Sunday we went for a nature walk. It seemed good way to ramp up our outdoorsy muscles for the hikes from our pre-parenting/pre-homeowner days. And I had an added hope that it would boost my worldbuilding for CTSS. I’ve been struggling to envision the trip from the Hastor estate Merris Freehold to the seaport city of Darshailia for a while now.
George W. Vanderbilt Park in Greenville has a unique feature I needed to consider–stone walls. Created from an old farm (originally known as Sherill House, that had long been owned by the Vanderbilt family… [funny how their name keeps showing up in NYS history--even funnier the name Sherill, which invites embarrassing stories about a bus driver, motorcycles and midnight trips to Denny's during the years I lived in Troy])…
Oops, sidetracked! I do this. Thoughts wander. (Brett Myers over at Surface Nuisance actually wrote an amazing piece about how thoughts wander a few weeks back. Well worth the detour [or opening in a second browser Window/Tab for later reading])
Anyway as I’d noted, I knew there were stone walls all along the park. Many of them were doubled walls, spaced, I assume, just wide enough for a horse (or ox) drawn wagon to pass between them. They remind me somewhat of the unlettered roads in the UK. (if you don’t know what I mean, the roads often are narrow with large hedges on either side of the lane…one lane… if the road is long enough you may find a spot along the way where you can scootch up to the side in hopes that the car coming toward you has enough room to get through without taking off your door handles and sideview mirror in the process). Unlike the UK roads, these were barely wide enough for the a small RV due to overgrowth that had built up in between the crumbling stone barriers. But some were well in tact, and I have a great imagination. Even with the regular interjection of statements such as “You have to stop and let me get in front because I’m the leader and you are the followers and you have to listen to me” from my son (he’s six, and he’s in charge), I was able to immerse myself into the world that would have created these paths.
My straying thoughts wandered to the size of the crayfish in the Basic Creek and how nice it would be to wade across the rocks in a month or two to lounge on the exposed bedrock of the far shore and to my awe at watching my personal gymnastics show as the Boodle climbed through the twitching branches of a fallen birch tree and his far less brave “Hug me! Hug ME!” as someone walked by with a dog. Then my husband commented about the steep hillside (still well barricaded with neatly stacked slabs of limestone and field rocks) and why anyone would have bothered to go through all that effort. Such perspective may have come easier for me, since as a child my parents often took me the back way from our house in Stillwater to Vermont through hamlets and small towns such as Buskirk, NY where the hills were and still are the farms. Given my experience to Dan’s relatively flat (if somewhat sandy and swampy) childhood in Selkirk, and that we now live a degree or two up on the elevation scale from either of our childhood homes, I could see the old farm in action. I could look into the past beyond all the “new growth” trees that had taken over what likely had been pasture and see how the land had probably been used and why the fences had been built even on the hill.
Which, of course, drove more story ideas.
Have I ever mentioned that in my world building Merris Freehold happened to be in some of the worst land in the Antia Vale? The Hastor lands would have been better suited toward mining than farming, and indeed, I planned for quarries of granite and lime and sandstone there. But in a feudal society, there will be farms, even in the rocky foothills of mountains. And like our own home here in the Heldebergs, there will be enough rich (if sparse) topsoil to farm and graze sheep and goats and cattle on if the residents are willing to put in the grueling labor of clearing the rocky land. The ground will support delicious fruit trees (we have some amazing orchards in this area of the state….even in our poorly tended backyard garden, we manage amazing crops of grapes and peaches), but it doesn’t take long to dig down to the hardpan and more rocks.
And so my mind turned and spun as we walked along the labors of men and women long dead. And I couldn’t think of a more power testament to their character than that stone wall, standing firm, despite collapsed trees and frost warping scaling the side of a hill. I saw that, and my world became all the richer for their effort.
To their memory: Thank you!
And now for another piece of the Unnamed Story (which is sadly starting to become its name…though perhaps that is a good thing given the working name I had used):
She got the door for him again. Valistii nodded appreciatively but said nothing.
Why had he told her that? It hadn’t been smart. She was right there. Something to tell Lan and Alanii now, that she knew the Guard had developed a full branch of operatives above and beyond the Royal Guard’s status as special forces. Even if she didn’t want to use the knowledge against him, she had a duty to her people that couldn’t afford to take romance or even friendship into consideration.
He set down his burden, waiting to see where she headed before offering to move the chair for her. He had to confess a touch of relief when she took a cross-legged perch on the end of his bed.
No more questions or doubts then.
He took one of the cups, glad he’d remembered to fill it partway so the porcelain could warm, removed the cover and finished filling it. One drop of honey, the way she liked…. He placed the cup on its overturned cover and offered it to her.
Knowing little details did have its place, he mused as Atyr picked the cup and saucer to her lips before lifting the cup in her fingers to drink. Her expression was one of contentment.
“Perfect,” she murmured. “Thank you, ‘Listii. After that syrup they brought out this afternoon, I’d–”
He chuckled, taking an opposing perch at the head of his bed. “I’ve seen Alanii send his kitchens into a tizzy for the attempt to make you the perfect cup of tea more times that I want to count, Atyr. Not to mention, it’s easier if the measurements are correct. Those new cups ‘Mara’s got…”
She nodded. “I’d wondered about them. What caused that purchase?”
“The Pietelans. Their outer bodies can’t handle temperature extremes. They use handles on dishes to avoid touching very hot or cold foods they enjoy ingesting.”
“And why would something like that make ‘Mara purchase new dishware?”
“This region has the most similar climate to that region of their world they can live on. Twelve years ago, Alanii asked the family to host a diplomatic entourage. We have one in residence at the moment.”
Her eyes brightened. “Then perhaps…?”
‘Listii smiled. “I have no doubt that could be arranged. I’ll have to verify it with Alanii and the ambassador, but I’m sure that neither will mind.”
“Thank you.” She sipped her tea again. “Ever since I heard about this colony of yours, I’ve been intrigued.”
He smirked. “You and the rest of Acaria. They’re an interesting enough people, very similar to your own in some ways, at least, culturally. Amphibious.” He felt his cheeks redden a touch. “It took me several tours before I could stop acting like they were aliens and start considering them as people.”
She shrugged. “They are aliens. Although, according to what I’ve heard they’re closer to you genetically than my people are.”
Thus time his brow rose. “You’ve heard correctly. Though how?”
She reached behind her to place her cup and saucer on the dresser behind her. Then Atyr sprawled out catlike at the end of the bed. “Oh, I find out stuff.” She smiled playfully. “I’m in direct command over our special operatives, you see.”
“Ah.” He sighed. “I guess we get to find out then…”
Her expression turned innocently curious. “Find out what?”
“Oh, one of my trainees asked me last month what happens when operatives from opposite sides get involved and how it should be handled.”
She grinned impishly. “What did you tell him?”
He shrugged and set down his own cup and saucer. “I didn’t. I spoke to Alanii and Lan, verified that the lad was asking for the reason I thought he was and had him removed from my command. He’s serving with Lan now as a teacher’s aide. More tea, Atyr?”
“Ah.” She shook her head. “No, but thank you.” Sighing, she ran a nail along the edge of one of the bedspread’s patterns. “If you’d rather not risk–I said I don’t want to hurt you, ‘Listii. I meant that.”
He moved down to lay opposed to her and looked into her eyes. “I think I’ll survive, Atyr. Besides which, I’d doubt you’re any more of a danger with me than you are with Alanii.” He smiled without bothering to hide the scold in his voice.
“Too true,” she laughed. “Too true. I suppose you’re going to tell on me now.” She reached over and tweaked his beard.
“Maybe, maybe not,” he said with a shrug. “Depends on what you do about it.” In any event, I’ve got to be more cautious with her…and Val. He’d tell her anything if she asked nicely enough.
Alanii, he knew, had more sense even as captivated with her as the man was.
She gave him a sideways look. “I don’t intend to do anything about it, Valistii Mirniia. I wouldn’t use trysting as a means of spying on someone back when your father asked me to assume my place in the ‘family proper’. I won’t now. If you are going to ask me to share your bed, you’d best not consider doing the same.”
He blinked but didn’t try to act like the idea hadn’t occurred to him. It hadn’t this time, but one never knew what the future might have brought. “That’s fine with me, Atyr.” ‘Listii got out of the bed and helped her out of it. “Of course, I wasn’t asking yet. Should I?”
“If you want.”
“I don’t.” Before she could do more than blink, he nodded. “If I ask you to share my bed, that’s tonight alone. One night and then another millennia to wait?” He shook his head and kissed her nose. “I’m not sure I’m up to that, Atyr.”
“You’d rather no night?” She didn’t sound upset or even curious. Just the short statement of fact.
“Sometimes I think it’s wiser, but no, I don’t want that either.”
She nodded knowingly, then started unbuttoning her pants. “Don’t make plans on the future, ‘Listii. If Val lives, I’m staying here. A lot will change.” She rose and stepped past him, to slip out of her pants after kicking off her shoes. She threw her shirt over her head. “Alanii and I. Val and I. You and I.” She sat back down on the bed in her underwear after he’d risen to make room for her. “Make no plans on the future.”
He didn’t answer that. Not out of shock. He simply wanted some time to admire her.
Very unlike her people–her mother’s people, he corrected himself–her pallor was highlighted by the emerald-green of the lace bra and panties. A good color to accent her hair too, he thought idly. Unlike his people, unlike her father’s people, she was tiny and waif-like. Definitely well curved…to use his brother’s description of her “perfectly rounded”. She’d obviously been doing as much to keep in shape as he had.
The last time he’d touched her, she’d been six months pregnant. Now her stomach was smooth and flat. The last time she’d been shy and demure, now she was calm and in full control of herself.
She took his appraising gaze in stride and playfully posed with a toss of her hair to one side and slightly over her shoulder. “See something you like?” She curled her feet, still cutely covered by white ankle-high socks, under her.
He smiled and shook his head. How had he ever managed to convince himself that she’d not be able to deal with his interest in her. “Quite a fair bit.” He took pains to remove the rest of his clothes, leaving only his briefs, following her lead.
Then he lowered the lights to the barest ambient glow.
“You could have left the light on,” Atyr murmured as ‘Listii joined her. She slid under the bedding before deciding that in the interest of comfort she needed to get rid of her socks.
In the dim glow his eyes glinted like obsidian. “I don’t know about you, Atyr, but I hate interrupting the afterglow just to get the lights.” Unerringly, he managed to find her lips and kissed them. “I can sleep with them like this,” another touch of his lips against hers, more direct, deeper, softer, more silken and liquid, “And I expect you can as well.”
“Yes, ‘Listii.” She wished she had the audacity to ask what was really on her mind. All these kisses…. What had happened to that old Hastor tenet of only kissing the person one wanted to spend his life with?
‘Listii ran a finger along her hips, every once in a while catching her panties as if to point out that their continued presence annoyed him. She ignored the suggestion and started twirling a finger through his chest hair. He smelled nice, she realized. He must have showered before going to bed, leaving just the faintest touch of sweat and a nice overtone of cologne.
He’d started snuggling her neck, nipping it and running his tongue along the line from her jaw to her earlobe. “Mm, you smell nice–taste nice too,” he murmured.
She giggled as much from how their thoughts seemed to be following so similar a path as for the sensations. Leaning over, she buried her nose in the short tangle between his pecs. Settling on a spot where it was thinnest, she kissed it, then, with brisk, lashing strokes of her tongue’s tip, traced a path to one of his nipples. His reaction when she found it and began circling and sucking at it alternately was more than adequate to suit her. “So do you,” she growled as she lightly clutched the hardness of the areolae between her teeth.
His fingers twisted in her hair, clutching spasmodically. His other hand had moved to her bra and was involved in a noble, one-handed attempt to undo the eye hooks. Every time her teeth grazed the nipple she was teasing, he’d lose his hold and have to restart.
But as fun as distracting him was, as fun as it was to hear him gasp and whimper in his delight, Atyr decided to use that cautiously. Her scalp hurt.
Raising a hand to disentangle his fingers from her hair, she let go of the nipple, lashing it once more with pressure. Then, just to see how much of a reaction she’d gotten, she eased her body next to his and slid up to bite his lower lip gently.
The thigh she pressed between his connected enough to judge his reaction nicely. He bucked just the slightest at the pressure then returned it.
As she continued to tease his lips with small kisses and bites, as his hands managed to undo the three small hook and eye closures on her bra, as her fingers traced his well-defined muscles, as he pressed her mouth to his….
A short kiss followed, harsh, passionate. “You…” He kissed her again. “Now I know why Val called you a ‘little she-demon.’”
To avoid him trapping her lips with another kiss, she eased aside enough to nibble at his neck. “What makes you say that?” she purred. She moved carefully so her thigh slid once more against the firmness restrained by his underwear.
“You know why,” he growled, a softer murmur of pleasure escaping his lips almost immediately.
“Are you complaining?” She caught his earlobe and tugged at it, growling between her teeth, “I’ll stop if you want.”
“No complaints,” he whispered. He moved his hands to her breasts.
She felt him clutch at a breast, first grasping it firmly, thumbing the nipple, then tugging and twisting it between his thumb and forefinger.
Fair revenge, she thought as a gasp escaped her lips.
He’d known what Atyr was capable of. Academically, he’d known. The reality was somewhat different. Memories of the one time he’d spent a night with her shattered around him. He had to admit though that the innocent waif he’d remembered had grown up quite nicely.
She writhed against him, tossing her head just enough that he was able to recapture her lips. Yes, she’s grown quite nicely.
‘Listii moved a hand down to her panties again and started sliding them down her hips now that she was resisting far less than before. Careful to not let her hit the wall, he pressed her against the mattress beneath him so that he could work on her other hip too.
He paused to lift his head and look at her. In the faint glow, her eyes sparkled jet in the soft luminescent backdrop of her skin. He could trace the lines of her body easily. The sight was intoxicating. He smiled. “My brother, the lucky bastard.” The damned fool….
My lucky lord sovereign, he reminded himself grimly. Oh, her seductive edge made sense. His brother might be a stodgy fool that didn’t play love games. ‘Listii knew differently about Alanii Vestimiir. That man oozed sensuality, and, from what he’d heard from women who’d shared Alanii’s bed as well as his own all those years before Alanii had found himself in love with Atyr, the then Heir had been rather adventuresome.
Not that his brother hadn’t surprised him occasionally. That stunt in the theater for example…. He’d have never believed his brother willing to risk something like being caught having sex, with Atyr especially, in so public a place.
“Whatcha thinking?” she asked. Reaching up a finger, she ran it down his nose and lips to his chin.
He caught it with a quick kiss as it brushed his lips. “Just how you’ve changed.”
She smiled, her teeth glinting as she did, suggesting a small laugh. “I was thinking the same thing, ‘Listii.” Then, allowing her fingers to trace a line to his shoulders, tips lightly running over already hypersensitive skin, she added, “Was that all?”
Shivering from her featherlight touch, he shook his head, then eased away until he was sitting next to her. “Nothing really. Just thinking about how and with who.”
She laughed. “Knocking your brother again, mm?” She finished removing her panties, making a point to toss them away past him.
They smelled nice too, feminine with hints of jasmine.
He decided the time was right to get rid of his own briefs. “Atyr, my brother was a jaded, old man before he was weaned. The closest thing to adventurous he’s done was marry you in the first place.” He eased out from beneath the sheets and half-sitting, half-standing, undid his underwear, making sure to let the strap with his secure ID land where he would find it in the morning.
Still smiling, she slipped around him, wrapping her body around his waist as far as she could. “I won’t bother trying to convince you, ‘Listii.” Then, with an impish giggle, she pressed a formidable arm against his upper chest and pulled him backwards over her stomach.
Quick reactions or not, he was surprised his head didn’t slam on the wall. He tried to stand again, but his feet dangled off the bed and just managed to bunch the small rug into a ball. He couldn’t use his hands to lever himself up without crushing her with his elbows. Although he wondered if it was worth worrying about as she was pressed under the entirety of his upper body.
“Atyr…what are you doing?”
A small snort of mirth answered him. “I’m not sure.” She released him and helped push him back to sitting. “It was just something to do, I guess.”
He looked at her wryly, taking in the impish gleam in her eyes and her bright expression. There was something else lingering there too. He didn’t want to think about what it might mean.
Valistii ended up not having a chance to think about it beyond that thought. In seconds, Atyr was on her knees next to him. Then she was straddling his lap. Her hands cupped his chin upward toward her lowered face.
A reverse play of what he’d done to her in the kitchen followed.
Okay, so I’m not the world’s best sex scene writer…. It just seemed to fit these two. And if anyone would like it, I’m more than willing to post the short story I wrote about their “first time” together separately in the same way I’d posted the story about Antian and Tralanii. Let me know.