Miss Wintergreen: A new adventure.

Miss Wintergreen: A new adventure.

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance

Summary

Reads more like a screenplay than a novel. Whilst trying to get over the devastating fact that her fiancé is gone and never coming back, a new mysterious man comes into her life and they have an instantaneous attraction to one another. He falls in love with her all too quickly but she still loves her fiancé, will she get the chance to revel in this new romance? Is this new man really who he and everyone else thinks he is? A whirlwind torrent of lust, lies, love and truths with a sprinkling of magic, set in a fantasy world.

Summary

Reads more like a screenplay than a novel.
Whilst trying to get over the devastating fact that her fiancé is gone and never coming back, a new mysterious man comes into her life and they have an instantaneous attraction to one another. He falls in love with her all too quickly but she still loves her fiancé, will she get the chance to revel in this new romance? Is this new man really who he and everyone else thinks he is? A whirlwind torrent of lust, lies, love and truths with a sprinkling of magic, set in a fantasy world.

Content

Submitted: November 07, 2018

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Content

Submitted: November 07, 2018

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The main characters are on the cover. In order, Eleanora, Alexander, Sebastian and Hadriana. Feel free to imagine them however you wish though. "....." Indicates speech and '.....' is thoughts or inner monologue.

At 35 years old, Eleanora has had a somewhat unusual life. A half elf wizard and also a powerful elven sage, she has risen to the prestigious position of professor of Creature studies and anatomy, is head of department in the subject of intermediate and advanced destruction magic and she also lectures in novice level healing and restorative magic at the legendary Kaer Amos mages University. It seems she has everything she ever wanted in life. Everything except a normal relationship. She has 2 children that she doesn't ever see, which is an unfortunate result of her first two initially successful but ultimately failed relationships. She does, however, have two beautiful children that live with her, a result of yet another romantic misfortune.

Due to her past, the way she sees life, especially where love is concerned, is generally negative. She views love sometimes quite contemptuously and with suspicion, believing that she simply does not deserve it.

Eleanora lies awake in a cold sweat, after having had a disturbing nightmare full of unpleasant memories. She glances to her side to see Fazal, her most recent lover, he's a very handsome 26 year old human, quite tall about 6'2" and quite broad and muscular with quite dark, tanned golden skin. He has black shoulder length wavy, and slightly messy hair and with a medium stubble beard. His eyes are a piercing shade of dark brown, they have a slight red/orange base in the sunlight, but look almost black otherwise. He is from a sunny country of Thorinus in the southern realm and he has quite a foreign accent compared to the locals in Kaer Amos, which she finds very attractive.

Fazal starts to stir, then wakes up. He turns over and notices Eleanora lying awake with a slightly pained expression on her face. He nudges her lightly then shifts himself to put an arm around her, encouraging her to cuddle into him. She does and rests her head on his comfortable and quite hairy chest, and inhales his, smoky and musky scent. Fazal has been with Eleanora for a few months now and he was as surprised as she was that she hadn't moved on from him yet as she is usually quite fickle.

Because of the time he had spent with her, he knew that she often had nightmares, trouble sleeping and sometimes quite volatile mood swings so he just offered his physical and emotional comfort without saying a word until she decided to speak, most nights she would just get comfortable and go back to sleep but tonight was not one of those nights.

She looks up at him and examines his face for a few seconds, she mumbles.

E: "I wonder...."

He shifts himself so that they are now lying facing each other.

"You wonder..... what?"

She smirks at him then says.

E: "I wonder if you realise just how pleasant your face is to look at?"

He raises an eyebrow and smirks back, he responds in a cocky fashion.

F: "But of course, my apple blossom. I am quite a catch after all.... You ought to count yourself lucky that only you get to kiss this oh so handsome face."

She grins at him.

E: "Oh? I should now, should I?"

F: "Definitely, Madame. Your face, however, has a beauty unlike any I have ever seen before. Your other.....assets are just a bonus...."

She raises an eyebrow whilst thinking briefly.

E: 'Gods he reminds me of Alexander in so many ways.....that charming arrogance, that beautiful hair....mm.'

Before she says.

E: "Oh-hoh.... Flattery will get you absolutely everywhere, handsome...."

She then pulls his face towards hers and kisses him passionately, she breaks the kiss briefly then breathlessly whispers in his ear.

El: "Ill give you 2 guesses as to what I want.....right now."

Replies in a deep but naturally seductive tone.

F: "Hmm, does it involve me?"

El: "Mmm, perhaps..."

F: "Hmm, ok.....does it involve you too?"

E: "That's a distinct possibility.....get over here!"

He is more than happy to oblige, as he flips her onto her back and shifts to kneel over her, leaving a trail of kisses down her chest and her stomach. He moves up again so he's sitting on his knees, back is straight, and places one hand on the bottom of her abdomen, tracing downwards and starts gently caressing her sensitive spot. She's so turned on that just after a minute or so, her legs shudder and toes curl as she gasps with waves pleasure. She grasps his shoulders and pulls him down for another almost desperate kiss, she looks into his eyes and demands.

E: "You know what comes next?"

He raises an eyebrow knowing exactly what she means.

F: "Is it you again?"

E: "Spot on...."

He then traces two fingers downward and he crooks his fingers slightly and gently inserts them inside her a thrusting them, she exclaims.

E: "Ah, yes.....mmmh!..."

He carries on for a few minutes as she arches her back in pleasure and moans breathlessly.

E: "...ok.....Enough...... take....me.....right now......"

She sits up and kisses his neck, then grabs shoulders and deftly flips them both around so he's on his back. She then straddles him, then starts gently bouncing on top of him, she's moaning intensely. She carries on like this for a few more minutes gaining speed, he's moaning and sighing until he gently grabs her breasts and gasps.

F: "This is........... Uuuunh.... Fuuuck yes!.......We....should......definitely do...it like.....that.....more often....."

El: She starts to reach climax "Auuughhh.....my.....gods....YESS!"

Her face still flushed and is little out of breath.

E: "Yes, we definitely should......I felt you....so deep....wow....I think I needed that..... I can't explain what it is about you that just...... turns me on so much, I'm not complaining though....."

F: Still breathless. "Heh....tell me about it...."

He then reaches with one hand and squeezes her backside, while the other strokes a stray lock of hair out of her face.

F: "Fuck.......you're just.....perfect.....I should comfort you more often in the middle of the night if it leads to that....a man could get used to this....."

Opens her eyes wide at the thought, then speaks in a teasing manner.

F: "Oh...I don't know, maybe...."

She strokes his cheek affectionately, then slowly climbs off of him, then lies back down on her side facing him whilst. She ponders again to herself.

E: 'Shit.....He wants more, doesn't he? Could I give him that? I have been with him and only him for the last 2 months now... I mean, he is gorgeous in every way, i could get lost in those eyes.... he's a selfless and attentive lover, he comforts me when I need it without want of a reward and is supportive and tolerant and accepting of my shit storm mood swings. Fuck I'd have wanted to kill me by now, I'm surprised he doesn't...... He's essentially perfect, do I deserve him though? Probably not..... I could give it a go, it's about time I committed to one person for at least a while.....'

F: "This may not be the best time to tell you this apple blossom, but I think......fuck.....I know I'm completely in love with you..."

El: "Maybe not the best time to say it......but I think that's exactly what I needed to hear. Because......I think I might be starting to feel the same way...."

F: "Wait....Really?"

E: "I can't believe I'm saying it either as this really isn't like me but yes....really."

A big smile appears on his face and he turns onto his side to face her, he gives her 5 or 6 consecutive kisses.

F: "Do you actually realise just how happy you have made me right now?"

El: "Heh, well if your smile and your half dozen kisses are anything to go by, then I'd guess, very. I am too, you're the only man I've felt like this for since......well, Alexander......"

He tenderly brushes her cheek with his thumb then strokes her hair.

F: "Yes, I know....I know that I remind you of him but I'm proud of you, you know, for being able to see past that.... I know you put your strongest defenses up and you have three perfectly good and equally tragic reasons to explain why you do so. I'm just happy that you're letting yourself me in more."

El: "Is this what it feels like to let my walls down? It's a nice feeling. I should try to get used to it.....I actually don't deserve you at all. You seem to understand me, you support me even when I'm a moody bitch and I feel like I've known you forever. we seem to have some kind of connection, what that connection is, I'm not sure of.....but I'm willing to find out....."

He smiles at that statement.

F: "Look, I love you Eleanora. And trust me, you're more than worth the time it will take for you to truly love me. Aand, I can be moody sometimes too, so I thank you putting up with me also."

E: "Ah, it's nothing really. You're worth it too. I know it's been five years since I was last truly in love and it will be hard for me to commit to just one person again after so long. But I really want to try with you...... However, it's getting late and I think now, I'll be able to rest easy after our little fun conversation..... I'm going to try to go back to sleep. Good night, my sweet."

F: "Good night my love."

She gives him one last sweet kiss and then turns back over to try and sleep, he does the same. As she does, her usual overactive brain starts to recount memories she's had over the past few weeks and after figuring out part of where her life started to go drastically wrong. She thinks back on the last time she'd felt that kind of connection......she remembers Alexander and she starts thinking to herself.

'Well..... It's almost like my brain wanted me to forget what happened between Adam and myself, just to save myself the misery. He was my first love but not my true love. Did he love me as much as he claimed, or did he just use me for his families means? He is gone, Aries is gone. I haven't? seen or heard anything about them since. His mother and sister Lilia disappeared with him. It was so hard to let myself love again after that. That's when I met Alexander, he was my one and only true love, we fell for each other so quickly, it felt like it was just meant to be, he was my soul mate. He was such a beautiful person in every way and he truly changed my life in more ways than I more ways than I could possibly imagine but I left him and he is another of the reasons why I'm so messed up. The reason I left is still so disgraceful to me that my brain will barely let me think about it.....'

Chapter 2. A chance encounter. It had been over a month now since Adam had left, he took thier son Aries, his mother and older sister Lilia and just left, late one night without any word. Eleanora had only just started to come out of her bedroom to talk to anyone, so she decides to go and fetch Seb for the evening to go and get drunk.

You often hear the phrase that "All good things must come to an end" or "Nothing lasts forever." etcetera and so forth. Eleanora didn't want to believe them, she had been so caught up her own happiness that she simply refused to believe that. It's when you experience that kind of bliss, such happiness, it's almost euphoric. You're so high up on a pedestal, that an almost rosey tint obscures your vision from the often harsh reality. It was very much like this when she was with Adam, it seemed that they were so in love that they were somewhat blissfully unaware, ignorant and had forgotten about everything else around them, that was the biggest mistake they had made. They were so young and inexperienced that they simply did not see that any problems existed until they had blown out of proportion, ruining so many lives in the process and leaving innumerable scars which refuse to heal.

Eleanora sits in a tavern with Seb, she is already a bit drunk as she has a small stash of honey wine in her bedroom. Eleanora flops her head onto the tavern table, then speaks whilst trying not to sob.

?

E: "I just.....I just don't understand it......what possible reason could any of them have for leaving like that?! If Adam wasn't happy..... he should have just told me and then fucked off by himself........why did he have to take Aries, why?"

Seb comforts her by placing a hand on her shoulder and starts gently rubbing her back.

S: "I.....Don't know Eleanora, I doubt any answers I can give you will give you much comfort. I'm just glad that you're finally out of your bedroom...."

E: "It's peaceful in there.....nothing to get angry or upset at...."

S: "I suppose you have a point there, like your comfort zone.....Look, I'm just still so fucking angry, I can't really think straight. First, the stupid little prick knocks you up when you're only 16......I never really got over that by the way......overprotective big brother talking, sorry.......But that's beside the point. He then leaves without a word and takes my nephew with him, I actually want to shoot a half-dozen arrows into his head.....fuck.....that's not usually like me....."

E: "Not that it would make any difference now....."

S: "Ugh, I know.....I'm a lover, not a fighter......until someone messes with my family though....."

She's still sobbing.

E: "I still love him and I know he loves me.......Something or someone else must have been involved, I refuse to believe that he did this of his own will! Fuck........I just want my son back!"

Seb takes a deep swig from his pint glass, then slams the glass onto the table, not quite enough to break it, then he beckons a serving wench.

S: "Kindly wench, another two pints over here please!"

He lowers his voice to a whisper, subtly points to Eleanora and says.

S: "And best keep 'em coming, she fucking needs it!"

Eleanora lifts her head up slightly and exclaims to Seb.

E: "I heard that mister!"

She playfully puts an arm over his shoulder and hugs him closer. Starting to slur her speech slightly.

E: "But you're right......big brother, I do.....need it!"

Seb rolls his eyes, laughs at her then raises his glass to a toast.

S: "To erasing child stealing bastards from our memory! Albeit temporarily....."

They clink glasses. Two more hours of dwelling on the past, angry ranting, talking about nostalgic memories and lots of sobbing pass and it's late evening by this point. Eleanora had stopped drinking a while ago and was starting to sober up, Seb had done the same. They think about leaving shortly after as Eleanora was starting to feel a headache coming on. So they get up and they start walking to the door of the tavern.

Eleanora grasps her forehead with a pained expression.

E: "Ugh, I overdid it didn't I?

Seb chuckles, as he's still a bit merry.

S: "Maybe you did, El. But who am I to judge, I'm the family piss head remember? Hahah!"

E: "Not any moooore!"

S: "Heheh, maybe not....."

As they are heading out of the tavern door, a tall stranger cloaked in black, barges past them and into Eleanora almost knocking her over, he doesn't even look over his shoulder as he nonchalantly keeps walking.

Eleanora turns on her heel to address the stranger with a confident, almost cocky posture with one hand on her hip and the other, slightly raised and summoning a small orb of lightning. The stranger was already five feet away from them.

E: "Do you, kind sir, think you could perhaps......look where you are fucking going? You almost knocked me off my feet and that's.....pretty damned rude!"

The stranger stops abruptly and turns slowly and silently to face her, he is wearing a long black cloak with the hood pulled up over his head so his face is obscured. He is wearing black leather light armour, gauntlets and boots which all have dark red accents and ebony metal fittings. Such finery is usually the garb of assassins, thieves, dark mages or any combination of the latter. He makes it obvious that he's looking her up and down before responding, some of the patrons start to pay attention.

?

(Above: The dark stranger, hooded.)

The stranger speaks with a slight accent, it's obviously not local.

Stranger: "Well, my dear. That depends on who is asking...."

Seb turns around to grab Eleanora by the arm and pull her away.

S: "El, just leave it he's not worth it."

Stranger: "Oh, really pretty boy? I'm not worth it?"

Seb rolls his eyes and doesn't respond to his taunt. Eleanora speaks to Seb but directs her words to the Stranger.

E: "I will leave it, as soon as this......gentleman....gives me an apology....."

Seb rolls his eyes again.

S: "No, we should really get going, you're pissed and upset, no point in starting an argument with a random......shady character.....when you're in this state...."

The stranger watches them intently, he then pulls his hood down, removes his cloak and bows to her.

Stranger: "Well my lady, I do sincerely apologise for that, it was very rude of me......It was, however, even more rude of me to not notice your....absolutely..... enchanting beauty....."

He winks at her whilst also giving a her small self satisfied smirk, then they lock eyes for a few moments.

She can see his face now his body armour was fitted enough so that she could somewhat see his physique. She keeps the orb of lightning in her hand for a moment as a distraction while she examines him. She was expecting an older man with very little hair, weathered skin and a beard. But the man that stood in front of her, was unlike any man she had ever seen before. He is about 6'4" tall with quite broad shoulders and chest, a narrow waist, long slender legs and muscular arms. His skin is a light golden brown, it's a fair bit darker than most natives of Idralla, his hair is jet black, similar colour to her own. His slightly mussed up from being under his hood. His hair is fairly straight, shoulder length and side parted at the front, it falls slightly over his face. He has a light stubble beard, as black as his hair. She is most captivated by his eyes, they are the most unusual shade of bright ocean blue, with flecks of darker blue and an almost violet centre, incredibly striking against his beautiful golden tanned skin, not to mention his perfect bone structure. He truly is beautiful. The stranger keeps his gaze intently on her and asks smugly with a slight grin, which he seems to have naturally anyway.

Stranger: "Well.....Are you going to launch that.....whatever that is, at me? Or just stand and stare in obvious appreciation?"

She waves her hand and the orb disappears, she then drops her gaze, having been reminded of sweet comments made to her, almost every day by Adam. A tear forms in her eye, she then looks back at him briefly and not caring about any further confrontation. She silently turns on her heel and leaves. The others in the tavern turn away and start thier hushed whispers. The dark stranger stands for a second apparently in thought, then walks further into the tavern. He places his bow, his sheathed rapier and his quiver of arrows on a nearby table whilst blatantly ignoring the whispering patrons. He then orders a drink at the bar. The tavern owner Damon, who was serving at the time and had witnessed the brief exchange, started asking him some questions.

Damon: "Well young man.... you're not from around 'ere are ya? I've never seen you in 'ere before an I know everybody what lives in this City."

The stranger rolls his eyes as if not wholly able to tolerate the improper common, he answers vaguely.

Stranger: "No I'm not, I'm here on business, might be staying a while."

The barman speaks in an almost patronising tone.

D: "Ooh, you's the mysterious type ain't ya?"

He chuckles heartily.

D: "Do I not even get a name? C'mon, we's all friendly arahnd 'ere."

The stranger rolls his eyes again and sighs.

Stranger: "Ugh, if I must. But you must first tell me something......Who was that girl in the doorway? The one who almost hurled lightning at me, she certainly piqued my interest....Also what can you tell me about the mages college here?"

Damon Hushes his voice and subtly tugs the strangers collar closer to him.

D: "That lass, that were young El Wintergreen or Eleanora. I'd advise not antagonising 'er right now, she's goin' through a lot of shit at the moment and she's only twenny. And if yer 'ere to join the local mage college, her Pa is Archmage and will probably kill ya if you mess with his little girl. Not to mention that she also 'as a champion archer for a big brother.... 'e were the one you called 'pretty boy'....so prob'ly best not ta get involved, y'hear?"

The stranger leans back and thinks to himself for a few seconds, then says proudly.

?: "Hah that pretty boy.....really? Well, I'm pretty good with a bow myself, I'll have you know. But you don't need to worry there, I have no ill intentions towards the girl, even though she did almost paralyze me.....I just thought there was something enchanting about her, I like confident, spirited and obviously beautiful women, so I was just curious is all. You say that her father is head of the mage college here? I may have to look into that....."

Damon stands cleaning a glass with a rag.

D: "Well 'er brother, the 'pretty boy' archer is also the best fletcher in this city and 'e even made 'is own bow and arrows, 'e adds custom parts to existing weapons too, so head to him if yer needing an upgrade. And yeh, Joe Wintergreen is somewhat of a legend in these parts and 'is little girl is one of his most prestigious students, that family sure 'as a lot o' problems though, riddled with bad luck they are, s'a shame, they're a lovely bunch really."

The stranger finishes off his pint, and puts the glass down he places 10 copper pieces on the counter. He turns back to Damon and says.

Stranger: "Thanks for the drink and the information......Oh and the name's Samuel by the way, Samuel Graves. Can you tell me roughly where this family live?"

Only his name isn't really Samuel Graves. Samuel Graves is one of the many aliases of the infamous Andosan spy network's known as The Blood Ravens, or The Ravens for short, Alexander Blackley. He is known in his network or syndicate as the Silver tongue as his specialty is gaining information from both women and men that he has either charmed or has seduced with his natural good looks, charismatic attitude, wit and general magnetism. He was chosen to specialise in that field because of his otherworldly good looks and ability to handle himself deftly and gracefully in combat. Idralla is new territory for him as he usually covers the Sadrian sector, Sadria is a small landlocked country which borders Andosa to the North east, sharing a small section of its border with Idralla to the East and the rest with the larger country of Yilon. The Ravens started in the Andosan capital city of Romara several centuries ago but have since spread across the continent. Alexander is third in command behind both his Mother Althea Oranis, she is a highly skilled dark forest elf spy and assassin. She has been the matriarch of the entire network for over 15 years along with her half brother, his Uncle Davin Eltrys. Alexander takes his fathers name of Blackley, even though he is no longer around. Althea would often refer to him when speaking to Alexander as a the 'Scumbag who would sell his own soul to avoid responsibility.' Or in short, just as 'Your scumbag of a father'.

Damon eyes the stranger suspiciously and says.

D: "Now that, is sensitive information, kind sir."

Damon then hushes his voice and pulls him closer again.

D: "Gotta keep up appearances right, I'll tell ye, but what's in it fer me?"

Alexander sighs emphatically.

A: "Well in my profession, it's definitely good to know who can and can't be bought in this city."

Alexander tosses him a pouch of 15 silver coins.

A: "That enough?"

Damon's eyes light up briefly.

D: "Yessir that's plenty.....Mr. Wintergreen lives up the western quarter, down the end of the main road, huge sandstone mansion 'ouse with a carving of a phoenix at the front gate, look for that and ye found it. Eleanora lives a few doors down, smaller sandstone cottage with red roses climbing the front wall, the only 'ouse on the street wiv roses, 'owever, she'll will prob'ly be stayin' with 'er pa right now, so 'is 'ouse is yer best bet. The Wintergreen Fletcher's is in the Eastern end of the North quarter, just out of the central market place. Can I just ask ya one more thing?"

Alexander impatiently rubs his forehead.

A: "Ugh alright, if you must...."

Damon: "I just wanted to know if there are any other reasons why yer interested in that family?"

A: "Hm, not really....it's purely professional. However if I see that girl again, it may turn.....personal."

Alexander winks almost caddishly.

D: "Say n'more sonny, I understand, she may be troubled but by the Gods would she be worth it!"

Alexander winks at him again and drops another 5 silvers on the bar.

A:'"That's....a little inappropriate for a man who is supposed to be a family friend, is it not? Besides, that wasn't my exact reasoning but I do agree, what a sight she was....Thank you sir. Oh and here's a deposit, keep a room for me if you will. I'll be staying at your Inn indefinitely, I'll pay you in full when I get back later tonight. I have some..... Important business to attend to right now.

Without another word from either of them, Alexander swiftly gets up, puts his cloak back on, picks up his things from a nearby table then strides out of the tavern and door into the night.

Eleanora is walking home with Seb, the fresh air has sobered them both somewhat. They have a brief conversation about what just happened.

S: "What the fuck were you thinking, threatening a random stranger with a spell like that?! In a confined space, surrounded by innocents at that.....shit!"

She bows her head slightly in shame as tears fill up her eyes again.

E: "I......I don't know. I'm not usually one to overreact to such trivialities. I'm just so full of rage and needed to release it and that...rude but also....rather handsome stranger was the easiest target. I'm so sorry!"

Seb rubs his forehead in a stressed manner, then notices how upset she looks. He puts a comforting arm over her shoulder and slows to her pace, she rests her head on his chest as they walk.

S: "I know you are, love. I mean, you could have gotten us arrested by the City guard, the knight paladins. Or worse, you could've gotten us barred from my favourite little dive tavern!"

Eleanora looks up at Seb and smiles while he lets out a little chuckle, he then looks down and smiles back.

E: "Oh, so that's what you were worried about? Heh, you need to get your priorities sorted brother!"

He chuckles softly.

S: "Heheh, yeah. I was also a little disturbed by the fact that I was being the responsible and grown up one here. Now, we both know that's just not right..."

She sniffles but then giggles lightly.

E: "Heh, yep. That role does not suit you one bit Seb.....stick to being a big child and my fabulous dope of a brother, who always seems to manage to make me smile, no matter how shit I feel."

S: "Hah, that's me. I am the cheeky and somewhat chaotic, alcoholic man-whore that's only good for providing comic relief and of course....the occasional supportive but equally handsome shoulder to cry on. Oh and don't think I'm going to let you forget about your remark about that handsome stranger...."

He raises an eyebrow whilst giving her a sly smirk. She rolls her eyes at him, hoping he hadn't noticed, then she responds sarcastically.

E: "Ugh, of course. How foolish of me to think you'd not notice that slip of the tongue?"

He winks at her.

S: "Heh. I never miss a beat, especially when there's slips of the tongue involved...."

She rolls her eyes again.

E: "Ew, really Seb?! Dirty bastard....."

He removes his arm from around her and pats her on the back, then chuckles to himself.

S: "Come on, it's nothing you haven't heard before....Hmm, you must be the only woman I know who's ever complained about any of my slips of the tongue.....Hahah!"

She dramatically shudders with a cringe.

E: "Ugh fine, I get it. You're very proficient with your tongue both in and out of the bedroom......or so you claim....Will you please get your mind out if the gutter, if only for a minute? Thank you!"

S: "Hah, fine. Don't get your knickers in a twist!"

E: " Heh, my knickers are just fine...But honestly, on a more serious note, did that stranger seem familiar to you in any way? I just can't shake the feeling that I've seen him before...."

S: "I didn't get a very detailed look at him to be honest El, but I kind of understand what you mean. I did see him slowly look you up and down though.....he was absolutely eyeing you up...."

She pinches her nose with a slight grimace.

E: "Ugh, can you honestly not go more than a few seconds without anything to do with sex crossing your mind?!"

S: "Oh come on El.....you should know the answer to that....not at all. Usually you're a little more tolerant of my humour, did the handsome stranger say something to upset you?"

E: "Not really, he just said something that Adam used to say to me almost every day. He apologised for not noticing my enchanting beauty.....it just brought back unpleasant memories...."

S: "Ahh I get it. I'll shut up about it then. Maybe we should go back to the tavern at some point and ask around, maybe they can tell us something about Mr. Handsome Stranger...."

E: Hmm, maybe, probably not worth it though. Also, can we walk faster, I can't help feeling like we're being followed..."

S: "Right, let's get a move on then, want a piggy back?"

E: "Hah, oh Gods yes, just like old times!"

He crouches down and she jumps on his back with ease, he holds onto her legs and starts a slow jog.

E: "Giddy up Sebby! Woohooooo!"

Seb laughs, then does makes a 'neighing' sound for comedic effect. He then speeds up a little and they reach home in less than 5 minutes. They both head inside the manor, she goes to sleep in her old bedroom and Seb heads to the lounge for a night cap, because he'd apparently not already had enough to drink.

In the mean time, Alexander had been slowly tracing them, he walked up to the gate of the Wintergreen manor and checked for the Phoenix statue, it was there, he had found the right place....

Chapter 3: Well rehearsed.

Another two weeks pass, Alexander has been observing the Wintergreen manor but sees nothing unusual in that time. He decides to take things up a notch and go to actually talk with Joseph, he invents a compelling back story for the false name he gave to Damon in the tavern on his first night here. He stands in front of his chamber mirror as he prepares to play the part of someone else.

Alexander winks, smirks then points at his own reflection as if to say. 'Lookin' good Alex.....'

He thinks for a moment, while staring at his reflection.

A: 'Right, I have to make this convincing, he's a smart man so might see through me pretty quickly, so might the girl and if this is going to work, they must both believe me. Ugh, why must I do this contract?! I'm not a bard or stage actor, if I were it would be much easier....'

He takes a deep breath, exhales sharply then starts rehearsing his part.

A: "Good evening Mr. Wintergreen, my name is Samuel Graves. I'm a travelling scholar who wants to study at the mages college here, I've been informed that you are the person to speak to about enrolment.... Nailed it, at least I don't have to lie about my magic skills and wanting to learn more, that helps somewhat. I just hope the girl and her brother were too drunk to recognise me again...."

Alexander packs up a small black leather satchel with some parchment, quills, ink, some food and his trusty hip flask of his favourite cherry wine. He slings the satchel over his shoulder and heads off to the Wintergreen manor house, after 10 minutes of walking, he is almost at the front gate when he sees Seb leaving the manor, he is thankful it is dark and slips into the shadow of a nearby sandstone pillar for cover. He thinks to himself.

A: 'If I can just avoid meeting the brother tonight, that would help......'

Seb walks down the path and exits the gate, he stops briefly and looks around for a moment as if he heard something unusual. He heads off on his way when he doesn't see anything.

A: 'Oh...thank fuck for that, glad I didn't have to come up with an excuse as to why I'm skulking in the shadows next to his fathers house, he might get the wrong idea......'

Alexander looks around and waits for a minute or two, just to be certain that Seb has definitely gone, he is. So Alexander heads briskly up the path to the front of the manor and uses the large ebony metal door knocker which is also shaped like a Phoenix.

He briefly examines the door knocker.

A: 'Alright, mental note, this family really likes phoenixes.....'

He waits for 30 seconds before the door is answered, by Eleanora. He was not expecting her to be there as it was quite late already.

He sees Eleanora and just stands there, fixated on her eyes for a few seconds, with his mouth slightly open. He thinks to himself. 'Those eyes......so green.....so........Shit, say something quick, lest you look like a vacant minded fool...'

He quickly straightens up and adjusts his hair, moving it out of his face.

A: "Uh, good evening miss. Am I correct, that this is the home of Archmage Joseph Wintergreen?"

Eleanora quickly and inconspicuously looks him up and down, taking in as much detail as possible. She then raises an eyebrow in a suspicious manner answers him curtly.

E: "That depends, who is asking?"

She then narrows her eyes slightly, thinking to herself.

E: 'He looks very familiar....aaand as much as I don't want to admit it, rather attractive too....'

He gives his most polite but also knee meltingly beautiful smile, then says.

A: "Ahem, of course. Where are my manners? I am a travelling scholar, my name is Samuel Graves. I'm looking to enquire about entry to the mages college here that is so well renowned..."

She is still eyeing him suspiciously, she speaks sarcastically, she decides to be nice but keep an eye out.

E: "Uh-huh. Charmed, I'm sure... You are indeed in the right place, my father is currently in his study, I'll take you to him. Follow me...."

Alexander takes a step forward to take her hand and shakes it briefly before stepping over the threshold. He's trying to be a sweet as possible, so as to not arouse any suspicion.

A: "Thank goodness this is the right place, I honestly thought I was lost. Thank you kindly, miss."

Eleanora quickly ushers him indoors, she brushes off the physical contact and quickly turns around and heads up the staircase. Alexander looks around briefly in awe but then fixes his gaze on Eleanoras hair, whose curls are bouncing softly along with her elegant stride, his gaze then moves on to her bottom which he admires for a few seconds before turning his attention elsewhere whilst thinking.

A: 'What a beautiful arse, I may have to walk behind her more often, just for that view.....'

He then clears his throat and says.

A: "This is a magnificent home you have here, it is as elegant as you are if you don't mind me saying so.....Won't you tell me your name miss?"

She briefly looks back over her shoulder at him, then looks ahead again. She brushes off the comment.

E: "...If you must know. I am Eleanora. 3rd child of Joseph and the late Seraphina Wintergreen."

He notices her brushing off his advances and thinks to himself.

A: 'She keeps brushing me off... I may have to work harder with this one, tough nut to crack.....or maybe she recognised me.....She's certainly intriguing enough to make me wish that this wasn't just a job. She'd certainly be worth the extra effort.....'

She leads him to Josephs study door and knocks, he responds and asks her to come in. Eleanora steps into the study first and and sees Joseph sitting at her desk. He beckons her in, she walks closer to his desk.

J: "Yes, what do you need sweetheart?"

E: "I'm here because you have a visitor papa, he wants to ask about enrolment into the college, he's just waiting outside, shall I fetch him?"

J: "Why, yes of course. And if it's to do with the college, I'd like you to stay here and talk with us."

She sighs impatiently and glares at him.

E: "Ugh, must I Papa?"

J: "But of course, if you are training to be my right hand, then your presence is required. Besides, he may want to study in one if your fields and you are the best in all of them....."

She rolls her eyes but then smiles.

E: "Ugh, alright fine....flattery gets you everywhere papa."

She looks towards the door and raises her voice slightly.

E: "Mr. Graves. He'll see you now, you may enter."

Alexander walks into the room, in a genuinely enthusiastic manner. He sees Joseph and gives him a curt bow. He is confident as this is something he has genuinely always wished to do in order to become specialised in his magical skills, his mother would never let him until now. It may be a job, but he's genuinely looking forward to it. He notices that Eleanora isn't leaving but decides to say nothing, at least not before an official introduction.

Joseph looks up from his desk and sees that Alexander is bowing, he nods his head in acknowledgement and then ushers him further into the room.

J: "Good evening young sir, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am Joseph Wintergreen. Please take a seat. My daughter tells me you wish to speak about enrolment into my college?"

Before Alexander sits, Joseph extends his hand to shake.

Alexander genuinely exited, as if meeting his idol or hero and shakes his hand enthusiastically.

A: "Why, yes sir, I do."

J: "Well, I'll start with a few questions about yourself, your skills, your previous education and just a brief account of your family history, if you know of any of course. Oh and because my daughter is training to become my second in command at the college, she will be joining us so that she can learn more about the enrolment interview process, is that alright?"

Alexander briefly looks up at Eleanora as she takes a seat next to her fathers desk, close enough to observe but not get in the way, he thinks to himself.

A: 'Shit, wasn't expecting that. I might have to step up my game a little. She's.....quite the distraction, those eyes, feels like she's trying to stare into my soul. And that cleavage staring right at me too, why must she be wearing a low cut neckline?.....snap out of it, concentrate you drooling idiot!'

A: "Uhm, yes of course it's alright and yes that's all good, I'll answer as best I can."

Joseph notices briefly the way that Alexander was looking at Eleanora and thinks about playing on it.

J: "Well then, let's get started. Basic introduction, your name, your age, your race and where you're from, because if you don't mind me saying, you do not sound Idrallan. Oh and of course, your skills, magic and otherwise."

Alexander thinks to himself quickly before answering.

A: 'He's making me nervous, she's making me nervous. Shit.'

He decides to tell the truth about his family but without giving names, just in case either of them can tell he's lying.

A: "Alright, well my name is Samuel Graves. I am twenty seven years old, almost twenty eight, I hail from Sadria, my parents, they moved there when I was a baby. My race is mixed, my mother is an elf of two different kinds, dark and forest, she is a sage. My father was a human wizard, I know not where he is now, he left when I was 18.....not a pleasant story.... so I'll skip it for now if you don't mind? My maternal uncle took his place and helped my mother raise me after that."

'Phew, embellishing the truth is just as hard as telling an outright lie...'

Joseph fills in the enrolment form and makes notes, writing everything relevant down.

J: "Hmm, alright. So you're similar to myself, except my father was an elf but not a sage and my mother was a human wizard. Carry on then, what are your skills, interests and hobbies?"

Alexander clears his throat and continues.

A: "Yes sir. My magic skills are mostly transmutation and conjuration based with some basic healing knowledge. My mother has taught me some dark magic, mostly curses and some hexes and some very basic necromancy. I am proficient in alchemy and I have a keen interest in creature anatomy and physiology."

Joseph shares a look with Eleanora and they nod slightly at each other as if reading each others thoughts.

J: "Alright, well that is interesting my boy. Most dark magic and necromancy is unfortunately frowned upon or inherently forbidden here in Idralla it's not against the law so to speak but it does go against certain ethical and moral codes of conduct, you understand yes? As a result we do not actively teach it here but I know that's different elsewhere especially in Sadria and Andosa. As you must also know, some necromancers skills are essential for certain destructive and disarming spells to work, yes?

Alexander shifts uncomfortably in his seat slightly as if nervous.

A: "Yes, uhm well. My mother did mention that, yes. Which is why she only taught me very basic stuff I am not capable of raising the dead or anything."

J: "Hah, of course not my boy, I'd assume you would not be here if you could do that! Now, do you have any hobbies or other interests?"

A: "Yes sir, I enjoy exercise and weapons training. I like to keep in shape and work on my agility and speed as....well I don't want to sound arrogant but I'm a champion duel wield sword fighter in my home City, the rapier is my blade of choice. I enjoy archery too, I have my own custom ebony metal short-bow called Felicity....I can also cook quite well and I enjoy fine wines, lute music and comedic acts."

He quickly glances at Eleanora in order to gauge her reaction. She is however, writing in her notepad.

Joseph again notices the way Alexander keeps looking at Eleanora. He looks at her himself and tries to solicit her attention.

J: "Well, that certainly is interesting Samuel, you have many skills besides magic and can look after yourself in a fight. Eleanora my dear, what do you think?"

E: "I thought I was here merely to observe papa."

J: "Well...I value your input, dear girl."

E: "Fine, well he seems capable enough. I say let him join in a probationary period until he passes the entry trial in a months time."

J: "Alright well, that's settled then, if you pass your trial. Eleanora will be your mentor for your first month. You may leave us now Eleanora, I'd like to talk to Samuel in private. Thank you sweetheart and goodnight. She looks a little perturbed, at the abrupt dismissal but decides against any argument. She gets up to leave and gives Joseph a hug and nods at Alexander.

E: "Ugh, Alright.....Goodnight papa and Goodnight to you Samuel."

Before she starts walking around, Alexander quickly stands and opens the door for her, as she walks out, he takes her hand gently and kisses it whilst bowing in a gentlemanly manner. She is slightly shocked by the gesture.

A: "And to you Miss Wintergreen, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you."

She opens her eyes wide but otherwise doesn't respond and hurriedly walks away, down the hall and into her room. Joseph observes Alexander's behaviour.

J: "Alright, come and take a seat again for a moment please. There is something I must mention to you about my daughter. She will be your guide, so I feel I must warn you lest you say or do something to upset her...."

Alexander is a little confused but sits down and pays attention again.

A: "Uh, alright. What are your concerns Mr. Wintergreen?"

Joseph hushes his voice and beckons Alexander closer.

J: "I saw how you were looking at her through that entire interview Mr. Graves, I may be an older man but I'm not too old to know that you find her attractive....don't you?"

Alexander rubs the back of his head nervously, then clears his throat.

A: "Ahem, I'll apologise for my wandering eyes sir but yes I do.... I meant no harm. She is just so very......captivating."

J: "It's quite alright, you can look at her however you want, within reason. But I will warn you, she's been through a tough time recently. For such a young girl, she's only twenty and for her to still be remotely sane after all this trouble, is highly commendable.

A: "What do you mean sir? Do you mean to warn me away from her? Because if that's the case, I understand completely."

J: "No, I do not. Ugh, I will probably have to tell you the some of the story for you to be able to understand why she is unreceptive to most emotions right now, except perhaps cynicism, anger or sadness. To put it briefly, she was engaged to be married to a her childhood best friend, they fell in love very young and she quickly fell pregnant at almost 16. Not much before her 17th, she gave birth to my beautiful grandson. Sounds quite lovely right? Well, one night roughly six weeks ago. Her fiancé gathered his mother, sister and my grandson and just fled....little is known about why. She has been almost devoid of most positive emotions since."

Alexander wasn't expecting that, he slumps back in his chair, with a wide eyed resolve as he thinks to himself.

A: 'Well.......shit.'

"I am very sorry to hear that sir....."

J: "I only tell you this because, she is to be your mentor. If you do like her and wish to pursue her, be prepared for plenty of mood swings and erratic behaviour as it will take time before she will even think about giving her heart to someone else.....so soon after such a heartbreaking experience. Be kind, be supportive and try to make her laugh, listen to her, be her friend, be charming and a bit of good old fashioned chivalrous romance never hurt anyone if you understand my meaning?......... And if you do anything to hurt her, I will see to it personally that you are destroyed, are we clear?......"

Alexander is reeling in thought with a slightly stunned expression.

A: "Uhm, yes of course sir...."

J: "Hah, sorry lad, I honestly didn't mean to scare you, she's just so precious to me that I couldn't bear to see her hurt again. Just don't mention anything about this to her alright? And I'll ensure that you pass your trial. Do we have a deal? Come to the college tomorrow morning and we can work out the details."

Joseph stands up and offers his hand to Alexander. Alexander absentmindedly stands and shakes his hand, still reeling slightly.

A: "You have a deal sir....Well it's getting late, I'd better be going. I'll see you at the college tomorrow. Goodnight sir."

He swiftly bows, then leaves the room quickly without looking back. He then almost runs to the front door and leaves the building. He quickly strides down the path and stops at the gate, he leans on the wall next to it, still reeling from what he had just heard.

A: 'Fuck, why did I leave like that?! He must think I'm dodgy now. That was just.....really hard to hear. Poor girl, I know I'm here for information on them but that really hit home. What if my father had decided to take me with him when he left, mother would have been destroyed.....Its going to be hard to play the cold, heartless spy around her, but I don't have to, I could be my usual charming self...... Ugh, what am I thinking, this is not one of your usual flirt, seduce then run jobs, I'm not used to this serious stuff. What is that girl doing to me? I've bearly even spoken to her and I can't think about anything else! Well....I'll find out soon enough. I may have to rethink this one....'

He then gets up and stalks off into the night, back to the tavern. Still deep in thought.

Meanwhile Eleanora is lying on her bed, having trouble getting to sleep. She has a flashback to that night in the tavern, a memory of Alexanders face return to her.

She tosses uncomfortably whilst dozing and then abruptly wakes up completely.

E: 'Shit, I know why he's familiar. He was that jerk from the tavern that so rudely barged past me.....And for some strange reason, I get the impression that he's not telling the truth about something. His name and back story sounded a little too well rehearsed. Oh well, I'll look into it tomorrow at some point if I can get him alone...'

She drifts off into an uneasy sleep after that.

Chapter 4: An unexpected connection.

The next morning quickly comes, much to Eleanora's despair, she gets out of bed and starts heating up a couple of buckets of water at the fireplace so she can bathe. Whilst the water is heating up, she walks back over to flop on her bed, it's a beautiful, sunny spring morning and the blankets on the bed look more welcoming than ever. Before she does this, she hears a muffled 'mrrow.....miow' So she pats her hands over the blankets and then sees a little white paw extend from underneath the blanket at the bottom of the bed. She walks around to the edge of the bed a throws the blanket off, to see the family cat, Tundra. Tundra is 3 years old she's a pure white, fluffy cat and she's a gentle and affectionate little soul except if you touch her belly. She has always had a natural kinship with Eleanora, almost like she 'chose' her as her favourite person.

Eleanora gently picks up Tundra and cradles her for a moment.

E: "Ah, Tundra, it was you, you gorgeous little fluff ball! I suppose there are worse ways to wake up in the morning.....Now off you go and get your breakfast little one, I need to make my bed!"

She gently places Tundra on the floor and then with her tail in the air, the trots out of the room. She walks over to feel the water temperature.

E: 'I hate to do that when she looks so peaceful, but my bed won't make itself.....Oh good, looks like the water is warm enough....'

As Eleanora settles into her bath. Alexander is just surfacing. He looks out of the window and sees the sun already in the sky.

A: 'Shit, I'm going to be late!'

He rushes to get out of bed but still being half asleep, gets his feet tangled in the sheets and rolls sideways off of the bed, he hits his the top of his forehead on the nightstand on the way to landing with an ominous sounding thud on the hardwood floor, stunning himself slightly.

A: "Aagh, fucking fuck! Ow.....shit.....bastard!"

He lies on the floor in a defeated heap, the blankets still tangled around his feet. He starts rubbing his head where he'd hit it and feels a lump....then a warm liquid that feels like blood, he examines his finger and sees that it's bleeding. He reflects for a moment and sighs.

A: 'Fucking great, just.....great. Now I'm going to be late and have a pounding headache and a big gash on my fucking head....How the hell did I become such a good spy and assassin when I have all of the grace of a fucking drunken bear?!'

He rubs his head again then gets up to look in the mirror. He scrutinses his reflection closely and looks at the gash, he quickly has a realisation.

A: 'Ugh, that's going to leave a scar. Someone at the college could heal me though, I'll quickly wash the wound, my face and hair in the basin then I'll get going.'

By the time he's packed up his satchel and is ready to leave, he is already late. So he starts a slow jog to the college. Once he arrives, he stops briefly to take in the view before him. The Erimond City mage college is a sight to behold, it is almost built like a military fortress, but with more aesthetically pleasing buildings. There were four main wings or houses to the college, Alexander needed the house of Creature and Human studies. He walks over to the first building and sees the sign for the building he needs straight away.

A: 'Well....that was handy, at least I don't have to run about like a headless chicken trying to find Eleanora's building. Aah, Eleanora....Wait, am I actually looking forward to seeing her again? Well....shit.'

He walks into the main door of the building and finds Eleanora standing at the reception desk speaking to one of the archivists, she appears to be a little peeved and is talking with her voice raised slightly, he quietly walks up behind her.

E: "Well, Cynthia? Has he arrived yet?!"

Cynthia: "Not yet miss Wintergreen."

Cynthia looks over Eleanoras shoulder, Alexander waves to her to get her attention. She points at Alexander and addresses Eleanora again.

C: "Wait miss, is that him there? Behind you?"

She turns around and jumps a little.

E: "Agh!.....Yes that's him, sorry for being so short with you Cynthia."

She grabs Alexander by the arm and aggressively pulls him away from the reception desk and down the hallway to her study, not letting go of his arm once.

A: "Well, someone is eager this morning...."

She rolls her eyes.

E: ".....You're late. Not really making a good impression now are you?"

A: "I'm sorry.....shitty morning."

She lets go of his hand and turns to face him.

E: "Ugh, it's fine. Here's my study, in you go."

She ushers him in by placing her hand lightly on his shoulder. Once he's in, she gestures towards a chair next to her desk.

E: "Take a seat over there please?"

As he turns from her to walk to the chair, she notices the large gash on his head and softly grabs his hand, he stops walking.

E: "Wait, stop for a second please...."

He briefly looks down at her hand holding his and revels slightly at her touch, he decides to comment before asking what's wrong.

A: "For someone so......unwanting of attention, you're quite touchy feely, you know that?"

He smirks at her. She seems flustered.

E: "Oh that....? That's....nothing, pay no heed."

A: "If it's nothing, then why are you gripping my hand so tightly?"

E: "Oh shush....I noticed that...."

She points at the gash on his head. She then becomes conscious of just how tightly she is gripping his hand and quickly lets go. She then walks up closer to him, she gently moves a lock of his hair out of his face to get a close look at the wound.

E: "You hurt yourself? What happened?"

He's slightly surprised but not put off by the intimate gesture, he looks at her eyes, she has a determined but soft and caring expression, examining him the way a doctor would a patient or a concerned mother would a hurt child.

A: "See? Touchy feely.....we've only just met you know.....But honestly, it's nothing. I was just being clumsy and hit my head. Nothing serious....."

She responds to his teasing this time and gets her own back. She gently presses the wound with her finger and he winces. She smirks knowingly.

E: "Nothing serious eh? Looks pretty bloody painful to me, it's even started to bruise..."

He looks into her eyes for just a teasing moment and raises an eyebrow while smirking at her.

A: "Alright, alright.....doctor, no need to nanny goat me any further.....I'll be fine....."

She looks back at him, returning his gaze with more intensity than she'd like to, he notices and decides to play on it further.

E: "Here, let me heal it for you. I'm very proficient in healing magic."

A: "Again with the touching.....are you actively looking for reasons to touch me or....?

E: "Don't be stupid....."

A: "Oh, I'm something....but it's definitely not stupid...."

She rolls her eyes as he looks hesitant for a moment, but agrees.

A: "Well, alright....If you can make it not hurt or bleed any more, I'd be very grateful..."

Eleanora then takes his hand again then closes her eyes for a few moments, when she opens them again, they are glowing with a white light. She moves her other hand to his head and lightly touches her palm to the wound. It starts to feel warm slightly tingly, and most importantly, far less painful, after 30 seconds, it's over. Alexander, is pleased at this, he is surprised at her skill and with her tenderness and warmth towards him, even though she doesn't know or seem to trust him. He unconsciously leans into her hand.

A: "Thank you Miss, that......was quite.....delightful. You remind me a little of my mother, she has a similar healing touch....Wait, are you by any chance a sage?"

E: "....You're very welcome...and Samuel, please call me Eleanora, Miss sounds too damn formal. And to answer your question, yes I am, but I don't make a big deal of it. It is the reason for my exceptional abilities. You'll see for yourself soon enough if you're going to be studying under me."

He listens to her intently and examines her face while she smooths her finger across the scar to remove it.

A: 'Mm, her touch is so tender, so soft, she didn't need to do that for me but she did.....starting to feel bad for lying to her. Don't know what's wrong, I think myself the irresistible one...but I'm having trouble resisting her and she's not even trying.....I'd like to do other things under her other than just studying though.....stop it......inappropriate.....'

A: "Studying under you.......really?"

He winks at her, she rolls her eyes.

E: "Ugh.....get your mind out of the gutter. I have enough of that to deal with from my brother....."

'Well......I wouldn't mind studying under him either.......stop it.....'

A: 'Hmm, maybe not such a tough nut to crack after all, she's so different, more friendly nd open in her study environment....'

A: "Well, I'm afraid you'll need to get used to it with me too, that's just my sense of humour. Although it's not constant, I do appreciate more intellectual humour, as well as some......dark humour as well....."

She gives him a faint smile.

E: "Well that's good, I like to think I have a good sense of humour and I have a lot to say but often my classmates and others my age don't understand it or just don't appreciate it and just label me as a know-it-all....It's a bit lonely sometimes actually so I tend to work by myself....that way I have complete control over the situation. It would be nice to have a fellow student who even remotely understands me...."

He looks into her eyes again, this time she meets his gaze and he holds it unashamedly.

A: "You know, I was much the same at school, always beyond my level, other kids were jealous and resentful so I became kind of a lone wolf. So I understand the loneliness, I do. But as I got older, they started to catch up.....and I started caring less and less what people think, other than my friends or family of course....it made me a bit happier. You'll get there. Besides, you seem perfectly pleasant to me.....I must ask though, why the sudden change in attitude towards me? You're much more open and talkative. Yesterday evening I couldn't help but get the impression that you did not like me..."

She feels a little guilty and conflicted, so she looks down at the floor for a moment.

E: "I....I'm not sure. When I saw you come in today with an injury, I saw a vulnerability which just......made me want to care for you. I apologise for my attitude, I've had a very rough time recently but it's no excuse for my behaviour towards you......You seem perfectly nice to me too."

She stands up to full height then walks over to her chair and sits down at her desk. She leans forward with her elbows on the desk meshes her fingers and rests her head on them and continues talking.

E: "I appreciate this actually, us getting to talk properly....."

A: "As do I....although you can be like two different people....."

E: "Oh, I've always been that way.....just.....worse recently. I just sometimes feel more comfortable in a work environment, at home I have my fathers judging eyes, I'm still a little girl, his prodigy, his....heir there.....here I can truly be myself....."

He adopts a more casual sitting position, leaning forward slightly, legs apart with an elbow resting on each knee, his hands are clasped together and are resting between his knees. He looks at her again while thinking.

A: 'This is weird......I feel....like I've known her forever, she's being genuinely open with me. I'm told that doesn't happen often but its nice, I like it.'

A: "Well, I appreciate your openness with me. I've never really had that before, I'm an only child so never had that kind of connection with anyone except my mother or my older cousin, we are very close."

E: "Well, I envy that sometimes, I lost my mother when I was 6 years old, so I barely knew her. I've always been close with my brother, I did have a best friend but he's......"

She trails off then hangs her head and covers her face with her hands.

E: "Sorry, I'm just....."

She then rests her forehead on the desk and wraps her arms around her head and he hears sniffles and a sob. He gets up, walks over to her chair and then crouches next to her, he places both of his hands on one of hers.

A: "Are you alright?! I think you should be at home, not studying..."

She keeps her head on the desk so her talking sounds muffled.

E: "No. My studies take my mind off of everything...."

A: "Well.....it's not working, is it? You can talk to me if you want to....."

She doesn't respond, she just sniffles again.

A: "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring back any unpleasant memories for you. I'm here if you want to talk though, I've been told I'm a good listener...."

E: Still muffled. "That.....is a story for another time, you understand? I can't bring it up now, not here. I will share it with you when I'm ready though, I promise. Thank you for your comfort though, I truly appreciate it.....I feel comfortable around you, like I've known you for a long time or maybe in a past life, if you believe in that kind of thing....?"

A: "I do actually...."

E: "I'm skeptical however....but if past lives existed, I wouldn't mind going back to a different one right now...."

She then lifts her head, then a small grin spreads across her face as she giggles at her own joke. He smiles in response to her giggle and he sits just admiring her smile.

A: 'Such soft hair....a bit like mothers actually and her smile just lights up the room....it's beautiful, even if it is disingenuous.'

A: "Heheh, that would be good on occasion....just imagine saying 'Yes....my current life is shit, can I go back to another, better one please?' And poof! There you are, a rich princess from a century ago in Solessia, lounging in a pile of pillows.....being fed exotic fruits by half a dozen handsome men....And there we go, that's better isn't it?......."

E: "Hah, yes! Now that would be a past life, well worth reliving...."

Her smile intensifies at his imaginative joke. He unabashedly admires it.

A: "You......have a beautiful smile, you know that?"

She stops smiling and blushes slightly.

E: "Thank you......and I just love your imagination......"

She catches herself and then clears her throat and changes the subject.

E: "Well.....that's enough bonding for now, we should get started on your studies. What subject matter do you want to major in?"

He smiles at the compliment then gets back up and goes back over to sit in his own chair as he thinks.

A: 'Hah, changing the subject, classic diversionary tactic, have it your way then, for now...'

"I have given it some thought and I'd like my major to be in the field of destructive magic, with two minors, one in Creature studies and the other in healing magic. I want to learn how you healed me, it was a really pleasant experience, not at all painful. Thank you again by the way, that wound would have left a scar which would have detracted vastly from my otherwise flawless appearance....."

She rolls her eyes at his arrogance. Then responds sarcastically.

E: "But of course, we can't have that now can we?! I'd be doing all of the women or is it men? A great disservice if I didn't heal you! Heheh."

A: "Hah, of course. And ahem, either or actually.....usually women though, I will say that I have been involved with a few very handsome young men before.....but one in particular made me sure of my orientation, he had been coming on to me the entire evening and I was drunk enough to think 'fuck it, worth a try...' and to my defence, there were no even remotely attractive women to be seen at all....it just felt as right as it did with a woman, so I knew I only liked both after that experience..."

She laughs at his confession, then thinks to herself.

E: 'So....He likes both but generally prefers women.....that's good to know.....'

"Hahah, brilliant. Alright, while we're on the subject of confessions, I'll even things out. I've never kissed a woman before.....I may only be twenty but I know for almost certain that I really like sex with men. However, I'm not saying that I wouldn't ever try it with a woman...."

He appears slightly flustered by her comment and starts to rub the back of his head with his hand.

A: 'Well, this escalated quickly. An hour ago she was being a bit stubborn, aloof and frankly annoying. Now.....I think I am incredibly attracted to her, what the fuck.....It must be those lush green eyes....enchanting me....I'm certain......'

A: "Ahem, yeah.......I suppose you never know what something's like if you don't try it....."

E: 'Hah, he's flustered. That's quite cute actually......some men don't know how to act when a woman brings up sex in polite conversation.....I bet he's picturing me having sex with a woman right now, I know some men seem to fantasise about that, I know Seb does anyway but what hasn't he fantasised about?!'

E: "Exactly.....variety is the spice of life after all.....You know? This has been nice. You're very like my brother you know? I think you two would get on very well, I'll have to introduce you at some point....Because Gods know he needs more male friends. He's always got a new girl on the go and spends most of his time focusing on that and his work, so much so that he hasn't had the chance to make new friends, well that's the excuse he gives me when I approach the subject, I personally think it's because he's a pain in the backside....."

A: "Hah, maybe so. I'll introduce myself when I next visit your fathers place. Are you still staying there?"

E: "Yes I am just now, I do have my own place, well technically papa pays the rent for it. Because of my current situation I don't feel comfortable there right now, so Seb is living there now instead. Where, if you don't mind my asking, are you staying for now?"

A: "I'm staying at this lovely little inn and tavern called The Black Gargoyle, you know it?"

E: "Yes I do. The owner Damon, is a good friend of my papa, they were at school together as children and have been friends since."

A: "Really? Well, good to know that it comes recommend by the archmage himself. It's a comfortable little place with good ale and my favourite Sadrian cherry wine, not many places stock it, but the Gargoyle did so that's where I decided to stay, priorities...you know?"

E: "Hah of course, they sell my favourite Northern Idrallan Honey wine too, you should try it it's so warming, sweet and delightfully satisfying."

A: "Hah, is,that so? I think I'll definitely have to try it now."

E: "I dare you to not make it your new favourite! But we're getting off topic again, that's probably going to happen a lot I'd imagine, I like talking to you. But yes, the reason I asked is that Seb's room is vacant right now on account of him moving out. I'll make it up, give it a clean and you can come and stay with us."

A: "Oh I can, can I? Thanks but honestly, the Gargoyle suits me well and-"

She interjects.

E: "No no, I insist. Papa was actually quite impressed with you and asked me to offer the room to you. It will be free as long as you're studying, so you'll have more money and it will be easier for me to mentor you if you're just down the hallway, plus our home is beautiful..."

A: "Well alright, you've swayed me.....and if your father suggested it, then I can hardly refuse the archmage now can I?!"

'I'm finding it hard to refuse you either....It's got to be those eyes... it'll be nice getting up to those every morning....'

He leans back comfortably in his chair.

E: "Right then, that's settled. I'll send my messenger to Damon and have him bring your things to the house."

A: "NO....I mean no it's alright. I'll handle that, don't worry. It's not much anyway. It will only be one trip."

E: 'Hmm, that was odd. I suppose he could just not want a random person going through his things....'

"Well, alright then, if you're sure. Well I've got everything I need to know from you today. It was just a brief introduction for me to find out more about you and your studies, so I can help you to your best potential. Over the next few days, I'll show you around the college, get you you fitted for the appropriate students attire, get your supplies sorted, then take you to the library so we can find books and manuscripts on your chosen fields of study. Your trial will be in a month's time plenty of time to prepare."

She smiles softly at him and gets up from her desk and politely excuses him for the day.

A: "Wait, so I'm done for today then?"

E: "Yes, you can go explore the city or college to your own will, I'll see you later this afternoon at my fathers manor. I have some important research to do for the next few hours, so I need my space. On you go, enjoy your afternoon!"

She waves him out of the room.

A: "Alright, well, thanks for today and I'll see you this evening. Good afternoon Eleanora."

He gets up and leaves the room. She sits back down at her desk and thinks for a minute.

E: 'What was that? I've not felt like that since I fell for Adam.... It's probably nothing but I'll take it as it comes. Right, time to focus on Ghouls and their blood....'

Chapter 5: Getting to know you better.

Later that evening. Alexander is on his way to the Gargoyle to fetch his belongings, he stops in the bar first to tell Damon what's happening, he then heads up the stairs and pulls out a sheet of parchment, his quill and a pot of black ink. He starts to write a short note to his mother about the situation so far, he calls his mother using only the initial of A, so as to avoid detection or identification. He writes.

A. Just sending a progress report to inform you that I have worked my way into the college as a student and impressed the archmage so much that he has invited me to stay at his home for the duration of my studies here. I am working to befriend the daughter, I will find out what I can about Mr. M and I will relay more information as I find it.

Sincerely, S.T.

He folds up the note and places a black wax seal on it with the image of the Sadrian crest, which is a birdseye view of a flying raven. He then places it flat on his left hand, closes his eyes and visualises his mother. He then opens his eyes, they are glowing bright blue, then waves his right hand over the letter, it glows blue briefly then it dematerialises from his hand into a small blue orb of sparkling light, no larger than a penny, it then floats out of the window and into the sky, on its way to his mother. Alexander is a lot more adept with magic as he lets on, he has a mixture of abilities and skills inherited from his mother and some from his father. He is however, an exception to the general rule that those blessed with both wizard and elven druidic abilities are sages. He did inherit a few basic druidic abilities, which is very unusual. He is particularly gifted in both transmutation and conjuration magics, which is why he is able to send a letter in the form of arcane energy and he has the ability to summon objects and sometimes living things from the various Earthly planes, the Spirit realms or the Demonic abyss. He need never buy anything as he can just visualise in his head what he needs or wants, holds out his palm flat, facing up and it appears either in his hand or underneath it depending on how big the object is. Unfortunately though, a lot of types of conjuration of magic come with a personal cost, a price to be paid or as collateral. Conjuration of objects from this world are mostly free of charge, as such for inanimate objects but such items from other realms or summoning any spirit, demon or any form of life will always have a blood price attached to make the ritual work, this is when conjuration takes a step into dark and even forbidden magics. The blood price is not something to be taken lightly so Alexander generally doesn't use it unless absolutely necessary. Using it, particularly to summon demons is either very frowned upon or strictly forbidden in most places in the Earthly plane, as such it is forbidden in Idralla. That doesn't mean that it doesn't happen there however.

Alexander examines his belongings to find that some paperwork is missing, believing that it's nothing important he carries on packing his things. He heads downstairs into the tavern to settle up his fees with Damon.

Damon: " 'Ello Samuel, oh, you've got all yer stuff, you leavin' us now then?"

Alexander: "Yer-I mean....yes I am leaving, I've found alternate accommodation, as I am to be enrolled at the Mages College."

Damon pats Alexander on the shoulder in congratulations.

D: "Well done lad! An' it's a shame yer leavin' I were just getting used to yer face around 'ere. You'd almost become a piece of the furniture!"

Alexander raises an eyebrow then smiles.

A: "Heh, yes almost, Gods help me I was even starting to talk like you too.....Well my good man, all good things must come to an end, as they say.....I'm just here to pay my outstanding bill for the room. Besides It's not as if it'll be the last you see of me, you're the only place in this damned city that sells my cherry wine, so I'll definitely be back!"

He hands over a pouch with 1 gold piece and 50 silver.

A: "There, that should cover it. There's a little extra for you in there as a thanks for your troubles."

Damon's eyes light up and his smile looks like that of a banker who had just found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

D: "Y..yes, it's plenty. Thanks fer yer patronage kind sir and I'll be 'appy to see ye again soon, I'll make sure to keep that bevvy stocked up fer ye too... G'bye fer now lad."

He shakes Alexanders hand and then waves briefly before turning around to serve another customer. He waves back.

A: "Until next time Damon."

Alexander promptly walks out of the Gargoyle and walks up the road at a steady pace. As he walks past the market place, he spots a petite, heavily pregnant, red headed woman talking in a heated manner to a man he recognises as Seb, about 20 feet away. He stops for a second to watch them, Seb talks loudly then gestures his arms in a frustrated manner. He then grunts in despair, swiftly turns around and storms off towards Alexander, he walks by him without giving him a second glance. Alexander notices that the woman has started sobbing and promptly walks over to her to offer a little comfort, he is a charmer after all. At the sight of Alexander approaching, the woman quickly dries her tears and puts on her best fake smile.

A: "Excuse me, Miss. Was that man bothering you?"

She notices how handsome Alexander is, she promptly changes her expression to flirty.

Woman: "Why, no kind sir, he wasn't."

A: "But I saw it, you were almost in tears a few seconds ago... Are you alright?"

Woman: "Oh no, no, I'm quite alright. I'm even better now for you being here..."

She flutters her eyelashes at him.

A: "Th-thank you...Who was he anyway? Seemed like he was being a bit of a jerk..."

Woman: "Oh, he's just my pain in the ass brother. It's a pleasure to meet you by the way. I'm Sophia Tallis, formerly Wintergreen."

He raises an eyebrow in thought.

A: 'Hmm, that must mean that she's the pain in the butt sister that Eleanora mentioned, she already has a loose tongue, I could use this to my advantage...' "Ah, so are you Eleanora's sister then?"

Sophia suddenly looks less chatty.

S: "Why, yes I am. You've met her before then I assume?"

He responds with a somewhat dreamy expression on his face.

A: "Ah yes, she is to be my mentor at the college. I have met your father too, he is a role model of mine you know."

S: "Well my father is a brilliant man.....So, what do you you think of my sister then Mr.?"

A: "Oh, I beg your pardon madam, my name is Samuel Graves, delighted to meet you."

He bows slightly then takes her hand and kisses it in a chivalrous manner. A random man who obviously knows Sophia makes a passing comment as he walks by.

Man: "You will reconsider that stance sir....I assure you...."

Then he keeps on walking. Sophia folds her arms in a huff, she shouts after him.

S: "Shut it Arnold!"

She then looks back at Alexander.

A: "Aand to answer your question, I'm not sure yet, she's pleasant enough though."

S: "Oh, really? You can't fool me Mr.Graves, your face softened at the mention of her name, I'm pretty good at reading people you know...."

He diverts eye contact briefly.

A: "Ahem....just a coincidence I assure you Madam."

She raises her eyebrow in disbelief. She then spots her husband heading their way.

S: "Right....well my husband is coming and.....he's the jealous type so you'd better get a move on if you want your pretty face to stay that way. It was nice to meet you Samuel, good evening."

A: "The pleasure was all mine, good evening Mrs. Tallis."

He stalks off quickly back into the crowd, hoping that Mr.Tallis had not seen him. He catches sight of Seb again and decides to trail him out of curiosity. He follows him up the road to the family home and then Seb takes a sharp left turn and quickly disappears down a small back street.

A: 'Shit, he's gone. Oh well no big deal, he's probably just going home.'

Alexander makes his way to the gate of Wintergreen manor and heads up the path, he takes a small detour around the side of the manor to the back gardens. He is in awe at the sight before him, it stretches some two hundred meters, absolutely huge. there is a large pond at the back left corner of the garden, circled with 2 small weeping willows and a single cherry tree, pink blossoms scattered on the ground around it. There is a small white gazebo in the back right corner, with more small fruit trees and perfectly trimmed white and pink rose bushes surrounding it, making it both pretty and private. There are large patches of lawn on either side of a central cobblestone path, the path breaks into two branches, one leading to the gazebo and one to the pond. Lining the edges of the garden are a dozen or so, small flower patches with a such a huge variety of colours and a few more apple, cherry and peach trees. The whole garden is surrounded by a head height white wooden fence with some patches of hedge of the same height. He just stands for a few moments, just taking everything in.

A: 'Such a beautiful garden, I'd have loved one like this when I was younger. I hope there are some fish in the pond. Also, that the gazebo would make a great spot for some outdoor....fun heheh'

He walks back onto the porch, near a back door of the house, there is a sheltered area with a bench, so he sits down for a while, it's a beautiful evening so he thinks that he'd like to make the most of it. After about 10 minutes of sitting alone with his thoughts, Eleanora walks out of the door very quietly and gracefully, so much so that Alexander did not even awaken from his thoughts to notice she was even there, she quietly sits down next to him.

E: "Beautiful isn't it?"

He jumps slightly, completely out of his thoughts.

A: "Shit, didn't see you there! Yes, yes it is...."

E: "Hah, yes, sorry to have scared you. I've been told that I walk around too quietly sometimes, almost ethereally, that people think I've appeared out of thin air......And yes, it is so beautiful, so peaceful. It's my getaway place whenever I'm stressed, upset or angry and I need to centre myself. I like to meditate next to the pond."

He looks to his side, at her face, attentively listening to every word, he found himself having missed her that afternoon.

A: "So it's like your sanctuary then? And how did you know I was out here?"

E: "Yes, it is somewhat. Most people go to thier various churches for peace and reflection, I come here. I often go to the gazebo and sit with my thoughts or with a book I'm reading. Oh and I saw you off of my bedroom balcony for a moment, thought I'd come and keep you company."

He looks genuinely and pleasantly surprised that she had thought to join him.

A: "....Thanks, we may have gotten off on the wrong foot but I'm actually glad you're here.....I would have absolutely loved a place like this growing up. When my Pa was being a dick, my mother and I had to move in with my Uncle Davin my Aunt Rhea and their 4 kids. Didn't get a lot of time to myself, as much as I needed it, I was an angry teenager surrounded by my spoiled brat cousins."

E: "Hah, I can sympathise a little actually, I'm the middle child of 5 and it's a little isolating, if I didn't have Seb around, I'd have lost my mind..... So you're an only child then, what were your cousins like?"

A: "Yes I am, I'm glad of it now though, although when I was little, I'd have loved the company and someone to boss around..... heh. Well, there is cousin Dominic, he is older than me, by one year, we got on very well. The others, however, I think spawned directly from the Demonic abyss.....Raquelle was 3 years older than me and an absolute spoiled bratty bitch, the less said about her, the better.... The younger two were Erland who is three years younger than me and Annie who is five years younger, those two were literally a living nightmare....thankfully, I don't see them much any more, I still keep in contact with Dom though."

E: "That sounds very familiar.....I have Seb to keep me sane, then there's my sister Sophia, she is the spoiled bratty bitch and as much as I love my little half sister and brother Genny and Armand, they are little walking nightmares. So I can understand you completely."

A: "Seems we have more in common than we both thought huh? I think I actually met your sister today, a petite, fairly plain looking red head, heavily pregnant and is very blunt with her comments?"

E: "HAH! Yes, that's her....I love your description, that's her in a nutshell!"

A: "Well, she seemed alright to me. You have a tense relationship, what happened there if you don't mind me asking?"

E: "Nope, I don't mind you asking at all. To put it as quickly as possible, she's a wizard but an insecure one and I found out why, two years ago.... She has always been jealous of Seb and I. Seb, because he inherited roguish good looks, natural agility, charm, creativity, strength and practicality required to become the talented archer, musician and smith he is now. And she is jealous of me also because of my appearance, I inherited my mother's striking elven good looks, if I do say so myself......also my intelligence, wit, inventive mind and natural aptitude for magic, not to mention I'm just naturally charming.....it became even worse when she found out we were both sages too, she felt that the one thing that made her feel special, her magic, was now suddenly overshadowed by our skills and natural abilities. She's never stopped resenting us both, which is why now, she's popping out kids like no-ones business, she's on baby no.3, because, in her words, 'at least I'll be a better parent than either of you two'..... load of horse shit. So understandably, we don't talk much.....there is another story but it's a long one as to why Seb has actually disowned her, I'll tell you that another time though....."

He rubs his forehead.

A: "Well, shit. That's a lot to take in isn't it. But I do understand, it's not easy being the best looking and most talented member of a household...."

He briefly pauses and then gives a smug smile.

A: "And also if it's any consolation, where appearances are concerned, in comparison, you make her look like crap....."

E: "I do not need the validation, I know this already.....my mirror reminds me on a daily basis, but....thank you. There really is no love lost between us, I grew up, Seb grew up, she didn't and quite frankly, I can't be bothered with her crap anymore. Thankfully Papa knows this, so whenever he wants to see his grandchildren, William who is 3 and Carrie who is just 1, he either goes to their house or asks to babysit them here, without Sophia. I've only met them twice, they're sweet kids, but they're brats compared to my......"

She trails off and goes quiet, staring at the pond. Tears forming in her eyes. He notices her eyes welling up and promptly puts his arm over her shoulder and pulls her in close.

A: "Hey, hey. Come on, let it all out."

She unintentionally nuzzles her face into his chest.

E: 'Oh my....he has a warm, comfortable chest, I could get used to this...'

"Th-they're nothing compared to my son. He is the sweetest, happiest little boy you could ever meet. But you never will, he's gone....I suppose you'll probably find out soon enough if you'll be living here, so I might as well tell you now. I was engaged to my childhood sweetheart Adam, that first love feeling has a pull over you that's hard to let go of. Anyway, I was 15, he was 16 and things got intimate rather quickly. So then of course, the inevitable happened, I fell pregnant and gave birth a few months before I turned 17.....that pregnancy was the hardest thing I've ever been through....papas healing magic helped very little with my symptoms so I was actually relieved when it was over, however the healing magic helped the birthing process amazingly. Our son Aries was born, with a shock of dark red hair and beautiful dark green eyes, he was just perfect.....but now he's gone, they're both gone."

He rubs his forehead again in sorrow for her. He then subconsciously starts stroking her hair.

A: "I have to say, I was not expecting that Eleanora. You certainly have been through so much at such a young age....If you don't mind my asking, what happened to them?"

E: "They're not dead if that's what you're asking. They're just gone, I don't know where, or why, papa thinks they went through an arcane portal to another land, as it's a quick way to travel a long distance without leaving much of a trail, but I don't know. ...Not knowing what happened is killing me, I'm finding it difficult to hold things together without the help of drinking or studying until I just.......forget....."

A: "Well, all things considered. I think you're incredibly brave. You appear to be handling it better than most people would. I mean, if it were me, if someone had taken my child without telling me, I'd be on the warpath! I mean what sort of dickhead does that to the girl he's supposed to love?! If he comes back, you just say the word and I'll shoot an arrow through his head....."

She cracks a smile at the joke then looks up at his face.

E: "Hahah, you know, Seb said pretty much the exact same thing. Believe me, I did feel like that for a while, of course I'm still angry. But reason took over when I thought about how much he loved us both and I just know that he would never have done something so seemingly wrong or so despicable if it weren't for our safety, his family have a strange and colourful history, it maybe caught up with him.... I don't know.....He is, however, a very good father, and Aries is such a papas boy......Ugh, it will be his fourth birthday in a few weeks and it just breaks my heart that I won't be there to see it.

A: "I bet it does, I'd be exactly the same, I assure you. If it's any consolation, I'll be here for you if you need me."

He pauses for a moment.

A: "Seeing as you felt to trust me enough to share your heartbreaking story with me. I'll share mine with you, it seems we all have a bloody depressing tale doesn't it?"

E: "Heh, yes very much so. Except Seb perhaps, he doesn't dwell on such things, wish I could be more like that..."

A: "Hah, tell me about it.....Well it all happened when I was nineteen, I'd not long finished my schooling and had tried to find a job in bookkeeping or accounting, a well paid but equally dull, job in order to help mother out with living costs. That never happened but I'll explain that later. When I went to Arkon city, the, capital of Sadria's city hall and archives to enquire about a position on the bottom rung, I walk up to the front desk and sitting behind it was one of the most stunning women I'd ever seen."

E: "Hah, I was half expecting such. What did she look like? Do you have much of a type, so to speak?"

A: "Hah, yes, I think I do. I really like the contrast between dark hair and light skin, striking eyes, not fussed about the colour and they generally are taller with elven features, I've never really been bothered about purely human or dwarven women, they do say you're attracted to people that look similar to yourself after all....."

E: "I agree with that completely, Adam didn't look much like me, he has dark red hair, light gold skin and warm amber eyes, but he has freckles and a cheeky smile which was what I loved the most about him. I think I have a type too. I like longer hair, not really bothered about colour.... light golden or darker tanned skin and striking but also friendly eyes and a cheeky, charming smile.....I'm sorry, I'm daydreaming again, please continue....."

A: "Heh, well she was visually stunning. So much so, that I just stopped short whilst looking at her, incapable of stringing a coherent sentence together. She had long, quite curly, icy dark brown hair, light golden skin and piercing hazel eyes. She looked at me and must have thought I was crazy or something, but she laughed and said 'can I help you?' I of course flirted like my life depended on it, she seemed to like it, so I asked for her name and if she wanted to do something sometime..."

E: "Hah, you sure work fast don't you?"

A: "Of course, you've always got to take a chance at love at first sight, if not then what's the point right?! Her name was Olivia, she was also half-elf like us and she was two years older. She was actually not long out of a long term relationship. Regardless, we fell for each other pretty hard, she was wonderful, smart and creative and she made me laugh as much as I did her.... speaking of, the sex was amazing.......After about 4 months of courting, she took me to meet her parents, they were wealthy and very upholding of traditions and status. Unfortunately they didn't want their daughter courting a 'jobless hack' as her mother called me, they did not care that I loved her, they just cared that I didn't have a job or a wealthy background...."

E: "Really?! What a judgemental old bag..."

A: "Heh, yep that's what I had to contend with. So without her parents approval, we had to keep seeing each other in secret. About a month later however, she found out she'd become pregnant. I was ecstatic, but her, not so much. She was terrified of her parents reaction, I suggested she move in with me and my mother until we could afford our own place, heck I even proposed to her, she stayed with me until she'd started to show, we we're happy enough. But, it just wasn't good enough, she went back to her family and I never saw her again. I later found out, from her grieving mother, that both Olivia and our daughter had died during a complicated childbirth, they gave her a name, Amelie. Olivia's entire family blamed me for what happened......So there you have it, an equally tragic story. It's strange to think that I'd have an eight, almost nine year old daughter if things had worked out differently, I mean I'd probably not be allowed to see her or anything, but that's beside the point, at least she'd be alive....."

Tears form in her eyes again, she sits up a bit and makes eye contact with him.

E: "Fuck, that is so sad. I can only imagine what that must be like, to lose a child before even meeting them...."

She wraps both of her arms around him in a comforting manner and leans her head on his chest again, he again starts stroking her hair.

A: "Hey, hey. Don't shed a tear for me sweet thing. I found a way of dealing with it after about a year or so. I was walking home one night when I looked up at the sky, it was a warm, clear night and the stars were shining. So I strayed off the path a little, laid down on a patch of grass and stargazed for a while. I picked two stars that were next to each other, in the oberon constellation I believe. And named them, one is called Olivia and the other is Amelie. So now any time I look up at the stars, they're there looking back at me, it's very comforting....."

They sit in silence for a few minutes, by this point the sun had set and the night sky was starting to appear. She wipes a tear away whilst smiling. Then looks up at him, reaches up and touches his cheek to gently move it so he's looking down at her.

E: "That.....is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. You must be quite the romantic."

He's quite touched by the simple gesture and thinks for a moment.

A: 'Those eyes again, sparkling even in moonlight. Just can't pull myself away from them.....'

"Eh, I have my moments. I am known to be quite the charmer.... I wonder though, could you keep that story to yourself? I've never told anyone else except my mother."

He looks up at the night sky and then points upwards to the Oberon constellation.

A: "Hey, look up, there. See? There's Olivia the bigger star, and the little one next to her is Amelie."

She looks up at the sky and examines the stars.

'They're beautiful, his smile is beautiful too. What a beautiful thing to do for a loved one who's passed on.....'

She thinks to herself then promptly sits up. Getting caught up in the moment, Eleanora tugs at his jacket collar with one hand pulling his face to within an in inch of hers. They lock eyes for a moment searching each others faces. Then suddenly, she pulls his face to hers for a searing kiss. Not parting lips for even a second, she positions herself so that she's straddling his lap. He breaks away for a second, staring into her eyes then to her lips, he cups her face and pulls her into another kiss. There is a passion behind it as she grabs the back of his head lightly tugging at his thick black hair, which just makes him want more, it doesn't last long enough and she soon breaks it off.

E: "I....I shouldn't have done that, I'm so sorry...."

Without another word, she quickly gets up and hurries back into the house slamming the door behind her.

Still a little breathless, pleasantly surprised and very turned on, he just sits there in a glazed stupor for a moment thinking about the last five minutes.

A: 'Fuuuckk, what just happened?! That.....was.....the....hottest kiss I've ever had. That's.....it.....I....want her, badly.....'

He peers down at his crotch and is very visibly turned on.

'Looks like you want her too, huh little man? Better sit this out before I go inside. Or.... There is that gazebo.....I could deal with him myself, it has been a while after all.....fuck it.....'

He quickly gets up and walks to the gazebo for some privacy. whilst thinking back on the kiss, He lays down on his side unbuttons his trousers and starts touching himself, it doesn't take long until he's finished. He lies there for a minute while his head is swimming. He then pulls out his handkerchief and cleans himself up. He then promptly gets up and heads indoors, hoping that no one saw anything.

'Fuck, I needed that, what is she doing to me?!......Nobody saw though, I hope......Nah it's dark and fenced off, if they did see, then they're a fucking pervert.'

Alexander, still reeling, promptly heads to his room, chucks off his clothes and flops on his bed and actually falls asleep quickly.

Meanwhile, Eleanora is lying in the foetal position under the blankets on her bed thinking to herself and is suddenly wracked with guilt and regret at what she'd just done, she feels like her conscience is shouting at her.

'What in the heck was that missy, can't you control yourself?! You're still engaged for shits sake and you still love Adam don't you? You should feel guilty for having these feelings, you're on the rebound, he obviously wanted you but you'll only end up hurting him too....'

However, her pride, anger, lust and self worth quickly override those feelings after she remembers what Adam did.

'Fuck that guilt, do what you feel, do what makes you happy, you want to kiss someone else, do it! You want to fall in love again, do it! Because fuck knows you deserve whatever little happiness you can get after what that shitbag did to you...he wanted me... I felt it, I felt him, pressing against me. His kiss, so full of passion and hunger for me and only me, don't I deserve to be wanted? Desired? Yes I do.... Adam can go fuck himself for making me feel this way. I'm going to his room to apologise...right now...'

She gets up out of her bed and quietly makes her way to Seb's old room. When she gets there, she quietly opens the door, she sees Alexander lying on the bed on his side, blankets only covering up to his waist, his tanned chest has a light covering of black hair. She walks over and gently lies down next to him, on her side, facing him. She props her head up on her her hand and examines him sleeping, she gently sweeps a thick lock of jet black hair out of his eyes.

'He looks so peaceful and beautiful. Such a strikingly handsome, almost perfect face, even in his sleep. And that body, just wow, those arms and that chest and stomach and just the right amount of body hair.... hmm curiosity is getting the better of me, I wonder if he sleeps nude?'

She gently lifts up the blanket out of sheer curiosity.

'Yes he does....nice....'

He starts to stir a little, so she puts the blanket back then rests her head on the pillow, still facing him. His eyes suddenly pop open and as quickly as that happens, he deftly grabs her wrists with one hand, holds them above her head, flips her onto her back and straddles her so she can't escape, she gasps in shock. Spies are trained to react this way, as they are often assassinated in thier sleep, he's still dazed and doesn't really know what he's doing.

Chapter 6: A not so rude awakening.

He's still straddling Eleanora whilst holding her wrists above her head. He takes a few moments to realise what he's doing.

A: "Eleanora?! Why are you...? What are you doing here?!"

A smirk appears across her face as she finds she quite likes being restrained.

E: "Bad dream?"

He jumps a little and lets go of her hands.

A: "You could say that. That, doesn't explain why you're here though......I dreamed that we kissed, it was in the garden.....then you ran away, then you came into my room when I was asleep, to kill me....it felt so real...."

He puts his hand on his head as if slightly dazed. She's clearly enjoying his slight confusion, she decides to play along.

E: "You caught me, it seems I've been a bad girl.....whatever are you going to do with me?"

He is now awake enough to see what's happening, he looks down at her and he gets flashbacks of the moment they had shared earlier that night. But he still seems a little confused and a bit embarrassed. He rubs his eyes.

A: "I'm confused...."

She whispers.

E: "Your dream wasn't a dream. It really happened...."

She runs her finger teasingly down his cheek, down the crook of his neck then down his chest all the way to his muscular hips, while he quietly sighs with appreciation. He climbs off of her and sits on the edge of the bed.

A: "Then why are you here, lying on the bed next to me, a bit strange is it not?"

E: "Hmm maybe....I wanted to apologise for teasing you earlier on. I felt like I shouldn't have done it.....but it felt good.....I was conflicted...."

She climbs off the bed, walks over to the window and closes the drapes. There is a partially lit candelabra next to the bed, casting a dim light into the room, he can see only her silhouette. She crooks her finger, beckoning him to come over to her. He looks on in confusion.

A: "....What are you doing?"

E: "I want you to come here....."

A: ".....Why?"

E: "So many questions....."

A: "I'm just.....trying to figure out if this is a good idea.....I....."

E: "Shhh you don't need to think about that right now."

A: "But I do.....it's just such.....a change from earlier....what do you want with me?"

E: "Would another kiss be too much to want from you?"

A: "No......not at all.....I just want to know why the change of heart.....I thought you were intentionally brushing off my fairly obvious attempts at flirting...."

E: "I.....was.....come on, is a girl not allowed to change her mind? See the error of her ways?"

He's much more awake now and realises what she's doing. Out of sheer curiosity he walks up to stand behind her, she turns and faces the window again.

A: "You still never explained why you were in here, watching me sleep....."

E: "Oh that? Like I said. I came in to apologise but you were sleeping, looking so beautiful and peaceful I felt.....confused, both because of you and because of my own thoughts......"

A: "What thoughts Eleanora?"

E: "I can't escape the feeling that......we seem to have a mutual attraction, a spark......don't you think?"

A: "Absolutely......I can't explain it....."

She speaks teasingly.

E: "Well, if we're in agreement....are you going to touch me or not?"

A: "This is still a dream isn't it?"

E: "Nope, absolutely one hundred percent real."

She impatiently grabs his hands and pulls him closer as she guides his arms around her waist. He's now cuddling her from behind.

A: "Well....someone is impatient, isn't she.....?"

E: "Can you blame me!? Just look at you....you're arse naked, looking fucking gorgeous and you're not all over me.....why?"

A: "Because I have some restraint my dear...."

She pulls him in even closer so she can feel every inch of his beautiful body pressing against her back.

E: "Well lose it.....I want you to touch me....."

He inhales the fragrance of her hair, her skin as he grazes her shoulder with his face almost nuzzling into her.

A: "Gods.....you're so beautiful....."

E: "Thank you.....you're pretty gorgeous yourself.....tell me you want me....."

A: "Well I thought that was obvious......but yes.....I do."

E: "Good....mm, you smell so nice......."

A: "As do you....now.....tell me you want me too."

E: "I do...."

A: "Good, are you absolutely sure you want this? Because once you give me the go ahead, I will not be able to hold back....."

E: "Yes.....lets see where this goes, shall we......?"

He stands behind her and slides his arms even tighter around her hips so that they meet at the front.

E: "Talk to me....."

He leans down and whispers in her ear.

A: "You are so fucking beautiful. But you know that already, don't you?"

Smirks at the comment then leans back and whispers.

E: "Oh yes, I could literally have any man I want..."

He lightly runs his fingertip down her neck as he whispers in her ear.

A: "What about me.....how much do you want me?"

She teases him.

E: "Oh, a lot......but I'm wearing too many clothes to do anything like that.......how will you remedy that?"

He tightens his grip around her and pulls her as close as they can get without completely merging together. He starts gently kissing her neck as he mumbles.

A: "Hmm, I'm not sure. Do you have any ideas?"

E: "Hmm, a couple....."

A: "And what would those be?"

E: "Well.....do you want me to strip for you while you watch? Bearing in mind that you have to retreat to the bed and you'll not be allowed to touch me until I'm finished undressing....."

A: "Mmm, tempting.... although I don't think I could take my hands off of you right now, even if I wanted to..."

She speaks in a more playful tone.

E: "Hmmm, or your other option is for you to undress me yourself....but you will be temporarily blindfolded and you have to do it based purely on touch...."

He kisses her neck a little harder as she gasps as he mumbles again.

A: "Mmm, must I choose?"

E: "Ahh.....yes.....it makes the whole experience more.....exciting....."

Lowers one hand to her groin and tries to gently massage her sensitive spot through her clothing. She enjoys the touch, but then grabs his hand and says.

E: "Ah, ah, ah....not yet, patience my dear...."

He groans in slight frustration, but is intrigued, he whispers.

A: "You're such a tease.....makes me want you even more...."

She can feel his hardness against her back.

E: "Mm, I know. I can feel it....Just trust me and make your choice... I promise it will be worth it..."

A: "Agh......fine, I want......to strip you myself."

E: "Heheh, wise choice. I will let you take the blindfold off but only after I'm fully undressed..."

A: "Mmh alright, that works for me..."

E: "Hhm, you know, this isn't exactly easy for me either. You have a fucking perfect body....I was curious so took a little peek....at....all of you when you were still asleep...."

He adopts a playful tone as he raises his eyebrow.

A: "Oh, you did, did you?"

He places one hand on one of her breasts and caresses it gently. He then gently thrusts himself into her back while he says.

A: "Well, I'm pleased to know that you like what you saw......if it were anyone else, I'd have felt a little violated..."

She gasps slightly.

E: "Auh.....Oh well....you're quite...mmm...."

A: "Mhhmm, wouldn't you like to know..."

He kisses her neck again and bites down softly, she feels an almost electrifying sensation from his touch and his kiss.

E: "Mmmh, I'm afraid you're you're going to have to let me go for a moment if you want to undress me..."

He kisses her collarbone.

A: "Agh, must I?"

E: "Yes, it will be quick I promise..."

He reluctantly lets go of her, he returns to the bed and waits. She finds another candelabra and lights it, so they can see better. She knows that Seb has a drawer with sexy things in it, she searches it and finds a silk scarf. She walks back over to him twirling the scarf in her hand, she tells him to take one last look before tying it over his eyes. She takes both of his hands in hers and stands him up, placing one hand on her hip and another on her chest and lets him feel around for minute or so.

E: "Have you got your bearings then? Remember, I'm wearing my waist corset so you'll have to undo that first, think you can manage that?"

A: "But of course, can't be that hard can it?" 'Heh, she doesn't know that I've removed so many corsets I actually can do it blindfolded...'

He Feigns feeling around until he finds her back, he then finds the laces and deftly unties them and loosens it enough so that it drops to the floor. He runs his hands up and down her hourglass body and down to her thighs, taking in every contour.

A: "Do you even realise just how sexy you are?"

E: "Of course I do.....don't be silly!"

He smirks then slides his hands back up to find the waistline of her skirt, he gently turns her around and feigns difficulty in unbuttoning it. He lets it drop to the floor, she gently kicks it and her corset out of the way.

E: "You are doing remarkably well at this, one would think you'd done this before... ahh......mmh."

She exclaims as he leaves a trail of kisses up her leg and into her groin.

A: "One could assume that, yes. I have not lived under a rock you know....."

He smirks as he finds the bottom of her blouse and slowly lifts it off over her head.

A: "Hmm, feels like it's just your underwear is left Miss Wintergreen.....but it can wait, I'm not quite done here yet..."

He slides his hands up her waist again and then up to her breasts, he gently cups them, one in each hand just for a few seconds whilst thinking.

A: 'Fuck, they're....perfect....' "It feels like you have the most absolutely perfect tits..."

E: "Why, thank you....I have always been quite proud of them myself..."

A: "Heh, I understand why..."

He then bends down slightly and starts kissing her across the collarbone, slowly progressing down to her left breast, kissing it then gently sucks and nibbles on the nipple, soliciting a pleasured gasp from her.

E: "Mmmhh, you're very skilled with your tongue, aren't you?"

A: "Mhmm, I have had plenty of practice..."

E: Mmh, it shows. Are you going to stop teasing me and actually take off my underwear?!"

A: "Hmm? What was it you said earlier my dear? Patience? blah blah?"

E: "Oh hah. Now who's being a tease?! I'm done teasing....I want you. Right. Now.... kiss me."

With slight frustration in her voice, she pulls him up and kisses him fervently, insistently, hungrily. He takes the hint and peels off her underwear whilst kissing her. He caresses her sensitive spot until she moans quite loudly.

E: "Aaauh, mmmh. Seems your, quite good with your hands too....."

A: "Well....I am a sword fighter and a fucking good one at that...."

E: "Surely that's not all you're good at? Talk dirty to me again....."

He almost growls in her ear.

A: "So.....I have told you everything I like about you and you just seem to know what I like. So I want you to tell me what you like, before I fuck you so hard that you forget your own name...."

E: "Mmmh, someone's very sure of himself...."

A: "That's how I talk dirty....you dirty girl.....tell me what you like....."

E: "Mmm I like it.......I really like it when someone slides a finger in to me first until I literally beg to be fucked. It turns me on so much, I usually climax more than once after that..."

A: "Alright, take this blindfold off me then so I can admire your beautiful body. Then I'll gladly fulfil your request."

Eleanora gently takes off his blindfold, he admires her for a few seconds taking in every curve. He then takes two eager strides forward and puts his arms around her to grab her backside and lifts her up. She instinctively wraps her arms around his shoulders, then her legs around his waist. He carries her to the wall and pushes her up against it, holding her up with just one arm, while he brings his other hand around to the front and gently inserts two fingers inside her, thrusting his hand gently until her gasps and moans get louder.

E: "Ooh.....that's good. You are very good with your hands..."

She moans for another minute or two before she leans and whispers in his ear.

E: "Right. Now...I want you....to take me, right here....."

A: "I suppose I've teased you long enough....."

He moves his other hand back to underneath her bottom to hold her up, she wraps her legs a bit tighter around his hips. They keep kissing passionately and eagerly, her hands wandering his chest and then reaching around to touch his bottom, while his strong arms hold her up. He then hastily enters her, as she moans softly, feeling an instant connection. Almost like they were made for each other. He buries his head in the crook of her neck as he thrusts at a steady pace for a few minutes, her moaning grows more intense until she squeals with pleasure as she climaxes for the first time, she keeps kissing him with hunger. He breaks thier kiss for a moment, looking smug, then whispers breathlessly.

A: "Heh, enjoying yourself?"

E: "AAUH, can you not tell?! Now. harder! AAH."

A: "Heh, even the noises you make are sexy....."

He does as she asks and thrusts harder and faster, her moans become more intense until her voice is almost hoarse, until she climaxes again and screams.

E: "AUH FUCK, YES AAUH YES!"

A: "Auh, fuck!"

He breathlessly exclaims as he climaxes. He then rests his head on her shoulder until he's finished. They speak breathlessly to each other.

A: "That.......that was probably the best sex I've ever had. All the teasing definitely made it.....so worth it.....and you.....you're so responsive to my touch.....it's such a turn on....."

He carries her to the bed, still inside her and gently places her down on her back and kneels over her gazing into her eyes.

A: "I don't want to remove myself now.....I just want to fuck you again and again....."

E: "I....tend to have that effect on most men.....besides, I'm not stopping you....."

A: "Heh I can believe it....You have me completely under your spell and its likely that I'll never want to take my hands off you ever again...."

E: "Play your cards right.....that was amazing....But please don't get too ahead of yourself, it's probably just the head spinning pleasure talking....."

A: "I don't care what it is......wait.....you're not saying you regret this are you.....?"

E: "....No......I don't know....Yes I felt a spark, a connection, almost like you were made for me..... But these things take time to build, I mean, we barely know each other......"

A: "You don't have to know each other to want to fuck someone...."

E: "That's just it....we were so consumed by lust that that's all we could think about, I mean yes we can keep having sex, because it was fucking amazing. But....."

She trails off.

A: "But what?"

E: ".....if you want more than that then it takes time...."

He moves off of her and looks a bit disappointed after that comment, but understands her reasoning.

A: "Of course, I understand. You still love.....him.....don't you?"

E: "Maybe....again, I don't know.....you've gone and shaken me up....so much that I don't know what I want....or indeed why......My point stands however, we barely know each other. We do have a lot in common and I do feel a deep connection between us, especially after that....."

A: "I...think.....I want more....."

She strokes his face tenderly.

E: "Well, I'm not saying it won't happen, all I'm asking for is patience.....and for you to do that again....."

A: "I understand....I am known to jump head first into things. So I'm sorry if I got a little spirited away, I don't want to scare you off or anything. I just can't shake this feeling, like I know you on a deeper level than just friends....."

E: "I share that feeling, I assure you, truly. It is, however, like you said, I'm not yet over him yet. But with each passing day, I'm getting there. And you are the only man to have shown any interest in me since all that shit happened, others are too scared to approach me....."

A: "Somehow I doubt that....."

E: "Eh, maybe.....I think I need someone not from here who wouldn't be scared off by that and I believe that you may be that person.....the one to help me move on from this.....at least I want you to be...."

A: "Well, I'll certainly try. You're more than worth it, mi amora."

He tenderly kisses her hand.

A: ".....Right....since you have been forthcoming about your feelings for me, I feel I must tell you a truth about myself. My name isn't really Samuel, well it is, but not my first name...."

E: "Really? You're telling me that you're not really who you say you are, now?! You pick your moments....."

A: "No, no I promise it's not what you think. Samuel is just my middle name, my first name is actually Alexander. The reason I took my middle name because I associate it with my father and to be absolutely honest, I can't stand him. He is nothing but a worm, a snake, a liar and an all round dickhead. He left me and my mother when I was 18, with no money as he'd gambled it all away.....I like my name but that man.....ugh."

E: "Oh, I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions, I have trust issues as you could probably understand......I like the name Alexander though, it suits you better, it's quite sexy actually...."

A: "Well...in that case.....I'll go back to it....I'll inform your father about it later. I think it's amazing that we just did that but then resume normal conversation, almost like a married couple...."

E: "Strange, but true....."

He then smirks at her again.

A: "Definitely......besides, the actual reason I'm telling you my real name, is so you can scream it at the top of your lungs when I fuck you again....."

He turns onto his side to face Eleanora, he puts his arms out to reach for her and pulls her closer to him, she's now facing the same way as him, wrapped in his arms. He then fondles one of her breasts with one hand, then with the other, he gently brushes a lock of her hair away from her ear and whispers.

A: "Now......where was I? Hmm, correct me if I'm wrong but I'm sure I recall you asking me to do that again....."

He thinks to himself.

'This is just fucked up, I literally can't take my hands off of her....she has me addicted to her....already.....one taste is all I needed......'

E: "Well....I won't object to your wandering hands, nor anything else for that matter."

He whispers to her again.

A: "You....are.....just......too......perfect....."

He pauses in thought for a second.

A: "Would you....curve your backside towards me a little, I want to try something..."

E: "...Well.....I'm intrigued."

She arches her back closer to him. Then feels, his hand reach over her to her sensitive spot, he starts to gently massage it.

E: "Mmmh that's the.....uuh"

He whispers in her ear again.

A: "So responsive to my touch.....it is such a turn on....well you can probably feel it against your back....."

He is enjoying watching her writhe around listlessly until she climaxes, her legs vibrating and her toes curling as waves of pleasure wash over her like the ocean.

E: "Mmm....yes...uhhh.... You.....me....now...."

A: "I also love how you lose coherency a little..... Lift your leg up for me, I want to try something else..."

E: "Mmm, yes...."

She lifts her leg up.

He positions himself behind her then while holding her leg up with one hand, he pulls her hips closer with the other. She briefly feels a finger down there as he searches for the right entrance then he enters her. He gently starts thrusting, as she moans softly. Its an intimate position, he is softly kissing her neck and caressing her breasts.

A: "Mmm, Gods, your tits are perfect. They alone are enough to turn me on..."

He carries on like this for a few minutes then whispers to her.

A: "As intimate as this is, I'd love you to turn over onto your front and then get up on to your knees for me?"

E: "Mhmm alright, I like a man who can take control..."

She does as he asks and feels him behind her, he lightly smacks her her bottom then hastily enters her again, her front is raised up on her elbows. With his hands resting on her hips, his thrusts are faster and more rhythmic now, with more freedom to move. He then leans forwards for a while and rests himself on her back, while he reaches around and grabs her breasts again. He speaks breathlessly in between thrusts.

A: "Oh.....Gods......you're....perfect...."

E: "Mhmmm....uhh.......harder!"

He leans back again and thrusts harder, enjoying her howls of intense pleasure. He then withdraws, briefly flips her onto her back. He is kneeling, his body upright, she lifts her legs up and rests them on his chest in a V shape, hooking her legs over his shoulders.

E: "Hmm, another position change?"

A: "Yes. I hope you don't mind... I just want to see your beautiful face as I give you the best climax of your life....plus.... y'know....tits...."

He thrusts back inside her again and he moves quicker and deeper inside her.

E: "My Gods......that's the spot.....keep.....going....."

He does, and doesn't stop. She keeps screaming for more and he's only too happy to oblige, harder and faster until they both reach an explosive climax. Intense waves of emotion wash over them both, confirming and strengthening any feelings of attraction between them.

E: "I think I'm.....Aaah....mmhhh.......AAHH YES....ALEXANDER.....YES!"

She screams as she comes to climax. Seconds afterwards, he moans.

A: "Uuumh.......fuck..... that's what I wanted to hear......uhh. Gods...."

He's still throbbing inside her.

A: "There's that feeling again, I don't want to move...."

With her toes curled and still gasping in pleasure.

E: "Don't then, If I wasn't so tired. I'd suggest going again. I'm not the only one who's addictive you know......we're....so in sync and it just makes it that much better....."

A: "Yes.....it's odd that we're so in tune.....but I like it...."

E: "Mmh so do I....Gods my head is spinning....."

Still panting a little, he speaks breathlessly but smiles arrogantly.

A: "Heh, that's good to know.......I tend to have that effect on all of my lovers...."

He gently withdraws and moves to lie next to her, he lies on his back and lifts an arm, beckoning her to cuddle. She moves closer to him turns onto her side, rests her head on his chest and rests her arm over his stomach.

E: "Mmm, your chest is comfortable....Can I just say, you were right. That was the best climax I've ever had.....we were much louder that time too, I hope no one heard us...."

His eyes open wide in realisation.

A: "Hah, yes and seeing your face and of course your perfect tits when it happened sent shivers down my spine making my climax even better.....And shit, I didn't think about that.....I could only think about you, I temporarily forgot the rest of the world even existed....Is there a chance they heard?"

E: "Well possibly.....this manor is built sturdy with thick walls, thankfully though. Papa, Lucille, Armand and Genny's bedrooms are all in the west wing. We are in the East wing along with the study, games room and spare rooms. So we're far enough away from everyone else....I hope."

She gently strokes his chest hair while he rubs her shoulder.

E: "Alexander?"

A: "Hmm?"

E: "Can I ask you something?"

A: "Of course, I'm an open book. What do you want to know?"

E: "Well, I was just thinking...if were going to continue.....whatever this is and more importantly, if we keep sleeping together, there is a risk of pregnancy.....I know that female wizards experience a decrease in fertility after as young as eighteen, is it the same for male wizards, do you know?"

A: "I am aware of the risk and if it happens, it happens, I'll stay with you. And yes, its the same for male wizards, if you have elven blood like myself. We men get an extra four or years but after about twenty one, fertility declines, in fact it wouldn't surprise me if I were actually sterile now. Human male wizards get longer.....have been known to be fertile well after 30 though, that explains your little brother and sister."

E: "Just as long as you know the risks, I am still young so it's about a higher chance for me, it's comforting to know that because you're older, the chances are decreased further. How old are you again?"

A: "Hah, yes it is comforting to know that all this sex is most likely consequence free, means we can do it more......"

E: "Heh, someone is keen...."

A: "Well, obviously.....Oh and I'm twenty seven......Look Eleanora, I really want this to carry on, I feel as though I've known you forever.....But only if you're happy with it? I mean, fuck, I'd marry you now if you'd let me...."

Her eyes open wide after realising what he'd just said.

E: "Yes, I know just as long as you're prepared....wait, did you just say you'd marry me right now?! We've only known each other for days..."

A: "I did, because I probably would. I've never met anyone like you, you're extraordinary, stunningly beautiful, extremely intelligent and an absolute fox both in and out of the bedroom. I can't explain what you do to me or how this happened so quickly Eleanora, you have this power over me that just....it usually takes me months or even years to fall for someone, that's if I ever do....I usually just do the odd one night stand and just be done with it....but with you.....I cant help myself, like right now, I just want to touch you again...."

E: ".....Alright, I wasn't expecting that.... But I do like the sound of it.....I can understand it a little, Adam said similar things quite often........Shit, sorry to mention him again, just after you bared your soul to me......So.......I have this power over you huh?"

She looks up at him with a cunning smirk. He smiles back then hugs her closer, savouring every inch of skin contact.

A: "Yes....it's like.....I lose all control when I'm around you....almost like I'm in a lust fuelled trance....you're doing again....wait......you've not cast a spell on me have you?"

E: "Hah, really? I hope you're not being serious.....such a funny man aren't you? However, if such a spell existed, I'd never cast it on anyone, I don't like the idea of manipulating peoples emotions. Thier actions however....."

She starts tickling his chest.

A: "Wait, please don't do that, I have a really sensitive, ticklish spot on my lower stomach...."

She tickles him exactly where he said.

A: "Shit......ahahahh.....why did I tell you that?!"

E: "Because you're a fool! Heheh!"

He wriggles free for just a moment.

A: "I actually was being half serious about that question, I know enough about magic to know that actions can be manipulated, but emotions cannot?"

She tickles his lower stomach and he flinches slightly.

E: "Heh, you just gave away a weakness! But seriously no, emotions cannot be manipulated as they are different for every person, too many variables to consider. Besides action manipulation and mind control is dark magic, it's not allowed here."

He wriggles uncontrollably.

A: "No no, hehhhha.....stop it, stop it please! I relent..... ahahahhhh! I will do anything, you are now my mistress!"

She laughs at his silliness, while thinking.

E: 'We even have the same sense of humour.... maybe this will work out...'

"Heheh, you are now under my control.....I order you....to kiss me!"

A: "As you wish milady...."

He bends his neck down and she looks up. He gives her a sweet, tender but lingering kiss.

A: "Ugh, you're doing it again. I swear, it literally only takes one kiss or one touch from you to turn me on.....I have to confess, that when you kissed me in the garden earlier on, I was so turned on that I literally ran to the gazebo for some privacy and....em....deal with it myself...."

E: "Oh Gods, hah, that's just brilliant......but I'm not upset with you, Seb has brought many of his conquests to that gazebo, he says there's an aura about it that....well, I'll spare you the details......besides, it is comforting to know that you're so easily turned on, I think it's sexy."

He blushes a little with embarrassment.

A: "Heh, well I couldn't very well just walk in to a house where there may well be children walking around, with a glaringly obvious erection now could I?! I am a guest here and someone could get the wrong idea......"

E: "Hahah, I suppose not...."

A: ".....Well I'm glad you found it funny. Maybe I can take you in there at some point? Heheh.....Now for a hasty subject change, kiss me."

She repositions herself so that she is leaning half over him, one hand resting next to his shoulder. She leans in and kisses him tenderly on the lips and then kisses her way down his neck as he shivers with anticipation.

E: "Mm, you like that?"

A: "Oh fuck yes, but you've literally exhausted me for tonight mistress, I must recuperate lest we both end up sore...."

E: "Hah, ok I'll let you rest....do you want me to....deal with that? It might help you sleep....."

A: "Mmmh, go on then...."

She smirks at him.

E: "And I thought you were tired..."

A "I am. I'm too tired to full on fuck you again, as much as I want to.... you're actually like a succubus you know? Draining my life force.....heh, but I'm not complaining though....."

Feigns being insulted.

E: "Ugh, a succubus?! How very dare you! It's actually a good comparison, I'm irresistible after all. I don't mind, as long as I can think of a name for you too.....you've spent so much time complimenting me, but I haven't really told you what I like about you....."

A: "Well, you just called me irresistible and you've complimented my sexual..... prowess more than once. That's good enough for me...."

E: "Well, yes but I mean a compliment about something specific, like your eyes for example are the most beautiful mixture of sky blue and indigo that I have ever seen, they are especially striking against your golden skin and well, let's just say, I like long hair on a man and yours just sits perfectly.....a little messy but not in a bad way, pleasantly framing your handsome face...."

A: "...Thank you, really. I've generally always liked what I see in the mirror and really, can you blame me? Heh. But you notice all the little things don't you? It's very flattering though, so thank you.....not that my over inflated ego needs it......."

E: "Hah, definitely not. We're quite alike in that sense too, I know I'm beautiful and use it to my every advantage...."

A: "Don't I know it.....And if it's worth mentioning, your eyes were the first thing I noticed about you in the tavern that night......"

He grimaces as he realised what he's just let slip.

E: "Hah! So it was you, I knew it!"

A: "Fuck...."

E: "Fuck what? I just thought you seemed familiar is all, then I remembered your eyes.....I'm sorry I tried to kill you...."

A: "It's.....alright, I was a rude jerk....I sort of deserved it....."

E: "Yes, you were.....but I'll admit.....I still fancied you, that sexy black, very fitted armour.... especially after you took that hood off and I saw your face......Gods you're gorgeous....."

A: "Heh, thank you......You know, when I saw......those gleaming green gemstones of eyes, staring me down with such bravado, such confidence.....I admired the fact that you stood up to a hooded stranger.......and your 'I don't give a fuck what you think.' attitude too. Call it fate if you will but there was just something intriguing about you....I knew I would see you again....and well, just two weeks later and I just don't want to stop kissing, touching you or even smelling your intoxicating scent, you smell like sweet violets and vanilla to me and I can't get enough of it...."

E: "But I smell like that to anyone, they are my favourite fragrances."

A: "I'm trying to be romantic here....."

E: "Heh, sorry......you are!"

A: "Mhmm."

E: "So one afternoon, I thought to use my alchemical equipment to boil and reduce down a vanilla pod and a few violets into a concentrated tincture. Just 3 drops and I smell beautiful all day....."

A: "Mmh, you're such a clever girl, I find that very sexy too....I like a woman with substance as well as captivating beauty.......I wonder, do you want to sleep here tonight.....with me?"

He turns onto his side to face her, looking into her eyes whilst softly stroking her cheek with his free hand. He then slides his hand down her body to rest it on her hip.

E: "But of course, I thought that was already implied by the fact I haven't yet left the room....Are you sure I won't distract you too much to sleep though? Considering that every time you even touch me, you.......stand to attention....."

A: "Heh, I'm sure I'll cope..."

E: "Alright, I'll keep my promise then...."

A: "Oh, and what promise is that?"

She puts a finger over his mouth to shush him.

E: "This..."

She kisses him tenderly on the lips as her hands wander down his chest, to his stomach then further down to his waist. She then gently wraps both hands around his arousal and starts to gently caress it. She continues to kiss his whilst carrying on the same motion for a few minutes. He gasps as his leg starts vibrating uncontrollably.

A: "Oh....Gods."

E: "You like that?"

He's shuddering whilst breathing heavily with pleasure, he breathlessly says.

A: "Fuck. Yes. Keep...going...faster...unhhh Gods, keep kissing me!"

She kisses him more passionately and starts moving her hands a little faster and faster until he is gasping for air. He suddenly grabs her hands and abruptly stops her.

A little surprised, she asks.

E: "Is everything alright?!"

Still breathless, he replies.

A: "Hehh...yes....fine.... lie on your back....legs up....now....."

E: "Mmh, alright......"

She does this and then he moves between her legs, he then plunges deep inside her and starts thrusting again. She gasps in surprise.

E: "Uuuuh, I.....thought you....aaahh! Were.....too aah....tired!"

A: "I was but.....I decided I wanted to finish inside you.....You're not complaining, are you?"

He says this while moving harder and faster for another minute before coming again.

E: "No.....uuh. I'm...good.....harder, harder....I'm almost........ AUH YES...YES!"

He finishes inside her and then stays there for a moment admiring his good work.

A: "Fuck, you're even so beautiful..... Your flushed cheeks, your messed up hair, your moans, and.....I fucking love it when you scream my name.... there are very few things that are sexier than that."

They look deeply into each others eyes for another few moments before he flops down onto the bed in an exhausted heap next to her.

A: "Now....as much as I enjoyed that, we must sleep, otherwise I'll never have the energy to do this again."

E: "I agree, blue eyes. Goodnight to you then."

She kisses her finger tip then places it on his lips.

A: "Good night, mistress assassin.....or should I say sweet cheeks..."

He cups her face and kisses her forehead sweetly, then reaches over and gently smacks her backside. They both drift off onto a comfortable, peaceful sleep in each others arms. The perfect end to a wonderful night.

Chapter 7: The morning after.

It is not long after sunrise when Alexander awakens to a beam of sunlight pouring onto his face through the small gap in the drapery. It is yet another sunny spring morning, the fruit trees in the garden are in full bloom. As he rubs the sleep out of his eyes, he briefly gets up to close the gap in the drapes, regretting leaving the warmth of the bed almost instantly, he quickly gets back into bed, but by this point, he feels too awake to drift off again. He turns onto his side and props up his head on his hand using his elbow. He admires the sleeping face next to him, stroking a lock of her messy but still silken black hair and starts thinking, his rationality starts wrestling internally with his emotions.

A: 'This woman......this stunningly beautiful and almost perfect woman, so young, yet already so well versed in life's problems, I just want to ease her pain however I can......What the hell are you thinking? This is not like you, you usually just fuck then move on! You can't do this now, you're supposed to be doing a job, not falling in love with this girl, who....will likely never forgive me if she finds out who I really am......That means, if I'm falling in love with her, I should tell her the truth, I want more out of this than just sex, amazing as it is........and what of the truth? She will end up hurt if I continue to lie to her.....I'm at an impasse within my own head here, I know what I should do but I also know what I want. Should I follow my head or my heart? I could write mother another letter asking her advice. This time as a son and not just an agent, she's more likely to write back that way. Aaallllthough she was never really the type of mother to help me deal with this kind of thing. That job was either Dom's or aunt Lia's, but she's long gone, Gods bless her soul......Alright, Dom it is if I send it now, I might get a response by tomorrow....'

He examines Eleanoras face a little longer and runs his thumb gently down her cheek, then gets out of bed and puts his black, knee length robe on. He walks over to the writing desk in the corner, pulls some parchment and some ink out of his bag, sits down and starts writing.

Dearest Cousin Dominic.

It's been far too long since I last wrote you, at least a year is it not? How is the family? Mother informed me that you've not long welcomed your second child, I hope everything is going well.

I write to you now because you are the only person whose advice I truly trust, you've always been like a big brother to me. The situation is, I'm working a contract where I have to infiltrate a family, become a magic college student and find out more information about the head of this family and his connection to a fellow who has disappeared under strange circumstances. Well, so far so good. Except, the head of this family has a 21 year old daughter who is connected to the missing fellow, she's his fianceé or ex fianceé.

She is so stunningly beautiful, it's almost unbelievable. I find that I cannot be my usual self and lack control around her, she is completely and utterly captivating, her kiss intoxicating, she has me under her spell and I fear I'm falling for her already.

I know my sense of duty should override this, I'm trained to seduce people for information, it's just what I do. But there's just something different about her, we share a sense of humour, we both have troubled pasts and we seem to have a deep, mutual understanding of each other both physically and emotionally. We have this connection that appears to have come from nowhere. I feel like I've known her forever but we only met days ago, like it was my destiny to meet her.

I'm having an internal struggle here, my emotions are overtaking my rationality and I honestly don't know what to do. I genuinely feel she could be the one I've waited for, for so long. But if she finds out who I really am, what sort of future could we have?! This is already killing me, any words of wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

N.b. Oh and before you ask, yes we have already made love, three times in one night in fact, we just couldn't keep our hands off of each other. You didn't really need to know that but you know I like to brag. Honestly though, it was the best I've ever had.

Your loving cousin Alexander.

He finishes writing, folds up the letter and searches for a candle, he finds a red one and also finding a seal in the same drawer he places a wax seal on it. The seal is in the shape of a swallow, a classic Idrallan seal. He quietly walks over to the drapes and opens them just enough to reveal the doors to the balcony, he quietly, or so he thinks, steps outside to dematerialise the letter and send it away in a puff of blue smoke. Shortly after he does this, a small blue sparkle appears in his hand and a small note bearing black Sadrian raven seal.

'Hm, this must be mother's or Davins reply to my report from a few days ago, if it's from mother, it will be short and sweet, if its from Davin, it will be scathing as usual.'

He opens it to read it.

'Phew, it's from mother.'

S.T.

Thank you for the update, try not to mess things up this time please. And please for the love of the Gods be careful, I need you alive, not just because you're an important asset to this syndicate but for my own sanity, I do love you so much, remember that.

Stay safe.

Sincerely. A.

'She may not be the kind of mother who gives me advice, but there's no doubt she loves me. Love you too Ma.'

He briefly kisses the letter then places it in his robe pocket. He leans forward onto the rails of the balcony and admires the view, the fields, and meadows in the distance turning into rolling green hillsides, which eventually meet the snow covered mountains. He's so lost in his thoughts again, that he doesn't notice Eleanora quietly glide onto the balcony behind him until she snakes her arms around his waist, clasping them together around his front, she rests her head on his back. He suddenly jolts out of his thoughts then takes her hands on his. She talks softly, her voice slightly croaky and hoarse.

E: "Surprised again hmm? You're quite a jumpy fellow you know...."

He leans backwards slightly into her embrace whilst thinking.

A: 'Oh, you have no fucking idea....'

"Yes I can be, but you, you really need to wear a bell or something!"

E: "Hah, maybe I will start if I scare you so easily that you almost jump out of your skin, it's quite funny actually......"

He turns around, still in her arms, to face her. He puts his arms around her and rests his forehead on hers whilst looking into her eyes with a sly smirk on his face. He speaks in a faux condescending manner.

A: "You, you are a mean little missy aren't you? Taking advantage of me like that......"

He leans around slightly to whisper in her ear.

A: "....and I fucking love it......come here beautiful...."

He pulls her into a tight embrace, she rests her head on his shoulder.

E: "Oh....and is this my punishment....you're going to squeeze me to death?"

He slides his hands up and down her back and bottom, still holding her close. She rests her head on his chest again, when both standing at full height she just reaches the bottom of his neck or top of his chest, not quite his shoulder. She is surprised by the intimacy of the embrace, no expectation behind it, it seems as though he just wants to hold her. He lovingly strokes her hair.

A: "Hmm, no....I'll think of that later.....for the time being just.... kiss me....."

E: "Now that, I can do."

She tilts her head up and starts kissing his neck, working up to his jaw, he sighs with delight, she stands on the balls of her feet and moves on to his lips and clasps her hands at the back of his head, burying them into his thick hair pulling his face closer, deepening the kiss. He rests one hand on the back of her head, grasping at her hair whilst groping her bottom with his other hand, his robe starts to become looser at the top.

He breaks away slightly.

A: "You have such a beautiful arse by the way....."

He starts kissing her again.

E: "Mph, thank you..."

She breaks away to rest her forehead on his again, then starts kissing her way down his neck, then starts moving downwards to his collarbone, and leaves a trail of soft, tickling, teasing kisses down his chest then down his perfectly toned stomach until she's crouched down on her knees. She starts kissing the bottom of his stomach while gently moving her tongue in circles on the sensitive, ticklish spot on his hip as he inhales sharply with pleasure. She stops briefly and looks up at him, smirking.

A: "Ah...why did you stop, you're such a tease...."

E: "Ah. Ah. I'm not done yet, if you want me to carry on, you must do as I say....understand?"

A: "If you're about to do what I think you're about to do, then I'm at your command.....mistress....."

E: "Alright, I'll give you a hand signal, when I do, start gently moving your hips towards me ok?"

A: "What, like I'm fucking you?"

E: "Yes, exactly..."

A: Yes....ma'am..."

She pushes him lightly backwards towards the railing of the balcony beckoning him to lean his back on them, one hand gripping the railing. The other grips the back of her head. She gently and teasingly unties his robe belt so his front is bared. She then starts to trail her finger teasingly down from his belly button down to the base of his arousal, then grips it gently and puts it in her mouth. At first, she starts gently lightly sucking on him for the first few minutes. She then opens her mouth more to suck him in deeper and then gives him the hand signal. He starts gently moving his hips back and forth, moaning and gasping until after 5 more minutes of this. He lightly grips her face, staring into her eyes, wordlessly beckoning her to stop what she's doing, she understands and does. He then bends down, lifts her back up onto her feet and steps behind her.

A: "That was wonderful.....but can you stay facing that way.....I want you do something else for me now..."

E: "...mhm, alright......"

A: "Lean forwards, and take a firm hold of the railings."

E: "Ok, just as well I'm not scared of heights...."

She winks at him.

A: "Just as well....you'll be reaching one in a few minutes...."

She does as he asks, he takes a hold of her from behind, gently gripping her bottom with both hands. She hears him muttering approvingly under his breath. He then bends her over a bit more, lifts up her skirt, grips her hips and then enters her from behind and starts, quickly and aggressively thrusting. He only does this for a minute or so before loudly moaning, clearly enjoying himself, she closes her eyes and starts moaning as well.

E: "Oh, Gods that's the spot....aagh!"

He leans forwards over her back, smacks then gropes her butt and then whispers in her ear, in an almost animalistic manner.

A: "You like that huh?"

E: "Aah yes, I like it when you smack my butt too....."

A: "Good to hear..."

He moves his hands around to her front and tugs the front of her dress open and starts gripping her breasts with both hands for a moment, he leaves them hanging out of her robe over the balcony fence whilst he straightens up, places his hands on her hips and starts thrusting harder and faster for another few minutes building up a crescendo until they are both breathless, coming to an explosive climax. He speaks breathlessly.

A: "Now.....that was amazing..... you're pretty talented.....with your mouth little missy....."

E: "It really was..... I have been told that before....I didn't get the chance to bring you to climax though.......why did you stop me so soon?"

A: "Because I was so turned on that I would've came in a minute, I wanted it to last a little longer....besides, I really like being inside you.....I swear, the best way to wake up is a morning blow.... followed by a quick one on the balcony of course...."

He winks at her smugly, then snakes his arms around her pulling her up to standing position and groping her breasts before she has a chance to fix her robe. He's hugging her from behind and rests his head on her shoulder so he can whisper into her ear.

A: "I just can't get enough of you, you know that?"

She turns her head around to the side and catches him in a sweet, lingering kiss before saying.

E: "Oh, believe me, I know...... and I like it......Oh, Shit. I just realised......neighbours can see this balcony...."

A: "So....?"

E: "What do you mean so?! SO, it just means that any particularly observant neighbours got a lovely spectators view of my bare tits hanging over the railing of the balcony while I was getting railed myself...."

He puts his hands on her chest and squeezes emphatically, one hand on each breast.

A: "I repeat, so...? What's wrong with a little exhibitionism? I mean, who wouldn't want to see your tits?! They are pretty perfect after all....."

She glares at him, then sniggers.

E: "Fine......I suppose so, they are pretty nice.....and that was pretty sexy........just not when there's a possibility of my elderly neighbours watching.......or good Gods! What if any children saw?! If we ever do this again, we at least make sure no kids or old perverts are watching, deal?"

He winks at her, smiles then pulls her in for a hug, stroking her hair reassuringly.

A: "Deal. But you do now know that I'll be even more tempted to just rail you wherever the whim takes me right? What about in public or-"

She cuts him off by placing her finger over his mouth to shush him.

A: "Nope, nope, nope. I like my privacy......and not being in jail, I'd prefer not being thrown in the cells for indecent exposure....."

A: "Hah, alright.....but that means I could do you in the cells too....."

E: "Gods, what is it with you?! Is being watched or possibly getting caught a kink of yours or something?!"

He gives her a cheeky side glance and a sly little smirk.

A: "Hmm, maybe....surely even you have to admit, just the risk of getting caught makes it more exciting, no?"

She rolls her eyes back in thought for a moment.

E: "I mean....maybe. We can try it sometime, if you like? I suppose you don't know whether you like something until you try it......"

A: "Exactly.....I'll help you to discover your kinks...."

Pauses thoughtfully for a moment.

E: "Oh! The college would be a good place......fraternisation of almost all kinds is forbidden on campus......"

A: "Hmm, what do you mean by almost all kinds?"

E: "Well, things like holding hands, cuddling or hugging in a platonic way and kissing a peck on the cheek or the lips are all alright. Anything more than that is regarded as lewd and unprofessional behaviour....."

He raises an eyebrow and gives her another almost evil smirk.

E: "I'm getting to know that look very well already, Blue eyes....It means you're thinking of something dirty or you're being a naughty tease.....or both.

A: "Hmm, it seems you have me all figured out Missy...."

She smirks back.

E: "Well.....perhaps I do....you older men are so much easier to read."

He dramatically feigns being wounded, then places the back of his hand on his forehead.

A: "OLDER MEN?!....be still my wounded heart!....Hah......older men......I'm almost twenty eight, not fucking forty....."

She raises an eyebrow triumphantly.

E: "Well.....seven years is quite the age gap isn't it?"

Raises an eyebrow in a suspicious manner, then smiles smugly.

A: "Oh really? Is that so, missy? I didn't see or hear you complaining about it earlier on.....or last night.....I think you deserve some kind of punishment for being so mean, young lady....."

E: "Oh? And what would that be?"

A "Hmm, I shall think on it and get back to you later.......On a more serious note though. The sun is almost fully in the sky, let's get ready and go to the college."

She raises a questioning eyebrow.

E: "Heh, You are just eager to get me there so you can kiss me in public aren't you?"

A: "Maybe....or perhaps I have other plans.....like fucking you on your desk...."

E: "Oh I like the sound of that!"

He winks at her.

A: "Heh, thought you might....Also, I don't really want to upset your papa by being late and unprepared, especially if I want him to approve of me courting his daughter...."

Her eyes open wide in realisation.

E: "Ahem, what? You want to court me? Is it not a little too early for that? I'm not even sure.....what this relationship is yet....."

A: "Nor do I.....but I still want to be on his good side and ask for his blessing and all that. At least let me try....."

E: "Ugh, alright. Your charms have swayed me again. Right. Let's get a move on, breakfast should be almost ready by now....and remember don't mention the whole 'us fucking' thing, they don't need to know that yet, so keep quiet for me please?"

He ushers her back into the room.

A: "Alright little missy, I'm sworn to secrecy.....after you mi amora...."

They head back into the room, and they actually manage to get washed and dressed and keep their hands off of each other. Ten minutes later, they head downstairs to have breakfast with the rest of the household.

Chapter 8: Meeting the family.

Eleanora walks downstairs first so as to not arouse any suspicion that they had spent the night and morning together. She walks gracefully as ever into the dining room and takes a seat at the table. It's a long thin table, with enough space to sit over 30 people comfortably, Joseph is already up and he sits at the head of the table, picking at his breakfast whilst his nose is buried in a book. Lucille is adjacent to him with Armand next to her, she is fruitlessly trying to get him to eat a piece of fried tomato, while, Genny is in the kitchen, hassling one of the staff for another sweet pastry and for some unknown reason, Seb is there too, he is flirting with the new maid, she's a very pretty, tall brunette. Eleanora watches her family for a few moments then walks into the kitchen for a plate of scrambled eggs, bread and butter and a juicy red apple. She walks back through makes a sarcastic comment to Seb.

E: "Ugh, Seb. Leave that poor girl alone, she already has to make our beds. She doesn't need the added misfortune of ending up in yours...."

She sticks out her tongue at him in a joking manner. Seb talks in a joking sarcastic tone.

S: "Aand a good morning to you too dear sister...."

He then sticks up his middle finger at her then smiles his usual cheeky smile. The maid excuses herself and walks about 10 feet away from them to await her daily tasks. Eleanora feigns being affronted.

E: "Ugh, how very rude! Hahah. So.....what are you doing here so early anyway? You normally haven't even left your bed yet..."

S: "Heh, I know. Believe me, I'm not here by choice. Pops asked me up here this morning, so I can move more of my things into my place and so I could meet your new houseguest. Aand it's just my luck that the new staff start today as well, might as well get to know them too...."

He then winks at the pretty elven maid and gives her his most charming smile. She was obviously still looking at him, she acts all coy and starts blushing. Eleanora speaks in a slightly hushed tone.

E: "You know, that would almost be cute if she weren't to become the next notch on your bedpost... Are you ever going to settle down?"

S: "Eh, probably not. I was all ready to do that a couple of years ago with Shayna, or did you forget about her?"

E: "Hmm, oh yes.....the brunette forest beauty whom you met in a fucking bar.....How could I forget her?"

S: "Need I remind you that she wasn't just one of my many 'conquests' I thought I fucking loved that girl and she cheated on me numerous times.....that almost made me lose faith in love......."

She rolls her eyes.

E: "Oh please. You have a penchant for the dramatic, she merely gave you a taste of your own medicine and you didn't like it. Now, I know you think you loved her but it doesn't mean you have to give up, or that you will never love someone again......"

S: "Ugh.....I hate it when you are right.....you're always right though.....and touché....El....touché...."

She smiles smugly.

E: "Well of course, I'm always right.....I am the smart one...."

Seb appears to be thinking for a second.

S: "Hang on though.....this isn't like you, you aren't moping, you're smiling for the first time in over six weeks......And you are actually being slightly positive about love again......did I miss something here?"

She smirks at him.

E: "Probably.....it is you after all......you're not particularly observant...."

S: "Ehehh....cheeky bitch...."

At that moment, Alexander walks into the room. He quickly glances at Eleanora and she gives him a knowing look. Then without a word, Joseph sees him and bows his head to him in acknowledgement, Alexander smiles and nods in response, Joseph then goes back to his book. Alexander then does the same to Lucille, who smiles at him and introduces herself, she tells him to help himself to whatever he wants to eat, she then goes back to what she's doing. He then walks over to the table and sits down, he makes himself comfortable then helps himself to some bread, butter a scone and jam. Seb looks at Alexander, quietly examining him for a few moments, he then turns back to Eleanora, who is making no secret of the fact that she's eyeing him up.....Seb has a smug look on his face as if he'd just figured out something worthy to gossip about. Seb is now looking at Eleanora knowingly, she catches his eye. Then she tries to avoid his gaze to no avail, he starts speaking almost in a whisper.

S: "Oh......I get it now....."

E: "What....? You get what now?"

S: "Oh, nothing......"

E: "Come on....don't be a dick..."

S: "Fine....I just happened to notice the way he looked at you when he walked in here....what was more interesting however, was your reaction to it.....you blushed like a school girl and you kept unabashedly staring at him....."

E: "I don't have a clue what you are talking about..."

S: "Oh come on, El. If it's obvious to me, then it must be obvious.....You fancy him don't you?"

E: "....So what if I do?"

S: "Well I can hardly blame you.....even I have to admit, that's one good looking man right there...."

She glances over to Alexander again and smiles briefly, then looks back at Seb.

E: "Hmm, he definitely is...."

S: "Hah, knew it! Wait, you haven't done anything already have you?"

She starts to blush and tries to avoid Seb's eye contact again.

E: "Uhm well-"

He interjects.

S: "No, no.....no need to say anything, your expression says it all.....Armed with that knowledge, I think I'll go and introduce myself..."

He starts walking off smugly but barely makes it two feet before Eleanora grabs his arm and gives him a pleading look.

E: "Please don't mention anything, at least not here, not now. I'll speak to papa about it later, I promise.....please?!"

He relents and nods in agreement.

S: "Fine but you have to promise me....I'll literally just introduce myself and I'll talk to him a little, ask him about himself etcetera. I wont mention any of this alright?"

She sighs in relief.

E: "Thanks, Seb. I sometimes hate how you know me so well that I literally can't hide anything from you...."

S: "I know....you're a fucking terrible liar.....and I love it heheh!"

Seb then walks over to Alexander and sits next to him, Eleanora takes a seat opposite them both and starts eating her breakfast, occasionally glancing at them to make sure Seb keeps his promise. Seb addresses Alexander.

S: "Good morning sir. Sebastian Wintergreen. Am I right to assume that you are our new house guest?"

Seb offers him a hand to shake it. Alexander puts his cutlery down and shakes Seb's hand.

A: "Yes, good day Sebastian. I am the new houseguest. Alexander Samuel Graves. It's good to make your acquaintance. I've heard much about you already.

S: "Good to meet you too Alexander, not all bad I hope.....if you don't mind me asking. I hear you have an accent, where are you from and what brings you to our quaint little country? Oh and please call me Seb.....everyone else does."

A: "Heh, alright Seb....No, not at all. Your father and sister give a glowing report of you, saying I must meet you. I was born in Andosa but grew up in Sadria. I am here to study at your fathers college, to study magics I have not already learned. Your sister will be mentoring me, it's been fascinating so far, I've yet to complete the initiation trial."

He glances over at Eleanora and smiles briefly, trying to not make it too obvious.

S: "That's great, father is a great teacher and El is an expert at what she does, so you're in very good hands."

Alexander raises an eyebrow slightly at his choice of words.

A: "Ahem....yes.....I look forward to it, I've been wanting to study here since I was a boy......So, I hear that you have your own weapon smithy?"

Seb unconsciously puffs out his chest a little with pride.

S: "That I do, the best in the city, not to brag of course......oh who am I kidding.....I love to brag..... You should come and take a look sometime, I also create custom designs if you're willing to wait for it. Tell me, are you proficient with any weapons?"

A: "Well, yes. I'm a highly skilled swordsman, duel wielding rapiers particularly, I've won several competitions both locally and nationally, I am a champion in my home City.....never in Idralla though.......I've also got an aptitude for archery..... particularly with a short-bow. I actually have my own custom made one. Some of the finest Sadrian craftsmanship, you'll ever see. It's made from red sylvan wood and has gilding with ebony metal, my mother paid an arm and a leg for it as a twenty first birthday gift.....Felicity is still going strong after almost seven years."

Seb is a little impressed, he also seems genuinely interested that they have something in common.

S: "Well really? Again not to brag, but I'm a champion archer in this city....who am I kidding, I love to brag about that too! I'd love to see what you've got and I'm intrigued to see this bow of yours......I have my own target range in the back garden of my house, join me sometime? It will be fun."

A: "Alright, that sounds good......I can certainly make time for that. I have gotten a bit rusty of late so the practice will do me good, as long as you're offering drinks too?"

S: "Pfft, of course! What's your poison?"

A: "Well, my favourite drink is an Sadrian cherry wine called Aruska Kira. In this entire city I've only managed to find it at the Gargoyle tavern.....I do drink honey mead and some ales as well though."

S: "Well, since you'll be my guest, I'll see if I can't grab you a bottle.....wait....weren't you the guy we saw in that tavern a couple weeks ago, El threatened you with a glowing lightning orb? I thought you looked familiar...."

Alexander looks a little guilty.

A: "Ahem, yes....that was me, apologies for being so rude and calling you a pretty boy......I was just getting my bearings in this city and decided to stay there for a while."

S: "Heh, well I am somewhat of a pretty boy so I don't mind......but you must have really pissed her off, she doesn't go around threatening just anyone with those things....."

Eleanora stops watching and decides to interject.

E: "Hey! To my defense, I was pretty drunk."

S: "Hah, yes. And you're quite an angry drunk too, so it seems!"

E: "Oh, shush. You're not much better.....speaking of drinks. Can I get either of you anything?"

A: "Yes please, some squeezed orange juice, if you have any?"

E: "Yes, I believe we do have a jug of it, I'll bring it through. What about you dear brother?"

S: "No, no. I'm good thank you, I've already had two cups of tea this morning....wakes me up...."

She then gets up and heads to the kitchen. Seb waits until she is out of earshot and starts speaking to Alexander again, only in more hushed tones.

S: "Right, while she's out of earshot.....I know there's something going on between you two....."

A: "What? How could you possibly know!?"

S: "I have my ways...I saw the way you were looking at each other. And your reaction basically just confirmed it for me...."

A: "Alright.....you caught me....although it really isn't any of your-"

Seb hushes him with his hand.

S: "If you were about to say it's none of my business then you'd be wrong. She's my little sister, we're very close and I care very much about her, she's been through a lot and the last thing she needs right now is to be jerked around......again...."

A: "You don't know me though, I might be the best thing to happen to her since all that shit...."

S: "You're right, I don't know you. But I know enough to see a bit of myself in you and that doesn't usually go very well for most women...."

A: "Oh, so you're a hypocrite then? You can treat women any way you want to but when someone else is apparently does that to a woman you care about, it's not right.....Do you not understand the irony there?"

S: "Yes of course I do, I'm trying to change my ways, but that's not the point. The point I'm trying to make is, please, please don't fuck around with her. Treat her well, prove to her that not all men are jerks. Alright? Because if you don't....."

A: "I'll have the archmage of Idralla and his entire college and family after me?"

S: "Yes, and I will not hesitate to shoot an arrow through your skull. Do I make myself clear?"

A: "Alright yes......I understand, I'm not here to upset anyone. I'm not going to hurt her, I promise."

S: "Listen, I'm not a bad guy. Unless someone or something threatens my family....."

A: "I....I can actually understand that to be honest. I'd be exactly the same way."

S: "Thanks for your understanding. Please, don't get the wrong idea and take this to mean that I dislike you because that's not true. I'm just trying to help protect my sisters fragile heart......"

A: "Honestly, I really do understand and it's alright. Like I said before, If I had any siblings, I'd be exactly the same way, I think I'd wholeheartedly enjoy playing the overprotective big brother. I'm also relieved that you don't dislike me, I haven't really met many people here in the couple of weeks since I've been here, I tend to keep myself to myself, so it would be good to have a friend who's of similar age to myself and whom enjoys the same things I do....How old are you if you don't mind my asking?"

S: ".....Well, I must say. That's very mature of you. Most young men that I've....ahem....politely warned off my sister, usually either give me death threats or the likes, or they run away with thier tail between their legs. I genuinely appreciate it.....she could do a lot worse than you. And no I don't mind, I'm twenty four, almost twenty five though, how about you?"

A: "Hah, that doesn't surprise me, I was a little intimidated for a moment myself, if I'm honest......I'm twenty seven, I'll be twenty eight in a few months though.....I'll need to see about doing something to celebrate...."

S: "Definitely! What's the point of birthdays if not to enjoy them? I'll have to introduce you to my cousins Andreas and Sylvanus, they're both about your age too, in fact Sylvanus is twenty seven and Andreas is twenty eight."

A: "That would be good. The more, the merrier, as they say. Are they brothers?"

S: "No, Andreas is my Aunt Louise's eldest son, Louise is my Pa's sister. She has three other children, my cousins Darina, who is my age, Evhan who is nineteen and Joanna who is fourteen. Sylvanus is my Uncle Azreal's only son, Azreal is my Pa's brother, he has a daughter, Sylvanus's older half sister Elaina....I think she's about thirty, but she lives with her family in Andosa. We have an aunt Isabelle too, she has no children but has four cats and two dogs. To be honest, she's a bit strange.....We have quite a big family and most of them live here....and that's just on Pa's side......Don't know much about my mother's family."

A: "What happened to your mother? Eleanora mentioned her but didn't say much."

S: "That's......probably for the best, not a pleasant story in many ways. I'll let her tell you that one when she's ready....Speaking of Eleanora, where is she? I thought she was getting you a drink...."

A: "I was beginning to wonder that myself...."

S: "Don't worry, she does this all the time. Goes away to do something, forgets about it completely, then she zones out. I'll go find her in a minute."

A: "Alright, I'll go and grab myself a drink."

Alexander raises his voice a little so that Joseph can hear him, by this point Lucille had taken 7 year old Armand and 10 year old Genny to thier rooms to prepare them both for the school day.

A: "Excuse me sir. May I go into the kitchen and get myself a drink?"

Joseph looks up from his book again briefly.

J: "Of course, lad. Just make yourself at home, there's no need to ask for such things and call me Joseph or at least Mr. Wintergreen.....sir is what my students and colleagues call me.....Although it is good to see manners, Sebastian could learn a few things from you, couldn't you, boy? Heheh."

Seb rolls his eyes at Joseph.

S: "Oh, hahah. You're such a funny man Pa.... It was good to meet you Alexander I'll speak to you later....you too Pa...."

He nods at them both then quickly gets up and strides through to the kitchen. Alexander follows him, quickly gets a drink then comes back through to sit down again.

J: "Why is he calling you Alexander? I thought your name was Samuel..."

A: "Well it is and it isn't. Samuel's my middle name, my first name is actually Alexander."

J: "Do you not like that name or something?"

A: "Yes I do, but it.....reminds me of my father, it's his middle name, whom, and pardon my swearing, is an absolute dickhead....hence trying to disassociate myself from him."

J: "I suppose that's as good a reason as any. Would you prefer to be called that or Samuel?"

A: "Alexander will be just fine Mr. Wintergreen."

J: "Alright, Alexander it is then. Tell me, are you happy that my daughter is mentoring you for your trial?"

A: "Yes, thank you. Eleanora is very good mentor."

J: "It's good to hear that, I'm so very proud of her you know. She is the future of this family, she lives up to it constantly and often exceeds my expectations, which is why I chose her to mentor you. If there is anything I can help you with though, please don't hesitate to ask. You can usually find me in my study most evenings and in my office at the college during the day. Has Eleanora given you the tour of the buildings yet?"

A: "No sir, not yet. She told me that we'd be doing that today or tomorrow."

J: "Oh good, they're magnificent. The Gauld wing, where you study Transmutation and Conjuration is particularly spectacular, it's just been renovated and updated, you'll need to take a look at that too.

A: "Thanks, I will be sure to do that. I'm actually quite well versed in transmutation and conjuration from what my mother has taught me. I'm here because I want to expand my knowledge and learn more about the destructive and healing arts, it all fascinates me but for some reason, my mother wouldn't let me leave to learn it until now, so I'll be a good few years older than most of your students."

J: "Really? You'll have to show me at some point. It is very interesting and I've dabbled in it but it was never my sole focus, however if you want to set fire to something from 100 feet away or strike lightning on your foes or then I'm your man, heheh."

A: "Oh that sounds fun, I would love that! Are there any tips you could give me?"

J: "Concentration, it is key. If you break concentration or you are not focused, your spell can go awry or even harm you instead. Keep a calm mind and focus and you're far less likely to go wrong if at all. Also, practice makes perfect, I'll see about setting up a target range for you in the garden to practice your aim with. I cannot count the number of items I destroyed whilst I was learning, when I was a teenager, I accidentally blew up someone's garden shed and all of the contents within.......So understandably I'd rather keep my belongings the way they are."

A: "Hah, I understand. I wonder why it takes so much focus for destruction, you barely need to concentrate when transmutating or even conjuring something, unless you're conjuring from another dimension of course, I've never done it personally as my mother warned me against it coming with a blood price, but she said she had engaged in it before and would not  recommend it."

J: "Oh, laws must be different where you are from then. Any type of sanguine magic as well as most types of necromancy and dark magic are either frowned upon or forbidden entirely here. It doesn't mean you cannot learn them for yourself in private though. I understand the risks involved and I still find it absolutely fascinating..."

A: "Really? I must admit, that surprises me. You seem like the very lawful type."

J: "Generally I am and I do stick to it ninety five percent of the time. I just find the lure of learning some of the forbidden arts irresistible. This was especially the case in my younger years, before I got married and settled down here with my first wife. I was a travelling scholar like you, my mother wasn't too happy about it but wanted me to refine my skills. I was young and adventurous at only 17, I had been prodigious at school and finished my studies 2 years earlier than usual."

A: "Ah, that doesn't surprise me, you are quite legendary, even in Sadria. I was a bit like that myself. I completed my studies just as I turned 17, a year before most of my peers."

J: "Ah, well done lad, just like Eleanora too, did I mention how proud I am of her? I'm sure I already have and you're probably sick of hearing it! Anyway, to satisfy my eagerness, curiosity to learn more and hone my skills, my mother finally agreed to let me leave, to travel to other countries and learn what I could there."

A: "Where did you go?"

J: "Oh, literally all over. I went to Yilon City first, only spent about 3 months there though, very strange people.....heheh. After that, I went to Sadria, to Romero City, the college there is phenomenal. I spent about 6 months there, Sadrians have a fascinating culture, so different from here especially where magic is concerned, so much more free to express yourself and learn, I enjoyed my time there very much. The best time I had however, was in Andosa. I spent almost a year there honing my destruction magic. I had actually found a woman there, I forget her name, Agatha or something like that, for some reason I just cannot remember her name.....We had a brief relationship, I asked her to come back here with me but she refused or her father forbade it or something...so with a heavy heart, I had to leave her. I travelled back here, through the high elven lands of Meridia. That's where I met Seraphina, Eleanora, Sebastian and Sophia's mother. We fell head over heels, got married and we started a family here. And all of that before I turned 20..."

A: "Well, that's quite the story. I'm glad you liked my home country, I do miss it actually. It was worth the journey as I have gotten to meet you, Eleanora and your family."

Joseph smiles then pauses in thought for a moment.

J: "Hm, you really like my daughter don't you?"

A: "Whatever gave you that impression?"

J: "I'm not blind lad, the way you just said her name and they way you look at her, It's the same look I gave my Seraphina, whenever I saw her. Despite my stern and seemingly unemotional appearance, deep down beats a romantic heart you know....."

A: "I'm intrigued, what was she like?"

J: "Oh, well.....if you genuinely want to know. She was strikingly beautiful, depending on your taste of course. She was quite tall, only a couple of inches shorter than me. She had long, wavy flame red hair, and enchanting eyes, they were green radiating into a halo of brick red. Seraphina had a general grace and elegance about her, she walked around quietly like a ghost, almost ethereal in it's way..."

A: "Ah, so that's where Eleanora gets it from, she's made me jump out of my skin more than once doing that."

J: "Hah, yes it is. She's so like her mother both physically and emotionally, it's scary. Apart from her hair, skin colour, and dedication to her studies, she got that from me. Sebastian is the definite cross between us, he got his mothers skin colour and his eye colour is truly unique, aquamarine, a mixture of both mine and Seraphina's, must add to his charm.....Whereas poor Sophia unfortunately looks just like me, except she has her mothers hair. Excuse the change of subject but I'm so completely fascinated by heredity and what little physical and personality traits pass on to each generation. As is El, which is why she studies it."

A: "I find it interesting as well as a matter of fact, I don't know where my eye colour comes from, my mother has dark violet eyes, she's half dark elf and half forest elf. And my father, he's human, his are light brown, as are most of his family's and I am absolutely nothing like him in general, not just physically. I'd say my eyes are my best feature and I don't know who to thank for that.....and I definitely wouldn't say it's unfortunate to look like you at all sir."

J: "Hah, you certainly are a charming young man, aren't you?"

He moves a little closer to Alexander and examines his eyes for a moment.

J: "But yes, your eyes are unusual especially as your skin is quite dark, usually such blue eyes exist against light or very pale skin. They are an extraordinary blend of sky blue with hints of violet. Perhaps the elven blood from your mother overpowered anything from your father..."

A: "It's a possibility..."

He pauses for a moment to think.

A: "With any luck, he's not even my real father anyway, he's a lying, gambling cheat who constantly slept with other women and lost all of his and most of my mothers money to gambling and getting involved in almost every 'get rich quick' scheme to exist, then inevitably failing of course."

J: "What disgraceful behaviour......you and your mother are well shot of him....no offence.....what other family do you have? If you don't mind my asking...."

A: "I don't mind at all. We lived with my Uncle, my mother's brother, his wife and thier four children."

J: "Well, that must have been a bit of a mad house?"

A: "Heh a little, I shared a room with my cousin Dominic, he is the closest in age to me, he's just over a year older than me. Thankfully we got along very well, he is the closest I have or have ever had to have to a brother, even now, we're still very close. The others though, ugh I'm glad to be away from them!"

J: "I understand, that sounds like Sebastian now, he loves his siblings but needed his own space. It's about time really, he is twenty four.....I don't think that boy is ever going to settle down....."

A: "Funny you should say that, my mother said the same about me at that age. You grow up a lot after twenty five.....I'm a completely different person to who I was just a few years ago.... you know, he might settle still."

J: "I certainly hope so, otherwise I have to wait for Armand to pass on the family name and he's only seven....."

A: "Heh, you don't want to wait that long I suppose."

J: "Oh, you must think me old fashioned. I'm not really.....I'm honestly not that bothered about all of that. I'd just like my eldest son to assume a little more responsibility, instead of constantly chasing girls, drinking and having a good time, I mean you should do that every now and then but not all the time.... He does have his own business though and that's a start at least."

A: "Ah, again, I understand. My mother had the same conversation with me around that age. If he's anything like me and he seems to be, I can actually see a little of my younger self in him to be honest. Then he will settle down, it'll just take time for him to find a woman worth settling down for, I am still searching for the same thing."

J: "I do understand, I just wish he were more like me sometimes... Oh well....Now lad, I want you to be honest with me here."

A: "What is it that you ask of me sir?"

J: "I.....would like to know if you have any......intentions regarding my daughter? I mean, can you see a future there?"

A: "Seeing as you are already aware that we're attracted to each other, then I'll be honest. I cannot say anything for certain right now as it's too soon to know, especially after all the shit she's been through recently...."

J: "Oh, so she has told you about the whole business with Adam already then? My my, you must have made a very good impression on her then.....its always taken her a long time to trust anyone and it's even worse now after that.....unfortunate event. I'm genuinely impressed with you for being so open and trustworthy towards her."

Joseph and Alexander keep talking for a while longer. Meanwhile. Eleanora, after being absent for about 20 minutes speaking to Seb in the garden, they make thier way into the hallway, Seb gives her a quick hug, says goodbye then leaves through the front entrance. Eleanora then makes her way back to the dining room but stops short of the slightly ajar dining room door when she hears Alexander and her father talking, she decides to eavesdrop on them. Alexander regretfully thinks back on all the lies he's told already and says.

A: "Y-yes....Trustworthy.....Look, I can reassure you that my interest in her is genuine sir, she truly is captivating and fascinating in so many ways. I find it difficult to believe that her fiancé would leave such a gem, he's a fool for doing so. But to take such a young child away from his mother, with no explanation, is truly disgraceful."

J: "Yes, it's a rather unpleasant business. We know very little of what happened, I have people all over this continent keeping thier eyes and ears open for any information about them but so far, nothing."

A: "Well if there is anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask."

J: "I'll take whatever help I can get at the moment. I hate seeing her like this...."

A: "It's most unpleasant for all involved I imagine. I must ask, to move the conversation on to a more positive subject, I'd like your official permission to pursue Eleanora.....romantically, if she'll have me of course. However, if she tells me to back off, then I will respect that too..."

J: "Of course lad, I think you'd be very good together, in time of course. Just.......please be careful with her heart is all I ask, it's likely pretty fragile at the moment....she covers it well but her heart is broken. I know my daughter well enough to know that she'll put on a confident, cocky and somewhat arrogant or dismissive front to hide her pain, she's even more like me than she realises......Do this, help heal her heart and you will have my gratitude and hers too I'd imagine."

A: "Thank you for your blessing sir."

Just then Eleanora bursts into the room to question them, making them both jump with a start. She storms in, the exact opposite of her usual silent grace.

E: "Well, well. Don't I get a say in this?! Making arrangements about my life when I'm not even here......like I have to be protected like I'm some sort of delicate glass figurine. The cheek of it!"

Joseph is still a little in shock at her reaction, but then holds up his hand to her in a commanding manner to hush her.

J: "Now, now....please calm down. I assure you, no one was making arrangements as you said, merely discussing how worried I am....how worried we all are about you."

E: "Oh...really?! Right papa, so what I just heard was just idle conversation then?!"

She quickly turns her gaze to Alexander and glares at him, causing him to raise both his hands up in front of him, palms facing her, as both a form of defense and to try to diffuse her.

E: "And YOU, gossiping about me like a pathetic school girl, you barely fucking know me! Just as I was thinking I could trust you....Perhaps I was wrong about that......"

A: "Sorry....I-"

With that, she turns on her heel then storms out of the room without another word, grabbing her bag from the hall. She then stalks out of the front door and slams it behind her. Alexander turns to look at Joseph with an expression which looks like a mixture of shock and confusion.

A: "I- uh....what was that?!"

J: "That was what is becoming known as hurricane Eleanora. Her mood swings are getting worse, or at least, they're not getting better. I'm genuinely getting more and more worried about her state of mind....."

A: "I am too, I already care too much about her to let her go mad with grief."

J: "She's stubborn, again, she's more like me than she realises......it won't be easy."

A: "A wise man once told me, 'Nothing worth doing is ever easy.' That seems to be the situation here, I'll help if I can."

J: "Wise words indeed, Alexander.....That's if she'll let you help her.......If I know her, she'll  have gone to lock herself up in her study at the college. Go, and see if you can't placate her. I have work at home this morning, I run tutoring sessions once a week from 9am until lunch time, so I'll be here if you need me for anything."

A: "Alright, thank you Joseph. I'll leave now and see if I can't catch up to her.....Have a good morning Mr. Wintergreen."

J: "Thank you Alexander, you'll be fine, I'm sure. Now go, get on your way. I'll see you later on lad.....and please, call me Joseph!"

A: "Alright, I'm gone. Goodbye......Joseph."

With that last word, he grabs his bag and heads out of the door. He looks around outside for a moment but can't see Eleanora anywhere. He starts walking to the college.

Chapter 9: Calming the storm.

Alexander walks up to the majestic looking college and stops for a minute, just to take in the view again, the spectacular,  breathtaking view that is four large castle like buildings surrounded by rolling hills which nestle into the distant mountains. He starts walking again, heading towards the Creature studies wing. He takes his time walking through the halls which are lined with display cabinets and cases full of either stuffed or skeletal specimens of different animals and creatures. He stops short at the case with the stuffed Phoenix and examines it as closely as he can, reading the description on the plaque.

From a faraway land is a bird that lays no eggs and has no young, this is the phoenix, the bird of fire. It is a long-lived bird that is regenerated and reborn in a mysterious cycle. The bird is associated with the sun and obtains a fresh life by rising from its ashes. Prof. Nurelion Burquell, y.1600.

Alexander stands fascinated for a moment thinking.

A: 'Such a magnificent and beautiful creature, the colours of its feathers, like living fire. Heard that they are supposed to be intelligent birds, but they're so rare, nobody has had a chance to study them. Never actually seen one, dead or alive, a remarkable specimen.'

He looks at it a little longer, heaves a heavy sigh, then starts walking down the next corridor towards Eleanoras' study. He almost bumps into a small, balding man with glasses and asks him if he has seen Eleanora. The man introduces himself as Godfrey and tells Alexander that he had indeed seen her stalking through the corridors, almost knocking him and another student over, she had then barged into her study and slammed the door behind her without a word to anyone. Alexander thanks Godfrey and apologises to him on Eleanora's behalf. He finds her study door and tries to open it, Joseph was right, she had locked it. Knocking on the door once gets no response, so he tries again. He knocks on the door a second time and hears her shuffling around inside the room. Eleanora shouts.

E: "WHAT!?! WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!"

He hears her mumbling, and swearing angrily to herself.

A: "It's Alexander, will you please let me in? I need to talk to you."

She's still shuffling around and mumbling to herself, then shouts.

E: "NO....FUCK.OFF!"

A: "Come on, please? At least come to the door so we don't have to keep shouting...."

E: "Ugh, FINE!"

A: "There, that's better.....Now do you want to tell me why you're so angry?"

E: "No."

A: "I'm trying to understand you Eleanora.....can you help me out here please?"

E: "Ugh, fine. You and papa were talking about me like I didn't even exist, like I am some sort of commodity to be bought and sold....."

A: "Well, I'm truly sorry about that, it was never meant to be that way. He's worried about you Eleanora and after that outburst, so am I....."

She doesn't respond to that, instead he hears her walk away, then come back and unlock the door to let him in. She grabs his hand and pulls him into the room.

E: "Get in here. I'd rather not have the whole college know about my impending mental breakdown....."

Alexander walks into the room and sits on the chair in front of her desk, she sits at her desk and slumps her head into her hands.

A: "What is this really about Eleanora? Please tell me, I just want to help you."

E: "That's just it....everyone is here to help me, I honestly feel like my life is a constant fucking therapy session. I'm fed up of it, I feel like I'm losing my independence and it's horrible."

A: "Well, you are a little on the explosive side......Your father is genuinely concerned and he fears you're becoming unstable or unhinged because you're not dealing with what happened in a healthy way."

E: "Oh? Well please enlighten me, what is a healthy way to deal with losing both the the man you love and your young child in just one fucking day?!"

A: "Do remember what I told you about my past love? What happened to my daughter? I have been through a similar grief and though it must be worse not knowing what actually happened, you're not letting yourself grieve properly. Your son and Adam may not be dead, but they're not around any more and that is a kind of loss which requires the proper grieving process, a process which you aren't allowing yourself to go through. Instead repressing those emotions and trying to forget what happened, you're doing yourself more harm than good."

She looks up at him and tears start flooding from her eyes and down her face. 

E: "You're right. I....I.....know....but....I miss them.....so much. I keep going over....everything that happened in our relationship in my head..... until even less of it makes sense than before. This.....this is killing me Alexander. I honestly feel like part of my soul has been destroyed, I feel like nothing but an empty husk of myself, distractions are my only solace.... I'm just desperate to feel...... something.....anything to stop this numbness....."

Alexander looks at her sorrowful.

A: "I can truly understand that.....although, is that how you see me Eleanora? A distraction.....solace.....something to feel....."

E: "Yes.....no......I don't fucking know....."

A: "Now, look.....I know you're not like that.....you're an intelligent, strong and capable young woman, I've only known you for a few short days and I feel like I've known you my entire life. I will not let it destroy you, not if I can help it. I think I know what might be of some help to you, generally the stages of grieving are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance and and you are definitely in between anger and depression right now....."

She speaks between sobbing.

E: "H....How do you know all of this?"

A: "My mother sent me to a therapist after finding out about Olivia and Amelie. I remember it all too well.....not something I'd like to repeat any time soon.... We need to find something that will help move you properly the anger stage....."

She brightens up a little at that idea.

E: "Well....I certainly have plenty of that, what's your idea then Mr. Therapist?"

A: "Grab your bag and come with me....."

With little delay, he grabs her hand and practically runs out of the room, Eleanora following as fast as her feet can carry her. He holds her hand as they walk swiftly out of the building, he takes a sharp turn left and heads towards the grounds. He then takes off at a run, his pace is fairly fast, Eleanora is struggling to keep up with him. He keeps going silently until they are in the woods surrounding the college, they slow down to a fast paced walk again for a minute or so as he looks around for somewhere more secluded. He sees a small clearing about 30 feet straight ahead of them, it's far enough in for privacy but not too far in so they get lost. Eleanora looks around her.

E: "Where are you taking me?!"

A: "I did a little exploration of this area when I first arrived. I came across this beautiful little clearing, just ahead. I marked the tree with an arrow. Look, just there."

He points straight ahead, she sees the arrow in the tree and she follows.

E: "Oh. Alright, let's go."

They take a slower walk to the clearing talking a little as they go, it only takes a minute or so to reach. The clearing is a little circle of lush green grass with a small covering of bluebells, there is a small stream running along one side of it, there is a large tree stump in the back corner. The surrounding woodland is quite dense, but there is a small gap in the canopy above, letting in a delicate stream of sunlight.

E: "I-its beautiful....."

A: "It is isn't it? I thought it was a nice little place to sit and think. I also did some target practice with my bow, and attacked that tree with my sword helps any anger issues...."

He points to a large nearby tree with over a dozen arrow marks in it and a good thirty or forty sword gashes.

A: "See that tree there? Didn't miss a shot.....or a swipe."

E: "Yes, I see. Poor tree, what did it ever do to you?! Heheh."

A: "Hah, nothing. It just looks like it can take a lot of punishment. That is why I brought you here."

E: "Really, you brought me here to see an old battered tree?"

A: "Partially, yes.....I believe that tree is a metaphor, it's still standing strong, living happily, looking beautiful and even thriving despite taking plenty of punishment. In a way, it's just like you.....and me for that matter."

E: "That's....actually a really nice sentiment. You really are wise you know? Thank you."

A: "Heh, of course I know. I'm pretty fantastic! But I digress, the other reason I brought you out here was so you could show me what you've got, use your destruction magic as an outlet for your anger, whilst teaching me something in the process."

E: "Uh, is that a good idea? I could start a forest fire...."

A: "I thought about that, I'll place a ring of protection wards around this area, so only this tree is affected, anything outwith it or this area, will not be harmed."

E: "Well, alright. If you think it will help me...."

A: "I believe it will and I believe in you...."

She sits down on the tree stump while he walks around the edge of the clearing, placing small white crystals from his bag onto the ground roughly two meters apart, until they make a rough circle shape surrounding them. He then steps into the centre of the circle and sits cross legged in a meditative pose. He sits, breathing deeply as he closes his eyes, he continues to do this for a minute or so. He then touches his palms together and opens his eyes, they are glowing white, he stands up and moves his hands in an arcing motion starting from above his head bringing them down to his sides, whilst doing this action, he chants.

A: "Cosnaion, biotaille duinn!"

She watches him intensely, she recognises the spell as she thinks to herself.

E: 'Sprits, protect us. Alexander is more adept with magic than I thought.....He looks..... extraordinarily beautiful when he's like this.....I remember Aunt Louise using this ward spell once before, but I thought it was a druidic spell not a wizard spell. You learn something new every day I suppose....'

He gets up again.

A: "And that's it. We're safe, nothing outside can harm us and we can't cause damage outside this circle. Right, stand over there if you will?"

He points to the far side of the clearing, directly opposite the large tree, but twenty feet or so away from it. She walks over to where he's pointing.

A: "Now, imagine that tree is Adam or someone else who angers you intensely, feed off that rage and let loose, give it all you've got! Remember......I believe in you."

E: "Alright, I'll start with my personal favourite, the Lightning bolt. This spell, if done right doesn't just inflict pain, it can also paralyze whatever unfortunate soul is your target. What's even better, is that only takes one chant to cast and can last a while, However, you do need to concentrate to sustain it."

She closes her eyes for a just a moment, attempting to channel her rage. As she opens them, a bright lilac light pulses from them for a few seconds, she raises her hands, palms facing forwards as she chants.

E: "Tintreach Peine!"

Alexander watches in amazement as two huge bolts of lightning forms, one in each hand as she directs it at the tree, she sustains it for twenty seconds, leaving burn marks in the bark. Once it's over, she takes a step back and is breathless.

E: "Wow, that was the highest intensity I've ever managed to cast that spell with.....It felt amazing.......like.......thinking about what pisses me off fuelled the spell that little bit more, making it more powerful. I also feel a bit less angry......Like it was also a bit of a release......"

A: "That was amazing, and almost beautiful to watch.....in a destructive way of course. You know, it is said that some magic forms are directly linked to the casters emotions....Your destructive spells must pull from your anger and frustration, your emotions in general......fascinating...."

E: "Papa has always been saying to me to 'find my source' I'd never knew what he meant......until now....I now know what the source of my power is and I have you to thank for that.....What did I do to deserve you walking into my life, at the exact moment I needed you to?"

A: "I didn't do this, I merely suggested it as an outlet for your anger, I had no idea that would happen. But if you want to thank me for it, I won't turn you down...."

E: "Oh, you have another idea do you?"

A: "Hmmm..... "

He walks up behind her, snaking his arms around her waist, he rests his head on her shoulder, he starts kissing her neck, she shudders before he whispers in her ear.

A: "I can think of a few things....."

With that in mind, she quickly turns around and whispers "trust me" in his ear and without much warning, she pushes him backwards onto a plush spot of grass, he lands on his back, he is a bit shocked but starts to figure out what she is doing as she walks over to him untying her corset. He places his elbows on the ground next to him to sit himself up slightly so he can enjoy the view. She slowly, silently circles around him, each time removing a garment of clothing, by the fifth circle, she is only wearing her underwear. She steps forward so that she is standing in between his legs, seeing that he is very turned on she starts to slowly peel off her underwear so she is almost completely nude, except for her socks and ankle boots.

He sighs as he says.

A: "Gods you're so fucking beautiful...."

E: "Well, I thought I'd give you a little show seeing as I didn't get to strip for you last night...."

With a glint in his eye he says.

A: "It's always appreciated...."

Without warning, he grabs her hands and pulls her down on top of him. She laughs and says.

E: "Naughty, impatient boy...."

She repositions herself so that she's straddling him and starts undoing his shirt. He is too impatient for this and pulls her down to his face for a long passionate and burning kiss. She breaks away and tuts at him for being impatient, she starts to kiss his neck, trailing down his chest to his stomach then leans upright again. She starts unbuttoning his trousers and places her hand on him, feeling it throbbing, she massages it for half a minute or so before inching herself forwards until he's inside her. She starts grinding up and down, slowly then starting to speed up. He then gropes her breasts and sighs with delight.

A: "Auhh, why.....can't I resist you? I love it when a woman, takes control....mmhhhh."

She's gasping with pleasure.

E: "Oh....really? Mhhhhm.... Maybe I should do it more often...."

A: "Mmmm......maybe.......that said......."

As he says this, he grabs her hips and deftly flips the position so she's now on her back.

A: "I like you taking control, but I also love making you scream...."

E: "Hey! No fair.....curse those....aahh.......big......arms of yours..... aghhh.....mmmmh....harder!"

A: "Oh I think it's perfectly fair..... I'm now.....thanking you for your little strip tease by fucking you senseless....I want to hear you scream my name....and for it to echo throughout this forest...."

He carries on thrusting as she wraps her legs around his hips, slowly building up speed for another few minutes until they both burst into powerful waves of pleasure.

A: "UUH fuck!"

She's screaming in between deep  breaths.

E: "UUHUHHH.....OH...... GODS......YES......Alexander.... AAAUUHH!!"

Once they are both finished, she relaxes herself for a few moments, then she continues speaking, almost breathless.

E: "That.....did.....echo.....I think...."

A: "Damn right it did! I told you sex outdoors is pretty damn thrilling....."

He winks at her playfully. Her screams did indeed echo throughout the forest, so much so that they could hear voices in the distance questioning what they had just heard. The ward spell is still active so they cannot be seen, they can be heard though. They feel very close to nature and even closer to each other. Such a bond should not normally be so strong after such a short amount of time but sometimes, you just click with someone and you can tell that it will be a lasting and exciting relationship or friendship. He moves off of her and onto the grass next to her, she turns onto her side as he cradles an arm around her. She rests her head on his chest, her finger lightly tracing circle shapes on his exposed skin.

E: "Definitely, I'll have to give you that one, the thought of being discovered is a total turn-on......Oh, it didn't hurt when I pushed you over did it?"

A: "Hah, no. It surprised me more than anything, I figured out what you were doing quite quickly.......Thankfully that ward is still up, people can hear us, but they can't see us. It saves us the embarrassment of anyone seeing you being almost nude and me with my shirt and trousers undone with my dick hanging out...."

E: "Hah, yes that's a relief. Although, I don't think I'd mind that much. They could probably take a good guess at what we were doing......besides, I like my body, other people should get to appreciate it too should they not?"

A: "Hah, you do have a beautiful body and people would be lucky to see it but I don't think it's worth a night in the city guard cells......Besides, I love having you and your beautiful body all to myself...."

E: "Well....then I agree."

A: "Agree to what?"

E: "To let you court me, that is of course if you still want that after my little temper tantrum earlier on?"

A: "Honestly? Would I have just made sweet love to you right now if I didn't want to court you anymore?"

E: "Maybe? I know that some men just want sex but I get the feeling that you are not like that...."

A: "Ugh.....Look.....I don't think I can hold this back anymore. Eleanora, these past few days have been the best of my life. I can't explain why it has happened so quickly but I've honestly fallen head over heels in love with you. I want you all to myself, I want to be with you all the time.....I get butterflies in my stomach and other things whenever I think about you.....I think you're the most beautiful woman to grace this land, both inside and out and most importantly of all, I'm more than willing to stay with you and support you through this difficult time. I'd leap in front of an arrow or sword for you. My end goal is to have you fall for me the same way I have fallen for you, no matter how long that may take. I want to be in your life and I want you to be in mine....."

She's a little surprised at the confession, but is completely softened by his words. A tear floats down her cheek as she nuzzles her face into his chest.

E: "I....that is......so romantic....quick.....but romantic"

A: "Heh, I try....But honestly, I mean every damn word of it. Fuck, even if you were to fall pregnant from any of this, I'd stay with you and likely even marry you...."

E: "Well, that's good to know. You know, I am very attracted to you and just can't explain this strong bond we seem to have.....but I'm starting to feel like we could be more, like I was meant to meet you when I did.....a few more supportive, fascinating spell sessions like todays and I'll be putty in your hands.....You know, pregnancy may be more likely than I originally thought, I'm due my monthly in a few days to a weeks time. I fell pregnant with Aries around the same sort of time....."

A: "Well, again we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I don't plan on going anywhere, not while you are here, I want you, all of the time no matter what."

E: "I am happy to hear that, honestly. But with every time we make love, the chances increase......not that I want it to stop however.....we just fit together and sex with you is incredible, far better than I've ever had before. It's like you're in tune with my body, mind and soul, it's an addictive feeling and....well.....I have an addictive personality...."

A: "Heh, I knew you were impressed by my prowess....But Honestly in all seriousness I feel like that myself, I'm addicted to....well.....you....the one and only time I've ever felt like this before was with Olivia....just promise me one thing?"

E:"What would that be?"

A: "That if you do bear any of my children, please don't die giving them life. I couldn't deal with that again...."

E: "I promise I'll get every help and treatment available. Papa is the best healer in this city, he got me through Aries' very difficult birth, he can definitely do it again."

A: "That's good to know. The next stage of all of this will be fun though, I have to tell my mother about us. She'll probably not be best pleased, she warned me to not fall in love again for the risk of what happened to Olivia and Amelie....."

E: "It will be easier for myself, my father likes you and will fully support a relationship between us, as would Seb. Believe that or not, Seb actually gave his active approval of you, earlier on whilst you were talking to papa."

A: "Hah, well if your family approve of me, that's got to be a good sign! But honestly I am genuinely worried about telling my mother.....maybe I just, won't. At least, not yet....."

E: "I'm happy with whatever you decide Alexander. Tell me, what is your mother like?"

A: "Er, well. She's called Althea, she is half dark elf and half forest elf, the two races don't normally mix, let alone breed successfully and my mother is an example of the reasons why this shouldn't happen. Forest elves are known for their free, fun and nature loving ways, whereas dark elves are generally more persecuted because they have volatile tempers, practise dark magic and sometimes have violent tendencies as well as being impulsive and sometimes thoughtless......so understandably, the two are opposites of each other and probably should stay away from each other..... she's a tiny ball of love and fury. She is a loving, nature friendly person but can be volatile, you do not want to get on her bad side.....She's also not the typical 'motherly' type, we have more of a 'big sister-little brother' relationship as opposed to the traditional 'mother-son' bond...."

E: "Hmm, she sounds a little like me actually Alexander......heh. What does she look like?"

A: "Well, it's funny you should say that, because you and her share a few physical traits. She has long raven black hair, glorious bone structure and large striking eyes like yours, only hers are a deep violet in colour. Her skin is grey toned with a hint of gold, she's also tiny about 5'0" and very slim and with slender legs. I was already taller than her when I turned 10 years old....I now enjoy patting her on the head and calling her 'little mama' it pisses her off so much, heheh......Do you remember much of your own mother?"

E: "Unfortunately not much, I was only 6 years old when she died so I didn't know her that well. I do remember that she was honestly the nicest person to ever have lived, I know that's entirely subjective but I don't care. She doted on all of us, her unofficial favourite was Seb though.....whereas Papa also had his favourite, me.....and he was entirely unashamed about it, he and Seb were close when he was younger, but now papa just thinks Seb is wasting his potential.....Did I tell you that both Seb and I are sages?"

A: "I believe you did. That means you're quite powerful doesn't it?"

E: "Yes, it does. We have the ability to harness both elven druidic magic and wizard magic, along with a special druidic ability."

A: "Oh? Like what?"

E: "Well, there's the rarest ability which is that of a Chronus, they have the power to manipulate time in small local areas or in bursts, there has only ever been a one or two ever known to exist. Then there is another quite rare ability known as the Tempest or Weather manipulator, there have only ever been four or five that have existed in the past, this is Seb's ability, it's quite remarkable when he can control it, he is the only living Tempest known today......There is the more common ability of the Terramancer or Earth whisperer who can manipulate earth, rocks or anything connected to the earth by roots my uncle and....Adam have some Terramancy abilities but as they are not sages, it takes decades and a lot of training to master. There is the the Hydrosophist, they're not particularly common either. You can guess what they control, anything related to water, my Aunt Louise has this ability and it's amazing to watch, she once parted a river just with her mind, when there was no way to cross it. Lastly, there is the Beast Master, they have the ability to manipulate the minds of animals and non-sentient creatures and talk to them, tame them or control them."

A: "They all sound absolutely fascinating. I wonder, though, why I never inherited anything like that, I can perform some druidic spells but they took years of training.....I guess I'll never know.....So tell me, what is your ability?"

E: "......I'll show you...."

She gets up and puts her gown back on, she doesn't bother putting her corset back on so she throws it in her bag.

E: "Cannot be bothered putting this thing back on, pain in the butt..."

A: "Heh, I can imagine......you don't need it anyway, your figure is just perfect....."

E: "Heh, thank you. I do try......well, not often really.....guess I'm just lucky!"

A: "That you are....it takes a lot of work for me to look this good. I'm quite jealous actually...."

E: "Heh, I can understand. Seb and Sophia are like that, especially Sophia. She only so much as has to look at a cake to gain weight, whereas I can gorge on it if I want and it will have minimal to no adverse effects on my waistline!"

She rubs her hands together menacingly, then points at the tree stump.

E: "Right you, get up and go and sit on that stump please, I want you to guess what my ability is."

A: "Alright, I suppose I can do that."

He puts his trousers back on then walks over to the stump and sits down, making himself comfortable. She walks off about 10 feet looking around for something, then comes back telling him she's ready. She asks him to put a his leather gloves on then to form a fist and hold it out at an arms length in front of him, so he does. Just as he does this, a beautiful tawny owl glides silently and gracefully down to his hand from a nearby tree and lands softly on his hand, the owl stares into his eyes as if trying to read his thoughts, she then twitches her head and hoots quietly at him whilst raising a wing to her head, almost as if instructing him to pet her. So he does and the owl appears to enjoy it and chirrups in appreciation, she then flies away. Alexander is very pleased about this experience, he loves animals but particularly birds.

A: "Did you see that Eleanora?! That was amazing, I've never had such a close experience with a wild animal before....I'm guessing that you must be a Beast Master then?"

E: "Yes. I asked the owl to come and land on your hand, she asked for a head rub of her own accord though, which I thought was very sweet. She told me that she quite likes people and that not all owls are scared of us and that if she had a 'people' name, she would like to be called Petra."

A: "That's.....amazing, it's like in the stories and legends. You're a real life snow white.....You even look like her too, she has black hair, milky white skin and rose red lips, I'm in love with a princess!"

E: "Heh, you have no idea.....I've always had an affinity towards animals since I was very young. It was only when I embarked on my Sages pilgrimage that I found out the reason why and I love it."

A: "It's just brilliant, I mean, I imagine that it is anyway. I wish I had a special ability like that......Can you hear anything else, are there other animals near us that are talking?"

She concentrates for a few moments and listens.

E: "Hah, there is a tiny dormouse at your feet, so don't make any sudden movements or you'll squash him. He's thinking, 'what is that giant scary black thing?!' Hah, I assume he means your boot..... 'Agh, it just moved! I'm out of here!'. Look at your feet now, he's about to scurry off...."

A: "Hah, there he is! Poor little man, scared of my giant feet.....That is a pretty remarkable gift, I'm actually quite jealous..."

E: "Oh, don't be. Sometimes if you're in an area absolutely teeming with animals. The thoughts are hard to switch off.... generally it's alright though, I like speaking with my stunning grey mare called Luna and my beautiful little white cat, Tundra."

A: "I must meet them someday, see what they have to say about me! Heh. Oh....shit...."

E: "What? What is it?"

A: "How on earth could I forget?! I left my stallion, Oberon at the Eastmarch stables 4 days ago and I haven't been back to get pick him up yet. Fuck I hope they haven't sold him! You have a horse, does that mean you have a family stable too?"

E: "Yes of course. It's alright though, the Eastmarch stables are both owned and tended to by my uncle Azrael and cousin Sylvanus, he would never sell someone's horse. If you paid him, Oberon will still be there."

A: "I paid him for the week. Damon was getting fed up of Oberon living in his manger out back so I had to move him..."

E: "I'm sure it will be fine. Let's go there now and we can pick him up."

A: "Yes, lets. He was a bloody expensive horse, mother would actually kill me if I lost him......no joke...."

They gather thier things and get dressed again, Alexander gathers the small white crystals he'd placed around them, as he does so, the ward spell dissipates. Alexander gives her a sweet kiss on the cheek and they walk back towards the City, hand in hand.

Chapter 10: A disturbing discovery.

Eleanora and Alexander walk as quickly as possible into the city, passing by her father's manor to drop off some things. Alexander decides to pick up his bow, quiver and one of his swords as he has an uneasy feeling, like they're being watched or followed.

E: "I'm confused, why are you bringing that?"

A: "Call it a gut feeling....besides, I rarely go out after dark unarmed...."

E: "Are things that bad where you're from?"

A: "They can be, yes....it's just a precaution and a force of habit. Don't worry...."

E: "Alright, whatever helps you sleep at night....."

A: "You help me sleep at night...."

E: "Oh shush you....come on, let's go.

They leave again and head to the Eastmarch stables, they walk through the central marketplace, it's unusually quiet for it being early evening, the sun has just set and the stalls are gone but it's still usually bustling even at this time with everyone going home. Eleanora notices the quietness, she also notices Alexander start to walk more quickly as if something has perturbed him.

E: "It's.....eerily quiet here this evening. I wonder if there's something-"

Alexander interjects.

A: "Shhh...."

He then starts whispering.

A: "I think we're being followed or maybe watched......I've had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach since before we got to the house.....Take my hand and follow me."

E: "What? Wh-"

He quickly but gently places his hand over her mouth, still whispering to her.

A: "I'm serious, just........be quiet for now until I can be sure we're safe. The stables are not far, let's get there as quickly as possible.....I know a shortcut..."

He drags her down a small semi-concealed alleyway and stops for a minute to look around and guage his surroundings, Eleanora does the same thing and an uneasy feeling takes over her too, she sees a glint of something about 50 feet away in someone's window.

She points up to the window and whispers.

E:"Look up there, did you see that?!"

A: "....Yes.....I'm pretty sure that was a signal........This.....is not good......"

He mutters under his breath.

A: "Ugh, it's probably....Davro...."

She gives him a confused look and whispers aggressively.

E: "Who or what is Davro? What the fuck is going on?"

A: "I....will tell you later, I promise....we have to get out of here, it's not safe.....I need you to trust me, please?!"

E: "Alright.......I will for now but you have some explaining to do later on. How much danger are we in exactly?"

A: "....Hard to say, if he's sent goons then not much.....but if he's here in person then shit.......but he very rarely does that unless he has a....personal interest.....plus, he doesn't hire any mages under his command......a personal prejudice of his, your skills could be advantageous to us right now....."

E: "Just what the fuck have I stepped into?! Right.....are we going to take down these goons or what?"

A: "You want to confront them?!"

E: "Why not? I can take out my anger on them! Besides, if they attack us first, it's self defence...."

A: ".....Alright.....I like this side of you......but if you're sure......I'll step out of the alley first, see what happens. Prepare yourself......stay behind me just now.....ready?"

E: "Yes, go!"

Alexander readies his bow but holds it down and steps out of the alleyway into the open marketplace, looking around him, 50 feet away he sees three short, possibly dwarven archers dressed in all black hoods up with one white stripe down the front of their doublets, they are perched on top of the 30 foot entry archway to the marketplace only one appears to be ready to fire. He spots a company of two, possibly three swordsmen in the alleyway next to the entrance, they also look small and possibly dwarven, they wear the same colours. The archers don't appear to have seen Alexander yet, so he aims a shot at the dwarf on the left, at his leg, he is not paying attention at all so Alexander hits him easily, the dwarf falls off the archway with a yelp and a crunch of bones as he hits the ground. A taller man also cloaked in black with a white stripe, most likely human, hears what happens and emerges out of the alleyway from behind the two swordsmen, who seem none the wiser to what had just happened to thier comrade. Alexander hears the taller man curse at them and call them useless. The cloaked man then fully emerges from the alleyway and starts slowly walking 30 feet or so towards Alexander with a somewhat sinister expression on his face.

Man: "Well, well now that was uncalled for wasn't it?"

He points to the dead dwarf on the ground.

A: "Not at all.....what do you want? I know you work for Davro...."

Man: "The name is Padros, Yulin Padros....so....you know I work for Davro, which means you must know why I'm here?"

A: "Well, you've had someone follow us for at least the past hour. Why don't you enlighten me?"

Y: "And spoil this.....rapport we have going here? .....if I must......I've been sent to terminate you by any means necessary..."

Eleanora mutters to herself.

E: "Shit..."

A: "I thought as much.....well we have a problem, you see.....I've rather grown accustomed to living so.....it seems we're at an impasse...."

Yulin walks about 10 feet closer so he's only 10 feet away from Alexander.

Y: "It seems we are- and what's this? Someone is behind you?"

Alexander turns around and whispers to Eleanora.

A: "Come out but don't say a word to him, even if he tries to taunt you, store that rage.....I've got a plan...."

She nods at him subtly.

Y: "Well? Show your face then?"

Eleanora quietly emerges from the alleyway with a false submissive expression on her face, she looks at him, trying to figure out if he has any weaknesses.

Y: "Oh-hoh. What do we have here? A poor young, defenseless girl? Gods only knows what you were going to do to her.....You're even more of a deviant that you're made out to be, you know that Blackley?"

A: "That is not why she is with me..... besides, like you're any better? Hah, don't make me laugh....you work for Davro and that's pretty fucking low, even compared to me...."

Yulin adopts an even more patronising tone.

Y: "Hmm, quite.....Well it seems that you're not in the mood for civility....shall we get this over with?"

A: "By all means..."

He whispers to Eleanora again.

A: "Lightning bolt Padros, fire ball the other two swordies, I'll get the other two archers.....and just remember, think of how much of a prick Adam is or how much of a prick this guy is alright? Right, GO!"

Yulin slowly draws two daggers and starts a run towards them with glinting daggers in both hands as Alexander deftly jumps over him and sends two quick shots to the archer on the left, one hitting him in the neck and one in the leg, he topples off the archway and splats on the ground below. Alexander then runs and hoists himself up 20 feet onto someone's balcony while he scans for his other target who has conveniently ran off somewhere else. Meanwhile, Eleanoras eyes start glowing lilac as she thinks of her suppressed anger, she unleashes a powerful lightning bolt out of one hand at Yulin, catching on his metal daggers, the lighting is amplified, sending him to the ground incapacitated but not dead. With the other hand, she sends two fireballs hurtling towards the two goons running towards her, they are both set alight and in a burning panic, they scatter. Alexander takes advantage of the scattering and sends a shot right through the neck of one of the burning swordsmen, killing him while Eleanora sends another two fireballs towards the other, one hits him, incinerating him on the spot, the other misses and hits a wall leaving a large black burn mark. Alexander spots the last archer, scampering away from it all and sends two arrows both hitting him in the back, he falls to the ground, dead. Alexander, scared that Yulin will reveal more about him to Eleanora than he'd like, he quickly drops down from the balcony, rushes over to Yulin and quickly searches his pockets. He finds two pieces of parchment and stuffs them into his own pocket. He looks over to Eleanora, she is just standing there, seemingly stricken. She is just idly staring at her hands. Alexander walks over to her and gently grabs her arm, he walks her over to where Yulin is lying unconscious on the ground.

A: "Nice work! I partially owe you my life....A-are you alright?"

She shakes herself out of her stupor.

E: "I-I think so.....that was......exhilarating, I had no idea that I was capable of.....that.....I-I've never felt so.... powerful!"

A: "You were bloody fantastic! Seems that you indeed are an emotive caster.....like myself."

E: ".....Yes so it seems......"

She looks at Yulin and gestures to him.

E: "I didn't kill him too did I?"

Alexander walks over to him, picks up his rigid wrist and feels for a pulse, it's faint but it's there.

A: "Heh no, he's just unconscious. I checked his pulse, he's still got a heartbeat. He'll be out for a while.....I'm going to bind his legs and arms and I'm bringing him to the stables with us."

E: "Will you tell me what this was all about there then?"

A: "Yes......I can't expect you to kill for me and help save my life and then not give you an explanation, you deserve that much...."

E: "Alright, lets get this guy bound...."

Alexander scans the surroundings.

A: "Alright, it seems safe for now, let's get this done quickly and then get out of here."

Alexander reaches into his pocket and pulls out some thick twine, he binds Yulin's hands and feet. He then asks Eleanora to carry his bow and quiver for him, then throws Yulin over his shoulders and starts walking. It's only a five minute walk to the Eastmarch stables. It's starting to get properly dark when they arrive. Alexander is pleased to see that Oberon is still there and appears happy to see him, he walks over to Oberon's compartment. He opens the gate and dumps Yulin on the floor, he sits him up against the back wall so he doesn't choke on his own tongue. Alexander beckons Eleanora over to meet his horse, Oberon is a pure black Sadrian stallion with a glossy coat, the only markings he has are 5 very small white spots on his face with a larger white four pointed star shaped mark sitting between eyes. Eleanora lets him sniff her hand, he bows his head in submission.

E: "He's....beautiful. What pretty markings he has, quite unique."

A: "Heh, yes he is. He's a perfect specimen of a Sadrian Rayback. Hey, could you do your thing? Y'know, tell me what he's thinking?"

E: "Heh, alright I will...."

She rubs her temples and her eyes start to glow briefly, as do Oberons eyes. She is connected with him telepathically.

A: "Can you ask him if he's ok? He's not angry with me is he?"

She blinks at Oberon and then blinks again.

E: "He says he doing fine, the tall blonde man is taking good care of him. He adds that he's a bit annoyed with you for not coming to see him in over 5 days.....but he's still very happy to see you...."

A: "That's a relief! I'm so sorry boy, this one had me a little.... distracted...."

He gestures to Eleanora.

E: "Hahah. He understands, he knows what you're like....."

Oberon huffs, snorts then whinnies a little.

E: "And he adds that he can see why you were distracted.....Heh, naughty boy, Mr. Horsie!"

Oberon huffs then bows his head as if embarrassed. Eleanora pats him on the head.

E: "It's alright boy, I don't mind. I'm just glad you like me!"

He stomps his front legs and huffs again in a pleased manner.

A: "Good boy! Want to go for a ride? We're taking you to your new home, there's a pretty girl horse there you know?!"

E: "Hah, he's excited now.....He says 'what are you waiting for?! get that saddle on me and lets go!' Haha."

He bucks and then neighs excitedly.

E: "Heheh, like master like horse, so it would seem!"

A: "Ahah, yeah....I'll just go get his saddle, I'll be right back, don't say anything bad about me....."

She feigns being offended.

E: "Who, me? Of course not...."

Alexander wanders away smiling and shaking his head he's gone for a few minutes to fetch Oberon's equipment. In the mean time, she talks to Oberon telepathically again.

E: 'So....what's he really like then?'

O: 'He said don't say anything bad so......heheh'

E: 'Hah, really? He seems pretty lovely to me....'

O: 'You like him don't you?'

E: 'Hm, maybe...'

O: 'Heh, I could tell, you seem like a nice girl, so I'm only going to say this once. Be careful, he's a great guy but he leads a dangerous life and judging from your expression, he's probably not told you about it yet.....It's not my story to tell.....Just make sure you get it out of him. I can tell he likes you too, try to be understanding, don't run at the first sign of trouble....it'll be worth it.....It's about time he was happy again....'

E: '....Well, you're a wise one aren't you boy.....?'

O: 'Of course! Just.....trust me, give him a chance. Now, if you wouldn't mind, can you give me some privacy? I'd like to be alone with my thoughts again....'

E: 'Alright, thank you for the advice, I'll disconnect from you now....'

Oberon nods slightly to acknowledge her thanks, then both of thier eyes glow briefly and she can no longer communicate with him. Eleanora thinks to herself for a moment.

E: 'I wonder what he meant by a dangerous life.....I'm even more curious now....and why did that Yulin guy call Alexander, Blackley? I suppose I will find out soon enough....'

Alexander walks back into the stable, he'd also been writing a taunting note to Davro to leave with Yulin. He fits the saddle comfortably onto Oberons back and then fits the reigns on his muzzle. He then picks up his bow and quiver, puts it on his back then puts his hand out to Eleanora in a gentlemanly manner and helps her up onto the Oberon's back. Before he gets on, he ushers Oberon out of the stable, pins a note to Yulins jacket collar and then closes the stable door and locks it. He then climbs on after her, sitting behind her with his arms settled around her sides whilst holding the reigns. She enjoys the closeness and can feel his warmth on her back. Alexander commands Oberon to start walking.

A: "Tchk-tchk.....on boy...."

E: "So.....do you want to tell me what that was all about?"

He sighs in defeat.

A: "Ahh, yes. I will. I just want you to promise me something first?"

E: "Alright, what?"

A: "Promise you'll hear me out completely and won't run off."

E: "Well it's kind of difficult to run off from a horses back, you have me as a captive audience..."

A: "Well, alright. I do partially owe you my life after all, I likely wouldn't have lived had you not been there with me...."

E: "Oh I don't know, you did a pretty good job. But I was pretty epic.....We're getting off topic, first question. Who was that guy?"

A: "Well, you heard his name....Yulin Padros, he's apparently a spy and assassin albeit a fucking terrible one....he works for Davro the ring leader of a rival spy network known as the Yilonian Repose...."

E: "So, does that mean that.....shit.....you're......a spy too?"

He hangs his head a little in shame.

A: ".....Yes..."

E: "Alllright......next question....Who do you work for?"

A: "The Andosan Ravens, in Sadria....I am.....third in command...."

E: "Under who?"

A: ".....My mother.....and my Uncle. I must add that for thier and your safety, I cannot tell you their full names, her first name is Althea and his is Davin.....They essentially run the entire network in Andosa and Sadria, we're only just now expanding into Idralla....."

A little dumbfounded, Eleanora is trying to find the words to ask the next question, the words don't come and she just sits there in silence, trying to process everything she had just heard.

A: "Please...say something....anything....."

E: "....Uh, it seems that..... for once.......I'm.....lost for words...."

A: "Wonderful. I've gone and messed everything up haven't I? Why does everything I touch turn to shit?"

She looks up behind her at his face, he doesn't back look at her. His head just hanging slightly, staring at nothing, with what looks like an expression of emptiness and self loathing. He then blinks and a tear rolls down his cheek, she reaches up and turns his face to look at her, he tries to resist.

A: "Don't....just.....please.....don't...."

E: "I'll do what I please.......and right now, I want you to look at me."

He reluctantly turns his head to look at her, he sits silently for a few moments as he looks into her huge green eyes. She wipes the tear from his face with her dress sleeve and then runs her thumb down his cheek.

E: "I want to know more, about you......the real you......talk to me."

A: "......Alright......what else do you want to know?"

E: "I first want to know if everything you've told me so far is the truth?"

A: "Well, yes......everything but my real name.

E: "And what is it?"

A: "Well, my name really is Alexander but my surname is Blackley."

E: Ah, so that's why he called you Blackley? Alright, I understand now..... Last thing, I want to know.....why are you here?"

A: "I've been sent on a mission to gather as much information as I can about your ex-fiance, his family and to find out where he went. His family, particularly his parents, are wanted in our country for treason, his parents were both Yilonian spies, some twenty five years ago. They infiltrated the Sadrian royal family but were later caught delivering Sadrian secret correspondence to the Yilonian empire. They fled, managing to evade detection until now and were last seen in Idralla. Unfortunately I don't know more than that, mother told me what I needed to know to do the job and nothing else...."

E: "Oh.....oh my.....That......that explains a lot....I just knew Adam wouldn't have left because he didn't love me anymore but.....why didn't he tell me?! And why did he have to take Aries?! He's an innocent child and doesn't need to be dragged into that.....if Adam is on the run for his life....then so is my son....oh Gods.........Thank you for trusting me with this Alexander....W-were you also telling the truth about how you feel about me?"

He adopts a slightly sarcastic tone.

A: "No, I cannot keep my hands off of you or get you out of my head because I truly cannot stand you....."

E: "Cheeky...."

He strokes her hair and hugs her closer.

A: "Heh got you....seriously though, I've never been more sure of anything in my life, honest truth.....I'm head over heels Eleanora, you can be certain of that....I only wish you didn't have to find out about Adam this way....You know, part of me thinks your father may have already known some of this about Adam and his family....he hinted at knowing more than he was letting on......and you know, I doubt Adam even knew anything about this in the first place, until it was too late of course....."

E: "That's a discussion for another time.....I want to talk about us....I still want to be with you, you should continue with your mission, I'll even help you. Just don't let on to my family that you're gathering information. And most importantly....."

She pulls his face down to hers for a passionate kiss, then quickly breaks it off to emphasise her point.

E: "Don't lie to me again....I care about you, about us, enough to give you another chance. Don't ruin it, share everything with me and we can figure this out together.....Alright?"

A: "Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. I need to know one thing though, if Adam does come back, will you go back to him?"

E: "After what you have just told me....no. He either lied to me or was am unknowing pawn....and he took my son from me, it may have been to protect us but it was fucking wrong. So no, I'm done with him....I mean, I still have feelings for him, but they will dissipate with time. Besides, I've already started to fall for you. Apart from your ahem....questionable career.... you're the most perfect man in almost every way....so that will definitely help too...."

With that, Alexander grabs her face and pulls her in for another warm kiss, the kind of kiss with a lot of heat behind it but also a certain sweetness that says 'I'm never letting you go.' They enjoy a fairly quiet moonlit horse ride home, fingers entwined, holding the reigns together, occasionally enjoying the odd kiss, it takes twenty minutes as he takes a more scenic route. They arrive back at Wintergreen manor. As they get to the door, Eleanora asks him one last question.

E: "Oh I forgot to ask...I noticed you pin a note to that Yulin guy, what did it say?

A: "Oh that? On the front it said, You're lucky I let you live you little piss-ant! But you just weren't worth wasting my time or arrows on....Give this to your boss when your pathetic ass wakes up and crawls back to him...N.B I locked the stable door, you're a spy, you figure it out... Inside I wrote a little note to Davro. It said something along the lines of 'Come on now Davro, that had to be the worst assassination attempt I've ever witnessed, it was genuinely pathetic..... real assassins should be stealthy, sticking to the shadows and should be poised and ready to strike down the target at an opportune moment. Not confronting the target with an air of overconfidence, in public with a crew of men who were completely incompetent, ill equipped and pretty much brain dead...but then again, you are supposed to be the best, I shouldn't have to tell you how to do your job now surely? I'll give you some advice for free. If this pompous moron is the best you can do, save yourself the hassle and just don't bother next time, stick to your day job for the good of us all.........Kind regards. S.T. '."

E: "Hah, brilliant. Both witty and scathing. Serves the bastard right. But why did you let that prick live? He did attack us after all, I could have made it quick and shot a huge ice shard through his skull...."

A: "That.....ok....I find it extremely sexy when you talk like that.....we'll discuss that later.....naughty girl........But really. First of all, as a general rule, I never kill unless it's absolutely necessary, he was never going to be real threat, I mean, you saw how easily he went down.....Second, it's like I said on the note, he wasn't worth wasting valuable time, arrows or magic on.....the prick will probably die on his way back to Davro anyway....what without his merry band of incompetent little men to protect him.....or he gets back and Davro will most certainly kill him for his spectacular failure.....either way Yulin gets his comeuppance and we don't get any more blood on our hands. "

E: "Good thinking.....I will say, it was pretty thrilling using my magic like that.....very empowering......we should get into more life or death situations, it's quite fun!"

A: "Wait a second, who are you and what have you done with my good little witch?"

She speaks in a jokingly dramatic voice, she tents her fingers menacingly.

E: "Your good little witch has awoken her dark side.....and she likes it....."

A: "Ok.....we definitely need discuss this later....but right now though I'm exhausted, I need a hot bath.....care to join me?"

E: "Hmm, why not..... Let's go."

They head into the house and heat up water for the large bath tub, they have an early night after that as fighting for your life is really quite exhausting.

Chapter 11: A picnic, wine and some interesting stories.

The next two weeks go by very fast, Eleanora helps Alexander train so that he can pass his initiation trial. They become even closer, there is little love making during this week as she's going through her monthly, so they decide to calm things down for that week. Eleanora is relieved when it comes, as she is not ready for another pregnancy just yet. It's definitely true about absence making the heart grow fonder, they even slept in thier own rooms for that entire fortnight, so as to avoid temptation and with her routine mostly back to normal, they hadn't really seen much of each other except for mentoring sessions. The end of the fortnight comes and it's time for Alexander to sit his first initiation trial. He heads off to the college first thing in the morning, Eleanora goes in for her usual classes that day and they agree to meet at lunch time so he can tell her how it all went. Lunch time comes around quickly and Eleanora has packed a little picnic for them both in a little wicker basket, they meet at the fountain in front of the college, she wraps her arms around him and kisses his cheek. Her mood swings have calmed down and in general, she seems happier with a more positive outlook on life than she had had in the past two months.

A: "Ooh, kissing me in public now, are we?"

E: "And why not, Mister? How did it go anyway?"

A: "Oh it was tough but exciting, I'll tell you more when we get to our spot in the woods, is that a picnic basket?!"

E: "Yes, I wanted to surprise you. I even brought some of that cherry wine that you love so much, I'd like to try it....also there's three different kinds of cheese, some smoked fish, slices of carved ham, a loaf of sourdough bread and butter, some fruit tarts, and a punnet of strawberries."

A: "Mmm, sounds great, let's go then, I'm starving!"

Alexander picks up the basket and they take a slow walk, hand in hand through the college grounds and then into the surrounding woods. It's a bright sunny spring afternoon with a light breeze, the sunlight is forcing its way through the tree line and it looks beautiful. Eleanora puts on her hooded cape, Alexander notices that she seems chilly and puts his arm around her shoulders pulling her in closer to him whilst still walking.

E: "Mmm, how can you always be so cosy? It's a bit chilly today, even for spring!"

A: "Hmm, I don't know....I've always been that way. Maybe it's my fiery heart.....I am sworn to keep my love warm whenever she is cold, which seems to be most of the time.....Heheh."

She lightly punches his chest in a joking manner.

E: "I am not always cold!"

A: "Then why do you want me to hold you so much? Am I that irresistible that you always want to touch me?"

E: "You are a cheeky git, you know that?"

A: "Yes of course I do, you're so fun to tease!"

He then moves his hand to tickle her.

E: "Hey! Ahahahh, stop that, please!"

A: "Heh alright, see what I mean though? You're so easy to rile up. It's quite adorable actually..."

She holds her arms in a faux huff, then laughs.

E: "You're impossible!"

She then gets her own back by tickling his armpit, he flinches and nearly drops the basket.

E: "Hah, got you!"

A: "Touché my dear. But tell me, do you want our lunch to end up all over the grass or....?"

E: "Heh, point taken. Truce?"

A: "Truce....for now...."

E: "What's that supposed to mean?"

A: "Oh, you'll see....."

E: "Ugh, cryptic as always...."

A: "Yep...."

He tickles her arm once more and they carry on walking through the woods to their little clearing, it looks particularly beautiful today. Eleanora notices that Alexander has charmed some crystals to float around them, glowing all different colours. He had left a blanket there, he puts the basket down and spreads out the blanket on the ground, he then lies down on it, on his side. Eleanora is still reeling from the beauty of the place.

E: "You did all this, for me?"

A: "Well, I like pretty things too so I may have just done it for myself...."

He smirks at her, then winks. She raises an eyebrow at him, then smiles and shakes her head.

E: "You...are a pain in the backside, you know that?"

A: "Of course! I aim to please....but to be fair to myself, you will ask silly questions....."

E: "Heh, alright....point taken....who else would you have done this for?"

A: "Well. You're not my only lover here...."

E: "Oh shush..."

A: "See? Now, sit on the blanket, I have a surprise for you."

E: "Oh, alright. I'm intrigued now."

Alexander goes over to his backpack and pulls out a violin case. He walks over to the tree stump, sits down and takes it out of its case to start tuning it. Once he's done, he starts to play a sweet melody for her. She watches as he closes his eyes as he concentrates intently on nothing but the song, letting it absorb him completely. After a few more minutes, he finishes the song and looks to Eleanora.

A: "I'm a bit rusty but I hope you liked that."

E: "That....was beautiful, you didn't sound rusty at all, that's one of my favourite pieces. You're just full of surprises aren't you? I had no idea that you were musically talented...."

A: "It must be luck.....or it's these hands, they are good at a lot of things. Violin and piano are another two of those things, but obviously I can't fit a piano in my backpack."

E: "Really, piano too?! You actually seem too good to be true...."

A: "Who knows, maybe I am....maybe I'm just a figment of your imagination, no real man could be this perfect now could he?"

E: "Oh haha. Such a comedian aren't you? Put the violin away...."

Alexander carefully puts his violin away, he goes to put it in his backpack, not paying attention to anything else. Eleanora quickly runs over and jumps on him, wrapping her legs around him, he barely manages to stay standing. Her lips crash onto his in a fiery kiss, full of want, she breaks away for a moment to say.

E: "That was one of the sexiest things I've ever seen...."

He's still a little surprised and breathless but in a good way, he smirks and says.

A: "What, my musical prowess?"

E: "Mmmn yes, just you.....in general. There is little that's more sexy than a man who can play an instrument with such delicacy, precision and focus. It makes me just melt."

A: "I wish I'd known this sooner, I would have broke out old Jessie sooner......maybe-"

She impatiently cuts him off with another passionate kiss which lasts longer than before. Not breaking any contact, he walks over to the nearest tree and rests her back up against it. He starts to kiss her neck as she gasps in excitement. He breaks away for a moment but she starts kissing his neck, he tries to speak regardless.

A: "Aah.....Do you have any idea how hard it's been for me to.....mmh.... keep my hands off you this past two weeks?!"

E: "Mmm....maybe....I know how hard it is now though...."

He smirks at that and then he unbuttons her dress at the front, fully revealing her breasts. He then leans down and presses his face into her cleavage, kissing them then gently licking one of her nipples for a moment as she sighs with pleasure.

A: "Aah, I missed you two...."

She giggles as he continues to kiss and gently suck on her chest. She lowers her legs slightly and impatiently starts unbuttoning his trousers, he takes the hint and reaches around her backsides to remove her underwear, he throws her panties over his shoulder, then moves his hands back to her backside, holding onto her tighter and encouraging her to hitch up a little. She looks up for a moment and notices a branch a foot or so above her head, she grabs onto it and holds on, pulling herself up and supporting herself a little. Still holding her buttocks, lifts her onto him, as he enters her she gasps slightly as if she'd been impatiently waiting for him.

A: "Mmmh, you've been waiting for me....."

He starts thrusting, quite quickly, almost with desperation, gradually getting harder and faster for only a few minutes. Building up to an explosive climax as both of thier cries echo throughout the forest.

A: "Uuh fuck....AAH....GODS!

E: "Auhuhhh yes.......ahhh...YES!

Still a little breathless, he nuzzles into her chest.

A: "Uhh I......needed that.....and so did you......by the sound of it....."

She brings her arms down to wraps them around his shoulders, resting her head on his, nestling her fingers into his thick soft hair.

E: "Mmm, yes I think I did.....I've been really horny for no apparent reason and I've not had you for two weeks.....I was getting a little desperate.....so were you obviously....."

A: "Heh, I could tell..... you know, it literally took all of my willpower and internal strength to not ravage you whenever I saw your beautiful face, your bouncing bosom, your perfectly pert backside, fuck, even just thinking about you turns me on......you only have to exist, for me to constantly want to fuck you. It's even hotter when I know you've been struggling to keep your hands off of me too...."

E: Well....to be honest, you're an exceptional lover, you are more in tune with me, physically and emotionally than anyone ever has been. On top of that, you're one sexy man, your beautiful eyes, the way you look at me like you want to devour me, the way they try to search my soul.....Your perfect body, your luscious hair that I like to grab hold of when you're ravaging me. Not to mention you're very talented hands, how you can carry me effortlessly with those big strong arms...... Can you blame me really?!"

A: "Heh, I suppose not...."

Still inside her, he lifts her again, as she wraps her arms and legs around his waist for support. He walks over to the blanket on the ground and lays her down on it, he withdraws and then stands back up. He watches intently while she buttons her dress back up.

A: "Aw did you have to do that? I was enjoying the view...."

She laughs and tuts at him, she scrambles around for her underwear, they landed next to the picnic basket.

E: "Heh, I was so desperate for you to shag me that I completely forgot about the food and you forgot to tell me how your trial went....This is dangerous you know..... being so caught up in someone else that you forget to eat...."

A: "Maybe so....but wasn't it worth the wait? Besides, we were only busy for less than five minutes....heheh...."

He says as he opens the basket and starts cutting the bread into thick slices. She starts laying the cheeses, poached fish and roast ham out on a wooden plate. Once he's finished slicing the bread, he puts the strawberries in a bowl he then takes out the berry tarts and stuffs an entire one in his mouth. Eleanora looks on in amusement as she pours them both a glass of berry wine.

E: "What are you doing that for?! You can't have dessert first.....it's just.....not right! And stuffing it all in your mouth in one go, really?! Have some manners will you......."

He gives her a cheesy grin with his mouth full then finishes chewing and swallows, he then takes a deep swig from his wine goblet and says.

A: "Uh.....I just fucked you in a semi-public place, where people probably either saw or heard us and you're worried about table manners?! Hah, you are just precious, my dear!......"

She rolls her eyes at him.

E: ".....Alright....fair point..."

A: Aaand as far as eating courses in the right order is concerned..... we both had something sweet before we even thought about the food...."

She smiles then throws her napkin at his face, it hits him on the nose and falls onto his empty plate. She then takes a deeper swig of her wine.

E: "Ugh, you.....making everything about sex, you're so dirty minded...."

Sticks out her tongue at him playfully, then smirks whilst finishing her wine.

A: "Well.....I'm with you.....can you really blame me for thinking like that? Besides....you're not exactly little miss innocent cloister sister yourself.....heheh!"

He sticks his tongue out at her too. She feigns being offended and starts talking in a faux patronising tone of voice.

E: "Dirty minded and childish....Well I never...... whatever was I thinking when I agreed to court you....Oh the pain, the pain of it all!"

She then smirks playfully at him before takes pouring herself another goblet of wine. He raises his goblet to her in a toast.

A: "Gahah! You're a funny drunk you know that?!"

She downs the entire second goblet full in one big gulp.

E: "I'm......not.....drunk, this stuff is fucking nice is all!"

A: "Hah, you are! I should have warned you that this stuff is strong and deliciously sweet, s'why, I like it....but you.....you're not used to it, so maybe don't have any more just now......I don't want to have to carry you home.......I mean I honestly would carry you home.....but I'd rather not have to.......I think....I'm feeling a bit tipsy too. Just how strong is this stuff......you'd better eat something, to soak it up......"

She starts slurring her words slightly whilst looking at the bottle.

E: "Oooh shhit....this is the strong stuff.....oopsie.....I'm hungry....."

She starts to pile some salmon and slices of cheese onto the largest slice of bread, then hungrily devours it like she's not eaten in days.

E: "Mm-mm-mmmm, that's muuuuch better....."

Alexander does the same, enjoying a slice of ham whilst putting some butter on his bread, he then piles the ham and cheese on like he's never seen food before and munches it quickly. Over the next 20 minutes, they finish up as much of the food as they can then then pack everything but the wine away and just lay down beside each other on the blanket, hands resting under thier heads.

A: "Well, that was fucking good! Did you cook all that yourself?"

E: "It was wasn't it? I did, mostly....Bessie made the fruit tarts though, I just cannot get pastries right......it's awful...I just love dessert pastries, especially cinnamon rolls, they are my favourite thing ever.....but they are one of the few types of food I just can't make......peh!"

She sticks her tongue out as if irritated with herself.

E: "Are you much of a cook Alexander?"

A: "I can be sometimes, as long as it's fairly simple, I can do it. My favourite dinner is roasted salmon with herbs, boiled potatoes and green beans, simple I know....but sooo delicious.....What other foods do you like?"

E: "Hm, well I love pastries both sweet and savoury. My favourite dinner is Lucille's ham hock pie with roasted potatoes, parsnips and peas...oh and all drowned plenty of Bessies meat gravy, it's amazing, mmm-mm!"

A: "Well, that's another thing we have in common, we both enjoy our food. You know? I think we met at just the right time, it's been a whirlwind romance for me, dare I ask has anything changed for you?"

He asks her nervously.

E: "Of course, the more I get to know you, the more I like you.... it's been pretty quick for me too, considering that I likely still have feelings for.... him..... but he's gone and you're here now being everything he was and more, I just....I can't really make much sense of it all but I like it........its like we sort of did things the wrong way around. We felt an immediate almost animalistic attraction to each other, we kissed then we fucked and now we're courting and getting to know each other better.....When it's supposed to go like this.....first you show an interest in someone, go on a few dates get to know them, then you officially start courting and if things go well after that, you start getting intimate etcetera.....lets just say that I'm falling for you a little more each day. Besides, you're a far better lover than he ever was....."

A: "When you put it that way, it does sound a little strange, but not wrong. That's actually how my aunt and uncle started their relationship and they're still head over heels, even after thirty years of marriage and four children, he still can't keep his hands off her and vice versa....so it can work out."

He turns onto his side, rests his head on his hand supported by his elbow and looks down at her, into her eyes, he tenderly strokes his thumb down the side of her face and she leans into his touch.

A: "Do you think it entirely näive of me to want the same thing with you?"

She stares into his sky blue and violet eyes, admiring their unique beauty, whilst thinking briefly.

E: 'Gods those eyes are so beautiful, like little bolts of violet lightning piercing through a perfectly blue sky...'

E: "No, I don't think that näive at all......I actually quite like the sound of it...."

A playful smirk then appears on her face as she teasingly says.

E: "Is it näive of me to ask you to kiss me, right now?"

A sly grin appears on his face at the thought.

A: "Why no....not at all..."

She then grabs his face and pulls him in for a compassionate kiss. He breaks away for a moment and they silently search each others faces. A little glint appears in his eyes as then crashes his lips to hers in a more frenzied manner as he moves on top of her straddling her. He breaks away for a moment and deftly removes his jacket and then he loosens his undershirt. Without even having to say a word, she starts lifting his shirt up and she starts tracing small circles on his sensitive and ticklish area, he sighs as he takes off his shirt completely as she admires his body for a moment.

A: "Heh, you like?"

E: "You know I like!"

He then starts unbuttoning her dress to reveal her breasts and almost moans in appreciation as he fondles them, caressing them gently, then leaning down to kiss them. He then starts to kiss and lick between them and trails the tip of his tongue up from her cleavage up to her neck, her jawline, then up to her ear where he whispers softly.

A: "More?"

She nods enthusiastically.

E: "Mhm, yes."

He carries on kissing her neck then moves on to her mouth kissing her passionately as he unbuttons the rest of her dress bodice, he starts making his way back down, kissing her collarbone, her breasts then he trails his tongue down her stomach circling around her navel then moving down further as she is sighing with excitement. He stops for a moment to unbutton the skirt of her dress, to reveal the top of her legs and her groin, he then pulls down her underwear and starts kissing her lower stomach, making his way further down with his tongue until he finds her sensitive spot and he starts massaging it, circling it with his tongue as she gasps and moans with intense pleasure. While she's enjoying that, he takes two fingers and pushes them inside her, gently thrusting them, he carries on doing both until she is shuddering and screaming out for him.

E: "Aaagh yes! You......now......please......"

A: "Oh, you want me now? I suppose I can do that...."

E: "Mmhm....yes.....now....please!"

A: "Your wish is my command..."

He says in a seductively deep voice as he unbuttons his trousers and pulls his underwear down. He moves onto his knees then spreads her legs apart and lifts them up so they are resting on his chest, he then pushes into her almost impatiently and starts thrusting, quickly and intensely hard, just as she likes it, soliciting loud moans with every thrust and a few even louder screams.

E: "AUUGH.....MMMH......FUCK, YOU'RE SO GOOD!"

He smirks devilishly at that her loud exclamation.

A: "Oh.....I know.....you....mhhhhm......want........more?"

E: "AAEHHH! Always...."

He briefly leans down and talks in a quieter voice.

A: "Mmmmh......that can be arranged.......say my name.....sweet thing......I'm almost there....."

As he starts thrusting even faster. She opens mer mouth before moaning again, then says.

E: "Only if you.....aauugh.....mmmhm....kiss me....again"

A: "Mmmh, I'm.....sure I can.....manage that..."

He leans down again, not stopping and crashes his lips to hers slipping his tongue into her mouth, she meets it with hers in an extremely intense kiss lasting about 20 seconds. He breaks away leaning up again and placing his hands on her breasts while thrusting harder and faster until he moans loudly and she screams in heightened pleasure.

E: "AUUHH......YES..........ALEXANDER...........YES!"

A: "MMH.....Gods yes!.....wow.....that was......I'm actually lost for words..."

E: "Mmmh, maybe go with.......phenomenal......earth shattering......"

He removes himself, moves to lie next to her and wraps his arms around her.

A: "Oh stop it....you'll give me a big head."

E: "You already have a big head.....what would be the difference?"

A: "Fair point, although I do very much like it when you feed my ego like that....."

E: "Again, not that you need it but it's definitely deserved...."

A: "Oh shush, I enjoy it just as much as you, if not more so."

E: "Yes, well I didn't realise you were so skilled with your tongue...."

A: "Heh......in more ways than one, I'll have you know...."

E: "Oh yes and what would those be?"

A: "Well, remember that shit that happened two weeks ago? You found out I'm a hired spy and occasional assassin......I kill people for a living blah de blah...."

E: ".....Yes, it's not something that is easy to forget....."

A: "Well.....I was trained in such a way that....have you ever heard of a femme fatale?"

E: "Hm...yes, I've read stories about female spies or assassins that are highly trained in the art of seduction to fulfil thier contracts. Basically, an irresistibly attractive whore that has been paid to kill you......"

A: "......That's a very glib way to look at it.....but yes, that's essentially what they are...."

E: "What does that have to do with you though?"

A: "Well......when I was training for this profession......the trainer at the time noticed my, not to be too arrogant here.....my striking appearance and told me that I'd be best to specify as what's known in the business as a Tueur de femmes in Andosan or a Sinjorino Murdisto in Sadrian or ladykiller in common.....Basically a male version of, as you put it 'an irresistibly attractive whore that's been paid to kill you....' heheh."

E: "Oh, sorry...."

A: "Don't apologise, I do that to myself enough.....it's not very honourable but my mother agreed that my 'dashing good looks and my charming tongue' her words, not mine by the way....would be advantageous, particularly for acquiring information from both female and male counterparts....In fact, you mentioned a moment ago that I was good with my tongue? You're not the first......it just seemed to stick, so my codename became Silver Tongue and not just because of my seductive powers of persuasion....."

E: "Hah, really? I should call you that from now on....."

A: "So I'm a trained seductive spy and assassin and my codename is Silver Tongue, you now know pretty much everything about me now."

E: "I bet that's not true at all.....wait a second......You've.....not been paid to..... seduce me.....have you?!"

A: "Shit, no....this is just another of those times where I say the wrong thing at the wrong time.....I've been brutally honest with you about how I feel, it's the only thing I've been honest about...."

E: "Well, that's a relief I suppose but yes, you are good at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time."

A: "I'm not usually like that, I generally have to stay very calm and collected but still intriguing and somewhat endearing.......It's more difficult being around you though, with other women I can just turn it on and off, like a switch. But you......you scramble my brain. I feel like I cannot think straight when I'm with you......I just want you to know everything about me, so there are no more secrets...."

E: "Well......it'll take some getting used to, but I'm glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me these things....."

A: "Well I do, I'm just so damn in love with you, I can't even explain it......I'm also very glad that you haven't ran off yet, it's a good sign, to me anyway......"

She sits up a little and kisses him reassuringly.

E: "Look, I'll admit it's all a little strange, very fast moving and quite unfamiliar and even somewhat dangerous....but it's also exciting, different, very fun and you're a very interesting person. You make me feel things I've never felt before, do things I'd never have thought of doing.......I feel like I'm truly alive when I'm with you....This may not be an easy situation. But my father once said that 'If something is truly worth doing, it will never be easy....' and I believe he was right."

She lies back down again on her side with one arm over him. He hugs her closer and strokes her hair.

A: "I've been given that same advice before actually....and I can honestly say that I'm relieved to hear you say that.....my.....past doesn't bother you too much?"

E: "Like I said, maybe a little but I'll get over that pretty quickly, I'm not insecure......Besides, it's certainly given you.....experience...."

A: "Hah, yes of course......If there's anything to be taken from this, it's how skilled I am in certain areas......"

E: "Well, it is an important part of any relationship.....tell me, am I the best you've ever had?"

A: "Hah, I think so... I actually have real feelings for you....I felt nothing for my past....conquests.....I can assure you, in the past five years there have only been seven, maybe eight women and two men......all for work, to me it was just meaningless sex, a means to an end. I never loved any of them......they were mostly barren female wizards in their late thirties or early forties there was even one in her fifties actually....but anyway. They were mostly all in unhappy marriages, or widowed and yearning for some physical attention....I gave them what they wanted or in some cases, sorely needed and I got my information and got paid....That's not to say I wasn't very attracted to any of them much however. I mean, I wouldn't be able to perform if I wasn't attracted to them at all.....and I definitely enjoyed it. I'm a young, good looking man who really enjoys sex, so....surely you can understand?"

E: "Hah, well I suppose I can in a way, I'm a bit like that too sometimes....don't know if you'd noticed....."

She gives him a sly grin.

A: "No......of course not.....heheh."

E: "Well, you do certainly have an......interesting back story....Tell me then, did any of those women ever want anything more from you?"

A: "Hm, yes actually now that I think of it. She was my second job, a wealthy widowed dowager in her early forties, quite striking for her age, she had golden brown skin, chestnut brown hair and big dark brown eyes. She had fucking massive tits too..... She was a bit shorter and a little chubbier than you. When I first saw her though....that bosom.... almost spilling out of her tightly laced corset....I thought I'd hit the jackpot....."

E: "So you're a tits guy, got it..."

A: "Of course, I like every part but they're probably my favourite......yours couldn't be much more perfect......look.....I was a 22 year old horny bastard who highly appreciated tits, of any size......"

E: "That sounds a bit like my brother...."

A: "Heh.....good man...."

E: "Ugh, what're you like? Alright then, I want details. Just how much bigger were they? Just out of curiosity...."

A: "Really? I'm trying to tell an interesting story here and you're concerned about how big her tits were?!"

E: "Yes....."

A: "Ugh, fine well....."

He checks out her chest for a moment then grabs them.

A: "I'd say....probably about twice as big as yours maybe even bigger......will that satisfy your insecurity and curiosity?"

E: "Curiosity sated for now..."

A: "Good, I can get on with my story.....This woman was a countess, called Anne-marie Du Montford. I was initially hired just to get her drunk, seduce her and gather information about her late husband, there were dozens of suspicions that she had in fact killed him or had him killed so she could claim his fortune, but nothing could be proved, she was a countess and a wizard but not particularly well trained one. She was also related, albeit distantly, to royalty......no one could touch her....or so she thought..."

E: "Ooh, I'm intrigued now....What happened then?"

A: "Well, I mentioned that she was a wizard? Her parents were for some reason ashamed of that fact and had never bothered to get her trained. Instead, she had been trained in political intrigue and machinations but she wasn't too clever either and that was her downfall......"

E: "So she was another of those entitled nobles who thinks they're better than everyone else?"

A: "Precisely....So anyway, I met her one night at a soirée at her mansion. I was pretending to be an eligible bachelor, dressed to the nines blah de blah. Now, I'm not lying or exaggerating here, I honestly had to bat off quite a few older gentlemen trying to set me up with thier daughters and a few very handsome young men......I had to make up so many polite excuses.....that night was fucking mentally exhausting....."

E: "Hah, not surprising, you are very pretty to look at my dear.....and I'd imagine even more so five years ago......and now you're quite a proficient.....story spinner.....uh, so to speak....."

A: "You can say it, I'm a good liar.....a fucking good one too, but it takes practice! So anyway, she sees me making eye contact with her and is immediately intrigued, enough so as to cut short her current conversation with what looked like a rather important fellow. She walks over to me, making sure to emphasise her.....assets whilst swinging her hips as she walked. My eyes jumped out of my skull and I could see she liked that, she took me by the arm and asked me to come for a walk in the gardens with her. We chatted and exchanged pleasantries, she had sent someone to fetch us some wine and they delivered it to her in the garden. Some three or four drinks later, the flirting had long started, I could tell she wanted me, I just didn't know when to make that move. So I did something daring, I suggestively asked her to go somewhere more private, thinking she probably wouldn't agree....but she did, she took me to her little garden house, which had a surprising amount of expensive furniture in it for such a tiny structure. But I'm off topic, as soon as I closed the door behind me, she told me to lock it, I turned around for a minute and did as she asked. Honestly, the next thing I knew, she had literally jumped on me and had me up against the wall...."

E: "Ooh, a little desperate is it not?"

A: "I initially thought that myself, but like I said, I being paid a lot to just be a good looking young man, get tipsy, then to shag a moderately attractive woman. She was quite desperate, we must have shagged three times that night.....all was going very well as she asked to see me again. I kept on seeing her for a month or so maybe 6 weeks, by this point I had managed to gather enough information and evidence that she had indeed plotted to have her late husband killed, she had hired an assassin, but kept the documents under lock and key. One night I had gotten her so drunk so as to tell me where those safe keys were, we shagged again then she passed out asleep. I took my opportunity to snoop around and found the documents I needed, grabbed them, replaced them with decoys and shoved them in my bag....I went back to check on her before I left, big mistake....."

E: "Why? What happened then!?"

A: "Well, she had just awoken and saw me. She asked me to come back to bed, so I did. We cuddled for a bit and chatted for a while, she was still a little drunk, but not so much so that she wasn't aware of what she was doing. I told her I needed to leave and she just.....wouldn't let me, she poured her heart out to me, saying that the past 6 weeks had been the best of her entire life and that she'd fallen in love with me....."

E: "Uh-oh....awkward...."

A: "I had not expected that and freaked out a little. I tried to keep my composure as best I could ans told her that I was only visiting the country and I had to return home in a few days. She was having none of it. Up until this point, she'd been really lovely and amiable. But now her spoiled bratty side came out, she offered me riches, my own house and even a title if I stayed with her, fuck she even spoke about marriage! I had to get out of there.......when I kept refusing, she got more and more frustrated, saying 'but I thought you loved me!' Getting angrier and angrier until she actually threatened to have me killed.....she clearly didn't like being told No."

E: "Shit, really!?"

A: "Yes, I was genuinely scared. Thankfully her butler had heard the commotion from downstairs and came up to investigate, he tried to calm her down.....it was futile, but it gave me the opportunity to leave, so I quickly grabbed my bag and high tailed it out of there, not looking back once. I took what I'd found to my employer, he had the documents appraised, they were official. He reported her to the appropriate authorities and she was arrested later that month, had her title stripped and her or her late husbands riches went to her his rightful heirs, it was split between his son and daughter. I received a beautiful payment for that, it was even worth being a witness to testify against her in the legal court. Her butler backed me up and she was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, she was then admitted to a secure facility for the mentally unstable and criminally insane."

E: "Oh wow, well I suppose she must've been unbalanced......she told you she would have you killed literally minutes after confessing her undying love for you.....that's fucked up!"

A: "Yes, well as you now understand....it's a dangerous profession but I'm just that good at it....."

E: "Are you sure it's not just because you had a little help from someone at the top?...."

A: "Well, I was disliked, mistrusted or resented by a lot of my fellow professionals because of that fact. That just made me want to prove them wrong, it made me try hard, get good and actually earn it. I was promoted up the ranks mostly for my aptitude and natural talent not just because I'm the boss's son.....although it did help a little sometimes. I've made few friends in that profession, which is why my cousin Dominic was an essential part of my life, without him, I'd have lost it a loooong time ago....."

E: "I.....have new found respect for you after hearing that.....and a little bit of pride too. It also makes you that little bit more attractive for some reason.....does that sound silly?"

A: "No....not at all."

He smirks at her.

A: "You ladies just can't resist a little danger...."

Eleanora decides to play along with him. She leans up to him, her lips less than an inch from his, placing a finger tip delicately under his chin teasingly. She speaks in a menacingly seductive voice.

E: "Hm....is that so? Mr. Oh-so dark and dangerous?"

He falls for it and leans in to kiss her, she then suddenly flops backwards onto the blanket again and laughs at him. He sighs with surprise.

A: "Oh, you little tease!"

E: "Hahah, you bad boys think you're so damn irresistible, don't you? Heheh."

Alexander then leans over her, pinning her arms up above her head with one hand and starts tickling her mercilessly with the other. She fidgets and wriggles beneath him laughing uncontrollably. He lets go of her arms and is straddling her, tickling her with both hands.

E: "Ehheeeheeh, oh...you shouldn't have done that, letting go of my arms was a bad idea Mr....Dark and Dangerous."

She closes her eyes briefly, whilst he's indisposed tickling her, she lightly touches a finger tip to his abdomen and it starts slowly forming ice crystals, he stops and looks down at the suddenly very cold sensation in surprise.

A: "Hey, no fair. No magic allowed!"

E: "You just made that rule up, right now....."

A: "Hey it still counts..."

She slowly moves her finger up to one of his nipples leaving a small trail of water up his chest as the crystals melt with his body heat. She rubs around his nipple as it goes hard, she moves to the other and the same thing happens, she then stops looking quite pleased with herself. He then crashes his lips to hers in a passionate kiss. They carry on tickling, cuddling, talking, teasing and kissing for the next hour as it starts get dark. They then decide call it a day, they put their clothes back on and leave the woods to head back home for the evening. Where they decide to tell her family that they are officially courting.

Chapter 12: Telling the family.

As they walk up the path to Wintergreen manor hand in hand they take it slowly and start discussing their plan of action. He has a slight shake in his step, wanting to take as long as possible to reach the manor door.

A: "This....this is not like me at all, I'm actually really bloody nervous....see? My hands are shaking....."

E: "Oh, you're right, that's not at all like you....does my father intimidate you that much?"

A: "Well.....yes a bit.....he's the archmage of this city, a really fucking powerful wizard and obviously a very devoted father. Plus there's your brother threatening to kill me if I do anything remotely bad to you...."

E: "What? He really said that? Aww, I love that big dope! But still....he shouldn't have interfered."

A: "I swear it was with good intentions, he loves you dearly and is a loyal and supportive brother. It was quite an amicable conversation actually."

E: "Oh really? What did he say?"

A: "He said that he respected me for being so....mature about the whole thing and said he'd actually like to be friends with me. I agreed as we do have a lot of the same interests, it would be nice having a male friend around here to do.....guy stuff with..."

E: "I agree, I'm not an archer, swordsman, fighter or any kind of hunter, you two are so it would be good for you both to spend some time together doing those sort of things. My papa and cousin Andreas would probably join you too...."

A: "That sounds quite fun actually, it's been a while since I've gone out in a group to hunt game or wild boar."

E: "You and Seb would be doing that, papa and Andreas would set up at the riverside and go fishing all afternoon. It could be a good chance for you to acquire more information about what happened to Adam. I'm sure papa knows more than he's letting on, I know that his position and title entitle him to use of city halls private investigators. There's no way he wouldn't have used them.....Get him drunk, see if he'll let slip anything...."

A: "That's.....actually a really good idea. Wait, you weren't planning on becoming a spy too were you? I think you'd be pretty good at it actually....you could be my femme fatale.....but what would your code name be....?"

E: "Oh. Oh what about scarlet rose?"

A: "Hm, no that's too pretty and sweet, I was thinking more along the lines of Black widow...."

E: "But.....I'm not a widow...."

A: "Mm no, but it's full of intrigue and darkness, it just works better....if you must have scarlet or red, put it with the name of a known deadly animal like scarlet viper. Or your eyes....they're such a unique shade of green, harlequin green...you could be the harlequin viper.....hmm other shades of green, peridot. It could be just one word a mononym, Peridot sounds good....I'm off topic....what were we talking about again?"

E: "How you're going to handle my family...."

A: "Oh yes, what should I do again?"

E: "You've really forgotten? Fuck, you must be nervous....Do you want me to do most of the talking?"

A: "That might be best.....I swear I can usually charm the birds out of the trees but now I can't even string a coherent sentence together....I think....it's because, the last time this happened. I was very harshly rejected for being a nobody....I don't want your family to think of me that way....."

E: "That....is quite adorable actually....every day you do or say something to make me fall for you a little more, you know that?"

A: "Well that's the point isn't it? I have to work to make you fall for me. It's not fair really....."

He takes her hands in his and kisses her cheek.

A: "All you have to do is exist...."

She emphatically squeezes her eyes shut and smiles at the sweet gesture.

E: "Here, if you're stressed lets just sit on the doorstep and watch the sunset together eh?"

She lets go of his hands, sits on the step and pats the spot next to her. Beckoning him to sit down.

A: "Alright.....come here."

She cuddles into him and he puts his arm around her shoulder.

E: "You know, I like the sweet talk....I may seem a bit cocky, nonchalant and cheeky but you're just so cute sometimes. Wait....this won't stop when I say I love you will it?"

A: "Of course not....that's just an arsehole's way of doing things. The whole 'Treat them sweet until they're hooked' bullshit,  then the guys true self comes out. I am not that kind of guy, my father was.....I saw what it did to my mother. He made her lose faith in love completely. He treated her like shit, like a doormat. I respect how she always tried to be so defiant towards him in front of me....it didn't stop him being a bastard though. She is a very strong willed woman who rarely falters, but whenever she thought I couldn't see or hear her, she just seemed......broken.....heart broken."

E: "That's.....not a nice way to live, I'm....sorry you had to go through that. I'm glad you've endeavoured to be nothing like him. If it's any consolation, you're doing well, you're nothing like that...."

A: "Thank you....right now. I need the reassurance, the confidence boost......Your father is an intimidating man, he seems like a force to be reckoned with....I do not want to risk my chances with you or my place at the college by pissing him off, saying the wrong thing or doing wrong by anyone in his family. I don't understand why my own brain keeps failing me...I am honestly never like this. This is just what you do to me....."

E: "Heh, well I do apologise...."

A: "Hah, I know, it's not your fault.....it's like I said before, the last time I was nervous was when I introduced myself to Olivia's parents, they took one look at me and they could tell I was not well off. As soon as I started talking, I acquired some almost disgusted looks from her mother and disapproving looks from her father. It was soul destroying....I loved her....so much....they didn't even give me a chance to prove myself, to better myself. Even though I was prodigious at school at college, I was barely nineteen and didn't have a job, wasn't well off enough or have the right connections to be a good enough match for their daughter. That's all they saw, it seems they didn't care about anything else....."

E: "That's just horrible, I honestly have no time for people like that.....My father is not like that and he likes you already, so I don't think you've got anything to worry about....."

A: "It's annoying because my rational side knows that. But my fear of rejection is taking over that rationality....making me anxious....."

E: "With good reason....Look, I'll be holding your hand the entire time, if you get lost for words, just squeeze my hand and I'll know and I'll rescue you.....that sound good?"

He kisses the top her head.

A: "Yes....I can live with that. Thank you for being so....understanding."

E: "You're welcome, everyone needs a boost now and then. And if we can't support each other through little things then what hope do we have in the long term.....if you want me for the long term that is?"

A: "Have you already forgotten that I've already said I'd marry you if I could?"

E: "But it's only been four weeks......what if this is just a whirlwind romance that will just fizzle out into nothing after a few months or so?"

A: "Well I don't believe that's the case.....I'm still here aren't I, even after your huge temper tantrum......I don't mean to make fun of course and I know your reasons but surely you can understand how odd that must have been to an onlooker?"

E: "I....know. I'm still a bit embarrassed by that actually. It seems now that, already like a true partner, you're not going to let me forget it....I swear one day I'll learn to laugh at myself.....one day.....besides are you not glad that I'm still standing here? Even after finding out about your true occupation. Hmm.....hmmmmm?"

She prods him twice in the chest with her finger, for dramas sake. He flinches a little.

A: "Hey, ow! No need for that now missy......or must I tickle you again.....? Heh and no I won't let you forget it! But seriously though, yes..... I am very glad you didn't run for the hills after finding that out, it can't have been easy for anyone.....but you're tough.....you can handle it, I know you can....I just hope I'm worth it...."

E: "Yes, we both know I'm the toughest of the two of us....heh And from what I've seen so far, you are worth it."

A: "Thanks and yes you would be the toughest if you were as skilled at wielding a bow as you are at wielding magic."

E: "Oh but I am....there's a conjuration spell which can allow me to summon a spectral bow and unlimited arrows, it's amazing....But I digress. Have I built up your confidence enough for us to go inside now? It's getting cold..."

A: "Yes, I suppose I can stop stalling the inevitable now. I can't very well have you freeze to death now can I? Come on."

He stands up first and offers her his hand to help her up. He opens the door and courteously lets her go in first, he closes the door behind him. They walk into the downstairs lounge hand in hand, they find Lucille and Joseph sitting together on the couch. Joseph is reading a book and Lucille is practicing her stitch craft. Lucille is the first to look up at them, she takes a quick, silent glance at them, sees that they are hand in hand and smiles poignantly at them. She then nudges Joseph to get his attention.

L: "Joe, someone is here to speak to you...."

He jolts out of his concentration.

J: "Hmm, yes.......what? Can it wait until I finish this page?"

She rolls her eyes.

L: "No...Joe, sweetheart. Eleanora and Alexander are here...."

She turns to address Eleanora.

L: "I assume you want to talk with your father?"

E: "Yes Lucille and you too."

L: "Well, what would you like to say my dear?"

E: "Well-"

Joseph finally looks up from his book and interjects looking concerned.

J: "You look very....serious, is everything alright my dear?"

He then notices that they are holding hands.

J: "Oh."

E: "Yes, this is....there's no other way to put it...."

He gets a little impatient but in an enthusiastic way.

J: "Well....spit it out then......"

A: "Eleanora and I are now courting, we want to make it official-"

Joseph interjects.

J: "Oh, we know that already......"

E: "What?"

J: "We know. About you two, you haven't exactly been subtle..."

Eleanora and Alexander briefly look at each other, confused.

L: "Oh yes, I've noticed it. The glances across the dining table, the way he looks at you....like your aunt Louise when she sees cake....Like myself when I see your father....it's just darling....you are quite a match if I do say so...."

Eleanora raises an eyebrow.

E: "Alright......why did neither of you say anything then?"

J: "We wanted to see how long you would try and keep up this  charade, you did a terrible job by the way. I can tell these things, I've been young and in love too you know....wait you probably don't want to know, I can imagine that you wouldn't want to think of your old man doing those sorts of things....but I did.....you wouldn't exist otherwise...."

Lucille sniggers and nudges him in the ribs.

L: "Oh you're so mean....heheh. Don't embarrass the poor girl."

Eleanora cringes. Alexander laughs.

E: "Ugh. Father! That's a mental image I can't erase now....."

J: "Hahah, you're still so easily embarrassed.... It's really very funny you know....."

A: "Heheh, he's not wrong.....You're actually quite adorable when you're flustered..."

J: "Heh, now he's a man after my own heart this one.....I approve wholeheartedly, you have my blessings, Lucille's too!"

E: "Thank you.......I now know I can always count on my lovely family to take the piss....."

J: "You do make it very easy my dear, just be thankful Seb isn't here..."

L: "Oh leave her be now, you've had your fun...."

J: "I will do no such thing, hahah."

E: "Oh I am very thankful he's not here....Aaanyway, as lovely as this has been.....I do believe I've had enough embarrassment for one evening, I'm off to bed. With my new boyfriend....."

A: "Yes, uh...thank you for your time.... Joseph, Lucille."

They turn around to leave.

J: "Heh, yes off you lovebirds go, goodnight sweetheart."

Sniggers again as they start to leave they walk a few feet and Joseph calls after her.

J: "Oh and Eleanora...."

E: "Yes, papa?"

J: "Try to keep your.......vocalisations down a little next time please, there are children in this house you know? Your little brother asked me why you were screaming in your sleep, I do not want to have to answer that question again....."

Eleanora waves her hand behind her to acknowledge him but says nothing, her face quite red with embarrassment. Eleanora and Alexander walk off without another word. They hear Joseph and Lucille laughing at his last joke as they head upstairs, Alexander himself is trying not to laugh, but failing miserably.

A: "Hahah, I fucking love your Pa, he's brilliant!"

E: "Yes, well thanks for all of your support down there.....I thought you were nervous....you arse!"

A: "I was but then....I'm sorry, I can't help it, he and I just have the same sense of humour!"

E: "And that revolves around taking the piss out of me does it?"

A: "Partially, yes.....heheh. He is right though, you are very easy to wind up!"

E: "Ugh, I know.....I think I need train myself to zone you all out when you get like that, meditation and swearing should help. Not at the same time obviously though. Anyway I'm going to bed, your bed or mine?"

A: "Let's go to yours tonight, your bed is comfier and your room smells better, it smells like you.... Vanilla and Violets."

E: "Alright, but I'm still annoyed with you so I'm going straight to sleep!"

A: "If you say so, sweet thing....we both know that won't happen...."

E: "I can resist your charms you know....."

A: "No....you can't...."

Just as he says that, they get to Eleanora's room, he walks in first. As soon as the door is closed Alexander turns to face her, gives her a devilish smirk, grabs her by the shoulders and starts to slowly push her backwards towards the door, he locks it with one hand as he pushes her back up against it. With his other hand, he pins her arms up above her head. Once he's locked the door, with his free hand, he wordlessly unbuttons her dress whilst still restraining her by the arms. They look into each others eyes as if silently reading one another's thoughts. He lets go of her arms, takes her dress off completely. She's still trying to resist him but it's not working for her. Instead, she starts unbuttoning his shirt, then peels it off of him and throws it over his shoulder.

A: "You're doing a.....very good job of resisting me....."

E: "Oh shut up and kiss me....."

His hands on her hips, she traces her fingers down his chest as she closes her eyes for a moment, a faint lilac light emerges from them and she touches him again. This time, there is a small tingle of a spark between her fingertip and his skin, she runs her finger down his chest then shoves it down his trousers. Wrapping her hand around him, he starts off a little wary but then starts to enjoy the feeling, a light stimulating vibration, she then moves her hand to the tip and he gasps with excitement. He takes her hand out of his trousers and he removes his clothes completely. He then walks up to the door again, pushes her up against it and pinning her hands above her head again, he lunges forward for a desperate, hungering kiss. Not breaking contact at all, she wraps her legs up around his waist and he holds her up with his other arm. He suddenly forcefully thrusts into her, procuring a surprised gasp from her. He lets her arms go and whispers in her ear gruffly.

E: "Do that again...."

As he kisses her neck quite roughly, leaving small bite marks. She wraps her arms around him and her hands start to vibrate against his skin with electricity, occasionally shocking him lightly. He groans.

A: "Gods......that feels so good!".

He suddenly stops, pulls out and lets her legs drop.

A: "Bend over the edge of the bed please..."

She does without question and he's quickly inside her again, thrusting fast from behind with both hands on her hips as she screams.

E: "Uhh! Yes, harder!"

He's all too happy to oblige and does so, within minutes he's moaning loudly and she's screaming for more as they both combust into a powerful climax. He breathes deeply and exclaims.

A: "Auh....fuck!!"

She's screaming at the top of her voice.

"ALEXANDER.....GODS YES!"

He's a little breathless.

A: "Like that.....did you? I quite enjoyed the little shocks and taking you from behind..."

E: "As.....did.....I"

She stands up, turns around and flops backwards onto the bed, he climbs onto the bed, straddling her then teasingly kisses her before flopping onto the bed next to her on his side facing her he puts one hand back on her bottom and squeezes it repeatedly.

A: "Have I mentioned that you have a perfect arse before?"

E: "Probably....but I know this anyway.....oh and you were right..."

A: "About what?"

E: "I absolutely cannot resist you......when you give me that look. I just want you so bad....."

A: "Hah, I know. I use that entirely to my advantage....."

E: "Well it's not as if I get absolutely no pleasure at all out of it....."

A: "Well obviously....I mean, just look at me, you wouldn't want to resist me....."

E: "Oh stop it, I can be big headed too but you take it to a new level...."

A: "Heh, just winding you up again my dear. I have official license to do so now that I'm your boyfriend."

E: "It sounds strange but good at the same time. Like it's actually what I want."

He smirks.

A: "Heh, was that ever in doubt though, really?"

E: "Ugh, I know that look, you think you're hilarious don't you?"

A: "Of course, not as hilarious as your Pa, obviously, but yes.

E: "Ugh what are you like?! But honestly, yes of course it was in doubt, remember the man I thought was the love of my life just ran away with my son...."

A: "What was Adam like, if you don't mind my asking?"

E: "I suppose not, it's getting easier to talk about him now without tearing up...."

A: "Could that possibly be because you are falling in love with me?"

E: "It's very likely. Perhaps I can get over him....But yes, what do you want to know about him?"

A: "Well....there's general facts, what he looks like, etcetera then of course some more....uh....personal details? You know, just for comparisons sake.....was he better than me, was he bigger than me, those kinds of things....."

E: "Really? You want to know about his dick size and performance? Now who's being insecure?!"

A: "Maybe I am, I just want to know if I measure up or if I've got nothing to worry about."

E: "Hmm alright you're not getting any more details than this....and I'm not just saying this to appease you, you're both bigger and better than him, satisfied now?"

A: "I suppose that will do for now."

E: Well what do you expect really? He was only sixteen when we started sleeping together and he'd never been with anyone else, he gave his virginity to me, hence the relative inexperience and size.... he certainly wasn't small or unsatisfying by any means though...."

A: "Alright, that's good enough for me..."

E: "And before you ask, he didn't manage to make me scream quite like you do....."

A: "That's good to hear, in more ways than one I'll have you know....."

He smirks at her knowingly.

E: "Trust you to make it dirty.... I love that about you, we have an equally dirty sense of humour."

A: "I'm glad too, you don't get many supposedly refined young women who would share a laugh at something so apparently distasteful....."

E: "Heh, I know. My humour is largely influenced by my papa and of course my philandering big brother, most things are dirty according to him...."

A: "I have to go for a drink with him soon, so I can see for myself."

E: "I'll speak to him tomorrow, see if you can't arrange something for the weekend. I must take you to meet my Aunt Louise too, she is like a mother to me so I just know she'd be disappointed if I didn't introduce you to each other. Oh and with any luck Andreas will be there, he's your age and I think you'd like him too. He has that same sense of humour, although he's sweet, kind and is a very faithful knight paladin so if he gets a little righteous at times, just smile and nod. Other than that, he's great."

A: "Heh, I know the type. My aunt is like that, she trained to become a knight paladin but then got married and quickly became pregnant with my cousin and couldn't finish her training, she's still painfully faithful to Moradin though and will rub your nose in it whenever she gets the chance!"

E: "Heh, thankfully Andreas is not that bad, he likes dirty stories as much as the next man. He is also married. His wife Freya, is immeasurably stunning, she's half snow elf, which is incredibly rare as snow elves generally do not mix with humans, her father was cast out of his clan for some unknown reason and fell in love with her human mother. Quite romantic actually. She has silvery white hair, paler skin that even me and her eyes are a very light icy blue. Fuck knows how he snagged her, lucky, lucky man. Thier children will be just beautiful. Seb was quite jealous of him initially, although he generally prefers darker women."

A: "Ah, good man. I'm the same, Dark hair and light skin."

E: "No, I mean he likes, dark hair dark eyes and darker tanned skin, very curvy women."

A: "Ah I see, he'd be in his element in Sadria then, the women there are just....something else.....mhm."

He looks up pensively and sighs. She snaps her fingers in front of his face.

E: "Hey, snap out of it.... remember who you're with mister...."

A: "Heh, sorry....none of them compare to you mi amora."

E: "Mm, I love it when you speak native Sadrian, it's sexy..."

A: "Hmm. Nu, dol?e, mi devos paroli ?in plia, se vi pensa, que ?i estas alloga." (Translation. Well, my sweet, I'll have to speak it more, if you think it's attractive)

E: "Mhmm, more."

A: "Se mi sciuso, ke vi tre multe turni?is, mi ofte parolus ?in." (If I'd known it turned you on so much, I would have spoken it much sooner)

A: "Do you even remotely understand what I'm saying?"

E: "Mhm, a little, I picked bits of it up from a Sadrian friend I had years ago..."

A: "Well aren't you just full of surprises? You know, I find it sexy when you speak Elvish....."

E: "Hmm.... Deimhina? Ni moras domen a labairana niosan mor freisannas. (Really? Maybe I should speak it more too.)

A: "Mmm. Just like that."

E: "Do you understand Elvish?

A: "A little, but it's the Sadrian dialect, so it sounds different to what you just said. It's just as sexy though...."

E: "Bhuelen a failen amachalin anseas, ansin tur fearan alainas." (Well get over here then, you beautiful man...)

A: "Mmm, I understood most of that and I'm all too happy to oblige...."

E: "Feann ma seannis, dathmar." (Kiss me then, handsome.)

He whispers gruffly in her ear.

A: "Via de estas mia ordono, mi amora" (Your wish is my command, my love.)

He leans over her and kisses her sweetly on the lips, slowly warming it up to a more passionate kiss. He grabs hold of her arm and as he rolls onto his back, he pulls her on top of him, she takes the opportunity to leave a trail of soft kisses down his chest and down to his lower stomach. She then sits up straddling her legs over him, she moves down so she is sitting over his knees. She wraps both hands around him and starts massaging softly as he lies taking sharp inhales with almost every motion. She stops, sits up and moves further down his legs so that she is sitting over his lower legs. Then with a sly wink, she bends forward and puts her mouth around him and starts licking and sucking, occasionally pausing to tease the tip by circling it with the tip of her tongue. She keeps going for another few minutes, building up a gentle rhythm as he moans and sighs, just as his legs start to shiver and he groans.

A: "Auhh, I'm.....just about....there.....ahhh!"

She then quickly sits up as he finishes onto her breasts and down her stomach. She smirks, climbs off of him, and heads over to the wash basin to get a cloth to clean up with. He turns onto his side to watch her.

A: "Well, I must say.....I was not expecting that, my love....sorry about the....mess."

She laughs then turns and winks at him.

E: "Heh, good. It's nice to get a surprise sometimes isn't it?"

A: "Mmm, definitely. And I got to completely relax instead of having to do.....mmmost of the work......and you can't moan, you got a pearl necklace out of it.....heheh."

E: "Ugh, lovely......you cheeky git....next time, you can suck your own dick.....Also you don't always have to finish inside me...."

A: "No, but it is preferable, that way we can actually feel each other more and you get more out of it too, it's more intimate that way. Now that's not to say I don't thoroughly enjoy being blown, I fucking love it, all men do......I just prefer it full on, especially with you...."

E: "Nice save, Romeo...."

A: "Heh, I do my best, I'm not called Silver Tongue for nothing.... Now, get that gorgeous butt back over here and so I can cuddle up to it and sleep."

E: "Cuddle up to my arse? Heh."

A: "Well that and you."

E: "Hmm, alright, you've convinced me..."

She walks back over to the bed, slips on her satin night gown and slides into bed next to him, they lie with arms around each other as they talk for another half hour or so. She tells him more about Adam and he tells her more about Olivia, then they drift off peacefully in each others arms.

Chapter 13: Girls marry their fathers.

The next day, neither of them have any classes so the day is thiers. Eleanora decides to take Alexander to meet her Aunt Louise and her family. They discuss plans for the day, they'll visit Louise in the morning and stay until lunch, then they decide to do whatever takes thier whim. As they are getting ready to go out, Eleanora leaves the room to freshen up in the washroom. Alexander seems nervous again. He mutters to himself quietly.

A: "Fucking hell, why do I feel really nervous again?"

Just as he says that, a small blue sparkle hovers in through the open window and appears next to his head, he sees it and reaches up to it and it materialises into a note.

A: 'Oh, it's from Dominic. About time he replied, it's only been over two weeks, typical....'

It reads.

Alexander, it's great to hear from you again and that you're well. I honestly thought you were dead or had gone missing, your Ma doesn't tell us much about you anymore unfortunately so I honestly had no idea, Teresa and I have been quite worried!

I've been very busy myself, I've just recently got a promotion to a new job in City Hall and with the arrival of the twins, it's been madness here. We had two girls, identical, called Arianni and Liana, Teresa is doing well after the birth and of course, Luke isn't too happy that he's now got two little sisters and not just one but they're truly beautiful little bundles of joy, you simply must come and meet them when you get back here! I'll stop gushing now I promise....

Now, about your little issue, I know you cousin and I know you well enough to tell you that if you're truly in love with her, then go for it. But, please, tell her the truth early on, that way if she runs for the hills, then you'll know it wasn't meant to be. The worst she can do is say no. Besides, you've no doubt got plenty of suitable maidens there just fighting over you, I'm sure.

All I'll say now is, be careful, treat her well and don't give her any reason to doubt the great guy that you are. You may be a spy with an awkward past, have a total prick of a father and a mother who is a matriarch. But you turned out pretty well rounded, decent and kind hearted. Give it everything you've got, I have faith in you. If she turns out to be the 'one' then I'll be very happy for you.

I'd like to know though, what's her name, what is she like? And of course, what does she look like? I want details....I am a red blooded man after all.....I'm excited to hear about this woman that has gotten my cousin in such a fluster.

N.B. I haven't told your mother about this, it will be kept strictly between us, you have my word. Oh and don't mention my curiosity to Teresa, she's the jealous type...

Warmest Regards. Dominic Eltrys

Alexander reads the letter with a little chuckle to himself, he realises that he has time, so he quickly pens a response to him.

Dearest Dominic.

Thank you for your reply, even if it took forever. I have already made the leap of faith, I had to as we were ambushed by some of Davro's lackeys, they were terrible at their jobs and I couldn't lie about that to her....

My girl, she's called Eleanora by the way, was absolutely amazing. She's a sage, like Ma and a powerful emotive caster, she knocked one guy out cold with a lightning bolt arcing from her hand, quite thrilling to watch. We dealt with it together and it worked very well.

To answer your curiosities, well I told her name already. Her personality is, well she's very like me but female, except a fair bit smarter if you can imagine that. We are very alike but we do have enough differences to keep it interesting though. She's honestly the most stunningly beautiful woman I've ever laid my eyes on. I know I used to say that a lot but I was definitely exaggerating. She has a beauty all her own, she has these enchanting eyes, the same colour as a sparkling peridot. She has very long and wavy silken hair, black as night with a blue sheen in the sunlight. Her skin, so soft and as pale as milk, covering curves in all the right places. Her perfect figure, the shape of an hourglass, slender legs, beautiful round buttocks and those tits..... Gods....her tits are just so perfect. Will that sate your curiosity cousin?

All seems to be going well, I fall more in love with her every day and she, I. It will take a while for her as she is still getting over her ex fiancé but it will be worth the wait. I do not have eyes for anyone else any more, I only want her. I will have to change my line of work to more normal jobs as I intend to marry her and have her bear my children, there is no one else for me, I am certain of this already.

I appreciate your support as when it comes to telling Ma all of this, I may need your help. Oh and I can't wait to meet my little twin cousins!

Kindest regards. Alexander.

He seals the letter and then sends it away in a blue puff of smoke. Just then Eleanora walks back into the room and asks him if he's ready to go, he says he is and they leave. They head downstairs to get a quick breakfast, they walk into the kitchen to find Bessie, one of the cooks they employ. Bessie has worked for the Wintergreen family for almost 35 years she's in her early 60's now and is only there 2 maybe 3 days a week now though. She's known Azrael, Joseph, Louise and Isabelle since they were children and had grown to love the family, Joseph was her undisputed favourite though, so she decided to stay at the manor and continue to serve him. She is so lovely, kind and very caring, despite never having had children of her own, Eleanora loves her like a grandma. She introduces Alexander to her.

Eleanora leans in to give Bessie a hug.

E: "Bess! How have you been, dear? You've not been here for the past couple of weeks, I was worried!

B: "Oh, don't worry about me dear girl, Eric has been a little under the weather and my brother brought my niece and her children to visit Eric and I. Your father gave me paid time off so I could spend time with them, it was lovely."

E: "Aw, that's nice to hear. How is Eric doing now, any better?"

B: "Yes, thankfully I was a bit scared he would get worse but he's doing much better now thanks to your Pa and his healing powers."

E: "So that's where he's been going late in the evenings...."

B: "Yes, he's a good man and you're so like him my dear. But enough about me.....Who is this strapping young man?"

She gestures to Alexander.

E: "Bess, meet Alexander. He's my new partner. Alexander, Bessie, our loyal, lovable and very talented cook."

Alexander bows slightly to Bessie and takes her hand to kiss it.

A: "You forgot beautiful my dear.....An absolute pleasure to meet you, Bessie"

Bessie smiles and blushes slightly.

B: "Ooh, he's a charmer isn't he? It's Lovely to meet you too Alexander."

A: "Heh, I've been told this many a time, I just can't help myself, I'm surrounded by so many beautiful women...."

He winks at her.

B: "Oh you....you ought to be careful El. I might steal him for myself...."

A: "I would not be adversed to that....."

E: "Yes, he is most definitely quite the charmer....what is for breakfast today Bess? Something smells good!"

B: "Flattery will get you everywhere lad. It's my own recipe, scrambled eggs with goats cheese, ham and a little chopped onion. I ain't telling you the spices though, my secret, heheh!"

Taps her nose twice.

A: "Sounds wonderful, may I please have a plate now? I'm starving!"

She hands him a dish loaded full with some slices of toasted bread on the side.

A: "Thank you very much, that looks wonderful.....May I excuse myself? I need a word with your father."

He turns around and heads to the dining room, he turns his head back, winks at her again and says.

A: "Thanks again, lovely to meet you Bessie!"

Bessie looks back to Eleanora who had been browsing the jarred preserves on the shelf. She picks up a jar of Loganberry and nutmeg jam and heads back over to Bessie who dishes her up some toasted bread. Whilst doing so, she raises an eyebrow to Eleanora and says.

B: "So...he's charming, incredibly handsome and very polite, not to mention that accent. Tell me.... where did you find him and does he have an older brother?!"

E: "Hahah, no sorry, Bess. He's an only child. He actually found me, he came here to ask father about a place in the college and there was just......an almost instantaneous spark between us..."

B: "Aw that's unfortunate....Heh. So love at first sight was it?"

E: "Mm, seems that way..."

B: "Ooh, adorable....So where's he from then, his accent is just lovely...."

E: "He was born in Andosa but raised in Sadria, his accent is from there. Common tongue is not his first language, you'd never be able to tell though....Next time he's here, ask him to say something in Sadrian, it's so incredibly attractive...."

M: "Ooh I must do that....definitely, his common is very good though not one mistake."

E: "Wait, I'll ask him now."

Eleanora shouts through to the dining room.

E: "Alexander?"

He shouts back.

A: "Yes, my sweet?!"

She asks him in a raised voice.

E: "Can you say something in Sadrian, for Bess, just so she can hear it?"

He shouts back in his deep almost croaky voice.

A: "But of course! Tia bela virino neniam anta?e vidis. ?u ni renkonti?os balda?, Bessie." (Such a lovely woman has never been seen before. May we speak again soon, Bessie.)

B: "Oh wow, lovely I see exactly what you mean.....you're sure he's an only child?!"

E: "Thinking of swapping Eric in for a younger model eh? Hahah."

B: "Maybe....But seriously, he's a handsome fellow, he actually looks quite like your father when he was younger, just with darker skin and longer hair."

E: "You think? I'd never noticed...."

B: "Oh yes definitely....you know my mother once told me, that most women eventually marry thier fathers.....not literally obviously, but men who are very like them...."

E: "Hmm, possibly....he does have the same sense of humour, his mannerisms are quite similar and I suppose he does look a little like him....maybe your mother was right."

B: "Oh, she definitely was. I loved my father dearly, he was wonderful....My first partner Walter, looked very like my father....and Eric, Eric is just like him in almost every other way.....you'll see...."

E: "Hm, maybe. What about Sophia though, is Bruno anything like father?"

B: "Hmm, a bit. He has a commanding presence and is quite outspoken, he doesn't look much like Joseph though."

E: "Probably for the best, Sophia was always concerned about image, imagine if he did look like Pa, she'd dump him in a second if anyone even implied that...."

B: "She was always so brash and quite frankly, a little irritating, sorry to say....."

E: "Hah, don't be. We don't talk anymore anyway so anything goes....Anyways Bess, it's been lovely gossiping with you again, just like old times, we must do it again. I miss you you know? You're like a grandmother to me."

She gives her a hug and Bessie returns it fondly.

B: "I know my dear, I love you all too, like grandchildren. Don't tell Seb but you're my favourite! Of course, he thinks he is."

She winks at her.

E: "Heh, I won't. I may rub his nose in it another time though....thanks for my breakfast Bessie, I'll get out of your way. See you soon and take care."

M: "Off you go my dear, your handsome chap is waiting for you!"

Eleanora giggles at that, smiles and then walks out of the kitchen to where Alexander had finished his breakfast, he's now pouring a cup of tea. Eleanora sits down to eat her breakfast and they talk a little before setting off. They leave the house and start walking.

A: "I'm a bit nervous again..... not sure why.....

E: "Aw, nervous to meet more of my family are we?"

A: "Possibly...."

E: "Just admit it, makes it easier...."

A: "Ugh, fine. I am nervous about meeting them."

E: "There's no need to be....well maybe aunt Louise may be a little suspicious or questioning of you, especially since we're together so soon after....you know.....She is like a mother to me after all....."

A: "Ugh, I know. It's understandable really, she just wants the best for you and that....to be absolutely honest.....probably isn't me....."

E: "But I'm an adult and I can make my own choices and mistakes. Prove her wrong and she'll warm up to you, Darina, Evhan and Joanna will probably be there. I think that Andreas is visiting today he's at home a lot, I think he misses Louise, they are very close actually, he's always been a total mama's boy. Hm.....just like you.....heheh."

She pokes him in the side. He flinches.

A: "Hey, no need for that....Whatever will I do with you, you naughty girl...."

Grabs hold of her waist, spins her into his arms, stoops her low and kisses her passionately, she breaks the kiss after a few seconds.

E: "Hey....not in public..... Savu por mia dormo?ambro mi amor..." (Save that for the bedroom my love....)

A: "Kie estas la amuzo en tio, mia dol?a?" (Where's the fun in that, my sweet?")

She teasingly places her finger under his chin and says.

E: "Oh....you'll find out later, mi amoro."

He looks intensely into her eyes.

A: "Mi atendas ?in...." (I look forward to it...)

She stands up straight and brushes herself off.

E: "Right you, let's get going before I beg you to take me right here....."

A: "I'm sorry, I find it very difficult to keep my hands off of you....even in public...."

E: "I noticed that, you may need to tone it down a little..."

A: "Nah, I love you and I want everyone to know! Plus it doesn't hurt to show other men that you're mine."

E: "I truly appreciate the sentiment. But I belong to no-one, alright?"

A: "Alright....I understand I'm not trying to be possessive or anything. But I can be the jealous type, I just want people to know, is that such a bad thing?"

E: "No of course not, remember though, this is still new to me. Adam was never like this with me, he's quite a private soul, kept displays of affection purely to.....private situations. I mean even when I was visibly pregnant and it was pretty damn obvious that we'd been....intimate, he still wouldn't hold my hand unless it was just the two of us...."

A: "Hm, you think he was ashamed of you? Or, worried about what people would think perhaps?"

E: "Oh definitely, worried about what people would think. His mother and father agreed to our betrothal but his mother didn't like it, or me for that matter. Even less so after she found out I'd been knocked up. She was even rude enough to suggest that the Aries might not have been Adam's child, like I was some kind of common whore at just sixteen, even though he is actually Adam's double! Ugh, I'm glad she's gone...."

A: "What an absolutely abhorrent thing to say to a scared young pregnant girl, you had only been with him though hadn't you?"

E: "Of course, she just always seemed to have an issue with me, fuck knows what it was, I don't care..... It was pretty gratifying to see her face when Aries was born though, he looked so like Adam, Aries' hair is the exact same colour, his skin is the same and he even has lots of freckles, the only significant difference is that Aries has big green eyes, from me. It was so uncanny that it could not be denied that Aries was his.....She never apologised to me for any of it though. My papa still resents her for the accusations, his friendship with Adam's father suffered because of it, I was just happy to see her proved wrong!"

A: "Well, shit. That's not nice, permit me to say, kio hida virino..." (What a horrible woman.)

E: "Indeed, that's putting it mildly....Anyway, let's get a move on otherwise it'll be lunch time by the time we get there....."

They start walking a little faster, not talking as much, they reach Louise's house within 15 minutes.

Chapter 14: Familiarity.

They reach Louise's manor house to find that everyone is there, except Evhan, he is attending a college class and Joanna, who is at school. From the hallway thet can see that aunt Louise and uncle Alfie are sitting in the lounge and cousins Andreas and Darina are preparing the table for brunch. Eleanora walks Alexander into the lounge first. Louise is first to look up from her book and a friendly smile appears on her face at the sight of Eleanora. Eleanora walks into the room, Alexander trails behind and decides to stay in the doorway until he is introduced.

L:"Ah, good morning my dear! How is my favourite niece doing?"

Eleanora smiles back fondly.

E: "Good morning aunt Louise, uncle Alfie, great to see you both!"

Louise puts her book on a nearby table then gets up to hug Eleanora fondly. Louise then places one hand on each of Eleanoras shoulders and says.

L: "Well.....let me get a good look at you dear. There's something different about you. You have a certain glow about you, you certainly seem much happier than when I saw you last. My, my that must have been almost two months ago, just after....."

She trails off, not wanting to ruin the mood.

E: "...I-it's alright, you can say it. I'm not letting that dickhead, pardon my language, ruin my life. I can only be as positive as I can in this situation. As for me looking happier, well...I am, much happier than I was."

L: "Hmm, might that have anything to do with this.... handsome young man whom you haven't introduced us to yet?"

At this point, Alfie interjects with a mocking tone of voice.

Alfie: "Stop ogling the poor lad Lou....we don't even know his name yet! Heheh."

L: "Heh, I'll ogle whomever I like, dear husband!"

She gestures to Alexander.

L: "Come on in lad, no need to be shy. What is your name dear boy?"

Alex: Walks further into the room to stand next to Eleanora.

Alex: "P-pardon me madame, sir. I am Alexander B-Graves."

Louise reacts subtly to his stutter by raising an eyebrow. She takes a sultry walk over to him, she narrows her eyes and looks him up and down as if to scrutinise him a little, he just stands there nervously watching her. He notices how strikingly beautiful she is, especially as she looks as though she is about two decades younger than she is, with her flawless snow white skin, ice blonde hair and large emerald green eyes, she's quite curvy and petite but in perfect proportion. She then looks up at his face, she is a good foot shorter than him, and extends her hand to him and says.

L: "Lady Louise Whipsnade, lovely to meet you."

Alexander then quickly shifts from nervous onlooker to dashing charmer as instead of shaking her hand, he takes hold of it lightly and bows to kiss it softly whilst looking up at her from a bowed posture, he says

A: "An absolute pleasure, Lady Whipsnade....."

He then lets go of her hand and stands up straight again. She appears completely charmed by him or so she wants him to think.

L: "Oh I can assure you my dear boy, the pleasure is all mine....So, you are obviously not local, what brings you to Idralla?"

A: "Mm, well my lady. I am here from Sadria, to attend the wonderful mages college here. I managed to sweet talk my way in.....in addition to a display of my exceptional magical skills too of course...."

L: "Well, well, well.....aren't you impressive?"

She then clears her throat.

L: "Ahem, but to be serious though. That's very good to hear, the college is always looking for bright new magical talent. Is that how you met my niece?"

Eleanora interjects.

E: "Sort of, it's a funny story actually....He actually just turned up at our door, randomly, to enquire about the college and to speak to papa. After we had spoken properly, I started to recognise him. It turned out that we had actually already met 2 weeks previously......"

L: "Oh yes, how?"

E: "Well, Seb and I had been drowning our sorrows.....when we left though.....this rather rude man in black barged past me in the Gargoyle without saying a word and I was drunk enough and angry enough to almost start a fight with him, had an electro-orb in my hand, ready to go...."

A: "Heh, yes. I made very good use of my charms to talk her out of it though, we were trying to stare each other out for a few seconds, it didn't work....we conversed for about a minute....she then quickly put her hand down and then left without a word....then I appeared at thier door two weeks later."

L: "Mhhm, alright....do you think it was a case of love at first sight?"

Alex: "It was for me anyway...."

E: "Wait, you knew about us?"

L: "Of course my dear, I do talk to my brother every once in a while you know? Please take a seat, both of you."

E: "Really? I didn't realise you spoke much any more, father is becoming a more insular as he gets older, I worry about him sometimes......"

They all sit down, Eleanora taking a small chair adjacent to the couch and Alexander sits across from her on a cushioned stool.

L: "I know he is, but he's always been like that, believe me. We were pretty close when we were younger, your father and I generally stuck together and Azrael and Isabelle were the same way, the two oldest and the two youngest, best friends with each other."

E: "Heh, I can't quite imagine that, has Pa changed much?"

L: "Yes and no, he's still the same, kind and caring big softy with a terrible sense of humour that he's always been. He loves you all so much and would lay down his life for any of his children in a heartbeat. But he also used to be very like you in that he gave his love freely, too freely sometimes and was very carefree and happy go lucky. I don't know if he's told you this story, knowing his cagey-ness, I highly doubt it. Anyway when He was seventeen years old, he travelled around whilst training...."

E: "He had mentioned that once before actually but never elaborated on it....."

L: "Well, allow me to fill in the details for you. Did he mention that he had fallen in love with an older dark elf woman during his stay in Andosa? She appeared to be six or seven years older, he did tell me her first name but it was almost thirty years ago and I can't remember exactly......I do remember that he showed me love letters they had sent to each other and she always signed her initials as it A.O.B....but anyway, when he was going to tell her how he felt about her, she had to cut him off by telling him that she was already married, he didn't know this at all and she tried to soften the blow on them both by saying that he had just served as a distraction whilst her husband was away and that he meant nothing more to her. Understandably, he was very upset about it....."

E: "Upset?! I'd be fucking heartbroken....poor Pa....I had no idea about any of this...."

L: "Ahem, language! You know better than that young lady! That's not surprising my dear, he only ever told me any details because I practically forced it out of him!"

E: "Hah, aunt Lou, I'm almost 20 years old, surely you can't still be telling me off for swearing? Heheh. I understand that, he's cagey about everything nowadays.

L: "I assure you, he wasn't always that way either. His relationship with your mother changed him both for the better and the worse..."

E: "In what way?"

L: "He fell so hopelessly in love with her, gave his heart and soul to her, making him incredibly happy, happier that he'd ever been before. I feel though, that he had become so dependent on her for this happiness, he'd placed his happiness in her hands, unfortunately that was his undoing......so much so that when she died it almost completely.....destroyed him."

E: "He was not the same person after that, he was withdrawn, unhappy, very strict. I just never realised how much it....broke him."

Alex: "I'm sorry to hear that about your Pa Eleanora. From the way he is with me, you'd never guess that he'd been through that much pain...."

E: "Despite the negative turn this conversation has taken. It's nice to hear stories of his past because he'd never tell us, I wish Seb was here to hear this, it would make him feel a bit closer to Pa to know how like him he actually is, despite Papa's frequent despair at Seb's constant philandering....."

Alex: "I must say, I was very like that too. I've calmed down now though, much to my mother's relief. Besides I am twenty seven, it's about time I grew up and faced my responsibilities."

L: "I agree Alexander, it's all fun and games for a while.....your papa sees so much of his younger self in Seb, which is why he nags him so much. I have to admit, I catch myself doing that to Darina too. She is so like me, it's scary, honestly! But I digress, it's time for lunch. Alfie dear, can you go let May know that we're ready to eat please? Thank you my love."

Alfie looks up from his newspaper and responds as of he was only half listening.

Alfie: "Hmm, what? Oh, yes of course dear."

He gets up and heads to the kitchen. Louise gestures to the dining room.

L: "Please, head on through. Darina and Andreas are through there already. We're having pumpkin and sweet potato soup, with a crusty white loaf and roasted salmon finger sandwiches. Enjoy!"

They all gather at the table as lunch is served, they all talk for a half hour or so catching up with each other. Alexander is happy to meet Andreas and they get along very well and agree to spend some guy time together with Seb at some point. In the mean time, Eleanora catches up with her cousin Darina.

Darina glances over at Alexander with shifty but admiring eyes.

D: "So....Alexander eh?"

E: "Yes? What about him?"

D: "Well obviously, I've noticed how gorgeous he is....tell me more..."

E: "How could you not notice? Ugh, he just makes me melt with one look. Those eyes...."

D: "Mhhmm, not just his eyes sweety.... everything about him is perfect! And that accent, mmm I could listen to that all day! Tell me, where is he from cousin? I must know so I can go there myself...."

She chuckles at her cousins forwardness.

E: "Heh, he's from Sadria, Darina. He speaks it fluently obviously, it's incredibly sexy. Want me to ask him to say something?"

D: "Uhm, of course I do!"

Eleanora turns to face Alexander who is sitting down at the other end of the table between Andreas and Alfie.

E: "Hey, Alexander!"

A: "Yes, my love?"

E: "Second time today, the novelty will wear off eventually I promise....but Darina would like you to speak some Sadrian for her, would you mind?"

A: "But of course."

He winks at Darina as he says.

A: "Mia, mia. Kia bela kuzo vi havas, mian amora." (My, my. What a beautiful cousin you have, my love.)

D: "Oh my......mmm. I'm melting now too..... What did he say?"

E: "He said I have such a beautiful cousin. Always a charmer...."

D: "Well....he's not wrong heheh."

She leans in towards Eleanora to whisper in her ear.

D: "Is he as much of a charmer in the bedroom as well as out? I'm dying to know!"

E: "Hm.....well you'll have to keep dying then. A lady doesn't kiss and tell..."

Darina folds her arms in a fake huff.

D: "Awh, spoilsport!"

E: "Fine.....yes.....very much so.....happy?"

D: "Oh my, yes....I think I'm going to Sadria when I'm finished college......Alexander?"

A: "Yes, Darina?"

D: "Tell me of your country, please.....what is it like? What are the men like, are you fairly typical?"

Eleanora sniggers at her boldness. Alfie and Andreas roll their eyes in unison and Louise says.

L: "Darina! Inappropriate dining table talk...."

Alexander sits there not really knowing what to say.

D: "I....do not care, please answer my question Alexander?"

A: ".....Alright....Sadria is a beautiful country, warmer climate than here but a bit dryer and less green, nonetheless still beautiful. I am fairly typical of the men there, except for my obviously beautiful blue and violet eyes......dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes usually. We don't see many, pretty, fair, blonde women like yourself there....you would stand out, in the best possible way.....so....you would get.....a lot of attention....."

Darina's eyes light up at that.

D: "Oh my.....I must go....."

Alfie: "No, you must not!"

Andreas laughs at his father.

An: "You can't protect her forever, Pa....not happening...."

Alfie rubs his head then relents.

Alf: "Ugh....I know...."

D: "I am almost twenty five papa.....I need to be free...."

Alfie decides to be cheeky.

Alf: "I suppose you do.....fine, go.....the future of this family us sitting next to me anyway....."

Louise laughs at his teasing, Darina looks a bit irritated.

D: "What, him? I suppose he is golden boy....."

Andreas raises his hands in defence.

An: "Hey leave me out of this!"

They all laugh except Darina, she rolls her eyes.

Alf: "Well, he is twenty eight, a fully trained and exceptional knight paladin in the service of the law, he's happily married, need I go on....?"

D: "Ugh.....no....."

L: "Twenty five and you still can't handle your father's teasing...."

D: "Stop picking on me! See Eleanora? This is why I want to go somewhere else!"

E: "Well, I say. Go for it, whatever makes you happy!"

D: "See? She understands!"

They all carry on talking until everyone had finished eating. Dessert arrives, a strawberry sponge cake and clotted cream. They all have a double helping of the cake except Eleanora, she had started to feel a little nauseous after the first. She signals to Alexander that she wants to go home, so they say their goodbyes and leave. After Eleanora has left, Louise talks to Andreas.

L: "Andreas darling, can I have a word?"

An: "Yes mother, what is it?"

L: "Well, as nice and irrevocably charming as this Alexander is, I got an uneasy feeling about him.

A: "Hm? How so?"

L: "Well, when he was telling me his name, he stuttered the letter B before changing it quickly to Graves.....I don't think that's his real name. Do you think you could use your contacts within the Paladin order to find out more about him?"

A: "Well we aren't spies mother......but we do have them at our disposal. I'll do some digging, is there anything in particular you'd like to know?"

L: "Uhm, yes. See if you can't find out if he's lying about his real name, because if he's lying about that, then goodness knows what else he's lying about, check both Andosan and Sadrian records if you can.....I probably shouldn't do this but, I just.... don't want the same shit to happen to El again. Especially so soon after Adam.....I owe her that much. Besides, I swore to Seraphina and your uncle Joe that I'd take care of her whenever she needed a mother figure, she feels almost like one of my own y'know? And my motherly intuition alarm is blaring right now."

Andreas holds his mother's hand in a reassuring manner.

An: "Of course mother, I'd do the same thing for any of my nieces or nephews, I just don't have any yet obviously...."

L: "Heh, of course. You're such a good, kind soul, you know that?"

A: "Heh, yes. I'm mama's little angel...."

Louise stands on her tiptoes to pat him on the head, she is a good foot and a bit shorter than him. He's 6'6" and she is 5'2".

L: "Yes, you are...except you're not so little anymore....My baby is so grown up and about to have his own baby....I still can't believe I'm going to be a grandmother, it's very exciting! Just in case I don't tell you enough, son. I'm so very proud of you."

A: "You do tell me that plenty Ma, don't worry. Oh and father and I found out some more about Alexander, I'll use it to dig up some details. He spoke about his family and his past a little with us. I honestly don't think there's anything untoward about him but if it's for El's sake, then I'll look into it."

L: "Thank you son, you're such a good boy.

A: "Heh, I know, I know. I'm the best! Anyways, I must get home now. Freya is not having a good time with the pregnancy right now, her ankles are really swollen and she's gotten so big that she can barely walk, her slight frame can't take much more and she's still got about 4 weeks to go! And her moods, Gods.....because of course, her being in this state is all my fault.....naturally. So unfortunately my duties at home have doubled....Let's just hope she gives birth soon, I honestly don't know how much more I can take....."

L: "Hah, welcome to adult life son. I was exactly the same way when I was carrying you...and Darina too actually. Liana was the easiest pregnancy I've had, it was a breeze compared to carrying you, you were quite a big baby. Give our love to Freya and tell her that I can sympathise with her and that if she needs anything then she can ask me."

A: "Thanks Ma, I will. Oh and thank May for an amazing lunch for me and I'll see you next week. Love you."

He hugs her and kisses her cheek then hurries off down the path. Louise waves him off, then heads back into the house to speak to Alfie about everything. They sit across from each other at the dining table, Darina is in the kitchen.

L: "So, Alf. What did you think of him then?"

Alfie is always distracted in some way or another, he looks up from the book he's reading.

A:"Hm, who?"

L: "Alexander! Goodness, sometimes I swear you're in a dreamworld my love."

A: "Well, my dear, when I'm reading, I am in a dreamworld. It's kind of the point....heh. But yes, I thought he was a nice enough lad. Goodness knows El needs one....."

Just then, Darina walks through the room to head up stairs, having heard thier conversation, she makes a passing comment.

D: "Well, I thought he was bloody gorgeous, I'm a little jealous to be honest...."

She then sniggers as she walks out of room, Alfie shakes his head in mild despair and shouts after her.

A: "We'll have no more of that missy!"

D: "Heheh!"

L: "Hah, that's my girl....you should really stop treating her like a child you know, she is almost twenty five....."

A: "Ugh, I know....."

L: "So, did you notice anything odd about him?"

A: "Nope, not at all. He seemed perfectly friendly, very smart and he's completely head over heels for El."

L: "So, it's just me then? I....I just know that he reminds me of someone, like he's very familiar even though I haven't ever met him before..."

A: "Oh, right. Well I agree with you there dear, I just wasn't entirely sure what you meant by there being something 'off' about him. I got an odd sense of déja vu when I shook his hand...."

L: "As did I when he kissed my hand...."

A: "He did tell Andreas and I a little bit about himself actually."

L: "Oh yes, Andreas mentioned that. What did he tell you?"

A: "Well, he told us that he was born in Caradin city in Andosa. Then his mother and father moved to the Sadrian town of Remussan until he was 5. They moved to the Capital city of Romero after that so that his mother Althea, could be closer to her only remaining family, her half brother Davin."

L: "Well, well. That should be enough to start with, I must know if he's lying to Eleanora. I will give him the benefit of the doubt until I have any reason to do otherwise, because like you said. They are good together, I just want her to be happy."

Alfie takes his wife's hand in his and holds it.

A: "It'll all be fine, dear. You're probably worrying over nothing, besides it'll likely be several months or even over a year until anything is found. In the mean time, we have to trust that he has Eleanora's best interests at heart, alright?"

L: "Yes, I can do that. You're my rock, you know that?"

She leans over and kisses his cheek. They sit for the next hour discussing thier lives and then go to into thier garden for the evening to enjoy the sunset. Louise and Alfie have such a strong relationship even after four children. They feel blessed that themselves and thier children are all happy and healthy and they feel lucky to be living in such an idyllic setting and to not ever worry about money as Alfie is of noble blood. They are still head over heels in love with each other and are pretty much the perfect example of a happy marriage.

Chapter 15: Unexpected news and a trip to the market.

For the next couple of weeks or so, everything is great in their relationship and it's only getting better, Alexander is learning quickly and is becoming quite proficient at healing magic. Alexander receives a letter from his cousin Dominic. He assumes it is a response to the last letter he had sent him.

Alexander.

My father found your letter, this is just a warning as he may tell your mother, although he may not. I begged him not to say anything but you know what that fickle bastard is like....

I sent this as soon as I found out. Just a warning.

Keep your ear to the ground.

Dom.

Alexander just sits there, now worried about his mother finding out what is going on. But he soon loses that train of thought when he hears Eleanora burst into tears down the stairs. By the time he gets downstairs, he finds her slumped on the floor with her back against the wall, she has a stoic expression on her face and is staring into space whilst tears run down her cheeks. She is clutching a letter in one hand. Alexander walks over to her and sits down on the floor next to her, she doesn't move or look at him at all.

A: "Gods....what's wrong?"

Without even moving her head, or saying a word, she hands the letter over to Alexander. He reads it with a mixture of empathy and annoyance

Dear El.

I hope this letter finds you well.

I am fully aware of what I have done, how wrong it is and how much I have hurt you, however, there is no going back now. For safety reasons, I cannot say why or where I am, I'm taking a huge risk even sending this letter.

It will be Aries fourth birthday in a few weeks time, our little boy is growing up so fast. He still misses you but he is starting to get used to life with just myself and mother. It may be of little relief to know that he is happy, healthy and thriving in our new home. He is a smart little chap, takes after you no doubt and he's always chatting away to everyone and anyone that will listen to his often inane child ramblings.

I, however, have a good job as a shopkeeper and I make more than enough to support us both, not including what father left me in his will. I have put a large amount of that gold aside for Aries, should something happen to me. I am missing you like crazy. I told you I was in love with you all those years ago and I meant it, that hasn't changed and it is slowly killing me inside to be away from you like this. I'll get used to it though and I hope you can too. However, I just cannot risk yours or Aries' safety because of it, if something bad were to happen to either of you as a result of my family's faults then I'd never forgive myself.

Just know that I will always love you and I wouldn't have done what I did unless it was absolutely necessary. Last of all, I'm sorry my parents lied to both you and me about so much, although that will probably give you little comfort right now.

It is likely that you'll never see us again and for that I apologise, I will try to send an update every year but you must move on with your life just as I have to, as much as it hurts. I promise I will never let Aries forget you nor will I ever forget you, you will always be my one true love, Ma oranas dal'en lona'san.

N.B. You'll not be able to magically trace this letter, my mother made sure of this, just for safeties sake.

I hope you don't hate me, because I still love you, so much.

All my love, da'len. Always. Adam.

Alexander looks back at her, she is still staring into space. Without saying a word, he puts his arm around her and pulls her in, she nuzzles into his chest as she bursts into tears again. He kisses her hair and strokes it reassuringly. Five minutes pass as they just sit in silence together, at that point Joseph walks past and notices them both sitting on the floor.

J: "Why are you on both on the floor sweetheart?"

Eleanora says nothing, Alexander speaks for her.

A: "Joseph, you'd best take a look at this....."

He hands Joseph the letter. Joseph reads it as his expression changes from sadness, to disgust then finally settling on anger as he folds it up aggressively and puts it in his robe pocket.

J: "Pardon my language but what the fuck was that?! Do we even know for certain that it's from him? Not just some cruel prank?You don't just go and do what he did, then try to ask someone to not hate you. This is going to my private investigator, we have something to go on now."

At that point Eleanora speaks up.

E: "Please papa, don't. I don't know how much of that is true but I know it's from him."

J: "How so?"

E: "Ma orana dal'en lona'san. Roughly translates to my one true love or my one and only. He was well versed in ancient elven unlike most modern day people, quite unique and equally impressive for his age.....He would say this to me most nights before we went to sleep. That is how I know it's him, it was an intimate thing between us, who else would know this little detail, really?"

J: "You know for certain?"

E: "I doubt he'd had told anyone about it, he was a private person....please don't do anything Pa...."

J: "I can't just ignore this sweetheart.....I don't really care about him or his family after what they did to you, but I want my grandson back with his mother, where he belongs!"

With that, he leans down and strokes her hair reassuringly, then promptly heads upstairs to his study. Eleanora starts sobbing again and Alexander hugs her into his chest.

E: "I still can't believe this is all real. I keep thinking this is all a nightmare and I'm going to wake up soon, the only pleasant thing about this nightmare is you.......but I never wake from it, it's never ending......I can't keep living like this...."

A: "I know, mi amora. I'll help you through this, however I can. Talk to me."

E: "He....he talks about Aries like he didn't just take my son from me. Instead as though I'm an aunt who is getting an update about a niece or nephew. It's a load of bullshit, I just.....want my little boy back. Just as I was starting to come to terms with all this....my new reality. I get this fucking letter and I'm reminded of my own living hell. One step forward, two steps back, it's just so......"

A: "Unbearable?"

E: "Yes......although your presence helps matters, you have become quite a pillar of support for me through all of this and I appreciate that, so much. Thank you...."

A: "Well I can understand how you feel somewhat, so you're welcome. Get used to it my love, I'm not going anywhere.....unless you want me to of course, then I'll fuck off, no questions asked....."

She smiles a little then wipes the tears from her eyes. She sniffles quite loudly.

E: "Heh, no I don't want you to. At least not yet, I'm not quite sick of you yet my dear."

A: "Good! My job is done, now that you have a smile on your face. I quite suit the supportive, loving boyfriend role, don't I?"

He winks at her.

E: "Well, I wouldn't go that far...."

A: "Hey, now! I'm the best and you know it!"

E: "Heh. Again, slight exaggeration.....but you're getting there. I love that you can make me smile, even when I feel like shit......"

A: "Well, it's in the job description. Maybe not on the main page but it's there, in the small print somewhere....My point, Eleanora, is that I love you.....and I'll do anything in my power to help you feel better, this I swear."

He takes her hand and entwines his fingers with hers, then kisses the back of her hand.

E: "Alright.....thank you Alexander."

She kisses him on the lips sweetly.

A: 'She didn't say it back....I suppose I can understand that....I just wish she felt the same love for me that I do for her.....some day soon...'

E: "One question?"

A: "Hm?"

E: "You seem almost too good to be true sometimes, I just don't understand. How is it that you're not married already? I mean, you are almost twenty eight after all.

A: "Well you already know about Olivia, that whole mess broke me for a good couple of years.....my mother has tried to arrange other potential relationships for me, but they never seemed to work out...."

E: "You never really got over Olivia, did you?"

A: "That was part of it I suppose. When she died, I didn't want anyone else, I felt that loss for so long, well over a year, almost two.....Looking back though, I see that I spent too much time dwelling on what might have been had they both survived.....could I have married her? What would Amelie be like? Would we have had other children and what would they have been like? I constantly thought about all of that, I was really depressed, dwelling on what might have been. My mother saw this and felt bad for me, sent me into therapy and encouraged me to get back out there."

E: "Papa tried to do the same for me.....but I'm stubborn.....think it's why he's encouraging us so much....."

A: "That makes sense actually.....I have some absolute fucking horror stories about said set ups though. Want to hear them?"

E: "Gods yes. Might make me feel better or laugh or just.....something....."

A: "Alright, well......I had a few short term relationships after this, none of them could deal with my past or my chosen profession and I couldn't be bothered with people like that, I need someone to be able to understand me."

E: "What were these other women like? What else went so wrong?"

A: "Well, three years ago, I dated a young woman from Yilon called Sabina, of high elf descent. She was my age and she was quite pretty but not really my type. She was tall, blonde with pale golden skin and grey eyes, very slim and slender. She was pleasant enough. She was talkative and fun to begin with and we got on quite well. However, just a month in and her spoiled, bratty, condescending and very indulged side came out, we only slept together once. She basically started to treat me like a second class citizen for no apparent reason, which quickly became tiresome and she actually became repulsive to me. So she just had to go."

E: "What a despicable woman...."

A: "Exactly.....next, there was Adina. Now she actually looks a little like you, similar height and build except with darker, tanned skin. The most striking thing about her was her icy blue eyes, they stood out against such golden brown skin. She was a human witch, no elf in there at all, she was actually of gypsy or seer descent from the most Southern reaches of the Latovan Empire far to the South of this continent. They are a strange people, if Adina was anything to go by."

E: "What do you mean? I unfortunately don't know much about that country..."

A: "Well, it's a fairly small country.....actually, it's an island.....where pure blooded humans reign supreme. They have many unusual customs and views, unorthodox traditions, especially where dark and demonic magic is concerned, they have a seriously screwed up idea of religion and forced slavery is the norm and is even encouraged there, particularly of elves, dwarves and halflings. Also, you're looked down upon if you or anyone in your family are even remotely mixed race or if anyone has dared to mate with someone who is not human, in extreme cases, it's punishable by law. Which is.....disconcerting to say the least....."

E: "Fucking hell, how backward are these people?!"

A: "Unfortunately, quite so. You and I would likely not be welcome there, even your father probably wouldn't. It's quite extreme.....But I digress, Adina was very different from that, I mean, she was weird but in a very endearing way. She was adventurous, eccentric and really fucking sexy....initially, she didn't care that I had elven blood or pointed ears at all....."

E: "What happened then?"

A: "We lasted a few months, she was spontaneous and fucking fantastic in bed! But one night, after she went to one of her religious group meetings, she started to do weird shit like blood price magic, animal sacrificing and just generally went a bit nuts with the whole demonic magic thing. She allowed herself to be possessed by a demon when messing around with that sort of magic, she went downhill quickly from there. She....jumped off the top of a church yelling 'I will be your sacrifice, great Goddess Tiamat!' Obviously she didn't survive that....."

E: "Well, fuck...."

A: "....Yeah....bat....shit....crazy."

E: "Just a bit....now I know I'm crazy but I'm not that bad....."

A: "Heheh no, you are the good kind of crazy. The last one, she was about a year and a half ago. I was still twenty five."

E: "And? What was she like?"

A: "Her name was Diona, 3 years older than I am, she was 28 at the time. She was petite and curvaceous in the best possible way, she had a bit of forest elf in her. She had impossibly long, wavy, flame red hair and big hazel eyes. She was the one who lasted the longest actually, we were together 6 months and things were going quite well. She was a lovely girl, had her head screwed on, smart and funny. There was, however one big outstanding issue here. She was a widow and had a son of 9 called Soren and daughter of 6 called Hana. Her kids were lovely, also quite smart like thier mother. I actually liked her enough that I was ready to take them on too."

E: "Well, that's pretty admirable of you Alexander....."

A: "That's what I thought too.....but one night I found out that she'd been with two other men whilst she was with me, how she found the time I have no clue......So it ended when I found her, naked, on top of one her other lovers, also naked.... and she confessed right there and then. I was quite upset about that one to be honest, she was great, I could have had a ready made family. But no, she ruined that."

E: "Aw, that's a sweet story but also very sad, I'm sorry....but if you liked her that much though, would you not have considered an open relationship?"

A: "Don't be, I definitely dodged an arrow there.....and fuck no.....I liked her but not that much.....you are the only person I'd even consider that with Eleanora...."

E: "Really? Hm.....well.....I don't know what to say about that...."

A: "Don't say anything....it means that I have trust enough in you to......share your affections with someone else, should you so wish.....I could never want anyone else, you're more than enough for me......but should you ever develop feelings for someone else as well as me......."

E: "I don't think I would....but it's good to know I suppose...."

A: "I'm an open minded guy.....So there's your answer as to why I'm not married yet. Besides, if I'd stayed with Diona, I'd never have met you....."

He sweetly kisses her on the cheek.

E: "Oh, you're such an old romantic, aren't you?"

A: "Old?! Thanks...."

E: "Heh, sorry. But you are seven years older than me."

A: "So what? Age is just a number.....now.....your punishment for making me feel old! heheh."

He grabs her and tickles her sides.

E: "Stop, stop! Alright, alright! I'm sorry!"

A: "And so you should be....C'mon lets go out somewhere, I'll buy you lunch."

E: "Alright, it will help take my mind off of that letter and how fucked up my life is in general..."

A: "That's the plan! I'll take you shopping afterwards too, I'll get you an early birthday present, my mother just sent me my pay packet from my last job, so I'm quite flush right now."

E: "Ooh alright......I so love being spoiled!"

He speaks sarcastically.

A: "Wow, really!? An upper-middle class girl who's never wanted for anything.....just loves being spolied?! I'd never have guessed...."

She feigns being offended by gasping dramatically.

E: ".....Cheeky bastard...."

A: "Heh, that's right! You wouldn't have me any other way though."

E: "Nope probably not.....lets get going then shall we?"

They gather their things and head out into the city. They decide to go to the Western quarter marketplace, as there a few food establishments and taverns there, as well as having the best of the cities retail stores. They walk under the large archway leading into the market square, it's a large paved area packed with dozens of stalls and sellers peddling their wares, a few food stands are present too.

The atmosphere at the market place is buzzing today, so many different sights, sounds and intriguing smells fill the senses. It is the biannual gathering of the dwarven merchants guild. Dwarves are a much shorter, stockier, sturdy and often quite hairy race. They are generally very highly skilled in almost anything they take on but particularly excel in becoming inventors, merchants, smiths, builders and warriors, there are some mages but magic is not as common in dwarven ancestry as it is in elven and human blood, it's been studied but no-one really knows why it is.

Dwarves gather so infrequently because their caste system, politics and beliefs only allow them to go 'topside' twice a year to sell thier wares. Most dwarves dwell in ancient cities either carved into mountain ranges or deep underground, however a small percentage of dwarves are born on the surface and do not have a caste, this allows them more freedoms in life, including the freedom to breed with humans and other races. Although any half-dwarven people are very rare as about 75% of the time, a dwarf of either sex breeding with a human or an elf or any other variant, will not produce any offspring. Again, like the lack of magic abilities, no-one knows why this is and as such, dwarves remain mysterious to anyone other than dwarves.

They walk through the main path of the market Alexander splits off a little to look at a leather garments stall while, Eleanora is perusing stalls with fine silks and various ladies garments. A silken, dark teal coloured gown catches Eleanora's eye. It's a long sleeved, full length, flowing gown with lace detailing to the shoulders and around the base of the skirt. It has delicate embroidery with gemstone beading, flowing down the skirt and a satin corselet detail to the bodice. She examines it enthusiastically, she notices another just like it but in a plum purple colour and they both look about her size. She introduces herself to the saleswoman. She is a pretty young woman, nicely curvy and quite petite height with golden tanned skin. She has large striking, very dark, almost black eyes encircled by long, dark eyelashes. Except one eye has an iris of two colours, it is half violet-blue and half black, very unusual but beautiful. She is wearing her long black hair in a side braid showing her slightly pointed ears.

?

(Above: Hadriana.)

E: "Excuse me madame?"

Saleswoman: "Yes milady?"

E: "I'd like to purchase both of these dresses please. Such beautiful craftsmanship, did you make these yourself?"

S: "Why thank you milady! Yes I did, Hadriana Katero is my name and I am from Sadria. These dresses are made from the finest Sadrian silks, velvet, lace and satin and are hand embroidered by myself."

E: "Well, they truly are stunning. The embroidery with gemstone beading is just exquisite!"

She looks over some black satin and lace nightwear, a beautiful, full length nightgown with a deep, plunging neckline.

E: "Ooh even your nightgowns are stunning!"

H: "Thank you, they do take a long time to make but as you can see, the finished product is more than worth it! I do so enjoy what I do and I'm just so happy to finally have my own stall here, although I am in unfamiliar surroundings, it's my first time in Idralla."

E: "Oh, you've never been here before? Well, on behalf of the people here, welcome to Idralla and to the wonderful Erimond City. My name is Eleanora Wintergreen, my father is Archmage and runs the mages college in this city. Are you living here now?"

H: "I am, my father Marco, is a well known and well loved fabrics and leather merchant in my home city of Poronas, my family are comfortable enough. He was against me coming here, so he didn't give me much money to get started. I think he was hoping that I'd run out of money, give up and go home."

E: "Oh, I'm sorry. Why was he so against you coming here?"

H: "He's wary of foreign countries and....foreigners in general and I know he is just worried for my safety, but I am twenty three and an adult now and I need to branch out on my own. I'm his only daughter you see, so he gets a little overprotective....."

E: "My Papa and brother are like that too....I understand.....Do you have any siblings?"

H: "I do, I have 3 brothers, two are elsewhere at mages colleges, one in Andosa and the other in Yilon and my youngest brother is ten."

E: "That must be tough being the only girl...."

H: "It is, but my work keeps me busy and most importantly, distracted.....But I digress, I am determined to make it here, it's a beautiful city and so far, the people have been nothing but lovely and welcoming to me."

E: "That's wonderful to hear. If there's one thing us Idrallans pride ourselves on, it's our hospitality. Where are you staying?"

H: "I am staying in a small tavern across,the market called The Ram. It's not that great, but it will do for now."

E: "Oh my, the Ram is....pardon my language....fucking horrendous. Please, I insist. I'll give you the details of my brother Sebastian's smithy and shop, when you are finished here for the day, go there and speak to him. He has a room for rent in his house just now, much nicer than the Ram. In fact, no, we'll meet you here at closing and go with you."

H: "Oh! Well that's very kind of you.....really, are you sure?"

E: "Of course, that room is going to waste otherwise."

H: "Oh my. Thank you, it's greatly appreciated, the Ram is pretty unpleasant to say the least."

E: "Now that is an understatement...."

H: "Heh, yes. As a thank you for your friendliness, I'll give you a discount on these dresses. They would normally be fifteen gold each but I'll give you them for twelve each. That sound good?"

E: "Wonderful. Oh and I'll take the nightgown too!"

H: "Call that a free gift then."

E: "Wow, really, are you sure?!"

H: "Absolutely! You're doing me a huge favour, so I can help you out too, it's only fair!"

E: "Thank you so much. Here is your gold, I'm glad we could help each other out."

Eleanora hands her a pouch with 25 gold pieces in it. As Hadriana folds up the dresses and places them into a jute cloth bag. Eleanora decides to add an extra gold piece for the nightgown.

E: "My partner and I will meet you here at closing and take you to my brother's store. A word of warning for when you meet my brother though...."

H: "Oh?"

E: "He's......well, just be prepared.....he's a renowned charmer and ladies man. And you are pretty much the physical personification of his type.....He will most likely flirt with you like his life depends on it....."

H: "Well, I'll bear that in mind.....nothing wrong with a bit of flirting though....."

E: "There is with him.....My partner is like that too, but it's just harmless flirting with him. With my brother, however, he's deadly serious. Just try to keep your cool and you'll be fine. Even if you do find him attractive..... particularly so even, he can tell these things with just as little as one glance. I don't know how he does it to be honest...."

H: "Oh alright, so he's one of those is he? Well thank you for the warning. I'm sure it'll be fine. I'm actually looking forward to meeting him now."

E: "I will add though that he is handsome and he knows it. He thinks he's just irresistible. So, if you do like what you see initially, reject and resist him a little at first. Take him down a few pegs and make him work for it."

H: "Hah, right. I understand, my last boyfriend was a bit like that. I know how to deal with men like that. I am a cute female merchant from Sadria after all and I have plenty of my own charms too, don't you worry....."

E: "Hah, this exchange, I'd like to see.....Give him a run for his money, make him doubt himself!"

H: "Heh I think I will.....thank you again....sorry to but this short but as lovely as it has been talking with you, I must get on. I will see you later this afternoon, thank you so much again for your kindness and for buying my dresses!"

E: "You are most welcome Miss Katero. I will see you later on, good afternoon!"

With that, Eleanora takes up her bag and goes to hunt for Alexander, who is standing three stalls away, completely fixated on something, but she cannot see what it is. Eleanora calls out to him and waves him over, he looks over at her then he says something inaudible to the merchant, hands over some gold to her, then places something in his pocket then walks over to her.

E: "Hey! Alexander, over here!"

A: "Just coming, give me a second..."

E: "What was that you just bought?"

A: "Oh....nothing, maybe a surprise for you or maybe not....If you're a good girl that is...."

E: "Good girl?! I'm always a good girl....you cheeky boy....."

A: "Heh. Of course, you're not getting this until later anyway. So moving swiftly on.....I want to show you something."

He takes her hand and leads her to an artisanal weapons stand from his home country of Sadria. There are many small hand versions of larger weapons that you would likely see in Idralla. There are hand crossbows and smaller shortbows, smaller swords and pocket sized daggers. They are all decorated intricately with beautiful engravings and some even have gemstone decorations.

E: "Why have you brought me here?"

A: "Just look at the craftsmanship on these small weapons, they're decorated so beautifully and the ones with gemstones socketed, you can have them enchanted. They are amazing, I asked the merchant about them and she and her partner make them themselves, they are specifically designed for the smaller female hand and build. I thought that you might like to pick your own, as a gift from me, so that you can always protect yourself."

E: "Well, I do like the little hand crossbows here. I'd like one for each hand though, if you can manage that?"

A: "Of course, go ahead."

E: "Hm, alright....I'll have a pair of the curved ebony metal and blackwood ones, one with a blue sapphire and the other with a red Spinel, there."

She points to two beautifully crafted hand crossbows, they look the same but have different coloured gems socketed into them for different enchantments. The crossbow arms are made of flexible blackwood, carved in a beautiful almost plant like design with tips of intricately shaped ebony metal. The body is made of blackwood, gilded with ebony metal, which is expertly engraved in a floral design, the square cut gemstones are embedded into the top of the body, even the trigger mechanism looks elegant. The merchant hands them over as Alexander pays for them. They start walking away from the stall.

A: "You.....have expensive taste my dear....."

E: "Shit, I'm sorry. I didn't look at the price of them! How much were they?"

A: "Heh, it's ok. They are a gift after all. But they were twenty five gold each."

E: "Crap, I'm so sorry.....you needn't have spent that much on me."

A: "Vi pli valoras, mi amora." (You are more than worth it, my love.)

She smiles and nudges him gently.

E: "Oh, I know.....heheh. But still, couldn't you have used your charms to get a discount? The vendor was a woman, wasn't she?"

A: "Yes, she was. But she kissed her.....what I'm assuming was her rather big, muscular and quite scary looking half-orc girlfriend or wife when I was there earlier, numerous times. So I concluded that my charms would have had little to no effect on her, besides that....I didn't really want to die today...."

He points his thumb behind them, towards the stall and Eleanora looks in that direction, to see the pretty little blonde vendor essentially making out with an intimidating female half orc who is about 6'10" tall, with light grey skin and a very muscular body.

E: "Oh my....I see your point.....I wonder though, how could you tell that's a woman? Doesn't look like it from here...."

A: "Heh, I know right? Well she has huge tits and very little metal plate to cover them....other than that, she may as well be a guy."

E: "Ah, I see.....typical man, always noticing a woman's breasts first....."

A: "It was hard not to notice... I swear!"

E: "Heh....of course it was...."

A: "Besides....I'm not into orcish women or men at all.....I find them a little intimidating and frankly quite scary, like they'd literally break me in half during sex.......plenty of people are though......each to their own and all that.....I prefer elven women and men."

He then stops walking and stands behind her, she stops too as he snakes his arms around her waist and rests his head on her shoulder, kissing her cheek. He then whispers in her ear.

A: "Krom tio, mi amora. Vi eble ne povus esti pli bela, ?i ne estus bela al ?iu alia virino." (Besides, my love. You could not possibly be any more beautiful, it wouldn't be fair to all of the other women.)

E: "Mm, you're such a charmer..."

She leans her head back and kisses him, in this moment, they feel like the only two people in the world. That is, until someone rudely taps Alexander on the shoulder.

Man: "Hey, break it up. She's not your plaything you know!"

Alexander stops and is immediately irritated, he then turns around, as does Eleanora. An expression of shame and regret crosses her face as, quickly followed by disgust as she sees who it is. Before them stands a light skinned, human man of about 35-40 years, about 5'8" in height. He has short, wavy, dark brown but greying hair, grey eyes and a neatly trimmed moustache. He is dressed in yellow satin and velveteen Yilonian noble finery, comprising of a doublet with gold stitching, accompanied by brown pantaloons, an overcoat and a small neck ruffle. He is a little on the portly side, sporting a rather rounded middle, made to look more even prominent by his skinny legs.

Man: "Tsk, tsk. Such public displays of affection, do you people have no shame?"

A: "You people?!"

Eleanora steps in front of Alexander to shush him for a moment but it also seems like she's shielding him, she whispers to him quickly.

E: "I'll handle this, Alexander.......Cedric......what do you want?"

C: "Now, now my dear. That's Master Mornet to you."

?

(Above: Cedric.)

E: "You can't talk to me like that.....you odious-"

He places a finger over her mouth, cutting her off, whilst saying in a patronising and condescending manner.

C: "Ah, ah, ah. We'll have none of that my dear....."

Alexander walks forward and leans in front of Eleanora again in a protective manner, then, quite roughly, seizes the hand that Cedric had placed over Eleanora's mouth, and uses it to push him backwards away from her.

A: "Don't you dare talk to her like that! Who the fuck do you think you are?! Little man......"

Cedric looks a little surprised, but then quickly reverts back to his usual sneer.

C: "I could ask you the same question.....who are you now, her bodyguard?"

E: "No, he is my partner Cedric, this is Alexander."

C: "That explains the blatant disrespect from you...."

A: "Me disrespect you?! What you just said and did to Eleanora was disrespectful.....I was helping her."

E: "Yes he was.....and you never treat anyone disrespectfully do you? What do you want Master Mornet?"

She speaks in a sarcastic tone.

C: "Hmm.....rather......A meeting, at your father's manor, two days from now. I have already been to see him about it. He told me you were at the market place, so I thought I'd pass on the message personally."

He gives her a smarmy grin.

E: "Ugh, fine. Now if you don't mind. I'm spending the day with Alexander for my upcoming birthday."

C: "Oh I'm well aware of your birthday, you're coming of age my dear......Be there at ten A.M. You must be present, bring your boytoy if you must...."

Alexander walks forward and closer, almost up to Cedric's face. Alexander towers over him.

A: "Boytoy......really?! Can you not do any better than that? You pompous piece of shit....."

Cedric seems initially intimidated, then one of his big burly guards appears and suddenly he's cocky and confident again.

C: "Well.....probably but you're not worth it....."

A: "Oh I see.....the little weed needs a big burly protector now, does he? Fucking snooty little pricks like you make me sick...."

Alexander angrily spits on Cedric's shoe then stalks off in the opposite direction, leaving Eleanora. Cedric looks at his shoe in disdain.

E: "Just go Cedric.....I'll be there, not that I want to be...."

C: "What was that? Nevermind I will never understand you elf types.....I bid you good day...."

With that, he turns on his heel and saunters off in the opposite direction. Eleanora looks around for Alexander, he's standing against a stall trying to calm himself down.

E: "There you are! Are you alright?"

A: "Not really, he can't just talk to you, or me like that.....Ugh....who was that jerk?"

E: "That, is Cedric Mornet, a college acquaintance of my father's. Although Cedric would claim they are best friends. Father doesn't really like him.....at all....."

A: "You'd have to be blind, deaf, dumb and mentally challenged to genuinely like him.....He's quite the snooty little prick, isn't he?"

E: "Oh he is, very much so. He's an Idrallan native but lives in Yilon. He is the spoiled son of a Yilonian magistrate, not very smart or skilled, but would have you believe he's exceptionally skilled and talented."

A: "So, a know nothing, lying snob then. And what did he mean about 'you elf types'? Yes I heard that....."

E: "Well, unfortunately he's prejudiced too. He thinks elves, particularly female elves' only uses are as indentured servants, slaves or whores and should generally be treated as such. Not a nice man."

A: "How do you have the pleasure of knowing such a pompous arsehole?"

E: "He was at my mother and father's wedding with his father, who is a trusted contact of my fathers.....so Cedric felt it appropriate to also appear at my mother's funeral and my father and Lucille's wedding."

A: "It's strange, I don't see your father as the type to associate with dickheads like him..."

E: "He doesn't, Cedric always seems to worm his way into my fathers life, like my father's an important connection for him to brag about or something.....and papa is just too polite to tell him to fuck off."

A: "Ah, I get it. Mother has a few associates like that too actually......"

E: "Anyway, enough about him, gives me nausea just thinking about him......ugh...."

A: "I understand. Let's go somewhere to eat."

With that, they go to a small cafe at the edge of the marketplace and order lunch and some drinks. They sit there talking for the next few hours, it's late afternoon as they think about leaving, Eleanora rubs her stomach with a grimace.

E: "Ugh.....I thought eating something would help me....it did not...."

A: "Are you alright? Should we go home?"

E: "Yes....no.....maybe, I think I'm coming down with something though.....I've been a lot more tired and most food has been making me feel nauseous afterwards....."

A: "I didn't realise you were that bad.....I'm worried about you, Eleanora.....once we've taken Hadriana to the smithy, we'll go straight home and you are going straight to bed, alright?"

E: "Oh, yes sir.....to do what exactly....?"

A: "We can cuddle for a while until you fall asleep.....that's it."

She looks a little disappointed.

E: "Aw....."

A: "Look, you're not well Eleanora, I'm trying to look after you.....just let me.....please, mi amora."

E: "Fine.....you can make up for it tomorrow though....."

A: "If and only if you're feeling better....alright?"

E: "Ugh.....yes....."

They go to leave the cafe and are waiting for Hadriana to finish up working. Just then, Seb walks into the cafe and sees them, he waves over to them.

S: "Hello El, Alexander. Good to see you both."

E: "Good afternoon, Seb. You just popping in here for lunch?"

S: "Yes, just a quick dash and grab job. It's been really bloody busy today what with all those dwarves here."

E: "Heh, yes I noticed.....Oh, I may have found a tenant for you by the way."

S: "Oh really?"

Seb turns quickly to the server to ask for his order.

S: "Yes, I'll have two fillets of roast salmon, four bread rolls and a small cherry pie to take away please, thanks."

He turns back to Eleanora.

E: "I'll bring them to meet you nearer closing time, Seb."

S: "Alright, I'll be staying late at the shop anyway, have some figures and money shit to take care of later on. See you then?"

He quickly turns around to pick up his order.

E: "Yes, see you then. Bye, Seb!"

Seb has already picked up his order and is already marching towards the door, he waves behind him to acknowledge her.

S: "See you!"

E: "Heh, it's good to see him like that. Papa would be proud."

They carry on talking and drinking until they see the market place start to clear out.

Chapter 16: An almost immediate connection.

As the early evening rolls around, Eleanora and Alexander leave the cafe to go and meet Hadriana like they'd promised. They see her standing next to her stall which had been draped over for the day. A few open stalls are still dotted about but the majority have left for the day. Eleanora waves over to her and beckons her over.

E: "Hadriana, over here!"

She walks over to them.

H: "Hello again, did you both have a good afternoon?"

E: "Yes we did, thank you. Hadriana, meet my partner Alexander. Alexander, this is Hadriana."

Alexander reaches over to take her hand and bows down to kiss it.

A: "A pleasure to meet you, Hadriana."

Hadriana looks slightly bemused but in a pleasant way, she looks Alexander up and down in a fairly obvious way.

H: "Mm, it's lovely to meet you too."

She looks over at Eleanora.

H: "My, my.....you lucky, lucky girl......"

E: "Heh, yes.....I am....and you.....down boy....."

A: "Hey, it is customary in Sadria to greet such a lovely woman so."

E: "You're right, it is. However you can tone it down when you're with me, pretty boy. Heheh."

H: "Thank you, really. But honestly, I deal with men like you all the time, Alexander.....I'm an attractive female merchant, I've seen all the tricks in the book. So many men try thier luck, it's almost funny to me now."

A: "Oh.....I like you. You're a feisty, firey one! You are quite the formidable young woman.......Seb may have met his match with you...."

E: "Oh, so that was a test was it? Hah."

H: "If that was the best you've got, this will be easy....."

A: "That was most certainly not the best I've got, I save that for for this beautiful lady....."

He puts his arms around Eleanora's shoulder and kisses her cheek as they start walking.

H: "Aw, that's sweet, I mean nauseatingly sweet......But sweet nonetheless."

E: "Hahah Seb said literally the exact same thing when he saw us.......Oh I like you Hadriana, You and I will get on very well!"

H: "Heh, good. I'm starting to like you both too. It will be nice to have a few familiar faces here. I've only been here for a week or so and I've been so busy, I've not really had the chance to meet new people, mostly because I keep getting hit on.....and I'm sick of it, I'm not taking any of that crap anymore!"

E: "Hah, quite right! Well, It was a chance encounter that you met us then. We can help you get settled in here. Just give me or Alexander a shout."

H: "Alright, thanks again folks. I might have a smart, snarky mouth.....but I do appreciate this....a lot...."

E: "You do and you're brilliant.....and like I said before. You're very welcome."

H: "Heh, thanks....What do you both do anyway? You know a fair bit about me. But I know very little of either of you."

E: "Well, I am almost twenty one years old and I'm senior lecturer at the mages college, in the subject of Creature studies and anatomy. I also teach destructive magic and alchemy but I'm taking a break from alchemy to teach beginners healing magic."

H: "Oh wow, that's......impressive. So you're quite the proficient mage then, following in your father's footsteps? Why are you taking a break from Alchemy?"

E: "Well, yes. I am, I do so idolise my father, I'm his academic assistant too, we make each other very proud. I'm working on an advanced healing formula, that will perform healing for every kind of physical and magical injury. Its really groundbreaking stuff, it could change the Alchemical world....not to brag or anything... Just think, you'd only need to carry just one potion where you would normally need six different ones. But I've hit a brick wall in my research, there's just something that won't work and I cannot for the life of me figure it out... So I'm taking a break from it and so I can return to it with fresh eyes in a few months time."

H: "My, that certainly is impressive, so I've made friends with a magical genius then? Heh, useful.....Oh, my mother is a senior alchemist at our local mages college in Poronas City in Sadria, she's been studying alchemy for over 30 years. I mean, she specialises in grenades and explosives but I can give you her contact details if you like, she might be able to help you out?"

E: "Oh, alright. Well yes please, it's worth shot. And I'll be sure to give her credit in my paper."

H: "Wow, she'd love that. Did you know that my mother is solely responsible for the bottled smoke grenade that is popular with showmen, tricksters, soldiers and assassins alike?"

E: "Really? Wait, your mother is the legendary Sedona Illiano?!"

H: "Heh, yes! Well, that was her maiden name. She published it before she married my father."

E: "Oh my, I'm a little star struck here. She's amazing and simply fascinating! You must give me thier address so I can pick her brain! I'm even more happy that I met you now.... I notice that you are like us in that you have some elven descent, is that right?"

H: "Yes, mother is a dark elf. Father is human."

A: "Oh, you're just like me, my mother is a dark elf and my father is human. Eleanora's mother was a high elf."

H: "Was?"

E: "Yes, my mother passed away when I was young. I'll tell you more about that later on, it's long story! Are you at all magically adept?"

H: "Alright, I'm sorry....Yes, I am a little. I know basics, enough to keep myself and my wares protected from bandits and I always carry a few of my mother's grenades with me, just in case....But mostly, I take after my father. My older brothers, fraternal twins, Adi and Leto are twenty five and are more proficient mages, like my mother, they both study it and plan on careers in it. My younger brother Theo is more like me, he's only ten years old and he can sell bread to a baker and charm the birds out of the trees already.....I'm quite proud of the little man. What about you, Alexander?"

A: "Well, I am twenty seven and an only child. I was born in Andosa but I've lived in Sadria most of my life. I'm a student of the college here. I do have a good job at home but I took a break from it to study."

H: "Oh? Doing what?"

A: "Oh, just a lackey at city hall. It's got good prospects though. Thankfully they were alright with me going on leave for a year in order to get a promotion to an arcane advisor."

H: "That sounds good, I hope this trip and studying worth it for you."

A: "Well, so far it has been. I'm really enjoying the studies and I've met the love of my life."

E: "Oh, you...."

H: "How much farther is it?"

E: "Just around the corner here. Aaaand there we go, Wintergreen weaponry."

E: "I'll just knock on the door, he'll know it's us. We told him earlier that we were coming."

Eleanora taps on the glass window on the door, the sign says closed but she can see Seb inside, flitting around trying to get everything organised. He sees her at the second tap on the window and quickly paces over to the door to let them all in, he then locks it behind them and draws the drapes over the both the door window and the larger window at the front of the store, then walks over to light a candelabra on the main desk.

S: "Good evening folks, how can I help you?"

E: "Heh, has it been that busy today that you've forgotten our discussion earlier on?"

S: "Ugh, yes.....I don't know.....maybe.....my head is up my arse at the moment...."

E: "Stressed?"

S: "Just a bit, I need to hire yet another person if this carries on."

E: "Aw, Is being a responsible adult and business owner not as much fun as you'd thought?"

S: "Oh, haha. Cheeky bitch. But honestly, no. I enjoy most of it, making things, selling stuff but the finances and actual business side of things is getting too much for me.......I'm no mathematician unfortunately....."

E: "Ah, beginning to wish you'd paid more attention in mathematics class?"

S: "....yes....we can't all be geniuses like you, you know? You don't even need to try, it's so not fair.....but enough of your piss taking-"

He stops talking and moving for a moment as he notices Hadriana, he quickly looks her up and down. He then speaks as though his interest has been piqued by her

S: "Who is this lovely young woman?"

E: "Sebastian, meet Hadriana Katero. Your potential new tenant. Hadriana, this is Sebastian, my older brother."

Whilst brazenly making constant, unbroken eye contact with Hadriana, with a subtle smirk on his face. Seb slowly steps towards her and lowers himself slightly, his mid length soft hair flopping over his face whilst he gently take her hand and kisses it. He thinks to himself for a moment.

S: 'Oh. My. She.....is just......wow.... Unlike any other I've seen before....and those eyes...'

S: "An absolute pleasure to meet you, Miss Katero."

Hadriana tries her best to resist his already obvious attempts at flirting. She clears her throat as she attempts to shrug off the overly flirty gesture. and takes his hand to shake it

H: "You too, Mr.Wintergreen."

E: "Right. Sorry to cut this short but we've made the introductions and I'm tired.... let's go home Alexander."

A: "Alright, I am too. See you guys later!"

E: "Yes, bye Seb, Hadriana."

With that, Eleanora and Alexander head out through the back and out of the back exit. Seb and Hadriana continue to talk.

H: 'Fuck, this is going to be difficult. He is pretty gorgeous and I do like a working man... Still, make him work for it.....make him work for it....'

S: "So, my sister told me you need a better place to stay? Oh and please call me Seb..... Mr. Wintergreen is my father."

H: "Heh, alright.....Seb it is then... And yes, I'm staying at the Ram whilst I'm here and it's.....not very pleasant....at all....."

S: "Oh bloody hell, you're not spending another minute in that gods-forsaken, piss soaked hole! I'll happily rescue anyone from that place!"

H: "Hah, a little overdramatic aren't we?"

S: "Heh, maybe.....it gets my point across though....how long do you need the room for?"

H: "Oh, I'm not sure how long I'll be here.....indefinitely for the moment anyway."

S: "Indefinitely? What brings you here then?"

H: "Well, I'm a merchant from Sadria, here to sell my wares. I've always wanted to come here again, since I was a child. Such a beautiful City."

S: "That it is Hadriana, that it is. What do you sell?"

H: "I sell womens clothing, I hand make most of the items I sell. That is actually how I met your sister, she bought two of my dresses. I do so enjoy making beautiful dresses."

S: "That's impressive, my sister isn't very easily impressed with most clothing she finds, so your dresses must be exceptional.....can you guess what I like to make?"

Hadriana looks around for a few moments then answers.

H: "Well, obviously weaponry, but looking around, I think you have a penchant for short bows, would that be right?"

S: "Heh, yes....not to brag or anything....but I'm this cities current reigning champion archer with both a long bow and short bow, although Alexander can give me a run for my money. I also hunt wild game and kill the odd werewolf and goblin, for safeties sake of course."

H: "Oh well, impressive....but I get the impression that you love to brag about that....."

S: "Yes....false modesty just isn't me, I'm afraid...."

H: "I thought as much.....you should take me out with you sometime, I'm not that great but I trained with my older brothers and father when I was younger. I simply refused to accept being told, 'you can't do that, you're a girl....' I do however have my own crossbow made of white steel, she's called Sally."

S: 'Oh gods, where has she been all my life? Oh, Sadria. Idiot.

S: "Hah, you name your weapons too? Well my short bow is called Stephanie and my long bow is Loretta."

They make eye contact again, but it's different this time. She seems interested in him too, it's the kind of eye contact that seems to say, 'I am attracted to you but I want to know more about you first.' He smiles at her sweetly and she blushes.

H: 'Great job you're doing at resisting him....You know what, I don't care. He's fucking gorgeous and I quite like him already......lets see where this goes.'

H: "Do you have any other hobbies Sebastian?"

S: "Oh yes, I have plenty. One is crafting weaponry, another is fishing, I can play piano too. I have one other hobby, but it's not something that one usually mentions in civilised conversation...."

H: "Hah, I get it. You can say it you know, you don't have to hide it from me. So you like sex, so what? So do I, as do a lot of people, they just don't have the balls to admit it."

S: "Heh, yes I do enjoy a good affair. Quite often in fact. It's just that.....my father, he tells me that my attitude towards casual sex, and enjoying life is irresponsible and immature making me feel like a child. So what if I enjoy sex, drinking, crude humour, good food, card gambling etcetera? If life wasn't meant to be enjoyed, why are all of those things so damn pleasurable, tell me?"

H: "You're so right.....my father, I know he loves me. But he often treats me like a child too, like I can't take care of myself. I'm a twenty three year old, business school, trade accounting graduate wanting to make a go of things by myself, he almost didn't let me go. But instead, he was sneaky, gave me such a pittance that he'd likely hoped I'd run out of money, give up and go home! Ugh...."

S: "Yes, I understand....it's much the same for me, I know Papa only does it for my own good and he just thinks I can be better, but I'm happy with my lot and I'm enjoying what I do far more than I'd ever enjoy doing what Eleanora does."

H: "What do you mean?"

S: "We're both sages, we both have unusual abilities to manipulate nature and the world around us. She lived up to it, I didn't and don't particularly want to."

H: "Oh wow, that's amazing. Actually, one of my brothers, they are fraternal twins, is a sage. One has those abilities, he's called Adi and the other, Leto does not. Unfortunately it prompted jealousy for a while, but they're over it now. It was a strange phenomenon that one twin had it but the other didn't......Adi has the beast master ability."

S: "That is unusual. Usually where one twin has an ability, so does the other. Eleanora has that same ability, it's quite remarkable to watch actually."

H: "Oh yes it certainly is. What ability do you have Seb?"

S: "See, this is why my father is disappointed in the fact that I never wanted to live up to it. I have one of the rarest of all the sage abilities, I am a Tempest, or in other words, I can bend local weather conditions to my will.....or I can at least fucking try.....it never seems to work right though.....it's very difficult to control....."

H: "Oh my, that's.....amazing. Have you done training to help you control it?"

S: "Yes and no I tried when I was almost eighteen, I did it late....well.....that's also a long story. It's a powerful burden more than anything. Even when it isn't my will, the weather will change around me. Sometimes if I feel upset or angry it's like the skies feel or reflect my emotions....I'm an emotive caster so they are linked. It will suddenly become cloudy and will start raining, or stormy.......even if it had been nothing but clear skies and sunshine a few moments earlier. I don't think I'll ever be able to fully control it....it's somewhat unnerving to be absolutely honest."

H: "That's not surprising, to have that kind of power when you don't particularly want it...it must be stressful. Is there any way you can give it up?"

S: "It is stressful, which is why I try to focus myself on my work. Its goes away then. And yes there is but I don't think I want to sacrifice it....not yet....."

Just then, it suddenly starts raining outside, heavily. It had been a clear night five minutes previously.

S: "Ohp, there it goes again...... fuck....."

He sits down on the stool next to the cashier's desk, leaning one elbow on the desk in order to pinch his nose, as he wrinkles his eyebrows in a stressed frown.

S: "Ugh, it's been happening a lot more recently....I....just don't understand it.....I'm not the smart one....."

In a fairly bold move, Hadriana walks up behind him and places a hand on his shoulder.

H: "Is there anything I can do to help you?"

S: "Thank you but it's not likely.......wait.....actually....there may be something you could do for me, tomorrow. It would help take the pressure off a little."

H: "And what would that be?"

S: "You said that you're a business college graduate? Is there a chance you could come and look at my finances? I'm completely lost and getting fucking buried in it."

H: "I can look at it now if you'd like? Do you have a bottle of something strong here too?"

S: "Yes, of course have at it. I could happily never look at another number again! And yes.... I've a big bottle of cherry wine in the back room for......reasons........Why?"

H: ".....Helps me concentrate....."

S: "Seriously? It makes me sleepy, giggly, flirty or horny or any combination of them. But alright, let's go through the back, I'll show you the ledger and grab a couple of glasses. Maybe you can teach me something?"

H: "Heh, maybe......"

They make their way through to a small office area in the back corner of the shop. It's a small, dimly lit room with a bureau desk, littered with papers and a where a large dark red, leather bound ledger sits open. There's one bookcase against the back wall and, there are two cushioned dining chairs and and a small side table with a lit candelabra.

S: "Oh, its bloody dark in here. Wait a minute...."

He raises one hand and swirls it around, suddenly opening his palm whilst chanting.

S: "Taispean solas."

A small orb of white light emerges from his hand and hovers a few feet above the desk, lighting up the room a bit more. He then fills up a glass each of cherry wine and hands one to Hadriana.

H: "Thank you. That was.....beautiful you know?"

S: "Oh that? That's just a simple candle light spell. It lasts for hours too, until I cancel it. It's quite cute that you think that, though."

H: "Oh really?"

S: "Yes it really is, that some people still take so much pleasure from something that I take for granted, is nice to see and quite endearing actually...."

H: "Heh, thanks. It is pretty though, let's just say, I'm easily pleased."

S: "Hah, I'll remember that....Are you not that familiar with that kind of magic?"

H: "Not really, my mother and older brothers are magic users but my mother, she's a bit old fashioned has some.....beliefs about it being about personal gain etc, it's been proven to not be true nowadays. But because of that, she would never use it casually like that and because of her rules, we were never allowed to either. So we missed out on the wonder of just the simple stuff like that.....I like it though, it's pretty....."

S: "Oh wow, I have actually heard of that sort of shit before....my papa experienced that a little with my grandmother, especially after my grandfather disappeared under.....unusual circumstances. Again, another story for another time...."

H: "Oo, you're just full of stories aren't you?"

S: "What can I say, I've lived a fascinating life....or.....a really fucking depressing one. Depending on how you look at it....."

H: "Aw, well it sounds exciting....not depressing."

S: "If or when I get around to telling you those stories....you may change your mind about that...."

By this point, they'd finished thier first glass and they are both feeling even more open with each other. Hadriana has been looking at the books and manages to sort out a few things for him. But after the second glass they soon feel too drunk to do anything else work related. Before too long they are both slumped in a thier chairs laughing at silly stories.

S: "...And then, he fell over, face planting on the street. His pants round his ankles, bare arse shining in the moonlight. It was a defining moment in his life, his nickname became blue after that, yknow? Blue moon?! Hahah!"

H: "Hahahah. Brilliant....what an idiot, a lovable idiot but still an idiot nonetheless. You have to introduce me to this.....Blue at some point."

S: "Heh, I will. Don't let him flirt with you though. He thinks he's the Gods gift to women...."

H: "Oh, don't worry about that. I've got my eye on someone else anyway..."

'He's just....lovely.....and fucking gorgeous.....he's not trying  anything though, looks like I'll have to...'

S: "Oooh and who might that be?"

She doesn't say anything, not breaking eye contact with him. She gets up, walks over to him and plants a long, lingering kiss on his lips, then breaks away for a breath.

S: "What....what was that?!"

She looks at him smugly.

H: "Well....I believe that was a kiss, Sebastian...."

He still looks a bit dumbfounded

S: "Well....I just wasn't expecting it is all....."

H: "You're cute when you're confused....you know that?"

S: ".....No.....I don't know that, well....I do now.....Gods girl, you're as.....forward as I usually am with.....most women...."

H: "Then why not with me too?"

S: "I don't know.....stress....possibly....."

H: "Well....it just so happens that I know a really good way to relieve stress....."

As if awakening to what she is saying, he suddenly smirks at her.

S: "Oh yes? And what might that be?"

Not saying a word, they search each others faces for a few moments, not breaking eye contact, he searches her beautiful eyes, then her lips for a few seconds and then pulls her towards him again for another passionate kiss, she doesn't resist as she climbs onto his lap, straddling him. They keep kissing for another few minutes before stopping. With satisfied smirk on both of their faces, he says.

S: "Wow....Gods you're good...."

H: "Well, I thought you deserved something for being so sweet to me. Honestly after this evening, I feel like I've known you for ages, like we have been friends for years......it's strange...."

S: "You know what? I think I agree....I honestly don't think I've ever kissed a woman like that and then found myself actually wanting to stop before anything else happened......I want to know more about you, we have a lot in common and.....you're so incredibly beautiful and as much as I don't want to, you seem worth waiting for......"

H: "Oh....well....that's actually quite romantic.....I will admit that your sister said you're a notorious flirt, so I came prepared for that but you weren't like that at all."

S: "Ugh, Eleanora....I might known...."

H: "No it was a good thing, because you didn't live up to it......you know when you just seem to click with someone? Well I feel like that right now, with you. And as a bonus on top of all that, you are incredibly easy on the eyes....."

S: "Thank you.....speaking of, yours are truly the most beautiful I've ever laid these eyes on before....."

H: "What, really? Well, thank you. You know, as a kid, I'd always thought I was abnormal because I didn't have matching eyes. Silly right? Yours are incredibly unusual and very striking. Not quite blue, not quite green but somewhere in between, lovely."

She downs the rest of her glass in one gulp, then grabs the bottle to take a few swigs from it.

S: "Woah there girl, slow down a bit there. Leave a little bit for me please?!"

H: "Hmm, no. This stuff is pretty damn good aaaand strrrong!"

Seb grabs the bottle from her and glugs about three mouthfuls before she takes it back. Hadriana downs most of the rest of bottle, leaving a swigs worth in the bottom. She is still sitting on him, legs over his lap they are starting to slur their speech a bit now.

H: "Open your mouth...."

S: "Whhat....whhy?"

H: "Just.....do it!"

S: "Aallrightt..."

He opens his mouth and she pours the remainder of the bottle into his mouth, she then tosses the bottle onto the floor. Luckily it doesn't break. Once he has swallowed the wine, she crashes her lips on his again. This time with a searing heat behind it, barely stopping for air, he pushes her back for a moment.

S: "Well, I've never met a woman who can match me at drinking this stuff before.....most have usually passed out by now.....Do you even realise how sexy that is?!"

H: "Heh, of course. I like drinking, so why not make the most of it eh?"

She buries one hand in his silken chestnut hair, lightly gripping it at the back of his head as she pulls him back for another more demanding kiss. He breaks away again for a moment.

S: "Waait.....I....thought you were wanting to take this slow?"

H: "Heh, no. I said I thought it was romantic that you had said such a thing. I never agreed to anything though...."

S: "Really? You're sure? because.....well I don't know if you can feel it.....but I'm having a little trouble controlling myself...."

H: "Heh of course I can feel it. I really fancy you too....if you catch my drift?"

S: "Oh I do.....but honestly, is this what you want?"

H: "Look....I'll be blunt with you. I haven't been laid in almost a year. I'm pretty damn drunk, I'm now really horny and I'm straddling a fucking gorgeous and insanely attractive man's lap. What do you think?!"

S: "That's all I needed to hear....To be honest, I've not fucked anyone in a good few months either and that is so not like me....maybe it will help relieve some stress...."

He leans in to kiss her again, fervently, trailing down her neck to her collarbone, he pulls off her blouse as she sits bare breasted on his lap. He sits for a moment to appreciate the view.

S: "Oh wow, I fucking hit the jackpot...."

H: "Pretty sweet huh?"

S: "Fuck yes."

He says as he buries his face into her ample cleavage, he then kisses her breasts tenderly as he makes his way down to one of her nipples and licks and sucks it, feeling it growing larger in his mouth. He then moves on to the other and does the same thing.

H: "Mmmh, oh. Wow, you're good with your tongue....."

S: "Heh, plenty of practice my dear...."

H: "I can tell.....wait I have a request before you do anything else to me."

S: "Hmm, and what might that be milady?"

H: "Strip for me!"

S: "Oh, I get it. Level the field right, I've seen your tits already so you want to check me out?"

H: "Mhhmm.....off with those clothes mister!"

S: "As you command milady."

She climbs off of his lap and sits on the other chair. He takes off his jacket first. Then his shirt to reveal his nicely but not perfectly sculpted body. She leans back to appreciate and big strong arms and shoulders and nicely hairy chest, all shaped to perfection by blacksmithing and archery.

H: "Oh, wow, so that's what is hiding beneath those clothes. I really like what I see....keep going...."

S: "As you wish....."

He continues to remove his belt, trousers but leaves his underwear on. He beckons her to stand up and come over to him by crooking his finger. She puts her arms around his shoulders and he places his arms around her waist snaking his hands around to handle her bottom. He leans down to whisper in her ear.

S: "I thought you might want to finish off undressing me.....Oh and you have a lovely arse by the way...."

H: "Mm, alright....and thanks....."

As she says this as he pulls her skirt off in one swift motion.

H: "Heh, well you've done that before, haven't you?"

He feigns innocence.

S: "Why, of course not. What sort of man do you think I am...?"

H: "Do you really want me to answer that....? Fuck this I don't want to wait...."

She says as she kisses him more forcefully and then grabs his shoulders, pushing his back up against the wall. They keep kissing quite aggressively as thier hands wander, she removes his underwear and he removes hers all the while still kissing passionately. He moves to whisper in her ear again.

S: "Now you have me, what else would you ask of me?"

She says nothing but grabs one of his hands, moves it down to her sensitive spot and encourages him to caress there. He does for a few minutes while she sighs with pleasure.

H: "That's enough, take me.....now."

S: "Your wish is my command milady."

He puts his arms around her waist and lifts her up slightly, she goes with it and wraps her legs around him. He then spins around, pressing her back up against the wall, lifting her up a bit more, she wraps her legs around him as he positions himself, then he slides into her with ease and starts grinding into her. She tries to grab the back of his head, but as she does, he moves one hand grips both of her wrists and pins them up above her head as he continues to move and solicit a pleasured moan with every motion. She pulls back for a second and says.

H: "Wait, let me down a minute.....

S: "What.....why?"

H: "I want to try something...."

With that, she walks over to the bureau and sweeps everything off of it in a haphazard manner, papers floating to the floor. She then climbs onto the surface of the desk and lies down on her back, she hangs her legs off the edge of it.

H: "I've always wanted to be fucked on a sturdy desk."

S: "Oh, well......I can definitely make that happen....."

She shuffles backwards so she is comfortably lying on the desk. He climbs on top of her and slides his fingers into her, thrusting for a few minutes until she begs for him. He then climbs off the desk and stands at the edge of it, he grabs her legs, pulls her closer to the edge, she wraps her legs around his waist as he slips back into her, thrusting hard and steady as she starts to moan and scream in ecstasy. He speeds up the pace for a few more minutes and they both come to a loud, explosive climax, as he moans and her toes curl with pleasure.

H: "Ohh gods, YES!"

S: "Mmhmnh fuck....me!"

She looks up at him, into his eyes. They talk breathlessly.

H: "Well....that was.....was just what I needed......I think....."

S: "Heh, me too.....was it.....good for you?"

H: "Oh, Gods yes. Could you not hear my pleas, begging you for more?"

S: "Just a bit, I think the folk upstairs and next door heard you.....again this is not like me, usually after a random.....encounter like that, I just button up my trousers and high tail it.....but I don't want to do that right now....."

H: "Heh, you typical fuck and run type then?"

S: "Normally, yes. But you, there's just something about you that makes me want to do that again, over and over....."

H: "You sure that's not just the wine talking?"

S: "Quite....do you.....want to maybe do that again?"

H: "Well....maybe not right now but definitely later on...."

S: "That's what I meant.....I mean, I could go again. Like probably right now but then I could always go again. Especially when your perfect naked body is staring me right in the face....."

H: "Oh, well.....thank you, I'm not used to being called perfect....."

S: "Well you are. Your skin is beautiful, so soft and sweetly scented, the way your eyes sparkle even in this dim light..... Also, your tits, your arse and your legs....they are all just so beautiful.....tell me would you do something for me?"

H: "Hm, depends on what it is..."

S: "Let your hair down? I want to see what you look like."

H: "That's it? I was expecting you to ask for a blow job or something."

S: "Heh, no. But.....if you're offering?"

H: "Hah, maybe later. But alright, I'll let my hair down for you...."

She undoes her braid which is already a third of the way down her back in length. And shakes her head, it unleashes a thick mass of dark coffee brown waves which tumble down across her chest, she stands up and turns around slightly so he can see better, it almost reaches her bottom.

S: "Oh....wow, absolute perfection.......you are so perfectly my type.....I wonder, do you have a type so to speak?"

H: "Oh, em, possibly.....I'm not entirely sure actually....."

S: "Oh, well I do. It's almost like my sister brought you to me intentionally...."

H: "Heh, maybe it was fate....So what is your type then?"

S: "Ladies of preferably petite height like yourself. Whom are curvy, most definitely not skinny.....I like something to grab hold of.....again much like yourself. I love darker skinned and dark haired women, again....Like you. They also have to at least have something in common with me......"

H: "Like me?"

S: "Essentially you.....yes. It's honestly like.....you were made....just for me....."

H: "Oh, well maybe I was....I think you would fit pretty well into what I'd call my type, the reason I find it hard is because well.....I'm actually bisexual. I've had a couple of girlfriends as well as a few boyfriends. I like lighter skin, blue or green eyes, straight or wavy dark hair, strong arms and this may sound strange....but I do like a hairy chest and a bit of a beard on a man."

S: "You're bisexual? Wow, I think you just got even sexier....Just the thought of you with another woman is a bit of a turn on...."

H: "Heh, yes I've heard that before. Mostly from couples who want a menage a trois. But I never do it, one partner at a time is usually enough...."

S: "Yeah, but still! What sort of girls do you like?"

H: "Mm, would it upset you at all if I said your sister is pretty gorgeous?"

S: "Well..... not really, I understand. I mean she is beautiful but as long as you don't leave me for her, then I'm good."

H: "Oh, so we're together now are we?"

S: "Well.....I didn't mean that. Sorry.....but if you'll give me that chance, I'd really like to court you."

H: "Oh wow, well. I suppose I could give you a chance. Why not, I mean we are quite compatible...."

S: "I agree....I'll take the day off work tomorrow and we can do something together, sound good to you?"

H: "Yes.....alright....lets do it."

They go on to talk about everything and continue thier bonding session well into the night, finally leaving the shop in the early hours of the morning. They take a slow walk back to Seb's house, through the market place, up a small hill, heading left then right, then left again into a little green nook near the edge of the city wall, there lies Seb's cottage, it has climbing roses on trellises on the front wall, a thatched roof and smoking chimney, an idyllic little house. Once they arrive he gives her a quick tour of the house.

H: "Can I.....share with you tonight?"

S: "Of course.....come on, my room is just here."

They then go to his bed together and they fall asleep in each others arms, like they've known each other for years.

Chapter 17: You just might be my soulmate.

That next morning, Eleanora is still sleeping, she's not feeling any better. Alexander sits and watches her sleep for a while before getting up and going to his morning class without her. Just as he leaves the room, Joseph is coming up the stairs, they meet and talk for a moment.

J: "Morning Alexander......Sorry to say this but.....Gods you look like shit...."

His hair is a bit bedraggled and he has grey shadows under his eyes.

A: "Thanks?.....didn't get much sleep. She was up a few times either throwing up or shivering intensely....."

J: "Is she worse do you think?"

A: "Yes.....I'm worried.....does she get ill often?"

J: "Not really no, this isn't like her at all, do you remember if you've eaten anything untoward or suspect?"

A: "No, we've both eaten the same meals or together for the past week or so, if it were that....I'd be ill too."

J: "And I too probably....fair enough.....I can usually heal minor illnesses. I'll go and see her."

A: "She's still sleeping right now, maybe wait until later.....she needs the rest I think...."

J: "I'll go and check now anyway but if she's not awake, I'll check later. You go on to your class, it's probably futile to say this....but try not to worry too much.....do you have many classes today?"

A: "No, just this one until noon. I'll be back for lunch time."

J: "On you go then, I'll look after her, don't you worry. See you in the afternoon lad."

A: "Alright, I will. See you later Joseph."

Alexander trudges down the stairs already in a low mood and frame of mind, he shakes himself a little then walks out of the front door. Joseph walks into Eleanora's room, she's just starting to stir, she reacts to the sound of the door opening, she calls out still half asleep.

E: "Alexander?"

Joseph walks over and sits on the other side of the bed to the one she is on and reaches for her hand.

J: "No, sweetheart. It's papa. How are you feeling this morning?"

She sits up, stretches then yawns.

E: "Morning Pa....where is Alexander?"

J: "He's gone to his class, he wanted to let you sleep."

E: "Shit, why didn't he wake me. I'm going to be late!"

She shuffles to get out of bed but Joseph pulls on her arm.

J: "No.....You are going nowhere today sweetheart...."

E: "And just why not?"

J: "You didn't answer my question did you?"

E: "No....I'm feeling alright papa...."

J: "Well according to Alexander, you were up through the night a few times, throwing up.....are you telling me you're absolutely fine now?"

E: "I....don't remember.....but yes, I feel fine....."

J: "Still, stay home just in case. Forgetfulness, nausea, sickness and fever are all signs that something isn't right Eleanora...."

E: ".....Fine, I'll stay in bed....you'll see though, it's just a bug or something.....I'll be absolutely fine tomorrow."

J: "I hope so. Just.....be careful sweetheart."

He gives her a hug, she hugs back warmly.

E: "I will papa. Don't worry.....I'll be fine."

J: "Good....I've got some work to do at home today, so if you need me, send for me alright. I'll leave you be....love you darling."

E: "I love you too Pa....I'll see you later."

J: "Yes, sweetheart. I'll see you."

He gets up and walks out of the room, he closes the door softly behind him. Eleanora sighs, she doesn't know what to do with herself as she feels just fine. She decides to pick up one of her novels and catches up on her reading. Meanwhile at Seb's house, Hadriana is just waking up, Seb is still sound asleep. She turns onto her side to face him and almost instantly smiles as if she's proud of herself. She then finds herself just watching him sleep and just enjoying how peaceful he looks. She strokes some of his mussed up hair out of his face, off of his eyes and his nose wrinkles up for a second as if it tickled him and she smiles again, thinking with her emotionality.

H: 'I'm one lucky woman.....just look at how beautiful he is.....even with messy hair, he's perfect....and the way his nose wrinkles up....seems like he's ticklish.....adorable.....'

She then checks herself for a moment, she looks away as rationality takes over.

H: 'Stop....just stop. You don't even know this guy and you've already slept with him.....your impulsiveness will be your downfall.....'

Then she looks at him again and suddenly none of that matters. She starts stroking his hair gently and after a minute or so, his long dark eyelashes flutter as he opens his eyes to find a beautiful woman looking at him almost lovingly, he's not used to that. He lies there, his head a little thick from drinking, as he recollects the previous night. As he remembers, a smile appears on his face.

H: "Good morning Sebastian..."

He stretches.

S: "Mmh, good morning.....tell me.....what exactly did I do to deserve this?"

H: "I'm sorry, what?"

He smirks.

S: "I don't know what I did to deserve to wake up to such a beautiful view......tell me?"

She rolls her eyes then smiles.

H: "......I was seriously about ready to punch you in the balls just there....."

S: "Got a fiery temper have we?"

H: "Maybe.....do you want to find out?"

He sits up, grabs her shoulders and pushes her flat onto her back, he climbs on top of her then takes both of her hands and holds them down at her sides.

S: "Hm, maybe.....but what can you do when you're restrained like this I wonder?"

She looks up at him with a glint in her eye and speaks in a teasing tone.

H: "....Oh, you're so lucky you're gorgeous, mister...."

He lets go of her hands and sits up straight, stretching. He then leans down again as if he's going to kiss her, she reacts as is appropriate. But instead, he grins, leans over her grabs something from his bedside cabinet and then gets out of bed, with a cheeky grin on his face. She leans up on her elbows.

H: "And what the fuck was that?! You tease....."

S: "That was me getting my watch from by bedside table.....Why? What did you think I was going to do?"

She sits up and folds her arms.

H: "You sir.....are a cheeky bastard."

He gets up and wanders slowly around the bed, still being cheeky.

S: "Not the first time I've been called that.....won't be the last....."

H: "I can believe that.....Now....you can tell me something?"

Seb tries to be as nonchalant as possible.

S: "Hm?"

H: "You can tell me why that gorgeous face of yours.....isn't kissing me....."

S: " Oh, so that's what you thought I was going to do....."

He's close enough to the bed now that she grabs his arm and pulls him back onto the bed while saying.

H: "Shut...up...and...kiss...me...."

He falls over onto her on his front. She's sitting against the headboard, he manages to get his balance and kneel over her hips, he rests his palms on the headboard at either side of her head, supporting his upper body. They're looking intently, but almost defiantly into each others eyes.

S: "....And What if I don't, what are you going to do to me?"

She looks at him and smirks, then without a word, she dives her hands into his underwear and starts massaging him, soliciting a pleasantly surprised gasp as he grows harder in her hands. He manages a devilish smirk and groans.

S: "Tou....ché...."

He then leans back off of the headboard, just sitting on his knees with his eyes closed and his head back whilst straddling her, she carries on with her hands for a little longer but then he stops her. And leans down to gruffly whisper in her ear.

S: "Do you want me?"

H: "Desperately....."

S: "I'm going to lie on my back, you're free to do what ever you want to me...."

H: "I like the sound of that...."

He moves off of her, removes his underwear, then lies back flat on the bed. She takes off the shirt of Seb's that she'd borrowed the night before, she then climbs onto him. She straddles his lower legs.

H: "I want every inch of you...."

She lowers herself down and slides him into her mouth, she carries on where she left off except with her tongue and not her hands, she can feel him start throbbing as he just can't hold himself any longer. He groans in a gruff voice as he loudly climaxes.

S: "MMMHH......GODS!"

She sits up, swallows deeply, then smiles smugly.

H: "Enjoy yourself?"

S: "Could you not tell?"

H: "Oh yes of course.....I just like the reassurance...."

She winks at him as he props himself up on his elbows to look at her, he then smirks.

S: "That....has got to be the most fucking amazing way to wake up......"

H: "Heh, thought you'd like it....although.....I haven't once met a man who doesn't enjoy being blown.....you're just lucky that I enjoy giving as much as I enjoy receiving....."

He smiles.

S: "I'll bear that in mind.....you truly are.....something else.....you know that?"

She smirks and imitates him.

H: "Not the first time I've been told that and it definitely won't be the last...."

S: "Playing me at my own game.....I like it......"

H: "You like anything else about me?"

S: "......you're a cheeky, dirty girl.....I like that too....."

She winks at him then climbs off of his legs to lie down next to him. They both turn to face each other, she runs her fingertip down his bare chest and says.

H: "Good, because I'm always cheeky........and dirty......"

He smirks then strokes her hair affectionately.

S: "You know....I think I may have met my match with you...."

H: "You know.....Alexander and Eleanora both said that....."

S: "Oh, really? And what else did my wonderful sister say?"

H: "She said....more like warned me that you are a notorious flirt, that you're cocky, over confident....a bit up yourself....that kind of thing...."

Seb laughs.

S: "Hah, she's got me summed up in a sentence....cheeky bitch...."

She laughs.

H: "Heh, yes completely! Although.....I disagree."

S: "You do?"

H: "You don't seem like that to me.....last night when I met you, you were sweet, not forward or overconfident. I saw a glimpse of your vulnerable side......it's not often a man will show that.....especially when you first meet him."

Seb strokes her cheek with his thumb and smiles.

S: "I'll admit.....a lot of that is somewhat of a façade.....I am an emotional man and I'm not afraid to show it..... mostly.....although, it's sometimes just easier to be what everyone thinks you are....than to actually be yourself...."

She smiles at his honesty and strokes his hair, sweeping it out of his face.

H: "Why? Why do you think that? Your real self....well what I've seen of it....is beautiful....."

S: "Thank you.....I've never been told that before, don't get me wrong....I am a bit arrogant naturally, I mean....just look at me....but I do tend to over-amplify it sometimes, it gets me the attention I seem to crave......although not always of the good kind.....I'm not actually as happy with myself as I make out....."

H: "And why not? You've got everything you could ever want, a loving family.....money....your own business...."

S: "And yet.....I feel ignored.....often angry.....and I often drink too much.....I've felt for a long time, like.....my father loves me but he doesn't bother with me....like he thinks I'm a lost cause, constantly defying him at every chance, although it was worse when I was a teenager...."

H: "Oh my mother was like that with me.....I didn't care as much about magic, she wrote me off initially.....I was and still am a daddy's girl though......I mean....obviously she loves me, but I acted out a lot as a teenager, got myself in trouble a few times....had an unpleasant relationship....."

Seb looks concerned and strokes her hair affectionately.

S: "Really? What happened?

H: "He was my first proper boyfriend at school, Johan.....we were sixteen, we'd liked each other for a while and he was a close friend so we decided to give it a shot.....I was young and näive. Well, to cut a long story short a few months into dating, he changed, became unrecognisable.....He became jealous, paranoid.....abusive, he actually hit me because I dared even look at someone else.....My older brothers all knew it was him, as much as I begged them not to do anything.....them.....taught him a lesson he wouldn't forget.....My oldest brother, Luis.....Gods rest his soul......taught me that that relationship could do one of two things to me, it could make me stronger and more confident and teach me to not take any shit from anyone.....or it could turn me into a recluse, make me depressed and make me never trust anyone again, especially men......I chose the former."

He looks saddened by that story and can't help but lean in for a tender, reassuring kiss. She sighs a little.

H: "Mm, where did that come from? Not that I'm complaining...."

S: "That story moved me.....I felt for you.....and an empathy with your brothers.....if anyone had done that to any of my sisters. I'd have done more than just taught them a lesson.....what happened to your brother?"

H: "He.....was a hero.....he was five years older than me, the biggest sweetest sap you could ever know.....he was 6'6", very handsome and build like a brick shithouse.....looked a bit intimidating but he wouldn't have hurt a fly.....unless absolutely necessary....like when he kicked the fuck out of Johan of course...."

S: "Prick got what he deserved, if you ask me!"

H: "Yes.....safe to say Johan left well alone after my brother almost killed him.....but yes, he definitely deserved it....."

S: "Luis sounds like my cousin Andreas actually.....you said Gods bless his soul though.....is he....dead?"

A lump appears in her throat as it's obviously not a pleasant subject.

H: "Yes....unfortunately so.....like I said, he was a hero. He died saving two children from a burning building.....after putting the children down outside safely, he went back in to check if there were anymore survivors.....he shouldn't have.....because a burning beam fell on his head and crushed him.....killing him instantly."

A tear appears in her eye, she blinks and it dribbles down her cheek. He wipes it away then pulls her in for a hug, her face is buried in his chest.

S: "He was a hero.....what a wonderful person, you were lucky to have him."

H: "I know. I miss him dearly though, it's almost five years now actually, he died when I was barely just nineteen...."

He looks at her, strokes her hair again and smiles.

S: "Alright.....subject change. What are the rest of your family like?"

H: "Alright. Yes.....more pleasant subject change. I am the fourth child of five. Luis was the first, before he died, he was a talented smith and artist. Three years after, my older twin brothers Adi and Leto....they're non identical twins but they're still very alike, they are my mother's magical prodigies, especially Adi, as you know, he's a sage. And then there's my younger brother Theo, he's only ten now, there's a big age gap between us, fourteen years! He was a bit of an.....unexpected surprise....my mother thought she was sterile....she wasn't....."

S: "Hah, that's one way to put it.....I like it, it's better than being called an 'Oops' which is what my youngest brother Armand is humourously referred to as, when he's not around of course......your family is a bit like ours, there's fourteen years between my youngest half sister Genevieve or Genny......and I....."

H: "So you're the oldest then?"

S: "Yes.....the burden of that.....just because of the order that I happened to be born, means that the expectations were too high, I always felt the pressure...."

He does an impression of Joseph's pontificating voice.

S: "It was always....'Sebastian, you are the oldest, the heir of this family....you should take more responsibility.....' blah blah and all that shit...."

H: "Heh, was that meant to be an impression of your father?"

S: "Ugh....yes.....I love my father and I know he loves me....but it doesn't feel like it sometimes....I feel like I'm always dragging in Eleanora's shadow.....she's golden girl in our family....."

H: "You're always judged by her achievements?"

S: "Yes, exactly! Then there's my other younger sister Sophia, she was born two years after myself and two years before Eleanora.......I officially and publicly disowned Sophia, she's a horrible bitch of a woman. I refuse to believe that her personality comes from anyone in my family.....I mean she looks like my father only with red hair....but that's where the likenesses end."

H: "Shit....what did she do?!"

S: "Long story short, she was jealous about my inheritance being more than hers. She set me up, used my.......love of casual sex against me and told a huge lie about me.....which in the end.... nearly got me killed...."

H: "Fucking hell.....evil."

S: "Yep......a chapter of my life that I'd like to forget...."

H: "Alright.....my turn for a subject change.....I've mentioned my mother-"

He interjects.

S: "Mine is dead.....died when I was ten....."

H: "Oh....I'm sorry....."

S: "Don't worry about it.....I've done my grieving.....turns out she was killed intentionally.....by her own people too."

H: "Her own people? Was it your mother who was elven?"

S: "Yes...."

H: "Like mine. My mother is a dark elf, father is human with elven blood. His mother, my grandmother was half elf like myself and you. Do you have any grandparents left?"

S: "Not here no. In Meridia, my maternal grandfather is still alive, he's over three hundred years old apparently but looks no older than thirty......we don't talk though......He was not very happy that my mother married a human......especially when he found out who my father's father is...."

H: "Who is your father's father?"

S: "Ever read the history books? Prince Idreas Meadowgreen is my grandfather. Only he lied about who he was and how old he was to my human grandmother when they got married....."

H: "Oh my.....yes I've read about him, the history books.......do not paint him in a favourable light."

S: "Exactly.....I just knew him as grandpa.....until he disappeared when I was around four or five, Eleanora was just a baby. He just......disappeared, leaving my dear old grandma on her own.....I didn't know anything about his horrendous past...."

H: "Well....I wasn't expecting that to be a part of your family history.....your grandpa is famous.....or rather, infamous....."

S: "Yep.....let's just say that it was a nasty shock when we found out.....another subject change?"

H: "Hah, yes......definitely."

Seb turns over onto his back and pulls up the quilt so it's covering them again, she stays on her side but snuggles into him, one arm over his stomach and resting her head on his chest. He puts his arm around her.

H: "Mm, you're so warm.....and you smell really nice....."

S: "Heh, thank you.....its my favourite fragrance oil....Eleanora made it for me.....she asked me what my favourite smells were, I said ginger and meadowsweet. She distilled them into a scented oil for me as a birthday present."

H: "Mm, sweet and spicy....a bit like you actually....."

S: "You really think I'm sweet?"

H: "Of course, you haven't told me to fuck off this morning and....I'm glad about it. Usually I do the running after a.....busy night.....but I don't want to run from you."

S: "I'm usually the same, but I like talking to you.....who'd have thought that I'd actually want a one night stand to last longer than one night? This coming from me....the serial philanderer...."

H: "Maybe you're finally growing up?"

She laughs at her own joke.

S: "Oh, haha......it's a distinct possibility though.....I've only spent less than twelve hours with you and I'm already finding myself thinking....where have you been all my life?"

H: "Hah, is that a rhetorical question?"

S: "Maybe.....fancy staying here....all morning?"

H: "What here as in your house....or here as in your bed?"

S: "Bed obviously...."

H: "Heh, you're a man after my own heart......"

S: "Again, distinct possibility....."

She moves herself up then positions herself so the arm she's resting on is now holding her up and resting over his arm that's still wrapped around her, he's still on his back. She just sits and looks at him for a moment, her face hovering above his to the left. Again, she sweeps some messy hair out of his face. He smiles his usual cheeky smile and says.

S: "Do you enjoy staring at me or something?"

He smirks a little.

H: "Yes.....can you blame me? I could actually get lost in those big sea green eyes of yours.....You know, you even look beautiful in your sleep....."

S: "Watching me sleep too eh? Again, can't really blame you.....if it were anyone else, I'd call it creepy....."

H: "Heh, cheeky.....let's just say, I appreciate your face.....your beautiful hypnotic eyes, your beautiful soft but adorably messy hair.....your cute nose and the way it wrinkles when you smile.....not to mention those completely kissable lips."

Just as she says this, she dips her head down and kisses him tenderly, sincerely. They don't break it for about half a minute.

H: "Mmm, I could get used to that....."

He raises an eyebrow questioningly.

S: "Oh really?"

He strokes her cheek with his free hand, he then weaves his fingers into her thick dark, coffee coloured hair and pulls her face back down for another, more heated, passionate kiss, not breaking this time for well over a minute.

S: "Gods.....I could do that all day.....Do you even realise how gorgeous you are?"

She feigns innocence and puts on a faux thoughtful face.

H: "Oh.....I don't think I do....."

She then smirks.

H: "Want to show me?"

S: "Mmmh.....Yes....lie on your back.....will you?"

H: "Mm, of course."

She lies on her back and he turns onto his side, his top arm moves beneath the covers tracing down her stomach with just one finger. His hand ventures even further down to her crotch, his fingers feel around her area searching for her sensitive spot, it only takes a few seconds before she gasps, indicating he's found it. He then massages her with his finger for only a minute or so, she's thoroughly enjoying it, then he stops.

H: "Mmh! Why did you stop?"

S: "Patience....."

He says as he moves under the covers too. He encourages her to part her legs so he can kneel between them, he moves down far enough, then buries his face in her, massaging her sensitive spot with his skilled tongue. She's pleasantly surprised as she starts moaning a little. Once her moans grow in intensity, he takes two fingers, feeling around to make sure she's wet enough, then he crooks them and slips them into her, continuing with a gentle thrusting motion of his hand. She tries to speak.

H: "Mmmh! Multi....tasking? Aah!"

He pulls away for a second to answer.

S: "Mmh, obviously...."

He gets back to it and within minutes her legs start shuddering and she's practically screaming.

H: "Mmhmaah! OH GODS!"

She has a powerful double climax, which almost knocks her out with intensity. She can't say much after.

H: "Hhuh...mmm."

S: "Shh, don't try to speak yet....I've literally just scrambled your brain....give it a minute and just enjoy it...."

H: "Mmhmm....."

After a minute or so, he moves back up so he's resting between her legs. Then without warning, he slides into her, soliciting a sharp inhale. She's still reeling but feels so sensitive, that her screams start again, louder and more intense, he carries on thrusting hard for only another few minutes until she's almost hoarse from vocalising her pleasure. They both reach an extremely intense climax, especially her. So much so that she screams in her native tongue

H: "OH MIA DIO! SEBASTIAN....YES!!"

He growls between the last few thrusts.

S: "MMHH! I love.....hearing....a woman.....screaming.....my..... name!"

H: "Ludu viajn kartojn ?uste kaj vi a?dos ?in pli ofte!"

S: "I have.....absolutely no idea what you just said.....but it sounds really, really sexy.....especially when you're screaming......"

H: "Heh, I said, 'play your cards right and you'll be hearing it more often' Hmm, you'll just have to learn Sadrian then.....or not....that way, your sister, Alexander and I can talk about you in private!"

S: "Please....don't do that.....I'll settle for hearing Sadrian whenever I fuck you.....so....did you enjoy yourself there?"

He says smugly as he flops off of her and lies on his back next to her.

H: "Did you not hear me? Feel me? Of course I did, probably the most expertly given oral sex I've ever had....and your magic hands and your magic.......well....you know......making it even more intense......you really know what you're doing....."

S: "Plenty of experience...."

He lifts up her hand and kisses it.

S: "......and I also like the reassurance.....although you don't have to tell me every time....."

H: "Hm, so......you plan on doing that more often, do you?"

S: "Well I.....yes.....unless you have any objections?"

H: "I do not....."

She gives him a cheeky smile.

S: "Good, then it's settled. You're definitely getting my other room....except I don't want any money from you...."

H: "....I'll have to pay you something for it....otherwise I'd feel guilty....."

S: "Just....be there for me, having you around is payment enough......and if you feel the need to kiss me whenever.....or.....if you happen to find yourself in my bed every now and then.....I'll be a very happy man."

H: "Gods, you're smooth......even though you essentially just asked for payment in the form of sex.....but alright, you really are that good. So you have a deal."

S: "Wonderful.....only until such a time that I ask you to be my girlfriend...."

H: "Let's not get ahead of ourselves.....but I think I'd like that, eventually....."

S: "That's good enough for me.....right, we've spent long enough in this bed for now. Get some clothes on, I'm taking you out!"

H: "Aw, can't we just stay here a little longer?"

S: "Nope, I have an idea......Come on, get a move on!"

Chapter 18: A date to remember.

They both get dressed, he sits and watches her just for the sake of it, then gets up and kisses her cheek. They head out after about half an hour making it around 1pm. He leads her to walk down the street, his hands in his pockets. She catches up to his side and takes one of his hands out of his pocket and entwines her fingers with his. This small gesture of affection makes him smile then he pulls her towards him, wraps his other arm around her and then he kisses her lips softly. He then breaks away.

S: "Do you even realise how beautiful you are?"

H: "You have told me a few times.....but I could always stand to hear it again......and again...."

He smiles and then shakes his head, they carry on walking hand in hand.

S: "You really are something else.....aren't you?"

H: "Of course I am.....would you still be with me if I wasn't?"

S: "Fair point.....probably not......right. I'm taking you out for lunch, where do you want to go?"

H: "Well....remember I've not been here long, so I don't really know where is good and where isn't. You've lived here all your life, surprise me....."

S: "I love it when girls say that...."

H: "Say what?"

He smirks a little.

S: "Surprise me.....because....that's something I'm pretty fucking good at."

H: "Oh really? You'll need to prove that to me though.....although you've done a pretty good job of it so far..."

S: "Oh I will.....in good time.....right.....come on."

He pulls her slightly to the left and starts walking quickly.

H: "Where are we going?"

S: "You'll see!"

They walk for another five minutes across the busy market place and into a little side alley just off of the main street. She sees a little cafe, painted burgundy on the exterior with a sign in gold leaf, reading Antonio's. It has a beautiful diamond paned glass window to the left of the door. It's a cute, quaint little place on the outside. He leads her into the door, which jingles a little bell when they open it. Inside, it's bigger and a little more posh than it looks on the outside. She whispers to him.

H: "This place looked a lot smaller outside.....it's beautiful....."

S: "It certainly is, Antonio's is a hidden gem in this city. Best Andosan and Sadrian food ever.....you might feel more at home here."

H: "Aww....see you are sweet!"

S: "Say that again when you've eaten.....although I can almost guarantee that you will....."

Just then, a fairly short and chubby, but equally handsome dark haired man walks over to them with a big smile on his face, he reaches out for Seb's hand and greets him enthusiastically, shaking his hand.

Man: "Sebastian! So good to see you my friend!"

S: "Good to see you Antonio, bring it in, big guy!"

They give each other a big bear hug. Antonio steps back a little to look at Hadriana.

A: "Ooh, you have a date, Mr. Sebastian?"

S: "I do.....Antonio, meet Hadriana Katero, Hadriana, Antonio Volini. Hadriana too is Sadrian."

Antonio bows in a charming manner, then takes Hadriana's hand and kisses it.

A: "Welcome, beautiful lady!"

H: "Dankon! Estas bele renkonti vin, Antonio." (Thank you! It's lovely to meet you, Antonio.)

A: "Vi bonvenigas belan virgulinon." (You're welcome fair maiden.)

Seb cuts in.

S: "I'm sorry guys but can you common it up a bit for my sake please?"

Antonio gives him a cheeky look then looks back at Hadriana and makes a joke at Seb's expense.

A: "Nu, ne zorgu lin, li estas senkulpa dopo...." (Oh don't mind him, he's just an uncultured dope....)

H: "Haha, sendube!" (Haha, definitely!)

S: "Hey! I've listened to you shouting at your staff enough to understand that last word.....you just called me a dope....."

Hadriana and Antonio laugh.

A: "Ah....it is all in good humour, no?"

S: "You're lucky your food is amazing Volini......you cheeky bastard."

He pats Antonio on the back, he's a good six inches shorter than Seb, they both smile at each other then he takes them both to a table. The one next to the window, they sit down on the comfortable padded red satin chairs and get comfortable. Antonio excuses himself and goes to fetch them some menus. Seb looks around, there are other customers but only at two of the ten free tables.

H: "This place really is beautiful Seb. I love it....Antonio has you summed up too....."

He makes a faux sad face.

S: "Thank you and.....you're mean! I bring you to my favourite restaurant, offer to treat you to lunch and you take the piss out of me....charming....."

He then smiles his usual cheeky smile and sniggers soon after, then she does too.

H: "It was all in good humour!"

S: "I know, don't worry. Tony takes the piss out of me whenever he can, it's why we're friends, I can give as good as I get usually, I just didn't want to embarrass him in front of you......hmm, maybe I should learn Sadrian.....just enough to insult him....or just enough so that I know when he's insulting me....."

H: "Hah, yes definitely.....I'll teach you some expletives if you like....."

She then lowers her voice to a whisper and leans across the table, closer to him.

H: "And maybe some dirty talk....so you can understand me in the bedroom...."

Seb looks at her with an almost proud smile.

S: "Heh, you're a naughty girl....Miss Katero......"

H: "Oh, I know. Just listen for, mi volas vin......Or Prenu min, nun."

S: "Translation?"

H: "I want you....and....Take me, now...."

He smirks.

S: "Mm......you know, I  would.....but we're in a public place....restrain yourself, you dirty girl......."

She gives him a sultry look.

H: "Mm, naughty boy....."

She starts playing footsie under the table with him, rubbing her foot against his leg. Just then, Antonio appears again, they're too lost in each other to notice until he clears his throat.

A: "Ahem....."

Seb jerks his head in surprise.

S: "Em, sorry Tony...."

A: "Ah, don't you worry.....I know that look Sebastian, she is a beautiful and funny girl....."

Seb takes her hand on top of the table and rubs her knuckles with his thumb.

S: "She is, isn't she?"

She just sits there smiling, not really able to concentrate on anything else but him.

A: "Here are your menus for today.....take your time, lovebirds....."

Seb smiles again and then picks up the menu. On the specials menu, there is a choice of four main courses, four appetisers and five desserts. They both peruse the menu.

H: "Oh Gods.....my papa makes this same dessert at home!"

She points at the Tiramisu.

H: "I'm definitely having that.....and I'll just have something light for lunch.....the potato gnocchi with with tomato and garlic sauce."

S: "You chose your dessert first?"

H: "Yes.....what can I say, I'm a sweet tooth....dessert is my favourite part."

She emphasises the word favourite as she raises an eyebrow at him.

S: "Mmhm, I know what you mean...."

He winks at her.

S: "Think I'll have the same as you, a light bite. Besides I've never tried gnocchi before"

H: "Oh it's amazing, my Papa makes amazing gnocchi by hand. I wish I had his skills in the kitchen.....Theo does already and he's not even eleven, not fair!"

S: "That's impressive actually.....I wish I'd learned to cook more from our favourite house cook, Bessie, she gave Eleanora and I lessons when we were younger, I learned some....but not as much as I wish I had, Bessie's cooking is fucking wonderful, she's the grandma we never had!"

H: "I'll have to meet her, swap ideas and such....."

S: "Yes you should....actually maybe not...."

H: "Why?"

S: "She remembers everything about me.....and there are some fucking horror stories there....."

H: "Ah, I'm sure she won't embarrass you on purpose will she?"

S: "No....it's me that's the embarrassing one. She'll likely tell you about every pretty, attractive house maid or cook I've ever.....lain with......"

H: "That sounds fun actually.....I'll get a laugh out of your grimacing."

He sighs.

S: "We've only known each other for less than twenty four hours and already you want to hear embarrassing stories from my youth....."

H: "Of course I do, it sounds hilarious."

S: "You're one cheeky girl...."

H: "Heh, I know......and you love it.....what are you wanting for dessert?"

S: "You mean besides you?"

H: "Heh, yes."

S: "I'll have the vanilla gelato for dessert, best in this entire city....."

Seb waves Antonio back over and they order their food, along with a bottle of the finest imported cherry wine. They wait half an hour for their food and it arrives, piping hot, looking delicious, they tuck in.

S: "Mm, I'm glad I tried this....it's beautiful!"

H: "It's wonderful isn't it, so simple, yet so delicious. It's a comfort food back in Sadria.

S: "Mm, I can understand why!"

They sit for the next half hour eating, drinking and chatting. Antonio brings out the desserts.

S: "Thank you Tony."

H: "Yes. Dankon, ili aspektas delikata!" (Thank you, they look delicious!)

A: "You are welcome. Enjoy."

He walks off again, back into the kitchen as a few more customers have arrived.

S: "That looks wonderful.....what is it again?"

H: "It is called Tiramisu.....it's a coffee-flavoured dessert. It is made of sponge cake, dipped in coffee or how my papa makes it, with coffee liqueur, it's better when it's a bit boozy.....It's then layered with a mixture of whipped eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa....want to try some? I can almost guarantee you'll fall in love with it....."

S: "Mm, yes please."

She takes her fork and uses the side of it to slice through the corner of the dessert, she then says.

H: "Open your mouth...."

He raises an eyebrow while smirking, then agrees. He takes the forkful of tiramisu and lets it melt in his mouth, he closes his eyes as he swallows it.

S: "Oh Gods.....you were right....delicious....it's not boozy though, disappointing....you'll have to make it for me, with the liqueur.....if you wouldn't mind of course?"

Hadriana takes a bite, she loves it but agrees that it needs the boozy flavour.

H: "Mmh, it's lovely....but you're right....it's definitely missing the liqueur.....And of course, I'd be more than happy to make it for you some day soon...."

She smiles at him and he smirks back.

S: "And....would you feed it to me too?"

H: "Hm, maybe....if you behave..."

S: "Aand what makes you think I won't?"

H: "It's you.....like I said earlier, you're a very naughty boy....."

S: "I swear I'll be on my best behaviour....Madame."

H: "Good, then you shall have your cake....and eat it too."

She winks at him.

H: "I want to test your claim of your gelato being the best in the city...."

He takes a scoop of it with his spoon.

S: "Alright.....now you open your mouth...."

She does and he feeds it to her, she lets it melt a bit on her tongue then swallows it.

H: "Mm, yes that's beautiful.....proper gelato.....those vanilla beans, mmm-mm!"

They finish their desserts, continuing to mostly talk in innuendos, an hour later, they are ready to go. Seb walks up to the counter to speak with Antonio and pay him for the meal. Hadriana waits outside for him. A few minutes later, Seb walks out of the door and it jingles when he does. She sees him and takes his hand, before he gets the chance to put it in his pocket again. He looks surprised but not disappointed, he likes it.

H: "That....was absolutely wonderful, Sebastian.....thank you so much."

She stands on her tiptoes and kisses his cheek.

H: "You certainly know how to show a girl a good time....."

He smiles sincerely.

S: "You're very welcome....you know.....despite my reputation.....I don't do that kind of thing often.....But when I do, I like to go all out....otherwise, what's the point? Besides, you are more than worth it."

H: "Well, thank you.....it was beautiful.....the food was amazing.....also, you were right...."

S: "About what?"

H: "You were right when you said I'd feel at home there.....I did.....so thank you for helping me feel less homesick....."

S: "Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it because I'm not finished yet.....come on..."

It's around four thirty in the afternoon, it's early summer but the sun usually sets around five or six in the summer. The Western and Southern realms are like our worlds southern hemisphere, the seasons conditions are reversed. In our summer, the sun sets very late, it their summer, the sun sets early and its a bit colder.

S: "I'm taking you to meet Tiberius......then we're going for a walk."

H: "Who's Tiberius?"

S: "Tiberius or Tibby is my loyal and beautiful chestnut stallion...."

H: "Oh, I love horses.....I've never had one of my own though...."

S: "Aw, I don't know where I'd be without him. He's like a close friend as well as a trusty steed. He listens to my ramblings and ranting and the best part...."

H: "Aw....what's the best part?"

S: "He doesn't judge me....."

H: "You get more adorable and endearing with every minute......you know that?"

S: "Well, I am trying....."

She nudges him and giggles.

H: "What are you like?"

S: "Hmm, I'm a cheeky but completely lovable pain in the arse......that's how I'd rate myself anyway....."

She giggles again, then just looks up at him, while they walk hand in hand in a comfortable silence for the next ten minutes or so until they reach the stables. Seb finds Tiberius and brings him out to the stable courtyard.

H: "Oh my....he's beautiful!"

Seb grins proudly.

S: "As beautiful as me?"

H: "Oh no.....much more so....."

S: "Thanks......."

She cautiously reaches out her hand and pats his nose. Tiberius happily lets her.

S: "You're lucky.....usually he's a bit more scared of meeting new people....."

She bows her head to him, he appears to mirror her. She pats his head again as Seb goes to get a saddle.

H: "I feel privileged Tiberius.....you're just a beautiful horsey, aren't you?"

Tiberius snorts and huffs, seemingly happy. Seb comes back with a large saddle big enough for two, he starts fitting it.

S: "Hadriana, take the carrot out of my back pocket will you? Give him it and he'll be your best friend....."

H: "You're not just looking for a reason for me to touch your arse are you?"

S: "Hah no....would you complain though? Seriously, I promise.....although he seems to like you already...."

H: "And I like him, he's beautiful Sebastian."

S: "Like master like horse eh?"

He sniggers and she giggles. She walks over to Seb and reaches into his back pocket, she grabs the carrot, then pinches his bottom.

S: "Hey!"

H: "Sorry....couldn't help myself.....you have a lovely arse too...."

S: "Cheeky.....not that I'm complaining.....pinch away.....within reason of course...."

He giggles at his own joke, she takes the carrot and offers it to Tiberius. He snorts, bows his head to sniff it, then gently takes it from her hand and starts munching it happily. She claps her hands excitedly.

H: "Ooh, he likes it....."

S: "They're his favourite treat, he'll love you forever now...."

H: "Good because I love him already!"

S: "Aw, you fell in love with my horse and not me!? Eh, he could do worse I suppose...."

She giggles.

H: "Oh, you're sooo funny....."

S: "Oh, I kno-"

She grabs his arm and pulls him over to her, she then grabs his face with both hands and kisses him passionately. After twenty seconds, he breaks away.

S: "What was that for?"

H: "Because you're just adorable......and gorgeous.......need I go on?"

S: "I suppose not....."

He then smiles and offers her his hand, she takes it and he takes hold of her waist with the other hand and helps her up onto Tiberius, once she's comfortable, he climbs on too. He sits behind her, arms around her on both sides, holding the reigns, she takes advantage of the situation by leaning back into his warm chest. He smiles as it just feels right to him.

S: "Comfortable?"

H: "Mm, very."

S: "Heh, good. tchk, tchk....on Tibby."

They ride out of the stables and onto the cobblestone road.

S: "Would you mind me stopping by my fathers house first? I need to grab something....."

H: "Of course. Will I just stay on Tiberius?"

S: "Yes. I'll only be five minutes, you can watch him for me....bond with him a little.....just don't ask him to tell you any dirty secrets about me, he's loyal and won't betray me...."

Seb pats the horses side affectionately.

S: "Will you boy?"

Tiberius grunts and huffs in an almost affirmative sound.

S: "See? He's a good friend......heheh."

H: "Heh, he certainly is...."

They ride for a few more minutes until they reach the front gates of Wintergreen manor. Seb deftly hops off and heads into the house, Hadriana is bemused and completely taken by the view of the house, she thinks it's magnificent. Just over five minutes later, Seb emerges with a brown satchel hanging across his shoulder, his bow and quiver are strapped to his back and he has his hunting cap on, it's dark grey with a golden brown and green pheasant feather attached. It matches the rest of his outfit, a white undershirt, a grey waist coat, dark grey trousers and a smart dark grey overcoat which reaches the back of his knees. She takes the time to admire him while he's walking towards her, even his boots are smart, he hops back on the horse and they set off again.

H: "You are such a smart dresser. And with the hat and your bow.... They just make you look so much like a dashing rogue...."

He smiles and giggles in a flattered way.

S: "Thanks, that's the style I go for......the dashing rogue is me all over I think."

H: "It really suits you....even the hat is sexy on you...."

S: "My dear....everything looks sexy on me....."

H: "Cheeky....."

S: "I'm not wrong though, am I?"

H: "Ugh, no.....and that makes it worse somehow....."

S: "Hah, yes.....oh I almost forgot...."

He takes a thick black hooded cape of his shoulder and puts it on Hadriana and wraps it around her front.

S: "There, that should help keep you warm....I can't guarantee that the place I'm taking you to will be particularly warm, so I grabbed one of Eleanora's half dozen capes for you, she won't mind.....she's got that many black ones that she probably won't even notice it's gone...."

She smiles at the sweet gesture.

H: "Thank you.....you really are so sweet and thoughtful.....I'm beginning to think both your sister and you lied to me....."

S: "About what?"

H: "About yourself, you're nothing like either of you made you out to be.....you're lovely...."

S: "Well.....thank you, you're not so bad yourself you know...."

H: "Now that is an understatement....."

He smiles then leans down to kiss her cheek.

S: "You're.....just perfect.....you know that? Almost too good to be true.....wait, you are real aren't you? This isn't just a beautiful dream?"

H: "Heh, no I'm real.....and I wouldn't go that far.....but thank you......it seems that underneath that cheeky, roguish, slightly arrogant shell of yours, lies a sweet and true romantic heart.

S: "A realisation I'm only coming to myself to be honest.....I've never been this way with any other girl before.....it was always just about sex.....but with you. I want to know more about you, I don't want you to leave.....I find you fascinating, intriguing, breathtakingly beautiful.....and of course, I just want to touch you.....constantly......"

H: "You.....come here....."

She reaches up behind her and pulls his shirt collar roughly, pulling his face down to hers, their lips meeting in a passionate, fiery kiss. Tiberius keeps on straight ahead, he seems to know where they're going. Seb wraps his arms around her tighter and starts kissing her neck from behind. They enjoy touching and kissing each other for the next ten minutes until Tiberius snorts to get his attention. Seb looks up for a moment, they are at the bottom of a hill with a shallow incline, it's grassy and surrounded by pine trees. He instructs Tiberius to ride on up the hill, within a few minutes about two thirds of the way up the hill, he instructs Tiberius to stop. Seb gets off and looks around for somewhere flat to set Tiberius down and he ties him up to a nearby tree. He helps Hadriana off the horse and then takes her hand as he takes off almost running to the top of the hill, it's just forty meters ahead. When they reach the top, the view before them is breath taking. The hill overlooks most of the city and the surrounding hilly mountainscape, you can even see the college and the beautiful lake just behind it. Just then, the sun starts to set and the view is made even more spectacular by the setting sun in the distance, setting everything in a beautiful light. She takes a long look at it and admires how romantic it is. While she's watching, Seb puts a blanket down and puts the bag and his bow on the ground a few feet away from them. Hadriana then suddenly turns around, gives him a sultry look then runs over to him, pushing him back onto the blanket. Her legs are around him and she's kissing him fiercely.

S: "Hey, hey....I know I'm irresistible but be careful eh!"

She breaks away from kissing his neck to say.

H: "Yes, sorry...."

She proceeds to unbutton his waist coat, then unbuttons his undershirt. She's straddling him, looking lustfully at his bare toned chest, she traces a finger down and hooks it under his waistband. She finds the button on his trousers and hastily undoes them, he groans softly at her touch, he's very turned on and she can tell.

S: "Mmm, someone's in a hurry...."

H: "I've been wanting to rip your clothes off since we left the restaurant....."

S: "Go right ahead then...."

H: "As if I really needed your permission anyway.....heheh."

He lifts up his bottom so she can pull his trousers down far enough, peeling his underwear off afterwards. She stands up, shuffles around under her skirt, lifting it up to pull off her underwear, she tosses them over her shoulder then lowers herself onto him, she rests her hands on the blanket at either side of his head as she kisses him desperately while gyrating her hips slowly, achieving a deep feeling as she moans softly, stifled by desperate kisses, his groans escape every time he takes a breath. She then lifts herself up and leans backwards achieving an even deeper feeling, she starts screaming. Excited by her sounds, he starts thrusting upwards, soliciting airy gasps from her. His hand is on her sensitive spot massaging it while he's inside her, her gasps become cries for the next few minutes until they both explode with pure pleasure, waves taking over both of them as they look into each others eyes. She says breathlessly.

H: "Best....fuck....ever...."

He smirks and says.

S: "Correction.....best....fuck....so far....."

H: "Good point....you'll have to top that next time though...."

She climbs off of him and lies down next to him, he puts his arm around her as she cuddles up to his side. He does up his shirt a little.

S: "I did have another idea, but you did things in the wrong order....."

H: ".....The wrong order?"

S: "Yes, I was going to sit and watch the beautiful sunset with you in my arms and then I was going to put the moves on you....but instead....first, you push me over rip my clothes off, desperate to shag me, I mean I understand and I'm definitely not complaining.....but now we've missed it....."

He puts on a faux sad face.

H: "Hah, you're actually adorable.....that's really romantic....."

S: "That is why I brought you up here.....I mean, look at it......is that not one of the most beautiful views you've ever seen?!"

H: "I did notice it.....I got caught up in the moment and.....well....."

S: "I understand, you just couldn't resist me.....could you?"

H: ".....No.....and to be absolutely honest.....that scares me a little....."

S: "Why?"

H: "I've only known you for one day and I really, really like you....."

He takes her hand.

S: "The feeling is mutual.....believe me.....I've never felt this kind of connection with anyone before.....You're so exceptionally beautiful. You're wise, intelligent, intriguing.....witty and cheeky with a very dirty sense of humour......like I said last night.....it's honestly like you were made....just for me."

She takes his hand and kisses it.

H: "You are just too cute, you know that?......Although, I think I've hit the jackpot with you I think.....I mean, you're absolutely fucking gorgeous, I'll admit I fancied you as soon as I saw you.......you're generous, a smart dresser, so very charming, charismatic and just really fucking adorable.....not to mention an absolute demon in bed.....a demon in the best possible way of course."

She tickles the part of his chest left uncovered.

S: "Hm, a demon eh? Heh...and I'm a smart dresser but you prefer my clothes when they're on the floor and not on me?"

H: "That's about right, yes....you know what....fuck it.......if I don't ask it now, I never will.....Will you be my boyfriend?"

S: "After just one day? You're serious?"

H: "It's been one of the most beautiful days of my life Sebastian. I fall for you more with every minute. So yes, I'm serious."

S: "Well then, yes of course I will."

He pulls her face up to his and plants a sweet tender kiss on her lips.

H: "Oh and you're a great kisser too."

He smiles while he kisses her again. He then reaches for the bag and pulls it over, fishing about in it for a minute, he pulls out something wrapped in brown paper. He gives it to Hadriana to open.

H: "What's this?"

S: "Open it."

She does and finds two gingerbread men with smiley faces.

H: "Aww, that's so.....see? You are adorable!"

S: "Heh, maybe I am.....take one and tell me it's not the best gingerbread you've ever had...."

She takes a bite of her little gingerbread man, crumbs fall everywhere, they don't care though.

H: "Mm, it's fucking delicious! But look...."

She holds hers up.

H: "I decapitated him....."

S: "Hahah, I amputated the leg off of mine...."

H: "It is very good though. Who made it?"

S: "Bessie of course. She's only around two days a week because she's quite old and needs to slow down. She was there today, baking for the children and insisted that my papa kept two of them for me, since she knows they're my favourite."

H: "Aw, that's lovely.....why did you bring them here though?"

S: "Because I wanted to give you one and so we could watch the sunset while eating them and so....but of course you had other ideas.....and so I could share one of my oldest favourite things with my newest favourite thing....or....person."

H: "Right....stop it now....."

S: "Stop what?!"

H: "Being so fucking cute......I actually can't deal with it......I really do love it though....."

S: "....fuck....I thought you were angry with me there....."

H: "Sorry! I'm not, I couldn't possibly be.....not tonight anyway....."

They finish their gingerbread men and just lie together.

S: "So, was this a date to remember?"

H: "Definitely, the most romantic, sweet and spontaneous date I've ever had. Thank you Sebastian.....or should I say, sweetheart.....dear....darling?"

S: "Heh, any of the above. I'm not fussed.....sweetcheeks."

H: "Really? Sweetcheeks?"

S: "Yes...you have, as I have already mentioned.....an absolutely beautiful arse....so.... yes, sweetcheeks."

She jokingly slaps him on the bare chest.

H: "Well if I'm sweetcheeks, then you can just be.....cheeky."

S: "Suits me!"

H: "Great.....just tell me one thing though....."

S: "Yes?"

H: "Tell me this isn't a dream......tell me that I've truly found my Prince, albeit a roguish and cheeky one......that this isn't just a fairytale and you're not too good to be true......"

S: "Well, I can't promise that last part. I am too good but I am definitely true too......also this is not a dream and I am most definitely your roguish Prince."

H: "Mmm, thank you....."

He pinches her backside.

H: "Ow, hey!"

S: "Ever heard the phrase 'pinch me I must be dreaming'?"

H: "Yes....."

S: "Well, you felt that didn't you? You're most definitely not dreaming...."

She laughs and he turns onto his side to face her, one arm under her neck and the other stroking up and down her waist affectionately. They look into each others eyes again for a moment, she pulls him in for a sweet, lingering kiss. It lasts a minute or so before he breaks away.

S: "Mmm, a guy could most definitely get used to that....."

H: "Well come back here then...."

She pulls him in again for another more intense and heated kiss, which evolves into  continuous little bursts of quick desperate kisses. He groans.

S: "Mmh, those lips, still taste like gingerbread...."

She smiles whilst still kissing him intensely. He gets a pleasant surprise when he feels her hand wander down his still partially open trousers, she slides her hand under his underwear and starts gently massaging him as he starts kissing her neck and chest. He groans excitedly.

S: "Mm, you're also good with your hands...."

H: "Mmh....one is barely covering you though.....my hands are small.....want me to use both?"

S: "Mmmh, yes please...."

He buries his face in her cleavage kissing and licking, as she brings her other hand into the equation, gradually building up speed until he sighs in confirmation that she's going at the right speed.

S: "Mm, that's perfect.....keep going like that.....add a little more pressure though...."

So she does and carries on for the next few minutes before she feels one of his legs twitching, she slows for a moment.

H: "Wait, your leg is twitching....I'm not hurting you am I?"

S: "Oh gods no.....mmmh, that's just a sign to tell you I'm almost there.....it's always done that....don't know why.....just..... keep going...."

H: "Alright."

She carries on and his leg starts almost vibrating again just a few seconds before he groans in ecstasy.

S: "Mmm! Gods.....you're good....."

H: "Oh, I know....it gets better too...."

S: "Oh really, I'm intrigued.....and in need of clean underwear....."

H: "Hahah, that good?"

S: "What do you think? You have single handedly, no pun intended I swear.....made me expel my..... load four times today and five times in the past twenty four hours.....Honestly.....I'm surprised there was anything left.....although I could happily do it again and again.....there's only been one woman who has managed that before....."

H: "Oh yes, who?"

S: "Really? You want to know that.....right now?"

H: "Well, it's important to know at least a little of each other's.....sexual past......"

S: "To tell you mine, we'd literally be here all night....."

H: "I'm still curious though....."

S: "Ugh.....alright. Her name was Suvia.....an elven girl I met in Meridia.....some, eight years ago."

H: "What was she like?"

S: "She was a bit like you actually, beautiful golden skin.....impossibly long dark brown hair, huge dark eyes and for a pure elven girl....curves that you wouldn't believe....."

H: "So, very much your type then?"

S: "Oh Gods yes....long story short. We met, she actually shamelessly flirted with me first believe it or not....my father told me to not.....be myself when I was there, so I resisted initially.....not for long though, she was fucking persistent....although I couldn't blame her. Just imagine a younger, hotter me, you'll get the idea....."

H: "Mm, wish I'd met you then....."

S: "Honestly, so do I.....then I might not have been so much of a literal fuck boy.....if I'd been with you....who knows, we could've been married with children by now.....but I digress.....she was persistent and of course, me being your typical, constantly horny teenager....didn't resist for long.....that day we must've shagged five or six times in one night, literally couldn't keep our hands off of each other......this went on for three weeks. I honestly thought I was in love with her....."

H: "What happened then?"

S: "We had to go home.....I've never been back....so for all I know, I have an almost eight year old child.....I don't want to know though.....that place is.....fucked up to say the very least...."

H: "Hah, alright. Total number of lovers, including one night stands....if you can remember...."

S: "Fuck me......right, wait a minute...."

He starts thinking to himself and counting with his hands. She starts getting a little impatient when he takes almost two minutes to figure it out.

S: "Since I was fourteen, so in the past ten years.....over one hundred and fifty, give or take a few...."

H: "A hundred and fifty?! That's like, fifteen a year!"

S: "Some more frequently, some for months at a time.....still....you asked.....what about yourself?"

H: "I suppose I did.....erm, since I was sixteen......eight. I remember exactly.....six men and two women....."

S: "Shit, yeah I forgot you're bisexual.....I have to tell you....imagining you with another woman......is really quite hot.....and it would even hotter if I were also involved.....mmm..."

H: "Nope, two men one girl if you're going to do a threesome....think about it, the hole to dick ratio is more realistic...."

He thinks about it for a second.

S: "I suppose....maybe for you....it wouldn't work for me though....I'm straight remember?"

H: "Oh yeah....are you absolutely sure though?"

S: "Quite....I've never once been attracted to or intimate with a man....nor would I want to be...."

H: "Stay open minded at least...."

S: "Oh I am, it's just.....not for me.....besides, I'd have thought you'd want my sister to be bisexual and not so much me...."

H: "Why?"

S: "You said you thought she was beautiful.....and well.....Alexander is bisexual too......put it this way, if my sister was bisexual....would you go for a threesome with her and Alexander?"

H: "Fuck yes! Sorry to sound so enthusiastic there.....they're both really, really gorgeous....."

S: "Knew it! Also, I know.....it makes me a little nauseous with jealousy.....if they have children together.....they'll have Godlike beauty....."

H: "Hey....we're pretty gorgeous too you know.....especially you.....I'm actually in love with your eyes....."

S: "Heh thank you.....I've never seen anyone else with the same.....maybe I'm one of a kind?"

H: "Oh....you definitely are mister....so....tell me about any particularly memorable conquests you've had here?"

S: "You really want to know?"

H: "Yes. I want to know everything about you, even about your whorishness!"

S: "Heh, alright....but just remember, you asked! So, has Eleanora ever mentioned the name Adam to you?"

H: "No..."

S: "Long story short.....Adam was Eleanora's first love, she bore him a son at just seventeen. Then three years later, he fucks off randomly....without a word and takes my nephew Aries with him....."

H: "Oh gods.....poor Eleanora....she must be heart broken.....I really like that name though actually...."

S: "She was.....but Alexander helped with that.....and I like it too, it's different, unique."

H: "Good, they both deserve to be happy."

S: "They do....where was I? So.....they were to be married that same month.....but I digress.....when I was seventeen and carrying on until I was eighteen, for about six months.....I had an affair with his mother....."

She opens her eyes wide in surprise.

H: "You did not?!"

S: "I did.....and fuck it, I am proud of it.....she was a fucking gorgeous, sexy older woman who practically offered herself to me....."

H: "Wait, so she just propositioned you out of nowhere?"

S: "Not exactly......you see, I also had a thing going with Adam's sister, just sex though......she was a fucking psycho......his mother heard us.....going at it one evening and literally stopped me at the door before I left and said if I stopped seeing the sister, I could have her.....Gods, she taught me so much....the things I learned about how to please a woman in those six months....wow.....she didn't hold back either, told me exactly what she wanted...and how, where and when.....now that was such a turn on....."

H: "But.....you were seventeen...."

S: "And?.....I lost my virginity at fourteen....to one of my teachers....but I swear, she came on to me....."

H: "Fuck, one of your teachers?! You really were a bit of a manwhore weren't you?"

S: "Heh yep.....I fucked three others of my teachers too.....and I'll be honest....I still am like that, except when I'm with you.....When I'm with you, I don't want to be like that anymore...."

H: "Aw, so I'm the one you want to change for?"

S: "Yes. I don't need anyone else. You have everything I could ever want or need."

H: "If that's true....then I definitely want to find out....."

S: "That's why I agreed to be your boyfriend. I would like you to give me that chance....."

H: "Of course I will.....you're so lovely.....despite being a bit of a whore....."

S: "Heh, I know...I know."

He winks at her. They lie for another two or three hours, snuggled under a blanket observing the stars and talking more, learning even more about each other in between fits of kisses and giggles. Around ten or eleven at night, they go home because it's getting cold. It was definitely a date to remember, for both of them.

Chapter 19: Well....shit.

The next morning, back at Wintergreen manor. After breakfast Eleanora, Alexander and Joseph sit in the lounge, engaged in idle chatter. The door knocker raps three times and a maid answers the door.

Maid: "Mr Wintergreen. It's a Master Mornet and his..... entourage. Shall I let them in?"

J: "Yes, Julianna, let them in."

They walk into the manor and whilst his cronies stand themselves in the hall at Cedric's orders, Cedric sits himself down in the lounge with the rest of them. He looks briefly at Eleanora and notices her sitting next to Alexander, hand in hand.

C: "Well, I'll not beat about the bush Joseph. I presume you know why I'm here."

J: "Well, actually....apart from you showing up unannounced two days ago......I have absolutely no idea why you wanted to meet us. I haven't seen you in over 10 years and wasn't particularly wanting to....ever again...."

E: "Yes, do tell us why you are here and why I'm here. I'm intrigued."

C: "Well, that's good because you are quite involved in this business. I'll proceed, my mother has taken ill and I needed to find an important document about her will, she wanted to change it-"

J: "Cut to the chase Cedric, I'm a busy man you know...."

C: "Ugh.....rude....anyway, whilst searching for this document. I came across another. A very old one, it involves your father...."

J: "Oh, and what does it say?"

C: "My grandfather and your father were friends, correct?"

J: "Yes....and?"

C: "Well, it's a land treaty, a contract signed by both your father and my grandfather. The contract promises the last remaining heir of Lancelus Mornet the second, his son....which just happens to be myself....one of your daughter's hands in marriage."

J: "Excuse me?! What.....what are the terms of this contract?"

C: "I've brought a copy. Here."

Joseph takes the papers from Cedric and reads them.

I, prince Idreas in the absence of my father, King Larinus of the Western forest elves. Hereby declare promise of the hand of my fifth born grandchild on thier 21st year, to the fifth born grandchild of Magistrate Lancelus Mornetin marriage. In the trade of the land, Lornan Forest, to my people for refuge. If said grandchild is of the same gender as your fifth born, or is already married and/or with child, then the next suitable grandchild is promised instead.

Date: 9:8:1606

Signed: Prince Idreas Meadowgreen.

Signed: Lancelus Mornet. Mgst.

Witnessed by: Doreen Mornet and Queen Selaise Meadowgreen.

The conditions of the above contract are legally binding in the countries of Yilon, Idralla and Sadria. Terms can be disputed in a manner agreed by both parties, an official council notary must be present if such a dispute arises. If said bride is with child before such arrangements can be made, this contract is null and void.

J: "Fucking hell......my father fucks us over even in death. Promising an unborn grandchild to....to.....you.....and for what?! A fucking scrap of land. Ugh.... What a bloody headache.....I need to tell Louise about this since her kids may be involved too...."

The colour drains from Eleanora's face.

E: "Wait....that means.....me...."

C: "Indeed it does. I showed this to my father and he had honestly forgotten about it as it was my grandpas business....the elves have long moved on from the land. I am getting no younger and am unmarried with no heir and not only as the fifth born of Magistrate Mornet the second, I am his only surviving son, my older sister Leanne has already been married off."

J: "Wait, you actually expect me to honour this seventy year old contract?! You must be fucking mad...."

C: "My father says it's still legally binding as he is not dead and there is uncertainty about the death of Prince Idreas..."

J: "This, this contract is seventy two years old, my father has been gone for over twenty years. I won't allow this to stand, it's flimsy at best. I'll have my best people look into this."

C: "Oh, you can do whatever you like, but seeing what has become of the fifth grandchild of Prince Idreas...I fully intend to honour this."

A: "You'll not lay a single fucking fat finger on her!"

C: "Oh, I intend to lay more that just a finger on her...."

A: "You are a fucking disgusting little man....."

C: "And you should learn to respect your superiors...."

Alexander balls up his fists and starts to get up but Joseph grabs his arm and he sits back down. Meanwhile Eleanora is fixatedly staring at a spot on the rug, face as white as a sheet. Alexander puts his arm around her in comfort as she buries her head into his chest. Joseph examines the contract further.

J: "Wait, wait. Here it says the terms of the contract can be disputed via any means or method agreed by both parties, it must be overseen by a mediator or notary."

C: "Really Joseph, must we drag this out?"

J: "Yes, I will not see my daughter suffer on behalf of a contract agreement, which is flimsy at best.....and that my father made when he was younger, inexperienced and probably under duress or under pressure to get back land for the growing group of forest elves which your grandfather was responsible for evicting from said land in the first fucking place!"

C: "Oh, please! My grandfather was just doing what was best for his people at the time..."

J: "Bullshit! Don't defend his actions, his boss forced the elves off of that land when he supposedly feared for his constituents safety, also bullshit....There was no legitimate concern there, your grandfather's boss was a racist, prejudiced arse. And my father was backed into a corner and of course had to make a deal to get even a small percentage of that land back. I read the history of these lands Cedric.....do you?"

C: "Just you watch where you throw such slander Joseph. I will be staying here while this is sorted out, until the twenty first birthday of my bride to be."

Just at the moment he says this, Eleanora's face turns white again and she has to quickly lean over to her left to grab the empty coal bucket from next to the fireplace to vomit into it.

A: "Oh, great look..... You've made her ill. Nice job, you fucking prick......."

Alexander takes the bucket from her and places it on the floor, he then gets up, laces his arm under hers and helps her up. He whispers in her ear.

A: "Don't worry, your father and I will find a way out of this. Come on, let's get you back to bed."

Eleanora wordlessly nods to him and he walks her slowly out of the room. Cedric insensitively comments after them.

C: "Help her to bed only, then leave her. She's my fiancée until further notice...."

J: "Don't order him around, you pompous prick. You're just furthering the stereotype of the racist Yilonian Noble......"

C: "And? I don't care what becomes of him as long as he doesn't violate my bride before the marriage...."

Joseph mutters under his breath.

J: "It's a bit late for that..."

C: "What was that?"

J: "I said, it's a bit late for that! What are you hard of hearing as well as stupid?!"

C: "Really? In civilised conversation Joseph? Ugh I don't care. Which room is mine?"

J: "What makes you think I or indeed any of us would want you here?!"

C: "I need to protect my investment, besides as my future father in law, it's customary to offer the groom a place in his home until the wedding. Besides, I must retire for a nap before luncheon."

Joseph thinks for a moment and then offers him the smallest bedroom in the house which is three doors down and across the hall from Eleanora's room.

J: "Ugh, if you must....go upstairs, head to your right and you can have the room that is third on your right hand side."

Cedric retires to his room for a nap, he is still asleep an hour later. Meanwhile across the hall. Eleanora is feeling a little better but still upset. Alexander is lying in bed next to her and he has an idea.

A: "Hey, love. I've had an idea that might get rid of Mr. Pompous across the hall...."

E: "I'm listening...."

A: "You don't need to listen to me, just follow my lead.....wait, I hear him waking up....moving around....."

Alexander then climbs onto her straddling her waist. He undoes her corselet and leans down to kiss her neck and collarbone, continuing to kiss her as he undoes the buttons on her blouse. She gets the idea and starts gasping, a bit louder than usual as he exposes her breasts and starts licking and sucking them, soliciting a more dramatic sounding gasp followed by more heavy breathing. Alexander comes up for air for a moment just to say.

A: "Fuck, even your breathing is sexy..."

He undoes the last button on her blouse and pulls it apart, he continues to leave kisses trailing down her stomach down to her navel then further down. Starting to breathe heavier himself, he starts unbuttoning her skirt with a bit more desperation and then pulls it off of her and flings it to the floor.

E: "Ooh, I like where this is going..."

A: "Mhhm good..."

He mumbles as he trails his kisses down past her navel and starts caressing her sensitive spot with his tongue, making sure to get everything wet. He carries on until he hears her moaning, her legs start to shudder and her toes curl as she climaxes loudly. He stops and listens for a minute as he hears stirring coming from across the hall. While he is momentarily distracted, she sits up, grabs him and pushes him onto his back, straddling his hips as he looks at her with a mixture of surprise and and longing. With her unbuttoned blouse still loosely hanging off her shoulders, she leans forward and crashes her lips on his in a passionate, dizzying kiss full of hunger. She hastily undoes his belt, unbuttons his trousers and pulls them down just a bit to uncover his indiscriminate arousal as she slides herself onto him. She starts slowly gyrating her hips, moaning loudly while he does the same. Both of them are so immersed in passion that they do not notice the door creak open a little. She progressively moves faster so he's in deeper as she starts screaming in pleasure a little louder than usual for dramatic effect for another few minutes until just a look from him is enough to tell her that he wants to finish on top. So she falls forward onto him as he gently rolls them both over, he rests on his knees with his body upright, her legs are pointing up in the air as he rams into her for another few minutes, resulting in a rather loud exchange.

E: "FFUCK, YESS ALEX....YES!"

A: "Oh...yes....you like that?!"

E: "YES, I'm almost there, keep going! AAUH, GODS ALEX UHH!"

A: "Uuh, FUCK....ME!"

Explosive climax reached, sweat beading on his forehead, he flops forward onto her as she lowers her legs around him. He doesn't move for a moment as he whispers in her ear.

A: "Good idea then?

E: "Fuck yes, it's always a good idea...."

A: "Heh, definitely....

E: "So are you planning on staying inside me all day...."

A: "I actually could.....so don't tempt me.....he definitely heard that and it also means if I get you pregnant.....you won't have to marry that jerk...."

Just then, the door bursts open and Cedric marches in his nightwear. Neither Eleanora nor Alexander move an much, unashamedly, he starts gently thrusting again as she gasps in surprise.

C: "What is the meaning of this?!"

Cedric being there doesn't concern either of them, like he isn't even there. Being watched turns them both on again, Alexander smirks as he whispers in her ear.

A: "Shall we give him a little show?"

Eleanora grins deviously as she nods but says nothing as their hands entwine and he starts thrusting into her again, she moans and gasps softly. Alexander then says, between thrusts.

A: "It's called.....sex, Cedric.....you should try it.....it's wonderful....."

Alexander goes back to kissing her. After a minute or so, Cedric gets frustrated and storms out, slamming the door behind him.

E: "Well, that did the trick...Aauhh, mmmh."

A: "For now, until he orders those dodgy looking cronies of his to kill me...."

E: "Heh, oh. Keep going, right there! Mmh!"

A: "Wait, can I try something?"

E: "Mhmm. What?"

A: "I'm gonna pull out just now, do me a favour, using your hands, push those delicious tits of yours together"

E: "Mm, alright....."

So she does, with one hand on the side of each of her breasts, she pushes them together so there is a very narrow cleavage between them."

A: "This, my dear, is what a tit fuck is..."

Quickly grabbing some massage oil from the bedside table, he gently massages it between her breasts. He positions himself so he's straddling her chest then slides himself into the small gap between her breasts and starts thrusting, moaning intensely and grunting loudly for a few minutes until he reaches climax again, finishing on her neck.

A: "Mmmmhh.....aahh."

E: "Well, I wasn't expecting that...but it was strangely nice. Except for the.....expulsion on my neck, thanks for that...."

A: "Heh. Sorry.....I got a little over excited there..."

E: "Heh I can tell.....Just give me some warning when you plan on doing that next..."

A: "Oh, I will. Mi amora. Let's get you cleaned up and then we can head downstairs and see what Mr. Pompous has to say about our little show...."

E: "Heh, his face was priceless...."

A: "Let's see what my 'punishment' is for 'violating' his bride...."

E: "Yes, lets....."

They put thier clothes back on and make up the bed, she cleans herself up. Whilst they are doing that, they hear Cedric shouting at Joseph, they hear another male voice shouting, asking what is going on as he comes into the manor, it sounds like Seb. Eleanora walks over to the banister railing, which overlooks the hallway, they do not see or hear her, so she listens in.

Seb opens the door, then slams it shut to distract them.

S: "QUIET!! Papa, I heard the commotion half way up the path, what the fuck is going on in here!?"

J: "Afternoon Sebastian, you certainly like to make an entrance don't you?! Whoever was napping is certainly awake now.....Sebastian, meet Cedric Mornet....Cedric, meet my eldest, my son Sebastian...."

S: "And who exactly is Cedric?"

J: "Well, son....he arrived this morning with an apparently legitimate document claiming Eleanora's hand in marriage.....He has just imposed himself on us......"

S: "Wait, what?! Why, how......? Aaand, why does he look like his fat head is about to combust?"

C: "How dare you?! I did not impose! But whatever, I saw them, they did it on purpose!!"

Seb speaks sarcastically.

S: "Yes because my father, revered and popular Archmage of this city. Just loves having such distinguished guests like yourself staying here......."

C: "Well, thanks..... wait. You're being sarcastic.....Why don't you sod off pretty boy?!"

S: "Hey look, he recognises sarcasm, I must say I'm impressed.......and I'll do no such thing...."

J: "Cedric please, don't talk to my son like that...."

C: "He insulted me first, Gods...."

S: "So what did he see then?"

J: "He ran down the stairs like a disgruntled child to tell on Eleanora for having sex with her partner....in front of him."

C: "And they are not married!"

S: "Shit, really?! Nice one El...."

J: "First of all Cedric, get with the times, my family are not religious and do not care for such rules, as crude as it may have been. You don't have any legs to stand on here. One, she is a free young woman, she can do as or whomever she likes....Two, she has been with this man for almost three months now and is very happy with him and Three.....why on earth were you watching them?! Are you perverted?!"

C: "Oh, well that just makes this all alright doesn't it?! I have counters to your arguments...One, that doesn't matter because she's legally my fiancée....Two, he's a common cross breed, there's no way he's superior to myself, in any way.... Three, how could you possibly know that? and Four...she was making loud noises as if she was in pain, so I went to see if she was alright and was treated to that.....spectacle...."

S: "Heheh! Surely you're lying......Oh Gods, you're not still a fucking virgin are you?! How could you not recognise the sounds a woman makes in ecstasy? They do not sound like squeals of pain...."

C: "Ugh, how dare you?!"

S: "Hah, well that answers that then.....Either that or you've never properly pleased a woman.....ever..."

C: "Hhmph..."

S: "I rest my case...."

J: "Heh, maybe so son.......but still, she probably shouldn't have done it...."

S: "Nah, it's bloody brilliant....revenge, Wintergreen style. Anyway this has been absolutely riveting I can assure you.....but I'm off for a drink, excuse me....."

J: "At this time of day Sebastian, really? Just admit it, that's the only reason you ever come back here isn't it, to raid my drinks cabinet?"

S: "Why of course not, I come to see my completely non dysfunctional family....I do have some news too but it can wait until this entitled tosspot leaves you alone....later Pa, I'll be in the lounge."

J: "Ugh, that boy.....give me strength....Now, where was I?"

C: "You were telling me how you are going to deal with your daughter's obnoxiousness...."

J: "Oh yes. No I wasn't. I'll explain it again as you may have misheard....Yes, they did may have been a bit tactless but this is my daughter's home, Alexander is her lover and he is our welcome house guest. So as far as I'm concerned, they can do as they please."

C: "UUGH!"

Cedric storms off in the direction of the library in a huff. Eleanora gracefully walks down the stairs to greet her father, who is standing with his hand pinching his nose, clearly stressed.

E: "Are you alright Papa?"

J: "I'm just.....great....."

E: "No.....you're not."

J: "Alright, no I'm not.....As funny as it was.....did you really have to do that Eleanora?"

E: "Probably not, but it gave him something to think about at least, didn't it?"

J: "Possibly.....Although I honestly don't think Cedric is capable of higher thought, he's like an overgrown, spoiled child....."

E: "Yes, he is. I heard everything just now....thank you for standing up for me papa. Oh and I need to thank Seb for providing the comic relief in that situation!"

Just then, Seb walks up behind Eleanora quietly and grabs her hand, giving her a fright.

E: "Agh!"

S: "Hahah, you're still so damn easy to scare! And you are welcome El, I thought what you did was genius....I mean, it's exactly what I'd have done!"

Eleanora uses her elbow to nudge him in the ribs playfully.

E: "Cheeky....but yes, I may have thought to myself...'How would my brother deal with this?' It seems that great minds think alike dear Sebastian.....although....it was actually Alexander's idea.....although he'll come up with any excuse to-"

Seb interjects.

S: "That's enough information.....thanks, but yes definitely, I'll have to shake Alex's hand again! So.....what are we going to do about that entitled pusbag? We've got to get rid of him."

J: "We do. But I'll discuss it with you both later, he or one of his cronies may be listening....Seb, what was your news, son?"

S: "Oh, well. I just thought I'd let you both know......that It's finally happened, I've met her......the woman I'm going to marry......"

Joseph speaks in a sarcastic, condescending tone.

J: "Oh wow, really?! Because you've never said that before now have you, son?"

S: "Heh, well I have. But honestly, this time.....I just know. I honestly feel like we were made for each other.....Do you remember when I was younger, just discovering the whole love and sex thing, I asked you for advice about it?"

J: "Oh, yes....When I had to give you the talk...."

S: "Yes....well, remember that I asked you to describe what it felt like for you when you fell in love with mother? And you said you just....knew she was the one?"

J: "I do remember. I still feel that way son....."

S: "Well....I understand it completely now. This one.....she is different...."

J: "Well then if you're truly serious about it, then bring her here so we can all meet her."

S: "Alright, I will. But El and Alexander have already met her, they introduced us actually."

E: "Wait, is it Hadriana?"

S: "None other...."

He smiles softly when he hears her name.

E: "Oh wow, I'm so excited for you both. I'm not a bad matchmaker now, am I?"

S: "Wait, did you intentionally introduce us?"

E: "Heh, of course. I had seen her wares and was already interested in them....then I saw her and I thought wow....she's beautiful and I noticed that she is very much your type. So her and I got talking and I thought I'd quite like a sister like her, and then I thought if she married you, then she would actually be my sister! So....I managed to use the famous family charm to get her to come and meet you, under the guise of offering her a better place to stay."

S: "Well.....alright, you always have an ulterior motive don't you?.....Seriously though, I have a lot to thank you for. She's absolutely amazing. I mean you've already said she's beautiful, she's smart, she has a head for business, she's really fucking funny and we have a similar sense of humour.....that smile and her laugh....and we only met yesterday...."

J: "You know that much after just one day? Well, I'm impressed son, it's about time you thought about settling down."

S: "Yes, I know. I just think I was always waiting on the right person......You know, she is also a total charmer, she loves the leisures of life, she can sing beautifully...."

J: "Heh, well it sounds like you've already got it bad haven't you? As happy as I am to hear some good news, I have the more pressing issue of figuring out how to get your sister out of this engagement...."

S: "Yep I understand. On you go, I'll speak to you later, I'll try and help if I can......and I'll bring Hadriana with me another day.....See you later pa."

J: "Yes, do that....I look forward to meeting her.....But yes, I'll see you later son. Eleanora....please be careful, I don't know what rights this man has over you so just try not piss him off too much, I don't want you getting hurt."

E: "Alright. I'll be careful, I promise papa.....although if he hurts me.....Seb and Alexander will happily kill him.....besides, I can paralyze him with just a flick of my just hand, remember?"

J: "Yes....I know......you can stick up for yourself.....right I'm off to write some urgent letters, excuse me sweetheart...."

With that, he quickly strides off towards his study and sharply closes the door behind him.

S: "Well, this is quite the issue you have here...."

E: "Yes.....understatement.....not fun. I'm hoping that we can figure out something. The contract did say that the terms can be disputed in way agreed on by both parties and overseen by a notary or officiate of city hall....Or I'm automatically excused from it if I was either married before the engagement or if I'm pregnant....."

S: "Well that's it, just go and have a ton of sex, having a child with Alexander wouldn't be such a bad thing would it?"

E: "Not necessarily....It's just too soon after Adam, I'm not sure I want to go through all of that again....I have bad luck with these things.....Ugh, I don't know......if it happens, it happens I won't be upset about it but I'd rather not deal with that just now....."

S: "Yes, I understand. Don't worry. We'll sort something out."

He reaches both arms out and pulls her into a comforting, reassuring hug, softly stroking her hair. She pulls away after a minute or so.

E: "Thanks Seb, It's good to know you're always there for me, no matter how many times I'm screwed over by this whole love business and well....everything....you truly are the best big brother....."

S: "Of course I am! Heh, I wouldn't be the best brother ever if I wasn't there for you now, would I?"

She pulls him into another quick hug for a few seconds, then lets go again.

E: "Heh, yes you really are. I think I'd have gone mad if not for you."

S: "Wait I can't claim credit for that, you were mad a long time ago. I mean coming from this family, who wouldn't be at least a little bit mad?"

She elbows him in the side again, a bit harder this time.

S: "Hey, hey! No need for physical violence El. I'm just speaking the truth...."

He winks at her with a cheeky grin.

E: "Oh come on, you're a big strong blacksmith, surely you can take it. Or are you too much of a wimp to take an elbow to the ribs from your little sister?!"

Feigning being affronted by that comment. He grabs her around the waist picks her up, like she weighs nothing and slings her over his shoulder, holding her there as she lightly punches his back, legs flailing somewhat

S: "Well.....little sister, I'll just leave you there.....shall I?"

E: "Alright, alright! I concede defeat.....put me down!"

S: "Ah, ah, ah. What's the magic word?"

That gives Eleanora an idea, she closes her eyes for a second, opening them as they glow lilac and she presses her finger to his back letting a light pulse of spark go.

E: "Magic!"

S: "Aagh! Right, right I get it....Don't shock me into oblivion eh? I'll put you down. There. Trust you to cheat...."

E: "Well, you said the magic word...."

S: "Shit, fine.....we'll call it a draw. But just remember this, you might be able to shoot lightning from your hands but I can control actual lightning in the sky....."

E: "Heh, yes Mr. Tempest..."

He flexes his arms dramatically at that comment.

S: "And don't you forget it!"

E: "Ugh, show off......Love you Seb, don't ever change!"

S: "Oh, don't worry about that, I won't......love you too El."

They flop down to sit on the floor, leaning against the wall.

E: "Soo, did anything else happen after we left the other night?"

S: "Oh, maybe...."

E: "It did didn't it?! Tell me, juicy details included!"

S: "Heh, well if you insist....After you guys left, we sat and talked for an hour or so.....I was feeling a bit stressed about just.....everything and without knowing much about me at all, her words made me feel better about it all, like she had known me for years, it was a great feeling."

E: "Oh wow, could it be that my brother, the unashamed ladies man, is actually falling in love?"

S: "Heh, maybe. All I know is that I can't stop thinking about her......I took her out on a day long date yesterday, it was wonderful...."

E: "Aw, that's adorable....I'm truly happy for you....did anything else happen?"

S: "You won't stop digging will you, am I not entitled to a private life?"

E: "Of course not, this is too good!"

S: "Ugh fine. So, I was telling her about my inability to comprehend some of the figures and just the whole financial side of things of running a business..."

E: "Yes, and?"

S: "Well, she offered to take a look at it for me. She is a business college graduate so she knows what she's doing, so we go through the back into my office to look at the ledger to see if she can make head nor tails of it....She does and she figured it out in minutes.....made me feel a little stupid but also a little awestruck, it seems I think intelligence is very attractive..."

E: "Oh, well. You're more like me than you realise, you know? Carry on then."

S: "Heh, well. She also likes a drink, she asked if I had any drink at all at the shop.... I said I did, apparently it helps her concentrate....So, I cracked open my huge bottle of cherry wine and we started the bottle whilst she was looking over the books. We keep pouring glass after glass until she just grabs the bottle and downs most of it, 'this stuff is bloody nice and strong!' she said..."

E: "Hah, just like you. You two are meant for each other...."

S: "Heh, well it turns out she can give me a run for my money! So after that, she's done looking at the books....she grabs the bottle and tells me to open my mouth. She pours the rest of the bottle in to my mouth and I honestly almost choked on it! But we felt pretty damn pissed after that. She totally surprised me by practically jumping on me, straddling me on my chair.....telling me that she gets very horny when she's drunk...."

E: "Oh, my......"

S: "Exactly.....it's hard to miss a hint like that....how do you turn away an offer like that....right?!"

E: "You can't, especially you can't....I think you are actually physically incapable of rejecting sex...."

S: "Well, I'll redeem myself slightly here, I did initially turn her down, saying I wanted to get to know her better. But she was having none of it, she said it was sweet but insisted that she wanted me, right there and then."

E: "Oooh, did you turn her down again then?"

S: "Nah, I figured that would be a terrible waste, so I agreed and we kissed, one of the hottest and most insistent kisses I've ever had if I'm absolutely honest....After a few more of them, she asked me to strip off for her and obviously being the perfect specimen that I am, I obliged. Then she jumped on me and I nailed her, against up the wall until she insisted I fuck her on my desk, said it had been a fantasy of hers so again I obliged and honestly....it was hands down the best I've ever had..."

E: "Aw, my big brother is growing up.......it's about time...."

S: "Oh, haha....cheeky sod. But yes, it just feels....right....then yesterday....we woke up together, she stayed in my bed that night. We talked and of course, fucked a couple of times....then I took her to Antonio's for lunch where we stayed all afternoon. Took her for a horseback ride up my favourite hill in the evening to watch the sunset while eating gingerbread, except instead of watching the sunset....she literally jumped on me again......then after, we just layed, cuddled and spoke for hours after that.....an absolutely perfect day....."

E: "Aw, you big romantic! Well, I hope you two are happy together and that it blossoms into something more....."

S: "So do I El....so do I."

E: "It seems very quick really. But Alexander and I are the same, it just feels right......"

He puts his arm around her shoulder and pulls her in for a hug. Meanwhile, Alexander is in the bedroom still, he receives a letter in the usual way, except it's a puff of grey smoke not blue. He opens it with a little dread.

S.T.

I know. Everything. You swore you wouldn't cock this up. But you've severely jeopardised everything. Explain yourself.

Send a progress report with your explanation.

A.

A: 'Shit, shit, shit. She did find out. I knew contacting Dom was a bad idea....fuck! Better write back....'

A.

I confess.

She knows what I do, I was ambushed when she was with me, by cronies of D, no doubt you'll likely be hearing from D soon, I left an antagonising note on his lackey. I know I probably should have killed him but I just couldn't, you know I just love to piss off that guy.

After that I had to explain my work to her, I couldn't lie about the attack, she's been through enough.

Adam contacted her by letter a couple of days ago, no evidence of where he was or is currently. Letter was purposely enchanted so as to not be traced, will try and obtain it to be sent to you for examination.

I have fallen for her hard, mother. I want to be with her and stay here with her. Once you know what you need, I'm not coming back.

S.T.

A: 'Gods....did I really just stand up to my mother and resign? She is a professional assassin and spy, with thousands of other assassins and spies at her disposal......Fuck I have got it bad.....'

He folds up the letter, seals it with only wax and no seal stamp. Then sends it away in a puff of grey smoke.

A: 'Better head downstairs or they'll think something has happened to me.'

He goes downstairs to see Seb and Eleanora sitting on the floor talking.

A: "Why are you both on the floor?"

S: "Hello to you too Alexander..."

A: "Heh, sorry. Afternoon, Seb. But really, why are you both on the floor?"

E: "Oh, it's something we have always done, when we were kids, we sat here and talked everything out. Nothing has changed."

S: "Yeah, don't ask why we sit here specifically. It just happened one day and it just.....became habit I suppose."

Alexander plops down onto the floor next to Eleanora.

A: "Do you mind me asking what I've missed?"

S: "Not at all, you missed me telling my sister and father that I think I'm falling in love with Hadriana."

A: "Oh, wow. That was quick..."

S: "Well I do work fast, what can I say?"

A: "Well I'm happy for you, she seems really nice.....and she is pretty gorgeous. No offense mi amora."

E: "Heh, none taken. You're right, she is beautiful."

S: "Oh, I know....She said the same about you by the way.....both of you...."

E: "Who, me?"

S: "Yes, she's bisexual. She actually admitted that's why she was so friendly with you initially...."

E: "Oh, well. I'm quite flattered actually. Well Alexander, seems like you've got twice as much competition now...."

S: "She said Alexander was pretty sexy too. She was even more approving of him than of you...."

Alexander nudges and winks at Eleanora.

A: "Well. I'm flattered also, I've heard that a billion times however....You're not the only dashing rogue here Seb.....I'm probably more dashing and roguish too if I'm absolutely honest...."

He winks at Seb too.

S: "Gods, is this what it feels like to have an older brother El?"

E: "Heh, yes."

S: "Heh, I wouldn't mind having a big brother actually.....it sometimes sucks balls being the eldest child, so many responsibilities are piled on you."

A: "Well......if Eleanora eventually agrees to marry me. I will be your big brother in law. Would that suit you?"

S: "Oh, so you're already talking marriage now are you?"

A: "Well I've mentioned it once or twice...."

E: "I know but.....I'd like to wait a bit longer for that to be honest."

A: "And I'll wait as long as it takes, mi amora."

He hugs her in, then leans over and kisses her forehead.

S: "Aw, it's kinda cute really. Although I don't exactly enjoy being a third wheel...."

E: "Oh shush you. So....what the fuck am I going to do about this legal engagement shit? Obviously, I don't want to do it...."

A: "Yes, we need to get rid of that fat little prick....."

S: "Well, Alex. I suggested that you knock up my sister....if she's 'with child' she's automatically excused from it."

A: "Oh. Right, well....if that happens, then it happens. I don't want to do that deliberately...."

E: "Nor do I...."

S: "Understandable considering......recent circumstances, what else then?"

A: "Wait what about a duel? Or another contest of combat, perhaps archery, hunting or....a sword fight?"

S: "....That might work...."

E: "No, I don't want either of you getting hurt on my account..."

A: "Oh, come on. You've seen me in training for combat before. And your brother is a supposed champion archer. What could go wrong?"

E: "Em, that Cedric is actually good at either of those things...."

A: "Oh please....He's a forty-something, podgy overly pampered and probably very unfit noble prick....."

S: "Yeah I doubt it. He's all bluster. He'll claim to be better than us both but I'm willing to bet gold that he's not trained a day in his life....."

A: "Yes, that's it. Let's go and speak to your father."

S: "Alright, after you...."

E: "Ugh, fine, If you're sure...."

They all get up and walk to Joseph's study. Seb knocks on the door and they wait for an answer.

Chapter 20: A challenge.

The three of them stand outside of Joseph's study door, waiting for a response. He calls them in after a minute or so.

J: "Oh, hello folks....Was there something you needed?"

S: "Yes, but first. Eleanora or Papa, are there any spells you can do, just to make sure that the podgy ponce doesn't spy on us?"

E: "There is something. But I must fetch Tundra. I'll be back in a second....."

She leaves the room to go and fetch the Tundra their pure white, pet house cat whom is sleeping peacefully on Eleanora's bed. She picks Tundra up, much to the cat's dismay, she meows as if to say 'Why did you wake me up?!' Eleanora, cuddling her, carries her back into the study.

E: "I can perform a quick sensory link spell, it's a beast master skill. I will take over the brain of the cat temporarily to control, what she does, where she goes, what she sees and what she hears and relay it back to you. I could send her into Cedric's room later on to spy on him and his cronies too."

She sits Tundra on her lap and lightly places her hand on the cat's head. They both close thier eyes and Eleanora chants.

E: "Aistru ceadfach."

Both of thier eyes glow white for a few moments, then Tundra hops off of Eleanora's lap onto the floor to wander off into the hallway with her tail in the air.

S: "Did....that work?"

E: "Yes, I can see what she sees. It's a strange sensation though. Like one of my eyes sees what I see now but my other eye sees what she sees. If I wish to isolate one or the other, I need to cover up or close the eye to in order to eliminate that line of sight."

A: "That's remarkable......extraordinary...........does it work the same way so you can hear what she hears too?"

E: "Yes. It seems that right now, my left eye and ear are connected to the cat."

J: "I am impressed, sweetheart. Alexander is right, it's extraordinary. I almost wish I had similar abilities.....almost.... but then I'd be unstoppable, so perhaps not...."

He glares at Seb to emphasise his point.

S: "Ugh, I know, I know. Tempest powers are extremely powerful...blah de blah....but alas we did not come to argue about me.....for a change...."

A: "No we did not.....We came to put forward a suggestion about how we can get Eleanora out of this engagement."

J: "Oh? Then do tell, I've already mirror scryed to my notary contact in City hall, he and his associate will oversee the matter. They owe me a favour, I'll not elaborate as to why.....and I've sent a magical letter to Magistrate Mornet to ask about all of this shit.....he's a wizard too so he'll respond quickly....."

S: "So, we suggest a duel. Or a contest of one on one combat with one back up to serve for you if you are injured. The rules are clear, if Cedric wins, the engagement stands until we find another way out of it, if he loses, Eleanora is free of him completely."

A: "Naturally, as her partner. I volunteer myself for this task, with Sebastian as my back up if I am injured in any way.

S: "Wait, no. I should do it, that way, on the off chance that Cedric wins. You need to be physically capable of.....y'know....."

A: "No....what?"

S: "Ugh dammit. Sex, you need to be able to shag her stupid in the hope of a pregnancy"

J: "Ugh. Must you talk like that in front of me?"

S: "I'm afraid it's necessary papa. Eleanora getting pregnant is pretty much our only back up solution should this duel not work."

E: "It's fine, just talk about my womb like it's a common commodity.......Wait, Shit. Incoming.....Cedric is headed this way. Be quiet for a few minutes so he doesn't hear anything and just walks past..."

They wait a moment. She Whispers.

E: "Crap, he's going to knock on the door...."

They hear one knock on the door and then Cedric just walks in, making his presence known.

C: "Joseph, it's imperative that I-"

He glances around the room quickly, appearing to not care, then carries on.

C: "Speak with you.....I didn't realise you already had company..."

J: "Well, if you had knocked and waited for more than a few seconds like a polite person.... you would have known...."

C: "Apologies for my rudeness I-"

S: "Wait, you're actually apologising for something?! Well, I was not expecting that....."

A: "Neither was I....."

C: "Do with it what you will, I'm not the villain I've been made out to be....."

S: "No, you're a spoiled child who throws a tantrum whenever he doesn't get his own way....."

C: "Alright, fine.....maybe I overreacted....I know when I'm beat...."

J: "Good to know, I'm glad you've taken time to reflect on your actions Cedric. We wanted to speak to you anyway, so you barging in here was actually quite fortunate."

C: "What do you want?"

Seb stands up and walks over to Cedric and faces him down with a serious expression and somewhat intimidating posture, he towers over him. It appears that Cedric is uncomfortable with that so he raises his head a bit more and stands on the balls of his feet to appear taller. It makes little difference though.

S: "I saw that....you don't need to make yourself look taller little man....no one would be intimidated by you, even if you marched in here in full plate armour, brandishing a fucking massive battle-axe....."

C: "I did nothing of the sort....So what are you doing Joseph? Sending your son to dispose of me?"

J: "Of course not..."

C: "Mmhmm, because it doesn't look like that at all...."

S: "Heh, so he does understand sarcasm....."

Seb looks him in the eye wordless, pulls out one of his leather gauntlets from his breast pocket, flicks it in the air and then ceremoniously throws it to the floor.

S: "I, Sebastian Wintergreen challenge you, Cedric Mornet, to single combat, to dispute the terms on the forced and unwanted engagement to my sister."

C: "Now, now. There's no need to be so brash..."

S: "Oh, so as well as being a pompous blaggard, you're a coward too?"

C: "Ugh, alright.......fine. What are your terms?"

S: "A duel of sorts, or contest of combat. We are the wounded party, so traditionally, we choose the type of combat and weapons."

C: "Well, that's hardly fair now is it?"

J: "It's perfectly fair, you march into my home, demanding that my twenty year old daughter fulfil a seventy two year old contract. Which your grandfather, who is long dead, wrote up and your father has probably completely forgotten that it even existed. Then you impose yourself-"

C: "Fine, fine. You've made your point....What do you propose?"

S: "I propose an archery contest firstly. Same bow, same arrows, so neither of us have an obvious advantage. We each get our own target. Six arrows each. We'll use a traditional competition target board with 5 rings, where the centre ring is worth 20 points, decreasing by 5 points each time until the outermost ring, which is worth only 1 point. Whomever scores the most points, with 6 arrows, wins."

C: "Alright.....that's fine.....what else though? You said firstly...."

S: "Yes, the second challenge is single, no armour combat with rapiers. The rules are simple, no swipes below the belt and the first to either draw blood three times or completely disarm and floor or restrain thier opponent, wins."

C: "Heh, right. Sounds simple enough....."

His voice starts to shake. Seb bends down a little to Cedric's eye level and moves closer to him so he's only an inch from his face and whispers in a slightly threatening manner.

S: "Nervous.....Little man....?"

Seb then stands back up to full height, puffs out his chest a little in a somewhat dramatic manner and flips his slightly messy chestnut hair out of his face. He smirks deviously at Cedric then, turns to go and sit down again.

S: "Well, now that's sorted. When shall we organise this event? I obviously want an audience...."

C: "Well I don't! This could potentially be very embarrassing...."

A: Yes....for you...."

C: "What am I supposed to do? I'm backed into a corner here..."

S: "Well, you could just tear up the contract....."

C: "Or, Eleanora could just agree and we can all live happily."

E: "You mean you can live happily. I'd be miserable stuck with you....So no, not happening."

S: "What a näive fool, thinking my sister would just back down."

C: "And why not? She's a woman and an elf. She is no better than a slave or a common harlot. Her opinion does not count...."

J: "Excuse me, what did you just say about my daughter?!"

S: "Wait, so you're a privileged prick who's racist and sexist? Well, no fucking wonder you're still a virgin...."

C: "How dare you! I'm entitled to my opinions...."

A: "Not when they're completely fucking wrong, you're not! Eleanora is a beautiful, strong, smart young woman who deserves respect. You demean your entire fucking family and pure blooded humans...."

E: "That won't convince someone like him.....I have nothing to prove to this.....pathetic waste of good air...."

J: "That's enough...Cedric, leave this room. Now. before one of us does something we may regret."

A: "Yes, please do...."

C: "Don't you dare talk to me like that you half-breed!"

In reaction to that comment. Alexander abruptly stands up to his full height, marches three strides to Cedric. He grabs the collar of Cedric's doublet with one hand, lifts him up off the ground about two feet and pushes him up against the wall. He speaks in an aggressive, threatening tone

A: "You don't know when to stop do you?! You're really lucky it's not me you're duelling against, little man. I'd happily kill you....without a second thought. Get the fuck out of here. Now!"

Alexander then drops him where he stands and Cedric stumbles slightly as he scrambles to get out of the door quickly.

A: "What an absolute shit pile of a man....Kio malbona viro!"

E: "Heh yes, definitely! I honestly don't think he could be any more repugnant if he tried......"

S: "Fuck, I'd happily kill him too. Might strengthen the gene pool...."

Seb notices Eleanora starting to look a bit pale.

S: "What's up? You look a bit pale, even for you......."

E: "Don't know.....just stressed I think...."

S: "Sorry for all the stress on that dickheads behalf. Hopefully this competition will get rid of that bloated bastard. Once and for all..."

A: "Are you feeling alright?"

E: "I....no I'm not feeling too great actually......I must excuse myself, I seem to suddenly have a headache and I'm feeling a nauseous too. I....think I need to lie down....."

J: "Of course sweetheart. Your brother and I will sort the rest of this out. You go for a lie down..."

S: "Yeah, feel better soon El....."

With that, she gets up and leaves the room taking quick steps down the stairs. Alexander hears where she is going and follows her, he catches her wrist just before she makes it out of the front door.

E: "Please, let me go....I must....."

He lets her go and she runs out into the garden. She vomits twice on the grass whilst grasping at her stomach. Alexander rushes over to her and she faints and falls backwards against him, so he picks her up with both arms and carries her back into the house. He carries her to her bed and lays her down on it, then he goes to the wash basin to dampen a cloth to press to her head. She opens her eyes again.

A: "What happened there?! Are you alright?! I was fucking terrified!"

E: "I....don't know. I really don't feel well at all.....wait.....grab me that bucket.....quickly.....please...."

He passes her the bucket and she throws up again into it.

A: "You must rest, mi amora. This stress is making you very ill. I'll stay with you if you need me..."

E: "Uhgh, yes....please do....it will probably pass as it did this morning. But, oh Gods.....What if there's something other than just stress causing this? I'm worried, Alexander...."

A: "Try not to worry too much my love, that may make things worse....Just lay back and try to sleep."

E: "Alright, but only if you stay here with me...."

A: "I shall. I will go and get a book to read while you rest."

She quickly falls asleep as Alexander settles down next to her to read a book. He lets her sleep for a couple of hours before waking her up for dinner. The rest of that evening passes uneventfully. Eleanora and Alexander go to dinner, Seb leaves after having dinner with them, to run a few errands. Cedric is not there much to thier relief. They retire to the bedroom after dinner where Eleanora falls asleep almost straight away, she wakes up within an hour to essentially throw up her dinner, Alexander fetches her some water and some dry bread to nibble on. Meanwhile, once he's done in town, Seb goes back to his house to find that Hadriana had cooked dinner for them both. He is pleasantly surprised.

S: "Hey, you didn't need to do this....."

She speaks in a joking manner.

H: "Oh alright, fine then. I'll just eat it all myself...."

S: "Heh, it's called a turn of phrase....."

H: "Heh, obviously...."

Without another word. He grabs her arm and pulls her in for a sweet kiss. She revels in it, then he pulls away.

S: "What I meant was, it was sweet of you, thank you...."

H: "Heh, I know. Don't worry....I got a kiss out of it, so I'm happy."

S: "Oh, well if that's all you wanted, you should have just said..."

He says as he pulls her in tighter with his hands on her hips. He gives her another kiss, more passionate and wanting than the last. He breaks away.

S: "You know, I've only known you for a couple of days. But I honestly really missed you today. I'm.....not used to this....."

H: "Aw, has the ladies' man gone all soft because of little ol' me?"

He raises an eyebrow with a slight smirk.

S: "Oh.....I could never go soft on you...."

H: "Cheeky....but I like that thought...."

S: "Do you now?"

H: "Mmhmm."

He pulls her in close again, this time, planting a searing kiss on her lips, trailing down her neck to her collarbone. He stops for a moment to say.

S: "I....think I'd like something else for dinner...."

H: "Oh? And what might that be?"

He doesn't answer as he deftly scoops her up in both of his arms and carries her the 20 feet upstairs to the bedroom, he lays her softly on the bed and climbs on himself, he is on all fours, hovering above her.

H: "Ah....I get it now..."

He lightly presses a finger to her lips.

S: "Shh, just kiss me..."

He kisses her passionately, all the while his skilled hands are undoing the buttons on her blue satin blouse. Once her blouse is open, he starts to move downwards leaving kisses on her neck, behind her ears then down to her collarbone, stopping for a few minutes to kiss and lightly caress her breasts, then leaning back so he's resting on his knees, just to admire the view. Speaking slightly breathlessly.

S: "Your tits are....just magnificent..."

She grins proudly.

H: "Why, thank you..."

He then carries on kissing her breasts while his hands are now unbuttoning her skirt.

H: "Mm, you're quite the multitasker aren't you?"

S: "I've had plenty of practice...."

Once her skirt is undone. He pulls it down, then teases the hemline of her underwear with his finger whilst kissing her belly button, drawing ever downwards.

H: "Mmhm, what are you going to do with those?"

S: "This..."

He pulls her underwear down, then delves his tongue down in between her legs, flicking her sensitive spot gently but firmly enjoy to solicit a moan. He comes back up for air for a few moments to say.

S: "Can you raise your knees and spread your legs apart a little more please?"

H: "Only if you carry on doing that...."

S: "Heh, I promise...."

So she bends her knees up slightly and splits her legs apart, he moves himself between them, then delves his tongue back onto her. Whilst doing this, he also crooks two fingers slightly and slides them inside her, in a gentle, thrusting motion. He mumbles

S: "Mmh, I love how wet I can make you...."

H: "Mmmh!"

S: "It makes me really fucking hard...."

He continues with his tongue and his finger for another few minutes until her legs vibrate, her toes curl and she screams in ecstasy.

H: "Aahhm...oh Gods.....Ahmmmmh!"

S: "Did you like that then?"

H: "Mhhmmm..."

She aggressively grabs the collar of his shirt with both hands for a demanding kiss, she whispers in his ear.

H: "I want....you.....now!"

S: "You don't have to ask me twice..."

H: "I wasn't asking...."

He raises an eyebrow with a seductive smirk then undoes his belt, whips it out of his trousers and tosses it to the floor. He quickly undoes the buttons on his trousers pulling them down a bit, just enough. Leaning over her, he kisses her breasts again, lightly sucking on her nipples before positioning himself. He easily slides into her, soliciting a pleasured gasp. He only needs a few minutes until they both explode in climax, she screams again in absolute bliss.

S: "Uuhh, mmmh. That was....amazing....quick, but amazing...."

H: "Fuck yes! It was quite quick, but I got there again so I'm not complaining...."

S: "Heh, I'm sorry.....I was just....very excited....I knew I wasn't going to last long...."

H: "Again, it's all good. We both got there intensely, so....I don't mind...."

S: "Well, I'll take it as a compliment then....."

He climbs off of her and sits on the edge of the bed.

S: "Random change of subject, I wonder, would you mind coming to meet my father tomorrow?"

H: "Oh, well....This is moving really quickly...."

S: "If you don't want to, then it's alright. I just....wanted to show you off is all...."

H: "Oh, deary. I'm not a prize to be shown off. It'll come, in time..."

S: "I know....It's just..."

H: "You want his approval, don't you?"

S: "Maybe....yes? I don't know.....I've just been so used to him not approving of most of my life. I just want to show him that I can be serious about something....that I can make some good decisions...."

H: "You do realise that that is his problem, not yours right?"

S: "Yes....but I suppose, I've always had a fear of failure.... and I've apparently been failing for most of my life....I just want one thing to go right, just one...."

H: "Aw aren't you sweet? It will, if we both want it to.... You need to have more faith in yourself! I've only known you a couple of days and I can already tell that you're a good person. I love that you're an idealist, you live and love in the moment. Under that cocky, self absorbed façade, you're a sweet soul who just wants to be understood.

S: "It's not all a façade, I do like myself. I just....hate that I seem to require so much validation. I usually get that by sleeping around. I mean yeah, it's very fun in the moment but it leaves you feeling empty....."

H: "Heh, I understand. My brother Leto is a bit like that...."

S: "Is he the one who isn't a sage?"

H: "Yes, he was just like you. Not feeling like he ever measured up to Adi, he slept around a lot...seeking the same validation that I assume you do."

S: "Is he still like that now?"

H: "Sometimes, but the tension has between them seems to have dissipated....You know.....Luis was a bit.....adventurous too.

S: "He was? Your literal angel of a big brother?"

H: "Yes, he was....maybe not as bad as you....but close enough. I think he's the example Leto tried to follow....."

S: "Luis sounds like a wonderful person. Although, the person you describe sounds like a more adventurous version of my cousin Andreas....That man is....physically a God and has the personality of an angel...."

H: "Hm, is he possibly too good to be true too? You must introduce him to me then, just so I can find that out....."

S: "Oh, I will. But down girl! He's married, so you can look but don't touch, alright? Heheh."

She puts on a faux sad face.

H: "Aw, fine.....so why were you at your papas place today then?"

S: "Shit, well.....Eleanora is in a bit of a bind you see..."

H: "Oh, is she alright?"

S: "I think so.....we need to get her out of a forced engagement.

H: "Oh, shit."

S: "Heh, yes. This little prick called Cedric has decided to enforce a legally binding engagement on my sister with a contract that was drawn up over seventy years ago...."

H: "For fucks sake......Did you come up with anything?"

S: "Yes, a duel.....of sorts. An archery contest then a single armed combat with rapiers. Naturally, I volunteered myself as I am highly skilled at both of these things."

H: "What? Why? Was Alexander not there?"

S: "He was, but I insisted. On the off chance that I lose. He needs to be able to knock up my sister.....if she isn't already....."

H: "Shit, is there no way of finding that out? So this can all be avoided?"

S: "I'm not sure. My aunt Louise could use her detect life spell but it doesn't always work, she used it successfully on her daughter in law, Andreas' wife. They're due a baby very soon."

H: "That sounds remarkable but it's also a little disconcerting....to know such magics exist....."

S: "Yes I know. It's a demonic warlock ability, so its quite rare, or so I'm told."

H: "That makes sense, but still....poor Eleanora...."

S: "I know, she's not exactly feeling great either......"

H: "Oh no, what's wrong with her?"

S: "Sickness, nausea....feeling faint.....headaches and a slight fever."

H: "Not good, sounds like all of the stress she's endured for the past few months is starting to take its toll.....give her a hug for me when you next see her?"

S: "I will...."

H: "Definitely......right, subject change.....and I apologise but I was curious......I'd like to know more about your mother, only if you're ready to tell of course..."

S: "Oh, well I suppose it's only fair....you did open up to me about your brother."

H: "Go on....go ahead. What was her name?"

S: "Seraphina, she was a high elf priestess in training when she met my father."

H: "Well I'm intrigued, what did she look like if you can remember?"

S: "Oh, of course I can....I'm the eldest so I have more memories of her, it's sad that Eleanora can barely remember what she looked like.....She had light golden skin, an angular but striking face covered with freckles. Her eyes were huge and they were dark green in the centre radiating into reddish amber and she had impossibly long, flame red hair. It would, however, be easier to just get you to imagine Eleanora with long red hair and darker skin. Facially and height wise, El is almost an exact double of her, just more....human looking."

H: "She sounds beautiful Seb, I wish I could have gotten to meet her."

S: "Yeah.....me too. I think she would have liked you."

He suddenly goes quiet and starts staring into space, then his eyes start to glass over with tears as he bows his head in an attempt to hide it. She notices and places her hand softly on his shoulder in order to comfort him.

H: "You don't need to hide it Seb. I understand completely, talking about a lost loved one is painful but I'm glad you shared that with me."

He sniffles, wipes his nose then smiles a little.

S: "I know, I just....hate feeling that way, like its a weakness....something I shouldn't do."

H: "Crying over a lost mother is completely normal and don't let anyone tell you otherwise alright? Besides, you're keeping her memory alive just by talking about her."

S: "Alright, that's a good point..... I'll not try and be the strong silent type then."

H: "Oh dear Gods no! I like a man who isn't afraid to show his emotions, it's.....sexy."

Seb wipes his eyes and chuckles.

S: "Oh it is, is it? Hmm....Well, do you know what I think is really sexy?"

H: "Hm.... me?"

S: "Well obviously...."

He kisses her cheek.

S: "Seriously though, it's your accent, it's beautiful. And when you speak Sadrian, ahh, what a turn on....."

H: "Oh, you mean like this? Akiru tiun belan fundon ?i tie, vi bela viro!" (Get that beautiful butt over here you gorgeous man!)

S: "Oh. Yes. Just like that....beautiful......the only words I made out there were gorgeous and man so....thank you."

H: "I might not have been talking about you, my dear."

Seb leans over and whispers in her ear.

S: "Oh but you were, I know you were."

H: "Oh you do, do you?"

S: "Yep, I mean...."

He gestures around himself to the empty room

S: "Do you see any other gorgeous men in here??"

H: "I mean, there's Rusty, he's a pretty gorgeous dog....."

S: "Yeah but he's a dog, not a man. So...."

She rolls her eyes and he tackles her onto the couch, they almost forget about dinner after an hour or so....

S: "Shit! Food....."

H: "Crap, I forgot about dinner....."

S: "I was too busy devouring you that I completely forgot about it too. Come on, it'll be cold but I bet it'll still taste good."

H: "Of course, it's an oven baked flat dough base topped with tomato sauce, cheese, tomatoes and peppers. And honestly.....it tastes even better cold...."

S: "Well it certainly smells good...."

She serves up the pizza like bread and takes it to the table. She cuts it in half. He takes a bite and smiles.

S: "This....is heavenly......is it a Sadrian dish too?"

H: "None other, it's one of my favourites actually..."

S: "Mmh, I can see and taste why.....so.....like I did with you last night, sharing one of my favourite things with you, you're doing the same? Aww."

H: "Heh, yes exactly.....food is one of the best ways to someone's heart you know?"

S: "Oh I do, hence the gingerbread...."

They enjoy the rest of their dinner, then head back over to the couch. They cuddle for the rest of the night with Rusty curled up, sleeping in front of the fireplace.

Chapter 21: Breakfast and some dirty tricks.

Seb wakes up the next day with Hadriana in his arms and he just looks at her for a few minutes, admiring the little dimples on her soft round cheeks and her long eyelashes, fluttering as she sleeps, he thinks to himself about how he'd been so lucky to have met her.

S: 'She's so striking, so beautiful, even when she sleeps. She's a creative, intelligent, witty, strong willed, passionate, irresistibly sexy, talented and fascinating woman. I want to know everything about her.....I want to spend every waking moment with her......I might even want to settle down with her........Fuck, what have you done to me? How have you had such an effect on me in such a short time? Is this what falling in love feels like? If it is......then I like it. I think I finally understand how papa felt about mother....'

He strokes a stray strand of hair from her face and she wrinkles her button nose in response, she doesn't stir though. He regretted having to move so as not to disturb her. She looked so peaceful, beautiful. He gets up and moves himself to sit upright. She stirs and rubs her eyes then she stretches and sighs groggily, she speaks in a slightly croaky voice.

H: "Heeey......I was comfy......"

Seb smiles and softly bats a pillow in her face, then laughs as she rubs her cheek where it hit.

S: "Heh, that woke you up didn't it?"

She flops backwards and curls up again.

H: "Nope, no. I'm not moving...."

S: "You know, I'd happily lay there all day with you but I've got an archery contest to win in a matter of hours...."

She sits up and gives him a confused look and rubs her eyes, then her head.

H: "Archery contest?"

S: "Wait, shit I didn't really tell you much about it, did I? Sorry! We got pretty.....erm....carried away last night...."

H: "Mhmm and it was goooood....."

Still drowsy, she emphatically flops herself back down again.

S: "Hah, you really aren't a morning person, are you?"

She is now lying with her face nuzzled into a pillow, so her words are slightly muffled.

H: "Nnnooo...."

S: "Well honestly, neither am I, but needs must....etcetera, etcetera...."

She looks up at him again.

H: "Stop using big words please, I need my morning tea before I do anything...."

S: "Alright, so do I.....I'll heat up the water now it'll be about five minutes. Try to keep an eye on it please, while I go and freshen up."

H: "Hhmpphh, making me move....ugh...."

S: "Oh shush you drama queen.... I'll be five minutes....do that and I'll make you some breakfast..."

She emphatically groans but then gets up to go watch the stove. Seb dashes quickly upstairs, giving her time to reflect as she thinks to herself.

H: 'Was it a good idea to skip straight to the sex with him? Probably not.....but fuck, he's such a beautiful person. I think I need to control myself better from now on.....how the fuck did I manage to find an absolutely gorgeous, adorable, talented and insanely attractive guy who also just happened to be renting out a room? Luck is definitely on my side here, I mean, he takes me on a wonderful, romantic date, he even makes tea in the morning and offered to make me breakfast, is this too good to be true? Probably......but I'm enjoying the ride so far....'

Just as she finishes that train of thought, the water comes to a boil. She shouts up the stairs.

H: "SEBASTIAN?!"

S: "WHAT?"

H: "THE WATER IS BOILING, WHERE ARE YOUR TEA LEAVES AND CUPS?"

S: "SECOND CUPBOARD ON THE RIGHT. AND FIRST CUPBOARD ON THE RIGHT."

H: "THANKS, FOUND THEM!"

S: "GREAT, I'LL BE DOWN IN A MINUTE, MAKE ME A RED LEAF ONE IF YOU COULD, STRONG WITH ONE SUGAR PLEASE?"

H: "WILL DO."

Hadriana finds two copper mugs and two little straining bags made of muslin cloth she sits his leaves in the bag and leaves it to steep while she decides on which one she wants.

H: 'Hmmm, what do we have here? Green leaf......nope....yuck! Regular Brown leaf, nah too boring......hmmm.....Black leaf......too strong.......Yellow leaf with lime essence, hmm........Purple leaf with violet extract........Green arenia with, what is that? belladonna and cannabin extract?! erm......alright.....And finally....Andosan burgundy leaf with cherry essence.....ooo that sounds good, cherry it is.....'

She does the same and leaves it to steep for a few minutes, Seb comes back down again and picks up his mug, he inhales the fragrance deeply before removing the leaves and taking a sip.

S: "Nice job, this is perfect. Just the way I like it, thank you."

H: "Oh, you're welcome. You have a strange collection of teas by the way, belladonna, cannabin.... what the heck are they for?!"

S: "Heh, yeah, it's erm.... a.....recreational substance and....medicinal.....not meant for drinking.....if you catch my drift?"

H: "Oh....OH....right, why is it with the teas then?"

S: "So my younger siblings wouldn't find it, they hate tea hence the perfect hiding place...."

H: "Well.....you learn a new thing every day...."

Seb rubs the back of his head in slight embarrassment.

S: "Sorry you had to see that...."

H: "What, why? Why are you sorry?"

S: "It's essentially a drug Hadriana, doesn't that bother you?"

H: "Mmm, no not really.....in my country its fairly normal to use such things regularly as long as it's in moderation....and its mostly all legal. My mother makes a small fortune with some of her plant and herb concoctions. They're mostly medicinal or for professional use."

S: "Wow alright.....the laws....and culture must be very different in Sadria then because it's frowned upon here even for medicinal use....Besides, I don't use it often but when I do, it helps me control my.....abilities when I'm particularly stressed....it dampens the effects of my emotions on the nearby weather conditions.....whilst also giving me a very pleasant, temporary high."

H: "I'll have to get my mother to tweak the blend, she could likely improve it and make the belladonna less harmful."

S: "Well....I was not expecting that, I'm used to getting a huge lecture on it...."

H: "Well I'm not complaining, if it's not illegal and it helps you, then I'm absolutely fine with it."

Upon hearing that, Seb promptly puts his tea down on the table, marches over the 10 feet to Hadriana, tenderly grabs hold of her waist and kisses her passionately, lingering for about 30 seconds, he pulls away and smiles sweetly at her, she does the same.

S: "You're just too fucking perfect, you know that? I can't actually believe my luck.....usually it's all bad!"

He exclaims as he walks back over to fetch his tea, he then sits down on the arm chair to drink it.

H: "Aw, well I'll try and make that change.....Oh and of course I know that......Wait, I thought you were making me breakfast....I was getting excited about it...."

S: "Hah, in good time, don't worry.....I need my tea in the mornings too you know?"

She empties her tea leaves out and goes to join him, they spend the next half hour or so conversing and joking around as they wake up properly.

S: "So, what do you fancy for breakfast then? Besides myself of course....."

He gives her a sly wink, she rolls her eyes but sniggers before answering.

H: "Hmm, just something simple please, toasted bread, butter and maybe scrambled eggs or an omelette?"

S: "Sounds good to me. I'll have you know that I'm the master of all things.....egg like! Thanks to Bessie of course...."

Hadriana bursts out laughing at his silly statement.

H: "Hahhah! Alright master of Eggs.....prove it....."

S: "I humbly accept your challenge kindly wench....heheh."

Seb spends the next 10 minutes scrambling around the kitchen, making some rather ominous sounding clanging and crashing noises.

H: "What on this earth are you doing?! I asked for breakfast not for you to destroy your kitchen!"

Seb pokes his head out of the kitchen archway.

S: "It's all a necessary part of the culinary process, my lady..."

He pops his head out of the doorway, winks at her again then gets back to it. He dashes about the kitchen, toasting four slices of sourdough bread whilst cracking four fresh eggs into a pan on the stove. He adds sliced peppers, some goats cheese and garlic, seasons with salt and pepper and lets it cook while buttering the toast and laying it out. The omelette is almost ready so he sprinkles some parmesan cheese over the top and takes the dish of toast and the pan of omelette through to the dining table with him and sets it all down. Hadriana looks on greedily and reaches out to grab some, Seb gently swipes her hand back.

H: "But......why?? It smells sooo good!"

S: "Ah ah ah, it's not done yet! Of course no breakfast would be complete without a touch of magic now, would it?....I mean it probably would be complete, but I'm a complete show off...."

H: "Heh alright then, go ahead."

He smugly struts over the where the omelette sits on the table, its fully cooked on top, so he emphatically places one hand over it as if imitating a stage magician and says.

S: "Lámha lasáir!"

A small blast of continuous flame shoots forth from the palm of his hand, he keeps it lit for about 1 minute, moving it around slowly so it cooks and crusts evenly. He then extinguishes the flame by curling his hand into a fist and opening it again quickly, as if performing a sleight of hand trick.

S: "Ta-dah! My masterpiece is now complete."

Hadriana applauds him whist giggling.

H: "You are a complete show off! But I love it!"

Seb cuts it in half and places it next to the toast so they can help themselves. She takes the first bite.

H: "Wow, that's bloody amazing! You have to tell me how to make it."

S: "Oh I do, do I? Well a magician never reveals his secrets.....but I could make an exception for you my lady...."

She's still gobbling it down voraciously only half listening to him. Speaking with her mouth still partially full. He even thinks she's cute when she's stuffing her face. She notices him watching her and while smiling.

H: "Wha? I'm hungry?!"

S: "Heh nothing, I'm just glad you're enjoying it. I like a woman who enjoys her food...."

She swallows her last mouthful. Now a bit stuffed, she then leans back in her chair with her hand resting on her belly, rubbing it gently.

H: "Mmh, I did, you truly are magnificent with eggs. Although I don't think I'll be able to get up for a while though..."

S: "Hah, well if you didn't completely stuff yourself, you could!"

H: "Heh, sorry I just get that way around tasty food, you could call me greedy actually. I blame my father, his food is absolutely amazing. I'll have to cook you another native Sadrian dish sometime."

S: "Definitely, so food is another passion of yours then?"

H: "Yes, I just don't get much time to cook as I'm always busy making clothing for my stall. I do have plenty of stock to keep me going for a while though so I'll hopefully have the time here.... Hey, can I ask you something?"

They start gathering up the dirty dishes and take them through to the kitchen.

S: "Of course, go ahead."

H: "It's about....us or maybe just....me specifically.....ugh I don't know...."

He puts the plates down and walks over to her, he takes her hand in a comforting manner.

S: "Alright......what's wrong?"

H: "Before I start, one thing you should know about me. I'm outspoken, always have been, if I see a problem or potential problem, I'll always mention it...."

S: "I kinda guessed that already and I think it's very attractive actually. But alright....go ahead."

She admires his sincerity but can't help but worry to herself first.

H: 'Ugh my hands are sweaty, why am I clamming up?! This isn't like me....Why can't I find the words? Shit!'

H: "SEX!"

S: "......What about it?"

H: "Shit now I sound like a crazy person, ugh! I meant to say, do....you think we rushed into it? The sex, I mean?"

S: "Oh.....I don't think so......It wasn't bad was it?"

H: "Oh my Gods, no! Probably the best I've ever had actually.... It's just....I'm not always used to just meeting someone, jumping in to bed with said someone, then....moving in with said someone all in just a few days. I'm struggling to process it a little. Usually that entire process takes at least a few months to a year from start to finish, right?"

S: "Heh, I suppose it does yes. Listen, I really like you Hadriana. I think we were meant to meet this way, like it was fate or something. You ever been told that there's someone out there for everyone?"

H: "Oh yes, but I thought it was a load of soppy, romantic crap....."

S: "Heh, well so did I. Until I met you."

H: "Aww, who'd have thought that me, an outspoken, greedy, chubby but obviously equally pretty girl would tame you.......one of this cities most infamous playboys....."

S: "And why not? Who says I can't go out, seduce whomever suits my whim, enjoy casual sex and drink a lot but not also be a true romantic?"

H: "Heh, well those things and romance don't really go hand in hand...."

He suddenly grabs her playfully from behind by the waist and tickles her ribs, she's wriggling about laughing.

S: "Why.....are you calling me a man-whore, missy?"

H: "Pah-hah-haha-hahah! Of course not......No! Stop it! PLEASE!"

He lightens up on the tickling and moves in closer, wrapping his arms tightly around her so that he's firmly pressed against her back, he then leans his head down to her left ear and whispers in a seductive yet teasing tone.

S: ".....Make me....."

He then moves his head a bit further down until he's buried in between her neck and a mass of tumbling dark brown waves. Nuzzling in further, he starts kissing her neck, she let's out a surprised gasp as she reaches her left arm up and playfully grabs a handful of his thick, beautiful chestnut hair, pulling him to her face as she leans backwards to kiss his lips. He jokingly says.

S: "Ow....careful with the hair.....I put a lot of effort into it you know...."

She grins as their lips crash together almost desperately for a few seconds before he pulls away he spins her around so that they're now facing each other, he looks at her, searching her face and landing on her strikingly beautiful eyes, they lock with his briefly before desperately, wordlessly and passionately kissing again.

S: "You have....the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen, I could stare into them forever....."

He pushes her backwards to rest against the worktop whilst kissing her passionately and urgently, he then leans in again and whispers in her ear.

S: "I've....got an idea....if you wouldn't mind indulging me?"

H: "Well, I like indulging in you but actually indulging you? Hmm..."

S: "Well.....I have heard that sex before a....competitive event is supposed to help performance.

H: "Oh, is that so? Well then...."

She says teasingly whilst trying to look innocent.

S: "I'll take that as a yes?"

H: "Mhmm....."

He then grabs her by the waist, spins her around to face away from him again and she feels his hardness against her back, he whispers.

S: "See what you do to me?!"

Not being able to hold any longer, he then softly pushes her top half forward so she's bent over the worktop.

S: "Can you stay like that please?"

H: "Mhhmm."

He then lifts up the back of her skirt and pulls her underwear down, he stands for a moment admiring the view before lightly smacking and groping her backside.

S: "You have an absolutely wonderful arse.......and legs for that matter."

H: "Thank you...ooh!"

He says smugly whilst sliding two fingers down her butt crack and eventually sliding them into her and thrusting them in a few times, soliciting a gasp. He whispers breathlessly

S: "Fuck, it doesn't take much to turn you on, does it!? I fucking love that...."

He hastily unbuckles his trousers and pulls his underwear down with his other hand. Then hastily removes his fingers, places them on her round, curvy hips and slides his already throbbing hardness into her from behind. She inhales sharply, letting out a series of pleasured moans as he continues to thrust into her for another five or six minutes. Her screams get louder and louder as he groans and they both reach an earth shattering climax.

S: "Fuck, I just can't get enough of you....you're so damned irresistible...."

H: "Heh I did notice. You're not so bad yourself. Especially after that...."

S: "Gods....I'm good."

H: "Cheeky.....I've changed my mind.....I don't think we rushed into anything, you certainly know what you're doing and you seem to know exactly what I like....."

S: "Oh that? That was just a lucky guess.....and you did approve yesterday....."

He smirks as she playfully elbows him in the ribs.

S: "Hey, hey.... no need for violence now! Or do I need to tickle you again?!"

H: "Alright! Sorry! Anything but that! Although I....sort of.....like it....."

He winks and gives her one of his devious but equally seductive smiles and whispers.

S: "Again, lucky guess..."

He pinches her sides again before pulling up his trousers walking out of the kitchen. She pulls her underwear back up and follows.

S: "Now, as beautiful and incredibly distracting as you are.....I'd happily fuck you all day......I must go and train for an hour or so, want to come and watch me in action?"

H: "I'm feeling lazy today, especially after that! Must I?"

S: "You don't have to no, but not to blow my own horn but It's quite a sight to behold.....Plus I like showing off.....especially in front of such a beautiful woman."

H: "Oh alright, Mr. Charming..... Just let me go get freshened up."

She pops upstairs for a wash and change of clothes and comes back down to meet him, they leave and proceed to Seb's back garden where he practices his shots at various targets, Hadriana looks on curiously and a little enviously.

H: "How did you get so good? And quick? And agile? I've never seen someone strafe 3 quick shots so quickly whilst leaping backwards....let alone have them all hit the fucking targets! You're not using magic are you?!"

S: "Hah....that is what sixteen years of practice looks like...also I think I'm just naturally skilled too. And of course I don't use magic, that would give me an unfair advantage over like, everyone. Especially if I used my tempest powers to manipulate the air and wind speed....which I can do by the way....but I don't....just to keep things fair."

H: "Right so you're either completely bullshitting me or you really are that good.....I'm a bit jealous actually.... Could....could you teach me?"

S: "Of course I can, it seems as though I don't really need much practice anyway, it's difficult to improve on perfection after all...."

H: "Oh.......stop kissing your own arse and give me a few lessons!"

S: "Alright, I do have a fee though...."

H: "Oh? And what might that be?"

S: "Well, I usually charge 5 silver per lesson as standard, 20 coppers for the poorer kids.... But what shall I charge you? Hmmm.....I know, you can give me a kiss, that sound fair?"

H: "Heh, predictable, but fair. Tell you what, if you teach me and I improve today, I'll go down on you tonight. You'll get more if you win against that snooty arsebag. Deal?"

S: "Deal."

Seb walks over to his little storage shed and finds an intricate shortbow for her to use and a quiver of wooden practice arrows.

S: "Right, here you are. Try her out for size and see if your hand fits the grip nicely."

H: "Oh it's a girl is it, can I give her a name?"

S: "If she suits you well, then yes. But for now, she's called Annabelle, she was my first professionally made mahogany wood shortbow, I got her when I was ten. Pretty isn't she?"

Hadriana slides her fingertip over the intricate swirling design on each arm, it looks like a traditional elven bow.

H: "Very, such beautiful work, it looks like an ancient elven bow."

S: "That was the idea, my father had her commissioned for me for my tenth birthday, I was showing a lot of promise even a couple of years before that. At ten, my parents had promised to get me one of my own in a better size for a childs hands, then....my mother died. Annabelle is meant to be a smaller replica of my mother's bow......I didn't expect such beauty to be carved into a piece of wood but there you are...."

H: "It's a beautiful way to honour her Sebastian. I hope she fits well into my hands."

She tests Annabelle out for size, Hadriana's hands are small so they fit perfectly. Hadriana is short enough too so that Annabelle is neither too big nor too small for her.

H: "Wow, it's like she was made for me!"

S: "It seems that way, I suppose you are about the same height as I was at age ten, think I was about 5'3".....and your hands are pretty small too, haha..."

H: "Hey why are you laughing? Tiny hands can come in useful you know? They're great for the execution of tiny details in embroidery. And they make a certain appendages feel much bigger than it actually is...."

S: "Alright, point taken..... no need to insult me.....wait, you don't think I'm....small do you?"

H: "Compared to who exactly....? Hehe, so are you going to teach me something then, or what?"

He shakes his head at her obvious deflection and starts teaching her the proper stance. She gets it right with only a few tries, she's practicing at the targets within the hour and missing quite frequently.

H: "Damn it! Missed again!"

S: "Don't worry, you'll get there. It's only your first lesson remember? Plus, I've taught you more than one thing today. So.......when do I get my payment?"

H: "In good time.....wait, I hear something, rustling, over there, in the bush by the shed...."

Meanwhile, back at Wintergreen HQ. Joseph is looking for Cedric and is surprised to find him alone in his room, no cronies to be seen or heard.

J: "Cedric, you're....alone? Where are your lackeys?"

C: "They're BODYGUARDS and if you must know, I've sent them on a few errands."

J: "Oh? I thought you had an errand boy for that sort of thing?"

C: "Oh I do, at home. He's not here with me, hence sending my bodyguards."

J: "Doesn't that leave you vulnerable Cedric? I mean, you're in a house full of people who, for lack of a better phrase, would joyfully dance on your grave. I can't include myself in that however....."

C: "Really? You don't hate me?"

J: "Oh on the contrary, I'm the person who'd happily put you in said grave....But I digress, I'm here to check everything is in order for this afternoon?"

C: "Charming, Joseph, just charming.....Yes everything is fine, now off you trot. Toodle-oo."

Cedric dismisses Joseph with a swift swipe of his hand through the air. Joseph quietly seethes and cant help thinking.

J: 'That little prick is up to something, I'll get someone to keep an eye on him and his dunderhead lackeys.....I hope Eleanora has stopped vomiting now, I'm worried about her and this extra stress is not helping....'

Just as Joseph leaves Cedric's room. Cedric's two head lackeys, Bernardo and Francisco walk up the stairs, nodding silently to acknowledge him as they pass Joseph in the corridor. They go into Cedric's room. (For context purposes, Bernardo is the brains of the pair and does most of the talking, whilst Francisco is the braun, the hired goon, his purpose is to be big and look threatening and to not think or talk much.)

B&F: "Hey boss."

C: "Hello my fine gentleman, how did you get on with the task I set you?"

B: "Well, we learned a lot about the boy. Turns out, he's been getting friendly with a curvy, dark haired beauty..."

F: "Heh, yeah. Real friendly if you ask me!"

Bernardo nudges him as if to say shut up. But Francisco is not smart enough to realise this.

F: "Ow hey! Did we or did we not see them bumping uglies when we looked through the window?"

Bernardo rubs his temples and sighs frustratedly.

C: "Ugh, thank you for that mental image. I'm not paying you to be voyeurs for Gods sakes, I'm paying you to spy on him! Did you actually learn anything useful?"

B: "Yes boss, this girl....he's quite clearly um, infatuated with her already. He was even teaching her how to use a bow and arrow."

F: "Oh, he's good boss. You oughtta be worried!"

C: "You couldn't have mentioned that first, no?!"

B: "Well I was gonna but Frankie here won't shut up!"

F: "Ugh FINE!"

He remains quiet whilst Cedric and Bernardo talk.

C: "Right, so he's very strong competition and he's in love with this girl.....hmm. Do you remember what this girl looks like?"

B: "Yeah, we both saw her getting railed something fierce, you don't forget a face like that..."

Francisco sniggers.

C: "Ugh, lovely.....Did you catch her name at all?"

B: "Yep, it's Hadriana. Beautiful name for a beautiful girl."

C: "Alright, well here's the plan. If Sebastian wins the archery contest, he'll be ahead.....We need to get rid of him so he won't compete in the second challenge, he'll use his stand in, who is violent and has a temper....but seems completely average and dumb as a post......giving me the advantage. The girl will obviously be watching Sebastian compete won't she? Likely near the front. I need you both to grab her as inconspicuously as possible, gag her....anything to keep her silent and take her away somewhere. I'll decide where shortly. I'll make sure they get a ransom note. Then he'll run off and try to find her, getting rid of him for long enough for me to win the second contest."

He pulls out a map of the area and points them to where he wants Hadriana to be taken.

C: "See right here, there's an abandoned barnhouse at the neck of the woods, head out of the Western gate and walk straight on for two miles until you see a signpost for Dermont village, go right there for another two miles until you see a tree line, it's just nestled into the trees, it's painted red, so you'll see it easily. Take a group with you, just in case. Take her there, tie her up and keep watch. Understand?"

B&F "Yes boss."

Chapter 22: Down with sickness.

Half an hour before the event, Seb and Hadriana walk over to Wintergreen manor, it's only around the corner so it takes them less than 3 minutes. Seb walks into the house in a cocky manner and says loudly.

S: "Who's ready for an arse kicking then!?"

Cedric hears this from the top of the stairs but chooses to not respond but instead walk down the stairs and past Seb with his nose in the air, completely ignoring him. Seb is irritated by this and makes sure to comment loud enough so that Cedric hears.

S: "Oh, so now he takes the moral high ground? Prick...."

Cedric huffs to himself and carries on walking.

S: "What a snooty little bastard, I should just fucking knock him out now, might save him some embarrassment later on."

H: "Now now, as much as he totally deserves it, save that aggression for later. Humiliate him with your skill, not your fists."

S: "Ugh, fine.....PA! YOU HERE?"

Joseph shouts from upstairs.

J: "YES I AM, GET YOUR ARSE UP HERE INSTEAD OF SHOUTING, FOR GOODNESS SAKE..."

S: "Right, COMING! Hadriana, I won't be long, make yourself comfortable in the dining room or lounge, or go chat to our cook, Bess, she's brilliant....or my step mother Lucille.....also pretty brilliant...."

H: "Alright, I will. Don't be too long....."

He quickly kisses her on the cheek then dashes up the stairs, taking two at a time, landing right outside Joseph's study. He walks in.

S: "Afternoon, Pa."

J: "Good afternoon son, are you ready for 1pm?"

S: "Yeah, all sorted. Did you get word out about it?"

J: "Of course, Lucille put a few posters up and told everyone she knows, as did your Aunt Louise, uncle Alfie and your cousins too. It's likely to be a decent crowd."

S: "Good, the city folk get to revel in thier champion archer at work and enjoy watching the humiliation of a pompous little prick....Oh, how's El doing?"

J: "Not great, she wasn't able to keep anything down last night and has already thrown up her breakfast twice this morning....I'm worried about her Seb, all this stress is making her ill. She's as white as a sheet...even more so than usual.....she's dehydrated and exhausted, Alexander hasn't left her side, he stayed with her through the night.....he said he managed to get some sleep thankfully. Perhaps I should get our doctor."

S: "Fucking hell, I'll go see her in a minute. Wait, I thought you were our doctor?"

J: "Oh, I am but she may need a more....intimate examination, I don't want to do have to do that to her....the poor girl's already been through enough....."

S: "But you delivered Aries.....its nothing you haven't seen before....."

J: "Still...."

S: "Alright.....I understand. Wait....why might she need a more intimate examination?"

J: "The symptoms she's exhibiting are scarily familiar...... to the symptoms your mother had. Two months or so before finding out that she was carrying you to be exact. Also a few months before finding out she was expecting Eleanora as well...."

S: "But not with Soph?"

J: "Strangely enough, no. Your mother's pregnancy with Sophia was the easiest and smoothest pregnancy she'd had. In fact, it was so easy and symptom free that we didn't even know your mother was pregnant until Sophia was a decent sized bump. No cravings, no mood swings and no morning sickness......"

S: "Heh....What does this mean then?"

J: "It likely means, if indeed Eleanora is pregnant, that the child could be powerful and likely a sage."

S: "Oh, wow....wait, she wasn't this bad with Aries was she?"

J: "A bit, but it didn't last long. Aries isn't a sage, despite his mother being one and his father being having powerful druidic abilities.....I wonder if Alexander is a sage also, he just doesn't know it?"

S: "Can that happen?"

J: "Occasionally, yes. Sometimes a powerful magical child is born but their special abilities aren't seen or known about until much later, they were never told or they have simply never experienced the trigger which makes them appear....I'll have to ask him if he knows and if not, I'll take him to see my brother, he'll be able to find out......"

He sighs in worry.

J: "But that is something to worry about at another time. Are you ready to show Cedric up?"

S: "I will be, once I've seen that my little El is alright. I'll see you shortly pa."

J: "I've done everything I can to comfort her just now but there's only so much medical magic can do."

Seb nods and then leaves Joseph's study and goes to Eleanora's room. He's slightly upset by the sight before him. She's looks completely drained, dark shadows under her eyes, like death warmed up. She manages a weak smile as he walks in and Alexander is sitting in her lounge chair trying to stay awake.

S: "Oh gods, El. what has happened to you?!"

Alexander jumpstarts himself awake at that comment as if he didn't even hear Seb come in the room.

A: "Fuck me.....was I asleep again?!"

S: "Looks like it Alex....."

A: "El, I need some air and something to eat.....will you be alright here? I'll be back shortly.....I promise."

E: (Coughs) "Yes, go ahead. You need a break."

A: "Thanks.....Seb, keep an eye on her for me please?"

Seb nods to him as Alexander leaves the room.

S: "Probably a stupid question but how are you doing?"

E: "Papa has stabilised me just now, I can't keep anything down, I'm starving but if I eat anything, I'll throw it up again. So in short, I've been better......"

S: "Still don't know what's wrong then I take it?"

E: "Nope, but I think I'm falling apart from stress. You remember how mother got when she was stressed? Same symptoms. I've not eaten anything dodgy recently and the.......other end is.....fine, I'm not in pain. Just every time I think about anything in my life for too long, I feel nauseous....."

S: "I swear if I ever see Adam again, I'll fucking kill him. And I'm this close to killing Cedric if he gives one more backhanded comment.....you don't deserve any of this shit, El."

E: "It's just a spell of bad luck, It'll be over soon I hope....."

S: "I hope so too....so, you've heard it all then? Did papa speak to you about any other possibilities?"

E: "Oh no, he kept his words to a minimum and focused all of his power into healing me physically, but I'm breaking here Seb.......My head can't take much more of this shit......My usually more positive outlook on life is seriously faltering again......"

Seb walks over to the bed, sits on it next to her and puts his arm around her shoulder. She rests her head on his shoulder and he starts stroking her hair.

S: "Hey now, you can't think like that, it'll only make your possible impending depression worse and last longer. Think of the positives, list them off to me right now. So I know that you remember them. Don't let anything or anyone destroy you, you're stronger than that, you hear me?"

E: "Heh, alright....well, I have you, my wonderful, supportive and lovable big brother."

S: "Go on..."

E: "There's papa...."

S: "No I meant keep giving me compliments...."

She elbows him lightly in the rib and rolls her eyes.

E: "You're such a dope. But seriously though. I have an amazing family, a beautiful son, even though I don't know where he is....I have a good job.....I have Alexander and he already loves me unconditionally....."

S: "Keep going...."

E: "I'm intelligent, strong and.....I'm a damned powerful wizard, so.....don't fuck with me!"

Seb laughs and rubs her head.

S: "Thats the spirit! See? You've got a lot to live for El and if I were the world....I'd be fucking terrified of you, no joke....."

E: "Heh, thanks Seb. That made me feel a bit better actually. Still exhausted though, I might try and take a nap.....you're the best......"

S: "Heh, you don't need to tell me that...."

She lightly elbows him again.

E: "Heh, yes of course.....you cheeky git.....good luck with that pompous windbag, kick his butt for me......hard....."

S: "Thanks El, you sleep tight and hopefully you'll be up and about again for the second event at 4."

E: "I'll try, see you later brother. Love you Seb....."

S: "Love you too."

He says as he gets up and walks to the door. He waves to her before walking out and closing the door behind him, he walks out of the door to find Alexander crouched on the floor with his back against the wall and his head in his hands. Seb pats him on the shoulder.

S: "You alright, Alex?"

A: "I've been better Seb. I'm just so worried about her, it's likely at least partially my fault and I can't help her, its killing me....."

S: "Wow, you really do love her don't you?"

A: "Yes, so much, it hurts.....I've not loved someone like this since....."

He trails off, not really wanting to burden Seb with his problems too.

S: "Since....what? Or is it whom?"

A: "Do you really want to hear it?"

S: "Why not? Seems like I'm acting therapist today, I've made El feel a bit better about herself. So if it will help you, get it off your chest.......while I'm still free of charge of course! Also, you're my second, so I need you to not also be on the brink of a mental breakdown too..... "

Alexander smiles at that, brightens up his face a bit.

A: "Heh, alright.....It was since my last serious girlfriend Olivia, long story short. She was rich, I was not from that world and so I was deemed unworthy of her by her parents. We kept seeing each other regardless, she fell pregnant, was horrendously ill during it, her parents believed it was my fault so I wasn't allowed to see her again. The last I heard of her was that she had died giving birth to my daughter, who also died during the process......her parents blamed me for her death and for.......little Amelie's death and so they didn't tell me until six months after they'd both died, it almost destroyed me......for well over a year....."

S: "Fucking hell Alex, I had no idea. That's as bad as what happened to El, maybe even worse. For what it's worth, I'm sorry...."

A: "It's alright.....thanks for listening. But it's scary for me, Eleanora has similar sickness and symptoms to those Olivia had. I don't want to lose her too, and if she's carrying my child, I.....can't lose them either....it probably would kill me, it nearly did before....."

S: "So you think she might be pregnant too then?"

A: "It's a possibility, I've not been able to keep my hands off of her or anything else for that matter....."

S: "Alright........that's my sister remember, Alex......I do not need those kind of details....."

A: "Heh, sorry. It's easy to forget you're her brother and not just a friend....."

S: "It's all good. But seriously though, my father also mentioned the possibility of pregnancy as well. He said my mother displayed the same symptoms when she was expecting both myself and El."

A: "But not with Sophia?"

S: "I asked that too and no, apparently not. Strange is it not? He says it's likely because the child is powerful and possibly is a sage. You're not a sage, are you?"

A: "I don't think so, it's possible but my mother had always told me I wasn't, despite displaying both wizard and druid abilities. She refused to have me examined by the local druidic high priest. I never knew why...."

S: "Hm, that's odd.....I mean I never found out about myself until I was a bit older.....seventeen to be exact. You'd have to go on a pilgrimage or get special training at.....how old are you again?"

A: "Twenty seven, almost twenty eight....."

S: "So say you did find out now, you'd have to do your pilgrimage at twenty eight.....that's unheard of. Doing mine at 17 was rare enough.......surely there's an easier way......"

A: "How do I find out then?"

S: "After we punt that bloated arse Cedric back to his homeland, my father and I will take you to see my uncle Azreal, he's pretty much the druidic high priest of this city, he'll know."

A: "Right, let's go kick this guy's arse then. El needs this, she needs him to fuck off, otherwise she'll literally throw up her insides."

S: "Agreed, you good for a sword fight? Just in case I can't do it for whatever reason."

A: "Yeah, I will be. I'll have a nap after you've kicked his arse at the target range, I want to watch it. It's a shame El can't though."

S: "Oh it's fine, she's seen me perform my acrobatic archer routine many a time. You want to get going then?"

A: "Yes. Let's go, you ready?"

S: "As ready as I'll ever be, Alex."

With that, Seb offers his hand to Alexander and helps him up to his feet, they walk down the stairs arm in arm, to make an entrance as if to say 'We'll fucking destroy you.' Cedric notices their air of confidence but tries to look as unfazed by it as possible.

Chapter 23: The main event.

Seb and Alexander arrive at the target range to a crowd of at least 150 people.

A: "Shit, you can't half draw a crowd, can you?"

S: "Oh yes, these are my adoring fans...."

A large group of the crowd cheer as Seb walks past, he graciously waves to them.

A: "Where is Hadriana?"

S: "She's over there, can you see her waving?"

Seb points to Hadriana, who is already cheering him on enthusiastically and waves to her, then blows her a kiss. Alexander waves to her too, shakes Seb's hand and says.

A: "Best of luck Seb, not that you'll need it, just look at that mustard yellow buffoon. He looks like he can barely hold a bow, let alone shoot it."

S: "Thanks Alex. Can you go stand by the sideline, I'll need you to be my squire for this event."

A: "....Alright, what do I do exactly?"

S: "Just come over when I call you and help me out by bringing me things I need. Except if I ask for a boozy drink....do not under any circumstances, bring me an alcoholic drink, even if I beg..... Understand?"

A: "Yessir!"

He gives a Seb a dramatic salute and, they both snigger. Alexander then goes and sits on the bench at the side of the range. By this point, Seb is walking over to his position in an almost cocky manner, obviously putting on a show for the audience, they suck it all in and cheer for thier champion. He puts on his cap and begins to take point, just as Cedric walks over to him and offers him his hand as a gesture of good sportsmanship. Seb reluctantly shakes it.

C: "May the best man win."

S: "Don't you worry, I will."

He says smugly as Cedric huffs and walks over to his position, he calls Bernardo over and whispers something in his ear.

C: "Right, the girl is over there. Put on your disguises and you both go stand near her. Wait until Sebastian is clearly in the lead, I'll give you the first signal. Once I do, wait for me to distract Sebastian, I'll give you the final signal.....then grab her and take her to where we agreed. Remember to stifle her, don't want her drawing any unwanted attention.....Understand?"

Bernardo nods and silently heads off to put on his disguise.

Both Cedric and Seb take their positions, 20 feet away from each other. The first target is 35 feet away. A neutral party tosses a coin, Cedric picks heads and Seb picks tails. The coin is flipped and it lands on heads, so Cedric goes first. His first shot hits the very second ring of the target, scoring 5 points, gaining an almost pitying applause. Seb can't help but smile smugly to himself and the crowd watch eagerly as he licks his fingertip then holds it up in the air to assess wind direction, he then lines up his shot slightly to the left and it hits the ring surrounding the centre, scoring 15 points, the crowd cheers enthusiastically. They each take thier next two shots at this target. Cedric scoring another 15 points, Seb scores another 35, he leads with 50 points to 20. They take a short intermission to regroup, Seb watches on from the sidelines as Francisco comes over to Cedric, whispers something in his ear, then hurries away. He doesn't think much of it, just Cedric's cronies informing him of something trivial. Alexander walks over and plonks himself down next to Seb.

A: "Happy with that score so far then?"

S: "I'm happy that I'm winning but I'm not happy with myself, I can do better."

A: "Well, I thought you were great...."

S: "Yes, I was. But like I said, I can do better, like scoring centre ring with every shot, not just with one. Just need to focus....

A: "You're taking this too seriously.....you've got this! Although I'll impart with you the advice my mother always gave me when competing....Focus on yourself, try to forget your opponent even exists and if you can free your mind of them and any negative emotions you have towards them, even just temporarily, then you'll do better. It always worked for me, which is why I am now a master of duel wielding with both daggers and rapiers, in my home city."

S: "I like you more and more each day Alex. Oh and I'll have to challenge that claim at some point....for fun of course!"

A: "Of course, so long as you're prepared to be on your arse within seconds. Haha. Ohp, looks like they're calling you back over, remember what I said and try it, good luck!"

Seb gets up and tries to zone everything out, he thinks to himself.

S: 'Time to stop being a crowd pleaser and become a.....Seb pleaser? Hmm, self motivation needs work.....Focus....focus!'

Seb and Cedric shake hands again and line up, this time the targets are 50 feet away, upping the challenge. Seb does the same thing, testing the wind speed, he takes a deep breath and channels himself into his next three shots, two arrows hit the centre circle and the third hits the circle surrounding the centre, scoring him 55 points. Seb watches on as Cedric fumbles a bit with his bow, then for some odd reason, he puts his arm up in the air with a flat hand, then he drops his bow. Seb can't help but snigger to himself, while thinking.

S: 'Gods.....this guy is fucking hopeless.....with any luck, he'll know which end to grip a sword by......'

Cedric then corrects himself, licks his finger and sticks it in the air, Seb shakes his head. Cedric takes his shots, scoring a 5 and two 10's. The crowd cheers thier remaining champion and Seb laughs pitifully then walks over to Cedric.

S: "That was a poor show Cedric, I completely expected it though...."

Cedric huffs in response. Then Seb walks over to Alexander and they search the crowd. Lucille and the kids are there but Hadriana isn't anywhere to be seen.

S: "Hey Alex, did you see where Hadriana went?"

A: "She's not there anymore?"

S: "No...look."

He points over to where she was standing, about 5 or 6 feet away from Lucille and there is an empty space.

S: "She was probably just tired, or hungry. Let's go and find her. Hopefully she didn't miss anything. Come on."

Seb shakes a few hands in the crowd and hugs a few of his fans before leaving the target range. 10 minutes later, they arrive back at Wintergreen HQ. Joseph comes down the stairs at the sound of thier arrival with a confused, yet apologetic expression on his face, he silently hands Seb a note.

S: "What's this Pa?"

J: "Just read it and tell me what you think."

S: "What is this?! 'Sebastian Wintergreen, we have taken your little girlfriend, she's beautiful by the way.....Come to the Western gate at 4 this afternoon with 500 gold or the girl dies. I'll be wearing a royal blue hooded cape, don't delay.....'What the fuck?!"

J: "That's what I thought too. Cedric just arrived and went straight to his room, he's definitely up to something. He only had Francisco is with him, no sign of the other one....Also, did he not seem rather....unfazed by his defeat?"

S: "He did....and he was making weird hand signals before the second part of the contest.....This has Cedric written all over it.....Gods, what if he has actually taken her though? I SWEAR, if he's hurt her, I'll FUCKING KILL HIM!"

A: "Focus.....take a deep breath.....try and stay calm and think......"

He looks at Alexander with a stressed angry expression and speaks in a condescending tone.

S: "Would you be doing that if they'd took my sister?!"

A: ".....Probably not, I'd be on the warpath......sorry I was just trying to help...."

S: "Ugh...so am I, I shouldn't have snapped at you.....You're right, I need to focus....."

Alexander pats him on the back affectionately.

A: "Its alright Seb, I understand.....right....you need to somehow get Francisco to talk.....he doesn't seem very smart and will likely rat Cedric out quickly......talk to him first, find a weakness, then exploit it....."

Both Seb and Joseph look at Alexander almost bewildered, like they weren't expecting him to say that.

A: ".....You're staring at me.....what?"

Seb shakes his head to snap out of that train of thought, then answers.

S: "You just seem....very clued up about this kind of thing....but it doesn't matter....you're right...."

J: ".....Yes...he is.....but yes, he is right.....Alexander, can you stand in for Sebastian for the second event? So he and I can deal with this farce?"

A: "Of course I can. I'm an expert duelist, remember?"

J: "I do.....on you go then. We have to be clever about this son, Cedric has to think he's out smarted us. Don't let on to Cedric that we know it's him, just ask to speak to him about something trivial, dietary requirements for dinner or something. Bring him to me and I'll deal with him, understood?"

Seb nods, clearly still angry but trying to keep a cool head. They go to the kitchen to ask one of the maids called Kallie, to take a message to Cedric asking him to come downstairs to approve of tonight's dinner options. She knocks on the door.

C: "Yes? Come in!"

K: "Good evening sir, I've been asked to request your presence immediately in the dining room by lady Lucille."

C: "May I ask why?"

K: "She never said, sir. Only that it was urgent."

C: "Ugh, if I must. Let's go."

Cedric and Kallie leave the room, leaving Francisco in his lounge chair reading a children's book. Once Cedric has left his room, Seb and Joseph, who were waiting behind the door, slip in to the room and they close the door behind them, locking it from the inside.

F: "Back so quickly boss?"

As soon as Francisco looks around and sees them, Joseph chants a binding rope spell. Two blue ethereal ropes appear out of nowhere and magically bind Francisco's legs and hands to the chair he's sitting on.

F: "What the shit? This aint funny guys...."

S: "No it's not is it? Oh well...where has your 'boss' taken Hadriana?"

F: "Who's that?"

S: "Don't play dumb with me....I already know you're an idiot...... We can always make those ropes tighter, can't we pa?"

Joseph swipes his left hand and the ropes tighten slightly.

F: "Heh, it's gonna take more than bleeding wrists to make me talk."

S: "Oh yeah tough guy, like what?"

F: "Well I'm real scared of snakes, so maybe that."

Seb thinks.

S: 'Heh, easier than I thought....idiot....'

Joseph shakes his head in a taunting manner.

J: "Oh....you stupid, stupid bastard....."

F: "What, why.....wait, what are you doing?!"

Joseph summons a large black snake, not ethereal this time, but a real snake. Seb teases it to aggravate it slightly, then puts it around Francisco's neck.

S: "That, is an ebony adder, thier bite is supposed to be so painful that you'll wish you were your having teeth pulled out with pliers....which we can also arrange......oh and also, for future reference, don't tell your captors your worst fear....you really are an idiot...."

The snake lunges and catches Francisco's leg with its fangs. Within a few seconds he is wincing in agony, it then bites his wrist, then his other leg, it's writhing around, hissing with pure aggression. Seb comes up close to his face.

S: "I'll ask again. Where.Is.She?

F: "Oww, fuck. Oh GODS that hurts! Get it off me! Get it off of me! Please, I beg you!"

S: "I'm getting impatient here...."

F: "AAGH, FUCK!! Alright, alright....My boss arranged for someone to take her, she's about six miles away in an abandoned barn house near the Western forest. You walk straight on for two miles out of the Western gate until you see a signpost for Dermont village. Go right for another three miles until you see a tree line, it's a barn house in the trees, it's painted red, so you'll see it.....Happy?! PLEASE get this things off of me!"

S: "Yes I'm happy. Now I'm just going to leave you here to stew in pain, because to be honest, it's the least you deserve. The snake will disappear momentarily. Let's go pa, we're done here."

Joseph clicks his right hand and the snake dematerialises in a puff of black smoke. The ropes remain however and Francisco is just left there to stew. Joseph and Seb leave the room and go to Eleanora's room to inform her of the goings on. Meanwhile, downstairs. Alexander addresses Cedric after Lucille has finished talking to him.

A: "Are you ready for our duel then Cedric?"

C: "Our duel?"

A: "Yes, Seb is otherwise indisposed, El has insistently asked him to keep her company, she's fed up of me so it seems and you don't dare deny Eleanora anything when she's ill....so I will be standing in for him. Are you ready to go now?"

C: "Yes, yes of course. Let me go and retrieve my swords and-"

A: "No need, they will be provided for us, so no-one has any advantages......except obvious natural advantages....."

C: "Such as?"

A: "Height.....reach......etcetera.  do have eight inches on you....."

C: "I understand, I'm short.....so what......let us just depart please....."

They leave the house together to go and prepare themselves. Alexander is confused as to why Cedric isn't asking any more questions, he decides to keep quiet about his doubts for now.

Chapter 24: A duel, a proposal and some bad news.

Seb and Joseph go in to Eleanora's room, she is sitting there, still looking paler than usual. But she's awake, a little brighter and not throwing up and they're relieved to see that, she smiles as they enter the room.

J: "Afternoon Eleanora, how are you feeling now my dear?"

E: "A bit better now, thanks to you and to a lesser extent Seb."

S: "To a lesser extent...pah....I'm the best therapist there is and you know it! Glad you're feeling better though El."

J: "As am I, it kills me seeing any of my children sick like this, especially when we can't figure out why....I'm glad I was able to help a bit anyway."

E: "You did, you were able to stop the nausea for now anyway and Seb helped me to think more positively so as to decrease my stress."

S: "Well....I'm afraid I may have to undo some of my good work."

E: "Why? What's happened?"

S: "Cedric happened. I received this letter earlier on."

He hands her the ransom note and she skims it. She catches on straight away.

S: "Recognise the handwriting?"

E: "Yes, it's his. Hasty plan to try and get rid of you is it?"

S: "Most likely. Little does he know, however, that we know it was him and that by facing Alexander, he's absolutely fucked! So there's retribution to be had here at least."

E: "What a fucking slimy little weasel, ugh!"

S: "Yeah, I hate him even more now. I mean how the fuck did he even know about Hadriana? I've never even brought her here when he was here......Oh Gods...."

His face goes pale at a sudden realisation.

E: "Oh Gods what?"

S: "He's been spying on me....that.....is beyond creepy....."

J: "He didn't personally, he's not left the house, I'm betting he had his goons do the dirty work."

S: "Oh Gods, how much did they see?!"

E: "Heh, I'm assuming they saw enough to assume you're seeing her?"

S: "You mean they watched us at it?!.....fucking perverts..... I think I might throw up now....."

Joseph rubs his temples.

J: "Can I PLEASE just go one fucking day, without hearing about either of your......love lives?"

S: "Yes Papa, sorry...."

J: "Thank you......now, Cedric may be slimy and a bit hasty with his plans but unfortunately he's not as stupid as we might think."

S: "How so?"

J: "He'll have people with Hadriana, watching her and possibly guarding her. We should be prepared for a fight, just in case."

S: "Yes, I understand. Shall we grab Andreas and go?"

J: "Yes, him and Azrael or Sylvanus too. We don't know how many to expect."

E: "If I were well enough, I'd go too obviously. I am well enough to go and support Alexander though, I want to see him make Cedric buckle to his knees. I dare say I'll enjoy that after everything he's put us through."

J: "Definitely, I'd like to see it too but obviously more pressing matters require our attention. We should also relay the idea that Cedric is working for someone.....someone who either has it in for my family or thinks we know something they don't. Spies work in strange ways, we need the truth and we need it from the horses mouth. So long as Alexander doesn't kill him...."

Eleanora and Seb both laugh at that comment.

E: "Oh believe me....he wants to..."

S: "Heh, me too...Right, let's go before he suspects anything."

E: "Good luck, love you both! Bring her back safe!"

S: "Thanks, we will. Love you too El.....give my luck to Alex."

J: "Yes, goodbye Eleanora, see you later on and hopefully we can get this mess cleared up once and for all."

E: "I will, bye papa, bye Seb..."

Joseph and Seb leave Eleanora's room and head down the stairs. Joseph takes a moment to inform Lucille of what is going on and then they both leave to head to Aunt Louise's house, they get there in a hurry. Joseph knocks on the door and Louise answers.

L: "Oh, good afternoon Joe, you look a little flustered, is everything alright?"

J: "No, Lou it isn't. I have to make this quick and I'll inform you of details later on. Is Andreas here?"

L: "As a matter of fact, he is, he's in the lounge. Hold on a second....ANDREAS?"

A: "YES MA'?"

L: "STOP SHOUTING AND COME TO THE DOOR PLEASE?!"

A: "Yes....Ma...."

He walks to the front door and stands next to Louise, he almost completely dwarfs her in direct comparison. He's very tall about 6'6" and exactly like Seb said, is almost God-like in appearance, especially when in his full plate, white steel Paladin armour. He's very broad and muscular with an angelically handsome face, he has fairly short wavy dark brown hair and big coffee brown eyes. Seb still seems jealous of his appearance, feeling short and wimpy in comparison, even though there's only four inches in height between them. They are good friends as well as cousins, so it's a running joke between them and they have nicknames for each other because of this. Andreas calls Seb Pip or Pipsqueak, because he was a pipsqueak compared to him when they were teenagers, even now, Seb is a good 4 inches shorter and considerably less bulky and Seb calls him Tank, because well, he's huge and can take a lot of punishment. Louise leaves to let them talk.

A: "Alright Pip, Uncle Joe?"

J: "Yes...well no not really. We are in desperate need of someone with your....specific skill set Andreas....See Seb's erm, girlfriend has been kidnapped....it's a long story and we'll fill you in later. But we need your skills to help deal with said kidnappers.

A: "Oh, a bit of a pickle then? And Pip, you don't ever have girlfriends. This one special is she?"

S: "Yes it is and yes she really is, you'll understand when you meet her. Please Tank, we're desperate."

A: "Alright, alright.....I'll help. I was getting bored here anyways."

Seb takes his hand and shakes it in gratitude.

S: "Thank you so much, I won't forget this."

A: "You can owe me later, don't worry....."

S: "Why are you here anyway"?"

A: "Well, it just so happens that the wife has given me a day off, she's about to burst any moment, so her mother is here to help out.....and I am here because of her mother. That woman......is a bit of a pain in the arse! Pardon my language..."

S: "Hah, troublesome in-laws?"

A: "A little, her dad is fine but her mother is.....well since she found out about the baby, she's been completely insufferable and interfering! I can't get any peace.....hence why I'm here."

J: "I'd absolutely love to carry on this conversation but need I remind you Sebastian, that your girlfriend is in trouble?"

S: "Yes, yes of course. Tank, you all set?"

A: "Hold on a minute, I'll grab my weapons and shield."

He stalks off back into the house and emerges in with a large white, ivory metal kite shield, its about half the size of Andreas. It's embossed in gold with the knight paladins symbol of peace, the dove, embossed onto its surface. The dove is in the centre surrounded by a circle of leaves and the shield itself has a golden border around the edges. His sword is magnificent, it is ivory metal in the perfect scimitar shape, with a golden filigree patterned hilt and grip, the scimitar shape is designed more for slashing than stabbing or penetrating armour. Whereas the mace is a leaf mace, again made of ivory metal with a thick golden haft, designed for denting armour and of course, for bashing heads in. He has these weapons as the paladin knights are protectors, defenders and healers and are a branch of the Holy state church of the God Moradin and they are Royal knights, directly linked to the monarchy. So they are equipped with the finest armour and weapons and carry themselves with dignity and righteousness. They are not around to just hack and slash like the average warrior or mercenary. His armour is full plate, heavy armour, made from the same ivory metal and gilded with a golden details, his helmet covers the head but not the entire face. and the armour is adorned with a knee length burgundy velvet cloak.

A: "Ready, come on let's go."

They leave and Andreas shuts the door behind them and they start to head down the road towards Azrael's house. Seb looks Andreas up and down, admiringly.

S: "Now, that's some fancy garb you've got there Tank....I'm a little jealous actually...."

A: "Hah, yes it is quite, isn't it?"

S: "Wish I had the build to pull off that kind of armour. Do you have to exercise constantly or what?"

A: "I exercise a lot yes and I eat well but I think it's also because of good heredity and my faith helps too. My father used to look like this before he was medically retired you know?"

S: "I still don't think I'll ever understand your choice of career Tank......I'm too naughty and enjoy every vice just a bit too much. I could never imagine being an angelic mama's boy like you! Hahah...."

A: "Hey! Just remember I'm helping you out here, I didn't come with you just to get insulted...."

J: "One must always expect to get insulted by Sebastian, he's bloody hilarious after all....A comedy genius aren't you son?"

S: "Alright, alright I get it, I'll shut up. Besides, I don't exactly want to my head to be smashed to goop by Mr Righteous God boy over here. Heh heh."

Seb winks at Andreas and Andreas rolls his eyes then chuckles. By this point they have reached Azrael's house and Seb knocks on the door. Azrael answers.

Az: "Good afternoon Sebastian, to what do I owe the pleasure of a visit from my favourite nephew?"

Andreas appears a little insulted.

An: "He's your favourite nephew?! Why?!"

Az: "We have a special bond....eh Seb?"

S: "That we do.....Uncle Az, it's great to see you. I'll cut to the chase, my girlfriend has been kidnapped and we need your help to get her back."

Joseph pushes through to stand next to Seb.

J: "Azrael, we may be walking into a trap or at the very least into an unpleasant situation, we need someone with your special skills....."

Az: "Gods Joe, what is it with your kids and bad luck?! Sylvanus only wishes he had a life half as exciting as your kids!"

S: "Well he might, if you would just let him be comfortable as the gay man he is, instead of constantly trying to hide it or cover it up, that's just....."

Az: ".....A conversation for another time Seb.......Do you need my help or not?"

J: ".....Yes, are you good to go now or do you need a moment?"

Az: "Just let me go and grab a couple of things."

S: "Take a weapon, just in case."

A: "Alright, will do...."

He closes the door and goes back inside for about ten minutes or so, he comes back out wearing a hooded druidic robe made of deep brown linen with fern green accents, his hair is tied back tightly at the sides. He's carrying a small knapsack with various vials of natural elixirs, herbal tonics and healing potions, there are two sheathed daggers attached to his leather belt, one at either side of his waist. The four of them head to the stables to fetch three horses, Seb takes his trusty chestnut stallion, Tiberius, Joseph and Azrael take Eleanora's grey spotted mare, Luna and Andreas takes his pure black stallion, Jet. They head off towards the city's western gate. Once they get to the gate, they stop and Seb dismounts.

J: "What are you doing, son?"

S: "I'm looking for this hooded figure in blue. Of course there's no sign of anyone wearing anything close to blue, just a sea of brown, red and yellow....."

Az: "Well it is also the busiest time of day.....did they suggest this time on purpose so they'd be difficult to find?"

J: "Thats....likely actually....."

He gets back on Tiberius and looks off down the hill, past the gate and over a crowd of about one hundred people, and around thirty horses and carts, either ascending the hill to get in to the city or descending it to leave. About half a mile down the road at the nearest crossroads, Seb suddenly sees a flash of royal blue darting past a sea of approaching carts and down the path into the nearby woods.

S: "Wait...Shit! I just saw him or her, the blue cloak heading into the woods! They probably saw us coming and are heading to warn Cedric's cronies or whoever is holding Hadriana.....Let's go Tiberius, tchk-tchk on boy!"

They ride on ahead at a canter and quickly come to the crossroads. They stop for a moment as Joseph looks at the signpost.

J: "This isn't the right turn off, Dermont is still a mile and a half away.....why would the figure go this way?"

S: "In a hurry to escape I suppose?"

J: "Likely, but that road leads straight through the forest, maybe they're taking a shortcut?"

S: "Well, normally I'd follow them but I'm sticking to the directions that prick Francisco gave us, that way if we get lost, we're near a main road..."

J: "I'm impressed son, you're finally using logic and not relying on whim or impulse like you usually do!"

S: "Heh. Aw....no, you mean I did something right for a change....."

J: "Heh, yes....I suppose I did..."

Az: "Sorry to interrupt this.....magical father-son bonding session. But aren't we in a hurry?!"

S: "Ahem yes.....and honestly Pa......I surprise even myself sometimes.....Now let's go..."

They carry on down the road. Meanwhile, back in the city, Alexander and Cedric prepare for thier duel. They are both dressed in form fitting black trews and a loose white undershirt. Well its supposed to be baggy, not so much on Cedric's paunch midriff. Eleanora arrives just as Alexander ties his long black hair up out of his face and puts on his sword belt, she runs over to him and as soon as he sees her, his eyes literally light up. He picks her up by the waist, spins around once then puts her back down again.

A: "What are you doing here mi amora?"

E: "I was feeling better so I thought I'd come and cheer on my......"

She pauses to looks him up and down, obviously.

E: "....dashingly handsome swordsman...."

Alexander doesn't say anything to that, smiles at her then pulls her in for a fond, lingering kiss. After almost a half minute, he stops suddenly when he hears cheering.

A: "Wait, are they cheering for us?"

E: "Looks like it, Erimond City folks are romantics at heart! Why did you stop? I've missed you....."

A: "Ahem....these trousers are.....quite tight....so I need to stop, like.....right now...."

He says as he looks at his crotch area.

E: "Ah.....I see......Gods....I love how easy it is to turn you on....."

A: "As do I, but it makes....public displays of affection....even more dubious....."

E: "Heh, I understand.....just do what my oh so delightful brother told me that he does whenever he encounters the same problem....."

A: "Do I even want to know what that is?"

E: "Eh, probably not, but still.....just pull it up and tuck it in to your waistband...."

He thinks on it for a second, then wonders why he didn't think of it before.

A: "That.....is genius....."

E: "Hah, good.....now kiss me again please, just once more, I promise.....like I said, I've missed you....and your kisses."

He pulls her in again for a more desperate, fiery kiss this time. He then stops and gently moves his hips to prod her leg with his arousal.

A: "He's missed you too my love....Gods you're so beautiful."

He strokes her face with his hand. She covers him as he then discreetly, tucks his manhood into his waistband. She whispers in his ear.

E: "If....sorry....when you win... you can do me later....however you like.....because like I said, I've really missed you..."

He nuzzles her neck and whispers back.

A: "That will be enough to keep me going, trust me.....now....before I get a fucking priapism....let me go kick this pompous arse's arse."

E: "Good luck, my sweet."

Just then, he feels an unwelcome hand on his shoulder. He turns around and shudders a little.

C: "Oh how I hate to break up such a loving display.....We're ready boy, get over there....."

He says in a condescending tone

E: "Show some respect Cedric, especially since he's going to leave you on your fat arse."

She says as she starts walking away and blends into the crowd.

C: "E-heh....Quite a feisty one, isn't she? I bet she's great in bed....."

A: "Oh yeah, she absolutely is, a living dream.....Something that you will never experience....."

C: "Eheh......we'll see about that....."

With that, Alexander walks off, muttering to himself, imitating Cedric in an immature voice.

A: "...'We'll see about that...' Fucking, fat, incompetent little virgin.....ugh...."

He walks over to the weapon rack to pick up his rapier, he tests the weight and the grip, then he walks over to the ring and readies himself. Cedric was just left standing there, a little embarrassed by Alexander's clap back, he then does the same thing. Shortly afterwards, the referee comes into the ring an reads the rules. Both Cedric and Alexander nod in approval. The referee moves back as Cedric and Alexander move to within a foot of each other with thier swords pointing up vertically, in front of their faces in the classic starting stance.

Ref: "Ready? Engarde!"

Thier swords meet a few times and Cedric feels confident, so he makes a swipe at Alexander's face, Alexander dodges it deftly, hopping three feet to the left. The sudden movement seems to confound Cedric and he does not move quickly enough to defend a quick strike from the side, Alexander whips his sword blade across Cedric's arm, drawing first blood within one minute.

A: "Hah, this won't take long...."

C: "Hrrmph...."

For the next 3 minutes, their swords keep meeting as Cedric takes swipe after swipe at Alexander who seems to be almost dancing, performing almost acrobatically, avoiding them as if the sword is an extension of himself. Then again Cedric takes a lunge at Alexander's arm. He quickly rolls underneath Cedric's arm, avoiding the lunge, jumps back up on his feet behind Cedric, then he swipes Cedric's back, drawing second blood.

A: "Oh Gods, could you even try here? Please!?"

After the next 5 minutes of Alexander dancing around Cedric, Cedric is nearly out of breath, panting and sweating something fierce.

C: "How.....is an uneducated oaf......like you......so agile and fast?! You're not even out of breath...."

A: "You severely underestimated me, now I'll show you exactly why you were wrong to do that...."

Alexander then deftly pirouettes up to Cedric pointing his sword directly in his face. Cedric backs up then trips and falls backwards, dropping his sword. Alexander then kneels over him pinning him down as Cedric is panting with an almost terrified look on his face. Alexander then mockingly slowly, makes a swipe across Cedric's chest, drawing third blood and hence winning the duel. Alexander stands up with a smug look on his face and says.

A: "I thought you would be bad but not that bad...."

He then ceremoniously drops his sword to the ground with a clang and he starts walking away. He doesn't see Cedric reach into his sock and pull out a dagger, Cedric throws it at the back of Alexander's head. As Eleanora is watching, she shouts to him.

E: "Shit, Alex move, NOW!"

He hears her scream and just as he turns, the dagger stops dead in mid air just centimeters from his face. Alexander plucks it out of the air, walks back over to Cedric who is still on the ground, Alexander drops it at Cedric's feet, then crouches down to him.

A: "You're going to have to try harder than that my friend....Now get your pathetic arse up, admit defeat and then fuck off out of our lives for good! Once you've told everyone why you're really here of course....hey George, can you bind this sorry arsehole's hands up for me? Oh and take him back to the house too please! Thank you!"

George: "Yes sir, Mr. Alexander sir..."

Eleanora runs over to Alexander and throws her arms around him in relief.

E: "How on this earth did you stop that knife Alex?"

A: "I didn't......I haven't the faintest idea. It's like time just stopped, but it only stopped the knife and nothing else....I may actually have an idea....Now don't get upset if I ask. Is there any chance that you are pregnant?"

E: "I have suspected that for a few weeks now, besides....we have been quite....busy...."

A: "If you are, then this child is powerful Eleanora, really powerful. Your father told Seb and I that you are experiencing the same symptoms that your mother experienced whilst expecting both you and Seb but strangely, not Sophia....."

E: "Hm, it would explain a lot....I have actually heard that if you are a female sage and you are also carrying a sage....that baby and mother's powers become one until the birth. Maybe she felt my fear of losing you and lent me her special ability to protect her daddy...."

A: "Gods.....She? Special ability? Daddy? Fuck, this is a lot...."

E: "I know love, you'll be a wonderful father Alexander..."

A: "How do you know any of this though?"

E: "It.....just feels like a girl and she may have the rarest of all sage abilities known. Chronus, the ability to manipulate time..."

A: "Alright, wow. So she may be very special then...."

E: "Looks like it..."

Alexander takes her hand and kisses it, then pulls her in for a hug.

A: ".....Fucking hell, right.....so if we're doing this. Please don't die giving birth to her, I beg you....."

E: "I won't, don't worry...."

A: "And this isn't the ideal place or time but I don't fucking care.....Will you be my wife Eleanora?"

Her eyes open wide at that as she's struck with surprise, happiness and excitement but also sadness and disappointment at the thought of Adam and Aries.

E: "If I agree, you are not allowed to take our child and run away somewhere, alright? Oh and you'll need to buy me a new engagement ring, I can't keep this one..."

A: "But of course, I only wish I had one right now to give you... but it will be a while until it's finished....."

E: "Aw....you big sweetheart....."

A: "Heh,  just wanted it to be as special as you are.....and I didn't exactly plan on proposing today....I just.....got caught in the moment....."

E: "Regardless.....Aaand it likely means that none of this was even necessary, you were put through all of this for nothing...."

Alexander kisses her cheek. He doesn't care, he's so overwhelmed by happiness that he grabs Eleanora by the waist and picks her up into a hug followed by a tender kiss. He puts her down and they walk home, hand in hand.

A: "You know what? It was worth it, I had fun putting that little prick down!"

E: "Yes I know but I still feel bad about you and Seb going through all of that for me, particularly since it's almost certain that it was for nothing."

A: "Well be that as it may, I just can't actually believe my luck....I come here for a job where at first, you almost kill me in a tavern.....then I become a student to try and infiltrate your family. But instead I choose to abandon that and fall head over heels with the most absolutely stunning, intelligent, powerful and irresistible woman I've ever met in just a few short months. I find out you're going to have my child and then you've just agreed to marry me.....wait....is this actually real or am I still dreaming?"

She pinches his arm.

A: "Ow! What was that for?!"

E: "You felt that right?"

A: "Yes....your little fingers hurt...."

E: "Which means.....that of course it is real, I feel pretty damn lucky too you know. You're a clever, strong, wise and beautifully handsome man who is completely devoted to me and will happily do anything for me without question.....now thanks to you, we are having a little sage."

A: "I feel I can comfortably say this out loud now. I love you Eleanora, so much it hurts.....Seriously, it was killing me seeing you in that state knowing I couldn't do anything to help you."

E: "Aw, who'd have known you were such a big sap!"

A: "I have my moments...."

E: "Well, after seeing you almost die today and feeling a plunging dread and emptiness when thinking of it....I can confidently say that I love you too Alexander....."

A: "I've been wanting to hear those words for such a long time!"

He squeezes her in a side hug then kisses her cheek again.

E: "But I'm not out of the woods yet remember.....thanks to papas healing and my uncle's anti-sickness tonic, tastes fucking awful by the way, I'm better. Hopefully there's only maybe another week or so of this, then I can go back to work at the college."

A: "Yes and I can continue my studies. You're a great teacher, you know that?"

E: "Flatterer! But honestly, I'd like to think so. Otherwise I'm not doing my Papa much service am I?"

A: "I suppose not but are you doing this for him or for yourself?"

E: "Definitely myself although being the favourite child has its benefits, so long as you stay the favourite child. If you catch my drift?"

A: "Heh, yes, point taken. Come on, let's head inside."

They reach the house and head inside together to find Lucille reading a letter with a look of despair on her face. Alexander walks over to her and places his hand on her shoulder.

A: "Lucille, is everything alright?"

Lucille doesn't say anything and hands him the letter. It reads.

To the head of this household, Mr. Joseph Wintergreen.

I have not long been informed that my idiot son Cedric has been to visit you all with a certain contract calling for a trade off, certain assets in return for a marriage, so on and so forth.

I wanted to inform you that that contract was never notorised officially and is therefore null and void. I found the voided copy on my study desk the other day there, wondering why it was out, it should have been archived.

I spoke to one of our staff that Cedric often confided in. She informed me that Cedric had been looking for any evidence implicating the Wintergreen family in anything untoward....particularly to do with Prince Meadowgreen. My son must have found it and made an illegal copy of it. She didn't know exactly why he was looking for it, she could only tell me that.  So I can only assume that he is working for someone, who may have ill will toward your family, again because of Prince Meadowgreen.

If I'd have known sooner I would have written to you sooner, so I must apologise for this and any stress he has caused you. If there is any way I can help, please don't hesitate to let me know.

I want you to disregard this contract and if you can, find out why the little weasel wanted it and let me know as soon as you do.

If he tries anything criminal, or resorts to violence, you have my blessings to dispose of him as you see fit, if not then send him back to me with a criminal envoy so I can deal with him myself. I'm absolutely disgusted by his abhorrent behaviour, no son of mine will get away with such criminal activity, subterfuge and sabotage.

Sincerely, Lancelus Mornet II. Mgst.

A: "Oh Gods, this is not good...."

He hands the letter to Eleanora and she reads it as Alexander places a comforting arm around a crying Lucille.

E: "They could be walking into an ambush and be none the wiser....we have to go and help them, now! Lucille did papa give any direction as to where they were going?"

Lucille still sobbing, hands them a note that Joseph left with the directions.

E: "Thank you, don't worry we'll bring them back safe!"

L: "Thank you sweetheart, you're a good girl Eleanora and you've got a great man there......thank you both and Gods bless you...."

Alexander quickly puts on his black and red accented leather armour, gloves and boots and his ebony metal rapier and serrated dagger from the cabinet next to the door.

E: "You not taking your bow?"

A: "Nah, possible close quarters fight, a bow wouldn't be that useful, besides, Seb will no doubt have his.....also, I'm just as good with my sword, as you've already witnessed...."

E: "Now I don't know if that was an innuendo or just a reference to your duel earlier...."

A: "Can't it be both? Heh..."

Eleanora rolls her eyes as she puts on her navy blue velvet hooded cape, black silken gloves and black embroidered leather boots. They both rush back out of the door and down the road to the stables.

E: "Fuck, he's taken my Luna....But for some reason but left Orion behind. We can take him, come on, get on."

A: "Alright, let's hurry. Is he fast?"

E: "Definitely, he's a four time winner of the Erimond City races!"

A: "Heh alright....nice one boy!"

He affectionately pats Orion on the head, Orion huffs, seemingly in gratitude.

E: "On Orion, tchk-tchk. Good boy. They didn't leave that long ago, I hope we can catch up to them...."

A: "Hopefully....."

They ride off towards the western gate and out of the city following the same directions.

Chapter 25: Revelations.

Seb, Joseph, Azrael and Andreas are at a slow trot as they see the red building a couple of hundred yards in the distance. Suddenly, they hear a loud galloping sound approach them from behind, they are immediately on the defensive.

An: "Wait, who the heck is that?!"

Seb looks through his scope.

S: "Wait, I think its El and Alexander......"

Eleanora and Alexander reach them and slow down to thier speed.

J: "What on this earth are you doing here Eleanora?! You should be resting!"

A: "Trust me, we wouldn't be here if it weren't important..."

E: "Thank the Gods we caught you papa. We have some good news and some pretty bloody bad news. What do you want to hear first?"

J: "Go for the bad news first, then hopefully the good news will cheer me up afterwards...."

E: "Take a look at this letter Papa."

She hands him the letter and he reads it aloud to the rest of them.

S: "Oh for Gods sake, I knew there was something dodgy as fuck about that little creep...."

An: "I believe we may be in for a large and unwelcoming party....shit.....pardon my language....."

Az: "It seems that retribution is required, where is the weasel now?"

Al: "He's being held at the manor, he won't try anything, Lucille has now informed him that his father knows everything, he'll be in no hurry to leave, because if he does, then either our men will kill him or his fathers men will...."

An: "Nothing less than he deserves....."

S: "If he's still there when we get back and he doesn't tell the truth, I'm killing the fucker myself. Don't try and stop me!"

Al: "Fuck I'll even help you...."

E: "We can all join that queue, shit even his own father wants him put down. Either he's a terrible father or Cedric deserves everything coming to him...."

J: "Fuck....this is a situation where I wish I could perform necromancy......then once he's dead.....I'd raise him up and joyfully kill him again!"

S: "Hahah! I fucking love you Pa.....that's absolutely what I'd do.....sounds amazing......"

Al: "Me too actually."

J: "Heh, yes, amazing but dangerous.....and Eleanora.....it honestly wouldn't surprise me if Magistrate Mornet were both of those things......So what's the good news then sweetheart?"

E: "Well papa, you told Seb of concerns about my health, Seb told Alexander, who then told me. Seriously why didn't you just tell me....?"

J: "Wait....what? Tell you what?"

E: "That you thought I might be pregnant? Possibly with a powerful child? That I may be carrying a sage?"

J: "I'm sorry sweetheart, I didn't want to add to your stress....."

E: "Well I think you were right....I mean, it needs to be confirmed but...."

J: "But what? Have you experienced any new symptoms?"

Al: "It was fucking weird, honestly...."

E: "Yes.....Alexander beat Cedric fair and square in the duelling ring. Cedric was obviously not happy about that.....so when Alexander had turned around and started walking away from him. Cedric threw a dagger aimed at his neck. I was scared so I shouted to Alexander to watch out, to warn him and the dagger just stopped moving, as if time had been stopped but only in relation to the dagger. I can scarcely believe it, the fucking dagger stopped.... it just stayed there, completely still, suspended in mid air.....Alex turned around, saw it and plucked from the air, then dropped it like normal. It was very strange....it's like she sensed from my emotions, from my fear of losing him, that her daddy was in danger and channelled her power through me...."

Az: "Oh my, could it be?"

J: "What, she? What does this mean?"

Az: "Oh for Gods sakes Joseph, I thought you were the clever one......it means that sometimes if the expectant mother is a sage but she is also carrying a sage, thier power has been known to transfer.....basically, their powers become one.....not permanently though, just for the duration of the pregnancy.....and it might mean that you have a baby Chronus on the way....."

J: "And Chronus sages can manipulate time, both locally and nationally....it's the rarest of all sage abilities......wow......wait why did you say, she Eleanora?"

E: "It just feels like a girl, I don't know..."

S: "What, so the abilities of the Chronus are even rarer than those of the tempest?"

Az: "Yes, I believe so...."

S: "Phew, that means the pressure is off me for now....."

J: "Oh it most certainly is not, son, you're still having too many issues with it....But we must talk of this later, assuming we get out of here alive...."

An: "So.....congratulations to you both! But.....back to the present, Uncle Joe, do you have a plan?"

J: "Yes I do, Seb, Andreas and I will enter the building through the front entrance making our presence known....Eleanora, you Alexander and Azrael will take the back entrance, giving you a chance to eliminate any hostiles outside the building before joining us inside, listen for the code phrase, 'Is Hadriana still alive?' Understand?"

E: "Yes Papa."

Al: "Understood."

S: "Oh Gods, what if they have killed her?! She's guilty of nothing but association...it's my fault...."

J: "Steel yourself son, she'll still be alive, she's too useful to kill... sorry, I know that won't bring you much comfort....we just have to get through this, I'll be right there with you, we all will...."

Joseph gives him a reassuring pat on the back and a sincere smile.

S: "Thanks Pa, I think I needed to hear that.....Right......lets go get these arseholes...."

J: "That's my boy!"

Joseph then smiles at Seb and then ruffles his hair. They all dismount thier horses and tie them up in a nearby field in case they need a quick getaway. They split up into the two groups and walk the two hundred feet to the barn. Joseph, Seb and Andreas head into the barnhouse, or they try to but it's locked.

S: "Shit it's locked, wait a second. I've got a few lock picks in my pocket....give me a minute and I'll jimmy it open."

J: "I hope you know what you're doing, son....."

A: "Isn't this....illegal?"

S: "Heh, I know what I'm doing, been picking locks for years now....and no, Mr. Lawful God boy....this building is abandoned, so it shouldn't even be locked. And something shady is going on, which means it's all good in the eyes of the law."

A: "....Alright, I'll take your word for it...."

S: "....Almost.....got it......"

The padlock makes a satisfying click sound and drops off the handle.

S: "Tadah! I hope Alex can do this too, he'll need to to get in the back way."

J: "You made that look easy, I'm now worried that nothing in our house is secure anymore...."

S: "Heh, don't worry. I'm good at getting into places where I'm not wanted but I'm not a thief. Unnnlesss they deserve it...."

A: "You actually believe you're Robin Hood.....don't you?"

S: "Hm yeah......were going to rescue Maid Marion and you're my friar Tuck! Heheh."

Andreas groans at Seb's terrible joke.

An: "Ugh.....really?"

S: "Heheh yep! Right shall we get inside?"

J: "Yes, I'll go first."

They walk in to the barn and all they hear is silence. They then see a hooded figure walk slowly down the staircase from the hayloft above. Seb squints his eyes to try and see who it is. He mutters under his breath.

S: "Oh, shit....."

Joseph whispers in response.

J: "What?"

Seb addresses the hooded figure.

S: "Lilia? Is that you?"

The hooded figure pulls thier hood down so thier face is visible. She's petite but slender, with very light golden skin, with shoulder length auburn red hair and is covered in freckles, she's wearing all black except the blue cloak. Black tight leather leggings, underblouse and a strapped leather waistcoat, she has pixie boots and leather gloves on. She addresses him in a mocking tone of voice whilst clapping slowly and pitifully.

Lilia: "Well done Sebastian, yes it is me."

Seb puts on a flirty tone, hoping it might soften her a bit.

S: "I recognise those legs anywhere.....except the last time I saw them, they were in the air while you were screaming my name...."

L: "Oh, those are some fond memories....."

J: "Mmhmm......Just what is all of this about Lilia, where the hell are Adam and my grandson?!"

L: "Rest assured old man, they are fine, safe and as far away from you and your troublesome family as possible."

J: "My troublesome family?! Your father was killed!"

S: "Right....what is it that you want Lilia? And where is Hadriana?"

L: "Oh, she's here, but she's unconscious, hence the peaceful atmosphere in here....."

S: "We're here to get her back from you or whoever it is that took her, you're not getting a ransom though."

L: "Oh that was just a ruse to get you here, I don't expect any gold from you, at all. So, what's so special about her then? Don't you remember when you felt that way for me, Sebastian?"

S: "I remember we had something going but I'm pretty sure you're overstating it.....and that was what.....seven, almost eight years ago? We were teenagers Lil....And you broke it off if I remember correctly......you were a complete snooty bitch about it...."

J: "Enough....this is not a reunion with one of your ex lovers, Sebastian! Lilia tell me what's going on for Gods sake!"

L: "Alright, alright. I will. First you must understand something. Do you remember the letter Adam sent to Eleanora, trying to explain what happened etc. Well he really shouldn't have done that as it has jeopardised our families security.....but he still loves her......bless his pathetic, delusional little heart...."

J: "That's really cold Lilia....He's your brother, how can you be so heartless?"

L: "Plenty of practice old man....but seriously, our security, our lives are on the line....My parents were spies in their home country, wanted for treason, it is why my father is now dead. The reason they became spies is because their families were victims of the atrocities your father committed whilst ruling as regent of the kingdom of the forest elves over a hundred years ago, they had no-one, nowhere to go....they were desperate....Did your father ever tell you how old he really is?"

J: "I am aware of what my father has done and indeed how old he could be, but I do not see how it ties in with what is happening right now...."

L: "That's where it gets complicated, one of the jobs of my parents was to befriend you and your family in order to gain any knowledge about the location of your father. But that came to nothing. Until my mother noticed Adam's genuine affection towards your daughter, they decided to encourage this. Adam was unfortunately an unknowing pawn, things went too far too quickly.....in a manner of speaking, Aries happened.....so they had to end the job. Hired assassins from my parents home country came after us, killed my father and injured Reyna. Thankfully her and Lucas got away together, I don't know where they are or even if they are still alive. Adam, my mother and I also managed to get away but they caught up with me and mother, she pleaded for our lives. I was taken, as the spy thought I would be more useful to them alive than my mother could ever be.....so he let my mother go. I was taken to a man named Davro, he trained me, took care of me so that he could assign me with this task, given to him by.....lets just say someone very important who was also personally, deeply affected by your father's ungodly atrocities......This man wants you dead and your family dead. Cedric was working for me this whole time, I told him to find an excuse to take Eleanora away from the family......making her an easier target......that didn't work so I had to think on my feet. I asked him to find a way to lure you all here and he did. Seems he's not as stupid as he looks-"

She is cut off by the sound of the back door crashing open, where Eleanora who had heard everything, comes storming in, seemingly in a rage.

E: "HOW FUCKING DARE YOU?! How DARE your horrible parents treat thier son like that? How DARE they take my fiancé and son away from me?! How dare they destroy my life because of what they did?! And now you want to kill us because of an accident of birth?!....."

L: "Hm, I was wondering when you'd show up...."

E: "Ugh, you're just as uncaring and nonchalant as ever.....At least I can be comfortable in the knowledge that Adam didn't stop loving me....I..... Alexander......please....."

L: "Oh yes, poor little Miss perfect, yes he still loves you and he desperately clings onto any shred of hope that he'll ever see you again...."

E: "Please....just....stop...."

L: "No, I'm quite enjoying this actually. You know, it's quite funny....how all of this was going on, right under your perfect little nose but you were completely blinded to it by your new lover boy.....is this him?"

She points limply at Alexander.

L: "Hello.....Blackley, nice to finally meet you...."

Al: "Lilia, I have heard of you before....only briefly though.....though nice is definitely not the word I'd use......"

L: "Oh shut it.....and Davro sends his regards by the way and thanks you for your little note. He sent me with a message for you."

She pulls out a little piece of parchment and tosses it to him. Alexander catches it and reads it under his breath, only Eleanora hears him.

Al: "You'll get yours, you literal son of a bitch. See you soon you little wise ass....p.s. Watch your back, you never know who's waiting to stab it.....hint.....It's me....."

He nods at her, then whispers to Eleanora.

A: "I'll explain later....I promise."

She just looks at him for a second, confused. Eventually she nods, then she turns back to Lilia.

E: "Right well, if you're here to kill us, at least let Hadriana go. She knows nothing about any of this, she's completely innocent."

L: "See that's also where you're wrong.....Sebastian...."

She addresses him in an attempt at being seductive.

S: "What now?"

L: "What happened between us shouldn't have happened. I was.....in love with you Sebastian....."

E: "More like obsessed...."

L: "Shut it, you little whore......Sebastian.....that never stopped.......I never wanted to end anything, my mother told me to. I chose to kidnap her because you both have what I had always wanted with you....so she does have a part in this being that I'm jealous of her....."

S: "Wait seriously? How could you be in love with me, we were together for like, four months.....not even officially or exclusively for that matter....."

L: "You had that effect on me, you were my first......I fell pretty quickly for you."

S: "Alright, this is getting sad and a little desperate......Listen, You want to know the real reason your mother told you to end it, really?"

L: "I just assumed that she didn't want me involved with your shitstorm of a family.....to protect me...."

S: "You're kind of right....Except it wasn't to protect you, it was for purely selfish reasons. The reason your mother wanted you to end it was so she could have me for herself."

She splutters, then almost chokes on her next words.

L: "....Excuse me?!...."

Joseph looks at him disapprovingly, then rubs his temples.

J: "Oh for goodness sake......Are you telling the truth Sebastian?"

S: "Every word Papa.... "

J: "Why can't you just keep it in your pants, son?!"

S: "Just the way I am Pa....Anyway, Lilia. Every time I was over at your place and we fucked......your mother heard everything. Just before I left your house one night, she came on to me, heavy."

L: "Seriously?! My mother cheated on my father with you?!"

S: "Yes, I wasn't the first affair she'd had though...."

L: "Well....she did a good job of hiding that.....Why did you do it Seb, did you not care about potentially tearing my family apart?!"

S: "I was a stupid teenager Lil, thinking with my dick brain and not my head brain...."

L: "Typical....What actually happened?"

S: "Well, she'd made it pretty obvious a few times that she was checking me out, when you or your father weren't looking of course, I didn't think much of it initially. Then one night, she approached me and pulled me into the little closet by your front door, she kissed me and grabbed my....well you can guess.....I was of course initially surprised, she told me she'd heard what we'd been doing and wanted to 'try me out for size'. Flattered and curious as to what it would be like with her, we made a deal, she would convince you to dump me, so that we could see each other while your father was at work. She said I satisfied her in a way she hadn't been satisfied in years....this went on for almost six months until I turned eighteen.

L: "So you were shagging my mother for longer than you were seeing me, really.....I'm not  convinced, you could be making this up to put me off of you.....tell me something that only someone who had ever seen my mother naked would know."

J: "Must we?! This is verging on far too much information....."

Eleanora, Azrael, Alexander and Andreas all nod in agreement. Eleanora pipes up with.

E: "Why didn't you tell me about this Seb?! You usually tell me about all of your.....conquests...."

S: "I know but you were dating Adam, I thought it would be.....unpleasant for you to find out that your brother was shagging your boyfriends mother....."

E: "Actually......in hindsight, Iiiii'm glad you kept it quiet...."

J: "Fuck.... Sebastian, what is wrong with you?!"

S: "Teenage curiosity pa....AND correct me if I'm wrong but didn't you have an affair with a married woman when you were seventeen?"

J: "Point.....taken...."

S: "Put it this way Pa, you and I are more alike than you care to admit....."

He winks at him in a sly manner.

J: "Alright, fine......But at least I didn't go around fucking my ex-girlfriends and sister's boyfriends mother!"

L: "Oh shush old man. Yes Sebastian, go ahead, convince me that you're not lying...."

S: "She had a quite a few moles on her body didn't she?"

L: "Yes...."

S: "The bigger ones were just above her belly button, one on her left tit, juuust above the nipple and one on her right butt cheek, right in the middle. That convincing enough for you?"

L: "Ugh....yes.....fine, that brought back some unpleasant mental images. I.....don't know how to react to this......"

S: "You should be disgusted or at least disappointed....."

L: "It doesn't matter. I still have feelings for you, even now...."

S: "Are you serious?! Did you ever fucking evolve from being a silly teenage girl who näively fell for the first guy to sleep with her, or indeed give her any attention whatsoever?!"

L: "Clearly not....give me three good reasons...."

S: "I can't actually believe we're still discussing this.....One, I literally just told you I shagged your mother, numerous times and it was fucking fantastic.....Two, you're absolutely batshit crazy and Three, you kidnapped my girlfriend because you were jealous of her and as a bonus, you're under a fucking contract to kill me!"

L: "Well, I'll forget everything and spare your life if you take me back, how does that sound?"

S: "Like the ravings of a mad woman. As if I'd take you back anyway. What a fucking terrible trade off that would be....I lose my entire family and the woman I love, in trade I get to keep my life and gain a crazy, bunny boiling bitch....Fuck......I didn't even like you that much then, I was just in it for the sex, which wasn't that great if we're being honest.....your mother was a much better shag than you....I'm out.....I'd rather fucking die...."

Lilia says nothing, an expression of seething anger appears on her face and she flies into an almost boiling rage at his words, Seb sees this and decides to rub salt in the wound before she reacts violently. He speaks in a sarcastic tone with a sly smirk on his face.

S: "Bet you really want to kill me now eh, little miss crazy? If I don't make it out of this alive, tell your mother I was asking for her! And if we both make it out of this, tell her to come see me again!"

He winks at her, charmingly. She screams and clumsily throws a dagger aimed at his face, he ducks and it hits the wooden floor with a clang. She yells again an incoherent mess of rage and hatred spews out of her mouth until she says.

L: "Right boys, take them out! I can't stand looking at his smug fucking face any longer!"

Just then an arrow whizzes by Seb's ear, then a badly organised bunch of 8 lackeys dressed in black and yellow, pop their heads out of the hay and start descending the stairs, except for the archer, he stays where he is, thinking height may be an advantage. The group position themselves strategically, Seb leaps past Joseph and darts up the stairs. Before the archer can react, a knife is sticking out of his neck, he then falls backwards into the hay bleeding profusely. Eleanora decides that she will take on Lilia. She's still so angry from Lilia's taunting that she fires a powerful bright purple lightning bolt out of the palm of her hand aimed directly at Lilia's head, Lilia is distracted by her dead archer so it hits her and she falls to the ground paralysed and knocked out but still alive. Eleanora smiles with satisfaction, then runs up the stairs to join Seb who is prepping his bow. Andreas is swarmed upon by three of the lackeys, one is quite large and armed with a greataxe, but the others are fairly small and armed with short swords. Andreas manages to get in a quick attack and bashes one of the small ones on the head, hard with his mace, his head is caved in and within seconds, he's dead on the floor.

J: "Az, how do you want to deal with these amateurs?"

Az: "Oh, the good old fashioned elven way of course...."

J: "Right you are...Now!"

At that signal, roots start to ascend from the ground underneath the barn floor, they break through the wooden cracks to grab hold one of the two mage lackeys, the roots grab his foot, pick him up 10 feet in the air and then slam him into the wall, head first, he's knocked unconscious as he falls to heap on the floor. Another root picks up the second mage by the waist, this mage had just hurled two ice shards at Eleanora which she quickly melted with flame hands. Joseph summons a snake, a constrictor, it wraps itself around the mages neck and strangles him, the root lets loose and he falls dead to the ground.

J: "Ah, this takes me back, Az."

Az: "Just like the good old days, we should take on assassins more often, it's quite fun!"

They high five each other, then Azrael raises another root to lift Joseph up to the hayloft next to Seb and Eleanora. She is readying her next spell as Seb cocks his bow and hits the other of the smaller men attacking Andreas, the arrow hits him in the back of the neck, he's down.

S: "Four down, four to go....what are we going to do with her?"

He points at Lilia who is still unconscious on the floor of the hayloft.

E: "Tie the bitch up, we'll deal with her later."

S: "Sounds good to me, have you seen Hadriana anywhere?"

E: "No actually, I haven't...."

Meanwhile, Andreas is now in one on one combat with the larger of the three men, the large man swipes with his axe but Andreas ducks and dodges the blow then bashes him backwards with his shield, just as the large man stops staggering and readies himself to take another swing, Andreas catches him in the neck with his sword, slashing his throat, the large man falls backwards grasping his throat as he bleeds out, within a minute, he's dead.

An: "Yeass! Score two for me!"

He yells as he raises his sword up in the air enthusiastically. He then says to Azrael.

An: "I'm going out to patrol, just in case any others show up."

Az: "I'll join you, come on."

Andreas and Azrael then leave the room to go look outside, the others hear a scuffle, meaning there were more outside. Alexander is the only one left on the main floor, he's engaged in a scuffle with a rogue who is duel wielding daggers. Alexander with his rapier out, dodges one swipe but the next catches his side, it barely gets through his armour but it does leave a small surface wound.

Al: "Ow, you little prick! I'll slice that fucking hand off!"

The rogue gestures to him mockingly as if to say 'bring it.' Alexander does, not before dodging the rogue, rolling across the floor about 10 feet away and picking up another short sword that he had spotted on the ground. He assesses it momentarily.

Al: "Not what I'm used to but it'll do...."

He then stands up to full height, a sword in each hand and adopts a threatening pose, the rogue meets his pose with a similar stance. Alexander takes a running leap towards the rogue, reaching 6 feet in the air, the rogue is quick but he wasn't expecting that and Alexander tackles him to the ground, trapping him under his legs. He then slashes the swords in a cross formation across the rogues neck before adding insult to injury by plunging both swords into his abdomen then pulling them out again. As the rogue takes his last dying breaths, Alexander says.

Al: "Well I didn't chop your hand off, but killing you is just as satisfying...."

He then gets up and wipes the blood off of his swords using a ripped piece of the rogue's shirt. Seb takes down another with a well placed arrow to the face and Joseph sends an ice bolt hurtling right through the chest of the last one, who instead of fighting had hidden in a corner, not well enough it seems. Andreas and Azrael run back in.

Az: "There were two more outside, they're now both in a ditch with no heads...."

They both laugh and high five each other, Azrael then turns to Andreas and says.

Az: "Andreas, your swordsmanship is truly spectacular, we make a good team!"

An: "Thanks uncle Az, we do don't we? That's over eight years of paladin training come to a head."

Az: "And it shows."

An: "Besides, I couldn't have managed it had you not held them in place for me, I wish I had the kind of magic and connection with nature that you do."

They continue praising each other as the walk up the stairs to meet the others. Seb is in the process of tying Lilia up whilst Joseph and Eleanora hold her down, she's starting to wake up and struggle a bit making it difficult. She taunts him.

L: "If you wanted to tie me up in order to ravage me Sebastian, you should've just said so...."

S: "Yes, well unfortunately I need you alive because we still haven't found Hadriana."

L: "Oh, what a pity...."

Seb, in frustration, grabs her by the throat with one hand, forcing her down. She starts gasping for air.

S: "I've tried being nice but that hasn't got us anywhere...Where.is.she?"

He lets her throat go, Lilia is coughing and spluttering and gasping for air.

L: "Ach! Fine....You win.......she's in the storage.......under the floor of the barn.......you'll need to pick the lock though.....the key is gone....."

S: "If you're lying to me, I swear I'll come back for you...."

L: "I'm not, I swear.....just go down the stairs and out of the back entrance....there's a trapdoor on the right.....on the ground, she's in there."

Seb looks at everyone else.

S: "Who's coming with me then? No doubt there'll be some other goons down there that she's not telling me about."

L: "You don't trust me?"

S: "Are you fucking kidding me? I'd trust an angry dragon that's chasing me to not flame my arse, more than I'd fucking trust you....."

E: "I'll go with you, Alexander, let my father heal your wound, please. Andreas and Azrael can hold her down while we're away. Sound good?"

Al: "Yes my love, Joseph, if that's alright?"

J: "It is, remove your armour and undershirt please."

L: "Oh, now that I'd like to see....he's pretty gorgeous Eleanora, I understand why you moved on from my brother so quickly...."

A tear drips down Eleanora's face, but she wipes it away.

E: "Can you gag her or something, I'm getting sick of her whiny fucking voice...."

Az: "I'll take care of it."

Seb and Eleanora get up and walk down the stairs, they head to the back entrance and leave the building. They quickly spot the trap door, covered in a layer of leaves. Seb kneels down and gets busy with a lock pick.

S: "This might take a minute.....Are you alright El? Come on, talk to me. I've honestly never seen you so.... angry."

E: "You heard what she said didn't you? How dare she talk about her own brother like that, not to mention her nephew, my son! I couldn't let her get away with that....."

S: "I mean, I saw what you did with that lightning bolt cast and it was epic, more so than anything I've ever seen you cast. It's like you poured all of your anger and frustration into it..."

E: "I did. Alexander helped me figure out that I'm an emotive caster, if I focus the strongest emotion I'm feeling at any one time on the spell I'm casting, it doubles it's power. That's why it looked so bad.....or awesome depending on how you look at it."

S: "It was a spectacle that's for sure, I had no idea you were capable of such power. I think I'm even more scared of you now than I was before!"

E: "Oh, haha....."

S: "This is a tough fucking lock... dammit! Broke one! Fuck....."

E: "And your confessional was.....entertaining to say the least.....was it really true?"

S: "Of course, I wouldn't lie about something like that...."

E: "But you'd keep it a secret for nearly eight years though?!"

S: "I said I wouldn't lie about it, just no one asked so...."

She rolls her eyes. Then hears a satisfying clunk as the padlock opens.

S: "Victory is mine! No lock can keep me out!"

He opens the trap door and ascends the stairs, Seb says.

S: "It's pretty fucking dark down here, be careful.....I won't be held responsible if my little unborn niece or nephew dies because you fell!"

E: "Oh shush, I'll cast a candlelight spell. Hold on.....Solasa minima!"

Eleanora casts a candlelight spell orb and it floats by her head so they can see better.

S: "That's better. Look, she's over there! Come on, we have to free her...."

He points to the corner of the room, there are no guards down there, just a sleeping Hadriana on a bale of hay.

S: "She looks....oddly peaceful....I'll pick her up, come on. You go ahead with the light."

Seb picks up Hadriana in his arms and carries her over his shoulder and they carefully head back up the stairs. She must have woken up at some point as she starts talking in a groggy voice.

H: "Sebastian.....is that you?"

S: "Yes it is, we've come to get you sweetheart."

H: "Thank goodness...."

Her head flops as she falls asleep on his shoulder again.

Chapter 26: Trying to stay positive.

Azrael and Andreas load a bound and gagged Lilia onto Luna and Joseph gets on behind her, making sure she doesn't escape. Seb loads Hadriana onto Tiberius, she's still groggy though so he sits behind her so she can lean on him. Eleanora and Alexander jump onto Orion and Azrael and Andreas get on Onyx, they start riding home. It's a fairly quiet ride home, Eleanora and Alexander and Azrael and Andreas ride ahead at a faster pace and soon they're out of sight of the others. Seb has Hadriana in his arms as they ride at a slower pace, she's starting to come around. Joseph looks on.

J: "What on this earth did they do to her?!"

S: "Looks like they doped her with something..."

Lilia is still gagged but nods in affirmative. Joseph decides to remove it temporarily.

J: "What did you dope her with Lilia?"

L: "Ahh, thank you. It's a sleeping agent made from Celestine, Wolfsbane and Gorse, pretty potent stuff, knocks you out for a good 12 hours or so."

S: "You do realise you're just incriminating yourself further don't you?"

L: "Might as well, you've got me trapped here, I'm not going anywhere. You could have let me ride with you though Sebastian....."

S: "Yes, you kidnapped and doped the girl I love, we rescue her and you think I'm going to ride home with you....You fucking live in a dreamworld don't you?"

L: "Eh, it's better than this fucking world..."

S: "Please gag her again papa....I can't stand hearing her voice right now...."

J: "Done, time to shut up again sweetheart...."

Joseph clicks his fingers and a magical gagging cloth appears in her mouth again.

L: "Hhrrrmpph!"

J: "Yes Lilia, moan all you like. Save your speech for the authorities. You're going to prison for a good long time young lady....."

S: "Hopefully.....I'll be happy if I never see her face again...."

Hadriana starts to properly stir this time and her black and violet eyes pop open to see Seb's chin above her.

H: "Sebastian......is that you?"

S: "Yes my sweet, it is. How are you feeling?"

He says as strokes her hair reassuringly.

H: "I....where am I?"

S: "You're riding on Tiberius with me, were taking you home. You're safe now....."

H: "Thank you for coming to find me......"

S: "I wouldn't just leave you. You mean too much to me Hadriana."

Lilia rolls her eyes at the soppiness. Joseph sees that they need to talk, so he speeds on ahead.

J: "Keep talking to her son, that's the only way to ground her after being doped like this. I'll see you at home....."

S: "Alright Papa, thanks. I'll see you later."

H: "Your father is here?"

S: "Yes, he's riding on ahead now though. We all came for you Hadriana, me, my father, my uncle Azrael, my cousin Andreas, Eleanora and Alexander."

She's still a little cloudy headed but is starting to come around a bit.

H: "Wow......thank you so much."

S: "You're welcome, like I said, I care about you far too much to just leave you....."

H: "Wait....why?"

S: "I was hoping I could save saying this for later on when your mind isn't so foggy any more and you'll actually remember what I said....."

H: "Save what for later Sebastian? I'm awake now.....I can......feel the fog.....clearing from my mind...."

S: "That I love you Hadriana. The thought of losing you almost killed me.....In just a few days, I've fallen for you, hard. I don't want to let you go, ever....."

H: "Wha- hm..."

She flops against his chest again as her eyes drift shut. Seb smiles, shakes his head then mumbles to himself.

S: "She won't remember....."

She sleeps for the rest of the ride home. Seb decides to just settle at Wintergreen manor and to let her rest for the night in his old room. He carries her upstairs and lays her down on his old bed, pulling the blanket over her. He wants to just curl up with her for the night but he knows he has other things to deal with. He goes back downstairs and into the dining room where Joseph, Eleanora, Lucille and the children and Alexander are all sitting at the dinner table. Alexander is telling little Armand the story about how he got the scar on his neck, about his armour, and his swords, the boy is genuinely curious and is listening intently. Eleanora, watches on with a smile on her face whilst sipping a cup of tea. Lucille is standing behind Genevieve, brushing her long, dark brown hair whilst humming a sweet tune and Joseph is reading the newspaper. It's a fairly normal, post dinner evening, considering what has just happened. Seb walks into the room and addresses Joseph.

S: "Everyone present and correct Pa?"

J: "Yes, thankfully. Cedric, his cronies and Lilia are being held in the basement under lock and key. I doped thier water with wolfsbane, they'll be asleep until morning."

S: "Where are Azrael and Tank?"

J: "They've both gone home for the night, but will be back around 9 in the morning tomorrow so we can all escort those criminals to where they belong."

S: "Sounds like a plan. I'm just going to grab a quick dinner and get myself to bed early. It's been quite a day....."

J: "I understand son......on you go...."

Seb then stalks through to the kitchen where there is a plate sitting there for him. He smiles and shakes his head as he thinks to himself.

S: 'Just like old times, good old Bessie.....I love that woman so much.'

He quickly eats his dinner and retires to his room. Hadriana is still fast asleep, so he removes her over dress so she's more comfortable, he removes his own clothes except his long johns and cuddles up to her. He drifts off to sleep quite quickly with Hadriana in his arms. Meanwhile, down the stairs. Alexander is just finishing his story and Armand claps his hands and demands another.

Ar: "Please Mr. Alex tell me another!"

L: "Ah, ah. Armand it's long past your bed time, sweetheart. You too Genny, my dear....go on. Off to bed both of you."

Ar: "Awww....promise me you'll tell me another story tomorrow Mr. Alex?"

Alexander ruffles Armand's hair and says.

Al: "Of course little man, I promise!"

Ar: "Yay! Goodnight family!"

G: "Goodnight folks."

All: "Goodnight kids."

A: "El, don't you want you want to talk about any of this? You're going to have to deal with it sooner or later, I don't want you to spiral into depression again....."

E: "I know, I need to face it....but for tonight, I just want to be positive....We'll sort everything out tomorrow....I was watching you with Armand, you know, it was quite adorable....you're good with children and you're good with him, I can tell he likes you and that's an achievement.... Armand doesn't really like many people, we think he may have some difficulties socially.....or at the very least, he's painfully shy....."

A: "Really? He seemed like a perfectly normal young lad to me."

E: "He is, generally but he's exceptionally intelligent for his age, he excels at most things the teachers put in front of him, he gets bored and frustrated, he struggles with the other children at school and is often picked on because of it......He gets on better with adults actually and you seem to have gotten through to him, only my father and Seb have ever come close to that before. Lucille, Sophia and I have more trouble reaching him. And he's the only non magical or elven child of my fathers, I don't know if he even knows that let alone if it even bothers him......"

A: "Perhaps he's just not as comfortable around females in general or around magic......But from what you've said, you may be right. My little cousin Martin is a little like that actually, he's twelve. He's socially awkward, exceptional at school particularly with numeracy and only gets on with certain people, me being one of them."

E: "I have met other students like that too, two males, Darius and Edmund and one female called Adelle. Exceptionally gifted mages, they made me jealous..... But unfortunately for Edmund, his social difficulty caused him to clam up during a particularly complex destruction spell, he injured himself severely and will never be the same again...."

A: "That's....tragic....I thought you wanted to be positive tonight El!"

E: "Yes....of course.....switching to positive mode.....we will be able to get confirmation of the pregnancy from my Aunt Louise. I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for it again but at least I can be confident that this child will have a wonderful father."

He seems moved by her comment, he smiles and draws her in for a hug.

A: "Aw, you think so?"

E: "Like I said before, you're so good with my little brother, that I'm confident you'll be a great dad to her."

A: "Again with the 'her' what makes you so sure?"

E: "Like I said before, I can't explain it, it just feels like it's a girl.....never doubt a mother's intuition."

They both get up, wish the others good night and start walking up the stairs arm in arm.

A: "I was just thinking..."

E: "What about?"

A: "That if it is indeed a girl, I hope that she looks more like you, rather than yours truly...."

E: "And why? You're just as good to look at as I imagine I am..."

A: "Heh, thanks. I have my moments I suppose..."

E: "No, all of the time....I fancy you even more now that I know you're good with children. Is that odd?"

A: "Maybe a little...but I love that about you.....my strange little raven haired temptress."

E: "Hmm, I like that.....it pretty much sums me up. Hm what can I call you? I can't use golden skinned sex God in polite company now, can I?"

A: "I like it....but probably not, save that one for the bedroom...."

E: "Hm,....think.....Mm, how about my Violet eyed champion?"

A: "Yes. Love it. Come here my beautiful raven."

He grabs her by the waist as they reach the top of the stairs and he keeps his arm there until they reach Eleanora's room.

E: "There is one other thing...."

A: "Yes?"

E: "How did Lilia know you?"

A: "Work, I've never met her personally, but she'll have been shown my file, likely by Davro and was probably offered a bonus for disposing of me too. I'm one of the biggest thorns in his side and I do enjoy taunting him so......it's so easy because he is a fucking idiot.....how he rose through the ranks to lead them....I have no idea....I mean you saw them tonight....they were fucking tripping up over their own feet! Ugh.....so unprofessional....."

E: "Gods I know.....organisation is not their strong point.....Also, that smart mouth of yours is going to land you in a lot of trouble one day....."

A: "Eh. It already has and I don't care. I can look after myself as you have well seen, my love."

E: "Yes, indeed. Watching you handle those swords like they were an extension of yourself was really quite....thrilling and of course.....really quite sexy....."

He turns around to face her, puts his other arm around her and pulls her close, their faces are but an inch away from each others' and he whispers in a seductive tone.

A: "Oh it was, was it?"

He then leans his forehead against hers and kisses her tenderly, he then pulls away.

A: "I am honestly so in love with you, it actually hurts...."

He then takes her hand and holds presses it to his chest, above his heart.

A: "Right here..."

E: "Aw, you're such a big romantic, aren't you?"

She stands on her tip toes and kisses him again sweetly.

A: "I have my moments....."

E: "Heh, you certainly do.....come on love, let's go to bed. I'm exhausted."

They get undressed and Eleanora puts on a silken night gown and he just wears his underwear. He lies on the bed on his back and she curls up next to him on her side and rests her head and hand on his chest.

E: "I can hear it now too?"

A: "Hear what?"

E: "Your heart. It's almost like a lullaby to me...."

A: "You can be romantic too so it seems...."

E: "I have my moments too....."

A: "Heh, yes you do. There's always room for improvement though...."

She lightly slaps his chest.

E: "Hey! Cheeky....Agh, I cant stay annoyed at you.....it's those beautiful eyes.....I swear......"

He says in a mocking 'nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah' tuneful tone, whilst he taps her nose with his finger.

A: "And-because-you-love-me....."

E: "I absolutely do......ugh....so..... sleepy.....mmmh, goodnight sweetheart."

She says mid yawn, so he wraps his arm tighter around her back.

A: "Goodnight, my beautiful raven."

Chapter 27: The aftermath.

Seb wakes up the next morning to find Hadriana had gone. He immediately assumes the worst.

S: 'Oh fuck, she's not left me has she? Gods, I couldn't really blame her for doing so....Ugh....I feel like shit!'

He calls out to her.

S: "Hadriana? Are you still here?"

He waits half a minute and she pops her head in the door.

H: "Yes I'm still here. I was talking to Eleanora and Alexander through in their room."

S: "Thank goodness! I.....thought you'd left me....."

H: "No......of course not....we need to deal with the bastards that did all of this don't we?"

S: ".....Yes." 'Short pause there....was she thinking about it? No reassurance about how she feels either, no relief in her voice at all......something's changed, she doesn't seem quite right......'

S: "....Are you alright?"

H: "......Yes, I'm absolutely fine."

S: "Really? Even despite everything that happened yesterday?"

H: "Yes. And I'd really appreciate it if you didn't bring it up again..."

He looks at her confused and takes a minute to examine her body language.

S: 'Defensive.....she must be traumatised.....no positive emotions in her voice almost bitter, resentful tone. Treating me like I'm an irritating family member asking too many questions. I have to help her deal with this the right way, if she'll let me that is.'

S: "Are you sure you're alright Hadriana? Please....talk to me...."

H: "YES....ALRIGHT?! Please.... just....stop....."

She stalks off and slams the door behind her. He puts his head in his hands and sighs frustratedly. Half a minute later, Eleanora walks into his room and sees him looking upset.

E: "What's all that racket about?...Oh.....Sorry....."

Still with his head in his hands, his words are slightly muffled.

S: "She won't talk to me.....I can't help her if she won't talk to me...."

He then looks up, bleary eyed with tears of frustration.

E: "Nothing makes you cry Seb. You really do love her don't you?"

S: "Of course I do. She's everything I've ever wanted and more. She's the one I've been waiting for, forever.....What the fuck did I do wrong?!"

Eleanora sits down next to him and puts a comforting arm around his shoulder, he rests his head on her shoulder.

E: "Now it's my turn to make you feel better, big brother.....Look, it only happened yesterday, she's been doped, carried around, probably hit a few times, tied up then doped again, she is still dealing with it....I get that you want to help her because you care about her and want her to be happy. But you just need to give her time....."

S: "Is that enough though? I can't help but feel it's my fault...."

E: "It isn't, there's no way anyone could've predicted that Seb.....Try not to dwell too much on it, just get on with things, try and get back to normal. Be her friend, be her support, be her lover, be her rock. Just be there for her, that's what true love is all about. It will take time but she'll seek to talk to you when she's ready and no sooner."

He sniffles and wipes his eyes.

S: "I can do that, I just want to be with her and if that takes all the time in the world, I'll still wait...."

E: "See, that's how you know you love someone. You would wait until the end of time to see them happy. I'm just happy that you've finally found the person who you want to share your life with, through good and bad. It took a while but I'm proud of you Seb."

S: *Sniffles* "Thanks El, you are......almost as good a therapist as me.....almost....."

She nudges him playfully.

E: "That's what I wanted to see..... your usual cheeky smile. Now I can go and get my breakfast, knowing that you are feeling a bit better."

She ruffles his hair and then gets up to leave the room. Little did they know that Hadriana had come back and had been quietly standing at the door, listening. She hears Eleanora's footsteps and quickly walks down the stairs again. Eleanora catches sight of her and calls out to her.

E: "Hadriana? Do you want some breakfast?"

H: "Yes please, I'm starving!"

E: "Come on, let's go to the kitchen. I'll have Bessie whip up something good, ooh what about pancakes, with strawberries?"

H: "Sounds great. I just can taste them now, come on!"

They go to the kitchen and ask Bessie for pancakes, strawberries and cream. Alexander walks by at that moment and he likes the sound of that too. Bessie sets to work on pancakes for three and they all go and sit at the table. Joseph is not up yet and Lucille and the nanny Rhona, are both running about getting the children ready for school. Seb decides to come down the stairs, his eyes still a bit red but otherwise fine. He walks into the kitchen and chats with Bessie for a minute, then sets about making his own breakfast of porridge and honey. It takes him about 15 minutes, by which time the pancakes are ready. Bessie calls through to the dining room.

B: "Grubs up folks, come get it while it's 'ot!"

E: "Coming!"

Eleanora gets up and grabs her own and Alexander's plates. She quietly hands Hadriana's plate to Seb and gives him a knowing look, then goes back through. He grabs his bowl also and heads through to the dining room. He places Hadriana's plate in front of her and kisses her cheek. Then sits down with his bowl and they all start eating quietly. All anxious to avoid any conversation about the previous day until Joseph is up. 10 minutes later, they all finish their breakfast and Joseph walks into the room.

J: "Well....I've never seen such a quiet dining room full of such miserable faces......Before I even have any breakfast, I feel it's pertinent that we address the elephant in the room, before your uncle and cousin get here."

S: "I'm not sure that's a good idea papa....Hadriana is still a bit traumatised by it all."

H: "I can speak for myself....they need to be dealt with and if I'm needed for that to happen then it's alright, I'll handle it somehow."

Seb looks at her with a slightly hurt expression at her abrupt and almost cold response. But decides to push it down for the moment, he doesn't want to start an argument.

J: "Are you alright with that Hadriana? It won't be easy...."

H: "It's fine."

J: "Alright.....El, you and Alexander are the other wounded party here. Are you alright with telling them everything?"

Al: "Definitely.....He's going down for trying to fucking kill me...."

E: "Oh absolutely....when are we going?"

J: "I'm going to grab a quick bite to eat then your uncle and Andreas should be here."

Eleanora and Alexander sit and talk quietly while they're waiting, Seb gets visibly frustrated at the ominous silence surrounding Hadriana so gets up in a rather frustrated manner and stalks off to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Whilst the water is boiling he asks Joseph if he wants any.

S: "Pa, I'm making some red leaf, you want anything?"

J: "Oh yes please son, black coffee....."

He nods then shouts through to the dining room.

S: "HEY, I'M MAKING RED LEAF TEA, ANYONE WANTING A CUP?"

E: "YES PLEASE SEB, THANKS!"

A: "NO I'M GOOD, THANKS SEB."

He hears nothing from Hadriana so he just gets on with it. Joseph notices he's a bit off and goes through to help him.

J: "Are you alright Seb? You're obviously annoyed about something, you can tell me you know...."

Seb sighs heavily and rubs his forehead in both confusion and frustration. He speaks in a hushed voice.

S: "Ugh, I don't even know Papa..... I'm pissed off that I let yesterday happen, I'm sad that Hadriana is traumatised about it all....I'm annoyed about Lilia and I feel for my sister. I'm also frustrated because Hadriana won't let me help her. She's being really cold. El says to let her deal with it herself but I love her....I don't know how to deal with it...."

J: "Believe it or not son, I understand. Your mother and I had a similar issue early on, she was determined to keep me out of. It took some time, she realised I wasn't just going to go away, so she eventually let me in and we were stronger for the experience. So El is right, just give her time."

S: "Ugh, alright I'll just need to be more patient......both with her and myself......"

J: "That you do son, you get that trait from me as well I'm afraid...."

S: "See, we are more alike that you'll admit!"

J: "Yes, we are. I suppose I'm just too proud, Seb. I do love you, you know that? I may not show it as much as I should but-"

Seb cuts him off by wrapping his arms around him in bear hug.

S: "I love you too Pa!"

Joseph is a bit shocked initially but then hugs him back, stroking the back of Seb's head, even though Seb is a bit taller.

J: "You're a good man son, I'm more proud of you than you realise....Understand?"

S: "Yes Pa, thank you....."

They pull apart as the water starts to boil.

S: "That's the water boiled. I'll make the tea and your coffee."

J: "I'm going to go grab my porridge, we'll sort this out son. I promise you. Have faith in yourself."

S: "Thanks Pa, I'll try.....Here's your coffee......"

He hands over Joseph's cup and takes Eleanora's and his own through to the dining room and gives her her tea and sits down quietly to drink his. He unfolds the newspaper and starts reading it quietly while Joseph eats his porridge. There is a knock at the door not a minute later. Alexander gets up to answer it. Azrael and Andreas stand at the door, Andreas in more casual clothing than his usuals heavy armour, he looks a bit less tanky than usual.

Al: "Morning folks, come on in."

Az: "Thanks lad."

Azrael heads straight in, Andreas is a little slower and he and Alexander talk for a moment.

Al: "Andreas, I almost didn't recognise you without your armour on!"

An: "Heh, yeah. I look significantly less intimidating, I think......"

Al: "Heh, definitely. Come on in, we're all in the dining room."

An: "Alright, let's get this over with...."

Al: "Yes, let's. Oh, has your wife given birth yet?"

An: "Still no, she's getting really fed up now. Thankfully now her mother is here, I don't get the brunt of her anger any more...."

Al: "And to think, I'll be in the same situation in about six or seven months time...."

An: "Aw yes....you'll be fine, you obviously love each other. Don't ever forget that....Even if in a few months she gets angry at you for no apparent reason....It's hard though at times, I'm a lover not a fighter....unless of course you threaten my life or any of my families lives....then I'm a fighter."

Al: "And a bloody good one too, you've got some set of skills there. Pretty impressive, I'm a bit jealous and a little scared actually...."

An: "Hey, I saw you too. You're so agile, quick on your feet, every step is like a dance to you.....It's a graceful fighting style that you would not be able to do in full plate....Where did you learn to fight like that?"

Al: "Mostly my home country.....and a lot from my mother, actually......"

An: "No way! You're mother can fight like that?!"

Al: "Yep.....and even now, she'd likely still have me on the floor, incapacitated in less than a minute.....despite being so slightly built and only five feet tall....."

An: "Wow.....I have to meet her!"

They carry on sharing conversation about thier different styles, each learning a thing or two from each other. Then they get to the dining room, they stand together while the others talk.

J: "So, we're going to go down and get those two, make sure they're restrained as much as possible. We walk them down to City hall, my lawyer will be there and he will handle the legal side of things, paperwork, reviewing evidence and witness statements etcetera...."

Az: "My friend and colleague Rita is a magistrate of law. She'll oversee thier punishment in court in a weeks time or thereabouts.....Shall we go then?"

All: "Alright."

The men head down to the basement where Cedric, Lilia, Bernardo and Francisco are all tied up. Joseph and Azrael grab and restrain Bernardo because he's a big guy, Andreas grabs Francisco, who is still in pain from snake bites and ties his arm constraints tighter. Alexander grabs Cedric and Seb grabs Lilia, tightening her wrist constraints. She groans and he whispers in her ear.

S: "Oh, I'm going to enjoy this....sweetheart....."

She groans again in protest but they are all gagged so they cannot speak. Alexander says to Cedric.

Al: "This is the least you deserve for trying to steal my fiancée and for trying to kill me.....Oh and you're a racist, ignorant and fat little prick....."

They are all forced to the top of the stairs one by one then out of the front door of the Manor in single file. Joseph and Azrael go first with Seb behind them, Alexander is next and Andreas is at the back. Eleanora and Hadriana walk behind them. They start to walk the criminals through the town, almost in a walk of shame style march, people in the streets are watching them as both thier arch mage and champion walk by, Joseph shouts.

J: "Peoples of Erimond City. Expend your judgement upon these criminals, they are being taken to prison for their heinous crimes. Tell them exactly what you think of them!"

The small crowd let out a loud rabble of boos and disapproving noises as well as some of the civilians spitting on them. Eleanora holds Hadriana back a bit so as to avoid the rabble.

E: "I need you to promise me something Hadriana...."

H: "And what would that be?"

E: "I'm almost certain you know exactly what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway. Give him a chance."

H: "Give who a chance?"

E: "Alright, enough of this avoidance shit. Give my brother a chance, he wants to help you and you keep pushing him away....."

H: "I heard some of what you said to him earlier by the way...."

E: "You were eavesdropping?"

She looks a bit guilty.

H: "....Yes.....I heard what you said and what he said."

E: "And, what do you think?"

H: "I don't fucking know.... alright?!"

E: "I'll put it this way Hadriana, my brother doesn't fall in love often, in fact, he never has. He doesn't give love easily, even to his family. So when he starts to care deeply for someone other than himself, that's how you know you've broken through his barriers."

H: "Be that as it may, I didn't exactly plan on that happening...."

E: "I don't think he did either. Look I love my brother and I've never seen him like this, I've never seen him so happy....he's like a love-sick puppy, he's less arrogant, less reckless....heck he even cried about you....and the last time I saw that happen was when our mother died...."

H: "I'm having mixed emotions here Eleanora, surely you can understand that?"

E: "I do understand that, I also understand that when you find the right person, you hold on to them.....tightly, everything becomes about them, they are as or even more important to you than you are to you. I also know for certain that he is completely head over heels in love with you Hadriana and he deserves that happiness as much as you do, so stop pushing him away, let him in just a little bit.....if however you decide you don't feel the same, at least give him a chance to be there for you in your time of need as a friend....."

A tear drops down her face at the raw emotion in Eleanora's words, she really does love her brother. So much so that it reminds Hadriana of her relationship with her own late brother Luis, she suddenly feels her stomach knot with guilt.

H: "Alright.....I'll give him a chance.....or at least.....I'll try..... you know, he's lucky to have you as a sister."

E: "And I'm lucky to have him too, we're close and have a special bond that means I can feel his pain empathically and he feels mine. Just.....please be good to each other, you both deserve that much."

H: "Alright, thank you Eleanora for opening my eyes a little, besides you are also the closest I've ever had to a sister..."

She pulls Eleanora into a tight hug, Eleanora hugs her back.

E: "Well, if things go well, you might end up being my sister....in law that is."

H: "Mmhm, maybe..."

They continue to talk and walk with thier arms now linked with each others, behind the men. It takes another 5 minutes or so to reach the court house at City hall. When they arrive, the magistrate, Rita Whiteley, is waiting for them with a small compliment of official royal guards who stand ready to take the criminals to jail to await trial.

Az: "Good morning Rita. It's good to see you again."

R: "And you Azrael.....I'm sorry it's not on better terms....."

Az: "I know.....we'll catch up properly afterwards, how about that?"

R: "Yes, sounds good.....now....what do they stand accused of."

Seb brings Lilia forward.

S: "This.....pretty little thing.....is called Lilia Moraine, she tried to have me and my family killed through the means of Yilonian espionage and subterfuge.....she tried to bribe me and threw a dagger at my head."

Alexander brings Cedric forward.

Al: "This....I'm not holding back here.....This pathetic little bastard is Cedric Mornet.....he stands accused of arranging a kidnapping of Miss Hadriana Katero, here...."

Hadriana steps forward and waves nervously.

Al: ".....attempted murder of myself, in public might I add.....Conspiracy to incite violence and forgery of legal documents, working for an illegal spy syndicate.....probably looaads of other shit too....."

Azreal and Joseph push Bernardo forward.

J: "This big guy is responsible for said kidnapping and is responsible for tying up, beating and forcefully doping Miss Katero."

Andreas brings Francisco forward.

An: "And last but not least, this....idiot blabbed on this plan to Sebastian and Joseph and also helped with the kidnapping."

R: "Grave charges.....I expected more of you Mr. Mornet.....especially considering who your father is....."

C: "Well that doesn't matter now....He's disowned me."

Seb and Alexander laugh at the same time then they high five.

S: "Hah, stupid prick!"

Al: "Couldn't have happened to a nicer person!"

E: "Agreed. Oh and the document he forged.....forced me into marrying him against my will, causing me stress and making me ill, which in turn was harming my unborn child.....So please......do not go lightly on him."

R: "Oh my, I'm sorry....you poor girl......I will not.....I assume you have the correct paperwork filed, paper evidence and witness statements?"

Az: "We do Rita, here. I have a witness for the attempted murder charge too. He'll be here for the hearing."

He hands over the documents.

R: "Thank you Azreal. I'll review this and speak with the witnesses within the next few days....Guards, take them away!"

Seb and Joseph high five, Alexander hugs Eleanora triumphantly and Andreas and Azrael shake hands. Hadriana just stands there looking awkward, she walks away quietly while they're all busy talking. After a minute or so, Seb notices she's gone and leaves to go and look for her, just before everyone else goes home. He jogs in the direction that he thinks she's gone, but she's disappeared, dispersed into the morning crowd. He's fed up so he just tucks his hands into his pockets and just ambles home slowly.

Chapter 28: Satisfaction and retribution.

A week later and everyone has been interviewed for their statements, it doesn't look good for any of the criminals. The sentencing hearing is today and everyone involved gets ready together at Wintergreen manor. Lucille sees the children off to school first, then gets ready to go with them. Eleanora is feeling better, not great but better, Seb and Hadriana are still off, she's not dealing with anything very well and they are arguing quite a bit, usually once a day or less. He's been staying at the manor to give her the space she asked for, he just hopes that her seeing them put to justice will give her some closure. Alexander is still upstairs getting ready and for once Eleanora is the first down the stairs, she just wants it all to be over. She shouts upstairs.

E: "Pa? Alex? Are you ready? Seb?"

A: "Nope, not yet!"

J: "Just coming sweetheart.....I'll be a few more minutes, as will Lucille......in the mean time, talk to your brother for me will you? He seems upset again......"

E: "Alright....."

Just then Seb trots down the stairs, a catatonic expression on his face which quickly turns to frustration and irritation.

S: "I'm fine.......for fucks sake!"

As soon as he reaches the bottom of the stairs, Eleanora grabs him by the elbow and into the lounge, she forcefully pushes him onto the couch and sits next to him, he tries to get up but she pulls him back.

E: "No Seb....you're NOT fine and I'm worried about you, dammit, talk to me!"

S: "What's the fucking point any more? Talking gets me absolutely nowhere. I. Give. Up....."

E: "No.....don't give up, Seb.....that's just not like you....."

S: "Well it is now.....I'm fucking done.....the walls are slowly creeping back up Eleanora and this time, they're not coming back down again."

E: "Don't do this to yourself......I need to mediate this somehow.....you're fucking miserable....."

He looks her in the eyes, obviously frustrated but also emotionally pained.

S: "There's.....No.....Fucking....Point!"

He then gets up quickly, before she can stop him and stalks off out of the front door, slamming it behind him, she walks after him but to no avail, just as Alexander walks down the stairs.

A: "Was that Seb?"

E: "Ugh.....yes....."

A: "What's up his arse?"

E: "Guess....."

A: "Hadriana?"

E: "Yep.....He's torturing himself about this, he feels guilty about all of this and it's breaking his heart because he's in love with someone who won't let him in, not even remotely.....and it's painful to watch.....I hate seeing him like this, it's hurting me too, Alex......"

He grabs her by the waist and pulls her in for a comforting hug, his arms on her back, rubbing gently, she snuggles into his chest.

A: "I know.....hopefully after today, it will all be sorted.....you do know though.....if.....they find out about my.....vocation.....they may strike my statement from the record?"

E: "Why?! He tried to kill you.....in broad daylight.....with hundreds of witnesses....."

A: "Not for that.....but for everything else.....the murder charge will stand regardless, there are too many witnesses to have that overwritten. But they may not count it as.....trustworthy information....."

E: "Well, let's hope they didn't do too much digging about you then....."

A: "Let's hope......how should I wear my hair? Up at the sides or just....up?"

E: "I think you look smart enough with it down....but I understand....brush it back at the sides, out of your face and tie it at the back.....wait, I'll do it for you."

She dashes off to get her hair brush.

A: "There's no need- agh, she's already gone...."

In just a minute, she dashes back, seemingly excited.

A: "You look excited.....it's oddly unnerving....."

She hits him on the arm with the brush.

A: "Hey, uncalled for!"

E: "It was absolutely called for.....You're a cheeky bastard.....I've been wanting to do this for a long time!"

A: "Do what? Style my hair?!"

E: "Yep! Come here!"

A: "If I refuse....."

E: "I'll hit you in the balls with this brush.....hard....."

He puts his hands up defensively.

A: "Alright! You win.....for now.....leave my jewels out of this....."

She rubs her hands together menacingly and almost cackles. She then walks over to him and stands behind him and starts brushing his hair while he stands in front of the mirror. She brushes it out of his face first, then to the sides and over the top of his head neatly tying it at the back allowing the rest of it to fall at the back of his head. She takes him by the shoulders and turns him around to look at her.

E: "There's my handsome fiancé.....it's nice to actually see your whole face......your absolutely perfect face......"

She strokes his cheek softly, he gives a cheeky smile then grabs her by the waist and pulls her in for a tender, lingering kiss, they break away after a minute or so.

A: "Thank you, you're so damned adorable sometimes, I've never had someone so enthusiastic about styling my hair.....it's cute......have I told you how much I love you?"

E: "Mmm yes, once or twice.....it never hurts to hear it again....and again etcetera.....oh and I love you too."

He kisses her again at hearing those words.

A: "I'll never tire of hearing those words from those beautiful lips of yours....."

E: "Mm and I'll never tire of hearing it from your gorgeous lips either....."

He kisses her once more, this time they are so completely lost in each other that they don't hear Joseph and Lucille come down the stairs or Seb opening the door to let them know that everyone else is there. Seb claps slowly, patronisingly at them.

S: "When you two are quite finished eating each other for breakfast.....everyone is here now.....let's just go and get this shit over with...."

Eleanora and Alexander break apart, looking a little guilty but ultimately happy. They all collectively put on their capes or coats and leave the house for the grand court. It takes them all about fifteen minutes to walk down, Seb and Andreas walk together, Azreal walks with Joseph and Lucille, Eleanora is hand in hand with Alexander. Hadriana just hovers behind them all, seemingly lost in her own head and apparently not caring. They all walk into the building and meet Rita in the front room. They all walk into the courtroom, where Lilia, Cedric, Fransico and Bernardo are sitting in chains, guarded by two big, scary looking knight paladins. Andreas comments on it.

An: "Hah Gods, poor Johnny and Silas got this duty.....unlucky, guys....."

He gives a curt wave to them and they both nod back to him. They all sit in two rows of four. Alexander, Eleanora, Joseph and Lucille sit in the back row and Andreas, Seb, Hadriana and Azrael sit in front of them. The other witnesses sit in a nearby stand. They are all called to the stand, one by one. First to be called is Alexander, the accusation of attempted murder is one of the most serious charges. Alexander is allowed to say his piece, while referring completely to Cedric.

R: "Mr. Alexander Samuel Blackley. State your case please."

Alexander speaks in the most charming demeanour and smoothest voice.

A: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.....look upon this disgrace of a human being.....when I first met him, he was openly racist towards myself and sexist towards my fiancée.....then he tried to claim her hand in marriage drawing upon a false, forged contract.....causing her undue stress.....making her ill.....and potentially harming our unborn child.....he then suffers an embarrassing loss in a public duel with me.....he took complete advantage of the situation and tried to kill me....."

The jury gasp in shock or disappointment. They're completely taken in by his story.

Rita asks the questions.

R: "And Mr. Blackley.....how did he try to kill you?"

A: "By hurling a dagger at the back of my head, it would have killed me had it hit.....and left my beautiful fiancée without a partner.....and my unborn child without a father.....fortunately it didn't hit me."

The jury all look sad for him. Cedric scoffs which does not help his case.

R: "Miss Eleanora Wintergreen and Mr. George Raleigh.....is this sequence of events true?"

They both answer in the affirmative.

A: "You've heard my piece, I beg you. Do not go lightly on him....for he does not deserve it...."

R: "Thank you Mr. Blackley, you may return to your seat.......I have reviewed the evidence pertaining to Mr Mornet's involvement in a kidnapping as well as the forged documents.....I'm afraid it's all very damning. Mr. Mornet.....how do you plead to these charges?"

Cedric clears his throat.

C: "Not guilty!"

Seb, Alexander and Joseph outright laugh at him and everyone else either sighs, groans or looks at him with disappointment.

R: "Bearing in mind that if found guilty, and your plea does not match up. Your sentence will be increased in severity....."

Seb mutters to himself.

S: "Fucking idiot...."

Cedric swallows sharply.

C: "I.....forgot about that....."

R: "You can't change it now Mr. Mornet....."

The jury look over the evidence in front of them, it is indeed damning. It takes only twenty minutes for them to deliberate.

Man in Jury: "Magistrate Whiteley. We find Mr. Cedric Mornet....guilty on all charges."

R: "Thank you. Mr. Mornet. You will be extradited back to your home country of Yilon, where you will serve the rest of your life in the highest security Yilonian prison, overseen by your father. Gods have mercy on us all."

Eleanora sighs in relief and hugs Alexander, he smiles intensely and hugs her in, kissing her hair. Seb smirks at Cedric then Andreas shakes Seb's hand and gives him a quick hug. He then hears Hadriana release a sigh of relief and is surprised when she briefly takes hold of his hand, entwining her fingers in his, this lasts for a just half a minute until he looks at her, questioningly but smiles regardless. She then looks at him, then at her hand and then pulls it away, almost recoiling as if not she'd not realised what she'd just done. His smile quickly turns to frustration again, then he quickly steels himself and puts his hands in his pockets. The trial moves on to Francisco and Bernardo, Hadriana gives says her piece about them, nervously but dramatically. The jury are taken by her sad story, one of them even sheds a tear for her.

R: "Thank you Miss Katero.....you may sit down now."

Hadriana goes to sit back down but instead of going back to her original seat, she perches herself at the end of the bench, prompting Andreas and Seb to move along. Seb scoffs to himself as while thinking.

S: 'She definitely did that on purpose.....and what was that shit about taking my hand? She seemed genuinely ready to let me in but no.....that's it, I'm done, I've had enough.....my walls are back up......fuck this shit......'

Eleanora sees him seething to himself and puts her hand on his shoulder from behind. He puts his hand on hers and kisses hers softly in appreciation. The jury deliberate and find them both guilty, unlike Cedric, they both plead guilty so their sentences weren't as harsh, still harsh but not as bad. They are both sentenced to twelve years in prison. Next up, is Lilia and Seb looks pleased to see her there, so much so, he smirks at her grimly.

R: "Miss Moraine. You stand accused of unlicensed subterfuge, kidnapping, doping and beating a victim, attempted murder and bribery. Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

L: "I do.....it's all his fault....."

R: "Excuse me?"

L: "HIM!"

Seb takes the witness stand and she points right at him. He smiles charmingly and raises his hands in defense.

R: "You're blaming everything on the man you tried to kill and bribe? Sebastian Wintergreen......what actually happened?"

S: "Well, she told you.....it's all my fault. She's not stable Magistrate Whiteley.....not sane. She and I were in a brief relationship over eight years ago......"

R: "How brief?"

S: "Four months......she works with a Yilonian spy syndicate, lures all of us to our apparent deaths......then tries to claim she's still in love with me......claiming to kidnap my......then girlfriend......because she's jealous of her.....then offering to spare only my life if I took her back......then when I rejected her, she threw a dagger at my head after spewing hate filled rage at me.......surely you must see how messed up that is?"

Lilia screams at him.

L: "I ONLY TRIED TO KILL YOU BECAUSE YOU SAID YOU FUCKED MY MOTHER AND SAID SHE WAS BETTER THAN ME.....YOU FUCKING WORTHLESS REPROBATE!"

Seb feigns innocence, they all buy it entirely.

S: "See? She's completely unhinged......That's not normal....."

The jury and Rita are taken completely aback by Lilia's crude and equally incriminating exclamation, some of them inhale sharply in shock.

R: "Well.....I have to agree with you Mr. Wintergreen......did anyone else hear these bribes or see her throw the knife?"

S: "My entire party, except for Miss Katero who was incapacitated at the time."

R: "Are these claims true?"

El: "Yes, Magistrate Whiteley.....It is completely true. She even harshly insulted and showed uncaring, contemptuous behaviour towards her own brother, my ex-partner and her infant nephew....my son....he's only four years old.....bless his sweet little heart....."

A real tear drips from her eye as she says that and the jury suck it in completely, especially the women, it's easy to tell which of them are mothers themselves by their reactions, all of the jury look at Lilia in disgust and some with complete contempt.

J: "Everything my son says is true......the girl is most definitely unhinged...."

Az: "It is, she hurled that dagger at his head, unashamedly."

An: "I was emotionally disturbed by a lot of what she said and several of her compatriots attacked me.....I serve the knight paladins myself, Magistrate Whiteley......and you will hear it from me, this woman is completely, entirely unstable......"

Al: "Yes, she even claimed she knew me.....I'd never met her before last week...."

R: "I've heard enough.....how do you plead Miss Moraine?"

L: "NOT GUILTY!"

R: "Jury....deliberate...."

It only takes ten minutes for them to come to a decision. It's an overwhelming guilty from all of them.

Woman in Jury: "We find this defendant guilty on all charges and we rule for insanity."

R: "I have to agree.....Miss Moraine, you will spend the next forty years of your life under lock and key and under constant supervision at the Erimond city State Asylum for the Criminally Insane.....take her away....."

Seb gets up and walks over to everyone else, he looks at Alexander, smirking as if reading each others minds, they high five each other and say.

S: "Yaassss!"

A: "The bitch went down!"

Hadriana pushes past them both, Seb doesn't seem fazed by it at all. She's shaking her head, Eleanora follows her a few seconds before everyone else leaves. Eleanora marches after her, grabs her arm and pulls her to the side.

E: "You.....you need to stop this now....."

H: "Stop what? What have I done now?"

She speaks in a hushed tone, almost hissing at Hadriana.

E: "You know exactly what you've done.....and I don't like it.....if you don't care about him anymore, stop giving him false hope and just go......he's hurting, his heart is breaking, he's even blaming himself for all of this.....and you.....you won't even talk to him.....I know you've been through a lot and we all want to help you......but if you care about someone, you let them in, you don't keep pushing them away.......I've had enough, either tell him how you really feel or just go......his walls are going back up again because of this......"

H: "And what about me? What about how I feel?! I don't think you actually care....."

E: "Are you fucking kidding me? I care about you both and I know it was traumatising for you....and it was for me too! I fucking risked my own and subsequently my unborn child's life for you....."

H: "I know.....I'm......sorry....."

E: "I don't care if you're sorry, you don't need to be sorry....look.....you're not the only one traumatised by this....just remember that! Look, he's my brother, I love him dearly and his heart is breaking.....I won't just stand by and watch it happen because you can't decide how you feel......wait......you..... blame him for this don't you?!"

Hadriana looks away, pulls her arm out of Eleanora's and runs off in tears. Eleanora stands there for a moment, thinking.

E: 'Well.....that answered my question.....she does fucking blame him......that's so unfair.....no-one controlled that situation.....if anyone is to blame......its me.....not him......she has to make up her fucking mind or just go......I'm not seeing my beautiful, kindhearted, loving brother be destroyed over this......'

She stands against the wall, still reeling when Alexander grabs her hand, jolting her from her thoughts, she jumps slightly.

A: "Are.....you alright?"

E: "Not really......I mean.....I'm happy how this all turned out.....but.....Seb......"

Seb appears almost out of nowhere.

S: "But....me....what?"

E: "You have to talk to her Seb.....just sit her down....."

S: "Do you not think I've tried Eleanora?! I've had enough.....I gave her everything and it wasn't enough......so I'm done."

E: "Just like that? You're done?!"

S: "Yep."

E: "So you meet the love of your life, some bad shit happens and you're refusing to even bother fighting for her? You're both as stubborn and pig headed as each other......"

S: "You spoke to her then?"

E: "I did.....she has to make up her mind or just go.....if she can't make up her mind and admit how she feels about you, or even let you in....."

S: "She has to go......I agree......the quicker I can cleanse myself of this shit.....the better....."

He then just walks off. She tries to shout after him but he just keeps walking.

E: "I didn't mean- UGH! Fuck this......Alex.....take me home please......and then.....you can take care of me....."

A: "Hmm, take care as in actually taking care of you.....or....?"

E: "Or.....I need you mi amoro......come on.....it's gazebo time....."

He smirks.

A: "Oh....wow.....I really like the sound of that....."

They walk home as quickly as they can, it takes about ten minutes at a fast pace. They practically run around the side of the house hand in hand and to the very back of the garden, the gazebo is sheltered mostly by some trees but if someone else were to walk into the garden to approach them, they would see almost everything. She drags him into the gazebo then buries her hands in his hair and pulls him down to her for a series of desperate and wanting kisses then reaches up to pull the little tie out of his hair, allowing it to flop messily down over his face again. He pulls away for a moment.

A: "I've.....just realised.....I've not actually fucked my fiancée yet....."

E: "You just realised? Yeah right.....why do you think I desperately dragged you in here?"

A: "Heh.....you're just as bad as I am.....and I love it....."

With that, he slips his hands underneath her skirt and swiftly pulls her underwear down, they fall to her feet and she kicks them away as he starts kissing her neck.

E: "Mmmh, someone's keen....."

He gruffly, breathlessly says in her ear.

A: "....Por vi....mi amora.....m'?iam estas fervora......" (...For you...my love......I am always keen......)

E: "Oh Gods you don't even realise just how.....mmhh! Sexy that is......."

A: "Mmh, Mia ja.....tute." (Mmh, I do....entirely)

E: "Mmm, prenu min.....mi amoro......bonvolu.....peti vin!" (Mmm, take me.....my love.....please.....I beg you!)

A: "Via deziro.....estas mia ordono......" (Your wish.....is my command.....)

He grips her backside with both hands, lifting her up and carrying her to the railing, sitting her on it, then lifting up her skirt and promptly sliding two fingers into her, she gasps excitedly as she pulls him closer to her, thrusting his fingers hard while kissing her neck, untying her blouse at the front with just one hand and pulling it down, revealing her breasts, then proceeding to kiss them, she moans loudly.

E: " Mmmh! Nun.....mi amoro!" (Mmmh! Now.....my love!)

He hastily removes his fingers from her and unbuttons his trousers faster than he's ever done before, slips his underwear down just slightly and desperately thrusts into her, she pulls him even closer by wrapping her legs tightly around him, he buries his face in the crook of her neck, she grabs his hair and pulls lightly as he thrusts hard and fast, desperately, wanting her, needing her, craving the feel of her, just like she craves every perfect inch of him, an addiction that can never be sated. They carry on, completely lost in each other for the next five minutes before he groans desperately and she screams his name in an immensely satisfying climax. He stays, throbbing inside her while she clenches herself around him, both heightening and prolonging the feeling for both of them. They look into each others eyes and speak breathlessly.

E: "You......are......just......everything to me......"

A: "And you.......are the best......most important.....part of my life......I.....love you....so much......mi amora....."

E: "I love you too....so much....it hurts....you're....just....amazing..."

A: "Thank you.....my raven haired temptress....."

E: "Heh, you're welcome.....my golden skinned sex God......"

Chapter 29: Confirmation.

A week later and Alexander and Eleanora are going to see her Aunt Louise. They are hoping that she will be able to use her detect life spell on her, to confirm the pregnancy. They get to her door and knock, Alfie answers.

Al: "Hello you two, it's good to see you again! Are you here to see Louise?"

E: "Hello uncle Alfie.....we.....need Louise to do us a big favour....."

Al: "Alright, come in....."

Louise is sitting in the lounge with a piece of embroidery that is clearly irritating her, she drops it as soon as she sees Eleanora and Alexander enter the room.

E: "Afternoon Aunt Lou.....we.....need a favour.....a pretty big one....."

L: "Well, I'll see what I can do...."

A: "We think......well we're pretty sure that Eleanora is pregnant......we just need.....confirmation....."

E: "Is there any way you'd be able to perform that spell from before? The one that detects life?"

L: "I can.....but bear in mind.....it doesn't always work.....right.....lie on the chaise sweetheart......Alexander, I need you next to me, to hold my hand.....since it's your life force I'm looking for......"

A: "Alright, hang on....."

He grabs a stool from under the table and sits next to Louise.

L: "Are you both comfortable?"

A: "Yes."

E: "Yep."

L: "Good.....because Alexander.....this may hurt a lot....."

He looks a little hesitant.

A: "What? Why?"

L: "Because.....to detect your life force in another.....I need to..... draw some of that life essence from you, from your blood, I'll form a temporary magical bond between us.....then.....I have to inhale a part of your life essence, or soul essentially, when you exhale, I'll draw it in to myself.....thus being able to detect you in Eleanora.....that's the bit that hurts.....I'll.....need you to make a small cut in your hand for me first though....Alfie, can you get us a sharp knife please?"

Alfie: "Of course, hang on....."

Ten seconds later he brings a small but sharp knife through and hands it to Alexander. He winces as he makes a small cut in the palm of his hand, as soon as he starts bleeding, she takes the bleeding hand, holding tightly, making sure to ooze out as much blood as possible, he winces in pain again as she does.

L: "That, Alexander.....that was the least painful part.....are you both ready?"

E: "Yes...."

A: "Not particularly.....but it has to be done....."

L: "Alright....."

She closes her eyes for a moment, then opens them. They have a bright red ominous looking glow as she then chants.

L: "Brath fórsa saoil!"

Just then, Alexander's eyes glow the same red, he screams an ominous, echoing, other worldly scream in pain as he exhales a small part of himself which looks like red smoke, Louise then takes a deep inhale, causing him to scream even louder. Eleanora is watching and is a little disturbed, she wants to help him but can't break the spell. The red glowing and the screaming only lasts for a total of thirty seconds, but it seems longer to both Eleanora and Alexander. Alexander is sitting normally, if a little breathless now as Louise pulls up Eleanora's blouse and then hovers her hand over Eleanora's lower body. There is indeed a very bright red glow which appears in her lower abdomen. Confirming what they had expected. Louise sees how bright it is and comments.

L: "That......is a very powerful child.....I've never seen a glow as bright as that......"

A: "That.....was horrible! I'm never doing that again.....it felt like part of my soul was being torn from me......"

L: "It was.....just a tiny part of it....."

A: "Fuck.....how is that even legal?!"

L: "It's not......it's.....blood price magic.....dark magic Alexander.....from the demonic abyssal plane of existence......"

A: "That explains the.....bloodletting......and the almost indescribable pain....."

E: "Well I didn't feel a thing....."

A: "Lucky you.....next time.....we're just waiting until you have a visible baby bump.....because quite frankly.....fuck doing that shit again, fuck it entirely! Pardon my language, Louise....I'm sorry....."

L: "Heh, it's alright.....I can forgive you, considering you just let me take a small piece of your soul.....it's fair enough to let you swear here.....but look on the bright side.....literally, you definitely are pregnant.....and it's going to be a magically powerful child."

A: "How can you possibly know that......?"

L: "Because......demonic essences are naturally attracted to powerful life forces from this plane, pretty much like a magnet.....a direct opposite, like black and white......etcetera.....the more powerful the child or life force here......the higher the concentration of demonic essences attracted to it.....thus, the brighter the light or the glow....."

A: "Alright.....well, we found something else important too then......seriously though, that was honestly the worst pain I have ever experienced.....never again."

E: "Don't worry, I won't put you through that again......thank you."

A: "Good, thank you for what?"

E: "For enduring that suffering, just to put my mind at ease. I really do love you."

He smiles and takes her hand in his, kissing it.

A: "And I love you too, mi amora....so much."

Louise looks on and smiles.

L: "You two are actually adorable.....that child will have absolutely wonderful parents.....do you have any ideas for names yet?"

E: "Not yet, no. But it will likely be a family name.....there are too many to choose from."

L: "There certainly are, we had awful trouble with all of ours.....except Andreas.....he was always going to be called that, Alfie had no say in that.....isn't that right sweetheart?!"

Alfie: "Hah, yes.....I had absolutely no say in that whatsoever.....She let me choose Darina though....."

E: "Let you?"

Alfie: "Yes, well I almost didn't have much of a say in that either...."

E: "Maybe Seb is right......Wintergreen women are not be argued with......"

Alfie: "Oh absolutely......I do not want to piss off any of you......especially my darling wife....."

L: "Cheeky....."

Eleanora and Alexander giggle.

A: "Hah, this is too familiar....we already sound like them."

E: "We do.....we'll have this marriage thing down to an art before we even get there."

A: "Looks like it....come on, we have to get back. I've got an appointment with your father...."

E: "Oh? Anything I should be concerned about?"

A: "No, no.....just about my studies. I need to decide what I'm taking next semester."

E: "Oh right, you had me worried there for a moment. Come on then."

He helps her up off of the couch.

E: "We must go now Louise but I thank you for this.....it's greatly appreciated."

Louise walks over and gives her a hug, she responds warmly.

L: "You're welcome my dear, your father told me how ill you have been. Please take care of yourself. And Alexander?"

A: "Yes?"

L: "You take care of them both too.....that's your child there. Be good to her, to them both, alright?"

A: "I promise Mrs. Whipsnade.....She's....no, they are absolutely everything to me."

L: "Please call me Louise.....and good, I'm glad.....Eleanora, you've got a good man there, sweetheart. You take care of him too, you hear?"

E: "I do and I will. Thanks again Louise. We'll see you both soon. Goodbye for now."

A: "Goodbye to you both."

Louise and Alfie say their goodbyes and Eleanora and Alexander leave their house, closing the door behind them.

A: "I love you.....but please don't ever make me do that again.....I beg of you......"

Eleanora takes his face in her hands and pulls him down to her for a passionate kiss, lingering for a good 30 seconds.

E: "I promise, sealed with a kiss......unless however there is ever any shred doubt about you being the father of any of my future children....."

A: "Mmm, I can agree to that at least, especially if you kiss me like that again....."

E: "Alright mister.....but if you get too turned on, there's nothing I can do about it here....."

A: "Eh, we'll figure something out....I'm resourceful."

She smiles and kisses him again, lingering for longer this time, their arms wrapped tightly around each other. He breaks away for a moment to look around, then smirks at her deviously. Without a word he picks her up in both arms and strides quickly into a fairly concealed alley between two houses, far enough in so that they are mostly hidden and puts his arms around her again, pushing her back against the wall and kissing her desperately for a moment before smirking again and gruffly saying in her ear.

A: "See? I'm very resourceful....."

E: "Really? Now? In public?"

A: "Of course, you need to step out of that little comfort zone of yours, mi amora....."

He says gruffly before kissing her neck, she gasps.

E: "Fine. Come here, big boy....."

A: "Mhm, I love it when you call me that....."

E: "Mm, venu ?i tien, granda knabo...."

A: "Mm, sounds even better in Sadrian....Kion an vi deziras.....mi amora....." (Whatever you desire......my love.....)

E: "Against the wall.....or from behind?"

A: "Ooh, so I get a choice.....hmm from behind, my love....."

E: "Alright.....you need to let me go first though....."

A: "Ah, not yet.....I'm not finished kissing you......"

His hands and lips are everywhere as she cannot hold back her pleasured gasps. Then he's kissing her even more desperately as he slips a hand underneath her skirt and slips two fingers into her, she moans softly into his mouth. He moves away for a moment to whisper in her ear.

A: "Mmm, Vi estas tute nerezistebla.....mi amora...." (You are completely irresistible.....my love....)

E: "Mm.....Gods....faru min.....prave nun!" (Mm......Gods.....do me....right now!)

A: "Pacienco...." (Patience....)

E: "Ne......nun.....mi volas vin, mi amoro!" (No......now.....I want you, my love!

A: "Agh.....do postulema......Ne, ke mi plendas....." (Agh....so demanding.....not that I'm complaining.....)

She starts fiddling with his trousers and unbuttons them, pulling them apart to reveal him and then pulls his underwear down just enough.

A: "Oh....you just cannot wait for anything, can you?"

E: "Nope.....now turn me around and fuck me, dammit....."

He smirks and then turns her around to face away from him, she leans her outstretched arms against the wall and then bends forward. He lifts up her skirt, pull down her underwear. He leans forward to whisper to her.

A: "Are you ready?"

He feels her with his fingers.

A: "Don't answer.....you're definitely ready for me....."

E: "Told you....."

He then slides quite easily into her, grabbing hold of her hips and thrusting forwards, she feels him even deeper.

E: "Oh.....Gods!"

He starts moving faster and harder, she cannot hold back her pleasured sounds as they echo through the alleyway, passersby will definitely have heard, but not seen. He carries on, moving faster and faster until he groans with delight and she almost screams in a head spinning climax. Once they're done, he stops but doesn't move for a few moments, she stands back up again, pulling her underwear up as he pulls out and buttons up his trousers again, she's flounders a little as she walks, seemingly dizzy, he grabs hold of her arm.

A: "Well.....I've never literally made you dizzy before.....or even wobbly for that matter....."

E: "Mm, my head.....it's spinning.....you're amazing at what you do....."

A: "I should think so.....I've been doing it for nine years....."

E: "How do you get it so right.....every.....single.....time though?"

A: "Plenty of practice.....and because you just have to exist to turn me on....."

E: "So you didn't actually need any training to be such an effective sinjorino murdisto......you're just that good......"

He snakes his arms around her from behind and whispers in her ear.

A: "Jes, mi nur naturo estas ?i alloga...." (Yes, I'm just naturally this attractive.....)

E: "You most definitely are.....now, don't you have an appointment?"

A: "Shit yes.....I got too caught up in you.....again.....come on."

They walk the next fifteen minutes to Wintergreen manor, just as they enter, Seb is getting ready to leave, he's looking pretty glum. Alexander kisses Eleanora quickly on the cheek and waves to Seb as he dashes up the stairs to Joseph's study. Eleanora speaks to Seb.

E: "Where are you off to? And with a face like a smacked arse...."

S: "Eheh.....thanks.....I'm going to move back into my place, I want my own bed back, it's been two weeks El......I've had enough of pandering to her, she's had all the space she could need anyway.....and if she doesn't like it.....well, she can just fucking go....."

E: "Good, you go home and just live like you normally would, regardless of whether or not she is there."

S: "It's all I can do. See you later El."

She opens her arms for a hug, he hesitates but then gives her a quick and fairly cold hug.

E: ".....Bye Seb....."

He fakes a smile and walks out the door, closing it behind him. He walks down the street and to the house. He thinks of knocking but then thinks that it's his house and he can do whatever he wants, so he just walks in. Passing straight through the living room and straight up the stairs. Hadriana is sitting on the chaise, reading a book, she glances at him as he walks past but doesn't say anything. They carry on existing like this, living their separate lives for the next few days. They are both in the living room one morning and she just goes about doing her own thing, until Seb finally snaps, getting sick of being snubbed and completely ignored, he raises his voice.

S: "Right! That's it.....I've fucking had enough.....what is your fucking problem with me, Hadriana?!"

She looks at him, fairly stone faced and answers in a monotonous, unemotional tone.

H: "There's nothing wrong with me.....we're just two people, living our separate lives."

S: "No....we're not....you have been purposely ignoring me, treating me like I don't fucking exist! And I've had enough of it! Fuck, even housemates actually talk to each other in passing, hell they're even friendly with each other.....but you.....you won't even acknowledge my fucking existence, let alone look at or heavens forbid actually talk to me!"

H: "Things change."

S: "Bull. Shit Hadriana! Why won't you at least fucking tell me what's upset you.....I care about you Hadriana, dearly......you changed my fucking life and now you won't even look at me......do you know how much that hurts? Really?"

Something then snaps in her and she answers angrily this time.

H: "NO! I FUCKING DON'T....I'LL TELL YOU WHAT FUCKING HURTS......BEING KIDNAPPED, DOPED AND BEATEN BECAUSE I DARED TO EVEN ASSOCIATE WITH YOU......GODS I WISH I HADN'T FUCKING MET YOU.....YOUR FAMILY ARE NOTHING BUT TROUBLE!"

S: "Wait.....YOU'RE ACTUALLY BLAMING ME FOR ALL OF THIS.....AREN'T YOU?!"

H: "AND WHY SHOULD I FUCKING NOT?! I WAS PUT THROUGH SHIT......ONLY BECAUSE I WAS GUILTY OF NOTHING BUT ASSOCIATION!"

S: "DO YOU NOT THINK I FUCKING KNOW THAT?!"

He slumps down in a chair, emotionally exhausted.

S: "I felt so fucking guilty about it.....I tried to help you......I even risked my life and my families lives......even my sister risked my unborn nieces life for you......"

H: "Well I didn't fucking ask any of you to......just like I didn't fucking ask to be kidnapped.......So what, do you want thanks for it? Is that why you did it?!"

S: "Obviously not......don't be so fucking callous, Hadriana......I did it because I'm in love with you and I care about you, alright?! I want.....well.....wanted you in my life......I'm not so sure about that any more....."

Her face softens a little as she starts to feel guilt and she tries take his hand. He pulls his hand away, recoiling. He almost hisses to her.

S: "Don't. Fucking. Touch me....."

He wordlessly walks over to his drinks cabinet, takes out a glass and a bottle of whiskey and then skulks off up the stairs into his bedroom slamming the door behind him. At that same moment, what was once a clear, sunny sky, suddenly erupts into heavy rain, grey skies and thunder. At the manor, Eleanora looks out of the window and sighs.

E: "He did it...."

Alexander was clearly lost in his book, he looks up from his book questioningly.

A: "Sorry? Who did what?"

E: "Seb.....he just broke down.....look at that weather....."

A: "Fuck, I was honestly so lost in this book.....it's fascinating.....I didn't notice.....wasn't the sun shining with clear skies just a minute ago?"

E: "Yes.....She must have told him."

A: "Told him what?"

E: "The reason she's acting the way she is......I figured it out......she actually blames him for everything....."

A: "That's.....not really fair.....it is understandable a little though, don't you think?"

E: "Perhaps a little.....but....no actually.....no. It's not fair, if anyone, its my fault, not his."

A: "She was traumatised....."

E: "Yes, but it was no-ones fault....."

A: "The irrational traumatised brain doesn't think that way Eleanora......you need something, someone to blame for what happened......for my issue....I blamed myself.....for her......the most obvious point of contact is Seb....."

E: "Still though.....she might have at least tried to let him help her......"

A: "Yes and no.....in accepting his help, she'd have been admitting to herself that she even needed help in the first place.....perhaps she doesn't believe she did.....we can only speculate though, my love. You need to let them figure it out for themselves.....try not to worry about it too much.....it's not good for you or the baby....."

E: "Ugh.....I know......it's just......he's my brother and I love him dearly......I hate seeing him hurt like this......"

A: "I know.....but hurting is a necessary part of the process.....you can't heal unless you're hurt first....."

E: "I suppose you're right......you're so wise sometimes sweetheart......"

A: "I have my moments......come here, mi amora....."

She walks over to the bed and lays down next to him, he puts an arm around her as she turns onto her side resting her head on his shoulder and her arm across his chest. They just lie like that for most of the morning talking about everything, then they decide to just have a day in because it's miserable outside. Just like it is in Seb's head, foggy, miserable grey and thunderous with sparks of angry lightning. The next day, the weather is not much different, Seb gets up fairly late with a headache from going out and drinking himself stupid the night before. He gets up and feels dizzy and nauseous, he then grabs his empty chamber pot and throws up into it, twice, quite aggressively and loudly. Feeling less nauseous but with a feeling of both physical and emotional emptiness, he walks down the stairs and in to the kitchen, not even bothering to look in the mirror as he walks past it, he simply doesn't care if he looks like shit or not. Hadriana is awake and is sitting at the dining table waiting for him. Ten minutes pass and he trudges through with a cup of tea and a sweet oat biscuit, he sits on the couch.

H: "So, when did you finally get home last night?"

He rolls his eyes and adopts a bitter, sarcastic tone.

S: "Oh.....So now you suddenly care?! After what you said to me yesterday.....you don't get to ask me those questions......so just fucking leave me alone....."

H: "I heard you vomiting upstairs Seb.....I was just.....concerned....."

He's still speaking bitterly in a condescending tone.

S: "It's called a hangover, Hadriana.....it happens when you drink too much.....surely you understand?! You know what.....fuck this, I'm going back to bed....."

H: "Don't.....please, Seb.....you obviously did that to yourself because of me, and-"

He interjects, losing his patience.

S: "Oh, please.....don't fucking flatter yourself......if I'm not back down by three or four and you really do care......come and wake me......although with any luck, by then I'll be dead and this fucking nightmare will be over......."

H: "Seb....."

S: "What?! What do you fucking want from me Hadriana?!"

H: "I just.....want to help you....."

S: "What? You mean like you let me help you?! Just.....fuck off.....I'm done here....."

He walks back up the stairs and into his bedroom. Hadriana has a tear in her eye, she feels quite guilty. It starts raining again outside. Just as he closes his bedroom door, someone knocks at the front door, she gets up and answers it. She sees a young man, he's wet from the rain and trying to keep something dry.

Boy: "Excuse me, does a Miss Katero live here?"

H: "Yes, that's me.....is everything alright? What's your name?"

E: "I'm Eric, I'm just a messenger from the Ram......it must have been your forwarding address, Miss Katero......this letter arrived for you yesterday but the weather was too bad that I couldn't get it to you. So here it is now.....sorry for the delay."

He hands over the slightly damp letter. She hopes it's still legible. She thanks Eric and hands him a gold coin and he goes on his way. She opens the letter, thankfully it is still legible. It reads.

Dear Hadriana.

I'm writing to tell you that your father has taken ill.....he's likely not got long left and is asking for you sweetheart.

He says he's sorry about making you put your dreams on hold, but he misses you dearly and wants so desperately to see you again before he passes.

You must come home as soon as you can, I'm sorry about this news sweetheart, but there is nothing else we can do for him now. We just have to take care of him in his final months.

Sending all my love. Mother.

Hadriana, now in tears, puts her hand over her mouth and shakes her head as the letter falls from her hand onto the floor. She leans against the wall and slides down it until she's sitting on the floor, her knees up in front of her, she hugs them and drops her head into them, sobbing uncontrollably. Seb is none the wiser as he's fallen asleep again. Twenty minutes later, Hadriana is rushing around, gathering everything she deems to be important, anything she forgets about, she just leaves. She gathers everything important into just two big bags, leaving them by the door. She goes up the stairs briefly and quietly opens the door to Seb's room. She places a note on his bedside table then walks over to look at him, he looks peaceful, she smiles regretfully with a tear in her eye then she leans down, pushes a lock of his hair away from his forehead and then kisses it, while thinking.

H: 'I'm so sorry Sebastian.....you deserve better than me.....Gods, why does he have to be so beautiful, even when he sleeps? I'm going to miss that face, so much.'

He stirs and his eyelashes flutter but he doesn't wake up, she smiles softly. She then goes downstairs, picks up her bags and leaves the house, desperately trying not to look back.

Chapter 30: An ending.

Later that night, Seb wakes up in a bit of a glazed stupor. He looks at the time and its after 9pm, he slept all day.

S: "Ugh, another fucking wasted day......because of her....."

He then briefly glances at his bedside table, seeing a letter. He picks it up, sees it has his name on it and reads it.

Sebastian.

In case you've not already noticed. I've gone.

My father is desperately ill and is in his final months. So I am going back to Sadria to be with him.

I will likely never come back. I should never have left in the first place. It turns out my father was right about it not being safe.

Goodbye, Sebastian. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry.

Hadriana.

Seb thinks to himself.

S: 'I'm free......it's over......time for a little holiday I think......clear my head.....erase her and everything else.....cleanse the soul and get back to my usual self.....'

He busies himself that night, packing anything he'll need for anything between a four and six week journey. Not going back to bed again until two in the morning, he sleeps until six in the morning then gets up again, has breakfast, packs some food, not forgetting a few carrots for Tiberius, then leaves the house with two big bags over his shoulders and his bow and arrows on his back. He walks the ten minutes to the stables and finds Tiberius, he gives him a carrot then strokes his nose.

S: "Who's a good boy?!"

While he thinks

S: 'At least you won't fucking leave me.....or treat me like shit.....'

He loads up all of his bags, onto Tiberius' saddle then fits his reigns and makes sure his horse shoes are alright. He grabs spares just in case. Before leaving, he writes a little note for the family. He then hops onto Tiberius and sets off, making a quick stop at the manor to slide the note under the door, then rides off out of the City's Northern gate, by the time he leaves, it's not even eight in the morning. Alexander gets up around eight thirty and washes his hair quickly before heading downstairs, he has a 9am class. He finds the note and reads it.

Dear family.

Hadriana is gone, her father is ill so she's gone back home for good. She parted on bad terms with me, so to be honest, I'm relieved she's gone.

Which means I'm free, free to get her out of my head. Free to do whatever and whomever I want and get back to my old self again.

I'm going on a lone hunting trip/holiday for about a month, maybe six weeks. Just me and Tiberius. I need a break away from this place to cleanse my mind.

Don't expect me back before then and try not to worry about me, I can look after myself.

Pa, feel free to close the shop while I'm away. You can keep it open if you like, bearing in mind that you'll likely have to be there pretty much all of the time. You're free to do as you please.

All my love, Seb.

Alexander thinks to himself.

A: 'For fucks sake......I need to give this to El before I leave....'

He runs back up the stairs and back into Eleanora's room, she's just starting to wake up.

A: "Eleanora....you need to read this....."

E: "What, is everything alright?"

A: "I'll let you be the judge of that....but I must go, lest I be late.....I'll see you at lunch time."

He quickly kisses her cheek then dashes out of the room and out of the front door. She sits up and reads the note.

E: "Oh for- PA?!"

Joseph is awake and walking down the hall when he hears Eleanora call him, he dashes to her room thinking something is wrong.

J: "Is everything alright, sweetheart?"

She looks frustrated and hands him the note.

E: "Look at this....."

He takes it from her and reads it quickly and shakes his head.

J: "Oh, for- What does he think this will solve, really?! Just up and abandoning all of his responsibilities and leaving everyone else to deal with the aftermath.....He's a law unto himself, that boy......I was right.....he will be the death of me.....I feel a fucking stress related heart attack coming on.......I now have some people to speak to......thank you for giving me this sweetheart.....excuse me....."

Eleanora smiles and thinks to herself.

E: 'Ah, so that's where Seb gets his penchant for the dramatic from.....it all makes sense now.....Seb is Pa.....the issue with them isn't that they're too different.....it's because they're too alike! I fucking knew it.....'

Over the next two weeks, Seb travels over one hundred miles away, stopping at the odd inn and tavern every four days or so for a day at a time to bathe, shave and sleep comfortably. Each time spending the night with a different woman. Tonight, he's reached Ardbastionne, the furthest South eastern Idrallan city. It's close to the Andosan border by about thirty miles or so. He parks Tiberius in the city stables just outside the Southernmost gate to the city. He is searched by royal guards as he walks in, as Ardbastionne is a huge, advanced and spectacular militant city and seat of power, it's the capital City of Southern Idralla. the Idrallan royal family's main palace of residence is here. He can't help but be wowed and the sheer magnitude of the place, he stops by a decorative fountain to admire it, his surroundings and to check his reflection in the water. He only bathed, shaved and washed his clothes the day previous so he thinks he looks pretty good, considering he's been travelling so long. He sits on the edge of the fountain, trying to fix his hair as it's starting to stick up everywhere, he eventually gets frustrated and gives up, thinking to himself.

S: 'Fuck this.....I'll have to get a trim soon.....it's just going to do what it wants to otherwise.....my hair has a mind of its own.....although, it adds to my charm I think....'

While he's sitting fiddling with his hair, he appears to have caught the attention of an exceptionally beautiful woman, dressed in a very elegant and expensive looking dress. She's about 5'4" and curvaceous with golden skin, tumbling black curls and a strikingly beautiful face. Her eyes are a deep brown, almost black, surrounded by long dark eyelashes. She walks gracefully over to him and taps his shoulder.

?: "Excuse me.....sir....?"

He turns around, initially irritated but then takes one look at her and softens immediately, he gives her his most sweet smile.

S: "Yes, young lady?"

?: "Well, it's been a while since I've been called that......"

S: "Nonsense, you don't look a day over twenty five....."

?: "Hah, now I know you're joking.....but, thank you.....pardon me for being bold.....but I noticed you from across the marketplace, frustratedly trying to fix your hair.....I came over to say that you needn't bother, it's lovely as it is.....and.....also to perhaps introduce myself......"

S: "Well....thank you.....I was just thinking to myself that it needs cut.....but oh well, another time.....Anyway, I'm Sebastian Wintergreen.....it's a pleasure to meet you."

She holds out her hand, he takes it softly and kisses it.

?: "Oh aren't you a charmer? I'm, Celéne Rochefort......wait, Wintergreen, you say?"

S: "Yes, my father Joseph is Archmage in Erimond City....."

C: "That must be why it's familiar.....he's well known, even here you know?"

S: "No, I did not know.....but I'll be happy to piggy back off of his fame for a while....why not.....anyway, is there.....any particular reason you wished to introduce yourself?"

C: "Well.....again, I'll be bold....."

S: "Not to worry, I like bold....."

She smiles, almost deviously.

C: "Good.....it's simply because I find you......particularly attractive......"

S: "Oh really? Then would it be bold of me to say that the feeling is mutual?"

C: "Not at all.....come with me....."

Seb shrugs and goes along with it. She takes him on a walk into the beautiful city gardens that surround the magnificent white and golden palace, they walk slowly, arm in arm.

C: "Tell me a little about yourself Sebastian...."

S: "What would you like to know?"

C: "Hmm, how old are you?"

S: "I'm twenty four, I'll be twenty five in just month though."

Celéne smiles, seemingly pleased with that answer, he doesn't know why but goes along with it anyway.

C: "Alright, are you married.....children?"

S: "Nope and nope, it's just me...."

C: "Good, good.....last question, why are you here, so far from home?"

S: "That's a tough one....."

C: "Oh? How so?"

S: "Long story short.....I fell in love with a girl.....things were great......shortly after though, she went through a traumatic event.....which for some reason, she blamed me for......we fought.....a lot......broke up.....she left.....now I'm here.....getting over her......"

C: "Oh....I'm sorry to hear that, Sebastian....."

S: "Don't be.....I was a fucking fool for falling so quickly.....ah well, you live and learn....."

C: "I actually think you're more bothered by it than you make out.....but if there's any way.....any way at all that I could help you out.....then all you have to do is ask......"

He smirks.

S: "Oh really....? And what could a beautiful woman such as yourself do for me exactly?"

Her tone turns flirty.

C: "Oh....I have a few ideas.....come with me, handsome....."

She smiles deviously then takes his hand and starts at a slow run towards a small building obscured by trees, just past a hedgemaze at the very back of the gardens. She stops just outside the door, she's a little out of breath, flushed and breathing heavily, he can't help but admire her beauty and her heaving bosom as she catches her breath. She catches him looking at her in an almost lustful way, so she grabs the collar of his shirt with both hands, pushes him back against the wall of the little wooden building, he's initially surprised but then smirks his most devilish smirk, which only seems to encourage her, they search each others faces for just a moment before she crashes her lips to his in a flurry of fiery, desperate kisses. She breaks away for a moment.

C: "Mm....Gods.....you're just perfect, young man.......hang on, just a moment......"

He smiles and nods while she searches on of her dress pockets for something. She pulls out a small silver key and then unlocks the door to the little cabin.

S: "How did you-"

She cuts him off by putting her finger over his lips.

C: "Don't worry about that.....this can be our little secret....."

She pulls him into the cabin, then locks the door behind them.

S: "That's all good with me...."

He says as he desperately kisses her again, his hands roaming everywhere, touching everything.

C: "You can take my dress off you know....."

S: "I was getting there.....don't worry.....you'll get to experience every inch of me.....after I savour every inch of you.....Gods your tits are.....just magnificent....."

C: "Mm, thank you.....they're all yours, handsome....."

S: "Mm, wonderful...."

He turns her around and starts to unbutton her dress, letting it drop to the floor as she wriggles out of it. He turns her around to face him again and is briefly in awe of the view in front of him.

S: "Gods, you're actually perfect....."

C: "Mm, thank you.....so, handsome.......I've shown you mine......."

He smirks.

S: "Heh, I get it.....you want to look before you buy?"

She nods with a devious grin. Then grabs his jacket collar.

C: "May I?"

S: "Of course...."

She pulls off his jacket first, throwing it somewhere, then the same with his waistcoat, throwing it in the other direction, she then pulls off his shirt, taking a step back to admire him for a moment.

C: "Oh Gods......you're perfect, young man......now, let's see what else you're hiding from me....."

She steps forward and unbuttons his trousers, they fall to the floor and he kicks them away.

C: "Oh, I am impressed.....you'll do....just nicely....."

She almost growls this as she gently grabs his crotch, soliciting a pleasured gasp from him.

S: "Mmh......Gods....."

She practically rips off his underwear, they hit the floor and he kicks them away too. She grabs hold of him again, massaging him gently as she kneels down in front of him, she rests her hands on his backside and slides him into her mouth, taking in every inch of him, sucking so intensely, so powerfully that he groans loudly.

S: "Oh.....GODS!"

She carries on for just another couple of minutes until he explosively climaxes. She seems even more turned on by this, she swallows quickly then stands up again, smirking.

S: "I.......don't think........I've ever been blown like that before......you're very, very good....."

C: "Mm, so I've been told......tell me.....how long before you can go again?"

S: "Impatient are we? Not long usually.....ten minutes maybe....."

C: "Then get over here and kiss me.....big boy......"

He smirks and takes two strides forwards, snaking his hands around her waist and resting on her backside, squeezing it.

S: "Your arse is pretty perfect too actually....."

C: "Heh, again....not the first time I've been told that...."

He leans in and starts kissing her again, she's getting more and more desperate with every kiss. It only takes him another five minutes or so before he's turned on again, it's more intense this time. She whispers in his ear.

C: "You've seen what I can do.....now I want to see what you can do....."

S: "Your wish is my command.....sweet temptress....."

He takes two of his fingers and traces them down her crotch until he hears a sharp inhale, he finds her sensitive spot and massages it gently for only a few minutes until her legs start to shudder and her body convulses with waves of pleasure, she moans loudly. He whispers in her ear, gruffly.

S: "Step one......."

He then takes those fingers and crooks them, searching lower down before sliding them into her, thrusting them gently until she starts moaning, gasping and says.

C: "That's enough.....I want you....now....."

He smirks and says.

S: "Step two....."

C: "Mm......I see you have a system going here.....what's step three?"

S: "Giving you the best, most powerful and satisfying climax of your life....."

C: "Mmm, someone is sure of himself.....go for it...."

He then pushes her fairly roughly against the wall gripping her bottom and lifting her up, she wraps her legs around him. He hitches her up a few more inches then hastily slides himself into her, thrusting hard while he buries his face in her neck, kissing roughly. After a few minutes her loud moans have turned to screams as he moves harder, faster and deeper, he loves the feeling of her breasts squeezing against him as he does. Just another few minutes and she's almost hoarse from moaning in ecstasy, he climaxes loudly and groans as she exclaims.

C: "OH GODS!!"

He grins smugly as he looks at her, she does the same.

S: "Mm.....was I right then?"

C: "Fuck yes! You.....are a God.....you most certainly know how to deeply satisfy a woman...."

S: "Lets just say I have.....plenty of experience......"

C: "Gods.....it shows......mmmm.......I came three times in less than ten minutes.....I swear.....no man has managed that before....."

S: "It seems I'm just that good....."

She smirks at his bravado.

C: "Oh you most certainly are....."

She then drops her legs and he pulls out. They search for their clothes and put them back on. She unlocks the door and they leave the little cabin. She takes his hand and walks with him to the back entrance to the palace, it's heavily guarded and he feels a little insecure. But then she pulls down for a passionate kiss before saying.

C: "I want to see you again, Sebastian.....for round two....."

S: "Mm.....just name the time and the place, Celéne......"

C: "Same time, same place tomorrow?"

S: "I'll be there...."

She smiles, strokes his face and kisses his cheek before nonchalantly walking into the palace gates. The guards move for her, he's confused as he watches her approach the palace. He nervously approaches one of the guards.

S: "Em.....excuse me? Out of curiosity.....why did you just let her in without searching her? I thought you guys searched everyone......"

The guard scoffs a little.

Guard: "Do you not recognise our Queens mother?"

Seb takes a step back with wide open eyes.

S: "Queens.....mother......Oh Gods.....well.....clearly not....."

Guard: "Not to worry sir.....she takes.....male visitors fairly often and unashamedly.....she is widowed after all....."

S: "Right.....again, just out of curiosity.....how old is she?"

Guard: "Forty two, I believe....."

S: "Fuck.....I thought she was my age......thank you sir....."

Guard: "Any time. Goodbye young man."

S: "Goodbye....."

He starts walking away while thinking to himself.

S: 'I......just fucked the Queens mother because she found me attractive......that's a huge boost for the old ego......not that I really need it......'

At the same time, Hadriana has just crossed the border into Sadria, just another two weeks or so and she'll be home. Two weeks on the road have taken their toll on her and she's not feeling well, throwing up most mornings. When suddenly a thought dawns on her and she's filled with dread.

H: 'Oh Gods.....I've missed my monthly......no.....please Gods no......'

Her worst fears about her father are confirmed when two weeks later, she reaches her family home and sees her father lying in bed looking horrendous. She had hoped the letter was an exaggeration and that he'd recover. That was not the case.

H: "Oh Gods Papa.....you look terrible....."

He speaks in a hoarse voice, almost losing it completely.

M: "Hah, always the blunt one, weren't you sweetheart?"

H: "Yes....sorry Papa....."

She gives him a hug and he kisses her forehead.

M: "It's so good to see you again sweetheart.....how did you get on in Idralla?"

H: "You were right about it....."

M: "Right about what?"

H: "That I should never have left....."

M: "Oh, that was just me being overdramatic and overprotective.....what happened?"

H: "I.....met a man....."

M: "And?"

H: "And.....because of an association with his family, I was kidnapped and doped by a group of spies who wanted to kill him and his family....."

Marco covers his mouth in shock.

M: "Gods! I'm so glad you're safe sweetheart.....did he.....come for you?"

H: "He did......but I.....I messed up Pa, I blamed him.....for everything......he was so very hurt by it, he told me he was in love with me......and now I feel horrendously guilty about it....."

M: "Because you're in love with him too, aren't you sweetheart?"

H: "I.....don't know.....I must be....."

M: "It's in your eyes sweetheart....."

H: "But I suppose I didn't want to admit it......so I was cold.....almost cruel to him, hoping he'd go off of me.....he didn't......until the day I left.....he snapped and......Gods what have I done?"

M: "I'm guessing you didn't part on good terms?"

H: "Not particularly...."

M: "Then.....if I do not make it, sweetheart......promise me you'll go back to him, if you do love him....."

H: "I'm not leaving you again, Papa.....it was stupid of me....."

M: "Gods, you're so damned stubborn.....just like your mother....."

Just then, Sedona walks into the room, hearing mention of her.

S: "Just like me what, Marco?"

M: "Hadriana.....she's as stubborn as you are....."

S: "What did you do this time, Hadriana?"

H: "Oh it's nothing.....honestly. I'll tell you later.....Now I have to-"

She suddenly gets up and dashes out of the room and down the stairs, they hear her throwing up out the door. Sedona keeps talking to Marco.

S: "What was that about? Is she ill now too?"

M: "I.....don't think she's ill, so to speak, my love....."

S: "And what do you mean by that?"

M: "In Idralla.....she met someone.....a man.....and she's so obviously in love with him......but they parted on bad terms....."

S: "That, is like her.....what happened?"

M: "She told me she was kidnapped and doped by spies who were after his family......"

S: "Fucking hell, my poor girl...."

M: "This young man, he came to rescue her though apparently......but she blamed the entire thing on him.....feeling had she not associated herself with him......"

S: "....That it wouldn't have happened......That sounds like her too......he couldn't have possibly known that would happen though......surely?"

M: "Obviously not.....she said she was almost cruel and cold towards him, hoping he'd go off of her.....because she was too stubborn to admit she loves him."

S: "Oh really? I'll talk to her later.....what did you mean about her not being ill, so to speak?"

M: "She's pregnant.....I think.....she has that glow about her, that you always did, my love...."

S: "Oh.....well that remains to be seen.....She has to go back to him if she is.....even if he doesn't want her anymore......that child deserves to have it's father in its life.....again, I'll talk to her....."

Two weeks later. Seb is on his way home, having spent six weeks away from everything. He even spent a few days in Andosa after his week long affair with the Queens mother.

Back in Sadria, Hadriana's father Marco has just passed a few days ago. Her mother, herself and her brothers are all at home, arranging for his funeral service, he is to be committed to a pyre and sent off the coast, out to sea. Poronas City is on the coast and has well over three miles of beach.

A few days later once everything is dealt with, Hadriana, Sedona, Adi, Leto and Theo are all standing on the beach surrounded by a large group of around one hundred friends, family and close acquaintances, all wishing to pay their respects. Marco Katero was well known and well loved throughout their community, both as a friend and trusted merchant. He was a religious man and was very active in his local church of the God, Moradin. They are all gathered around the pyre, the priest of Moradin says a few words as dictated by the family, he then chants a prayer in Sadrian. The family are all in tears, particularly Sedona who is essentially crying into Adi's chest as he has his arms around her tightly and Hadriana is making sure that Leto's shoulder is particularly damp, Theo is holding Leto's hand.

Leto and Adi are twins and so, naturally look a little alike anyway, they are fraternal twins though so they are far easier to tell apart from each other than identical twins would be. They both have golden brown skin. Adi is a little shorter at around 6'0" he has mid length, thick jet black hair that has an intense wave to it, it's almost curly. His eyes are a striking, very dark brown and he's very much a classically handsome young man, he looks much more like Marco. He also has a broader, stockier build in general than Leto does. Leto is the taller, more slim built and elven looking of the two, he's around 6'2". His hair is also jet black but is much straighter, he wears it much shorter too. He has a more cheeky, little boyish face with big violet, very unusual but equally beautiful looking eyes, he looks much more like Sedona. Theo is essentially a smaller version of Adi, except with straighter hair, at just eleven, he's already 5'5", taller than Hadriana. Sedona is a tall dark elven woman, she stands at around 5'9" with grey tinted golden brown skin and long flowing jet black hair, which is tied up in neatly. Her eyes are huge and bright violet in the centre surrounding the pupil, radiating out into a halo of black.

?

(Above: Leto, Sedona and Adi.)

H: "Why did he have to be taken so young, Leto?"

L: "I don't know.....it's the Gods way I suppose.....Theo is doing remarkably well.....look at him."

She sees Theo standing with a sad face but he's not crying anymore, he seems thoughtful, pensive.

H: "He is.....we could all learn from him.....Papa wouldn't have wanted us to be like this.....mourning his death....."

L: "No....he'd want us to celebrate his life instead.....where he got his endless positivity from.....I have no idea....."

A: "He got that happiness from us....and his faith.....he was the most faithful of us all....."

S: "He was, I wish I'd gone to church with him more....."

L: "Now, now......it's not the time for regret.....just remember the positives. Like I said.....celebrate his life....."

They all smile a sad smile as the priest calls over Adi and Leto to help him push the pyre into the sea, Adi lights it with his flame magic. They all watch fondly as their beloved father takes his trip to the next life.

H: "Gods bless you Papa....I love you and I'll never forget you."

L: "Goodbye Papa, I'll miss you so.....I hope I've made you proud....."

S: "Goodbye, my sweet Marco.....you'll always be in my heart.....until we meet again......my love.....my one and only......"

After hearing what her mother said, Hadriana can't help but think of Seb. She feels a knot of regret and shame in her stomach. Theo is crying again so he is too choked up to say anything as he hugs into Sedona's side and buries his face in her shoulder.

A: "Goodbye, Papa.....you're in a better place now, safe and happy, where the Gods can watch over you....."

They stand watching for another ten minutes in a comfortable silence as the flaming pyre meets the horizon. They go home with heavy hearts once it has disappeared from sight.


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