Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bloodmines is out on Kindle! - First Three Chapters Preview!

Since Amazon has a look inside option that shares these three chapters, I saw no harm in doing the same here.  Enjoy!  I will start Book 4 in about two weeks!  Happy New Year Everyone!


Bloodmines

Chapter One


The Trench Lord has arrived, High Minister.  Should I show him in?”  The servant bowed low then waited for the High Minister, Luthian Guldalian, to respond.  His hands were clasped behind him, knowing that any interruption beyond his message would be met with irritation at best, or punishment, if he was less than lucky.
Luthian considered carefully how to approach the Trench Lord, Aorun, on the matter of his missing nephew, Alador.  The man had not hidden his distaste that Luthian’s nephew was a half-breed. “Yes, send him in, and bring a tray of sweets and cheeses,” he answered, his back to the servant.
As you command, my lord.”  The servant left swiftly, silently shutting the door behind him.
Luthian drained his cup and eyed the failing light outside.  The mist swirled in gauzy, dancing curtains, muting both the lights and sounds of the city below.  He moved back to his large, wooden desk and set his wine glass down.  Looking for his notes, he shuffled through the parchment before him as he slipped back into his chair.
Luthian knew he was missing something, but he was not sure what.  How did a half-Daezun in a city full of guards just disappear?  He glanced outside at the swirling mists and back to the reports.  It was but one of the issues he would need to discuss with Aorun.  The room had taken on a chill from the insidious dampness of the misty sea air.  Luthian waved his hand casually to the fire place, and the fire roared up in response.
There was also the matter of the breeding stable that he needed to address with the Trench Lord.  Someone had killed the Stable-master, and he had conflicting information as to who was responsible.  Some of those reports had included that the men sent were Aorun’s.  The Trench Lord had earned a great number of slips supporting the stable.  It did not make sense that he would destroy a consistent source of income.
When the door opened and a man was shown in, Luthian rose in confusion.  It was not Aorun, but his right hand, Sordith. “What is the meaning of this?” The outrage in Luthian’s voice was palpable. “I sent for the Trench Lord.  He does not deign to answer a summons now?”
And so you have him."  Sordith gave a dramatic bow and rose with a bit of flourish. “Aorun is dead,” he said, his manner flamboyant, and his tone held no remorse.
The High Minister blinked a few times.  He knew little about Sordith, other than Aorun’s comments on the man’s brilliance when dealing with matters of business.  In his simple statement, Luthian recognized that he had to be both intelligent and deadly.  Aorun had been a highly skilled swordsman.  He eyed the man.  He was simply dressed in black and gray.  It was hardly an outfit of status, and yet, as Luthian rested a studied eye on the other man, he noted that the material and work were exquisite.
Luthian slowly sat down and indicated a chair on the opposite side of the desk. “Please sit.”
Sordith slipped gracefully into the chair. “You have a need that the trench has not met, Minister?”  Sordith crossed his arms over his chest.
I have…” he corrected his verbiage, “...had many matters to discuss with Aorun."  He continued to eye Sordith, the assessment not hidden.
Sordith smiled. “Then let us discuss them.  There were a few matters of Aorun’s that I was not completely privy to," the rogue said, giving an easy charming smile.
Luthian frowned.  It was evident that he did not dare give an ounce of trust to this man.  He had learned long ago that a man with a charming voice and easy smile often had much to hide, especially since that smile did not reach the Trench Lord’s eyes.
Let us start with the stables.  I have reports that Aorun was responsible for the death of the Stable-master and the loss of many of my breeders."  Bluntness, even to the point of crudeness, he decided, would hopefully rock the other man’s too-relaxed composure.
Sordith sat back with that easy manner, his elbows rested on the armrests as he tapped his fingers together. “Alas this is true,” he said. “Aorun had become increasingly unstable in his last few weeks.  His fixation on the destruction of your nephew became…”  Sordith paused, looking for the right word. “An obsession, and with it, he adopted a total disregard for the duties of his station.  When he learned that your nephew had been accepted into the stable with open arms, I fear he went into a rage and ordered the death of the Stable-master."  His eyes met Luthian’s evenly.
Luthian picked up his glass and stood to move to the wine decanter. “I see,” he said as he filled the glass.  He had not been given any information that Alador had been to visit the stable.  He realized, however, that the dates did line up with the evening that Alador had been stabbed from behind.  Luthian was staring into the wine glass, lightly swirling the contents.  Had Aorun tried to kill Alador that night, before he went to the stable?  Realizing a heavy silence had slowly filtered into the room, he turned.  Watching Sordith as he moved to his chair, he softly broke the silence. “I had considered the man more reliable than that,” he admitted.
I do not think any Trench Lord is completely sane.  A consequence of the position."  He winked at Luthian, his manner light.
What of you?” Luthian asked with no trace of an answering smile. Luthian did not like it when things were wrested from his control; this sudden shift in his planning had not been anticipated.
Oh, I am hardly sane.  It's what makes me so efficient.  Those around me never know what I am capable of doing."  A note of seriousness crept into Sordith’s voice. “And, before you consider my removal from the position, do your research.  There is currently no one nearly as capable as myself.  Do not remove the pan and find yourself in a fire that has an impact on the whole city,” Sordith warned.
Luthian sat back in his chair, his hands steepled before him. “How did Aorun die?” he asked, suddenly shifting the conversation.
The direct question brought a frown to Sordith’s face.  He clearly took a moment to consider his wording. “He fell upon a dagger and drowned.  Which action actually caused his death is quite debatable,” Sordith said, a deadly tone crept into his words.
In the back then."  Luthian looked disappointed.
The Trench Lord looked offended as he responded. “How dare you insinuate such a thing.  He quite saw the blow coming, and had the time to get in one or two of his own."  Sordith rose to his feet.
Sit, Sordith,” Luthian commanded, waving at the man to sit down.  When the other man did not sit, the High Minister added softly. “I apologize for the slight.  I have another two matters that need your direct attention."
Sordith appeared slightly mollified and slowly sank down in the chair.  Luthian realized that this was a man who presented a bit of honor, if his words were true.  His offense had appeared genuine.  Luthian watched him before speaking, weighing again how to approach his concerns.
My nephew is missing. He left the caverns with another guardsman, and neither have returned.  It is imperative that I locate him."  Luthian frowned. “The only thing I can think of is that they left through the trench gate. I know you have details on who comes and goes, any word of Alador Guldalian?”  Luthian attempted to look concerned for the man before him.
Sordith crossed his arms and frowned. “I am hardly your babysitter, Lord Minister," he snapped sarcastically.
Luthian’s eyes narrowed. “You are trying my temper, Sordith.  Do not forget that the Trench Lord still answers to the council, and therefore, to me,”  Luthian growled lowly.  His words had been meant to intimidate, but Luthian noted that it had not shaken the man at all. “I am not asking you to watch him, I am asking you for information on his movements out of the city, which is a function of your office.”
Sordith smirked at the noble. “Well, then, let me please you.  Your nephew is not missing.  He is in my protective custody.”  Sordith leaned back, arms crossed. That easy, roguish smile and the smooth manner were gone, and Luthian finally saw the real man for the first time.
In your custody?”  Luthian blinked a few times in genuine surprise. “Just why is he in your custody?”
Aorun had him.  I had not planned to remove Aorun yet, but the man forced my hand. I found your nephew strung up like a fresh prang, and Aorun had been at him for awhile.  He was near death when I finally got him down,” Sordith answered factually.  His arms remained crossed as he eyed the powerful mage in front of him.
Release him to me, I will see he gets proper care,”  Luthian answered, his face showing actual concern.  His mind was racing.  Aorun had not only made an attempt on his nephew, he had been torturing him.  He had thought the man smarter than that.
No."  Sordith met the High Minister’s eyes levelly. “He is safer with me, at this time, as I don’t know who else is seeking his life.  I actually like the boy.  Obviously, I'm doing a good job, as you didn't even know where he was.”
You think I cannot protect my nephew?” Luthian rose, now the one to take offense.
I would point out, my lord, that if not for me,” Sordith argued, refusing to rise, “your nephew would be dead at this very moment.  I would think that this would be a moment of gratitude.  Did you not say you were worried about the poor boy?” Sordith plucked at some lint on his pants before he looked back up to meet the eyes of the High Minister.
Luthian’s cold gaze rested in Sordith’s for a long tense moment.  Luthian almost argued the point, but decided against it.  He sighed, asking, “What of his companion?”
Betrayed him, and is now dead as well.  I made sure that no one but Alador walked out of that room.”  Sordith’s level answer brought Luthian back down into his chair.
How is he?” Luthian asked. “I can send healers."  He needed that boy.  Many of his plans rested on the potential magic that Alador seemed to possess.
I have already seen to that.  The damage left seems to be of the soul.  The healer stated she can’t undo what his mind has done.  Only time will tell if this will heal at all.”  Sordith glanced out the window past Luthian. “She suggested someone that he trusted might be able to return him to a level of awareness.”  Sordith’s eyes returned to the High Minister solemnly. “I will send word when he can communicate again.  If you want to help him, I suggest you send for his father.”
Luthian’s face fell farther. He had purposely cast doubts into the boy’s mind as to the trustworthiness of his father,  Luthian’s own brother.  It was doubtful that, if Alador’s mind was damaged, Henrick would be able to help.  However, Henrick might know who the mageling did trust.
I will do that."  Luthian gulped down the rest of his wine.  He moved to the side board to refill his glass.
Sordith wisely did not make a sound.  The door opened, drawing both of their attentions, and the servant brought in the tray of food that Luthian had ordered.  Luthian indicated to set it on the desk then turned to look at Sordith.
May I get you a drink?” he asked.
Sordith grinned widely. “I was fearing that you'd never ask.  Whatever you're drinking will be fine."
Luthian eyed him.  They both knew that his preference was for a very old, fine vintage.  There were few bottles left, and they were expensive, when he could find them.  The Trench Lord had found a source, but Luthian paid dearly for it.  Aorun had always wanted a hard, bitter brew that burned one’s very stomach.  Odd, Luthian thought, to find culture in a leader of the trench.  In the past, such men were usually hardened and unrefined.
Luthian filled two glasses and turned to hand one to this new player.  He handed the glass over as Sordith was popping a chocolate into his mouth.  The High Minister returned to his seat, his mind having to calculate swiftly, given the turn of events.  He was relieved that Alador was in the city, but disturbed to find out he was in the custody of the Trench Lord.
I will want to see my nephew, if nothing more than to assure myself that you have been honest and forthcoming.”  Luthian sat down as he spoke.
As long as you understand that he won’t be leaving my custody until I am sure he is safe.  I will protect him as if he were my own blood," Sordith eyed the High Minister coldly. “Even from his own kin.”
Luthian studied him.  He was fairly certain that he had just been threatened, but the matter-of-fact way it had been delivered left him two clear choices: kill the Trench Lord or remain silent on the issue.  He chose neither.
I understand your position if you have taken a liking to the boy.  However, Sordith, do not forget my authority.  You dance around what is proper like a weasel in a hen house.”  Luthian’s tone made his own point clear. “You just inferred I would hurt my own nephew.”
I assure you, my lord, your authority was not in question.”  There was a dramatic pause, raising the tension between them. “You and I both know that keeping murder in the family is commonplace within these walls.”  Sordith toasted the High Minister. "Now that we understand one another,” Sordith paused to pop a piece of cheese in his mouth, “what is this other matter that you specifically need me to address?”
I need you to kill Henrick, my brother.”  The simple statement lay between them.
Speaking of murder in the family...” Sordith mumbled. The rogue slowly set his glass down. “Do you realize what you are asking of me?  You want me and my men to kill one of the most powerful mages in the city;  a fifth tier mage known to wield fire with a great deal of skill.  We hardly have the skills to take a full blown mage on without severely damaging the city.”  Sordith tapped the desk, thinking.
Luthian watched the man calculate as he leaned on the desk tapping thoughtfully.  He knew that murder was just as much common place within the trenches.  If there was a way it could be done, the Trench Lord would know it.
It's going to come with a high price.”
I will pay what you ask, I do not care about the price.”  Luthian frowned. “I would prefer, however, that it looks like an advancement attempt by a fourth level mage.  Frame one, for all I care.”  The High Minister paused. “With this recent development with Alador, waiting until you feel the boy is stable should give you enough time to plan something subversive enough to catch my brother off guard."
Sordith eyed the mage. “You will pay whatever I ask?” Sordith tipped his head and stroked his chin considering the High Minister’s words.
Yes, yes.  The price is of no concern to me.”  Luthian waved his hand dismissively. “Henrick is moving against me, and he is good enough with politics that I am not quite sure in what manner.  I would prefer removing the head of the snake before he strikes.”
Sordith slowly smiled. “Agreed!  I'll see to his removal after Alador is hale again.”  Sordith took a slow sip as he eyed the relief on the High Minister’s face. “Tell me, my lord, why you don’t see to your brother yourself?  If tales are true, you are superior to him in power.”
Luthian sighed. “I, like you, have a concern for the city.  Such removals are punished if done in a manner that is too obvious.  Two fire mages battling it out is not likely to go unnoticed.  In addition, my position with the council would be weakened if they believed I had outright attacked Henrick.  He is, unfortunately, well liked.” The fact clearly exasperated the mage.
Sordith frowned. “Why don’t you just poison him?”
I have made three such attempts, and yet, as you know, the man still walks freely.  He must have some spell of protection against such things.”  Luthian frowned.  Try as he might, he had yet to find any spell active when he had made such attempts.  It did concern him that he could never see any spells active in his presence.  Henrick’s hair also did not bleach from his use of magic; he maintained the same dark hair with which he had been born.  If Henrick had found a spell to rejuvenate youth, then he was not sharing.
Luthian had found ways to slow the ravages of time, but Henrick seemed to be completely immune to their taint, a fact that added an additional concern for Luthian.  How many other skills had Henrick managed to harvest that Luthian remained unaware of?  The one disadvantage of getting his brother out of the city and underfoot was that he then had first pick of the bloodstones from the villages with miners.
Sordith tone became casual. “Most puzzling that the High Minister is unable to remove such a spell.  Don’t you think that a bit worrisome?”
Luthian’s eyes came up swiftly to Sordith. His whole body stiffened at the inquiry.  He saw no animosity or disrespect on the man’s face, yet the High Minister heard the verbal stab that definitely felt as if there was intent. “Give me the trench reports,” he snapped.
Sordith gave a swift nod and launched into what was coming in and out of the city.  His report was far more thorough than Aorun’s had ever been.  The mage suddenly realized a second reason why he would have to watch this rogue: Sordith was shrewd enough to know that it never hurts to give the enemy a reason to keep you.
Chapter Two


Sordith strode into the hall, taking no note of the men who saluted or nodded to him. He already knew that any sign of weakness, especially in these early weeks, would be an invitation to those with higher ambitions.  Having served under Aorun, he knew many of those that he would need to watch.  He had no intentions of becoming Trench Lord only to die with a dagger in his back.  There was often a flurry of attempts when a reigning Trench Lord fell.
He entered his office, and Owen jumped up from behind the Trench Lord’s desk with a sheepish look.  The chair banged down onto all fours as the man found his feet. “Sorry boss,” he mumbled as he hurried out from behind the red, wooden behemoth.
I don't really care where you sit, Owen.  Just keep your feet off of it,” Sordith absently warned, his mind was still in the meeting with the High Minister.  Sordith tossed his gloves down and moved around the desk to the chair that Owen had just vacated. With a sigh, he brushed dirt off the desk as he flashed Owen a scathing look.
Owen’s eyes darted away from that look, and he tugged at his jerkin as if needing to be a bit neater. “How’d it go in the top house?”
Sordith sighed at the boot heel on his latest acquisitions invoice.  He held it up pointedly to Owen with a frown before speaking. “Well enough.  I think we won’t see the High Minister in too much of our business. However, he will be coming to inspect the condition of his nephew.  I expect him to get a receptive welcome from all of my people.  Understood?” the Trench Lord demanded.
Got it. No robbing the High Minister of all his slips.”
Sordith unlocked a drawer with the keys he carried and pulled out a pouch.  He tossed the pouch to Owen. “I want those spread to any that live on the path that he will take.  I want no tossing of garbage or shite.  Tell them if the man makes it to my hall and out again with no harassment, I will be generous after, as well.”  On the surface, Sordith knew that it would look as if he was bribing the people to fool the High Minister.  In truth, the last time a protest from the inhabitants of the trench had broken out, many had not lived.  It had taken Aorun and the trench’s men hours to put the fires out.
Owen caught it deftly and the big man turned for the door.  Sordith caught a look of greed in the man’s eyes.  He looked down at his papers, but he called out loudly.
Oh, one thing, Owen.”
Owen turned back for a moment. “Yeah?”  He saw the look that Sordith shot him and swallowed. “I mean, yeah Sir?”
Sordith picked up a quill to answer a message on his desk, not looking at Owen. “I find out you kept one token out of it, and I will ban you from Madame Aerius’ for a month.”  He grinned at the sound of Owen’s concerned gasp.
Every trading token will leave my hands, I swear it,” Owen promised.
I am counting on that.  See it done. I don’t know when his ‘high and mighty’ will deign to lower himself to step into the trench.”
Sordith did not look up till Owen had closed the door.  The rogue sat back with a sigh as he tossed down the quill.  He had not planned to move up to this position any time soon.  Sordith had rather liked being the second behind Aorun.  It left him room to maneuver and shift power without being in much of a light from others.  As word spread that he was the Trench Lord, he found he could go nowhere without ‘my lord’ this and that, and besides that, the complaints were endless.  He put his head down into his hands for a long moment as he let the tension and wariness slowly ebb.  No wonder Aorun drank so much.
He ran his hand through his hair as he considered how things had turned out.  Sordith had been into every household at some point in his life, he knew which sewers led to the best scores, he knew where he could listen and not be heard.  Many had thought his forays into the sewers had been to steal from the upper tiers, a fact he had managed to confirm when he brought back unusual items to sell to the merchants that lined the trenches.  His true purpose had been to find his birth father.  He had never considered Henrick before he had been assigned to follow Alador.  As he had listened to conversations and followed both men, he had soon realized that all the pieces fit.
He was fairly certain Henrick was his father.  This made Alador his half-brother.  When Aorun had set out to kill Alador, Sordith had realized he could not let it happen.  He sighed, further releasing the stress of the afternoon.  He had now come a full circle from his beginning thought: if not for Aorun’s fascination with Alador, Sordith would not be the Trench Lord.
He got up from his desk and headed out into the hall. Sordith made his way to what had once been his own rooms, slipped in the door and looked about.  The bed was empty. Had Alador finally risen from his stupor? “Keelee?” he called, worry evident on his face.  He sighed with relief when the beautiful woman stepped in from the balcony.
I thought the fresh air would do him good.”  Her soft answer drew Sordith to her side.
He gently touched her arm. “And what of you?  You were hurt too,” he reminded her with tender concern.
You don’t become a bed servant and not get a rough handling now and then,” she muttered. “It is the vision of Flame that I cannot get out of my head.  The way…" her words muted as she closed her eyes.
I saw the end.  I imagine it is a hard sight to let go of, if you witnessed his full demise.” Sordith’s tone was tender.  He had found he liked Keelee a great deal.  He loved her resilience and gentle manner.  The man would gaze into her eyes, and, for a moment, he would be lost in those emerald pools.  The abuse she had suffered from Aorun’s hand made any advance in the near future inconsiderate, and though he intended to make that advance, he was content to wait.
He realized he was staring into those emerald depths again and changed the subject. “How is Alador?”
He is unchanged.  He will open his mouth so that I can feed him, or let me guide him where I wish.  It is unnerving, though; his eyes stare through me as if I’m not there.  He doesn’t show any response other than when bidden.”  Keelee bit her lip and twisted her long hair between her fingers.
Sordith moved past her to go out on the balcony.  Alador sat there, looking out into the harbor.  He was dressed and clean, and Keelee had thought to lay a blanket across his lap. Sighing, Sordith grabbed a chair and pulled it up close beside him.  Keelee had moved to the doorway behind them, watching worriedly.
Alador, brother, it is safe now.  You can come back from wherever you have gone.” Sordith touched Alador’s hand.  It was cold and flaccid.  Sordith pulled the blanket up a bit when he got no response.
He looked at Keelee. “He is biddable, you say, and yet does not respond to anything but commands?”
Not a word or even a turning of the head,” Keelee replied.
It is odd.  It is like he has just shut a piece of himself off.”  Sordith looked frustrated.  The healer, Lady Aldemar had been unable to give any helpful ways that they might be able to snap Alador out of this state. “We will have to wait for his father and hope he knows of some solution.”
Keelee’s eyes filled with tears as she stared at Alador.  She could not hide the misery that she felt at Alador’s condition as it was written clearly on her face.
He got up and moved to her, searching her face. “You love him?” Sordith asked with a bit of concern.
Keelee blinked a few times at the suddenness and directness of the question. “I don’t know.  I feel like he’s this way because of me. I feel so much guilt that I don’t know if I have the room to feel anything else.” She winced as she twisted the lock of hair too tightly and released it.
Don’t feel guilty.”  Sordith took her hand, his thumb caressing the back tenderly. “Once Aorun decided he wanted something, he would pursue it with dogged determination.  He would have removed anything in his way.  It was not your doing.”
Yet, because of me, here sits the one man who has been kind to me, and my father is dead.” Her voice choked as the threatening tears succeeded in spilling over onto her cheeks.
You cannot blame yourself,” he consoled.  The man reached up and wiped a tear from her face as he spoke.
I… I kept something from Alador.  I am afraid that it might have been important. What if it would have stopped all of this?”  She attempted to turn from him, her hair moving to shield her face.
Sordith gently pulled her back to him and tipped her chin up. “What did you withhold, and more importantly, why did you withhold it?" his voice took on an edge of authority.
I don’t know what it was.  He had this silver tube he was always looking for.  One day, I found it under his pillow.  The High Minister had been giving me slips to bring him information of use.  I took it, intending to hand it over.  I just never could bring myself to give it to Luthian.”  She took a ragged breath, her eyes closing to avoid looking at him.
Keelee, what was in the tube?” Sordith asked.  He let go of her chin, but not her hand.
I don’t know. I opened it, but it was just a piece of paper with words in no particular order.  It could have been some secret way of passing a message or nothing. I don’t know.” She looked up at Sordith. “I just felt, deep inside, that it would be a bad thing for the High Minister to have it.”
Sordith pulled her to him and hugged her gently. “You were probably right.”
Keelee murmured against his chest softly. “What if it would have changed how things happened?”
Man has questioned his choices after the fact for centuries.  It doesn’t change the outcome.  You will drive yourself mad trying to find that answer, but you’ll never have it,” Sordith cautioned gently.  He stroked her hair gently.
He pushed Keelee back a bit. “Have you left these rooms at all?”
Keelee shook her head no. “I didn’t want to leave him alone.”
I’ll have someone else sit with him for a while.  I am taking you to eat, and there are matters I wish to continue to discuss with you.”  He pushed loose hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. “I will give you an hourglass, will that be enough time to refresh yourself?”
Yes, but…” she began.
You are my guest, Keelee.” He looked inside the doorway to his old rooms. “You will have your own room, and I will have a bath drawn in for you.”
Oh, please don’t trouble yourself. I can stay here with Alador,” she insisted hurriedly.
You could,” he admitted. “However, a sick room is depressing, and you, yourself, have been through a great deal.  I will hire a woman in need of slips to sit with him.”
Sordith ushered her through the room and back into the main hall despite the woman’s protests that he was leaving Alador alone. “I do not think he will be getting up anytime soon, and it won’t hurt him to have fresh air for a short time. I assure you that, while you ready yourself, I’ll see that all is taken care of.”
Keelee stopped for a moment.  She turned to him, grabbing for his hand and clutching it in both of her own as she looked up into his eyes. “You promise?”
Sordith rarely made promises, but when those big, luminous eyes blinked up at him, he found the words spilling from his mouth, “I promise.”
As she let go of his hand, he placed it in the small of her back to gently guide her to the room he had chosen for her.  Sordith had insisted that the housekeeper ensure that  it was feminine and warm.  The woman was efficient, so he had no doubt that it was ready for Keelee.
He had also had her clothes brought in from the Blackguard caverns.  The death mage, Jon, had helped him arrange to have access to Alador’s room.  Even though Jon had helped Sordith, he was still unsure of whom he could let close to Alador, so despite the mage’s flat insistence that he be allowed to visit, Sordith had denied him.
Your clothes have been hung here. I sent for anything that you or Alador might need while here.”  Sordith smiled down at the Keelee, then he opened the door, and felt a rush of pleasure at the smile on her face.
Thank you.  How did you manage to have this all arranged so quickly?” she asked.  She moved about in wonder, touching the soft linens and even smelling the flowers beside the bed.
Sordith leaned on the door frame with his arms crossed, content to just watch her explore the room. “There are advantages to being the Trench Lord,” he pointed out with a mischievous grin.  He watched as she looked out the window, enjoying her obvious pleasure at his choice. Realizing his promise, he stood abruptly. “I will go see to that bath, and a caregiver for Alador.  I will meet you in the main foyer in one hourglass,” he reminded her.
Her soft smile and large eyes focused on Sordith.“I'm sure I can manage in that time.”
Sordith swallowed hard; he just nodded and shut the door before he could say something to forward or stupid. He called out for a servant, and one stepped forward immediately as though he’d been hovering just out of sight. “See that the lady gets a hot bath drawn immediately, and send someone to fetch Madame Aerius,” he commanded.
The servant bowed and swiftly set off for the kitchens.

An hour later, Sordith waited in the main hall.  He was smartly dressed in a green tunic and black leather pants.  He wore his swords and his leather vest, knowing that, even in the company of a lady, he had to be cautious.
He had met briefly with Madame Aerius, as she knew most of the women in the trench.  The Madame had been able to send someone up to relieve him from the side of Alador before the hour glass was to two-thirds spent.  He had been forced to hurry to be ready before Keelee, but he had managed to keep his promise.  The man smiled briefly at the thought of such a small thing, and the pleasure it would give to the beautiful woman.
He frowned briefly, clasping his arms behind him and he began pacing.  He wondered if he should really be pursuing his brother’s bed servant.  In fairness, she was of no use to Alador, except as a nurse, at this time.  He hoped Alador did not have feelings for his servant.  Sordith briefly considered whether his fascination with Keelee was any worse or better than Aorun’s, then shrugged the thought away. He was just taking her to dinner to gain information.  No harm in that, he thought.
Hearing a light footstep, he turned and froze.  Keelee had braided her hair down her left shoulder.  Her emerald eyes were lined with kohl and seemed even more mesmerizing. Her deep blue dress clung tightly to every curve.  The bodice of it plunged low, leaving very little left for his imagination.  Sordith found himself moving to her before he could utter a real thought. He took her hand and lifted it to his lips, his eyes locked with hers as he caressed her knuckles with a gentle kiss.
He gazed over her knuckles with genuine admiration. “You look very beautiful.”  He realized that he had not let go of her hand and dropped his grip.
Keelee colored slightly. “I doubt you have had any lack of beautiful women in this hall,” she teased with the merest hint of a husky whisper.
Oh, there you would be correct.  I, however, tend to be more discerning as to my choices of companions than my comrades,” he reassured her with a wink. “Shall we?”  He indicated towards the door.
We are not eating here?” Keelee asked, her curiosity clearly piqued as she spoke.
I thought we would take a walk along the pier.  I have a friend with a lovely boat that offered to let me have the deck for an evening, as he sails tomorrow.  I have requested a table be set out for us while the winds are still down.  We can speak privately and watch the sunset as we dine,” Sordith smoothly answered.
Oh.  I should have worn something warmer.” She looked down with concern.
I have a cloak that will keep you more than comfortable, and if the wind picks up, we can always return,” he promised.  He walked her to the door where a servant waited with two cloaks.  Sordith helped Keelee into the one for her first, then swung on his own.  He had a roguish smile as he escorted her out the door.  There were going to be definite benefits to being the Trench Lord.