Devotion does not remember her creation. She thinks, perhaps, it happened long ago. But it may have only been recently, as well.
Time does not always make sense to her.
She remembers being asked to take a physical form. Something pliant, and tactile, and weaponizable. He tells her that true loyalty is hard to come by, in current days. That he needs someone he can trust. But she can feel herself beginning to change, becoming something other than Devotion. She knows it is his other half attempting to quell whatever is taking root inside of her. She has begun questioning each time someone is sacrificed; Was their devotion not enough? It certainly seemed to be. Each spirit and person destroyed in shows of power and retaliation, and for what she can only find to be vanity at its roots, sending shocks of doubt through her.
Des tells her she is lucky to be given the opportunity. She supposes he must be right. Surely Desire would know better than she. And certainly her Elgar'nan would only have his peoples well being at heart. It was his devotion to them that had formed her, after all.
She agrees to take the body he has crafted for her.
Perhaps another perspective will help her to see things more clearly.
The body is a thin, but strong thing. More dramatic looking than many of the others she has seen in the floating city. There are sharp cheekbones and a pointed chin. Tanned skin and long white hair with ivy green eyes, and his markings in white adorning her face. Muscles beneath the tight fitting skin, with long fingers and legs that seem a tad too long.
Walking is very difficult, at first. But she learns quickly.
A skill that ends up benefiting her greatly, as her new body is put through its paces. She learns how to fight, and how to cast spells. She cuts her hair short when it gets in the way of her tasks and her training, and though he disapproves of the change in aesthetic, he understands why she made the choice.
Choice is new. She likes it.
They give her several weapons, teach her to use daggers and swords and bows, but in the end she prefers her bare hands, and the occasional staff. The flames feel stronger that way, and Elgar'nan approves of her choices, which is what matters in the end, she supposes.
She learns that she is to be a weapon. An extension of him, to reach where he physically can not.
There are others with the same title.
She likes the comradery that comes with them.
She likes people, she finds.
She roams the towns and greets the children and laughs with those she calls 'friend’ and discovers that some people even like her.
But it is not always in ways she approves of.
The first time someone attempts to touch her sexually without her consent, she sets them ablaze.
It feels very satisfying.
She is still young, and brought before Elgar'nan for her punishment when the incident is reported.
For a moment she wonders if perhaps he will punish her as he punishes the rest. But it seems as though her own nature will lend her a modicum of flexibility; a rare opportunity from her Lord, and not one she intends to squander.
“They attempted to sully the gift you gave me,” she explains, twisting the situation to make it seem as though it were an affront on himrather than to herself “I would not presume that merely anyone were capable of handling such a carefully crafted thing, after the effort you put in to creating it and the care we have taken to preserve and utilize it. Was I mistaken, My Lord?”
“No.” he answers immediately. He is contemplating the situation now, readjusting the information he had been given, she can see it. Perhaps she could get out of this entirely by dropping the right piece of information…?
She drops into a more formal bow, answering the questions of the event as he poses them to her, and subtly weaving in the offenders connection to a known traitor to the conversation, before she is dismissed.
By the end of the week, the offender has been killed. Apparently they had been selling secrets, and Devotion is commended for her continued loyalty to Lord Elgar'nan.
Perhaps this would be a suitable space for her within his ranks, she wonders. Ferreting out those who are not so devoted as they should be.
It is several more centuries of footwork before she is moved into that particular position, officially. He changes her name, changes her into Selene, in yet another effort to appease his wife. Some sort of moon related name, to make her appear more theirs than his. The Lady Mythal seems to be wary of Devotions shift into a soldier.
Selene thinks she is right to be wary, but keeps that particular thought tightly locked away.
She is still loyal to her Lord, still obeys his commands without question and ferrets out those whose loyalty needs to be taken into question. She goes where he sends her, and returns without complaint. She burns, and she takes vengeance where it is due in her quest to keep the people safe from outside threats.
She is a good soldier.
She reminds herself of that each time she has doubts. Writes them down, and burns the parchment.
Devotion does not doubt.
Then time passes, and Selene begins to wonder if she should. When she watches as people are killed, some of the slaughtered those who are loyal, who have done nothing truly wrong. It is not her place to judge. But there are times she wonders why it is their place.
Perhaps she needs another new perspective.
She approaches Sympathy, for advice on how to approach their Lord. Sympathy sighs and hugs Selene, and Selene does not burn them because it feels nice and she quite likes Sympathy besides. They tell her to wait until after their time together to approach him.
So she waits.
And when she asks Lord Elgar'nan if she might be permitted a change in scenery, he obliges.
Selene makes a mental note to approach Sympathy more often in the future.
He offers her leave, to take time away from her service but she is not entirely sure what she would even do without her duties. She politely requests to stay in his services, merely to be positioned somewhere else for a time, so that she may better serve him upon her return.
He agrees that the experience could be beneficial, and offers her a position to join away team he has been forming to keep an eye on his sons territories. The Lord Dirthamen.
She has seen him in passing, she supposes. As much as one can see him, beneath his cloak and his masks and the various rumors surrounding his activities and preferences.
Apparently, Elgar'nan has similar concerns. He is not entirely certain what is happening within his sons territory, and that unsettles him. Selene’s experience in seeing precisely where peoples loyalties lie should serve her well in his lands. She will remain there on a trial period, for only a decade, before returning. At that time, they will reassess where she will be best suited for a more permanent position, and if this particular itch for travel and change has been sufficiently satisfied.
She accepts, and leaves with the sun in the morning.
The trip to the designated outpost in Dirthamen’s territory takes up the majority of her day, even after utilizing the eluvians.
Not exactly a warm welcome for Elgar'nans people here, Selene supposes. Not that she can fault them for it, given that they’re here to investigate potential holes in security and dole out appropriate punishments.
She’s relieved to see Victory in the ranks, along with Eagerness and Tannyll. Familiar faces will hopefully make this a smoother transition, and it means people she can discuss her concerns with, should they arise.
Taranath is there as well, leaning against a back wall. He gives her a stiff nod, and she returns it, despite not being thrilled to see him. He’s too rough with his charges, she thinks. But if he’s here, at least he isn’t terrorizing anyone back in Elgar'nans cities, which is one less thing for her to worry about.
She reports in to Victory, who greets her with a warm handshake and informs her she’ll be bunking with Ashalin during their stay. She resists making a face at the news; she’s not particularly against blood magic, Victory’s husband is a blood mage she knows, but it can leave an awful rotting smell and Ashalin positively reeks of it at times.
Still. She has dealt with worse living conditions, and she will cope with this one as well.
She tucks her belongings unceremoniously underneath her cot and straightens the armor that had shifted during her travels, then rejoins the group in the gathering room. Victory hands out assignments for the following day; she and Eagerness will be taking layouts of the main city, Tannyll and Ashalin will comb through the Mountains, and Victory and Taranath will remain near the outpost, where they are all technically supposed to be staying, according to the written agreements between the two leaders.
Selene sighs, but doesn’t argue before she moves to help with dinner preparations. The meat smells wonderful as Eagerness spices it behind her while she mixes the Salad and ensures the potatoes cook properly.
Dinner goes smoothly, the others having been settled for a few days already and eager to begin their work. Conversation is light, Ashalin quipping as usual at Tannylls lack of table decorum. Tannyll promptly raises one large, gorilla fist up and flicks her off, stuffing a large portion of potatoes into their mouth.
Selene laughs, until Ashalin shoots her a particularly nasty glare, and moves to preoccupy herself with her own servings when she sees something move outside the window.
She stands abruptly, dismissing herself from the table and making her way outside. She turns quickly, scanning for anything potentially out of place until she sees something shift above her, in the tree. She summons a small ball of fire, ready to throw it should the creature prove a threat.
But all she sees is a bird. Large and black and staring back at her. It takes her a few moments to recognize that it is not, in fact, a normal bird, but a spirit.
“Who are you?” She calls. Wary, but not willing to act aggressively; perhaps the spirit dwells here, or is simply lost.
Its wings flutter at its side, and their head tilts before speaking a single word “Devotion.”
It’s not a question.
She nods “I was, yes. But you have me at a disadvantage, now. Who are you?”
It is silent for a moment before it answers her.
“I am Deceit.”
They are being observed themselves then, she supposes.
“Would you like to join us for dinner?” she teases. “I am not sure if you eat, but surely you would be more comfortable inside than perched on a branch in the dark of night.”
“Perhaps,” it allows. That is all they say on the matter.
Selene shrugs. They are not a threat to her at this time. Their outpost is within their territory, so it is not as though she could ask them to leave, even if she wanted them to.
“Well,” she offers, making her way back inside “We have a fire going, if you get cold.”
There is no response.
Victory eyes her curiously as she seats herself back down at the table. She gives him a dismissive wave; surely he expects they are being watched already, there is no need to alarm anyone or cause a potential confrontation.
When next she looks outside, Deceit is gone.
“Oooh, look at that! Those colors are wonderful! Selene! Selene, look, look!”
“You’re not looking!”
“I see it.”
“You do not, get your nose out of the parchment and look,” Eagerness stresses, yanking on her arm lightly.
Selene huffs and looks up at the fountain Eagerness seems so excited about. It is lovely, she supposes, glittering in a rainbow of colors from some enchantment placed over the marble. The water itself is glistening and pure, reflecting smaller rainbows onto the stones around the display in the light.
“Yes, it’s very nice,” she comments, before placing her pen back to the parchment. They are supposed to be checking for suspicious areas and noting any changes on the map they had been supplied with while disguised as middle ranking elves out for errands. Eagerness seems to treating it rather more like a field trip, though.
He peeks over her shoulder at the changes she has been marking, and points out a few addendum’s of his own.
Selene is relieved to know that he has been paying attention then, at least.
“You gotta relax, you’re waaaay too tense.” He observes, patting her twice on the shoulder.
“Likely, that is because I am working,”
“Ok, sure, but when aren’t you working?”
Selene opens her mouth for a rebuttal.
Closes her mouth.
“I suppose that’s a fair point,” she concedes.
Eagerness grins and slips his arm through hers, escorting her over to a fruit stall.
“You ever tried these?” he asks, holding up a small, red berry with seeds adorning the outside and a small tuft of greenery at the top.
“I don’t think so.” she says, glancing over the stand. She’s fairly certain she’s never tried most of these foods, come to notice. Largely she just eats whatever she’s told to, or handed.
Eagerness nods solemnly, and purchases a few small boxes of the berries, as well as an assortment of others, then bids Selene to join him on a bench near the fountain.
He takes one of the berries (“Strawberries,” he informs her) and plops it into her hand. She sniffs it before taking a small bite.
she really likes these, she thinks.
“Do we have these back home?” She asks after finishing the first one.
“We do, but they’re normally imported and used in other recipes, rather than sold alone like this. They grow best in Lady Ghilan'nains territory where it’s warmer. Lord Dirthamen’s territory is much closer to hers, so they’re easier to find. I think there may even be a few fields of them on his outskirts, but I’m not sure.”
Selene nods along, and tries a few of the other fruits Eagerness purchased. She likes them all, really, but the strawberries are certainly her favorite. She’ll have to purchase more before she goes back home at the end of her assignment.
She is licking a bit of juice off of her finger when she spies Deceit again. Selene nudges Eagerness gently on the shoulder and inclines her head towards where the spirit is flying overhead. Eagerness nods in response, and they both act as though they are not bothered when it lands before them.
Selene has learned that often times, if you act as though you are not doing anything wrong, people are more likely to believe that you are actually not breaking long held rules and laws and agreements.
She hopes that belief will still stand true here.
The spirit lands on the ground in front of them, and says in a very displeased tone “You are not supposed to be here.”
“We were all cooped up in that little outpost. Needed to stretch our legs a bit. Surely there’s no harm in that?” Eagerness pouts.
Deceit may only have a beak in their current form, but the displeasure radiating off of them is clear enough.
“We are merely doing the job we were assigned,” Selene explains “We mean no disrespect. Our purpose here is simply to learn.”
The spirits stare bores into her, but Selene does not so much as flinch. She is not lying, and she has very little to fear here.
“If it is knowledge you seek,” they reply “Then you should follow me.”
And with that, Deceit takes to the skies again.
Eagerness mutters about impatient birds interrupting meals, while tucking the fruit that he can into various pouches and quickly devouring the rest before shifting into the form of a rather large albatross and taking flight behind Deceit.
Selene follows Eagernesses lead, shifting into a white raven and joining them.
Deceits gaze flits back to her and she wishes she could smirk like this.
“Oh, did you think you were the only corvid in town?” she teases, effortlessly keeping pace with them.
“Hardly,” they respond dismissively.
Selene laughs inwardly anyways at the clear air of surprise in their aura, largely teasing and potentially flirting while questioning them throughout the journey.
When they see where Deceit has lead them, however, both Selene and Eagerness stay midair rather than landing inside of the palace.
“This is Lord Dirthamen’s castle,” Eagerness points out.
“Oh, so you are aware of landmarks here,” Deceit shoots back.
“I’m aware that we’re not supposed to be here without permission,” Eagerness says, looking at Selene for advice.
Selene just glances back at Deceit.
“We are not trying to cause a disturbance. I was being honest when I told you we meant no disrespect.”
“I am aware. You can enter for now, as guests of mine. But you must stay close.”
Eagerness still seems wary, but Selene follows closely behind Deceit; if this is a trap, it is one they have already fallen into. Better to go in with eyes open, expecting something to go South. If they miss their check-in, Victory will send word back that they have gone missing, and this will be the first place checked anyway, she supposes. Besides, she does not sense anything malicious from them. A few points of curiosity, and a touch of something else she can’t seem to place.
She shifts back into her elvhen form when she lands, glancing around at her surroundings. It is certainly…different from Elgar'nans.
It is cold, no pillars of fire anywhere. Very few murals, and the walls seem to mostly be dark, unadorned stones. The ceilings are tall and vaulted, and there is a very large chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling that looks practically unused.
She can feel Eagerness shift back behind her, uneasy and uncharacteristically ready to leave already.
Selenes gaze moves back to Deceit.
“Why have you brought us here?”
“To meet me,” booms a deep voice from a darkened shadow of the room. Eagerness drops quickly into a very formal bow.
Selene bows as well, but keeps her gaze on the moving form.
It is undoubtedly Lord Dirthamen. His mask is covering his face, as it always is. Cloak long, dark and billowing and covering every bit of skin or flesh, or whatever is beneath it, as he moves towards them.
He clears his throat and Selene resists the urge to raise an eyebrow at the awkwardness of it.
The way he gestures for them to rise doesn’t do much to change her theory that he is, perhaps, more different from his father than they had been informed.
Meaning this could either go very poorly, or very well.
Selene will take her chances, for the sake of her duty.
“Lord Dirthamen,” She nods, standing straight, arms folded behind the small of her back. “Thank you, for your hospitality.”
Eagerness gives her a sideways glance that largely screams ‘What are you doing if you get us killed I am going to be so upset with you’.
“My hospitality, I understand, is precisely what has been taken advantage of. What were you doing in my city?”
“I was making a map.” Selene tells him honestly.
“There are several maps that were provided to your party, already. Were they insufficient?”
Eagerness is practically radiating with the need to get out of this situation ASAP, and if it weren’t for the conditioning they had gone through in training, she suspects they would have done just that already. As it is, they remain still, matching her posture and trying to keep a straight face.
“…I see. My apologies, then. I will ensure that the next set is more adequate for your needs.”
“Thank you.” Selene accepts. “If that is all, we will take our leave.”
“It is not. You also have a pair traversing my mountain range, yes? Are they also making maps?”
“If I said they were, would you believe me?” Selene says without hesitation, and hears Eagerness let out a quiet panicked squeak beside her.
“Unlikely,” he allows “Are you looking for something?”
“Several somethings, in fact.”
“Perhaps I could aid you, then.”
“I imagine there are many ways you could aid me,” Selene says with a smirk, and Eagerness’s head turns so quickly Selene thinks she may have gotten whiplash from it.
It gives Lord Dirthamen pause though, which she supposes is good for maintaining the upper hand in the situation. It seems the only way to get out of here alive and unscathed, at this point.
“I…yes. Well.” he clears his throat again “Please do not cause unnecessary panic in my cities.”
“I will do my best,” she smiles with a curt nod.
There is silence then for a few minutes, while Eagerness tries to stay still and Selene maintains what she’s pretty sure is eye contact with Lord Dirthamen.
The sun is beginning to set when he remembers that he actually needs to dismiss them. Selene can see something unasked sitting upon him, words caught in his throat, but she has likely pushed enough of his buttons for one day. So when he permits them to leave, she bows before shifting back and flying out the window, Eagerness quick on her heels.
“What was that?!” He asks, once they have cleared the boundaries of the castle.
“What was what?” Selene feigns, adjusting their path to head straight back to the outpost rather than back into town. It is too late to finish the map tonight, they will have to return, or send someone else, tomorrow.
“The thing where you almost got us killed because you were too busy flirting with Lord Dirthamen and his Spirit companions.”
“He was cute.”
“HE WAS WEARING A MASK!”
“He was cute on the inside, then.” She says flippantly.
Eagerness groans. “Victory is gonna be mad.”
“Victory won’t be mad,” Selene assures him.
Victory is mad, once they report what happened and return with only a half finished map.
“Do we have any actual business in Lord Dirthamen’s castle?” She inquires. “Because if so, I’d argue we’re actually just ahead of the curve.”
“We do,” Victory sighs “But now we may have to readjust our time table.”
“Were you really expecting we could just go traipsing through here and he wouldn’t notice?”
“No, I just thought he would be distracted enough that we could get a few days in first. He normally is, and then we pay reparations and do it again.”
Selene frowns “That hardly seems fair to Lord Dirthamen.”
Victory levels a stare and a finger at her “Do not seduce an Evanuris.”
“I wasn’t going to seduce him.” Selene argues.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem to reassure Victory at all.
“Selene,” He says gravely “I know how you get. I know it’s in your nature to devote yourself entirely to a cause. But you have a cause, and you have a patron. As do we all.”
Selene pouts, but nods. He’s right, of course. But people go after more than one goal all the time. It is not as though enjoying the company of someone would go against her oaths. That’s not one of the duties she agreed to when she took her body, or her job. She is free to do so with whomever she’d like.
And it wasn’t as though he didn’t seem interested himself, if she was reading him correctly…
When she wakes the next morning, Selene finds a stack of highly rendered and detailed maps sitting upon her windowsill. She glances up at the trees, and spies a familiar looking spirit among the branches.
With a playful wink, she takes them inside and waves a polite 'thank you’.
Perhaps it would be alright to take some time for a cause of her own after all.
Selene wakes to find a single silver flower resting on her windowsill. The sound of the panel creaking open wakes Ashalin from her cot opposite Selenes, and she groans.
“Please be quieter,” she mutters, wiping a line of drool from the corner of her mouth.
“My apologies,” Selene responds, twirling the long stem between her fingers as she pulls the bloom inside. There’s no note, but a very lovely, dark ribbon is tied around it.
“You’re being courted?” Ashalin inquires, slipping her sleep shirt over her head and walking to the basin to wash off the sweat of the night.
“Mm, maybe. That would certainly be…something.”
Ashalin scoffs, wiping her face off with a rag. “Let it go for a while. You don’t need the distraction. Besides,” she smiles and walks back over towards their beds “The longer you hold out, the better the gifts get.”
“Have you considered that the person doing the courting matters more than the gifts?”
Ashalin shrugs into her undershirt “So long as they’re respectable, who cares? The point of courting is to show off your wealth. You’re cute enough, and popular enough. I could spread word around that you’re being officially courted, if you’d like. Usually more suitors will come out of the woodwork when they hear there’s competition. Just give me some of the gifts you’re less inclined to keep for yourself. We could make a pretty profit.”
“Pass, but thanks, I guess.”
Ashalin finishes fixing the last of the clasps on her armor and waves dismissively “Well, let me know if you change your mind. Don’t miss breakfast; Victory gets cranky when we don’t eat.”
Selene nods and waves as the door clicks closed behind Ashalin. She stares at the flower a bit longer, finger trailing over the ribbon and watching in wonder as the color changes beneath her touch. She takes an empty glass out of her bag and fills it with water before placing the flower inside, and near the window. She eyes the ribbon once more, before deciding to tie it around her wrist, tucked carefully beneath the sleeves of her armor.
Victory would probably just panic, if he saw it.
She doesn’t even want to think of what Taranath would say.
Breakfast is uneventful, though Selene and Eagerness are assigned to check on the validity of the maps.
They both know a punishment when they see it.
“Who even keeps flesh eating flowers?” Eagerness yells, scraping one off of his boot with his sword.
“Lord Dirthamen does, apparently.” Selene notes, safely perched on a branch; she read the map, she’s certainly not going to be walking in the space marked ‘pasture of flesh eating flowers’.
“They’re probably valuable, try not to damage them!” she jokes.
Eagerness glares up at her “Ha. Ha. Ha.” he laughs dryly. “Feel free to help!”
“I am helping. We had to verify there are flesh eating flowers here, and I can see them very clearly. My job is done.”
Eagerness grumbles before shifting and joining her in the trees. “Where to next?”
Selene hums, and opens the map, stretching her wings out behind her. “Well, it looks like there’s Varterral to the East, a dragons nest to the South, and …This just says ‘hole of nothingness’. Do you think that means there’s a hole with nothing in it, or is it a hole that turns things into nothing?”
“Maybe it’s just a name?”
“Do you think we’re that lucky?”
Eagerness sighs “No, I don’t.”
Selene nods. “Right. Hole of Nothingness it is.”
It turns out to be a large hole in the side of a cliff that turns things into nothing, but only if it falls in.
Selene and Eagerness definitely didn’t spend an hour tossing rocks and plant life and spells in to test this theory.
Especially if Victory asks.
The dragons nest is not a fun trip, at all.
Selene is very disappointed, because it is her first dragon encounter and she thought it would be a spiritual encounter, where she looks into the creatures eyes and sees herself reflected and connects with it and comes out of it with a richer appreciation for life.
Mostly she just comes out of it with a lot of burns, blood, and ringing ears. She had no idea they could screech like that.
She makes a mental note to not try and pet the dragonling, next time. Eagerness had egged her on though, so they agree to share the blame.
At least they can confirm that yes, there is definitely an active nest there at this time.
Selene and Eagerness glance nervously at the map;
The Varterrals are next.
The poison takes them by surprise.
Thankfully, Selenes gauntlets are thick enough to keep it from hitting her skin directly, and she tears it off immediately, while the spit venom eats through the enchanted metal.
Yep, Varterrals are definitely here, she thinks, watching it rear back and hiss.
“We need to get out of here!” Selene calls, and Eagerness just gives her a look of 'No, really?’, still holding his shield up between himself and the creature and trying to stay very, very still.
Selene bites down on her bottom lip, trying to recall what she knows of the creatures; They aren’t supposed to attack elves unless it’s in self defense (and she can’t really blame it for thinking they smell different than the other elves it may have encountered), they hunt via vibrations in the ground, they’re fast, they have a strong sense of smell, and typically their only contenders in the wild are dragons, and even then it’s a close fight.
Right. Fantastic odds then, she thinks bitterly.
“When I go, you run,” She orders. Eagerness blinks, and Selene is off, leaping towards the giant, wooden, poison spitting spider. She summons fire to one hand and ice to the other, freezing the poison as it spits it at her before blasting a fireball directly at the creatures face.
It screams, and Selene winces at the sound, ears still sensitive from the dragons earlier as she rolls onto its head and nearly topples down the length of its neck. She catches herself with her legs, wrapping beneath what she assumes is its closest equivalent to a chin, and quickly rights herself up, arms wrapping around the creatures neck.
It pauses, then, and Selene wonders if this is actually how she’s going to die.
But it sniffs deeply at the air, twice, before, she would swear, it coos, and settles.
Selene blinks, and wonders if perhaps she already died and simply missed the experience.
This would be a very strange afterlife, if such a thing exists.
Her eyes drift, and settle on the glowing, newly exposed ribbon tied around her wrist.
Well. That certainly settles any doubts she had on who had sent her the flower. She’ll have to find an appropriate way to thank Lord Dirthamen for saving her life.
For now, she just really wants to get out of the area before the Varterrals sudden good mood dissipates.
Quickly and carefully as she is able, Selene hops down from the creature, landing safely on the ground, and heading towards the direction she saw Eagerness move.
She finds him hunched down, electricity coursing through his sword as though he had been planning to go and save her (and that’s very sweet, she thinks, but also very very stupid) and blinking in awe.
“How did you do that?” He asks.
“Luck and love,” she grins.
“Hm. I suppose it’s a Secret, then.” she laughs, patting him on the back. He gives her a quizzical look and she shakes her head “It’s just-that was very clever wordplay, if you knew.”
“Sure. Can we go back to the bunker? I think Dragons and Varterrals are quite enough for one day.”
Selene easily agrees, and they fly back to the Outpost as promptly as they can manage.
Victory is pleased with their progress, at least. That’s…pretty much the only upside Selene has found so far.
She groans, aching muscles coming to life as she settles into a tub and activates the heating rune.
She’ll need to pace the rest of the checkpoints better, she thinks. Scraping at the dried blood and healing over the worst of the wounds from the fights, Selene makes a mental schedule for the rest of the week that will hopefully be less life-threatening.
Ashalin isn’t present when Selene comes out of the bath, but she doesn’t say anything. It’s not unusual for the other woman to share a bed with Taranath when she’s stressed or bored, and Selenes certainly not going to complain about getting her own room for the night.
She snags her sleep shirt out from under her pillow and slips it on before she hears a soft ’tap tap tap’ from the window.
“Decide to come in from the cold, Deceit?” She jokes, opening the glass panel.
“No,” The spirit replies before tilting its head “Why were you bothering the Varterrals today?”
“I wasn’t-Well, I suppose we were. I was simply verifying the maps accuracy.”
“And the dragons?”
“The same. The hole as well, if you were going to ask.”
Deceit seems to ponder her words for a moment.
“So we gave you a detailed map marking the most dangerous places in the territory, and you decided to visit them all?”
“I had to verify the maps were accurate. It’s my job, and my position currently is 'in charge of maps’.”
“Perhaps you should be given a more suitable position, then.”
Selene grins “Oh, did you have a particular position for me in mind?”
Deceit pauses, and she wonders for a moment if spirits of Deceit can blush.
“Elgar'nan has been pushing to have a Peacekeeper presence closer to us. Perhaps a position could be made, on a trial basis. If there were someone suitable for it.”
“You find me suitable for the position, then?” Selene purrs.
“That is-…I do not think you would be unsuited for it.”
Selene hums, and fiddles with the ribbon still tied to her wrist. “Well, I’m sure I could find a way to settle into whatever position you permit to me.”
“I will inform Victory, then,” Deceit manages before flitting off to, no doubt, have a conversation with a soon to be very mad at her Victory.
Deceit is waiting for Selene at the outpost in the morning. She bows, respectfully, and greets them with the necessary formality for their station, while the rest of the Peacekeepers stand at attention behind her. Deceit acknowledges her, and together, they fly off towards Lord Dirthamens castle.
Selene is trying to contain her giddiness.
Personal feelings aside, this will be the closest a Peacekeeper has ever gotten to Lord Dirthamen, and the first time one has been invited to remain at his side. It is, truly, an honor.
And perhaps also a bit nerve wracking.
But she finds the job to be surprisingly…lax.
Of course Lord Dirthamen gives off the air of being unapproachable and mysterious but the amount of time she’s been spending at his side has been decidedly comfortable. Several weeks go by of the same schedule; she leaves for his castle with the sunrise, follows him throughout the day, and spends most of the nights back with the others in the outpost. The conversation has been good though and she’s come to discover he does actually have a sense of humor, albeit a dry one. There have been rumors of a danger to him, though. Whispers in the halls, but nothing he hasn’t been noting himself.
She’s beginning to wonder if he hadn’t given her this position to keep her safe, rather than the other way around.
She should probably be insulted.
Elgar'nan certainly will be, if he gets wind of it.
But as she shares meals with him, and spends more time at his side, seeing the differences in his own rule versus that of his father, she comes to find him…endearing, maybe? Adorable, though she shouldn’t say as much.
He does require a bit of prodding though, she’s noticed. Occasionally he’ll get swept away by a thought and forget to resolve a previous matter that should require more urgency. Selene is learning, however. Finding patterns in his thoughts that she can navigate to bring him back to the issues at hand.
His brother is…more like their father, she discovers. He stops by one day, briefly, to complain about some shipment or other that had been misplaced (Though when Selene looks into it, the contents of the boxes had been contraband that should not have been permitted into Lord Falon'Dins lands in the first place, and she suspects he was more concerned with the thought of being discovered than at the actual loss. She tucks that bit of information away, however. In case she needs it later). He takes several moments to notice her presence, all but freezing in his tirade to rake his gaze up and down her body in a way that makes her skin crawl.
“Where did you find this thing?” he asks Dirthamen as though Selene were not physically present.
She has been trained well enough to know not to speak out, but the urge is still there, boiling beneath her skin.
“She is a Peacekeeper.” Dirthamen offers.
“Well, obviously,” Falon'din tsks. “What is she doing here?”
“Protecting me,” Dirthamen points out, as though it should be obvious.
Falon'din laughs at that “As though you would need protecting. Come now, what are you really using her for, hm? Attempting to appease father, perhaps? I can not imagine any other reason you would taint yourself with her stench.”
Selene steels her face, and withholds her comments as Falon'din steps closer to her. His gold baubles clack against hanging bones with each step, and his hands are calloused and rough and she can smell the blood on them as he wraps one around her neck.
She does not flinch.
She does pick up on Lord Dirthamens sudden unease, however.
“Perhaps I will use her to appease father as well,” Falon'din muses. His thumb rubs over the pulse point in her neck, before his hands lift her chin and he meets her eyes with a look that makes her stomach roil “When my brother has grown tired and weary of you, and he will, perhaps I will show you what a true ruler is like, hm?”
“I have spent several centuries in service to my Lord Elgar'nan. I am well aware of what true rulers are like.” She does not mention that he bears no resemblance to one, nor does she bring up that as Devotion, there was a reason she never paid his lands a visit.
Her statement gives him enough reason to consider himself, before speaking again at least. Unruly and cruel, perhaps. But he is smart enough to know that insulting Lord Elgar'nan to one of his peacekeepers will bring him nothing but grief, and issues he surely would rather avoid.
He tsks, and his hand drops back down to tighten around her throat anyways, lifting her slightly off the ground “Disrespectful little-”
“Brother,” Lord Dirthamen interrupts “Perhaps you would feel more at ease if we spoke in private?”
Selenes gaze shifts to Dirthamen, as Falon'din drops her and follows his brother further into the recesses of his office. Selene glares at the door as it closes, and wonders on the likelihood that the rumored threat comes from Falon'dins own lands.
But she knows her place well enough. Has had it drilled and forced into her, and despite the sense of ease she feels around Lord Dirthamen she knows it is temporary. She is here to do a job, after all.
She reminds herself of this, while she stands guard, and waits for the brothers to come back from their meeting.
Eventually, Lord Dirthamen emerges alone, informing her that Lord Falon'din had gone back to his own territories through a private Eluvian.
Selene is more concerned with the worn down state of the man before her though, rather than the one who had seemed eager to kill her.
“Are you alright?” She asks, following him to his quarters.
“I will be fine,” he assures her. “Would it be possible for you to stay in residence here for the night, rather than returning to the others? Several nights, perhaps?”
Selene stops, and raises an eyebrow “Why?”
“It would be…safer.”
He doesn’t answer right away and his hesitation gives her all the answers she needs.
“I see.” She sighs. “Will they be in any danger?”
“Not if you remain here, no. I suspect any attempts will be made on you, directly.”
“Then it would be safer for you if I left.”
He pauses, and Selene is fairly certain she hears the sound of feathers rustling, but can find neither Deceit nor Fear nearby.
“I am in no danger from my brother,” he assures her “And there is little his people could do within my home.”
“Dirthamen, my duty is to keep you safe. If my presence here endangers you, I must leave.”
“Please stay,” he whispers.
Selene blinks, back straightening “You-you don’t have to ask, you know. You could command me to stay, if you truly do not want me to leave.”
“I do not wish to command you to do anything. Certainly not to do anything you do not want to.”
Selene laughs, at that. Perhaps a bit louder than she meant to, even.
“Have I made a joke?” He inquires, and Selene shakes her head while attempting to catch her breath.
“No, my Lord. I suppose not. It’s just…I think you are the first person to ever have the power to command me, and turn it down. It’s…refreshing. Thank you. Truly.”
“Then you will stay?” he ventures.
Selene nods and steps forward, lacing her fingers through his. “There are few things I’d like more.”
Dirthamen ends up inviting her to stay in his own chambers, and, well. Selene certainly isn’t going to turn down that opportunity. She sheds her armor, and changes into a dark robe he provides for her. The material is very fine, and the way it falls over her is very flattering.
It is unlikely a chance like this will arise again, so she decides to seize upon it.
Selene hums quietly to herself, before sitting carefully on the edge of Dirthamens bed. She waits, patiently, while he finishes up whatever task he is currently focused on.
“So,” She starts, uncrossing her legs “I like you.”
He freezes, a large note of shock entering his aura before swiftly being dismissed.
“Thank you,” he responds.
Selene smiles, standing and carefully flattening out the newly formed wrinkles in the borrowed fabric “Do you like me?”
“Yes,” he nods.
She takes a step towards him, maintaining their eye contact as she moves. “Would you like to have sex?”
“Yes,” he nods again. “If you would.”
And though he doesn’t move to meet her as she strides across the room, neither does he shy away from her touch. Careful, slow. She starts with his hands. Long, slender fingers hidden under soft fabrics. Selene wonders, as her skin glides over the cloth what precisely he seems so determined to hide. Gently, she slides the garment off of him, revealing dark, starlight strewn skin underneath. Her breath catches for a moment at the sight of it, and she pauses.
Dirthamens aura begins to tint with worry in her hesitation. She gently tugs his hand to her mouth, placing gentle kisses atop each of his fingers in reassurance.
Carefully, she places his hand on her shoulder as she steps closer. Her own hands trail up his chest, finding the seams in his cloak and sliding it off of his shoulders, glancing up at him to ensure he is comfortable with her actions.
He makes no move to stop her as she allows the fabric to slump to the ground, revealing yet more fabric underneath. She raises an eyebrow at him skeptically, but makes her way through the various layers patiently, ensuring with the removal of each one that he is still comfortable, and willing. Clasps click open until she reaches what she supposes must be the final layer, an enchantment placed over it to ensure it remains.
“I suppose we could have sex with you wearing this, but I assure you it would be better without,” she teases.
He swallows, and with a brush of his hands the buttons open in short order. She pulls it away from his skin, and watches in wonder at the reveal of more dark, glittering skin and a pair of large black feathered wings sprouting from his back. For a moment, she wonders why he would hide something this beautiful. But she has seen beauty, before. Hidden in chains and cages and locked away to hoard or tarnish. Perhaps his layers are simply his own form of armor. He would hardly be the first to do so.
She trails one hand carefully down his chest, enjoying the way he seems to arch into her touch and wonders how long it has been since he was touched like this.
She will have to make it worth the wait, Selene supposes.
She links her hand through his, lifting it once again to her mouth and placing soft, reverent kisses to his knuckles as she leads him to his bed.
“Do you have a particular position you need to be in to enjoy yourself?” She checks. His head shakes, and he follows her guidance until he is lounging on his bed, long hair draped over pillows and the stars in his skin in stark contrast to his sheets.
He is stunning, she thinks.
She shares her thoughts as she positions herself above him, supporting herself with thighs placed carefully on either side of his hips. He swallows at the compliment, and she notes the skepticism leaking into his aura, and, Oh, he thinks she is lying. Placating him, and telling him only what he wishes to hear.
That won’t do.
She’ll just have to show him her sincerity through actions.
Selene leans down, and, starting at his navel, kisses each and every star she can find.
She goes slowly, no need to rush. Her fingers trail lightly over skin, swirling over nebula’s and twitching muscles underneath. His breath begins to pick up, but her pace does not. As she reaches his shoulders, her hands begin to work their way through his wings, soft feathers relaxed and pliant beneath her touch. She trails her teeth slowly up his jawline, placing a soft kiss on the space behind his ear and feels a warm glow of satisfaction as his whole body actually lights up in response.
That is certainly reassuring.
Her fingers catch up to her face, still kissing and toying with the skin of his ears until they find the edges of his mask.
“May I remove this?” She asks. He could say no, and she wouldn’t press the matter despite her curiosity.
But he pulls it away himself, instead, placing it gently down on the table beside his bed.
She is staring.
She’s not trying to.
“Is something wrong?” he asks, concerned again.
“You’re…I think you are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” she stumbles, entirely sincere. He seems to believe her this time, at least, and squirms beneath her. And yes, he may have a few more eyes than the average elf, but they suit him.
She leans down again, lips pressed to lips and oh. She feels the shock, the connection, instantly. Her lips press more insistently against his own, and she nips at his bottom lip when it slips between hers and it seems to remind him that sex is traditionally a two way street. His arms lift, slipping and pulling away the robe he had lent her, leaving her bare above him while his hands explore the skin of her back. Tracing over scars and brands and working through knotted muscles. She groans as he releases one just above her shoulder blades and nearly collapses onto him with the relief of it. It has been too long since she has found a release like this, she thinks.
They spend several minutes just pressing as close to each other as they can manage. Lips against lips, breaths shared and bodies entwined. Selenes hands slip down, down and down until she finds his sex, wet and open and slides back down his body, kissing another trail through the stars as she goes.
He whimpers slightly at the loss of her above him, but gasps when her tongue slips between his folds. Her hands lift his hips with ease, giving her a better angle as she laps him up, reveling in the noises he makes and the way his skin shifts and lights up beneath her touch.
His hand brushes through her hair and over her scalp soothingly, and she hums against his clit in pleasure which sends him thrumming again.
“Devotion,” he pants, and it gives her pause. She lifts her head slightly and he looks at her apologetically.
“I don’t mind,” she reassures him. “If you would rather call me that here, I don’t find it off-putting.”
Quite the opposite, in fact. She still misses her days as a spirit, as they fall farther away from her, but to say as much would be seen as treasonous, and ungrateful.
Dirthamen just nods in thanks and understanding, hand gently tugging her face closer to his own as he kisses her again. She relaxes into it, moving back up his body, chest pressed against his own as he shifts his form again and carefully lines his sex up with hers. She pulls back from the kiss just enough to lift her hips and allow him access, forehead pressed to his as she slowly lowers herself onto him. She could probably have done with a bit more prep, she supposes, but she adjusts quickly enough and moves slowly enough and is certainly more than aroused enough that she’s not in any pain. She breathes out as she hilts him fully, and smiles at him.
“Alright?” she checks.
He swallows and nods, and she sees something familiar growing in him beneath his eyes. Something she should put an end to, but she can’t. So she moves, instead, carefully rolling her hips against his as his arms and wings wrap around her. Once they both seem settled into the rhythm of things, she begins to lift herself more, lips brushing against his own, his cheeks, his ears. Her touch roving over whatever skin she can touch, as his own hands do the same. The two of them desperate for it, for each other, as they slowly grow to release, moans of promises, and love and devotion and other things they should never say aloud. But honest, and true, and it sends her over the edge as she tenses around him, hands scraping just slightly at his shoulders with the strength of it and she calls out his name before she can catch herself. Panting and sated, she presses her mouth against his, soft and lazy as she continues rolling against him, feeling him tense beneath her, scared of finding his own release.
“I’ve got you,” she vows, hands soothing over his wings and his skin “Whatever happens, I’ve got you. You’re safe, I promise.”
It is enough to send him over his own edge as he glows, brilliantly bright, and she holds him tightly to her as she promised while he goes lax beneath her, panting and spent and tired. She kisses over his forehead and the bridge of his nose. Down the line of his jaw as she carefully lifts herself off of him to lay beside him, keeping some form of physical contact at all time.
His fingers lace through hers and he pulls her gently towards him until her head is nestled beneath his own and over his chest.
“Thank you,” he whispers.
She smiles, and squeezes his hand reassuringly “Anytime.”
It has been a long day.
Dirthamen has spent the better part of the week in council with the other leaders, though today was, by far, the most bracing of meetings. Elgar’nan has been displeased of late, and prone to taking his frustrations out on a variety of targets. The first few days, June was subjected to the brunt of his displeasure, and then yesterday, it was Falon’Din. And now today, it has been Dirthamen, mostly by way of association, it would seem.
The morning was filled with confusing diatribes and conflicting forces, and the afternoon with bracing social interactions which his mother encouraged him to attend in full. Dirthamen is exhausted, in the aftermath, and disjointed. Fear and Deceit have been handling matters back in his territory, but their voices are beginning to conflict in his senses. He retires to the chambers afforded to him in Elgar’nan’s city holdings, and takes off his mask only to find that much of the rest of his self-orientation slips away with it. When he falls into the chair, unravels, sending tendrils of himself spilling across the floor. Feathers and scales shifting around distorted shadows.
He tips his head back, and his hair drips down, as he turns his gaze towards the ceiling. To the decorative mosaics arranged across it, in likeness of him; though he does not feel much like the figure he sees there.
He loses some time, and so is not certain of how much passes, before a different face fills his vision.
Dirthamen is not entirely certain that he still has a lap. But somehow, Selene settles into it anyway, peering back down at him, and resting her hands against him. He tries to reach back for her. But he has misplaced the concept of arms, for the moment, and so he mostly ends up wrapping her in shuddering tendrils of darkness instead.
If she minds the difference, she does not show it.
“That bad, huh?” she asks him.
Dirthamen closes his eyes, and vibrates a little in confirmation. Letting his aura convey more than his words could. He has a mouth, it seems, and something of a face, as Selene strokes a hand down his cheek, and then leans in. Her lips brush over his own. Solid, slightly salty, and grounding. Dirthamen had grown cold without realizing it; her mouth is almost too warm, and it makes his lips sting, just a little. Or perhaps that is his effort to recollect the right shape. But it is much easier, with hers moving against his.
He closes most of his eyes, and solidifies an arm or two around her. And now her warmth just feels pleasant, almost intoxicating, as he remembers a little bit more of what he - generally - should be.
Selene traces her touch across his features, and offers him a smile.
“There you go,” she says, gently.
Dirthamen lets his gratitude and relief sink into the air, before he inches forwards, a little, and kisses her again.
The journey through the crossroads felt excruciatingly long this time. Selene’s armor was heavy on her frame, boots dragging with each step over the stone walkway. The burns on her skin still warm, despite the hours it had been since Lord Elgar'nan felt satisfied. Since his concerns that her loyalty was swaying had been assuaged by Sympathy.
The possibility of children was brought up, and his countenance had shifted almost immediately as he swept her up in his arms, talking about fertility rituals and adjusting the troops work schedule to accommodate a new addition to his family.
She’d almost rather face the flames than have to explain the situation to Dirthamen now.
But as she steps ever closer to his castle, she straightens, forcing herself to tuck away any lingering pieces of fatigue and pain deep enough inside herself so that it will not be obvious, at least.
Deceit greets her near the entryway, and leads her to a side door closer to their chambers. The sun is setting already, and while he is expecting her presence, Dirthamen is still caught up in other responsibilities. Selene doesn’t mind though. She thanks Deceit as she carefully drops her bag beside the doorway and they fly off, the door shutting behind them.
She takes a moment to look around, rearranging the pillows and straightening out the sheets. She peels her armor off, groaning with the relief of the absent weight and the cool air on her skin as she makes her way to his private bath.
He has never complained on nights when she smelled of sweat and work, but she’d prefer to rinse off the day all the same.
She lets the water run (colder than usual, to try and cool her skin) and peruses his supplies of the day. Shampoo and conditioners and oil for hair, so he’s likely worn it long this week. The wax for his wings is missing, so those are probably tucked away, but the lotion for his scales is out so not entirely elvhen beneath the cloak and mask. She carefully carries over the conditioner and her favorite soap, shopping briefly through his cabinet for a burn salve before finally stepping into the tub.
The water is a wonderful relief as she sinks into it, letting out a long sigh and stretching her legs out in the large basin. Washing is quick, a moment to let the lather soak into her hair before she submerges herself to rinse. There are many perks to her growing relationship with Lord Dirthamen, most of which are non-materialistic; but having a private bath to relax in is towards the top of her list, she’ll admit.
The burn salve soothes her skin as she rubs it into her arms and over her neck and shoulders, relaxing against the edge of the tub while she waits for her skin to absorb it. Selene is not sure how long she must have relaxed for, but when her eyes reopen, Dirthamen is circling the edge of the bath.
She was right, she thinks proudly; his hair is long, dragging down to the floor as he carefully moves around the edge, and the exposed skin as he takes off his mask and cloak and the various layers beneath has a scaled texture to it. Four eyes blink at her, as he notices her noticing him.
“I hope you do not mind,” he says “I thought it might be pleasant to join you.”
Selene smiles, tucking her legs beneath herself and gesturing to the other side of the tub. “What’s mine is yours.” she offers.
He nods in thanks, sliding into the water. She watches as his form relaxes into the fluidity of the water, and he lets out a relieved sigh of his own.
“Long day?” She asks.
“You have been injured.” he avoids.
“Barely.” She shrugs. In truth, the flames are far from the worst of the punishments, and there is unlikely to be any permanent damage anyway.
One of his eyes opens in a way that clearly conveys his disbelief in her reassurances, but he doesn’t push the subject. Selene is always grateful, for that.
She slinks forward in the tub, careful to ensure that he’s alright with her moving into his space. Some days he enjoys having her near him, but physical contact is more than he can handle. While she has gotten better at reading his moods, she still misreads him on occasion and doesn’t want to add any more stress to him than he already seems to be carrying. But as she moves closer, his arms wrap around her, hair parting slightly as it floats on the water and opens a path directly to him.
With a soft sigh, she moves into his lap, carefully wrapping her own arms over his shoulders. His chest rumbles slightly with a quiet contended purr as he pulls her just a little closer. Selene slides her mouth over his, and the two of them visibly relax into the bath. His hand glides carefully over her back as he lets his eyes fully close, gently returning her affections. It is languid, and warm, and the day and world seem to melt away as their lips move against one another. It is a long kiss, several minutes passing while they carefully touch, reaffirming their emotions for each other without either side pushing for more. Content in the moment with only each other.
When they finally do pull back, it is only to give enough room to breathe. Their foreheads are gently pressed against one another, and Selene feels Dirthamens eyes peering at her before she opens her own.
“You told my father we were having children?” He finally says, without any anger or accusation in his tone.
“Technically…” She evades “Someone else said that. And really, they only suggested it.”
“But you did not deny the suggestion.”
Selene winces slightly in memory. “The moment was…complicated?”
Dirthamen stares at her for a few moments, and she can see several thoughts running through his mind while she waits and hopes he is not about to punish her himself for not immediately dismissing such a possibility.
“…We can discuss it later.” he finally sighs.
Selene offers him an uneasy smile; a better outcome than she had hoped for, really. He hasn’t kicked her out or anything. Yet.
“Whatever you’d like,” She agrees, moving to lay a string off light kisses over the length of his neck. “'Later’ can even be as vague as you want it to be.”
He shifts slightly beneath her, readjusting to allow her more space as she moves over him.
“Perhaps not too much later,” she thinks she hears him mumble. She glances up at him curiously, but he does not say another word on the subject that night.
Which is fine by her, really. She is in no rush to bear or raise children, so there is no pressure to have that conversation now.
There is plenty of time still ahead for them.
When Elgar'nan arrives in the morning with a gaggle of followers ready to perform a fertility ritual however, she realizes time may not be a luxury they have after all.
Dirthamen groans and seals the doors shut in response, dragging Selene back beneath the sheets as they try to block out the encouraging cries of his father on the other side of the doors.