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Title -- "Love and Loyalty: Aeren" Book Two Chapter Four Part Three
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 Part XVI

They know,” thought Aeren desperately, “God, Kovar!”

Calm!” came Kovar’s urgent thought. “They know nothing! Nothing!” Kovar showed no emotion as he looked at the little Inquisitor woman who peered back with a satisfied expression on her face, certain she had hit a nerve. The court watched Aeren in breathless silence. That Aeren had been sent from the Avatar’s Palace for some sort of deep and personal offense was known, but none knew what this offense was, particularly as it applied to the child Avatar. And the words Riet had used made it sound like a very unsavory offense indeed.

Kovar was in peak form in a moment, his smile spreading as he fixed Inquisitor Riet with his unsettling silver eyes. Kovar’s smile was a remarkable thing, Aeren mused. His face and startling white skin were so perfectly sculpted, utterly without crease or flaw, it seemed as if any motion would make his flesh crack. Then his smile appeared, a broad, friendly, disarming display of thin red lips and white teeth, predatory and youthfully handsome at once. If one was about to be eaten, one would enjoy the experience.

“It’s no secret our squire was cast out of the Avatar’s House. You witnessed his infirmity yourself just a moment ago,” said Kovar, pleasantly. Aeren suppressed an almost overwhelming desire to squirm and caught another warning thought of “Calm!” from Kovar. “The Avatar discussed his issues with us in private. One is loathe to air them.”

Riet looked confused. “Infirmity?”

They’re here to find out what I know, you little fool,” Kovar’s shielded thought hit Aeren like a smack in the face. “If they thought you’d been murdering Sere’s circle of acquaintances, they’d shout it to all in the court and demand I turn you over.”

Aeren gripped the edges of his chair. Of course Kovar was right. The humiliation of having the Prince’s lover exposed as a murderer, and then the disgrace of bringing dishonor on the court by defending him would be a political nightmare for Teramis. The only defence was their proof of Sere’s abuse: but making it public would result in calls to euthanize the Avatar’s heir as a soulless corrupted shell. As the other children had been abused prior to being granted souls by the Avatar, the crime was one of property and not against persons.

Aeren had no doubt that Sere, if she were exposed, would make sure he was implicated in the abuse as well. She was warning him even now with the words “intimate nature of this corrupting influence”. Aeren would maintain silence, or Sere would not only bring Aeren down, but she would make sure young Seren died as well. She had sent Inquisitors not for him, but to find out what Kovar knew. Aeren’s mind raced, trying to remember the dead woman: she was involved in Sere’s actions, moving funds, he recalled. Sere must have killed her to hide some odious details of the criminal enterprise she’d engaged in and to send Aeren this warning.

“Aeren’s infirmity is obvious,” said Kovar, his thoughts and Aeren’s thoughts in fleet accord as he spoke, “and is the principle reason why the Avatar sent him from his House. Though we had hoped not to make the issue a public one, you have forced the issue. Rather crudely forced it, we might add.”

“Did we?” said Inquisitor Riet, snippily. “And how did we do that, may we ask?”

“You of all people in the room felt it, Inquisitor. As Aeren has so little control over his powerful emotions, we could see how they affected you. Could hear it, as a matter of fact. You pealed like a little bell.”

Inquisitor Riet’s mouth dropped open and a flush crept over her cheeks. Tittering could be heard about the room. All had experienced Aeren’s pulse of desire, powerful and insistent, just minutes ago. Shields had gone up for some, others delighted in the rush. The Inquisitors had taken it as a direct hit.

“I - I did note that Lord Aeren had very little self control, but…”

“He has almost none,” said Kovar, sympathetically. “If one is not shielded around him when he loses control, one endures everything he is feeling. The Avatar insisted that he get proper training and counseling when the issue became a problem, and until now he has childishly failed to mind his lessons. His powerful passions,” Kovar said, as he looked to Aeren with a theatrical expression of disapproval, while Aeren returned that look with a mixture of horror, relief and profound embarrassment, “affect all around him, hence the Avatar’s deep concern for the corruption of the mind if his little heir. The heir is unable to shield himself properly from the onslaught of Aeren’s powerful desires and the depths of his sadness. One can only imagine what that must be like for such a young boy. Aeren’s weakness is a bad example, and creates an impossible environment for the training of an Avatar.”

Inquisitor Riet and her companions looked from Kovar to Aeren and back again. Kovar could practically hear their minds whirring examing all the data, gleaning thoughts they could grab from the room, and relaying information to Sere.

“It is a distressing experience to be the recipient of Aeren’s unchecked passions. Despondent admirers have become obsessed. No doubt this was the fate of your Lady,” said Kovar with finality.

Lady Riet’s face went flat. Kovar could see she was receiving instructions from afar.

“Such range and intensity of desire, longing, joy and sorrow is common to one born of Teramis, but we are trained to endure and control. There are pleasures to be had in the power of such passions, to be sure,” and he turned to Aeren, smiling indulgently, the message clear to all just what those pleasures entailed. After a breathless moment, Kovar faced the court again. “But the Avatar cannot tolerate one so undisciplined in the Temple. Aeren’s beauty and raw talent inspires admiration and unearned privilege and that has made him weak and spoiled. He is callous with the hearts of admirers. Your lady’s unrequited interest could have been influenced by Aeren’s careless regard for his own emotional projections. This intense compulsion can be distressing for those with a delicate constitution.

“The Divinity has returned this child of Teramis to us for the training he should have had from the crèche. Teramis will give him discipline, and protect others from his influence. He will learn the quality and measure of his savage passions and the glory and the illimitable beauty of obedience and submission.” With this Kovar raised his hand to Aeren’s face and gently stroked his index finger along Aeren’s smooth jaw. Aeren inclined his head toward Kovar’s hand, and his eyes closed. “This I vow,” said Kovar. The Prince’s finger trailed up Aeren’s jaw, lightly planing across his cheek to a full bottom lip. Aeren kissed the offered finger delicately, his mouth parting as he did so with the light flick of a pink tongue, in wanton suggestion of the delights to be had within the moist warmth of that mouth. And he trembled.

Once again, he gathered the feelings of those around him, the ambient sensations from the crystal throne he sat upon, the powerful gems in the room, the desire, the almost imperceptible sorrow and pity for the lady dead for want of him, and the great respect and affection the people had for the Prince. Aeren kneaded it, grew it, and sent it back out into the room as a mass of aching remorse and regret, overwhelming love and gratitude for Kovar, and powerful need, the need to be accepted, loved, to be reformed, to be molded by Kovar’s own powerful hand. It rolled over all in the room in a great wave of passion. He let out a little groan and inclined his head further, lolling it against Kovar’s hand as if the lightest touch from the Prince sent him into a delirious, ecstatic spiral. The gauze shirt slipped from one white shoulder, baring his arm and his chest, revealing a peaked pink nipple.

The court reeled.

Kovar gazed at Aeren with cool regard as Aeren held his head lightly in Kovar’s palm. Then the Prince smiled indulgently and quietly said, “Control.”

Aeren shuddered.

He could hear gasps, moans, and he could feel the thrill of the court, at war with themselves over whether or not to indulge in the shameful wave of delight and sorrow, ecstasy and woe that wove in and around them, shaking them to their souls. It was intoxicating, as powerful as the passions they shared at Festival. But before the pulses could overwhelm them, Aeren called them back, drawing them into himself again, trembling against Kovar’s hand as he did so. Kovar showed no other sign that he felt anything, but his eyes were fixed on Aeren like twin silver stars, bright and piercing and blazing.

The Inquisitors were dumbfounded, struck again by the force of Aeren’s psionic blast when Kovar turned to them and said calmly, “He is unable to master himself. Erastos, escort Aeren to his apartment.”

This time the Inquisitors did not object. Erastos, still holding his tablet and looking somewhat ruffled, gingerly approached Aeren who rose from his crystal throne, a delicate flush on his white face, his shirt still in disarray, looking rather like one who had been on the receiving end of a bit of rough. He moved to the first step of the dais, then turned swiftly, kneeling at Kovar’s feet. He raised his face to Kovar who looked upon him with those startling silver-grey eyes. Aeren’s hair fell about his body in a great golden curtain. He held up his palm to his lord.

“My Master. My Prince,” he said. “I am yours to command. I place my hand beneath your foot.” Then, with exquisite form and on bended knee, placing his palm gently under the sole, he pressed his lips to the tip of Kovar’s immaculate boot as if this act gave him immense pleasure.

Kovar looked down upon his squire with veiled eyes as applause broke out in the chamber. There were even some undisciplined whoops and cries of “Kiss him! Kiss him!” which Kovar acknowledged with an almost imperceptible smile.

Slowly, Aeren withdrew from the act of worship that had thoroughly delighted everyone who witnessed it, except the Inquisitors. He looked lovingly at Kovar before rising to his feet and he turned, his torso still half exposed with fetching carelessness, before he allowed Erastos to escort him from the reception hall, this time through a side door to the left of Kovar’s throne. The courtiers continued to applaud the Prince’s conquest as he withdrew.

The wild and untamable Aeren had been tamed.

Immediately upon stepping through the door, Aeren saw a Quadrant of Shields waiting for them, but instead of proceeding down the corridor as the door closed silently behind, Erastos looked intently at Aeren and pressed his finger to his lips, turning back toward the court. Aeren realized they could see the proceedings in the reception hall through the elaborate mosaic tiles on the door which afforded a one-way view.  Erastos smiled at Aeren, and gestured to him to step forward to observe at his side.

The Prince’s haughty profile with its large proud nose, strong chin and stark white skin made him look like a great and terrible marble sculpture as imposing as the stone warriors lining the reception hall. He gazed down at the little woman Inquisitor from the height of the dais and his contempt, cool and impenetrable. She looked fragile and overwhelmed, and Aeren knew she was neither.

She was, however, uncomfortable, as she’d been unshielded and unprepared for Aeren’s emotional assaults. She trembled still from their depth and intimate nature. This pleased Kovar, who showed no emotion, but Aeren had felt satisfaction as Kovar’s hand had lightly stroked his cheek when he sat next to the Prince on the throne. It passed over Aeren in an instant, approval and amusement, barely sustained mirth and pleasure as Kovar’s finger traced the line of Aeren’s lower lip. Aeren shuddered a moment, remembering it. Then, with irritation, he snatched at the shirt, still draped off one shoulder to cover himself again, forgetting that the shirt was as sheer as a mist.

Kovar was speaking again. Aeren and Erastos leaned forward eagerly to hear him.

“We regret our ward has caused you this discomfort. Perhaps you would also like to retire to gather yourselves.” He smiled with wintry kindness.

“The Hierarchy has no desire to draw out this unfortunate incident,” said Riet crisply. “Your squire has been irresponsible with his power and has caused great distress and discomfort to the House of Lady Sere. A most valued and trusted intimate of the Lady is dead because your squire,” she trembled as she said it, “forces his emotional resonances onto unsuspecting persons and then saunters away without any regard for his responsibility.”

Kovar raised one of his thin, black brows. “Do you mean to tell us that Lady Sere employs household staff incapable of dealing with stray emotional resonance? That doesn’t speak well of her security measures. Perhaps she should speak to us about acquiring more Shields. We are sure we can come to a suitable financial arrangement, as we can’t think if any other reason that she should not have these measures already in place but extreme penuriousness.”

Again, there was laughter in the court. Inquisitor Riet was not pleased. But Aeren was relieved to hear that the tack of the conversation was not going where he had feared it would go. Sere was warning Aeren to keep her secret: but she was willing to keep secrets as well.

“Let us get to the point, Inquisitor. What do you want?” Kovar’s voice was flat and without mirth.

Riet drew herself up, her head cocked lightly to one side, listening to instructions. Then she announced, “At the time of the death of Lady Amiya, Lord Aeren had already been established as a member of your household. And was…in your company. You have admitted to this.”

“Yes,” said Kovar.

“Then you are responsible for her death as you are responsible for the behavior of your ward,” she announced in triumph. The court was deadly silent.

“Are we indeed?” said Kovar. “Do, pray, inform us of when my ward had interaction with your Lady?”

Riet listened again, and then announced, “At the Hall of Stars, with the Celebration of the New Rising Moon. The concert. Your ward attended, and so did Lady Amiya.”

“He attended and…what?”

“I didn’t do anything to her,” Aeren snarled in a whisper. “I’ve never met her!”

“Shh!” warned Erastos.

“Lord Aeren enjoyed a liaison with her, and became so enamored in the moment he let his emotions overwhelm him, which overwhelmed Lady Amiya. Immediately after he’d finished using her body for his cheap pleasure, he refused all communication with her.”

“Our squire denies any knowledge of this woman.”

“Of course he would say this. He has so many conquests, what is one more woman at a party? Driven by his completely irresponsible behavior, she became obsessed with him, and his coldness and refusal to help her overcome the fixation he instilled in her drove her to her death. By your own admission, Your Highness, this is not the first time Aeren has caused this sort of distress in others.”

Aeren bit his lip. It was true that on several occasions, maddened with passion, admirers had done themselves harm. But Aeren had used no psionic inducements to cause their distress.

And the concert was…how long ago? Over a month. Quite a long time. Aeren was sure the Inquisitors intended to come here to accuse him of a murder Sere had obviously committed herself. But a few minutes into the interrogation of Kovar and Aeren, reading the mood of the room, watching Aeren’s performance, Lady Sere quickly changed her tactic to accuse Aeren of psionic negligence instead. It was just short of an accusation of corruption, but she chose to make him seem callous instead of malicious.

“My squire was of the Avatar’s Household when you claim this occurred,” Kovar said. For the first time, he looked annoyed.

“Yes,” said Riet smugly. “But when Lady Amiya died, he was of your House.”

Kovar paused a moment. “So, what you are saying is, you want our House to pay a blood price because your Lady was not given mental health care for her distress in her own Household. And her very dear close friend the Lady Sere apparently didn’t notice the problem.”

“No, Your Highness. Her distress was obvious. A blood price is due because your squire manipulated her emotions and drove her to her death.”

Kovar hesitated. Then he said flatly, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

The court broke into laughter. If Riet had hoped to capture their sympathies, she had failed. The level of psionic vulnerability she was claiming on Amiya’s part was hard to believe in a woman who was an upper class confidante of formidable Lady Sere. The claim she was brought low by one sexual encounter with a sensuous boy engendered little pity among the tough-minded Shields and wards of House Teramis. And to expect Teramis to pay for it all was beyond reason.

Inquisitor Riet pursed her lips, catching the pointed, unsympathetic mood of the room. The little gems in her dimples flashed. “One does not expect tenderness or compassion from House Teramis. Regardless, the law is clear. Psionic negligence is a crime. Your ward is responsible.”

Kovar rolled his eyes. Then he smacked his hand on the armrest of his throne. “Well, it is clear Lady Sere needs money,” he said, his voice dripping with contempt, and making it obvious to all that he considered the entire matter a pathetic shakedown on the part of an avaricious rival. “What a pity. We will indulge her. Then maybe she will be responsible with her funds this time and will hire sufficient Shield staff to meet her weak-minded people’s needs. You may speak to our Purse. We are finished here.”

With that, he stood up, his precise royal bearing making him look even taller and more foreboding than he was. A Quartet of Shields immediately surrounded the Inquisitors who looked rather startled as they were shunted to one side. Kovar marched off the dais as an Octet pushed forward around him. He was shorter than his guards, but his powerful aura beamed from him and dazzled all who looked upon him, his deep red elaborately embroidered suit and richly decorated black cloak highlighting the stark and simple line of his strong jaw and cheekbones sleek as cold stone.

Soon the Prince was lost in the crowd as he strolled through the line of columns and courtiers and huge marble sculptures, and the massive doors of the entrance, while Erastos took Aeren gently by the arm and silently led him away flanked by their broad shouldered Shields, through the small back corridor.


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