Excerpt from Beloved Pilgrim by Nan Hawthorne
Beloved Pilgrim tells the story of Elisabeth, a young Bavarian noblewoman who chooses to live and fight as a man in the doomed Crusade of 1101. While in Constantinople preparing to accompany the Crusade’s leaders into the interior of Turkey she meets and falls in love with a servant in her host’s villa. She has no reason to believe that the servant knows she is really a woman. The novel has been called courageous for its treatment of gender identity, sexuality and a particularly dark chapter in the history of the Crusades. The noblewoman, Elisabeth, is traveling as a knight, Elias.
Elisabeth stretched languidly in the water. "Yes, I would. And can you get me some wine?" She knew she was being childish or, rather, womanish. A derisive chuckle escaped her throat.
Albrecht heard a tap at the door. He pulled the screen around the tub more securely. "That is probably more hot water. I will order the wine and some food as well." He heard an inarticulate sound from the tub that he took as acknowledgement.
When he opened the door a crack, he saw Maliha standing outside in the corridor holding a large heavy ewer of hot water. She quickly shook her head, her eyes communicating for him not to say anything.
"You can't," he whispered.
"I know," she mouthed. She gestured for him to take the ewer. She pointed toward the screen and cupped her own breasts. She put her lips to his ear and said in a breath, "Let me go to her."
Albrecht's mind was racing. She had said "her" and it was apparent from the mime that indeed she somehow knew that his pilgrim knight was a woman. And there was nothing but a smile and tenderness on the maidservant's face. His eyes rounded. His own lips curved up at the edges. He radiated thankfulness as he nodded and gave her back the hot water ewer. He made a gesture of farewell and slipped past her through the door to make himself scarce.
Maliha set the ewer on a table while she shut and latched the door after him.
"Was that the servant?" came Elisabeth's voice from the other side of the ornate screen.
Not answering, Maliha walked around the edge of the screen and leaned to pour the water into the bath. The woman in it had her eyes closed.
"Ah, thank you, Albrecht. You read my mind. Can you wash my hair now while we wait for the wine?"
Maliha came around behind her head and picked up the bottle with the oils used to wash hair. She poured some into her palm and reached for the dark head. All the while, she gazed at what she could see of Elisabeth's naked body. There was a sheet covering her from about the waist down, but the woman's small breasts she could see. They were slippery with oiled water and the nipples were taut and hard. She had to repress a sigh so as not to give herself away. She wanted to enjoy this as long as she could. She was afraid that when Elias learned who was with her, he, no, she would be angry and order her out of the chamber.
Elisabeth was drowsy enough to dismiss the impression that Albrecht's fingers were shorter and gentler on her scalp. She luxuriated in his touch. Just now she needed to feel petted and stroked. Her body still felt the fire that had rocketed up into her when the woman had leaned unexpectedly into her and kissed her so deeply she felt it in her soul. And other places. She thought that this was probably when her bloods leaked out of the rags she used. Her womanhood filled with her own juices and there was just too much for the rags to soak up.
"Mmm," she sighed. "I really needed this. I do love her so. I wish Maliha was the one washing my hair."
The honey-eyed woman started. "Dear God," she thought. "She meant what she said, she loves me?" She reached for the ewer, filled it with water from the tub, and rinsed out Elisabeth's hair. She set the ewer on the floor and, kneeling, reached out both arms and put them around the German woman's neck and put her hands on her wet breasts. She began to stroke and knead.
Elisabeth jerked her eyes open. "What are you doing?" She looked at the arms and hands. They were most definitely not Albrecht's. "Who is it?" She struggled to sit up.
"It is I, my beloved, Maliha." The voice was husky and right next to her ear.
She froze for just a heartbeat, but then managed to pull herself up and twist her torso to look behind her. Her eyes were wide, her full lips parted, and the effect was somewhere between humorous and poignant. "Maliha," she breathed.
Maliha leaned forward and took her face in her hands. She put her lips to Elisabeth's. The mouth under her lips opened, and she slipped in her tongue, only to be met and matched by her beloved's own.
Elisabeth turned all the way to kneel in the bathtub. Her arms went around Maliha. She cupped the back of the woman's head with one hand, and stroked down her back to her waist with the other. Maliha put her own arms around the wet, naked woman and held her tight. She felt the hand stroking her back come around and stop just shy of cupping a breast. She sighed, encouraging the hand to do as it sought. Elisabeth's palm touched the generous roundness and felt the stiff nipple pressing into it through her clothes. She pulled out of the kiss and nuzzled Maliha's throat, while the darker woman sighed.
All of a sudden, Maliha felt herself clasped tight in the naked woman's arms. They were strong and pulled her forward. She was lifted off her knees and powerfully pulled sideways and over the tub's rim. With a splash she found herself in the water resting on her side on the naked woman's body. She laughed and squealed and every delighted sound echoed in the pilgrim knight's voice.
In Elisabeth's chamber she lay on her bed, a naked Maliha lying in her arms. She traced the outline of each nipple with her finger, making the luscious body quiver. She looked at Maliha, devouring the ample breasts with their large dark areolae, the rounded belly that was as soft as velvet. The dark tangle of hair in her groin was beaded with moisture that came in part from Elisabeth's own mouth. Maliha had brought her to climax in the tub. "I do love you, my lioness," she sighed.
Maliha nestled into her long lanky body. She put a hand to a muscular shoulder and kneaded it. "I love you, Elias. Is that really your name?"
Elisabeth chuckled. "No, it's Elisabeth. But you should keep calling me Elias. It's safer."
"You must hide your sex?" Maliha asked, putting her mouth on one of Elisabeth's breasts.
Elisabeth's voice was unsteady as she replied, "Not from you, and I shall never believe how wonderful that is. But I do, yes, from others. They must not know I am a woman." She wriggled with the sensation of fire that leapt from her nipple straight into her nether lips.
Maliha did not push for more explanation. Instead she let her hand stray across her beloved's flat belly and slipped two fingers into the cleft at its base. She began to stroke the hard nib between the inner petals. Elisabeth writhed and made a deep moan. She surrendered herself to the woman who stroked her to climax, all the while nipping and kissing whatever of the woman she could reach.
When they basked in the warmth of their lovemaking she thought suddenly of the child. "But what of your son?"
Maliha had been drifting into slumber but woke now at the mention of her child. "He is here. He will live with me here."
Elisabeth lifted her head so she could look into the honey-colored eyes that were mellower now. "He will live with you? But I had not had a chance to ask it!"
The woman in her arms shrugged. "Just after you left, the manservant here came to where I live and asked me to bring my child and come back here. He said you wanted me."
Smiling broadly, Elisabeth said, "Oh I do, I do. Over and over and over." She pressed her mouth on Maliha's again.
"What is his name?" she asked when she came up for air.
"Tacetin. He is just three years old."
Elisabeth's face grew more somber. "And his father?" There was a tinge of fear in her voice.
Maliha sighed. She touched her lover's cheek, brushing the shorn locks from her temple. "His name is Yakup. Or was. I really don't know. He went to join Kilij Arslan's fighters just before Tacetin was born. That was his mother you saw, screaming at me. It is her house."
In the dimming light of long-burned candles, Elisabeth looked into Maliha's eyes. "I see. So she saw you kissing me and to her you were betraying her son."
Maliha nodded. "She will not admit that he may be dead."
"Was she not aware of the expectations of you in this house?"
"She condemned me for that as well, but she did not condemn the coins I was able to take her for our lodging and her care of Tacetin. But seeing me in the arms of a Frankish knight and clearly loving it was too much. If the man the master sent had not come just then, she may have called for me to be stoned."
"My God, how close that came." She clasped the woman to her tightly. Then hesitantly she went on. "Did . . . do you love him? Yakup, I mean?"
Maliha took Elisabeth's face in her hands and looked stormily into her brown eyes. "I love you. I have never loved anyone until I met you. You are my beloved."
Elisabeth gazed back. "Marry me," she said almost desperately.
Maliha smiled ruefully. "I do not see how we two can do that."
"There must be a way. I love you and don't want to have anyone else but you in my life and me in yours."
Maliha was thoughtful. "You could buy me. I am not a slave, but I could become one."
The shorn head drew up abruptly. "No, I don't want you to be my slave or anyone else's. We will find a way to be together." Suddenly her face paled. "God help us," she moaned.
Maliha pulled herself up on her elbows. "What is it, my love? What is wrong?"
Elisabeth's face was pained where it had been tender before. "I have to leave in a couple weeks. The pilgrims are leaving by the end of this month for the Holy Land. I have to go with them. I have no choice. I am pledged."
Searching her lover's face, Maliha frowned. She drew the precious head to her breast. "Then you will leave, I will stay here in this house, the master said I may, and then you will come back to me." Her voice broke. "Please tell me you will come back to me."
What an awesome excerpt! Thank you so much for stopping by Nan. I wish you the best of success for you novel. Have a great day, sweeties! There's so much more to come this week and for the remainder of the month.
Happy Yaoi Hunting
Blak Rayne ^_^!!