Crack! The sound of the slap was loud enough to draw Prog’s attention outside to the windows high above him. Prog chuckled and moved along the wall patrol.
“Oww! Lizvetta, what was that for?” exclaimed Yorick rubbing his reddened face.
The shadowy ravens in the rafters above the Council room and ducal seat ceased their shadowy whispers and stared down at Lizvetta in silence. Their normally indistinct forms became more defined and their eyes revealed themselves with a faint dying ember-like glow.
“You’ve been meeting with her in secret, at least three different times, and now the rumor of you having an affair is the talk of every drunk and gossip from here to New Stetven! Wait until the General finds out.”
The leader of the Black Maidens stood over the Duke. Her golden hair was stirred as much by her sharp movements as by the cool breeze that left the Tuskwater and snuck in the open window. Her angry features and narrowed eyes put Yorick is a difficult position of being definitely aroused and perilously endangered; and he wasn’t sure which to take more seriously.
“It’s just council stuff, nothing like that.” Yorick’s brows shifted up in sudden realization, “Wait. Have you been spying on me?”
Lizvetta ignored the question and shifted even further into Yorick’s space. The leather of her glove creaked softly in Yorick’s ear as she grabbed the back of the ducal seat and her knee suddenly wedged itself into his groin quite uncomfortably as she bent her head to his ear to whisper.
“Council stuff is done with the Council. Council stuff is not done in private meetings alone and skulking.” Lizvetta’s voice dropped even further to almost a growl. “It IS my job to make sure you’re safe, Duke”
A cold sweat tickled Yorick’s spine and again he was trapped. Her tone had his breath caught in his throat but what of it he could catch filled his nose with the scent of Lizvetta’s soft lilac scented perfume, oiled leather and armor, and her sweat. It rendered Yorick speechless and suddenly unsure of what to do.
Just then Corbin walked into the Council chamber, looked at Yorick and the grind and screech of metal from his clenching mailed fist shifted Lizvetta’s attention away from the Duke. Corbin’s features tightened and the warpriest seemed to be caught in his own battle between action and words. He pulled his fist up in a more than threatening gesture and with an effort started to pace towards the Duke while he shook his fist at him. Corbin seemed to be attempting to say something but seemed unable to form words when he abruptly stopped and looked up. An exchange took place in that moment and whatever Corbin saw, or thought he saw, in the dark seething shadows above him paused the Gorumite enough that his wife, Korrah, could catch up to him and turn him towards the door and direct him out.
Lizvetta and the half-orc woman faced one another. Lizvetta had stood to face the General with her arms crossed but when faced with the other half of the cause of the rumors and sniggers that she’d had to endure the leader of the Black Maidens subtly shifted her footing and let her guisarme slide from the crook of her elbow into her fist and leveled a withering gaze at Korrah Daggerthews. Yorick and the conspiracy of illusions above shifted nervously at the sudden tension of impending violence. Lizvetta’s eyes may have been set with cold fury but it was Korrah‘s eyes, dancing with sudden madness and bloodlust, that suggested that if a fight commenced it would not stop until one of the women lay dead.
As quickly as the confrontation had started it ended with Korrah’s derisive barking laugh.
“As if, sneg kozhi!”
Lizvetta sneered. She didn’t know what the half-breed Khellid had said but it didn’t matter, the Maiden was going to spear the adulterous half-orc bitch.
“Come here and say that to my face you orcish bitch.”
Korrah laughed and muttered to herself as she ignored Lizvetta. She then spoke to the Duke.
“Our private meetings have not been understood. Our plans must stay a secret though, yes.”
Korrah looked at Lizvetta ready to start a fight and chuckled before continuing on after Corbin, leaving Yorick to deal with his own problems.
Korrah entered her quarters and found Corbin seething as he prayed to Gorum. His greatsword whirled around him and joined his words with the music of cutting air. Corbin thought about finding a few guards to pray with knowing that his healings would assuage the intensity that his faith would bring right now. He looked at his wife.
“I know you wouldn’t do anything Korrah but Yorick is a womanizer. Did he try anything with you?”
“No, Corbin, moe serdtse. If he did I would make him wish for death’s release or to challenge you for mating right. Even so, he is too womanly for me. I like my mate to be strong, to be able to take me.”
She grabbed Corbin’s arm as he swung and pulled him into her body to kiss and nip his lip but just as suddenly found herself at Corbin’s mercy and the struggle enflamed them both. It was hours later that they finally lay satiated and spent amid the furs and pillows of their bed.
“I must leave to take care of some business, muzh.” Korrah rolled onto her side and let her hand play across Corbin’s chest, “for about a month and I’m leaving tonight. Try to keep the militia together and Eneric informed while I’m gone.”
Corbin nodded his head lazily and moved to sit in his favorite chair by the fire and started to polish his sword while Korrah dressed and packed.
Korrah would have to send message to Yorick to continue their little scheme while she was gone. Hopefully he wouldn’t screw it up. A women’s work was never done. She knew who had started the rumors. He was miles away in the south but it was interesting that he was able to connect facts with her meetings with Yorick and she was sure that people had been paid to talk but she needed to fix this at the source. It was affecting her marriage and she would not allow something to come between her and her muzh, her husband. She would set out to the waking lizard folk village first and grab some friends she had made to help her along the way.
(Three weeks later)
Grigori stood in front of a crowd wrapping up one of his speeches.
“…and furthermore, how can we trust a duke who beds his general’s wife? Think on this. They can’t even trust each other. Is that what Erastil teaches us? What Abadar teaches? Even the gods they support and endorse would find sin in their actions. Is this the nation that deserves to survive north of you, endangering your new beginning? You have begun something strong here and as such should remember the Freedoms and watch out for this nation of adulterers and dishonorable people.”
”It is late. Be well and may the gods go with you.”
Grigori watched as the crowd disperse and leave the inn before slipping out and turning invisible to make his way to the ruin of a house he rented. The crowds were getting bigger here and the Dissension in Narlmarch itself was getting larger and stronger. Grigori smiled to himself thinking about the astounding success his experiment was having and walked into the house. As he closed the door the last thing that he saw was a scaled meat mitt of a fist and then he was unconscious.
When Grigori awoke he was tied to a chair naked. He looked around and saw he was in the forest and his eyes settled on two lizardfolk and a large female orc… half-orc actually. It was Daggerthews, the General’s bitch.
“How did you find me? How did you get past my gua…?” The words caught in his mouth as Korrah threw their heads at his feet.
He took a deep breath and calmed himself. This was probably going to end badly.
“Grigori,” Korrah moved closer to Grigori so he could see her face better in the light of the two moons. “The Council chose to ignore your rumors and spreading of dissention amongst their followers but now your words have started to affect my marriage…that I will not have.”
“I am not sure why you see me as the enemy? I only repeat what the people of your little River Kingdom tell each other in whispers and half-jokes. The Duke spreads his kingdom towards whatever he sees as his own. How soon before he reaches out to take your tribes lands, Korrah?” he looked her in the eyes and then looked at the two lizardfolk intently, “Or the village of your king?”
“If there isn’t a problem with your River Kingdom, Korrah,” Grigori’s voice seemed to be coming from every direction now, “then why do so many people come to hear me speak? Why would Yorick manipulate Topper to betray me and send you to assassinate me for him?”
Korrah turned away and looked away to the north and Grigori grinned and started to release the bonds from his hands assured that the brainless savage woman was enthralled by his words. He spoke on weaving as perfect an argument and appeal to his kidnappers that he could when suddenly the half-orc Khellid tribeswoman turned and looked at him with a mocking smile.
“My people have no use for words such as yours. These warrior females understand nothing of what you say, Grigori. I care nothing for your sugared words. Out here away from your new listeners you have no audience, meat.” Korrah walked towards the now shivering man. “Vipertongue, no one will hear your lezhit. No one will hear you when you scream. You’re going to tell me all the rumors you’ve started and so much more. These lizardfolk here haven’t eaten all winter and their first meal is going to be you. You can tell me nothing and be eaten alive or you can tell me what I wish to know and I will kill you quickly. It’s your choice and it is time to make it.”
“You’re a whore and a whore’s daughter. I’m surprised the General is so much of a coward he sent his wife.” Grigori began to breathe heavily and looked around frantically for a way to escape.
“Corbin only believes in hurting people in battle. He does not understand what my people, the Khellid, do; that life is too precious to see it wasted on those who cannot fight to defend it or those without honor that taint it. He would beat you and let his friends talk at you with their empty wind just like you tried with me. I act, I do.”
Korrah spoke to the lizardfolk in their sibilant dialect and strode before them and before Grogori could register what was happening slipped a dagger from her belt and buried it up to the hilt into the wooden seat through the bard’s manhood. Grigori stared at his bleeding groin as his free hand mindless tried to ward the lizardfolk away. Korrah stepped back and pulled another knife in anticipation of the rest of their night together.
“Nooooooo!” The shock of the moment faded enough for Grigori to suddenly appreciate what was occuring, what would occur. “Aaaaaaaagggghhhhhhhh!”
The wildlife that lived nearby fled the disruption either because they knew the sound of prey being taken and sought to keep the same happening to themselves or because they were hunters themselves and knew better than to interrupt one of their own.
Korrah returned to Meereover just in time and hurried to the Council chambers. She had taken enough time to make herself presentable to her muzh. She left her gear in her quarters taking only a leather sack in hand. The sound of laughter and music could be heard even in her chambers. She understood parties, when one lived with as much death as the Khellid people did one celebrated as intensely and passionately as they fought. The music and trappings might be different but they were the same.
She entered the chamber seeing a room full of nobles and guests standing amid food and decorations. Everyone was there except Corbin and Ismort. Korrah walked over to Yorick and ignored his curiosity over her package as well as Lizvetta’s barely disguised glower.
“Does he suspect anything?”
“No. He still doesn’t but he should be here any second. He’s been miserable without you although not as miserable as I have been even after I filled Lizvetta in on our plans.” Yorick curled his nose at a smell that he began to catch wafting from the leather bag. “What is in the sack that smells like that?”
“I took care of a little problem as a gift for Corbin”
Just then Corbin entered the room escorted by Akiros obviously deep into one of their arguements.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” the whole crowd shouted leaving Corbin a bit stunned and reaching for the hilt of his greatsword. Amid the laughter and congratulations from all around Corbin saw his wife standing near the Duke and went to take her into his arms.
“A testament to your birth day, moe serdtse, I have brought you a gift to celebrate you.” Korrah smiled and stroked his hair before stepping back and handing the sack to Corbin who opened it wide to look inside.
“Is that what I think it is?” Yorick gasped seeing glazed eyes looking up at him.
The crowd filled with gasps, genteel screams and angered mutterings from those who could see.
”Disgusting.” “By the gods!” “Who is that?” “Barbaric”, echoed through the crowd.
“Grigori!?” Topper Red let the fiddle he had been playing drop to the ground and turned away even as a couple of unseen voices began to argue about the merits of such a prank and whether it was funny given the reaction or not. The young man stumbled away followed by a slightly green-faced and terribly pregnant Svetlana who held the young man and whispered in his ear.
Everyone there had a reaction but Korrah noticed none of them, except Corbin’s.
“Korrah, why did you…?”
“He was the one, my heart. He is the voice of the rumors of my supposed unfaithfulness to you.” She looked very guardedly at Corbin. Sometimes he didn’t understand her ways.
“How did he know we were meeting in secret about this party,” blurted a stunned Yorick, “when our spy master didn’t find out until an hour ago”
Markoa gave Yorick an incredulous look even as Korrah answered him without turning away from Corbin’s gaze.
“He didn’t fully. He put together some things the muzhchina-lyubovnik Red told him and the rest was just dumb luck. It is good thing that you kept it from Markoa, he would have slipped up. He gossips like a sneg kozhi woman”
Markoa mocked a laugh as Korrah watched her muzh began to smile and the look of fire and love in his eye brought a fanged smile from her as well.
Corbin was truly surprised by Korrah and Yorick’s conspiracy.
[Any words you cannot understand are repeated in English in the text but, if you’re interested, are actually Russian (the defacto Hallit of my world) if you want to Google Translate them. The bulk of this story is Derek’s but I admit to a great deal of editing license. But Derek said I could.]