The blizzard unleashed its fury in the late afternoon or early evening, as the light was slowly dwindling over the mountains in the west. It was one of those late spring blizzards that appear out of nowhere and blow cold upon the unsuspecting traveller. And upon the expecting bandits.
Shortly after the wind appeared, the snow started to come down in diagonal streaks, and within a short time the ground in the high valleys was covered in white. A shepherd boy heard a couple of shots ring out, and as if by instinct moved to the door of his shack. He peered out through a crack and as he had expected could only make out the land falling away towards the valley below, dimly through the snow. A short while passed, another shot.
The milk in the large black pan was almost at boiling point. He moved it away from the fire, and pulled on his long boots, slid on his heavy leather coat and ditto hat, then the thick leather mittens with their woolen lining. And then he moved out into the cold, wet blizzard and started down the slope at a quick pace. The snow was no more than a few inches thick, but made the ground slippery, and he could feel the cold through the leather, since the snow stuck to it.
The scene before him as he reached the ford was more or less as he had expected. On either side of the fast-moving stream the terrain rose quite sharply, which meant a slow approach and a similarly slow ascent once on the other side. This gave attackers ample time to choose when to engage; generally as about half the travelling company was across the stream. Just across on the other side a horse lay on its side. A bit further up the shadow of a man was already partly covered in snow. There were footprints from horses scattered around, and here and there he could make out the shapes of belongings; as he approached the ford he stumbled over a saddle pack and then stepped on a pistol. Apart from this, nothing. Or so it seemed. He was the only living creature here, and felt a strange calmness. In any case he was not afraid of bandits. He knew them, and they knew him. He was poor, they were poor. He sometimes gave them milk and cheese in exchange for a coin or some ham. They had their code of honour, and he knew they only fired if they were forced to by the circumstances. Someone must have put up resistance, and then fled.
The shepherd boy crossed the stream and walked the few steps to the dead horse. The snow was melting on its warm fur, and this made the contrast with the half hidden shape next to it even more striking. A human shape was lying there, seemingly trapped by the fallen quadruped. Leaning over, he moved the beautiful embroidered cape aside to reveal the face of a young woman. She was breathing, eyes closed, her right arm under the horse. Her face was white, her lips a bluish tinge.
Freeing her arm turned out to be quite easy. She had been knocked unconscious by the fall and left by her company as they fled, he figured. A few more hours and she would freeze to death; so he picked her up, hoisted her over his shoulders and made for his shack.
The young woman was lying in his simple bunk. He was sweating from the effort of carrying her up the hill; his legs were burning, his chest heaving. As for her, she was breathing, but in a shallow, laboured fashion, and she was very cold. His shack had stone walls that let the cold wind in, the hearth was the only source of heat. That, the warm milk, and his own body. He decided to make use of the latter two. Gingerly he freed her of her wet clothes, trying to avoid hurting her arm. Soon she was naked. Her long lace underwear was soaked; it had to go, too. In the dim light from the hearth and the one oil lamp, he could make out the shadow of her breasts and the mass of curly hair where her legs met. Not stopping to take it all in, he got a large pan of warm milk and started to rub her down, soaking a large natural sponge with it; it was one of his prized possessions, spoils from a robbery he had witnessed as an even younger man.
Soon he was rubbing her vigorously with the sponge, as hot as he dared, and in doing so he got to know her body well. He rolled her onto her stomach. In the dim light he could see the curves of her hips and feel her firm, round thighs under his hands. The warm milk gave off a strange odour when it dried on her.
The warm milk seemed to bring some life to her skin; she shuddered, moaned. He realized the cold air would undo any good the warm liquid could do, stripped out of his clothes and got in beside her, covering them both with the animal hides he slept under. They kept him warm even in the midst of winter. But she was still frozen. He held her tight; his excess of heat crept slowly into her body, and suddenly her eyes opened.
He was afraid she would start screaming. But instead she started trembling. Her body was finally reacting to the hypothermia and marshalling its own resources. He realised some milk might help and offered her a drink. She managed half of a cup between bouts of trembling.
They lay down, he held her. After an eternity, the trembling subsided, she slid into sleep, he followed her, sleeping fitfully, then deeply. As he woke, sunlight was seeping in through cracks in the walls of dry stone, and he knew that outside the snow was quickly melting, revealing both the beauty and the ugliness of the world.
They were hot now: her skin was warm and smooth and her cheeks rosy. Her face was partly in shade so the sunlight was not threatening to wake her. He realised his member was hard against her soft thigh. How could he resist visiting her body with his hands? With his free hand he felt her soft curves. He dwelt on her breasts for a long time. Such marvels! He was on fire; dimly he knew that he was thirsty and hungry, but most of all he hungered for her. The soft skin of her hand was brushing against his member, then suddenly grasping it firmly, in her sleep. She was surfacing from deep sleep, her hand making jerking movements as it held him. It was all he could do to suppress a moan, then the contractions in his belly, that indescribable, brief sweetness, and his wet fluids on her skin, on the hide below them, on his own belly. She woke.
She woke and kissed him. He had never kissed anyone, and now she rolled onto him and started to press against his lean, muscular thigh, crushing his member below her weight. He was able to put his hand around her soft behind, marvel of marvels. Unafraid he let his hands venture further, to find wetness, softness. Her hand again; this time it knew what it was doing. She squeezed and cajoled him, then, once she was satisfied with the results, she slid him inside of her and started to ride him. She freed herself partly of the hides and rode him slowly, pressing her loins against his, sometimes with a hand between her legs, sometimes not. He was a spectator, an outsider looking into an unknown world, a terrifying world for an innocent young man who spent his days tending the cows in the high fields of the alps. She was growing impatient, she wanted more from his body, she tried different angles and movements. He could feel the wave grow again in his loins, and without warning it burst inside her, and he quickly went limp.
They lay next to each other.
“Ou suis-je”, she said. “Dans les montagnes encore?”
“Si, montagna”. He nodded eagerly.
“Comment tu t´appèles?”
He signalled incomprehension.
“Ton nom. Nome!”
“Mi chiamo Matteo”
“Je suis Cécile.”
“E bella”, he added to himself.
“mon fiancé – fidanzato – verra me chercher. Cercare”, she said.
“Il croirà que je suis morte”.
She grabbed his hand and put it between her legs. He recoiled as if he had put his hands in hot milk – but she insisted. She showed him how to touch her, gently, firmly, quickly. Once more he felt like an intruder upon a world unknown to him. The sight and sound and smell of her roused him, he wanted to be one with her once more, the last time, he knew, and threw himself on top of her, driven by an instinct he had never known. It was a wild ride. He had to ride her hard to reach his climax, and she egged him on, she met him. They were one in this.
And then it was over, and they were sweaty, and she was awkward in borrowed clothes that smelt of him and animals, while her garments were drying in the sun. They had breakfast on his simple foods, not speaking beyond simple words they could both understand.
She had barely got dressed in her own, damp clothes when a trumpet rang out in the valley below, and a short while later a gaggle of horsemen appeared over the crest of the meadow below the shack. The young woman ran down to meet them, having recognized the colours of her fiancé´s coat-of-arms and the standards fluttering in the breeze behind the armed men at his side.
The shepherd boy kept to his shack. As he stood in the doorway he witnessed Cécile reach the men. They spoke for a while, she pointed in his direction. He heard the angry voice of the lead man – he must be her fiancé. Having fled in panic he was back to see what had become of his bride-to-be.Presently Cécile mounted the horse behind her man, and the whole group set in motion and quickly covered the hundred yards or so to the shepherd´s shack. The shepherd bowed before the man on the first horse, who was dressed in his finest horseman´s outfit and clearly belonged to the nobility. This man, Cécile´s fidanzato, looked the shepherd up and down, down and up. He gave a grunt and a short command to one of his men, who came up to the front and tossed a coin to the shepherd. Then they swung their horses around as one, and cantered away down the meadow, Cécile not once looking back.