The warm summer breeze
stirred the silk curtains through the open window. The night sounds of
Pandathaway drifted in, laughter and music and the occasional argument.
To the north was the great complex of the Mage's Guildhall, alight with
Rebecca stood by the window, nervous, waiting. She closed the window and glanced around the room, the glowing ruby orbs of her eyes spilling strange light to mingle with the candlelight. She twined her hands in the velvet folds of her gown.
Only hours ago, she was trapped in a cell beneath the plaza of Delain City, in an area devoid of magical energy. A normal demon would have died horribly, but there was enough human blood in Rebecca to let her survive. The pain had been terrible, however, and she shivered as she remembered. Even worse than the pain was the fear, a soul-deep terror of her distant cousin and captor, the magician Flagg. He too had the blood of demonkind in his veins, and sought through an unholy union with Rebecca to gain power among the denizens of the Abyss. For Rebecca had once been known as Nemesis, daughter of a demon lord and a human princess, and was of the eighth generation of her family line. Her children would be of the ninth generation, and nine was a number sacred to the Dark Queen. For four hundred years, Rebecca had been doomed to the Abyss, banished by the great Anduran hero, Kenris the Golden. A little over a week ago, she had been freed, and now lived among her mother's kind.
A slight smile crossed her face as she recalled the circumstances of her release from the Abyss. Long, long ago, her sire's citadel stood on a piece of land now occupied by Greenvale Castle. Beneath the castle, in the depths of the catacombs, a little girl had discovered the black jade ring that caused the transformation into the inhuman form of Nemesis. The girl grew, walked by her own inner madness and the influence of the Hellborn ring, and took to punishing imagined slights as Nemesis, Avenging Angel of Death. During the course of her demonic career, the new Nemesis had slain her own father and many others. Until she crossed the wrong group of people. She made enemies of a party of adventurers, but they did not die as easily as she had expected. They faced her and lived several times. Then, in an effort to learn more, one of the adventurers asked the help of a skilled demonologist They determined that the original Nemesis had not left the Abyss in four hundred years, and surmised that their hunter was an importer. So the demonologist called forth the original Nemesis, that the adventurer might ask a few questions.
Rebecca remembered the first tug of the summoning, and how she had feared it might be the call of the Dark Queen. Nevertheless, she responded. She had been banished because of her demon half, and her fellow demons despised her for her human blood. Four hundred years was a long time, even in the uncertain time flow of the Realms Beyond. A change, even for the worse, was welcomed.
But it had not been the Dark Queen. A human sought her, a human man. Harold Alaric Ethelbald. He had not been expecting Rebecca, that much was obvious as soon as she appeared. He looked at her, turned to the demonologist, and said, "This can't be right."
Harry. One glance into his mithril-grey eyes was worth the past four hundred years. After they had questioned her, she returned to the Abyss almost happy, knowing that the memory of him would lessen the terror and pain that formed her world. She had been amazed beyond belief when she was summoned again, and he freed her from the restricting pentagram. He had freed her and taken her home with him, for he could not bear to see her suffer when he learned that demons were not all evil. His direct eyes, his silken voice, the cool touch of his hand. She knew even as she stepped across the boundaries of the pentagram that she loved this human, though love was foreign to demonkind. She loved him and owed him her life, her soul. But he was already wed, his young bride expecting a child. Harry gave her the name Rebecca and made her his secretary, though she told him of her love and fully expected him to agree that she should seek her life elsewhere. She loved him enough to give him up, for she knew her continued presence would cause him trouble. However, in a few short days, he came to care for her. His marriage was an unhappy one for him, and he was strangely drawn to the paradoxical combinations that formed Rebecca. Demon, but not evil. Young, but ancient. Innocent, but wise. It puzzled and intrigued him that a creature from the Abyss could be more gentle and good than his own race. Somehow, though it still amazed her, he grew to love her.
Yesterday, less than a week from her release from the Abyss, she was captured by Flagg and imprisoned. As a partly magical being, she suffered in the no-mana zone, and her magical gift of darksight was stolen from her, leaving her blind. Flagg came by only to mock her and to demonstrate his stoicness in the dearth of magic, though he had more demon blood than she did. For a full night and most of the day, she was kept in her cell. She was ready to surrender, to do all that he asked of her, if he would only make the pain stop. Then Harry came, breaking into the cell and rescuing her again. He took her to the city of Glorious Pandathaway, his birthplace, and sent her to the bath-house while he got her some new clothes.
She ran her palms over the cinnamon-colored velvet gown, trimmed in fox fur. It set off her pale golden skin perfectly. She was cursed by having neither shadow nor reflection, but she could feel her dusky black hair spilling over her shoulders. Among humans, her beauty was slightly exotic, as if she came from some foreign country that no one could exactly place. She knew her eyes were her most striking feature, though they caused many people to react in fear or superstition. Her eyes were solid red, without whites or pupils, and glowed eerily. The intensity of the glow changed with her mood.
Once she was clean and dressed, having scrubbed until all traces of Flagg's vile touch were washed away, Harry took her to a quiet candlelit dinner, and a play. They both knew he should return to the Western Barony, where his young wife would be waiting, but they were loathe to see the evening end. They walked in one of Pandathaway's parks, his arm feeling so right around her, talk coming easily. It was like a dream from which neither of them wanted to awaken. When he asked her if she wanted to go home, she replied truthfully that she would rather stay here with him, but she knew he must return.
With a serious, almost sad look in his eyes, he brought her to this inn and bade her wait, for he would be back shortly. Now she sat nervously, wondering what would happen and what she was doing. She felt terrible for Harry's wife, Wildfire, who had welcomed Rebecca into her home. Such a way to repay hospitality, by falling in love with her husband.
A light tap sounded at the door, followed by Harry's voice. He truly had returned. Rebecca called for him to come in and went halfway across the room to meet him.
"Hi," he said, his voice warm with promise. "I'm back."
"Hi," she replied, feeling shy and nervous and confused.
He came in and shut the door behind him, then turned and looked at her. He was tall, elegantly dressed, with sleek black hair and gray eyes that could be cold as steel or warm as mulled wine. His face was handsome, with a slight eastern Irendian cast to his features. He usually wore a moustache, but he'd had to shave it in order to impersonate Flagg long enough to sneak into Delain City. One lock of hair tumbled down on his forehead, giving him a rakish, dashing look. It was actually his charm, more than his appearance, that made him so popular among the sophisticated court ladies. Whatever his secret, his appeal was powerful and undeniable. Rebecca felt her heart fluttering against the cage of her ribs. She dropped her head. "How are things at home?" she asked.
"Fine. They were asleep. I left a message." He walked closer, until only a foot of space separated them. "How were things here?"
"Quiet. Calm. It's a nice place," she said inanely, aware of how foolish she must sound. He walked behind her and poured a glass of wine, handing it to her. She sipped at it as he began rubbing her shoulders. "Did you like the play?" he asked.
She smiled. "Very much. And people don't stare as much here." She remembered the silly comedy play they had seen, and how good it felt to laugh with him. The other playgoers and the citizens of Pandathaway were accustomed to strange sights, so the glowing eyes that marked her as a witch in some places were accepted here without difficulty.
"Pandathaway is very open-minded about magic," he said, echoing her thoughts.
"It wasn't like this before." Idiot! she chided herself. What are you so scared of?
"Really?" He seemed endlessly intrigued by her knowledge of history. "What was it like?"
She thought for a moment. "There wasn't a Mage's Guild. It was a rich, decadent port city that traded to and from everywhere." She felt herself relaxing, though the small talk made her feel like a naive child.
"It's still rich and decadent," Harry said, amusement in his voice. "But not too bad. Does that feel good?" he asked, still rubbing her shoulders.
"Yes," she said, stretching a little.
"Good. Is there anything else I can do?"
Flagg's image rose glowering in her mind, bringing back the paralyzing fear. How close she had been to giving up, to telling him the location of the Nemesis ring, to doing anything he asked if he would just make the pain go away. She shivered.
"Hold me," she whispered, "and tell me everything's all right."
He turned her around and pulled her close, resting her head against his silk-covered chest. She could hear his heart beating, solid and strong.
"I'm here now," he said, running his fingers through her dusky hair. "Everything is fine. You don't have anything to worry about."
She smiled sadly into his chest, thinking about the trust she betrayed by being in this man's arms. She was also dimly aware that she was trembling, partly from the memory of fear, and partly from his nearness. "I'm sorry," she said, trying to calm herself. "I'm a little frightened," she admitted, feeling a hot blush stain her face.
His arms tightened around ha. 'What are you frightened of? I won't let Him get you."
Him. Flagg. It was said that he could hear the utterance of his name no matter where he was, and spy on the accompanying conversation. "No, I wasn't thinking of him at all." Well, that was not entirely true. "It's just..." she blushed again, hiding her face. "Here we are together, and I don't know what to do." That was true. Though many of her sire's minions had been suggestive, though Flagg's evil lust was obvious, she had only been with one man before. A human man, the selfsame Kenris who later banished her. His seduction was only part of his plan to enlist her aid in destroying her sire, and his promises of marriage were false. She wanted this man now before her, but she was suddenly afraid. She closed her eyes and waited, tense, for his reply.
"Kiss me," Harry said, moving his hand front her hair to her chin, tipping her face up. She looked up at him, loving him. He lowered his head and their lips met. All thoughts of Flagg, Kenris, and Wildfire fled from Rebecca's mind as she gave herself wholly over to the moment. Harry held her tightly against him, stroking her hair.
"I love you, Rebecca," he murmured against her mouth. "I think I always have."
"Then love me," she whispered. "Even if only for tonight, love me."
He buried his face in the hollow of her neck, nuzzling, sending shivers of delight through her. He deftly unhooked the back of her gown and lowered it to her waist, his eyes darkening in appreciation as the contours of her torso were revealed. Rebecca closed her eyes and sighed as his cool hands moved across her warm body. He knelt and slipped the shoes from her feet, then pulled her gown over her hips and let it fall to the floor.
He was silent. He did not move. Rebecca opened her eyes and looked anxiously at him. Perhaps he did not find her attractive? She stepped back and crossed her arms over her exposed flesh, suddenly feeling cold.
"Is something wrong?" she managed to ask.
"No," he breathed. "You're so beautiful." He stood, touched her cheek lightly. "I want this to be perfect for you, Rebecca."
"It already is," she said, kissing him again.
He swept her up in his arms and carried her to the bed. She unbuttoned his shirt, then slid her arms inside and pulled him down to kiss her. Never had she felt like This; the yearning for him was a sweet storm threatening to carry her away. The length of his body pressed against her as he freed his arms from the shirt, and she could feel the proof of his desire. He was kissing her neck, her breasts, his touch gentle yet strong. In her mind's eye she saw his kisses as snowflakes, landing softy on her warm skin and melding. He captured a dusky coral nipple in his mouth and flicked his tongue across it, sending shivers through her. She caught his dark head and held it to her bosom, nipping lightly at his earlobe. One of her hands stole down to slowly rub the bulge of his manhood, straining at the fabric of his trousers.
He moved downward, and she realized that he intended to make love to her in the Irendian fashion. Her hands clutched helplessly at the bedcovers as he wreaked delicious havoc with that intimate kiss. Her limbs seemed to turn to molten gold. She bit her lip to try and muffle her small cries of pleasure. The feelings were incredible, intense, almost too much to bear. Several times he brought her to a point where she felt sure she must explode, then paused for a few moments, letting her regain herself. Rebecca tossed her head, moaning. She was lost in a wave of passion, engulfed in the storm.
Harry rose and looked down at her, covering her body with his own. Mithril eyes met ruby ones as he slowly entered her. She raised her hips to meet him, sighing with delight.
"Oh, Rebecca," he breathed, holding her close. He rained kisses on her lips, her brow, the smooth column of her throat. He thrust into her with long, even strokes, sometimes teasingly almost withdrawing before driving forward to fill her again. It was a torture that she did not want to end. She found his rhythm and matched it, until it seemed their bodies had become one fused entity, spiraling into a realm of pure wonder.
Rebecca felt an overwhelming pressure building. She began to tingle as waves of pleasure spread across her body like ripples on a pond. She felt as if she were running at a cliff with no way to stop. Something was going to happen to her, something wild and powerful and a little bit frightening. She tried to warn Harry, but it was too late.
"Harry, no, I...oh, Damon!" Her hands tightened convulsively on his shoulders as she cried out, burying her head against his chest. She was falling, flying, dying. A whitewater roaring filled her ears and the world dimmed before her eyes.
Someone was calling her name. Harry. She opened her eyes.
He still lay atop her, weight braced on his elbows as his hands caressed her face. "Are you all right?" he asked, his concern visible.
"Oh, Harry! It was...I never knew..." She broke off and kissed him. "It was wonderful."
"Of course," he said with a grin. She felt him still hard within her, and he began to move again. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rolled onto his back, holding her tightly above him. His hands found her hips and lowered her as he thrust upward. Rebecca gasped as he filled her even deeper than before. She braced her hands on the pillow and rocked back and forth. Harry moaned and closed his eyes.
Recalling how he had teasingly almost withdrawn, she raised herself until he nearly slipped from her, then drove down to engulf him in her warmth. Now it was his turn to gasp.
"Ah, vixen, so you seek to torment me," he laughed. His skilled hands moved to her breasts, then to her dusky hair tumbling around her face. He pulled her down, crushing her to his chest. She felt herself building again, and this time willingly lost herself to the sensation. Harry kissed her fiercely as he too reached the summit. She felt his release, cool silver fire as he yielded to the force of his passion.
He held her tenderly as the intensity of their lovemaking descended from the heights they had attained. For a time, they lay like that among the tangled bedclothes, not moving save to exchange gentle kisses. Finally she settled down beside him, nestled in his arms. "I love you," they whispered together as they drifted toward sleep.