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Title -- "Love and Loyalty: Aeren" Book Two Chapter Three 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.

WARNING: Child abuse. Some content may be disturbing for some readers.

PART III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part VIX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII

Love and Loyalty
Book 2 AEREN
Chapter 3 Part 3

“People will think I’m fucking you!” protested Aeren.

“Oh, no. Much worse,” returned Kovar with a sneer. “People will think I’m fucking you.”

Saveris guffawed and doubled over with laughter while Aeren glared.

“Why the hell would you want people thinking we’re having sex?” Aeren demanded in a tone of voice an octave higher than usual.

“The protection afforded you as my personal squire and cupbearer will be greater than any armor you could wear. No one will dare harm you, Aeren. Especially if they think I’m bedding you.”

Aeren’s eyes narrowed. “Is that how you’ve lived so long?” he asked Saveris. The position of the Avatar’s Shield was a dangerous one. Few who held the post lived expansive lives, but Saveris had held it for many years.

“It has been to my advantage to have enemies of the Avatar entertain the knowledge that an offense against me is an offense against House Teramis. Yes,” Saveris said. “I am certain that is one of the reasons Lord Etan has allowed Kovar and I to continue our relationship, though it crosses the normal boundaries between Houses.”

“And what will these enemies think when they see the Prince of Teramis has taken me on and dumped you?” asked Aeren acidly.

“They will think,” said Kovar, “that the long separations between me and my beloved have inspired me to take in a pretty blond boy for my body’s comfort when I can’t have the big handsome blond man I really want.”

“If you must know,” said Saveris, “I’ve never thought we looked that much alike.”

Aeren flushed angrily.

“This is what people will think,” said Kovar turning to Aeren, who was looking up at him in mild shock. “I have taken you because Saveris is far away, and the two of you resemble one another.

"Saveris, don’t grimace like that, you know it’s true. It is why you want Aeren so much; you are of a kind.

"Aeren, wipe that look off your face.

"All of this has displeased the Avatar. You have had a bitter row. Jealousy is good scandal. The Avatar has tossed you out onto my doorstep. The gossip will keep the court running about in circles for months. It is a neat and easy tale that people will want to believe. And we will make them believe it, because we will tell them what they want to hear, and play the part for them. There are worse things in this world than the court thinking I bent you over my desk last night for something more than a spanking.”

“I would have liked to have seen that,” said Saveris, snickering.

Aeren ignored the comment. “I don’t want Seren believing this about me,” he said slowly.

Kovar raised a brow.

“You don’t want the Avatar’s heir believing you have the favor of the Prince of Teramis?” said Saveris in a deathly quiet voice.

Aeren frowned. “It isn’t that…it’s…look, everyone knows my reputation.” Saveris and Kovar exchanged glances, but said nothing. Aeren bit his lip then continued. “But Seren is a child, he doesn’t understand. I don’t want him to think the things he hears about me are…good ways to be.”

“Ah,” said Kovar. “Well.”

“No one will believe,” said Saveris carefully, “that the Prince of Teramis would take you on the cheap, Aeren.”

Aeren turned to the projection. “Please, Saveris…this story makes it seem as if I have betrayed Etan and you. He cares about you both very deeply.”

“I would not turn him against you, Aeren,” said Saveris solemnly.

“I couldn’t bear it if I Seren thought I just…cheat people I care about and…please tell him I didn’t do that, Saveris. I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of me. What I did, I did for Seren. I’ll do anything else you ask of me, but please don’t let Seren believe that I have gone away because I turned on the only other people in this world he trusts.”

Saveris looked down, troubled, a shadow across his face. Kovar was silent. Then Saveris raised his head. “He will understand that I hold him in my arms until you come back, and that while I am gone Kovar holds you in his arms until I come back. He will understand this, because it is the truth.”

Aeren bowed his head. “Thank you.” Aeren closed his eyes. His body relaxed and Kovar could feel a wave of weariness wash over him. Aeren was faint with hunger and fatigue. His emotions were uncontrolled and leaked into the aether, Kovar sensing them as little pinpricks of energy. He blocked them, covered Aeren in a psionic shield, protecting his privacy before it reached the guards and attendants outside the door.

“I think it’s time for all children to go to sleep,” said Kovar. At that moment, the great doors of Kovar’s bedchamber opened, and Asha appeared. She had a pile of fresh clothing over her arm. “Your rooms are through there,” said Kovar, indicating with a sweep of his arm a side door near his bed.

“For discreet night time visits,” said Saveris brightly. “That used to be my apartment. But of course, the Prince and I shared a bed most of the time we were together, and I gave up my rooms ages ago. It was kept for visiting concubines when I didn’t occupy it. There weren’t many who had Prince Kovar’s favor, so I assume the mattress is still in good shape. The apartment has a very nice view.”

Kovar mused that one of the first lessons he was going to have to go over with Aeren was how to control his blush response. For someone who was so open about his dalliances, his complexion made him look as dainty as a virgin.

“Asha will bring you something to eat and prepare you for bed,” said Kovar, ignoring Saveris’s attempts to rattle Aeren. “She will attend your needs until we secure a suitable servant for you.”

Aeren was surprised to hear he’d have the luxury of a personal servant, as surprised as he was to learn he’d retain a lord’s rank in Kovar’s House. His worry that he’d be billeted with burly cadets fading, a primary concern on finding he’d be forced to school at Teramis had been that he’d be unable to seek the solitude he’d need to deal with his fractious powers as a sensitive. Now he knew he’d have a private apartment and all the privileges of court. “Thank you, Kovar,” he said.

“You may refer to me as ‘Master’.”

Aeren grimaced, but said, “Fine.”



Asha was taller than Aeren and she looked down at him indulgently as she gentled him along to his rooms with a hand on his shoulder, the door closing behind them with an almost silent click.

Saveris smiled. “Shall we kiss the edge of the projection and declare our love as the children do?

Kovar laughed. “You bastard.”

“I’d rather you call me back when you’re naked, but Seren expects me soon.”

Kovar smiled gently. “They are intensely devoted to one another.”

“They are very much in love.”

“Something tells me this does not please Etan.”

“No, I don’t think it does. I’d guess that one of the reasons Aeren is there and not here is because Etan thinks it best that they be separated. At least until Seren is older.”

“Aeren would not do anything untoward. This much I know.”

“He would not,” agreed Saveris. “But self awareness is not among his virtues. He does not even realize how much he is in love with Seren. I don’t think he’s ever been in love before. Not truly. What he has with Etan is something else. And Seren is…Seren is at the place where his body is beginning to awaken. And he has no one of his own age with whom to come to awareness of these things. If he were in the crèche, there would be other boys and girls…”

Kovar frowned. He had few memories of childhood, having been taken from the crèche by his Shield Master at an early age. His talent had marked him, as had Saveris’s talent. Shield Masters sought the finest candidates as squires and paid the creche vast sums for them. But Kovar and Saveris had both been in the crèche long enough to have grown into adult desires. Penetrative sex was forbidden. The dangers of psionic corruption required years of training and protection before the depths of passion could be enjoyed. Kovar’s virginity had been taken by his Shield Master only after he’d proven he could adequately ward his mind, and then only after he was deemed suitable and willing. Even so, he could recall many a desperate grope and embrace when he was a young boy before his Shield Master claimed him. Seren could not know of these innocent pleasures, could never come to enjoy time with other boys and girls his own age. He was isolated both by the horrible abuse he had known, and by the mantle of the Avatar.

“Even so,” continued Saveris, “Etan would prefer that Seren be as celibate as an acolyte. Though I don’t believe that will happen. Seren is…Seren is a loving, sensitive boy, giving and open to affection. He will never be walled and guarded like Etan. May the God protect him!”

Kovar’s lips became a thin line, his body cold as steel. Then he said, “I know what happened to him.”

Saveris looked up, startled and confused then took in a sharp breath. “Aeren told you?”

Kovar nodded.

Saveris shuddered and he raised a hand to cover his mouth. Tears welled in his bright blue eyes. It had been years since Kovar had witnessed Saveris weeping and he felt his heart twist in pain at the sight. “Kovar you know I should not speak of this. Aeren should not have said anything to you, either.”

“Don’t be angry with him, he had valid reasons.”

Saveris looked at his hands, at the tears that wet them. “Is that why he is with you?”

It was Kovar’s turn to take a breath and hold it. He let it out slowly, and then, “Aeren is with me for psionic training and deportment lessons, as we have said.”

“Understood,” said Saveris. Then he bowed his head.

“How is the child?” said Kovar, gently.

Saveris smiled a wan smile. “As you see, Beautiful. Sweet. But hurt.” The smile faded like a delicate cloud. “I’ve done everything I can for him, but Etan will not allow a counselor in the House. He is terrified of corruption. We’ve done our best to deal with what has happened to Seren, though none of us have experience with children, outside of raising Aeren.” Saveris shook his head. “Seren is so young. The abuse is wrapped up in his memories; we can’t simply destroy them. A thorough cleansing would be as death for him. Aeren was frantic at the suggestion. Seren has little life experience beyond this thing that was done to him, little memory to insulate him from it. And the God only knows what we might do to his power if we muck about in there. Or what kind of personality might grow from what we destroy. We’ve blocked as many bad memories as we can, but they come back to him. He’s powerful. His mind is healing itself. He’s remembering more and more as he gets older. That’s why he’s afraid to be alone at night.”

“Lady Sere took him on pretext of enjoying play times with other children,” said Kovar. “Where were his Shields?”

Saveris let out a small moan, his face grey with pain. “Right there with him. You know I could not leave the Avatar, I sent my best with the child, Kovar, my very best. He was always with a Quadrant!”

“I’m not blaming you, Saveris.”

“I know, beloved, I know. I blame myself.” Saveris wiped his face free of tears again. “I don’t know what she did to them, Kovar, the corruption was so subtle. We never suspected anything. And then…and then when Aeren realized what had happened to Seren, when we confronted the Shields to interrogate them, they committed suicide.”

‘By the God,’ whispered Kovar. “This was the Quadrant said to die in a raid some months back?”

“What else could we do?” Saveris sighed. “The truth is too terrible to reveal, the shame it would bring would be devastating. The Avatar’s heir raped by…God help us. Who can be trusted if a Teramis Shield cannot be trusted? Forgive me, Kovar, but I had to protect the Avatar and Teramis. I was prepared for 100 soldiers to storm the temple door, but I was not prepared for this invasion from within. From the Hierarchy itself, which chose to play twisted power games with a little child.”

“Are you absolutely certain Lord Seren has not become corrupted?” asked Kovar anxiously.

“I’ve been in every neuron that boy has. He’s clean.” Saveris took a deep breath. “Sere didn’t want to corrupt him Kovar, Not in the usual way. She had no intention of turning him into a thing that would infiltrate the House and destroy others within it. She wanted him to destroy himself, to make him weak. Afraid. Malleable and submissive in her hand, twisted from the time he could walk and talk. No need hiding from what she had done so that it crept up on him and overwhelmed him unawares. She wanted him fully cognizant of it, to feel every bit of pain she inflicted on him every moment of his life. To force him to hold it in, trying to protect those around him, and then to be torn apart by it. I saw it. I saw it all. Felt it. She is beyond evil.” He shuddered, hugging himself as if swept by a cold wind, his golden hair tumbling over his forehead as curls wet with the sweat of fear escaped their queue. “Seren is good. And strong. To survive what she did to him…many would have perished from it, Kovar. He is a miracle.”

Kovar realized he had closed his eyes, and was breathing in long, slow gasps. He steadied himself and slowly lifted his gaze to his lover, whose face was wracked with pain and guilt. “This is why you have been away from me so long: to keep this from me.”

Saveris nodded. “I’m sorry, beloved. I had no choice. We’ve put everything and everyone on lockdown. Seren is completely isolated here. I foolishly assumed the Hierarchy would seek justice, but they’ve been nothing but obstructive. They have no intention of bringing Sere to account. Of course Aeren has been…he has been unstable.” Saveris shook his head, the golden mane flashing light. “I have said far too much.”

“No, beloved. I have asked too much. Forgive me.”

“By the God, I miss you. I need you, Kovar.”

Kovar sighed. “I miss you, too.” He hung his head, black strands of thick hair pooling around him. “But it is, perhaps, best if we wait a bit longer to see each other again. Considering.”

“Yes,” said Saveris, resignedly. “It is best.”

“You still keep comfort with that Lieutenant? The one with the legs.”

Saveris laughed lightly and nodded his head. “Sometimes. He’s a dull-witted lump.”

Kovar laughed in return. “I don’t imagine you do a lot of speaking.”

Saveris shrugged, smiling wryly. “And now you have Aeren.”

“I don’t have Aeren.”

Saveris laughed. “Keep telling yourself that. He’ll get under your skin, Kovar.”

“He certainly got under yours.”

Saveris shrugged. “He’s a challenge. Can’t stand being here, only takes residence to be with Seren. Spends most of his time off alone in the mountains. Did you know?”

“I assumed he was a common presence, at the Palace. At court.”

“By the God, no. He hates it. He’s...fractious.”

“A sensitive.”

“He told you? I’m surprised.”

“Complicated boy.”

“Very. And with good reason. Have a care with him, Kovar, he means well. Even if he does make me want to…what was it? Ah, yes. Bend him over a desk and give him a good spanking.”

Kovar laughed. “Tempting target.”

“Indeed. In some ways he is as damaged as the little Avatar. And as I said, he lacks self awareness, so he doesn’t know it. You’ll be good for him, Kovar. He’ll be safe with you. Keep him away from here for awhile, will you?”

“That is the plan,” said the Prince.

“Good to know that speech to Seren wasn’t for show.” Saveris sighed with relief. “Times like these I regret very much having accepted this post.”

“You had to have it. It was an honor only for the very best.”

“The ‘best’…I failed Seren. Failed him.” Saveris’s head dropped, his shoulders shook.

“Saveris, no…stop…”

The golden haired Shield paused, listening, and then turned again to Kovar. “Seren is calling me to bed. I have to go.” He pushed the loose tendrils of his hair back into his queue.

Kovar smiled. “Run to him then. Love you. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

“Love you too, Kovar.” The projection faded and winked out.

Kovar reached to push his own hair back into place, his hand brushing his cheek as he did so. His face was wet. He looked at his hand as the tears dried on his fingers.

Kovar waved his hand, and the lights of the room dimmed, leaving him with the light of the fire burning in the grate and at the altar, casting flickering gold tongues across the deep rich red satin sheets, pillows, and curtains of Kovar’s great bed. He walked toward it, sloughing off his boots and shirt as he went. At the altar, a dagger rested in a silver scabbard. He touched it reverently and placed his fingers to his lips in a light kiss. Then he stretched his large frame across the bed, pulling a pillow toward him and wrapped it around his head.

He willed the world away.
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