The sun shone over the sleeping forms of a snoring minotaur and his half-orc lover. His hand subconsciously scratched his exposed belly. She had her head tucked under a pillow. The same she used the night before to muffle her cries of pleasure. Every last blanket, save for one, lay on the floor in a crumpled heap. Clothes decorated random pieces of furniture, or at least, those that were still upright. A few things had been knocked over, there may be a few mirrors that needed to be replaced, a chair that needed a leg repaired. All damages dealt in the throws of passion.
Ravalynn kept her head under the pillow, keeping majority of the light from her eyes. Only a small crack allowed her to watch her beau’s broad chest rise and fall. Her ears twitching against the fabric with every noise he made. These little sounds made her heart flutter. She had missed him so much.
Slowly she reached over to stroke his arm. Her muscles ached to remind her of the tests of endurance the man had put her through. Every inch of her pulsed and begged her not to move. Bruises and bite marks littered her body and she was anxious to show them off.
Complying with her demanding stomach, Ravalynn decided it was time to get up for breakfast. She winced and hissed as her body screamed at the sudden shift. With a good stretch she felt the bones in her spine and shoulder crack and pop sending a wave a relief over her. She glanced over to the, now cracked, mirror, and ran her fingers through her hair a few times to get most of the tangles out. Figuring she would just brush it after breakfast. There was nothing going on today that she needed to get dressed for. The family and other rogues never planned any type of work after Sundu and Eeto returned. It was always a very welcomed break.
As she swung her feet over the edge of the bed a large forearm wrapped around her waist pulling her back. A giggle flew from her lips as she fell against Sundu’s warm side. The other arm snaked its way around her and with a groggy voice he said,
“No, come back to bed.”
“But I’m hungry!” She squirmed in protest when she felt his lips on her ribs, “We worked off all our food last night and now I’m starved.” Her bottom lip trembled.
With a small growl Sundu nipped into her side, causing her to squeak, before rolling out of the blanket. Ravalynn watched the minotaur strut about the room with rose colored cheeks and glazed eyes. His rear being her main interest. Her head tilted slightly as his hips swayed ever-so-slightly, the muscles tightening and relaxing with each step. The gaze only broke when a leather chest strap struck her face.
“I thought you wanted to eat, leman,” Sundu chuckled deeply.
Slipping the strap over her breasts she sniffed, “I do but,” she watched in disappointment as he wrapped a heavy blue-plaid kilt around his waist, “Something caught my eye.”
Hopping off the bed she had to take a moment to regain the strength in her legs before proceeding to finding her shorts. The jiggles in her knees and ankles made walking interesting. With every few steps she had to catch herself on the window sill or a dresser. She’d hate to think she was losing her ability to bounce back after such rigorous activities.
Once she managed to properly clothe herself, Ravalynn waved to her beau telling him that she was going to head to the dining area. Before he could even ask for her to wait for him, her stomach responded for her, loudly. She darted out the door, Sundu’s fading laughter filling the hall. Tapping her knuckles against the wall she rounded the corner, a broad smile on her face. It felt so nice to hear his voice again. Made the old home feel more welcoming.
Once she stepped out into a more open area, the half-orc stopped. Her brows furrowed as she stared at her crew, huddled together outside the dining area. None of them were speaking, simply watching the room intensely.
She inched up behind them and asked cautiously, “What are we all looking at?”
Without looking back, one of the boys pointed into the room, “Her.”
“Her? Who her?” Not waiting for an answer Ravalynn stepped around the crowd. She stopped at the doorway, spotting the strange woman.
Shaking her head, Ravalynn had never seen her before. The dark skinned stranger looked far too proper to be some beggar who managed to sneak in. Her hair was brushed and shining, as though it was washed regularly, her skin perfect. Oddly, the only thing she had on was a fancy silk nightgown.
Well, I’m not putting up with some intruder in my house, With a swift crack of her neck, Ravalynn stormed into the room and demanded, “Who in the seven hells are you?”
The woman jumped. Her eyes widened at the sight of Ravalynn’s exposing manner of dress. She stared for a small moment before clearing her throat, “Excuse me?”
The pompous tone of the stranger’s voice caused the corner of Ravalynn’s mouth to curl in a frustrated snarl. Straightening her back she repeated, “I said, who the fuck are you, lady? How did you get in here?”
“How dare you speak to me like that!” The stranger turned to face the half-orc head on.
“I’ll speak to you however I want. This is my house. Who do you think you are, the Empress?”
Ravalynn fell back. She blinked as someone behind her whispered, “I knew it.”
Whipping around she shot back, “No she ain’t!” Facing the woman again she repeated, concern rising rapidly, “No you ain’t!”
The woman nodded, folding her arms across her chest. She raised a victorious eyebrow.
Ravalynn took a couple steps back. Her mouth opening and closing like a suffocating fish. Finally she shook her head and called out for Grim.
She heard the man swear under his breath before answering, “Yeah boss?”
“How did she get in here?!”
“Oh geez… Uh. Well, you know, I just-” The man rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.
“Why? Why did you let her in? How did she even know how- What door--? How?!”
“Well I didn’t want to let them in-”
Squeezing his eyes shut he rubbed his jaw, “Yeah, her girl’s here, too.” Before Ravalynn could say anything the man pointed toward the kitchen, “Cyril brought them here!”
That got her to attention. Her shoulders fell slack, “Cyril?”
“Yeah, he snuck out and brought ‘em in here. Saying they were attacked or-”
The door to the kitchen swung open. Everyone turned to see Cyril, along with the princess and Barber coming through with plates of food. He seemed oblivious to his mother’s gaze boring a hole in the side of his head as he chattered on. At least until Barber spotted her boss staring at them. Cyril, noticing the color drain from the girl’s face, turned. His smiled faded quickly. Slowly he set his tray on the table and inched his way around, putting some sort of distance between him and his mother.
“You snuck out?”
Whipping around the boy snapped, “You ratted me out?!”
Grim jumped. Gesturing to the enraged woman he shot, “You don’t think she would have noticed your guests?”
“You snuck out!” Ravalynn shouted causing everyone to nearly leap out of their skin.
With a sharp cry she sprinted toward the boy, rage in her eyes. Cyril let out a terrified scream and darted in the opposite direction. Everyone kept their distance as mother chased son around the room. High pitched begs of mercy screeching from his tiny lungs.
Kasmut shook her head as she watched the unbelievable display. “What’s all the shouting about? It’s too early for this.”
When she turned to face the new voice, Kasmut’s heart leapt into her throat. A broad, well-muscled minotaur made his way to the table, seemingly not taking notice of her presence. He took a seat and began piling food onto his plate. Every now and then taking a moment to monitor the ongoing chase. Waving for the rest of the crew to join, he began to dig into his breakfast.
One by one seats filled as the others skillfully avoided colliding with the boy and his mother. The giant bull seemed unphased when Hatshepsut took a spot near him at the head of the table. He passed plates to her that were out of reach and offered her a small cup of juice. Treating her as if she had been around for ages.
“I’m sure you’d rather be eating than standing around watching my leman chase our son, Imperial Majesty.”
Kasmut eyed the minotaur cautiously. He gestured to a seat near her daughter, assuring her that they weren’t going to be harmed. Unsure, Kasmut shifted on her feet before finally giving in to her growling stomach. Her lip curled at the rather drab looking food. It was nothing like what she was used to at the palace.
“Sorry it ain’t up to snuff, miss,” Barber apologized, “I ain’t have to cook for anyone fancy in a spell, so it ain’t the best.”
“Don’t worry about it, Barb,” Sundu stated kindly, “It’s phenomenal as always. Now,” he spun around, extending his arm to catch Cyril as he rounded the table. Pulling the boy into his lap he demanded, “You tell me why you snuck out last night. No lies.”
Cyril sank and with a soft voice he answered, “I don’t know… I just got this feeling.”
“You know we don’t allow you out there. Especially unsupervised.”
“You could have gotten lost,” Ravalynn stepped up behind her beau, “Or worse.”
“I know,” the boy opened his mouth to accept the bit of sausage his father offered. Through bites he went on, “I just felt like I needed to be outside. So I went for a walk, staying out of the light and all. When I got to the main street I saw them with The Supervisors.”
The noise at the table quieted. Almost everyone went stiff as they turned to listen. Taking more bites of food, Cyril explained, “I was gonna run away when all o’sudden the men started swinging their swords at them.” He gestured to Kasmut and her daughter. “So I froze ‘em and brought them here.”
All color visibly drained from Ravalynn’s face. Casting her eyes between Kasmut and Cyril, she turned to Sundu. He shook his head in response, eyeing the empress as well.
“You froze those men?” Ravalynn managed to choke out. “Did they see you?”
“Nah, I was real careful.” Turning to his father he added, “I swear.”
Licking his lips the minotaur set Cyril on his feet and told him to take a seat. Nodding to Ravalynn he said, “Your Majesty, can we speak to you for a moment?”
Rising from her chair, Kasmut followed the minotaur and, growing increasingly nervous, half-orc into another room. She watched as the young woman paced, her hands squeezing her upper arms. Sundu tapped his finger against his chin, brows knit tightly in deep thought. After a moment he held up his hand for Ravalynn to stop.
Taking a breath he glanced to the empress, “Is what my boy said true?”
“Yes,” Kasmut shook her head, “I don’t understand. There was no warning, they just turned on us all of the sudden.”
“What of your husband, the emperor?”
Her head fell, “I don’t know. He sent Hatshepsut and I out, fearing some sort of attack. I’m sure he was just trying to protect us but, now I don’t even know if he’s safe or the one who sent those men after us.”
“Who cares?!” The others turned to Ravalynn, who was very close to tears, “Cyril could be in danger now because of her! She needs to go, Sundu.”
Sundu rubbed his chin before shaking his head. Brushing off the offended huff, he murmured, “No, Ravalynn, she is in just as much danger. We can’t kick them out. I won’t be responsible for the death of a child so you can stop staring at me like that.”
Placing her hands on her hips, Ravalynn cast her angered glare to the floor. Jaw tight she asked, “So what do we do? We’re in the dark, we need to find out what’s going on.”
“We know someone who could get in undetected but, you won’t like it, ma’am.” Sundu raised an amused eyebrow at the empress.
The half-orc groaned, “You don’t mean her, do you?” Sundu nodded. Rolling her eyes, she agreed, “She would be our best bet, wouldn’t she? Alright.”
Kasmut looked at the two outlaws, “Who?”
Ravalynn nodded. Spinning on her heel she called out into the dining room, “Cyril, we need Eerie.”
The room groaned, contrasting the ear-to-ear grin that spread across the boy’s face. “Really?!” He asked bouncing in his seat.
Pumping his fist in the air, Cyril cleared off his area of the table and began to draw a symbol on the wood. The adults gathered around watching intently. A smell of burning permeated the air as more intricate details were made. The light around them became enveloped in darkness, almost as if a cloak were being hung over all of the windows.
Ravalynn held up a finger whispering, “Trust us, you’ll want Eerie’s help. Obnoxious as she is.”
Cyril chanted a low phrase in a foreign tongue then slammed his palm into the center of the circle. A mighty boom shook the building. Though it appeared the only ones affected by the noise was Kasmut and her daughter. The little princess abandoning her chair to cling to her mother’s side.
Then, all at once, the noise stopped and the light returned. At first it seemed as though nothing happened. Everything appeared about the same but then, a rustling turned their attention to the far end of the room. Sitting in an arm chair, feet propped up on the ottoman, was figure reading large papers. The papers jumped, and the person behind them sighed before closing them, folding them over again and peering at the crowd.
“Always when I’m reading.”
“Eerie!” Cyril hopped from his seat and ran to the strange, dark haired woman.
“Hey kiddo. You have terrible timing, you know that right?” She laughed, embracing the boy in a tight hug.
Cyril giggled and apology. Stepping away he stared at her confused, “What are you wearing, and where are your horns?”
The pale skinned woman jumped, glancing down at herself. Smacking her forehead she explained, “I was in another dimension. This is how the important people dress; It’s called a three-piece suit. Pretty snazzy, eh?” She tugged on the black coat with a smug grin. “And as for the horns and tail,” gesturing behind her, “People like me, your mum and da don’t exist there. Just humans. I know, terribly boring place. Anyway, it would do them a right good fright to see someone walking around looking like a creature from Hell.”
“What’s this thing?” The boy asked, holding up the papers.
“A newspaper. People print important things on them for the masses to read. I was just looking at this article here about a client I had recently, I’m a lawyer. I get paid to convict or keep people out of jail, and I make so much money off of it!”
With a snap of her fingers the paper vanished and her clothes shifted to polished boots, breeches, a tunic and purple vest. Long black hair faded to ghostly white and skin turned a soft lilac color. From her forehead two curved horns grew and wrapped around pointed ears, and a agile lizard-like tail swayed against the floor behind her.
“The occasional soul doesn’t hurt either. Seriously, no one ever reads those contracts.”
Kasmut fell back, eyes wide in horror, “That’s a tiefling!”
The demon clicked her tongue and winked, “You got it honey. Now,” Squatting so she was eye-level with Cyril she added, “How’s that spell coming along?”
“Eerie is Cyril’s mentor.” Sundu told the empress.
“Her kind are forbidden in the empire! How did you come across such foul magic?”
Ravalynn snorted, “There’s a story, eh beau? I found the tome that contained the spell and gave it to Cyril when he was a tot. Had no idea what it was, couldn’t read a damned thing but, somehow he understood everything. So I just him keep it.”
“Next thing we knew he comes into our room, riding the shoulders of a rather distressed demon.” Sundu chuckled.
“Never thought you’d be under the control of a toddler, did you Eerie?”
The demon glared over Cyril’s shoulders, “Never going to let me live that down are you?” Shrugging she smirked, “Oh well, you’ll die some day and that will be the end of it.” Clapping her hands she stood and commanded, “Okay, kid, keep up with me!”
In a blink she vanished, then reappeared at the opposite end of the room. She hadn’t gone far, wanting to test the child’s skills slowly. Waving him over, Eerie watched closely as Cyril squeezed his eyes shut and focused. His first attempt didn’t take him but a few inches from where he stood. Breathing heavily he looked up, disappointed.
“Concentrate.” She marked a spot with the heel of her boot. “Right here, lad. Think real hard on the target. Put yourself here in your mind, feel your body manifesting beside me.”
Straightening his shoulders, Cyril locked his gaze to where the demon pointed. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and disappeared. Within a couple breaths, he popped up, a couple steps from his target destination.
“Close enough, one more time!” Eerie faded away, appearing closer to the kitchen. A further distance than the last.
Kasmut relaxed as she watched the boy and demon vanish and reappear in various locations. This was incredibly complex magic for a child his age, and yet, he was slowly mastering it before her eyes. From what she understood, the students at the mage’s college didn’t attempt teleportation until they were sixteen.
Shaking her head, she turned the boy’s amused parents and asked, “Aren’t you worried about his soul? That’s the price for summoning tieflings, don’t you know that?”
“I’m not taking the kid’s soul.”
The sudden voice caused Kasmut to jump.
Eerie signalled for Cyril to stop, “That’s it for now. You need to recuperate.” Crossing her legs, Eerie settled herself in the air and went on, “That’s why I’m teaching him instead. I can’t just make a child sign a contract giving me their soul. For all I know he’d’ve given it up for a bottomless cookie jar!”
Cyril let out a small gasp. Turning to Hatshepsut, who looked equally amazed by the idea, he whispered, “I didn’t think of that…”
“No! You’ll spoil your appetite.” Eerie’s mouth clamped shut. Panicked she looked to Ravalynn and snapped, “I sound like you! Oh Seven Hells, take me again, I can’t go soft.”
Shrugging, the half-orc smirked, “Welcome to motherhood.”
A disgusted snarl curled Eerie’s lip. Clicking her tongue, she sneered, “What did you summon me for? Cyril said you needed me for something. I’m assuming it’s got to do with our royal friends?” She floated higher as Hatshepsut came over to investigate, flipping her tail into her lap.
Sundu nodded and filled Eerie in on everything Kasmut had explained to them. “We need someone to get in and find out what’s going on. You’re our best bet.”
The demon placed a hand over her chest and batted her eyes, exclaiming, “Little ol’ me? I thought Ravalynn was your best sneak?”
“I am,” the half-orc scoffed, “But I can’t turn invisible. Plus, I’m wanted for even more now so I’d like to be as far away from the palace as possible.”
“Brava!” Eerie cheered, clapping her hands, “Soon you two will be matched in price. A perfect pair! Alright, I’ll do it. Especially since my favorite pupil put his tiny butt in danger.”
“Aw, you really do care,” Ravalynn teased.
Rubbing the tip of her tail, Eerie rolled her eyes, “Yeah well, I don’t usually get to stay with my clients for four years. They typically ‘mysteriously die’, if you catch my drift.”
“Our son ‘mysteriously dies’ and we’ll mount your head on the wall,” the couple shot.
The demon held her hands up and assured, “Don’t worry your horns and tusks over it. Nothing will happen to him as long as I’m around.”
Shooing Hatshepsut out of the way, Eerie settled on the ground. Rubbing her palms she smiled, “Be back in a jiff!” In a puff of smoke, she vanished.
Ravalynn and Kasmut choked. Waving it away, the half-orc gagged, “Bleedin’ show off. She didn’t have to do that.”
“All the same,” Sundu took his seat and dove back into his meal, “Now we wait. So, let’s sit and get something in our bellies.”
“Ugh, yes I’m starving!” Ravalynn plopped in a chair beside her beau.
Cyril and Hatshepsut ran back to their seats, happily munching and talking about the demon. Everyone else followed suit. Far too hungry and tired to try and understand what was going on, Kasmut finally took a seat between her daughter and Ravalynn.
Between bites of her rather mediocre meal, the empress cast a side-eyed glance to the half orc. Her jaw tightened on its own accord. The woman looked like a complete tramp and lacked any kind of civilized style. Tiny shorts that covered nothing and a top that hid even less. It was no wonder she had gotten herself pregnant showing everything like she did. Raising an eyebrow to all the bite marks and scratches down her body, Kasmut inwardly shook her head. No self respect at all in this one. Casting her eyes towards Sundu she remembered that her called her his leman, so they weren’t even married. Of course, if what she had heard about people like them were true, that might not even be his child.
Turning to Cyril, Kasmut looked him over carefully. He had golden-brown skin, which could had come from the bull, a little pushed up nose that matched his mother’s, but nothing that definitely tied him to his so-called father. That was, until Cyril stood on his chair and reached across the table, exposing the tiny bull tail that whipped excitedly behind him.
Alright, so I guess he is his, Kasmut sighed.
Glancing back she saw Ravalynn and Sundu deep in conversation. His fingers lightly caressing over her extended arm. Her fingers twitched whenever he brushed over a sensitive spot. Their eyes, however, were completely focused on one another as they spoke. Every now and then his gaze would break to glance down at the half-orc’s mouth. A small smile tugging at his lips every time he did. Kasmut adjusted herself in order to catch a subtle peek at what he was looking at. Her eyebrow raised, the only thing she could see was the hideous ring embedded in the woman’s bottom lip. Rolling her eyes, Kasmut shook her head. Along with those bizarre tattoos and bulging piercings in her ears, the lips ring completed the woman’s low-class criminal aesthetic.
And here I am getting help from these wastes, the empress sighed. Hopefully things wouldn’t get much worse.
“What the fuck is that smell?” A hoarse and drunken voice called out.
The room turned to see an older man come stumbling in. He lifted his nose and took a deep whiff, “That whore Barber been cooking again? Fucking bitch can’t-” The sentence was cut off by a series of hacking coughs. He snorted and spat a large wad of mucus on the floor, brushing it away with his boot.
Kasmut tried her best not to gag. What a revolting man. As she looked away she noticed Ravalynn’s demeanor had completely shifted. The half-orc looked terrified.
“Rees,” Sundu said evenly, “Mind your tongue, we have guests, and children.”
Reese glanced up, focusing his eyes on the minotaur, “Sundu, you’re back. Fucking great. What guests? Since when do we take in guests, this fucking inn now?” Finally spotting the empress and princess he stopped. A twisted grin spread across his face as he came hobbling over.
When he placed a hand on both their chairs, Kasmut’s nose burned with the stench of alcohol. He leaned in closely and chimed, “Ain’t these just the loveliest ladies I ever seen? What’s the matter little girl, do I smell funny?” He laughed and pinched Hatshepsut’s exposed cheek as she covered her face.
Cyril stood in his seat and shoved Rees’s hand away. The older man grabbed the boy by his shirt and threw him out of his seat, “Don’t think I’ve forgotten what you did, you little shit!”
“Don’t you hit my son!” The half-orc shouted as she and Sundu bolted out of their chairs.
Whipping around to face Ravalynn, the man pointed, “Sit down and shut up, you slut before I shut you up myself!”
The woman instantly melted back into her chair, trembling with fear. Sundu stepped up beside her, eyes filled with rage. His chest heaved with every breath and he lowered his head, aiming his sharp horns at the man.
“These are the princess and empress, huh?” Rees went on, unphased, “You know there’s a reward out for them right now? And whoever attacked the guards that was with them last night.”
“Whatever you’re thinking, stop thinking it,” Sundu warned, “We are not turning them in for the money.”
“Are you fucking joking? We could call in favors and make off like kings,” Rees ran his tongue along the inside of his lip. He raised a finger and pointed accusingly, “You gone soft, bull. Ever since your started bedding that little pig-nosed bitch you began turning good paying jobs away.”
Sundu tossed his head, nostrils flaring as his chest heaved with rage, “Watch what you say, Rees. I won’t have that kind of talk about my girl, and those jobs required me to kill someone. This guild is better than that.”
“Whatever,” the older man tsked. Walking over to the empress he leaned on the back of her chair, staring into her eyes as he smirked, “You wanna take care of the empress, then that’s what we’ll do. I’ll keep an eye on her m’self. I’m pretty vigilant, aren’t I, Rav?”
He traced a knuckle down the half-orc’s arm. Her body squeezed tightly and she sat there almost frozen. Kasmut could see goosebumps rising on the girl’s skin. Panic visibly swept over her face as her blood red eyes widened and jaw began to tremble.
Even as scared as she was, Kasmut was through with this man. Sweeping her hand around, she smacked his arm away, stating, “That’s enough!”
The old man looked bewildered, “What did you jus--”
The sentence cut off as a powerful fist slammed into his jaw. Sundu gave him no time to recover before kicking Rees in the ribs. The table cleared as the two men duked it out. Chairs crashing to the floor as boys and girls scrambled to get to the other side of the room. Kasmut went to grab her daughter only to find she and Cyril had crawled under the table. Glancing over when she heard a heavy body slam into the wall, Kasmut decided it would be best for her to move as well.
As she rose from her seat, she remembered Ravalynn. Turning, she was shocked to see the seat empty. Scanning the crowd, Kasmut didn’t see the woman anywhere. She eyed the door at the end of the room, perhaps Ravalynn had disappeared that way.
Safer there than in here, the empress thought.
“Come on,” she waved for the children to follow her as she ran for the exit.
“I’ve never seen papa so angry!” Cyril stopped in the doorway. His face showing his fear as he watched the fight.
“Are they going to kill each other?” Hatshepsut stood behind Cyril.
Shaking her head Kasmut grabbed the two and ushered them back down the hall, “No one is killing anyone. Now go back to the bedroom, you’ll be safe in there.”
“But my papa…”
“He’ll be fine, little one. Now go.”
Once sure that the children were gone, Kasmut glanced back into the dining room. She winced when Sundu rammed his head into the old man’s. His horns just barely wide enough to miss his skull. Along the edges of the room, the younger ones made their way to exits she hadn’t noticed before. The elders of the guild, even Grim, began collecting weapons, ready to defend the giant minotaur.
As she stepped away from the door faint sounds of distressed muttering reached her ears. She scanned over the sitting room and found signs of no one. Her eyebrows knit together as she checked behind the furniture and doors. The whispers were coming from somewhere but, her search came up empty, until she came to a closet. When she pressed her ear to the door, the sounds were definitely coming from within. Kasmut grabbed the handle but before she got a chance to turn it, the person on the other side took hold as well.
Knew it, Jerking on the handle Kasmut demanded, “Open this door, young lady!”
“Young la- Who do you think you are, my mother?” The half-orc shot back keeping a firm grip on her side of the door, “Leave me alone you stuck up- prissy… Turnip!”
Kasmut fell back from the door, utterly confused, “Did… Did you just call me a turnip?”
“Oh piss off!” Ravalynn sniffed, her voice trembling, “I’m in no mood for back talk from the likes of you…”
“Then how about the likes of me?”
The empress jumped at the sudden voice. Spinning around she gaped in horror at the state of the minotaur; His nose and mouth were dripping blood everywhere, there were smear marks on his face and arms from where he tried to wipe it away. Patches of his fur had been ripped out, either from Rees pulling on it or from being drug along the wall, and his left eye was nearly swollen shut. He waved Kasmut aside and turned the doorknob.
When the door swung open, they saw Ravalynn pressed against the back wall of the closet, wrapped up in a ridiculously large cloak. Her whole body shook as she stared at Sundu. Tears dripped from her jaw as she attempted to scoot further back.
“Rav,” Sundu reached out for the woman’s hand, only to be shocked when she turned away.
A heavy sigh escaped him. Without looking away he quietly asked for the empress to leave. She nodded and took off down the hall toward the bedrooms. Once she disappeared, Sundu braced himself against the door, leaving enough room for Ravalynn to escape. He knew how she got when she felt trapped. So, he stood quietly and waited.
“Where is he?” She managed to whisper.
“Laying, unconscious in a pool of blood, alive,” the minotaur huffed, “For now.” Looking her up and down he asked, “Why are you all covered up?”
Ravalynn wrapped the cloak tighter around her and hiccupped, “It’s- It’s- These clothes, how I dress. It’s why he--” She fell into the corner and slid down the wall, quietly sobbing.
Sundu grunted and shook his head, “Your clothes? The way you dress has nothing to do with Rees being a prick, Rav.” Stooping down he leaned in and held out his hand, “Come out, please.”
Wiping her eyes, she looked at him over her shoulder, “You aren’t mad at me?”
“For what? Why would I be mad at you?”
“Because I never told you about the stuff he was doing. That I made everyone, including Cyril keep quiet about it.”
“Alright,” Sundu shrugged, “Do you want to tell me why you did that?”
At first she fell quiet, then Ravalynn turned away and rested her head on her knees and said, “Back before I… you know, and when I was developing, Rees threatened to kill me if I said anything. Then after Cyril was born, he said he’d kill him instead. I was so scared… I don’t wear outfits like this when you’re not around, and I keep our bedroom door locked and barricaded so he can’t get in.” She paused before asking, “Do you remember when you came home last year and I had that bruise on my wrist? You asked me how I got it?”
She heard the bull take a deep, agitated breath and growl, “Yes. You told me you pinched it while out on a job.”
Clenching her eyes shut, Ravalynn went on, “It was almost healed before you got back but, Rees had twisted it real bad. He had heard the others whispering about snitching on him, and he wanted to remind me of his threat. Cyril stayed with me every night until you got back. I’m so sorry, Sundu. I should have told you a long time ago but I was so scared, I didn’t want him to hurt our son. I’m so sorry!”
Her face fell into her hands as she sobbed. Streams of tears rolling down her arms. Beside her she heard Sundu curse under his breath, and Ravalynn suddenly found herself being lifted out of the closet. The bull had her wrapped in a tight hug, his head resting on top of hers. She threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in the fur there. He whispered reassuring words, telling her that everything would be alright.
Pulling back, he wiped her face and placed gentle kisses all over her. When they leaned away to breathe, Ravalynn’s eyes shot open. This was the first time she had gotten to really look at him. She thrashed in his arm until he let her go. Wiping at her face, her jaw dropped when blood came off on her hand.
Recognizing the far off look in her eyes Sundu patted her on the back, “Rav, I’m fine. No real damage done… Just a nose bleed.” He licked a corner of the cloak and cleaned his face, “See?”
She nodded slowly, whispering, “It’s been awhile since I’ve had… Your blood on my hands. Any blood.”
He ran his fingers through Ravalynn’s hair, trying his best to soothe her, when a sudden pop caught them off guard. Eerie darted toward them from the entry room, panic on her face,
“You folks need to high-tail it outta here!” Glancing at Sundu, she pulled back, “Whoa, what happened to you?”
“Nevermind that,” Ravalynn stepped in, “What’s going on?”“The Emperor is dead!”