Love and War
Ulfric, my horse, snorts clouds of mist into the gray morning air. I reach down and pat his dappled neck, murmuring a trail of comforting gibberish into his twitching ear. He shakes his head, and I listen to creak of leather armor being adjusted and readjusted by my warriors. The pounding of swift hooves catches my attention. Just up the hill, a lone rider appears. It is Love. He's dressed in shining metal with a sword at his hip, his chestnut hair hidden beneath his helmet. Ulfric stirs at the sight, no doubt recognizing the familiar white mare ahead of us. I urge him forward, though I doubt he really needs much convincing. Love turns, leading us to the thick woods to the East. Once there, he dismounts, and I do the same. He grabs my arm and pulls me into an embrace, pressing a kiss to my forehead.
"The rest have surely noticed my absence by now," he whispers. "My father will have cleared them from the camp. They will arrive soon."
I quirk a brow, reaching up to pull the helmet from his head, and untie the string in his hair. It falls past his shoulders, and I card my fingers through the strands.
"Why have you come to me like this?"
He smiles. He leans down and kisses my mouth, pulling back with a light nip to my bottom lip. I watch as he reaches into his mare's saddlebag. His hand returns with a dagger. Love presses the handle to my palm, and my fingers curl around it almost instinctively.
"You are aware that my father considers me his most wise strategist."
"Yes, I do know this."
"I do not believe my father is foolish enough to go to war with a queen that has kidnapped his only son and beloved war advisor." His lips twitch into a smirk. "Although, no one will believe I have been captured unless I bear marks to prove it." Love takes my hand in his, lifts the dagger to his cheek, and slices the blade along the smooth expanse of pale skin. The bleeding gash left makes my stomach turn. I drop the dagger into the mare's saddlebag while he ties her to Ulfric with a thick rope. Once we're both seated on my horse, I look back at him.
"You are doing this for me? Betraying your people, your father, for me?"
Love laughs and wraps his arms around my waist to steady himself.
"No. I do not do this for you. I do this for me. I have selfishly realized I could not continue any life in which my father has killed you in battle." His hair tickles my cheek as he rests his chin on my shoulder. "I am also, quite selfishly, pleased that I will be spending many weeks sharing your bed."
I smack his forehead with the back of my hand and dig my heels into Ulfric's sides. Behind me, Love chuckles into my braid.