Servants and Messengers raced around her, while she came to terms with the latest’s shards sent. Possibly the last shards she would receive from the lower realms till new Settlements were founded by Flocks. Maybe, as she studied the Atlas, the outer circle that was supposed to be flooded with safe grounds was bare, nothing remained, even the largest of Settlements were gone now. Lost before the Anointed of various Sanctums even came to a decision whether to rendered aid or not.
That had many on high worried, which in turn had a flock of Messengers hounding her all Rotation for reports on matters. They could help her view the shards, but all had refused, citing the lack of strong enough souls to bear the cursed sights.
Yordeen had lost her temper, to her displeasure, embarrassment and regret linger in her still. The Messengers had yet to return from her outburst, none eager to be harmed like the others. Even her own servants and daughters approached only when abruptly necessary, even then they stayed only as long as needed, before rushing off. She should care, should be fixing the pain she’s caused to the young, but she didn’t. There were too many other things taking her time, too much going wrong at once for her to bother with smaller matters.
All of it made worse with how tired she was, sleep when it rarely did claim her, was restless. The many scenes she’s played witness to had finally come to haunt her, Nightmares roam her dreams now, clawing at her around every turn. If it wasn’t for her bath servants attending to her figure she would be appalling to look at, she didn’t even have the strength to make herself look presentable. A growing trend, if everyone in other sections were being worked, and haunted as her staff had become.
She’d been finally forced to bring her daughters in to help bear the burden of her title. There had been too many shards, too much to do for one soul alone to accomplish, not with the time constraints the ever madding Anointed were placing on them. Her children, as she expected, didn’t take to the task all that well. Most in the first Rotation of helping her developed cursed dreams or suffered small mental meltdowns from seeing things so beyond the scope of their carefree lives. She helped as much as she could, but her tasks kept her busy most of the time. She may gain the needed moments now, or soon to actually sit down with her harmed children and mend wounds. The flow of new shards was a trickle now, compared to the flood it had once been. If her mind and body weren’t so worn, she alone could have dealt with organizing the visions.
But not now, she was too feeble and growing uncaring to work herself to the bone as she had done in the beginning. Now, she only made sure to keep moving, standing helped with that, even though her body begged for her to sit. The alternative was her slowly drifting to sleep while she worked, only to jerk awake by Nightmares sinking fangs into her. It always seemed so real, the realm and cursed dreams blending in such a way that it took her a Sequence to reminder herself it was all an illusion.
So she stood, even when her legs began to cramp, and she had to hold on to a table or chair to stay upright. It was better this way, needed until her task was complete, or her body finally gave out and she was forced into a deep dreamless sleep. Till then she focused her strained eyes on the map before her, the swarm would be heading for them now, though when they would appear in full was a mystery. The Nightmare will waste time searching for more Settlements to claim, unaware that none remained, and no Flocks would be sent to make more. Not until this threat had been dealt with. The decision was met with outcries by those of Worth, the Sanctums were already full in most views, but now with the lack of Flocks. It had gone well passed congested, at least that’s what the reports and her daughters described to her told. She hadn’t the luxury to leave these dwellings long enough to notice the change.
The Anointed weren’t blind to the problem, no this was actually what they wanted. Their actions only confirmed her thoughts, when instead of forcing the lowest and commoners out into Wardless tunnels, they instead let them camp in the Sanctum networks. For the time being Worth wasn’t important, none would be forced out of safe ground. Not instill the time was right, then they would have a swarm of their own to clash with the Nightmares. The Sanctums will be emptied of all but the most important and Worthy.
It wouldn’t be the first time this had happened, though before it wasn’t against a swarm this large, and it was an excuse to get rid of people rather than a necessity. ‘Giver please let it be enough.’ She refused to look down the path of what would happen if a large flock failed. Instead, she turned her attention to the accursed shards on her desk, the images held within still burning clearly in her mind. Scenes of domed Settlements caved in as tides of Nightmares swarmed from all directions. Her people defenseless as the beasts crawled over everything, rending wardless buildings into crumbled ruins within the passings of breaths. But the worst was the many Ancients casual moving about in their ranks, dozens of them ripping everything apart with little effort. They casted their own twisted chants at anything that resembled a threat, or any force that was holding back their children for any length of time.
It was a similar scene that played out from all of the shards, the dimensions of the Ancients changed but the destruction they rot was the same, and the situation that most of her people were helpless to stop the ravaging horde. From what she could tell there were no survivors when the Wards finally collapsed from an extended attack resulting in the walls on all sides falling as one. The attack appeared coordinated in timed strikes, based from the way the walls broke so neatly. Even the largest of the Settlements couldn’t hope to withstand that, not for long anyway. Those within the walls had tried, however, most of the Chanters had spent themselves maintaining the Wards before the walls fell. The cost for that folly was swift as the Ancients crushed everything in their path. Guards, hundreds of them were cast aside or trampled on when they even dared to fight an Ancient. When they didn’t the Ancients ignored them in favor of hunting down Chanters that fought back or breaking into estates, searching for something. The Wielders of the shards could never give her a picture of what. They were, after all, running to channel the images to a Sanctum by the time that started to occur, since those estates were where they had watched the events unfolded unmolested.
She felt cold cursed threaded chills taking her again, her hands and legs shook, and it took much of her will to stay standing. The worst of it passed soon enough, and she stumbled over to one of drawers and pulled out a flask of spirits. She didn’t bother finding a cup to pour it in, she broke the cork and took a large swig of the enchanting drink. Warmth traveled through her dispelling the chill and allowing her to reassert control over her limps. At the rate she’s drinking, she’ll burn through her personal stoke of elixirs before the Tempos end. Another thing she needs to remember to tell her daughters to bring her more of. She returned her attention back to the shards and fished out one of her own empty ones to send a report.
She order scenes based on importance, and listed off suggestions they could use to counteract the threat. Most of which she hoped was obvious to those higher than her, that perhaps they were merely humoring her, or just looking for a second opinion on matters they had already decided on. She blessed that was the case, that those Anointed from below, who in most cases seemed to make the situation worse, were, in the end, a local problem. A few misguided individuals that had worked their way up above the crowds of unwanted they belonged with.
If not, she would do her best to advise the Anointed that was sending word for her counsel. One particular bit of advice offered into the message, was when a flock was formed that it be well equipped to fight against the horde of Nightmares it was being sent to face. No flock full of soulless, with weapons that were best used for mundane tasks. She doubted they would take that advice well, flocks were supposed to be used to get rid of access unwanted. Which in most cases she was fine with, the Giver had seen them unworthy, they had no place with the blessed. But now wasn’t the time to feed this swarm with yet another large easy to kill meal. She made sure that thought was very clear when it seeped into the shard, the unwanted had already created a mess that would take Cycles to deal with, the last thing they needed was blessed making matters worse.
Sighing she placed the shard down, and before noticing what she was doing, closed her eyes and leaned heavily on the table. She felt herself falling and woke with a start, her body close to collapsing on top of her desk. Grunting she grabbed the bottle of elixir and took another large drink, before shuffling towards the gardens in hope that food would keep her vessel going a little longer.
Her servants avoided her, well aware now that this trip was her way to distract herself and force her body to keep going. She took her time, not that she had a choice, her vessel fought and complained about every step she took, begging her to sit down, to close her eyes. She ignored it, refused to listen like before and was rewarded with a cursed dream so horrid she woke awake screaming and gave her daughters a panic attack.
Something she had no intention to recall, so she turned her attention to the Wards, focused on the low steady rhythm of its hymn. The longer she listened the more her worries drifted away, fears replaced with a gentle warmth reminding her that she was safe within Sanctum walls. They would hold unlike the hastily shaped Wards from the unwanted. Their Wards were too dense, to artfully crafted for the beasts outside to overwhelm them so easily. Even if they somehow did, there are thousands of blessed souls that could be called upon to rejuvenate them.
She almost sat down when she arrived at the garden, her musings distracting her of the vessels movements. Pulling flowers from a vine she slowly chewed the petals, letting its sweetness jar her awake. Her mind cleared some, then aided with a hymn most of the fog of her mind cleared away. She allowed herself to lean against the wall, as she focused on her thoughts once more.
They were safe, as the blessed should be, but that didn’t mean they could ignore this problem. Not in the long run, there wasn’t enough room for the unwanted to stay housed within protected walls forever even with the networks. Especially since they contributed nothing to maintain it. But sending them out to the Nightmares was unwise, though the Anointed would still decide to do so. They couldn’t allow the Nightmares to roam freely in the realms below if they did the place would soon become filled with hives, and that couldn’t be allowed.
“Archivist.” The abrupt sound had her ears tighten upward as she turned towards the individual that disturbed her. She didn’t recognize the child. “My apologies for the intrusion, but I’ve brought more shards that the Anointed want organize as soon as possible.” The girl kept her head low, and by the tension in her muscles, it was clear she truly did not want to be with her.
Yordeen popped the remainder of the flower into her mouth, the flood of sweet nectar stimulating her aching form. “I presume there on my desk.” She said in a worn tone. The messenger bowed “Yes Archivist, and I’ve been asked to receive any reports that you wish to send.” Yordeen walked past her “Follow me then child.”
She didn’t hurry back to her station, not only because her body fought her every move, but she didn’t care and was in no mood to view more shards. When she did arrive at her desk she was met with a large pile of new shinnying stones, which she grunted at and grabbed the shard that held her report and forced it into the messenger hands. Yordeen grabbed the woman’s face and made the child look into her eyes. “Do not peer into this shard, there are many things held within that will curse a weak mind.” She let go, and child nodded at her, hurriedly pocketing the shard, and taking off without a word. Yordeen normally wouldn’t treat a messenger so forcefully. But that was before she forgot to tell one of them of the dangers of her shards, she was reminded with wailing screams not too long after the child left.
Groaning as she rubbed her eyes, she raised the flask of spirits and guzzling down many mouths full before placed it roughly on the table. Aches and pains faded as the warmth of the drink spread through her, she relaxed in that feeling for some time before facing the task at hand. Begrudgingly she grabbed a shard from the new tray and connected to it.
She was outside and by the looks of things part of a patrol, a rather small one. The people around her were alert, yet gave motions and looks of boredom or annoyance. That changed when one moment the tunnels were deathly silent, the next a low rumble shook around them. The patrol stopped, ears went upright as the sound of stone churning increased in volume. The ground shook more and more, a hand wave and those around her pushed closer together forming barriers around themselves.
They waited, her heart was racing, chills beginning to course through her as she looked forward down the tunnel that broke off into many other widening passages. From it, a mass of shapes appeared Nightmares, mostly Carvers which were larger than any she had seen before. The tide of movement stopped for the briefest breath as the beasts caught sight of them. Nightmares screeched their calls of prey before the mass moved forward again, this time racing towards them.
“Widen the barriers!” yelled their Taskmaster, and people hurried to obey, the barriers spread, stretching to the width of the tunnel. She and her fellow Chanters poured their souls into the construct, strengthening it as best they could before the wall of flesh struck. When it did there was a passing moment where it looked as if the shielding was going to fail. The barriers began to bend inward, and those around her pushed more of themselves into the chant. Slowly the shielding pushed the horde back, becoming straight once more, even when claws and fangs smashed against the surface.
“Burn them, but don’t send the first layer flying off, not yet,” said the Taskmaster. Shielding glowed and the beasts cried, the Maker of the vision looked away from the sight, as Nightmares began to melt unable to retreat as their brethren kept them stuck in place. Yordeen could sympathize with the child, even after all her Cycles seeing such things never became any less revolting.
The Nightmares even as their fellows screamed death refused to move from the shielding, Their Taskmaster threw curses at the beast before calming. “Alright, we’re going to fire off the first layer, while the things burn we’ll retreat. Slowly” he put a lot of emphases into that word. “We’ll fight the things off once we’re closer to the gate and can request for aid.” Taking a centering breath “burn them now.” The first layer brightened and tried to move forward but the mass pressing against it was too much. Not that any of the Patrol cared, as they walked away reinforcing the barriers around them. The molten layer lasted for a Sequence, liquefying everything in front of it before it fizzled out and the swarm rushed forwards. Not so smoothly as many of the first to push stumbled over the dead, and melted flesh.
The Patrol performed the same trick, again lengthening a barrier, then retreating away from it. Yordeen sped the vision as this repeated a third time, and was glad she did so as the Patrol kept this up another forty times before the Gate came into sight. They retreat faster then, and pressed themselves against the Warded door, the Taskmaster placed a shard on its surface sending messages through the network. While this was taking place the small cavern the door was housed in filled with Nightmares. Pulling away from the gate the taskmaster sent orders “Aid will arrive around ten maybe twenty something Sequence, we’re to clear this mess. Prime the barriers, we’re sending them all off, then keeping the rest held at bay with wind.” They did as instructed, though most were grimed faced at the news. Shieling glowed, flying forward and encasing the entire cavern. People raised their arms and waited for the barriers to disappear.
When they did, the horde that been chasing them went crashing backward as winds left none intact. Yordeen hastened time again, watched for anything interesting to show, before finally disconnecting herself from the shard and tossed it with the other viewed. She went through another dozen before grabbing her drink and walked over to the Atlas.
The visions all showed the same scene, passages that once were barren of any activity, becoming flooded by a stampeding swarm. She guessed by what she’d already seen that this is likely occurring to every passage near a Sanctum, the Nightmares already done scouring the low realms and now turned their sights upward. Once the pest starts mapping out the Sanctum networks, the Anointed won’t take long before calling for Flocks to be formed. The clanking of metal to stone had her turning, then scowling as another Messenger had arrived with a tray full of shards. Her look had the child hurrying off.
Huffing she forced her addled body back towards her desk ‘Blessed Giver please let this shell collapse so I can have some needed rest.’
A myriad of women circled Dailin, servants, Maidens, all of whom were cladding him in layers of clothing. The last piece to be placed on him was a cloak with a large enough hood to house his ears.
Afterward, they looked him hover making sure no skin was showing before one of the Maidens handed him a mask. It appeared to be made of gold and silver, with lenses covering the eyes sockets. He noticed as he put it on, that the interior was lined with a comfortable fabric. A look around revealed that even though the lenses were thick, it didn’t affect his vision. It was a very nice addition to his wardrobe and something that would have been pleasant to have earlier during his time in this realm. Now, for the time being, he didn’t have to hide his feelings behind a blank face or false smile. Now he was allowed to show his concern, where before he hoped he had been displaying a look of calm.
His Maiden were running around flustered, more so than the last couple of days, when his family had acquired a new estate to live in. A wonderful blessing as their current home had long gone past being full, to annoyingly cramped. He was rather tired of stepping around or over children sleeping in the halls. At the time it also had him feel like a failure, as was apparently not Worth enough to provide proper rooms for his children. Even though he knew for a fact he should have, he was a quarter of glowing light now, his mana veins running across the majority of his body. He hadn’t seen anyone else of his appearance as of yet, which was probably why his Maidens had wrapped him in so much cloth.
It might become his new norm with how the last batch of women he had to lay with looked at him. They stared for full minute, not moving, eyes darting all over his body, smiling madly. That had been a long rough night of love, even with the incense, his body had a hard time keeping up with the women’s vigor. That and the chills he got from Unthee who stayed at the door of the grove watching his performances didn’t help. The looks of hate weren’t for him, that much was clear, since she never once looked at him, instead she glared at the women, her eyes screaming of murder. That had made things difficult, at least for him, it didn’t seem the mad women felt unnerved by it.
It was possible they may never have even noticed her presence, as they were fixated on him, running hands across his body, tracing the lines of mana that coursed through him. It wasn’t pleasant, he had always known none cared about him, as a person or individual, that he was merely a rare creature to be breed with. But the eyes they gave him, the hunger, looks of absolute want for his body, was impossible to ignore. At least his Maidens put the effort into making him think they cared about him as a person. Through their masks were becoming increasingly thin, it was becoming common for him to catch them just staring at him from the corner of his eye.
He must be drawling in untold amounts of wealth, or Worth, with how women were clamoring for him. He didn’t need his Maidens to tell him what they got in return for laying with strangers again. He wasn’t blind, that mere days later an estate had been gifted to them, or as they put it ‘found’ an acceptable offer.
“Is he ready?” echoed Younna voice from the hall, before she came striding in, a handful of their daughters following behind. They all looked rather stressed, he would too, once outside in that suffocating mess of people traveling about. He prayed that their new home was relatively close.
“Yes, Prime Maiden,” said one of the servants, who parted to let Younna get a good look at him. Like the others she scanned him up and down, making sure not a hint of skin showed. “How do I look Love?” he said “Imposing? Noble? Ominous? Or maybe a fool with too much clothing draped over him?”
“You look magnificent my Heart,” she said with a smile “One to be admired, even with your soul hidden.” She walked up to him pulling on clothing, straightening it or removing unwanted folds. “It is a shame that can’t be allowed to see you in all your glory, but many are of low cast, and your light would be too much for the likes of them.”
“Well if you say so Love, I’ll put my misgivings aside then.” He said the words with warmth even though his face didn’t share in the expression. It was a clever lie on her part, if he did go out their normally clothed as everyone else, heads would turn, and perhaps even the traffic would stop as people stared with molesting eyes. It would bring all sorts of unneeded attention to the lot of them. But none of it would be because they couldn’t handle his light.
“Thank you Heart” she took his hand, and they left the room, their followers hurrying behind them. “It’ll only be a Round or two of bearing with that cumbersome garb, we’ll have you stripped the moment we’re within closed walls again.”
“No need to worry about it Love, it’s not a burden that I can’t live with.” He preferred it even, he would have done the same, nowhere near the extent had they gone to, but his major body marks would have covered. He was tired of being looked at as a prized beast if he had to wear thick clothing so be it.
She smiled back at him, before returning her attention ahead. The once full rooms and halls were now empty, the first things to be taken over to the new estate. It appeared he was the last thing to be moved, the one prize they treasured most of all, the one thing they at this point coveted.
It showed as every able member of their family was present at the tunnel exit that led to other sections of the large building they didn’t own. Younna sent signals to Unthee, her fingers moving in subtle ways that conveyed some form of speech. He didn’t know how complex it got but he had witnessed more than once it allowed them to get across information in enough detail that they didn’t need to use words when they didn’t want to. Which was normally when he was around. Unthee didn’t look happy, a common thing these days, she only seemed to relax and smile when he was in her clutches.
Zulae with Sothsea entered their section of the estate, “Everything is prepared Younna” said Zulae, while Sothsea said others things with their silent speech. Younna grip tightened for the briefest of moments, before relaxing “Then let’s be off.” Turning to him “Stay by me Heart we’ll get you through these unwanted in a timely manner.”
“As you wish Love” he chuckled “I’m in your hands.” She smiled again, a hint of confusion marking her but she didn’t comment on his words. She motioned with her freehand which could be conveying far more than he ever relieved. His Daughters grouped close around him Younna, Unthee, Zulae and Sothsea. Servants exited first, followed with his Chosen sons, then his lower Maidens, and finally his group.
They exited the building rather quickly most halls void of people, and when there was, they quickly stepped aside to let them pass. The moment his escort stepped outside things changed abruptly, screams rang, as a mob of people shouted towards him. The wave of words overlapping making it impossible for him to decipher their wants at first, and by the time he started singling out calls, everything went silent as Unthee and his daughters began to chant a chorus. He could see the strangers screaming at him still, but there was a vague transparent dome around him, keeping out most of the sound. Barriers formed around them as his sons formed a chant. Younna gripped his hand tight, then pulled him forward in a hurried pace. The Barriers pushed people aside, as his group raced to get away from the heckling mob.
He knew why, the answers coming to him as he moved mana to his ears increasing the volume they could catch until the words the strangers yelled at him register even through the dome of silence. Offers, scores of them, many of the Houses he knew from his time searching for a new Backer to work for. They were all calling for him now, bribing him with endless wonders, it seemed the messengers were almost fighting with themselves, one-upping each other to be seen as the best deal. Much of it though was something he had already heard before. Unlike the women who were hounding his group House Vorse had been subtle with their offerings to him. Somehow sneaking a message into one of the new shards Sothsea had given him with information on Nightmares. It had been quite the surprise when one moment he was watching a battle, then inside an elaborately decorated and furnished chamber. With a gorgeous women holding a shard staring into a mirror.
Oh, the things she promised, how in awe she was of him when her daughter birthed a child he had seeded, got to see how blessed it was. She wanted him and sung him praise that even he found sickening as it carried on. Most of it was things his current Maidens said on a daily basis. Though it was amusing when she began to talk down about his Maiden, how they were too lowly for him, not Worthy to be in his presence. That he belonged with her, and others of the Givers truly blessed.
The memory made him smile ‘Blessed, if they know the truth, know just how easy it was to grasp power.’ Ultimately he ignored the offer to join her family, as he was with the others that were screaming their gifts towards him now. None of it was new, just more of the same, except for their demands, which they may not have even seen them as such. Every deal described how he would lay with the Worthiest of women every day, his every need met, and that he never need to mingle with the lowly again. It sounded all very pretty, painted a nice picture even though in truth he was going to be placed into a gilded cage. The things they offered were pricey, and once he was theirs, they would make sure he was worth the expense. But the worst of it, past all the trinkets and honeyed words, was they wanted him, desired him, but they didn’t need him. He would merely be a new addition to an already large House.
Unlike his current situation with his present Maidens, to them he was their everything, their key to better lives, they couldn’t risk losing him. So he could do what he wanted for the most part, when the time called for it. When his instincts to keep training, to keep improving himself finally left him alone. He hoped it would, he was growing quite spent with the constant feeling of dread hovering over him.
He hissed as he was slammed from his thoughts as ear piecing voices screamed out to him. The Messengers were weaving their own chants, amplifying their voices to fight against the sound barrier. He quickly pulled the mana from his ears, curses nearly leaving his lips, as the pain traveled into his skull. He barely thought as he hymned the correct note, and the pain was removed. His Maidens and daughters stirred from the quick spell, Younna glanced at him “Everything is fine Love, just bit my tongue.” he said and she looked away without a word, her eyes searching the crowds of people.
It has been some time since his last appearance outside, and he couldn’t believe that the lanes and passages had become even more crowded. His sons had a permanent shield up pushing people aside, doing their best to be gentle. He did a quick look behind him, to verify if they were being followed.
They were the messengers doing their best to keep up and yell at him, he even saw others slowly adding to the group of hecklers. The screams of offers attracting other Houses to start pedaling to him, their voices were muffed even with chants aiding them. The sound barrier growing in thickness as Sothsea, then Zulae added themselves to maintain the construct.
As the time ticked by and the masses continued to grow in number, it became clear he could never venture out alone. Doing so would have him fighting to reach his destination pushing people aside, and be clawed at by women trying to gain his attention. No, he was going to be forced to stay indoors till something was done with this population. ‘Gods and a House sold a building to his Maidens just to get some of their daughter to lay with him.’ Looking around it was no wonder his girls failed to find a new home, there was none to be had. The crowds were making him claustrophobic, his thick clothes certainly weren’t helping either. Nor his daughters leaning close to him half aware of their surroundings as they maintained the sound barrier.
It wasn’t holding up all that well the words from outside slowly rising in volume as more messengers worked their way towards them.
“Dailin Ba” the words cut off as his Maidens added more mana to the construct. Looking ahead it seemed another group of hecklers had formed together sending amplified calls. It must be rather loud as the crowds sent agitated looks towards the women. ‘This kind of attention would have been nice a few months ago when I needed it.’ Many of the Houses calling for him now, were ones he had offered his services to before his Maidens took him in. He never heard a word from any of them, till now.
His sons moved shielding to push the hecklers and other folk out of the way, less kindly than they had been before. More words began to break through, segments of gifts planned to be offered to him, places he should go if he wished to accept their House offer. Younna grip grew tight, and he was sure he heard a growl come from her at one point. Every word that got through made his Maidens tense, more than once he noticed then glancing back to see how he was reacting to the messengers. He acted aloof looking around and paying the hecklers little attention.
This game of ignorance continued past the two-hour mark, as the crowds of people got so thick that his family was forced to wait for passages to thin before they dared to force their way through. All the while messengers sang at him, more and more words becoming coherent as the sound barrier thinned. His daughters were breathing hard, even ‘blessed’ this was a long stretch to keep up a chorus. He was going to take pity and aid his mana to the ensemble, but his children pulled out small hearts from their hidden pockets. The Hearts went dim, and his daughter straightened, the realm once more silent.
It was another hour before his home came into view, the building as a whole was smaller than the one they left. But the whole building was theirs, rather than a small section of it. This one was shaped with multiple domes merging into each other. The entrance was a large oval opening, with a door of bronze. His children and Maidens hurriedly pushed him inside, rushing him past the main lobby and down a tunnel. They maintained the sound barrier all the way to his new chamber, before finally dissolving it.
He removed his mask, took a deep breath and sighed, happy to be away from so many people. Younna pulled from him, as servant’s rushed into his room. “Help him with his clothes, find him something more convenient to wear.”
They bowed as some went towards the closet to fetch things, why multiple hands began removing his clothes. Younna looked at him her eyes confusing as many emotions fought for the surface. “The words from those lowly women, pay them little heed Heart, they wish only to get their vile hands on you.”
He raised his own hand, and her words stopped “I know of the offers Love, many Houses seek me, have gotten word to me.” Her breathing became frantic, she looked absolutely horrified, all of his Maidens did, even the servants who were once attending him froze.
He took Younna hands gently caressing them. “Know that I refused all of them, and continue to do so” he looked into her eyes “You’re my Loves, and this my family, did you really think I would abandon?”
They were left dumbfounded by his words, but they did relax, didn’t look about ready to kill over. Sothsea began to sob, with Unthee comforting her. He continued looking at Younna, who was left with her mouth slightly opened, words failing to form.
Zulae broke the silence, her words soft and weak “Your Worth is well beyond us, the other Houses know this, know that someone so blessed should be with them. Only they can offer gifts worthy of you.”
“That may be true,” he said still looking into Younna eyes “but such things mean little to me, only family matters.”
‘Only people who need me matter.’ He thought, and oh how they needed him.
Younna lips began to quiver, eyes growing damp, and she rammed her head into his chest, just as the tears began to fall. Her arms wrapped around him tightly as her body began to shiver, her muffled cries still loud in the quiet room. He folded his arms around her and looked to Zulae.
“But” people tensed “This business of keeping me in the dark as to end, it does none of us any good.”
Zulae inclined her head “As Founder, it is your right to lead. None amongst us can challenge your Worth.”
“You misunderstand, “he said “I’m not taking leadership from any of you, you all have led our family well, and I hope you continue to do so. I merely want to be informed of the goings-on of our House, to know what threatens us, or what you all need to help grow our family.”
Zulae bowed her head lower perhaps to hide her tears “Thank you Bondmate” her voice cracking.
He looked down at Younna and began to brush her hair. “There is no need for that, you’re my Loves I trust you all to make decisions to benefit us all.”
Silence issued his Maidens overcome with shock from the flux of emotions, they looked exhausted, this fear of him leaving was likely eating at them for some time. He broke the silence “Don’t waste your selves dimming the voices outside, well, not unless they start to annoy you, just don’t think you have to, I care nothing for the offers they pedal.”
‘Since there all the same, there comes a point when more women isn’t a gift anymore but instead a form of work.’
Unthee holding back her own tears “That would have been nice to know, before we travelled here.”
He chuckled. “Apologies Love, I didn’t know they would heckle us in such a manner, most must assume I never got their messages.” Unthee looked at him “We mean you never told them you refused their offers?”
He coughed “I didn’t really have any means to tell them, without going to their estates myself, and I didn’t want to cause any worry from my departure.”
Unthee laughed, and she coughed a few times as it began to morph into cries “Thank you for that. Beloved. We’ll help you send messengers when things are in order.” She looked to Zulae her hands moving in silent speech. Zulae nodded and walked closer to him “Come Sister there much to be done, let us leave our Bondmate to relax. Younna parted very reluctantly, and only when Zulae began to pull on her, she planted a kiss on his lips before she fully broke from his embrace. His Maidens hurried out the door, and the servants who’d been still as statues during his bonding moment sprung back into action.
He spread his arms allowing them an easier time removing the layers of clothing, and not long he was freed from their confines and wrapped into a simple robe. They left him then to attend to a multitude of another task his Maidens likely placed upon their shoulders. No longer distracted he observed his new room, which was nearly three times the size of his old one. A king sized bed laid in the middle of the oval room, larger curtains hung from the ceiling, flowing down the sides of walls. Light stone lanterns encompassed the room, leaving little in the dark. As always a soft carpet padded the floor, accompanied with body sized pillows lying about. Colored glass encased the ceiling, the changing colors painting the image of an indoor garden. It was a lovely upgrade, even though his last room was already luxurious enough.
He walked over to his bed and collapsed into the silk sheets, his muscles relaxing at the touch and comfort of the padded bedding. He hadn’t done anything and yet he was exhausted from the three-hour walk. Moving about crowds, dealing with so many people, it was all very taxing to him ‘Ha, and they thought I wanted to lead this family, how little they know me.’ Even if he had a liking for such a thing, he had doubts he’d try, not with the number of memories he had to call on. More than one showed kings making their kingdoms into things of wonder only for it to be stolen from under them by a rival or friend. He had no interest in receiving that end, not again.
“Blessed one” He tensed, a barrier forming around him by instinct as he pushed his body and turned to look at the individual who spoke. A woman, clad in tight clothing and wearing an ash colored mask. She was on her knees and bowed her head when he looked towards her.
He kept his voice calm, even though his heart had sped up, and he was looking around for other hidden threats. “Who are you?”
“A messenger from House Yorn, offering gifts, and the hope you’ll honor us with your presence.” Her voice was smooth, and sweet, likely someone who be given the job to sing him honeyed lies every day. She pulled out a shard offering it to him with open palms, while her head remained lowered. He let the Barrier drop and quickly grabbed it before he surrounding himself in a shield again. He had unpleasant memories involving people concealed behind masks.
He looked down at the shard and carefully connect to, slowing working the links while at the same time maintaining his protections. His eyes closed, then open to a room-sized mirror, a host of women looking at him, or well, their reflections. They all were beautiful, which was common in truth he’d yet to see any woman that wasn’t attractive. But some were more appealing than others, and these before him made his current Maidens seem lacking. That and every single one had clear lines of mana coursing through them.
“Greetings Blessed one, we are the Matriarch of House Yorn and send word to you, for we desire you to join us, to join those you belong with, to be among the Givers privileged.”
‘Gods their all the same, the words may change some but the meaning remains, we’re special so join us.’
“You may have any one of us to be your Bondmate” the women continued and smiled “All of us if you so desire, and our daughters. Joins us and you’ll live within Hadthel Towers, away from the undesired masses.”
‘And there once more is the cage.’ He sped through the rest of the vision, all of it similar to others, just on a far grander scale. The vision ended and his real eyes opened, then widened as he looked up and found Unthee behind the clad women. Her arms around the intruder's neck, the head now in a very odd angle. He hadn’t heard a sound, and that had him shiver
“Beloved,” said Unthee pained “I.” she paused “apologies for letting you see this ill scene, I had thought you’d be within the visions longer.”
He forced himself to relaxed “Its fine Love, just startled, it good to see your unharmed” he looked at the corpse “I had expected more of a fight from this intruder.”
Unthee voice got heated, hate-filled “I’m sure she would have, but she got lost in” Unthee paused “admiring you, my Beloved, you're rather revealed right now.” He looked down, and yes his robe wasn’t hiding much, it was rather loose fitting. He pulled the robe about him covering himself, and his chest that was plainly open. “Right, well I’m glad to have been of help in dealing with this problem.”
Unthee dropped the corpse and gave it a good kick, before walking over and embracing him. She seemed quite upset, so he hummed a calming spell, adding a bit of healing to its mix as well.
She giggled, and pulled away enough to look at him, her hands and eyes traveling across his neck. “She didn’t harm me, Love, I never gave her a chance for that.” At least not when she had revealed herself.
“I know beloved, nor would any harm you, it’s just a habit of mine to check.” Said Unthee her hand starting to work their way quickly downward. To his surprise not to frisk him, but to swiftly grab the crystal in his hand.
She clenched the shard, her face a mask of utter wrath before she hid it. “Another offer,” he said “This time from House Yorn” the shard dropped from her hands as if it had burnt her. She turned to him with a face of utter horror and betrayal “You said you wouldn’t leave us.”
“And I’m not,” he said thoroughly confused, which she soon followed “But its House Yorn, they live in a Tower.”
“What of it? This is my family Unthee, you my Love, I will not abandon you for some building, to live with strangers that care nothing for me.”
She stared at him her head subtlely shaking as she looked at him with bewilderment.
Her mouth twisted upward and she began to laugh, then sob, trying very hard not to cry in front of him, she failed and large tears began to fall. He pulled her closer and rubbed her back, they stayed wrapped together for some time as he waited for her to compose herself. When she finally pulled away she stared lovingly at him.
“I’ll go let the others know Beloved, and I would ask that you let us post servants in your room for some time,” Unthee said her hands playing with his ears.
“If it makes you feel better Love, then of course, do what you must for our family. He said and she smiled passionately, then got up and hymned to the corpse which lifted off the ground and followed her out the door. The sight of it made him shiver again, as the head hanged there loosely attached to the body.
She may have been a messenger, but she could have easily been an assassin too, and for all his supposed blessings, all his magic she could have killed him, merely by snapping his neck when he was unaware of her. In that moment watching the corpse go, he wanted nothing more than that not to happen, that his neck couldn’t be so easily broken. To his shock, the mana in him answered. The excess moving upward to his neck, and he could feel it slowly strengthening the muscles and bone.
He couldn’t help but smile.