We woke up feeling like we were under siege in our dream world and our real lives. George and I both wished we'd been the one to kill Sacralus after we dreamed poor Laital's sad life. I'd gone and picked up my sweet Amanda and just about hugged her to pieces. Thank God our civilization values females higher than the parallel universe did.
Of course, George reminded me that it hadn't been that long ago women couldn't vote and were very much considered second class citizens. Then we both hugged our daughters a little more. We couldn't take such liberties for granted and hopefully our little girls would inherit a world without any barriers.
I liked Laura Johnson the moment I met her. She was intelligent and brave to have lived through what she did and still done the right thing by coming to Dad. George and I sat down with her and talked for a couple of hours. She was almost 28 because she had to work while she went to school and took an extra two years to finish before being luke-warmly accepted into law school.
Something just clicked between the three of us and George told me during our shower that she thought that Laura was Lasira from the parallel universe. I thought she was right. Dad had mentioned that he saw a golden aura around Laura and Connie when they met. George immediately wanted to do some matchmaking but I thought that if they lived together, it might just happen naturally.
It would be fun to see what transpired. I watched Will wave his arms and crow loudly at the funny squeaky toy that Solomon had brought with him. All the babies had a new stuffed animal sized just right for three month old hands. It was good to see him again and he listened to all of us give him our impressions of what was going on. Laura looked ten times better after a good night's sleep and Solomon listened to her carefully.
We all had a look at the file folder and I must admit that anger was high by the time it had made the rounds. Mr. Denver was an evil man as far as I was concerned and I wanted something very bad to happen to him. But Dad said that he thought Denver was still not the mastermind behind the problems. Solomon agreed while I blinked and wondered what I'd missed.
There was a notation not in Denver's hand, a phone number that raised a suspicion in Dad's mind and Solomon said he'd check it out. He's got friends in every police department in the state, I think and he had a blank check from Dad to trace this problem straight back to the source of the trouble. I felt better when Solomon shook hands with all of us and promised to bring us some answers.
I followed Lord Carthenal down the long halls to the king's private chambers. Lord Roylant joined us in the outer waiting room. The House of Eternal Bliss had good things to say about the hawk lord and I hoped that he would have the winning bid for the Chosen who was finally rid of his foul lord. I still shivered at the evil revealed by my sister, Lasira.
"My lords, the king will see you now." Kristos bowed and beckoned us within. "Thy Majesty, here are Lords Carthenal and Roylant."
"Come, come," the king was wearing casual robes instead of his formal white and gold. "This is a sad time for the peoples of the deer lord. I have sent for Sacralus' brother, Ahmed Sacra, so that he may be confirmed as the new lord. His three wives mean that he will not be bidding for Laital, the Chosen. I believe that thou were the losing bidder five years ago, Roylant?"
"Yes, Majesty, I was newly confirmed as hawk lord and did not have the resources that are available to me today." The lord answered. "I still wish to bid for the Chosen and his new daughter. I am willing to free them both and bring up his daughter as my own."
The king chuckled and patted Lord Roylant's arm. "Thou have true feelings for the little Chosen and so I shall ask thee to pay 1,000 dokars more than thy last bid. Doest thou remember what that was? Thou may then take them into your rooms."
"I do indeed. My Majesty, thou are a god among men." Lord Roylant bowed low. "I shall pay Kristos immediately so that Laital doesn't need to stay in those apartments any longer. May I be excused?"
The king smiled and waved him away, but he kept a hand on Lord Carthenal's arm. "Carthenal, I have heard rumors about an attempt to kill me. Tell me what thou hast heard."
"My Majesty, may I introduce thee to one of the Sisters of the House of Eternal Bliss?" He gestured to me and I went to one knee before the king.
"Ah, so it true that the High Priestess granted thee her best triad." The king gestured for me to rise. "What is thy name, Sister?"
"I am known as Carira, My Majesty." I replied and wondered at the completeness of his information.
"Cesari and I have been friends for many years, young one." He winked at me and I silently chuckled at the thought of my High Priestess and the King having dinner together. "Now, tell me what thee knows, Sister Carira."
Asked so plainly, I waited until they were both seated before kneeling in front of them and speaking in a low voice. I spoke of the information that came from the houses of my Sisters, the rumors that had been confirmed and those that still lacked confirmation. The only thing I did not mention was the order to kill Lord Phaisel before he could wreak more harm upon his people.
The king listened quietly, stroking his white goatee. I saw that he was more intelligent than his public actions would indicate. When I finished, he asked several questions, listened to my answers then turned to Lord Carthenal. "Carthenal, what dost thou think of this idea of a zoo of each animal of the great houses?"
"I think the idea is a good one but I have grave reservations about the implementation." His voice was frustrated. "Did thou have thy own goldsmith look at the crocodile?"
"Yes, he says it is a fine piece of work but nothing is hidden within it. I think the danger will come with one of the others." He sighed. "I'm having Kristos search the late Lord Sacralus' rooms to see if he had an animal ready to present at tomorrow's morning audience."
"If I may be so bold, Thy Majesty," I asked hesitantly. When he nodded, I continued. "If such an animal is found, may it be given to one of my Sisters for checking?"
He raised an eyebrow but nodded slowly. "That is probably a very good idea, Sister Carira. In fact, I think I'll have the crocodile delivered to thy rooms so that thee might examine it also." He paused and frowned. "Nay, I will have it brought to the chambers next to Lord Carthenal's. I wish no harm to enter the suite where thy beautiful bonded and son are sleeping and eating."
"Thou are wise and gracious, My Majesty." Lord Carthenal bowed from his seat beside the king. "Shall we have an evening audience tonight?"
"Nay, I shall decree a prayer service for the dead at my private chapel. Each of the great lords will be present for the call to prayers then thou shall separate for thy evening meals." The king winked at the lord. "A few of thee may wish to gather together and Kristos will provide thee with those dishes that we would have eaten tonight. Thy Sister will make sure that nothing but benevolent spices are present."
Lord Carthenal broke into delighted laughter and it was all I could do not to join him. The High Priestess had never even hinted that the King was so canny a ruler. My next report to her would be an interesting one. For now, I felt much better about the chances of us completing our tasks swiftly and successfully.
********* Ned/Nephrites *********
My lord returned with a broad smile on his face and he swept me from my feet to swing me around like he often did with little Sar. "Beloved, we are having dinner tonight with Lord Roylant and his Chosen."
"Oh, Car, how wonderful," I hugged him close. "The King allowed him to bid for Laital right away?"
He chuckled and explained what had occurred in the king's chambers. I helped him change robes for the prayer service while he gave me the task of asking my fellow Chosen what he knew of his late lord's affairs, especially whether or not he knew anything about this new animal zoo idea. I understood immediately that they feared an animal that such a toady to Lord Phaisel might have had created.
We would move to Lord Roylant's suite after the call to prayers, all of us. Carira said that she had contacted the local House of Eternal Bliss and they would provide another triad for the evening to watch over our belongings and see that nothing was added to or subtracted from the rooms. I hadn't even thought of those possibilities and I shivered at the thought finding an asp or tarantula in our beds.
If Lord Roylant wanted, they would be assigned to him, she said. I certainly hoped he wanted them, especially if Lord Phaisel was angry at the loss of a fellow conspirator. I found I had a very large protective streak for the Chosen who'd suffered so cruelly at the hands of the evil lord. I could not conceive of a man who felt that all women were useless.
I hugged Lasira while she was playing with little Sar and she smiled at me. Sepira took me aside shortly thereafter and asked me to request Laital to submit to an examination by the Sister. She had never seen him but from some of the things we'd told her, she surmised that his ill health might be more than just neglect. I promised her that I would make sure we sequestered ourselves from the lords so he could ask questions he might not want his new lord to hear.
She approved and I plotted how to get Lord Roylant to agree. I'd explain it to Car first then I'd have an ally, I decided. Sar was hungry so we fed him his dinner and dressed him in the light sleep robe so if he fell asleep on the visit, we could carry him back and straight onto his pallet. When my lord returned, he gathered us all together for the trip down the hall, three suites away. Carira stayed to greet the other triad who was due to arrive in a few moments.
A smiling slave opened the door to us and I immediately saw Laital looking rather dazed. He was comfortably ensconced amid soft pillows with the new baby by his side. His robe wasn't his color at all but Sepira and I had already spoken of creating a few new robes from some of mine. I bowed to Lord Roylant before crossing to the Chosen who was struggling to get up to greet us.
I bade him be still and introduced my son to him. Little Sar was immediately taken with the new baby. "Mama, was I ever this little?"
Sinking to the cushions, I hugged him close. "You were, sweetheart, just as little as this new baby is now. She'll grow big the way you have."
"She's so little that we can't play," he pouted just a little and I kissed his cheek.
"But when she gets bigger will you still play with her?" Laital asked him seriously.
"Yes, I will," he said stoutly and leaned over to kiss baby's cheek. "I'll protect her and show her all the best games. Mama, can I give her one of my toys?"
Laital and I smiled at each other. Then I answered him, "We shall go through the toys that we brought with us and find one that she will like. If there isn't one then we'll find one at the market and send it over to Lord Roylant's house. That's where she'll be living now."
"Good, Sarpendon, we shall look forward to that." Laital smiled kindly at him then looked at me, dropping his voice. "Lord Nephrites, could we speak privately?"
"Of course we can," I arose and turned to the lords speaking by the low dining table. "My lords, we are going into the bedchamber and do not wish to be disturbed until dinner comes."
Laital gasped behind me but Car grinned at me while Lord Roylant nodded with a look of relief. "We'll send one of the Sisters to tell you when dinner arrives."
Lasira took the new baby while I helped Laital rise from his comfortable nest. Sar's nurse brought him and his toys with us and we closed the curtains once we were in the inner chamber. Sepira bowed to the Chosen. "Chosen Laital, I am a Sister of the House of Eternal Bliss. Will you allow me to examine you and ask questions that a healer might ask?"
"Please, Sister, I do not know what to do now." He burst into tears but these were tears of relief and I hugged him close to give him support. His whole world had changed in the space of an afternoon so I thought him allowed this release. I petted his matted hair and instantly decided that that wasn't all he was allowed. I gestured to the bathing chamber and Sepira nodded approvingly.
"Laital, I think you need a bath, a shampoo and a massage. Sepira has wonderful hands and that way she can check to make sure that you are healing from the birth." I pulled far enough away to see his face and he rubbed his eyes the way that little Sar would. I wanted to go back and kill Sacralus all over again for his mistreatment of this gentle soul.
"Yes, thank you that would be nice." He blinked endearingly and I used the edge of my sleeve to blot away the tears from his blue eyes. With his dark brown skin and curly black hair, he looked a little like someone from Carira's tribe.
The bath didn't take long but he'd obviously never had someone wash his hair before because he was practically purring when I finished massaging his scalp. Sepira asked gentle questions about everything from the soap he used to how regular his bowel movements were. A couple of times she frowned, especially when she asked him about the white ridges on the skin of his back.
And that was the third time that I wished that I could go and kill Sacralus again. Laital shrugged and said that he was clumsy so his lord had regularly beaten him. He flushed in embarrassment while admitting that after each birth, he'd been hung in shackles from the ceiling so his lord could beat him from head to toe for disappointing him.
There wasn't a hell bad enough for that despicable man, I decided with an inaudible growl. Sepira looked like she agreed but her voice never changed from the soft timbre that lulled Laital into talking of his life with the lord of the deer. Once out of the tub, Sepira patted his skin dry before having him stretch out on the cushions while she rubbed oil into his back.
I sat beside him, told him to call me Nephrites and asked him what he wanted to know about Lord Roylant. Laital blushed and spoke in a whisper. "Is he a kind man . . . Nephrites?"
Blotting his hair with a soft towel, I combed out the curly locks while I told him all my good memories of our visits to the hawk lord's lands. He listened wide-eyed then blushed again when I ceased to speak. "Do you think he'll let me heal before he takes me?"
"Yes he will," I said flatly and silently promised to make sure of that myself. "Of course, he could use your other sheath until you've healed in a month or so."
Laital looked a little confused. "Other sheath, Nephrites, what other sheath?"
Oh dear, I thought with a look at Sepira, who sighed. "The Chosen have both the female sheath between our legs but our male sheath is between our . . . lower cheeks. My lord uses the male sheath when he doesn't want me to conceive."
He was round-eyed with shock. "Behind? You can do that? Lord Sacralus always took me from the front, between my legs. Sometimes I had to take him in my mouth but he didn't like wasting his seed that way. He . . . he couldn't harden sometimes so I learned how to pleasure him with my fingers and tongue."
Sepira handed me the bottle of oil that she was using to massage his skin while I explained what had to be done to get ready to take his lord's cock into his male sheath. I could see that he couldn't believe that sex that way would be pleasurable but I was able to tell him that it was even better than the female sheath sometimes. But that led to his innocent question about pleasure. It seemed that he'd never experienced any . . . ever in his entire life.
I was going to have to spend a week on my knees at the house chapel to make up for the terrible thoughts I was having about the late lord's eternal torment. I was going to have a very long talk with Lord Roylant or maybe have Car do it for me but I was determined that before we left here, Laital would know pleasure at least once. That was a solemn vow and one I took most devoutly.
Lasira interrupted us at that point with a robe in her arms and the news that dinner was here. The robe was marginal at best but it looked like Laital's favorite so he perked up when he was dressed in it. His hair lay in curls on his shoulders and I hastily wove some crimson beads into the braid by his left ear. He was as pleased as a child with a new toy and hugged me for the small gift.
When we emerged into the outer room, Lord Roylant had eyes for no one but Laital. He seated him by his side with a kiss to his work worn hand. The Chosen blushed and lowered his eyes to his fingers before sneaking a peek up at his new lord. I sat across from them by my lord who welcomed me with a kiss to my lips. I have never been more glad that he bought me that day almost three years before.
We took our time and ate leisurely, talking and laughing about what we'd be doing once home again. My lord spoke of the animal idea and asked Laital if his late lord had commissioned a deer already. Laital had to be coaxed to talk and I feared that he'd been kept silent most of his life. He was so surprised when asked his opinion.
"He had a deer in his traveling trunk, one that moved his head when the antlers were touched. It was, I believe, from the same goldsmith that Lord Phaisel used. In fact, the lord delivered it himself when we got here. It was late or something." He faltered with all our eyes on him and looked like he wanted to disappear under the low table.
Lord Roylant smiled. "I think our goldsmith will come up with something even better for a hawk. Laital, would you like one of these mints?"
He held it up to his lips and the Chosen blushed but nodded, accepting it from his fingers. That looked very promising and I smiled at him to encourage him. Just then a wavering cry came from the sleep chamber and Lasira poked her head out to ask Laital to come and feed his new daughter. Lord Roylant helped him to his feet and his Chosen accepted his aid with a shy smile.
The moment he disappeared behind the curtain, I leaned over the table and spoke urgently. "Lord Roylant, forgive me if I am too bold but Car will chastise me if so. Laital has never . . . never in any way, shape or form known pleasure. He is a complete innocent about his body except for his female sheath. He's never had an orgasm, gotten his shaft hard or taken a shaft from behind. Please, you obviously feel something for him and have for some time. Give him time to heal, show him what true pleasure is and love him for himself."
"You are not too bold, Lord Nephrites." His dark eyes were so sad when they looked into mine. "I was afraid that Laital was damaged too badly to ever be to me what you are to Car."
"He can be, Roylant," Car interposed. "He's survived a horrible life and never given up. His spirit has been browbeaten into almost non-existence but he still found enough courage to beg for his daughter's life."
"I must warn you, Lord Roylant, his spirit isn't the only thing that has scars." I told them of the beatings he had endured and saw the same rage in their eyes that had been in mine. We spoke of many things and promised to speak again but I pledged my friendship to my fellow Chosen and Lord Roylant pledged to find ways for us to meet more frequently.
When Laital emerged, flushed with the joy of nursing his daughter, I thought he looked quite beautiful. Lord Roylant stood again to help seat him by his side and this time he left his hand on a slender arm. I don't think that Laital realized it but his shy glances were the very best kind of flirting and I flirted up at Car with the firm knowledge of what that does to him.
I was going to get loved tonight or know the reason why not. Lord Roylant asked my opinion about cloth for new clothes for his Chosen and I told him that one of the Sisters was an expert sewing woman who had already sent for some bolts of material from the local House of Eternal Bliss. Laital looked like it was the first time he'd ever gotten a new robe and I was afraid that might just be the truth.
Lord Roylant's look at him was a mixture of love and pain, knowing how abused he'd been but still able to find pleasure in a simple new robe. I thought Laital to be in good hands but I was going to keep an eye on them both for the next few days. Thinking about what might still unfold at the next days audience, I leaned into Car's side and said a little prayer for all of us.
We just had to win this battle with the evil Lord Phaisel. I had faith that we would since we'd already done so well with his compatriot. Lord Sacralus was basting in hell, I just knew it.
The end of part 15