So without further ado... The second installment of The Forest Lord!
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Zakn’yl Arken-A’te sprawled on a narrow settee in the Matron Mother’s private rooms, perspiration glistening on his obsidian skin. T’Riss’s breath caught staring at his mate, so delicate, beautiful, and obviously ill. Zak’s chest heaved as he struggled to breathe, his lips thinning with the effort. Unable to do anything for a magical malady, T’Riss held his mate’s hand. As the female entered through the archway, T’Riss’s lavender eyes found her and pinned her in place, a low animalistic growl rumbling up from his chest. Though T’Riss’s face gave away no hint of his emotions or feelings, when he spoke, the deadly hiss of his voice telegraphed his fury and sense of helpless impotence.
“Heal him before I draw steel.”
The female in question smirked at T’Riss before using her ever-present staff to flip her long alabaster hair over her naked shoulder in a move that was as practiced as her prancing walk.
“Perhaps I will.”
Jhulryna Rilyn-Tlar, high priestess of Lune and sister-kin to T’Riss’s estranged wife Micariara, stepped mincingly around the two males. She struck a pose, her golden staff glimmering in the magical light of the chamber and sparkling brighter than the fire opals that twinkled at her ears, nose, and neck. Like all members of the house he despised, her flesh was the color of slate rather than the sparkling obsidian T’Riss found so appealing. She looked like a slinking shadow in the midnight blue spider silk gown that clung to her full breasts and generous hips, leaving her shoulders and legs bare as the train flared out behind her. Her dark lips curved into a cruel smile.
“Perhaps I won’t.”
T’Riss rose to his full height, and though his hands itched to grip the hilts of his katanas, he refrained. He forced himself to meet Jhul's pink eyes and did it without flinching.
“I am your arisa. You will do as I say and follow my commands, or I will submit you to the Matron Mother to be tried for treason against Chasz’Chalolvir and her people.”
“Oh that’s not going to get old or anything…”
A second female strutted through the archway. Spare as an athame, supple as a bowstring, she moved with the uncanny and innate grace of a gymnast. Her shimmery silver hair swung around the tops of her shoulders, its edges blunt and square as if it’d been grabbed up and hacked off by a sword blade – and it probably had. Everything about her was subtly different, a hallmark of those trained to be assassins. She turned, met T’Riss’s stare bold as a naked blade and offered him a smile.
“Still causing trouble?”
She raised an eyebrow and touched two fingers to the massive sword hilt protruding over her slender shoulder. A smile played around T’Riss mouth. He made an attempt at bowing his head, but the effort was jerky and unnatural. To avoid further unpleasantness, he picked Zak’s hand back up and spoke the ritual phrase he knew she expected to hear.
“Forgive me, Lady Kalanozz Ken-Ana; I meant no offense.”
Kala turned to Jhul who watched the exchange with a perplexed look on her face. Kala laughed. “See? He is still capable of civility.” She took a seat at the table where refreshments, as yet untouched by the room’s occupants, were set out.
“Do you bring word from your uncle?” T’Riss asked carefully. He’d petitioned Kala’s uncle, the Guildmaster, for an assassin to join his raiding party.
“I do.” Kala’s thin, sharp face was ever serious beneath her fall of choppy silver hair. “He wishes success for your mission and has granted your request.” Kala rose from her chair and smoothly drew the massive sword on her back. The enormous black adamantine blade seemed to swallow the light in the room. With perfect economy of motion and exquisite grace, Kala dropped to one knee, the modified scimitar never leaving her hand.
Zak chose that moment to break into a coughing fit, hacking, wheezing, and gasping for breath. T’Riss frowned, his purple eyes locking on to the face of his mate. He clutched Zak’s hand until the choking passed. His face was cold as ice and as still as death as he used one of the Matron Mother’s personal handkerchiefs to dab at the dark blood dappling Zak’s lips.
“Hurts…” Zak whispered. His silvery eyelashes fluttered. His eyes rolled up and he passed out cold.
From where she knelt on the floor, Kala sniffed cautiously. The fingers of her left hard flicked in an intricate gesture. Before T’Riss could stand and roar at Jhul again, Kala gained her feet and rang the alarm for the Azure Veil.
“What in the name of Lune are you doing?” Jhul pranced forward and tossed her hair back like a horse tossing flipping her mane.
“The Choking Death. He’s infected!”
“She knows.” T’Riss stared at Jhul, his eyes still so brutally cold. “She has refused him healing despite the Matron Mother’s order that she provide it.”
Kala’s face was full of astonishment as Jhul’s arched eyebrows raised and the priestess shrugged noncommittally. She turned her back on T’Riss and Zak. Kala, however, did not.
“You are a priestess of Lune! Heal this male!”
Jhul straightened, defiance emanating from her like another aura. “He is Unmentionable. Unworthy. The whore of a male who has disgraced my sister-kin.” Magic crackled from her eyes to flow into her hair like eerie energetic lace. “He deserves no healing!”
Everyone turned at that one forceful word. The most beautiful female T’Riss had ever laid eyes on stood in the doorway of the Matron Mother’s private rooms. Neither tall nor short, her stature was absolutely perfect. Long supple limbs moved with graceful precision as she stalked through the room. Her hair was true platinum, which meant T’Riss could see strands of pure black, solid purple, and deepest red alongside the shining silver and white. Her eyes were a red so vivid they gleamed like rubies. T’Riss gazed at her, confused.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Mistress-Priestess Iym’mice Tor-Und, assigned by the Matron Mother to accompany the arisa.” Those ruby eyes, so like the queen’s, caressed T’Riss from head to toe. She approached, curtsied, and cast her gaze to the floor. “I am here to serve, by my life or by my death.” Blinking up at T’Riss she smiled coquettishly. “What would you have of me, arisa?”
“Heal my mate. Please.”
She nodded and brushed past a speechless, furious Jhul without a word. Laying her long, slender fingered hands on Zak, Iym’mice prayed to their goddess. A warm golden glow suffused their bodies and sank into Zak. He cried out, and when the glow faded, the lines of pain and stress were gone from his face.
“He will rest now.”
T’Riss exhaled heavily. “My thanks. We’ll requisition supplies once Zak has recovered and awakens.” He turned to Kala. “Who has your father chosen to send?”
Kala cocked her head, a strange smile on her face. “I thought you understood.”
“I am your assassin.”
T’Riss jerked, “You? But you haven’t completed-”
“My apprenticeship was completed sixteen moon cycles ago. I hold several top scores at the guild currently.”
T’Riss gazed around the room at his raiding party: Zak, Kala, Iym’mice, and Jhul. His heart sank as a sense of foreboding took over. What type of raid began with a member’s near death?
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I hope you enjoyed this, even if it was shorter than I usually write. I wanted to showcase some artwork by Deviant Art artist "DireWrath" who's digital drawings inspired my female characters. Take a look at Jhulryna "Jhul."
Comments as always are craved and appreciated, and if you're hungry for more FREE FICTION, check out the other *AWESOME AUTHORS* who've written stories this week
Be Well ~ Tux