Thanks to my editor, Pixel the Cat. He makes me look good. Well, as good as I look.
Life went back to normal when we got home. Serisi went with me on every job I did. She was becoming very lethal. I was depending on her more and more. She could get information out of a stone and she did most of the leg work. I did most of the heavy lifting and she stayed in the background. She got in a couple of scrapes, but nothing she couldn’t handle. We had one interesting job just before her sixteenth birthday. We were collecting a debt for the Baron of Cold Harbor, and Serisi was trying to locate the debtor. Obviously, he didn’t want to be found and she asked around for anyone that had known him before he fled. I was searching his house and a dock worker told her he used to hang out at a local tavern. She went looking for him and it was a pretty rough place. She got some information and when she left, three of the Baron’s soldiers thought they would have a little fun with her.
They followed her for a while until she noticed them and told them to get lost. One of them said something about her ears and his buddy said something crude about the way she was built. They seemed to have the impression that a Shai girl shouldn’t be in their town and she needed to pay a toll. The toll would be a roll in the hay with the three of them. She didn’t care for that idea and they decided to get rough. That was a mistake, and the first thing I heard about it was when she came running to me and there were six more soldiers chasing her. They drew up short when they saw me.
“This little bitch with you?” one of them asked. He seemed to be the man in charge.
“That’s right,” I said.
“She cut up three of the Baron’s men down by the dock. We’re going to arrest her,” he said.
“No, you aren’t,” I told him. “Serisi, is that true?”
“Yes, they tried to rape me,” she said.
“Well, I guess you know who to arrest,” I told them.
“She’s a lying...”
I cut him off. “You’re about to do something very foolish.”
“We don’t want any trouble with a Gloom Walker,” one of his men told him. “He’ll fry our eyeballs. Besides, he’s here working for the Baron. I saw him at the manor earlier, talking to the Baron.”
“I think you should apologize to the girl,” I told them. “If you had harmed a thread of her clothing you would be dying horribly now. You’re fortunate she didn’t kill you all. Serisi, I think that barrel is no longer useful.”
She looked at it and back at me. I nodded and she frowned. The barrel exploded into flames and they took to their heels.
She threw back her head and laughed. “Sorry about that, Guerin,” she said. “I didn’t want to kill them and I thought they might recognize you.”
“No, you did the right thing,” I told her. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, they were slow and clumsy,” she said. “I shouldn’t have gone to that place. I didn’t know what it was like.”
“Why didn’t you just leave?”
“I saw the man I needed to talk to inside. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find him again.”
We located the debtor and he paid. He would spend a long time recovering his health, but he paid. When we got back to the keep I thought we needed a break for a while. We went to visit Zee and stayed two days. We celebrated Serisi’s birthday at the inn and Zee had several bottles of the perfumed soap. She and I were in the spring when Serisi came out, and she soon joined us. I hadn’t seen her naked for a long time and I was startled at the changes in her. Her hips had broadened and her breasts were a lot bigger. She had a little patch of white, wispy hair above the mysteries below.
“Your little girl is getting big,” Zee whispered. “God, she’s beautiful. Do you sleep with her, Guerin?”
I could feel my ears turning red. “Yes, but not like you mean.”
“Why not?” she asked. “She’s in love with you, Guerin.”
“Yes, I know. She’s never shown any sign she wants to do that.”
“Maybe she’s waiting for you to show some sign.”
“Well, she’s going to wait a long time, then.”
“Why? Why would you make her wait?”
“Because she trusts me. I’ve had her since she was three, and I’m not about to change our relationship. She’s precious to me and I love her just the way she is. If she wants to change that, it’s up to her.”
“I understand, I won’t say anything else,” she said. “I love her, too, but I’d like to fuck her.”
“Are you two whispering about me over there?” Serisi noticed our heads close together.
“How did you know?” Zee asked her.
“My ears were burning.” She paddled over and slipped under my arm on the opposite side from Zee. “Are you conspiring?”
“No, we were talking about how beautiful you are,” Zee told her.
“Well, I like to hear that, so stop whispering,” she laughed.
“You’re growing up very nice,” Zee told her. “The boys are going to be swarming around you like flies to honey.”
“What boys?” Serisi asked. “There are no boys at the Keep. There are only old men like Guerin here. How old are you, Guerin? I don’t think you’ve ever told me.”
“I’m thirty-eight,” I told her.
“You don’t look a day over twenty-five,” Zee said.
“Well, sometimes we mutants live a very long time,” I told them. “Jynn is at least a hundred, and she doesn’t look any older than me.”
“That’s good, because Serisi is an elf, and I’ve heard they live forever,” Zee said.
“I’m not an ‘elf’,” Serisi told her. “I don’t like to be called that. My mother was a human, you know.”
“I’m sorry, baby; I didn’t mean to offend you,” Zee reached around me and petted her shoulder. “I didn’t know your mother was human, either.”
“I’m not offended,” Serisi said. “It’s impossible for you to offend me, Zee. I just don’t like that word when it’s used to describe me.”
“I won’t use it again,” Zee promised. “How would you describe yourself, honey?”
“I’m a hybrid, I share both races’ traits. I don’t know about the age thing. I’m growing up at the normal rate for human girls. Do the Shai mature like humans, Guerin?”
“I have no idea,” I told her. “I’ve never seen a Shai who wasn’t an adult. I understand they have very few children. I don’t know anyone who’s ever seen a Shai child.”
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to see, then,” she said. “I’m not impatient. I enjoy being myself. I’m not in a hurry to change.”
“See, I told you,” I said to Zee.
“What did you tell her?” Serisi asked.
“It was nothing, sweetheart,” Zee told her. “You’re a very wise girl. You’re only young once. Enjoy it while you can.”
“Oh, I do. I think I may be an adult now, though. Guerin says that when I’m old enough to take care of myself and support myself, then I’m an adult. I think I can do that. What do you two think?”
“I think you’re right,” I told her. “You do as much on our contracts as I do. I don’t do much taking care of you anymore. I think I’ll still keep an eye on you, but you mostly make all your own choices now.”
“You’re still a baby, but you’re the most adult baby I’ve ever met,” Zee told her. “I thought you were just like a little adult when you were five.”
“Well, Guerin always treated me like that,” she said. “What do adults do?”
“Whatever they like,” Zee told her. “What do you want to do that you haven’t been doing?”
She thought about that for a minute. “There are a couple of things. I’m not going to talk about one of them, but I would like to take a contract myself. Nothing too dangerous,” she assured me. “Nothing that would take too long,” she looked at me; obviously seeking my affirmation.
“I think that would be good for you,” I told her. “We’ll look over what Jynn has when we get home. Do you think us being apart would upset you enough that you would be distracted or lose your edge?”
“I don’t know,” she snuggled up against me. “I’ll just have to see. If I feel that I can’t perform, will you fill the contract for me?”
“Of course, baby,” I squeezed her. “Maybe I should go with you, camp out in the bushes and just be available in case you need me.”
“No, I need to find out for myself.” She kissed my arm. “I won’t hunt a beast or anything that might get me killed. Maybe a collection or a missing person. Maybe just some detective work, solve a mystery or something.”
“That’s wise,” Zee patted her head. “Our baby is growing up, Guerin.”
Serisi flashed her a smile, her teeth flashing white against her dusky complexion. “You have no idea,” she said.
When we returned to the keep, we looked over potential contracts, looking for something that both interested Serisi and didn’t seem too dangerous for a novice to handle.
We were sitting in the commons, papers spread out before us, lamps casting shadows, and Hal came in. He was soon followed by Jynn, and one by one, the whole order was sitting around, looking nervously at one another.
Serisi sat back in her chair and looked at each one of them until they dropped their eyes and looked away.
“What?” she asked.
They stirred uncomfortably. Evidently, Trina was the spokesman, or woman, as the case was.
“Um, we were talking after dinner...”
She trailed off and Serisi waited, becoming more impatient. “Yes, were you speaking of me?” she asked.
“Well, yes,” Trina said. Her words came out in a rush. “Serisi, in the last 30 years, we’ve had nine novices. How many of them do you know?”
“I know none,” Serisi said. “Why do you ask?”
“The reason you don’t know them is that they’re dead,” Hal said. “Every one of them. I don’t ... we don’t...” He was overcome, apparently by powerful emotions, and I was stunned.
Jynn spoke. “We need to tell you something, Serisi. As far as we are aware, only three people in the history of this order have ever borne children. There has never been a child here such as you. You are like our child. I know you belong to Guerin, we all know that. He is the youngest among us. He is also probably the most capable among us. He is like our child. You are like our grandchild. We know you, and we have come to love you, child. We, the order, will not allow you to take contracts we believe are beyond your capabilities. We love you too much to lose you.”
Serisi sat quietly for a moment. I braced myself for the explosion. She had quite a temper, when aroused. She rarely showed it. There were two sides to it. One was a raging hurricane and the other was cold stillness. One brought the wrath of burning fury upon your ears, and the other froze you into non-existence. I had been the victim of both. Neither lasted long, and she was always contrite, sooner or later, but she had an independence that would not tolerate any interference. I didn’t know which to expect.
“I submit myself to your will,” she said. I was as stunned as the rest. “I love you, as you love me,” she said. “You are wiser than I am, individually, and collectively, you are the wisest people I have ever met. I will seek your advice and wisdom. What do you want me to do?”
A collective exhalation of held breath escaped the whole group. They well knew her, and they had the same expectations I held. Jynn crossed the room, lifted Serisi to her feet and embraced her. The rest of the group rushed to do the same. Everyone spoke at once. “So happy, want to help, love you so much, look at contracts together, help you any way we can...” filled the air.
Serisi laughed and her merriment filled the room. “I love you all, but please, just let me speak. Would you be willing to select the contracts for me? Look them over, select three you think will fit me, give them to me and Guerin and I will make the final choice. This is acceptable?”
They all hurried to assure her that it was, and I believe that there was an easing of tension and a camaraderie like we had seldom seen in the order. Serisi became a full novice, and her first contract began. It was a simple task of discovering a thief, and she proved adept, setting a trap, bringing the constables to the house, catching the thief with the money he had stolen and fulfilling her contract.
She was on top of the world when she returned with her payment. We celebrated, every one of the order who was there joining us. She waited two weeks and took another. It became routine, and so far as I knew, she never suffered during the one or two weeks they usually took from her “being apart from Guerin” issues.
Eighteen years old! She had been away for a week, doing a job we got through Zee for my bastard of a father. She didn’t tell me a lot of the details, just said she was a courier and it wasn’t likely to be dangerous. Some sort of escorting some high official.
When she got back I was in the yard, soaking up the sun and reading a book. When she saw me she gave a little squeal and came running across the courtyard to throw herself on me. My book went flying and she nearly knocked me down. She was heavy, solidly muscled and as lithe and flexible as a sapling. She kissed me all over my face and told me how much she missed me and how much she loved me about a thousand times.
She finally got her fill and went away to take care of her horse. I retrieved my book and sat back down, waiting for her. I got absorbed with the book, a biography of one of the first colonists, and didn’t notice she’d come back until her shadow fell across me. I looked up. God, she was heartstoppingly, excruciatingly lovely. A little smile played across her features and she just stood there, letting me look at her.
She was a woman, in the full blush of her beauty, all hair, blue eyes and dark smooth skin. “You make my heart stop,” I told her.
She dimpled up. “Thank you. You are very beautiful, too, Guerin.” She always said that.
“Men aren’t beautiful,” I told her. “Stop saying that. I’ve gotten a complex from you saying that.”
She laughed. “No. You aren’t the boss of me.”
“Turn around so I can get a good look,” I said. She did a little dance step or two, giving me a look at the mystery that was Serisi.
“Do you know what today is?” I asked her.
“Yes, it’s my birthday!” she said. I could tell she was excited. “What did you get me, Guerin?”
We didn’t know, in fact, exactly when her birthday was, but this was the day we celebrated it. “I was feeling too lazy to go shopping,” I told her.
She slapped my foot. “Ah, bah. I shall not get you anything for your birthday, then.”
Of course, she knew I was lying. I felt around in my pocket. “Well, I do happen to have this,” I told her. I drew out my hand and opened it. She gasped. “It’s beautiful, Guerin,” she said.
I had paid a small fortune for a cut and faceted red-stone. It was large, and seemed to pulse with a red fire. It was set in gold, with a heavy chain of very small gold links. “Let me put it on you,” I said.
She turned her back to me, and I pulled that mane of hair aside, exposing her slender neck. Her hair was heavy in my hand. Unbound, it hung shimmering below her waist. When working or exercising, she wore it bound or in many braids. I reached around her, pulling her back into my embrace. She seemed to almost purr. I undid the clasp, pulling the chain around her neck. I kissed the side of that dusky column and she shivered, goose-bumps rising. I did the same with the other side, then fastened the clasp. Looking over her shoulder, I saw the stone settle down into the mysterious canyon between creamy brown hills. She twisted away, offered me her lips and I kissed her. She stepped back and her little pink pointed tongue tasted her lips.
“I am going to wash the travel off,” she said. A swish of her hips, and she was gone. She had a tub in our rooms. I made do with the bath house. Dinner was a riot as she was welcomed home and everyone got a chance to be singled out by her love and affection. They all gave her gifts, and we drank wine. Serisi wouldn’t touch anything fermented, and she drank her usual cider.
The party wound down, and she got up, made a little speech, thanking everyone and expressing her love. She went to our rooms, and I followed not more than a score of minutes later. I undressed and got in bed. I could hear her moving around in her room. There was a lamp and two candles burning, and I assumed she would come as soon as she had stowed away her presents.
There was a whisper of sound from the doorway and I glanced up. My breath caught in my throat. She stood in the doorway and she was a vision to topple kingdoms, cause battles to rage and despair in the hearts of men. She was absolutely naked, except for the chain and the redstone that pulsed between her breasts.
The imagination is beggared when describing the visual impact of Serisi. It began with that mane of hair. It swept in waves and billows around her, stirred by the breeze through the open window. It was snow-white and shocking in its magnetism, causing everyone who was close to her to have an almost irresistible impulse to touch it. Her face was ... elven. She disliked the term, but from the exotic tilt of her eyes and the startling contrast of the blue/grey with the darkness of her complexion, her tiny pointed ears, her high cheekbones, small patrician nose, the lusciousness of her lips, the heart-shaped face and her little pointed chin, it was a face to launch a thousand ships.
Her skin glowed. It seems impossible for something to glow with a rich brown tint, but she did. Her throat was a slender column, sweeping to join broad shoulders. She was very muscular, yet there was a softness that formed fully rounded curves. Her breasts were full, heavy and perfectly formed mountains, proud, high and with all the firmness of youth and fitness. Her nipples were surrounded by rich mahogany circles, slightly thicker than the skin of her breasts so that they looked a little puffy, capped by small, very erect points that tilted slightly upward and inward.
Her chest and ribcage were wide and deep, the perfect support for those breasts, and her waist swept inward to a slenderness I felt I could span with my hands. Her belly was flat and ridged with two rows of highly-defined muscle, her navel a slightly elongated oval, small and mysterious. Her hips flared from the small waist and curved dramatically, drawing in again to impossibly long legs, her thighs swelling with muscle, small knees and muscled calves. Her tiny feet were things of beauty in their own right, and between smooth brown thighs was a tuft of that shocking white, just a fine and silky reminder that this was a woman.
I had not seen her naked in some time, and her beauty stunned me. I tried to speak, but only a hoarse croak emerged. I cleared my throat, trying again. “God, Baby! You’re...” I had no words.
Her laughter was like crystal, ringing across the room. She turned. Gods, that ass! It was a firm, jutting thing, forming a near shelf, as gorgeous as anything in imagination, shaped like an upside-down heart, with a small dimple where it swept gloriously into her broad back. She continued her turn, coming to rest facing me. “Do you like me, Guerin?”
“I have no words, Serisi,” I said. “Poets have no words.”
She strode across the room, moving with purpose, liquid in her movement and naked splendor. Stopping beside the bed, she pulled the cover down, exposing me to her eyes. They moved down my body, then up, locking with my own. “Do you love me, Guerin?” She asked. “Do you love me, forever?”
“With all my heart,” I said. “For the rest of my life.”
A small smile of satisfaction formed on those Cupid’s-bow lips. “And I love you, for the rest of our lives,” she answered.
She moved over me, one knee on either side, stretching her arms upward to move her hair behind her, her breasts tautening with the movement, standing proudly forward, and it was the most erotic thing I had ever seen. It was totally unselfconscious. That was the most amazing thing about her. She was completely comfortable in herself. She leaned forward, erect nipples scraping on my chest as her lips sought mine. I had kissed Serisi thousands of times; I had never kissed her, or been kissed by her, like that.