Story for the Day: An Affectionate Gesture

I love these three. This story made me realize how much.

An Affectionate Gesture
                After a prolific night spent at Vondeva’s, Nidello and Arkastino were escorting Ladrei toward his private residence in the guild hall. It had been an excellent evening: bowls of warm licorice wine to delight their senses, numerous sabers full of varying meats to tantalize and satiate their stomachs, fire dancers to view, citterns and harps to hear, and upon the whole, the three had spent the chief of their meal in unexceptionable company. They were regaled, they were serenaded, they were served, but there had been one event that had caused the evening to take a more sentimental turn.

                They had just returned from a completing an intricate and most difficult mission: Prince Lamir had commissioned them to reclaim something that he professed to belong to him. They could not argue with him on this point, as he would the benefactor of the night’s merriment, and accepted the charge of repossessing a woman. They were to discretely enter the home of one of Lamir’s various cousins, catch the culprit in the midst of more pleasant activities, have him killed for defiling royal property, make the murder seem as though it were a mere accident, and secret the woman back to the palace where Lamir was to presumably punish her in his own particular manner.
                Ladrei knew his friend, and he understood that Lamir’s was never vindictive or revengeful unless he had been justly wronged, but he retained some suspicions as to why this man should be killed in so clandestine a fashion if he was guilty of a crime against the crown. He asked one question of whom the woman was. He was given a description of her appearance, the marking he was to look for on her shoulder, and beyond this he was told nothing. He inferred from the depiction he was tendered that she was one of the prince’s concubines, possibly a favourite if his relation should warrant such a death, but the means of this all being done in secret when it was folly to touch the prince’s possessions intrigued him. He resolved to obey the order and left to carry out his plan but altered it when relaying it to Nidello and Arkastino. He told them they were to capture the relative and keep him alive for questioning while he would detain the woman and do the same on her side. It was all agreed to and the plan commenced.
                 The residence to be raided was a small alabaster dwelling just beyond the palace grounds. It was early evening then, and their infiltration was easily obscured by the lack of sunlight and the want of brightness in general within the home. Candles had been dimmed before their arrival to make the scene just as they should have found it: the relative and the concubine were laid out on the ground, reveling in one another, when Ladrei crept in from the open window to grab the woman and Nidello came from the opposing side to take the man. Arkastino was hiding in the shadows just over the sill to make certain neither of their targets would escape, and in an instant, all was done: Nidello pulled the man away from behind, Ladrei leapt upon the woman pinning her to the ground, and Arkastino was employed to interrogate each.
                “Please don’t kill me,” the man begged, staring at the dagger against his throat.
                “You have something that doesn’t belong to you,” Nidello hissed in contrived viciousness, pressing the man’s back against Arkastino’s immense torso.
                The man looked up at Arkastino’s scowl and yelped. “Please, I wasn’t going to harm her.”
                “I have no doubt that you weren’t. She is not yours to harm or to please, however.”
                “Please don’t punish her.”
                “So you know that she’s not yours,” Arkastino said in his baritone accent.
                The man whimpered and winced, terrified of the dagger pressing against his skin.
                “And yet you touched her anyway,” Nidello added. “Should we ask why or should we kill you now for your offense to the prince?”
                “I love her!” the man blurted.
                Nidello and Arkastino’s harsh expressions faded for an instant. They exchanged a conscious look and then returned to their work.
                “What does how you feel have to do with stealing what belongs to the prince?” Arkastino asked, attempting to resume his ferocity.
                “I want her for my mate,” the man sniveled. “Please, punish me. Don’t touch her.”
                Ladrei held the crying woman by the hair at his knees. He had prepared to use the dagger at his wrist to subdue her, but the horror and guilt of what she had done made her obedient and quiet. He looked down at the woman, but she was looking at her partner: she worried for him but seemed afraid to say anything in fear that she would only imperil him further. She could be under no mistake as to why Ladrei and his men had come for her, and to soften whatever penalty awaited her, she yielded under Ladrei’s hold and waited to be addressed to speak.
                Ladrei jerked her lightly by the ends of her hair. “You know you’re not permitted to give yourself to anyone other than your lord and master. Why did you break your oath?”
                “My Lord has so many in his harem,” the woman cried, “My Lord had me but once and then disregarded me. It was painful for me to see him enjoy others more than myself. I had done everything in my ability to please him but was dissatisfied.”
                “You’re allowed to do as you like in the palace. By doing this, you sacrifice your life under Lamir’s care.”
                The woman looked down and shuddered. “It is better to be cherished for a few moments and killed than to be discarded and live for many years to come. I know that when I had outlived my usefulness to My Lord I would have been given a comfortable home for my service, but who knows when I would have been released. Nerano saw me in the garden. He took my hand, he walked with me, and he was unafraid to show me how he felt despite what My Lord would do to him for touching My Lord’s property.”  
                Ladrei sighed and looked at Arkastino and Nidello. He knew he could not carry out the means of Lamir’s order. The reasons of their conduct had been too ingenuous to deny, and he released the woman from his hold, encouraging Nidello and Arkastino to do the same with their subjects.
                The man and woman scuttled toward one another and held to each other in the center of the room while Ladrei stood over them on one side and his friends stood over them on the other.
                “What to do with you?” Ladrei exhaled. “Well, I was going to kill you, Nerano, and I was going to return your woman to Lamir, where he was probably going to kill her, but now you’ve ruined everything.”
                The couple looked at one another in terrorized bemusement.
                Ladrei folded his arms and considered their circumstance. “We have a bit of a problem, don’t we? You want to live and I want to let you live.”
                “And how is that a problem?” Nerano asked, confused and somewhat happy.
                “Because if I do that, then I get killed by Lamir.”
                “So,” Ladrei amended in a firm tone. “This is what you are going to do: you and your woman are going to leave Lucentia.”
                “Leave Lucentia?” Nerano argued.
                “Do you want to live?”
                “Do you want to have Lamir’s concubine as your mate?”
                “Then you are going to leave Lucentia this moment and go to the Southern Continent. You will find a home there and stay there, and if you even think of returning, I will kill you both myself.”
                “But, the prince . . .” the woman said.
                “Well, if you killed yourself then you saved him the trouble,” Ladrei intimated.
                The woman began to understand and smiled. “My lord is kind to-“
                “Ah,” Ladrei rejoined, pointing his finger at her. “You are to tell no one what we allowed you to do. Right now, your bodies are being carved and in about ten minutes, we will be spreading them across the desert. That should give you enough time to gather a few things and leave.”
                Nerano was struck by Ladrei’s mercy. It was almost impossible to believe that the prince’s right hand would allow him to live. It must be a trick, he must be waiting for them to turn their backs so that he could kill them together to prove their transgression. “But how will-“
                “I am counting to ten,” Ladrei said heatedly. “If you are not out of this house by then, I will allow Arkastino to tear your limbs from your bodies.”
                Arkastino flexed his enormous arms and gave them a dark grin.
                “One. Two.” But by the time he had reached three, the couple had collected their clothes, taken one of the safe boxes from the walls and were dashing out of the home.
                Ladrei sighed as he watched them race across the ground toward the Lucentia border. “All right. Let’s make this look convincing.”
                In a few moments, the house was in total disarray: blood was spilt on the bed and splashed across the bedchamber wall, pillows were torn, sheets ruined, and the whole was a terrific scene where a crime of passion had taken place.    
                Everything was explained to Lamir when the prince was called to view the carnage in his relative’s dwelling.
                “When we had arrived, they were in the middle of an argument,” Ladrei said to the prince as they moved about the home. “She demanded that Nerano give her a child so you would take pity on her and only banish her.”
                “And he said?”
                “Of course,” Lamir scoffed.
                “She killed him there on the bed and then walked out here to kill herself.”
                “Where are the bodies?”
                “Sectioned and spread across the desert. No one will think to look for them there, and even if someone would, he wouldn’t survive the conditions there during the day at this time of the year.”
                 For all this work, Lamir was immensely gratified and rewarded them doubly what he had promised. He appreciated Ladrei’s efforts and the pains he took to keep the matter a silent affair, and he gave them their compensation with a easy air. Lamir walked off a pleased prince, commanding his footmen to find him another concubine as comparable, and no one was the wiser.
                The three celebrated their triumph first with a tattoo to mark their success as they always had done and then with their ceremonial eating competition at Vondeva’s, to which Ladrei was the victor. Their night had been completed with wine, dancing, and song, and here they were just returning to the guild hall when Arkastino suddenly stopped to reflect on what had happened. It was true he had lost again to Ladrei’s gastronomic prowess, which caused him some anguish, but the notion of two people tied in the throes of mutual adoration and so unable to express it due to an unfortunate and loveless bond affected him. He observed a small lily bud along the road and plucked it from its place to remark it closely. So delicate an object as attachment, he conceived, was so easily broken by various consequences and he had been so fortunate himself to have kept one who adored him since the day they had met so long ago. He looked at Nidello, then at his flower and sighed with a severe countenance.
                Nidello made a worried glance at Ladrei. Perhaps his partner had drunk too much of the licorice wine and was now feeling some of its more unpleasant effects. He approached Arkastino and place his hand on his partner’s arm. “Are you feeling well?” he softly asked. When he was given no reply, he added in a tender tone, “Inpalo?”
                Arkastino regarded Nidello for a few seconds, remarking his caring expression and tender touch, and offered the flower to him. “We’re fortunate to be together,” he hummed.
                Nidello gaped at his partner and felt tears of astounded affection well in his eyes as he accepted his gift. “Inpalo,” he repeated, nestling against his arm.
                Arkastino lifted his partner’s chin and accorded him the fondest osculations. He murmured his adulation for the duration and strength of their relationship, unwavering and unthreatened after so much time, and carried him home in the bend of his arm, proud to display his attachment while Nidello professed sentiments of the same.


  1. Ah, mercy given for true love. And that led to a special moment for the two companions.


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