It was the dream that she loved and hated; her greatest fantasy that would never come true.
Yunami was stretched out on the bed, naked beneath the sheet pulled up just above her breasts. Her auburn hair was scattered around her head on the sumptuous pillows like a halo. The sheer curtains hanging around the bed allowed her to see the rest of the room but hid her from the eyes of her approaching lover.
She watched as Daeghen walked towards the foot of the bed. He was naked, his body sculpted to perfection. She had never really seen him like this, so her imagination filled in those details. It was always a pleasure to watch him move and she imagined that her ideal wasn't too far from reality.
"Yunami, my love." He spoke with a voice that made her quiver.
"Sweet Daeghen," she said, reaching out to him, "come to me."
Daeghen was teasing her as he slowly parted the curtains, letting her see his body more clearly. He went down on all fours, crawling across the bed towards her, up along the sheet that covered her until he caught her hand in his own.
When their hands clasped and their fingers twined together, Daeghen moved suddenly and was on top of her, his body pinning her to the bed. She gasped as he moved his hips against hers, the sheet preventing her from feeling the naked skin around that hard shaft.
"Please don't tease me, darling," she pleaded, "I've waited too long for this."
He smiled at her playfully. It was the look he always had when he knew he was about to get his way, and she was so willing to let him have his way with her.
Yunami slid her free hand into his hair, pulling his lips to hers in a hungry kiss. She felt his hands pulling the sheet down between their bodies; the hard points of her nipples pushed against the smooth skin of his chest. Her hips thrust up as the sheet moved lower and she reveled in every new inch of their bodies that touched.
Daeghen stopped pulling the sheet down just above her hips, teasing her again, looking into her eyes as he whispered to her. "You need to get up. You're going to be late."
Yunami gave him a confused look. "What?"
Then he was screaming at her in a woman's voice. "You need to get up! You're going to be late!"
The dream shattered into a rude, early morning awakening. The urgency of the voice made Yunami sit up suddenly and slam her head into something hard. Pain rocked her skull and she fell back on the bed, groaning as she pressed a hand to her forehead. Someone else was cursing at her as she opened her eyes and saw her roommate standing above her, scowling.
Celedri was rubbing her nose, tears in her eyes. She had been standing over Yunami's bed, trying to wake her from the erotic dream that she had been so wrapped up in.
Yunami wanted to hit her best friend again. Mother Titania, if only she had given her a few more minutes!
"What time is it?" Yunami asked. A headache was already settling across her brain.
"It's past second dawn!" Celedri said "If you don't get up now you're going to be late for botany lecture!"
Yunami swore, threw off her bedcovers and quickly pulled her rumpled nightgown over her head. Celedri had already opened the small trunk at the foot of her bed and was tossing her clothes to her. She slid the black trousers on first, quickly lacing up the front before dragging the tunic over her head. She fastened the three clasps on her shoulder and smoothed out the dark green fabric before moving to her trunk.
Celedri had already gathered her own things and had all of her tools in the satchel she was wearing. Yunami had the fortunate habit of putting her tools into her satchel before she went to bed, so she simply grabbed her bag and threw it open to make sure she had everything.
Yunami was still half-asleep, though the fear of being late to lecture was doing an amazing job pulling the cobwebs out of her head. By the time she got to the lecture hall, she would be fully awake and, with a little luck, she wouldn't be late and would avoid the punishment for it.
She turned and headed to the door.
"Stop!" Celedri yelled.
Yunami looked back at her friend who was standing there pointing at her hair. Celedri had her black hair pulled up on her head in a braid that wrapped around itself and was held in place by a few hairs pins. Celedri always preferred styles that could be undone without too much trouble but would take more than an errant school boy grabbing a single pin.
Yunami felt her face go white. "Mother Titania, my hair!"
Her satchel hit the floor and she rushed to the vanity that they shared in their room. Her long, brown hair, which hung low on her back, was a tangled mess. She snatched up her brush and quickly tried to smooth the mess down, wincing as some of the tangles were yanked out by the roots instead. Then she was pulling it back and up on her head, grabbing the set of pins she kept on her side of the vanity and sliding them in place as she spun her hair in a quick and intricate weave. It was something she could do only because she had been doing it since childhood.
Wouldn't the boys living in her resident hall love to see her with her hair down? Even worse was the way it looked, all disheveled and awry like she'd been trysting before she even got out of bed. The Harridans would talk about it for months, maybe even years, and her mother would be furious at such a scandal.
Sometimes being a woman was such a pain. Being a nobleman's daughter made it worse.
In less than a minute her hair was done and she whispered a few words as her fingers brushed down some errant strands she didn't have time to fix properly. She didn't like to rely on magic to hold her hair in place but there was no time for more.
She turned to her friend and held her arms out for inspection. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes, boots," Celedri said "and you owe me lunch for hitting me in the head."
Yunami sighed and smiled ruefully. "I know. I'm sorry. And thank you."
Celedri smiled at her and with that all was forgiven. Yunami slid her boots on, grabbed her satchel and ran to the door.
They locked the door behind them and ran down the corridor. Lecture would be starting soon and if they were lucky they would be in their seats before the master began the lesson.
"That must have been some dream," Celedri commented as they ran.
Yunami felt her face turn red from more than exertion. "You have no idea."
The halls of the Royal Academy were practically empty since the morning lectures were about to start. Only the proctors were still about, looking for students who were purposely trying to skip lectures or get into things they shouldn't.
Yunami thought about the dream again. Daeghen Su'Firago was often the center of her dreams because she couldn't help fantasizing about him even when she was awake. He was a handsome, young, charismatic nobleman who was also a forth year student. She had seen him in her first year at the academy and since then had never been able to get him out of her mind.
Unfortunately, he was also one of the most unattainable men in the school. Aside from his charms he was also exceedingly wealthy, was the heir to a dukedom and would be joining the Majisarries, the king's elite warriors, when he finished his schooling.
She had less interest in his titles and station and more interest in the man himself. Her face grew warm thinking about all the other dreams he had been in through the years, the better ones where things progressed much further. Until now they had only been dreams but all that would soon change.
The Heartseeker Festival was a holiday of love, romance and passion. Although it wasn't officially sanctioned by the chantry, who oversaw all other holy festivals, it was still popular among the people and always saw widespread participation.
Heartseekers were a mythical race of Fae who, according to legends, had the power to make people fall in love with each other. There were hundreds of old stories about lovers who fell under the Heartseekers' spell and threw themselves into each others arms, letting nothing stand in the way of their desire. There were just as many stories about marriages and courtships being destroyed by malicious Heartseekers who would make husbands or wives or lovers betray their vows.
Because Arcadia had a long and bloody history with the races of the Fae, particularly the violent elven tribes, some found it surprising that they would hold a festival to honor the Heartseekers. In those cases, people argued that the Heartseekers didn't limit themselves on their targets and that the other Fae races had just as many stories as the Arcadians did about their antics.
The truth was that it was an excuse to hold a festival that condoned excessive drinking, partying and sex. That was the main reason the chantry didn't sanction it.
Fortunately, the Heartseekers had disappeared into legend since there had been no records of their existence for hundreds of years. So people held grand parties, danced in the streets and generally let themselves be as wild as they wanted.
That was how Yunami planned to have Daeghen.
Nobles celebrated the Heartseeker Festival by holding parties that were lavish and excessive even by normal standards. Many didn't even acknowledge that they held such parties because they were frowned upon by more conservative members among the aristocracy. That didn't prevent the hypocrites from attending; it simply meant they would have good alibis to cover themselves in case things got out of hand.
One thing that made those celebrations so excessive was that nobles indulged in elixirs and potions that altered their mood and their perception. A host often hired several skilled apothecaries to create such concoctions and would offer payment that were less substantial than coin but much more satisfying.
Yunami and Celedri had been given such an opportunity. They had several recipes that they had discovered in the archives of the academy library and over the last year they had worked to develop them. Now she was going to have a chance to test at least one of them out the man of her dreams. Then she would live out every bed sheet fantasy she had been having for the past three years.
All it required was that she and Celedri have the ingredients they needed, which meant getting into the academy's nursery without getting caught. It was off limits without permission and if they were discovered the consequences would be serious.
They rushed into the lecture hall, praying that Master Sarena wouldn't be there when they walked inside. The tiered room was filled with students already seated, all eyes turning to the two young women who came through the door. No one said anything though and Yunami let out a sigh of relief.
They spun around to see a huge man standing in the corner next to the door. He wore a dark green tunic similar to Yunami's and carried a staff taller than he was. The scowl he wore was more pronounced because of his completely shaven head, making the features of his face stand out.
He looked more like one of the grounds keepers than a maje. However, there was no mistaking the silver medallion hanging from his belt. It was inscribed with a pentagram that held a soft, green glow.
Nordras Lindaf, the academy's master of earth, pinned both of them in place with his gaze. Master Sarena would have been preferable; they could survive a public berating in front of their peers, as was Sarena's preferred method. Yunami could only imagine what Nordras would do.
"Names?" Nordras asked, almost politely.
"Take your seats. I'll speak with you after the lecture."
Yunami was aware of all the eyes on them as they climbed the steps to the top tiers of the hall. All the students who arrived on time had taken the seats in the front rows closest to the doors. This wasn't an accident nor was it voluntary. Tardiness was not tolerated at the academy.
After the two women sat down, Nordras turned to address everyone.
"For those of you who don't know, Master Sarena was injured last night in the midst of a magical experiment. Silence!"
Nordras' thundercloud voice quickly stopped the rising tide of murmurs and whispers in the lecture hall.
"Normally, one of the other masters would take her place for the duration of her recovery. However, she was working with two of her colleagues who were also injured. As such, we find ourselves shorthanded. Before the wildfire rumors start flying about, let me assure you that all three masters will recover with no problems. Unfortunately, the physician expects that it will take at least two weeks of healing and rest before they're ready to return. Until then, I will be overseeing your lectures."
"Goddess, no." Yunami whispered.
She and Celedri had spent months learning Sarena's patterns of movement in the nursery. With that information, they would have had no problems slipping in, getting what they needed and escaping without a trace. Now Nordras was taking over Sarena's work and it completely destroyed everything that had been planning.
As if he could hear her from across the lecture hall, Nordras turned those hard eyes straight at Yunami.
"Do you have something you wish to add, Yunami Su'Hanae?"
Yunami could feel her face burning as everyone in the lecture hall turned to stare at her for the second time in so many minutes. It seemed public humiliation was in order after all.
Since she couldn't escape, she knew following proper etiquette was the only way to avoid further embarrassment. She stood before answering, thinking quickly for a response.
"I was concerned about the experiments that we've been working on. Master Sarena was helping us with our work, but you have many more responsibilities than she did with the addition of our lectures to your schedule. May we still come to you for questions or assistance?"
She was pleased in spite of her blunder. It was a good question and it covered her outburst. She still wondered how he had heard her from across the room.
"I have gone over Master Sarena's notes and plans thoroughly," Nordras said "Don't worry, even though I am busy, your lectures and your work are going to take first priority with me."
"Thank you, Master." Yunami moved to sit down when Nordras spoke again.
"Then again, it may prove difficult for me to get to everyone since I have another lecture to cover along with this one. I've reviewed the progress reports and as I understand it your experiment is nearly complete, isn't it Miss Su'Hanae?"
No. Oh no. "Yes, Master."
"You also have the highest marks of any other student here, from what I've seen."
Instead of scowling, he was looking at her thoughtfully and she felt her stomach sinking. Normally those words would have filled her with pleasure, especially spoken in front of her peers. Now, though, there was only dread and she was certain whatever was on his mind couldn't end well for her.
"Since you're so far ahead of everyone else, I believe it would be a good idea for you to lend your knowledge and skill to your fellow students. After all, we are shorthanded and a promising scholar such as you could help ease the burden for all of us with your assistance."
The bastard had worked her into a corner. The green tunic that she and Nordras wore marked them as earth mages. That meant Nordras, as the master of earth, would be deciding if she would receive her staff in another three years. Now he was praising her in front of dozens of her colleagues.
Every word of it was true, even if she wouldn't have admitted it out loud. She worked hard at her studies and was a diligent student. Her tardiness was just a small lapse but Nordras was using it to unburden his work load on her. She couldn't refuse without looking ungracious and selfish and it took a lot of self control to keep from gritting her teeth.
All of her well laid plans were unraveling faster and faster. Was he just trying to make an example out of her or had he somehow discovered what she intended to do? Whichever it was, she didn't have a way out without bringing something worse on her head.
She offered a wane smile and said "I would be happy to help, Master Nordras."
"Excellent," he said, "Then if there are no other questions we'll begin today's lecture."
No one was going to open their mouths after that, even for a legitimate question. As Nordras began the lecture, Yunami sank into her chair, wishing she could sink into the floor and disappear instead.
Celedri made a small gesture to get Yunami's attention. When Yunami looked at her, she pulled on her ear. It was a signal they shared when one of them wanted to form a mind link and speak telepathically. It was easier and safer than passing notes since it couldn't be detected and they could still focus on what was being said while maintaining the link.
Yunami shook her head. Forming the link would require her to speak words for the spell and even if she whispered, Nordras would hear her. She wouldn't risk anymore trouble.
Celedri frowned and Yunami knew her friend was having the same worries and fears as she was. Yunami wanted to test her potion on Daeghen but they had also made a deal with their patron who was inviting them to one of the best Heartseeker Balls. If they couldn't deliver what they promised, they would lose their invitations and any future opportunities as well.
She wasn't going to allow that happen. Nordras may have caught her off guard but she would find a way around him. She didn't have any other choice.
Nordras picked up the lecture where they had left off the day before and the next two hours passed without anymore incidents. The chimes that announced the end of the day's first lecture finally sounded and Nordras dismissed the class.
Yunami and Celedri hung back as the other students filled out, several stopping to speak with the earth master about their experiments before they left. One of them was Daeghen; he looked up at her and smiled before walking out of the hall.
She smiled. Maybe he needed some help with his experiment? Oh how she would love to teach him a thing or two.
Her pleasant thoughts ended a moment later when she and Celedri stood in front of Master Nordras.
"I won't give you a speech about responsibility and expectations. You both know you're supposed to be in your lectures on time."
"Yes, Master Nordras," they both said.
"For your punishment you will be helping with the botany experiments during my time here. I'll assign students to you myself so you won't be overwhelmed by requests. I imagine many of them would prefer speaking to you instead of dealing with me."
Yunami pursued her lips to keep from smirking. Nordras was an intimidating man and it wasn't just because of his position at the academy.
"I appreciate that, Master, thank you."
"Celedri you're going to have the same punishment as well. I know you're not as far along as Yunami is but I think you'll still be able to handle the work I give you. You're both fortunate that your marks are so good. Otherwise I'd have to come up with a real punishment. As it stands, we all benefit."
Celedri didn't say anything but Yunami could see the mixed emotions on her face. On the one hand, she was burdened with the same punishment as Yunami. On the other hand, she hadn't been called out in front of the entire lecture. While Nordras had praised Yunami, it had still been humiliating for her.
"Yes, Master." Celedri said, "I won't let you down."
"Both of you will report to the nursery after lectures are over. There will be two students there who you will assist with their work. Any questions?"
"No, Master," they said.
The two women turned to leave the hall and head to their next lecture.
"There is one more thing, Miss Su'Hanae."
Yunami bit her lip and turned back to face him. "Yes, Master?"
"I guess no one ever told you that all the lecture halls at the academy are enchanted with a number of spells that we can use for various functions. One of them allows us to hear the slightest sound from any part of the room."
She blinked and looked at Celedri who looked shocked. Nordras would definitely have heard them if they had cast the mind link spell.
"Then why hasn't Master Sarena ever said anything?" Celedri asked "People speak to each other all the time in her lectures."
"My understanding is that Master Sarena prefers not to bother with it. It seems to take more concentration than she's willing to sacrifice."
Yunami stared at Nordras. Sarena was a skilled mage and her proficiency with magic was nothing to scoff at. If she couldn't keep the room's enchantments focused while she taught the lesson, what did that say about this man's power? He was the earth master but Yunami was beginning to realize that title meant more than just a position of authority.
"I would suggest you get going and not be late for a second time today."
Celedri grabbed Yunami's arm and quickly dragged her out of the lecture hall.
"What are we going to do?"
Yunami and Celedri didn't get a chance to talk until the midday meal because they both had separate lectures after botany. Because she had missed the morning meal, Yunami was starving and it took considerable will power not to devour her soup and bread like an animal.
Celedri had ordered considerably more food and was enjoying a large cut of lamb with her soup and bread. Yunami had paid for her friend's meal, as they had agreed; especially since it was her fault her friend was now stuck with her helping the other students. Still, Yunami saw an opportunity in their punishment.
"If we're going to be in the nursery anyway then no one will question how much time we'll be spending in there if we have to help the students and work on our own experiments too." Yunami said.
The two women established a mind link after sitting down for their meal. Yunami wanted to form one with her when they had left their lecture. Celedri, however, was too paranoid after hearing Nordras talk about being able to hear every word in the lecture hall.
"Your recipe calls for moon lily and amber dust. We can't just walk out of there with something like that. Those plants are rare and expensive and not kept in any place that we'll be allowed access to."
"Master Nordras may be taking up Master Sarena's work load but that doesn't mean he'll be spending as much time in the nursery," Yunami said. "Simple problems come from growing plants properly and complex problems come from trying to brew them. I'll bet you another lunch that any students that Master Nordras assigns us will need help in the nursery instead of the laboratory where we mix potions."
"Even if he isn't there it still means we have to avoid the proctors." Celedri said.
"Something we would have to do even if Master Sarena hadn't gotten hurt."
Celedri went silent and Yunami watched her as she mulled over the plan.
With the Heartseeker Festival a little over a week away, their time was limited. They had three different recipes to cook up and all of them took at least three days to complete. With such a tight schedule they would have to gather everything in one day to give them time to prepare the ingredients and check the progress of their potions while they attended lectures.
"I don't suppose we can back out?" Celedri asked.
"Not unless you want to be a social pariah for the rest of your time here."
Celedri sighed out loud then looked at her friend. Yunami watched her eyes go wide as she spotted something behind her.
A slender hand came down on her shoulder and she winced. It wasn't that the grip hurt but she knew whose hand it was.
"Would you care to explain how a student of my experience and skill gets stuck with you helping me with my experiment?"
Rolling her eyes, Yunami grabbed Furianna's hand and pulled it off of her shoulder before standing to face her.
Furianna De'Lore was tall, blonde and rumored to have her red tunics tailored to better display her shapely figure. She was attractive and might have even been beautiful if she could ever wipe the look of contempt off her face. Anyone who she felt was beneath her received that look and nearly everyone in school had seen it.
There were three other young women standing with her and their tunics showed two of them to be fire mages, like Furianna. The other wore the green of an earth mage and looked like she was a little out of place. A quick glance at her belt told Yunami that she was only a first year student.
All students wore a pentagram on their belt to reflect what year they were in. A normal course of study at the academy was six years. First year students wore an empty pentagram. As they completed each year the five points would be filled with the corresponding color of what part of their studies they had finished; red for fire, blue for water, green for earth, yellow for air and white for the completion of the first year of general studies. When a student finished the course and received their staff, the pentagram was colored solid with the element that the newly graduated mage specialized in.
Furianna normally traveled with her pack of hounds that called themselves the Harridans. They were a group of women who were of relatively equal social standing, at least by the judgment of the group. If Furianna was traveling with these students, then it meant she was trying to look more impressive than she really was. Or maybe she was trying to spread her reputation among the new blood.
Whatever the reason, Yunami couldn't care less. She and Furianna didn't travel in the same circles even though they were both of the nobility. The difference was that Yunami would one day inherit her mother's title while Furianna had two older brothers.
"I think your need for assistance is a reflection of your poor ability as a mage," she said. The younger girls gasped and Celedri giggled through the mind link, which she was maintaining now so that Yunami could concentrate on Furianna.
"I don't need your assistance," she sneered "I only wanted Master Nordras to explain a procedure for me. Instead, he said that it would be better if you were to explain it."
"Master Nordras is a very busy man and he doesn't have time for everyone's problems."
"I suppose the girl who shows up late to lecture every day knows so much more than I do."
Her cadre broke into giggles and Yunami rolled her eyes. "I've been late once. Don't embellish Miss Da'Lore.-"
"-I'm afraid you're not very good at it and if you have a problem with accepting the help assigned to you then I suggest you read your books and solve the problem yourself. Now, if you will excuse me, I still have a meal to finish."
Yunami turned her back on Furianna and sat down to resume her eating. Celedri was watching the other students over her shoulder, trying to suppress a grin and failing miserably.
"She looks like she wants to rip your hair out!"
"Let her try. It would give me an excuse to bury her neck deep in the nursery."
"I don't need your help!" Furianna said.
Yunami looked up and saw Daeghen Su'Firago standing there, smiling at her.
She couldn't help but remember that smile in her dream, only with dark blue eyes that were colored with passion instead of the friendly, light blue she was seeing now.
"Yunami your ears are turning red."
Celedri's voice in her head broke her out of her daze and she focused on actually looking at Daeghen rather than staring at him.
"I asked Master Nordras if he could offer me some advice on soil mixtures and he said to speak with you. I would hate to be a bother but I'm afraid it's giving me more trouble than I expected."
"It won't be a bother at all," Yunami said with a smile "I'd be happy to help. Why don't you meet me in the nursery after lectures are finished?"
"Thank you, I appreciate it. I'll meet you in the nursery this afternoon then."
Daeghen gave a light bow of his head to all the ladies then turned and moved across the dining hall. Yunami watched him go for a second before calling out to him.
"Don't forget to bring all your tools!"
Daeghen turned back and waved to acknowledge that he heard her while Celedri's voice snickered in her head.
"I know what tool you want him to bring."
"Your ears are red again."
She glared at Celedri a moment before turning to Furianna. The woman was gone, however, and she didn't see any sign of her or her entourage.
"Celedri, did you see where she went?"
"I imagine she went to fume after Daeghen pulled the rug out from under her and made her look like a fool in front of those other girls. While you were eyeing him with that 'predator appraising prey' look, I really thought she was going to start choking you. The look on her face was priceless. This was worth being late to class."
Yunami rolled her eyes at Celedri. The woman loved trouble when it turned into an amusement for her.
Now, though, was a perfect opportunity for her. She never would have thought that a situation like this would present itself. Now all she had to do was make sure everything played out right and she could not only get what she needed from the nursery but sow the seeds for Daeghen's seduction.
The academy's nursery was a building made entirely of large, glass panels that allowed the sunlight to come in all the time and also kept the large variety of plants from freezing during the colder days of the season. It was also extremely large since it housed dozens of plants from across the empire for students to make use of. It was one of Yunami's favorite places to work because she loved to see the progress of growing things.
In spite of the rough morning she had, she was actually looking forward to working with Daeghen. Even though she had been attracted to him for sometime, she had never really worked with him on anything or even spoken to him. They didn't share many lectures because he was a fire mage and she was an earth mage and she was curious as to what made him take a botany class.
Yunami spoke with one of the proctors and arranged for a work table. As she took her tools out of her satchel and waited for Daeghen, she looked around to see who was about.
At this time of day there were many students working on any number of experiments growing plants or gathering herbs that they needed for work in the laboratories. The proctors were overseeing everything and lending a hand to anyone who needed it.
With so many people milling about it might be difficult for her to get what she needed. Celedri was doing her part to gather amber lotus, which they would make into amber dust but Yunami would have to gather the moon lilies. Those were kept in the dark room in the back of the nursery, a long way to walk while trying to avoid attention.
She was still setting up the potters when she saw Daeghen coming towards her. He waved at her and she waved in return and then stopped when she saw Furianna walking beside him, followed by one of the girls that had been with her during their confrontation at the midday meal. It was the first year, who still looked as out of place as before.
Furianna was walking just a step behind Daeghen, so he couldn't see the smug smile she had on her face as they approached the work table. When Daeghen looked back at her, she was wearing a polite smile. The change had been so fast it made Yunami realize just how much of a snake the woman was.
"I ran into Miss Furianna on the way here and she asked if she could accompany me," Daeghen said.
"I wanted to apologize for my earlier outburst." Furianna said, looking properly contrite, "It was completely inappropriate of me to act like that and I was wondering if you would still be willing to assist me?"
Yunami almost felt like slapping her. Of course the Harridan would be more than happy to apologize if it meant looking better in front of Daeghen. And she couldn't turn Furianna away since she had been assigned to Yunami.
She offered a smile and nodded. "I accept your apology and would be happy to help you both. Who might your friend be, Furianna?"
Furianna gestured to the young woman next to her. "This is Haesi." she said, "She's new to our academy, so I thought I would take her in and see if I can make something out of her."
Or use her to make yourself look and feel more important than you really are.
Yunami bit her tongue instead of voicing her opinion and smiled at Haesi. She looked out of her element and who could blame her? The first year was always the roughest and was designed to weed out those who could from this who couldn't in the demanding world of mages.
"Then perhaps she can learn something with you."
They spent the next hour going over the problems that Daeghen and Furianna were having in their work. Being fire mages, growing things was not their forte. Furianna's problem, however, was that she was simply lazy and had wanted to find a shortcut for preparing her soil.
Yunami told her cheerfully, much to the other woman's annoyance, that preparing soil took time and that it had to be done right. Skipping steps could result in plants that wouldn't stand up to the brewing process.
Daeghen, on the other hand, actually wanted to find a better way to improve his soil mixtures and grow a more robust plant. He was looking to make his mixes stronger when he brewed them and Yunami was able to show him several different methods.
Through it all she kept an eye on Haesi, who was watching with rapt attention and seemed to be hanging on to her every word. She imagined that Furianna's attempts to make something out of her were shallow at best and the she doubted the girl had learned anything from her one sided friendship.
Eventually, Yunami looked at the time and glanced around her. The proctors were all involved with helping the other students who had made their way into the nursery. With Daeghen and Furianna busy with their work, Yunami decided it was time for her to make her move.
Yunami didn't want to leave Daeghen and Furianna alone because the Mother only knew what the Harridan would try once she was away. However, Celedri was taking a big risk for Yunami by holding up her end of the bargain. She couldn't back out on her friend. She also had an obligation to finish her work and deliver what she had promised.
"I need to gather a few supplies before we continue." She said, "Just keep working and I'll return shortly."
Furianna turned all her attention to Daeghen as Yunami walked away.
"I was curious, Lord Daeghen, if you were going to attend the Heartseeker's Ball next week."
"Please, just call me Daeghen."
The rest of the conversation was lost to Yunami as she hurried around the corner. She was grateful for that because she didn't want to hear anything else that Furianna might ask Daeghen or what his answers to those might be.
Could he really be interested in a woman like that? Couldn't he see through Furianna's scheming? She knew Furianna had any number of men wrapped around her fingers but she had hoped that Daeghen wouldn't be one of them.
Cursing her own luck, she moved through the shelves and tables of the nursery until she reached the building that housed supplies and plants that had to be kept in perpetual darkness.
Glancing around to make sure no proctors were nearby, she put her hand on one of the hinges and whispered soft words of power. She felt her fingers tingle as she moved them along the hinge and then she repeated the spell for the other two. The hinges were silent when she opened the door, stepped inside and closed it carefully behind her.
It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness inside the room. She was standing in a short hallway that had several sets of dark curtains to keep the light out. The air was thick with the smell of dirt, soil and growing things and the floor was filled with a dim, eerie blue light from spheres buried in the ground beneath the work tables; it was the only light the plants could tolerate.
Yunami listened and heard movement coming near the back of the building. Was it one of the proctors? She hadn't expected one of them to be in here.
With slow and careful steps, Yunami made her way towards the back of the building. The sounds grew louder and she strained to see who was there. Then she heard a soft, feminine moan that made her face turn red; it wasn't a moan of pain or despair.
She peeked around one of the shelves and her eyes went wide at seeing a completely naked man with his back turned to her. He was slim and muscular, although the details were lost in the darkness. A pair of slender legs held onto his waist and his hands were sliding over them.
It wasn't unusual for lovers to slip away from time to time to enjoy a quiet moment to together. Of course, the nursery was a bit unusual and risky, especially in here because it was off limits.
She kept watching, unable to tear her eyes away, until the woman raised her head to kiss her lover. Even in the dim, blue light there was no mistaking Celedri's features as she moaned again.
Celedri opened her eyes and spotted her friend. For a second she froze but covered it by moaning and putting her arms around her lover's neck. He was moving with slow, deep strokes and didn't seem to be in any hurry.
She couldn't believe that Celedri would do something like this. Her friend had always been a little more risky and adventurous than she was but this was beyond anything Yunami had ever suspected. What is she got caught?
That thought brought her back to reality and the realization that she needed to get what she came for and get out. Celedri, however, saw her about to move and reached up to tug on her ear.
Yunami stared at her friend, watching as she kissed her lover's neck and whispered something to him. She looked at Yunami again and tugged on her ear. Was she serious about forming a mind link while she was having sex?
Her face burned bright red and her hands were trembling as she pointed her finger to Yunami and whispered the words under her breath. As each syllable passed her lips she felt her mind opening and extending beyond her body. It took almost no effort to reach out for Celedri's mind and form the link.