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Sometimes she asks him whether he wants her to wear a different face, just for a little variety. "Don't you get tired of the same old thing, my lord?" she asks.

Of course he doesn't, and he tells her as much every time. She's willing to admit to herself that she might be asking him that just so he can say no and make her feel good about what she can give him. As long as he says no, that must mean he wants to keep her.

She very much wants to be kept. She's still worth something then. She still pleases her lord. She's not a burden on him, but a valued asset- a partner, maybe? When she was very young, she would never have dreamed of that- but she didn't dream of much in those days, except for the pleasure and pain of her collar, and the things it told her that she believed. (That she sometimes thinks she still believes. She's not sure. The question is almost more interesting than some of the games she and her lord like to play when they have time.)

"How did anyone name a treasure like you Odiana?" he asks her one night, lying beside her in the bed they've appropriated from its former holder. The former owner is in no condition to complain about what they've done with it, and what she plans to do with it after a few moments to get her breath back. "Hated, despised, everything you're not."

"Except to our enemies, my lord. They don't like us very much. I suppose I wouldn't like us either. They don't have our sense of fun." She laughs and burrows against him, her nails catching against his scars and the sleek muscle he's built over the years as the greatest swordsman in all of Alera. Strong. Fast. Able to take all she can give and more.

She's no more capable of leaving him as she is of taking flight without a fury to aid her, and the helplessness of it thrills her so much that she can no longer resist the needs and instincts trained so carefully into her. With a little growl, she throws herself into him, and she gives him everything she can, and he takes it and does something she has learned how to handle from him.

He gives her his love, and she accepts it with wild passion. She can craft the wounds closed later if he wants it.

 

Trouble's coming for them, she can sense from her favorite seat on her lord's lap. She doesn't say anything. If they're really troublesome, they'll come bother her lord, and she'll move slightly out of his way so he can take out his sword and deal with them. If not, they'll have their usual fun with the other people in the tavern. They're really not supposed to do this anymore- something about the First Lord valuing the lives of all his subjects or some such sentimental nonsense- but her lord will show her a good time no matter what it takes.

A surge of excitement wells up from him, and she knows that he knows that they're there. She can feel his awareness of the metal swords they carry, like a buzz at the back of her mind. It's not as interesting as some of the other things she hears, but she doesn't mind. "Do you think they would want to dance with us?" she asks, her eyes sparkling and the color high in her pale cheeks.

"I don't know, but if you'd like me to ask..." He doesn't quite smile, but he doesn't have to, and she likes it better when he doesn't. That way, she's the only one who knows what's in his mind.

She moves gracefully out of his way, taking her favorite position behind him, at his shoulder, so that everyone can see where she is, just in case they don't understand the kind of trouble they've gotten into. It's the kind of trouble most people don't walk away from- but then, those who come looking for Aldrick ex Gladius are generally looking for that kind of trouble.

"We'd like to be left alone," her lord says to the group of strangers. "If you value keeping your skin in one piece, you'll do so."

"Come now, my lord, must you be so discourteous? If they'd like to join us for a little dance, I wouldn't mind," she says, and she hears the excitement in her voice, but the others don't seem to. She's not surprised. She hears a lot of things she doesn't think other people do, if she were to guess from their reactions.

"Were you the ones at the steadholt down the road?" the leader of the group asks. Anger and disgust waft off him like a whore's perfume, cloying and almost sweet. She keeps the smile on her face to throw him off a little bit more, and the emotion coming from him is stronger with every moment, mixed and confused. She savors it with bright eyes and a need that grows stronger by the second.

"We needed a place to sleep. There was no one to object to us sleeping there."

"Or doing other things there," she adds with a smile. Her earthcraft isn't much, and she wouldn't waste it on this lout anyway, but some women don't need earthcraft to hold a man's eyes. With the ease born of long practice, she adds, "Well, there was that one old man who thought we shouldn't have done that, but my lord quieted him quickly enough. I felt him watching us afterwards. It wasn't very pleasant."

"And the woman," her lord reminds her.

"She shouldn't have surprised you like that," she agrees. "And the other man was in our way. I think that's all of them. Do you remember any others?"

"No," her lord says. "Might have forgotten a couple, though."

"Monsters!" the leader of the little group says, and he charges at them with a sword, which is such a stupid thing to do that she almost regrets the time her lord wastes unsheathing his sword and running the idiot through- almost, but for the thrill she feels as the idiot's blood runs like water, dripping into a ruby puddle on the floor. For some reason this infuriates the other members of the group, and they rush at her lord with sword and fury alike. The faint outlines of wings surround the one on the right as he comes with a wind fury, and the one on the left hums with the power of his metalcrafting.

But there is no better swordsman in Alera than her lord, Aldrick ex Gladius, Aldrick of the sword, and these two are just the latest fools to realize it. She doesn't need to do anything to distract them as her lord takes them down with four swift cuts. She watches, her eyes growing wider, and as the last one falls, she pushes her lord against the table and kisses him breathless. Her body quivers with the hope that he'll throw her on the table and have at her in front of the few people who remain after that little incident.

He grabs her around the waist and holds her tight. "Somewhere more comfortable?" he asks.

The old patterns slip back into place, and she breathes in his ear, "If you want to. Here is good. There is good. Wherever you like is good."

There are few people left to watch them, but let them stare anyway. She lets him guide her away from their prying eyes, indifferent to their interest or disinterest. She is her lord's treasure, and he is her lord, and there is no force in Alera that can keep them from each other- no cutter, no legion, no crafter, not even the Great Furies.