GERARD’S SCOUTS CONTINUED to report a steady advancement of the forces allied against them.
Avestine was content to let the armies exert themselves in the forests and along the Wealth, but she deployed her ships to Salus Tribute and considered whether to send the fleet for an all-out assault before the enemy got any closer. Gerard agreed with the strategy of patience, and he took to consulting with Jesma for information on activity in the outer regions. Jesma’s notaries often knew more than the army’s scouts.
“It seems the allies don’t know what happened with Kami and the beast army. They’ve discounted the reports as tales or theatrics.”
Avestine felt a sense of relief. “We have that advantage then.”
“You mean Kami has agreed to help?” asked Gerard.
“She will. She’ll have no choice.”
Rook arrived along with Avestine’s barber, and Avestine dismissed Gerard.
She had not seen Rook for a week. He told her Wald’s training was more like other Essanti than Kami’s had been, and his self-imposed torment was more like Rook’s: that of isolation rather than abuse.
“You’re more comfortable with him now?” asked Avestine as she sat for a haircut in the antechamber of her residence. Her barber was busy pulling gray hairs from the front of her hair before he trimmed the length.
“I believe we have come to an understanding,” explained Rook.
“And what’s that?”
“That I don’t want to know who he sees or what he does with them.”
“That may not be wise.”
“He’s your Essanti, Your Grace, and he will share everything with you.”
The barber pushed her chin down. She gazed up from the top of her eyes and found it difficult to speak, but asked, “Yes, about that. I’ve never had an Essanti I didn’t sleep with. Or do you think he would be willing?”
“I couldn’t say. In any case, I understand the Harem Master has already acquired four women in addition to Amilese and Kaly. Your terms were quite generous and have attracted the interest of many respectable families.”
“It’s not about availability. He serves me, like you do, like Kami. The bond is natural.”
Rook’s eyebrow rose. “Natural in what way?”
“In the way that you serve me.”
“You have many servants, Your Grace. Do you sleep with all of them?”
“Any I care to.”
“Yes, I suppose.”
She waved her barber away and raised her head. “I don’t like your tone.”
Rook stepped back. “My thought was just that there are different kinds of service, and servants are not slaves.”
“You think Wald needs to be protected from me?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
Avestine wasn’t sure if Rook was mocking her, but his point had brought Kami to mind, since thoughts of her were never far away. Avestine knew Kami would have agreed with him.
“When I was young,” said Avestine, “I lacked a great deal of wisdom, as you know. I gloried in taking what I wanted. But I’ve discovered a willing girl is a far better thing than raping one.”
“I’m sure she is,” commented Rook, and this time Avestine was certain he was mocking her.
“Don’t be jealous of Kami. I’ve known moments of great pleasure with you.” Rook was looking at her with an expression of curiosity, and she realized it was probably the first time in her life she had given voice to her feelings for him. His silence was uncomfortable, so she said, “When will he be ready for bonding?”
“Within the week.”
Published in Darklaw |
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