Black Shrike [The Swordmage Cycle IV]
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by T. J. Lazier
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Fantasy
Description: Avian, Nicky, Gadwin and Jaim have returned from their perilous journey to Tardan Doring only to find themselves beginning an even more dangerous mission. The Queen's life is in danger from her own daughter, who is scheming with the sinister Black Shrike cult to murder the Queen and usurp the throne. Working with the legendary White Guardian, the four companions determine to follow the plot to its roots. Meanwhile Avian has been targeted by Black Shrike assassins who are seeking a mysterious magical amulet Avian has discovered. Nicky becomes a Queen's Handmaid (a pleasure servant at the Royal Court) to learn more about the evil schemers who surround the throne. Then Avian's amulet is stolen by the Black Shrike, leading Avian, Gadwin and Jaim to track the amulet to the cult's secret lair. But, Nicky has a vision of the three in deadly danger. And, indeed, they are! For the trio has been discovered in the Black Shrike's sanctuary spying on a clandestine meeting between the Queen's daughter and Kandor, the powerful sorcerer who is high priest of the cult. Outnumbered by the cult's guards, helpless before Kandor's awesome powers, Avian, Gadwin and Jaim prepare to sell their lives dearly. But, if they fall to the Black Shrike's blades, an innocent kingdom will fall into the hands of Kandor and the black gods he serves. Adult situations and sexuality.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler,
eBookwise Release Date: December 2006
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [192 KB]
Reading time: 132-184 min.
The Plum Orchard Inn had sat along the north side of the Keeve Road near the city of Ilding for more than three hundred years. When the modest two storey, gray fieldstone inn with its slate tile roof had originally been constructed Ilding had been a small hilltop fortress town along the Keeve Road in the grasslands between the eastern expanse of the Tarn Forest and the Hill Lands in the Empire of the Immortal Emperor. In the three centuries since the death of the Immortal Emperor Ilding had become the western capital of the restored nation of Kaldishar and had grown extraordinarily.
In the three hundred and fifteenth year after Angali's death the stony hill that once had contained all of Ilding was at the center of a large city and held only the walled Citadel Palace. Beyond the walled Old City of Ilding stretched better than a mile from the Citadel Palace in all directions and the outerburgs of the city stretched even further.
The Outerburg of Katterine and the Warehouse and Wagon Yards District of the city stretched clear to the Keeve Road and the Plum Orchard sat on the north side of the road across from the latter section of the city. When it had been built the inn had been part of a small village along the Keeve Road that had since been swallowed up or disappeared leaving only the old inn. Now sitting across from the rowdy Warehouse and Wagon Yards District the Plum Orchard could have been a raucous establishment, but was a quiet inn that catered mostly to respectable merchants.
There were always plenty of merchants and others traveling along the Keeve Road, and with it being late summer with the weather warm and dry, the road was even busier than usual. Wagons, carts and pack trains of mules and horses moved both east and west along the road and into and out of Ilding, as did people on foot and horseback. The wide packed earth road was filled with traffic of all types and the noise, smells and crowding along the road combined with the afternoon heat was almost unbearable. Worst of all the Keeve Road was dirt dry in hot weather and thick clouds of dust rose from it choking everyone on it.
At the end of a twelve day round trip to the city of Intare on the Tarn River to the west the Plum Orchard, the comforts the inn had to offer were what the girl who turned off the Keeve Road into the stableyard at the side of the inn needed. Mounted on the finest of Tanshari horses the young woman rode the tall bay mare with the ease of life long familiarity, but a certain weariness. She was dusty and sweaty and longing for the long hot bath, good food and clean comfortable bed she knew she would find at the inn that was her home in Ilding.
Her name was Avian Divcarry and she was a highly accomplished twenty six year old Guardian at large of the famed Divcarry line. Also she had been the apprentice of the great Guardian, Gilead Stonehawk, and many considered Avian her master's best student.
Avian was a tall and very beautiful young woman of half human and half elf heritage who had delicate pointed ears to show it. She also had rump length wavy golden blond hair, sapphire blue eyes framed by long dark lashes set in a breathtakingly beautiful face and soft light honey colored skin. Standing five feet nine inches in height Avian was long and slender of leg, slender and shapely of hip, small of waist, slender of torso and full of bosom.
Clad in skintight black leather riding pants, black riding boots and a pullover white linen shirt, unlaced to show a healthy amount of bosom, Avian could turn any head. Hanging around her slim neck on a woven gold rope a golden Guardian medallion nestled in the exposed cleavage displayed by her unlaced shirt. It depicted the sword wreathed by a Dragon emblem of the Guardians and had Avian's name and credentials as a Guardian depicted in all the languages used in the Candatara Region.
Hanging from a white leather twice around belt about Avian's hips and resting in a black leather scabbard on her left thigh was a narrow, three foot long, slightly curving, single-edged sword with a double-handed black leather hilt and steel circular guard. The sword of a Guardian, it was unbreakable, could cut through almost anything without ever having to be sharpened and acted as a magical amplifier for its wielder. That sword along with the medallion that hung around Avian's neck were the symbols of the magic wielding warriors who helped to keep order in the lands that had signed the Treaty of Dinstarra.
The sword, however, was not Avian's only weapon. A well made wheel-lock pistol rested on her right hip and a long, narrow, curving, single-edged dagger was in a scabbard behind that. Also Avian could fight with no weapons at all and was highly trained in, and had a strong talent for, magic as well.
It was her duty and the duty of all Guardians to protect the people of the Candatara Region and enforce the laws set down in the Treaty of Dinstarra after the fall of the Immortal Emperor. Avian took that duty very seriously. Being a Guardian was the center of her life and she did her best to make Gilead Stonehawk proud of his former apprentice.
Avian's trip to Intare had been a journey of duty because she had been sent to that city to retrieve a magical amulet captured by the Guardian of Intare. That amulet now rested in a sealed and warded bundle in one of Avian's saddlebags and her mission would be complete only when she had turned that bundle over to the Vault Guardian at the Guardian Hall in Ilding.
Avian figured that stopping at the Plum Orchard for a bath, a few meals and a good nights sleep first would not hurt anything however. She had been on the road for five days from Intare and the Plum Orchard would be a nice change from the inns she had stayed at during her journey. Well acquainted with the innkeeper, Peld Shender, and his daughter Kila, Avian always received a warm welcome and kept a permanent room at the inn.
As she rode into the Plum Orchard's stableyard a stablehand dressed in brown linen trousers and a gray linen shirt came out of the shade under the stable's awning and hurried to meet her. Ean was a short skinny thirteen year old boy with dusty blond hair, brown eyes and dusty brown skin who was an orphan Peld Shender had taken in years before. The boy had a youthful infatuation with Avian and being a warm hearted girl she was always kind to the young boy who she had grown rather fond of.
"Mistress Avian, it's wonderful to see you!" Ean called excitedly in a cracking voice in Dinstarra Sevaran as he rushed forward and took a hold of the bridle of Avian's mare. "Master Peld, Mistress Kila and Jaim and Gadwin will all be happy you're here."
Avian smiled down at Ean warmly. "It's nice to see you too Ean. I've missed everyone while I was gone," she stated in her silvery voice using the same language he had.
Ean smiled and blushed at the same time. "I've missed you Mistress Avian."
Avian winked at him. "I'm glad you missed me Ean. But you don't have to call me Mistress Avian, I've known you for years," she pointed out as she swung out of her saddle and down off her horse.
"But you're a Guardian and that means you deserve respect Mistress Avian," Ean said with feeling.
Avian shrugged and settled her sword and other weapons into comfortable positions. "Call me mistress if you like," she conceded. "Just make sure to rub Zinnia down after all this heat and cool her out before you water her."
Ean gave her an indignant look. "Mistress Avian I know how to take care of horses!" he protested.
"Sorry, I'm just a little protective of my horse," Avian said. "Would you have someone carry my saddlebags and other belongings up to my room please?" she then requested as she undid the left hand saddlebag and pulled out the gray cloth wrapped amulet with its red wax Guardian signet seal.
"I'll carry them up myself once I've taken care of Zinnia," Ean replied.
Avian retied the saddlebag and reaching into a pouch on her weapons belt turned to Ean. "Thanks Ean, I'm glad to know Zinnia and my things will be in good hands," she told him and taking a silver tenth out of her pouch she dropped it into the boy's shirt pocket before asking, "Is Kila in the kitchen?"
Ean nodded. "Yes she is Mistress Avian. But ... um ... you don't need to pay me for taking care of your horse or your things," he said and started to dig the small silver coin out of his pocket. "Especially not a whole silver tenth."
Avian stopped him with a gentle touch of one long fingernailed hand. "I don't have to pay you," she agreed. "But I want to and so you'll accept it. Buy yourself something nice with it," the blonde girl instructed and leaned down to kiss him softly on the cheek.
She then ruffled the baffled boy's hair affectionately and slipped around him and headed toward the door on the side of the inn that led from the stableyard into the kitchen. As Avian walked toward the split-door with the top half opened at a swishing swagger that had as much to do with her sword as being a woman, a young man pushed the bottom half open with his foot and stepped out.
Jaim Medario was a tall man by Kaldishari commoner standards. Standing a bit under six feet in height he had long red streaked dark brown hair worn in a tail and the gray blue eyes and even toned skin of his Tanshari mother. He was built slender and well muscled with the body of a swordsman and his boyish good looks often attracted the attention of girls. Jaim was a twenty seven year old man from the city of Jaln in Brashart on the Caden border of that country who was more than half Tanshari, and Avian's cousin on her father's side.
The two of them along with Jaim's younger brother Gadwin had been raised together in Jaln before Avian had left to become a Guardian and the Medario brothers had become wandering mercenaries. Earlier that year Jaim and Gadwin had come to Ilding and after having helped Peld and Kila out of some trouble they had been offered jobs at the Plum Orchard. Recently the two wandering brothers had settled in at the inn after returning from a journey with Avian and her friend Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar that had taken them all the way to the city state of Tardan Doring in pursuit of the traitor Guardian Narshavus Rolas.
Currently Jaim did not look much like the expert swordsman who had killed the Prince Heir of Tardan Doring in a duel during that journey. He was unarmed and dressed in dirty gray linen trousers and shirt with a brown leather vest over the shirt and brown leather half boots on his feet. In his arms Jaim had a basket that was full of kitchen refuse and must have been headed for the inn's burnery behind the stables. Jaim Medario was in love with Kila Shender and often did kitchen chores that one of the inn's kitchen helpers or other employers could have done just to be around her.
His official job was the Plum Orchard's stable master and that was a position well above carrying refuse to the burnery. However you could not blame Jaim for being in love, and Avian thought that is was sweet of her cousin to do kitchen chores to be near Kila. Jaim seemed to be trying to settle down with Kila Shender despite also having feelings for Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar.
Avian, who had known Jaim since childhood, wondered if her cousin would choose the innkeeper's daughter or the noble courtesan. Both were good choices and Avian just hoped that her good friend and kinsman made the choice that made him happy.
"Aren't you a little old for a kitchen boy, Jaim?" Avian asked lightly, stopping a couple of paces from the kitchen door.
Jaim smiled and chuckled. "Probably, but Kila's not in the stables and she is in the kitchen," he said with a shrug in his neither deep nor boyish voice and shifted his hold on the basket. "I'm glad you're back from Intare because Gadwin has been drinking too much since you left," the young man then told her.
Avian bit her lip and gave Jaim a concerned look. "He hasn't gotten himself into trouble has he?" she asked.
Jaim shook his head. "No, he hasn't done anything too serious. Gadwin just gets bored when you aren't around and starts drinking hard. He's got a bad enough temper when he's sober and when he drinks for three of four days straight I get worried he might kill somebody," he stated, then smiling broadly as he ran his eyes over her admiringly. Jaim observed, "But now that you're back he'll have a beautiful girl to keep him occupied."
Avian, who was used to such attention, smiled softly. "You know Jaim if Kila sees you looking at me like that she'll probably not talk to you for a week," she informed him playfully.
Jaim cleared his throat and shifted his gaze from the unlaced neck of her shirt to her eyes. "Sorry, I didn't mean to stare," he apologized.
"Don't be sorry, I'm beautiful and I don't mind people noticing," Avian said with a pretty shrug.
"I mind Jaim noticing," a soft and feminine voice stated from behind Jaim. "Or at least noticing so openly," Kila Shender added without any real venom.
Jaim stepped down out of the doorway and turned to face the girl he loved. "Hi Kila. I was just going to ... when Avian ... I ... Dragon shit. I was just going to go dump the rubbish," he finished lamely and then hurried off towards the back of the stables.
Kila laughed and watched Jaim go with a fond look in her eyes and a soft smile on her lips. "So do you think I should leave him stewing or let him out of the pot when he gets back?" she asked Avian.
Avian giggled. "Let him stew until tonight and then let him out of the pot," she advised.
"Sounds like a good idea," Kila agreed with a nod.
Avian regarded Kila as the young woman stood in the doorway of the kitchen watching Jaim scurry for the burnery. Kila Shender was a beautiful girl who was nineteen years of age and despite her youth ran more of the day to day affairs of the Plum Orchard than her father did. She stood perhaps four inches over five feet tall and had shoulder length glossy black hair she wore pulled back in a tail and lovely big black eyes framed by long dark lashes that were the center of a youthfully beautiful face. Her soft skin was light brown in tone and Kila's build was slender with slim legs, shapely little hips, a tiny little waist and a medium sized bosom.
At the moment Kila was dressed in brown linen trousers and white linen shirt with brown leather sandals on her feet and a white apron over her clothing. Kila was the Plum Orchard's cook and in Avian's opinion the girl was the best cook in the whole of Kaldishar. Avian had known the smart, sweet and tough Kila for over ten years and the two of them were good friends despite the age difference between them. The simple truth was Kila loved to cook and Avian loved to eat and that was the basis for a beautiful friendship.
Avian's rather empty belly responded with loud growls to the delicious smells coming through the doorway from the kitchen.
"So what have you got to eat that's cold?" Avian wanted to know since she was hungry but hot food on a hot day often upset her stomach.
Kila turned her attention to Avian. "Well there's a fresh batch of mince pies and a fresh batch of plum pies chilled and ready to eat in the icebox. Also there's some smoked turkey and mutton and of course ham, cheese, bread, cold-cuts and fruits of all kinds, both dried and fresh," she informed her.
Avian made a thoughtful sound as she considered what sounded good, then after a moment decided, "I'll have a mince pie, some smoked turkey and some dried plums if you've got any."
Kila smiled and laughed softly. "This is the Plum Orchard, we always have dried plums running out our ears," she pointed out.
"That's true," Avian agreed and remembering something said, "I'll also have a large cup of chilled plum wine."
"Of course you will," Kila said with a wink and turned back into the kitchen. "Come on Avy, I'll feed you in the kitchen and we can talk about what you've missed while you were gone," she called over her shoulder, using Avian's old nickname as she headed into the kitchen. "Papa and Gadwin are off on business so we'll have time to talk."
Eager to fill her stomach and quench her thirst Avian followed after Kila at a quick pace. "While I'm eating have someone warm up the water in the bathhouse please," the young Guardian requested. "I want to wash the dirt and sweat off before Gadwin gets back."
* * * *
The Citadel Palace stood at the very center of the city of Idling on the four sided stone hill that had once held the town of Ilding and was surrounded by thirty foot high gray granite walls with a square tower at each of the four corners. Centered within those walls was the three storey gray marble hexagonal palace with its countless stained glass windows and a square central tower thrusting up a hundred feet from its flat garden covered roof within which the Queen herself had her quarters. The Citadel Palace was the both the primary royal residence of Her Grace Katterine Paldron, Queen of Kaldishar and one of the centers of the nation's government.
Queen Katterine ruled in Ilding in the west from the Citadel Palace while the Princess of Keeve and heir to the throne reigned in the eastern capital of Keeve. It had been that way for more than two centuries and would remain so until the immortal Katterine stepped down from the throne or died of unnatural causes.
In many ways the palace behind its high stone walls was a small city unto itself surrounded by the larger city of Ilding. Within the walls around the Citadel Palace proper were numerous outbuilding such as stables and barracks, and there were a large number of yards and gardens. Entry into those walls was gained through any one of four gates which stood at the terminuses of the four grand boulevards that divided the walled old city of Ilding north, south, east and west. Those well guarded gates usually stood open to allow passage for the members of the court, the palace's staff and defenders and for the endless influx of goods to supply the more than five thousand who dwelt there.
The always bustling Citadel Palace was even busier than usual since it was only three days before the Fall Equinox in the three hundred and fifteenth year after the death of the Immortal Emperor. On the night of the equinox would be held the Festival of Summer's End and so the court and staff of the palace were busy preparing for the impending festivities. Food, drink and other goods poured in through the gates, as did a large numbers of people who would provide services for or be joining in the Festival of Summer's End.
One young woman who would be providing services for rather than joining in the celebration had just stepped from a coach at one of the palace's six great arched double doors that very warm afternoon. Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar, daughter of the late Lord Anshrin Sen Sevastion and the famed courtesan Collesia Sen Adar was only a few weeks returned from Tardan Doring and had come to the Citadel Palace to serve as one of the Queen's Handmaids. Which was something that Nicky would rather have not done, but she had no choice in the matter.
It was old Kaldishari tradition and law that unmarried young noblewomen each served for a season as a Queen's Handmaid sometime between her twentieth and twenty fifth year. The thing was that Queen's Handmaids were over glorified servants who served the Queen and court as attendants and companions that were at the beck and call of anyone of rank or station who used them mostly for personal pleasure. It was considered a duty rather than an honor and many young noblewomen escaped being a Queen's Handmaid by getting a dispensation from the crown.
Nicky's dispensation request had been met with refusal. So she had no choice but to report to the Citadel Palace whose doors she now stood before. Nicky was a tall beautiful girl who stood five feet eight inches in height and had mid back length wavy dark brown hair and long dark lash framed midnight blue eyes set in an exquisite face. Her light brown skin was soft as silk and she was both shapely and slender with long slender legs, shapely hips and trim bottom, narrow waist and slender torso with full firm breasts.
Sleekly muscled with soft long fingernailed hands and dressed in a simple low-cut summer gown of light blue satin with her hair held back with golden combs and a golden Dragon Pendant hanging between her breasts on a woven gold rope she was the perfect picture of beauty. Nicky was more than just a beautiful noblewoman, for she was a descendant of the Great Dragon Sevastion who had a brilliant mind and a great talent for magic. She was one of the greatest magic talents and perhaps the finest mind of her generation as well as one of the great beauties and high nobles of Kaldishar.
However, despite the haughty yet demure expression she wore, Nicky was both nervous and irritated about becoming a Queen's Handmaid. Nervous because being a Handmaid was not an easy thing and irritated because spending a season as a servant of the Queen would take her away from her studies with Cedris of the Kintaro, spending time with Gadwin and Jaim Medario and her work as a courtesan that kept her in money and luxuries.
Though she was upset about becoming a Handmaid Nicky knew there was nothing that she could do about it. Her luggage had already been moved to the Citadel Palace and she would soon be reporting to the Mistress of the Queen's Handmaids. So after taking a deep breath Nicky entered through the high arched doorway into the palace and made her way through the gray marble corridors toward her destination.
The Queen's Handmaids' Quarters were located on the top floor of the palace below the base of the central tower. That meant that Nicky had to go clear to the center of the palace and climb a long winding spiral staircase to reach them. She was not the only noble girl arriving to serve as a Handmaid and Nicky noticed several other well dressed beautiful young women climbing the staircase along with her. Then when she reached the Handmaids' Quarters she saw many more noble girls and plenty of servants since each of the Queen's Handmaids was allowed a servant and every Handmaid had one.
Nicky moved through the narrow corridors of the Handmaids' Quarters past the open doors of small comfortable rooms that were intended each for a girl of noble status and her servant. She had been assigned a room like all the others and the servant girl Nicky had sent from her home should be waiting in her room along with her belongings. Nicky would live like all the other Handmaids and she was definitely not looking forward to that.
The quarters of the Mistress of the Queen's Handmaids was Nicky's current destination however. Those were at one end of the Handmaids' Quarters with a heavy decorated hardwood door separating them from the rest of the area.
Nicky rapped on that door and when a young dark haired, eyed and skinned servant girl opened the door she announced in her girlish voice in Kaldishari, "I am Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar and I am reporting to the Mistress of Handmaids as one of the Queen's Handmaids."
"Come in my lady," the servant said in the language of the court and bowed and stepped out of the way. "Mistress Cidel will see you in her study."
Nicky glided into the Mistress of Handmaids' quarters on satin shoed feet. She entered into a large, luxuriantly furnished sitting room that had marble walls and ceiling, a thick blue silk carpet covering the floor and a white marble fireplace. The servant led Nicky through a side door of the sitting room into a study that was just as well furnished. It had gray marble walls like the rest of the palace, which were lined with bookshelves and there was a blue silk carpet covering the floor and a white enameled writing table with a cushioned chair on the opposite end of the room from the door facing it.
The study like the sitting room had stained glass windows with one situated behind the writing table and standing before that table in the light coming in through that window was the Mistress of the Queen's Handmaids. Cidel Sodalan was a tall matronly woman who was probably near Nicky's height and had long wavy glossy black hair that was touched with white in places, worn in a braid. She was beautiful with crystalline blue long dark lash framed eyes, soft light brown skin and an exquisite face. The woman was wearing a floor length sleeveless white silk gown that clung to her and showed that Lady Cidel had a slender shapely form with curvaceous hips, a small waist and slender torso with a full bosom.
The woman looked quite fit for she was sleekly muscled beneath her soft skin and yet her hands were soft and she had long fingernails like any Kaldishari noblewoman. Cidel Sodalan was of old Kaldishari noble blood and though she was over a hundred and fifty she looked fifty at the oldest. The untitled noblewoman had served Queen Katterine in her current post for many years and had a reputation for ruling the Queen's Handmaids with a velvet gloved iron fist.
Looking at her Nicky could feel that she had an average magical talent. The woman also exuded authority and when their gazes met she decided that she did not want to cross Mistress Cidel if she could avoid it.
"Lady Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar reporting as a Queen's Handmaid my lady," the soft voiced servant girl announced as she stood at the door of the room where she had stopped while Nicky had entered.
"Very good Sana," Cidel replied in a soft low feminine voice, running her gaze over Nicky. "You are a great beauty, Lady Nicholettia, and considering who your mother is you will be much in demand by members of the court and guests," she said without greeting the girl as she came to a halt a couple of paces from her.
"Is that a compliment?" Nicky asked.
"An observation," Cidel answered and then told her, "But do not think because of your great beauty, high titles and renown as a courtesan that I will show you any favoritism."
"I expect only to be shown the respect due a lady of my station and family," Nicky said to Lady Cidel in her haughty noblewoman's voice. "Such as being greeted properly instead of being told that I will be much in demand to serve and service members of the court and guests."
Cidel laughed a low amused laugh. "Lady Nicholettia you may be a noblewoman of high station and high blood but as a Queen's Handmaid you are under my authority so you should have bowed and greeted me properly upon being presented to me," she informed Nicky before stating, "Proper manners are necessary in both a lady and a Queen's Handmaid."
Nicky felt her cheeks growing warm as she realized she had made a breach in protocol. "I apologize for my error and respectfully place myself at your disposal Mistress Cidel, and at the disposal of the Queen," she said with a deep bow to the older woman.
"I accept your apology and accept you under my authority and into the service of the Queen," Cidel replied with a small bow of her own. "I think your term of service will be quite interesting because many members of the court including members of the royal family have expressed great interest in you," she added.
"I have had quite a few clients amongst the court and once danced before the Queen," Nicky pointed out, meeting the lady's gaze as she straightened up. "Katterine herself complimented me on my dancing."
Cidel's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Lady Nicholettia you will not speak of the Queen with such familiarity while serving as one of her Handmaids," the Mistress of Handmaids admonished.
"I meant no offense," Nicky said and gave the other woman a small bow.
"One more such offense and you will be punished for lack of manners and respect," Cidel declared. "You see, Lady Nicholettia, Queen's Handmaids are expected to speak and act with perfect grace and manners at all times, and if they do not I have complete freedom in dealing with them," she explained.
Nicky felt a quiver of trepidation over that and drew a low slow breath before asking, "How should I expect to be dealt with?"
"Strictly but fairly punished if I think you need it," was Cidel's answer. "You will do as you are told and act with the grace, manners and decorum required of a Queen's Handmaid while carrying out all duties assigned you or you will be punished. I believe in many kinds of punishment, Lady Nicholettia, and besides physical punishment delivered by my own or other hands I punish misbehaving Handmaids in more creative ways," she stated while gazing at Nicky sternly.
"I have been informed of your punishments by my mother," Nicky told Cidel with a shiver at the memory of the descriptions.
The Mistress of Handmaids smiled softly. "I remember Collesia quite fondly and also remember punishing her a number of times and she was not half as willful as you, Lady Nicholettia. I fear that with what I have heard of you I will have to punish you quite often if you do not try your hardest to behave yourself," she warned Nicky.
"I will do my best to behave as a perfect Handmaid and lady," Nicky promised and meant it because she did not want to be subjected to what the Mistress of Handmaids was notorious for handing out.
Cidel nodded. "For your sake I hope you live up to those words," she replied with a stern look that reinforced Nicky's resolve to stay on the woman's good side.
* * * *
After her late lunch Avian took a very long bath in the Plum Orchard's bathhouse then headed up to the room she shared with her lover, Gadwin Medario, clad only in a short red silk robe. Avian's room was located at the far end of the inn's second floor in the area set aside for the innkeeper's family. Peld Shender had given Avian the room years before and had always refused to take payment for allowing her to stay and keep her belongings there.
It was a good sized room that had one window opposite the door that looked out over the walled plum orchard that had given the inn its name and was open to let air in on that hot summer day. The room was nicely furnished with a thick wool carpet covering much of the wooden floor, a big bed against the right hand plastered wall flanked by a small nightstand and a writing table and chair under the window. There was also a large freestanding wardrobe against the wall opposite the bed flanked by a clothes stand on one side.
On the other side was a dressing table, a washstand with basin and pitcher and a full length mirror. An oil lamp on the writing table and another on the nightstand along with just about everything that Avian owned finished the room's furnishings.
After she closed the door behind her Avian stood and looked around her room for a moment with satisfaction. It was nice to be back at the Plum Orchard in her and Gadwin's room, freshly bathed with a full belly. Hopefully she would soon get to see Gadwin and make long passionate love with him. Thinking about that Avian decided that she had better get herself ready for Gadwin's arrival.
She had bathed but her hair needed a good brushing and her fingernails needed attention amongst other things. Avian was admittedly just a touch vain about her looks and tried her best to look as good as she could despite her often hectic life as a Guardian.
So sauntering over to her dressing table and mirror the young Guardian set about taking care of her appearance. Long work with brush and comb got her golden hair to fall over her shoulders and down her back in perfect waves. Then Avian brushed out her eyelashes for full effect and filed, buffed and applied clear lacquer to her long fingernails that were definitely the most impractical fashion she wore. After she was finished waving her hands around to make sure the lacquer dried properly Avian shed her short silk robe to apply her favorite apple blossom perfume to all those little places a woman should perfume.
Afterward she stepped in front of her full length mirror for a thorough inspection of her nude body starting at her toes.
Avian's body was magnificent with long slender silky legs, golden nether hair shaved to a slim bar between them and slender shapely hips. Her waist was small, her belly smooth and lightly muscled and her torso slender, but with full and firm pink nippled breasts. Avian's whole body was perfectly and sleekly muscled under her soft light honey colored skin that glistened from head to toe from her bath. Smiling at her reflection in the mirror she then turned around to gaze over her shoulder at her trim bottom and smooth perfectly muscled back.
As she was admiring her backside a knock sounded on her door, and having never really had any modesty the blonde simply told whoever it was, "Come in, it's not locked."
The door opened and someone stepped through who abruptly came to a stop with the door still open. "Avian you should really warn people when you're naked. It's great to see you without any clothes on, but the view can stop your heart," a deep yet youthful voice said.
"Gadwin!" Avian called and left off admiring herself in the mirror to turn and smile at the man she was in love with. "I've been waiting for you."
Gadwin Medario smiled at her warmly. "If I had known you were waiting like that I would have run here as fast as I could after Ean told me you were back when Peld and I returned from running his money to the counting house. Damn I forget how beautiful you are," he stated in wonder as he slowly ran his eyes over her.
Preening under his hungry gaze Avian arched her back, pulled her shoulders back and stood up on her toes to give Gadwin a real eyeful. At the same time Avian ran her eyes over her lover, enjoying the chance to look at him after so many days apart.
Gadwin Medario was taller than Jaim Medario. He stood a couple inches over six feet and was built slender and muscled like his brother, but broader through the shoulders. His hair was light brown and worn bushy rather than long, yet Gadwin had the same gray blue eyes as Jaim and the same even toned skin. Gadwin with his dark stubble covered, ruggedly handsome face was every bit as good looking as his older brother and actually looked older though he was two years younger.
Smiling and gazing at Avian with love and desire Gadwin looked very handsome in the gray leather riding pants, black riding boots and blue silk button up shirt he wore. Around his waist was a thick brown leather weapons belt with a ring-guarded shortsword resting on his left hip, a wheel-lock pistol on his right hip and the hilt of his long, curved wide bladed dagger behind that. Where Jaim was an expert swordsman Gadwin was a swordmage with a magical talent as strong as Avian's who used magic, weapons and even bare hands with brutal skill equaled by few in the world.
Gadwin had a bad temper and drank too much. However under his hard exterior Gadwin was a deeply caring young man who would do anything for his friends and family. Avian had known Gadwin her whole life and the two of them had been incredibly close since childhood. During their trip to Tardan Doring the two of them had finally admitted that they loved each other after both of them had nearly been killed fighting the former Guardian Narshavus Rolas.
Since then the two of them had been enjoying their long running off and on relationship with a wonderful new passion. Not even the fact that Gadwin still had feelings for Nicholettia Sen Sevastion yi Sen Adar and that the noble courtesan was in love with her man could bother Avian much in the new found bliss of openly being in love.
"What are you looking troubled about all of a sudden?" Gadwin asked curiously since he was very good at picking up on her expressions.
Avian shrugged prettily. "I was just thinking about how much I missed you and hated being away from you," she lied rather than admit her jealousy and fluttering her lashes at him demanded, "So are you glad I'm back?"
Gadwin nodded. "I'm incredibly glad Avian," he replied.
"That's good," Avian said happily and then started toward Gadwin at a slow swishing gate. "Because I'm very glad that I'm back and we can be together."
Gadwin closed the door behind him and hurrying to meet Avian with a boyish sort of enthusiasm he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. "So am I, so am I," he agreed, then leaned down and kissed her warmly on the lips.
Avian slipped her arms around his neck and kissed him back passionately, snuggling her naked body closer to Gadwin's clothed form. Their kiss went on for a long time and she closed her eyes and let the passion of the moment overwhelm her. By the time they were done Avian was feeling a bit weak in the knees, her heart was hammering wildly and her belly was all quivery.
"Damn I've missed you," Avian sighed breathlessly with her eyes still closed when they broke for air.
Gadwin made a sound of happy agreement. "I've missed you too," he said, stroking one hand down onto her bottom and the other up under her golden mane and onto the back of her neck to pull her head against his chest. "I missed you more than I ever have before," her tall lover whispered.
Avian snuggled her head under his chin. "I love you," she told him softly.
"I love you too," Gadwin said quietly and nuzzled her hair.
Avian giggled and pulled her head back to look up at him. "Gadwin do you have a sword in your pants or are you just happy to see me?" she asked in a playful tone.
Gadwin blinked and after a second laughed. "It's a type of sword and it and I both are very happy to see you Avian Divcarry," he replied.
"Then why don't we get rid of these clothes you're wearing and you, your sword and I can all have a good time?" Avian proposed.
"That sounds like a very good idea to me," Gadwin stated with a grin and then kissed her once again.
As they kissed passionately Avian slipped her arms from around Gadwin's neck and wiggling back a bit from him she reached down and unbuckled his weapons belt. Lowering his weapons carefully to the floor she then set about unbuttoning his shirt without breaking their mouths apart even as she pulled Gadwin's shirt off with a little help from him. Avian opened her mouth so Gadwin could push his tongue over the top of hers as he stroked her derriere and back with his hand while she caressed his smooth, hard muscled chest and belly with hers before unlacing his pants.
Pushing those down around his ankles and pressing her rump back into Gadwin's hands Avian took his hard manhood in a firm, gentle grasp. They moaned together as he squeezed her rear and she stroked his erection from base to head with her soft hand while rubbing her hard nipples and full breasts across his chest. Then Avian released Gadwin's member to graze her nails over her lover in thrilling patterns and their tongues moved in a heated dance while their hands slid over each other's bodies.
Gadwin caressed her with lingering strokes, molding the sleek muscle and soft curves of Avian's back, buttocks, hips, thighs, belly, ribs, shoulders and breasts with his strong callused hands as they passed over her flesh till she was quivering with arousal. When those same hands closed on her bosom Avian moaned loudly against his tongue while Gadwin squeezed her full breasts and teased her aching nipples with his fingers so her arousal became almost unbearable. Then the tall young man crushed her body to his so that she felt every inch of his hard muscled form against her soft skin as he took her breath away and made her head swim with the passion of his kiss.
Avian's forearms and hands were against his chest and his manhood was pressed to her belly as he still held her tight when they finally broke for air. "No one kisses me like you do," she purred while looking up at him smolderingly and tingling from head to toe with desire she rubbed her body against his and asked, "Do you want to kiss me some more?"
"I want to do a lot more than kiss you," Gadwin replied with a wink and a grin.
Avian fluttered her lashes at him. "Then finish getting your clothes off so we can make love," she told him and using her hands on his chest pushed herself away from him.
"Yes ma'am," Gadwin said and chuckling went about doing that.
Avian watched with a small smile as her lover bent over to pull off his boots with more than a little haste. Amazingly Gadwin did not fall on his head as he removed his boots and when he straightened up to step out of his pants Avian bit her lip and ran her eyes over his naked body hungrily. Gadwin was built lean and nicely muscled with smooth hairless skin, broad shoulders, muscular chest, hard belly and lean strong hips and thighs with his perfectly sized member between them.
He was a very good looking young man and gazing at him Avian felt her nipples growing harder than they already were, her skin tingling, her belly quivering and her sex aching with need. If Gadwin had tumbled her onto the floor and taken her right then she would not have minded at all.
"Great Mother I want you," Gadwin declared while running his eyes over her.
Running her eyes over him still Avian said, "Not as much as I want you."
Then she flung her arms around her lover's neck, stood up on her toes, pressed her nude body to his and kissed him hot and hard. Gadwin wrapped his arms around her waist to pull her even tighter to him and returned Avian's kiss with equal enthusiasm. With her breasts squashed against Gadwin's chest and his member pressed between her legs the blonde girl rubbed her bosom across his skin and her nether hair and sex over his erection while moving her tongue boldly in his mouth.
That pretty much had its desired effect and Avian felt a full body thrill when Gadwin pulled her arms from around his neck and seized her slim wrists to pull her from him. With barely controlled desire burning in his gray blue eyes Gadwin turned toward the bed and propelled her backward across the room. The desire in Avian's eyes was completely uncontrolled as she gazed at him smolderingly as her lover lifted her up to lay her out on her back crosswise on the tall bed with her knees hooked over the edge.
"Sometimes you drive me crazy!" Gadwin panted while gazing hungrily at her supine body as he leaned over her with her wrists pinned in his hands above her head.
Avian arched her back, spread her legs and gave him a burning look. "Show me how crazy I make you," she breathed before biting her lip sultrily.
So Gadwin did by leaning down further to kiss her throat and she wiggled appreciatively as he kissed, nuzzled and licked down to her heaving bosom. Avian inhaled when he licked at her nipples and gasped while he sucked at them lustily, nibbling at them with his teeth and pulling them with his lips while teasing the ends with his tongue until she was writhing in tortured pleasure.
Then Gadwin took his mouth from her breasts and sliding Avian further back onto the bed he climbed atop her between her spread legs. Keeping her arms pinned to the bed Gadwin covered her body with his as he entered her with a long slow thrust while they gazed heatedly into each other's eyes.
Then resting almost all of his weight on Avian and still gripping her wrists Gadwin took her with powerful thrusts. Pressed between him and the bed she felt every inch of his muscled belly and chest against her belly and breasts as he ravished her. Panting wantonly she wrapped her legs around him and moved under Gadwin and the strong, steady thrusts of his manhood soon brought her to an orgasm that had her crying out in pleasure.
Releasing her wrists and gathering her writhing body in his arms Gadwin then took Avian slow and hard, grinding into her with tender force so that she cried out once more in climax shortly before he finished.
"That's how crazy you make me," Gadwin told her with his voice ragged afterward and Avian's reply to that was a long, silvery and quite satisfied laugh.