There's Not Enough Love, and No One to Give It to

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lady Sabine, Nov 27, 2013.

  1. The sun, presumably, had risen. Presumably, for as usual Lluvia was blanketed with pregnant clouds that grumbled and groaned and threatened to birth their watery children at any moment. It was often said that if it wasn't raining in Lluvia it was snowing, and if it wasn't doing either of those it was about to. This was not strictly accurate for the land did sometimes get pelted with sleet or hail, and one or two days out of the year the clouds went on holiday and let a bit of sun leak through.
    Today was not one of those rare and wonderful days.

    It would be gloomy, and damp, and more than a little cool for the rest of the day, and Giselle was neither disappointed nor surprised to wake into a cold and empty bed. Zephaniah did his husbandly duties with responsibility, not passion, and had no apparent hesitation over leaving their bed. In all honesty, it wasn't fact his wife overly minded. He was her third husband, and maybe the best of them so far, but that did not mean she liked him to speak of. She hadn't liked her first husband, lord Whitebeard-without-teeth, to differentiate him from his only son, the equally vile Whitebeard-with-teeth. When Whitebeard senior had the good grace to kick the bucket after only a month of marriage, Giselle had the good business sense to put a few drops of Dreamless into junior's wine cup. It had been a satisfying toast, and one that she would then rue for the next twenty years. While she had not been caught, so to speak, rumor was enough that the only eligible bachelor still interested was Lord Strumgard.
    She had wanted to poison his wine cup, too, but he was suspicious, at first, and cruel, later on. She still had the marks of his passions on her, and as far as she was concerned, the only decent thing he ever did was give her Samston. If only the boy had more of her blood and less of his father's, he might have been a good choice as the next Lord Strumgard. That would never happen as it was, though. The boy was far too weak minded and had not half the mental fortitude he would need to manage the trade empire she had so carefully cultivated. That young Montressor girl, though, she might have what it took. She had every intention of seeing her elder son wed within the year.
    Her younger son, though, she was just eager to see born. Preferably before she vomited out what was left of her internal organs. It was a rougher pregnancy than her last one, and this was the ninth morning in a row she spent emptying her stomach into the chamber pot. A most irritating morning ritual, and only made the more irritating by the fact that the bitch Caeca Luma looked resplendent in her own pregnancy, by now some three months further along than Giselle's own.
    As she dressed for the day and headed to a small study to break her fast with her son, she wondered how she would convince Zephaniah to ignore the other child. If there was a god, the babe would come out looking nothing like him.

    In her own chambers in a far wing of Castle Sterling, Caeca Luma was standing in front of her mirror, smoothing her robes over her belly and frowning at the bulge she saw there. She wasn't sure exactly what to make of the miniscule bump. Ought it be bigger? Was it too big? Was it too low, or too round, or too firm?
    "It's just fat," Ferox offered unhelpfully. Her brother, three years her junior and ceaseless joker, was sprawled lazily across her bed, one leg kicked carelessly over the side and his eyes half-closed. "You're what, two, three months along?"
    "Four," She insisted, rubbing at it. "And it's not just fat!" Truth be told, there wasn't much in the way of fa on her body. Three weeks had passed since she had woken from her coma, but she hadn't even recovered her old weight yet, and that weight had not been much. She was a frail woman, only five feet tall and not filled out at that. The bump in question stuck out barely past her hip bones, which were starkly defined against her concave belly. Tiny in every way, it came as a miracle even to her that she was carrying the child at all. But carrying she was, even if she did't have a glowing, golden pregnancy like the blonde bitch Giselle.
    The Luma siblings were both alabaster pale, and had the classic dark hair and grey eyes that marked the ancient line. According to legend, the moon herself had come down from the sky one day out of love for a mortal man. He was Arran of the Woods, and she was called Cinna Luma, but they loved each other dearly and she bore him eighteen children. Thirteen were daughters, fair and gentle, and five were sons, handsome and kind. Their descendants still lived along the river Lum, many thousand in number, but only those in which the Luma bloodline showed clearly could use the name Luma.
    Caeca had been hailed even as a girl for the purest Luma blood seen in generations. Her skin had no brown or tan to be seen, not a freckle or a mole or a blemish, and her hair was as pure and dark as a raven's wing. In Ferox there was a hint of color to his skin, a trace of blue to his eyes, and when he was lit by strong sunlight his hair had a deep chocolate hue to it rather than straight black. It was still a fairly strong Luma resemblance, as his magic was fairly strong, but it was not so strong as hers... and he had dodged the madness that often came with magic, too.
    "Well, then put some fat on it," he replied. "If you starve and miscarry-"
    "Don't speak that word in my presence!" She snapped, her eyes flashing dangerously. "Don't even suggest it."
    He held up his hands in surrender, rolling off the bed. "Forgive me, sweet sister. I misspeak when I am deprived of my love," The younger man joked, through not so blatantly as he had before.
    "You ought to marry this girl for all you speak of her," Caeca muttered. "But go, go to her before you lose your mind entirely."
    He gave her a cheeky grin as he left, chuckling the entire way. She wondered what he had found so funny about her statement, but shrugged it off after a moment. It had been thirteen years since they had last known each other, and she was just starting to unwrap the layers of mystery that he had developed growing into a man. He had only been twelve the last time she saw him; now he was five-and-twenty. Of course, she was eight-and-twenty and had probably changed even more.
    The most obvious change lay on the left side of her face. All her other injuries had magically healed, but the curse Isolden had put on her there to mark her as a traitress would last her entire life. While he right side of her face had pixielike beauty, the left side was a ruinous mass of scar tissue, without a strip of white skin in sight. The left eye was blind, the left ear deaf, and it was a miracle she had not lost teeth on that side. Two-faced she was physically, a reminder of the man she had once betrayed, and now killed.
    Two times now she had stood behind a man who promised her the world, and two times now she had lost everything. It was starting to feel like she was destined to come within touching distance of success, but never taste it.

    Ferox himself had doubts about his own fate. What would happen if they were caught? It was a question with no good answers. Though Lluvia was no theocracy, the various faiths and beliefs tended to agree on the subject of men like him, and where men's hearts went, their laws followed.
    For his own sake, he would not hide. He would fight the laws, fight them tooth and nail. He was well enough liked, powerful enough, had an Archmage for a sister- and the kingdom was so torn by other issues that no one would have the time or the strength to fight him, surely. If all else went wrong, he did not fear fleeing. He could find another life somewhere else, somewhere he could live as a man was meant to live, out in the open instead of hiding in nooks and corridors.
    Actually, he was hiding in a stairwell, but that was different.
    He would not jeopardize Sam, though. Samston was not like him. He could not just run away and start another life. He was a nobleman, son of the queen, rich and powerful. His blood was tinged with blue, and that life he could not just up and abandon, so Ferox would never risk asking him to.
    They were a strange couple, that was sure. He had the better part of a decade on his lover, who was just now a man grown. Where Ferox was moonlight and darkness, Sam was the son of the Golden Widow, a woman who was known for shining like the sun itself with her golden hair and bright eyes.
    He would meet his mother to break their fast that morning, like he always did. Today, Ferox had the foresight to lie in wait in the staircase closest to his room. The young nobleman was bound to come this way... and when he did, well, they would have just a few moments of privacy. It was a rare and precious resource, for they dare not act any differently towards each other in public.

    Ector's thoughts were also on his relationship. It was forbidden not by law but by association. He was perhaps the king's oldest confidant, a leal and true subject, who had been with him for some twenty years at this point. Through all of the years, through all of the battles and the assassination attempts, the starving months and the fat ones, the days when the young prince had wanted to give up and the days he had wandered so far afield Ector wondered if he would ever come home... through all that, nothing had swayed him from Zephaniah's side.
    And then she came along.
    Nyameh Vatrix. The daughter of the man he had worked so hard to kill, the rival claimant for the throne, the only woman who had ever held his attention for longer than a night. He had prayed and fasted, hoping to clear the fever from his mind, but to no avail. He was an old and road-weary man only a year shy of forty, while she was a decade his junior, fresh and fair as as summer morning. He did not understand what she saw in him (though he feared it was a path to get at Zeph) but he was too deep in love to question it.
    He knew he ought to tell his king. He ought to confess it all. Really, he ought to deny his urges, restrain himself, never lay hand... or mouth... or any other body part on her again. But oh, that was much easier said than done. He had promised himself three days ago that it would be the last time, and five more times had passed since then. Five! Where did she find the time, how did she know where to find him? It was madness. Like poisoned honey, it went down so sweetly but he knew the ending would be anything but.
    In his youth, Ector had wanted nothing more than to be a Paladin, to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. The legendary sword Valkyrian had been passed from Aquila to Aquila for a thousand thousand years, ever since God sent the avenging angel Azrael to purge the land of fel beasts and nonbelievers. From the fallen star that had transported Azrael seven swords were forged. Meridian, Seraphian, Thraenian, Archarian, Araxxian, Nephaelian, and Valkyrian were the Seven Swords, and they had been passed from generation to generation ever since. When Valkyrian had landed in his hands, Ector had known his fate.
    Unfortunately, the Paladins had not agreed with his fate.
    Fresh off the steps of rejection, he had found Zephaniah and a new purpose in life, pledging the semi-mythical Valkyrian blade and his own life to the prince's service. He had been the one to teach the young man about honor and chivalry, how to hold a sword and couch a lance, how to dance and how to pray. Their age difference was just enough that Ector found himself both a father and a brother at times, and he looked fondly on the now-king as family. The only family he had, truth be told.
    And, in spite of the entire coup d'etat, in spite of the conflict between the Queen and the Archmage, in spite of the economic and social ruin, some things never changed with family. For twenty years now, they had started almost every morning with weapons training. Today they had chosen the lance- it had been too long since either of them had jousted, and the nobility were pressing for a tourney to celebrate the death of the usurper. Not that either of them were like to compete, given their status, but it seemed a relevant training.
    "Bring up your shield," Ector shouted down the lists. "You're open wider than a camp whore's legs!"
  2. Zephaniah chuckled as he brought up his shield, listening to his old friend. "Still the same coarse language. You'll never change, will you, Ector?" The king asked, blocking an attack before moving in on his own attack. The fresh day of training was renewing to his weary bones. After hours upon hours of toiling through the different problems and dealing with his advisors, he thought he deserved a well-earned break. Most men would spend this time with their wife, but he thought she could use a few moments of peace, away from all of the stress. She did have another little one on the way. Though, so did the Archmage. He thought she would never come out of that coma, and coming out with a child was just too much for him to even contemplate. He let his distractions slip away and focused on his training.

    Samston sighed as he looked into the looking glass, checking the dark circles starting to form around his eyes. He had been up since before dawn, strange night terrors slipping into his dreams. He shook his head. He'd have to find a way to hide them. Maybe if he just kept his head down? No, Ferox would ask what was wrong. He could try and paint them away, but that wasn't what men did. That was for the women. Thinking of women, his mother wanted him to find one so he could marry. If only she knew how he really felt. Men like him were not accepted easily into society. Hell, they were executed for such heinous crimes, yet he couldn't help it. Those strong arms, that beautiful hair, and those eyes! He couldn't help that what he should find beautiful in a woman, he found in a man. Giving up, he walked out of his room, hoping to get to breakfast a bit early since his mother usually was held up at the chamber pots for a while.

    While the young man was going to breakfast, a young woman by the name of Nyameh Vatrix was out in the fields of a local farmer, humming a small tune as she helped pick grain out of sheer boredom. She had nothing else to do that morning since she wasn't hungry and her lover was training with the king. A smile quickly wove itself onto her face as she thought about her dashing knight. He was a man like no other in her eyes, loyal and protective. She had looked for many a man, but none had captured her quite like this. She still wished the throne for her own, but would hold for now. Good things come to those who wait, her nurse would always say to her as a child. She would stick by that, observing before striking in a tactical manner. She giggled before continuing with her work.
  3. Ector shook his head, smiling a grim smile as he lifted his own shield, deflecting Zephaniah's lance with ease. He refused to let his troubles weigh him down when he fought. Battle was where he came to life- out in the field, when it was life or death, that was where everything fell into place and made sense. He and his sword were brothers, lovers, soulmates. Cold, hard steel was more trustworthy than the weakness and sin of mere flesh and bone. Weak iron was obvious; weak men could hide behind bravado and machismo. He preferred this practice to any other activity, for there was no grey area, no wrong guess, no guilt and no time for intrigue.
    "Change is not in my nature," He returned, coming about and slamming his own lance against the other man's shield. "Do you yield?"

    As he heard Sam's footsteps pass by, Ferox opened the door and tugged the young man in with him, sealing both doors with a flick of his wrist and a touch of magic. "There you are," he purred, eyes half-lidded. "I was wondering when you were going to open those beautiful eyes of yours. Your mother can wait a few minutes, can't she?" Holding him closely, the mage began to kiss his lover, working his way from collarbone to neck, neck to jaw, jaw to lips. He was small but he was strong, and not in the sort of mood to take no for an answer- not like he ever was. Ferox tended to get his way with Samston, which he almost felt guilty for, would have felt guilty for if he had not known how much the other man loved it.

    Both Caeca and Giselle found their way to breakfast, each woman sitting alone in a room, each woman not particularly hungry except for company, for love, for power.
  4. With a grunt and a sigh, Zephaniah pushed the lance away and lowered his shield. "I yield. As much as I would enjoy more training, I have to attend to other matters. Thank you for your time, Ector." He gave his friend a short nod before going to put away his armor and shield, getting ready to face another day of toiling through paperwork and trying to solve other people's problems. Oh, if only he could be young again, not having to worry about such stresses would be ever so nice. However, he did not have the time nor the chance. So the king set off to do his normal duties.

    "Ferox..." Sam tried to argue, knowing his mother would be angry with him if he was late again. "You know Mother is fussy about such things." He tried to squirm out of the man's grip, but didn't want to. He enjoyed the kisses, the security of his lover's arms. He shook his head. He could find another time later. Right now he had to deal with his pregnant mother trying to betroth him to some girl he most likely had never met in his entire life! "Ferox, please..." He didn't want to deal with another one of his mother's lectures, no matter how much he enjoyed stealing away time with the other man.

    "Thank you, Lady Vatrix. My men have been so busy with the other tasks on the farm that I hadn't had time to pick this small field." The farmer smiled as he thanked the young lady. She shook her head in humility.

    "No thanks needed, Sir. If I can't help someone then I am useless to the kingdom." She remembered learning that at a young age before curtsying and giving a final goodbye to the farmer. If she got the approval of not only the nobles but also the common people, she was sure to win the throne. It did help her to be nice when most of the subjects were such kind people themselves. She walked toward the palace, knowing that her soldier brave would be there either training or doing some other type of knightwork. She sighed thinking about him. How dashing he was! He was also quite intelligent, yet he still loved only her. It made her heart beat just thinking about him.
  5. "No need to thank me, your grace. I will see you again at the meeting of the High Council this evening," Ector replied, dismounting and returning his own equipment. He took the time to wipe down his armor and lance, before stripping off his sweat-soaked tunic, grabbing a fresh one, and walking off towards the bathing rooms. He didn't much fancy the idea of smelling like horse, dust, rust, and sweat all day. Cleanliness, after all, was next go godliness. But when he caught sight of Nyameh returning, he felt neither clean nor godly. She awoke the most sinful and shameful passions in him... and, for once, he found the willpower to resist her and ducked into a private bathing room, hoping she had not seen him and lustfully fantasizing she would come through the door at any moment and join him in the bath.

    As for Ferox, he felt no shame at all. "How would she like to see some bite marks on your neck?" He asked, giggling. "Should I leave some love bites for you to tell her about? Make her think you'e tumbling one of the maids?" He nipped playfully at his lover, but was careful not to actually leave any marks. After a moment, though, he drew the teasing to a close, smiling gently at Sam. "She means to set you up with some Venatora Montressor. Seventeen years old, I hear. That's not much different from you, is it? Oh, well. You can always just get her with child and come back to me. Go see her. She can be such a bitch when you keep her waiting..." With a last kiss and a teasing wink, Ferox unsealed the doors, smoothed his hair and clothes, and left with a cheeky smile.
  6. Samston sighed as he smoothed himself out, trying to quell the heat running through his veins. Ferox always knew how to rile him up. He'd have to find him later that day. As sinful as it was, he couldn't get enough. Running through the halls, he hoped that his mother wouldn't be too mad at him for being late to breakfast. He slowed down and walked into the dining hall, taking a seat next to his mother. "Good morning, Mother. I am sorry for my late appearance, I was training out in the yard." He smoothly half-lied. He had been training last knight to hopefully become stronger for his lover, but he spent the morning calming down from his nightmare. He smoothed his hair, the blonde locks having been ruffled in the air.

    As she was coming back, Nyameh noticed her soldier out of the corner of her eye. A devilish smirk found its way across her mouth. He was so fun to tease, one of the many things she enjoyed about him. Making sure she gave an extra swing to her hips, she walked toward the private bathroom. Knocking on the door, she called. "Is my soldier brave hiding from his temptress? Is he really that afraid of her?" She talked as if she were telling a story, one of her favorite pastimes other than being with her lover. "Perhaps I should leave you and let you wash your sins away..." She waited for him to respond, enjoying this little game.
  7. A groan escaped his clenched teeth, echoing off the stone walls. He didn't want to let her in. God, he wanted to lock the door, to bar it, nail it shut and seal it with molten lead. But the head he tried to think less with urged him to open the door, to rip her clothes off and ravish her then and there. Neither side got its way. While he wanted so badly to resist, if she kept on calling to him so loudly, someone else would hear... they would hear, and the game would be up, and all of this would come to light before he had any idea how to control it. Reluctantly he opened the door, drawing her inside with a frown. "Do you want the world to know about us?" He fretted, pacing in the narrow room. "What if someone heard you? What if someone sees us?"

    As for Giselle, she was still too tired from her morning ritual to be angry. As she stirred a spoonful of sugar into a steaming cup of tea, she eyed her son tiredly. He was so polite, and so weak. So obedient... a loving, charming, darling son. Her baby. He would never be her heir. He could have his father's things, be the next Lord Strumgard, but that was all. A man to manage her empire would need to be stronger, meaner, more forceful and more ambitious. More like her. He was so mild, so meek, that she feared for his future without a strong woman to manage him.
    "Punctuality is expected here in court, dear," She chided him. "What if the king had summoned you, or the Lady Vatrix? Would you keep them waiting?" She shook her head, and sipped at the tea listlessly. Nothing sat right anymore. "What if... your betrothed, say, were to summon you?"
  8. "You worry too much. If there was even a chance of risking your reputation and trust in Zephaniah then I would not be near you and tease you right now." Nyameh responded, much quieter now that she was in the room with her lover. She smiled and walked up to him, tracing her hands down his back before starting to rub it. "Besides, you are tense. You need to relax... Stress can shorten your lifespan." She quipped in a gentle tone as she worked on relaxing her knight, hoping to calm him down.

    Sam shifted in his seat nervously when his mother asked him these questions. "I would come as quickly as I could, Mother." He answered. "Though... Mother... there have been bachelor lords who have done just fine with their wealth. Many of them are more successful, allying themselves with business partners..." He tried to persuade his mother, hoping she would stop questioning him about a wife. He was Ferox's and Ferox's alone. He could 'ally' himself with him as a business partner. Maybe then he wouldn't have to marry some woman who he could never and would never love.
  9. He shook his head, but did not pull away from her. Gentle and soft, her hands could tame him, could hold him down with a certainty and a strength that no knight or soldier could match, no matter how many years they had trained. "It is too public," he insisted. "The bath houses are always being used. And I wouldn't be half so tense without you. God knows you drive me to sin and distraction..." Yet the next sound to escape his lips was a moan of contentment as she hit a knot he had aggravated with training. He was, after all, just about at his fourth decade of life, and it had not been an easy one. A back rub felt like just the thing at the moment. Yes, just a back rub. Something innocent and simple. Maybe he would just rub her feet and send her on her way.

    The queen sighed and rubbed her forehead, wondering why the gods had cursed her with such a son for her firstborn. "Samston," The woman began, trying to keep her tone civil but strain showing through, "we've discussed this. You know why you can't trust a business partner. Every man is in it for himself, for his own profit. If you turn your money over to another man to multiply it for you, you'll be lucky to see back what you gave him. You need someone who's wealth and success depends on your own, who will do as I have done and do what is good for the family. A wife, sweetling, will do all this, and bear you sons beside to take over when you are done. Bachelor lords are only successful when they are the ones doing the scamming, and when they are done, so are their legacies." Another sip of her tea, and she sighed. "We aren't discussing this. I've found a young woman from an old bloodline, a merchant family like our own, who is clever and fair to look upon. Her name is Venatora Montressor, and unless you can prove to me that she is somehow wrong, I will make the betrothal within the fortnight. She is very eligible, you know. Most young men your age would give their left hand to have a chance at her, but you will have her on a silver platter."
  10. Samston sighed. Why his mother still dealt with him, he didn't know. He nodded, defeated. "Yes mother." With that he started his breakfast, thanking the servants for this meal. He was cursed. That was it. He was cursed to love a man and be unhappy for the rest of his life, hiding in the shadows and unfairly marrying some poor girl he could never learn to love. He just could not find it in himself to even try. He wished he could hide in the closet with his love, his strength Ferox. It would be easier than dealing with a world in which his kind were not allowed. He was a monster, and yet he still found love.

    Nyameh rolled her eyes at her lover's insistence. "If you wish for me to leave you alone, then simply say so instead of giving excuses." She moved away from him, a bit annoyed at how much Ector was overthinking things. "And this is a private bath. Why would someone barge in when it is obviously in use?" She started to head for the door. "But if you are that worried I guess I will just leave you be, maybe we should just stop this if you really are that bothered by it." She felt almost hurt by her own words, wishing she could be with Ector and not worry about the throne and Zephaniah for once. She wanted her lover to not worry, however, and be happy with her giving him little visits like this. Alas, that was most likely never to be.
  11. Caeca sat the half-eaten apple back on her plate and rose from the table, unable to find much of an appetite. She wasn't hungry for food, she was hungry for... for... oh, she didn't even know anymore. Once, she had wanted nothing more than to sit on the throne. Now she would give anything to forget about the throne, to forget about politics, to go back to the simple life of a rebel lord's lover. When it had been just she and him, just the open road and the threat of death at any moment, she had been the happiest she could ever remember being. He had loved her, cherished her, held her at night and made her feel safe, like she hadn't felt safe for twenty years.
    It had all been a lie, though. She was nothing to him, just a bedwarmer and a weapon. Good for screwing and good for using to kill the king with, but too unsightly to bring to court with him, too dangerous to marry, not half rich enough to be his queen. It shouldn't have hurt so much; it shouldn't have surprised her. But as she wandered the hallways, heartsick and alone in spite of all the people she passed, she only wished that she had realized all of this about Zeph, about them, before she had fallen in love with him. Love turned to hate was the bitterest thing of all.

    And just like that, it was settled. Such a mild boy. As a girl, she would have, and did, fight tooth and nail against being married for political reasons, to a person she barely knew. Yet he just accepted it, as he accepted all things from her. Such a good little boy. He would have been a perfect secondborn son. As it was, she could only hope the babe she carried would be a more fitting prince, and that Sam would be his dutiful brother.
    "I've arranged for you to eat lunch with her at one o'clock in the rose garden," Giselle mentioned, nibbling at a piece of toast slathered richly with butter, which only turned her stomach more. "Try to arrive half an hour early, and don't look like you're going anywhere important. The Montressors, so far, have officially supported the Vatrix claim to the throne. By this marriage, though, they will turn their support to us. Right now Venatora is still Nyameh's handmaiden, so you mustn't be seen eating with her. It would be most... out of place. We wouldn't want anyone catching on to our little game before it's time to spring the trap."

    "Damn it, you should be worried, too!" He snapped, rushing in front of her to hold the door closed. "The exterior isn't private. Anyone could have seen me walk in, then you walk in. In spite of what you think, it would be worse than you imagine if we were caught. Zephaniah would think me a turncloak- and perhaps I am. By this secret I betray him, and I have never betrayed him before. But what of you? If you want your reputation ruined, to be thought of as a harlot, let it be known how you tumbled with a low-born soldier like me. You will lose whatever claim to the throne you had overnight if it is known what you did that night! Half of your supporters only take you side because they want to marry their sons to you and have him be king!"
  12. Samston nodded as he finished his breakfast, standing up. "If I may be excused, Mother... I would like to prepare for Miss Venatora so that she might find me presentable." After he got the permission, he quickly near ran to his room. His eyes were watering. "God damn it all..." He muttered to himself. He shut the door behind him and slowly slid to the ground. Why was he so weak? His mother would approve of him more, give him more freedoms if he was more assertive, but no, he wasn't. He was a shy boy who cared a lot for others. He put others before himself, thinking their needs were greater than his. He wanted his mother to be happy, to be proud of him. Instead, she gave off the attitude of a woman who wished for a different son. Her put his head on his knees, tears escaping his eyes. Why couldn't he have been born somebody different?

    "God damn it, Ector, don't you think I worry about that too? I stay up at night, worrying about what would happen to me, to you, if we were found out. What would happen if I ended up pregnant or if someone caught us? I worry about that every fucking day and yet I still come and see you." Nyameh harshly ranted, keeping her voice low. "If I was smart, I would have never come to see you or even started this relationship in the first place! It's too risky and too many things could go wrong! And yet, I did one of the most stupid things a woman like me could have ever done!" She lowered her eyes as emotions and uncertainties raged in her chest.
  13. "Lady Venatora!" His mother called after him frowning.

    "You know, you're really much too cute to cry," Ferox mentioned, standing up from the chair in the shadowy corner where he had been lounging, half-concealed by a simple spell woven over himself. Being a mage had its benefits, but he couldn't just magic away Sam's problems. That would take some hard work of his own. Sitting next to his lover, the dark-haired man slid an arm around him, holding him close and kissing his head tenderly. "Now, now. You're going to get your face all red. It will all be fine in the end, my love. Your mother couldn't get between us, not with all the gold in the world, and she can't stop you, not unless you let her."

    Letting out a sound that was half a groan and half a roar of frustration, his hand lashed out suddenly, punching a wall with more force than he probably should have used, as the shooting pain in his knuckles quickly attested. "Fuck," he hissed, watching blood ooze from his knuckles. Between the pain in his hand and his heart, the fear of losing her, and the frustration of not being able to do anything about any of it, he knew it was going to do something stupid. Better to love her than fight her, at least... he stood a good chance of losing his head for laying a hand on her in lust, in violence his head would roll immediately.
    "Then stop being so fucking stupid," he growled, wrapping his arms around her and pushing her against a wall, kissing her jawline and neck. "End this. Right now." Pulling up her skirts, he pried her legs apart and forced his way between them, still dirty and sweaty from the training yard, still pissed and scared and lost. "Tell me you don't want to be my whore and I'll leave. Look into my eyes and say this must stop."
  14. Nyameh gasped in surprise when he suddenly pushed her up against the wall, kissing her. She looked into his eyes and gave him a soft smile reserved for him. "I'll stop being stupid when I stop loving you." She pulled him in for a kiss, keeping her hands on his cheeks to keep him from pulling away. She nibbled and kissed, enjoying his scent, his taste, his feeling. She wanted him for as long as she could have him. She'd rather die than not have him by her side. Her hands slowly moved to his chest, keeping him close under her touch.

    Samston quickly tried to wipe away his tears when his lover spoke up. "I hear the rumors you know..." He said quietly, leaning into the older man's grip. "They call me weak, unfit to be the queen's son. They say I'm not aggressive enough, I'm a crybaby with no real value to the kingdom. My own mother wishes that I had not been her first-born son." He chuckled. "And here I am, wallowing in self-pity. ... Do you think they would be better off if I was gone? Or if I was never born?" He had a strange smile on his face, his tears mostly dry as he curled up next to his only light in his dark life so far.
  15. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She would be the death of him, but if death's embrace were a fraction as sweet as hers, he would fall into it before he he even had time to think, as he had fallen for her. He prayed to god for resolution, for fortitude and firm resolution, but the firmest thing about him now was not of his soul. "You should stop," he reminded her, kissing downwards as his hands fumbled with the laces to her bodice.

    Ferox shook his head, sighing hugely. "Your mother," he replied with some irritation in his voice, "is a bigger battleaxe than the one the executioner uses and more of a shrew than the actual creature. If she had Isolden for a son, he would be too meek and mild for her, too weak and unworthy. Why would you ever want to please her? What she needs is a good dog, not a son, to make her happy. Something simple enough to obey her always and mean enough to bite without thinking first. But would that be better for anyone? Should we feed fire with fire?" Kissing Sam gently, he wiped the final tears away, smiling gently. "Your mother has exactly what she needs with you. Her temper and your calm. Her fire, your peace. You will be the next Lord Strumgard, whether she likes it or not, and when you are her control will evaporate like fog on a sunny day. Marry the girl, Sam. If she treats you poorly I swear I'll kill her myself. If she doesn't... she is your ticket out from beneath your mother's fist."

    On a hunch, Caeca headed to the office where Zephaniah often retreated to do his paperwork. She didn't have an appointment, but somehow she doubted the guards outside the door would bar her entry. "Is the king within?"
  16. "I should stop, but I won't." Nyameh replied, helping Ector take off her own clothes before messing with the rest of his. "Why would I take away one of the few happinesses I allow myself?" She kissed him as she removed most of the top of her clothes, working on taking off the skirts. She had already helped Ector take off his trousers and undergarments, enjoying the feel of his warm skin over her.

    Samston sighed and gave his lover a kiss. "I feel horrid trying to marry the girl. She's marrying someone who will never truly love her." He spent a minute in the older man's arms before standing up. "I suppose I should at least try to be friendly with her, though she would probably be best suited with another man." He moved to the looking glass, messing with his hair. The rings around his eyes were still prominent, but no one seemed to notice it. He would like to keep it that way.

    The guards in front of the office nodded. "Yes. Do you have an appointment with his highness?" The one on the right asked the archmage, reluctant to let her in when their king was working.
  17. "Because it will be the death of you?" He suggested, his voice a low growl of possessive pleasure. Past those words, he would remember nothing of what was to follow.

    Ferox rolled his eyes, following Sam to the looking glass and picking up a comb. "Her and every other noblewoman in this court, love," the mage assured his lover. "Look at your mother and the king. That's a political marriage if I ever saw one. The Lord and Lady of Sovn openly loathe one another, but their marriage has lasted well enough. It's just the way of things, Sam. Everyone marries the person that's best for their position, not best for their person. Go charm the girl, marry her, get a son on her, and get it over with. You know I'll always be here for you. Who knows? Maybe I'll even find some way to enter your service once you're Lord Strumgard, hmm?"

    "His son does," she challenged, putting a hand to her stomach. "The king oughtn't be stopped from spending quality time with his first." While her words were polite enough, her meaning was clear. You can't stop me if you wanted to her eyes promised I have magic, and power, and you are nothing before it.
  18. Afterwards, Nyameh was in the tub with him, helping him clean up. She scrubbed his back, working out the knots he had aggravated during his training. She hummed as she did so, enjoying the innocent washing.

    Sam sighed. "I suppose your right." He looked over at the large grandfather clock his mother had placed in his room. It was nearing noon, an hour away from when he was to meet with this lady. He ran a hand through his hair, hoping to make it lie still for once, which almost never happened since the blonde locks often refused to obey him.

    The guards nodded and let the woman in. Zephaniah looked up at his paperwork for a second before going back to it. "Ah, Caeca. To what do I owe the pleasure?" He asked, not bothering to give the woman his full attention.
  19. He leaned into her hands, content in spite of himself. Why was it that doing the wrong thing felt so very right? He would stay in the tub all day with her if he could. Unfortunately, he was expected to dine with the commanders that day, and he knew he'd be late if he lingered any longer. "I must be going," He excused himself, rising from the tub. "Can't keep the Lord Commanders waiting, can I?" When his bloodied knuckles were wrapped in linen, he dressed himself again, clean tunic bearing his arms over it all. House Aquila was represented by a blue eagle clutching a silver sword on a field of white. He was technically a lord now and no mere knight, but until the political situation was straightened out, he would remain landless and as such he felt no need to dress for a station he had not truly achieved.

    "Aren't I always right?" He teased, combing a few stray strands back into place. "You'll be fine. She can't possibly be a bigger bitch than you're mother, and you've handled that for what, two decades now?" Ferox wasn't exactly sure how old the other man was, he realized suddenly. Younger than him, but by how much? Three years? Five? Heaven forbid, nine?

    "Your son," She replied bluntly. "As I recall, you said you'd have an answer to me as to his status in three days. That was near a week ago." Her own eyes narrowed, and with a muttered word under her breath she plugged the flow of ink in his quill.
  20. "I will miss you while your gone." Nyameh replied, getting out of the tub herself to get dressed. She reached up and gently kissed him on the cheek. "I will see you again soon, I hope." She said, before waiting for him to leave. She would wait a while then leave after, as to not arouse suspicion. She straightened out her bodice as she waited.

    Sam smiled and responded, "Two decades and two years. Though, I'd probably have gone mad by now if it weren't for you." He turned and gave his lover a light kiss on the lips, wishing he could just stay with the man forever. However, he had to do what he must. Maybe if he was born a girl he could be with the man without anyone questioning it. However, that wasn't the case. He looked over at the clock. 12:00. It seemed he would have to leave soon.

    "Caeca, I'm sorry but I had other matters that required my attention." Zephaniah replied, frustrated. "I will attend to that matter shortly, but in the meantime you will just have to wait." He ran a hand through his hair, wishing he didn't have to deal with this right now. He already had enough to deal with without the Archmage breathing down his neck.