The tower chamber was hot from the sun heating up the stone wall of the large tower with its bright white shine, and the warm breeze blowing through the open shutters brought only little release from the heat. Spring was as hot in the southern parts of the Mediterranean Sea as only few weeks in July or August were in England, but the tall man standing before the rather small opening in the tower wall, staring outside with unseeing eyes, pulled his coat around his shoulders as if he was freezing.
“I wished it would rain.”
The younger man with the shining red-blond hair who was sitting on stool on the side of the chamber let the last tunes of his harp and his voice fade to look up at the tall man with the red coat.
“Rain, my King Richard? Are you not happy about the sun? Don't you think that it is a good sign that the sun will shine brightly on your wedding day tomorrow?”
The man the blond bard had addressed as King Richard shrugged his shoulders in a tired gesture. “The sun is always shining in Cyprus, Blondel. Rain moistening the dry earth and providing us with the water we'll need so badly on our journey would be a good sign, not the burning sun that condemns so many people to a slow and painful death of thirst and hunger. I miss England's soft rain on my face, the fresh breeze and the green hills. Sometimes I think that I shouldn't have come here at all, but the vows I gave demand that I will fulfill my promise and fight for Jerusalem's freedom.”
“Your heavy thoughts come from your nervousness, my king. It's understandable, tomorrow will be an important day for you and for England.” Blondel hadn't moved, and his fingers stroked absentmindedly over the strings of his harp, enticing it a wistful melody that filled the chamber with its heartbreaking beauty.
“Nothing will change tomorrow, Blondel. I will still be the crusader Richard of England, a lonesome man who doesn't know what it feels like to be loved.” Richard turned away from the window and crossed the room, coming to a halt before the stool where his faithful minstrel and friend sat.
“You are loved by a lot of people, my king. Your subjects, your friends and your men, they all admire and love you. Your fiancee is deeply devoted to you.” Blondel's amber-golden eyes shone in the red light of the setting sun, but his face was partly hidden in the shadows, and Richard bent forward to touch briefly touch his cheek and see his expression more clearly.
“This is not the love I crave for, Blondel, and you know that. The people you're talking about love and admire the strong king, they all hope to gain something out of showing me their devotion, and Berengaria simply loves the thought of marrying a powerful ruler. She's fulfilling her duties like I am doing, and she only does what her father expects her to do. True love seems to flee from me, and I fear that I will never really find it. Tell me Blondel, do you love me?”
The younger man swallowed, a thin muscle on his jaw twitching. He lowered his eyes down onto his harp, refusing to meet Richard's eyes. “You know that I love you, Richard. I am your friend and you saved me from a cruel and horrible fate. How could I not love you with all my heart?”
Richard growled quietly, laying his fingers under Blondel's chin to make him look at him again. “This is not what I meant, and you know that, Blondel. I know that you love me. But, do you love me? Like in loving me?”
Blondel's Adam's apple moved under his fingers when the younger man swallowed again, returning Richard's intense gaze without blinking.
“I wouldn't be here, if I didn't love you, my king. You know that I love you. I will always love you.” There was a hint of defiance in the minstrel's voice, defiance and pain, a pain that was well-hidden most of the time but which broke free on the evening before Richard's wedding day.
Richard closed his fingers firmer around Blondel's chin, not willing to let him backpedal again and deny the truth any longer. His eyes were fixed on the bard's face, and his voice was hoarse when he demanded to hear the words he had longed to hear for so long.
“Then say it, Blondel, say it out loud. Tell me that you love me.”
Blondel lifted his chin up and put his harp to the side, his eyes sparkling golden in the shadows.
“I love you Richard.”
The bed creaked quietly under the weight of the two men when Richard carefully lowered Blondel down onto the mattress, worshiping his naked body with passionate eyes. Blondel's soft and smooth skin shimmered like precious ivory in the silvery light of the early moon, begging to be touched, caressed and stroked, and Richard straddled the younger man and started to explore the delights of his slim and lithe figure, drawing patterns over the hills and valleys of the unknown land the powerful king secretly had longed to discover for so long.
His minstrel didn't try to hide his body from the loving glances of his king, offering himself to Richard's hungry gaze with the trust and love he felt for the man who had rescued him from a fate worse than death.
“You're so beautiful, my Blondel, so beautiful and desirable.” Richard's voice was hoarse with emotion, and the blond bard shivered under his ardent caresses and his adoring glance.
“You are beautiful, my King Richard. So strong and brave and powerful. You are like I always wanted to be, handsome and male, fair and just and kind to those who need your kindness but strict and unwavering to those who try to betray you and your beloved home. You are a fierce fighter for right and justice, and I am just a simple minstrel who doesn't even know how to wield a sword properly. Watching you fight makes me humble, and I know for sure that I've never seen anything more beautiful than you fighting.”
Richard bent down to trail hot and sweet kisses all over Blondel's face and his neck and shoulders. “You are as much a warrior and fighter as I am, my sweet minstrel. Your weapons are your wonderful voice and your harp, and your singing and your play cut deeper than any sword could ever do, it touches the heart and the soul of your audience, and it brings joy, love and happiness to them. The beauty of fights and weapons is a beauty that destroys and brings pain and grief, while the beauty of music and singing is a beauty that heals and gives life and hope. Don't you ever think that your way of fighting for right and justice is less powerful or important, Blondel.”
“If you say so, my king,” Blondel whispered, offering his lips for the kiss Richard wanted to steal. The younger man's mouth was warm and tender, opening for the curious conqueror asking for entrance instead of just demanding it. The king lost himself in the sensation of their first real kiss, a kiss that spoke of a love that was deeper than anything else either of them had ever felt for another living being, and Richard wrapped his arms tightly around his beloved Blondel and covered him with his body, kissing him deep and passionate and telling him without words how much he loved him.
They had taken their time to learn each other by heart, to find out which caresses would pleasure the other one the most. Richard had kissed and stroked each single spot of Blondel's pliant body, craving to discover all the spots and hidden places that would make his beautiful minstrel moan and tremble with passion and lust when touched, stroked and kissed.
Blondel had done the same, his face suffused with rapt devotion as he had returned the favor and lavished attention on each part of Richard's body. Richard's mind was clouded with lust and passion, but he had restrained himself and very carefully prepared his wonderful lover to make sure that his sweet minstrel would only feel pleasure and nothing else when Richard would finally make him his.
Both had craved for this for so long, and for the remarkable ruler, this almost magical night felt like his real wedding night, the night when he would become one with the only human being he could ever love with all his heart. Blondel had responded so passionately and wonderfully to his tender preparation, whispering words of love and adoration against his tingling lips and spreading his legs eagerly for him so Richard could reach deeper and deeper until the beautiful being had shivered and begged him to take him.
“I'm ready for you, I need to feel you, my beloved Richard, please make me yours!”
Richard hadn't been able to resist Blondel's begging any longer, and the tall and remarkable ruler held his breath as he now searched his way into his minstrel's tight and virgin heat, his eyes never leaving Blondel's face because he wanted to burn the sight of Blondel looking up at him with so much trust, love and devotion forever in his memory. This precious memory would warm him during all those long and cold lonely nights he would have to endure in the future, and it would remind him that he was loved and knew how it felt to be loved.
“I love you, Blondel, I love you more than anything.” Richard claimed his lips in another passionate kiss, thrusting with his tongue deep into his mouth, swallowing the breathless moans and gasps he pulled from the younger man as he started to move, desperately pushing into him again and again as if he wanted to crawl right into him not only with his hard spear but with his entire body.
The blond bard met his thrusts with unrestrained passion, encouraging his king to move harder and faster, and it didn't take long until their sounds of lust and passion filled the small chamber settled high in the tower, a chamber was the silent witness of Richard the Lionheart's real wedding the night because of the quiet vows of love and faith the king whispered to his minstrel, the one who held the key to his heart and his soul.
Without Blondel, Richard could never feel love or passion, and he pulled his beloved one close and kissed him again in the vain hope that this night would never end.
Their desire for each other demanded release though, and Richard snaked his hand between their connected bodies and wrapped his warm fingers around Blondel's throbbing member, stroking and caressing it in time to his thrusts until the younger man arched his back and cried out his ecstasy, warm wetness spilling over Richard's hand as he fell into the abyss of sweet oblivion.
Richard followed him over the edge when he sensed Blondel's pleasure, and for one long precious moment they were truly only one being, united in their love and passion for each other. Richard swallowed Blondel's hoarse cry of satisfaction and breathed his own into his mouth, filling his beloved minstrel with his warm seed.
The hot waves of pleasure coursing through him were almost painful, and Richard relaxed gratefully when they finally subsided, his nose buried in the warm and fragrant crook between Blondel's shoulder and neck.
“You are loved, my King Richard. You are so deeply loved, you will never know how much you are loved.” Blondel's tender lips traveled over his tousled hair and his hands stroked his back as if he wanted to soothe a scared kitten. Richard allowed himself a short and precious moment of weakness and melted against him, letting himself be held and caressed, grateful that he for once didn't need to be the strong and self-controlled ruler and tough warrior.
It happened only rare times that he could let go and just be the man Richard, and Blondel was actually the only one Richard trusted enough to put away the mask he normally wore to hide his true self from all those minions trying to use him to their advantage and his various enemies, the known as much as the ones who hid themselves behind the facade of camaraderie and loyalty.
“You are loved as well, my beautiful Blondel, much more than words can describe it.” The king lifted his head to look at his faithful minstrel, stroking his face with gentle fingers to map the lines of the so beloved face until they would be carved into his memory and his heart.
“Will you be there for me tomorrow, my Blondel? Will you be there and ease my heavy heart with your singing and your music, my minstrel?”
Blondel smiled up at him, his eyes shining with deep, unquestioning love. “I will always be there for you, my King Richard. I will never leave you and I will always be by your side and love you.”
Richard's answering smile was like a fresh breeze after a long and hot day under the burning sun and like the soft rain granting life and hope, and he bent down and kissed Blondel tenderly, a kiss that was Richard's vow that Blondel would always be loved as well.
“Then I am truly a blessed and rich man, my Blondel. As long as you are by my side, I will never be alone and lonely, no matter what God and fate will choose for me. You are the one I love, my faithful minstrel, and as long as I live, you will always be loved as much as a human heart can only love.”
“I am a rich and fortunate man then as well, my King Richard. There are only few men who are loved the way you love me.”
The soft silvery rays of the moon caressed the two men sleeping soundly in each other's arms before traveling higher over the dark and starry sky, granting the exhausted king and his minstrel some last hours of privacy before the morning would come and King Richard I. of England would marry Princess Berengaria of Navarra for the sake of politics, power and money.
Princess Berengaria would be Richard's wife, but Blondel the Minstrel would always be the love of his life, the one who didn't possess land or gold but something so much more precious:
the heart and the love of his beloved king, the love of Richard the Lionheart, the bravest king of the known Medieval World.