“This is idiotic.”
There was a small gasp behind her.
“You shouldn’t say that Captain! It’s an honor to have your royal portrait painted!”
Captain Goldfeather rolled her eyes. The only honor that concerned her was on the battlefield and how she carried herself, not in silly paintings. And yet she knew being the Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights meant that her duties were not just limited to how well she wielded a sword. She was the right arm of the King, she was the protector and guardian of the realm, and she was responsible for training the next generation of Griffon Knights when death or old age finally came to claim her.
She wished she could die now.
The sound of clinking armor and chainmail echoed down the hallway as the two Griffon Knights rounded a corner. One was tall, her golden skin radiating as much light as her armor with her helm tucked underneath her arm as she strode purposefully. She was the perfect personification of a knight; proud, stoic, and noble in every sense. Soft feminine features beguiled her skill as a warrior, and many who mistook her as a mere beauty were quickly silenced by her domineering presence.
Oddly enough, the most prominent feature about her was not the span of her great white wings, or even her tanned sunforged skin, but rather her near golden hair; a rare trait even for griffons.
The smaller griffon that followed closely behind her was dressed only in a simple leather jerkin, the mark of a trainee. The stack of papers clutched tightly in her hands threatened to fly away at the brisk pace they walked.
“It doesn’t concern me whether it’s considered an honor or not,” Captain Goldfeather said, seething with irritation, “What concerns me is why must it be done…naked?”
It was preposterous. Idiotic. Debauched. But everyone besides her seemed to think that it was perfectly natural to have your nude portrait done and displayed for all to see.
Her aide nearly had to skip along in order to keep up with her.
“But it’s tradition! It’s been done ever since the Royal Griffon Knights were founded! The first Royal Griffon Captain herself set the standard!”
Goldfeather rolled her eyes again. Her aide was dependable but eager to a fault. Not uncommon for young Griffon Knights who wanted to prove themselves. Her new aide was assigned to her just a week ago, and already her youthful energy and was taxing her. Still, she was grateful for her duties.
Goldfeather herself knew that Griffon Captains had their portraits done nude. Supposedly, it symbolized the majesty and beauty of Griffons in their rawest and purest form; that even naked and bare, a Griffon was just as deadly as any knight in full regalia.
Death and beauty incarnate.
She scoffed at such a romanticized idea. If it was up to her, she would have forgone with tradition entirely and simply ignored the practice. But the matter was out of her hands now. Pressure from court demanded she follow through, as much as she dreaded it. She purposefully avoided the Royal Gallery that housed the previous portraits of past Royal Griffon Captains. Goldfeather never thought that her own nude portrait would soon join theirs.
Then again, little over a year ago, she never thought she would be Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights.
“So who do they have painting the damn thing?” Goldfeather asked, changing subjects.
Her aide hurriedly poured through the stack of papers, flipping over several pages before answering unsurely.
“Someone named…Florincia De la Gora…is supposed to be doing it.”
“De la Gora? The chapel painter?” Goldfeather asked genuinely surprised.
Though she was no scholar of the arts, even she had heard of Florincia De la Gora. Supposedly, it costed a small castle just to commission his services. And though this might have been an exaggeration, even her own King had been unable to render his services.
Goldfeather shook her head in disgust. “I wonder how much this is going to cost us.”
“Actually,” the smaller griffon chimed in, “I heard the he practically begged the King to paint you.”
Goldfeather couldn’t laugh at the notion. “I suppose I should consider it a honor then,” she said sarcastically.
The two of them continued on until they reached a set of finely etched double doors. Entering through revealed a room with high vaulted ceilings and cream marble floors polished to such a sheen that the space of the room seemed to almost doubled in size. Over a hundred of her Griffon Knights could stand at attention here without fear of bumping wings, and perhaps even more curious, was that one wall was entirely missing. Instead there was a balcony, giving a perfect view over the city beneath and providing more than enough natural light to illuminate the room. Goldfeather always wondered what the purpose of this room was. She made a mental note of how it could serve as a possible staging area for her Knights, should the need ever arise.
But before she could continue on with her habitual tactical analysis of the room, her eyes were drawn to a pedestal situated on one side of the room, along with various a various assortment of furniture. There was a screen divider of the type a man or woman might change behind, a finely upholstered long chair, and an easel that had an enormous rectangular canvas already set upon it. The only other thing of note in the room was an unremarkable looking man sat upon a stool, vigorously mixing paints onto his palette. The sound of the door closing roused him from his work.
“Ah!” He exclaimed, rising quickly to set aside his palette to greet the Griffon Knights . “It is so good to meet you Captain! I am a great admirer of yours.”
Goldfeather awkwardly shook his hand, unsure of how to act in front of a man that was not only going to see her naked, but also paint her. Her aide clumsily shifted the papers in her arms before returning his greeting in similar fashion. The artist quickly turned his attention back to the taller griffon.
“To finally see you in the flesh is truly a great honor! The masterpieces of the Royal Griffon Knights are wonders of the world, and I must say, I am truly blessed to add my own to its collection. That you deserve a place among them is no mere understatement.”
Goldfeather forced a smile. She wasn’t entirely sure if he was being sincere or if this was something all artists did. She cleared her throat and assumed a stance of attention. This would be her final chance to try and get out of the situation.
“My apologies for bringing this up now, but as Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights, my duties to the Kingdom require my direct and upmost attention. If I am called to serve, I may be away for months at a time or worse. I’m afraid I can’t guarantee how available I will be.”
Perhaps the idea of her being incapacitated for too long would force De la Gora to succumb to impatience and simply abandon the project, she hoped. If he was anything like the nobles she had to put up with, then impatience would be her saving grace. There was a twinkle in his eye as a smile emerged on his lips.
“My Captain, my skills only require you for just one day. So unless the city were to erupt in fire or war were this very second, heaven forbid it, we have all the time in the world.”
Goldfeather couldn’t help but show her surprise.
“Just one day?” Goldfeather exclaimed, “I thought a portrait took weeks to finish?”
“My skills are unparalleled in the arts, and with it comes alacrity. Alas, such a gift is taxing upon my own body.” He wiggled his fingers in front of the two griffons for emphasis. “I feel I only have enough left in me for just a few more masterpieces. I would love for one of them to be of the famous and beautiful Knight Captain Goldfeather.”
Goldfeather nodded. Now she understood why she was so heavily pressured into having her portrait done. If De la Gora had wanted to paint her so badly, then no doubt the King wanted his painting done as payment for painting her. An awkward silence descended between the three of them as Goldfeather tried to quickly formulate another excuse but found she could not.
“Well then. I suppose we should get started,” she said finally admitting defeat.
She turned towards her aide and dismissed her for the rest of the day, instructing her to only disturb them if the matter was truly dire. Upon hearing that the portrait would only take a day, she was inclined to get it over with as soon as possible. The doors gently closed as the smaller griffon bowed and left the Griffon Captain and the painter alone together. And though she was a skilled warrior, suddenly she felt very vulnerable.
“You may change behind the screen if you wish.” De la Gora suggested, pointing to the divider.
De la Gora had returned to mixing his paints, leaving Goldfeather fidgeting with her armor behind the screen. She had already undone her sword belt, and though she had worn plate and steel armor for years since she was a recruit, she suddenly found herself fumbling at the straps and buckles, her fingers trembling with trepidation. She took several deep breaths to calm herself. Slowly her fingers unbuckled pauldrons and greaves, placing them gently onto the long chair before lifting her chest plate free and placing it alongside the slowly growing pile of armor. She stepped out of her finely crafted leather boots, her only luxury she personally afforded herself. They were custom made, a gift from a nobleman that she had saved from a band of marauders. In his gratitude, he had his finest cobbler craft the boots for her. For a griffon, with their unique lion-like legs for appendages, it was a most generous gift. Carefully, she placed them next to the chair.
‘Now comes the hard part,’ Goldfeather thought to herself.
She now only stood in simple trousers and a thin but tough tunic that ended just below her knees. Maneuverability was more prized by the aerial knight orders, who unlike their terrestrial brothers in arms, were more lightly armored by comparison. Even if they had worn full armor, a single broken wing generally spelled a spiraling death to the ground. Skill and combat prowess were what reigned in the sky.
And none of that helped her now.
Wordlessly, she undid the knots keeping her tight fitting cloth trousers on and tugged them downwards, sliding them off her legs while she balanced herself on a single pawpad like a dancer would. She folded them neatly, placing it aside before doing the same to her tunic, pulling it off in one swift motion. All that was left were her underclothes, simple cotton undergarments that were standard issue among the Griffon Knights and provided some form of modesty if little else. At the least it prevented chafing while flying.
Hesitantly, her fingers rested on the hem of the undergarments.
‘The sooner you get this over with, the faster you could be done.’
She pulled the first undergarment above her head, freeing her breasts. Next was the separate bottom undergarment, which she gingerly tugged down and swiftly stepped out of. Carefully, she picked up the garment and tucked both pieces inside her folded tunic, as if the mere sight of them would offend the gods.
And now she stood there, completely nude to the world exposing everything she had to offer. She felt cold, defenseless, and worst of all naked. She instinctively tried to cover herself but found the flesh spilling over. Unsure of how to proceed, she wondered if she should just stride out confidentially, or give into her natural response to try and cover herself. In the end, she steeled herself and decided the best way was to cover herself unashamedly. Showing weakness in any situation was in bad form, after all.
“Alright,” Goldfeather announced out loud. “I’m ready.”
There was a clatter of something being put down.
“Excellent!” De la Gora replied. “I, as well.”
Goldfeather took a deep breath, readying herself. She was Captain of the Royal Griffon Knights. If her predecessors had done this then surely she could as well. With purpose she stepped out behind the screen divider and out into the open, one arm covering her breasts and while her other hand attempted to hide her womanhood. She found De la Gora smiling enthusiastically ready to begin; a feeling she could not return. She stepped carefully atop the pedestal, taking care to hide any hints of embarrassment and maintaining her most neutral expression she could muster.
“And how would you like your portrait to be painted?” De la Gora asked unexpectedly.
Goldfeather stared. “With my sword and amour. Preferably on.”
De la Gora laughed, apparently finding some humor at her suggestion, though in truth she was being serious.
“Past Captains have posed with swords, or shields, or other such items. To signify their most prominent traits. I of course, had an idea.”
He turned around and reached behind his stool towards a pack that no doubt held his painting supplies. From within it, he pulled out a scarlet red banner that she instantly recognized. It was the flag of the Kingdom, a golden griffon on a scarlet red background. She wondered where he procured such a thing, and if he had somehow managed to smuggle it out from the King’s throne room.
“I believe your prowess with a blade speaks for itself, so perhaps a more humble approach would suffice?” De la Gora suggested as he brought the banner over to her.
Goldfeather leaned down, twisting her body sideways while she reached out and quickly snatched the deep red crimson cloth. She brought it up to her chest, grateful that she at least something to cover herself with.
De la Gora hurried back to his easel, taking up his brush and palette once more. Tactfully, he began to instruct her on what sort of pose he had envisioned for her. With a constant flow of instructions and prodding, she worked to nudge her limbs into the right positions. It felt as though an hour had passed before she finally struck a suitable pose to his liking. The red banner covered her front but showed plenty of her hips. Even then the painter didn’t seem pleased with the results.
“This is supposed to be a nude painting,” De la Gora said exasperated “but it can hardly be called a nude painting if there is none to be found.”
“I’m working on it.” She shot back at him.
She had to remind herself that the faster she was finished, the sooner she could be done. She cursed herself for being so indecisive. Slowly, she dragged the cloth to the side, revealing one breast at a time until finally her chest was fully exposed. She tried to retain a stoic expression, although she doubted anyone would be looking at her face once the portrait was complete.
“How is this?” She asked, hoping to finally have appeased the painter.
To her ire, he didn’t display any sort of reaction as he suddenly ducked behind his easel.
“Yes, this is good. I can work with this at least. Your nipples have already adjusted to the air, so thatsaves us some trouble as well.”
Goldfeather, unsure of how to respond to such a blatant comment about her body, simply pretended she didn’t hear him.
A silence had soon befallen the two of them as De la Gora became engrossed with his work, Goldfeather was left to stand idle holding the pose as best she could. She felt like a fool, standing there naked. Every so often De la Gora would peek out from behind his easel and stare at her, his eyes wandering over her body, lingering in places that would have deserved a slap from any other woman. And yet she stayed still, allowing him to work. She hoped that she wasn’t blushing or betrayed any hint of embarrassment that De la Gora could paint in. It was only then that Goldfeather realized that she was being immortalized in a portrait that would last quite longer then her or her career. Future generations of Griffon Knights would look upon her and her predecessors immortalized in canvas. The last thing she wanted them to see was weakness. Goldfeather swallowed, finally realizing the gravity and seriousness of the tradition.
If only for a moment.
Golfeather’s feathered ears perked up at the sound of a crash from the balcony. The sound of metal against stone was clear along with the distinctive grunt of someone in pain. She jumped in surprise, instinctively covering herself with the banner once more. Her free hand prepared to grip the handle of her sword, but found it only grasped air.
“What on earth?” De la Gora said aloud as he put down his brush and palette.
Before she could stop him, De la Gora had already stridden out onto the balcony to investigate the source of the disturbance. She debated on whether to rush out with him or fetch her sword and armor. Being naked had thrown out those two options. Instead she froze with anticipation, wondering what was going on. Muffled voices could be heard outside, and then much to her confusion laughter. A few moments later De la Gora walked back into view, chatting happily with another man beside him.
He wore a wide brimmed hat with a crude feather in it, and a leather overcoat with a high collar that partially obscured his face. It was easy to tell that he was a warrior of some sort, with his odd assortment of mismatched armor and broken chainmail and battered sword hanging at his side. One might have assumed that he was a looter that had just come off a fresh battlefield, preying on the dead and dying like a hungry vulture. But even without an untrained eye, it was clear that he carried himself as someone who knew how to fight.
And more importantly win.
“I apologize for the sudden interruption.” De la Gora began, “I hope that you do not mind, but my good friend might be joining us for a while. His name is Eidan. He -“
“I know who he is.”
Goldfeather’s hand trembled as she gripped the crimson cloth tightly in her talons, a well of emotions erupting inside of her. She had not expected to see him, of all people, ever again.
The strange warrior removed his hat and gingerly held it against his chest, bowing slightly to greet her.
“Hello Cara.” He said in a soft mellow voice, a widening grin on his face.
“Don’t call me that.” She shot back.
“Ah!” De la Gora interjected happily, “I see the two of you have met each other already! Might I ask how you know of each other?” He asked curiously.
Simultaneously, Goldfeather and Eidan responded in unison.
“She’s my ex.”
“He’s my ex.”
De la Gora’s smile had slowly faded away. “Oh. Oh dear.”
The silence was deafening as the leather clad warrior and naked griffon stared off at each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. It was the painter who broke the tension first.
“Well…if there is some issue, I can ask for Eidan to leave-“
“That won’t be necessary.” Goldfeather declared, asserting control of the situation. “His presence will hardly be noted.”
Sheepishly, De la Gora returned to his canvas and Goldfeather resumed her previous pose, bearing her breasts once more. What embarrassment she had felt before was replaced with a certain steadfastness to appear strong in front of a man who had previously left her. Besides, it was nothing he hadn’t seen before. Eidan bowed his head slightly, accepting the insult with some grace before moving off to the side to allow De la Gora to continue. Goldfeather simply stared ahead, ignoring the gaze of her former lover staring back at her.
Once again, silence descended the two of them, the rubbing of brushstrokes the only thing audible in the room.
“What are you doing here?” She asked in her most neutral tone possible, maintaining her pose.
From the corner of her eye, she saw him place his hands and hat behind his back.
“Well, I was just passing by and I heard my friend Florincia was in town supposedly doing some fancy painting of the next Griffon Captain, and I thought, ‘Well, I might as well say Hello and see how he’s doing’.”
“No.” Goldfeather sighed. “I mean, what are you doing here?”
She flicked her eyes towards him. Two years. It had been two years since she last saw him.
“You said you never wanted to see me again.”
Eidan reared back, as if he had been struck by a mailed glove.
“And you said you’d kill me the next time you saw me.”
Did she say that? She might have. The last breakup they had was, in the simplest of terms, harsh. Their romance had started off at a young age. A simple farmer had found her in the woods abandoned and alone. She was raised by him, his wife, and his bumbling but well-meaning son. They became her adopted family. It was a harsh life, growing up as a peasant farmer, but she did her best and helped as much as she could. She and the boy were fast friends, and it was not uncommon for her to rush to his rescue whenever he got himself into trouble, especially when he fell into the pig pen or gotten himself lost in the woods. She had spent her youth on the farm, and as she grew, so did her interest in the well-meaning boy.
They soon grew…intimate, as far as young couples went, with too much time on their hands and a myriad of places where they could be alone together. She could still remember the sweet smell of hay upon her nose as they lay in the barn, coiled in each other’s embrace.
Those idyllic days could not last however.
One day, after having gone out to gather fire-wood, the boy had failed to return home. A search party was organized and the whole of the village was mustered to look for him. She could still remember the flickering of torchlight through the trees as she searched overhead, her still developing wings beating furiously to keep her aloft. Of course, it had to be her that found him first. To see him lying there, coated in his own blood, dying, was enough to send her to her knees. He had been mauled by a monster, and though his wounds were terrible, he would yet live. But it taught her an important listen that day.
The world was a dangerous place.
But even so, she would try and make it a safer one.
When a passing knight had come through her village she eagerly fell upon her knees and begged to be of service, to make the lands a safer place. It was to her elation that not only could she do just that, but there was an entire knightly order of Griffons. Not a week later, she had said her vows and took her place among the ranks of the Royal Griffon Knights. She had to leave her family behind. She had to leave her home behind. Most of all, she had to leave her love behind.
But if it meant that he could go on and live a normal life, free from peril, that surely that sacrifice would be enough.
Imagine her reaction when she learned that not only did that that boy go and leave the farm. But also join the Adventure’s Guild and become an adventurer in his own right. Even so, their relationship would ignite and smother out like clockwork over the years. And It always ended the same way.
Eidan coughed, clearly uncomfortable at her lack of a response.
“You look good, you know.” He began, trying to re-spark the conversation.
Goldfeathed turned her head and glared at him.
“Uh, I mean, healthy!” Eidan attempted to correct himself, “I…well, you still look good but…I mean to say.”
He let out a long sigh.
“You look well.”
Goldfeather studied his face. The once bumbling boy had aged into a man looking well beyond his years, riddled with a myriad of scars across his body. Some still looked fresh, in particular a large scar on the side of his head, the healing flesh still pink.
She turned her attention back to the painter. “I cannot say the same to you.”
Eidan scratched the side of his head, where the large gash had left a noticeable furrow just above his ear.
“Ah that.” He smiled. “Souvenir from my last adventure. Ran into a bit of trouble.”
Goldfeather shook her head. She cursed him for his willingness to toss himself into danger without regard for his own safety. It tore at her. Each time he came back to her, bearing new scars or trying to hide his pained expressions when he thought she wasn’t looking. He was destroying himself. And for what, she could only guess.
“Captain, I must ask that you remain still.” De la Gora called out timidly. Whatever enthusiasm he had for painting her had been replaced with apprehensiveness.
“Of course.” She replied, resuming her positon.
Once again, the rhythmic sound of moving brushstrokes became the only source sound in the room. Goldfeather preferred it this way, without him occupying her thoughts, or without him taking glee in his work. Now she was in control. It was a position from which she could operate best. As soon the session was over, she would boot them both out. There were more important things to attend to, and she was in no mood to put up with Eidan’s nonsense now.
She would not play nursemaid for him again.
“You know,” Eidan began, tapping his chin with a finger. “If you turn just a bit more to the left, you can show off your nethers.”
Goldfeather, caught off-guard by the comment reared back and covered the banner in front of herself again, her serious façade broken.
“And why on earth would I want to do that!?” She gaped at him.
“My god, he’s right.”
Goldfeather looked up at to see De la Gora peering at her and back at the canvas, an expression of awe upon his face.
“This is what has been missing! This is exactly what it needs! The fire! Impact! Its…it’s the…” he balled his hand into a fist and thrust it into the air. “The…the oomph!” He said, failing to find the words.
Eidan nodded, “My thoughts exactly.”
“No! I’m not putting my…my breasts are enough!” Goldfeather argued back, flabbergasted.
“Oh c’mon, Cara, don’t tell me you’re afraid of showing a little skin.” Eidan continued, his arms folded across his chest. “I’ve seen the Royal Gallery and as it stands now, your portrait is going to be one of the more tamer ones.”
“Don’t call me that!” Goldfeather yelled.
“I am sorry. Who is this Cara that you speak of?” De la Gora suddenly interrupted, at a loss.
Before Goldfeather could stop him, Eidan turned towards him to explain.
“We named her Caramel because her skin reminded us of the candy.”
“Alright, that is enough!” Goldfeather shouted.
She pointed a talon claw menacingly at Eidan. “Not another word out of you.”
Eidan raised his hands, stepping back to admit defeat.
She then pointed the same claw at De la Gora. “You. Paint.”
Fueled by irritation and annoyance, Goldfeather resumed her previous stance. She tried her best to remember the pose but admittedly it was doubtful her arms or legs were in the exact same position as before. De La Gora would just have to make due. Instead, she found the both of them staring at her, waiting for her to do something.
“What?” she asked irritated.
De la Gora raised a finger, “The pose. It can be improved if you could just…“
Goldfeather sighed, shaking her head. “Fine.”
Gingerly, she shifted her body to the left, and let the crimson cloth fall away so that it draped lower upon her body. Her body instantly shivered at the now cool air that breathed through her legs. Her most precious place was perfectly framed for them.
“Will this suffice?”
Goldfeather took it from their dumbfounded stares that it would.
It was some time before a recess was called for. De la Gora had excused himself to ‘explore the royal gardens’, which were conveniently located on the other side of the castle grounds, giving plenty of time for Goldfeather and Eidan to be alone. Goldfeather suspected that De la Gora wanted to put some distance between whatever potential fight that could have erupted between the two of them.
“So you made Captain.” Eidan began, smiling as he approached her. “I knew that you would.”
Goldfeather stretched out her limbs, spreading her wings to their full length and giving them a few flaps to get the blood back into them. She was used to standing, but keeping her wings splayed out for so long was tiring.
“It wasn’t my intention to.”
She didn’t bother to clothe herself as she walked over to a small table that had refreshments set on it and poured herself a cup of water.
“Captain Oslyk felt she couldn’t lead us as effectively with her injuries. She nominated me to be her replacement.”
She swirled the pewter cup in her hand, watching the water threaten to spill out. “I was more surprised that I was the only one who questioned her decision.”
Eidan shrugged his shoulders, “I think you deserved it. They say the Royal Griffon Knights have never been stronger.”
He reached over and took the cup from her hands. Their fingers brushed together as she let it slip from her grasp. He finished off the cool drink before setting it down beside her. It was only then that she realized that he was standing just a few inches from her. Part of her wanted to reach out and grab him, pull him into an embrace and never let go. She wanted so desperately to be with him, to hold him, smell him, and wake up in the morning once again in each other’s arms. But deep down she knew that was impossible. She had invested too much into the Griffon Knights to abandon them now, and his sense of wanderlust was too great to convince him to settle down and be with her.
She knew that the relationship could never work.
“Alright, I have to be truthful with you.” Eidan admitted.
Goldfeather’s feathered ears perked, wondering what he had to say.
“Seeing you standing up there, looking like that…well…” he sighed and scratched the back of his head.
“…my loins are on fire and I’m standing at full attention here.”
She balked, taking a step back from him.
“You can’t be serious!” She said, turning away from him, taking solace that her wings buffeted him aside.
Suddenly, she wished she was wearing clothes again.
“You don’t get to come back here and ask for…that from me!”
She was furious now. Two years he was gone, and now the moment he came back, he wanted to lay with her? She was not a common whore that welcomed a war weary soldier back from a battlefield. She wouldn’t provide any sort of physical comfort for him.
“Why don’t you go ask one of your rescued princesses or Elf queens for something like that.”
Knowing him, she wouldn’t be surprised if he had such adventures.
There was a noticeable pause before he spoke.
“There hasn’t been anyone else, you know.” came a voice from the floor.
Goldfeather looked behind her to find Eidan on his back, his fingers entwined on his chest. Though her wing had knocked him to the ground, he had refused to get up. He stared up at the ceiling as he spoke.
“It’s always been you. And sure, I rescued a princess or two. And yes, an Elf Queen promised me her hand in marriage once. And there might have been an incident where I was chosen to be the sacrifice during a Hellhound mating ritual. But I refused them all. Every single one.”
He rolled over and pushed himself up, dusting off his coat before bending over to pick up his discarded hat. He looked at it long fully, gently preening the feather that was attached to it. Oddly, the feather looked strangely familiar. It suddenly dawned on her that though the feather was frayed, dusty, and even singed in some places, it was one of her feathers.
“I love you Cara. I love you so much that it hurts me more terribly that any spear or sword that I’ve had pierce my flesh.”
He suddenly coughed and turned away from her.
“So please don’t say things like that. It really hurts me when you do.”
For anyone who knew him, who hadn’t grown or loved Eidan the way she had, they would have missed just the slightest tremor in his voice.
And in that brief moment, in half a wingbeat, Goldfeather had glided herself over to him, embracing him from behind. He smelled of old leather and of the road. But she didn’t mind.
“I’m sorry for saying that.” Goldfeather apologized, wrapping her arms tightly around him.
She had an inkling of why that young boy had gone off to be an adventurer, to constantly throw himself into danger. Maybe, she theorized, that he had simply wanted to be stronger than her, so that she wouldn’t need to worry about him.
She felt his warm hands atop of hers.
“It’s fine. Its fine.” He said, chuckling after a while, “I’ve had worse.”
They stayed like that, rocking to and fro with each other before Goldfeather let go of him. She stepped beside him, making her way behind the changing screen to where the long chair was and began to remove her articles of clothing atop it, picking them up and placing them on the floor.
“What are you doing?” Eidan asked curiously, who had followed her.
“Making some room.” She replied, taking her armor and sword and placing them gingerly on the floor.
“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it properly.”
Brushing strands of hair behind her feathered ear, she twisted her body before him in such a fashion that would have made even the pious of men think twice as she sat herself on the long couch. She glanced over to Eidan, as if surprised that he was still standing there.
“Well, c’mon then. Clothes off.”
After staring at her dumbfounded, Eidan began at once to strip his armor aside, letting various weapons and belts collapse unceremoniously to the floor. After having cast most of his clothes aside, he gingerly set aside his hat atop the pile. There was nothing to be bashful or nervous about, as Goldfeather and Eidan were more than intimate with each other’s bodies. With great care, Eidan climbed atop her, guiding himself into her first before claiming her lips with his. She didn’t know which sensation she was more unprepared for; the feeling of his shaft inside of her once again after such a long absence, or the taste of peaches upon his lips. For a brief moment, she wondered why he tasted like peaches.
She immediately dismissed the thought, instead relishing the touch of his body against hers once again. There was a certain excited eagerness in his pace, and Goldfeather was more than willing to match him. She writhed her body beneath his, let her claws graze and explore his body, and battled his tongue against hers. She broke away first, gasping for breath and burying herself into the crook of his neck. He responded in kind, nibbling on her ear and preening the feathers there.
Goldfeather clenched, squeezing him tightly. She wasn’t used that that. Her name being whispered into her ear was her one weakness, though she would never admit that to him. She clenched again as he whispered her name, sending shivers all along her body. His rhythmic thrusting, along with his hot shaky breath whispering her name into her ear were enough to send her over the edge first. In her euphoric state, Goldfeather was sent back to those days in the barn, back in their days of youth. She could feel the straw against her skin, poking into her sides, the smell of fresh hay in the air, and the subtle hint of sweat. She was broke out of her trance when Eidan had shifted himself above her, pushing himself up. His thrusting quickened and she knew what was going to happen next.
Before she knew it, her legs wrapped and locked around him, preventing him from escaping. Eidan looked at her unsure, but Goldfeather gave a simple curt nod. With several forceful thrusts, and with the both of them staring deeply into each other’s eyes he finished inside of her, letting his seed coat her insides. Her body shuddered and she let out a purr of a moan as his warmth seeped inside of her. Without pulling away, and with her legs still locked around him, he collapsed atop of her.
“You let me do it inside.” Eidan gasped.
Goldfeather nodded, nuzzling her face into his hair, purring all the while. “I did.”
“You never let me do it inside.”
It was true. Ever since she had joined the Griffon Knights, she had been afraid of what would happen if she ever became pregnant. She had forbid Eidan from releasing inside of her, but the question always remained, if she had become pregnant, would Eidan stay with her? Truth be told, she knew that he would have. Giving up the Griffon Knights and staring was something she dreamed of. And yet, if she was ever presented with a choice to pick either, she was afraid she would not able able to choose.
At least now, she wouldn’t need to. It was notoriously difficult to impregnate griffons, so perhaps only time could tell now.
However, there were more pressing issues.
During their love making, she had noticed something odd.
“Whats wrong with your eye.”
“What?”Eidan asked innocently.
Taking both of her hands, she grabbed Eidan’s head and forced him to look at her. She studied his left eye; something about it just seemed off. Compared to his right eye, it was vastly less detailed, the thin red lines snaking far less conspicuously. Unnaturally, it seemed dull and less full of life.
“What did you do with your eye?” She demanded to know.
“Oh. You noticed that…” He said sheepishly. “I’m kind of surprise you did.”
She gripped his head tighter. “What happened?”
“Ow. Okay, I sort of lost it in a fight. To a greater demon.”
Goldfeather stared at him incredulously.
“Oh don’t worry, I took one of its eyes, so it was an even trade.”
She stared at him in disbelief before hitting him upside the head.
“Idiot!” She yelled, continuing to pummel him while he covered the back of his head with his hands.
All the while she continued to lock her legs around him, making sure he didn’t escape. She didn’t hit him as forcefully as she could. But she still wanted to make it hurt.
“Ow! Okay! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He yelped.
“Idiot! You’re going to get yourself killed!” Goldfeather chastised him.
She only relented her assault when he cupped her cheek in his hand, started to caress her with his thumb.
The two lay in each other’s embrace, each unwilling to release from the other.
“I heard of some bunny witch that lived in the city here. The rumor says that she can regenerate
organs. I’m hoping she can fix my eye.” Eidan admitted.
“And once you’re fixed, you’ll leave again?”
Goldfeather stared at the ceiling, knowing already what his answer will be. She was thankful that instead of answering her, he chose to lie in her arms like in the days when they were younger.
A few days later her Royal Portrait was revealed. Regretfully, she was unable to attend the unveiling ceremony as there happened to be an ‘emergency’ that conveniently happened at the same time, which ‘demanded’ her attention. Instead, she sat on a secluded section on the castle walls. The feeling of the cool breeze across her feathers sent a calm through her body. She grateful that she could be alone, if only for a little while. Today, she wanted to be left to her own devices. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a figure approaching her. Of course, only he had such impeccable timing in showing up when she least expected it.
“It’s a hit, you know.” Eidan said, leaning against the wall beside her. “Everyone is raving about your portrait.”
She was unsure how she felt about such praise. A part of her felt ashamed that her nude body was on display. Another part of her was honored that she joined the ranks of her predecessors in immortal glory. And maybe, perhaps just maybe, she was just a little bit proud. She shook her head.
“I’ll never understand why people find such a thing so important.” She said aloud.
Eidan shrugged beside her. “You should consider yourself lucky. The Imperial Dragon Knight Corps in the neighboring kingdom uses statues as their way of showing off. And that takes months to do.”
Goldfeather laughed. The thought of her mortal nemesis standing still for days on end just so a sculptor could chip away at a piece of stone was an enjoyable thought. Goldfeather smiled softly.
“How long will you be staying this time?”
Knowing him, it would most likely be only a few days or weeks before he once again set off on the road, gallivanting on some grand adventure or rescuing damsels in distress. She remembered the one incident where he loudly declared that he had saved the world from certain destruction at one point. His fuming face as she laughed at him brought tears to her eyes.
“Well actually,” he began, taking his hat off to fiddle with the feather on it, “I might be here for a while.”
Goldfeather turned to him in surprise. He smiled at her and winked.
“That witch is charging me an arm and a leg to fix my eye. So instead of doing that, I’m running all sorts of odd jobs around the city. So, I might be here for quite a while.”
He coughed nervously. “I could, uhm. Use a place to stay, if you wouldn’t mind.”
He preened the frayed and damaged feather on his hat. attempting to straighten it once more. Seeing that, Goldfeather took the hat from him and plucked the feather, examining it closely. She twirled it in her fingers several times before letting it go. Lazily it drifted onto the wind and was carried away, becoming nothing more than a speck in the distance. With a sharp tug, she plucked a feather from her own wing, thick and pristine, and placed it into the hat where the old feather had been.
With a loving smile, she handed the hat back to him.