Lust and Propriety

Lust and Propriety

Status: In Progress

Genre: Gay and Lesbian

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Gay and Lesbian

Summary

Winter Maestri leads Peraza after his parents' suspicious and tragic death. Andyvion, a servant from the household of the new king of the neighboring land, leaves his home and his mates to warn Winter of a plot. Winter will do anything to keep himself and his land free, even take on a fake mate. But Hazeth Montcroix is a bit more than Winter expected and the fake mating may become real, no matter how Winter fights his feelings for Hazeth.

Summary

Winter Maestri leads Peraza after his parents' suspicious and tragic death. Andyvion, a servant from the household of the new king of the neighboring land, leaves his home and his mates to warn Winter of a plot. Winter will do anything to keep himself and his land free, even take on a fake mate. But Hazeth Montcroix is a bit more than Winter expected and the fake mating may become real, no matter how Winter fights his feelings for Hazeth.

Chapter3 (v.1) - Prologue: Part 3

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: December 16, 2016

Reads: 324

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: December 16, 2016

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WARNING: A bit of a spoiler down below for Lust and Chastity!

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Yellow eyes narrowed as they looked at the clock on the wall. His servants knew that there would be hell to pay if he was even a second late to his quarterly meeting with the Mortons. After a moment of thought, he decided to tug off the tie in his hair so that the mid-back olive locks flowed free. Rathburn had a touch of pride for his hair, which had a healthy shine that was fit for a ruler such as himself. Besides, it was the one thing she didn't have. The well-built king stood up from the table, just about to bellow out an order when a short maid with wide hips rushed into the dining room. "My office?" He questioned.

"Cleared and ready, Sir." The maid responded in a soft voice as she quickly started placing the cups, utensils, and other odds and ends on the tray to clean up.

"And the twins?" Rathburn asked. He raised a brow when he saw the slight blush on her cheeks as she lowered her aquamarine eyes. However, his entire mansion regularly lusted after his harem on a daily basis, so he thought nothing of it.

"They are already there waiting for you, Sir." The maid added as she picked up the tray. "Anything else?"

"No, you're dismissed," Rathburn ordered. The maid bowed and left and the king all but prowled his way out of the dining room and through the corridors. As he opened the doors of his office, he regarded one of his most prized possessions, the Morton twins. Two regal beauties with curly purple locks and sharper purple eyes. If there was one good thing that came from the union of their parents, it was their existence.

The king regarded their clothes and let out an annoyed sound. "No, that simply won't do." He stated as the arsenic symbol on his forehead began to glow a sickly yellow against his grayish, pale skin. Rathburn reached out his left hand towards the twins and moved it horizontally before them. Immediately, the clothes that the twins were wearing began to change into long, tiered gypsy skirts with exposed sides and sleeveless netted shirts in shades of violet.

Vincent and Nico looked down at their altered clothing. They said nothing and revealed nothing in their expressions of what they thought of the change. Their lovely eyes were distant. The only sign of their distress was how they held each other's hands, but they didn't cling. So, it wasn't very noticeable.

"Slightly better," Rathburn spoke aloud before giving out orders. "Nico, it's your turn to lay down across my desk. Vincent, come sit on my lap." As Nico laid down, he pressed his hand against the center of his chest as he regarded the view. Yes, he could be seen from all angles. "Lift one of your legs..." He instructed, feeling pleased to note that the entire leg and some of his hip was visible.

"As for you," Rathburn continued as he turned his attention to the twin on his lap. He tilted his chin up and dove down to give him a fresh and vicious hickey on the side of his neck.

Vincent gasped, repressing a disgusted shudder. He neither moved toward or away from his master. Similarly, Nico held his pose. He neither helped not hindered the King's activities.

They were props, and they knew it.

The king's trimmed beard scraped along Vin's skin as his lips moved towards the edge of his collarbone to leave a hickey there, as well. When he pulled away, Rathburn glanced back towards Nico. For a final touch of flare, he reached over to tug the netted shirt halfway up his chest. "There." He rumbled just as one of his butlers peeked his head in the door.

"Sir, the Mortons are here to see you." The butler announced.

"Let them in," Rathburn responded in a pleased tone of voice, the smug expression on his face was frighteningly devious.

The King couldn’t see his face, allowing Vincent shut to his eyes when he heard the door click open and Lord and Lady Morton were announced. Nico's eyes were open but sightless, staring at nothing, not meeting anyone's gaze. His expression was blank, even as his parents bowed before the desk that he was artfully draped across.

They didn't have to look to know that their father, Victor, would be handsome with his blue-violet curls pulled back as he towered over everyone in the room or that their mother would be fighting back the fire in her cranberry pink eyes when she saw Rathburn and the way he treated her babies. Most would have wisely feared such a look in the tiny woman's gaze; there was murder hidden in her irises. Not a single mauve hair was out of place in her smooth short bob. Her clothes were nothing but modest and ladylike, befitting her station. However, there was a warrior within her. When she saw her babies being treated like perverse window dressings, the fighter, and mother in her cried out for blood.

Yet it wasn't the time for such things. Instead, she bowed and greeted the King respectfully. She could wait.

"Victor," Rathburn practically purred as he slowly stroked Vincent's side. "How goes the construction of my honorary statue?" His gaze never left the purple eyes of the man he once called a friend. Without even glancing aside, he also addressed the woman beside him. "Lady Morton? Are the suppliers treating you well?"

Gemma's eyes were glued to the king's hands as they traveled along her son's body. "The suppliers are doing their best." She responded in a clipped voice.

"Yes," Victor said quickly before his mate could say more. "We've had some difficulties with access and delivery. The roadways are fine in the urban centers. However, in all other areas, the streets and highways have deteriorated greatly." Eyes that matched the twins' darted from his sons to the man stroking them like pets. He took a calming breath and continued. "A thought was put forward that perhaps a very small portion of the funds going towards your very nice statue could be used for road maintenance. I've been assured that minor changes could be made that wouldn't affect the final look of the piece, but could save enough to deal with the road problems and still have enough for bridge upkeep."

Victor looked hopeful while Gemma continued to look as though she'd tasted something bitter.

"As thorough as ever, Victor." Rathburn mused as he placed a hand on Nico's knee and slowly slid it down the thigh, giving the center a squeeze. "If you can re-arrange the funds with minimal fall-out, then you have my permission." He let go of Nico's leg and dragged his other hand back up Vincent's side, gently pinching the young man's nipple between his fingers. "If it was the roads and not the suppliers, you should have stated as much, Lady Morton."

"We've told you about the run-down highways before!" Gemma hissed. "You really seem to like listening from-" Before she could say more, Victor placed a hand on her shoulder. She frowned as she glanced up at him, but stopped the beginning of her rant.

Vincent held back a flinch as the King gave his side a harsh pinch. Vin knew the signal well. He stretched his arms up to wrap them around Rathburn's neck and leaned in to allow himself to be kissed. It was supposed to look spontaneous like it was Vincent's idea. They had tried it with Nico once at a similar meeting, but the younger twin had been unable to hide his hesitance. Gemma had nearly blackened Rathburn's yellow eye by the end of that meeting and Nico had been punished severely. From then on, Vincent had volunteered for the more stomach-turning aspects of such meetings.

Rathburn's smirk widened as he dove down to claim the young man's lips in a bruising kiss. One of his hands reached up to rake the curly, purple locks to the side as his other hand reached down to cup the twin's backside.

Gemma shifted as if to say something or to rip her son out of the king's grasp, but then she let out a little gasp of shock. As Rathburn's fingers curled Vincent's hair aside, she caught sight of a unique marking on the back of her son's neck. She lifted a hand to her mouth and reached over to point it out to her husband when her younger son caught her gaze.

Nico had seen what she had, his violet eyes widening. Nico stretched languidly, running his fingers through his hair. He turned his head, flashing the mating mark on the back of his own neck. He looked his mother and then his father in the eyes, giving his head a slight shake as he pressed a finger to his lips. He then easily slipped back into the contrived pose the King had put him into.

The marking was undeniably the same on the back of both her sons' necks...a striking eye of a peacock feather. Gemma took hold of Victor's hand and glanced up at him to verify that he saw what she had seen, as well.

It was a good thing that the King was distracted. Victor couldn't have hidden his amazed look. That was not any crest that they knew, and it was certainly not the harsh-looking symbol on Rathburn's forehead. Questions and concerns swirled through their minds, but the parents heeded their youngest son's warning. The King would not be pleased if his favorite playthings had snuck a mate under his nose.

However, Vincent's reluctant kiss could only distract Rathburn for so long. He wanted to see Victor's and Gemma's faces after witnessing their precious child appear to initiate a kiss. As he pulled away, Rathburn was not disappointed. His smirk grew even wider as he regarded the lingering traces of shock on both their faces. It left him quite satisfied with Vincent's performance.

"If that is all, then if Lady Morton and her sons would wait outside as I speak privately with Victor? I do, indeed, have some foreign affairs to look into later today." He admitted.

Gemma looked on as her sons slowly walked away from the king as if they were prey that didn't want a predator to give chase. She walked out into the hall with them.

"Where can we talk?" She asked softly.

Nico took one of his mother's small strong hands and Vincent took the other. In moments, they were tucked into a small forgotten tea room.

"Mother," the boys sobbed as they fell to the couch with Gemma.

Nico slid to the floor, resting his cheek on his mother's knee as he looked up at her adoringly. Vincent curled into her side with his face snuggled into her shoulder. She was a tiny woman, at least a foot shorter than the twins and two feet shorter than her gentle husband. Yet, she easily gathered her boys to her for these few moments until she'd have to leave them again.

"Now then, my loves," She mused out loud as she massaged Nico's scalp with a hand and pressed a kiss to Vincent's cheek. "Did your father and I really see what we saw behind your necks?"

"His name's Andyvion," Vincent told her with what was the first genuine happiness she'd seen from either of her sons in years.

"He's perfect, Mama," Nico whispered as tears sparkled in his eyes "He's an angel."

Gemma gently traced the chevron markings on both her sons' foreheads. "Andyvion," She tested the name. "I'm eager to meet him."

The twins sighed.

"I don't know when you will," Nico admitted.

"He's in hiding as a maid here in the manor," Vincent explained.

"If Dukie finds out..." Nico paled.

"When he finds out." Vincent petted his brother's soft curls. "We won't be able to keep this a secret forever, Coco." He looked to his mother. "When it's discovered we'll have to run or send Andyvion to safety...away from here."

The petite woman was surprised at their conviction. She was more curious than ever to see the man who drew such a protective reaction from her boys.

"Your father and I are doing what we can. Rathburn will slip up, and when he does, we'll have Peraza and Zirao Zion on our side." She affirmed.

"There is some kind of big to-do tonight," Nico said conspiratorially. "There are servants from all over in advance of their masters."

Vincent took a slip of paper he’d hidden in the heel of his shoe and put it in his mother's hand.

"We made a list of everyone who has sent a personal servant here for the party," Gemma's eldest explained.

"Dukie is careful to make sure no one ever says anything in front of us," Nico continued. "But we have eyes and ears."

"Great work," Gemma replied as she hid the list in her purse. "Sweethearts, remember...if any of this gets to be too much, your father and I will pull you out no matter what will happen." She insisted. "I would take Rathburn down with my own hands."

They clung to their mother, shaking their heads wildly.

"Even if you succeeded," Nico gasped.

"Those loyal to him would see you dead!" Vincent finished.

"Father needs you," they told her sadly.

Silence weighed heavily on them for a moment.

"If...If something happens to us," Nico whispered. "If it's Rathburn's doing that ends us, you have to promise to wait for the right moment for vengeance."

"Don't throw your lives away," Vincent agreed, looking pained. "We know you'll stop him." He glanced at his brother. "We were close to giving up, Mama...To letting it all end..."

Tears formed in the fierce woman's eyes as her expression shifted from determination to concern. "No, my sweethearts!" She gasped. "Never think like that. Without you, everything your father and I have done will have been in vain. We want our country to be safe again, for you to be safe." Gemma explained as she all but crushed both her sons to herself in a tight hug.

"No," Nico gasped, as his mother squeezed the air out of him. "We were giving up...Not anymore. Andy..."

Their smiles were soft and dreamy. Gemma knew that look. It was how Victor looked after he'd lifted her up for a quick sweet kiss. It was how their father looked when he spoke of Gemma.

"My, my...I'm liking this Andy more and more." Gemma admitted with a trembling smile. "Still, that my boys reached that level of low..." The rest was a hissed whisper. "If I ever get the chance, I'll castrate him."

"It's not..." Nico mumbled.

"That bad," Vincent finished, but they couldn't look Gemma in the eyes when they said it.

It was that bad. It was worse than that, even. They'd never let their mother know the depravities and pain they were subjected to. She would tear Rathburn apart with her bare hands and burn the manor to the ground if she suspected half of the cruelties they endured daily. When she asked if they were treated badly, they lied. They did everything they could to convince her that Rathburn mostly enjoyed parading them in front of her, but was busy with the rest of his harem when they weren't visiting. Usually, they couldn't successfully lie to their mother. Desperation drove them to make sure she was convinced. Some days it was harder to convince her.

That day was one of those days.

"We will take you home right now, you only have to say the word." Gemma reminded them.

The twins just shook their heads. They couldn't protect themselves, but they could keep their mother from being executed and their father from joining their ranks in the King's harem.

Gemma pressed her hand to the side of each of their faces. "We love you and are proud of you both. Stay strong together." She said.

"Yes, Mama," they answered obediently, allowing themselves to be soothed and protected, just for a little while.

Gemma pressed a kiss to each of their temples and let out a sigh. "Now, it's time to go rescue your father from Rathburn." She suggested.

"Daddy's going to be making that face again," Nico snorted as he stood.

::

Back in Rathburn's office, Victor was indeed making a face. However, the king paid no heed to it, as his hands trailed along the taller man's back and shoulders.

"Victor, Victor, Victor..." He practically purred. "However is that little woman satisfying you night after night? As I've shown you before, I have quite the variety of young men that I could lend you from my harem."

"Including my sons!" the violet-eyed Unicorn pointed out coldly as he attempted to subtly evade his King's unwanted touch.

"Only because you don't take their place," Rathburn reminded him. "I can offer you so much, Victor. All you have to do is reach out and grab it." He added as he held Victor's face with both his hands.

Victor held himself very still, knowing better than to reject Rathburn's touch in an obvious way.

"I have a mate, Highness." Victor tried to keep his voice neutral.

The sharp sting of pain was visible in Rathburn's yellow eyes for a half of a second before he allowed the taller man to lower his hands back down and off him.

“Fine.” He whispered. “Go then, go to the little woman.”

Victor's bow was less than graceful as he backed out of the room. The tie keeping his hair up had been lost at some point, and the Unicorn's deep blue curls were uncharacteristically messy. The top buttons of his shirt were also missing. Victor blushed as he pulled his collar closed and escaped into the hall.

“H-Honey?” Gemma called out as they met halfway into the hall. She rushed over to help fix him up. “Honestly, why is it that he always leaves you in such a state,” She grumbled, a hint of jealousy in her voice. “If I ever find out that he did more than his awful attempts to molest you...”

"I'm fine," Victor squeaked, wide-eyed, bending over so his diminutive mate could reach.

Undaunted, the smaller woman ran her fingers through his hair until it was settled down a bit and then gave her husband a firm kiss on the lips. “Our sons found out something grave,” She then whispered into his ear. “We should head out to Peraza right away.”

"The boys..." Victor's violet eyes were filled with sadness as they looked for his sons. "There's no time for me talk to them, is there?"

“We do have a bit more time,” Gemma replied with a smile as he led him over to the tea room just as the boys were walking out of it.

The twins dragged their father in and tackled him to the floor. They were like excited puppies as they grinned and bounced around their dad. Gemma soaked in the sight of her beautiful family, her beloved boys, all in one place. This was how it used to be as of six years ago...this was how it should have always been. She chased away the sad thoughts with the vision before her. They would have this back and more, they just had to keep strong.

:::

Andyvion was barely able to see where he was going as he walked down the hallway with a basket full of dried laundry. Just as he was about to pass a tea room with a short woman standing before it, he heard familiar peals of laughter. He set the basket down against the wall and approached the room.

“Excuse me, my lady...” He greeted in his soft, womanly tone of voice.

"Andy!" the twins gasped as they froze with Nico in a playful headlock and Vincent clinging to Victor's back like a monkey.

Andy gaped at them in shock. They had never been so careless to call him Andy instead of Andrea, as was his disguise name. “Shh,” He hushed as he rushed into the room, closing the door behind him. His voice fell to its normal octave. “Remember that it’s ‘Andrea’ when I’m working.” He admonished.

Gemma couldn’t bring herself to speak as she stared at the girl-no, the young man that walked in the room...the young man that just so happened to have the eye of a peafowl feather on his forehead.

Victor tipped Nico's head forward to get a closer look at the mating mark on the back of his neck. He looked from it to Andyvion's crest and back again. Victor grinned as he stood, carrying Vincent along on his back as though he didn't even notice him. Andy found himself swept up into the giant's hug.

“Whoa!” Andy cried out as he kept still. “Wh-what’s going on?” He asked, confused.

The ridiculously tall man lifted the little servant up to eye level and smiled at Andy gently. His eyes were a lovely violet that was very familiar.

"Welcome to the family, Andyvion," he said sincerely.

Aquamarine eyes shot open wide. ”Family?” He looked to the twins for confirmation. When they nodded, he took another good look at the man before him. He was definitely their father, no doubt about it. “P-Pleased to meet you?”

Gemma had finally pulled herself together enough to come closer, as well. “He’s so...pretty. Do you see this, Victor?”

"He's adorable!" Victor agreed, giving Andy a little squeeze. "He's as tiny as you, Gem." The giant actually giggled as he held Andy up. "So, cute! I could eat him up!"

"Dad!" the twins scolded as they blushed scarlet.

When he was finally set on his feet, Andyvion fixed up the skirt of his uniform and bowed to them formally. "My name is Andyvion Liwa." He introduced himself. When the young man straightened himself back up, a blush was streaked across his nose and cheeks. "I-I know it's a bit disconcerting seeing me dressed like this, but I assure you that it is only a disguise!" He insisted.

"My sons explained as much to me," Gemma replied as she took hold of Andy's face to get a better look at him. Her thumbs traced his teal eyebrows, and she gently turned him from side to side. "It's remarkable how pretty you are."

Andy's blush spread out to cover his entire face. "I...um, thank you?"

"My boys both mating the same man." Victor grinned as he patted Andyvion on the head affectionately. "I should have seen that coming."

"Isn't he the sweetest?" Nico gushed as he cuddled up to Andy's side.

"Like an angel?" Vincent sighed dreamily, wrapping his arms around Andyvion's waist.

Despite the twins not being shy about touching others, Andy still hadn't quite expected their parents to be just as affectionate.

"I-I'm in love with your sons?" He all but squeaked in response. "Will try to take care of them..."

"I would expect nothing less," Gemma affirmed, pleased with the young man's honesty.

"He's so cute!" Victor exclaimed. "I want to keep him."

The twins growled and effectively hid Andy from sight by covering their little mate with themselves.

"I'm teasing," Victor laughed, amethyst eyes twinkling.

Gemma gave them a bright smile. "Alright, boys. You seem to be in good hands." She pointed out. "Honey, let's go. The faster we get to work, the faster we'll be able to spend more time with all three of them."

The mirth drained out of the tall Unicorn's expression. He tried to hide his sadness at leaving the trio there to Rathburn's questionable mercy, but his worry was obvious. Victor scooped up all three of them in a hug that lifted their feet off the ground.

"My sweet boys," he choked. "Stay safe. And remember, you can contact us at any time. We'll come in a heartbeat."

The twins hugged their father tight, comforted by his genuine affection and love. The big man had always been lovingly demonstrative. Their childhood had been filled with riding their father's shoulders, climbing him like a patient jungle gym as he tried to work, being tossed into the air and caught with a hug, or laying on him while he spun a silly story for them. None of their lives had prepared the brothers for what Duke Rathburn had in store for them when he'd stolen them away.

They'd only been eighteen, little more than children when Rathburn had gotten his wicked hands on them. The boys were tricked and kidnapped. By the time Gemma and Victor had found Vin and Coco, it was too late. Rathburn had already consolidated enough power and influence to be able to concoct a story that convinced the King to allow him to keep the lovely twins. He'd been whispering venom in the King's ear for years, by then. A few comments and lies had the King believing that the Morton's were on the path to treachery and had to be controlled. And what better way to do that than through their boys? Out of their parents' questionable influence, the twins could be taught loyalty and patriotism. And, Gemma and Victor could be kept well under the thumb of the crown.

It was all lies, but it had worked.

When the King had died, under dubious circumstances, Rathburn had been well positioned to take the throne. After that, the new King's hold over the Mortons only tightened.

So, the boys held their father tight, drawing in all the love and affection that they could. It would have to last the interminable span of time until they could see him again.

Though Andyvion had been swept up into the hug, he gently returned it and allowed his mates to soak in their father's warmth before their parents had to go.

"N-Next time, I'll introduce you to my parents, as well." He suggested. The young man really did want all of them to spend some time together.

"We'll be looking forward to it," Gemma replied as she took Victor's place and hugged the three of them to her. She pressed a kiss to each of their cheeks, even Andy's. "I love you so much."

Victor's eyes were as big and sad as a basset hound's as his mate gently led him from the room. It broke his heart every time he had to leave his boys there in that den of vipers. But, this time, he felt a little better knowing that Andy was there with them. Victor saw something special in the tiny servant. He didn't know Andyvion well, but something told him that the trio was safer now that they'd found each other. Victor would find out all he could about Andy and his family when they reached home. Preparations would need to be altered to include Andyvion in case the twins needed to be extracted quickly from the King's clutches.

Victor sighed softly, shoulders slumping as he lost sight of his boys and his brand new son-in-law. He'd pray for their safety and work secretly to pull their country from the darkness it had fallen into.

Andy watched them go, still feeling like he had just gone through a whirlwind. "Well, that's one way to meet your in-laws." He mused quietly.

"They loved you!" Nico said with a kiss to Andy's flushed cheek.

"Adored you," Vincent added, kissing the other cheek. "As they should. You're utterly adorable. I find myself in a constant state of adoration when you're near."

"Still, I didn't quite expect for them to see me in these clothes- clothes! The basket, I need to take it over to the chambermaids..." The teal Unicorn rambled out loud.

"You're perfect in whatever you wear," Nico purred as he quickly straightened Andy's clothes and hair.

"We have to get ready for the party, anyway." Vincent sighed as he stole a quick kiss and plopped the basket in Andy's arms.

"I love you," the twins whispered as they scooted their little mate out the door. They would wait a few minutes and then leave to prepare for that night. It wouldn't do to draw suspicion towards Andyvion.

Just before he walked out, Andy turned around and pressed a kiss to each of their lips. "Love you, too." He said as he rushed off with a pink tint to his cheeks.

A few hours later, Andyvion found himself in a straight line with all the other cleaning maids in his beige colored uniform. The foreign dignitaries were being seated with their own servants standing behind them. The teal Unicorn had never seen uniforms of so many different variations. A platform had been set up, along with rows of chairs, so that everyone would be able to see and hear King Rathburn clearly. Andy felt his fellow maids shift and tense on occasion. Perhaps they felt as anxious as he did upon seeing so many foreign leaders in one place.

The murmuring between the leaders and their servants grew in volume and then fell to silence as the olive-haired King stepped onto the platform. His hair was in a high ponytail adorned with stringed studs of gold. His suit was custom made to fit him perfectly. It was black with an olive inner lining and an olive square kerchief in his pocket. His vest was a dark gray chrome and the black dress shirt beneath featured a yellow cravat that was the same hue as his eyes. A cape was draped over his shoulders in black velvet with silver embroidery around the edges.

"My esteemed dignitaries," Rathburn spoke out loud in a clear voice that could be heard from as far back as the maids in the most distant corners of the room. "As you all well know, it has been mere months since I have claimed Cha Borolan as its leader." He began. "And, though I have been by my predecessor's side for over eight years, I know that I still am quite the young ruler."

He slowly paced before the first row and motioned with his hand towards a ruling couple.

"Is that not so?" He asked them. "Tell me, how old do you think I am? Have a guess."

"I certainly couldn't hazard a guess," the foreign country's queen said demurely.

"I'd think you must be over a hundred," the king with her said with a frown. "It would take at least that long to reach this point."

"You flatter me. I am merely forty-eight. Though considered an aged adult to our human neighbors, I'm still barely past an adolescent in our world," He admitted. "However, as you have mentioned, and if you ask our closest neighbors and allies...the Gordures of Junziean, and the McRays from Sero. We have accomplished quite a lot in partnership." His yellow eyes held a determined glint as he gazed over the crowd. "Imagine how much more we could do together, as a united front."

He once again slowly paced from one side of the platform to the other. "Sir Fletcher McRay," He called out. "Your neighbors are the Montcroix. What is their status as of right now?"

"Th-they've regained rulership of Zirao Zion," The Sero king responded.

Rathburn nodded as murmurs once again began to break out over the crowd.

Andyvion, who was listening to everything from a distance, wondered what their king was getting at.

"The Montcroix...they are quite privileged for Nightmares. Note how they have pretended to hand over control to their Elders, most of which were Unicorns themselves, only to steal the monarchy back!" The olive-haired king accused. "There is even talk that a Maiden was involved. A Maiden, held hostage by Nightmares? Are we truly going to allow these Nightmares to take over our world one country at a time?"

King Rathburn paused to allow for the dignitaries to speak amongst themselves for a moment. "I have a proposition, my rulers in arms." He continued. "And I needn't even manipulate a sacred chaste Maiden to achieve it..."

The teal-haired Unicorn frowned as he found himself leaning closer to hear what Rathburn had to say.

"It has come to my attention that the young Unicorn regent from Peraza, after the tragic deaths of his parents some years past, is not only of courting age but is actively seeking a mate to help him rule his country," Rathburn revealed. "I know that some of you have heirs that are at the cusp of courtship, but I ask that you leave the Perazan Crown Prince to me."

Andy felt his heart lodge itself in his throat. Winter? Was Rathburn really going after Winter?

"If chosen, not only would I be able to unite Cha Borolan with Peraza, but it would be one more link in the fight against Nightmare domination!" Rathburn declared.

All of his other words, along with the rolling murmurs of the crowd, were lost to Andyvion's ears as he staggered out of formation. King Rathburn was going after Winter Maestri, after Peraza! If their twisted ruler expanded his rule, then no place on their world would be safe.

At the risk of his disguise, his job, and his own life, Andy found himself shifting into his Unicorn form and tearing off into the manor in search of his mates. His white pelt gleamed in the night, and the sound of his teal hooves hitting the stone paths echoed loudly in his equine ears. He had to find them, even if it meant bursting into Rathburn's chambers.

Andy finally found them in one of the bathing chambers. The sound of his hooves was sharp and loud on the tiles. Andyvion wasn't sure how he'd found them. He'd thought of them, of how he needed them, and felt himself pulled towards his mates.

"Andy?"

There was a splash as Nico and Vincent jumped out of the tub and ran to him. It was amazing no one fell and broke their neck. Water dripped off their smooth naked bodies, but neither of them paid any heed to it under the circumstances.

Andyvion shifted into his human form so fast that he stumbled for a moment. "Winter!" He gasped for air between his words. "Rathburn...is going after Winter!" He rambled. "Told the delegates to hold back their heirs...so only he could court him!!" He held the top of his head with both his hands. "He's really set on taking over Peraza, I just can't believe...we have to do something!"

"Slow down," Vincent said calmly, waving a hand to activate a spell to dry them.

"Tell us what happened," Nico urged, throwing a locking silence spell on the door.

Tears began to brim in Andy's eyes. "Rathburn's meeting...all this preparation. It was so that he could convince the other leaders not to go after Winter. He wants to court him to take over Peraza!! We just can't let that happen!" He explained. "I...I've got to warn him!"

"Of course," Nico soothed, wrapping his mate in his arms. "We can help." He looked to Vincent.

"We've had preparations ready for us to escape for years." Vincent joined the hug. "We have them hidden in our glade and we can ask Kimset if he'll take you to Peraza."

And that was when it hit him hard. If he left, he couldn't bring his mates with him. Rathburn wouldn't miss one servant out of a thousand, but he would surely miss his favorite twins. "You...I would have to leave you." He hissed in frustration. But, even as he desperately wanted to stay with his mates, he realized that there was just no other way.

"It's not forever," Nico whispered.

"And your friend needs help immediately." Vincent pulled back slightly. "But...does the King suspect you?"

Andy shook his head. "He doesn't even realize I exist. Which is why he wouldn't notice if I left. But, if you two left with me...he'd know."

"We know, love." Vincent cupped Andyvion's cheek.

"We'll miss you," Nico sighed, before straightening. "Come on. We have to hurry." He quickly pulled on his robe. "The sooner you go, the sooner we can see you again."

The teal Unicorn nodded and the three of them rushed out into the night towards the glade. Andyvion felt as if his stomach was being squeezed as hard as his heart with every step they took. He had to reach Peraza as fast as possible. How was he going to do that?

Luckily, Kimset was nearby. Andy watched as his mates quickly explained the situation to the giant cat. Special saddle-bags were secured to the beast by Nico as Vincent hunted down clothing from their stash whose cuffs could be rolled up and their waists cinched. Vin's eyes were sad as he secured a ribbon around the waist of a shirt that fit Andy more like a dress.

"J-Just how is riding Kimset any faster than taking the monorail?" Andyvion finally asked out loud.

"Well, first of all, Kimset is very fast," Vincent pointed out. "He can move faster than your eyes can see when he wants to."

"When he's not lazing around in the sunshine," Nico added, scratching under the pard's chin. "He can also scent good places for dimensional hops. Since you don't have a map of the hop-points, it won't be perfect. But, it will still get you there faster than anything else." Nico gave Kimset a final pat and stood. "Have you traveled using hops before?"

Andy shook his head. He had never even heard of such a thing. Yes, they sometimes traveled through the dimensional boundaries, especially to search for Maidens. But, he had never heard of dimensional hops. "Hop-points?" He asked. "Map?"

"We learned about it traveling with our parents," Vicent explained. "You know those little ripples you can use to pass into another dimension? Like the ones that let us bug the humans?"

"Like on the boundaries?" Andy asked.

"Exactly," Nico praised. "There's kind of an odd...well, sort of a glitch, I guess, that you can use to your advantage if you're traveling long distances. If you push extra power into the spell when you're entering the portal, you can pop forward to an entirely different portal."

"It's not an exact science, though," Vincent continued. "You have to be pointed in the direction you want to hop when you enter the portal. Sometimes, it's too far to the next ripple and you will pop back to where you started. It can be a rough ride." Vin tied his mate's pretty teal hair back. "All you have to do, though, is let Kimset take you to the portal, put a little extra oomph into it when you open it, and expect some bumps. You might be able to jump quite a few in a row, but you're going to have to move on to a better portal sometimes."

Nico swatted Vincent's hands away from Andy's hair before he knotted it.

"We believe in you, love," Nico assured with a smile. "You can do this. Hurry and help your friend. We'll wait for you."

"If you need help or to send us a message, contact our parents." Vincent pressed a kiss to Andy's cheek as Nico slipped a ring into Andyvion's hand.

It held a huge amethyst the same shade as the brothers' eyes set in platinum. It fit Nico and Vincent's ring finger but would fit on Andy's thumb.

"If you ever need proof that you are a part of the Morton family, show that ring and one of the mating marks." Nico blinked, willing himself not to get teary-eyed. "I love you, Andy."

"As do I," Vincent said softly.

The teal Unicorn gave each of them a hard kiss on the lips and an even tighter hug.

"I promise I'll come back for you!" He vowed as he mounted Kimset and the two of them headed towards the boundary. Andy sent a final glance over his shoulder at his two mates before doing as instructed, letting the magic surge through them into a jump. "I love you both!" was the last thing he had said before he and Kimset disappeared.

 

 

 


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