his burning gaze.
Just as he reached for her she stepped forward into his embrace, rejoicing in the rumble deep in his chest and the arms far stronger than her own that raised her up off her feet to crush her against him. His mouth pressed hard on hers, then moved into the hollows of her neck and over her shoulders in a frenzy of hunger for her flesh. When he lifted her yet higher to taste her firm breasts, she gasped and cried out and forced his head and mouth ever harder against them.
At last, needing more, and yet more, Ardzvik scrabbled at the jerkin of overlapping leather disks that left his muscular arms bare but kept her from rubbing against his chest.
“Are you more shy of the sun than I?” she panted. In seconds his clothing was heaped along with hers. They rolled together atop this pile or onto nearby tufts of harsh grass, scarcely noting the difference.
At first Ardzvik rode Yul, her long dark hair flailing across his body as she savored the exquisite joy of easing inch by inch onto his great length and breadth. Men were more like stallions than she had ever dreamed! Then he growled low, lurched atop her, and thrust deep and hard. Her hips arched upward to take him in still deeper. Her passage gripped him, yet let him slide in its wetness just enough to drive her to a peak of intensity close to madness. Sounds burst from her that were not words, and from him as well, until all she could hear was her own voice rising in a cry of triumph, her body wrenched by joy.
But Yul, she saw, when she could focus on anything outside herself, was braced above her on stiffened arms, face twisted, jaw grimly set, the cords of his neck standing out like tree roots. “I must…” he forced out the words. “I would not get a bastard on you!” He struggled to lift his great weight from her, to withdraw.
“Then you had better wed me!” Ardzvik cried. “I will have now what is mine!” Need surged in her again. She dug her hands into his clenched buttocks, gripped him close, and tightened her inner walls about his hardness until he had no words at all, only rough groans accelerating into a mighty roar. That sound, and the hot fierce flow of his seed, sent her into a second spasm of joy.
At last Yul rolled aside. She lay beside him, both breathing in the sunwarmed air as though they could never get enough. “I too will have what is mine,” he said at last. “But what of your priest?”
“Father Kristopor?” Ardzvik gave a short laugh. “I’ll wager that one will already have ordered extra candles for the ceremony in the chapel.” She lifted her head enough to rest it on his damp chest. “What of your Shaman? And the ceremonies of your people?”
A low chuckle made his chest rise and fall. “Much simpler. We pledge to each other outdoors under the Blue Eternal Sky, with respect for Mother Earth, and the Shaman chants such ancient songs and burn such herbs as he thinks proper. Each has his own ways. Then there is feasting, but that must be the same the world over.”
“Well then, we have made good progress already under the Blue Eternal Sky. But more would surely not be wasted.”
There was time, now, for Ardzvik to lean over Yul and explore his long, strong body, tracing the contours of his wide shoulders with her fingers, pressing her mouth into the hollow of his throat and feeling the vibrations of a moan too low for ears to hear, moving her lips across his great chest and around his nipples. She licked at salty traces of sweat all the way down past his belly to where his skin became paler and more tender. By then the sounds of his pleasure were loud enough to signal renewed arousal, already clear from the rising of his shaft. Still he remained unmoving, letting Ardzvik enjoy her journey.
The temptation to take him into her mouth was great, but she moved past with only a teasing flick of her tongue at the dewy pearl on his tip. His hands tightened painfully on her arms. She kept on downward along his strong thighs, heavily muscled as only those of a man who’d spent his life on horseback could be.
“Let me…” Ardzvik twisted so that she knelt between Yul’s widespread legs, gripping those powerful thighs and bending at last to savor the taste and feel of his hard, jutting shaft. His hips rose to thrust himself deeper into her mouth. She matched his rhythm, hearing the harsh sounds tearing from his throat, feeling them vibrate into her own core as though he touched her between her legs—and suddenly she needed him there more than she needed breath.
She lifted her head. “Ride me!” she pleaded, rolling onto her back, and at once Yul was on her, in her, his thighs gripping her flanks. They raced together, soared together, until both shouted their triumph in tones as keen as any fierce pair of mating hawks. The sun, when they came to earth, was warm on their naked skin, and even clouds would not have diminished the inner heat they shared.
The horse grew restive. The falcon, knowing there was meat for her in the saddlebag, began to make her hunger known. They could wait. Life would seldom be easy, peace was always fleeting, but nothing that bound together in joy the Lady of Aragatsotn and Yul Darugha would ever be a waste.
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