The dreams of the parallel universe were interesting to say the least. I kind of enjoyed being both a pleasure slave and assassin at the same time. George was Sepira and we were debating who we thought Lasira was in this life. Perhaps we didn't know her this time around, Dad suggested. He'd finally dreamed with Ned about this life and we wondered why all the other lives had ceased to appear nightly.
George finally said out loud what we were all thinking - someone from that life was currently in our lives with evil intentions. I thought Phaisel was the reporter that was dogging our steps but Ned thought he was a light-weight and was reporting back to someone yet unknown. I asked Dad if there was another lawyer who might want the open judge's seat.
He frowned then slowly nodded. "I know of at least two other names who have been put in for it. Eugene Skelling is about my age and he's been practicing marital law almost exclusively for the last twenty years. He's a big contributor to the Republican Party. The other man is someone I don't know much about, David Denver. He's about thirty-five, works out of Springer and specializes in corporate law. I know Gene but to my knowledge, I've never even met Mr. Denver."
"And you don't want it, do you?" George asked him.
"Not right now, angel." Dad hugged her a little closer and dropped a kiss on her shiny black hair. "I want to bring the law firm up to snuff before I move behind the bench. But I can't formally turn it down unless it's offered to me. I did tell Hackett and Cooper that the timing wasn't right for me so hopefully they have passed that on to the political powers-who-be."
"How about a case that's coming up that might pit you against a powerful foe?" Ned asked from the floor where he was keeping watch on Elijah and Amanda, who were waving their arms for no apparent reason. They did that a lot. The other two babies were sound asleep on George and my laps.
"I'll keep an eye open but at the moment nothing comes to mind. Perhaps we'll dream an answer." Dad said with a chuckle.
I made another pass through the three rooms and watched the windows, which I finally managed to pry open. I had pinned loosely woven silk screens over the openings that had small bells attached. It was the best of both worlds - we were able to catch the breezes to relieve the stuffy apartment and we'd have warning if someone tried to enter. Snakes were a favorite form of assassination, the poisonous asps in particular.
But I'd made quite sure that there was nothing lurking within or without these walls. Lasira was singing the young master to sleep while Nephrites aired their robes for the next day. He had packed some food for our own use to supplement that which we would get from the palace kitchens. I approved of that foresight and complimented him on it. He blushed becomingly and told me that Sepira had mentioned it to him.
Still, I thought he was intelligent enough to take a good suggestion and make it better. He'd already told the servant who'd brought the tray of savories that he would need fresh milk for the young master's breakfast. He'd brought along the oatmeal that was Sar's favorite meal, also the dates that he could cut up small to flavor the plain grain. I had no worries about the little one but I did about his father.
Sepira would catch any poison by smell and taste but I worried that even her trained digestion couldn't throw off a massive attack of poison. They'd been gone for four hours and it was midnight when I heard our secret knock. I opened the door with one hand behind my back, holding onto my favorite knife. Bowing, I ushered in Lord Carthenal and Sepira who looked no worse than when they had left.
Nephrites was at his lord's side within three heartbeats and I watched them hug with a smile of satisfaction. They were well-matched and I cast a look at my beloved Sepira to find her smiling also. I questioned her in a low voice. She reported who were there, what was said within her hearing and what additions to the food she'd tasted.
The great lord asked her in an astonished voice about her report on the food. She bowed her head and listed the spices that were not necessary and in which dishes she'd tasted them. He sighed and thanked her most sincerely for keeping them from him. I think it was then that he truly realized that he and his family were in danger beyond what his skill at arms could protect them. Nephrites crossed to my Sister's side and standing on his tiptoes, kissed her cheek and said his own 'thank you'.
His nature is almost as sweet as my two Sisters. Sepira's modesty almost made her blush, something I'd not seen since she joined me in the seraglio of the House of the Eternal Bliss at the age of fourteen. I slid a hidden hand down her back to cup her cheek and tickle her crease. Once the lord and his bonded were ensconced in the bath, I was going to reward her for her valiant efforts.
Lasira joined us then and informed Nephrites that their son was asleep. Lord Carthenal thanked us all and swept his bonded up into his arms to take him to the bathing room just beyond the bed chamber. Lasira said the nurse was sleeping next to the young master behind the ebony screen in the alcove off the bed chamber so our charges were taken care of for the moment. I hugged my Sisters to me and rejoiced that no harm had come to our new family.
So far, that is.
********* Ned/Nephrites *********
My lord had been in danger tonight but the sweet Sister had deflected the attempts. I hugged him tightly and kissed every bit of skin that I could reach. His smile was warm and he returned my kisses with teasing ones of his own that made my nipples ache. I undressed him almost as quickly as he undressed me. At least I took care to lay our robes out on the bed before he picked me back up and walked us down into the blue and green tiled sunken tub.
It was a little bigger than ours at home but I thought it overly stuffy even though Carira had managed to open the windows in the two outer rooms. I lathered my hands to soap my bonded's beautiful body and he lay back to let me clean him from head to toe. His shaft was rising with each caress and I took a moment to suck a tasty tear drop from the swollen crown before finishing washing his broad chest.
He smiled at me and tugged me down to kiss me again. His kisses are sweeter than honey and I could feel myself begin to dampen with the first taste of his warm mouth. Some of those spices, the good ones, made him taste even better and I was loath to part from him but I had something better to taste. His shaft rose tall between my legs and I slipped to one side so I could begin to nibble at the flaring crown.
"Sweet heart, you don't have to do that," his fingers slid through my long hair, massaging my scalp until I wanted to purr for him. "But I must admit that your tongue should be considered a secret weapon."
Smiling, I flirted my eyelashes up at him while sucking a little harder and flicking my tongue just under the head. His hips came up and I decided that I'd teased him enough. Letting him fall from my lips, I surged up and over him. His hands on my hips kept me from the quick impaling that I'd planned and he tortured me for long moments while he forged inside of my female sheath.
I was panting like I had in labor two years before and that reminded me that in eight months, I'd be giving birth again. My eyes opened when I had him all inside of me. "We are going to have another child, beloved."
He smiled tenderly and one long-fingered hand pressed against my male sheath and inside to trigger that other sweet spot. "We are indeed, my love. I shall be able to come inside of you with impunity until it gets too uncomfortable for you."
I flexed around him and used my thigh muscles to rise up before sitting back down. "I love you coming inside of me, no matter which way you choose. It will be long months before I grow fat and ungainly."
"You have never been nor shall you ever be fat or ungainly." He scolded me and thrust up a little, the water slowing our normal motion to a languid slide of skin on skin. "I have to admit that you are even more beautiful with your stomach swollen so large that I can hardly reach around you. I love watching your body change moment by moment. Knowing that our child is growing safe within you while I keep both of you safe within our home, that makes me feel like the most fortunate man in the kingdom."
My hands balanced on his shoulders and I smiled into his beloved dark eyes. "I feel safe within your arms, Car. I feel so cherished and loved that I know that I am the luckiest Chosen in the world."
His smile dimmed a little. "Lord Sacralus is here with his Chosen, Laital. The young man attended him at the banquet and he's so close to delivering again that I half way expected him to drop the baby right then and there. It's his fifth child in five years and the poor man looks twice your age when he's barely two years older."
I paused in our lovemaking and shivered. "That could have been me if you hadn't bought me."
His eyes flared with heat. "Never, beloved, there was never any doubt that you were mine." His hips snapped up and I moaned at the pleasure. "We were meant to be together, Nephrites, from the moment we were born. Eternity is ours, my love."
"You are my life, my heart, my soul." I promised him.
"Yes," his movements sped up and I began to burn even though we were surrounded by water. He owns me even though I am no longer a slave and am his bonded instead. I was the only Chosen of the ten who could say that and I pitied the others with all my heart. Perhaps Car and I would show their lords a better way.
Between one heart beat and the next, I seized hard around him and almost woke the baby with my cry. Another thrust and Car flooded me with his heat. His seed warmed the new child that we'd created and I mentally bade him or her be at peace. All was well with our world. He held me close for a long moment then we separated long enough to rinse away the evidence of our lovemaking.
The Sisters would know but I found that I no longer minded. They were a part of our family now and I welcomed the ease of tension that they brought with them. Car had said that they were the best triad of the House of Eternal Blessings and I held faith that they would foil all attempts to harm my family.
We toweled dry and walked hand in hand to our bed for a good night's sleep. The Sisters broke apart with Carira staying with us, Lasira to the outer room while Sepira took her turn in the bath chamber. I fell asleep knowing that we were safe. My lord cuddled me close and I think we both slept well.
The next morning was chaos but an organized chaos. Lasira and the nurse got my little angel ready while Sepira dressed me in my beautiful new robe. Carira watched over my lord and they spoke in muted voices, I'm sure about our safety. I was nervous but also curious about the king and the courtiers. I had very little memory of our bonding in front of some of them because all I could see was my lord.
He was my world then and he is now, I thought while adjusting my veil so only my eyes could be seen. The king could demand I unveil but only for him so I thought it wouldn't be too bad. My beaded headdress chimed gently when I moved my head and Car smiled at me over Carira's shoulder.
"It's time, beloved. Remember how much I love you and our son." He held out his hand to me after picking Sarpendon up.
I joined him while Lasira and Carira came behind us to follow. Sepira would remain in the rooms to make sure that nothing would happen in our temporary home. When Kristos, the king's major domo, met us outside the door, my stomach fluttered with nerves and I kept my eyes lowered to the veined marble floors. Lord Carthenal walked in front with me to the left and one pace behind him. That signified that we were bonded since as a slave, I would have been three paces further back.
Kristos announced us when we entered the large hall that served as the king's throne room. Car had described it to me and I swept a quick look around it before dropping my eyes again. It was a sumptuous room of gold and marble but all I could really see were what seemed to be hundreds of eyes all looking at me. I knew that I was blushing but little Sar helped me regain my composure with a muted cry of delight at all the pictures on the walls.
All the house animals of each great lord were in beautiful painted murals on the walls. Perhaps later I'd be able to look my fill but for now I kept my eyes on Car's legs so that I didn't run into him when we reached the throne. Little murmurs raced around the room and I wondered what they were saying. Perhaps like Kristos, they were remarking on how strong and healthy little Sar was.
"My Majesty, I greet thee." My lord stopped and bowed with his words, setting Sar down by his side so he could bow, too. Our son looked so sweet with his shining golden hair like mine and the smile on his round face. I went to my knees in obeisance, followed by the Sisters in full genuflection.
"Welcome to court, Sarpendon son of Carthenal." The king's voice was gentle and I risked a quick look from my kneeling position to see him smiling down at my little boy. "And thou must introduce me to thy Chosen, Lord Carthenal."
Car stepped back and raised me to my feet, keeping my hand in his. "My King, please meet my bonded, Nephrites, the Chosen."
I bowed low, my headdress tinkling with my movements. "Greetings, Great One."
He actually stood and came down the three steps that led up to his throne to stand before me. Reaching out, he raised my head with a tender hand and beckoned me to unveil. I think my hand shook when I obeyed. It seemed like such a daring thing to do in this hall filled with lords and their retinues. But his eyes were kind when they looked into mine and his voice was but a murmur.
"Thou art blessed among men, Car. Thy bonded is beautiful as the dawn and moves with the grace of a gazelle."
I blushed and dropped my eyes again while my lord answered in a voice no louder than the king's. "I am blessed indeed, My King. Nephrites carries another child for my house to be born in a handful of months."
"Congratulations, Lord Carthenal, witness all who are present. I accept Sarpendon as the heir to House Carthen and the new child, yet unborn, to our service." The King's voice rang out loud and clear, his announcement loosing loud clicking from the assembled lords to acknowledge the decree.
I relaxed just a little but not completely since we were still not safe from the threat of Lord Phaisel. The king gestured for me to re-veil and I did so with a small sigh of relief. That felt *so* much better. He and my lord spoke quietly for a long moment before he resumed his throne and Car led us to the empty space on the right side of the throne, signifying that my lord was the leader of the king's Companions.
My eyes came up enough to look for Lord Sacralus and the other Chosen, Laital but my gaze found Lord Phaisel instead. His black eyes bored into mine until I shivered hard and closed my eyes to break the connection. The ill will he bore my bonded was palpable and his gaze felt like a physical blow. Carira's hand patted my back gently and I took comfort from her presence.
King Tutenkamos was speaking from his throne about the creation of a canal through two of the Great Lords lands. The Royal Engineers had the final drawings of the project and they presented them to His Majesty with hopeful looks. It would be costly but my lord had spoken about the long term benefits to our shipping of the fruit of our lands to those kingdoms in the north.
If Car thought it a good idea then it was I thought to myself, risking another quick look further down the left side of the throne room. There was Laital, heavy with child. Our eyes met and I almost cried at the despair in them. Why had I been so blessed with a lord who loved and cherished me while he barely survived the constant childbearing? I wanted to hug him close and find him a better lord. Lord Sacralus had a pinched face and greedy eyes, which made me shiver just like I had when seeing Lord Phaisel.
Little Sar was bored with the long speeches that argued both for and against the canal and had begun to fidget so I gestured behind my back to Lasira. Her soft whisper to him bade him come behind my concealing robes so he could quietly play with the toys she'd brought with her. My lord took a step closer to me so the gap between us was erased. I wished that I could lean against him for comfort but that would have shocked the entire court.
I made sure that I never again looked near Lord Phaisel while continuing to sneak peeks at the other lords. Some were angry, some calm and some just looked as bored as my little son. Finally the king stopped the debate and announced that the canal would be built and it would be started by the time of the next full moon. Car breathed a sigh of relief, audible only to me and I felt some of the tension leave him.
"King Tutenkamos, I wish to present a gift to thy majesty." The smooth tones of Lord Phaisel petitioned the throne.
"A gift?" The king's voice held great pleasure and for a moment he sounded like my little Sar when given a treat. "Thou may approach the throne, Lord Phaisel
The swarthy lord approached the throne with a gilded basket from which ribbons of purple and gold fluttered. He bowed low to the king then gave the basket to Kristos who carried it to the man on the throne. With all the glee of a child on his name-day, the king pulled aside the white satin cloth and pulled out a statue of shining gold. It was in the shape of a crocodile, the animal totem of Phaisel's house.
"If you rub between his eyes, My King, he will move." The lord's satisfied tones were oily and the king hastened to do as he suggested.
And like magic, the long tail moved back and forth while the large eyes blinked slowly. The king laughed out loud and did it again. It really was quite cunning and from any other lord, I would have laughed myself. But instead I shivered all over and wondered what evil purpose this gift might further.
"Delightful, Lord Phaisel, simply delightful, who has made this?" The king's face shone with good humor.
"A goldsmith from Facel, a village on the border between my lands and Lord Sacralus'. He is very good at fashioning many intriguing shapes." Lord Phaisel bowed again then straightened. "I had thought that perhaps it would please thy majesty to have such representations from all your lords. Instead of paintings on the walls, perhaps a display of all our totems on a large map or table."
The king nodded, his eyes finally rising from his new toy. "That is a splendid idea, Phaisel, simply splendid. My lords, I will give each of thee four moons to bring in a replica of thy House totem for a new display in this great hall. What a charming tableau they will make."
Lord Phaisel bowed again and backed away from the throne. "I live to serve, Thy Majesty."
But when he turned, I saw the triumphant look he shot at my lord and I wondered what fell purpose he meant for my bonded. But my Car simply inclined his head a little and gave his attention back to the king. Suddenly I wanted to be far, far away from this palace and the unhappy people in it. If only I could talk with the other Chosen here, I thought with a silent sigh.
Glancing back to him, I saw a fierce grimace on his face. The way that he clutched his belly told me that another child would be born this day. I feared that he would not be born into a loving household and I sent a silent prayer to the Blessed One that Laital would have a smooth delivery and the child would be born healthy and strong.
For now, there was simply the wait for the king to finish his closing remarks so we could leave this room of whispers and shadows for our suite. I feared what had just happened and the consequences of this seemingly innocuous gift. The lords bowed while the rest of us knelt when the king strode through the throne room and out through the wide doors, still clutching his new toy.
I followed close behind my lord when he went next, curbing my urge to run from the staring eyes and softly voiced comments. I could feel Carira and Lasira, holding Sar behind me and they felt like a wall between the others and us. I dearly wished we were on our way home but it seemed there had been an unexpected move in the intricate game that was our kingdom's politics.
My lord would need to be here to counter whatever sly plan Lord Phaisel had set in motion. And I would support my lord however I could, even if it was simply holding him and letting him sate himself in my body. Whatever he needed from me, I would give to him gladly. I stroked my stomach and wished very hard that everything would be all right.
The end of part 13