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The Overlords' Gambit
Copyright A Strange Geek, 2007
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Story codes: MF, Mf, Ff, ff, Mdom, Fdom, toys, bd, rom, magic, oral, rough, spank
The water surged against the large rocks below, sea mist rising from the breaking waves and making the foundations of Duric's palace glisten in the bright morning sunlight. High up from the water's edge, where the sound was muted to a gentle roar, Duric stood at the ornate metal railing that rimmed the wide patio. The patio traced a path around the curve that was the outer wall of his suite, where it lay near the back of his palace.
Duric was a lover of the outdoors, and being sequestered in the palace as the Keyas Province governor was not always to his liking. Having the Governor's Suite moved from the dank innards of the castle to the outer rim facing the ocean had improved his spirits admirably when he had first taken the position.
As seagulls gathered near the water's edge, squawking as they jockeyed for position and territory, the flustered form of Farro came around the bend of the palace tower at a hastening pace. By the time he stopped next to his Lord, he was slightly out of breath.
Duric paused, a small smile creasing his face as he looked out over the vast expanse of ocean. He finally turned his head and raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
Farro's hand shot up, displaying a parchment that flapped as the ocean breeze tried to snatch it away, his eyes betraying an incredulous look.
"Yes?" said Duric innocently.
"This cannot be from you." Farro finally sputtered after several false starts, brandishing the parchment. "You could not have possibly penned this."
Duric's smile turned sardonic as he took the parchment from his adviser. The wind blew it back at him, forcing him to use two hands to hold it stretched flat. His eyes gazed at the black, cursive ink. "If I didn't write it, we should hire the person that did," he said with a small grin. "For the man can almost read my mind."
"This is not funny," Farro declared, snatching the parchment back from Duric.
Duric's grin faded. "Things like this never are, Farro."
"Do the other Nobles know you are doing this?"
"Not yet. They will, however."
"When it is too late to ... to stop you, you mean." At the last moment, Farro had changed what he had really wanted to say, which was "to talk some sense into you." Already he was skirting what would have been a thin line with any other Lord. He felt he was pushing the boundaries of what ought to be acceptable behavior from an adviser.
Duric turned away from the ocean and leaned against the railing, folding his arms. "The idea, Farro, is not so much to keep secrets from the other Nobles as it is to keep it from the Emperor. The fewer people that know, the less likely that the Emperor will find out."
"You are talking of treason to the throne!" Farro cried. "Civil war!"
"Treason? Maybe. If you go by a traditional definition of it. Civil war? This is to prevent one, not start one."
"Traditional definition? Why should there be any other definition?" Farro demanded, his voice cracking in his exasperation.
"Because, dear Farro, what is an Emperor supposed to do?"
Farro blinked. "Huh?"
"The Emperor is supposed to look after the nation. He is supposed to act in its best interest. He is attempting to involve us in a war against a virtually unarmed people citing some vague threat to Oceanus' security. That does not sound like an Emperor who is doing his job."
"But to raise arms against him? Why are you even doing this when the Overlords ..." Farro trailed off and stared. "Did it fail?"
Duric raised a single eyebrow.
"History, my Lord! When the Overlords have initiated a coup in the past, they have always succeeded! Why fail now?"
"Hmm. Why, indeed! I suggest that alone may be cause for alarm."
Farro paused a long moment and then sighed deeply. He turned and took a few steps away from his Lord. When he realized that could be seen as insulting, he quickly whirled back around to face Duric, but the Noble did not seem put out by this momentary breach of etiquette.
Farro lifted the parchment. "I'm still not sure we can do this."
"You don't believe we can find enough able-bodied men?"
"Oh, we have that in abundance. Now ask me if I believe we have any that will go for this in the first place. Unless you intend to resort to conscription."
Duric shook his head. "Only as a last resort. I want men who are willing to go to battle first, not ones that have been drafted into it."
"Then I return to my original statement. Once you tell them what you want an army for, they're not going to agree to this. And you can forget about keeping it secret."
Duric considered this. "Then I guess you have your work cut out for you."
Farro stared, a stricken look on his face. "Pardon, my Lord?"
"I need you to find a way to rally them around my banner, Farro. Or rather the banner of myself and Roquan D'ronstaq."
Farro's eyes opened even wider, and he took a half-step back. "I'm sure I heard that wrong."
Duric shook his head. "Farro, that is how bad things are right now. Make no mistake about this. Z'haas cannot be tolerated on the throne any longer. He will be deposed, period."
"This is unprecedented. There's never been a case of an Emperor removed by force!"
Duric managed a small smile. "Then I suppose we'll be making history."
Farro sighed and shook his head. "This is not the kind of history I wanted to be known for." He paused and took a deep breath. "Well ... no point in arguing this any further, is there? Not once your mind is made up."
"I want your mind to be made up about it as well," said Duric adamantly.
Farro hesitated but slowly nodded. "I should have realized this was coming. After everything that's been happening. And the terrible killings at the Imperium ..."
"I thought you had not heard that the coup had failed."
"I had heard about the executions," Farro said in a hollow voice. "I had simply held out the vain and foolish hope that I had heard wrong, or that they were somehow not related to the coup. Great gods, it is one thing to crack down on a conspiracy, but to deny the basic right to trial and pass summary judgment ...!"
Farro looked over the parchment again. "My Lord, as much as I want to help, I don't see how you're going to get this past the Emperor. I don't see how you're going to be able to approach the Imperium with anything larger than an regiment without being spotted and intercepted before you even come within sight of the Imperial Palace. Or ..."
He paused and stared in astonishment at something near the end of the missive.
"Or do it all in one moon's time!"
Duric clasped a hand on Farro's shoulder. "That's why I need you. You have a tendency to think unconventionally at times. I need you to find a way to do it."
Farro shook his head again. "That's a tall order even in the best of times, my Lord. Do you think the Emperor is intending to move that quickly?"
"I am working under the assumption that he has been building an army for awhile now and revealed his plans only recently."
"If he has that much of a head start on us, I daresay this may be a fool's errand. We may be money ahead to come up with a diplomatic solution. This Caucus for instance ..."
"... will be a colossal waste of time," said Duric. "Except for the fact that it gives me a chance to secretly inform the other Nobles of my intentions if I so desire it. And it gives me someone to place inside the Imperium at a crucial moment."
Farro gave Duric an odd look. "Crucial moment?"
"I need to know exactly when Z'haas' troops will leave the Imperium, as that will be the time to strike. Janna will provide me that information."
Farro looked aghast. "Great gods, you're going to use her as a spy??"
"Do I have any other choice in the matter?"
"If the Emperor discovers her ...!"
"I am aware of that," Duric snapped, his voice growing cross for the first time with Farro. "And she is as well."
The latter statement was not spoken with nearly as much conviction as the former, but Farro did not pick up on this. Instead, he said, "But he may not launch his army when Janna is still there. He may send them sooner. Or wait until the Lords have left."
Duric shook his head. "Emperor Z'haas strikes me as someone who wants to set an example. That is why he acted as he did against the coup conspirators. He wanted to send a message that he was in control and that he could do as he pleased. He may not have wanted the Caucus, but now that he has it thrust upon him, he is going to take advantage of it. He is going to launch his army in full view of the Nobility."
"That is insane."
Duric smiled humorlessly. "Now you get it."
Farro swallowed. He had been in denial about it, but no longer. It was a frightening thought that the man that controlled the most powerful nation in Narlass was mentally unbalanced.
A realization came to him, and he gave Duric a horrified look.
Duric furrowed his brow. "What is the matter, Farro?"
"It ... it can't be done!" Farro cried. "What you want of me ... it simply can't be done!"
"I already told you, I need you to think unconventionally and ..."
"Blast all that! I thought you had wanted an army ready to march in a moon. Now you tell me you want an army at the gates of the Imperial City in a single moon!"
There was a long pause before Duric finally answered, "Yes."
Farro threw up his hands in exasperation, nearly losing the parchment in the process.
"You have to make it work," said Duric. "Find a way. We have no other choice."
Farro considered for a long moment before turning back to his Lord with a brooding look in his eyes. "It will take a moon just to form an army and get it into a remotely cohesive state. And even then it won't have staying power. You want an army, but about the only thing I can give you is something short of a single legion."
"It doesn't need staying power, and it doesn't need to be impressive in terms of size. I'm not looking for a siege. I'm looking for a surgical strike. In and out. In by dawn and out by dusk with an interim Emperor on the throne."
"Fine. I can give you that. Somehow. But there is still the problem of getting the army there. That ..." He paused. "Wait. We are allied with the Overlords?"
"Yes, I stated that."
"All of them, not just Roquan?"
Duric hesitated a moment before answering. "I am assuming so. I can check with Roquan to make sure this is indeed the case. Do you have an idea?"
"Perhaps. I'm not sure. I don't know all the details of how the Overlord Manors work, but I may have something." He looked up. "With your leave, I wish to get started on this task. The sooner I get to it, the sooner we'll know if we will fail miserably at it."
Duric smirked. "That's what I like to hear, Farro. A positive attitude."
Farro just shook his head and turned away, heading back the way he had come.
Duric watched his adviser leave and allowed himself a small heartfelt sigh when the man was out of earshot. He did not like having to dump this on Farro. Yet Farro always came through for him no matter how impossible the task sounded. And to be honest, the man always made a fuss like this when given something huge. It was his job to make sure his Lord really considered this a wise course of action.
Sometimes Duric could be persuaded to adjust his demands. There was simply no room for that here.
Duric walked a little further along the patio and headed back into his suite through a pair of wide glass doors, placing him inside the suite's elegant morning sun room. The frosted glass of the doors diffused the light into milky radiance that gave the chamber a soft glow against its muted earth tones.
Duric heard a familiar panting moan as he turned from the doors. He followed the sound through an open, gilded door that led to one of the smaller rooms off from the sun room, which guests would use for private conversations during a large gathering. Or for more intimate reasons.
When he stepped into the room, he discovered that it was more the latter this time.
Janna was seated on the plush sofa that lay against the opposite wall. She looked up at Duric's approach, giving him a small smile as one hand gently stroked Tanyee's hair. Her dress was open, her bosom bared to the young slave. Tanyee was slowly and sensuously sliding her tongue in and around one of Janna's nipples, her hands gently fondling both breasts.
"Mmm, very good, Tanyee," Janna said in a sultry voice. "Very nice. Keep that up, and I may let you cum."
Duric tilted his head as he saw that Tanyee was quivering constantly, her hips writhing back and forth. Her breathing was also rather labored, almost desperate. Yet both of Janna's hands were within view.
Janna smirked. "Yes?"
Duric raised an eyebrow. "My dear, are you torturing my poor slave with one of your little toys?" he asked in a tone of mock-reproach.
"Oh, now, would I do something like that?" Janna said, blinking in mock-innocence. At the same time, she gave Duric a sly smile. She reached between Tanyee's thighs and ran a single finger over the smooth, black material that had been fitted snugly over the slave's pussy. Tanyee shuddered and moaned, the magical material stroking her faster but continuing to prevent final release.
"You are incorrigible," Duric said with a small laugh.
"Besides, all Tanyee has to do is please me if she wants to cum, that's all. And she seems very good at that."
Tanyee moaned softly again and shifted her mouth to the other breast. Janna lightly pressed her hand into the back of Tanyee's head. Tanyee closed her lips around Janna's erect nipple and drew it into her mouth, sucking lightly and licking at it with her tongue.
"Mmm, very nice ..." Janna murmured.
"Will you be too distracted to talk, my dear?" Duric said with a grin as he leaned against the door frame, folding his arms.
"Is there that much to talk about? I trust you have spoken with Farro."
"Just now. He's not very happy with me."
"I can imagine. You're asking the impossible of him."
"And do you consider your role impossible, Janna?" Duric asked, his tone serious. "Because I need to know now if you do."
Janna appeared to consider for a moment, though at the same time her breathing grew a bit more labored, so it was more likely increasing sexual excitement that made her pause. Her legs parted to relieve the growing pressure in her own sex. "Not impossible," she finally replied, letting a hand play slowly down Tanyee's side. "Dangerous, perhaps."
"I know. I don't like asking you to do this."
Janna shrugged as she slid her hand around to Tanyee's rear and squeezed one of the slave's ass cheeks. "There isn't much choice now, is there?"
"How far are you willing to go with him, Janna?"
Janna looked up. "From the tone of your voice, I don't think you're referring to his bed chamber, now are you?" She drew Tanyee closer to her, urging the slave to suck more deeply on her breast. "I'll do whatever you need me to do, Duric, it's as simple as that."
"Even outright deceive him?"
Janna appeared to pause in her movements for a moment. When she resumed, she did not answer right away. Instead she lay her hand across one of Tanyee's and gently guided it between her legs. Tanyee slid her hand under Janna's dress and undergarment, fingers sinking into Janna's steamy sex. Janna closed her eyes briefly and drew in her breath sharply. She held it for a second and let it go with her next words. "Oh, now, 'deceive' is such a harsh word ... I prefer to call it 'being creative with the facts' ..."
"I'm serious, Janna."
Janna moaned softly as Tanyee started slowly stroking her. "Mmm ... you're such a wet blanket, Duric ..."
Duric shook his head. "Janna, just come see me when you're done." He turned and left without another word.
Janna watched him curiously as he left. It was unlike him to be that serious about anything. Was he truly worried that something bad was going to befall her?
Janna was too excited to tell Tanyee to stop. She nudged Tanyee's head from her breast and made a single, silent gesture. Without hesitation, even as her pussy ached with the desperate need for relief, she crouched before her Mistress. Janna opened her dress to give Tanyee more access. Tanyee leaned forward and tugged the undergarment to the side to expose Janna's glistening pussy.
Janna tilted her head back and closed her eyes as Tanyee began to lick. She spread her legs wide and moaned deeply. She urged Tanyee to hasten a bit with a nudge to the back of the slave's head. Tanyee responded, pressing her lips to Janna's sex and sucking at her womanhood.
Janna's lips parted as she panted. A shudder of excitement passed through her as she thought about Duric's arrangement with Roquan. She had hoped to be at the palace when Amanda arrived. She loved the idea of two young slaves tending to her at the same time.
Janna's thoughts momentarily dissolved as she rose higher. She let Tanyee continue at the faster pace, her moans escalating. Soon she was panting heavily as she neared the edge, her hand pressing Tanyee's face into her sex. Tanyee lashed her tongue against her Mistress' womanhood hard and fast. Janna rose over the top and cried out softly as she came.
She eased the pressure against the back of Tanyee's head, letting the slave girl back off slowly. Tanyee drew back from Janna, sitting on her haunches, panting as her own pussy was continually stroked and held at the edge.
Janna took a few moments to catch her breath before looking down at Tanyee and smiling. She gestured for Tanyee to rise.
Tanyee stood, her legs trembling. She slid her feet apart as if in anticipation of her reward. She started moaning, her hips writhing. Janna watched this for a few more moments before reaching forward and pressing her fingers into Tanyee's slot.
Tanyee gasped, then let out a cry as she came, her hips bucking against Janna's fingers. Her orgasm continued for some time, Janna's magical toy able to stretch out her climax much better than any finger, tongue, or manhood could do. When she was spent, Janna stroked the material in a particular way. It loosened and fell into her hand.
"Thank you, Mistress," Tanyee said in a breathless voice.
Janna smiled. "For removing this or for cumming so hard?"
"For cumming so hard, of course, Mistress."
"Mmm, good girl. Now, I need to go see your Master, so just run off and get cleaned up for him. I shouldn't be but a few moments."
"Yes, Mistress," said Tanyee. She turned and left the room through a side passage, still a bit shaky from her strong orgasm.
Janna stood up and made use of the adjoining sanitary to make herself presentable again. She strode out of the sun room and down the main corridor. Soon enough she was standing in Duric's office, where he sat behind a massive oak desk.
Duric looked up and leaned back in his chair. "Janna, I need to know now," he said in a heavy voice. "Do you really know what you're getting yourself into?"
"Do you seriously think I take on any task without knowing what is involved and what the risks are? I didn't get this far by being careless."
"I know that. But this is the first time you're being asked to do something outside your normal talents."
Janna laughed at this. "You really believe that?"
Duric raised an eyebrow. "Oh? So you've been asked to spy on the Emperor before?"
"No, don't be foolish. While I wouldn't use the word 'spying' to describe it, I am no stranger to gathering information on a potential adversary."
"No 'potential' about it this time, Janna. He is the enemy, period. And this is not your typical rank-advancement venue."
Janna placed her hands on Duric's desk and leaned forward. "Duric, you have no other options. Whether I know better or not about what I'm doing matters not. You have no one else to send who would be half as good at both getting information and misdirecting the Emperor at the crucial moment."
"And you're not the least bit anxious about this?"
Janna snorted as she straightened up. "Only if I let myself think about it too hard."
The truth of the matter was that Janna was a little frightened by the prospects. But this was something she dared not let on to anyone. She could not let anyone know, even someone she trusted as far as Duric, what she really felt. She could not let people see that weakness, for she would have to admit it to herself as well. She could not be distracted by doubt.
"Duric, I have to go through with this," Janna declared. "That's all there is to it. I will not back out of this now."
"You do know what the Emperor did to the conspirators?"
Janna took a quick, deep breath and let it go. "Yes, I do. What of it?"
Duric regarded Janna for a moment, as if looking for something. He finally sighed. "All right. I just wanted to make sure. I've never had to give orders that could potentially put someone's life at risk."
"And you're sure you're not just dwelling on the fact that I'm your cousin?"
Duric gave her a stony look. Of course he was dwelling on that. Because he had attained such a high position in the clan at so young an age, resentment had made his relationships with blood relations rather distant. Janna was the only one to whom he had managed to remain close. Janna was very important to him far beyond just what she could do for him, either in Keyas or the Imperial Palace.
Moreover, he cared about Janna more than he let on. He hated having to ask her to do this for him. He wished he had someone else that was more suited for the task.
When Duric did not reply, Janna shook her head. "I think you may reading too much into it. Are you seriously worried the Emperor might do something to me? A bunch of people conspiring to usurp the throne is one thing, but a member of the Nobility?"
Neither one truly believed that. Both realized that the Emperor was likely capable of anything at this point. Yet no further words were exchanged on the subject.
"All right, Janna," Duric said in a more business-like voice. "The Caucus is going to start in a half-moon's time. The Emperor insists that we open as few Portals into the Imperial Palace as possible, so you'll need to head to Selemas and Port over with some others.
"That's a few day's travel from here by coach. I'll need to leave in not much more than a quarter moon's time." Janna paused and smiled slyly. "Will I be here in time to ..."
Duric smirked. "Yes, Janna. I am sure you will have a chance to play with Amanda a bit before you go."
"You are so generous, my dear Duric." She winked at him before heading out of the room.
The mood in the Healer's office was solemn, at least for the majority of those present. Amanda sat on the examination table with a slightly sullen look, broken only by the occasional wince as the scar on her leg stung. Behind her, Sirinna wore a face of equanimity, but there was a sadness to her eyes. Vanlo displayed a look of simple concern as he examined the ministrations of his cohort with a very critical eye.
Of all of them, only Lanno was upbeat as he crouched before Amanda, slowly applying the salve he had created to the scar on Amanda's calf. Occasionally his gaze strayed upwards, glancing at Amanda's bare pussy with a small upturn of one corner of his mouth. He was already thinking ahead to the evening. He fully intended to avail himself of Amanda's company again, knowing it would be one of the last chances he would get. He already knew that Amanda was being given to a client in a very short time.
After the fourth time that Lanno's gaze strayed, Vanlo made a loud coughing noise. Lanno appeared to ignore it, but his gaze remained riveted on the scar anyway after that. The top of the scar, where he had applied the salve first, was fading slowly even as he still worked his way down.
Amanda felt the stinging sensation give way to a brief but maddening itch, and then settle to nothing more than a vague tingling as it began to heal. She glanced down and uttered a very small despondent sigh as she watched the scar disappearing.
Lanno finished treating the rest of the scar and stood. "And there you go," he said as he retrieved the cork and stoppered the vial with a flourish. "Give it just a short while longer, and it will be as if you never had the scar, Amanda."
Amanda did not say anything in response.
"Amanda," Sirinna said very softly.
"Thank you, Master Lanno," Amanda intoned dutifully. There was little emotion behind it.
Vanlo observed Amanda's reaction silently, stroking his beard. He had a feeling that Amanda would not be at all amenable to this surprise change in her status. He had had suspicions of the feelings between her and Sirinna long before the Overlord knew to what depth they went.
Amanda was indeed not at all happy, and not just about having to be sent away. With the scar gone, she felt there were no more reminders of what she had done for the Overlord. Somehow the scar had made her special. She felt people would be able to look at her and remember what she had done in the back of their minds. Now she looked like any other slave.
Lanno turned to Vanlo and looked at him expectantly.
Vanlo paused a long moment before finally taking a deep breath and letting it go. "Well done," he said simply. These words, too, did not have very much emotion behind them.
Lanno nodded respectfully. He had hoped for a little more recognition of his talents from the man, but supposed that he would have to settle for this. For now, at least.
Vanlo folded his hands behind his back and turned to Sirinna and Amanda. "Sirinna, I had completed my examination of Amanda before Master Lanno began his treatment. She is in perfect health."
Sirinna managed a small smile and nodded. "Thank you, Master Vanlo."
Amanda nodded as well and gave the older Healer a faint smile. She had been very grateful that Vanlo had insisted on doing the examination himself. She really did not want Lanno touching her more than was necessary.
Sirinna stepped over to Amanda and lay a hand on her shoulder. Amanda slid off the table and onto to her feet, turning her back to Sirinna and crossing her wrists behind her. "Will I need to bring Amanda in for a follow-up, Master?" Sirinna asked as she secured the cuffs to Amanda's wrists.
Vanlo had started to shake his head and was opening his mouth to say something when Lanno cut in. "Oh, by all means! I should check to make sure there is no residual discoloration of the skin."
Sirinna finished with the cuffs and began reattaching the chain to the collar. "When shall I bring her, Master?"
Lanno smirked. "How about tonight?"
One of Vanlo's eyebrows rose. Amanda just looked on resignedly.
Sirinna understood immediately and smiled slightly. "You wish to examine her while you enjoy your pleasure with her tonight?"
"I don't see why not. It won't take but a few moments time."
"Of course, Master Lanno. I will have her ready for you this evening."
"Excellent. Bring her around at twilight."
Amanda would have bristled at this if she had not already steeled herself against any overt reaction. That would leave her almost no time at all to read any more of the scrolls. It also meant that he intended to have her all night. She was sure she would be sore by the time it was over.
Sirinna finished attaching the chain and took the other end in her hand. "Is there anything else, Master Lanno?"
Vanlo cut in quickly. "That is all, Sirinna. You may take her."
"Thank you, Master." Sirinna snapped the chain once. Amanda hesitated just a moment, as if in token defiance, before turning and walking ahead of her Mistress.
Lanno watched the two of them go. When they had left, he turned to Vanlo. Without altering his smile, he folded his arms and said, "So what will you criticize me for this time, Vanlo?"
"Would it even matter to you if I did?" Vanlo asked in an irritated voice.
"I won't spar with you anymore. There's no point."
"That is true. You do not listen, so there is no point."
Lanno considered. "Perhaps, in that way, you are correct."
Vanlo's eyebrows rose. "Am I?"
"Yes. At least where my personal business is concerned."
Vanlo could think of a number of different reasons by which Lanno's actions were outside the realm of merely "personal business," but he held his tongue. It would only lead to another impasse between them. It was perhaps good that Amanda was getting some time away from the Manor. Perhaps during that time, Lanno's attentions would turn elsewhere.
"Very well," said Vanlo. "Then let us instead speak of things that are in my venue. Such as Healing."
Lanno sighed through his nose, but nodded at the older man.
Vanlo hesitated a moment before continuing. "I must commend you for your work on the salve."
"Hmm? Really, now ..."
"Yes. Your salve worked very well where my treatments had failed. I feel I must acknowledge this."
Admittedly, Lanno's first instinct was to push the point and make it clear that his skills should never have been in question from the start. Yet he detected the hint of a bruised ego in the older Healer's voice, and decided that perhaps it was best not to exacerbate that. Hearing this praise from Vanlo, as muted as it was, was far more than Lanno had expected from the man in the first place.
"Thank you, Vanlo," said Lanno politely. "I am glad you are pleased."
Vanlo had his doubts about this, but accepted the statement at face value. "Assuming there are no complications that arise -- and I doubt there will be from the ingredients involved -- I shall make sure we include it as one of our additional treatments for any more stubborn scars."
"Actually, Vanlo, I was hoping to replace the current standard treatment with this."
Vanlo paused. "Indeed?"
"This is better. It heals the scar faster and there is less discomfort."
"Hmm, yes ... Well, if you are able to get the Guild to approve it, then let me know."
Lanno frowned. "I beg your pardon?"
"Standard treatments are called such for a reason, Master Lanno," Vanlo said with excessive politeness. "It is the job of the Guild to approve such treatments for everyday use. Until they approve it, it is not considered a standard treatment. I don't believe I can make it any clearer than that."
Lanno fumed, his lips pressed tightly together as he exhaled noisily in frustration. Vanlo did not react, and continued to regard the younger Healer with a critical eye, as if daring Lanno to contradict him.
Lanno realized that Vanlo was technically correct. A treatment could not be considered standard if the Guild did not approve it as such. It was his understanding that most Healers bent that rule as it suited them and their patients. He could not believe that someone like Vanlo, with as experienced and as good as he was, would be one to toe the line in matters like this.
But getting Vanlo to admit such a thing was likely impossible.
"Then may I ask that, if you ever get a case of a slave with a wound that may leave a visible scar, that you will consider this alternate treatment rather than the standard one in order to save yourself some time?"
Vanlo stroked his beard for a few moments as if in thought. "I surely will consider it, should the situation come up again."
Lanno nodded curtly. That would have to do. Lanno got his treatment recognized as having merit, and Vanlo got to enjoy his little dig at Lanno's expense.
It was a small comfort that he had managed to get Vanlo to stop questioning what he did on his own time. He was starting to realize a few things about Amanda, things that he intended to confront her with that evening. He felt it was important to clear the air about how things worked in the real world, especially now that she was being sent to a client before her training was completed. He felt what he had to say to her was vital for her success.
Lanno felt what he was doing with Amanda was part of his Healer duties. The mantra at the Guild was "heal the mind as well as the body." This is exactly what he was doing.
"If there is nothing else, Vanlo, I'd like to return to my duties. There are some other slaves coming in for regular examinations."
Vanlo nodded once. "I will be in the lab if you need me."
Vanlo swiftly left the room. Once he was out of sight of the younger Healer, he gave an exhausted sigh and rubbed the bridge of his nose. A headache was starting to lurk behind his temples, the first time in a long while as he continued to recover from what the ill effects of the potion had done to him.
A potion that he was now very close to isolating.
He dropped his hand and stepped over to the apparatus where his latest mixture was brewing. Depending on the results, he would know for sure what he had already suspected from examining the partially brewed potion. If he were correct, the implications were staggering.
As would be all the unanswered questions that it would generate.
Vanlo sighed again. He was not sure what he dreaded most: the confirming of his suspicion in and of itself, or having to inform the Overlord about it. And even then, it did not solve the two most crucial questions:
Amanda had just started to turn back down the path that led to the Circle when Sirinna abruptly snapped her chain. Not having expected it, Amanda almost didn't come to a complete halt at first.
Sirinna snapped it again, and Amanda swiftly turned to face her Mistress. She tilted her head slightly when she saw Sirinna giving her a somewhat strained look. "Something the matter, Mistress?" Amanda asked respectfully.
"Head to our quarters, Amanda," Sirinna said. There was a slight edge to her voice. There was also something else to it. "We need to take care of something first."
Amanda gave Sirinna a chagrined look. "Yes, Mistress," she said in a softer, more subdued voice as she turned down the other fork in the path, Sirinna picking up the pace behind her.
Amanda was sure now she was going to be punished for her disrespect at the Healer's office. Yes, it had been muted and subtle, but as Sirinna had repeated to her many times, tolerance for misbehavior, however slight, was greatly diminished as she continued further in her training. She was getting to the point where she would be expected to act as a good slave all the time.
Perhaps even more so, now that she was going to be given to a client.
She took a deep breath, and for the first time it came without the threat of a sob. Yet the sadness over leaving settled over her like a weight that made her shoulders slump.
Amanda eventually realized what she was doing and squared her shoulders back. By that time, they had reached the door, and Amanda was now mystified as to why she had not felt the snap of the chain and an admonishment to stand up straight.
Sirinna did not say a word as she marched her charge into the main chamber. Amanda swallowed hard, her mind racing furiously in a vain attempt to ascertain what she had done that was so wrong. Whenever Sirinna was this quiet, it usually meant she was rather upset at something Amanda had done. It was not something that happened often anymore, but the few times it had Amanda remembered very keenly. Those were the times she had been paddled the worst.
"Mistress, what did I do wrong?" Amanda finally asked when she felt Sirinna practically yank the chain from her collar. She started to turn around. "What ...?"
"Don't turn around yet, Amanda."
Amanda's mouth dropped open. No, this was not punishment. Not with as choked up Sirinna's voice was, or the fact that she was removing Amanda's restraints. Punishment was always done with them on.
Sirinna tossed the cuffs carelessly towards the bed. She missed the mark, and they bounced off the edge and onto the floor. Before Amanda could react to this, Sirinna touched her shoulder and nudged her to turn around.
Amanda looked up at Sirinna and was too shocked to say a word. As much as Sirinna was trying desperately to retain her composure, there were tears trickling out of the corners of her eyes.
Amanda understood, and when she breathed in next, she felt a small sob escape her lips as her own eyes glistened.
Sirinna reached out and pulled Amanda into a tight embrace. Amanda could feel Sirinna's body trembling, and even though Sirinna did not make a sound, Amanda felt tears splash against her shoulder.
Amanda had no words. Her own emotions were welling up too fast and too powerfully for her to respond. Thankfully Sirinna broke the silence between them.
"Great gods, Amanda ... I-I don't know what I should feel ..." said Sirinna in a whispery, emotion-choked voice. "I f-feel so horrible that you h-have ... have t-to leave ..."
For a few moments, Sirinna felt her throat threatening to close up. She squeezed her eyes shut to try and stem the flood of tears that wanted to spill from them. Amanda's arms tightened around her, and she managed to find the strength to continue.
"But ... I'm so proud of you, Amanda ... s-so very, very proud ... that a client asked for you by name ..."
Amanda did not want to think about this. If she allowed herself to do so, she was afraid she would hate Tanyee for it. Tanyee was the only means by which Lord K'garon could have known about her. She realized that Tanyee would not have known any better, but it would not have made her feel any less bitter about it.
She felt Sirinna shudder, which jerked her out of her thoughts and back to the present. "Amanda, i-is it so wrong for me to feel that way? Is it wrong t-to want this for you as much as I want you to stay?"
The pleading tone in Sirinna's voice made Amanda's heart lurch. She could no longer hold back her own tears now. She sniffled once before replying. "Sirinna, p-please ... don't do this to yourself. Don't make it harder on yourself. Or us."
Sirinna slowly broke off the embrace and wiped at her eyes. She looked at Amanda and tried to compose herself. "I can't stop being a Trainer, Amanda, I'm sorry," she said in a husky voice. She took Amanda's hands in her own and squeezed them. "I have to think of these things, as much as I don't want to ..."
"No, no, it's okay, Sirinna. Really. I understand. This ... this is what I agreed to, remember?"
Sirinna took a deep breath and nodded. She sniffled and again wiped at her tears. "I just don't think either of us thought we'd part so soon. I guess ... I-I guess I didn't think any of this through ..."
Sirinna's eyes dropped from Amanda's.
Amanda was shocked. This was the first time that Sirinna had come close to admitting that perhaps she had made a mistake in getting involved with Amanda in the first place. Yet the shock was tempered by the fact that this was something that had been in Amanda's thoughts as well at odd times.
She hated herself for thinking of such things, for it made her question her own feelings for Sirinna. Yet she really did love Sirinna. That truly had not changed.
It was then that Amanda realized what frightened her about being separated from Sirinna. It was not that she would be pining for her lover all that time, but the possibility that she might grow used to being away from Sirinna. That perhaps the love between them was not quite as strong as she would have liked to believe.
Had this been Earth, and had this been a more "conventional" romance, many people would have told her to not get too serious now. After all, she was only fifteen. That was too young to get so heavily involved. Yet in Narlass, where girls her age were expected to engage in sex multiple times a day with as many partners, the rules were different.
But changing the rules did not mean changing her emotions.
"Sirinna, don't do this," Amanda finally said, her voice tinged with exasperation. She swiped at her tears in annoyance. "You're not the only one that got involved here, okay? I could have gone back. I could have tried to f-forget about you ..."
Amanda couldn't speak anymore. Sirinna looked up. When their eyes met, they realized that neither of them could believe the statement that Amanda had just made.
"I won't forget you. I can't forget you," Sirinna said adamantly.
Amanda swallowed and nodded. "I know. I can't forget you, either."
Sirinna uttered a long sigh. "I so wish slaves were allowed Farviewing pearls, Amanda. At least then we could keep in touch somehow."
Amanda had not even thought about it until that moment. Her only experience with the things had been indirectly on the few occasions she had seen someone else using one. "Wait, Sirinna, maybe Master Roquan would ..."
Sirinna shook her head quickly. "I'm sorry, Amanda, but no. I can't ask him to do that. And you can't either."
Amanda wanted to tell her "like hell I can't," but she understood what Sirinna meant. It was simply not their place to ask such a thing. Amanda was sure she had already taxed Roquan's generosity to its limits. She was well aware that he did not approve of the relationship between her and Sirinna. He would not do anything that would serve only to continue that inconvenient attachment.
This thought made Amanda angry, but she contained it quickly. Sirinna, however, as well-versed as she was with her lover's body language, noticed it at once.
"No, Amanda," Sirinna repeated, regaining some of her composure. "Please, don't try it. He's been very generous to you as it is, what with allowing you the scrolls and ..."
"I know, I know," Amanda replied with a sigh. Yet the idea would not go away. Now she wondered if perhaps he just might ...
"Please promise me you won't do it."
Amanda blinked. "What?"
"Promise me, Amanda. You have been very good with your promises. I know if you promise me something, you won't go back on it. Please promise me you will not attempt this. Please promise you won't ask for a Farviewing pearl."
Amanda gave Sirinna a sullen look, but it faded quickly. "All right. I promise I won't ..."
She hesitated a moment. A new thought flickered across her mind.
" ... ask Master Roquan about a Farviewing pearl."
Sirinna hesitated, and Amanda worried that Sirinna had somehow picked up on what she was thinking. Instead, Sirinna nodded. "Thank you, Amanda. I'm sorry to do that, but as ... as much as it will hurt to be apart from you ... this is what has to happen. It's not right to interfere with it."
Amanda understood all this. She knew this would happen someday. She just had not expected it to happen so soon. "Sirinna, Master Roquan said this was a short contract, maybe ..."
"Yes, it is a short one, but Lord K'garon will have the option to keep you after that time. And if you're a good slave for him, that's exactly what he will do. And ... a-and I don't expect you to be anything less than the best slave you can be for him."
Amanda could tell that it was hard for Sirinna to say that. She knew that Sirinna was secretly hoping what Amanda was, that he would find some reason to send Amanda back to the Manor. Yet considering what he had done in sending Tanyee back that one time, she could not think of how she could possibly come back to the Manor except in disgrace for having displeased her Master somehow.
Amanda nodded to Sirinna. "I'll do the best I can. I promise."
Sirinna managed a small smile. "All right ... as much as I'd love to spend some private time with you, we have to get back to training. I want to try to teach you as much about muscle control as I can before you have to go."
Sirinna managed to say this without choking up as she picked up the cuffs.
"How long until I have to leave, Mistress?" Amanda asked in a somber voice.
Sirinna paused to secure the cuffs around Amanda's wrists first. "Not more than three days, Amanda."
Amanda inwardly cringed at this, but nodded.
Sirinna reattached the chain. "And you're going to be sent by Portal. I know how you feel about that thing, but ..."
Amanda shook her head, causing the chain to rattle. "No, I'm fine with it, Mistress, so long as Master Roquan is operating it. And to be honest, I don't want to have to spend a bunch of time in transit with little to do."
Sirinna gave the chain a smart snap. Amanda turned to face her.
"Very good, Amanda. Now ... let's get you back to your training."
Amanda nodded and started out before Sirinna.
Three days. That was not going to give her any time at all. And one evening would already be occupied with Lanno. So less than three days to obtain a Farviewing pearl. There was one consolation, however.
She knew exactly from whom she would obtain one.
|Main Page --> Completed Works --> The Overlords' Gambit --> Chapter 12 of 36|
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