He could have had any man or woman in the whole nation — probably in several of the adjacent nations as well. He was a brilliant man,a dashing pirate, and his airship was one of the finest known to navy nor fleet. He was a folk hero the likes of which had not come since Dywin Talizen in the age of stories and myths.
And his airship had ducked in, dodging the royal navy ships and the cannons, to visit a political prisoner in a quiet exile in a mountainous corner. He had brought her a rose, the sort of gift that fit the stories, risking everything for a romantic gesture.
He couldn’t stay long; he couldn’t even risk a kiss, even if she would have accepted it. But he brought her a rose.
Deline had started it because he wouldn’t stop about the “wife of the emperor” business, no more than some courtier trying to curry favor or some spy trying to dig up information. She’d finished the question because she found herself curious, even though she was aware it wasn’t exactly a nice question.
Carrone cleared his throat. He looked at the next hill before them, looked back at her, and started walking.
Deline followed, setting a pace that wouldn’t leave her looking at the back of him the entire trip.
At a very narrow flat spot, just barely big enough for the two of them, he paused. “Obviously you think I’m good enough for that,” he pointed out, his eyebrows raised as if challenging her to deny it. “How many nights have we spent together already? Continue reading →
The dream ended the first time at about the first scene below, after the viewpoint character was Undergoing A Complicated Challenge In the Nether Realms, but she was definitely the daughter of (someone important in hell) and (someone female important some other way). The story has been tiddling around in my head since.
“That’s a nice collar.” Her fingers brushed the air near it. “Would you like to wear mine instead?”
“Dey…” Chris’s words were a warning. “You just saw her…”
“I saw her climb out of the Nether Realms like she owned the place.” Dey was a little impressed. He was also more than a little turned on. “And now she wants to put her collar on me?” Continue reading →
Dark Hermione, complicit Harry, post-books and ignoring the Epilogue.
This is mad magiscience, with most of the actual results being offscreen, but it still involves attempting to reproduce the effects of the Imperius Curse without using an Unforgivable, and it does involve human (wizard) experimentation.
Deline spent a few minutes focusing on her breakfast. The bread was actually quite good; she’d have to remember to mention the place to other Claws who happened to be in this corner of the Empire. Assuming, of course, that the man didn’t sell them out to the bounty hunters.
Carrone was hung up on false pretenses and she wasn’t about to kill someone just to prove to him that she was, as a matter of fact, willing to kill. So there was no point in arguing that with him.
The cheese was good, too, and the sausage was actually very nice. She sipped water from her canteen and considered him.
“I don’t expect you to like it,” she said, when her mouth was empty. “That’s never been a requirement. I don’t think you’d like being dead, either, or being actually enslaved.”
“What do you call this?” He shook his cuffed wrist at her. “Seriously? I can’t go against your orders!”
“I call it being bound into the Bear. Being tied to the totem. Being my unwilling companion. If you were my slave, you’d be wearing a collar and shackles and be doing a lot more work,” she added dryly. “So far, mostly you’ve just had to walk a lot.”
Carrone squirmed under her regard for a few moments before looking away. “I can’t talk about that,” he muttered. “I really shouldn’t have said that much. But the Empire – the Empire acts like they’re the only ones with the spirits on their side.”
“Considering how you complain about sorcery and magery-“
“That’s different! I mean…” He dropped his voice down. “I mean. Well. Sorcery has nothing to do with the spirits. That’s why it’s evil. That’s why it’s the sort of thing that you just don’t do. But this. I don’t know. Your ‘magery’….” He shrugged. “We should get some sleep. I don’t know where we’re going, but we can probably make good time if we sleep solidly and warm. Besides, last night…”
“…Last night was not exactly solid sleep,” she agreed. She considered all of the juicy morsels of conversation they’d left lying around. They would, she decided, have plenty of time to get back to those conversations while hiding from Carrone’s compatriots in the bounty-hunter business. She settled back into her bedroll, glad once again of her magery, whether it was heresy or evil or not.
She woke in the morning to Carrone’s breath on her face, his arm flopped over her shoulder, and the sound of his breathing far too close to her ear. Deline trapped against the back of the cave, she had nowhere to move, and his arm was heavy on her shoulder.
She considered him. He was sleeping heavily, pressed against her. His breathing was steady, if a little loud, and his whole posture was relaxed. Continue reading →
Carrone was spending far too much time working on the way that the bedroll lay. It wasn’t like they had room to rearrange things, considering that their little cave was barely big enough for the two of them to sit up in and lie down in together. And he’d already cleaned up all the cooking supplies and re-packed them. t this point, it was clear that he was doing anything he could to postpone either looking at her or lying down next to her.
Deline would have bitten her tongue, but she was already holding it very firmly between her teeth. He would say something or he wouldn’t. She’d already said too much.
Eventually, he scooted in to the bedroll closer to the exit. She raised her eyebrows at him as he finally looked at her.
“You, uh, really take trying out your product seriously, don’t you?”
The man was nervous. Sheen’s workshop did that, got people thinking about all the pieces coming to life, or about all the meat parts they still had.
That was, however, no excuse for rudeness.
“Mmm?” Sheen made like he didn’t know what the guy was talking about.
“Your, uh, your arm?”
He’d actually said it. Sheen marked a point in his favor.
“This?” Sheen sent a thought through the wiring and detached his metal arm — mostly composites and ceramic, but “metal arm, meat arm” sounded cooler. “Does this—” he waved the stump “— look like something I did to myself?”Continue reading →