The Dark One
by Angela Knight
eBook ISBN: 00060-00015
Matia of Ruza is one of the legendary Battlemaids — a woman warrior who has taken an oath of celibacy in service of the Maid of Light. When Kaska of Artane saves her from an ambush by a gang of brigands, Matia finds her oath tested by her handsome rescuer’s erotic appeal. But Kaska means to do more than test Matia’s faith. He worships the Dark One, and he wants to make Matia the centerpiece in a sizzling erotic ritual in honor of his god.
Kaska of Artane slowed his stallion to an easy amble. Prince Britar’s fortress lay a full day away, and he’d ridden poor Warbringer hard this past month. He knew the Prince awaited the intelligence he’d gathered as a spy in neighboring Trovan, but laming his horse would serve no purpose.
Particularly with war on the horizon.
Besides, the last time Kaska had come this way, he’d had to battle the local brigands. Two fell to his blade before the rest fled, but that left five. And they might be in the mood for revenge. I don’t care to ride headlong into an ambush.
“Whoreson bastards!” A woman’s roar of fury brought Kaska’s head up. He drew Warbringer to a prancing halt.
Swords clashed, interspaced with male taunts and laughter. The laughter had a distinctly ugly note. The woman swore again, an edge of grim desperation in her voice.
The thieves had found a new victim.
Kaska set his heels to Warbringer’s flanks and thundered up the road toward the sound. Rounding the bend, he saw five men fighting a lone female traveler they’d managed to unhorse. He recognized the dented, rusted armor and unshaven faces; it was indeed the same band of thieves.
But their victim was no common woman. Her armor and sword marked her as a follower of the Maid of Light — a female warrior. She was tall for a woman, with a lithe, muscular build and pretty breasts barely contained by her intricately embossed breastplate. Long black hair swirled around her face as she spun and hacked at her tormentors with a slim sword designed for a woman’s hand.
One of the brigands already lay dead at her feet, but four others remained, odds too great even for one of the legendary Battlemaids.
A grin of sheer, savage joy spread across Kaska’s face. With a howl, he drew the blade sheathed across his back and kicked Warbringer into a thundering charge.
The nearest of the brigands whirled too late. Kaska took his head with a single stroke.
Another of the men jumped at him, hacking for his thigh with an axe, but Kaska spun Warbringer aside and thrust his blade into the thief’s chest. The man tumbled off the lethal point, gurgling out his life.
Meanwhile, the third brigand fell to the Battlemaid’s sword. His head tumbled from his shoulders.
The fourth man looked from Kaska to the thieves’ would-be victim, calculated the odds, and took to his heels.
Kaska snatched a dagger from his thigh sheath and hurled it at the coward with an expert flip of his wrist. The man went down, the blade buried to the hilt between his shoulder blades.
Scarcely breathing hard, Kaska turned to the maid. “Are you well?”
“Well enough.” She studied him, her dark eyes level. There was a sharp and elegant beauty to her face, with its broad, high cheekbones and square little chin. Her lush mouth could inspire a monk to carnal fantasies.
“My thanks, warrior,” she said at last in a low, husky voice, pushing the long black hair out of her face. “There were too many of them for me to best alone.” She considered him, appraising the width of his chest and the strength of his sword arm. Female appreciation lit her gaze, mixed with a warrior’s caution.
She had reason for that caution, for he meant to challenge her himself. He worshiped the Dark One, and his god relished nothing as much as the moans of a defeated Battlemaid.
Imagining the tight grip of her virgin ass, Kaska felt his cock swell behind his loincloth. Give her time to rest, and then…
Of course, the maid might well kill him instead, but looking at her long legs and full, sweet breasts, Kaska thought it a chance well worth taking.
As he opened his mouth to warn her of his intent, all color left the Battlemaid’s face. Her eyes rolled up. Kaska threw himself from Warbringer’s back as she collapsed in a heap.
Two long strides carried him to the maid’s side. Dropping to one knee on the dusty road, Kaska began an anxious examination. He found no wounds on the front of her body, so he rolled her onto her stomach.
The maid groaned and lifted her head. “Wha –”
“Seems one of your cur attackers landed a blow after all,” he told her grimly. “There’s a stab wound in your back just under your backplate, over your left hip.”
“Aye,” she said, letting her head fall. “One of them had a dagger.”
“’Tis not deep, but it bleeds still,” Kaska said. “I can treat it, if you permit.”
“Aye,” the maid said, breathing now in shallow pants. “My thanks.”
Kaska nodded and rose to retrieve his pack of battlefield medicines from Warbringer. Well, he thought as he walked to his horse, I won’t be challenging her any time soon. Not with that wound. Later, perhaps. When he’d examined her, he’d noticed she had a truly delicious ass.
He wanted it.
* * *
Matia of Ruza took another swallow of ale and held it in her mouth while her mercenary rescuer slid his needle into her skin. Pain lanced through her flesh as he tugged the stitch tight, but she managed to keep the groan between her teeth.
To distract herself, she looked up at the limbs of the great oak they sat beneath. The grass felt cool under her thighs. “So, Kaska, may I ask whom you serve?”
He hesitated, probably deciding how much to tell her. “Prince Britar of Renat.”
She relaxed slightly. “The goddess must have guided me to you, then. I’m on the way to the Prince’s fortress myself.”
“Oh?” Another stinging stitch.
“The Daughters of the Maid in Trovan wish to offer him their support in his campaign against the usurper Svec. I am to offer him my sword.”
Kaska hesitated again, the thread pulled tight. “He will be glad to hear it.”
“The Elder Daughter at the Maid’s convent told me Britar is a good man. Directly descended from Kral the Conqueror, which would make his claim superior to Svec’s. Should he choose to press it.”
“What manner of master is he?”
“I have found him just.”
Obviously, Kaska was not a man to chatter of his leader’s business. Matia nodded in approval. “I suppose I shall discover that for myself,” she said. “Thank you again, warrior. Had you not come to my aid, I’d be raped and dying by now.”
He grunted and slid the needle in again. “I have no doubt you’d have made them pay dearly. You’re good with that blade.”
“Not good enough to best them all.” Grimacing, she took another swig of the ale and closed her eyes at the pleasantly yeasty taste.
A big, warm hand gave her shoulder a gentle pat. “That’s it, my girl. Your wound is closed and cleaned.”
Matia opened her eyes to watch as the warrior walked past to kneel by the riverside and wash her blood from his hands. He wore little but a loincloth, boots, and bracers. His armor must be tucked inside his packs.
Despite her Battlemaid’s vow of celibacy, she’d have to be blind not to admire all that hard male strength. Muscle worked up and down Kaska’s tanned, scarred back as he bent, bunching in his ass and brawny thighs. His long braid swung back and forth across his spine as he moved, reminding her of a panther’s tail. For a moment, she let herself imagine how he’d look with all that dark hair tumbling around his shoulders.
His face was as comely as his massive body, with eyes a piercing blue against his tan. Deep dimples rode at either side of his mouth when he smiled, and his cheekbones were broad and regal. That nose would have been too big on another man’s face, but on his, it balanced a jutting chin and thick, dark brows. His mouth was her favorite of his features, wide and sensual, with even white teeth and lips that looked soft.
All in all, he made Matia regret becoming a Daughter of the Maid.
“Can you ride?” Kaska asked, turning to face her.
She considered the question cautiously. “If you help me on my horse, aye.”
He nodded, his blue eyes lingering on her face in a way that made something heat deep in her belly. “’We’ll travel to the fortress together, then.”
* * *
Kaska’s gaze rested on his companion’s lovely face as he silently cursed his luck. He could not lay a single lustful finger upon her. Not only was she injured, she’d sworn to serve Prince Britar. Challenging her would deprive his leader of one or the other of his badly needed warriors.
The Dark One would not approve, Kaska thought, with a sigh of regret.
Then the wind picked up the long, black strands of her hair and tossed it around her slim shoulders. Her luscious ass rolled in the saddle with each stride of her stallion.
By the Dark One’s Double Cocks, he wanted her.
Kaska’s eyes narrowed in consideration. We won’t be in Britar’s service forever. I could claim her after the Prince releases us. And in the meantime, I’ll keep an eye on her and see she comes to no harm before I steal her from her goddess.
Of course, eventually she would discover he worshiped the Dark One and realize what he intended. He’d be lucky not to take a dagger between the ribs for his temerity.
But, as he watched her throw back her head and laugh at some sally of his, Kaska decided claiming the little Battlemaid for his own was more than worth the risk.