Legacy of Kain: Once and Future King

AU/continuation- fic of Defiance

The Beginning – Chapter 7

(note that chapter content has been edited to comply with regulations full version posted elsewhere)

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Raziel was grooming his horse, enjoying a quiet moment of solitude in the stables when he turned to find he was being observed. Umah, in all her dark glory, was leaning against the doorway, watching him with her predatory eyes.

"Odd, that you don't get a servant to do that." She remarked, folding her arms across her waist. He wondered silently whether her habitual gesture was because it was physically impossible, given her assets, to mimic Vorador's authoritative posture more faithfully, or whether she did it deliberately to force a man to recognize her awe inspiring cleavage. He firmly told his eyes to stay above her cape's collar as he nodded in polite greeting.

"You say nothing? Strange, you've never been shy before." Umah pushed herself upright, slinking closer through the musty space. All around the various mounts and beasts of the citadel paused in their grazing and looked up, noticing her aura with nervous shifting and snorting. The horses were well adapted to the scents and mannerisms of their lords and masters, but a predator was a predator. Raziel didn't blame them for shying and taking a second look as she passed.

"I didn't realize you were asking a question." He murmured. Raziel wondered to himself whether he was being seduced or hunted, and let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding when she turned at the last minute to inspect his mount's head. "A fine animal. Kain chooses well."

"Usually." Raziel hedged. Even after years' worth of casual encounters in the halls and gardens of the manor and citadel, it was still distracting in the extreme to stand next to the powerful vampiress. Although as tall as a man, there was nothing masculine about her. Her scent was as tantalizing as the high-cut skirt she favored when not in armor. "Is there something I can assist you with, my lady?"

"I hear you are to be congratulated on yet another feat of infant-heroism, boy." She smirked, running her fingers through the animal's mane before patting it. "You're beginning to make a habit of it, in fact."

He winced at how quickly the news had spread, back on the receiving end of the extended clan's bemused stares for the second time in so many years. It wasn't like he set out of an evening to cause a spectacle. Things just seemed to happen around him, he sighed. Thankfully Kain was away and not available to pass summary judgment on his latest antics. He had no doubt he'd have his scolding later when his sire returned. "Many tell me I am destined to a short but exciting life at the rate I am going."

Umah laughed at that. "I like you Raziel." She turned to him with a sudden fierce smile. "You aren't like the others, all bragging and brawn. At first I was inclined to be as disgusted with you and yours as I was with Kain's first bunch of bootlickers. But you are a knight of the old orders compared to that scum."

Turning back to his horse, she scratched its chin playfully, long fingers sliding lovingly over its nose and neck with what had to be intentional double-meaning. "You talk more like Janos, than a fledgling. It will serve you well with us women when you grow up. Don't become like your older brothers. Or even your younger ones…"

"I would hardly call all of my siblings crude, Lady." Raziel added Umah's hands to the list of things he really ought to stop staring at if he didn't want to make a fool of himself. Unfortunately the number of things a man could not look at without distraction while talking to Umah included just about everything above her boots. The woman was sensuality incarnate. Swallowing he wracked his brain for idle conversation that wouldn't annoy the infamous warlady. "I would say my brother Melchiah, for example, is entirely harmless."

"Melchiah is a good boy." Umah smirked. "Perhaps too good. I find I lose my appetite for sweetness for days after only a moment in his company."

"He is full young yet." Raziel conceded. "Time and war will no doubt roughen him up a little."

"Not like you." She turned back to him, leaning with unconscious artistry against the shoulder of the animal. "You, I think, will be always as you are now. Perhaps a little older, a little wiser, a little more handsome?"

"I could not hazard a prediction." He replied honestly, surprised by the compliment. It was unlike her to speak so kindly. Usually it meant he was in trouble over something, or about to be. "Growing older is inevitable, if I do not die. It is my ambition to be wiser. Whether I am handsome or not, is for others to decide."

Umah leaned forward and kissed him, swiftly and powerfully. Her mouth barely gave him time to react, lips and tongue committing soft acts of violent invasion as they explored his own. Raziel felt like an idiot as she pulled away, smiling archly at her conquest. The best he had managed was to gasp like a virgin as she had worked her charms on him. The urge to reach out and wrap his hands around her irresistibly slender waist and attempt a second kiss made his groin ache.

Raziel forced himself to relax, knowing _exactly_ what the woman's reaction to such adolescent impulses would be. Not a week ago he had seen Zephon's bruised face from where one of Umah's 'sisters' had schooled his sibling in the appropriate way to court a woman. He had no interest in learning a similar lesson first hand.

"So polite." She remarked, reaching out to slide appreciative fingers along his jaw. "I can see why you're everyone's favorite. There's quite the war brewing over you, you know. If only you were a little older."

"Why?" Raziel couldn't help but ask, dazzled by the touch.

Umah laughed, and kissed him again. This time at least he was able to coordinate an amateur effort in response but any hope of appearing competent was quickly crushed. Her tongue coiled around his easily, her long-nailed fingers scratching as his scalp as she pined his face between her hands. Raziel sighed at the powerful rush of blood to his groin, half fearing, half wanting the woman to take another step forward and press against him with her kiss to soothe the ache she was causing. Luckily for his sanity, she refrained from pressing her advantage. The warlady pulled back, relinquishing his mouth with a look of mild regret. Brushing her lips against his a third time, she murmured, "I don't sleep with children," and turned to leave.

Raziel stood slack-jawed and stunned as she swept away. Out of the stable and across the courtyard; Umah didn't bother to look back as she got in a parting shot. "I look forward to continuing our conversation, Sir Raziel. When you're a little older!"

Exhaling slowly, Raziel took stock and found his body still thrumming from her touch. He forced himself to stare at the boring curry comb in his hands until he felt marginally in control, and resumed his work on the horse. Umah was maddening. Most of Vorador's wives were. Knowing as they did how their charms and strength affected men, they delighted in taunting and then rejecting suitors on a regular basis. Vorador loved choosing the 'man eater' type, when looking for women for the cabal. Whether it was because he knew they'd make fine soldiers, or simply due to his own particular fetish, Raziel couldn't guess.

The only way to handle it was to not fall into the trap. If one could maintain a certain mental distance, as Kain did, then it was possible to remain rational despite their teasing. Think too much about one of the amazons' seductive wiles, and even the most level-headed vampire could become little better than a slavering desperate toy for the women's amusement. Raziel forced himself to adopt a little of his master's jaded manner, finding that even the pretended cynicism helped his blood to cool.

"I wouldn't be too eager, brother, to take that woman up on her offer."

Raziel nearly spooked his horse as he flinched. Glancing over his shoulder into the shadowy hayloft, he breathed a little easier to see Rahab limberly swinging himself down out of the rafters. His quiet brother had a knack for discrete hiding places. Raziel wondered how long he had been lurking in this one. At least it was Rahab and not one of the others more inclined to laughing at his mistakes. He rubbed his neck feeling foolish. "You saw that?"

"Oh yes." Standing beside him, Rahab patted his horse and looked out into the courtyard, as if assuring himself that the lady was gone. His long face often had a melancholy look, but when he turned Raziel was gifted with one of his sibling's rare and wicked smiles. "Very entertaining."

"Well at least _you_ were entertained." Raziel sighed, annoyed. "I felt a fool."

"I think that sensation is shared by most of her prey." His thoughtful brother agreed, removing a bit of hay from his collar and discarding it as he tidied himself clean of debris from the loft. "You will not be the first, or the last, caught flat-footed by her."

"With lips to make a man dream of sin." He remembered the quote but not the author. The words felt more than appropriate enough, he wondered if the mortal who wrote them knew Umah at all.

"Hersh, 'The Fatal Woman'." Rahab was quick enough to supply the reference. He made an annoyed sound. "I fail to see what attracts you all to her ilk. Whenever _I_ see her I am reminded of stories of wolves on the prowl. I don't like the idea of a lover who will just as likely eat me as lay with me."

"Either way, what a night it would be." Raziel laughed.

"Idiot." His brother cuffed him lightly on the arm. "Besides, from what I've heard, you might not enjoy it as much as you think. Umah, especially, is rumored to be hard on her men, for all that they go crawling back to her whenever they get the chance."

"Oh? Does she leave bruises?" Raziel speculated. "Or does she sharpen her claws on their backs?"

Rahab shook his head, smirking. "I've heard stories of rope. Sometimes chains. Of being made to worship at her shrine in various prolonged and frustrating ways. I suppose she has a thing for toying with prisoners."

Raziel gave his brother an astonished look. "Chains?!"

"Chains." The vampire confirmed grimly. "And begging on your knees."

"Begging." For a moment he was horrified, and then, to his chagrin, curious. While he had admired his fair share of the women around him, he'd not yet found one face in particular that could tempt him into pursuit. Unlike Dumah, who he'd already accidentally stumbled across on several occasions with his pants down, or even his other siblings with their more sedate exploits, he had spent his first year at the fortress enjoying the relative privacy of his rooms… without the need for female companionship. Grimly he wondered whether Rahab had taken a lover yet. With his brother's taciturn nature it was impossible to say. He wasn't the sort to gossip of his exploits.

If so, then it was down to he and Melchiah as to whom would be last. In his brother's case it was a matter of overcoming his puppyish demeanor, and setting aside his experiments, long enough to convince a girl he was able to perform between the sheets. Raziel rubbed the back of his neck, sighing at his own indecisiveness. He could tell when women were interested in him. Probably if one were to single him out he wouldn't say no. But to pick one out from the crowd was to incite jealousy in all the others. He wasn't quite ready yet to take on that particular battle, not when he couldn't honestly bring himself to care about one woman more than any other.

Vampire women were complicated. Not like Sophia and the other human girls of the valley, he mused. By comparison, the farm-girls and tradesmen's daughters were akin to field sparrows, timid and pleasing in their way, but not something a man felt particularly worth catching when there were falcons and hawks to be had. Even among the loveliest hawks however, he felt liking, but never any particular passion. Raziel smirked at the apparent flaw in his well-advertised perfection. Thinking about his supposed laurels only reminded him of Umah's unsolicited compliments. There perhaps was a woman he'd have, if only for the experience.

"Umah, is not one whom I'd describe a blushing barmaid who lifts her shirt and calls it seduction." Rahab laughed softly, able to read his changing expression. "She'll make you work for whatever satisfaction you hope to get. But as you say, what a night?"

They stood a long moment in brotherly awe of the vampiress' prowess. Gesturing to Raziel's mount, Rahab hinted silently that he might as well finish the chore. His brother found a cloth and helped rub the animal down without being asked.

"Do you think she chains Vorador?" Raziel found himself wondering, and also cringing, at the mental image.

Rahab stood up from rubbing the animal's leg to give him a nauseous look. "It doesn't bear considering."

* * * * *


What better way to celebrate his return to the cabal after a successful treaty signing with Willendorf than with an old-fashioned hedonistic party in the great hall?

The treaty itself wasn't much, as yet, just a mutual agreement to non-aggression in the territories surrounding the highway and northern villages, but still, it was a start. It was a deviation from history, he acknowledged, but easing his way into the old city's good graces was far less labor intensive than sacking it. Time he could spare, men were far more valuable. He needed them for the human kingdoms he _couldn't_ sweet-talk into line. Tapping his claws thoughtfully against the arm of his chair, he watched vampires of both sexes swaying in eachothers' arms and playing wildly on their instruments as others supped from wide-brimmed goblets and talked. The soldiers and children looked to be enjoying themselves.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Dumah already chasing lewder pleasures with a clinging girl half hidden behind a curtain. The chatting mobs around them ignored the impropriety. Fledgling antics. He sighed, seeking out the less depressingly common of his children from the crowd. Turel had a long-legged beauty on his arm and was actually managing to appear somewhat urbane as he swept her around the edge of the line of dancers. Undoubtedly someone had taken him aside in the months since he'd seen the boy last and given him some lessons in correct personal grooming. He looked less the part of grunt-soldier than usual. The woman's name escaped him but he recognized her as one of Umah's many captains. Likewise Zephon was dancing intimately with another amazon. The woman boasted a ferocious smile, and his younger general seemed alternately pleased by his conquest and a little intimidated by her. Biting off more than he'd anticipated, from the look of things. Undoubtedly he'd be sporting some interesting bruises by dawn, but braggart that he was, he'd spin the encounter in his favor in the retelling.

The others were ensconced among friends, laughing and chatting, and looking pleased with both the festivities. The news that when next he took an army into the field, they would be marching with him had to also be a welcome reason to celebrate. Eyes unconsciously seeking, and finding, Raziel, Kain smiled to himself at how the boy managed to almost shine when surrounded by the lesser quality stock of his company. Both proud of the child and envious of the attention he was giving others, he admired the tight leathers of his trousers as they fitted over the fledgling's hips and the easy grace with which he gestured animatedly in making his point.

His beauty was all the more captivating in that he wore it without pretense, his laughter was merry, his interest in conversation unfeigned. He glittered like an uncut gem, an infant still, but one whose potential was visible to anyone with eyes to see it. Raziel's crowd of admirers contained equal numbers of both sexes, the women measuring their chances with the boy with predatory smiles, the men similarly jockeying for a position at his side, cautiously hopeful that he might prefer one of them instead. For his part Raziel was oblivious to the subtle maneuvering around him, as content as ever with his lot in life and seemingly indifferent to the idea of taking a lover at all, despite the wealth of opportunity in front of him. In two hundred years, Raziel might seduce an entire room simply by walking into it, but for now his crowd of admirers was held at arms length.

Kain leaned back further into his chair. Resting his shoulders against the Reaver blade he wore tucked against his back, he considered the problem of his eldest's as yet unfocused charisma. It wouldn't be impossible, he mused, to direct the child's attention towards himself, as malleable as the boy was. There was loyalty enough, even in Raziel's infant state, to play upon if he were determined to lay claim to what was rightfully his. Alternatively he might choose to steer the child towards a youthful consort of his preference, to further mold and prepare him for his life to come. Tilting his head a little he caught sight of the Reaver's pommel out of the corner if his eye. The skull's shadowy sockets glowed faintly with the light of the power contained within. Even sleeping, the weapon seemed to sense his discontent, humming softly to him in it's silent way as it sought to give comfort.

Kain reached back to caress his old friend with a gentle claw-tip, taking in the worn strapping of the grip, and making note to himself to rebind the blade before their next battle. Otherwise the sword was practically invulnerable, even more-so than he was. He huffed in quiet amusement at his preoccupation with the soul blade's wellbeing. Never had a weapon been so cherished. Still, live would be impossible without it, unimaginable even. Its warm length was comfortable against him after so many years of having it there, even in social settings like this one. If anything the wicked blade was the only thing he found entirely comfortable about the evening.

He was too old, he mused, for such festivities.

He'd attended any number of celebrations, victorious routs, and feast-days over the centuries. After a while the unchanging formula of music, chatter, and dancing wasn't all that exciting. If he had to choose between the decadent party and simply sweeping Raziel off to someplace quiet and comfortable for a bit of relaxation, he knew which he'd choose. For a moment the idle fantasy tempted him. Kain could well imagine the willing warmth of the fledgling's limbs as the boy leaned against his shoulder and permitted the embrace. He might turn his face into Raziel's hair and lose himself for hours in the subtle scent of the vampire's body. That might have been a welcome-home to hurry him back, he mused, had he anticipated such a thing being within the realm of the possible.

From there it was no great stretch to picture the youth's shirt loosened, his pale skin exposed to moonlight and to Kain's questing tongue. Kain slouched further into his chair with an annoyed sigh, telling himself to stop thinking of things that would only make him horny and irritated. More than ten centuries old, his body was usually beyond such juvenile rebellions. He marveled how even now, with the gulf of years and experience standing between them, he could still find Raziel's appearance so… inspiring. Telling himself it was a ridiculous notion didn't stop his mind from wandering. His imagination simply switched his tongue out for someone else's. Raziel, trembling and eager, as some woman explored every inch of his chest? His cocky grin as both of them shed their clothing with frantic motions, desperate to find release? The mental image caused a tingle down his spine that instantly pooled into a tight heat in his groin. Kain forced himself to stare at his goblet for a few minutes, breathing through his nose as he considered the mundane bit of glassware and got his body back under control.

Of course, his subconscious whispered wickedly, it could always be a man instead. Raziel kneeling before some well-endowed vampire? _There_ was a thing of beauty to contemplate. He shifted in his chair feeling his pants constrict again. Luckily nobody was trying to corner him with small talk. He hid his sudden hunger behind the edge of his cup as he sipped the warm blood. It tasted stale in his mouth, his tongue craving a different flavor altogether.

Clearly it'd been far too long since he'd last found some relief, because the fragments of memory and fantasy merged into uncannily realistic daydream all too easily. Kain closed his eyes and for a moment could see Raziel being taken from behind. How sublime the vampire had looked when they'd indulged in such games once upon a time. Kain remembered fondly the oversized mirror he'd had mounted next to his bed during the early part of the Dark Empire just for that purpose. Watching Raziel brought to the point of ecstasy had been one of the less sadistic pleasures he'd taken with the vampire, leaving the memories relatively guilt-free when compared with the others.

The fact that it was absolutely impossible to indulge in such sport with Raziel any time in the near future was clearly Nosgoth's way of exacting penance from him for his myriad sins. Kain sighed, body cooling again at the depressing thought. Evolved as he was, there was little he could do with hand, mouth or body that could bring pleasure to one as young and fragile as his fledgling lieutenant. Comparing the two of them practically, he counseled himself to accept the reality of his situation. He was nothing but a collection of diamond sharp teeth and claws, monstrously oversized muscles, hardened callused skin. The child was all too human in his frailty, and would be for years yet to come. Best to wait for any chance of that sort of closeness, if there was to be any between them, until the boy could at least regenerate enough to heal the inevitable scratches and bruises he'd pick up in trying to be intimate with a lumpish bit of basalt like him. Undoubtedly Raziel would learn of passion on his own soon enough. He silenced the petty little voice within him that protested that there wasn't a creature alive that could match _his_ passion for the vampire with practiced brutality. Such thoughts were childish and he refused to acknowledge them.

Kain turned to look around the room instead of thinking further on the depressing topic. He noted Vorador's happy little party of womenfolk circling him like the harem they were. The old bastard was basking in their playful seduction as always. Even Janos looked to be in a sociable mood. The usually bashful old scholar was cuddled on a long couch in with some of the women-folk who tended to the general upkeep of the fortress. The blue skinned ancient's grip on the girl in his lap wasn't _entirely_ innocent to Kain's jaded eye, although with the old one it was hard to tell. For their part the girls were more then happy to fawn on Janos as much as he'd let them.

The pair of ancients brought another batch of recruits over the mountains for him, and used that as their excuse to linger long enough for the feast before returning to their retired comforts at the manor house. Kain shook his head at their determination to continue to assist with the 'cause' from a safe distance. Unless pressed into action, Vorador would far rather heckle from the sidelines than wade into the middle of the action. He didn't mind. The army functioned best with a single dedicated leader. Having all three of them stomping about, countermanding eachother's orders would have driven the young ones daft. The green furred vampire lord caught his eye and raised an eyebrow expressively.

Sulking at our own party, are we? Yellow eyes twinkled as the vampire silently laughed at him. If you dislike feasts so, why do you encourage them?

Because they're good for morale. Kain whispered back, recognizing that he _was_ playing the part of sulky bear more than usual. Sitting up he rolled his shoulders and forced a slightly more congenial expression onto his face. Not that he ever had mastered the knack of looking 'happy' without it twisting into something vaguely homicidal, but he could at least manage to not be _quite_ so antisocial. And besides, he thought towards his friend across the room, _You_ like them well enough. This is the first time you've spent more than two days at the citadel in years.

I don't like this place. Vorador grimaced, momentarily distracted by the late arrival of yet another wife who greeted him exuberantly. This citadel holds too many memories for me, Kain. The old vampire continued over the top of the oblivious woman's head. None of them particularly pleasant. Until now.

I know the feeling. He sighed, motivating himself to stand. Moebius may be dead, old friend, but he is not forgotten. Not yet.

The festivities would easily last until morning, but Kain felt in his bones that he was done. The children would likely party all the merrier when out from under his gloomy stare. He ducked down several side passages and out onto a stretch of parapet above the lake, admiring the sparkling white of the moonlight on the water. On the surface at least, it seemed a beautiful bit of scenery. He folded his arms and considered the valley thoughtfully.

There was nothing at the bottom of _this_ lake. Not yet. He'd checked very carefully when he'd first laid claim to the fortress, not interested in repeating that particular historical blunder. The fledglings had stared in slack jawed awe as he'd gone looking for monsters by the simple expedient of wading out into the lake until the water was over his head, trusting the weight of his armor and the Soul Reaver's earthy affinity to keep him stuck to the lakebed rather than bobbing about like a vampiric bit of cork. The Reaver's ability to grant him invulnerability to the elements was also a blessing when it came to accomplishing such a feat. For all his prowling in the muddy depths, he'd found some mysterious looking ruins from a former age, a variety of startled fish, and a god-awful amount of weedy, aquatic, plant-life, but no false gods. Not so much as one frog-like eyeball to annoy him. It'd been over a hundred years, he mused, since he last terrified the children by going for a swim. Maybe it was time to check again? It never hurt to be cautious.

"What are you up to, my dear 'wheel'?" He mused aloud. "You've been rather quiet lately. If you will not come to me, I shall be obliged to seek you…"

The lake gave no answer. For the best really, if it had he'd have felt a nasty shock. Folding his arms on the smooth stonewall before him, Kain couldn't help but speculate on the coming year, what battles they could expect, what battles they might avoid by yet more politicking with the human lords. Having allies at hand whom could fight in daylight would make dealing with the Hylden considerably easier. Now of only he could convince the short-lived fools to stop killing each other long enough to prepare a reasonable force for killing _other_ things. The nearby kingdoms were a harder-bunch to convince than he'd hoped. The factions constantly urging the government to go on and on about the unholy vampiric plague, were also troublingly prevalent. Undoubtedly, they were being encouraged by one or more parties who preferred to operate from the shadows. Kain rubbed his chin thoughtfully. It was amusing, really, the need for a human resistance, when it wasn't precisely clear what they were meant to be resisting. Still it wasn't like he had infinite amounts of time to make them see reason. Kain chuckled softly to himself. They'd come around. As frightening as he realized _he_ looked, the Hylden would be worse.

"Vorador said you'd be brooding out here." A teasing voice caught him by surprise. Turning his head, Kain raised his eyebrow at the woman who'd slid up to him while he was distracted.

"Did he?" He dipped his chin, acknowledging the lady's question. She was lovely, after a fashion. Like most of Umah's captains, she had a lean, lissome look, and moved with the confidence of a hunter even with the long skirts trapping her legs. Her face was familiar but he couldn't immediately match a name to it. "And which one of his witches are you?"

"Lykestra." She folded her arms across her chest and gave him a knowing look. "My lord said to me, 'Kain appears lonely tonight'."

Kain had to smile at that. Trust Vorador to only have one solution in mind when presented with a problem. "And so he dispatched you to what, cheer me?"

"Something like that." She leaned against the wall next to him, taking a moment to admire the view. Turning to look at him she granted him an unusually candid smile, not pretending in the least to be ashamed of her blatant flirtation. "I told him that I doubted you'd be interested. Seeing as how I've never heard of you needing 'cheering' before now. But he insisted that I might suit you as well as anyone. So here I am."

"I appreciate the gesture." Kain shook his head at the old vampire's stubborn insistence that sex was not something a man could just opt out of for years at a time. He was living proof that a vampire could, and would find other means to entertain himself besides taking every opportunity to nestle his phallus between every willing wench's thighs that he came across. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a woman. Beyond centuries ago, he mused, at the very least. There'd been a pressing lack of availability he supposed, never mind opportunity, as the Dark Empire crumbled to ruins and dust around him. In this new Nosgoth, everyone was just so… _young_. He clenched his teeth as the thought immediately reminded him of his wishful thinking from before. _Raziel_ was young, terrifyingly young. So what kind of monster did that make him for still wanting the boy?

Raziel, he told himself pragmatically, had always been a special case. He shook his head again. "You are kind to offer, Lykestra, but your charms are best served by one in better humor, as you can see."

"Is it that you no longer have the capacity?" She raised an eyebrow in bold curiosity. "Your evolution and Lord Vorador's are completely different, after all. Who can say if in gaining one ability, a vampire might not lose another… As a human I could not bear heavy burdens, but now I find even a full-grown man no trouble at all. But in exchange I lost the sun." The woman shrugged thoughtfully. "Not all trades are necessarily good ones."

"A wise thing to realize for a vampire." He agreed. Studying her hands, he could place the woman well past her third evolution. While she still had a full five-fingers, her fingernails had become durable talons, sharpened to keen points. Instead of full boots she wore the open-toed sandals favored by those vampires caught between infancy and full evolution, not quite ready yet to go barefoot but more than able to use her toe-claws for climbing and fighting. He noted her studying him just as openly and smirked for her benefit. "I am intact, if you are in earnest in your questioning. It's merely, difficult for me, to find a partner with the stamina required. This form of mine is not meant for gentleness anymore."

"You might find me more durable than I seem, my lord." She smiled faintly at him. Reaching out she dared to trace the edge of his jaw with the backs of her nails. "Do you think I am weak?"

"That I would never do." He chuckled, enjoying her company despite himself. Like Umah, she was not afraid of him in the least. Unlike Umah, she was frank and lighthearted in her conversation. Watching her idly comb her fingers through her hair – preening for his benefit? – Kain found the sight of her low-necked dress, straining to contain her assets to be somewhat inspirational in its own way. He was no more inclined to bed her than he had been on first glance, but still, he wouldn't mind at all seeing more of her. Maybe it was just her coloring, pale skin and flaxen blonde that made him think it, but she might make a fine match for Raziel, if the boy could be convinced he wanted her.

Kain smiled a little to himself at the thought. Clearly this was a woman who could manage to be convincing, otherwise Vorador would have never sent her.

"Tell me something, Lykestra." He turned to give her his full attention. "Exactly how far were you planning to go, with this 'cheering' you were going to give me?"

"As far as necessary, Lord Scion." She gave him an arch look. "Why, have you changed your mind?"

"Not exactly. But I find myself… convinced, that you might solve a minor problem I've been having, with one of my sons." He shrugged. "If you were willing, of course."

"A problem?" Lykestra raised her eyebrow at his choice of words. "Well that depends on the problem, Scion. And the son."

"Raziel, my eldest. For all the elements in his favor, he still seems to have some difficulty when it comes to knowing how to proceed with a woman on a night such as this. I have been thinking perhaps that some tutoring in this area would not be ill received?"

The woman's burst of surprised laughter confirmed his opinion that she was both willing, and deserving of the delicate mission he was about to put before her.

* * * * *


It was all together far easier, Raziel decided as he was backed into his bedroom by a firm grip on his shirt, when it was the woman who did the asking.

One moment he'd been cheerfully engrossed in conversation with some soldiers recently returned from the front. The next minute he had been distracted by the arrival of an amazon with a face that took his breath away. Not merely beautiful, or predatory, she had a focused aura of implacability about her that utterly derailed him from anything but admiration of her form. Another woman might have slapped him half-stupid for staring, but this one? Barely had he managed a 'hello' before she closed in and kissed the breath out of him. The feel of her demanding affection had him hard enough to embarrass himself in moments. Introductions and excuses were nothing more than a blur after that. Raziel was hazily amazed that they'd bothered with the formality of finding some privacy before she'd made good on her stated intent to get in his pants.

Perhaps she was not the woman he might have chosen, he considered as he felt her mouth trailing wet kisses along his jaw and the open collar of his shirt. She had chosen him, however, and he found the concept of being her willing slave for the evening to be far more tantalizing than he had expected. With every lick of her clever tongue, his skin felt tighter, his heart beat faster. Slipping her hands under his loosened clothing, Lykestra dragged her claw-tips lightly down the bare skin of his back, the feathery scratches making his muscles clench in reaction. Was he to be a trophy for her? He wondered idly, responding to her caress with touches of his own, cupping her hips and petting her spine before blindly searching out the laces to her dress. Or was he a dare? Or was she merely the first of his admirers to become frustrated with his laid back approach, and take matters into her own hands? For whatever reason she wanted him. He turned his face against hers, catching her lips with an urgent kiss. Finding her mood infectious, he was surprised to find he fiercely wanted her too.

Before he could offer her a seat on his couch, or even a smile, she had him pressed back against the door, using her superior strength to pin him and take control of the kiss. He moaned in pleasure as she corrected his technique, finding this lesson far more engrossing than anything he'd been studying recently. Lykestra purred happily against his lips as she recognized his willingness to follow her lead. Relinquishing his shirt in favor of catching his face between her hands she worked her tongue into his mouth for several breathless minutes, ruthlessly exploring everything she could reach. Guided by her unspoken demands he let her suck his into her mouth as she reversed their roles, doing his best to give as good as he'd gotten. The urge to press closer to her was impossible to resist. Trying it left him weak in the knees from pleasure and wanting more. The vampiress simply chuckled, pressing forwards again to give him more of what he craved.

"It seems that tongue of your is good for more than poetry after all." She smirked as she pulled away. "Some of my sisters were beginning to wonder…"

"So this venture is purely for… academic research?" Raziel panted at the feel of her hand sliding between them. She rubbed him playfully, her slightly superior expression galling even as her touch made him sigh. He wanted her terribly, but he was determined to not to be an utter novice and finish too soon. That would undoubtedly fail to impress the woman hunting him. He tried to think of anything but sex in the hope of prolonging the encounter slightly. Clearly it was a skill he should have practiced sooner. The defense proved far more difficult to muster than he'd been lead to believe.

Lykestra let her heavy skirt fall to the floor. "Academic research?" She laughed seductively as she kicked the pooled fabric out of the way and invited him to admire her. Tapping her chin in a look of playful speculation she studied him with a smile. "Well… a little perhaps. There's been quite a bit of debate about you after all, dear one. But I think it safe to say my interest in you tonight, is almost entirely personal. You've been hiding behind your books too long, Raziel, your clansmen have despaired at ever … getting to know you better."

Reaching for him with both hands, she smirked again as she helped to undress him. The touch of her hands was nearly his undoing. Raziel clenched his jaw and told himself to at least make it as far as the bed before he made a fool of himself. For her part she seemed amused by his struggles, petting his skin like he was some sort of rare pelt at the market place.

"Very nice." She complemented him as she encouraged him to lean against the wall for support. Pausing to kiss his stomach she nuzzled at the long scar Faustus had left him. "The man was clearly not an art lover." Lykestra looked up at him with a teasing smile when he made to cringe at the unlovely sight before her.

It took a second for his lust-hazed brain to understand the joke. He gasped in weak laughter, "He was… unbearably common, I've been told."

"You forget, sweet Raziel. I've met him." The huntress agreed dryly. "According to my sisters his much-boasted-of 'sword' was more of a dagger, as dull and short as his wit. No woman on the wiser-side of fifty would have anything to do with him." She continued to admire him for several long moments before sighing in contentment. "This sword, however, is as finely crafted as any I've seen. As expected, I suppose, for one of your status. You were built to please, Raziel. There is no doubt."

"But is that a compliment?" He was going to fail miserably, Raziel realized to his dizzy delight. There was no way to hold back with the new sensations pulling him further and further into frenzy. He'd had sex before, he told himself, as a human, surely the feeling of virginal over-stimulation was just a trick of his mind. He was going to lose it soon. Part of him wanted it, with all the attendant embarrassment. The idea of the golden eyed succubus kneeling before him male pride. Undoubtedly she'd punish him for his impatience but whatever abuses were heaped upon him later, he'd have the memory of the powerful woman kneeling at his feet to console him.

Lykestra raised an eyebrow as she looked up at him, seeming to read his fevered thought. "Oh, is there a rebellious spark in you after all, dear boy? I _am_ surprised." She took him firmly in hand, delaying the inevitable. He'd been expecting the amazon to want to toy with him a little. They all seemed to delight in such games. And it seemed she was no exception to the rule.

"For every time you rush me here, sweet prince, I'll collect two more from you in your bed later." The woman looked up at him in playful threat. "If you plan to sleep at all between now and sunset, I suggest you learn some restraint in the upcoming hours?"

"Sleep is-" He gasped as she cut off his bravado by the simple means of releasing her grip. Raziel cursed and near wept at the rush of bliss, fire-hot joy stole the words from his mouth. Coming back to himself afterwards, he swallowed and almost laughed at himself on feeling the parched roughness in his throat. Had he been shouting? He couldn't exactly remember.

Only the fact that Lykestra was leaning against his knees prevented him from sliding down the wall to kneel in front of her in a weak pile of mush. She looked smugly up at him, barely winded from her labors. Damned women. Part of him wanted to roll his eyes at her superior attitude. The rest of him was firmly insisting that doing so would only guarantee that he _not_ feel the outrageously good sensation she gave him again any time soon. Libido won over pride, and he reached down to caress her hair in appreciation. "I- I repay my debts, my lady. Have no fear." It took him two tries to find his voice. That too struck him as funny, but he resisted the urge to laugh for fear she would misunderstand. "Sleep is for the weak."

"_Such_ a good boy. You'll go far, Raziel." She teased with a grin. "But I must confess, it amuses me to think… however inestimable your future lovers may be… That I was the one who had you first."

"But surely that honor goes to my own hand." He smirked down at her, receiving a sharp pinch on his hip for his rebuttal.

"Cheeky, boy, very cheeky. Now pay attention this time. There _will_ be a test later." Lykestra wasted no time in showing him, now that his initial need was spent and his wits returned, just how much better a skilled mouth was when compared with his novice fingers.

* * * * *


His plan to send the woman had worked far better than he could have hoped. Kain sighed silently in the shadows of Raziel's bedroom, enjoying the sight of the lissome blond vampires and his lieutenant together. From his hiding place by the open window it was easy to see the entire performance. Scent and sound made the pretty scene all the more alluring. He'd held judgment while she'd repeatedly availed herself of his child against the wall, but with their ensuing tumble into bed Kain had given up any pretense of not enjoying the sight immensely.

No one had paid him any attention as he'd made his way in stealth along the balconies outside. Inviting himself into the private rooms of his eldest had been child's play thanks to the talents he'd gained over the years. It was selfish perhaps, he mused, that he should intrude on his lieutenant's privacy at such a time. But the chance to witness such beauty after long centuries of idleness was too good to resist out of respect for stuffy decorum. Raziel would never know of his audience, his attention entirely engaged by the woman sharing his bed. Kain smirked at the young vampire's perfectly justifiable distraction. The Soul Reaver's aura shifted and stirred in the back of his mind showing signs of sharing his interest in the events taking place nearby. Not precisely aware of what was happening, he felt the soul within the sword stir and warm a little, its sleepy shivers of sympathetic desire stirring his blood as much as the elementary seduction playing itself out in the bed.

He'd used his own well-worn magics to mist-shift his oversized carcass through the partly open window of his child's bedroom, but it was the Reaver's shadow-cloak that kept him concealed on reforming. He looked down at himself and bit down on a chuckle before he gave himself away. There was nothing to be seen in his dim little corner of the room. The darkness covered him utterly, making it nearly impossible for anyone to see him either with eyes, or with occult talents. The sensation of heaviness, the dense warmth to the darkness around him was probably just his imagination. But the subtle magic almost seemed to caress his skin as the sword on his back murmured in his ear and warmed his spine.

He opened himself up to the weapon entirely, inviting it to feel his possessive pride with him at the sight of his eldest coming of age before him on the tangled sheets. Raziel had always been beautiful, in the Dark Empire, in the here and now, even as a wraith, the man had an undeniably beautiful, if wretched aspect. The reminder of what Raziel had become thanks to the Lake, and the Elder God only made his wholesome life in this 'restored' Nosgoth all the more miraculous. Kain studied his hands, little better than bruitish bone and leathery skin, and marveled at how his and Vorador's mutations were the only reminders left of how warped the world had been, or indeed would be come, if the Hylden's hellish energies were not contained. If they were ever a benign race, it was too late to regain such grace now. Even their auras had the ability to blight and twist the world around them thanks to their long centuries in hell.

Could the wraith within his blade remember being wholesome anymore? Was there anything left of him that remembered pleasure? Seduction? The pleasurable sensation of lips pressed to skin? He tilted his head back a little as he leaned into the corner, letting his cheek caress the massive weapon's hilt. It'd been a long time since they'd been close enough for such intimacy.

Raziel had lost interest in such voluntary intimacy long before his final evolution and destruction. Why had he driven the man away? Had Raziel's preoccupation with his clan in favor of his lord come about because of something _he_ had done? Or was it just the natural progression as they'd both grown older, more arrogant, more… monstrous. He sighed at the confusing nature of his maddened rationalization at the time.

All he knew was that over the centuries all of his children had spent less and less time with him, and more with their own offspring. They had become kings in their own right of their small corners of the empire, as it should have been. But Raziel, who had for hundreds of years, stood by his side both day and night to gradually lose interest in his attentions had been galling, he recalled. The growing power-struggle between them turned their later bedroom games from casual acts of sadism into something far more twisted. And yet, he told himself, regardless of blood spilled and humiliations suffered, the vampire had derived _some_ manner of pleasure from their wicked sport. Which then, of the two of them had been more insane? He with his jealously-untamable lust and paranoia? Or his lieutenant for needing such things so badly as to encourage him to further excess in order to feel properly sated.

Ironically the edge of guilt only made his enjoyment of Raziel's new innocence undone all the sharper. Kain bit the side of his tongue to keep from giving voice to his pleasure as he watched. The practical reality of their current physical incompatibility didn't stop him from fantasizing about doing any number of lewd things to his lieutenant as he observed Raziel with his new lover. Watching the young vampire tremble finish left him dry mouthed and aching with the beauty of it. Rolling on his side, Raziel unwittingly gave him more to admire as he caught his breath and politely listened to the gentle scolding his partner was heaping upon him.

Undoubtedly the boy was untried, Kain snorted to himself, but at the rate Lykestra was schooling him, he wouldn't stay a novice for long. Pushing her way up the mattress to lean against his headboard, she wasted no time in pulling his lieutenant's head into her lap. Understanding what she'd been heatedly whispering in his child's ear Kain almost laughed again, torn between wanting to add a chide of his own for the boy's thoughtlessness and a groan at the sight of the young vampire willingly dipping his head to his task in apology for his earlier selfishness.

How he missed that tongue, he sighed to himself at the sight of Raziel being tutored in the finer arts of pleasuring a woman by his demanding mistress. Lykestra poked and prodded her student for several moments while she set him to his task but then was compelled to leave off talking all together as he picked up the new skill with characteristic ease. She would have no further complaints, he wagered with himself feeling his blood warm with the continuing game playing out in front of him. Even if he'd been made of stone as he so often boasted, he was certain the sight of Raziel against the sheets could bring him to life. Even the Reaver blade seemed to respond to the pleasurable stimulus, thrumming with energy even as he was, alive in a way it hadn't been in years. He sighed softly at the sensation of its aura wrapping further around him, deepening the shadows that held him safe and discrete, almost embracing him as it crooned in his mind and soothed his trembling limbs.

Raziel? He whispered to it, wondering if there was reason to match the emotions he was feeling. Are you still with me, child?

For a moment he was granted a burst of unmistakably Raziel-like affection tinged with drollery, the spirit within the blade reaching out to him as if to ask 'and just who are you panting over _now_, you old fool?' Hs smiled to himself at the undercurrent of implication that it was a marvel he could still be interested in such things at his advanced age. Trust his former Raziel to rub his face in his potential limitations. He tried to express to the sleepy presence at his back just how capable he still was by sharing a recently reawakened memories some of their more intimate moments together. The sword shivered, seeming to laugh at him as it once again sank into sleepy contentment. Kain squeezed his eyes tight shut, seeking to hang onto the fading presence a while longer despite the impossibility of it.

No other lover could ever match you. He couldn't help but remind the blade in a fit of maudlin sentimentality. The sleepy scoff he got in rebuttal before the wraith's aura faded entirely made his chest ache with what he'd lost. It would hardly have counted as a worthy sacrifice, Kain supposed grimly, if Raziel hadn't been bitterly missed. He smiled as he resumed his observation of the pair in the bed. His lieutenant was once again being bullied by his woman. Willingly pliant as she re-arranged him to suit her, Raziel was soon draped in an artful position for yet another round of carefree seduction.

Such stamina would undoubtedly make him fast friends with the women in the keep, Kain mused, admiring the smooth flex of his child's muscles as proved his earlier lessons hadn't been for nothing. The vampire's expression was one of abstract concentration, clearly determined to not make the same mistake twice with his lady. Lykestra gave him ample encouragement, not as superior now that her apprentice was getting into the swing of things. As fun as their coupling looked, Kain couldn't help but find something missing. Raziel as the aggressor was pleasant enough a distraction. The boy was lovely in his own right, especially when caught in the height of passion. But watching Raziel with a woman just wasn't what he was craving. Now if she was the agressor perhaps? Kain smirked at the tempting thought, knowing full well that Vorador's wives would be well familiar with acts far lewder than any human could imagine. She'd do it, he was certain, if he asked her to. Better yet, would she be willing to share? He mused. Adding a third actor to his private entertainment seemed the far more enjoyable scenario. Someone to show Raziel the other side of pleasure, and also indulge his personal desire to watch the boy shared by turns between lovers of each gender would be the perfect solution to the craving he was developing.

Historically he'd never been keen to share Raziel with other men, Kain considered his more relaxed outlook on possessing this new version of his once favorite lover. If he could have done the act himself, then certainly, it would be another matter entirely. But obliged to wait, he found he didn't feel particularly jealous, at the idea of someone else taking his place for a time.

The pair of lovers switched positions twice more as they indulged eachother's passion. Kain watched in quiet enjoyment as one lesson flowed seamlessly into the next. Lykestra was a woman of her word he had to acknowledge. She had promised to take his young protégé in hand, and she was doing nothing less. From innocent squire to well-laid soldier all within the course of a single day. Kain almost envied his child's comprehensive introduction to the opposite sex. His own tutorials as a boy had been far more piece-meal. Perks, he supposed, of having one's first encounter with an amazon. They were as shameless about their bodies, and their desires, as a woman possibly could be. Who better to show a young man what lovemaking ought to be like? And as Raziel had no memory of his human life from centuries before, there was no possibility of misplaced morals ruining his enjoyment of the carnal pleasures offered. Still, all good things had to come to an end. Exhausted Raziel fell back against the sheets a final time and not even his lover's encouragement could give him the will to move again.

Lykestra made a show of smoothing back his dark sweat-damp hair and kissing him companionably as they murmured some final nonsense to eachother. Kain sighed again as she did. Watching the vampire's eyes drift shut, he felt the moment when the boy succumbed to sleep at last. He'd earned it, Kain smirked to himself. Not half of the men who tried could perform as well on their first attempt at getting between an amazon's legs. Still, she seemed more like the fledgling's doting mother than his mistress as she climbed out of his bed in order to retrieve and organize first his bedding and then the room at large, undoing much of the chaos she had wrought in getting the man into bed in the first place. Only when she was done lacing closed her top did she stare cynically in his general direction. "I can't see you. But I know you're there."

"What gave me away?" He murmured softly, not wanting his voice to rouse the room's only sleeper.

"You made a noise when you…" Her eyebrow twitched in repressed amusement. "Forgot yourself for a moment. I take it my work tonight has been sufficient to please you?"

"There was never any doubt." Kain nudged the Soul Reaver into unraveling some of the shadows around him, giving the woman the ability to see his outline at least. "Your services are much appreciated in this matter. I trust you will have no problem with further instruction in the near future? It seems you have a willing pupil."

"Most willing." She smoothed back her wild mane and twisted it into a rough bun before pinning it to her head. "I'd almost forgotten how uninhibited the young could be. It makes a nice change from my usual, I suppose."

"When you feel he's mastered the basics, Lykestra, look amongst the cabal for a soldier capable of showing him the rest. I would not have any aspect of his education in this arena be lacking." He smirked at how she raised her eyebrow almost to her hairline in cynical amazement. "I leave it to your discretion as to whom would best serve the purpose, but I'm sure you've lovers enough in your past. One or two might oblige, if you were willing to encourage them."

"You think he would find such… lessons… enjoyable?" She rested her hands on her hips. "He seems game enough to try different things, I grant you, but I would not force such a… personal preference, upon him unwillingly."

"I imagine you'll find him very receptive." Kain snorted in amusement at her concerns. "And you'll be there, after all, to ensure that any other teachers that come are respectful of his relative youth."

"And you'll be there… watching… just for the sake of it?" Lykestra challenged with a bold smile. "How long, do you think, will you be able to look without touching for yourself?"

Kain willed himself to mist, leaning backwards through the wall as he made his escape. "As long as I have to, woman. And not a moment longer." Her laughter came to him from the other side of the window as he rematerialized on the balcony, more in need of Raziel's touch than ever. The cool dawn fogs gathering over the lake distracted him as he navigated along rooftops and ledges to his own rooms higher in the citadel. The fresh air only served to re-energize him further. Kain cursed his sudden libido, nagging at him after years of relative silence.

Stripping down in the privacy of his room to nothing other than his harness, Kain gave into baser urges with a curse. Again the Reaver blade trembled against his back, pinned between his body and the sheets as he sought his release. Its magic cut through some of the chill of the room, covering his arms in phantom flames as it blindly sought the source of his distress and frustration.

Raziel! He called to it, wishing the soul within could manifest for even a moment. He craved the ghost might somehow become as real and solid in his arms as the boy sleeping off his passion several floors below. Whispers of lightening seemed to trace along his limbs, and within his veins, sparking and tormenting him as traceries of pleasure followed in their wake. Closing his eyes, Kain yearned with all his heart for the lover he'd once had, dredging his memories for a fantasy good enough to relieve a measure of the aching in his bones. Opening his eyes again he gasped at how the wish had become manifest, almost overcome by shock at the sight of lean muscles flexing before his eyes, the solid weight of Raziel spread over his hips. Caught in the act, he could do little other than gasp with the sudden pleasure of it. All the while Raziel moaned at the back of his throat in a croon of pure lust, moving with his rocking motions.

For a moment Kain was thrilled by the perfect recollection of his old empire. But once the initial moment of lust was replaced with the steady heat of satisfaction he realized it _wasn't_ his empire. The windows of his balcony streamed with golden mid-afternoon light. The dangerous element dared even to illuminate his bedding in places. He blinked at the sight of Raziel's leg, caught in a patch of sunlight, but seemingly entirely wholesome just the same. That clue forced him to acknowledge the far greater one that somehow he'd been ignoring.


The man above him was positioned as he was not because of just some whimsical desire, but because any other arrangement would have been decidedly difficult with the enormous appendages mounted between his shoulder blades. They were partly fanned out behind Raziel acting a counterbalance, Kain mused, to his otherwise unsteady angle. With each moment of shared delight they flexed a little, their hidden muscles bunching with his lieutenant's pleasure even as the vampire's stomach did. This wasn't his old Raziel, he thought dazedly as he stared up at the handsome vampire above him, but some new one? It was hard to worry or even feel surprised when all that he wanted was to finish what they'd started without delay.

"What are you waiting for, an invitation?" Raziel opened his eyes to stare down at him in playful challenge. Kain lost himself without further prompting, taking the paradise offered. For his part, the dark winged angel above him simply threw back his head and cried out his joy as he too celebrated their union.

Blinking again Kain hissed in annoyance to find himself alone in his bedroom, dawn only just breaking outside his window. He sighed and wiped them on the sheets feeling too boneless to do something productive like clean himself up just yet. He flipped a corner of his quilt over his hips for the sake of any fool who might barge in, and pillowed his head on his sword's hilt for a nap. "You're not supposed to be encouraging me, you know." He murmured to the sleepy aura of the weapon at his back. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you approved of this idiotic plan of mine to debauch you a second time in as many lifetimes. You would think you'd have learned by now that sleeping with me can only bring trouble."

The sword ignored him, as Raziel often did after sex when he gave in to the impulse to talk nonsense for a while. He snorted in tired amusement at how predictable the man was, even now. Closing his eyes Kain told himself that he could afford a short nap, after the night he'd had. It was the most fun he'd had at a party in centuries