Talia Blackthorne, last living issue of the Great Griffin Arthur Blackthorne, spent her nineteenth birthday locked in a cell beneath the deck of a ship named after that man who had sired her.
Or at least she thought she did. One day was much like the other down here in the dark, and passage of time soon became almost impossible to determine. Talia's whole world had shrunk to four wooden walls and a ceiling so low she could barely stand up, sparsely furnished with a bucket and a metal cot that felt worse to lie on than the reed-blanketed floor. She had gotten sick some hours into her first night, and that was when she'd discovered that Blackthorne prisoners were not afforded the advantage of clean quarters. Everything that came out of her, even blood, she had been left to wallow in, and tidiness was difficult in the dark. Nor had the bucket been replaced. The cell door opened only twice a day; two jailers, each to deliver a pitcher of water and a bowl of thin gruel. One was a thin, old man with a seamed face and sad eyes that drooped like a bloodhound's. He never spoke. She was beginning to suspect that he might be a mute. If only the other jailer could follow that example.
"Yew awake, witch? Ol' Edgar's 'ere again." He was a bald man with a face scarred by pox-marks and a belly like a boulder, this Edgar, and his teeth were brown and crooked like stakes of wood hammered into earth so he slobbered as he spoke. If Edgar was in a good mood, Talia might get the toe of his boot. Otherwise she might get his cudgel.
On what Talia guessed to be his fifth visit, the jailer had hawked up a wad of brownish phlegm into her bowl. "Eat that now, witch," he snorted. "Yew eat that right
When she had not spoken or moved to respond, Edgar had simply seized the gruel and dumped it over her head so that it soaked into the ragged remaining cuts of her hair. The memory of it still made her shudder in revulsion and anger, and the offense caused at the time had been nearly enough that she'd made a break for the exit upon the reappearance of the Mute. But that jailer's comparative dutifulness had been only skin-deep, and he had been just as quick to turn his cudgel on her as his noisier counterpart. He'd gotten her in the stomach, in the same spot where Jacques had punched her, and she could feel a spreading bruise on her midriff the size of a dinner plate. It hurt to move, hurt so much she wondered if the strikes had ruptured her inner organs. Let's see them try to sell me for a brood mare after they've pierced my womb,
some vestige of her old self thought. It gave her comfort sometimes to pretend like she was still that old self, that girl hiding away in her chambers to practice spells and read histories and wish for a bountiful future life. Because the Witch, the Talia Blackthorne squatting in a filthy cell, she
had no future. Only an oncoming noose.
A few nights ago she had heard drunken mumbling from the other side of the cell door, an unusually short amount of time after the last jailer's visit. "I've been feedin' the bitch for days. I go first, thass only fair..." there had been the scrape of the key in the lock, and then Edgar was looming in the doorway, and there were men behind him but she could not see their faces. The jailer was seizing her by the arm.
"Are we...have we arrived at the city?" Misuse had turned Talia's voice into a hoarse croak.
"Heh heh. Yeh, if thass wot yew wanna tell yehself." Edgar pinned her against the wall as his friends watched with grunting chuckles. His breath stank of cheap ale. He groped at her breasts through her cotton shift, his grubby fingers digging painfully into her skin. "Yew fink of me a lot when yehr in 'ere, wench? Yew think of ol' Edgar, while yer strummin yerself off?"
Talia had been in the dark for so long that trying to form a thought, much less a plan, was like wading through treacle. It was only when his finger slid up her thigh, shoving rudely up against her lower lips, that her weakened mind produced a spark. "You...you shouldn't."
Edgar stilled. "Yew orderin' me...?"
"I am a Witch. I lie with demons and devils." She watched him through the ragged remains of her fringe, and did her best to produce a sinister grin. "If you take me thus, you will be accursed. Your seed will turn black and fester within you. Your--"
He silenced her with a stinging slap across the face. It opened the gash Jacques' knife had made, and she could feel it bleeding again. "Yeh'll not lay yer curses on me, cunt."
But his friends had exchanged unsure looks and began to scuttle away. Evidently that took the fun out of it. Edgar had cursed, kicking her knees until she had collapsed in a huddle back to her corner, then retreated and slammed the cell door behind him.
There was nothing for a while after that. Talia could not sleep, only occasionally drift off into a feverish delirium where she was haunted consistently by memories of her mother, her sister, and the scarred apparition of her twin that had come to her at the wedding. Her brain felt overheated, but her skin seemed cold; her face felt swollen at the lip, and she was certain the cut on her face was infected as well. Worst of all was her mana. It had been a part of her for as long as she could remember, but now it was just gone.
Every time she reached for it within her consciousness, she found nothing. Complex spells had left her drained before, but the mana had always come back to her in time, but this,
to have it gone completely...it was not natural. Something was at work here, something beyond her knowledge.
The answer came to her with the next visitation of the Mute. The door creaked as it swung open, and even the dim lanternlight that flooded into the cell was blinding to her now.
She had been curled up against the wall, knees drawn up against her chest with her arms around them, her head down. But at the sound of the familiar voice, she looked up immediately, even though the light burned her eyes. Her vision was blurred, but she knew the speaker, knew the silhouette looming in the doorway as it came into focus--the oiled coiffured hair and mustache, the immaculate white clothing, the lean wolfishly handsome features.
"Nestor." Her voice had become a rasp. "Nestor, you have to get me out of here."
The mage's yellow-green eyes swept the cell; she saw naught in them but a kind of distaste. He went to sit down, seemingly decided against it, and then crouched beside her. The smile he gave was patient, almost condescending, like he was speaking to a small child. "Come now. You know I can't just pull you out of imprisonment. You committed a crime, Lady Sabre, against the most powerful man in the world no less. If anything should happen, your Uncle will kill everyone involved, starting with me. No, I was allowed to visit you to break the news. Your husband attempted some kind of...coup, back in the City. He has been imprisoned. His allies, these....New Age Knights,
of his, that were the source of his political power in the senate....well, they were not so lucky. Lady Attia and her assets were deported from the City, back to the Tropics...quite forcibly, I believe. We just received word that Lord Henriik will co-operate absolutely with Blackthorne demands in exchange for the safety of his son. Isn't that convenient? He was a friend of my father's, you know. A shame my father could not share his good sense. There is value in a good surrender..."
Talia gazed up at him, disbelieving through the delirium. "Are...are you hear to gloat?
Are you gloating
"Of course not, darling. But down here alone....I thought you would want to know what's happening. Are you sick? You look feverish, and that cut is ghastly. I won't have it." Knox clicked his fingers, and all at once, the room was a clean as a noble's chambers. He reached out gently, and sighed when she twitched away by reflex. "You think I'm going to hit you? Let me see those wounds properly."
Hesitant, she relaxed, and let him take her by the chin. The gentleness of his touch made her feel an involuntary, almost pathetic gratefulness. The magic washed over her, and she felt the dull aches on her face and torso lift as the wounds stitched themselves back together. The Mute at the door hissed at the display of magic.
"None of that from you, please," Nestor told the jailer archly. "If I am to be jeered at, I prefer for it to come from people who can actually speak. Does that feel better, Talia?" He stroked her cheek, touched her hair. "Tsk. I told them not to change your appearance. I liked you the way you looked before. If only that lout had listen to what I'd told him..."
"...what? What do you mean?"
Nestor gave a long-suffering sigh, like she was boring him. "Must I spell it out for you, darling? You husband is a...soft man. Not the kind that lasts long in imprisonment. I suspect that once he goes, and your Uncle razes the Tropics to ensure further co-operation, you will be in a position to re-marry. I had thought of Aislinn Corcoran, my brother's widow...but you
would make much more of a worthy prize."
"A...a prize?" Talia didn't understand this sudden influx of information. Her wounds were outwardly healed, she could feel it, but her mind still swam with fever...and her mana was gone. And just now, the touch of his magic...there had been a familiarity there. She shook her head angrily. "What....what are you doing
"Don't fight it." Nestor's yellow-green eyes narrowed. "There's a good girl. Just relax...."
She felt a tug at the edge of her consciousness, the same thing (she now realized) that was blocking her consciousness. She faced it now, forcing herself to focus on it, to grapple it, to bring it under her command, and she felt the mind on the other end of that connection--and just like that, it snapped back, sending an arc of power between them that sent up a flair of light. Talia gasped and collapsed back against the wall; Nestor might have fallen from the force of it if he had not quickly staggered to his feet.
"You..." Talia looked up at the Grand Warlock, seeing him in a whole new light. "You've been sapping
me. Taking my mana. And...what was that about what you told that lout? Told who?"
There was a coldness in Knox's eyes now, and he had pressed himself back against the door of the cabin. I've frightened him,
she realized. I'm more powerful than he thought.
"You've always been just a bit too clever for your own good, girl."
"It was you." It came to her in a rush, left her lips as soon as it did. "You told Jacques to go after me. You knew
I'd have to reveal my magic if he attacked me, knew I'd be stripped of every asset I had so you could...move in. And even if he'd killed me, you had AIslinn as a backup.
This is sick.
Does my uncle know about this? Why does he even trust you? What did you do for him that he would let you away with so much?"
"I hope you appreciate the shackle I've put on your abilities. It's called a mana clash.
Designed it myself--"
"I think," she cut over him, a fierceness descending upon her, "That you've been working with him longer than anyone knows. It was convenient that my father should leave his keep for the first time since the accident to appear at Jaster's wedding. Was it your idea to send Preston in there to manhandle him, or the Bloodhawk's? How about further back than that? The wild griffin that assaulted my father, left him crippled. Your power influencing the creature, no doubt, but my uncle would have loved
to see his brother die by his own supposed hubris. What, longer even than that?" The worst was yet to come. She ran her hands through her hair, seizing clumps of it in both fists. "It's not the first time you two had Preston act on your behalf. You had him kill my brother, didn't you? He struck the killing blow...but it was you, Nestor. You killed Gordon."
There was a brief silence. Then the Grand Warlock sighed again, patiently, and gave her another calm smile. "I called you clever, She-Griffin. But make no mistake, your mind is not special.
You are like every other bleating commoner sheep that clings to the skin of this realm. You do not understand.
You simply do not understand
that there are stakes here beyond the...mundane."
"Is that where the demons come into it? My uncle's cultist hand?" Talia hugged herself, but her voice held steady. "At the Untamed Isle, the Riverford, Tumbledown Falls...picking off Arthur Blackthorne's children. Clearing the path for my uncle. What have they offered you? Gold? Power? Sovreignity? Sovreignity over what,
I say? When they are finished there will be naught left of the world but ash. My uncle will be king over the cinders, and you will be...what, his hand? Betraying your whole species for--"
"Do not talk to me of betrayal,
" Nestor snapped, and it was only then that she truly saw the mad gleam in that yellowy gaze. "I am not like you. We are not the same. I destroyed your whole wretched dynasty on a whim.
This world is doomed, to be sure, but I am the only one with the will to overcome the hand I have been dealt, or else I would have ended up like you,
a doe-eyed wretch wringing her hands over the cruelty of fate while mewling over any passer-by that shows you a shred of kindness because your father never loved you. I have a respect for the power in your blood, girl, but do not ever think I consider you an equal."
Talia shut her eyes, feeling the sting of tears, and took a long, shuddering breath in. "I hate myself for it...but I had started to respect you. To trust you."
"Then heed my plans. It need not end on a gallows for you. Marry me, Talia. I will lobby your uncle to grant you immunity, as a favor. The magic in your blood, combined with mine...imagine what we could create
together. Could any force, even the Bloodhawk, stand in the way of that?" he leaned closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. "Could even an Underking
stand in the way of that?"
And then somehow, Talia found herself laughing. Her tears flowed freely, but they were of mirth, and her stomach ached as it had before so she had to bend double as she laughed on, laughed freely for the first time in she-did-not-know-how-long, and the sound of it reverberated off the low ceiling and made the Mute jailer look alarmed while Nestor looked on in bemusement.
"I do not see the joke." Knox's wolfish features were drawn into a look of thinly-veiled anger.
" Talia wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, watching him through her fringe while grinning viciously. "You really are a worm
, aren't you, Nestor? There isn't a shred
of honor or loyalty left in you. You have pumped yourself up so much, convinced yourself so thoroughly of your own supremacy, that you cannot even conceive
of a reality where things cannot go your way. Well, hear this, Knox." She locked gazes with him, sapphire-blue on yellow-green, and when she spoke she heard so much conviction in her own voice that it shocked even herself. "I would rather die.
I would rather die
than capitulate to your genocidal mania, or even let you touch
me. If you try to force me, then I will spend the rest of my life using everything at my disposal to make your
life a living nightmare. That is only a fraction of what you deserve for destroying my family. If you know what's good for you, if you value your treacherous backstabbing existence in any way at all...then you had better fucking hang me.
There was a long, cold silence between them then. Nestor looked down his nose at her, with the same look one might give a particularly disgusting insect. Talia stayed kneeling on the floor but did not break eye contact. She wanted him to know that she'd meant every word she'd said.
It was a while before Nestor's lip finally curled into a leer. "Disappointing. This is why I have called you small-minded, girl. Your family, prior attachments....they do not matter
in a world that is destined only to burn. And yet you insist on pretty grudges. And they say it is my family that never forgives, never forgets..." He stepped back, out of the cell. "Have it your way, then. You hang.
Farewell, Talia Blackthorne."
The door slammed shut, and she was alone in the darkness once again.
➴ The Griffin's Bastard ➶
A collaboration with Kotor
Sobriety, Arianne had come to realize, was not something to be revered. It was not a virtue, not a strength; it was bloody boring, and she hated it.
Being along for the ride
had turned out to be more personally taxing on her than she would have cared to admit, even if it had only been for several hours. The girl they'd lifted from Caybourne had not exactly been happy about the situation, oddly enough, and that had sullied the Boss' good mood as well. That had left somewhat of an....atmosphere, on the caravel, and since sunrise an hour ago, no-one had spoken a word to each other. No conversation, no wyvern-mead, and the last dregs of her herb were currently smoldering to their end in her new smoking-pipe. The City docks were days away. It was already starting to feel like years.
Arianne had been the one one capable of scaling the mast in seconds, and so management of the rigging had fallen to her. That had been an entertaining enough distraction at first, but the breeze was so mild that it had resulted in completely smooth sailing and yet more inactivity. The Griffin's Bastard perched on one of the ropes, gazing forlornly out at the nearby Blackthorne ships. She wondered briefly about telling Darius to steer closer to the nearest ship, the Rookwood's Bird of Prey,
and switch to their vessel. Presumably they
had something to drink. And maybe even a proclivity to approach the Huntsmen's Grey Lady,
which was on the opposite side of the fleet, for some of that conversation. It was a stupid thought; they were already pressing their luck by travelling among the Western fleet, and if Arianne were no longer on that boat as a confirmed Blackthorne ally, who knew what the Bloodhawk would command. The Lord was in a viscous mood, it seemed. His son had been killed.
My sister was killed by demons. My other sister is about to be executed for witchcraft and kinslaying.
That was a stupid thought, as well, and its intrusiveness made Arianne physically wince. The girl imprisoned in the hold of the Great Griffin
was not her sister, any more than the one who had been eaten alive at Tumbledown Falls was...or any more than the scarred squire on the Grey Lady
was her brother. She did not owe Arthur Blackthorne's other children a thing, any more than she was paid for. Yet still the doubt niggled at her, making her feel like she should act. Goddess, how did people stand
lark? She needed to take her mind off this, and quickly.
It was at that moment Arianne noticed someone had sat on the hull's deck beneath her, without noticing her presence. It was the girl Darius was "escorting," still in her now-rather-less-splendid party dress and with a silken white bandage over the wound. Her dark hair danced prettily in the sea breeze; that gave her something of her brother's look, despite the difference of coloration, and her high birth was plain. Rather less ladylike was the scowl on her features, and her itching at her brow.
Arianne clambored, spiderlike, over the rigging. She perched atop the rope that held the jib, hooked her toes around it, then spun on it and hung upside-down so her face was level with where the girl sat.
"You shouldn't scratch that, you know." She indicated the scar on her own forehead. "Just makes it worse."
Serenity's alarm at the strange elf was short-lived, rapidly replaced by a flash of anger and a slight flush of her cheeks. But the anger melted away as she gained some resemblance of control over her expression.
"How much did he pay you?" she asked, her tone strangely even.
"Eh?" Arianne dug around in one pointed ear with her little finger. "Ah, for the job, you mean. Thought we were still talking about the wound for a second and was about to ensure you that
gift came thanks to your brother.""
Still hanging upside-down, she cast an eye over to where Darius was positioned on the quarter-deck, steering the caravel. His pale hair was tousled gently by the breeze; she could not read his expression. Serenity had obviously come to this spot to be about as far from the man as she could possibly be on such a small vessel.
"He didn't have to pay me anything, as it happens." She dropped from her position, landed catlike on her feet, then straightened and rested her hands on her hips. "I did it for free. Now don't go thinking I do that for just anyone.
If you want me to beat up someone who owes you money, or kill a creature that's been eating your cattle, that's still going to be at least
a hundred gold pieces...after taxes. But yours was a special case."
"Why?" Serenity asked, her expression curling up into one obviously of complete and utter confusion. "Are you...?" Her gaze flicked over to her brother, then back at Arianne. A mildly disturbed look fluttered over her features. But with a quick blink she was back on-topic.
"Why is mine a special case? I was happy... he has no right to take me away. None of you do."
"Ahh, by the Void, it should really be your brother giving you this talk..." Arianne pressed a hand over her eyes, then with a sudden resolve, dropped to the deck and sat cross-legged beside the girl. "Alright, Serenity...can I call you Serenity? I'm not going to fucking call you m'lady.
Serenity, I heard what you said when you woke up last night, and I understand you're angry. I know you...feel
like everything was good, and happy, and it was all of your own volition, maybe even like you were grown-up. But--please don't be angry at this--you're still very
young. People aren't said to fully come of age until they're eight-and-ten, by common law. When this all started you were four years off from that. And I know it doesn't feel,
right now, like you've got more growing up to do. But think about it. Four years ago, you were ten.
Are you the same person now as you are when you were ten?
At your age, you do a lot of growing up in a short amount of time. And that's why it wasn't right for your Lord, and your betrothed, to do what they did to you. They are adults. They should be your guardians.
And instead they've both exploited you for their own gain. That man you were meant to marry..." She puffed herself up in an imitation of the Drow's manner. "Urrh, give me back child bride or smash,
him. Doesnt strike me as the stable sort, savvy? How old did he tell you he was? Hundreds of years, I bet. Lifetimes and lifetimes of experience. He could have looked after you, all right. But I'm willing to bet he did the opposite."
She leaned one cheek on her hand and regarded Serenity knowingly. "Tell me. Did he ever touch you? Or maybe you tried to touch him. In that case, did he stop you?"
Serenity just looked more and more hurt as she spoke. By the final questions, she was hugging herself tightly, gripping her forearms. She looked away sharply.
"It's what's meant to happen," she said, miserably. Her gaze darted back for a moment, then out to sea. "It's what I was meant to do. I... they..."
She stumbled over her words before finding her conviction again and looking Arianne in the eyes.
"Of age or not, Uncle Mancel made a decision for me. One that as a member of his house and family, I will respect. One that I even like. And what girl in an arranged marriage gets to be happy? I'm lucky with Drake. He makes me happy."
Arianne gleaned everything she needed to know from that initial reaction.
"There's nothing wrong with you liking him. Or trying to act on it." Her tone was gentle, alien to her own ears. What the hell am I doing? I have no stake in this. I don't owe this rich brat a thing.
But the words kept coming, regardless. "But he was the adult there, do you understand? He had the power in that situation, to put a stop to it. And instead he went ahead. Because it made him feel good. Because despite his bragging and his knighthood and his pretensions to nobility, he's a fucking rat.
They all are. And I know you like him, he makes you happy, whatever. Doesn't change the fact that what he did was wrong. And your Lord, too..." She clenched her fists, now, spitting the words out with anger. "Should be, you know when to question him. When to question them both. See that vessel at the front of the fleet?"
She pointed across the water to the Great Griffin,
a magnificent war dromond that needed two hundreds oars to move, its oakwood prow shaped in the likeness of Arthur Blackthorne as he had been in his youth with flowing hair and mystical blade held heroically aloft.
"On that ship sits my
Lord. I've been working for him since I was barely any older than you. I've killed for his gold. Done things for him his soldiers wouldn't be capable of. Now, he's got my little sister locked up in the bowels of his ship accusing her of witchcraft. He's been butchering members of the Senate back home. Funny how everyone who gets in the way of his absolute supremacy gets the fucking axe, isn't it? So do I accept this, because his pay is good and the drinks and pipeweed and whores I get from it make me happy?
No. I question.
Because objectively, I know its the right thing to do."
Her nails had left marks on the deck where she'd scratched them over. Arianne dipped her eyes to look at those marks, and took a steadying breath.
"Fucking hell. I came down here so I wouldn't have to think about this." She raised to one knee, and put a hand gently on the girl's shoulder. "Look. Your brother is trying to help you...in his own clumsy, cack-handed way. He doesn't want them to hurt you any more than they've been doing. He's trying to give you some of the freedom
that those men stole from you. And I know he hurt you. I know he scared you. I might've done it differently, but I'm not in charge here. I can only tell you his cause his just. You don't have to forgive him. But you should talk to him. Tell him how you feel, and he'll tell you how he
feels. Better than sitting here scratching your scar and feeling sorry for yourself. And maybe some good can come out of this whole sordid situation, eh?"
She was met with silence, but the look on the girl's face had changed to one of consideration. Some gears were turning, but perhaps not on the right subject Ari was trying to get at. Her eyes were on the dromond.
Serenity was a noble freshly versed in and armed with the knowledge of the houses - their legitimate children and their bastards. So she knew who Arianne was, and it didn't take her long to put two-and-two together.
"It sounds like you rescued the wrong little sister."
She stood, Ari's hand falling from her shoulder, picked up the thick book she had been sitting on, and went to the other side of the deck for some pretence of privacy
"BUT YOU ADMIT WE RESCUED
YOU, THEN?" Arianne called after the girl as she retreated. That might not have had the storming off
effect Serenity had wanted, as the small size of the boat meant she really didnt have anywhere to storm off to.
She sighed and stood. There was a chance that slightly embarrassing impassioned speech she just gave didn't get through to the girl at all. Arianne wouldn't have been surprised. At fourteen she'd been even more implacable, though she had been running towards
freedom rather than away
from it. She remembered all the long, pleading lectures she'd got from her mother on responsibility, we must know our station, you can't just go disguising yourself as a sack of potatoes to stow away on a ship then bite Lady Karhall's guard on the hand when he comes to bring you back to the Keep.
That particular escape hadn't worked the first time. But hiding in a barrel on a trading boat to Everglow City had worked nicely the second time, if she recalled correctly, and did.
Deciding that it was best to leave Serenity to her own devices for now, Arianne skipped up the steps to the quarter-deck where Darius was doing his best to look like a little girl's romanticized idea of what a pirate was. She admired the man's cause, and certainly liked him more than the bloviating Drow they had kept on board, but was otherwise not entirely sure if she fully respected him yet. He certainly made for a pretty picture, though.
"Well, I did my best," she told him, leaning against a railing with her arms folded. "Not sure how much good it might have done. She doesn't seem to like me much. Nor you, for that matter."
Darius' eyes were on the horizon, scanning every now and again over the fleet they had disguised themselves within. His lips hardened into a line but he breathed out a sigh into the salty air and flicked his hair from his eyes with a jerk of his head.
"I don't remember her being so stubborn," he admitted. "She was so curious, exploring every corner and asking too many questions. But she's a Piers. We come from a man with a temper, so I shouldn't be too surprised that some bullheadedness finally developed."
His eyes landed on her and narrowed. The corner of his mouth twitched, like he was thinking something, then a chuckle escaped him. Arianne caught the look he gave her; her eyes narrowed, one ear perking up and the other folding down. "What? What are you looking at?"
"I'm not usually one to ignore a good comment when I hear one. In retrospect, maybe not in the moment... I loved that joke you made. And a fucking elephant... girl, you got some stylish-ass balls."
"No, no, we've been over
this. I don't
have those. You're in a very
funny mood all of a sudden." She approached him, leaned over the wheel, and looked him boldly in the eye. "What, you wanna fuck me or something?"
"I'm always in a funny mood," he said with hardly a reaction to her point-blank question but for the quirk of a brow. He met her gaze, and his eyes dipped - but not out of shyness. Straight to her chest. Then back up. There was no subtly in the act whatsoever.
"You got a problem with that?"
"Ooh la fucking la. Listen to the master smooth-talker over here." Arianne reached out, slid a finger into the lapel of the pirate's coat, and tugged him closer so they were practically eye to eye. This close, he smelled of timber and saltwater and brine. She felt a slight flutter in her abdomen, a pang between her legs. How long had it been? Before Medger's Spine, certainly, with Madea. The Griffin's Bastard had taken pleasure from people of all backgrounds, races and gender over the course of her life, and found something to be desired in each one of those. She preferred women, and those close to being women, most of all. But there was a base rawness
in lying with a man, and taking what only a man could offer. "I don't have a problem with it, friend, but there is nothing to do on this fucking boat, and I am so. Very." She whispered the last word in his slightly-pointed ear. "Bored.
He turned his head, catching her mouth with his. Stubble rasped her face, but he tasted like how electricity felt.
"Ah-ah." Arianne pulled back, putting a finger on his lips to stay him. She raised that finger to his eyes, then used it to direct his sight to where Serenity was sitting on the other side of the deck. "Think your sister's been traumatized enough for one lifetime. To the cabin. And by the way..." she used that same finger to trace a gentle line down Darius' chest, along where his shirt was opened. "...I know this is quick, but it's just a timepass, savvy? What little time you can give, that is....I should warn you. You might have trouble keeping up.
Arianne lay in a heap, stunned, in the captain's bed, her nakedness barely covered by the sheets twisted between them. It had been hours, judging by the slant of the sun streaming through the cabin's window. Her head was pressing uncomfortably against the footboard, but she found that she did not have the energy to move. She felt the rippling effects of her pleasure thrumming through her body--her fourth in a row. And she was panting, a layer of light perspiration on her skin...that was new, as well, she could run or fight or fuck for hours but this....
"Aradia's knickers," she said again, stupidly. She could barely form a sentence. "How did you...where did you..."
She sat up with sudden righteous anger, covering her chest with one arm in an absurdly guarded motion as if he had not seen it by now. "How did you do that? Where did you learn
it? That thing with your tongue..." She paused, reddening in mixed ambarrassment and anger, the tips of her ears curling down. "I meant...I'm curious,
is all. You were better than I thought. Not...not good,
exactly! But better." That half-truth sounded false even to her own ears.
He had rolled onto his side, arm propping up his head as he gazed at her dishevelled state. A smug smirk was plastered on his features and he used the heel of his thumb to wipe at his mouth. He sat up, reaching forward and grabbing both of her hips to scoot her close to him so they were chest-to-chest, her legs draped over his, her feet on the pillows behind him.
He kissed her. His mouth tasted like her desire, musky but sweet. Slowly, he kissed his way along her jaw, his hands working their way up her back, tracing circles and abstract patterns in the lightest fairy touch to tantalize her skin.
At her neck, he grazed her flesh with his teeth, playfully nipping.
"You're cute when you lie," he breathed warm air against her dampened neck.
"...oh. Oh, goddess." Her stammering recriminations died immediately when he pulled her. The touch of his lips made her gasp softly, made her hips buck forward reflexively against his.She had thought herself exhausted, but now...her long legs were wrapped around him, pulling him closer...
It came to her like a light going off in her head.
"Now wait a fucking minute--" with sudden force, she grappled him and flipped him around so now she
was the one on top, straddling over his midriff. "--wait a fucking minute.
Damn you. Do you have any idea the situation you've put me in? I don't get attached, pirate. I take it from whoever I want, wherever I want, why...ever I want. And now I can't, because if I do...I'll never get that
again." She prodded him on the nose with one finger, in a move simultaneously aggressive and playful. "The Drow was right about you, Darius Black. You are
a selfish bastard."
"Selfish!?" He indignantly snapped at her finger, barely missing the tip. He massaged his hands over her hips, smoothing his fingers down her outer thighs. "I believe you
were the one laying on your back doing nothing for the majority of it," he teased.
"See what I mean? It's not fair. Gives you an inflated sense of your own fucking importance.
" At his touch, she revolved her hips, grinding herself against him and feelings his response. "....let's do it again."