House Luchre (this is long and best taken in small doses)
"M'lady, m'lady." A snarl ruptured the tier'dal's throat at having her rather pleasant dreams interupted. She cracked an eye and stared at the person stupid enough to disturb her and wondered of the quickest way to dispatch him. She pushed untidy locks of white hair from her face and cleared her ravaged throat.
"M'lady ye 'ave an urgent messenger 'ere. Madam I 'ate to disturb ye, but 'ee was insistant on speakin' with ye and nay ta me."
The woman growled again and sits up. She pushed even more hair from her face and pulled herself from the bed. She stood nude a moment letting the dizziness in her head wash over her. Once her eyes cleared she pointed to the wardrobe and the shocked inn keeper rushed over pulling open the door. The elf pointed somewhere near the center of the cavernous space and as the man put his hands on a blue dress she snarled.
"White, I need the white one." She managed to spit out through clenched teeth. The round man gently removed a plain white robe from it's hanger and gave it to the Lady. He turned to go, her hiss stoping him
"You will send him here. But first where does he claim he is from?"
"All 'e would say is that 'es from your 'ouse, m'lady"
"That's what I thought. Send him here."
She snarled at the loud nosie of the door closing and began to dress in the robe. As she is sitting at the dressing table gingerly brushing the waist length hair resting on her very tender head, the door behind her burst open, banging agaist the wall with the force. She hissed again and turned to face the intruder.
"Kaytie? Is that my tiny little sister? Gods look at how you've grown."
"What are you doing here?" She stood slowly careful not to let the wave of nausea show, she turned to her brother and held open her arms to him. He closed the short distance of the room and took the smaller woman in his arms and spun her with the abandon of a brother. When he set her on her feet, she was smiling through the violent urge to loose the contents of her stomach on his shoe. Once she had swallowed the urge she looked into his bright gray eyes.
"Now what are you doing here? And claiming only to be of my house?"
"Why are you in white? From what I hear you have a penchant for much brighter clothes."
"You haven't answered my question, and I thought you would be a servant or a house priest, so I put on what was proper."
"You care what is proper?"
"Keaton Luchre! Tell me what you came to tell me." She hit him lightly on the shoulder in jest. As discreetly as she could she grabbed the back of her chair and lowered herself into it, pretending that she needed to get back to her hair she picked up the brush and watched her brother through the glass. His face fell into a deep frown as he started to speak.
"Sister dear I am afraid I have terrible news." Her brow furrowed as he went from common to the lyrical Elder Teir'dal, their mother insisted on using. She answered him in kind.
"What is it?"
"Mother has been killed."
A slow smile curled the woman's lips as she ran her brush trough her hair, careful not to wince.
"You jest. I did not think that woman was capable of dying."
He shook his head in denial of her statement, she mouth fell and for all the hatred she held for her mother tiny tears formed in the corners of eyes that never cried.
"But that is not the worst of it Kaytana."
"There is more? Father?"
Her features became panicked as she searched Keaton's eyes
"No, Father is well, as well as he can be. No that is not the worst."
"Uhg! Must I drag it from you? Tell me all you have to tell me with out these games."
He shrugged and placed his hands on her shoulders stopping her brushing.
"You have been given The House. You are Mistress Luchre. You are expected to arrive before sun down in the halls of Luchre and claim your title."
She spun in her chair and the ringing of her palm against his cheek hung in the room. She stood slowly, hangover forgotten, her eyes icey, nostrils flaring slightly with barely contained rage. His jaw twitched where she had hit it. He clasped his hands behind his back to keep from striking his sister. She walked away form him tearing the plain white robes from her body, she threw the tattered robe into the fire and walked the last few steps to the wardrobe. She threw open the doors and stood there a moment staring at the gowns and robes within.
He watched her with a fascination brought about by his anger. He hadn't seen her since the day after she was named and she came floating into the tavern he had stopped at. She was barely more than a girl then and hadn't yet come about the spectacular body she was flaunting now. When the thought of what she would be like in bed crossed his mind he shook his head and smiled. It was, after all, his sister he was having a lustful fantasy over and that was more than even he was willing to do. With a small chuckle he sat and watched her, comparing this sexy woman to the frightening woman their mother had become.
She felt Keaton's eyes on her and his open admiration and her vainity caused the anger to seep from her. She opened one of the small drawers and pulled out a camisole and panties the color of fresh blood and tossed them on her bed. With a care she shows only for her clothes she decided on a gown, pulled it from the wardrobe and hung it on a hook on the door. She pulled on the bit of lace that passed for her panties and then slipped the camisole over her head pulling her hair from it, she turned back to the dress and began to undo the buttons holding it on the hanger. Letting the deepest of amethyst skirts pool on the floor she stepped into the silk. With a small sound of pleasure she pulled the crimson bodice over her arms. As she fastened the tiny buttons she turned to her brother.
"I will not be lied to. Mother would never leave me The House. I am not first born nor am I a priestess, and besides Mother hated me. She never forgave me for becoming a Magi and for the blood of her slaves that she killed that night. I do not believe you."
"Well, Sister, you are not the only one. The man that read the Will nearly lost his life when your sisters heard that. I do not pretend to understand but there are specific instructions for each of us, and no one knows what the other's are. I was told to find you and bring you home, among other things. Shall we go then?"
A snort of disgust escaped her as she crossed the room and sat back down at her dressing table.
"I'll take that as a no." He laughed and sat on the bed to wait.
She took up her brush and ran it through the mass of snowy hair, parting it down the middle. Starting at the middle of her forehead she began to twist her hair, following the lind of her head adding hair as she went. When she reached the tip of her hair she held the twist tightly with one hand and with the other pulled a small bowl of hair pins closer to her, and began to pin the hair in place wrapping it about the back of her head. She did the same with the other side and when the last pin was in place she had created an odd stacked spiral on the back of her head, giving her neck an elegant length. She stood from her table and gathered a long purple cloak and a few small packs., and walked from the room. When her laughing brother followed she locked the door and tossed the key in one of the packs. They stopped by the bar and paid the innkeeper to post a guard at her door.
"What do you need a guard for?"
"Did you not see what was in that wardrobe? Everyone of those is made for me, and each costs more than the next. I may like to buy things, but I will not lose what is mine, because I was careless."
She said laughing. They walked into the busy streets of Freeport and out through the city gates to the Knowledge Portal. Once in The Plane of Knowledge they made quick progress across the lawns and around the myriad of people that use the Plane, to the unkempt side of the city that held the portal to Nektulos Forest.
"When you are Mistress of a House you don't knock before entering."
She gave a short nervous chuckle. With a deep breath she opened the door. She still didn't believe Keaton and so opening the door before knocking was warring against the fear of her mother's wrath. As she stepped through the door way the entire house hold was awaiting her. This stopped her short and took her breath when they all kneeled to her, heads nearly touching the floor, a posture reserved only for her mother. Kaytana jumped when her brother touched her elbow and whispered in her ear.
"Tell them to stand."
"Oh, right." With another nervous chuckle she turned to the servants and other members of the House.
"You may rise. Go about your business. I will require wine, and food in my sitting room."
She walked to the foot of the stairs and turned to her brothers and sisters still awaiting her instruction.
"Keaton, Kaine, Kyler, Keeley, Kiralynn, you will join me in the sitting room, tell someone to bring enough for all of us."
With that she walked up the stairs in the slow manner her mother had always used, barely able to contain the laughter bubbling in her throat.
She sat slumped in a chair in the well appointed sitting room and let the events of the past hours wash over her. It was then that it hit her just what being the Mistress of House Luchre ment, and it was then that she began to formulate a plan to get the hell out of the House and back in her favorite taverns. Though first she would need to have someone collect her things from the Inn.
One of the slaves entered caring a tray of wine and glasses followed by several more with trays of food. They placed their burden on a line of tables on one side of the room and bowed their way out of the door with out a word. The mage didn't acknowledge their presence and kept on writing. She looked about in the drawers and found the purple wax she preferred and her seal. It seemed that they had managed to remove all traces of her mother and it pleased her to no end. With a candle she melted a bit of the wax on the rolled parchment and pressed the sign of the magi with an ornate L superimposed over it, into the wax. She turned and looked about her for the small girl that would normally attend this room and found her sitting silently in a corner.
"Come here. Take this to the kitchen and tell the cook to send four men, strong men, and one woman to The Grub and Grog in Freeport. Tell them to give this to the innkeeper and to say only. 'We are from the House Luchre and are here to collect m'lady's things.' They are to say nothing else. Go now and tell also my siblings to join me now."
The girl all but ran from the room careful to not crush the parchment in her hand. A few moments later Keeley and Kiralynn knocked on her door.
A pasty-faced, plump Teir'dal stormed into the room, hatred so filling her silver eyes it all but dripped into the carpet. Kaytana needed only glance up to see into the horrid eyes of her eldest sister, Keeley. Freshly brushed ebony hair flowed down the back of her simply cut white robes. She stood to the left of the hearth, arms folded across her more than ample breasts.
Walking quietly in the wake of Keeley's wrath, an exact, if shorter, replica of their mother, entered the room. Still unsure of Kaytana, Kiralynn bowed deeply, her simple green silk robes rustling with the movement. Upon straightening she sat stiffly in one of the six chairs in the center of the room.
Shortly after, the brothers joined them. Mirth sparkled in the eyes of the leather clad Shadow Knight as he entered the room. The idea of Kaytana as Mistress Luchre was perhaps the most absurd thing Kaine had ever heard. He bowed slightly to his Mistress, his raven pony's tail sweeping over his shoulder. With a wink and a smile on his boyish face, he took a seat opposite of Kiralynn.
Having his baby sister as his Lady still struck the Knight of Shadows as their mother's sick joke. Entering as his twin was sitting, Kyler ran a hand through his short cropped black hair and crossed the room. After bowing to his Lady, he took the chair directly across from the ornate monstrosity she stood near. The tension in the room causing a small muscle in his chiseled jaw to twitch.
The final Luchre child sauntered into the room, a mischievous smirk tugging at his indigo lips. Black leathers, a complement to his jet-black, disheveled hair, bristled with the hidden weapons of a rogue. Striding across the room, and kneeling deeply before his Lady, he took the chair directly adjacent to hers. Of all her brothers, Kaytana found Keaton the most handsome. Lithe but powerful, a sharp contrast to his burly Knightly brothers, he exuded a confidence both men and women were drawn to. Wearing a smile that could melt even the coldest woman didn't hurt either.
Once they were all gathered, Kaytana turned to Keeley and simply looked at her until the woman felt self conscious enough to take the seat next to Kiralynn. Kaytana smile slightly and sat down in the chair at the head of the small oval. The young servant girl returned then. Slipping quietly into the room, she began to pour wine and fill plates for the Luchre siblings.
If you are reading this, then I am irrecoverably dead, which means you also know that you are Mistress Luchre. I know that remorse and a sense of loss are not among the things you are feeling at this time. Anger, disbelief and even perhaps joy are what you feel. Oddly this pleases me to no end, as they would be the emotions coursing through me. However, a dissertation on emotion is not what you want to hear. In that devious little brain of yours, you are trying to formulate a plan to get out of your new found power, that, my dear girl, is not possible. My reasons for giving you this honor are my own, and until you are fully aware of your siblings abilities you will not even begin to understand them, even if I told you.
Give your title to one of your siblings, no really go ahead. But if you choose that path you will be stripped of your name and cut off from the Family and it's money. You will leave this dwelling with what you can carry, you will not be accepted back in this House and I would avoid Neriak if I were you. Since I know that was your first choice we will continue.
If any of your siblings are killed and it is discovered that the cause was your hand, you will be stripped of title, name, Family, and money. You will leave them living and you will rule them as I did. They are yours now.
If you are killed, and it was found that you died by your own hand, or by the hand of one of your siblings, they, all of them, will be stripped of name, tittle, Family, and the Family's money. The estate will be given to the Church of the Father.
There are two ways out of this new found honor. You will marry, bare an heir and when that heir is of age you may give the House to her. Or you will die, when the Father deems it time for you to remain with him, and your heir will take over the house. If you bare no heir before that time, the eldest living sibling will take over the house until an heir is born and comes of age.
Enjoy your power, I know you will use it well.
Go in Hate,
Kaytana began to laugh, the near hysteria in her voice causing the maid sitting in the corner to jump a foot into the air and fall off of her stool.
"I will find a way out of this. I will be damned if she controls my life even in her death."
She had been tempted into tricking Keeley into finding out if the curse over the room was real, but she had decided that if it was, then that could be considered murder, and she would have to lug the body up out of the vault on her own. She often wondered during the last few days, what had possessed the old witch to curse the room allowing on the rightful heir of the House into the room, killing all others that passed the fourth step. She also wondered if it were real or simply a myth that no one had tested, and as she was not inclined to clean up dead bodies on her own, she was not going to be the one to test it.
Gathering up the tomes, the weight of them nearly doubling her over, she started up the thirty-two steps, yes she had counted them, she had been up and down them often enough that it was only a natural thing to count them. At the top she paused a moment to catch her breath and then tensed as she handed the books to the slave that awaited her. He was a big man and should be able to handle it. Once he had a firm grip of the large volumes she straightened and turned on her heel, leaving a layer of dust, cobwebs and the smell of aged parchment in the air as she walked to her rooms.
After reaching her room, she instructed the man to put the books on a table near the fire and return to his regular duties. She bathed quickly. As she pulled her hair into a bun and secured it with two silver plated sticks, she sent one slave for as many candles as she could find and another for tea and snacks. The chamber maid had wiped the dust from the tomes and laid parchment and the mechanical pen Kaytana had obtained in her travels, on the table.
The mage took the first book, several parchments and the pen to a low setee nearer the fire and opened the book. As she read, she scribbled furiously. Nearing the end of the first book, she lit a few candles and dismissed the slaves. She settled back on to her couch with the second tome and continued to scribble notes on the parchment. Stopping occasionally to light fresh candles or pour more tea. When dawn's light touched the sky, the servants re-entered the room to find their Mistress sleeping with a tome propped on her knees and ink staining her hands, robe and face.
Once she had made her way through the Nexus and into the Bazaar, she sent her servants off to find the spell needs and other supplies. She met with a Shaman Merchant and purchased several odd looking bottles. Upon returning to the House, she made her way to the Vault of Histories and deposited her bags on the table there. With a wicked sort of laugh the Magi took up the tools that were used to carve the name ones successor into the self, where their volume of history would go. She carved an ornate 'K' into the ancient wood. Taking up one of the bottles she returned to her room and began to hatch her well laid plans.
The scratching of her quill filled the room as did the low chuckle bubbling from her throat. She completed the entry in her journal and then stood. The chuckle became a closely maniacal laugh as she tucked it under the corner of her mattress so that the leather binding was visible. The elf turned to those going quietly about their jobs in her rooms and smiled an almost too pleasant smile.
"Go now. All of you. I wish to be alone. Do not disturb me until dinner."
With that she walked across the room, taking up one of the small books on a table near the fire, she settled into the couch and opened the book to somewhere near the middle. The slaves looked at one another unsure of themselves and slowly filed from the rooms. As the door clicked closed behind the last one, she jumped up took the bottle from a hidden pocket in her skirts and drank a single dose. The room began to swirl, bright white light began to gather around her. She stumbled to the mirror to watch as she seemed to grow a few visible inches, her skin began to pale. When her vision cleared and the room settled down, she stared at the reflection of a human where she had stood only seconds before.
She stood staring for quite some time. When she was no longer repulsed to the point of nausea, she stepped into her dressing room and removed her crimson day gown, and the matching chemise. She sat nude upon the stool in front of her mirror and carefully separated her snowy hair into a multitude of thin pony's tails. She then took each portion of hair and made seven or eight loops securing each loop with a hair pin. When she was finished her head was covered with hundreds of bouncy loops. She smiled at her reflection, turning from side to side to admire her work. Standing she turned and slipped her feet into the ice blue gown she had removed from its hanger. After slipping her arms into the sleeves, she then reached behind her and fastened the buttons up her back. She smoothed the small box-like bow that sat just below and between her breasts. Checking that the empire waist of the gown was straight, she turned her body to each side coaxing the silken material of her skirts to lay the way they were meant to. With care she placed her feet into the matching silk slippers, then turned and began to adorn herself with the blue diamond jewels she had commissioned to match her dress. Once ears, neck, wrists, and hands were dripping with ice, she stepped from her dressing chamber.
A knock sounded upon her door at just the same time. She turned to the large mirror and called for them to enter.
"M'lady, dinner is ser..." The young man sent to fetch his Mistress for supper, straightened from his bow, choked on his words, and stared.
"Thank you..." Kaytana turned to see who was addressing her, "Rean, you may be about your duties. Actually, you may add one more to those." She pointed to a small stack of journals sitting near her reading couch. "Burn those, here, in the fire in my room, then instruct the nightly fire keeper to let my fire burn itself out. Do you understand?"
"Y...y...yes, M...m...m...mistress." She nodded and walked from the room. The man went about the task set to him by his Mistress, all the while muttering to himself. "Perhaps she didn't know she looked that way, no she was looking in the mirror when I came in, perhaps she has lost her mind. Yes that must be it, they have finally driven her to insanity. She didn't seem to notice she had changed so I shall act as though I do not notice, perhaps that is what she wishes. Yes, yes, I will simply pretend I don't see. It may save my life."
The mage smiled to herself as she left the chamber, she was glad Rean had been sent to fetch her, he was one of the more intelligent of the slaves that served The House Luchre. She made a note to her self to drop a bit of vague praise to her lady's-maid. She entered the dining hall before her brothers and sisters, as was customary, poured herself a small glass of brandy, and stood at the large blazing fire, staring into the flames. Patting her hair to be sure of its placement she sipped from her glass as she awaited the arrival of her siblings and the beginning of what was sure to be a fun evening.
"Kaytana?" The magi's face lit up as she heard her name from her brother's lips, turning to him she opened her arms and took his hands in her own.
"Ah, Keaton." She pressed first one cheek to his then the other, holding the familiar embrace a bit longer than she should have. Warm lips caressed his skin just before she pulled back. With a smile she looked into his eyes. "How are you this evening?"
"I'm well, Kayt. But..uh..what is going on with you?" His eyes held the question to her as her smiled deepened.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, that I can tell."
"You are looking quite...different tonight." He should just ask her outright, but he also had the feeling she was up to something; when Kayt is up to something she will deny it to you, even to the point of calling the sky green if she must.
"It's a new dress! Do you like it? It is a bit more elaborate than what I usually wear to dinner, but I wanted to show it off." Oh yes, she was up to something.
"It's lovely." His eyes traveled the length of her, catching on the cleavage so elegantly framed by the dropped shoulders and low neckline of the gown. Kaytana beamed at Keaton, as their private intamicy is interrupted by the entrance of Keeley. The two move apart quickly, as what they shared, they did so alone.
Keeley stomped into the room, eyes glued to the floor. Stopping long enough to bow in Kaytana's general direction, she threw herself into her chair, situaited on Kaytana's right. Plucking her napkin from the table she began to pull at loose threads on the cloth. She had come to hate this particular ritual. Family dinner. She scoffed softly to herslef, the entire thing was a charade. If they were true family dinners, their father would be forced to be here, instead of being aloud to waste away in his rooms. So she sat plucking at her napkin waiting for this farce to be over and done with.
Kaytana simply stared at her sister. She had little trouble pushing the anger down, she didn't really want Keeley's attention to begin with, but the girl must learn some respect for the Mistress of her house. Ah well, her successor could teach the little wretch that.
Laughter filled the room as Kaine and Kyler entered. The twins were rarely apart when they found themselves in the House at the same time. They turned as one to greet their Mistress and stopped short, their words stuck in their throats. With looks of bewilderment they glanced over Kaytana's shoulder to Keaton. His open arms, shrugged shoulders and shaking head, lead them to believe that their dear sister was up to something, or had finally lost her mind. They each took one of Kaytana's hand, bowing deeply, touching forehead to knuckles, as was now the custom, since the mage couldn't stand for her family to prostrate themselves just because she was in the room. Straightening, they smiled unknowingly at Kaytana.
"Good evening, M'lady."
"Good evening, Kaine" She nodded at first one brother, then the next. "Kyler. Why don't you boys have a glass of brandy while we await Kiralynn and dinner."
The Shadow Knights made thier way to the side bar, pausing to speak with Keaton.
"What in the hells is going on?" Kyler asked in a whisper.
"I havn't the foggiest idea."
"Oh, that must mean she is up to something.'" Kaine sighed and poured himself a glass of the amber wine.
"Aye, am I afraid it does." The rogue chuckled softly as he watched his sister sip delicately from her own glass.
She turned as Kiralynn entered the room. The woman stopped dead infront of Kaytana, a look of shock on her face, making her eyes the size of saucers.
"What in the he...lls..." Keaton's wild slicing at his throat and shaking of his head stopped her words. She shook her head at him and mouthed the word "what?"
"Are all of you feeling alright this evening?" Kaytana asked in feigned innocence. They all answered in varying degrees of agreement, from muttered yesses to overly enthusiastic confirmations.
"Good. Shall we dine?" The five made their way to thier seats. Kaytana at the head of the table, Kiralynn to the left of Keeley, Keaton on Kaytana's left and Kaine and Kyler to his right. Kaytana rang a small bell near her plate that sent servants just outside the room into a furried scamper.
"I think I shall take my leave, I am not feeling well." They all stood as she turned to leave the room. It was at this moment Keeley finally looked up at her sister. A corus of good nights followed Kaytana, until Keeley spoke.
"What are you about Kaytana? Have you no respect for this House?" Kaytana turned around slowly, she had had enough of Keeley's idoicy.
"Respect? You speak to me of respect. It has taken you a full two hours to look up at me. You spoke not a word through our entire meal, and you have the gall to speak of me about respect. Though you have peaked my curiosity, so I shall let you speak, to tell me what it is you mean." The priestess's pale face had turned an ugly shade of moddled red as she was admonished by Kaytana infront of her siblings. Small bits of spittle flew from her mouth as she spoke.
"You, come into this room in that guise, and you expect no one to notice or say a word. Not once have I heard anything mentioned, nor has anyone questioned your motives for defiling our halls in such a way."
"Keeley, what are you talking about?"
Keeley's mouth dropped open. How could Kaytana possibly not know what she was talking about? It was obvious to all of them there. Had the woman truely lost her mind?
"I see you have nothing left to say. You have succeeded in making my headache worse and I would bid you remember just who it is you speak to with such animosity. I will not tolerate such insolence and you will be delt with accordingly should it happen again." She nodded to the other four of her siblings, turned on her heal and strode from the room.
Upon reaching the turn in the hall that lead to her rooms she pulled a small pack from behind an urn. Rumaging around a bit she pulled out a small vial. She pulled the stopper and drank deeply of the bitter liquid, in a flash of green light she was floating above the ground. She placed, vial and bag back behind the urn and dashed back down the hall. She settled herself above the three steps just outside the dining room. With a whipered word of dimissal she sank onto the stone. Hoping she had not missed much she leaned forward to listen to her siblings.
"Can you believe her?" Came Keeley's angered yell. Good, she had not missed anything.
"What do you mean?" Kiralynn's calm, quiet voice sliced through the air just as effectively as Keeley's shrill yell.
"Does she not even know what she has done?"
"And just what has she done, Keeley?"
"She has defiled these halls, Kaine?"
"She made herself human and pretened otherwise, she has lost her mind"
"How does being human defile the halls? A good portion of our slaves are human"
"Exactly, Kiralynn, our slaves. Her parading herself like that makes her no better than a...a...slave."
"I don't see how."
Oh this would be easier than she had thought. With another whispered word the illusion about her shimmered and disappeared. As she listened to her siblings argue over what to do about her, she began to pull the pins and stays from her hair, piling them in her lap.
"She has lost her mind." Keeley argued for what seemed the hundredth time. Kiralynn nodded her agreement.
"I still think she is up to something." Keaton countered for what also seemed the hundredth time.
"We need to see what she is up to." Kaine put in.
"She should be asleep by now, one of us could sneak into her room and see if we can find something." All heads turned to Keaton, in almost comical unison.
"Fine, I will break her trust, sneak into her room, and see if I can find and read her diary." With a sigh, he started out of the room.
With a soft gasp of surprise he stopped just outside the door.
"What is it?" Kyler asked.
Putting a finger to his lips for silence, he beckoned them forward. There on the steps was the sleeping figure of their sister. She sat with her feet tucked up close, so that her heels touched her backside, arms wrapped about her knees. White hair flowed down the steps, as her head was resting on the pillow her knees made, her face turned towards the next room as though listening. Her deep blue skin stood out against the silken paleness of her dress. They stood staring, not entirely sure what to make of what they were seeing. Keaton crouched down before her and put a hand gently on one bare shoulder.
"Kaytana?" He whispered, shaking her shoulder slightly. Her eyes fluttered open, and she smiled as she sat up.
"Hi, Kea." Her voice was quiet and innocent from sleep. She reached up to smooth back her errant hair, as her hand passed her face, she gasped. Hair forgotten she lowered her hand, chanting no, no no. She stood suddenly, shaking her head in denail. turning pleading eyes on Keaton, her pathetic no's began to rise in volume. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes as she vehemently shook her head.
"This can't be happening. I was free, Keaton, free." She grabbed the cloth of his shirt and pulled him close. "Why? Why did it happen? I can't go back, I can't." Tears gathered beneath her silver eyes. "It's too soon, if I had had a chance to get used to it first, then maybe I could have gone back. But not now. Help me Kea, I was free." Shaking her brother, her voice rose in pitch once more, "I need to be free!"
Burying her face in his shirt she began to sob, loud, body wracking sobs. A beweildered Keaton, gathered his sister into his arms and began to carry her down the hall. Silenced by Kaytana's outburst the remaining four followed behind, in a grim procession, to her rooms.
"Kiralynn, go quickly and bid the High Priest and the High Coercer to come here."
"Can we not..."
"Just go." With that she left quickly her skirts rustling with her haste.
"The rest of you go to your rooms and I will send word in the morning of her condition."
Keeley and her brothers turned to go, and she wondered, not for the first time, how the hierarchy of their family had gotten so very backward.
Keaton turned back to Kaytana to get her to stand and put on something more comfortable for sleep. He found her sleeping, silver tears still flowing down her cheeks. He sighed softly and went to her dressing room. Rummaging around in the numerous drawers he found panties, camisoles, chemises and other bits of lingerie in every imaginable color, but nothing appropriate for her to see the High Priest and Coercer in. He just about gave up, when he opened a small half drawer mostly hidden by her gowns, within he found two long satin sleeping gowns, one in heather grey the other in black, both with matching bed jackets. He chose the black one, as it seemed more conservative.
Taking them to the bed he lay first the jacket then the gown on the bed. Keaton lifted his sister to his chest, holding her head with his left hand, he unfastened the myriad of buttons down her back. He lay her gently to the bed, and peeled the ice colored fabric from her arms and chest. Careful not to disturb her too much he wriggled the dress down over her hips and off her legs. He lay it across the bed, and lifted Kayt back to his chest, slipping the black gown over her head. Switching hands he got first one arm then the other through the holes created by thin straps. Letting the gown fall down her body he lay her back down and shimmied the satin fabric down over her hips and thighs, to keep it from bunching and being uncomfortable. Standing, he put one arm under her knees and the other behind her head and lifted her, with his fingers he flipped back the blankets, and placed her legs back on the bed. With her head still cradled to his chest, he slipped the bed jacket on her, and lay her back. He tied the small bow over her breasts and covered her to the waist. Just then a soft knock announced the entrance of the priest and mind-bender.
"Thank you for coming so quickly. Kiralynn, you may return to your rooms, I will send you word of her condition in the morning." Kiralynn opened her mouth to protest, but snapped it shut, at the look Keaton gave her, and hurried from the room.
Keaton recounted the evenings events to the High Priest and the High Coercer. The priest stepped forward and buried his hand in Kaytana's hair until the tips of his fingers contacted with the skin of her scalp. He began to chant, sending waves of red magic into the sleeping woman. When his chanting ended he stepped back and nodded to the Enchanter. She took the priest's place at the bed side and placed her fingers about Kaytana's face, with a suddenness that made Keaton jump, green magic arced into the prone Kaytana. It ended as quickly as it began, and the High Coercer stood, and faced the priest.
"We have found nothing amiss. She either truly believes this is happening to her, or it is a very clever rouse. That is for you to decide." He nodded his good-by and strode to the door.
"We will show ourselves out. She is a clever one and whether or not this is made up or real for her, it would do you good to remove her from the position she holds." She followed quickly after the priest, leaving Keaton staring after them.
A slow smile crept across his face as he brought one of the large chairs from the fire side to beside Kaytana's bed. He pulled the small book from between the mattresses and made himself comfortable. He opened it to the first entry, and began to read, the first entry was dated just two weeks hence.
I had the strangest dream. I was sitting in a large brightly lit living space, reading. I glanced up to check the time and stood. I dressed in a rather plain gown and when I went to check myself in the mirror, I saw me, but I was human. The sight made me smile. Suddenly the room spun and I found myself in a small cell. There were no windows, doors or lights, but the room was lit, I am not sure how but it was. The only opening was a small slit in one wall, from which I assumed I was given food. I began to scream, and scream. When my scream died I began to cry. It was then that I woke.
Keaton shook his head in dismay, but continued to read. She seemed to write in this book several times a day. As he read the dream of the human Kayt, became more desperate to find freedom. As he read the final entry he began to doubt that this was all just a rouse.
The dream is real. I know because I found freedom in my dream. I go this morning to meet with the Mystic. He has promised a potion to help me obtain my freedom.
Later in the day...
FREEDOM IS MINE!!! I watch my servants go about their business and I know that they have no idea what their mistress really is, but I will show them, oh yes I will show them all that they no longer have a hold on me. I will not be denied my true self any longer. I SHALL BE FREE!
The last words were written across four pages of the journal. He sat quietly staring at the word free, letting what he just read spin about in his mind. He tucked the book into one of the many pockets of his clothes, it's form disappearing into the folds of fabric. He propped his feet up on the end of Kaytana's bed and slept lightly.
At the door she stopped a moment to hide herself from view and catch her breath, just because she couldn't be seen didn't mean she couldn't be heard. She tread lightly through the room and was almost past her brother, when she suddenly found herself sitting in Keaton's lap.
"And where did you go in such a hurry?"
Kaytana growled the words of dismissal and glared at her brother.
"How is it Master Rouge you are able to see me?"
"You would be surprised what the bits and bobs I carry about myself allow me to see. You didn't answer my question."
"What makes you think I was in a hurry?"
"I watched you run down the hall like Tunare herself was after you."
"I was doing no such thing, and why in the hells would I run from Tunare?"
"That is beside the point little sister."
"Are you going to tell me where you went?"
As they spoke Keaton trailed light fingers up her thigh, across her tiny waist, and was teasing her neck and jaw with feathery touches, sending tiny shivers down Kaytana's back. Kaytana shook her head at Keaton's question and slipped lightly from his lap. Slow, hip swaying steps took her to her dressing room. She removed the light bed jacket from her shoulders as she went.
"Oh then I shall have to guess, what fun."
"You can try if you wish" She called from the small room. Opening her wardrobe, she pulled a small lacey camisole and matching panties from her drawers, and a matching simply cut dress in her favorite blood red. Slipping from her nightgown she stepped into the bits of crimson lace and sat before her mirror to brush her hair.
Keaton swung his legs down from the bed and followed his sister, he leaned against the door frame, slightly startled at the sight of her sitting in an almost non-existent thong and camisole that almost didn't cover her breasts. Recovering quickly, he grinned.
"I think, sister dear, you went to the vault. The only question that remains is; what did you do there?"
"The workings of your Mistress in that sacred place are none of your business, Keaton Luchre."
"Ah so, you did go to the vault"
Kaytana sighed lustily, annoyed at having fallen for her brother's trick. She began to pull her freshly brushed hair into a long tight pony's tail, leaving small whisps of hair about her face and neck. Once her hair was pulled up, she secured small dried flowers around her head. Keaton waited for her to elaborate, but as he watched her pin flowers he knew she would not.
"I know what you are up to Kaytie-girl, and you may think you have us all fooled, and that may be true for the other idiots we share blood with, but not me."
She turned slowly in her seat, her smile sweet. She stood just as languidly and took the few steps to her wardrobe. Her smile grew as she reached forward and plucked her dress from its hanger. As she stepped into the skirt she batted her eyes at her brother.
"Then you know why I do what I do." Pulling the skirt into place, she slipped her arms into the sleeves, their hem sitting just at the middle of her forearm leaving her wrists bare. She slid the bodice into place and reached behind her to fasten the buttons up the back. Once finished she closed the small distance between herself and Keaton. Wrapping her arms around his neck she stood on tip-toe and spoke in a hushed, deep voice, causing the delicate point of his ear to quiver ever so slightly.
"And you would not begrudge me this, Kea. I have found a way out, and I am taking it. Just play along, give them the ammunition they need, fight just enough to make only a vaguely valid point and back down." Warm lips touched the edge of his ear, in a soft caress. "And don't worry, Keas, I won't force upon you what was forced upon me, you and I can escape together."
"Who, Kayt? I have to know who" His voice barely audible.
"Oh you will find out in due course. I will tell you, when I tell them. No sense in letting anything slip accidentally, brother." Crimson lips, once again caressed indigo ear, as she pulled away. Her smile easy and promising as she stepped around Keaton.
"Go tell them what they need to know, and send my chamber slaves in here, I'm crazy, not dangerous...ah well, send them in anyway, they need to be about their business." Her tone was clear and even, once again the Mistress of her House. Keaton bowed low to his sister and sauntered from the room.
"Obsession does not mean insanity."
"No Obsession is a manifestation of insanity."
"She's not insane."
"She is, she's in mourning over a delusion."
Keaton sat heavily into his chair, he had had enough of this conversation, he had held these vultures at bay for over a week, allowing Kaytana time for whatever it was she needed time for, he would give in tomorrow. He knew that in doing so, Kayt would drop yet another viper in their laps.
"I've had enough for tonight, good night."
She sat hunched at her desk, writing in her own tome for the Vault. Each Mistress was to write her own version of her life, and then the scribes would fill in the rest. She had spent that first day replacing the tomes she had removed and removing the things she had left in the Vault. She had destroyed all but two of the vials, and hidden those.
She closed the book and stood, stretching. The clock rang the twentieth hour and she was indeed tired. Removing the black silk gown she had chosen that day she slipped into a black negligee and climbed into bed.
Kaytana sat very still as the young girl wove tiny silver bells into her long straight hair. With gentle care she donned a simple platinum and ruby necklace, the large gem caressing her breasts as she slid matching earrings into the holes in her earlobes, along with a simple ring on the third finger of her right hand. The girl finished with the last bell and stepped back, bowing.
"You can go."
The child scurried from the room as Kaytana stood and pulled her gown from it's hanger. She stepped into the black silk and positioned the thin straps on her shoulders. She took a moment to smooth the cloth over her breasts so that they would not come loose. With a smirk she adjusted the large ruby that cinched together the ends of the plunging neck line, that left the majority of her chest and abdomen bare, and the high front slit of the skirt, exposing the entirety of her legs, save for the bit that the lace ruffle, falling to mid thigh, covered. She reached behind her and fluffed the skirt to its fullest and double checked her image in the large mirror, the tiny bells tinkling as she turned.
She walked quickly down the halls to the dining room, she had timed her entrance for after everyone else had arrived and if she didn't hurry she would miss her window. She stopped briefly outside the room to smooth her dress and make sure nothing was showing that shouldn't. The quiet murmur of conversation ceased as she stepped into the room. Her presence surprised them, her attire shocked them into silence. Kyler was the first to recover and strode quickly across the room to touch his forehead to Kaytana's extended hand.
Kaine followed swiftly after, repeating the gesture.
"Mistress, it is good to see you out and about again."
Keeley bow stiffly, her greeting barely audible.
"You are looking well, m'lady" Kiralynn managed as she curtsied. With a soft chuckle Keaton crossed the room and bowed deeply to his sister.
"This is a pleasant surprise, in more ways than one."
Kaytana simply nodded to each of them as they spoke. With out a word she took her place at the table and rang the small bell next to her plate, sending slaves and her siblings into a scurry of motion. Silence was their companion as dinner progressed, each waiting for Kaytana to speak, though she remained steadfastly mute. As dessert was served Kaytana caught the eye of each of her siblings.
"You will all join me in my study after dinner."
With that she gave her attention to her plate and the decadent chocolate concoction upon it. No one spoke as her words were not meant to incite conversation. After several bites, the elf stood from the table and left the room.
"I know what you have been up to."
The crash of Kiralynn's teacup to the ground brought a slow sardonic smile to the magi's lips. She watched as her sister tried to regain some composure, and managed just barely to stop nervous hands from shaking. Placing her own cup on the table before her, she continued.
"I suppose you all think you are very clever. Now, I must give credit where it is due. Some of you are clever, but the rest of you...not so much." Crossing one leg over the other she looked about the room. "You must do what you feel is right, and I will not be standing in your way. But, you will do things on my terms. As I know a great many things you have tried to keep from me, I shall also give you a thing or two I know, that you do not. Why, you might ask, would I help you in anyway? You see," she paused, folding her hands together, " it is not you I help, but myself."
Stretching her legs before her, she leaned back until her head rested against the chair-back, and wrapped her hands about the carved sides, she looked at each of her siblings the smile still curling her lips.
"My dilemma is not, whether or not to tell you whom I have named as Heir." She stopped at the choking sound coming from Keeley, and gave a short laugh. "Yes, dear sister I have named my heir, the name has been carved and the book enchanted." Waiting until Keeley had regained herself. "No, because I am not going to tell you. My dilemma, is which game we should play. A game of Chance or a game of Wits." She arched a single eyebrow giving the floor to her brothers and sisters.
"What is this game of Chance?" Kyler asked with trepid curiosity.
"Ah now this is my favorite of the two, you see, you will send one person down the steps to the Vault, starting with the eldest, and the one that passes through unharmed is the heir." She laughed at the wide-eyed shock on nearly every face in the room, save Keaton's, he had been expecting something of this nature. Kiralynn cleared her throat.
"And the game of Wits?" She asked.
"Not interested in the first then? Alright. The game of Wits is a game of questions. You may all ask one question, that must be answered with a yes or no. You may not ask about gender, chronology, as in age, use names, or questions in relation to yourself. As in "Is the person taller than I am", or their position in this room."
"But that leaves nothing left to ask." Keeley protested, hotly.
"Only to a small mind. If you think beyond the obvious, you will find a great many questions that can be asked. Now shall I continue?" Keeley nodded sullenly. "And if your question can only be answered in 'maybe' then it will be cast aside and you will not be able to ask another. Leaving your siblings with only four valuable questions. And finally if you think you have figured out the riddle, do not ask me for I will not be telling you. If you ask the right questions, I will not have to. Either way. you will be the ones figuring it out, for you will not hear the name from my lips. Now which do you choose?"
Liquid movement brought Kaytana to her feet, stopping at the back of her chair she turned back, with a small smile.
"Oh there are two more rules, if you will. You may not ask related questions, for example one person may ask, 'Does the person have long hair?' So another of you may not ask anything else about hair. Oh and we will begin with Keaton and work our way up."
With that she made a slow wending path across the room, trailing a finger along tables, couches, knick-knacks, and the other odds and ends about the room. Her meandering took her to the large shelves of books built into the wall behind her writing desk.
"Take your time to decide, we've all the time in the world."
The soft murmur of her siblings' discussion floated across the room, as she flipped through a volume on learning to speak Ogre, chuckling occasionally at the translations. She had nearly made her way through the book when Keaton called to her.
"We require your presence Mistress."
"Oh? I shall be with you shortly" She flipped through a few pages of the book, then replaced it on the shelf. The same casual path returned her to her seat. She sat lightly upon the edge of the seat, looking pointedly at Keeley.
"Which do you choose?"
"We will play your game, but we are not happy about it."
"The game of Wits." She all but growled between her teeth. Kaytana nodded with a semblance of understanding.
"Yes, death is a messy thing, I don't blame you for taking the easy way out." With a small chuckle, deep in her throat, Kaytana sat back into her chair and turned to her brother.
"Well, Keaton, we shall begin with you. What is your question?" Keaton sighed, this entire thing was ridiculous, but it was her viper and her House.
"Is the person a Rogue?" Kaytana nearly laughed out loud at that, regaining her composure, she shook her head.
"No, the person is not a Rogue." She turned to Kiralynn. The priestess cleared her throat and spoke with quiet authority.
"Does the person prefer white garments?" Keeley's head shot up and she glared at Kiralynn, her nostrils flaring, but she chose not to speak. Kaytana reigned in her smile, Oh this is fun, she thought to herself.
"No, the person does not prefer white." Turning to Kyler she nodded.
"Does the person use weapons to hunt?"
"No. Kaine, what is your question?"
"Does the person have short hair?"
"Yes. And Keeley, what burning question do you have for me?"
"I don't know that I should play your game any longer."
"Oh that is perfectly fine with me, but you are letting your brothers and sister down." Keeley sighed with disgust, shaking her head.
"Fine, have it your way. Does the person wear boots instead of slippers?"
"My dear Keeley, you still managed to disappoint me, and your siblings. That question can not be answered as it is in the same line as the color of clothes the person wears." Kaytana shrugged. "Not that it matters, I am sure you have all figured it out by now."
At that Kaytana stood and left the room with out another word
"Go quickly to the stables and bring four hands back with you. Tell them to be here before the hour finishes striking." The girl glanced at the clock, she would barely have enough time to get there before the hour began to strike, she turned and left at a run.
Kaytana sat before her dressing mirror and began to pull the tiny bells from her hair, she was half done when the girl and four stable hands arrived.
"Take these trunks, this letter, and bag of coin to the Shandeling's Roost, an inn in Shadow Haven. Tell the keeper to expect me with in the next two days. He knows my name and will not argue terms once he opens that bag. Go quickly and return no later than two hours hence." The four men gathered her trunks and left the room as quickly as their burden would allow.
She resumed her seat and finished removing the bells from her hair, with the same gentle care she showed each night, she brushed the glimmering mass, though her heart was racing with excitement, her movements revealed nothing. Standing she removed her robe and hung it on the hook behind the door. With a small sigh she sat on the edge of her bed and took up the Small green vial, of a sleeping potion. She had poured the majority of the contents into the fire earlier that day to give the illusion she had been using it's sedating effects for some time. She placed a single drop on her tongue, enough to produce mild effects, but not enough to compromise herself. She lay on the bed and quickly fell to sleep.
The fourth hour of the morning brought a banging knock to her door, dosed as she was, it went unheard. Shortly after a second knock, the door burst open, spilling Keeley and two of the House Guard into the room. Crossing the room quickly, Keeley opened her mouth to tear into her sister, when she noticed the vial. It was Keeley's turn to chuckle.
"So you must rely on outside means to sleep, you must truly be insane. Well, sister-dear, tis time to relinquish your throne."
Keeley took up the glass of water on the bedside table and poured it on her sister's head. Kaytana sat up straight in the bed gasping and sputtering.
"What..."cough. "is the meaning," cough, cough, "of this!" She coughed several more times, before she was able to settle down. Keeley watched her with a rueful smile.
"You have exactly ten minutes to remove only what you can carry in this saddle bag," She threw the bag onto Kaytana's legs, along with a single pack, "and this pack. After that time you will be escorted from Neriak. You are not to return unless summoned. You will live on a stipend set up for you and explained in this letter," She tossed a sealed parchment next to the packs," and this letter will see you safely past the Indigo Brotherhood in the Nektulos Forest." After tossing that letter next to the other, Keeley turned on her heal. "Be quick you've not much time."
Kaytana watched her sister leave the room, a look of shock on her face.
"They are faster than I thought.." She chuckled softly as she pulled herself from the bed. She slipped an emerald riding dress, and matching boots, placing the few other things that remained in the room into the pack and saddle bag. She pulled her hair into a pony's tail with a long strip of leather that matched her dress and seated her self on the bed to pass the last few minutes in quiet reflection. She had learned much in these last months and some of them were invaluable. She would not miss the gloom of Neriak, nor the Politics of the Houses, what she would miss is the close attention of her brothers, something she had longed for as a child, but being over twenty-seven years younger than her closest brother, Keaton, they were rarely in the House when she was growing up. She sighed softly at the knock on the door.
Keeley and the same two guards followed her word. Keeley's look of satisfaction raised the small hairs on the back of her neck, bringing an urge to fight, but a calming breath pushed that from her.
"I am ready."
"You would come even if you were not. You are no longer Head of this House." Kaytana grinned.
"Figured it out did you?"
"Your games are the childish ramblings of the insane, I will hear no more."
Keeley all but pushed Kaytana out of the door and the four made their way to the stable yards, where Kaytana's prized white mare was saddled and waiting.
"Oh so I get to keep my horse?"
"She will not be ridden by anyone else and so is not worth more than meat and since it belongs to you the meat would taste like dung."
Kaytana bit back a laugh as she handed her pack and saddle bag to the waiting stable boy. She checked over the saddle as eh secured them to the horse, and when she was satisfied at the comfort of the horse and the safety of the saddle she mounted. As she was settling in the saddle, two mounted guards joined her. She gave a look of disgust to her sister.
"Is this really necessary?"
"You will not make it out of Neriak otherwise."
"How loving of you all." With a small sigh she glanced around the stable yard. Kiralynn stood in front of Kyler and Kaine, authority radiating from her. Not seeing Keaton she sighed once again and clucked the horse into motion. As she passed through the stable gates she caught a glint of metal on the roof of the guard house. That was Keaton's signal and he would come to her soon. She smiled to herself as she was escorted from Neriak.
Keeley watched until the horse was out of sight, then all but ran back to Kaytana's room. Oh she would relish the sight of the myriad of color Kaytana had been forced to leave behind. A mind numbing scream reverberated through the House as Keeley stared at a single white silk robe in the center of the wardrobe.