[Four Year Ago -- 203 CE]
Rosa winced when her armour-plated back smashed right through the pine wooden table beneath her. She hit the ground with a thud, splinters and bits of chipped wood flying every which way, her lengthy golden-brown locks thrashing around her face, while the savage whom had thrown her down loomed above. He shrieked a hideous battle cry and swung his claymore her way. Metal clapped against metal when Rosa parried the blow with her own blade, gritting her teeth. A contest of strength ensued, with the warrior woman pinned to the floor and the barbarian sentry casting his superior strength down upon her. He was stronger than she was. But she was a soldier of the Holy Crusade and therefore far more cunning. While she held his blade at bay Rosa forcefully thrust her boot into his stomach.
The barbarian soldier growled in agony and lost focus. As soon as Rosa felt the pressure lessen she batted his sword away with her own. With the break in his momentum she launched herself up from the debris of the dining table then swung her mighty steel around in a graceful arc. The tip of her sword slashed straight through the throat of its victim. The carnivorous barbarian staggered backward, gargling his own blood, before collapsing to the wooden floorboards beneath him.
"Bastard...!" Rosa muttered under her breath. But she had no time to dwell on him. A few moments later she heard one of the tough wooden beams that had been supporting the ceiling creak. She glanced upward only to see it snap from its foundations. Rosa snarled and dove out of the way. The flaming rafter crashed into the blackened floorboards near her. The loss of that part of the ceiling frame in turn caused the other rafters to crack and crumble in all the flames and smoke. Rosa coughed violently. In her haste to defeat that zealous barbarian she had forgotten that this building was on fire.
So she wasted no time and ran out of homestead, shielding her squinting eyes from the thick clouds of smoke, dodging between the flames and flaming objects, ignoring the desecrated corpses strewn about in bloody, charred piles. She charged out of the flaming house and out into the dirt tracks of the village. Brief moments after her escape the house crumbled into itself. What was left was no more than a pile of flaming debris.
Rosa frowned at the sight whilst catching her breath. To think, that had been a person's home, yet all it took to destroy it and all the memories it garnered was the torch of an infidel. And as soon as their horrors came back to mind she stared at the situation around her. There were dozens of dead bodies littering and bloodying the dirt tracks. Some were of the barbarians, their haggard features, pale skin and primitive dress instilling terror. But most were of her fellow soldiers. They wore the same armour as she, painted a dusky red, as well as sporting the same weapons -- a standard-issue broadsword and a miniscule dagger strapped to the buckle of their belts. They were the best of the conscripted soldiers of the Holy Crusade, the sacred army amassed to crush the barbarian hordes that had penetrated the Silesian borders of the Elcourvian Empire. The men and women assembled here were some of her closest comrades.
And they had all been butchered.
Rosa scrambled up to her feet and glanced in every which direction. All she could see around her were corpses and the wooden homes of the villagers burning into the cold and black backdrop of the night sky. Pillars of smoke rose into nocturne emptiness and clouded the air. The stink of blood and fire was overwhelming. Rosa wretched at it all, gruffly wiping the slick mixture of sweat, soot and blood from her freckled face.
Then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, she heard a battle scream and a thrust of metal. Her eyes flashed with alertness when the points of a trident careened past her and staked the ground. There was a barbarian coming at her from the right. Rosa readied herself and rushed towards him, while he encroached upon her with a claymore he unsheathed from his back. Their blades clashed. When they parried each other's blows they encircled one and other then exchanged more strikes. Rosa ducked under a heavy vertical slash that weaved through the warming air. The opening was brief but she took it regardless and ran her sword straight through her attacker's stomach. He grunted when her steel pierced straight through his guts and out of the terse muscles of his back. A trail of blood slipped from the corner of his mouth and his bright blue eyes glazed over. Rosa ripped her sword from his torso with a grunt. He toppled over dead. The soldier woman waved her sword to one side and swung the blood and bile from it, then sheathed it, as there were no more enemies in sight.
Then her tired azure eyes frantically searched from side to side, her shoulders heaving from her heavy intake of breath. >From the looks of things she had been separated from her unit. They were nowhere in sight. But before she could even think about looking for them, Rosa's ears picked up on something more worrying. The clatter of horse hoofs on dirt. She swung herself to the right and gasped when she saw another of the savages riding toward her with a huge net (weighted by iron spheres) in hand. Rosa scrambled to unsheathe her weapon before he threw it and capture her. Before she even had the chance, a barbarian-made spear went flying through the air and swiftly struck the infidel through the chest. The barbarian rider grunted his death cry then slumped in the saddle of his horse, which rode past Rosa and down along the dirt track to an even deeper part of the village.
When the horse and the body were out of sight Rosa glanced at the direction that that spear had been thrown from. She was astounded to see a fellow soldier of the Holy Crusade standing there weakly. The man was clearly been injured, Rosa saw a broken arrow standing brazenly in the red breastplate of his armour. But despite his injures the soldier gestured for Rosa to follow him. She did just that and ran to him as he turned around and scuttled into one of the surrounding houses. This one was also ablaze however the flames hadn't yet spread as far as they had in other places across the village. Rosa then watched the injured man strain to bolt the door, throwing numerous pieces of discarded and damaged furniture, like tables, chairs and trolleys, in front of it, barring entry any heathens that might have been lingering outside.
When he was finished the man turned to Rosa. "...What squad are you with...? Are you with the Seventeenth Squad?"
She could tell by the manner of his speech that he was a member of the peasantry. He had a typical northern accent, something Rosa herself had lost in her lifetime. A quick reply came however. "I am not aligned to the Seventeenth. I am the captain of the Ninth squad."
"Ah. I see..." The older warrior coughed sharply. "...I'm guessin' you'd be the last o'the troops in the village. We'd better get our arses out of here now..."
"What?" Rosa sneered. "You wish to show our backs to these bastards? In the name of the Goddess, it is our duty to slay these pigs! I will not have this!"
The wounded man smirked. "...Oh don't be a fool. They bloodied slaughtered us. There's corpses out there as far as the eye can see. Everyone who managed to live a little longer to outta here, now it's our turn. The barbarians... they got the control o'er this Goddess-forsaken place now."
An angry Rosa's fist tightened. "...Grr. This cannot be all we can do! What about the reserve troops? Has Commander Schroedinger not returned yet? If we bolster the attack force then-"
"Lord Schroedinger is on his way to Freikdebard with Lieutenant Arceneaux." He coughed another bloody cough. "There ain't no way... we can stop the hordes by ourselves and the Emperor ain't gonna be sending... no reserve troops any time soon. This place is a lost cause... so let's go."
Rosa sneered at him. "You jest! You believe I shall cower from people who take life and destroy as they do? Do you think me weak or insipid? Fie! I am neither! And I will not stand for this! I prefer to die with honour than retreat like some wretched coward!"
"Oh yeah, how bloody noble!" The wounded soldier shouted sardonically. "You get yourself killed here, one less soldier we have, all the more chance for the `Barbs to kill us some place else! You wanna waste your life here then get the hell to it! But I got a family waiting at home for me and I ain't gonna let what happened here happen to them! Now you either come with me or I leave your arse here!"
Seconds after his outburst he coughed violently into his hand. Blood oozed out of the gaps between his fingers. But despite that, what he said made Rosa halt a moment. Even as the walls and banisters around her were burning and spreading more smoke she had the pause and the gravity to hear what this man was saying and take it in earnest. He was right. Though Rosa hated the idea of consigning this village to the mercy of those bloodthirsty cutthroats, dying here didn't help anyone. It would only weaken their resolve (and their numbers) in the manic face of their fearsome enemy. So the fiery Rosa calmed herself. Once she regained a hold over her emotions she strode over to the soldier whom had saved her and wrapped her free arm around his shoulder, while pulling his arm around her neck, balancing some of his weight on her.
"W-what are you doing?" He asked of her.
"Getting us out of here," Replied Rosa. "Show me the way."
[Present Day -- 207 CE]
Her breathlessness was always a given with Catherine. There was only so much a woman could take. For the time they had known each other, her prowess between the bed sheets had improved vastly. So much so that Rosa felt lofty enough to let her defences down. Only Catherine could provoke that kind of reaction in her. It was made oh so clear this very moment.
Rosa had both of her hands pressed flat against the Romanesque wall tapestries decorating the west wall of Catherine's bed chambers. Her head tilted backward slightly, splashing her flowing waterfall of chestnut brown hair along the broadness of her freckled shoulders. Her eyes were tightly shut while her lips were parted and through them she emitted continual blissful moans. Standing closely behind her naked form was Catherine, cuddled up against her, her much larger breasts flattened over Rosa's lithe back, which was itself freckled; a beautiful constellation of rusty stars. Catherine admired them so. And Rosa could feel the rigid erectness of Catherine's nipple poking at her shoulder blades. The former soldier could not help but note with some pride her lover's arousal.
All the while, Catherine's left hand had itself lodged firmly between Rosa's hips. It cupped and caressed Rosa's damp womanhood, massaging into it, lightly teasing at her clitoris. Her long middle finger yet remained within her labia. It slid up and down between Rosa's wet nether lips, making her quiver, making her shudder. Her ministrations were tender but firm; far more so than one would expect from such a delicate woman. And while her left hand pleased the lower half of Rosa's body, Catherine's right hand did her best with the upper half.
Her fingers were seized around Rosa's right breast. It was of svelte heft; and no larger in its breadth than maybe the rim of wine glass. But they were both supple and firm, belying Rosa's overall youth. Their pale porcelain skin was also dotted with freckles and topped off with handsome cerise nipples that stood erect and prominent. Though the aureoles were small in circumference, her nubs of stiff flesh were considerable. Catherine had suckled upon them countless times in both dream and reality.
The slightly older woman's hand kneaded that mound passionately. She would caress it in motions short of circles and pressed her fingers tight against it. Rosa's skin was so supple that to touch it was akin to touching lace. Her flesh was so very smooth. A delight to handle. No one knew that better than Catherine. So her polished white fingertips plucked at Rosa's pink rigidity, squeezing and rolling it. Rosa bit her lip and cried passionate sobs. Both Catherine's handling of her breast and her handling of her vulva proved quite enrapturing. The ex-soldier's eyes rolled into the back of her head while her body quivered against Catherine's own.
It made Catherine shiver herself with delight to see her beautiful Rosa so aroused. There were no shortage of men or women from whom Rosa Brangwin could take her pick, for few were as beautiful as this warrior woman. But Catherine resolved herself to gratify her, to give her pleasures she could not quell, and love she could not reject. And as she held Rosa as she did now she believed she had achieved that end.
Possessed of her love and drunk on the prospect of Rosa's love for her, Catherine lowered her head over the juncture connecting Rosa's shoulder to her neck and kissed her there. Her plush full lips dropped beautiful little butterfly kisses up and down the length of Rosa's swan-like neck. Each kiss made the swordswoman emit another fragile whimper.
Unbeknownst to Catherine, her own arousal had made her body act of its own accord. Her smooth hips were now humping at Rosa's terse, buxom buttocks. She too had been disrobed and so naturally as her hips slapped and pelted Rosa's hind quarters, her own wetness being smeared over its cheeks. The sound of that slapping reverberated all through Catherine's elegant and rustic quarters, along with both women's sobs and moans of ecstasy.
Catherine had now gotten to biting Rosa's neck as opposed to merely kissing it, all the while she whimpered her lover's name between each affectionate bite. Every few moments Catherine would pull back to admire her work. She studied with tremulous satisfaction the glossy-with-saliva bite marks and welts that her teeth left in Rosa's milky-white skin. She loved how the area around the bite would swell red briefly before eventually returning to its previous colourless constitution.
It was too much for Rosa to bear.
The combined sensations of Catherine's massaging of her right breast, her hip-slapping of her rear end, her teasing nibbles along the contours of her neck, as well as the wayward cupping of her genitals, was too powerful of a combination to resist. Her body quivered then went rigid in Catherine's embrace. Her breathing sped into rapid gasps. Immediately she bellowed screams of ecstasy when she was struck by her orgasm. Catherine quickly released Rosa's breast and slapped her hand around the girl's mouth to muffle her cries. The older woman recalled with quiet irritation that there were a few handmaidens outside. They could not be allowed to hear what was happening in her quarters.
Rosa was unconcerned however. She could only whimper and judder whilst she weathered down the extremities of her climax. An intense warmth passed over her form. Her breathing slowed down, her heart stopped beating as rapidly, and she slumped into Catherine's arms. She was reduced to a quivering mass with her haunting azure eyes rolled back as though in delirium.
But Catherine, so seemingly pure and virginal in her looks, was not yet sated. With a modest strength she span Rosa's lovely nubile body around and pushed her back against the tapestry wall. Catherine then lowered herself to her knees. Her soft hands followed her down Rosa's body, gliding across her ribs and hips then finally settling on her thighs. Catherine was left with her face standing directly across from Rosa's sopping wet centre. Without qualm Catherine thrust her face into her crotch. The ex-soldier shut her eyes and sobbed aloud once again whilst a mass of corn blonde hair bobbed back and forth between her hips. Catherine licked at Rosa's vulva with great vigour, dragging her long tongue up the sensitive delicate folds of that lay in wait for her. She licked up every last trace of ejaculate she could find there, even going so far as to part Rosa's labia and push her tongue into her lover's contracting, hot, damp vagina. It all had Rosa spellbound.
When Catherine weakly pulled away, her lips were drenched with Rosa's wetness. A thick trail of it dribbled out the corner of her mouth and hung from her jaw. Her hands remained in place on Rosa's sylvan thighs. Ever so slowly she tilted her head back and looked up. Rosa opened her own eyes and looked down. The two met eyes with each other as if for the first time.
"Do I... please you...?" Catherine asked impotently, as though everything she had loved and known of in her life hinged upon the answer.
Rosa beamed at her. "...Very much so..."
Sex was something of a greeting between the two of them. It was only half an hour after that that the two of them managed to release each other long enough to have a proper conversation. By that time Catherine had laid herself over the exquisite cotton linen of her bed and re-dressed in a pale grey evening gown she normally wore whilst alone in her room. In her hand was a glass of red wine. She briefly sipped of it while Rosa sat on the foot of her bed getting dressed.
Rosa happened to be fitting on one of her brown leather boots when Catherine asked of her, "Are you leaving already?"
"You know I am," Now Rosa's expression was more stern, more like her old self. It was only with Catherine did she show any other sides of herself. "I must meet with the others to determine future 'jobs' in East Chelsea. We have yet to be contracted in nearly three weeks."
Catherine drew her knees up against her chest. "Do you find that surprising? The city is awash with talk of Equia's unification with the Elcourvian Empire. Diplomats will be sent from Teruvia very soon to discuss the process with Duke Galstrom. It is because of that that few people are in need of mercenaries. The current political climate will not put you in high demand."
Rosa grunted to herself as she tied the laces of her boot... but did not reply.
"It is a tricky business, your line of work." Said Catherine.
Again Rosa remained silent.
"What will you do if things continue like this?"
"...Would you at least consider joining my father's personal guard?"
That one caused Rosa to stop what she was doing. The former soldier of the Holy Crusade turned and stared at the woman who, more than a half hour ago, had submitted her to a whole host of unworldly pleasures and said, "Excuse me?"
"If you would only-"
Rosa cut her off, "I have no time for this. As I have already told you; I shall not live under anyone else's thumb ever again. Do you know how long and how hard I searched to find a place left in the Northern Continent that had not submitted to the Elcourvian Empire's hegemony? The effort was considerable, believe me. If this kingdom chooses to lose it's pride then there is no place left in it for me."
Catherine frowned. "So you would leave Equia? You would leave me?"
When Rosa finished tying the lace of one boot she went to the lace of the other and started tying that. There was a bitter smile on her face when she did. "Surely you aren't forgetting your great conciliation. You shall make a wonderful blushing bride. I am sure that between pregnancies you shan't spend much time wondering about `what might have been' with someone as lowly as me."
"I do not love him," Catherine said quietly. "My Father arraigned my marriage to Minister Weiss."
"It matters not in any case."
"Must you always act like a child when we speak?"
Rosa angrily fitted on her white shirt and brown overcoat, typical commoner dress code for her. "Forgive my childishness then. Perhaps I am out of line for being somewhat concerned about my lover's impending marriage to someone else. Who could explain my consternation over something as simplistic as that, aye?"
"You are insufferable." Catherine uttered with an irate pout.
"And you are quiet delusional if you think I shall stand here and watch you marry someone else. You should not be with him. You should be with me."
"But I am with you..."
Rosa stared at her seriously. "And for how long?"
Catherine could not answer that. She wanted to be with Rosa, she truly did. The very thought of losing Rosa to someone else broke her heart. But she had no choice but to do as her Father asked. He was Ernest Nicolai, the most senior of the sixteen ministers of Duke Galstrom. Catherine was to follow in his footsteps and become a minister to the Duke herself once her father retired. It was a brilliant opportunity as she would be the first female minister in the history of the Duchy of Equia. But somewhat predictably her Father felt that she had to be married before she could take the post -- and the person for her to be married to was someone who was already within the inner circle of the Duke's councillors, someone well versed in its needs, its trials and its tribulations. That man was none other than Minister Prozier Weiss. Neither Rosa nor Catherine cared very much for him... despite the fact that neither woman had ever met him.
"Even if I do marry him," Catherine whispered. "That does not mean we should no longer lie within one and other. We need only be sly."
Rosa fixed her collar. "Sly? You think I wish to stalk around as your secret forever? You think I wish to be your private relief one hour then a distant memory the next? Please, Catherine. I still have some pride."
"And that is your problem. You possess an overabundance of it."
Rosa frowned at that. "I am not a proud woman, I merely-"
"Oh no? Your cantankerous jealousy speaks otherwise." She responded.
"I am not jealous!"
"Then why are you raising your voice!?"
"Perhaps it is because you infuriate me!"
There was then a knock at the door. Rosa and Catherine both angrily turned to that door and shouted together, "What is it!?" to the person on the other side. A portly old handmaiden opened the door and strode inside with a startled expression on her face. She caught her breath.
Catherine stared quizzically at her. "Gertrude? What is the matter with you?"
"Begging your pardon, Young Miss, but I have terrible news!" She uttered between heavy breaths.
Rosa narrowed her eyes. "Well? What is it?"
"It's Duke Galstrom!" Said Gertrude. "He's been assassinated!"