Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Romantic, Heterosexual, Fiction, Slow, .
Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Verus, a retired Abian Centurion, is called forth from his golden years to serve the empire on one last mission.
The rain poured down upon the trio of men in purple cloaks as they walked from the carriage to the door of the villa. They ducked under the covered veranda and stood before the great carven double doors into the house's compound.
"Quite a nice place for a retired soldier," said Prefect Mallius, eyeing the quality stonework and woodwork of the house. He tossed back his cloak's hood, revealing a handsome face and severely trimmed hair, military style. He looked to his companions.
The man to his left tossed back his hood as well, Senator Flavin Marus, he was a pudgy man with a bald head, kept shaved once he started loosing his hair. He seemed the kindest of the men before the villa doors, though, and in truth probably was.
The other man, standing to Mallius' right lowered his hood lastly, revealing a missing eye and a long scar running down one cheek from that wound. He was Sendrus, Prefect Mallius' advisor, and, it was generally known, enforcer and spy. He held the title of Senator, from a nearly peopleless portion of the empire, where he was the titular representative.
Marus looked at the prefect. "I understand Verus built this home mostly with his own labor, and that of his sons," he said, eyeing the building with an equally critical eye, but with much less suspicion.
Sendrus looked at it with his single eye, and with a very different set of standards than the other two men. He had already detected three ways to enter the home other than the door. Like most Abian homes, there were no windows on the ground floor. Likewise, there were only three entrances: The one they now stood before, a side entrance, and the servant's entrance. Over their heads were some narrow windows, but even they were meant to discourage footpads, with heavy wrought iron bars crossing them and dividing them into two.
Having let most of the rainwater drip from their cloaks, Prefect Mallius reached toward the ornately carved oak door and to the massive brass ring in the middle of one. He let it fall against a brass plate and it hit with a loud thud.
A moment later, the door opened silently on well-greased hinges, and a wizened old face peered around it. Upon seeing the purple robes and the face of the Praetor, he gasped and pulled it open hurriedly, standing to the side. "Welcome Praetor, to the home of Verus."
"Primus Pilum Verus, don't you mean?" asked Mallius.
"Lord Praetor, he has commanded we call him but Verus," said the old man, pushing the door shut behind them. "He says he is no longer a soldier."
Marus cast a sidelong glance at the praetor but held his tongue until the old man had shuffled off, saying, "I will fetch Primus Pilum Verus now milord."
When the old man was gone, Marus turned. "I told you this was unwise, he no longer seeks to bear the rod of command," hissed the senator.
Mallius sneered at him. "You underestimate my resolve that he do what I wish of him," he said, pulling five small scrolls from his leather belt pouch. "He will pick up the rod, if I command it."
Sendrus stood silently and moved back toward a corner of the antechamber they were standing in. He said little, even in comfortable surroundings.
Long moments passed, and finally, they heard a heavy tread approaching them across the tiled floor of the villa. Verus rounded the corner, the very image of a Abian Centurion. He was tall and had broad shoulders. His hair was unkempt, and had streaks of gray now among the shining black it had been. His face was strong, though, and his eyes were keen, their brown piercing and backed by formidable intellect. He stopped when he saw the trio and regarded them, then forced a smile to his lips, it was not a very convincing one.
"My lord praetor," he said, walking forward, and putting his hand to his chest, fist clenched and bowing his head. "Welcome to my humble home."
The praetor said, "Your home is lovely, Primus Pilum, and I am honored to be allowed inside."
Verus nodded. "I may ask, however, as pleasant as your visit shall, I'm sure, be, why you have come so far from Presium Prime?"
"A man who gets to matters, which is exactly why I am come," said the praetor. He looked at the tall, retired Centurion. "Primus Pilum Verus," he said in a formal tone, "the empire needs you to return for one mission."
Verus did the one thing that none of the three men expected, who had each expected something different, one had expected rage, one violence, and one quiet acceptance. However, what the retired Centurion did was laugh.
They stood, blinking at the outburst of laughter and unsure what to do with such an emotional reaction. Finally, the chuckles subsided. "My lord praetor, but I am retired, and of little worth to the empire, regardless, being an old man."
"Verus," said the praetor in a more friendly tone, "you are still the finest leader we have ever had, on the field and off."
"I'm sorry, Praetor Mallius, but I refuse," said Verus. "I am a soldier no longer." He had served fourty years in the legions, and had earned his retirement thrice over. There was no law nor power in the imperium that could force him back into yoke to the state.
The praetor looked at the old soldier levelly, "That is your final word?" he asked.
"It is," said the former commander of the Eighth Legion, also called the Hammer of God.
"Very well, Primus Pilum, I cannot force you," said Mallius, half turning, then he said. "As my visit is cut short, perhaps you could help me with a small detail of it." He turned back around and regarded Verus with hostile eyes. "I am required to deliver these unto some lads of the area." He held out the five little scrolls. "Perhaps they might be better given over to them by someone they love, like their grandfather."
Verus' eyes widened at the sight of the five Notices of Draft. "You cannot be serious!" he said, his face growing pale. "They have never... "
"Primus Pilum Verus, you underestimate our need, we have suffered great losses to four legions in the Windy Isles. Those pesky rangers and elves are tenacious. The legions are undermanned and need healthy young men to rebuild their ranks." The praetor's eyes flashed. "Unless we can broker a peace agreement with them, and soon, we will need reinforcements, it is that simple. And your grandsons would make fine legionnaires."
"You want me to broker a peace agreement?" asked Verus.
"Exactly," said the praetor. He saw he had won, already.
Verus' eyes fell to the floor. "My understanding was that they were not even talking anymore," he said.
"They are not," agreed Mallius, "but the elves have agreed to hear the words of one of their own, Lady Emogen."
"She is but half-elven," said Verus.
"It is enough in this case," said the praetor, "they have agreed to speak with her, and she has been authorized to lay out a peace plan."
Verus nodded. "And the reason you need me?"
"Simple," said Mallius, "to make sure she gets to the elves safely. You see, the men of the Windy Isles are not as keen as the elves to make peace. They will abide by an agreement, but they will play no part in helping form it, and officially, they have adopted a no quarter policy."
Verus shook his head, "Why would they do that? The men of the Isles are reasonable folk."
"It may have to do with the captured prisoners of war being shipped off as slaves to our lands here in Abia," said the praetor negligently, I do not pretend to understand their mind.
The retired Centurion looked at him in disbelief. "You took them as slaves before the conquest was complete?" he asked. "Did you simply wish to incite them to resist more or were you planning on fighting to the last man of them?"
"I plan neither," said the praetor, shrugging, "I plan on you and the lady brokering a peace deal with the elves."
Verus sighed. "I have little choice, lest I wish to see my grandsons die in that meat grinder you call a war."
"It would be so if you refused, for certain," said Mallius, I have a ship awaiting your arrival in Presium Prime on the morrow." With those words, the praetor turned and opened the door and left, followed closely by Sendrus.
Marus lingered a moment, his face apologetic and his eyes refused to meet the old soldier's. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, then turned himself and left, pulling the door shut behind him with a last furtive glance at the hard eyes of Verus.
Back in the city, the capital of the Abian Empire, Presium Prime, the Praetor of the Senate, Mallius, stood on the balcony of his chambers in his palace. He looked back into the room, where Sendrus sat in an ornate padded chair. "Because, I do not intend either him or Lady Emogen to return, or even make it to the elves," he said. "Those rangers will cut the two of them apart in the jungles of those accursed islands."
"That is far from assured, milord praetor," said Sendrus, taking a sip of wine from a silver cup. "If Verus is half as resourceful and skilled as they say, he may well get them across the island to the elves."
"That, my old friend, is why you will be there already," said Mallius, "to make sure he doesn't get so resourceful."
Sendrus smiled. "Ah," he said, "but why are you telling me just now?"
"Don't you like surprises?" asked Mallius. "And the greater surprise is your pay."
Sendrus tilted his head slightly, like a dog listening to his master. "What might that be? for you have already made me wealthy."
"I know you have an eye for the Lady Emogen," said the praetor.
The assassin nodded. "Indeed, she is an exotic, lovely creature."
"After her mission fails, by her own betrayal, of course, I am confident she will be sold into slavery. I can assure you there will be only one bidder for her ownership."
Sendrus' eyes glittered at the thought of not only having the lady, but owning her outright, as a personal slave. "And all I have to do is eliminate Verus?"
"Yes, and make sure she gets out alive, to stand trial for the failure," said Mallius, "I will see to the rest, I have a justicar who owes me a huge favor in Remless."
"You will try her in such a tiny port town?" asked Sendrus. "Surely, it will be appealed."
"Justicar Ulanus' decision will not be overturned, he is too highly regarded," said Mallius.
"And why, lastly, do you want this 'peace agreement' to fail to come to fruition?" asked the assassin.
Mallius smiled. "This war has been unpopular from the start. When those barbarians in the Windy Isles kill one of our most beloved heroes, the people will become incensed. Especially since he was trying to hold out an olive branch to them, and had come out of retirement to do so, such self sacrifice. We will have all the resources we need to smash the Windy Isles under a decade of legions, rather than the undermanned four we have been forced to use."
"Now," said Mallius, "it is time for you to take ship and get to the Windy Isles."
She was as lovely as the people had said, and Verus, though now nearing sixty, was not immune to that beauty.
Lady Emogen was the darling of the people's eye in Presium Prime, she was always seen as kind, and was stylish, and most of all, beautiful and charismatic. As she stood on the boards of the dock, looking at the galleon that would take them to the Windy Isles, she radiated likability.
Verus swallowed, and kissed his eldest son on the cheek, taking up his rucksack and walking toward the ship. As he approached her, the lady turned her silvern eyes upon him. "Primus Pilum Verus!" she exclaimed, a smile forming on her lips and radiating form her, making his heart thud in his chest all the harder. She walked up to him and put her hands upon his shoulders. She was a tall, slim woman, despite her half-elven lineage. She bent forward and kissed his cheek and a wash of sweet cinnamon flowed over him.
"Milady Emogen," he said, stammering slightly. "You are as lovely as always, and that is only exceeded by your grace."
She smiled. "A general of men and a sweet-talker of women," she said, tilting her gaze slightly up to him. "I see now I will have to keep my wits about me this journey."
A crewman walked up to them and said. "They are ready for you to board, milady and sir," he said, bowing.
Emogen reached out a slender hand and took Verus'. "Please, steward, show us the way to our cabins."
Verus felt cool fingers in his hand, and despite that it very nearly burned him, sending spikes of heat up his arm, his breath was even short.
She looked back toward him. "Primus Pilum Verus," she said, "do you think this parley will work?"
"Please, milady, just Verus. And, yes, if you are brokering it, I feel it will be quite easily done," he replied.
The steward showed them to their rooms, cramped cabins across the hall from one another.
"We're neighbors, how delightful," she said. "I look forward to working closely with you, Verus, your reputation as a strategist and leader is legendary." She lowered the gauzy shawl that she had been covering her head with, revealing her golden hair and gently pointed ears. "Frankly, I feared they would send me with someone who surely would get me killed."
"I will do all in my power to ensure that does not happen," said Verus, bowing.
She reached out and took hold of the sides of his head, lifting him and kissing each cheek, her warm, soft lips brushing one, then the other. "I know, and I am immensely gladdened," said Emogen.
He was breathing in small gasps as she released his head and he felt himself stumble a bit. She smiled brightly and turned about. "Will you come to eat dinner with me this night?" she asked over her shoulder. The long strips of cloth that made up her gown moved as she did, revealing tiny flashes of skin beneath them. "I will promise to wear something more appealing to the eye."
"Certainly, milady," he replied automatically, though his mind was far from operating at full capacity.
He knocked upon her door and she opened it, standing before him in a short skirt that was slit high on the left and right sides. Her midriff was bare, displaying a tummy that had only the slightest hint of roundness to it. His eyes moved up, with effort, past her slim waist and to her sizable breasts, which were being held at bay by a halter top, that crossed over them then about her neck. He looked at her for a long moment, noting that she was showing a really impressive amount of skin.
She smiled "I thought, perhaps, traipsing through the woods in a gown would be less than ideal," said Emogen. "This outfit is very elven in look, and quite easy to move in."
As he shut the door, she demonstrated the mobility that the short skirt and half-top gave her by adopting a pugilistic pose that caused him to chuckle, which set her to giggling. "I hope that mobility of that nature will not be necessary," said Verus. "I intend to avoid all contact with the rangers."
"A wise choice," she said, "I hear they are formidable fighters, especially in their own territory."
He nodded, watching her long form as she moved toward the table that had been set for them. He noted standard fare on half the table and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables on the other half. "You do not eat meat?" he asked as he walked to the table and pulled out the chair on the fruit and vegetable side for her.
She smiled brightly. "A leading question, Verus, but, yes, I do, but only in small amounts." She took the proffered seat and glanced toward his pants with obvious intent. "Except in certain situations, where I consume it voraciously."
Verus sat across from her and regarded her with a smile. "Milady, you should not toy with an old soldier's libido, especially one who has been alone so many years."
Emogen cast her eyes down and her face became less happy. "I apologize Verus, it slips my mind that you lost your wife seven years ago."
"She lived a full life, but I do miss her," said Verus. His smile turned very wry, "I especially miss her touch."
They ate in near silence, speaking only a little on their mission to come. Once they had finished, though, and the steward had cleared the table, Emogen said. "This mission frightens me."
"It is dangerous, milady, I'll not lie to you," said Verus.
She nodded. "My father was a Windir Elf," she said. "These are, in part, my people. It pains me to know we are at war with them and that they would kill me if they caught me and found out I was Abian." Her eyes welled with tears. "I fear dying a failure at the hands of my father's folk."
Verus was unsure what to do, he reached out with a napkin and caught her falling tears and wiped her eyes gently. "Well, it is my job to see to it that doesn't happen, and if it is in my power to ensure it doesn't, it won't."
The next morning, the steward reported that they were nearing the Windy Isles. "I surely hope no trimarans come across us before we make the shallows," he confided.
"Agreed," said Verus to the young man.
Elven trimarans were alarmingly effective combat vessels, fast, though not maneuverable. They were large, and worst of all carried a ram prow, or more realistically, three, one at the leading edge of each underwater sponson and support boom. They could hole a ship easily, and with a good wind behind them, cut a ship in two. Their high maindeck gave archers a distinct advantage, and the elves were artillerists without peer, able to use the deck-mounted ballistae to inflict terrible damage to their opponents before they were even in bow range.
It was indeed a good thing to not see one.
As he walked onto the helmsman's deck, he looked about them, and saw Lady Emogen approaching. It was a windy day, but not poor weather, the ship moved along under her sails smoothly, despite the choppy seas. He peered over her shoulder intently, then walked to the helmsman. "Have you a glass?" he asked.
The helmsman reached into his long mariner's vest and pulled out a collapsed brass spyglass, and handed it to Verus. "Be careful with that, it cost me four month's wages, sir," he said.
Verus nodded and extended the barrel, then uncapped the lense.
Lady Emogen looked at him oddly as he walked past her, with an immensely distracted look upon his face. She turned the direction he was staring and gasped. Her half-elven eyes already saw the source of his agitation.
He raised the spyglass to his eye. Painted light blue to blend into the sky was a sail, and beneath that the distinctive triangular legs of the support pylons that held the trimaran out of the water. Judging form the immense roostertails that followed each strut's passage through the water, she was making good speed, and coming directly for the galleon.
"Oh, dear," the lady gasped as he collapsed the spyglass and capped it.
"Oh dear is right," said Verus and handed the spyglass back to the helmsman. He looked at the young man, whose face was just now beginning to register fear. "Turn the ship about."
"Turn about sir?" he asked, his eyes flicking toward where the nearly invisible sail was growing closer. Had Verus not seen it, and pointed it out, obviously the crowsnest watchman did not. "Surely we should try to dodge them."
"They are moving too fast, by the time we know how they plan to ram, they will have disabled our rudder with their bloody ballistae," Verus said in a rush of clipped words. "Turn the damn ship about and make straight for them."
"But the captain,... " said the helmsman.
"Is a fool if he tries anything else," said Lady Emogen, "This man is Primus Pilum Verus, and his tactical skills and judgement are not to be questioned.
"On land, perhaps," said a booming voice from behind Verus and Emogen. "But this is my ship and we are on open water." It was the captain, and he seemed in no mood to listen to a land lubber regarding nautical matters. "Hold your course, helmsman."
Several crewmen were watching the interaction of the two men as well as a dozen or more legionnaires, who had begun coming from below deck as word spread of the trimaran approaching.
"Verus, if you attempt to issue another order upon my ship, you will be thrown overboard," said the captain.
Inhaling deeply, Verus turned away from the captain, nodding. Then came back around with a roundhouse punch that would fell a mule. The captain's head snapped back and he fell to the deck with a thud. "I'll suffer not a fool, be he the right captain of the ship or not," Verus said.
Crewmen began moving toward the old soldier, drawing long knives. Verus cast back his cloak, reavealing the golden trimmed breastplate of a Primus Pilum. The legionnaires on the deck acted immediately, drawing their short swords, and turning menacingly toward the sailors. "I am now in command of this vessel!" shouted Verus. "You sailors back to your posts, and tie that man up and place him in his quarters." He pointed at the fallen captain, who was just now beginning to stir.
He looked toward the helmsman again. "Turn the ship about, now!" The helmsman began shouting commands to the rigging crew. Sails were thrown about and some furled. He then spun the wheel around, and the rudder complained as it was thrown hard over. The long, slim galleon heeled over in the water, as the wind snapped the sails into a new configuration and the ship spun about. Spray washed over the deck and misted into Verus' eyes.
"Coming about!" yelled the helmsman as he centered the ship's prow upon the quickly-growing trimaran.
Verus took the spyglass again and looked at the trimaran, he could make out elves and men in the rigging of the huge ship and saw that they seemed to be moving randomly. This move had confused them and they were trying to figure out how to adjust. Normal ships were supposed to run from a trimaran, not make as if to ram.
"I sure hope you know what you are doing," said Lady Emogen as he folded the glass again.
"So do I," said Verus, turning again to the helmsman. "Aim between the lead sponson and the left."
"Sir?" asked the helmsman. "But we will slide under her main hull then, and have our masts sheared off."
"I know," said Verus. "Clear the rigging at a hundred fathoms distance. Have the quartermaster issue arms."
"We're going to board her?" the helmsman asked, incredulity filling his voice.
"No," said Primus Pilum Verus, "we're going to take her." He walked down the stairs to the maindeck and gathered up several of the legionnaires, issuing hasty orders to them. The men listened automatically, knowing they were hearing the words of a legend made real. Most of all, they knew Verus had never lost a battle.
They scattered about the deck to the tasks he had given them.
The first officer of the ship walked up to him, though with much less bellicosity than the captain had. "Primus Pilum, you realize this current course of action will surely lead to the loss of this ship?"
Verus nodded. "Of course I do," he said. "We're not going to finish this trip on this pile of logs. Now, issue your men weapons, and prepare for a fight."
The first officer nodded and moved off, satisfied that he had done his duty in stating his case. He could die now with the knowledge that he had done so.
Verus had no intention of more men dying than absolutely necessary.
The trimaran began to loom ahead, growing larger quickly. The ship was many times the size of the galleon. Verus went about, issuing orders to various people and soon the crew was as ready as it would be, as well as the hundred legionnaires who were aboard.
"You're getting your first taste of the battle a bit early," he told them as they huddled around him. He nominated five of them de-facto sergeants and divided them into five squads of twenty men.
He looked at the trimaran now, and did some mental calculations. They had less than three minutes left. He went up to the helm deck and told the helmsman to get off that deck as soon as the ships started hitting, and to just get off, no heroics. The helmsman nodded enthusiastically.
Two ballistae fired, hurling great bolts at the ship. A man fell from the rigging, impaled on one of the six foot spears, the other thudded harmlessly into the helm deck. The trimaran could bring no more of its main armament to bear on a ship directly ahead of it, and they could not ram a ship off to her side.
Next would be the archers, though. "Clear the rigging!" shouted the helmsman.
Men began bailing out of the rigging as fast as they could, clambering down to the deck of the galleon. The legionnaires took up their positions over the maindeck, standing in a large grid.
Two legionnaires took up positions beside the helmsman. He looked nervously at each of them.
"NOW!" shouted Verus as a cloud of arrows launched itself from the elven ship. The soldiers, as one, lifted their shields over their heads, like a wood and leather roof over the main deck. The two beside the helmsman huddled close to him where only one of his arms poked out between their shields, holding the ship's wheel.
Arrows thudded down into the raised shields. Where there were gaps a few men fell, pierced by the falling shafts. A second volley flew forth, and had no more effect than the first, falling mostly onto the shields of the legionnaires.
Then it was too late. The foremast sheered off as the two ships met. "HIT THE DECK!" screamed the sergeants, Verus and the helmsman in unison, and everyone on the ship dove for the main deck. Including the helmsman and the two legionnaires beside him, diving over the railing and landing on the deck painfully.
The sound was horrendous. Shearing timbers and snapping ropes mixed with tearing cloth and the screams of men caught by the effect of one of these. There was a rending groan that moved his internal organs with its depth and intensity, then all motion stopped.
They looked up and saw the underside of the trimaran over them. Peering over the gunnel, Verus confirmed that the pilum the legionnaires had set out the portholes had held, imbedding themselves into the wood of the sponson and anchoring them to the trimaran.
The top two feet of the helm deck was gone now, and the masts over five feet from the deck. He grabbed a sailor. "Get the captain and release him, tell him if we win, he will be the first Abian captain of a trimaran!" he said, and the crewman shot off for the stairs down.
"Abians, attack! Come hell or glory, we take a prize for the empire this day!" Shouted Verus.
The crew and legionnaires moved in a surge, casting aside the heavy shields and swarming up the support pylon for the sponson on both port and starboard sides, where the galleon had wedged itself to the port and lead sponsons.
The trimaran, now suddenly no longer symmetrical, began a long turn, the drag created by the galleon was slowing the trimaran greatly.
The elves and human sailors on the deck were taken half by surprise as the Abians swarmed onto the deck. The sergeants had strict orders though, and it was not nearly the bloodbath that many had expected, on both sides. Many dozens of prisoners were taken. It seemed the crew was far smaller than first assumed.
"Losses?" asked Verus, speaking to the captain and the first officer.
"Twelve sailors and fourteen legionnaires," said the first officer, looking at a scrap of parchment. "A total of fifty wounded."
Verus shook his head but smiled slightly. "Better than I had hoped, actually, but still painful to hear."
"How did you know they would have few men aboard to fight us off?" asked the captain.
"It makes sense," said Verus to the captain, who was now calm enough to speak to civilly. "They rely upon their superior vessels to do the fighting. They didn't expect to be boarded, and carry no marines for that event."
"Shall we put them to death, Primus Pilum?" asked one of the defacto sergeants.
"No, put them aboard our old ship and cut them loose," said Verus. "I've no mind to be a jailer and we are soldiers, not murderers. They fought honorably and surrendered in good faith. We'll not mar our honor by betraying that."
The Windy Islanders and the elves of the crew were moved to the ruined, but still floating ship below, and the spears which anchored it were cut, letting it drift from beneath the trimaran. Two female elves were still aboard the trimaran. "You can swim?" asked Verus of them.
They both nodded. "Then swim to the ship and release their bonds, you are no longer prisoners."
The two elven women, with incredibly graceful motions, ran to the rear of the ship and cast themselves over the gunnel and down into the water, striking it with barely a splash.
Verus turned to regard the crew and legionnaires. "I want to express my pride this day in being an Abian," he said in a commanding voice that all could hear. "You have done credit to your nation and to your families. Not a single prisoner was abused, and there were women among them, for that I am proud beyond words."
It had not even occurred to the crew to do so, not with the famous Verus there, they knew honor was one of his main peeves, and they'd not besmirch theirs by earning his ire.
Lady Emogen walked up behind him and touched his shoulder as the crew and soldiers dispersed and the crew began to try to figure out how to work the rigging of this peculiar vessel.
"Captain," said Verus, "the ship is yours to command again, and I will accept whatever punishment you deem worthy of my crime of mutiny."
The captain bellowed a massive laugh and struck his helmsman on the back. "No, I think you were reacting to me in a moment of my weakness of thought, perhaps I was simply having an attack of the vapors or something," said the captain. "I am glad that you took command in my moment of infirmity."
Verus nodded and turned to the lady. "You wished to speak?" he asked, now that everything was set right for the moment.
She smiled at him, a smile that would make iron glow red. It made Verus glow red, indeed. Lady Imogen took his hand and led him to a staircase down into the main hull of the ship.
She was familiar with the design of elven ships, having ridden a few, and took him directly to the master's quarters.
As they passed into the large, spacious room, she turned and kissed him. It was not a brushing of the lips on cheeks either, but a full on, airtight connection.
He sighed out his air as she released him and stood back. "Primus Pilum Verus, I owe you my life already, and we've not even started the mission."
He shook his head. "I don't think they would have killed you," he said.
"I may not have given them a choice," she said. "If I appeared in Abia again, after an elf ship attack, my already rumored double allegiance would be confirmed and I would be enslaved as a traitor."
"Are you?" he asked. "Allied with the elves, that is."
She shook her head. "Only insofar as I have kinfolk among them," said Emogen. "I am loyal to the empire."
He nodded and turned to the bank of windows that filled the back wall of the room. "Impressive," he said, looking at the receding water below and behind them.
She put her slender hands upon his shoulders and looked at his straight back and military bearing. "Yes, indeed, it is," she agreed, her voice deepening noticeably and, unseen by Verus, her eyes darkening to the color of iron.
They had barely been out of sight of land when the trimaran had been sighted, and now the islands heaved into view before them. As they neared their destination, a tiny port called, of all things, Pigswillow, there was a intense flurry of activity on the shore. The commander of the village thought surely it was a Islander attack and was readying his defences.
When the standard of Abia was hoisted up the mainmast, there was a cheering from the shore that could be heard even from the deck of the ship. Hundreds of folk swarmed to the docks as the massive vessel nestled in among them with minimal damage to the facilities. There was much rejoicing and people cheered friends and family as they debarked the ship. A Centurion forced his way through the throngs and walked up to the Primus Pilum.
"I am Centurion Denthius, I have been ordered to act as your liaison prior to your mission, sir." Word was already circulating of how the empire had come to acquire a prize like a trimaran, the first known to be captured, to anyone's knowledge. "I see not a word of your legend is hyperbole," said the younger Centurion. "I am honored to meet you."
Verus and Emogen were put up in quarters near the bay, in what must have been an inn before the war. She sat in what had been a common room next to Verus. "How did you know that they would have only a minimal crew?" she asked, sipping wine from a bottle they had recovered from the ship prior to leaving it.
"The elves are a scarce people, and the Windy Islanders only slightly less so," explained Verus. "I knew they couldn't spare a great number of fighting men to man their ships, especially when their main tactic is to sink ours very quickly and avoid a direct fight."
She nodded. "It makes sense. What if you had been wrong, and that one had been a troop transport?"
Verus thought a moment. "I would have thought of something else," he said. She believed him thoroughly. "I've never done well with 'what if's'," he said. "I prefer to deal with what is."
She handed him the bottle and he took a long pull. "And what 'is' the situation now?" she asked, leaning toward him and smiling, her eyes just a touch out of focus.
The old Centurion thought again for a long moment. "I am in an inn, with a beautiful half elven woman, drinking fine elven wine from the bottle, and flush with yet another victory," he said, his mind almost visibly working through the situation.
Emogen leaned closer and looked up at him through the bangs of her hair. "And what is your tactical assessment of it, is another victory looming?"
Verus chuckled, taking another pull. "It depends on what you define as victory, milady."
She put her hand on his bare thigh, slightly under the armored skirt of his uniform. "I believe there are clear rules to determine that," she said.
He put his hand over hers and pressed it against his flesh. "Milady, you don't speak of a victory for me, for I would likely be made captive by what I think you are offering."
"If you know what I offer, then why not reach out and seize it, as you did that cunning elven vessel out there?" she said, waving her hand toward the ship, still looming outside the windows of the inn in the bay.
He lifted her cool hand from his thigh, despite his initial desire, and kissed it, then placed it gently into her own lap. "Milady, I claim no prizes. I serve the empire, and she, until I am free of this last mission, is my only mistress."
Her expression fell slightly, but he quickly filled the void. "But, I will say this, beautiful Lady Emogen, when I am done with this, and we have peace with the Windy Isles and the elves. I would claim that reward happily then."
She smiled up at him as he stood. "Then we best succeed, for I will be wroth if you never get your just deserts," she said.
He walked toward his room, setting the empty bottle on the counter of the bar in passing. "Milady, if I miss out on a prize of that magnitude, I will have enough wroth to set the empire ablaze," he said over his shoulder.