“Enough!” Flavia van der Riijn stood and walked to the edge of the podium on which her throne-like chair was situated, putting an end to the fight. Fenrir was regarding her wearily, balanced as he was on one leg, the other knee drawn up, expecting Flavia’s command to drop his entire weight onto the unconscious man below him, crushing his chest by driving his knee into the solar plexus. A maneuver that was almost certain to kill him.
He lowered his foot to the floor and stepped back as bidden. Flavia smiled her approval at Fenrir, particularly since she could feel his disappointment of being denied the killing blow. But Flavia had enjoyed the spirited fight way too much to let go of her latest source of entertainment, yet.
Her pleated, peach colored silk velvet cape billowed gently behind her as she stepped down to the level of the mat in the center of the dungeon. Walking towards the prone body, she considered her options. Tyr had fought valiantly, but this time she had refused him a weapon which had put him at a clear disadvantage. His style had become far less aggressive, waiting for Fenrir to attack and then turning the attack to his advantage by feinting and drawing the taller man in to overcommit himself.
Really, before she tired of him, Flavia made a mental note, she needed to have Tyr instruct the other fighters in the intricacies and nuances of close combat. Watching Tyr use his entire body and particularly his stump to deceive his taller, but slower opponent was truly inspirational. Most of the people Flavia had subjected to similar treatment over the years had succumbed to depression, unable to rise above their imposed limitation. But Tyr was one of the special few who rose to the occasion to explore new, creative ways in his fighting. She had watched him train and she had watched him fight. Standing at the edge of the tatami mat she regarded the man in the center and then the others in turn. Ragnarok, Baldr, and Fenrir.
No, undoubtedly she had made Tyr better. A warm feeling washed over Flavia. Wasn’t Baldr another perfect example? Not that she had caused his blindness, but by returning him to only minimal vision, he was able to function effectively, but at the same time fabulously attuned to every crick and kink in her own imperfect body.
Flavia advanced, bent down and felt Tyr’s pulse which was strong and steady. Straightening she waved Rag to her side. “He’s taken a liking to Vali, has he not?”
Rag shrugged his shoulders. Baldr spoke from behind him. “It would seem so. They kissed and Heimdall said they spent time in the gym together.”
Flavia didn’t see any reason to discourage the evolving relationship between the two men. If anything, it would bind him more strongly to her; particularly since the memory suppression seemed to be working well so far. Tyr had shown no inward or outward signs of distress that would indicate that he had remembered any significant information. His heart rate and stress levels were continuously monitored by his implanted failsafe, but correlations between his physical state and environmental conditions had shown nothing that would be of any concern so far. So she felt indulgent toward the man.
“Bring Tyr to him. It will raise his spirits when he wakes up.” She walked back up the stairs onto the dais. Sitting back down in her chair she stared at the white bird on its perch next to her. It sidled closer, the crest on its head raised, tilting and twisting its head to garner its mistress’ attention.
Flavia stared at it; the perfectly sized feathers, the equidistant spacing, the perfection in its programmed movements and mannerisms and a realization hit her—she hated perfection. Perfection made everything predictable, repeatable and boring. Flavia looked at Rag who was busy lifting the unconscious Tyr over his shoulder and at Balder who stood at ease on the side of the mat and realized just how much she preferred her imperfect slaves, Rag, Baldr and Tyr over the perfect ones. In comparison, Fenrir was insignificant; perfection made flesh, but his flawlessness left her cold.
Perfection, she reasoned, was the scourge of the world. Nearly everyone was striving for perfection and in turn was expecting perfection from, or worse, forcing perfection onto others. How she hated her father who for years had made her suffer in order to make her perfect. But she was perfect as she was—better than all of them—certainly smarter than her perfect father who, for all his blustering, nearly suffered a mental breakdown each time he found a new imperfection on his aging body.
It was time, Flavia decided, time to see if her father was made of the same stern stuff as she—or Rag, or Baldr or Tyr. Or even Garran. Though she had never personally met the man, she found it hard to believe that it would have been sheer luck that made him evade her. It seemed that his physical limitations had not held him down, but rather given him the edge he had needed to best her.
The sound of her giggles erupted from her throat. Time to test her theory, she decided. And who better to test it on than her father.
Soul took stock of his body without as much as moving a toe. Everything hurt. He concentrated on compartmentalizing the pain, to push it back in his mind so that after a while if faded into the background. He knew it wouldn’t last, but at least as long as he didn’t move he could keep the pain at bay.
Another fight. Fenrir had come to the pool where Soul had been busy exploring ways to adapt his swimming technique to make up for his missing arm. All in all it didn’t require a lot of adjustment; it just felt strange because his timing felt off. Soul had been summoned to the dungeon with just enough time to get changed. Not enough time to let Vali know what was happening.
Vali—a feeling of excited anticipation flooded Soul at the thought of the other man. Vali hadn’t been present during the fight, but maybe he was still in his room. Maybe he could wrestle up the energy—in a few minutes or so—and make his way there; he certainly could use another of Vali’s massages right now.
At least, it seemed, his defeat in today’s fight hadn’t been met with Flavia’s ire—yet. How many more defeats would she tolerate before she allowed Fenrir to finish him off? Soul barely opened one eye, but even the fairly dim light immediately caused the pounding to return to his temples. He groaned as he rolled onto his back and pulled his arm across his face to cover his eyes.
“How are you feeling?” A low voice questioned him from somewhere off to his right.
A tentative smile sneaked its way across Souls features when he recognized Vali’s voice. “Like I have been run over by a cargo transport.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“A new head?”
A low chuckling erupted. “One new head coming right up.”
Soul heard the noise of running water and then felt the matrass give under Vali’s weight. His arm was pushed up and a hot towel put in its place.
Soul sighed in relief.
“How about an entire new body? Rather ask me what’s not hurting.” His voice sounded muffled to his own ears under the towel.
“What’s not hurting?”
“My right hand.”
“But you have got no …”
“Exactly.” Soul pulled the towel off his face, squinting, but grinning at the baffled look on Vali’s face. “But I wouldn’t mind another massage if your offer still stands.”
“Sure. Let me grab some oil.” The matrass shifted again as Vali got up and walked to a cabinet built into the wall.
Soul rolled over onto his stomach, placing his cheek on the back of his hand. “Why am I here and where are Tim and Tam?”
“Rag and Baldr.”
“They brought you here for me to spruce you up again.” Vali’s grin gave away how pleased he was with this turn of events. He veered from his path and dialed up some music then he returned to the bed and after applying the aromatic oil started massaging Soul’s back and shoulders. Leaning in close he spoke softly directly into Soul’s ear. “Flavia is gone on a trip to Nifol Diepte. She’s taken Rag, Baldr, Heimdall and some of the others with her; apparently even Dr. Balkenhorn. Horlus only knows what she’s up to. It’s the first time in as long as I’ve been here that she’s left this building.”
“What’s Nifol … Whatever?” Soul whispered.
“An island off the coast of the Southern continent. It’s her father’s main residence.” Vali leaned even closer, his lips gently nuzzling Soul’s ear. “Whoever made you guys believe that the fortress outside Fanowar was the Eminence’s main residence sent you straight into that trap.”
Another few pieces connected inside Soul’s head. The Eminence was the man they had been sent to eliminate and …—but Vali’s lips on his ear lobe and his hands on his shoulders were entirely too distracting to think clearly. “You keep that up and you may have to take care of some other parts of my anatomy as well,” he murmured.
Vali placed a gentle kiss on Soul’s temple. “It would be my pleasure.” He nudged Soul to roll over onto his back. When he did, Vali started massaging Soul’s pecks then circled his nipples with each thumb. Soul groaned under the other man’s sensual touch. Vali’s right hand shifted downward, travelling slowly toward Soul’s groin.
Soul placed his hand on Vali’s and stopped its progression before he lost his train of thought entirely “Wait. Something doesn’t add up,” he mouthed. “What does Flavia’s trip have to do with our mission?”
Vali leaned forward again, this time letting his lips pay attention to the other earlobe. He whispered once more. “The Eminence is Flavia’s Father—Gideon van der Riijn, but let’s not worry about that right now.” His hand moved down further until it took hold of Soul’s erect cock, stroking it slowly, covering it with the oil from his hand, while his mouth moved in a slow arc along the line of Soul’s jaw toward the other man’s lips.
Another cog slipped into place, but Soul closed it down to reflect on some other time. “No, let’s not” he agreed and met Vali’s lips with his.
Aurora - Part 24
Aurora - Part 24