The slim, elven male kept his head down and his shoulders tight as he travelled through the dim halls of the manor. His face was covered by the large brim of his triangular hat, though his long white hair flowed down from beneath it to pool about his neck and over his shoulders in large curls. He glanced up only occasionally to navigate the long, dark corridors, averting his eyes deferentially to any of the female guards he passed.
A thick cloak covered his arms and shoulders, a slight rim sliding back into a hood along his spine. As he neared his destination he twisted his head about, looking down the sharply ornamented stone walls, checking for anyone who might be following him. Satisfying himself he was alone he took a sudden turn down another hall and then quietly pressed up to a doorway, raising one gloved hand from beneath his cloak to knock upon the thick door.
His knuckles banged out a light series of rhythmic knocks in a strange pattern, an edge of nervousness to his expression.
The door slid open quickly to the coded knock, Vierae having been waiting nearby, and she urged him in. Compared to the dark elven woman beside him, he was diminutive, easily sliding past him as his gaze darted about the room in a paranoid search before resting back upon her. She was dressed from head to toe in a flowing night robe, the material light and glistening in the eerie glow of the room.
He lingered on her night robe a mere split moment before he forced his gaze upwards to her, bending forward and setting one foot back as he gave an elaborate bow to her, his cloak flowing out about him. Her face was stern, almost sour, though she did look pleased to see him under her cascade of matching white hair and acknowledged the bow before moving to her couch.
He was a young male by dark elven accounting, and was considered still a part of the aristocratic house. As he rose back up he tilted his head to gaze up at her, “Is it safe?”
She sighed, “Had there been potential peril, I’d not have opened the door at all. If there is danger, it would have followed you.”
He nodded to her sharply, his soft boyish face washing away the concern to be replaced by an impish grin. The pale white of his teeth contrasted his dark, onyx skin as he pivoted on his heel and swayed into the room, nearing the sofa where she sat. “Elder Sister,” he said, his voice boyish and still a bit high pitched, “you would be surprised the things an unwanted boy hears and picks up while standing along the sidelines, face obediently downcast.” He gazed up at her, his eyes twinkling before he hid them beneath the brim of his hat, acting rather impertinent for a son of the household in a woman’s presence.
“Yes, well. Most do not mind their words when vermin are underfoot. Why would they? Then I trust you heard something devious this day?”
Ralen smirked, the corner of his lips curving high across his dark cheeks as he reached a hand out of his cloak through a narrow open slit to grasp at his hat, plucking it from his head and sweeping it downwards, letting his curled hair spill around his shoulders more freely.
“I always hear some deviousness, Elder Sister,” he stressed, coyly twisting away from her, watching her slyly from the corner of his view, “I understand you and our mutually elder sister, R’zara, are competing for the family’s remaining spot in the Academy. That who-so-ever produces the most impressive advantage for the family gets to stay and learn while the other becomes a mere House guard or some such.”
“My, my, some people simply don’t know when to hold their tongue, do they,” she mused as her slender legs crossed over one another.
He casually tossed his hat upon her desk, a brazen gesture for a male, especially one so young, though her reprimand was silenced by his next words.
“Oh, certainly,” he said, his voice holding some edge of excitement as he cocked an elbow out to his side beneath his cloak, “Like, for instance… a certain elder sister’s compulsive bragging about her find, which,” he paused again, his voice sounding impish “she so happens to have already procured.”
“You seem awful jovial,” she folded her arms over her chest in a dark pout.
Tiny and light, he spun about suddenly, his cloak flowing out around him, swishing in the air before slipping about to one side, leaving a single arm bare, showing his form beneath, hidden in a snug little dark velvet vest, sleeveless with a pair of gloves, pants and some thick boots. He stepped closer to her, licking his lips excitedly, “What would you say if I told you I knew where she kept it,” he added after, deferentially, “Elder Sister?”
Vierae stared at him, her ruby eyes hard, lips down turned in a scowl, “Why hasn’t she turned it in yet? Why is she hiding it away?”
“Because,” he said in a loud, excited voice, quieting himself quickly to the point of a near whisper, “she plans to embarrass you in front of the Matron tomorrow when you go to see her, already having gotten hers when you haven’t even left for your token.”
“Ah, well. I’ll have to dress for the occasion, I guess,” she stood from the couch, walking over to her desk and placing both hands atop it, her long nails making a light clacking noise as she sets them down, “Unless she decided to hide it somewhere in this room.” She sneered as she spoke the words, her mood having been effectively soured.
The exuberant boy’s expression faltered a bit, turning about to watch the taller woman bend over the table, looking quite upset. He lowered his head, obviously having expected a more positive response to begin his bargaining from. “What would you say then,” his voice a bit coy again, “if I told you I could get it for you this very eve?”
She tossed her head over her shoulder, white hair spilling over the back of her nightgown as she scrutinized him, taking a few steps towards him, “What do you want for it?”
Having to tip his head backwards to gaze up at her, his wavy hair fell back, revealing his dark, pointed ear tips, his boyish charms trying to work themselves through his smile, “Help me,” he said, his voice light and wispy, eyes flashing wide, “I want to study. I want to do something aside from…” He trailed off. He needn’t explain his lack of enthusiasm for not being a more valued male. He rose up, standing on his toes before her and still not reaching her eye level, “I need someone important to favour me.” He fell back to the balls of his feet, concluding “An ally.”
Her arms folded under her bust slowly, her chest narrow under her sleek gown, the tips of her breasts catching the modest light in the room and causing the fabric to shimmer as she considered his proposal, reluctantly bringing her gaze back towards him, “Bring it to me and we’ll discuss your offer.”
His soft, boyish face contorted into that of a slight frown, his soft lip bordering on a pout before rising back up onto his toes. Leaning in towards her, he seemed nearly ready to topple into her frame, though his slim, lean form held its balance well. As close as they now are, he tilted his head and his every soft word is a light breeze across her upper chest and neck, “I will help you rise up and up, as far as your ambitions would carry you, Elder Sister.”
Vierae stood statuesque, barely a single muscle twitching at his words, her breath held deep within her lungs as she watched his every movement, uncomfortable with the closeness. “Bring it to me, brother.” Her words were simple and gritty, demanding. Rocking back slightly, he slowly extended a gloved hand, wriggling his little fingers in the air before offering it in a shake, “Do we have a deal,” he questioned, his head tilted to the side, lashes batting as his voice takes on a cute, darling tone, “most lovely and cunning of my sisters?” He stared up at her, plying all of his boyish charms against her as best he can.
She scowled at him, not amused by her inability to convince him to bring back her side of the deal before making it official. “If you are able to do as you say, we have a deal. I will repay you in what ways I’m able.” The words fell out of her mouth, making her feel weak and small, precisely as a woman of the dark world she lived in hated to feel.
Her brother’s cherubic little face lit up in a bright, beaming grin before he spun about in a twirl. Giving a light boyish laugh he hopped up onto her couch in his boots, teetering on the edge as he loomed over her height. She opened her mouth in protest, watching with annoyance at his over the top antics, but when he finally began to retract his remaining hidden arm, rising it up out of his cloak, her mouth snapped shut with the chomp of teeth.
His face was marked by delighted mischievousness, “Then you shall adore me Elder Sister, as I adore you.” He twisted his hand about, unveiling in the palm of his glove a round crystal orb, alight with some reddish glow at its center that was hidden partially beneath the dark murky shadows that moved within it. An elaborately carved snake curled around the object, as though squeezing the life from it. He mouthed “ta da!” in silence to her.
When she spotted the crystal orb, her face slackened and she stepped in to better inspect it, her fingertips grazing over the object lightly. After a few moments of inspection, her eyes darted upwards to him, “What does it do?”
That deviously elated face broke into a wide, toothy grin, his rows of neat, clean teeth on display as he let his fingers peel back from the orb, offering it to her. Demurely he lowered his eyes, swaying his hips from side to side, “She says this belonged to the mighty Empress, lost to the ages. R’zara was certain that, if our house was to return the lost possession, we will be greatly rewarded,” he said, giving a soft little wispy sigh, his lips curving in the corners into a devilish grin once more, “But now it’s yours to offer.”
Vierae nodded as she listened to his tale, taking the ruby orb as a great prize, eyeing the carefully crafted scales, the gemmed eyes. She held it in her hands and inspected it, before looking to her small brother once more, her voice taking on a rushed tone of excitement, an edge of trepidation and suspicion marring her tone “You are positive? What else do you know of it?”
The boy shrugged his shoulders and leaned in nearer her face, nearly brushing his round little nose to hers, “Oh… just some tales about how the Empress was gifted it in the era before her deification. A memento of her lost mortality from a close relation or lover—the stories aren’t clear—that was lost to her during the great upheaval of myth and legend when she set foot on the world above to bring about final conquest” he added the last bit so flippantly and smoothly as to make it sound utterly unimportant.
She sounded breathless, throat closing with the final declaration. Her eyes dropped once more to the orb, her mouth pursing as a hint of excitement finally crept into her voice, “How did she ever find this? Where did she get it from? Tell me all you know, brother.”
He grinned slyly, slinking downwards and sprawling out atop her couch and makeshift bed, letting one leg stretch out, the other bent up at the knee to hold up his arm, the lean dark muscle between vest and glove showing as he peered up at her, reclining there like a lavish prince as his hair spilled about the cushions, “Well, now THAT’S another interesting tale, dear sister,” he replied, barely suppressing a giggling laugh.
She looked down at him, annoyed again, her tone losing all amusement as she watched him make himself so comfortable. “Spit it out.” She struggled to remain her calm, but if it hadn’t been for that game changing gift, her rage would have spilled over at the impertinent young man.
He reached an arm towards her, pressing his finger out and grazing against her nightgown, to which she immediately stepped back from. He folded the other arm behind his head to serve as a cushion, unbothered by her rejection of his touch, “You’ve much nicer living arrangements than I, dear sister. And working together, I dare say we could get you even better in time.”
She frowned at the compliment as she looked over the cramped room, not finding anything ‘nice’ about her small quarters. She was the seventh daughter, after all. Hardly basking in the lap of luxury, she thought bitterly. “You are wasti–” she bit her tongue in the most literal of manners.
“Why will you not answer my questions?” she asked after several long breaths.
He sighed somewhat dramatically, bringing his other hand around to behind his head with the other. Both elbows out, he peered up at the ceiling, letting his slender frame writhe a bit upon the couch in the tight velvet vest and pants that clung to his form. “I will not deny you anything, Elder Sister.” He tilted his head and peered to her seriously, “But I do enjoy basking in your comfortable room and beauteous presence.” He flashed a toothy grin again, thinking himself quite charming. “You know,” he added, “I have to sleep on some grimy little thing not worth calling a cot.”
“I don’t even have a bed of my own, and I’m not prepared to offer that to you.” She moved from his side, placing the orb within a thick magically imbued chest, outlined in a faint shimmering glow of silver magic as it opened, the magic fading from visibility as she let it clink shut with a magical shudder before turning back to look at him.
Spryly he lifted his feet up, swinging them around, bringing them to the floor as he perched upon the edge of the couch, leaning forward, his fists clenching the sofa’s cushions, “I could help you,” he said in that same voice, licking his lips excitedly, “If we embarrass our sister badly enough, the Matron will be so elated she will reward you with more than the spot amongst the priestesses.” He rocked back upon her couch, “You could move up a spot or two at least! Claim a larger room. A nice big bed and separate couch.”
His voice took on a sing song tone the further he carried on as she continued to stare, though she followed his train of thought with some enthusiasm, “I see….” she paused, thinking. “And I suppose, then, you’d have a plan,” she asked reluctantly.
Swinging his feet back up and to the side, Ralen rose up on his knees upon the couch, his lithe form pressed outwards as he smirked wryly at her, head tilted smugly, “I have it all planned out, as a matter of fact.” He turned his head back downwards, grinning at her deviously as he slowly ran his moist tongue across his dark lips, leaving them with a glistening streak, his hands perched upon his narrow hips.
Vierae kept staring, as though waiting for him to continue on, though she was at a loss over how to make him talk. She hated that he held something over her, some young, petulant male with his sweet and innocent guile. Seeing that she wouldn’t break the silence he folded his arms across his chest, flicking his head in a sharp gesture sending his long, wavy hair back over his shoulder, “And then… you could find room for your doting brother, perhaps? A couch to let him sleep upon?” He tilted his head, “A warm spot to rest in comfort?”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself, brother. I haven’t an idea if your plan will work at this point,” she said with a sneer before continuing. “However,” she stepped forward, looking down at him, “should your plan work, you will be rewarded in a manner befitting my new station.”
Wriggling himself from side to side he squirmed his body to crane upwards to near her level once more, “Of course,” he said casually, his smile returning then, “just think of it, most cunning sister.” He kept his pleasant smile, “two sets of eyes and ears are better than one. Even if one happens to be a lowly male. Your future is mine, your aspirations are my duties. Your safety…” he sucked his lower lip into his mouth before letting it pop back out, “is my life.”
She sighed with a great deal of agitation, her shoulders tense, her towering form rustling in her slinky nightgown as she folded her arms under her chest, “Will you tell me your idea, brother? Or am I to guess?”
He let his shoulders slump, his head falling to the side as he seemed to deflate. “Very well,” he sunk back into the cushions of her couch, arms upon the back as he reclined in a casual, lounging manner, “You parade down there tomorrow in the most lavish of outfits you own, a full priestess’s regalia, dear sister. Presumptuous and overbearing, dressed in an outfit you don’t yet claim the right to. Take some moments to quietly revel in our sister’s smug mockery. Let her debase you in front of the Matron,” he smirked, “just a bit. Then, that cow of a sister will urge you to go first, as confident as she is, she will do just that.”
He cockily let his head swagger back and forth, “Then you sternly tell the Matron the story of the orb I told you, followed by the recanting of how it was recovered–which I will tell you!–and then, the big finale…” he clenched his teeth, grinning with supreme confidence up at his older sister. “You let our ignorant sister blurt out that you stole it from her. Ohhh, and she will. She will be in a rage, most beautiful sister!” He tossed back his head and laughed a while before looking at her again deviously, “And you tell the Matron you deviously led her upon the trail of the orb and allowed her to expend her finances and time getting it FOR you, only to retrieve it without personal cost.”
The young male licked at his black lips again, his mind so cunning and conniving. Her respect for him had grown so quickly. His head tilted down, his eyes remained glued to his sister’s face, “The Matron will cackle in glee at the nefarious beauty of it. The very act alone, let alone the orb itself, will be enough to warrant a boon from the Empress herself!”
Her lips curved into a scheming smile, eyes darkening with the deviousness of his words. She moved to sit herself down on the edge of the couch, perched there as she let it all unveil itself before her mind’s eye.
“Yessss” she hissed, all at once getting more excited, “Yes, that will work.”
Watching the realization dawn upon his sister’s face, his own joyful expression heightened, his mouth hanging open in his own personal glee at showing off his plan. “It’s a brilliant plan worthy of you, my cunning sister,” he let his form slink in towards her upon the couch, pressing his shoulder and arm against her as he grinned excitedly, “You will be the most favoured daughter of House Ra’th for years to come, at least. All the more because nobody expects the seventh daughter to do so well.”
“Will she not search for her prize before tomorrow, though?” she stopped, looking at him with some measure of concern. Ralen’s boyish grin only continued to grow at her inquiry, his white brows waggling up at her as he nestled himself into her chest and shoulder gazing up beneath her chin, “I took care of it,” he wriggled his fingers in the air, using his innate magical abilities to prestidigitate a mock orb in the air before them. It was identical to the genuine article in all appearances before he let it fall to the ground, the illusion shattering into nothingness.
“If this works, you will want for very little, brother…” she trailed off, returning her gaze to the locked chest. “If this works.”
Extending his arm outward, he rested his gloved hand upon her thigh in a gesture intended to be comforting, his voice soft and full of confidence, “Oh it will, sister. I have watched and observed all these years, and I know all the players well.” He let his hand stroke idly along her leg, shifting her nightgown slightly as he stared off just past her head, “You learn a lot when you listen.” He looked back to her face, “And it’s but the beginning.”
She seemed oblivious to the comforting hand upon her leg, far too distracted in her thoughts of what was to come and what the future may contain, her ruby eyes taking on a long-distance stare as she thought it all over, planning, barely hearing his words. Allowing his fingers to curl and ‘walk’ upon her thigh, he nudged up her nightgown, revealing some of her dark flesh as he watched. He very slowly and casually rested his head and its shiny, silken hair against her collar bone and neck, “Through guile, cunning and such plots, you could rise to a very high station indeed, sister. And I would be behind you every step.”
She startled as she felt his hair tickle at her collarbone and neck, “I’ve never been so good at the planning stage as I’d like,” she muttered bitterly, “it’s always held me back.” It was a loaded confession for a dark elf, especially from one of the aristocratic families, and immediately he had more ammunition against her.
His lips pursed, contorting into a sweet, even innocent smile, his pale lashes descending as he rested against her, letting her hand stroke over his shoulder, bare beneath his cloak up to his vest, the skin smooth and as ebon as the rest of him. He let his fingers slide over her skin, down around until they teased. along her inner thigh, “You are a powerful up and coming priestess of the God-Empress, dear sister. With the little extra edge I could add, you would be that and more. The final nudge to bring you to all the greatness you desire.”
“You will be aptly rewarded,” she smiled, her heart thudding faster under his head as she fantasized about the power that was to be hers.
He let his fingers grab at her thigh, clenching it as if for something to cling onto for support to prevent him from being carried away by the tidal waves of his dreams. “You will be a powerful priestess and Matron in your own right someday, and I…” he licked his lips then tilted his head, pressing in to place a light kiss to her jaw line, “shall be your loyal brother in the shadows.”
Her blood was pounding in her ears, “Sister will be quite angry with us. With me.” Quiet worship described his slender limbs movements, his tender little kisses that were but bare grazes of his lips, the soft rub of his fingertips upon her smooth inner-thigh flesh. He twisted himself about slightly, placing another light peck of his soft little lips to her neck beneath her jaw, “After tomorrow, our Matron Mother will have no objections to you eliminating her should she move against you. And I will watch your back, keep my eyes upon her for plots against you.”
“And should the other sisters decide to harbour a grudge, I will take them out as well,” she murmured in a dangerous voice, her body relaxing back into the couch as she let him fawn over her figure as males so often did to superior females they served.
Petting the soft pads of his fingers up higher along her inner thigh, he continued his slow, soft little reverential treatment, his voice wispy and quiet, sounding more like her own inner voice than an advising brother. “Careful, do not over step. The Matron Mother will not be happy with losing many strong children at her disposal.” He nuzzled his nose against her neck as his hand pet in along her inner thigh, “You must be careful not to draw too much envy upon you too soon. Make the other sisters believe you are content to triumph over that cow at last.”
Her shoulders slumped as her fantasies become more modest, though she remained contented, almost dreamlike as she nodded in acceptance, “Yes,” she hissed slowly, “One step at a time…” Her legs shifted, independently aware of the exploratory hand, “It will be better this way.”
“You will make all the other sisters step aside to make way for you, or take them out, in time,” he nuzzled his nose to her neck again, trailing up to her ear as he then kissed her throat softly, “You must just move your pieces well. Do not turn them all against you at once. We will remove them from your way one at a time, so that none of them realize it was you until it’s too late.”
She gave a lick of her lips as she stood suddenly, foiling any hopes he had of stroking further up her thigh, “You must go now,” she said with a bit of a rasp, “I must plan.”
Her words were final.
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