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Title -- "Love and Loyalty: Aeren" Book Two Chapter Six 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. Comedy and Drama Ensues.

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 Part XVII Part VXIII Part VIX
Part XX

Aeren played a game of Ice and Air with Seren on an antique board given him by Kovar. It was a beautifully carved set, with lovely old bits of selenite and azurite, worn smooth by many years of use. Seren was rather good at the game mostly because his playing was so chaotic Aeren couldn’t follow his strategy. When Seren realized Aeren was losing on purpose, he became vexed.

“It’s cheap when you let me win,” the Heir grumbled.

So Aeren finally won, and Seren took it amiably.

Aeren and Seren enjoyed their kiss goodnight again, and Aeren glared in Kovar’s direction as he left for his apartment to go to sleep. Kovar didn’t react, except to admonish him to get plenty of rest: they’d be leaving for the mountains on the morrow.

Aeren was stinging still from Kovar’s teasing about his affection for Seren. “Besotted!” The word made Aeren uncomfortable. He loved Seren with a pureness that Aeren treasured as sacred and it irritated him that the Prince considered this consecrated space a target for his mockery. He prayed his annoyance didn’t show when he spoke to the Heir, whose feelings were Aeren’s protectorate.

Asha had cleared the dinner plates. On the table by his chair next to the comfortable, blazing fiew, she left a tray of evening snacks. As Aeren picked at them in search of a favorite treat, he realized the box Kovar had brought with him earlier sat unopened still, the seal of Kovar entwined with Aeren’s sigil upon it nipping his curiosity.

Aeren picked up the box. Chalcedony. Heliotrope. Binghamite: fine and powerful stones. He opened it, his crystalcutter senses tingling at the touch.

Inside, he saw what looked like a pile of small, dazzling blue and grey beads, powerful defenders against psychic attack. He reached in and lifted what proved to be a net of celestite and smoky quartz, delicately strung together with strands of platinum - not the customary silver, as Kovar did not want Aeren to be burdened with the sign of allegiance to the Avatar.

The net was beautiful, and very recently crafted of good quality talismans: not as good as he could have mined, Aeren observed critically, but fine and resonant. The net was intended to nestle tightly on his head, dotting his golden hair like shining stars. Another puzzlement, thought Aeren. Kovar had just reminded him that as his Shield Master, the barriers between them would wane, and here Kovar was providing him with a refuge of protection wards against just such a thing.

Aeren stepped into his water closet toilette, curious to see how the net would look in the mirror. He nestled it on top of his fluffy golden mane, and it immediately tightened to fit his skull in a snug cap. The effect was quite beautiful, the gems dazzling among the golden strands which flowed beneath it. He removed the net, carefully returning it to its carved box with his name entwined protectively in Kovar’s sigil.  The Prince must have half the artisans on Teramis working overtime to produce these engraved gifts, thought Aeren.

He went to sleep, another of Kovar’s mysteries unsolved.

Once again the Prince did not insist on an early morning’s rise for his squire, who luxuriated in his enormous bed with the great dark curtains and plush pillows. He enjoyed few luxuries as a crystalcutter except when in residence at the Avatar’s House, or in the short visits he made to the residences of some romantic liaison. Even then, he had nothing like the Prince’s resources to indulge on such lavish personal accommodations, most of his money being funneled into caring for the Avatar, young Seren, bribes to secure trade routes, and a variety of subversive activities he was hopeful the Prince would never hear about. Of course, now his money had been seized, and he lived on the generosity of one of the richest men on Ovanan.

Aeren yawned, and stretched, loving the feeling of his naked skin against the soft sheets of plush satin and velvet. The squire had no doubt the Prince was in his gymnasium at first light, working up a gruesome sweat surrounded by enormous Shields, all of them speculating about the week of scorching sex their Prince was about to enjoy when the doors closed and locked on the royal apartments with the striking blond consort inside.

The curtains soundproofed his bed so the Household help could come and go without disturbing their master’s rest. Unsuspecting Aeren swept aside the heavy curtain the next morning to be greeted by a small army of household staff. He was exposed to the eyes of a dozen workers, who, at the glimpse of the Prince’s naked lover, quickly pretended to be intensely devoted to their labors. Aeren snatched at a sheet to cover himself.

“Forgive us, My Lord,” said Erastos, rushing forward with a robe. “We’d hoped to have the preparations complete before you awakened.” He had his ubiquitous tablet under one arm, sandwiched under a large flat box, and over the other arm he held some gauzy garment. Aeren could see why Erastos managed his job as Kovar’s private secretary: he could juggle quite a lot.

Aeren slipped his arms into the offered robe and looked around his room in astonishment. “What is all this? It looks like a jungle in here.” He stepped out of his bed, his gnarled feet catching the eye of Erastos, who glimpsed away. Erastos had already noticed Aeren’s rough hands and fit body. The Prince’s beautiful lover was no delicate creature raised to the couch.

The apartment, which had been all clean spaces and simple lines was now inhabited by a number of large decorative tubs which held enormous plants in various shapes and colors, glorious exotic things, some with sprays of fragrant blooms, others with great glossy leaves in spires or sprays or great mounds.

“The Heir Apparent sends his greetings and this offering of his good will and trust. These are treasures from his private conservatory. The Prince received them on your behalf this morning and had them installed for you,” said Erastos, bowing solemnly. “He asked the Prince to tell you your faithful care of these living beings is as if his naked heart were placed in your tender hands.”

“By the God…” whispered Aeren. “They’re beautiful…” He touched a spray of large lavender blossoms the shape of long, fluted tubes. A thick, rich scent floated from them as he brushed the cups of the blooms.

Erastos stepped toward the seating area by the lit fire, where breakfast was already spread.  Asha, as always, had been busy, but she was nowhere to be seen this morning. From the table, Erastos picked up a small box of rose quartz studded with rubies and presented it to Aeren. “The Heir sent this as well,” he said. “Another token of his regard.”

Rose quartz again, thought Aeren, for unconditional love, but the rubies were the marker of passion. Erastos could not have missed the meaning, but perhaps he thought the gift was in acknowledgment of Aeren’s new situation as Kovar’s consort.

Aeren opened the box, his fingers tingling as he did so, the resonance of Seren’s deep affection for him wafting off the stones like a warm embrace. His heart skipped a beat with the sensation, and Aeren gasped as he saw the contents of the box: a thick strand of splendid silver hair, Seren’s own. A dear gift, especially from the Avatar’s Heir, to cut one’s hair, the shining symbol of royal status, and give it to another, an intimate, tangible mark of affection, the most valued of riches. Aeren touched the locks, a common enough color on Ovanan, but from Seren’s head, threads of the fabric of heaven itself.

Aeren felt tears spring to his eyes, sudden and unwelcome. Erastos took him gently by the elbow and said quietly, “Let us speak in private, My Lord.” He led Aeren to the water closet then closed the door.

Aeren struggled with an explanation as he sought to steady himself by taking a seat at his toilette, his face reflected again and again in a surround of mirrors. “The Avatar’s Heir is a thoughtful boy, always thinking of others, sending little presents…” He wiped his eyes. “I feel ridiculous,” he added, apologetically.

Erastos placed the tablet and large box he had held under his arm carefully aside and propped the gauzy garment on a hanger. He stepped to the sink, fetched a tumbler made of intaglio carved onyx and filled it with water, holding it to Aeren, who was shaking with the force of the emotion he was trying desperately to quell.

“I am the servant of the Prince. You owe me no explanation, My Lord,” Erastos said, solemnly. Aeren shot Erastos a questioning glance as he took the drink. “But if I may be so bold,” said Erastos, “it must be difficult to have been sent from your home so abruptly, to be forced to leave those you love and who love you.”

Aeren had not expected empathy from Kovar’s plain-faced and eternally harried secretary. Behind Erastos’s stern mask, Aeren felt a waft of genuine concern, snatched back as quickly as it was released, and admiration. He found Aeren very beautiful. But then, so people many did.

Aeren smiled grimly. “Thank you.” He could think of nothing else to say, so he drank the glass of water unenthusiastically. His stomach resounded with a loud growl. “Beg pardon!”

Erastos smiled. “I can bring your breakfast in here if you like. You would not, perhaps, wish to be observed eating by the servants.” Erastos did not count himself among their number, being one of the Prince’s closest intimates.

“I’m sure I can wait until they are gone,” said Aeren, the declaration immediately followed by regret: a luxurious bath while dining on fresh fruit might be nice this morning.

“I have another gift for you, then. From the Prince,” said Erastos. He picked up the large flat box, made of some dark exotic alien wood, and presented it to Aeren, who immediately sensed the presence of powerful stones inside.

Opals, magnificent opals, more than a hundred of them, set in a stunning diadem, with one very large stone that dangled down to rest on the forehead. The opal was another romantic gem to enhance sexual energy, but it could also be programmed for protection from psionic eyes. Aeren gasped when he removed it from the box, holding it in his hands, feeling the ancient intensity there.

Erastos was delighted to witness Aeren’s pleasure at the extravagant gift. “The Prince is exceptionally fond of you,” he said, happy to praise his master. “And he is very glad you are flattered by beautiful things. It gratifies him to see you so adorned.”

Aeren eyed Erastos skeptically, but he was sincere. “You have the sort of beauty,” said Erastos, brazenly, “that is not diminished by dainty ornament.”

Aeren wasn’t quite certain how to take that statement, but he realized that Kovar’s tastes in the matter of his adornment, thus far, were flawless. The Prince favored for Aeren simple but perfectly tailored garments of the finest stuff, accompanied by one dramatic piece of jewelry, or very fine bit of needlework. The choices made of Aeren’s beauty a brilliant gem in a minimalist setting. With particular, constrained decoration, he was elegant instead of lush, which he usually favored when playing up his raw sexuality, an effect of which Kovar did not entirely approve. The Prince’s choices emphasized the contrast between Teramis restraint and Aeren’s opulence, and the frisson was intoxicating.

“Not many warriors could carry off such a sweet coronet,” said Erastos, admiring the opals that flattered Aeren’s golden splendor.

They were the color of Seren’s eyes, pale, with the lights of many hues in them. He could not recall if he had mentioned this to Kovar, or if Kovar had noticed Seren’s unusual eyes when he had spoken with the Heir over the comm. “I take it,” Aeren ventured carefully, “that the Prince is not in the habit of gifting so extravagantly?”

Erastos smiled, a rare thing, Aeren surmised. “He is not,” admitted Erastos. “Saveris isn’t fond of such adornment, and the Prince long ago stopped trying to change his tastes.” He paused. “I offend you by mentioning him,” he said. Aeren shook his head and smiled, so Erastos continued. “His Highness is delighted to have you to spoil with trinkets. He does love to look upon beautiful men, and you are…well, I am too free with my tongue in your presence, My Lord. Forgive me.”

Aeren smiled faintly. “Not at all.”

“Well,” said Erastos, huffing a bit as he did so. “If that is the case then…My Lord I am charged with a bit of intimate business.”

“Intimate,” repeated Aeren, warily.

“Yes, My Lord,” said Erastos, suddenly businesslike and picking up his tablet. “The Prince does not employ…there is no Master of the Bedchamber. So the Prince tasks me with this responsibility.”


“To manage your most personal needs. The Prince is,” Erastos paused, and then drew a breath, “The Prince is not careless in matters of the heart. I’m sure you understand.”

“I’m beginning to,” said Aeren.

“Aside from Saveris, he rarely takes lovers. Not while I’ve been secretary. So, there has been no need for a Master of the Bedchamber for some time.”

There was no Master of the Bedchamber in the Avatar’s House either, and Aeren had little experience with the sort, as most of his lovers were not among the loftiest of Ovanan’s royal court, and only the wealthy employed them. These most guarded of servants performed every duty related to the bodily needs of their superiors.

“Of course the Royal Courtesans employ Masters…”

“Kovar keeps courtesans?” Aeren said in surprise, considering that Saveris may have told the truth about how a courtesan had once occupied his apartments.

“Not for himself, of course,” said Erastos. “Not often,” he amended. “Of course, you and the Prince are intimate already…”

“Yes,” Aeren said, remembering Kovar trusted not even his secretary with the truth of what was going on between them.

“Well,” said Erastos crisply. “We’ll get on with it, then.” He gestured toward a cabinet, and the door opened with a wave of his hand. “Lubricants,” he announced. Jars of unguents in carved intaglio onyx lined a shelf.

Good God, thought Aeren.

“In a variety scents, sensations, and flavors. These are, of course the favorites of the Prince, and I am instructed to inquire as to any preferences you might have in the matter. What you wish will be acquired for you.”

Aeren gulped. “I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

Erastos smiled, relieved, one uncomfortable duty performed without incident.

“And here,” said Erastos, with another wave, his telekinesis opening a series of cabinet doors, “Are oils for massage and pleasure, some scented, some flavored, and some therapeutic. Shall I review for you?”

“I – “ Aeren started. “That seems like quite a lot.”

Erastos raised a brow. “Again, the Prince has instructed me to inquire as to your preferences. If you have further questions, the cabinets have a tablet here –“ another wave of his hand activated the item embedded in the door, “which will review their properties for you. And then there is the matter of your…ah…hygiene.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Erastos went pale. “Forgive me, My Lord, I didn’t mean to imply…er…I meant…”

“Spit it out, Erastos,” said Aeren, tartly.

Erastos took a deep breath. “In the matter of your most intimate recesses, My Lord, it is the preference of the Prince that you make use of the purgative facility in the shower, which is designed for the cleansing of your inner body.”

Oh, My God, thought Aeren. Kovar, you fucking prick.

Erastos tried very hard to maintain his composure as he went on, but even the Prince’s stoic and constrained private secretary could not quell the blush that slowly stained his ice pale complexion a brilliant scarlet.

“The Prince has also provided you with this sanitary wash, which has antiseptic properties, and, I am given to understand has a pleasing taste.”

For when Kovar kisses my ass, thought Aeren.

Aeren’s approach to sex was rarely more complicated than to drop his trousers and get on with it. Kovar’s lovemaking appeared as well planned as a planetary invasion, and he was as fastidious as a monk. Aeren wondered what would happen if His Highness actually soiled a sheet with ejaculate.

“I hope I have not offended your sensibilities, My Lord,” said Erastos, uncomfortably. “I realize you and the Prince are already intimate, but it was requested that I go over this with you as this is the first time you and the Prince will…cohabit.”

I am going to take Kovar to the top of the nearest mountain, thought Aeren, and throw him off a cliff.

“I should also ask, My Lord, if you have any special requests,” said Erastos, solemnly.

“Um…” Aeren managed.

“Perhaps…equipage. Some sort of enhancement toy, stimulant devices for pleasure. If you require bindings, clamps, rings, that sort of thing.”

The secretary was having a good deal of difficulty hiding his mortification and Kovar was probably in his office laughing that laugh that went an octave higher than Aeren thought a baritone could manage.

“I’ve never required apparatus to get where I need to go,” said Aeren, with marked care. He considered further acerbic commentary about the matter, but foresaw no benefit in doing so. “You seem uncomfortable. Is this…is this instruction the sort of thing the Prince normally requires of you?”

Erastos pursed his lips. “Not often, but yes. When he takes someone new. He was swept away by you, and did not annex you with his usual care. So, after the fact of your ravishment, here we are. To be ardent is to be consumed by the power of one’s lust, and when the Prince is in one of his passions, he can be imprudent. The Prince has made you his consort almost on a whim, but anyone can see you are a rare jewel. He has been incautious, but even so, he has chosen well,” said Erastos, definitively.

Aeren raised a brow. “Erastos, can you tell me why Saveris never became consort? It is clear the Prince is devoted to him.”

Erastos smiled gently. “You have no cause to be concerned on that score, My Lord.” Erastos looked indulgent. “The love between Saveris and the Prince is a constant, but the Prince has never denied Saveris his pleasures and Saveris is not entitled to deny the Prince gratification” he said reassuringly. “Consort was an honor Saveris refused. He had no wish to rise through the ranks of Teramis as anything but a warrior, and there are only two honors on this world worthy of him: to be the Avatar’s Shield, or to be Prince. He will never challenge Kovar for the throne. So he became Shield.” Erastos shrugged. “They meet and make love when they can. It is no secret.”

“Erastos, do you mind if I ask…what exactly does a consort do?”

Erastos steadied himself after hearing the question and then said carefully, “I believe you are already doing it, My Lord.”

“I mean,” said Aeren, “There must be more to it than…well, just being a formalized sexual partner.”

Erastos smiled broadly. “Oh, yes, of course there is. The title is rarely used anymore, but it was a common thing in the olden days, before Kovar became Prince. It is no small thing to be the intimate of the Prince and to have his regard and private counsel. There is a great deal of power in that, I am sure you know. You can, of course, hold other titles and positions at court in addition to being consort, but the consort may never challenge the Prince for the throne,” Erastos said.

“I see,” said Aeren. He knew Kovar was impressed by his psionic gifts, the power of a disruptor that could defeat Kovar. He wondered if the Prince had taken this into consideration when making Aeren his consort.

“The formal challenge to the Teramis throne,” Erastos continued, “consists of kidnapping the consort and holding them hostage until the Prince or Princess Royal accepts the offer to combat and performs a rescue.”

“Beg pardon?”

“That is how Kovar came to the throne.”

“I had no idea,” said Aeren, wonderingly. “Is that why Kovar never took a consort before? So no one could make the challenge?”

Erastos shrugged. “Not at all. There have been a number of challenges to Kovar, all boorish brutes who have no respect for decorum or tradition. They lost of course, thinking him reticent or weak because he does not often act as the aggressor. The Prince is restrained in his use of power, and the foolish think that signals weakness. But Kovar is a great Prince truly the greatest Teramis has known in centuries. He stays his hand because he knows what power is, and the terrible cost of wielding it unwisely.”

“Shall I expect one of these brutes to carry me off by the hair and offer Kovar a challenge at some point?” Aeren asked sardonically.

Erastos grinned. “One would hope not. Kovar was not gentle in divesting the former prince of his rule. Were anyone to cause you grief, My Lord, his rage would be insupportable. When those he loves are harmed…” Erastos went silent. Then he said, “The Prince would bring down a throne again, if need be.”

Aeren sat with his arms folded uncomfortably around the bulky robe. He wondered at Kovar, seemingly so frigid and controlled, yet he was a man who’d known deep and enduring affection, and whose passionate devotion to his beloveds shook kingdoms. Aeren had never experienced a romance like the one Saveris and Kovar had. He felt a pang at the thought. Aeren was known as the great paramour, a man of tenderness and sentiment, and yet, in reality, most of his relationships were empty.

He closed his eyes against a sudden chill and considered his future playing love match with a man he would never embrace with affection, that glacial clasp a mask for his protection while he investigated the corruption that brutalized the boy he adored.

“Are you cold, My Lord?” said Erastos. “Let me start the bath for you. And I shall send someone to do your hair. The Prince greatly admires your hair. Are you sure you won’t have me bring in something on a tray? You can eat while in the bath, that would be soothing, would it not?”

Aeren smiled, curious at Kovar’s comments, from Aeren’s psionic gifts, to his beauty. He wondered how much of it was a part of the act. “Do you fuss over Kovar like this?”

“Of course I do. And Asha, she usually handles his bodily needs, but I sometimes do these things for him, too. Ah, I must bring you your tablet. I have the candidates for your private staff for you to review. If you wish, before you and the Prince close yourselves in for your retreat, you can let me know any concerns you have, and they will be dealt with by the time you emerge.”

Soon Aeren found himself deep in a rich and soothing hot bath, lazily dining on fresh fruit. Might as well enjoy the luxury, Aeren thought. In a few hours, he and Kovar would be out in the mountains in rough terrain and sub freezing temperatures. Aeren refused the offer of a hairdresser, and also refused someone to tend his rough hands and feet, which Erastos had suggested as well. He seemed genuinely disappointed when the offer was rejected.

Erastos sitting on a chair by the bath, going over the details of the aspirants for private personnel, the curtain half closed between them in deference to Aeren’s modesty.

Aeren would receive physical culture training from a great hulk of a man named Rafta, whose night dark hair and pale skin reminded him of Kovar, though he lacked the Prince’s stern and regal magnificence. He had a face that appeared as if it had been broken in numerous places and put back together without the aid of a psionic healer. Aeren supposed his brutish good looks were admired on Teramis. He had the rudimentary psionic skill of blocking, and almost nothing else.

The next candidate was, Erastos explained, very promising. Camros was favored to be Aeren’s companion and pedagogue. A specialist in deportment, with many years service under high-ranking officials, he was not born of Teramis, but of House Yemihava. He was astonishingly good-looking, rare for Yemihava, a House that forbade the alteration of one’s birth appearance. A natural beauty like him would have fetched a high price from the crèche, Aeren thought. It was unusual for Teramis to adopt children of another House. Yemihava bred servants, and Camros was, as typical for the House, deferential and meek. Perhaps some official had wanted him for these qualities, which were recessive traits on Teramis. He had large, lustrous brown eyes, a close cut crop of thick curling brown hair, and creamy light brown skin.

Kovar favored him in part, because like Rafta, he had limited psychic ability and could do little more than block. Aeren’s privacy during the breakdown and rebuilding of his psionic walls would be protected with Camros as his servant.

Though he was taller and heavier than Aeren, he was also much shorter and lighter than most men of Teramis, and would be a well-matched sparring partner for Aeren. Camros could best bulkier opponents who underestimated his ability. Born an androgyne but raised on Teramis, he had trained with soldiers normally matched to big, brawny mates and who had little experience fighting smaller, quick and lithe opponents.

Aeren wondered at the choice of such a comely companion for his private staff. Aeren might be required to endure psionic quarantine for months, unable to take a lover the entire time. “I will tempt you,” Kovar had said. Was Camros that temptation?

“Will he be my valet and body servant? Manage my intimate needs?” Aeren asked.

“No, My Lord. This prospect,” said Erastos, running quickly down the limited list, “is whom the Prince favors for your valet.” He indicated another man, Benaru, born of Teramis. He had a very thick jaw and neck and towered over Aeren: the tablet indicated that Benaru was even taller than Kovar, rather formidable for one who would be charged with the task of doing the laundry. Erastos caught Aeren’s look and said, “He doubles as a personal bodyguard, of course.”

“Of course.”

Aeren knew the selection of staff was, in the end, going to be Kovar’s, so he murmured his assent without debate. He had trouble concentrating on the matter, as his mind was already in the mountains, going over his equipment, the best course to avoid detection on the route, and the prospect of being on the road with Kovar: he would lead a man he barely knew into the most secret trails in the heart of the mountains, into caves few eyes had ever seen, and tunnels he had dug with his own hands, private, cherished territory.

Erastos mistakenly assumed the wandering mind of Aeren was due to flights of romantic fancy. He smiled and gently withdrew the tablet, then presented the gauzy garment he’d brought as a gift from Kovar. “He would like you to wear this when he comes for you,” said Erastos.

Aeren eyed the flimsy thing dubiously. “Does Saveris wear this sort of thing, too?”

Erastos looked amused. Aeren realized his questions about Saveris were imprudent and sounded insecure. “Saveris is not one for decoration. As I said, the Prince delights in decorating you, you are such a beauty. Lovelier by far than Saveris,” he said under his breath.

Aeren raised a brow. That was an incautious comment. But he liked hearing it. “I know some say the two of you are alike,” continued Erastos, “but I do not think so. You have those dimples. Quite pretty.”

 “You don’t like Saveris?” Aeren purred.

Erastos said quietly, “They are apart too often, and I know my Lord has been lonely. They meet and couple, but it is one thing to take a few hours to relieve the needs of one’s body, and another to be in the arms of a beloved in the morning, in the night, whenever one requires that touch, and to be as one in every way, to the depths of the mind and soul. This will be forever denied them now that Saveris is of the Avatar’s House,” said Erastos.

At this, Aeren flinched. He closed his eyes and steadied himself. “I think,” he said cautiously, “that there is a very great love between them.”

“There is,” said Erastos. “But my Lord deserves perfect love.”

“I’m not perfect,” said Aeren, quietly. He felt searing guilt like a hot blade in his heart.

“No one is, of course,” said Erastos. “And Saveris is very dear to my Prince. Kovar will always love him. But Kovar needs love here. And you are here. There are those who are upset for Saveris. They think that you have come between the Prince and the Shield. He is popular and adored. But others know, as I do, that you will ease the absence and ache in my Prince’s heart that tears at him while Saveris is away.

“Some say the Prince is cold and terrible, a warrior of ice. But I know him to be a man of great virtue. With a greater capacity for love and loyalty than any I have ever known. You are the most fortunate of men to have that love, Lord Aeren.”

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