Alador woke the next morning with a splitting headache and an uneasy stomach. He groaned as he sat up on the bed. He carefully pulled himself up, taking care not to move too suddenly. The room was already spinning, and the light coming through the window was piercing. He had lost track of the many decanters they had emptied. He had not intended to drink that much when he had poured that first glass, but it numbed his fear of what he knew he was going to do today. Meanwhile, the other two had spent the evening getting to know one another.
The door flew open, hitting the wall with a solid bang and Alador winced in pain. He opened one eye to see his brother standing there. Sordith looked truly alarmed.
“What is so important that you come in here like a herd of stampeding korpen?” Alador covered his eyes with his hand to shield some of the light that had only increased the pounding in his head.
“Keelee and Mesiande are taking their breakfast together on the veranda,” Sordith stated.
Sheer panic shot through Alador. “Shite!” Alador frantically looked around for clothing. He had just shucked what he was wearing the previous day and fallen into bed. He grabbed his pants from the floor. “I thought you were keeping them apart,” he said as he hopped around trying to get his pants on.
“I thought I was too. Keelee had been told to stay away from her. I don’t know how they found each other.” Sordith ran a hand through his tousled black hair. “I don’t want Keelee bolting.”
“Probably Mesi’s doing, she has always been curious. Why didn’t you send Keelee away, damn it all,” Alador cursed as he realized he was trying to put his head in the sleeve of his shirt.
“Where will she go, Al? I mean, Aorun murdered her father, and she has no other family,” Sordith pointed out.
“Send her back to Luthian, she deserves what ever he serves her.” Alador sat down to pull on his boots.
“Would you really send a woman who has earned Luthian’s anger to her fate?” Sordith asked softly.
He paused until he realized that a strange silence had settled into the room. He looked up to see Sordith staring at him, waiting for an answer. Part of him wanted to say yes, for her betrayal, but the look on Sordith’s face was telling. “You like her.”
“I do. If you still want her, I will step aside. I do favor her, if you do not.” Sordith moved over, his manner serious. “However, regardless of what you decide, I won’t let you hurt her. She could have given up Mesiande to Luthian, but she did not.”
Alador could not help releasing a deep heaving sigh. “So she did not … he does not know?” He pulled on the last boot and grabbed his belt.
“No. You should ask her the reasons she kept the case when you can do so without anger. It is not what you think.” Sordith opened the door and looked back at Alador. “Do you?”
Alador straightened his tunic and looked up at Sordith in confusion. “Do I what?”
Alador shook his head then grabbed the side of his head as the movement caused pain. “Mesiande is the only woman I truly want. She is more than enough of a handful for me.”
Sordith grinned. “Then let us be off to have breakfast with our two lovely ladies and interrupt them before we have a squall on my veranda.”
Alador stomach heaved at the thought of food. “I am afraid I drank to much last evening. You have anything for a headache?” he moaned out.
Sordith just chuckled and strode over to the small table that held a silver tray with goblet and wine. He poured a half glass and brought it over to Alador. “Drink up. You will feel much better. Afterwards, take in a great deal of water. It will pass soon.”
Alador bit back bile as he eyed the goblet. “That is the reason I am ill in the first place.”
“Exactly, so take a bit more to ease the pain of its absence. Trust me. I have woken more then one morning with an angry stomach and pounding head.” Sordith was still holding out the goblet. “Besides, if we don’t get out there, you may have more to worry about than a headache."
Alador took the cup and wrinkled his nose at the thought. Then taking a leap of faith, he downed the glass, hoping it would not come right back up. “In the caverns, there is a supply of an elixir to cure such an ailment.”
“Yes, well mages depend too much on potions, elixirs and magic. They don’t know shite about taking care of themselves without these things. If you truly want to be rounded, then continue to learn as one without magic as well as one with. It might save your life at a time when your power is exhausted.” Sordith took the goblet from Alador and set it down, practically dragging Alador out of the room.
Alador swiftly fell into step with Sordith. He used a bit of magic as they walked to put his hair in order at the base of his neck. “What time was Henrick coming by?” He could not quite remember what they had decided.
“We slept late, so he should be here in an hour or two at most.” Sordith led the way through the halls to the veranda where the two women sat eating. Through the glass, they could see that both seemed to be smiling. Alador was not sure if he should be worried or relieved. Sordith opened the door and stepped through. He dropped into a gallant bow just past the door. “Good morning ladies. A fine winter’s day to have a breakfast outside.”
Alador stopped in the doorway, his mouth dropping open as Mesiande turned her head to look at him. Her face was flushed from the cool morning air, and as she looked at him, her eyes held admiration and loving concern. Matching ribbons were braided into her hair and the braids were drawn up behind her head to keep her long hair out of her face. The color brought out her eyes and the burnished gold in her hair. She was dressed in a gown of gentle orange. The bodice did little to hide that she was a woman fully grown. A dark brown cloak completed the ensemble and contrasted with the dress. She was breathtaking. He could not remember ever seeing her look as beautiful as she did right now.
Sordith moved to Keelee’s side and took the woman’s hand. He kissed the back of it, lingering over her small fingers as he met her eyes. Alador watched as Keelee flushed with color and looked away.
The mage knew he could not be so gallant. He needed to send Mesiande home, not give her a reason to stay. At that moment, he was thankful for a bit of discomfort from the night before. It would make it easier to play the cad, rather than the lover. He moved around the table and plopped down in the chair next to Mesiande as if he was dropping down beside one of his brothers. “Morning Mesi. I hope you slept well.” He reached across her and rudely grabbed a biscuit.
Mesiande looked from where Sordith was just letting go of Keelee’s hand and flashed Alador a disappointed look “I did. I waited up, but you did not come back.” She searched Alador’s face worriedly. “Is everything alright?”
“Of course. We met with Henrick to arrange to send you home, then we went out drinking.” He stated it with a manner that seemed to indicate he had not cared she was waiting back at the Trench Hall. Alador shoved the whole biscuit into his mouth. The last thing he wanted to do at that moment was to eat, but he did want to be as brash and callus as he could.
“Oh.” Mesiande bit her lip and looked down at her plate for a moment. Suddenly, she kicked Alador under the table.
“Ow!” Alador rubbed his knee.
She looked up at him ever so sweetly. “Oh sorry, I didn't’ realize you were so close.”
Sordith sat down beside Keelee. “So, what have you two lovely ladies been speaking about this morning?”
Keelee smiled. “Alador’s lack of charm and big heart.” She smiled at Alador sweetly. “Along with his total lack of awareness to the feminine mood.”
Alador chuckled and winked at her. “I never heard you complain in my bed.” He did not look at Mesiande when he heard the sharp intake of breath. He knew that had hurt, but this was the route he had to take to get her to go back to Smallbrook.
Keelee met Alador’s gaze in confusion as she said, “I was sharing with Mesiande that you never stopped going on about her, and how you denied my presence many times because of your love for her.” She looked from Alador to Mesiande and back.
Sordith was also frowning at Alador. “I think a little more tact is warranted here, brother.” Sordith flashed Alador a warning look as he hissed this through his teeth.
Alador realized he was not going to pull this off with Sordith criticizing every step. Then there was Keelee, who was obviously trying to reassure Mesiande that she was no threat. “You are right. If you will excuse us, I would like to speak to Mesiande alone. Would you like to see the docks Mesi?” He stood up to quick and had to bite down the bile that rose in his throat. He swallowed it down and offered her his hand.
“I ... Yes?” came the confused answer.
Due to the brisk morning, Mesiande already had a cloak on, so as Alador pulled her up and led her from Trench Hall, he stopped at the door to retrieve the cloak he had worn the night before. Protected from casual identification by the cowl, he felt a bit more comfortable taking her down to the docks. He held her hand as he led her down the long stairs to the Trench. Her eyes were wide as the stench of the sewage canal assailed her.
“It will be better down on the dock’s,” he promised.
It took a while to reach the end of the pier, leaving Alador more time to consider how he was going to make her want to go home. Mesiande was fascinated by the big, three-masted vessels and stopped often to ask questions and point out things she had never seen. Alador took the time to answer her questions as he knew that soon she would not want to speak to him again.
He took her hands and looked deeply into his eyes. Every part of his heart was screaming out to find another way. He swallowed hard and finally spoke. “You look quite beautiful in that dress, Mesiande. You would fit in with the finest halls if you were not Daezun,” he offered. He tipped her face up to look at him and kissed her lips gently. A large lump formed in his throat, and he forced the threatening tears down.
“I...thank you.” She looked up at him. “What has changed?”
“You ... seem different this morning,” she said with a frown.
“Ah yes, the change.” He smiled and chucked her under the chin. “I have decided you can stay. Of course, the only way you can be close to me in the Blackguard is as a bed servant.” He turned to look out at the breakwater. He could not look her in the eye and do this. “But if you are determined then you may take your place in my rooms.” He clasped both hands behind him, mimicking Luthian’s arrogant and heartless air as best he could. It also hid the trembling of his hands.
“A bed servant?” Her voice held both surprise and small amount of shock. “Isn’t that how Keelee came to you?”
He took a deep breath and turned back to her. “Yes. A bed servant warms their master’s bed, sees to his clothes and room. Of course, there is the pleasure in the night.” He reached out and pulled her close to him as he gazed down into her eyes. “I assure you that will be my most desired need.” He kissed her passionately before she could speak.
Mesiande stared up at him until she caught her breath. “I thought… it would be more as housemates?” Her question held her confusion and disbelief.
“Well, you see, as a housemate I will have to worry about Luthian using you against me. This way, he will see you as beneath his notice. Of course, to cement that illusion, I will have to loan you to a few other men for their use in the night.” The words seemed to stick in his mouth, but he still managed to spit them out. He turned away from her again staring out at the water internally bracing himself. “However, if you are determined to stay, then this is the way it will need to be done.”
“You could do that?” There was an edge to her voice that he did not recognize. “Keelee said you never gifted her.”
Alador inwardly cursed, the two women had talked more than he had anticipated. It was all Alador could do to hold that mask. Every instinct within him was begging him to explain his coldness, to keep her close and happy. He could not do it here in Silverport, not as long a Luthian drew breath. “Do what?” he asked casually, knowing full well the question.
“You could send me to another’s bed?” She bit out the words with a terse tone.
“Of course, just think of it like circle. Women often choose men different from their housemates during circle.” He continued to stare at the water rather than look at her. “I am sure if we had stayed in Daezun lands, you would have taken someone other than me to your furs. Gregor, for example.”
There was a long silence. He took a breath as he prepared himself to turn and look at her when suddenly there was a firm kick to his behind. Unprepared for such an assault, he hit the cold water face first. When he managed to flail his way to the top, she was standing there with her hands on her hips glaring down at him.
It was all that he could do with boots and cloak to get a hold of the dock. He looked up at her with a harsh glare. “What, by the Gods, was that for?” He worked the cloak loose to pull it off and placed it up on the dock. He was not going to be able to pull himself up weighed down as he was.
“I figured you were so full of yourself that I thought I would see if mages really could walk on water,” she growled down at him. “If that is the man, you are becoming then I don’t want anything to do with you." Her hands were still on her hips as she glared at him. She stomped on his fingers sending him under water again.
Mesiande knelt down as he came up sputtering. “I didn’t want anyone else to ever be in my furs but you,” Mesiande snapped. “I see Silverport has truly influenced you. If this is who you want to be then I NEVER want you in it,” she hissed. She stood up. “If you decide to be the man I love, come find me.” She picked up her skirt and stomped up the dock angrily.
Alador watched her go with wide eyes. He had wanted her to go home. He had wanted her to be hurt or angry enough to go. Now that he had achieved it, he wished he could take everything back.
It took a great deal of effort due to his boots and the height of the dock to pull himself back up on the boards. A sailor stood nearby watching. “You sure pissed that one off.” He chuckled and shook his head. He strolled off not even offering Alador a hand up.
He did not move, his breath coming in ragged gasps. He had never felt so dirty in all of his life, as if Luthian’s very presence clung to his skin. Alador knew that he had hurt her in a way that he likely could never repair. But now she would go home and she would be safe from this evil place as well as the plotting and conniving of his uncle’s imperialistic ambitions.
When he had managed to compose himself, he struggled back up to his feet. He cast a drying cantrip as the wind was cutting through his wet clothes. He slowly made his way up the docks towards the Trench Hall. He was in no hurry to face her again. He hoped that Sordith and Henrick would have her away before he got there. Alador did not know if he could look her in the eyes at this point. He drug his feet towards the trench and started up the long rise to the hall. He startled when he heard his brother’s voice.
“You bastard! How could you?” Sordith snarled.
Alador looked up just in time to see the fist that connected with his jaw. Alador tumbled back down the few steps he had climbed. He managed to get up to his hands and knees when Sordith’s boot connected with his stomach. He lay there gasping as the angry man towered above him. “Let… me… explain,” he gasped out, holding his stomach.
“You better be quick, or I am going to beat you senseless,” Sordith hissed down at him.
“I had to get her to go home. She wasn’t budging so...I tried to make her hate me,” Alador gasped out.
“Congratulations, it worked.” Sordith clapped his hands together in a slow and sarcastic manner. He did not bother to help Alador as his younger brother made it to his knees.
“I had to Sordith. There was no other way to get her to go and not put Henrick in danger.” Alador was sure something had broken inside besides his heart. Blood filled his mouth. The pain in his stomach combined with the taste of blood, a hangover, and the salt water; they swirled together and he vomited on the steps.
“There were other ways, you idiot! You did not have to destroy her like that.” Sordith moved back and forth like an angry feline. “Find your room and stay there until Henrick and I can get her calm and off to her home,” Sordith finally snarled. The command spat at Alador left no room for argument.
Alador nodded. “I understand,” he miserably answered.
Sordith spit just short where Alador had his hands on the ground. “In fact, just stay there till I calm down. I’m not sure I still won’t beat you senseless.” Sordith turned on his heel and stomped back up the stairs leaving Alador kneeling and bleeding on the bottom of the steps.
Sordith stopped after about four steps and turned to look at Alador. “I don’t ever want to hear how people broke your trust again.” Sordith’s tone was cold and bitter. “What you did today violated that woman’s trust and love. Words cut deeper than any physical assault. She said your words hurt her more than Trelmar ever could,” Sordith words were snide, his anger palpable. “You’re no better than those you accuse of having misled and hurt you.”
Alador’s eyes widened as he stared up at him. The truth of his words wrenched the mage’s heart harder than the words he had spoken to Mesiande. The realization of what Mesiande had said to Sordith drowned everything else out, even the taste of blood. His eyes followed his brother until he disappeared. Alador struggled to his feet staring up at the large manor house. He had done what he must without considering the cost to Mesiande. He was no better than Henrick or Luthian, the pain of that realization cut through him.
“By the Gods, what have I done?” he whispered as tears slowly fell down his cheeks.