The battle at Lat Mere couldn’t have gotten much worse than it was. Shadow Lord Aeraph Reand traveled through the Black Veil to Thaimar Fortress in sour fit of disappointment. Disappointment that Hoghook Valley farm boy continued to be alive despite all attempts to kill him. Disappointment that Laklai, the Diabolist, was currently in coma fighting against a host of her demons; who thought her body was the perfect place to hide from the Hoghook wretch’s celestial servants. Disappointment in the loss of so much ground, which drove a wedge into their land.
Leaving Cheas Thosseth and Kaelel Nierli with the remainder of the army at Lat Mere didn’t bother him as much. Laklai’s soul would be devoured by the host inside her if she wasn’t seen by a healer skilled in treating such spiritual ills. All such healers with them at Lat Mere were dead or captured, but in a rare stroke of luck the most skilled healer among their forces was with the garrison at Thaimar Fortress.
Reand and the small host helping him bring Laklai back left the Black Veil within the walls of the fortress. The garrison was beyond being startled seeing riders burst from shadows and the empty expanses of the Black Veil was soon replaced by the controlled chaos of stablehands, sergeants and stewards getting the host settled into the fortress. Once Laklai was settled in her chambers with the healer, Reand gently shrugged off the requests for news and what m’lord would like. He prowled past his own chambers, which part of him insisted he should barricade himself in for a little while to cool down, and found himself outside the room that served as a makeshift cell for the captive Princess Mairrin.
This wasn’t the first time Reand found himself there while he was at Thaimar. Capturing her was a strategic move on their part, since all signs both prophetic and political in nature seemed to cast her as a pillar keeping The Age of the Immaculate going. Keeping her alive, with rumours of her being sighted at every possible place under their control kept the King’s men distracted with rescue attempts. She was hardly guilty of any actual wrong against Reand and his cohorts, and there were no objections against him setting her up in a comfortable cell and appointing living and shadow guards over her. She didn’t like hearing about what was going on outside the fortress and Reand didn’t want anything to do with the events going on in or outside of it.
The guards at the door eyed Reand warily when he swept over to her door, so he stopped a few paces away from it. He didn’t want to scare her, so he took a few deep breaths and watched the guards. Once they didn’t look so worried he lifted the bar on the door and walked into her room. It was empty, the door to the gardens cracked ever so slightly. So he slipped out, looking over the grounds for any sign of her.
The trees in the garden’s orchard were bare and there were a few inches of snow covering the ground, so her champagne coloured cloak with dark pink embroidery wasn’t hard to spot. She sat near the edge of the pond with her back to him. Life in her castle never required developing hearing any sharper than listening for whispers across rooms and through doors, so Reand made as much of a racket as he could as he walked over to her. Her shoulders tensed up as he got closer.
“What are you doing out here Mairrin?” he asked, forcing a little grin across his face.
Her brown curls whipped out around her shoulder when she looked back at him. The uncertainty on her face soon replaced with a little blush and downcast eyes. “Enjoying the snow, Lord Reand.”
“Aeraph,” he insisted, sitting next to her and stretching his legs out in front of him, which earned a little whimper of protest from Mairrin. He pulled his legs back and leaned forward to discover the remains of what must have been two tiny snowmen. Their stick arms askew and stone decorated heads smushed from his boots. A few intact brethren stood in a line with them. He sighed and leaned over to rest his head on her lap, looking up at her big grey eyes as the living shadow he set inside her own writhed in acknowledgement of his closeness. “I’m sorry m’lady. I’ve destroyed part of your army.”
Mairrin’s eyes darted over to the ruined snowmen. “They’re just snowmen.” She looked down at him briefly and then inspected the ones that survived his boots. “It’s all I know how to make in the snow.”
“Other than snowballs, I imagine.” He raised an eyebrow and the corner of his lips.
She gave him a light smack on the forehead. “No,” her eyes flicked to the shadow, to the snowmen and then back to him, and she whispered, her eyes darting from him to the snowmen. “I’m a witch and I called them into being.” She peeled off her gloves, stuck them in a pocket of her cloak, raised her hands, curling them into hooks and waved them out over the snowmen.
He indulged her and looked out at the line of snowmen. No new snowmen sprouted up with them and the ones he destroyed remained little piles of snow, stick and stone. “How long does it take?”
The question earned him a little sniff of contempt and a tossed head from Mairrin. “I used all my power to raise these. I’m no grand sorcerer.”
“Do you need a mentor to teach you m’lady?”
Mairrin put her hands down and looked away, her hair shielding her face and her shoulders shrank a little. Aside from a Celestial Contract, magic was forbidden to the people of her Kingdom. Anyone that practiced a different art considered twisted and unright in the head.
For a brief moment, Reand felt sorry for her, giving up on those long held beliefs with every kind word and action from him. Nearly as quick as the thought came on him, he cast it aside. Change meant twisting a few minds into new ways of thinking. He reached up and brushed a few fingers under her chin, drawing her face back down to him. “Perhaps I could show you something else?”
She kept her eyes on the snow. “Like what?”
He pushed himself up to his knees and stood, holding a hand down to her. “I should show you, it’s a little difficult to explain.”
She accepted his hand and stood, shaking out her skirts and her cloak. “Do you mean to show off your magic?”
“No,” he smiled and lead her across the snow covered fields, his eyes on the ground. “You can do this too. I need to show you.”
She followed him, looking out at the snow and trying to imagine what it was that he was seeking. Her fingers wrapped around his hand to keep him from moving faster than she could. When he finally stopped she couldn’t see anything special about the snow around them.
Reand gently took his hand back from her and spun in a few quick circles, wrapping his cape around him. Then he flung his arms out to the side and fell back into the snow.
This wasn’t what she expected, she startled, covering her mouth with her hands and staring down at him over her knuckles.
He smiled up at her, wriggled into the snow and then began to move his arms up and down in the snow while opening and closing his legs. He repeated those motions several times before slowly and carefully rising from the depression in the snow, hopping out from it at the end to keep footprints from being tracked into it.
Mairrin walked to him, brushed a few flakes of snow still clinging to his arms and looked down at the print in the snow.
Reand let her brush them, then crept to the spot where his head had been with Mairrin following him. “It’s a snow angel,” he drew a circle around the head with a finger. “There is his halo, his wings and his robe.”
She watched him point out those features, then reached over him to smudge the halo, drawing two horns flicking up from the head of the snow angel. “Surely you would make a snow demon.”
He chuckled. “A strange snow demon, with his angel wings and angel robes.”
She smiled, raising a hand to partially cover her mouth. “Let me make one, so he can have someone teach him to be a good angel.”
He stood, giving her a hand so she could rise with him. “A snow princess then?”
She nodded. “How will I make her?”
He walked her to the feet of the snow demon, letting her stand an arm’s span away from its wings. She looked behind her, then picked up the edge of her cloak and spun in a few slow circles that got most of her cloak wrapped around her. She glanced up at him. “That’s good, now put your arms out,” he demonstrated, holding his arms out to the side. “And just fall back.”
She raised her arms and looked down to the snow, then back at him. “Does it hurt?”
“You’ll be just fine. Trust me.”
She closed her eyes and fell backwards, giving a little yelp in surprise when she landed in the snow. She blinked up at him, then remembered what he did and wriggled a little, stretching her hand out to feel for the edge of the snow demon. Once she felt it she moved her arms, and then her legs, alternating between them a few times before moving them together.
He smiled down at her and she giggled, moving her fingers up to her mouth and delicately setting her arm back into the wing afterward. “How does it look?”
Reand tapped his chin with his finger and looked up and down at Mairrin and her snow princess. “I think… that you have a talent for this Mairrin.”
She blushed, giving her head a little toss into the snow. “Good, now help me up so I don’t ruin it too much.”
She held her hands out and he leaned in to grab hold of her elbows and slowly, carefully pull her to a sitting position and then to her feet, which she pointed down in an effort to keep footprints out of the snow princess. As she balanced on them, she remembered Reand’s hop and hopped herself. Launching herself at him and landing against his chest with a gasp. He wrapped an arm around her waist and she clung to him to keep herself steady.
He looked down at her, ready to tease her about being so careful about her snow princess, and was met by her smiling face. Her lips parted slightly so show a little bit of her teeth while her fingers were coiled up in his tunic. Reand moved the hand at her elbow to Mairrin’s face to tip it up a little further, and kissed her.
It was a chaste kiss, lips pressed to lips, and it surprised her. She lost her grip on his tunic, but found she was more delighted than frightened and tightened her hold on it, leaning in close and standing on her toes a bit to get closer. He kept kissing her, light and soft at first. Then he gave her bottom lip a little nibble and slipped the tip of his tongue into her mouth. She shrank back a little at first, then pressed back against him, sliding her arms up around his neck as he moved his arm down to join the other one around her waist. Inching his hands up her back to push her closer as she inched her own tongue out to trace his lips and press hesitantly beyond them.
He let her have him, pulling her closer to feel her breasts pressed against his chest and tracing a hand up and down her back while she explored. That hand eventually reached a spot that sent a pleasant warmth through her that made her gasp and he took control of the kiss again, sucking on her lip and running his tongue down along hers. He kept moving his hand along her back and she ran a hand down the opening of his tunic so she could touch his skin. Rubbing her fingers along his collarbone and up his neck.
As she felt his neck, he moved his hand to her side and when he rubbed her hip she whimpered in his mouth. They parted and while she remembered how to breathe he lowered his head to her neck to kiss along the side of it. To lick her nape so the cold air could kiss it and make her shiver and press her lips to his forehead.
Mairrin tugged his hair and Reand lifted his head to kiss her again, rubbing his hand up her stomach to her breasts. She shivered when she felt his fingers sliding over her breast through her silk shift and woolen dress, but stayed close to him. He could get his palm and outstretched fingers over her breast with a little spilling from it. He gave it a squeeze and curled his fingers in a little, running them down, trying to find and raise her nipple. After few up and down strokes he felt the nub of it under her clothes and rubbed a finger against it. She moaned, pulling away from his mouth a second, then came back, giving his bottom lip an experimental bite that was a little rougher than she intended. He pulled his lip back and she went after it to give it a few little kisses and suck on it.
He moved his hand to her other breast, giving similar treatment to the other and wrapped his other arm tighter around her waist and began lowering himself to the ground, pulling her down into his lap as he sat down. He nudged her legs apart so she would sit astride rather than twist herself sideways. As she pulled herself in close to him this time she felt him hard against her and shuddering, propped herself up on her knees. Reand ran a hand through her hair when she jumped, pulling away from the kiss to watch her face. Her eyes were wide, mouth parted and she breathed rapidly.
“Are you alright?” he asked, tracing the outside of her face with his hand.
She didn’t trust herself to speak coherently and just leaned into his chest and nodded, wrapping her hands in his tunic.
He rested his head against her head and held her, rubbing her back.
Every time his hand rubbed against the spot on her back she shivered, nestled closer and felt her belly throb with warmth and pleasure. She tightened her grip on his grip and tilted her head up to whisper something soft, so only he could hear it.
He shifted his head so he could look at her while she spoke, but she moved in close to his ear so she didn’t have to watch his reaction. She panted out a few breaths against his neck and was delighted to see his neck quiver.
“I don’t…” he rubbed the spot on her back again and she closed her lips tight. She licked her lips and didn’t care if her tongue happened to lap against any part of him in addition to her mouth.
“I don’t want to stop.”
He moved her head away from his ear so he could look at her, cupping her jaw with his fingers. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, “Yes, I’m sure.” She kissed him again and before she could get her tongue tangled in his again he peeled a glove off and let it fall.
Reand moved his hand under her skirts, pressing it against her leg and moving it slowly up her thigh until he got to the waist of her hose. He hooked his fingers in them and began to ease them down until they were at the middle of her thighs and the fabric began to strain against her skin. He made a gesture with his other hand and the living shadow surged up inside the shadows under her skirt and worried the strained cloth with teeth folded deeper and darker over themselves until they became tangible. With the living shadow busy at work, he stroked her upper thigh. Mairrin clung tightly to him, her hand fumbling clumsily with the laces of his tunic to open it further.
Once the living shadow was finished and promptly banished from her skirts, he moved his hand between her legs and ran them over her lips, rubbing the little bit of moisture there over his fingers and brushing them up over the curls above her lips. She whimpered as he touched her. A few trickles of sweat ran down the sides of her face and he broke the kiss momentarily to lap them up and share them with her. The change in taste made her pull away at first, but she found his lips again soon.
He rubbed her lips, easing a fingertip between them to trace her slit and press gently in it. Mairrin arched her back, her nails digging in when his finger pressed against her. He pushed his fingertip inside and felt her walls envelop him as he nails dug in further. After the fingertip he slid the rest in easily, her grip loosened and breathing deepened.
A breeze tousled the branches of the trees and Mairrin’s shiver in response wasn’t due to his finger inside her or hand on her body. Reand took his finger out of her and began to deal with his riding pants. Mairrin took his bottom lip in her teeth and watched his face. Reand sucked her top lip into his mouth and eased his lip free. He kissed her once, twice, thrice and rested his forehead against hers.
“You’ll be just fine. Trust me.”
She smiled at him. He kissed her again.
He got his manhood out of his clothes, under her skirts and lowered her hips until the head parted her lips, stopping just outside her slit. He rubbed the sensitive spot at her hip as he lowered her further down. She groaned as the head of his manhood thrust into her. Wrapped her arms around him and dug her nails into his cape. When her whimpering lessened he thrust further inside her until she began to sound distressed again. He held her still as she adjusted, squeezing her hips and showering her in kisses.
When she had all she could hold he moved her steadily up and down on his length, rocking her hips to show her how to move. She managed to mimic the motion a few times, clinging to him. At first she whimpered softly, but then began to moan, pressing her lips together to keep from making too much sound. He groaned at the tight hold her walls had on him, kissing her between them.
She shuddered and he kissed her temples, whispering encouragement. “My sweet princess. Just a little more.”
Mairrin couldn’t tell how much longer a little more was. She felt a little flutter of pleasure in her belly again and shuddered against Reand again. His breathing grew shallow and soon after he fired several streams of seed in her. Beads of sweat sprouted across his forehead and she kissed them away as he panted into her neck.
Reand stroked the sides of Mairrin’s face. Kissed the tip of her nose. Kissed her on each cheek. Kissed down one side of her jaw. Then Mairrin shivered and he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
“Now, dear Mairrin, I have a lot more to show you.”
She nestled into his chest. “I can’t wait to learn,” she glanced up at him, smiled openly. “Aeraph.”