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Hefting my pack, I shifted the bulk of the weight onto the opposite shoulder, the clearing I was aiming for just ahead. It was deep in the wilds, secluded. Perfect for what Síora and I were aiming to do. The long journey there was just a part of it. She had gone ahead the day before as I wrapped up business in New Sérène, promising her that I would leave in all haste once I’d finished. Between the Coin Guard’s attempted coup, Constantin, and at least a dozen other little things, the political situation had been a mess as of late, to put it mildly. It was finally starting to calm down some now, enough to where I could leave for a long weekend and not expect to come back to find my desk looking like a bomb of parchment and ink had exploded upon it, and I was aiming to take advantage of that.


I smiled as I saw Síora waiting for me there, hunched by the fire as she tended some food. It just looked so deliciously domestic and wholesome, and while I enjoyed my job and the invigorating nature of my work, there was a part of me that wanted to quietly retire into the woods with my beloved and forget all else.


She looked up at me as I approached, a large grin spreading across her face. “Nicolette!” she greeted, standing to plant a firm kiss on my cheek. “I didn’t even expect you this soon.”


“I told you I would come right away!”


Laughing, she pointed out, “Yes, but your tender heart is easily swayed.”


I chuckled as I reached up to ruffle her hair. “When it comes to you, nothing else could sway my heart.”


Leaving a brief but tender kiss on my lips, she noted, “You’re too sweet, my love. As always.” Motioning toward the fire, she bade me, “Here, rest while I finish cooking. We can begin the ceremony when the moon rises.”


Shucking my hat and cloak, I set my pack beside the log that had been rolled up to a comfortable distance from the fire pit to act as a bench of sorts. I wiped my forehead as I took a long swig from my waterskin. It was mid-afternoon, and I’d been hiking the most difficult part of the trail during the heat of the day, not exactly ideal, but I was here now and that was all that mattered. In the extra time that she’d been here, it seemed that Síora had set up a lovely camp area with a large tent set back near a clear, still pool of water. Oh it looked lovely enough to swim in, but I resisted for now. I followed Síora’s lead in this, as while I was technically from this land, I had not grown up in their customs. I yearned to know more, to bind myself to the true land of my birth, and it was because of my earnest wish that Síora had suggested this.


After we finally broke bread and feasted, the sun was lying low in the sky. Bestowing my forehead with a kiss, Síora encouraged me, “Come, let us bathe and then we will ready.”


Following her lead, I stripped and followed her into the pool of water, both of us dunking under its surface one after another. As I came up, I realised I was far closer to Síora than I’d even realised, and my heart swelled to see her so happy and relaxed. Entreating me with a kiss, we washed each other, soft hands gliding over softer flesh. If her hands lingered on my breasts or mine in between her legs, neither of us said anything nor moved any faster. In the wilds of Teer Fradee, we were unhurried and unbothered. Our burdens lifted, we were simply two women in love, ready to commit ourselves to one another. I had never been one to fantasise about my wedding - indeed, I had figured on remaining unwed for the rest of my days - but I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect as I followed Síora out of the pool, both of us as bare as the day we were born.


We sat on blankets by the fire to dry off as Síora mixed some paints before smearing it on both of us in meaningful patterns. Runes, she called them, ones that meant love and trust and commitment, that signified what we were sealing. When we finished, the moon had started to peek over the horizon, and it was finally time.


Minundhanem,” she murmured against my lips, “repeat after me.”


With that, she led me in a chant, one as old as Teer Fradee itself. I had been learning the language, though I still wasn’t completely fluent and relied on Síora’s guidance. My pronunciation, at least, had gotten much, much better, and I barely stumbled over any words as we pledged ourselves to each other, there under the moonlit sky.


Once the chant was done, Síora leaned forward and planted a searing kiss on my lips, one that left me feeling weak. Guiding me back onto the blanket, she hovered over me, hand slipping between my legs and into my moistened folds. I moaned into the night, reaching for her, but she only batted my hands away. “Let me,” was all she said as she slipped her fingers inside me, the heel of her palm rubbing against my sensitive pearl.


I bucked against her hand, and in sync with me, she ground back with her hips, rubbing herself against her knuckles. Rocking against each other, vulnerable to the woods around us, we had no fear. No, instead we gave in to the most ancient dance our bodies knew, unafraid to shout our pleasure to the woods around us. The area was clear of wild beasts, it having long been a sacred haven with which to perform such a bonding ceremony. A chilled wind blew and I shivered, thankful for the fire beside us and Síora’s body on top of me. Nothing could interrupt us nor ruin the mood as we wrote our passion for each other on our skin, teeth scraping and lips grazing over every surface we could reach. And when I fell over the edge and clenched around her fingers - my own fingers gripped her shoulders as if it would anchor me somehow - she moaned alongside me, her hips making harried movements as she caught up to me. Her moans of completion was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard, and no choir could possibly hope to compare.


As she trembled in aftershocks above me, she removed her hand from between us and instead used it to steady herself so she wouldn’t put dead weight on me. Leaning down, she peppered my face with kisses, whispering, “You’re mine, Minundhanem, now and forever.”


Now and forever. I could live with that.