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This is a work of fantasy. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, and the actions contained herein should not be duplicated. All characters are 18 or older. It’s all pretend, folks. This one even more than usual. I debated whether to put it in the sci-fi/fantasy category, but ultimately decided that my usual themes were the dominant ones. The magical world in which this tale takes place is more than window-dressing, but it is not the driving force of the story.
All rights belong to Dellagordo
Day follows night on the island of Kaido, westernmost province of the Empire. It is a lush and fertile land, filled with orchards and pastures, dotted here and there with farming villages and fishing towns. As dawn breaks, a galleon from the Scarlet City, capital of the Empire, docks at the sole port on the island. Among those that decamp from the boat is a young soldier and his bodyguard, who quickly hire a carriage and head west along the island’s main road.
It is a bumpy, uneven path, and the carriage bounces and shakes as it rolls over hills, across brooks, and past green growing fields, orchards bursting with life. Summer has just begun, and flowers bloom everywhere.
The road leads to the highest point on the island, upon which rests the mighty fortress of the Daramour family, rulers of this province since time immemorial. This rambling castle is the ancestral home of the soldier, and he is returning to it after an absence of ten years.
Kit Daramour alights from the carriage as soon as it stops in the castle courtyard. He sucks in a deep, deep breath, and closes his eyes as memories crash into his mind, carried on a wind heavy with the scents of citrus and jasmine.
Kit stands just under six feet in height, broad shouldered, well-muscled. Crystal blue eyes beneath a head of coal black hair that is running slightly long and beginning to curl at the ends. Hawk-like nose, full lips, strong chin, pale skin. Handsome, full of youthful strength and vitality. He is smartly dressed in a newly tailored captain’s uniform, earned upon his graduation from the Academy. He is the first Daramour in three hundred years to achieve this honor, as he is the first full-born Blessed the family has seen in that time.
For the moment, he is not the newly commissioned Imperial Officer that traveled from Scarlet City to Kaido, but rather the eight year old boy who left this castle ten long years ago. He turns with a grin towards the taciturn, scarred visage of his bodyguard, Thrace.
“It’s good to be home,” Kit says with a laugh.
Thrace nods, face expressionless. He unloads Kit’s luggage without a word as a veritable army of servants emerges from the front doors of the castle to gather up Kit’s belongings.
“I’ll be staying in town, should you need me, sir,” Thrace says.
Kit, surprised, frowns. “I suppose I’m safer here than anywhere in the Empire, Thrace, but the castle’s comforts are greater than those available in the city.”
“Be that as it may, milord, it was your mother’s explicit instructions.”
Kit arches an eyebrow. “I see. Well, we certainly can’t disobey Mother, can we? Be well, then, but keep the whoring and drinking to a dull roar, as I may have reason to call on you before we ship out.”
“Indeed, milord,” Thrace says, the trace of a small smile parting his pale beard. He climbs back onto the carriage, which slowly wheels about and begins the journey back.
Kit’s attention is diverted to the servants gathering his bags. A half dozen nubile women in the Daramour livery, green and gold. They represent a cross-section of the Imperial population, a range of coloration and shapes, but all clearly chosen for their exceptional beauty.
Kit doesn’t recall these kind of servants being around when he was a boy, but he wholeheartedly approves of the change. Thrace has kept him on a short leash these last ten years, and even with all the decadent delights available in Scarlet City, Kit’s experiences with nubile girls remains minimal. He senses that will change over the course of this summer.
Up the steps, through the huge double doors, into the great hall. Inside, there is natural light and green growing things everywhere. Kit well knows that his mother would rather plant something than throw a tapestry on the wall. Still, there are priceless works of art decorating every hall as well, each one precisely placed and tastefully arranged.
While the servants scurry to Kit’s chambers, a beautiful older woman comes to meet Kit, striding purposely across the marble floor. Another surprise.
“Grace,” Kit says, equal amounts of astonishment and delight playing across his handsome face. His oldest sister smiles as well, pleased with his reaction.
“Mother made me her major domo, at least for the summer,” she explains, taking Kit’s hands in her own. She is a tall woman, slightly taller than Kit in her heels, and clad in a tightly bodiced red dress escort ataşehir that accentuates her matronly curves. Long dark hair, braided and tied with red ribbons, falls past her shoulders, framing a pretty face with warm dark eyes and full, scarlet lips. In her early forties, Grace favors their half-human father, but still possesses a portion of her mother’s beauty. She looks much, much younger than her true age. It is one of the gifts of the Blessed lineage.
“Are Rik and the children here?” Kit asks, hopefully. He has heard of, but never met, his niece and nephew, but he remembers Grace’s husband from when he was a boy. Rik, in fact, is only about a dozen years older than Kit himself.
Surprisingly, Grace blushes slightly. “No, they stayed at the Keep for the summer.” She seems about to say something else, but clearly thinks better of it. Smiling, instead she reaches up to ruffle Kit’s hair. “Look at you, all grown up, and a captain as well! Congratulations.”
It is Kit’s turn to color. “Thank you. I can hardly believe it myself. Twelve weeks, and then I ship out to the eastern border.”
Grace visibly pales. “Mother didn’t mention where you were to be stationed. I didn’t realize.”
Kit shrugs with the bravado of youth, secure in the knowledge of his own immortality. Given that he is Blessed, this contains more fact than fancy. “I have trained with the best these past ten years, dear sister, and I have honed my powers as well. I do not fear Outremer.”
Grace’s hands find his again. “You should, Kit,” she says softly, looking into his eyes. Before he can protest, she pulls away, tugging slightly on him. “But come, Mother will want to see you, and we mustn’t keep her waiting.”
The pair glide through the halls of the Daramour castle, doing what they can to catch up with one another in a short time. There have been letters, of course, but Kit wants to hear all the news directly from Grace. He missed her voice, and the scent of her perfume, and her throaty laugh. Impulsively, Kit reaches out to take Grace’s hand. She looks surprised for a moment, but she quickly tightens her hold and smiles broadly at him.
“I used to walk you around here like this when you were little,” she says with a chuckle. “When you were just learning to walk, at least. Once you got the hang of running, you didn’t need me anymore.”
Kit laughs. “I remember that, I think. It’s good to see you, Grace. I’ve missed the family so much. Only Gale came to see me, and he was mostly busy at court during his visit.” He sighs. “I can’t wait to see everyone.”
“Ah, yes, about that,” Grace says. “It’s just going to be Mother and me for the summer. Gabby, Eva, and Belle are here now, and Fiona will be arriving shortly. But the boys are all patrolling the outer islands, or performing other duties as Mother requires. I am not sure you’ll see them before you have to ship out.”
Kit frowns. Disconcerting if unsurprising news. He did not expect to see the whole family together before reporting to duty, but the fact that Grace met him at the door gave him a kind of irrational hope. Still, it is strange that only his sisters are present. Fiona and Belle, like Grace, have their own families and responsibilities, no less than his brothers. Eva, Kit knows, is involved in negotiations between the family and a minor noble house for her hand. Kit expected to see only Gabby, the closest in age to him at a mere four year gap, at the house upon his return.
“You okay, kiddo?” Grace says. She stops them in the hall, looking intently into his eyes.
Kit stiffens his spine, remembering his lessons and his station. The cocky grin of a young officer, practiced many times in the mirror, decorates his face. “Of course. It will be wonderful to see all my beautiful sisters again.”
Grace’s intent look doesn’t falter, forcing Kit’s smile to do so. “I guess I was just… uh… hoping to talk to Gale and Drake about, y’know, battle. And stuff.” He turns slightly red, suddenly an eighteen year old boy on the cusp of something that may be too much for him.
Grace nods. She tucks her arm through Kit’s, pulling him closer. He is strangely conscious of the softness of her full breast as it pushes against his bicep. “I will see if I can get one or both of them to visit before the summer is over.”
“You don’t have to-” he starts to say, but she shushes him.
“I’m not promising anything. Mother has her own plans for the summer. But I can sometimes change her mind.
“In any case, Fiona is no stranger to combat. I expect it won’t be the same as talking to one of your brothers, but don’t be afraid to talk to her.”
Kit’s brows knot. He wonders what Grace means about Mother’s plans. Before he can ask, she is tugging him along. Shortly, they are entering the great hall.
Beneath the vaulted ceiling hang crystalline chandeliers that glow with arcane light. The perimeter of the room is filled with trees and shrubberies, all artfully arranged kadıköy escort and trimmed. The center of the room bustles with activity as servants set tables and decorations, preparing for what appears will be a massive feast.
“For me?” Kit says, not without wonder, and Grace nods, smiling hugely.
A tall woman stands in the midst of the bustle, orchestrating the endeavor. Clad from throat to ankle in a flowing, shimmering green dress, Serana Daramour commands with a raised eyebrow, a lift of the chin, and the subtle waving of her long, expressive fingers.
This is the first time Kit has seen his mother since the flowering of his Blessed power. He feels as though he is truly seeing her for the first time. Kit feels her arcane strength like a physical presence, sees it as though it is a towering pyre of incandescent, multicolored flame that rises from her, encircles her, extends out from her to wash over and through the very walls of the room.
And then it all evens out, and he is looking at his beautiful, ageless mother as she turns and strides toward him, a broad smile on her face, arms open and extended.
A statuesque woman, Serana is several inches taller than Kit or Grace, broad shouldered and buxom, with a narrow waist and wide womanly hips atop long legs, clad in light green hose glimpsed partially through artful slits in her long skirts. Her eyes are emerald green, glittering like jewels in her pale, aristocratic face. Her long black hair is coiled up in an elaborate style upon her head, leaving her graceful neck bare.
“My darling baby boy,” she says, beaming, “home at last.” Unceremoniously, Serana wraps Kit up in a tight embrace, crushing him against her full bosom and kissing him lightly. Kit’s mother’s lips are soft and full and moist against his own, a feather-light touch that is gone as quickly as it arrives.
“Mother,” Kit says, surprised and aroused despite himself.
She steps backward and holds him out at arm’s length, examining him closely. Her eyes glow with green fire momentarily. “Satisfactory,” she murmurs. “Quite satisfactory.”
Louder, she adds, “I have missed you so very much, Kit. I missed seeing you grow up and become a man. And in too short a time, you will leave again, and your manhood will be tested in the theater of war. I want to make up for that, in some way, while we have the time. Will you let me do that for you?” There is something raw and open in her expression, something foreign to Kit’s experience. Not that his mother was ever distant when he was young, but she was often busy, and never not in control.
“Of course,” he says softly, staring into her eyes. He is overwhelmed by his mother. Her presence, her power, her scent, her closeness, her body, her emotion.
Grace saves him from his own clumsiness. “I’m sure Kit is tired from his long journey home,” she says, suddenly intruding. “I should show him to his rooms.”
“Naturally,” Serana says, smiling. “Rest, my darling boy. Take a long, hot bath and soak your tired muscles. Tonight will be for you. Wine, good food, and your family around you.” She turns to Grace. “I’ll need your assistance with the kitchen, my dear, so do not dawdle.” With nod and a wink at Kit, Serana returns to her orchestration.
Grace tugs gently on Kit’s arm, pulling him from the great hall. She laughs at his dazed expression.
“I had forgotten,” he says lamely.
“Forgotten what?” Grace asks. There is a twinkle in her eyes, and a sway to her step that Kit didn’t notice before.
“The… weight of her. No, that’s not the right word. The force, the power, the light.” Kit shakes his head. It is not that he hasn’t seen another Blessed as strong or stronger than his mother. The Scarlet City is full of the empire’s ruling class. But he has never been that close to another Blessed of his mother’s stature. And besides, she is his mother. The only context he has for her is from before he came of age, before he blossomed into his own power.
“She can be a bit overwhelming,” Grace says gently. Her smile has faded, but the twinkle remains. “Especially when she’s excited.”
“She’s… excited?” Kit’s mind whirls. “About me coming home?”
Grace nods. “You don’t know this, but this summer is the culmination of literally centuries of planning.” She pauses, clearly mulling over her words. “You’re the first of our set to have the Blessed gift, and because you’re Serana Daramour’s child, that makes you third generation. There are a lot more Blessed in the Empire with much less potential than you currently possess.”
Kit frowns slightly. These are things he already knows. Things he has been reminded of daily, sometimes hourly, during his long years at the Academy. Great things, he was informed more than once, are expected of him.
Grace’s arm threads through Kit’s again, her soft full breast impossible to ignore. “And,” she says, “she really has missed you rather terribly. Our late father gave mother twelve children. But maltepe escort bayan you, the last one, the youngest, her baby, the last reminder of her great love, she had to send away.”
Kit stops in the hallway and looks sharply at his sister. His throat grows tighter at her words. His own feelings of abandonment, of loss, at being exiled from his home and family while still a boy, suddenly surface. He thought he had gotten over them, but apparently he had simply buried them deep inside. Just not so deeply that they could not surface at a moment’s notice.
Kit half turns, as if to return to the great hall, but Grace tightens her hold on him and steers him forward. “I haven’t seen her this excited in a long time,” Grace says. “Did you see the orchards on the approach to the estate? I think we may get three harvests this year.”
Kit finds his voice. “I am glad.” He takes a deep breath, smiles at Grace. “Very glad. I thought… I don’t know what I thought. But this is not the homecoming I expected.” His eyes are suddenly moist, which makes him ashamed. He should be stronger than this. He is a warrior son of the Daramour clan, a full-blooded Blessed and a captain in the Imperial army.
Suddenly Grace envelops him in a tight embrace, pulling him close against her full breasts, her warm cheek pressed against his own. “We have all missed you, Kit. I probably didn’t write as often as I should, but not a day went by that I did not think of you, and wish for your safe return. And Gale and Drake and Connor would be here if they could.” She laughs suddenly. “Well, maybe not Drake, but you know how he is.”
And Kit is laughing as well. He holds Grace close a moment longer, enjoying the feel of her against him, and then releases her. He finds that inner strength within himself, beaten into him at the Academy, settles his features, masters his emotions, the young officer once more. “Thanks, Grace.”
She nods, kisses him on the cheek, and takes his hand again. “Come, let’s get you to your rooms. A little rest will help.”
“Okay, I… where are we?”
Grace’s throaty laugh echoes in the hall once more. “The eastern wing. You didn’t think you’d be going back to the children’s quarters, did you? We have all new rooms prepared for our young captain. I think they will suit you.”
“Of course,” Kit says. “I should have realized.” The change helps him, actually. The unfamiliar destination in this familiar place evens his keel.
Just as they are approaching the suite containing Kit’s rooms, they hear his name shouted from the other end of the hall. Turning in surprise, Kit sees his sister Gabby hurtling towards him, her riding boots thudding on the carpeted floor. He has just enough time to notice Eva slowly approaching as well before Gabby crashes into him, throwing her arms around him and holding him tight.
“Squirt!” Gabby says happily. “Twelve Gods, I can’t believe it! Look at you. I barely recognize the little pain in the neck who went away.”
Kit laughs and hugs Gabby back just as tightly. He is acutely aware of the swell of her breasts against his chest, and of the smell of her – a sweet perfume mixed with scents of sweat and horse – as well as the tight cut of her riding attire, that shows plenty of tanned flesh. Long graceful arms, strongly muscled thighs, and deep, inviting cleavage. Gabby has the high cheekbones and full lips of the Daramours, but the softly rounded face and gray eyes of their father. Her dark, straight hair is trimmed in a cute pageboy style.
“Didn’t you use to be skinny?” Kit asks, releasing Gabby from the embrace. She was a beanpole of a twelve year old the last time he laid eyes upon her. But now she is all softness and curves, without entirely losing her leggy coltishness. The most dramatic change is the large bust that belies her slim, athletic frame.
“It’s a family trait,” Gabby says cheekily, thrusting out her chest, “one that I’m sure you’ll have no problem adjusting to.”
Kit is momentarily taken aback by his sister’s brazenness, but before he can tease Gabby further, Eva arrives, the skirts of her more modest riding outfit swishing about her legs. Shorter than Gabby or Kit, Eva is fuller figured than her younger sister, still retaining a bit of adolescent plumpness despite being four years older. Her tightly buttoned gray coat and full skirts still cannot hide her hourglass figure, although she clearly tries not to emphasize it.
Like her closest siblings, Eva has dark hair, long and straight and worn past her shoulders. Her crystal blue eyes are partially hidden behind a pair of wire-frame glasses that balance atop a slightly upturned, pugnacious nose. Paler than Gabby, Eva still sports the island tan.
“So glad to have you home,” Eva says, giving Kit a more modest hug and a light peck on the cheek.
“We were out giving the chargers their paces when word reached us that you had arrived,” Gabby says, grinning. “Safe trip, I trust? How was the Scarlet City? Did you meet Lord Melmoth? What’s he like, really?”
“Gabrielle,” Grace says, interrupting the younger woman’s breathless interrogation, “Kit would like to recover somewhat from his long journey. I was just taking him to his rooms so he could relax before the party tonight.”
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