1866-09-05: Punishment and Reward
Punishment and Reward
Summary: Late at night, Esyld considers the recent developments in her relationship with Corvin.
Date: 9/5/1866
Related: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

It was late. Closer to dawn than to midnight. And yet the Captain found sleep continued to linger infuriatingly just out of reach. Tossing and turning, refluffing pillows, kicking back the coverlet only to draw it back upward to her bare hips again when pleasant cool turned to irritating chill, she sighed in frustration. The man beside her slumbered peacefully throughout the increasingly annoyed acrobatics, which only added to her disgruntled mood. Snoothing the blankets and sheets about the level of their waists, she slipped an arm around him, palm flattening against an abdomen only recently healed of sound bruises, and drew herself close; seeking some semblance of comfort and calm in his proximity. Conforming to the relaxed curve of his form, she settled the warmth of her naked, feminine silhouette against the firm muscle of his turned back, absently pressing a soft kiss at his nape. He didn't stir.


For a time, she remained here, resting her cheek to that hollow between his shoulderblades and regarding the ceiling with unseeing eyes. This was beyond ridiculous, she reasoned, determined to take charge of the tumbling turmoil of her thoughts in the same way she would exude authority over a rabble of recruits. Something was plaguing her and she would find no respite until she identified and addressed it.

Reluctantly extricating herself from the drowsy embrace and the tangle of their coverings, Esyld lowered her feet to the chilly floor and rose, drawing one of the uppermost woolen blankets alonng with her and winding it about herself as a makeshift dress, the lengths trailing a little in her wake as she drifted out of the room and into the antechamber. He used it for storage rather than entertaining; there was little comfort to be found, save for the residual heat cast by the dying, smouldering embers in the fireplace and the illumination of a few near-spent candles, flames flickering and dancing lazily under the behest of an intangible breeze.

She took to an aimless wander around the walls, contemplating the array of gleaming, well-tended weapons adorning where tapestries might have been more fitting.. well, to anyone but him. Finery mattered little to one in his position, regardless of his l'Saigner blood.

"What I received was beyond my expectation. And yet, as time has passed, I have held…concerns. That the blade was perhaps too sharp. Too eager to be used, and so tightly bound to its' original purpose that it might well risk seeing itself lost in the pursuit of it…"

The Duke's words resounded, unbidden, in her mind as she traced the outline of a longsword with gentle fingertips, accompanied by the memory of that intense gaze. A formidable man, one who grasped the reins of power in Lonnaire with an iron fist in a velvet glove. And yet, in the few candid moments they had shared, James had revealed himself to be a father, still. Worried for the bastard who only did as he was expected, as he had been created to do. A loyal, obedient weapon.. one that would break rather than yield.

How times had changed. For years, she had both envied and despised Corvin Fremont; one of similar standing and entitlement - or lack thereof - as she, yet so highly thought of, so necessary to his kin. What began as an ill-thought-out attraction between opposites had continued to evolve, rapidly escaping her control, as smoke passing through grasping fingers. All of Lonnaire now knew, or at least had heard, of the dalliance between the Wraith and the Black Fox Captain.. and that was all they supposed it to be. A dalliance. A tidbit of juicy gossip that would, inevitably, be swept along with all the other detritus of such whisperings under the proverbial rug. Esyld had counted herself amongst that number. It was a passing infatuation. He desired only what he thought he could not have. She had tried to convince her brother and her quartermaster of the same, though with little success in the case of the latter. Lorelei saw much that she herself chose not to.

Drawing to a halt before the hearth, the Captain held the wrapped blanket tight against her sternum and gazed down at the dwindling remnants of scorched firewood. The more she had tried to steel herself against him, the harder she fought to safeguard her heart and her pride, the further he seemed to.. pervade her every sense. The more she learned of him, the more the scales tipped from disdain to grudging admiration. And the closer he allowed her to become, the less she desired to flee. Against all common sense and good judgement, she had begun to believe him when he professed to care for her.. and that now threatened to overcome her entirely. The shreds of fury were harder to come by, replaced with a passion so all-encompassing she feared she would drown in it, wade out too deep and be swept away by the current. And what terrified her most is that she cared not.

That the Duke was aware of the affair being conducted under his hawkish beak had come as little surprise. Everyone in Highwater knew who had been warming Corvin's bed. Oh, the servants were discreet, no doubt. But James had eyes everywhere. The very walls of the castle whispered her secrets; secrets she had hoped would be of such little weight they might pass unnoticed.

She had been wrong.

"…should you, in some fashion, provide my son with a reason not to needlessly risk himself…then this… liaison you are currently enjoying will find no objection with me."

Had the Duke demanded she end it, she would have. Truth be told, that was her last chance of ever freeing herself from the confusion, the dangerous game, the dance of lovers who ought not to have ever come together. But that line was not cast to her. He approved of it. Damn him, he even lent his assent to the notions she had tried in vain to sweep aside.. that perhaps.. perhaps there was more to this than a simple dalliance. That perhaps, against all the odds, she had found a place in the heart of the l'Saigner's most dangerous son.

In spite of herself, she cast her vivid cerulean eyes toward the bed, silently studying Corvin's peacefully sleeping features from a distance. And gradually, she became aware of the stirring of something beyond admiration or curiosity; an instinctive pull she hadn't noticed before.

Would she ever admit to it? Could she bring herself to confess that she loved him? He had not done so.. why should she be the one to break? Or had she done so already..

She was second-in-command of the Black Fox cavalry. There were matters of more immediate import she should be setting her mind to, to prove her ongoing worth to the ruling family. Driven as she was, she had assumed it would be her prowess with a blade or her dilligence in training that would set her apart, raise her from the humdrum of the masses. And what had the Duke noticed her for, most of all, outwith her noted loyalty? Her influence on Corvin. Something she hadn't even realised she had. And the pressure of that newly given knowledge was enough to threaten the buckle of her knees. To be indirectly considered responsible for the wellbeing of not only the prized Commander, the distantly beloved bastard of the Duke, but also the man she herself lov-..

"It does not frighten you that at but a word from me he would discard you…or worse?"

Swallowing hard, Esyld averted her gaze from those handsome, slumbering features; so innocent and passive in comparison to his waking mannerisms. Yes. It frightened her. She would be a fool to claim otherwise. If she was to occupy this tenuous position, she would have to do so flawlessly or the consequences would, one way or another, be dire.

Why could things never be simple?!

She wished, suddenly and hopelessly, for Lorelei. Even for Jon. For someone to shine a light upon a path that was darkened and treacherous. By the word of His Grace, she was not only permitted but encouraged to love. And by that same word, she was bound to a responsibility she was unprepared for.

"And perhaps, in time, with continued good service…a possibility of reward to come…"

What was that vague implication? What reward could one expect merely for safeguarding the one who holds their heart, for better or worse? She had asked for, had expected none other than that, in and of itself. To be granted the acceptance of those above them, was that not boon enough? Or did he believe that some prize needed to be dangled to maintain her interests? How insulting.

Drifting back into the adjoining bedchamber, Esyld took up a previously abandoned wine cup from a sidetable and took a sip, and another, until only the dregs remained. The world, once so full of prospects, seemed to have grown smaller, these past few days. With so many departed for the games in Pacitta, with the recruits on some temporary leave, she would have more time to spend with the Wraith… and if he tired of her, if he returned to his previous, reckless ways? It would be on her head. Punishment and reward rolled into one. Never let it be said that the Hawk of Lonnaire lacked a sense of humor.

Corvin stirred in his sleep, turning onto his back; the scars of his bare chest softened only a little by the scant illumination. Relenting to a half-smile, setting the cup back down, the raven-maned young woman unfurled herself from the blanket and slid back into the warmth of the bed; draping on her side and admiring his features in profile. His arm looped automatically around her as she nestled in against his side, drawing her close.

And, settling her head in the hollow of his shoulder, the Captain stubbornly set aside the myriad uncertainties. Come morning, they would linger, as always, in the back of her mind. But for now, growing drowsy in the wake of good lovemaking and warring emotion, she would content herself with being held this way.

Close to his heart.

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