<– First | << Previous | Next >>

The morning found us refreshed and hopeful, if somewhat daunted. We’d not the slightest idea where to start looking for clues, and now we knew full well that we could ill afford to let the days go by with no progress. Every day, every hour even, brought Vard closer to a brutal civil war, and that was a thing we could ill afford right now – not that there was ever a good time for that sort of carnage, but there were too many enemy nations that would be all too happy to take advantage of our weakness.

We fanned throughout the streets, agreeing to meet back by nightfall, save that any of us might wish to do something that lasted the night and report back in the morning. Though nobody looked my way, I was fairly certain that this was directed mostly toward me, given the nature of my own activities and the manner in which I could interrogate someone thereby.

For the morning, I tried to locate the guardposts and identify any guards who might be in a talkative frame of mind. Those I met, though, were all very businesslike, keenly aware of their lord’s displeasure with current events, ill-inclined to earn his disfavour and much more eager to gain his positive attention. I learnt little of use; while on their patrols, they thought mostly of those same patrols, and they had learnt nothing interesting thereby.

Toward the afternoon, their thoughts did become more guarded; someone had found the dead patrol, and word was that there was a platoon of the Queen’s rangers in the sparse woods outside of town. Still, that in itself was an encouraging thought; hopefully, they wouldn’t be looking in the right places – certainly their attention was away from us, and they’d be searching for a camp that could house twenty or more during some covert strikes and spying, not a hiding place for two people who were only attempting to lie low. I could only hope that they’d not find such hiding-places as well – that Rebecca and Jacob had found a less obvious place to hide their presence than within the woods.

Around mid-afternoon, I got something of a break. As I was passing by the same gate by which we’d entered, I felt a sudden surge of interest – from, as it happened, the same guard who’d let us into the city. I forced myself to keep walking, to only dip my head in a respectful nod his way, but not slow down, until as I was passing right by him, he seized my shoulder.

“Not busy, are you?” he hissed into my ear, eager, very nearly aroused on the spot by the thought of what pleasures I might be able to give him. “I’m due a break. There’s a whole gold sovereign in it for you if you can make it a nice one, say in that alley right there…”

A gold sovereign? That caught my interest – not only for the money it would offer our group, but for the realization that he could afford to throw that sort of money around for a quick bit of pleasure. The Duke’s guards were well-paid – to keep them content, no doubt, but why?

To keep them from muttering in discontent, and possibly spreading rumours that would incriminate the Duchy?

At any rate, his desire felt honest enough. The Captain doesn’t need to know. It’ll just be a few minutes, and with that sort of money in his purse, this fellow won’t want to rat me out. It’s about damned time I had a chance for some pleasant time, what with her keeping us locked tight on and off the clock…

“You’re on,” I murmured against his jaw, drawing in a whiff of his scent. Leather, cordite, and underlying it all, healthy male, with just the slightest tinge of incipient arousal; it was an intriguing mix.

“Meet you there,” he muttered, and then gave my shoulder a push, sending me on my way. I let myself stagger a little, let any observer think he’d been questioning me, not making an assignation. And then I went on my way, turning into the alley between a tailor’s shop and a warehouse as though I’d intended to go that way all along.

I didn’t have to wait more than a minute before that guard came in – from the other end of the alley, as it happened. I grinned as I sauntered over to him, reaching up to touch his chin. “You won’t be disappointed,” I hissed over his cheek, feeling my own heart quicken in anticipation.

“No doubt,” he chuckled against my neck, kneading at my shoulders, down along my back, getting a good feel for me. Hells, if only I had time for something more thorough.

So it was the opportunity, and the haste, which he was paying so much for, not only my discretion. “Keeping you horribly busy these days, are they?” I purred, stroking over his breeches, feeling the firm warmth starting to rise there.

“It’s good pay, at least,” he sighed, pressing up into my touch. It better be, keeping us on these long shifts while Captain Trellig stays up in those posh quarters by the Keep, dragging in any eligible low-ranking man that catches her eye and some that aren’t so eligible.

And that, right there, I knew was worth more than the gold sovereign, well worth the time this little encounter would take. Not that I expected it to take long; he was very eager, fired up by women passing by him on the cusp of their heat. He was rigid by the time I loosened his belt and reached into his breeches, and a very respectable piece it was, plumper than usual; he filled my hand quite well, and when I sank down to my knees and ducked my head to start lapping at him, his crown drizzled quite copiously over my tongue.

A groan slipped through his clenched teeth, and he took hold of my head from both sides, urging me on and down. I was more than willing to draw him into my mouth, to open my jaws wide and sink right down until my nose was pressed right down into the dense fur exposed under his jerkin. Without delay I bobbed my head along it, keeping my tongue pressed against his flesh, darting over it whenever I had enough room to do so.

I wasn’t learning anything from him now save for the depth of his lust, but even that let me chart the places he liked to be touched. When my fingers drifted upwards along his thigh, I felt a spike of anticipation and yearning, and following that guide, I slid my hand into his breeches, cupping under his balls, given them a warm squeeze. I made no bid to reach further back – not only was my fondling of his sac revealed quite obviously in his thoughts to be what he’d been eager for, the very manner in which he’d approached me here gave me no reason to believe that he had any wish to be penetrated. So while I pressed down just behind his pouch, at the firm root of his length, I didn’t allow my fingers to slip into more hazardous territory, no matter how appealing it might have been to try to get him to arch up against me, to try to crack that resolve and make him cry out in earnest.

Still, discretion and haste were what he wanted, and I drove him toward his climax as quietly and as quickly as I could. And when a sharp grunt forced its way past his teeth and he tugged my head toward him, the only thought that filled his mind, filled every fibre of his being, was an exultant yes.

He pumped down my throat for a surprising length of time, but once he’d sent the last sticky squirt over my tongue, he sighed, starting to push me off of him; I followed his cue, though I did take the opportunity for one last, long lick, from the base of his manhood all the way up to its peak, before I started to tuck him back in.

“You’re a delight,” he said, fumbling in his purse. “I haven’t known anyone that good in all my time here. If you ever wanted to turn to men as a regular, you’d have a willing client in me.” In addition to the fat gold coin, he pressed a silver five-crown piece into my hand. “Get yourself some warm food and maybe some warmer clothes, huh? Winters in Wafret are bitter, and I’d hate to see you catch your death of cold.” With a wink, he left the way he came.

I gave him a minute or so before I followed – the same way he’d gone, this time, not back the other way, toward the main street. I wove my way around before getting back onto the road; with luck, nobody at the gate saw me – and if he didn’t, he might appreciate the discretion.

Elizabeth was just hanging up her cloak when I returned to our room; she twisted around to look at me. “You’re back in good time,” she observed, “and you look pleased. Good tidings?”

“The good man who let us through the gate seems to be turning into a valuable contact,” I said, fishing in my purse for the sovereign I’d been given. “And a lucrative one. Apparently the guards are pulling long shifts, to keep as much of a presence as we’re seeing.”

“So they’re stretched thinner than they seem – and, good heavens, the Duke is spending money like water to keep them from being unhappy. I’m not sure I want to know what he wanted from you, for that price.”

“That’s the odd thing,” I replied. “What he wanted was very simple – but they’re not being given much time to themselves even off shift. To keep their tongues from wagging?”

“That could be,” she said with a thoughtful nod, pocketing the heavy coin. “Thank you, Edmond, this is good to know.”

“I’m not done yet,” I said, and couldn’t help but grin at her wide-eyed expression. “Is there a guardhouse near the Duke’s keep?”

“I’m sure the Keep itself is home to a contingent – but yes, come to think of it, I believe there is. Why?”

“Because Captain Trellig is living there,” I informed her. “Apparently she’s been pressuring the men into… servicing her; she isn’t always limiting herself to those that consider themselves available for such attention.”

That news, she took gravely. “Well… on that, I’m torn. On the one hand, it’s useful to know where she is. But…” She reached over to grip my shoulder. “Edmond, I don’t trust this. However useful a tactic it’s been, and however willing you are to do it, I don’t think it’s wise to try to learn anything from her by bedding her. Any woman who’d treat her own troops like that wouldn’t think twice about doing something horrible to a stranger. And if she truly was behind what happened to Weston House… this is a woman who’d watch people burn and just drive them back into the fire. Stay away from her, I urge you.”

I shivered. Truly, the thought of what she might do if she got her hands on someone she didn’t have any sort of twisted loyalty toward was fearsome.

But so was the thought of what would happen if this plot wasn’t unravelled.

“We may not have much choice,” I said, trying to ignore the rising chill.

In truth, I was rather certain that I’d wind up in the Captain’s bedchamber at some point – and despite that dire warning, it would likely be best if it was sooner rather than later.

<< Previous | Next >>