Entries tagged with “adult”.


Clawing back towards the waking world, Ali became aware of two things. One was pain – mostly a throbbing headache, but also some all-over aching and stiffness; the other was the scent of lilacs.

That was a bit curious – it was well past the early spring when lilacs were in bloom – and that in turn provided something to focus on other than the pain, which was quite welcome. Oh, to be sure, some floral scents were frequently distilled and used in perfumes and incense, but lilac was – regrettably, from Ali’s point of view – not a common choice for that.

It also served as a reminder that Ali wasn’t at home, because the Arcine manor didn’t have lilacs on the grounds these days, blooming out-of-season or otherwise, nor was the scent favoured among the staff. As fragments of the evening before sorted themselves in Ali’s memory, this wasn’t terribly surprising – but one thing Ali couldn’t remember was actually getting into bed.

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The flight attendant’s voice was soft, as someone might make their voice when they wanted to gently wake someone, but didn’t want to try very hard to do so if that latter someone was deeply asleep. Which, indeed, was probably exactly why she’d done it. But Rico Montel had rather often had call to doze lightly, making the most of the time spent waiting for an interruption that could come at any time, but might not be for an hour or more, and that was what he’d done on this flight; now he blinked awake, focusing after a few attempts on the squirrel whose gentle murmur of “Officer?” had roused him.

I’m awake,” he managed, promptly if perhaps not with complete honesty, and paused to cover a yawn. “Wha’ is’t?” (more…)

The full force of winter had set in, and even the main road of the fishing village of Falvarinth was constantly blanketed in snow, now. The boats were ensconced in boathouses and drydocks, the piers locked in ice; fishermen and sealers hiked to work, now, chipping holes in the thick ice sheets to get their catch. The cold was omnipresent.

And yet the upper reaches of the town, near the hot springs, were far, far milder than the deep north; and so it was that Danir stayed in one of the largest homes, second – if a distant second – only to the headman’s own.

Of course, Danir was himself several times larger than Headman Nashir, so his home didn’t wind up feeling nearly so grand. Put another Narami in it, and it could actually feel somewhat cramped at times. But Falvarinth was not a Narami town, so such visits were rare. And, given who was most likely among Narami to be visiting, cherished.

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Freedom. At long last he was free!

Delvin threw back his head and let a laugh tumble free, whipped away by the wind as Glitterdark bore him down from the clouds. The drake was in just as good humour as the rider, wings splayed wide, barely rustling as he rode the currents; his eyes were half-lidded, his posture as relaxed as it was possible for a dragon in flight to be, save that as Delvin looked about at the vast unspoiled landscape rising to meet them, the drake’s tail-fin splayed and relaxed in a rhythm of barely-constrained excitement.

Behind him, now, was the bewilderment of Choosing, the labour and study of a candidate with eggs hardening before the hearth, the gut-wrenching anxiety leading up to a hatching. They’d lived together through Glitterdark’s ravenous hatchling days, the confused young night-drake barely able to comprehend anything but his own hunger and Delvin’s devoted care. Then the lessons, the training, the endless, endless drills both on the ground and in the air. For years, they’d never had a moment’s peace.

And now, wonderfully, for the first time since he’d been Chosen by his dragon’s dam as a youth of fourteen autumns and entrusted to the care of Glitterdark’s cornflower-blue egg, the young man’s time was his own. (more…)

The moment the door closed, it sank in just how much more of a home the Hall of Healing had become than the Deep ever had. Perhaps the appointments weren’t quite so sumptuous, definitely not so spacious, and the food was much simpler fare, but he felt safe there. For the past few years especially, the Deep had kept him in a state ranging from anxiety to active terror.

Jisarr sagged against the door with a sigh of relief.

Rima looked from one of them to the other. “Aynithral’s market may be the most hectic place I’ve seen, but the both of you look rather too wrung for even that.”

“The market, averting a bloody riot, and interrogation by a rather prickly general. That’s enough to leave anybody feeling wrung,” Tavi put in. “I think I need a drink, and I’m strongly considering getting you one on healer’s orders.” With that parting word to Jisarr, she disappeared deeper into the building.

(more…)

An almost negligent wave of the man’s hand, and the force keeping Alderian up in the air shifted smoothly downward, letting him get all fours properly onto the ground. It was a marked improvement; he was hardly afraid of heights, certainly not the mere foot’s breadth he’d been at, but it was such an undignified way to be hanging there, not like proper flight at all.

Not that Edric was quite ready to trust him enough to release him entirely, apparently; he was allowed to furl his wings, but then force bound them against his body, and he was not permitted to walk around, or even to sit. He was stuck standing with his legs outstretched, at the human’s mercy.

(more…)

Kirrik swept a forehand over the metal surface, watching the shifting light that glinted off the surface. “The good news is, it’s not going to get worse for us,” he reported. “The hatch warped when it hit the deck, and tore a little. It’s no longer airtight. Between that and the vents, there’s enough air getting in here. The walls are all fine, and there’s no weight pushing down on them, so it’s not going to collapse on us or anything.”

His companion’s head tilted to one side. “There’s a ‘but’ waiting there,” Krinni accused.

(more…)

At last, home was in sight.

Well, maybe not his own actual home. He was from the coast, and once his discharge was processed, to the coast he’d return for the rest of his aborted training. But it was his homeland, there past the river and the line of border forts straddling it, torches on their roofs gleaming like brilliant jewels in Hakenteri’s keen sight.

(more…)

“She wasn’t pleased that I chose to bring it up,” Rima said, pushing the door shut. “However, with that already done and well-received, she is in favour of going ahead with it.”

“So what will ‘it’ entail?” Jisarr asked. “I don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to understand, but I am curious.” He was sitting on the cushioned seat he’d used for reading, now placed in the middle of the room rather than at the wall.

(more…)

There’d be no difficulty on his part this time; Jisarr’s heart was pounding before he reached Dren’s door, an uncomfortable tightness growing in his clothing by the time Dren hesitantly opened it in answer to his knock. There was a deep yearning in the smaller man’s eyes now, a need grown almost painful; and though he felt a pang of guilt for leaving Dren alone while that need built up, anticipation of the forceful climax that it heralded made him tremble.

(more…)

It was still a mercenary camp; there was a fundamental order to the place that the bivouacs of larger units lacked. And with several bands in the same space, far from succumbing to the disorder of those larger units, the divisions were only strengthened. Stepping from one band’s section of the camp to another’s brought a distinction as plain as that between night and day, even more so than that between the inside of the camp and the world beyond its border.

Gone, though, was the expectant tension. The work they’d been mustered for was done, and done well, by gods and ancestors and whatever else the disparate fighters held dear. None of these bands would never truly relax their discipline, not while they were still mustered – that discipline was part of what had made them the best, the most-esteemed, the most-sought-for warriors in the land. Sentries still watched the camp, looking outward, keeping an eye on the interior, even minding the skies. Officers and small cadres of armed fighters still roamed the camp and kept the peace.

But the mood in the camp was one of celebration. Freed captives, brought in for assessment and treatment by the mercenaries’ healers, now rested with their rescuers, and those who had not greatly suffered for their ordeal celebrated with them. Bands that had been wary and distrustful of one another had worked together and come to respect each other, and now, though each band had its district, the mercenaries all roamed freely between those districts, whether as residents or welcome guests.

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The rider glowered past his mount’s head as the beast trundled down the packed dirt road, eight sets of claws churning up little clods of dust. Neither of them had a countenance that brooked argument; the man had passed beyond surly long ago and was now downright thunderous, and while his hand was nowhere near the sword at his hip, still nobody wanted to impede the wearer of that crest when he was looking so incensed – it was known far and wide that Davion del Torim was very quick to find his sword when the need arose, and while he was also known as a kind, fair-hearted man, that made his palpable fury all the more frightening. None wanted to be seen as in his way when he was in that mood, lest he see violence as an expedient way past.

As for his steed, Winter was a full-grown gerwuhl hob, nearly as well-known as his rider. Most people who rode gerwuhlen instead of some more placid beast rode jills, in small part because the males were substantially bigger and thus harder to maintain and feed, but mostly because they could be so vicious, and in a species that could already be almost disturbingly clever about escaping restraints and the like, a vicious streak was the last thing anyone wanted to risk. Winter was a deadly fighter in his own right, with cruel weapons tipping each of his numerous limbs and jaws that could break through a man’s thighbone with scarcely a pause. Nobody wanted to feel his bite any more than that of his namesake.

It was a strange day when that wolverine-like countenance was the less surly-looking of the pair, and the gate guards instantly decided they wanted no part of it. Davion was familiar enough to them as to need no interrogation, and he had a royal exemption from the usual queries anyway; they just hauled the turnstile out of his way to let him pass, and Winter churned through the gate without breaking stride.

Davion kept his silence until the guards and everyone else were out of earshot, and only then did he start cursing. It was under his breath, but it went on for some time, with an extensive vocabulary that would have surprised most people who’d ever met him. Winter endured it stoically, just bearing his rider along the road with his usual steady, rolling gait.

(more…)

Krall hadn’t seen either face in two seasons. Before that, though, they’d had more than five years in close company and shared deeds; he’d have instantly recognized either of them, never mind the conspicuous pairing. Seeing them now, the bear’s heart leaped with joy.

He started making his way through the crowd, taking care, even now, not to push. He was a big man among a big race; he could have forced his way through if there had been true and urgent need. Courtesy was an old habit, though, and one he would not lightly set aside – no matter how eager he was to meet those two again, that did not an emergency make.

The drake – whose wings, even furled, gave him enough personal space to have a clearer view – was first to see him; turning, waving, then twisting to give his human companion a nudge and say something to him, excited. Then both of them were working along the crowd’s edge to where there was a bit more room.

(more…)

Hakenteri had used every curse word he knew in four different languages and was starting over. It took a while – partly because the gryphon was cursing under his breath as he flew, rather than with full dedication, but mostly because one didn’t spend five years in active service with the Highmoor Legions, and more time beyond that in training, without picking up some of the essential skills.

False leads, inaccuracies, late arrivals, missing details – nobody had ever told him that serving as the Legion’s eyes and ears in other lands would be easy, but this was getting downright ridiculous.

The place he’d left behind with the first of those muttered curses was the eighth he’d investigated since starting this particular mission. It was supposed to have been as straightforward as a spy-courier’s duties ever got – get in, meet the contact, hear the report, confirm it, get home. And that would have been that; the five years he’d sworn to serve would be done and he could move on to civilian life. Which, unlike most of his kind, he had serious prospects for; he’d had no intention of re-enlisting.

That had been at the start of spring. It was the height of summer, now.

Hakenteri didn’t begrudge the extra time – truly. It would have been nice to be done months ago as expected, but he’d had no intention of leaving a task unfinished. The real problem was that this particular task seemed tailored for maximum frustration.

(more…)

For the few minutes it took to walk back to his apartment, Damien Collier kept half-expecting the wolf next to him to disappear – to turn out to have never have been there after all; just a daydream, a figment of an overactive imagination.

Seriously, what were the odds? Naomi Peltier had been his great high school sweetheart – maybe not the first girl he’d dated, but the first one he’d really clicked with. They’d given each other their virginity – anxious to do it right, he’d studied up, thanks in large part to a guide he’d found online that had been targeted at curious teens and somehow not been shut down for “providing pornography to minors;” he thought it had gone okay, a positive experience for both of them, even if it had involved more giggling than actual passion. That had come later, as they got used to each other, and they’d had it in spades. Neither of them had been plagued by the jealousy that seemed to break apart so many of their fellow dating students. They’d compared notes about their attractive peers; Damien rather suspected that Naomi had a touch of the bi, too, whether or not it was enough to actually act on like his had turned out to be.

Then, with their passion still burning ever-brighter, he’d been dragged across the country by Dad’s promotion. He hadn’t had any means of contact that wouldn’t be lost in the move; she’d given him her email – but apparently her family had recently changed providers and she’d given him the old one. All he got in response to his “here I am” mail had been a bounce. He’d got permission for a long-distance call, only for that to be a wrong number. And with Naomi’s dad a teacher who’d rather not be pestered in off-hours by random students – or the irate parents of same – their number wasn’t in the phone book.

That had been hard. He’d tried not to show it to anyone, but suddenly being without even that distant connection to her had left him reeling and off balance. School had been a struggle; teachers and parents alike had chalked it up to just getting used to the different expectations of a new school, but the truth was that for a little, he just couldn’t be bothered to care enough to put in his best work.

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