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Guardian's Path [The Swordmage Cycle II]
by T. J. Lazier

Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Fantasy
Description: Fantasy's Horniest, Fightingest Foursome is Back! Yes, the protagonists of Dragonstone, the best selling erotic fantasy in the tradition of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, return in an all new contest of swords and sorcery against black magic. Inspired by a vision, the mercenaries Gadwin, a swordmage, and Jaim Medario, along with their cousin Avian Divcarry, a magical law enforcer, and, Lady Nicholettia, a powerful sorceress, head for distant Tardan Doring, the Forbidden City. Unfortunately love-making and sword-fights slow their progress, as each of the four finds temptation along the way. Meanwhile a gang of ruthless mercenaries seems to be headed for the same destination and dark magic is being prepared to ensure the quartet never reaches their destination. And, if they survive these perils to reach the Forbidden City, they will face even deadlier dangers.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler, 2006
eBookwise Release Date: March 2006

eBookeBook

15 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [205 KB]
Words: 50710
Reading time: 144-202 min.


CHAPTER I

On a warm spring day in the three hundred and fifteenth year after the death of the Immortal Emperor Avian Divcarry stood in the noonday sun in a clear spot amongst the plum trees in a walled orchard. That plum orchard was behind the modest fieldstone, slate tile roofed inn known as the Plum Orchard that sat on the north side of the Keeve Road across from the Warehouse and Wagonyard District of the bustling city of Ilding. Which Ilding was the western capital of the land of Kaldishar and, in the mere three hundred years, the immortal Queen Katterine had used it as such, Ilding had grown from a small hilltop town along the Keeve Road between the Tarn Forest and the Hill Lands into the second largest city in the realm.

The Plum Orchard had stood since Ilding was a small fortress town and for more than three centuries had served travelers along the major trade artery that was the Keeve Road. For its entire history the inn had been owned and run by the Shender family and over those long years the modest inn had prospered as a favored stop of merchants while the village it had originally been a part of had been swallowed by Ilding or disappeared. The Plum Orchard was renowned for the quality of its fare, service, stables and accommodations and Avian Divcarry, who was a friend of the Shenders, took full advantage of all of those since she lived at the inn when she was in Ilding.

Avian was a half elf Guardian, a powerful warrior magess who protected the people of the Candatara region and worked to enforce the laws of the Treaty of Dinstara. She was a young Guardian at only twenty-six-years of age, but she was of the famed Divcarry line and had been the apprentice of the legendary Gilead Stonehawk and for six years had served as a Guardian of great accomplishment. A young woman who had had many adventures and trials in the course of her duties as a Guardian Avian had recently faced perhaps the greatest trial of her career.

Five days before the Guardian Narshavus Rolas, Guardian of Ilding and a member of the Guardian Council had betrayed the order and had aided a shaman by the name of Shrenga in an attempt to steal the incredibly powerful Stone of Sevastion. Their attack on the Temple of Sevastion to gain the Dragon Stone had failed largely thanks to Avian, her cousins Gadwin and Jaim Medario and her friend Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar. However three Guardians had died defending the temple, one of them killed by Narshavus Rolas and worst of all the traitor Guardian who had magically seduced her and made a fool of her on top of everything else had escaped after a hard fought duel with Avian and another Guardian.

Now Narshavus was on the run and Avian had spent most of the last four days searching Ilding and the surrounding area for any sign of the traitor. She like all the other Guardians searching for Narshavus had found nothing and tired of searching fruitlessly Avian had decided to take a much-needed day of rest at the Plum Orchard. A long night's sleep and a huge breakfast had done much to improve Avian's spirits and now some exercise was in order.

Which was why she held her narrow three foot long slightly curved, single-edged and black leather wrapped two-hand hilted and steel disk guarded Guardian sword before her in both long fingernailed hands while she stood in the orchard behind the inn. It was a blade forged of unbreakable Kintaro steel that never rusted or dulled, could cut through just about anything and most notably magnified any spell she cast by threefold. Which made Avian incredibly powerful since her magical talent was already three times greater than an average mage's and she, like all Guardians, was an expert with her blade.

The sword, along with the golden Guardian medallion around her neck with its Great Dragon wreathed sword emblem, were the symbols of her position as a Guardian.

For sword practice the five foot nine inch tall Guardian was dressed in a loose fitting white linen shirt and baggy gray cotton drawstring trousers. Those could not hide her long legged, narrow yet curvaceous hipped, small-waisted, slender-torsoed and full-bosomed slender, sleekly-muscled, shapely build. Avian's rump-length, golden hair was in a long braid so that her delicately pointed ears were revealed, her soft, light-honey-colored skin glistened with sweat from her warm-up routines and her breathtaking face was set with concentration as her dark lash-framed, sapphire-blue eyes were locked on her opponent.

That opponent was her cousin Jaim Medario who stood a couple paces away facing her with his long, narrow-bladed, double-edged, ring-guarded hand and a half-hilted sword held in a one-handed grip pointed toward Avian. He wore no shirt, brown, linen pants and had his long sun-touched, dark hair pulled back in a tail. Jaim was boyishly handsome and clean shaven with gray-blue eyes, even-toned skin, and stood a little under six feet with a slender yet muscular build.

A year older than Avian, Jaim was a skilled swordsman from the Brashart town of Jaln on the Aenaire River along the Caden border. He like all of Avian's father's family was a mixture of Sevarran and Tanshari blood, though more Tanshari since his mother was of that people. Avian and Jaim's grandfathers were brothers and they, along with her other cousin, Gadwin, had grown up together in Jaln before she had gone off to become a Guardian.

Jaim and Gadwin had become traveling mercenaries and, a few days before the mess with the Dragon Stone, the two had come to Ilding looking for her. They had helped Peld Shender and his daughter, Kila, out of some serious trouble and were now living and working at the inn. Which made Jaim more than happy since he had fallen in love with Kila Shender.

That day Jaim and Avian were taking advantage of clear weather to get in some sword practice. Most would have considered it foolish to practice with live swords. More would have considered it insane to practice with two Kintaro forged swords that could maim or kill if either participant made even the tiniest of mistakes. However Avian and Jaim were both experts with their blades and she knew she would not make a mistake and trusted her cousin because they had practiced this way before.

Jaim was the only non-Guardian Avian had ever known who was skilled enough to beat her and owned a Kintaro blade and she enjoyed testing her skills against a superior opponent with a different style and blade design. So she tried to get in practice against him whenever she could and had talked him into joining her in the orchard behind the inn for some practice.

Their practice sessions usually went on for hours but this one had yet to begin.

"Begin!" Avian called in her silvery voice and immediately launched herself forward.

Avian knocked Jaim's blade wide to the outside with her own before launching an angled cut at the right side of his neck that she planned to stop short if he did not deflect or avoid it.

She did not need to stop it however because Jaim dodged back and let the tip of her Guardian sword miss his throat by a hair's width. At the same time Jaim swung a back edge cut with his double-edged blade that would have split Avian's left side wide open in a real fight. As it was, her cousin stopped his sword with the razor sharp edge just short of her ribs and Avian froze when she realized that she had potential death hovering a whisper from her flesh.

Jaim grinned at her. "You forgot about my back edge," he pointed out in a voice that was neither deep nor boyish.

Avian nodded and grinned herself. "That's true," she admitted. "With a Guardian sword you wouldn't have been able to make that fast of a counter cut."

"The advantage of a two edged sword is that they can cut both ways," Jaim said with a smile and retracted his sword.

Avian glanced down at her side and saw that she now had a long clean cut in the side of her shirt. "They cut a little too close both ways," she stated.

"Sorry," Jaim apologized.

Avian shrugged prettily and smiled at her cousin. "It is no matter. Now let us try this again," she said and stepping back resumed her two handed on guard stance.

Jaim nodded and assuming his own stance with the point of his sword once more aimed at her he called, "Begin!"

It was Jaim who came forward first this time. He lunged high in a feigned thrust at Avian's throat and when she dodged back and rotated her sword to knock his blade aside Jaim flipped his sword out of the way and slashed at her belly. With lighting speed Avian dodged back again so that the tip of his blade missed her by a fraction of an inch even though his arm was fully extended. Not caring about the new gaping cut in her shirt, Avian leapt forward as his sword swung wide and lashed out in a short straight downward stroke at the top of Jaim's head.

While Jaim was not as fast as Avian, he was quick and had good instincts, so he avoided the strike by turning and leaping to the side. Her blade passed just in front of his nose, yet when she pivoted her wrists and came with a right to left level cut at his neck Jaim slipped back and got his blade between Avian's sword and his neck. Their swords met with a clear ring of Kintaro steel and, tightening her grip on her hilt, Avian turned her body and setting her stance pushed hard against her cousin's sword with her own.

"Cutting both ways can also be a disadvantage," Avian said in an effort strained voice as she attempted to push either her own edge or Jaim's back edge into the young man.

Jaim's reply was to smile and step back and turn both his body and his sword at the same time. That sent Avian's blade sliding down his blade away from any potentially dangerous contact and a lesser skilled swordswoman would have been unbalanced. Avian however simply retracted her sword and retreated a few steps to put space between them once more.

Jaim resumed his one-handed stance and grinned at Avian. "My sword only cuts both ways when I want it to," he told her, then pointed at the new cut in her shirt with the tip of his sword. "It looks like I cut too close once again."

"I don't care about my clothes or even a few nicks in my hide," Avian stated. "But you cut my hair and I'll kill you," she warned with complete seriousness.

Jaim nodded. "I won't touch a strand of it," he promised before asking, "Want to try again?"

It was Avian's turn to nod. "Yes," she replied.

"Begin!" Jaim called.

As soon as he had said that Avian closed the distance between them faster than a panther pouncing and ducking under a fast slash at her head she dropped to one knee and swept out from left to right with a single-handed cut at her cousin's knees. The cut moved like the wind, but Jaim seemed to have anticipated Avian's move and was already jumping back as she launched the cut. The tip of her sword did slice through the right knee of Jaim's pants yet it did not find flesh.

Not letting up Avian then leapt up and forward at him, bringing her sword around and down in a two-handed stroke that would split a man from scalp to pelvis. Of course Jaim did not stand still to be split. He stepped back and to his right and brought his blade across from the outside to deflect the lighting quick cut. Avian had expected such a move and controlling the rebound of her sword she dropped it down level with her waist and pivoted her body behind her blade for yet another cut aimed as if to slice her cousin in half.

With speed born of desperation Jaim lowered his blade into the path of her sweeping sword and jammed it to a halt with strength born of long hours at a forge. Before he could make any kind of a counterattack, Avian turned herself and spun her sword up and around in a swift two-handed cut from his right at the back of his head. Jaim narrowly ducked that stroke, but as he did he twisted and Avian inhaled sharply and froze when he laid his blade across her body so that it nearly touched the skin just bellow her breasts.

Smiling Jaim slowly and carefully drew his sword across so that it sliced through her shirt cleanly but did not even brush her flesh. Avian shivered as he did that, however she made sure that she remained perfectly still despite her heart hammering because of how close death passed by.

Jaim stopped with half of his blade still very close to her body and regarded her with a grin. "I have got you," he pointed out.

"Yes you do," Avian agreed. "However I did get a little piece of your pants," she informed him.

"So you did," Jaim said, looking down at his pants before shifting his gaze to the slices in her shirt. "I guess that sort of makes us even."

Avian snorted softly. "Not with you trying to undress me with your sword it doesn't," she told him.

Jaim laughed and withdrew his sword. "I am not trying to undress you with my sword Avian. But I can if you want me to?" he offered jokingly.

"Is that a proposition or a challenge?" Avian wanted to know.

"Neither," Jaim replied and then looked at her challengingly. "So do you think your clothes can take another bout?"

Avian smiled at him softly and assumed her preferred stance. "My clothes can if yours can?"

"You own more clothes than I do," Jaim reminded her as he too assumed his stance.

"Then you'll just have to protect yours," Avian said and leapt to the attack once more with a shout of, "Begin!"

* * * *

After laying low for several days after the attack on the Temple of Sevastion, Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar had returned to the large brick house of the Great Dragon blood sorcerer Cedris of the Kintaro near the University of Ilding inside the walls of the city. She had spent the last few days at the Plum Orchard with Gadwin Medario and Nicky had enjoyed the respite from her studies and various obligations. However it was now time to deal with some of those obligations and so Nicky had gone to the house of her teacher rather than her own home in hopes of continuing to avoid the Guardian Gilead Stonehawk.

The weather was absolutely beautiful but Nicky was spending the day in her room with the window open to let in the warm early afternoon air. Nicky's room was large like the rest of Cedris' wondrous house, yet was cozy in an expensive fashion with a thick silk carpet covering the floor and silk wall coverings adorning the stone walls. A massive blue, silk canopied bed filled the middle of the room and on the left hand wall as you came in the door were a dressing table and chair, full-length mirror, and built-in marble washbasin with hot running water. On the right hand wall were four massive wardrobes that held Nicky's clothing and apparel that she kept at Cedris' with the chamberstove set between the middle two.

Finally on the far wall was a big window flanked on either side by massive bookshelves with a finely crafted writing table beneath it. Seated in the silk upholstered padded chair of that table wearing a sleeveless low-cut, white, satin housegown was Nicky. The daughter of the deceased spendthrift Lord Anshrin Sen Sevastion and the famed courtesan Collesia Sen Adar Nicky had inherited her great talent for magic and keen intelligence from her Great Dragon blood father and her great beauty from her mother.

Nicky was one of the great beauties of Kaldishar who had long wavy dark brown hair that fell to her mid back and framed her exquisite face that's centerpiece was her lovely midnight blue eyes that in turn were framed by long dark lashes. Standing Nicky would have been four inches short of six feet and her full-breasted, slender-torsoed, small-waisted, shapely-hipped and long, slender-legged body was every bit as exquisite as her face. Nicky's soft skin was light brown in color and under it she was sleekly muscled in a way that deliciously complemented her round curves.

At barely twenty years of age Nicky was the last scion of the western branch of the Kaldishari noble Sen Sevastion family that descended from the divine Great Dragon Sevastion the Sky Lord. A skilled magess and a talented student at whatever she set to learn because she had inherited her father's spending habits along with his indebted estates Nicky was also was a courtesan like her mother.

It was in her role as a courtesan that Nicky had overheard Narshavus Rolas plotting with the shaman Shrenga to steal the Dragon Stone. She had alerted Avian Divcarry to what she had heard and that had set off a chain of events where in her role as a magess she had helped to defend the Temple of Sevastion and in fact had killed Shrenga within the temple's sanctuary. Also during the whole affair Nicky had met the Brasharter swordmage Gadwin Medario and after fighting by his side and sharing nights and days of passion with him the young girl had developed feelings for him that she had never felt before.

At the moment however she had other things on her mind and with a pen in one soft, long fingernailed hand and a large array of papers before her she was writing replies to letters that had arrived while she was gone.

One had been from one of the most exclusive clothiers in Ilding reminding Nicky that she owed the woman ten gold crowns for part of her new spring wardrobe. Another was from her main jeweler saying that she owed him five gold crowns for a fine set of pearls. Finally there was the one from her perfumer bluntly pointing out that she had better pay the two gold crowns she owed the woman or she would not be getting any more of her favorite night lily perfume from far off in the Eastern Realms.

Nicky's reply to each of them was that they would have full payment soon and she was enclosing a single gold crown as partial payment to help mollify them. She did not at the moment have the fourteen gold crowns it would take to settle her accounts and with Narshavus Rolas gone her primary client and source of income was no more. So Nicky was going to have to find herself a client or clients that could make up for that lost income.

As Nicky was writing a letter of reply there was a knock at her door and before she could answer, it opened and someone entered. "Are you busy child?" asked the surprisingly young sounding voice of the immortal Cedris of the Kintaro in the dialect of Kinshin from the region of the Kintaro Mountains.

"Just finishing writing letters to some people I owe money master," Nicky answered in her girlish voice in the same tongue without looking up from her letter.

Cedris chuckled. "You always owe people money," he observed.

Nicky finished the letter by signing her name and titles before setting her pen down. "I like to buy things and I do not always have the money I need at the time I want something. Besides it is normal for nobles to buy things on account," she pointed out as she began folding the letter to her perfumer.

"Only fools spend what they do not have," Cedris said, using a saying from his nearly endless supply.

"Only fools and the highborn," Nicky countered with most of her attention on putting a gold crown into the folded letter.

"The highborn are usually fools," Cedris pointed out as he came across the room.

Nicky smiled softly to herself and shot back, "Only a true fool thinks another is a fool simply because of their station."

"A fool is a fool no matter what their station," Cedris told her.

Nicky thought for a moment as she poured a lump of wax onto the letter to close it. "Better to be a fool of high station than a fool of low," she came up with finally.

Cedris came up behind her chair and made a thoughtful sound. "Better to be a wise man of low station than a fool of high," he stated.

"It is always better to be of high station than low whether you are wise or a fool," Nicky retorted and taking up her seal she pressed it into the lump of wax.

"What station is better if you are a wise fool?" Cedris wanted to know.

Nicky laughed and smiled at Cedris over her shoulder. "It is better to be of low station for a wise fool of high station will lead many other fools to their doom," she replied.

Cedris smiled back at her fondly. "You are a wise little fool Nicholettia," he told her.

Cedris of the Kintaro was one of the Dragon Kindred, humans who had sworn themselves and their descendants to the service of the Great Dragons eons before. He was also an immortal half Great Dragon sorcerer who was more than six thousand years old and knew more than just about anyone about anything. It was with the golden eyes of a half Dragon that the white-robed, near to six-foot tall, short, gray-haired and bearded medium-built and even-toned skinned sorcerer regarded the only student he had taught in half a century fondly.

Keeping their little game going Nicky stuck her tongue out at him. "You are a fool who's wisdom has faded with age old man," she informed him without venom.

"Even faded my wisdom is greater than yours," Cedris announced grandiosely.

Nicky snorted and rolling her eyes she said, "Your wisdom is so faded that a village idiot could outwit you with a bucket over his head."

Cedris laughed and leaned down to kiss her on top of the head. "That my beloved girl was an insult worthy of me," he complimented.

"Does than mean I win for once?" Nicky demanded eagerly.

Cedris winked at her. "Let us say that I am calling a truce because I have things to discuss with you that are more important than trading insults," he stated.

That statement piqued Nicky's interest because trading insults was one of their favorite games and Cedris only interrupted it for truly important matters. She had told him all about the mess with Narshavus and the Stone of Sevastion the night before and found herself wondering if he wanted to ask her more about it.

"What things do you wish to discuss master?" Nicky asked, setting the folded and sealed letter down on her writing table.

"I was wondering if you have time today to aide me in an experiment?" Cedris answered her question with one of his own.

Nicky nibbled her lip and thought for a moment. "Perhaps, though I was planning on going to see my mother," she told him, then gave her master a curious look over her shoulder. "So what sort of experiment is it you wanted me to help with?" she wanted to know.

Cedris stroked his beard with one hand. "Well my dear child I was hoping to carry on our image capture experiments," he replied. "I have some new methods with lighting and some new poses I wish to capture you in."

"Poses with me not wearing any clothes," Nicky said knowingly with a coy little look for him.

"They would not be nudes if you were wearing clothes," Cedris pointed out.

Nicky smiled at her master. "I will pose for you when I get back from my seeing my mother," she promised.

Cedris nodded. "Good, I will need you tomorrow as well," he told her.

Nicky giggled and asked playfully, "Will we be doing anything besides capturing images master?"

"No," Cedris said and then muttered fondly under his breath in Old Kinshin, "Little minx."

Nicky's only reply to that was another giggle.


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