Homelands Pt 2 Ch 03
Frank learns the truth about Lily.
All of that flashed through my mind, inperfect detail, in a matter of moments. At least, I knew it had to be mere moments. It felt like it had been hours, or days. But Mom was still sitting in my lap, Brie still standing behind her playing with her hair softly.
For a moment, I thought Mom was riding me, Brianna yanking her hair and fucking her ass hard, the way my father had been doing. Except, that was years in the past. It only felt like it had happened just a few moments ago.
"So?" Mom said, looking into my eyes as if trying to peer through to my soul.
I smiled and kissed her. Affectionately. "Not sure what you were worried about. I'm glad you restored that memory though. That was...well worth remembering."
She smiled and kissed me back.
Brie smiled and clapped her hands. "Oh, goodie. Everyone's happy!"
Mom slid out of my lap, staring at her niece coldly.
I cleared my throat, and tried to do the same for my thoughts.
While I couldn't imagine saying anything other than exactly what I'd said to Mom, some of those memories did indeed sting a bit. I'd always been jealous of Dom, thought Mom favored him. Now I knew that I'd been even more right than I ever thought. And though I'd suspected Mom actually liked being treated a bit roughly based on the last interaction I'd had with her and Brianna, I now knew that for sure. I no longer could maintain the illusion that the one time I'd seen her seem to embrace being treated that way, she'd been doing so for the benefit of the queen. Not that I'd ever really believed it, but it had been a nice lie.
How could I be sure that when she said she didn't "need" that to get off, it really meant that I shouldn't feel like I was incapable of satisfying her as fully as she wanted because I was unwilling to treat her the way my father and cousin did?
But she'd also said she didn't want that from me. And which one of us had she sent away for a few hours so she could be alone with the other?
I might never forget the things Dad had done her, or the way she seemed to enjoy them, but maybe none of that really mattered.
"Relax, Aunt Ellen. I'm just teasing. Besides, I'm going to leave the two of you alone to get reacquainted for a couple hours before I send Frank back. Is your queen not gracious?"
We both assured her that she was.
It took some effort, but I buried my reactions to the less pleasant parts of the memory. Not so successfully that Mom didn't ask me several times if everything was okay, but after a few minutes, we both forgot about it. The two of us had some very enjoyable sex before Brianna told me it was time to go back.
After asking Mom to leave the two of us alone, Brianna smiled at me, patted my arm, gave me a peck on the cheek, and wished me luck.
I'd expected more of a sendoff, but since she'd actually left me alone with Mom, unlike the last time I'd tried to say goodbye to my mother, I really couldn't have been any happier.
So without further ado, I returned to the First Autumnal Court.
My heart skipped when I opened my door that evening. Lily's otherworldly skin, her extreme hourglass figure, and the mix of desire and nervousness radiating off of her, all reminded me of my mother. If I couldn't be with her, if I had to do my best to find information for Brianna so that she might someday let me come home, I could do a lot worse than using sex as a tool for extracting information from a woman like this.
She slid into my arms and whispered, "I'm so sorry."
"I wish I didn't have to do this. But I still haven't earned my asylum either, and I've been running for so long. Please forgive me." Then she kissed me.
I felt the air stir behind me. I started to push Lily away. But there was no time for that.
Before I knew what was happening, I was yanked away from my quarters.
As with her brother, there was no telling what Deirdre really looked like. She took on the appearances of several dozen women all at once.
Her hair could have been brown, black, red or blonde, and I wouldn't have known, since at least one or two of her visages had each of those hair colors. And some had more exotic hair colors as well, from pink to purple to blue and green. Similarly, some of her images were tall, others short. Some were petite, some athletic, some soft and voluptuous. Some dark-skinned, some fair. Every one of her many forms was beautiful in its own way, or would seem so to those with the right tastes.
My hypothesis about Silas was evidently mistaken. If this was how I saw Deirdre, I could only assume women saw all of Silas' visages at once as well. As soon as the thought came to me, though, another part of me insisted that the question of how Silas' powers worked was just about the least important question before me at that moment.
Deirdre's private quarters looked like like they'd been inspired by someone with eclectic but distinctly historical sensibilities. Chaise lounges and ottomans, covered in more pillows than you could shake a stick at, were interspersed throughout the room. Each had been upholstered with a rich brocade, and as many as not had gold tassels hanging from them. The walls and ceiling were stone, the floor tiled with veiny marble. Pristine alabaster columns reached up towards the cavernous ceiling, though a few were short and had statues or antiques set atop them. Rich tapestries hung from two of the walls. Some were portraits, others commemorated battles, while still others depicted pastoral settings. Oil paintings of similar subjects bedecked the other walls. A particularly largely portrait of her brother hung above the great stone hearth. Or, I assumed it was her brother, since the man bore a face I was pretty sure I remembered being one of the many I saw when I looked at Silas.
Of course, it was equally possible that this man was no one in particular, and Silas had included this face amongst the others because it appealed to his sister. I couldn't have said.
Yet at the same time that the huge chamber tried to evoke a sense of belonging to the past, if not any one era in particular, there were other ways in which her quarters could have belonged to a modern millionaire playboy. She had an Olympic sized in-ground pool in one corner and a home theater in another. The theater had a high definition projection screen, four rows of stadium seats, and a sound system that would make any audiophile jealous. A glass rolling bar stood near the pool. It was stocked with all manner of spirits, both conventional and exotic, and two professional grade blenders.
But as unexpected as the stark contrast between antiquated and contemporary amenities was, a much bigger surprise awaited me in her quarters.
Not a moment after the two of us arrived, so too did Lily.
Judging by her wide eyes and slack jaw, the moonlit woman hadn't expected to end up here anymore than I'd expected her to.
"Wait, I thought...," she started to say.
Deirdre walked over to her, took her by the hand, and led her to the nearest ottoman. She sat Lily down and stood above her with one hand on a blue shoulder. With a voice like honey, Deirdre said, "My brother did not appreciate your decision to use me as bait."
"But I didn't!" Lily said. She made as if to stand up, but Deirdre's hand pressed her back down. Or, rather, she gave up when the other woman refused to take her hand away. It didn't really look like Deirdre had applied much pressure.
"What's going on?" I asked, approaching the two of them.
Lily looked down, avoiding my gaze. Deirdre whipped her head around and I expected her to command me to be silent. While a few of her faces wore stern expressions, though, most looked at me softly. Maybe even with pity.
"Your friend here was instructed to determine whether you were spying on our court for your queen, as my brother suspected," Deirdre said, eyes back on Lily. Then, looking over her shoulder at me, she continued, "So she fed you information that a spy would be all but certain to rush back to report. Which, predictably enough, you did."
Of course. She'd chased off that other woman, and let slip a very dangerous secret.
Moreover, I'd had the feeling that I'd walked into a trap since I got to the party.
What had made me think that with all those unbelievably sexy men around to choose from, Lily had decided there was something really special about me?
Wishful thinking, that was what. Damned romantic fool.
"At first, my brother was elated by her success, and was prepared to grant her asylum," Deirdre said to me. Then, to Lily, "Indeed, promised her that he would." Back to me. "But the more he thought about it, the more he felt he could not reward Lily for her actions, not since she'd revealed my existence in the process. She couldn't be rewarded, he'd decided, but neither could he bring himself to Devour her, not since she'd helped to reveal your duplicity. So he commanded me to hold her in captivity."
Lily hung her head and covered her face with her hands.
Deirdre stroked Lily's indigo hair. Was that gesture mocking, or was it truly meant to be soothing? I couldn't tell.
Turning back to me again, Deirdre said, "I asked my brother if I could do the same for you, though I knew he'd prefer to have ended your life. I reminded him that it might be useful to have a bargaining chip for extracting concessions from your queen. In truth, I just thought it would be fun to have two prisoners rather than one. Silas doesn't visit me as often as he used to, and will probably do so even less once he becomes Patriarch. But that doesn't make what I said to him any less valid, and he eventually saw the wisdom of it. So here you are."
Lily's shoulders rose and fell, and though I couldn't see her eyes with those pale blue hands in the way, it sounded like she might be crying.
I should have been furious with her. I knew that. But for whatever reason, perhaps more of that stubborn and dangerous romanticism, I went over, sat beside her, put my hand on her thigh, and told her it would be okay.
Deirdre laughed at that. "You did catch the part where she betrayed you, right?"
I studied her many faces. "She felt she had no choice. I'd have done the same."
And that was true enough.
But the question I wasn't comfortable even asking myself was whether I'd have been able to see that if she wasn't so beautiful. If the stark contrast between her pale blue skin and dark indigo hair, coupled with her impossible proportions, didn't remind me of my mother, however much the colors were wrong with respect to the former and her curves a bit too modest with respect to the latter. The resemblance wasn't even that strong. But it was there. And it was enough to make me take leave of my senses, apparently.
Lily looked up at me, her lips fighting to display a faint grin. Tears eked out the corners of her eyes. "You're either a complete fool or...I don't know what. But thank you." She took my hand in hers, gripped it tightly. "I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. From the day I challenged my cousin's rule, it was only a matter of time before one great power or another moved to dispose of me. Something tells me this is the best outcome I ever really could have hoped for."
Deirdre moved in front of me, running her hands over my chest and shoulders. "Probably so. Still, not many men in your position would have the grace to accept that. I think Lily here is right. You're either shockingly stupid or a very unusual individual."
"But don't worry. I'll be good to you," Deirdre said. "Both," she added. "You'll not be permitted to leave my quarters of course, but then, neither am I, really. I may have to put on a show of being punitive when my brother comes by, which will be rare enough, but the rest of the time, it will be like we're all three of us prisoners."
I almost scoffed at that. But then, while it might be a rather lovely prison cell, if she wasn't allowed to leave, then a prison cell it was.
With a tortured smile, Lily said to me, "This probably only makes me an even more terrible person, but I'm kind of glad that we're here together."
Deirdre and I both laughed.
But I actually knew what Lily meant.
Close to three years had passed, by the reckoning of the Homelands. That meant that somewhere between twenty-five and thirty years had passed in the mortal world. And though none of us had been to the mortal world in that time, I noticed that both Lily and I bore signs of aging. The same was not true for Deirdre, but I guess that didn't surprise me. For that matter, it was more true for me than Lily.
Whether that was because I was the least powerful and Deirdre the most, or because I had spent the most time in the mortal world and Deirdre the least, I couldn't have said. Maybe one or both of those things factored in, but it also occurred to me that men of our kind tended to show their age more than women. After all, though Dad and Mom were more or less of an age, it showed a lot more with him than her.
And, in a way, that only made sense. Women often found older men attractive, so long as they were still fit, and as long as they didn't go bald. Women didn't even seem to mind if men went gray, especially if it was only a little. Yet who had ever said that gray hair or wrinkles on a woman made her look distinguished?
I wasn't sure if was that simple. For that explanation to hold, it would have to be true that our appearances were only allowed to change if they made us more attractive, or at least failed to make us much less so. Which could well have been the case. But I didn't know it to be, not for a certainty.
Of course, Iva would know. And she'd think it somewhere between charming and cute that I didn't. The way she always did when I betrayed my ignorance.
That thought made me sad. It was my mother I missed most, but after all this time, I'd begun to miss just about everyone. I even found myself missing Dom some of the time.
No doubt, a great many changes had taken place beyond the walls of Deirdre's quarters. I wondered whether Brianna's reign had claimed the lives of other members of our family, as it had those of Aunt Liz and Uncle Jim. I wondered too whether my siblings had married or had children. Or whether my cousins had, for that matter. I wondered if Grandma was still content to sit in her little cottage in the forest, taking no part in court politics.
The only news that reached us was that Silas was now Patriarch. We'd all seen that coming, of course. Equally predictably, he visited Deirdre less and less now than he had when Lily and I had first been taken prisoner.
That saddened Deirdre, but Lily and I were more than grateful for it. As Deirdre had told us she would on that first day, she slipped into the role of jailor whenever Silas stopped by. Lily and I would be chained to the wall, or put in cages, or made to perform vile acts with one another for Silas' amusement. Not vile in the taboo sense, like the acts I longed to once more commit with my mother. But disgusting and humiliating and painful things, involving whips, chains, needles, piss, and shit.
Yet, to her credit, Deirdre had been no less right about the fact that, the rest of the time, it felt like the three of us were in it together. So long as Silas wasn't around, neither Lily nor I was ever asked to do anything we didn't want to do. And, in time, we came to both very much want to do the things we did with Deirdre.
Not at first, we hadn't. But she was an incredibly attractive woman. And while she might not exactly care for either of us, she was good to us.
For one thing, when Lily and I first started to find it to be entirely too hard to resist our mutual attraction, Deirdre had given us some privacy without any questions asked. We weren't allowed to leave her quarters, of course. But Deirdre would cordon off half of the oversized chamber for us.
Around the third time Deirdre saw the look in our eyes and went to erect a stone wall, we told her there was no need, and instead invited her to join us.
Deirdre made Brianna, Mom, and every other women I'd slept with look like a novice. She had raw power in spades, to be sure, but it was more than that. In fact, if you were to say that Brianna couldn't hold a candle to Deirdre in that department, you wouldn't quite be doing my cousin justice. Which was not to say that Silas' sister wasn't clearly the more powerful of the two. But the gap was not nearly as large as I might have expected.
No, the big difference was in how much Deirdre knew about her abilities.
And I didn't just mean with respect to sex, though that was indescribable. No laws applied to her, not gravity, not adhesion, nothing. Not unless she chose to submit to them. She could fly, walk on water, or on the ceiling, and more. When she lowered herself to the need for sustenance, she could create food with a mere thought. Prisoners though we might be, Deirdre made sure that our lives did not lack for comfort.
Accordingly, I learned a great deal about how to use my own powers in that time. And the same went for Lily. With each passing week, the three of us reached new heights together.
I probably could have escaped at some point, having learned so much. And though she never said it aloud, I knew that Lily wanted me to.
Actually, wanted us to escape together.
I'd thought it was only her guilt making her act that way at first, but as time wore on, it became clear that she genuinely was falling in love with me. Whether that was just because I was the only man she saw in that time who didn't make her debase herself in the most unspeakable ways, however, was another matter altogether.
All the same, I think I was probably headed in that direction myself. I'd come to accept that I'd never see my family again, and a surrogate for my mother was the closest thing to happiness I was ever likely to see.
Maybe under different circumstances, it could have even have gone somewhere.
But however much Lily silently implored me to steal her away, I knew that it would be a huge mistake. It wasn't impossible that we'd succeed in getting away, but as Iva could well attest, Silas didn't give up easy. And maybe he'd have been willing to keep sending men after us even if we went back to the Third Autumnal Court. He was Patriarch now, and he'd never really gotten over what Iva had done to his daughter. The odds that he'd be reluctant to risk offending Brianna by violating the sovereignty of her court were not great. Not if he suffered another indignity at the hands of her subjects.
Besides, it wasn't like we were being held under the worst conditions imaginable. If we had to suffer the same indignity every day that we did on the rare occasions when Silas came to visit his sister, perhaps it would have been worth the risk. But how far would a man go to escape when Deirdre was the closest thing to a jailor he had to suffer?
Not that I was under any delusion that Deirdre cared for me. She showed compassion, yes, but passion? No.
In fact, though she was effectively a captive as well, it was clear that she was in love with her brother. It was a complicated thing, because there were days I was equally sure that she hated him. But the one didn't really preclude the other. Whether they were positive or negative, the emotions she felt for her brother dwarfed any she might feel for anyone else.
I found that sweet, but also distasteful. In the Third Autumnal Court, we might have been all about incest, but it was just sex. No one was falling in love. The relationship between Silas and his sister seemed to violate the only remnant of taboo we had.
Or maybe that was just because of the way he treated her. Kept her locked up. I had no more love for her than she for me, but I still thought she deserved better.
All the same, her feelings were, in a way, understandable. Lily hadn't really been exaggerating much when she told me Silas was a god. And for all that he held his sister in a prison cell, it was clear that he worshiped her, and believed that he would do anything for her happiness, even if there was an obvious flaw in that view. Watching him with her, I found my view of him slowly evolving from fearsome tyrant to something more complex, almost tragic. He was deeply paranoid, fiercely loyal to those few he actually cared about, and, most notably, far less manipulative, deceptive, and capricious than Brianna. As much as I wanted to hate him, I found I could not.
Of course, when I learned that I was to be released, I was overcome with joy.
Brianna had apparently been deposed, and Jack, her successor, offered to return four of Silas' spies in exchange for my freedom. Even Silas couldn't turn down that deal.
That night, Deirdre and Lily gave me quite a sendoff. When it came time to leave, I found myself sadder than I ought to have been. And wondering if I'd ever see Lily again.