By Stewart Binns
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Gythin started to sob uncontrollably, but her spasms of distress gradually lessened and did not quell the intensity of her embrace as her mouth and her tongue began to devour Hereward in a frenzy of fear and passion. She pulled him inside the doorway of her small cottage; in their haste, they were naked in an instant and their forceful lovemaking over quickly before they both fell into a fitful sleep. Hereward’s infatuation with Gythin had blinded him to the risks they were taking. He was both naïve in making light of his lover’s vulnerability and arrogant in assuming he would be able to deal with any threat their liaison posed, especially to her.
His mind racing, intrigued by all that had happened in just a few hours, Leo made his way down the mountain as rapidly as he could. As he reached the thick forest of the mountain’s lower slopes, a dank mist swirled up from the valley. Increasing fatigue and the dark of the night slowed Leo’s progress. He found a sheltered overhang in the rocks to rest. Leo slept fitfully and, when he woke with a jolt, he was cold and wet. His head and neck ached and his legs, made numb under his weight, tingled as the blood rushed to them.
Greetings, sire. ’ John Azoukh turned as he heard the greeting, his beard dripping with water from the leather bowl in which he had been washing. The old man bowed and turned to him. ‘Greetings, Prince John Azoukh. ’ ‘Good morning to you. ’ ‘I was told the heir to the Purple of Byzantium wished to see me. ’ As the old man spoke, John Comnenus noticed that his breathing was not as controlled as it had first seemed and that sweat was dripping from his forehead and hands. ‘Please join us. ’ ‘You are right, my Prince.