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Title -- "Love and Loyalty: Aeren" Book Two Chapter Seven Part One
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 Part XXI

“Twenty million credits,” she said again.

The Royal Court Office was near the Receiving Hall. The office was small, and almost empty but for a dais and throne at one end where Kovar accepted calls from the lofty over a tightly secured comm.

He wore one of his magnificent, deep red coats, heavily embroidered, richly detailed in gold: no religious silver for this meeting. He’d chosen the informal afternoon jacket to imply a casual attitude about a matter over which he was not casual at all. It was open, revealing the long column of the snow-white skin of his powerful chest. His thick black hair was unbound and trailed over one shoulder, down the front of the coat in shocking contrast to his icy flesh and wine deep jacket. He wore slender black gloves made of the glossy skin of an animal.

He was alone in the office, as he usually was when engaging in state matters of this sort.
The comm would only show his upper body, and the receiver of the call would not see his soft, furred, informal slippers tapping a beat against a cushion.

The lady projected on the comm was stunningly beautiful, clean lined and still, her head topped with a magnificent and elaborately layered braided crown of pure white hair studded with gems. A long fall of her locks fell free of the plaited tiara in a glittering cascade. Her eyes were light blue and cold as snow and her face was long and slender, delicately painted, the lightest touch of pink on her porcelain cheeks, her eyes limned with contoured pastel shades that deepened her lashes and brows. Her lips were astonishingly red, and the paint on them glittered with the reflected light of tiny of mica flakes.

She wore a sheer vest of light blush gauze open to her waist, embellished with tendrils of embroidered flowers and vines, her rouged nipples visible through the diaphanous fronds. The finger of her right hand played among the verdant sequins, coyly trailing up and down the tableau.

She smiled prettily with postured care, her teeth very, very white between lightly parted lips, pleased to see Kovar before her so handsome and informally attired. She had brought him to her. This was not easy to accomplish, even over a comm.

Ovanan royals seldom met face-to-face, and rarely spoke except through proxies. The need to maintain psionic security was paramount, and even the most casual conversation was a battlefield for control, with minds battering one another for entrée while faces betrayed nothing. He’d learned long ago that Sere was someone to be avoided, even before he’d become Prince. He could barely remember the last time he’d spoken to her in person, much less over a comm.

“We have so few chances to meet,” she said, her voice as carefully crafted and beautiful as the rest of her. “I suppose this is as close as we have been in, perhaps, 6 months or more. Did I see you across the room at that party? Oh, what was it? I don’t recall.”

“Is that where you developed an interest in my squire, Lady Sere? We weren’t paying attention to you,” said Kovar. He had no idea what party she referred to and assumed she was lying anyway, so he returned her lie with one of his own.

“I was given to understand your relationship was a recent development,” she pried.

“I’ve known him for many years,” said Kovar. He’d almost said, “Since Aeren was a boy,” but he was concerned that the phrase might spark her suspicions, or worse, her interest. “He has ever been the ward of the Avatar, but he’s a beauty that few fail to notice. As I know you have, madam.”

“If principalities were granted for good looks, he’d have a throne of his own, instead of being a splendid decoration next to yours,” she said tittering sweetly. “Such a glorious aura! I’m desperate to find out what it signifies.”

Kovar smiled . “He’s a crystalcutter, of course.”

“He practically gave your entire court a collective orgasm yesterday. I do wish I’d been there,” said Sere, sweet and acid.

“Crystalcutters are susceptible to vibrations, ambiances. He will have the training he needs to control himself now that he is in my care,” said Kovar.

“I’m sure you will help him to govern all kinds of sensations, Your Highness,” she said. “Tell me, how do you do it? You’re such a big, robust man. I wonder that you don’t hurt a sweet, slender body like that when you take him.”

Kovar’s stomach lurched. She was baiting him, trying to see if he would have a reaction to the subtext of her statements, and indeed, his mind flashed to the horror of the images he had seen of her and her cohorts, abusing the small bodies of children. He set his mouth in a hard line. “How did you manage it when Aeren fucked you?”

She laughed, silver and light. “You think this is about jealousy, do you?”

“I can’t think of any other reason for your obvious attempt to alienate me from the affections of my squire,” said Kovar, coolly. “He’s not going to return to you, Sere.”

“Is that what he told you? That we were lovers?” She looked mildly surprised.

“He tells me nothing of his mistresses.” Referring to a lady of the Hierarchy as a mistress was a grave insult that only made her grin. “But I know there must have been something between you. Whatever it is, it’s over.” His pale grey eyes flashed. “He belongs to me. By law.”

“I’m amazed the Avatar let him go,” she said, her own eyes narrowing in aquamarine flashes. She was unsure if Aeren had told Kovar of what had gone on with her and Seren. Her careful mask of a face, could not hide this anxiety, which had her sending Inquisitors to Kovar’s court, and attempting to dazzle him with a list of bizarre and shifting accusations and demands.

“What happened between them is as little to do with me as what happened between the two of you,” said Kovar. “Your desperation has nothing to do with the death of some woman of your court that he doesn’t even know, and everything to do with your wish to have him again. You ended badly, and that is all. He has no wish to have further contact with you, and I do not care in the least about how you fucked him, why you fucked him, or how often you fucked him. If you’re concerned about your privacy in this matter, I assure you that when I take him, you are the last thing on my mind.”

Lady Sere burst into laughter. “But this is marvelous,” she said. “I wonder if I should believe you?”

“Madam, I do not give a damn. Name your price.”

Sere smiled broadly. “But I did name my price.”

“We’re negotiating,” said Kovar flatly. “Try again.”

“What a degrading enterprise to bargain like a trader at market over the flesh of your lover! Surely you can afford it,” said Sere. “Then again, you value him highly if you are willing to pay it. Tell me, does Saveris join you when you are with him? Or do they have each other while you watch? That must be lovely, your great golden animal mounting your pretty golden androgyne. I’d enjoy seeing that.” Attempting to shock was a common tactic when taking psionic digs, but was relatively useless over a comm, Kovar mused. She probably did it by habit.

“I enjoy seeing it, too. But it’s none of your business.”

“Isn’t it?” said Sere. “I do have some lovely crystals here, of Aeren, of course, having a fine time. He’s quite popular and he’s not always very careful about who he mounts or who he lets mount him, because so many have recorded the experience for distribution that I have an entire library of Aeren’s escapades to review whenever I wish. Would you like to see?”

Kovar grinned. It defied belief that Aeren, raised on the need for heightened psionic security in the Avatar’s household, would have engaged a range of lovers so carelessly, but Kovar was willing to play. “He must have given you a good swive for you to go to such lengths to get a look at his naked ass again. Lady, if you’ll excuse my saying so, it’s pathetic.”

That one hit. Sere’s smile diminished ever so slightly. “You think?” She made a gesture with her hand, and the projection was filled with the image of Aeren’s succulent white rump pumping up and down in an enthusiastic volley, his golden hair flowing over his back in rippled waves, his white skin flushed pink and dewy with sweat.

The woman beneath him was white haired and quite pretty, but she had a birthmark or mole near her mouth and her hair was cropped very short. She was completely nude but for a black collar around her neck. Kovar groaned inside: the collar was the mark of a variant, the slave class. She had probably recorded the famous Aeren and sold the event to the highest bidder: careless of Aeren to allow it. Fortunately, since she was a variant, she probably had limited, if any, psionic powers, and would be incapable of corrupting Aeren’s mind if he’d failed to employ a Shield when having her, one of the reasons so many of the upper classes had sex with variants. There was a limit to the psionic damage they could do.

Kovar could not tell when the recording was made: perhaps Sere had recently arranged the liaison to discredit him. The woman could be a prostitute, or one of the people Aeren dealt with on his escapades as a smuggler. What little Kovar could see of the room in which they enjoyed one another looked squalid. The Prince had rolled lovers in muddy bunkers, but he wouldn’t screw anyone in that room. Regardless, Kovar was going to have to have a word with Aeren about it all, and he was sure Aeren’s reaction would precipitate an emotional extravaganza.

The unknown woman moaned. Her legs wrapped around his back as Aeren thrust into her and suckled at her breasts, which were unusually ample. She held his head to her as he traced her nipple with his tongue. “Beys…” he sighed. Cooing her name while fucking, Kovar thought: probably not a prostitute, then.

After a moment’s alarm, Kovar said blandly, “I’m aware he’s had sex with other people. Perhaps you’d like to show me the recordings of the fine times he’s had with you. I’m in no hurry.”

The image disappeared in a peal of Sere’s laughter. “I was hoping you’d share yours!”

“Were you now.” If Sere had an entire library, she made no further effort to show it off. This episode was probably all she’d acquired.

She smiled, delighted with her game. “You said I could name my price. Well, then. Here is my price.”

“I’m waiting.”

She smiled again. “I want to watch you,” she said, quietly.

“Beg pardon?”

Her smile broadened “I want to watch you take him. Come now, don’t look so shocked. It’s an excellent bargain,” she tittered. “Let me see you, over a secured comm, where no recording can take place.” Her voice lowered.  “Take him. Enjoy him. Let me watch, and I will wave all claims to him and all claims to any fees he owes my house for the death of my lady.”

Kovar thought this a remarkably vulgar tactic, but Sere did not know him well, and she was still trying to take his measure. Kovar, formal, even frigid by some accounts, was known for his reticence about public displays of affection, though he’d gone against his usual reserved civility when displaying Aeren before the Inquisitors, kissing the boy’s hand and stroking his cheek like an infatuated swain. Still, he could think of courtiers who would leap at the opportunity to engage in an exhibitionistic offering before a lady as powerful as Sere.

“Madam,” said Kovar carefully, “you claim that Aeren harmed a woman of your court, and now you want to wave the debt for this alleged act by watching us fornicate. I’m not finding the humor here. Unless it is to prove that you are angry to be cuckolded by a man who prefers fucking servants to shagging you. If you want to make that public, I don’t see how that improves your social standing.”

Sere’s faked shock with dramatic irony. “This is a very serious matter. I am traumatized that you have taken my beloved from me. As you see, I am so wounded by this I have gone to great lengths to seek out all kinds of things about him and his past to ease my wounded heart. I can’t stop looking. Why, every single day I find something new. You would not believe how much I know about him now. So many things. So much hurt.”

She leaned forward, her glittering red mouth peeling back in an awful smile. “It would be terrible were all of these things to be made public, Your Highness. Oh, so terrible. Terrible for him, and terrible for you. So sordid the things that could be revealed about your beautiful lover, so much hurt and humiliation for you and for the Avatar, too, of course. And the pretty little Heir. As of now, people only speculate on why the Avatar threw Aeren out. I could remove all doubt.”

“With recordings of Aeren having intercourse with people other than you? I’m a skeptic.”

She was one of the most beautiful women Kovar had ever seen, and she was utterly horrifying to look upon. “Do you think that’s all I have? Think again.”

Even though he knew she was trying to bait him, to goad him into revealing what he had on her, the thought of what she might have on Aeren chilled him. Beyond embarrassing recordings of his coupling with a slave, the God only knew how she could twist that into something uniquely sordid and how much damage it could do. What if she had recordings of Aeren and the Avatar? How she could get such a thing, he could not fathom. What if she knew something…anything…about Aeren’s smuggling activities? Kovar knew very little of that subject himself. What did she know or suspect about the assassinations?

Aeren was a creature whose heart was in the right place – and Kovar had felt it - yet his hands were absolutely filthy.

“Please, do tell me,” he said, “How watching me…take Aeren in front of you is going to solve anything.”

She sighed dramatically, leaning back in her chair as if the whole situation wearied her. “It will be…finality. Knowing for certain that what is between us is at an end. I want to know,” she said coolly, the subtext obvious, “That you are, as you say, deeply ardent with him. And that he is, as you say, never going to return to me, and never going to violate the sanctity of what has been between us. I want him on his knees proving it.” She waved one hand while the other trailed down the fronds of her sheer vest, tracing a pink nipple that peeked beneath it. “You can take his mouth, if you like, if that would be easier. He has such a lovely mouth, so full and rich, such a sweet tongue, lovely voice on that boy. That would be beautiful, seeing your big, hard cock slipping between those lips. Silence that voice for me, Kovar. It’s you I want to hear. I want to hear you moan for me. I want to hear you beg.”

Playing along with the lie about her jealousy over Aeren, a lie Kovar had instigated himself, she spun it to Aeren’s disadvantage faster than he could wrap another lie around it to contain it. They could spend the rest of eternity circulating disinformation about one another and never resolve anything.

Sere delighted in the prospect of bringing the Prince of Teramis to his knees. It wasn’t even Aeren she wanted to see degraded now: it was Kovar. Simply saying these grotesque things to him, knowing he would never agree to any of it was debasement, corruption, meant to drive a wedge between him and Aeren. All she had to do was spray doubt. The freeze between them would crack the soil beneath them and destroy the ground they stood on with a frostquake.

Kovar paused a moment before he said, “My Lady, I have no intention of performing a sex act while you watch. Moreover, you give me no guarantee that anything you have on my ward – if anything, I simply don’t care if he fucks a slave - will be expunged after you get what you want. If you’ve gone to these lengths to collect this evidence you claim to have, then you must believe my ward is a danger to others. And if you think that then take this up with the rest of the Hierarchy. I trust in Lady Niniri’s judgment and I welcome her opinion on this matter.

“Until then, I’m not going to budge. I see no evidence Aeren has done anything untoward, regarding you or anyone else. Your jealousy is unseemly. Regardless, I give you my most solemn word, Madam, that Aeren has no wish to return to you, and will do you no ill, either in action or in spirit, now or at anytime in the future. I do not know if there is anything else I can say to you that will convince you of this truth. But it is the truth, nonetheless,” he said, lying spectacularly as he said it.

“Twenty million credits for the death of my lady,” said Sere. “And another twenty million credits to expunge the data files I have on your lover.”

“You’ve just doubled the original price,” said Kovar.

“Did I?”

It was hours later when Kovar finally appeared in Aeren’s apartments, exhausted inside, but heroically hiding it. He was not at all surprised that Aeren wasn’t wearing the flimsy thing Erastos delivered that morning, gauzy, delicate, and with instructions to put it on and wait for the arrival of the Prince. The pretty costume was thrown unceremoniously over a chair.

Instead, Aeren, the titular consort, had wound his knees, ankles, wrists and elbows in protective wraps and was clad in a tight thermal snow undersuit. He was studiously checking the stats on the suit’s data threads. His voluminous hair was bound in a series of tight braids gathered into a queue.

Kovar looked him up and down critically. “How romantic,” he said.

“I think that would look much better on Saveris,” replied Aeren, indicating the filmy garment.

Kovar raised a brow. “I doubt it would even fit over his leg,” he replied. Kovar’s hair was also bound in a queue, and he wore a similar snow undersuit. He strolled to a table laden with trays of fruit, much of which the men would not get to eat before they secreted themselves off to the mountains. The Prince picked at the treats casually.

“Get a Master of the Bedchamber before Erastos dies of mortification,” said Aeren. “You made him show me a cabinet full of lube.”

“He is Master of the Bedchamber. It’s just that he likes to be called my secretary,” said Kovar. He ate a fruit that dripped scarlet juice onto his lips, in striking contrast against his alabaster skin, elegantly predatory.

Aeren eyed him warily.

“I don’t need a dedicated Master. I haven’t had one in decades. The office was dissolved and the duties divided among my current staff. Asha does the dressing and Erastos handles everything else.” Kovar picked up another piece of fruit and nibbled it with uncharacteristic delicacy.

“Why the hell did you make him go through that charade? It was humiliating.”

Kovar raised a brow. “He’d be upset if he didn’t. It’s his duty. He lives for that sort of thing.”

“Informing your lovers that they should stick a nozzle up their ass and give it a swish?” Aeren sneered. “I suppose everyone needs a purpose.”

“They do,” said Kovar.

“Kovar, that man worships you, how could you put him up to that?” Aeren turned on Kovar angrily, his hands on his hips.

Kovar suppressed a smile. The secretary was incautiously fond of Kovar’s consort already, taken by Aeren’s beauty and delighted that Kovar had found a companion despite Aeren’s rather dramatic introduction to the House. Aeren took to the secretary in turn, displaying a proprietary concern that Kovar found rather amusing. “You have been here for, I think three days, and already you are telling me how to nurture my staff. You really are a sensitive. Next you’ll be telling me how to feed them properly. You’ll be sending them to bed wrapped in plush quilts. Perhaps with some small animal to cuddle.”

Aeren made a sudden, in depth study of his data threads. “We want to get out of here while it’s still light.”

“Cross check my suit,” Kovar said.

Aeren paused a moment, then stepped toward the tall Prince. He efficiently reviewed the fittings and threads, making small adjustments, checking the seals, inspecting Kovar’s suit from his neck to his feet. “Oxygen calibration is too low. You’ll be burning through it where we’re going.”

“It’s a standard setting.”

“I don’t care about the standard. “ Aeren made the adjustment. “Now do me.”

Kovar made the cross check. Aeren’s settings, seals, and other customizations deviated markedly from Teramis specifications. He raised a brow as he made the examination. “I use traditional outlander fittings,” Aeren explained. “They work better in the mountains, long term.”

“How did you learn them?”

Aeren shrugged. “I don’t reside in the Avatar’s Palace all the time, do I? There are still indigenous tribes in the Wastes. Small, but that’s where the best crystalcutters make their trade.”

“I’m not familiar with this. I can’t tell you if they’re calibrated properly if I don’t know your customizations,” said Kovar.

“I never make a mistake. Just check my seals. I’ll be fine.” As Kovar did so, Aeren said, “I can teach you, later. You don’t get out into the Wastes much, do you?”

Kovar ran his fingers down Aeren’s leg, examining the thin line of the lighted seal and the data threads that ran up his thighs to the control panel at his wrists. “Not really, no. Not on this world anyway.” He moved to Aeren’s other leg. “Spent some time on Kimar. Rimara. There really isn’t much time for mountain climbing in my position, Aeren.”

“Yes, I can tell,” said Aeren. “You have soft palms and feet.” It sounded like a criticism. It wasn’t often someone implied to Kovar that he had a tender body, and he felt a stab of amusement at the jab.

“I’ll try to keep up with you,” said Kovar. “It’s all good,” he said, the suit passing inspection. He patted Aeren’s leg companionably and stepped away.

Aeren nodded earnestly. “If your calorie intake is where it needs to be, then let’s grab our gear and go.”

They gathered their snowsuits, and packs. The men picked a few pieces of fruit to stuff in their pockets before Aeren tossed the remainder in the waste, lest it sit and spoil before they returned.

Kovar’s private lift ran directly to an emergency exit to the underground transport, reserved for royal staff that ran underneath the palace and the city. The snowsuits were too hot to be worn on the tram. The men secured them to their packs and rode the lift clad in their undersuits and boots. They attracted no attention despite this, as they were wearing enhancers and appeared to be royal Shields leaving the city, a ruse supported by the data cards Kovar supplied. The men secured a private cabin on the tram, closing themselves off from the other passengers where they could speak freely, comfortably munching the fruit they’d secreted in their pockets as the system carried them to the edge of the city. It was a short trip made long as there were many stops along the way. Shields, and other workers hopped on and off the system unaware the Prince and his consort were among them.

“Something tells me you do this quite often,” said Aeren, noting that Kovar secured fake identification and contraband enhancers that he used with familiar effortlessness.

Kovar munched a round orange fruit with luxurious interest, spitting the seed into a waste container with practiced ease. “I have to get out sometime, don’t I?”

“Do you? Walk among the peasants? Examine the operations of your mighty principality in secret?”

“Yes, actually,” said Kovar. He spat another seed with perfect aim and stretched his long legs across the cabin to rest on the seat opposite next to Aeren. “Sometimes I get out to see Saveris. In this very cabin, I think.” He looked up at the ceiling, his eyes glazed over.

Aeren picked up the subtext. “Wouldn’t think two big men of Teramis could fit to fuck on this couch,” he said.

“It pulls out into a bed,” replied Kovar.

“Oh,” said Aeren. He adjusted himself on the seat uncomfortably, crossing his arms and glaring across the cabin. “You didn’t have to come with me, you know. I told you. I can get the data myself.”

“And miss this opportunity to be alone with you?” Kovar sucked on a wedge of fruit.

“Seems we’re going to be alone a lot, regardless” Aeren mused. “Is it safe for you to be out of your palace with those Inquisitors still there?”

Kovar shrugged. “They’re gone.”

Aeren raised a brow and looked down, contemplating Kovar’s big boots next to him on the seat. “Are you allowed to put your feet on this furniture?”

“It’s my tram,” said Kovar.

“All right.” The Prince had ordered Aeren’s feet off a couch in his office, but the tram looked to be fair game for lounging. He put his own feet up next to Kovar, who did not admonish him for it. “Now, are you going to tell me what happened with the Inquisitors?”

“I told you already. They’re gone.”


Kovar sighed. “We’re going to have a nice vacation from all of this, Aeren. We are going into the mountains where we will enjoy fresh air and wholesome exercise. And you can get your mind away from troublesome things.” He finished sucking on the fruit and then consumed it in two healthy bites. Then he pulled another from his pack. “I love these,” he announced.

Aeren glared all the more. “Did you have to pay them? I’ll pay you back, every credit, I swear. How much did they hit you for?”

Kovar suckled another wedge of fruit. “That’s none of your business.”

“I should think it is my business!” Aeren barked.

Kovar let out a grunt of exasperation and fixed Aeren with a glare of his own. “Aeren, learn to accept a gift. May I remind you, it isn’t your money.” He popped a wedge of fruit in his mouth and said around it, “It’s not like you could afford it on your allowance.”

Aeren blinked, rendered speechless for a moment. “You shouldn’t have paid her. It’s extortion!”

Kovar shrugged. “Of course it is. Take a nap, we have a long march ahead this evening. You can pull the bed out if you want. I’ll shield you.”

Aeren’s lips set in a hard line. “I’m not sleepy.”

Kovar’s exasperation deepened. “Aeren, your manners never cease to amaze. If you were one of my cadets instead of already having been elevated to squire (a position you did not earn, I might add,) I’d have had you whipped a dozen times for disobedience over the last few days. You can’t even take a pleasant nap when told to do so.” Kovar finished off his fruit as Aeren frowned.

The boy seemed to contemplate a retort, which he abandoned. Finally, Aeren shucked off his boots and stretched out on the couch. He turned his back to Kovar and glared at the wall, pretending to sleep.

Kovar pulled out another fruit, peeling it then eating it with concentrated pleasure before spitting out the seeds with flawless aim into the waste bin. Then he cleaned his hands meticulously with a sanitary wipe.

The tram whirred quietly on to the end of the great capital of Teramis.

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