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Title -- "Love and Loyalty: Aeren" Book Two Chapter Four Part Two
Author-- AnonymousAvatar
series -- A Distant Soil
Disclaimer -- Colleen Doran owns all
Rating -- NC-17
Characters/Pairing -- Seren/ Kovar, D'mer/Seren
Summary -- The Avatar and his Shield Kovar must face a conspiracy that threatens everyone and everything they love. Kovar and Aeren get to know one another a little better.



PART I PART II
PART III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part VIX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIII
Part XIV
Part XV




The food was dust in Aeren’s mouth, but he did as ordered. Asha moved from the wardrobe to the table, bringing items of clothing and jewelry as requested at Kovar’s silent command. Aeren realized he was being prepared to meet the Inquisitors with Kovar.

Kovar ate unhurriedly. There could by only one reason why the Inquisitors were here, but Kovar was placid at the prospect of facing them. He stole glances at Aeren from under his long black lashes, but said nothing. The Prince wiped his hands on a napkin and took a drink from time to time. Then he begged excuse to go to his toilette to freshen himself.

Aeren pushed away from the table and did the same, trembling as he faced the sight of himself in the mirror. He splashed his face with water, dribbling it over the front of his beautiful shirt. He ran the heatwave, drying it frantically. Then he realized he hadn’t cleaned his mouth. He did so, then dribbled water over his shirt again, and repeated the drying process. He checked the shirt carefully for signs of soil, then berated himself for forgetting he had an entire closet of clothes to choose from to replace it. He felt stupid and out of control. He closed his eyes, willing himself to calm, over and over, before he found the strength to walk out the door to face Kovar again.



The Prince was waiting for him, casually picking up items for review and putting them down again, speaking quietly with Asha as he did so. Food service had already been removed, but for tall glasses and a blue decanter. As Aeren approached, Kovar glared at him. “Take that shirt off. It’s filthy.” Aeren looked down, patting himself here and there searching for the offending spot, but could find nothing. He looked at Kovar with a sense of dread, knowing he was going to be living with this neat freak for a long time. He took off the shirt. He stood with it in his hand, not quite able to figure out what to do with it, until Asha stepped forward to pull it from his fingers.

Aeren could feel Kovar’s eyes on him, piercing and critical, sweeping over Aeren’s naked torso and simple black pants. “You are well formed,” Kovar said.

Aeren felt a twinge of satisfaction. “I thought you said I was ‘underdeveloped’,” he returned.

“You are. For Teramis,” Said Kovar. “You won’t get taller by natural means. There are treatments for your stunted height, but they are dangerous, and usually not worth it. Adding breadth might ruin your line. Your proportions are good, and you take exercise. Of what sort?”

“Some mountain climbing. I’m a crystalcutter, you know,” said Aeren. “I spend a lot of time out there.” He motioned toward the window. Kovar was still appraising him with those piercing pale eyes of his. Asha stepped forward with a garment that earned a “Nothing in silver. Get rid of it,” from Kovar, and she retreated to fetch something more suitable.

Asha returned with another shirt in her arms. Kovar said to her, “He has the look of those dancers in that troupe, from Paramid, last month was it?” Asha smiled and nodded and then stepped forward, the shirt in her hand, to slip onto Aeren’s arms and over his shoulders. It was a delicate gossamer thing, spun out of what looked like tiny threads of white gold. As it settled over Aeren’s breast he said, “You can see right through this.”

Kovar ignored the implied complaint. Next came the scarlet sash Aeren had rejected earlier, the one with Kovar’s crest upon it. Asha fitted it around his slender waist in a snug knot. The filmy shirt and the sash told everyone all they needed to know: this beautiful thing belongs to the Prince. Aeren felt himself going scarlet again.

Asha gently prodded Aeren to sit into a chair, and slipped a pair of his boots brought from the Avatar’s Palace on him, plain, black, but very expensive and elegant in keeping with Kovar’s taste. They fitted his calves in a tight sleeve. There was some struggle to get them on. Kovar watched with mild amusement.

As Aeren stood to be assessed again, Kovar nodded in approval. The boots gave Aeren added height and emphasized the line of his handsome legs.

Then Kovar reached to the table and picked up a signet ring. “Give me your hand,” Kovar said. Aeren swallowed. A signet ring was yet another symbol of claiming. Kovar was hitting every note. He owned Aeren, would be responsible for him, would protect him, and there would be no doubt of his place in Aeren’s affections when they stood before the Inquisitors. His psi-blocks removed, Aeren could now feel the energy from the stone: black onyx, for protection. This was a ring that boldly declared he was under Kovar’s guard.

Kovar took Aeren’s hand and paused, turning it over to look at the palm, running his fingers over Aeren’s thick knuckles, his calloused fingertips. “These are not the hands of a courtier,” he said. “What have you been doing?”

Aeren hesitated then he said, “I told you. I’m a mountain climber.” Kovar said nothing, waiting for further explanation. “And a crystalcutter,” continued Aeren. “I work with my hands. I don’t need them pretty.”

Kovar frowned. He ran his index finger over Aeren’s knuckles again, touching the ridges and valleys. “These,” said Kovar, “are not from mountain climbing. These are from fighting.”

Aeren went very still.

Kovar looked down at him. “These large knuckles are formed by micro breaks in the bone, regrown to reinforce the hand and give power to the punch. It takes time to build these, and it is a painful process.”

Aeren bit the inside of his mouth. Kovar had a very knowing expression on his face. The Prince had told him he had the body of a dancer of Paramid. He was going to do some dancing now. “I spend a lot of time out in the wastelands alone. I have to know how to defend myself.” This statement was true, to an extent, so easier to cover the truth he was mincing around. “I’ve had some lessons from Saveris. You know that.”

He didn’t teach you this,” thought Kovar to him, and Aeren flinched. “You’re keeping something from me, but now isn’t the time to go into it.” Aloud, he said, “We’ll have gloves made for you.” With that, he slipped the ring onto Aeren’s finger. It was slightly too big for him. Kovar’s stern gaze did not leave Aeren’s face as he held the boy’s hand. He ran his index finger back and forth over the back of that hand, and then lightly let it go.

Then he ran his searching fingers over Aeren’s temple. “Does this still hurt?” The psi-blocks were gone, but the redness remained.

“No,” said Aeren, relieved they were off the subject of how indelicate his hands were.

“Hm,” murmured Kovar. “Unbind his hair.”

Asha did as she was told, then took up the task of brushing and arranging the golden mass. She pulled it forward over his temples to hide the marks.

“I suppose some makeup could cover it,” offered Aeren, helpfully.

“It makes you look ridiculous,” Kovar snapped. “You’re not to wear it in this House.”

Aeren felt a wave of exasperation sweep over him. He had no personal servants in the Avatar’s house outside of cleaning staff, and didn’t like being fussed over. He especially didn’t like being told what to do. Kovar’s controlling attention to detail and Aeren’s rebelliousness would likely have them murdering each other before they’d accomplished their goal, he thought.

With Aeren’s hair now a frothy gilded mask for his wounds, Kovar reached to the table and picked up the elaborately crafted circlet that Aeren had seen in the jewelry cabinet earlier. He stepped forward and carefully placed it on Aeren’s head, settling it just so, disguising the scars and redness and taming the flow of Aeren’s glorious locks. The ruby flashed. It picked up the color of Aeren’s lips and cheeks, and the color of the sash. Aeren felt the power of the ruby, the stone of protection for children. Aeren got the message of it, and expected the Inquisitors would, too. The residual energy of another stone recently removed still lingered there: carnelian, to ward away jealousy. This crown had once belonged to someone else, and had been modified for Aeren.

Kovar stepped back to see the result of his handiwork. “Very fine,” he said, as if to himself.

Asha was smiling. “A fitting consort for the Prince,” she said, softly.

Aeren closed his eyes. “Consort,” he thought.

That knowing expression was on Kovar’s face again when Aeren opened his eyes. Kovar reached for the matched pair of daggers. Picking up Aeren’s sheathed blade, he stepped toward the boy, who looked up at the much taller Prince, his breath catching in his throat. Kovar’s eyes were cool and haughty, and yet held something else that Aeren could not read, not even when he reached out with his power. Kovar was always shielded and a flash of amusement crossed his face when he felt the brush of Aeren’s mind.

The Prince bent over and slipped his hand into the band of Aeren’s sash. Aeren caught his breath as Kovar’s fingers slipped against the thin fabric of Aeren’s shirt, tugging at something in the sash, and then pulling out a slim chain, to which he secured the dagger which now rested against his hip, the public declaration of the depth of their intimate bond. It made Aeren feel strangely exposed. Kovar tugged the sash back in place, tidying it against Aeren’s waist, brushing lightly at Aeren’s hip as he did so.

Then the Prince took up his own blade, fastening it to his belt, the clean lines of the scabbard stark against the rich red velvet of his elaborate court coat and breeches. His black mane of hair was bound in a queue studded with rubies, but the tail was allowed to fall free where the bindings terminated at the small of his back to sweep the floor as he walked, the long train the mark of his high status.

He looked magnificent, Aeren thought. The Prince stood quietly. Aeren realized the Prince paused to allow Aeren to assess him, and he knew Aeren was impressed by what he saw. Aeren swallowed uncomfortably and tried to find something interesting to look upon against the far wall. He knew Kovar found his discomfort entertaining.

Kovar said nothing of it. Instead, he reached for the carafe on the table and poured himself a drink. He swallowed it in one gulp and without offering Aeren any, he said, “Let’s have a go at those fuckers.”

They stalked down the hallway, an Octet of Shields about them, Aeren struggling to match their strides and to avoid Kovar’s hair. The Avatar also had hair that trailed the floor, but he usually wore very long gowns on which the hair rode without touching the ground. Kovar’s household staff that must have a time keeping the floors clean enough to protect his perfect glossy locks, thought Aeren.

“My squire should always be at my right,” said Kovar, speaking to Aeren in a casual tone. “I favor my left hand for my shield, so you shield me at my sword hand. For formal events, you walk a pace behind, but for social events, you are at my side as in battle.”

“Where do I walk now?”

“As in battle,” said Kovar, as if that point should be obvious.

As they walked, people paid Kovar respectful obeisance, but stared at the boy who’d stolen their Prince’s affections and brought shameful gossip into the House. Thoughts were blocked but facial expressions were obvious. Some looked at Aeren with curiosity, others with admiration, some with poorly disguised scorn, if, in fact, they were trying to disguise their scorn at all. None could deny Aeren was stunning at Kovar’s side, a golden counterpoint to Kovar’s dark glory. The Avatar also kept this boy, everyone knew. Few had inside knowledge; the affair between Aeren and the Avatar was purely speculative outside the Avatar’s palace. Looking at him, no one doubted this beauty shared the Avatar’s bed. A boy so alluring he had captured the heart of a prince and God himself was something to see, and now that they’d gotten a close look at him, everyone agreed: Aeren was worth the seeing.

However, Kovar must have chosen the boy as a squire for reasons beyond his physical charms, and Aeren’s radiant aura was an undeniable indication that great power was there. Though haloed in gold, cream, red and touches of purple, exactly what form that power took beyond mesmerizing eyes and between handsome thighs was not evident. Normally, he kept his aura dimmed as many Ovanan found themselves mesmerized or intimidated by the sight, but now, in these royal halls, he let it glow.

Aeren at his right hand, his head skimming the top of the Prince’s shoulder, Kovar shone spectacularly in indigo, blue, silver and white, beautiful and proud, his strong, clean lined features and snow pale skin merciless in glacial purity. He marched a military stride, precise and clipped, and without pausing to acknowledge those around him, his piercing pale grey eyes, so bright they shone like silver.

At the threshold of the reception chamber, an attendant stood on a stool, and another held a large crown on a pillow in his hands. A third attendant stood to the side on the floor, holding a gloriously embroidered robe studded with so many powerful stones they made Aeren tingle. The principle attendant removed the crown from the pillow and carefully placed it upon Kovar’s head. The crown was modest as royal crowns go, not formal state wear, but the agate, amazonite and Phenacite stones were magnificent specimens and crackled with energy. The inky black cloth of the robe was studded with agate and bloodstone, commonly used by warriors in battle, not expensive or hard to obtain, but these were exceptional quality. Aeren ached to examine them. They were old, and had been mined long before he was born. He reached out with his senses and felt smoky topaz, trapping negative psychic energy. No wonder Kovar used this robe to greet the Inquisitors. It was very heavy and the stones clacked together lightly as he walked.

The reception chamber was flanked by huge columns, another enormous carved door of exotic alien wood, and lined with elaborate marquetry and marble and crystal inlaid floors and walls in iridescent mosaics of crystal in powerful protection whirls and patterns. Enormous sculptures of impressively built nude warriors sat between each column. At the farthest end of the room on a dais at the end of a flight of stairs, a large throne of stunning gems and crystals of power and protection was situated, and beside it, a smaller seat of rose quartz, the stone of love, the throne of a consort, to show before all how high Aeren was held in the Prince’s favor.

Kovar and Aeren marched to the thrones, with the eyes of a full chamber of courtiers on them, appraising, judging, curious, only a few androgynes among the throng, the most obvious being the three inquisitors wearing bright red Hierarchy livery overcoats, their heads burdened with great crowns of spiked crystal peaks, shooting out from their heads in all directions, imitating in stone the radiance of an aura. Many of the gems were obsidian, to gather psychic data. The Inquisitors eyed Aeren as he walked by with narrowed eyes and expressions of calculated politeness.

Kovar endured the burden of the great, heavy robe with ease as he walked up the stairs to the dais, turning gracefully as he reached the top to beckon Aeren to take his place beside him. As he did so, he nodded to the court, which gave obeisance, hands to the chest and eyes lowered. Then Kovar sat down, sweeping the great robe aside as he did so. With a gesture of his hand, he instructed Aeren to sit beside him. The gems and crystals all over the room made Aeren’s head swim, and the pulse of the rose quartz on which he now sat, separated by only his clothes and the elaborately embroidered cushions of the chair, pierced his body with glowing warmth. He gasped lightly as he touched it, and felt Kovar’s eyes dart to him. Aeren turned his head to the Prince, and caught a light warm smile, which he returned, hoping to imitate the warmth he was sure Kovar didn’t feel. Then they both looked out upon the court. The rose quartz chair would obscure any lingering feelings of anger Aeren might have toward the Prince, leaving only the impression that they held deep affection for one another. The price being that Aeren felt waves of emotion pulsing through the stone in ways that made him feel rather uncomfortable.

Kovar’s mind was as shielded as a fortress, and he likely felt no discomfort himself. But Aeren felt the Inquisitors reaching out for psychic clues. Their minds would be dazzled by the aura of passion around Aeren. Surely they would know the chair would interfere with their readings, but few would guess that the chair was not a gift of honor for a beloved.

Aeren pondered who sat in this chair before him. It was too big for him, and a cushion was set before him so that he might sit his feet upon it with dignity. Someone from Teramis was the previous occupant of this romantic shrine. He couldn’t picture Saveris on this great pink chair, but Kovar had never declared Saveris an official consort. To his knowledge, the Prince of Teramis had never declared anyone as consort. Aeren felt a twinge of guilt again at his moments of doubt and ingratitude: the Prince was going to extraordinary lengths to help him and to avenge Seren, the children, and the Avatar’s House. He wondered how Saveris would take the news that Kovar had sat Aeren at his side on a throne and held him high before all the court.

Aeren could see Kovar’s secretary among the throng, his hands holding a tablet to Aeren’s far right. Shields flanked the Inquisitors who stood to the far end of the hall, waiting to be announced. Courtiers glared at them, even more than they glared at Aeren. The Inquisitors were the Hierarchy’s creatures, dispatched to wrest information, as their name suggested. Their methods were often brutal and illegal. But only three were here for Aeren. This was a search party. More would be sent if they smelled blood on the snow.

Kovar nodded to his court, then made a small gesture to an attendant who announced the arrival of the Inquisitors in a powerful voice, as if everyone in the room did not already know they were here. Shields marched them toward the dais.

One of the Inquisitors was a particularly pretty woman with a round delicate face, pointed chin, and enormous pale blue eyes, with white hair in shocking contrast to her very dark skin. She had jewels set at her inner and outer eyelids and embedded in her dimples. All the Inquisitors sported very sweet smiles and placid demeanors. They were short by Ovanan standards, appearing shorter than Aeren, whose Teramis breeding gave his body the power the average androgyne did not have. They were very slender as was the fashion, and wearing flowing pale robes in creamy shades under their brilliant Hierarchy vestments.

The pretty woman spoke in a high, breathy voice. “Most noble and glorious Prince of Teramis, Supreme and Courageous Commander of the fleets of Ovanan, the Rewshada basin, the great and revered Lord of the Umali provinces, Serene and Holy Protector of the Grand Temple, Right Hand of the Avatar’s– “


“That’s not necessary. We know who we are,” said Kovar in an amused tone.

The court stirred. Aeren could hear tittering. Kovar was known for his insistence on court protocol, but he had no flourishes to waste on Inquisitors.

The pretty little woman smiled indulgently, showing small teeth. “Your Highness,” she said, inclining her head and making a graceful obeisance, “how good of you to receive us on such short notice.”

“You gave no notice, Inquisitor,” said Kovar. “We received you as the alternative would be to send you back out into the snow. A storm is on the way.”

She smiled again. “Is it? How kind you are!”

“We are many things, Inquisitor, but we are rarely told we are kind, and by such pretty visitors,” Kovar said indulgently. The court crackled with anticipation. The Prince was already in a mood. “But enough about us, do tell us of yourselves. If your business is short perhaps you can be finished with it in time to beat the storm and be out of here before we need to find you accommodation.”

Aeren thought the little woman’s face would crack with the force of the fake smile she stretched upon it. “My name is Inquisitor Riet, and my fellows are Inquisitors Romari and Trevarin,” she said gesturing to each man at her side. “We are so very delighted to be received in the embrace of Teramis, and are grateful for your expansive hospitality.” Aeren detected a note of sarcasm in her tone. “But a reception room is hardly the place to discuss state business. Surrounded by so many…people.” She made a dismissive gesture, as if expecting Kovar to make the court empty at the command of her little finger.

Kovar did not grant her unstated wish. “We have no state business to discuss. You are our guests. If Lady Niniri has state business, she has a comm and can call us any time she wishes. If you have need to stay the evening, we will accommodate you. Our secretary will show you to your rooms. Will that be all?”

Riet blinked her wide blue eyes. “This isn’t a social call, Your Highness, but how delightful of you to treat it as such.”

Aeren could feel Kovar’s temperature plummet. “We’re so pleased you’re pleased,” he said.

“Your Highness,” said Riet, in clipped tones, “Once again, I must emphasize to you the delicate nature of our inquiry, and ask that we retire to private chambers more suitable to – “

“Nonsense,” said Kovar. “Our arms are open and our House is open. My people would wish to know what important business has brought you to our door, if, in fact, it goes beyond needing shelter from the weather.”

“It does,” said Riet, snippily. She knew she was being mocked by now, and she was not accustomed to it. She turned her eyes to Aeren, to his golden crown and it’s large ruby, the rose quartz throne, and the way the Prince sat, leaning comfortably and companionably toward his fetching squire. “Aeren,” said Riet, “we are so very happy for you and wish you great joy in your exalted position in this House. What an exciting bit of news it has been, you being so popularly known and last of the Avatar’s House, we understand.”

“You do not have permission to address our ward,” said Kovar in a very quiet voice that could be heard all the way to the far end of the enormous room.

Riet smiled her plastic smile. “Aeren is no longer a Lord of the Avatar’s House. He has been disowned, and having no House is ours to claim as having no protected status.”

Ours to claim” Aeren froze. Only Kovar’s word stood between him and being marched out of the hall by Inquisitors.

Kovar smiled a smile so deadly Aeren would have thought his lips were sword blades. “He is a Lord of this House, and is our squire and cupbearer. Which you knew before you commented upon it.”

Riet’s smiled was now fixed in a rictus. “Rumors travel quickly, but one wishes to confirm them.”

“We see no need for the Hierarchy to take an interest in whom we choose as our squire,” said Kovar.

“And lover?” asked Riet. “Aeren…Lord Aeren has had so many. It is difficult to keep abreast of all the news about him.”

The Prince put his hand gently on Aeren’s knee, a gesture guaranteed to shock Inquisitor Riet and everyone at court. Kovar was notoriously averse to public gestures of affection. Aeren suppressed a flinch at the large hand that was accompanied by the subtle stroking of Kovar’s finger in a delicate trail up and down the knee. Sensation shot up Aeren’s leg, and he gasped lightly. Then the Prince looked at Aeren with an indulgent smile and silver pale eyes curtained by black lashes. Then he turned to Riet, his hand still on Aeren’s leg, saying with a gesture what he did not need to say with words: this is mine.

“It is difficult,” said Kovar, “to understand why the Hierarchy’s Inquisitors would be interested in the romantic entanglements of our squire, unless he has failed to make his way to your bed in a timely fashion. Alas for you, but as he has taken vows of loyalty to this House and our person, he is no longer available to the general public for parties and entertainment events. You’ll have to get your gratification elsewhere.”

The Court laughed openly, delighting in the fearless wit of their Prince. Aeren bowed his head, blushing furiously, as Kovar turned to him, his hand running further up Aeren’s leg until it rested high on his inner thigh. Courtiers noted this bold grasp, and whispered and gestured among themselves, as Kovar then leaned over to Aeren and buried his face in Aeren’s golden hair in the vicinity of his ear. “Laugh,” he whispered.

Aeren did as he was told, lightly shaking his mane, and shooting a side glance at Kovar that would have melted the ice on the mountain range outside of Kovar’s office window. Aeren, taking an offered hint from the mind of the Prince, and drawing deeply on the warmth of the rose quartz, the admiration of courtiers who found the Prince’s ward very attractive, and his considerable skills as a sensitive, magnified the feelings from the room and the crystal and returned them as waves of desire to all who gazed upon him, the same method he used to attempt to disarm Kovar before in his office.

Want/craving/yearning/need/lust spread to the far corners of the room. He heard some of the courtiers gasp, their shields rising to block the sensations. Others left their shields down, delighting in open-mouthed astonishment at a taste of what they believed their Prince was getting. The Inquisitors, whose defenses were lowered to try to glean every iota of psionic evidence they could, were overwhelmed by Aeren’s psionic desire. The pretty little woman squealed.

I think you gave her an orgasm,” Kovar thought to Aeren, who suppressed a laugh, genuine mirth this time. He shuddered, lowering his head, drawing the sensation back into himself again, throwing Kovar another of his calculated looks of passion. He trembled and sighed. “Forgive me, Your Highness. I – I…Oh…” Theatrically, Aeren placed his hand over Kovar’s where it rested on his inner thigh. Kovar smiled indulgently, squeezing the offered hand, then returned it to the less sensitive location on Aeren’s knee, holding it there. The Prince and his squire turned as one to look at the Inquisitors who no longer looked placid. Riet was suppressing outrage.

“You have our most sincere apologies,” said Kovar with delight. “Our squire is a passionate creature, but has only just begun training. He is too unguarded for court. But of course as psionics yourselves, with such impressive skills as one must cultivate to be an Inquisitor, one is certain you felt it as nothing but a breath of air.” He looked at Aeren again with his indulgent smile, then, in a move that left the entire court dazzled, he lifted Aeren’s hand to his lips, kissing it gently and without haste, and raised his moon pale gaze to Aeren’s face in adoration. “Our beloved shall withdraw until he masters himself.”

“He is to face an inquiry, and shall remain!” Riet barked, her little voice grown shrill.

Aeren’s hand was still held lightly in Kovar’s gentle grip. Kovar turned as if he barely noticed anyone else was in the room. “Oh,” said Kovar. “Does this have something to do with him?” Aeren was impressed with Kovar’s capacity for mindfuckery without using any psionic power at all.

Riet’s smile was deadly. “We are Hierarchy Inquisitors and we bear the Hierarchy seal,” she said. She held it up where it dangled on a chain at her breast. “We demand the right to interrogate that man.”

“The Hierachy seal will do you no good if you do not bear your heads on your necks,” said Kovar, casually. “You come into our halls and bark orders at our person. Did the Hierarchy teach you those manners?”

The little woman and her companions blanched. They didn’t spoil their dignity by shouting “You dare!” but their faces said it well enough. “You are obstructing an investigation,” she said, in as sweet and delicate a tone as she could manage.

“An investigation into what?” Kovar said lightly, still holding Aeren’s hand aloft.

Riet’s eyes narrowed. “Into the death of a lady of the court of Lady Sere,” said Riet, firmly. She lifted her chin as if she had scored a point and waited to be praised upon it. But Aeren could tell she was hoping to sense something from him, something incriminating. Aeren ‘s face hardened, but Kovar showed no sign that he cared.

“Two nights ago,” said Riet. “The Lady Amiva was found dead in her private chamber in Lady Sere’s palace. The time of death would have been about midnight. Aeren was – Lord Aeren – kept company with her.”

Aeren blinked and his mouth fell open stupidly. He sent the thought to Kovar who picked it up, leaning forward as he did so. “Never?” came Kovar’s thought.

No, I swear it. Kovar, she is one of the women who is involved in Sere’s abuse. I never touched her.

“Our ward was not involved with your woman,” said Kovar without hesitation.

“Was he not?” asked Lady Riet. “Correspondence tells a different story.”

No,” thought Aeren. “This is a set-up. I never.”

“Our squire,” said Kovar carefully, “has many admirers. He is not always the willing target of these affections. Not everyone can have their desire as we do.” He shot Aeren another smoldering glance signaling a demure response and a blush. Aeren’s blushes, involuntary as they were, were doing a world of good for his performance. Gently, Kovar allowed Aeren to retrieve his hand.

“But of course,” said Riet, her dimples dancing under their gem studs. “He is such a pretty fellow, you must be very pleased with him. I can understand your desire to protect him. However, he does have a reputation, and that is why –“

“You want something,” said Kovar, flatly.

“We want only the truth,” said Riet. “If you could but give us leave to examine him in private –“

“So you may access the secrets of our House,” said Kovar, grimly.

“You may correct me if I’m wrong,” said Inquisitor Riet, “but has Lord Aeren,” she said “Lord” with a sneer, “not been with your house for no more than a day? How many secrets can he hold, outside of his personal time with you, of course? We have no interest in intimate matters of that kind.”

Kovar smiled his most dangerous smile. “He has been with the House of the Avatar his entire life before that. The secrets of the House of the Avatar are also ours to protect. He said, returning her sneer, “If this woman died at the House of Lady Sere two nights ago, then what is that to us? Lord Aeren was not there.”

“Was he not?” asked Riet. “I suppose you’re about to tell me he was with you.”

“We recall it well,” said Kovar.

“And he was doing what, exactly?” she asked prettily.

“Bending over,” said Kovar.

The court found this very amusing. Aeren blushed again.

Many had not only witnessed the young Lord’s arrival, but a Quartet of Shields had carried a struggling, bloody Aeren out of Kovar’s office. The court had seen him the next morning, had heard the rumors of a violent lover’s quarrel, and had been astonished by his public shaming when disowned by the Avatar. Aeren could not have been with this lady when she died. Opinion began to shift to Aeren’s defense. It was not uncommon for rival Houses to attack opponents through vulnerable lovers, and now the court wondered if Aeren was a pawn in some quarrel with Sere, which, of course, he was. Other thoughts flew that perhaps there was more to Lord Aeren’s exile from the Avatar’s House than his usual naughty antics or the humiliation the Avatar felt at having been turned over for a prince.

By having this inquiry in public, Kovar was requesting the support of his court, a court which adored him. Trusted him. And now they suspected there was more to the adoption of the boy with the bad reputation than the sloppy ardor of a besotted Prince. Kovar could feel the emotions in the room turn from general hostility toward Aeren to growing curiosity.

“Perhaps,” said Kovar, “While we’re making inquiries, you could entertain us with some of this correspondence indicating the alleged involvement of our ward with this woman.”

At this, Riet paused, then smiled broadly as if she’d won something. Aeren’s blood ran cold. “Of course we could not possibly do so, it being a private matter. But we did not mean to mislead you as to the nature of the events at Lady Sere’s House. It is believed that Lady Amiya took her own life.”

Kovar considered. “There is nothing more to discuss then. Our sympathies,” he said without sympathy.

“The discussion,” said Inquisitor Riet, with her sweet little voice and smile, “involves the pernicious influence of the Lord Aeren on those around him, in particular his relations with the Avatar’s heir, young Lord Seren. No one is more concerned for the heir’s welfare than Lady Sere, and it is believed Amiya had inside knowledge of the intimate nature of this corrupting influence. It is a fact that it is one of the reasons for Lord Aeren’s exile from the Avatar’s household, is it not?”

Kovar was as still as stone.

Holy fuck,” thought Aeren. “I’m being framed.”

Date: 2016-10-17 01:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hello there! Kovar `flirting', smouldering all over the place.....HOLY FUCK indeed. ;-D

Date: 2016-10-17 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siphraniax3.livejournal.com
I feel a little funny in the pants now. He. Hehehehe.

First Visit

Date: 2016-10-17 06:01 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
First I almost didn't even read this because it took me multiple tries of clicking on the Are You Over 18 meassage to get Livejournal to let me in.

Second, Kovar is hot.

RE: First Visit

Date: 2016-10-17 06:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siphraniax3.livejournal.com
I don't know what to tell you, I have trouble logging in myself sometimes and sometimes it logs me out when all I'm doing is looking at my Friends Feed.

I can't wait to get to the really shmexy parts of this story. They are coming. So to speak.

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