Disclaimer: Given that is is for the Christmas exchange and some people who are unfamiliar with my writing may read it expecting something of a more TTWD nature I feel I should preface this with a warning that I rarely write healthy relationships and the Tops in my stories tend not to be the most responsible or loving in nature. This story is no exception. Please keep this in mind when deciding whether this is the type of story you want to read.
The wind howled, pelting twigs and leaves against the roof and walls of the tiny cottage. A loud crack in the distance indicated the storm had reached a level of intensity sufficient to topple trees. Aeliana sat as close to the fire as safety would allow, a fur rug draped around her shoulders. A scraggly grey cat lay curled up in her lap. In her hand, she gripped a piping cup of bear stew. She slurped her stew in satisfaction. She hadn’t expected to take easily to retirement but it had turned out she enjoyed the tranquil solitude of the woods. This was the first holiday season she had spent outside of the city since she was a small girl. The absence of festive crowds was refreshing. She had always despised this time of year. In the past, she had required vast quantities of ale just to get through it without burying a blade in one of the unnecessarily cheerful revellers.
Despite the many benefits of her tiny sanctuary, there were times she missed her former profession. Her eyes fell wistfully on her swords which hung on a rack near the door. She didn’t get to use them nearly as often as she would like out here. Her hunt for the bear, now graced with the honour of filling her belly, had been the most excitement she’d had in weeks. She ran the fingers of her free hand absentmindedly over her feline companion’s coat and was rewarded with a contented purr. She had found Marcella as a kitten, scavenging on the streets of Ilarium. Aeliana relished the amiable silence they often shared. She wasn’t overly fond of human company. People talked too much, had too many emotions. She had little use for them when they weren’t giving her the opportunity to exercise her skills with a sword. Aeliana had been a pit fighter in Ilarium for most of her adult life. Six months ago, she had been forced into early retirement after threatening to dismember a patron in front of a large crowd of fans for the seventh time in a two day period. It had been a poor decision on her employer’s part. She was the best fighter the Ilarium pits had seen in many years and the buffoon in question had deserved not only the threat but it’s swift execution, having implied she needed to be rescued from the life she had worked hard to establish for herself. The end of her career had signified the end of her time in Ilarium. The city officials had wanted her gone for over a decade, only her employer’s deep pockets had kept them at bay.
Marcella stretched, digging her claws into Aeliana’s thigh, she arched her back poking her bottom in the air. Turning in a circle three times, she paused, eying the human as she gulped from her cup. Tentatively she stretched out a paw batting at the cup, fixing her eyes on Aeliana’s face in expectation. Aeliana growled but lowered the cup and the cat started lapping contentedly.
A piercing scream penetrated the pandemonium of the storm, shattering the harmonious atmosphere inside the diminutive dwelling. Aeliana sighed, that had sounded distinctly human. She contemplated ignoring it, however, a second scream rang out, further disrupting her peaceful evening. Aeliana huffed, if she wanted to continue enjoying her evening she was going to have to put a stop to that. She leapt to her feet eliciting a disgruntled yowl from Marcella. Shrugging on her coat, she headed for the door grabbing a sword before striding out into the storm.
As she stepped outside the wind assaulted her, a combination of leaves, twigs, small stones, and heavy raindrops battered her flesh. She grimaced and pressed on following the sound of the shrieks. It was not long before she came upon the source of the disturbance. In the middle of a clearing stood a young woman clad in a lilac silk tunic. Around her paced a wolf of remarkable size. The wolf snarled and the woman shrieked yet again.
Aeliana shook her head, what could have possessed a young woman of the nobility to wander into the forest alone, in the middle of a storm, was beyond her. Yet again she contemplated leaving the woman to her, likely, well-deserved fate. However, it was apparent from her manner of dress, this was the type of woman for whom people would come searching. She didn’t wish to risk being blamed for the little imbecile’s demise. With a dramatic sigh, she stepped forward placing herself between the woman and the wolf. She hoped she would not have a need to harm it. Aeliana was fond of wolves. The wolf stilled, fixing its sight on Aeliana, curling its lip up in another snarl. Aeliana returned its gaze. They remained this way for a protracted moment regarding one and other with a combination of suspicion and curiosity. At last the wolf turned and bounded off into the darkness.
“What in the name of the gods are you doing out here alone!” Aeliana shouted to be heard over the storm.
“It’s you!” The young woman squealed. “I heard you lived in these parts but I was uncertain I would be able to find you. I used to sneak into the pits, as a young girl and watch you fight. You are an inspiration! I wished to be a swordswoman but father said no. I have dreamed of meeting you for so long that now I find myself doubting this to be more than a dream. Please tell me this is real?” Aeliana pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Perfect, just perfect. A deluded fan was the last thing she needed invading her tranquil piece of the woods.
“I am indeed real.” Aeliana stepped closer, her expression darkening. “However, that should not excite you it should terrify you. As such an admirer of mine, you are surely aware of my reputation. It is not entirely undeserved. Did you not stop to think what might happen if you found me? We are alone in the woods in the middle of a storm. If I chose to hurt you nobody would hear you scream, nobody would come to your aid. You should have listened to your father, little girl.”
“Do you plan to hurt me?” The young woman stood her ground her eyes never leaving Aeliana. She appeared more intrigued than afraid.
“No.” Aeliana shook her head in exasperation. “However, you could not possibly have known. There is a reason I’m no longer welcome in Ilarium. Seeking me out simply because you admire my fighting abilities was childish and dangerous.”
“I apologize for bothering you.” The woman snapped. The excitement faded from her face, replaced by a stormy expression. An impending tantrum, Aeliana grimaced, how wonderful. “I shall take my leave.” The woman stated stiffly. “You need not endure my company any further.” The woman attempted to turn but Aeliana reached for her. Gripping her by the shoulders she halted her retreat. The woman fixed her with a mutinous glare.
“Permit a high born Ilarian woman to wander off into a storm and perish? When half of Ilarium already wishes me dead?” Aeliana scoffed “No, little girl. You shall stay in my home until the storm clears, then I will escort you back to your father.” Aeliana turned and started back towards her cottage. The young woman followed with a scowl. At least she seemed to be realizing the error of her choice Aeliana supposed.
“My name is Gaia not little girl” Gaia’s voice rang out over the sound of the storm.
“I did not ask your name, little girl,” Aeliana shouted back.
Several moments passed in silence as Aeliana marched towards the house. She glanced over her shoulder to check the girl was keeping up and groaned to see her running back in the opposite direction.
“Bloody hell!” Aeliana spun around and dashed after her. It was a matter of seconds before she caught up. Gaia gasped in surprise as Aeliana’s hand wrapped around her arm.
“Now where do you think you’re going, little girl.” Aeliana’s eyes bore into her.
“You have made it abundantly clear you find my company undesirable.” Gaia wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Aeliana snorted. It seemed, to her, a waste of time to wipe away one’s tears in the middle of a storm. The girl’s face was going to remain wet regardless. “I do not wish to be an imposition.” Gaia’s voice was stronger now. “So, as I said previously I shall take my leave.”
“Your continued belief that such an option is available to you is mildly humorous.” Aeliana kept a firm hold on her arm. “You will return to my cottage with me and you will stay there until the storm has passed. If I catch you wandering off into the woods alone again, I’ll put you over my knee and spank you like the spoilt child you are.” Gaia gaped at her and Aeliana flashed her disingenuous smile. “Now, come along. I am tired of standing in the rain.”
A quick learner, Aeliana kept a firm hold on Gaia all the way back to the cottage. She only let go once she had pushed her through the door and bolted it behind them.
“The bedroom is over there” Aeliana gestured to a closed door on the right “There are plenty of towels and clean clothes. Go dry yourself and dress in something warm. I shall heat you up some supper.”
“What of you?” Gaia glanced up with what Aeliana presumed to be feigned guilt. “You are soaked and this is your house.”
“Do you think me a fool?” Aeliana stared at her incredulously. “Think I would just retreat to the bedroom giving you the opportunity to run straight out the front door to your death? I think not! Now, get yourself into that bedroom.” Gaia glared back at her for several moments before spinning around and stomping her way to the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Aeliana shook her head. This was going to be a long evening. Possibly a long week depending on the length of the storm.
Aeliana put some more stew in a pot over the fire to heat up. As she waited for Gaia to change she grabbed a rag and began to run it over her sword in a loving caress. When she was satisfied the blade was clean she returned it to its place near the door. A shiver ran through her body. The warmth emanating from the fire was not enough to counteract the effects of standing around in soaking clothes. Aeliana stripped out of the wet garments and lay them out in front of the fire to dry. She wrapped her fur rug tightly around herself and let out a contented sigh. Reaching for the cup she had left behind when had taken off after Gaia she growled, noting Marcella had polished off the remainder of its contents. Shaking her head, she added some extra stew to the pot and sat back down next to the fire. Marcella bounded over and sidled up to her. Aeliana scratched her behind the ears and Marcella purred.
In the bedroom, Gaia paced back and forwards. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she been thinking? All she had wanted was to meet her childhood hero and now she was stuck in an isolated cottage with a woman who considered her presence to be an inconvenience at best. Aeliana was right. She should have anticipated this. She was indeed well aware of her reputation, knew she had reacted in less than favourable ways to fans in the past. She had just hoped that perhaps it would be different with her. That she might be the one to convince Aeliana to take an apprentice. She had known there was a chance of rejection, perhaps even aggression, but she had not expected this. Aeliana didn’t even respect her enough to attack her. She saw her as an inconvenience and an incompetent one at that. She was deeply insulted that her former hero didn’t even trust her to find her own way home. Not that she planned to go home. If Aeliana wouldn’t teach her to fight she would find someone else who would. Aeliana’s concerns for her safety were misplaced, she felt. She got herself all the way here in the storm by herself, almost. She could get herself home too. She had no need for charity. Gaia’s mind was made up she was getting out of here.
Gaia’s eyes searched the room and a grin broke out across her face as they fell on a small window. Aeliana had been too busy worrying that she might attempt to run out the front door that she hadn’t anticipated an escape through the window. Given, the window was very small. Aeliana certainly wouldn’t have been able to fit through it which may have been why she hadn’t considered the possibility. Gaia, however, was much smaller. It would still be a tight fit but she was sure she could squeeze through. For a moment Aeliana’s previous words echoed through her mind but she shook them off. Aeliana was unwilling to let her make her own way home for fear of repercussions from her family. If her father found out she had spanked her… well if she was being completely honest with herself he would probably approve. Aeliana, however, did not know that. No, her behind was entirely safe. Feeling more confident she set to unlatching the window, taking her time to prevent any loud noises which might alert Aeliana to her actions.
Slowly Gaia began to squeeze her upper body through the window. She smirked to herself picturing Aeliana sitting in the living room, oblivious, waiting for her to emerge. She would be waiting a long, long, time. If luck was on her side Gaia would get a good head start before Aeliana realized she was missing. Aeliana would likely be relieved when she was gone. She would no doubt do a quick search of the surrounding woods to ensure she hadn’t died in a location which might lead Gaia’s father and other concerned citizens to her door. However, once she established Gaia was gone she would happily go back to her solitary life. The thought made Gaia sad but she pushed the feeling aside. There was no use lamenting what might have been. Gaia’s musings were cut short as she realized her wriggling was no longer propelling her in a forward direction. While the top half of her body had slid through the window with relative ease her hips were being less cooperative. She gripped the outside of the window with both hands and pushed as hard as she could in an attempt to force the rest of her body through the small opening. Her efforts, however, were to no avail. She cursed under her breath, mindful of the fact any louder vocalizing would attract Aeliana’s attention, and tried again. Yet again, Gaia moved no further through the window although if her intention had been to bruise her hips the endeavour would have been a resounding success. Gaia attempted the move again, more frantically this time. She felt her breath quicken, her heart pounded in her chest. This had to work. She had to get out of here before Aeliana took it upon herself to come check on her. She couldn’t bear seeing her again. Every moment spent in Aeliana’s presence was a reminder of her rejection. A reminder that her dream to gain the woman’s respect and companionship would never be realized.
Aeliana growled, pacing back and forth as she waited for Gaia to emerge from the bedroom. Marcella accompanied her, weaving her way from side to side, coming close to tripping her more than once. Every so often she would rub her body against Aeliana’s calves looking up at her with a demanding mew. She wanted more bear stew Aeliana surmised. Her impatience grew. How long could it take someone to dry themselves and change into fresh clothes? It certainly never took her this long although she supposed it may well be a quirk of the nobility. They were a peculiar bunch. Aeliana’s patience continued to wane and it was not long before she decided she’d had enough. If Gaia couldn’t handle the task in a reasonable timeframe she would dress the girl herself. She shrugged on her still damp clothes and headed for the bedroom, covering the distance in a few short strides. She threw the door open as she reached it.
“You cannot even dress yourself efficiently and yet you think you could master…” Aeliana fell silent mid-sentence as her eyes settled on Gaia, halfway out the window and wriggling frantically. She blinked a couple of times and shook her head. “It would seem you lack both self-preservation and spatial awareness.” The statement was made in a conversational tone. Aeliana chuckled slightly as Gaia’s struggle against the very small window intensified. She stalked closer and gripped Gaia by the waist. In one swift movement, she pulled her back inside. Gaia emitted a high-pitched squeal as Aeliana spun her around. She shivered slightly as the other woman’s gaze bore into her. “Now, little girl. I believe I made you a promise.”
“I believe you stated you would spank me if I ran off into the woods.” Gaia covered her uncertainty with a smirk. “I suppose it’s fortunate I haven’t left the cottage.”
“It is indeed fortunate I caught you before you succeeded in your escape attempt.” Aeliana returned the smirk. “Now I’ve saved the energy it would have taken to chase you through the rain a second time I shall be able to punish you all the more thoroughly.”
“I’m still wearing wet clothes.” Gaia pointed out hopefully.
“No need to worry about that.” Gaia squirmed under the intensity of Aeliana’s stare. “I shall help you out of them.” Aeliana seized the front of Gaia’s dress with both hands and wrenched the delicate fabric apart.
“Do you have any idea how expensive that dress was?” Gaia protested.
“You claim you wish to be a warrior.” Aeliana shook her head. “A true warrior would not concern herself with such frivolities.”
“A woman can possess great skill with a sword and still appreciate nice things.” Gaia scowled.
“That may be true.” Aeliana conceded “You, however, do not possess any skill with a sword.”
“That’s a bold claim to make for someone who has never seen me fight. I’ll have you know…”
“You couldn’t handle one wolf by yourself.” Aeliana cut her off with a chuckle. Gaia opened and closed her mouth a few times unable to think of an adequate retort.
Aeliana kept her hold on Gaia as she sat down on the bed. With one tug Gaia toppled over her lap emitting an undignified squeak. Aeliana’s palm landed on her bottom with a powerful smack. Gaia yelped but did her best to hold still. If Aeliana thought her weak she would certainly not reinforce the belief by making an undue fuss over a mere spanking. Aeliana smacked her again and she grit her teeth. Gaia hadn’t been spanked for many years but she didn’t remember it hurting this much. It would seem Aeliana had maintained her strength despite her retirement. Aeliana continued to deliver crisp swats to the seat of Gaia’s undergarments intent on fully demonstrating her displeasure. She nodded in approval as Gaia yelped again. When she was finished the girl would stay put, in that she was confident.
“You are afraid my father will come after you if I’m killed by the elements yet you think he will tolerate you assaulting me?” Gaia wriggled in an attempt to free herself from Aeliana’s grasp.
“I am not afraid,” Aeliana emphasized the statement with a particularly hard smack. “I am simply reluctant to relocate. I love these woods. Also, I suspect you will be too embarrassed to recount these events to your father.” Gaia grimaced as the onslaught of slaps intensified. Aeliana was correct, she had no intention of sharing the details of this encounter and she had no further ideas on how to holt the punishment. The smacks rained down without pause, scorching Gaia’s flesh. Her intention to remain stoic was quickly forsaken. She squealed and swore, tried to twist herself out of Aeliana’s grip but her efforts failed to produce results.
“Now, where did you learn language like that?” Aeliana tutted her tone dripping with mock reproach. She delivered several swift swats to Gaia’s sit spots before stripping her underwear down to her mid thighs. “That sort of thing is not fit for polite society. Your family must be terribly disappointed.”
“I do not wish to participate in polite society.” Gaia retorted “As I already told you I wish to be a swordswoman. You’re not very bright, are you?”
Aeliana snorted in response. She recommenced the spanking with vigorous enthusiasm covering every inch of Gaia’s bottom with searing smacks. She watched in satisfaction as the already pink bottom blossomed into a deep shade of red. As much as she loathed to admit it to herself her concern for Gaia’s safety was not entirely based on a desire to avoid a confrontation with the Ilarian aristocracy. Gaia was the first fan she had met whose adoration had not turned to terror within moments of meeting her. Even now, over Aeliana’s knee, Gaia had the nerve to insult her. Aeliana found that… intriguing. Perhaps the girl had potential exceeding that for which she had initially given her credit.
Gaia could have sworn the smacks were getting progressively harder although it was equally possible her bottom was just getting sorer. As Aeliana’s palm continued to rain down, swiftly turning the burning sensation into a raging inferno, Gaia’s resolve to hold back her tears began to break down. This hurt far more than she had expected. Aeliana’s dismissive attitude towards her also hurt. She felt like she had come so close just to have her dreams come crashing down around her. Tears began to fall but she was past the point of feeling embarrassment over it. She gripped the blanket and let the feeling take over. She barely noticed when the smacks slowed and then stopped completely. She was jolted back to reality when Aeliana lifted her and sat her on the bed. Gaia yelped as her sore bottom hit the bedspread. She snapped her head up to glare at Aeliana through her tears. Aeliana smirked at her continued defiance. Definitely, should have given her more credit.
“You know…” Aeliana stared at Gaia for a long moment. “Ever since I was banished from Ilarium I have wished to take revenge on the city council. I imagine they would be positively furious if I trained one of their daughters to be a fearsome warrior.
“Really?” Gaia eyed Aeliana with a combination of hope and suspicion. “I thought the whole reason for me being here was your wish to avoid the council’s ire.”
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want half of Ilarium arriving at my door with pitchforks over something for which I bear no responsibility,” Aeliana explained. “Antagonising them with intent? Now that another matter entirely.”
“So, you will train me?” Gaia tried to reign in her building excitement.
“I suppose I shall.” Aeliana shrugged. “Now, get dressed. Supper is ready.”
“Thank you!” Gaia beamed her sore bottom momentarily forgotten. “I promise I won’t give you reason to regret this.” Aeliana shook her head as she turned towards the door. She was probably going to regret this.