Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the plot and the characters I've invented. I make no profit from this work. It is purely for my own entertainment.

Author's Note: I've had this up on AFF, but I've come to realise that any adult content will be so long forthcoming, that there is no point in keeping it only on there. I think the reason it was posted there first is because there was no Kushiel's Legacy section on FF. Now that there is, here is my baby. So far, it's fifteen chronological chapters, with the plotline all but complete in my little noggin.

As always, reviews are the lifeblood of a fanfic author, and I am a huuuge review hoar. So please enjoy the following, and I do apologise for the rampant spelling errors. I've done what I can to hunt them down, but...you know.

ONE

If I have ever been accused of folly, let it be known that love is folly, and I have been nothing if not a creature born of love. It was love that caused my mother to light a candle to Eisheth, and to implore her to open the gates of her womb. It was love that caused my father to prevail upon her to give them an heir of their own blood, made of their mad, god-fated love. It was a risk that she had long feared to take, for she is an anguisette, her eye pricked by Kushiel, former punisher of the One God, chosen by him to experience pain as pleasure. She feared to pass this sharp-bladed gift to her children, but through her love for my father, and her own desire to see the fruits of their blood commingled, relented, and I am the product.

If ever two people deserved one another, it is my parents. Despite that my mother is a courtesan, a Servant of Naamah, and my father trained as a chaste Cassiline from the age of ten, they have seen things that no mortal eye has any right to see, and done things that Blessed Elua himself commanded. It was a common enough jest, once. The Cassiline and the courtesan. My father took vows of chastity and self-denial nearly the same time as my mother took her vows to serve Naamah. When he was tested, as to follow love or duty, he made Cassiel's choice, to be damned rather than forswear love. He was declared anathema to the priesthood, and my mother's consort some two years later. Though they have had their disagreements, and tested one another beyond the limits of most mortals' patience, they have not parted since. To damnation and beyond, my father said once, and he has upheld his oath.

I was born in my mother's forty-second year, for though my parents had been together since the age of twenty, their singular lifestyle, and, indeed, their misgivings concerning conceiving a child of their own, prevented them from considering true parenthood until their mature years. They were not new to it, however, as they fostered a son, Imriel nó Montrève de la Courcel, a prince of the blood and a traitor's get twice over, who had refused to follow in his parents' footsteps, and whose marriage to Sidonie de la Courcel, the dauphine of Terre d'Ange, had precipitated my father's desire to have a child.

I was raised between Montrève, my mother's county, and the City of Elua, where the Queen, Ysandre de la Courcel, considered my parents among her most trusted friends and advisers. It came as a shock to her when my mother announced her pregnancy, but it had also pleased her greatly.

I was surrounded by love from the beginning, when my blue eyes opened upon the wide world. It was a beautiful childhood, mine, and even in the wilful height of adolescence, I never had an occasion to regret it. My mother named me Anafielle, after the man who made her what she is―a skilled diplomat and translator, authoritative and intelligent beauty, and the very mistress of covertcy. She gave me also my father's name, to honour him. Though I can expect no inheritance from his family, nobles of Siovale, I am the heir to Montrève, and to a small estate besides, called Lombelon, which, perhaps, will figure somewhat in what follows.

My childhood was both sombre and sweet, with very little bitterness. My mother was always the lodestone of my heart, and there has not been a time when I would not give my right arm to simply bask in her presence. There was, in her dart-pricked eye, somewhat deeper and more austere than one would expect of the former Queen of Courtesans. She was always beautiful, but she held the Name of the One God in her memory, and her knowledge is unfathomable.

Father was, however, my joy. If his face is betimes creased by the lines of deep thought, there has never been a time that I could not smooth them with smiles. He loves me; I am his pride and greatest joy. He taught me to hunt and fish, to ride, and to fight in the manner of the Cassilines, as he taught my foster-brother, Imriel.

Him, I saw often, for though he was the husband of the dauphine, and future King of Terre d'Ange, he was raised in my beloved Montrève, and called my mother his own before ever the thought of me struck her. He is terribly beautiful, my brother who is not my flesh, with midnight blue eyes and skin like new ivory, blue-black hair like raven silk, and a lithe, almost feline grace. When I was young, I envied him his beauty, though I am, myself, d'Angeline, the daughter of the most celebrated courtesan in three hundred years.

My mother says it is a trait inherited from my father, my unheeding acceptance of my own beauty. She says we are both as heedless of it as a drunken spendthrift with coin.

When my mother prayed to Eisheth, she had no thought for my breeding and appearance, though in the Night Court, where she was raised, there are many strictures as to the blending of blood. She and my father are as unlike one another as night to day. My mother is diminutive, small of stature and limb, her mother having been an adept of Jasmine House of the Night Court. Her hair and eyes are dark, her limbs slender and pliant. My father, however, is tall and loose-jointed, with a skin that easily accepts the sun, and tames it into a mellow, golden hue. His hair, wheat-blond, his eyes, summer-sky blue. They were both beautiful, but very different.

In a strange quirk of fate, I took, in the main, after my father, with his eyes and build, my features modelling strongly after his. My hair, however, remained stubbornly black. It is said that Bhodistani blood runs in the veins of Jasmine House, and Eastern blood throws ever true. I do not know if it is true, only that it may not be untrue.

It was in my ninth year that the letter came. Ysandre de la Courcel often summoned my parents to the City of Elua, and betimes they took me, but this time, my presence was specifically requested.

I was in the mews, handling gyr-hawks with the falconer, Valien Agout, when my father's shadow fell upon me. 'Ana,' he came, and tugged my braid lovingly. 'Your mother has had a letter from the queen.'

'Oh?' I smiled, for this often meant a present for me from Imriel.

'Yes. We are going to the City of Elua. It seems as though the queen wishes to speak with you on a matter of some import.'

I did not know what to make of this outlandish statement, for as I recalled, Ysandre scarcely paid me any heed beside the occasional indulgent smile. I knew she regarded my parents highly, for they had been the saviours of the realm, and on more than one occasion, but I was nothing more than their late-gotten offspring. True, Imriel considered me his sister, but that meant very little to the Queen of Terre d'Ange.

Nevertheless, my bags were packed in a trice, and I was very soon riding alongside my father at the head of a retinue, bound for the City. The retainers of Montrève are familiar with travel, and my favourite member of our household, the steward, Ti-Philippe, rode alongside me as well, playing a lively air on his flute. 'There, little Anafielle,' he smiled at me, 'you seem so dour. Has your mother given you the Name of God to keep, and turned your little smile upside-down?'

'Tell me truly, Philippe,' I replied grimly, 'do you think the Queen of Terre d'Ange would begrudge the daughter of her Champion the County of Montrève?'

Philippe's smile faded abruptly. When I was born, Imriel had been the heir to Montrève, and had even borne its name, rather than acknowledge his traitorous ancestry. But my birth had caused him to forswear Montrève as his birthright, remanding it to me as inheritance. I wondered, childishly, whether Ysandre regretted the loss of the idyllic Siovalese holding. To me, it was paradise itself, and I doubted even the true Terre d'Ange that lies beyond could compare to my home.

'Your mind does work like your mother's, little Ana, but I think you have less to fear for Montrève, and more to fear from the expectations the queen has for you.'

'Anafielle,' my father turned, shifting in the saddle so that I would bear the full weight of his attention. 'You must not question Ysandre. She is our queen, and the near-cousin to your mother. Mayhap she has sent us into dire places, but never has she given us cause to regret it. The last great yielding we made to her was to give our Imriel to her daughter, and she has asked for nothing since. She wants the best for us, for our family.'

'I know, father.' I shrugged, and twisted my hands in the mane of my grey gelding, Hephaestos. 'I do not like court, that is all.'

It was the truth, and another reason for which my mother decried my similarity with my father. We did not enjoy the deft and complex threads woven by nobles, preferring instead the expanses of bright turquoise sky, and rich forests of Siovale. We knew to whom we were loyal, and told the world. It was enough for us, and it was only reluctantly that we could be drawn to aught else.

Our arrival in the City of Elua was joyful, at least. We retired first to our town-house in a quiet corner of the city, and Eugénie, the housekeeper, greeted us warmly, kissing me soundly, and making tutting noises at the state of my spare figure. Imriel was there, too, and he stooped to kiss my mother and embrace my father tenderly. When he came to me, he smiled, and my heart ached with his beauty, lavished upon me like a gift of the gods.

'Anafielle, love,' he accepted my kiss of greeting with a press of his hands on my shoulders. 'You resemble Joscelin more every day, though he never had such hair!' he produced a bundle, and offered it to me. 'I did not believe it was possible for you to have grown so much when your mother sent me your measurements, but so it is. And Favrielle said,' he turned toward mother, 'that you are ungrateful, indeed, who has a prince of the blood as your messenger boy, and who expects her to work miracles on unreasonably short notice.' I peeled back the brown paper as my mother chuckled, to reveal a swath of white silk.

'What is this?'

'You're to wear it tomorrow, Ana,' Imriel smiled, hugging me again, 'when the queen presents you with her particular proposal.'

I blinked up at him. 'What is it that she wishes to consult with me about, Imriel? Surely you know.'

'Phèdre,' his voice was mildly reproachful as he turned toward my mother, 'you did not tell her.'

'Well, and so,' her mysterious smile curved, causing Imriel's beauty almost to fade in comparison. Almost. 'You are the best person for her to hear it from, my goat-herd prince.'

'And no Daršanga to darken her eyes.' Imriel reached down, and unfolded the dress in my hands. It was beautiful, a lady's dress. 'Ana, Ysandre desires to acknowledge you as a member of our household―that is, a member of the House de la Courcel.'

'But I am not,' I replied, confidently and uncomprehendingly. There was a little twist roiling in my gut that wished he would not go on, but his indulgent smile informed me that an explanation would not be long forthcoming.

'You would be, if you were fostered with us.'

'Fostered?' I repeated, my own voice sounding hollowly in my ears.

'Yes. It is proposed that when you reach the age of ten, you shall be fostered, first in the Palace, and then, should you wish it, for a year in Alba, with Talorcan and Alais.'

I only vaguely recalled Princess Alais, who had bourne the future Cruarch of Alba. She took after her father, Drustan mab Necthana, as surely as Sidonie took after Ysandre. I recalled a tall, slim whip of a woman, with dark hair and a ready smile, in a beautiful d'Angeline dress, incongruously carrying a short bow, with a line of blue dots tattooed across each cheekbone. I recalled, also, her bright, violet eyes, the mark of House L'Envers, sparkling with merriment, and her fondness for animals. Such traits always adhere in a child's memory.

'Ana,' my mother's voice breached my reverie, 'if you do not wish to be fostered, my love, it is not needful. But your father and I have consulted, and we do ask it of you.' It was her way, my mother, to present her will so that I could not say no, even if she would have accepted it.

'I will hear the queen's wishes.' I said, 'and I will consider fostering, first in the City of Elua.'

'Ah, Ana, it will be such fun!' Imriel caught up the dress, holding it against me in a paroxysm of delight, and I saw that it was a creation which Favrielle would not be ashamed of. 'We will go riding, and I will teach you so many things! And we shall do our Cassiline forms together!' he turned to my father, 'You began teaching her very early, you know.' True Cassilines are sent to the priesthood at the age of ten, as my father was, but he had given me a pair of wooden daggers in my seventh summer, and ever since, had been training me the spheres of Cassiline discipline. I wasn't certain what my mother thought of it, for she said nothing, but she did watch us, every morning, as we drilled our forms.

'Imri,' I murmured, catching up my foster brother's hands, and they seemed very big, holding mine, 'will you truly watch for me, when I come to the City of Elua?' I saw his eyes meet my mother's over my head, and something passed between them.

'You are my sister in every way that matters, Ana.' He said solemnly, and his eyes flicked downward to mine. Imriel had the most beautiful eyes, like sapphires at twilight. They were a gift, I knew of the Shahrizai, his mother's kin, but I loved those eyes because they were Imri's. He leaned, and kissed me, then, and turned to my father. 'Joscelin, I'm surprised you agreed to this. You were always determined to keep me very close, in Montrève.'

'I knew you would be forced to come into your own eventually,' he put his hands out and turned me toward my mother. 'I wished you to reclaim as much of your childhood as possible, after Drujan.'

My mother took me back into my chambers, in order that I should not hear what passed between the men. The room had once been Imriel's, years ago, and still bore a few of his small touches―a baldric and hunting horn slung over a hook on the wall, old coins, and a token with a flower upon it. My mother took my hair down to brush away the tangles and dust of the road. 'You know, Anafiel,' she often pronounced my name in its masculine form, for nostalgia's sake, 'you are a very charming girl, but the hills of Siovale have scarce bred a lady.' I wrinkled my nose at her fond teasing.

'I don't wish to be a lady. I wish I were a boy. Then, at least, I could travel. I don't want to be a hero, like papa, but I should like to see the world.'

'And do we not travel enough for your taste?' she chided. 'We went to Marsilikos only three months ago, at the end of summer. Do you remember chasing sea gulls and watching the ships dock in port?'

'Yes, I remember.' I squirmed when the brush hit a snag, 'but I've never seen what you and papa have seen.'

'Elua grant it shall never be so,' she breathed, 'but I think I understand you.' She paused. 'Do not wrinkle your nose so. And mayhap, after you have fostered with the Picti, you shall not be overjealous of the places I have been, hmm?' and she kissed my forehead. I stayed as still as I could as she finished my hair, tying it at the base of my neck in a lover's haste knot. She had never before cut it, and it was heavy and lustrous as a curtain of silk. My mother, I think, was very proud of my hair, though betimes she deplored my knobby knees and overlong fingers. She prized the few marks that her blood had given me, though, I think, she never once regretted that she had not passed Kushiel's Dart on to me.

'I shall love my life,' I said quietly, 'wherever it shall bring me, for it was your sacrifice gave it to me.' I was suddenly conscious of the great doubts she had overcome to light a candle to Eisheth. When I looked at her, tears stood in her eyes.

'My darling Anafiel,' she kissed me again, and fervently, clasping me to her breast as though she were drowning, and I, her life raft, 'I have loved your life above my own. Kushiel knows it to be so―there was no greater beauty than that which you have given me.' And she pressed me again to her heart.

There were many times, I think, when I vexed her, with my ungraceful movements and coltish ways, for she had been raised in Cereus House, first among the Thirteen Houses of the Night Court, and there she had learnt all the subtle beauties of perfection. I, who had been bred in the mountains of Siovale, hunting and fishing, tending horses and sheep, and learning Cassiline disciplines from my father, had none of the niceties that she had acquired simply by living in the halls of Cereus House.

It seemed, however, as though I should have to overcome those wild ways.

On the morrow, Clory, my mother's maidservant, and Eugénie's niece, dressed my hair, and helped me slip into the dress that Favrielle nó Eglantine had made me. She was my mother's couturiere, and a genius with clothing. The dress was simple enough, with a froth of lace at my throat, covering me from neck to waist in form-fitting sheer silk. From thence, the skirt fell in voluminous, pale blue folds, covered with a netting of silver threads, sewn here and there with seed pearls. On the breast, over my heart, was a small, embroidered blue swan, the symbol of the House Courcel. When combined with my cloak, which bore the arms of Montrève, I fairly personified the proposal that was about to be made of me.

My father looked at me with narrowed eyes, but said nothing, for my mother was near to weeping as she gazed upon me. 'Oh, Joscelin,' she sighed, 'look at her! One might imagine that she was already of an age to be fostered, and was leaving us for the Palace.'

'And yet,' he murmured, in a tone of quiet command that brooked no argument, 'she is not. Let our daughter be a child while she is yet a child. There will be burdens aplenty as she grows.'

Queen Ysandre sent a small company of guards, as a courtesy, to escort us to the palace. At their head was a handsome man of perhaps thirty, with hair so blond it was nearly silver, and pale eyes. He nodded curtly to me, bowed to my mother and father.

'Maslin,' my mother's voice was low with astonishment, 'you!'

He nodded, almost curtly. 'Are you satisfied, my lady, with the sacrifice I gave to you, in return for my father's name?'

I blinked at the asperity in his tone, but also at the implications of his words. Here was another piece of my family's past that was hidden to me. 'Maman,' I said, quietly, once we were underway, 'who is that man?'

'Maslin, Duc d'Aiglemort. He gave you Lombelon when you were born.'

I shook my head, uncomprehending, for there are tales and tales of my mother's past, and her history is more singular than anyone's has a right to be. She had not, then, told me much of it, only that which she judged fit for the ears of children, and even then, I knew that she had culled much of it out.

We followed the entourage of guards to the palace, and were greeted by Imriel and Sidonie. Her cool, measuring gaze raked me from head to toe, and then, as I had before, and would yet, wondered why Imri loved her so. Even still, I gave her the kiss of greeting, her forehead smooth beneath my lips. 'Good morning, your Majesty.'

'Good morning, vicomtesse.' She said. 'Imriel is right. You resemble your father very much.'

'Thank you.' I watched her greet my parents, and turned to Imriel. 'I am nervous, Imri.' I said, in a small voice.

'I know,' he replied. 'I will hold your hand, if you like.'

'No,' I replied. 'No, I will present a face to the queen that befits both Verreuil and Montrève.'

We were led to the throne room, Sidonie and Imriel first, then me, and my parents the last. I was conscious of my fear, a trilling and indistinct fluttering in my gut, but also of the presence of my family, surrounding me with love. I had never known the sensation of being alone, or afraid for my life.

Queen Ysandre was seated upon her throne, alone save for two or three retainers with trays of refreshments, and her guards. She stirred to attention as we entered. Sidonie took her place at the queen's side, and Imriel stood beside her. I fell into a Cassiline bow out of pure habit beside my father, and did not realise what I had done till Imriel's laughter rang out over the hall, and I rose, to see a smile dawning on the queen's lips.

'Ah, Phèdre,' she said, as we all rose, 'I should have known to expect more from you and your mad-cap Cassiline.'

'Do you take insult, my lady?' my father's voice, wryly amused, came at my elbow.

'Ah, no. come, let us retire to my study. I have somewhat to say to all of you. And particularly,' she fixed her eye upon me, without, however, meeting my gaze, 'with you, Vicomtesse de Montrève.'

We followed, a strange retinue, trailing her to a lavish study, with piles of books and scrip, and the earthy wine-scent of ink. A scribe sat unobtrusively in a corner, transcribing manuscripts. Ysandre dismissed him peremptorily. 'I suppose,' she said, once he had gone, 'that you wonder why I should wish to have Anafielle fostered in my household.'

'I admit,' my mother said, 'I am flattered, but why such a fancy should strike you is beyond me.'

'Surely, Phèdre, you do not believe I am so ungrateful a woman to forget the services Montrève has tendered the crown?' then, she smiled, a little sadly. 'Alas, you are right, and I did not think of it. Sidonie did.'

Mother sighed at this, and I think it was her way of concealing her surprise. The corner of my father's mouth twitched. 'Sidonie thought I should be fostered in the Royal family?' I said, finally.

'Yes. She felt it would be a fitting exchange, as Imriel was raised in Montrève. Also, I think he misses you. All of you, mind,' Ysandre looked over my parents, but her cool violet gaze rested on me. 'But he speaks of you as though you were his own. His sister, his daughter, it signifies little. I think―' her eyes flickered back to my mother's, '―I think her birth replaced a little of what was lost when Dorelei was killed.'

'Who is Dorelei?' I asked, unheeding curiosity taking precedence over the few manners I had.

'She doesn't know.' Ysandre whispered, astonished.

'She is nine years old, your Majesty,' my father interrupted, 'and that is Imriel's story to tell, not ours.'

'So it is. It is easy to forget that many did not live through all that we have.'

'Easy, also, to forget that you watched much of it from the City of Elua.' Father's voice was not accusatory, but I marvelled at how he dared to address the Queen of Terre d'Ange. She seemed to take it in stride.

'Ah, Joscelin, you always had a temper.' She laughed a little. 'Howbeit, you would not be here if you misliked the idea.'

'My lady―' my mother began, then bit her lip. '―Ysandre. I believe it would please my lord, Anafielle's namesake, that you should offer his heir fosterage in your house. I believe, also, that it would please your father, who never wore the crown he was destined for. But the decision lies with Anafielle, as it did with Imriel.'

'So be it.' The queen turned her attention again to me, and it took an effort not to blanch beneath her steady gaze. 'What, then, shall it be, Anafielle Verreuil de Montrève? Will you take fosterage in the House Courcel, and add its name to your already impressive array of titles?'

'I think, my lady,' I said quietly, 'that Imriel has profited by his association with your family, even if he did not much like it betimes, and if it is his opinion that I shall, as well, it is enough for me.'

'And if I should ask it of you?' she said, something very like amusement colouring her voice.

'My mother already has, your Majesty,' my chin lifted, 'it is, I have said, enough.' This time, Ysandre laughed, a twinkling, girlish sound, and I stared at her in puzzlement.

'Oh, Phèdre!' she sighed, as her hilarity subsided, 'Oh, Phèdre, somewhere, your lord laughs at us both. If she has Joscelin's damnable Cassiline bow, and his unmarked eyes, she has your inscrutable loyalty. Mayhap your choice of names was only too accurate.'

'I wish you the joy of her, when she turns ten.' My mother returned the queen's smile. 'It is settled, then?'

'In her tenth summer, that is, the next, you will bring her to the City of Elua, and here leave her?'

'Mayhap we will send her with an escort.' My mother said.

'No,' father interrupted. 'No, I will bring her myself. And leave her in your care.'

'I should have expected nothing less of my Perfect Companion.' My mother smiled, and in that moment, though it passed quickly, they were the only people in the world to one another.

'I shall have fosterage documents draughted in advance.' The queen said. 'There will be a fête some four days hence, at which I shall announce that it is my intention to foster the child of the realm's first heroes.' She embraced my mother and father warmly, and kissed my cheeks, and I felt keenly the honour upon which she conferred me.

When we emerged into the throne room, it was not so empty as before. Sidonie was gone, but Imriel was standing with a pair of nobles, who, from looking at them, could only have been his kindred. The first was a man, near his age, tall and beautiful, his ripples of blue-black hair hanging in thousands of linked chains from his head. He was turned away from me, but I could tell by his voice that he was smiling. The other was a woman, her face like a jewel amongst the free curls framing the dangerous symmetry of her jaw. Imriel was laughing at what the man was saying, his head thrown back, sapphire eyes alight with the joy of it.

I had never considered, before, that he might have kin that were blood linked to him. I knew, of course, that he was cousin to the queen, but she was not his family as I was. He did not laugh with Ysandre.

My parents were still speaking in low tones with the queen, and I made to step between them, but Imriel beckoned to me. I hesitated. The floor between us seemed a very wide impasse, and I felt the emptiness of it, and that my destination would be to confront his kindred. 'Well, come, Ana,' he raised his voice. 'Come meet my cousins.'

The man he was talking to turned and saw me. He was beautiful, and I am d'Angeline. Even at so young an age, I was sharply conscious of his beauty, shining like a baleful star, contrasted against Imriel's familiarity. They were very like, and very different. I gathered my courage before me, and paced toward them, my head high, as though I were meeting my father of a morning to practice our forms. As I approached, I again gave the Cassiline bow, for I knew my curtsey was ungainly.

A bark of laughter, from the man, and he said, 'Ah, look, it is your Montrève in miniature, Imri.'

'This is my foster-sister, Anafielle Verreuil, Vicomtesse de Montrève. Never was a county more readily forsworn.' Imriel said, taking me by the shoulders. 'Sidonie wishes us to foster her in the City of Elua, when she comes of age.' I was astonished by the frankness with which Imriel spoke to this man, but then he said, 'Ana, this is Mavros Shahrizai, a cousin of mine, and one of few friends. This,' he took the woman's hand, 'is Roshana, also of the Shahrizai. These both, and Roshana's younger brother, Baptiste, were fostered for a summer at Montrève.'

'Well met, my lord and lady.' I said. 'I trust you were well kept at Montrève?'

'Why, of course.' Roshana said, her smile quick, though I had a feeling that it would not have been so easily earned if Imriel had not been present.

'Imri, she is the very image of Joscelin! Look at those stern eyes! I almost think she will chastise me for making eyes at Katherine Friote!' Mavros laughed, his careless grace a thing I had rarely seen in Imriel, who was wont, betimes, to brood.

'Ah, but she will not.' Imriel patted Mavros' shoulder, and something changed in the air. They both became somewhat more serious, and I could tell that even Roshana felt as though she should look away.

'I can see,' Mavros said, 'why Sidonie wishes to keep her close.' This, of course, made my ears prick, but my hopes of hearing why Sidonie's interest in me was so apparent were crushed as my mother and father approached.

'My lord and lady Shahrizai,' my mother said, but did not curtsey. My father, silent and austere, stood at her elbow. Mavros and Roshana both dropped hasty obeisance, which were not, however, rendered clumsy by their astonishment.

'My lady comtesse,' Mavros said first, 'you have not aged a day since we left Montrève.'

A smile flickered across my mother's lips, and I could tell she was pleased, and not a little amused. 'My lord Mavros, neither have you.' She teased. Roshana laughed outright at this, but Mavros mocked a pain to the heart.

'My lady comtesse has the right to wound the Shahrizai,' his smile was languid and sensuous, and I was uncomfortably aware of the fission between him and my mother, 'and we, for once, must learn to yield to pain inflicted.'

'Your heart, Lord Mavros,' my mother replied, in a tone of familiar banter, 'has never been imperilled, I think, for my sake.'

'If I were ten years older,' he sighed, 'Five, even!' and, with this, he made his farewell to us, and took Roshana away with him.

I glanced at my father, to see if he was not discountenanced by such brazen behaviour from my mother. He did not, indeed, seem at all astonished at her audacious conduct. He remained stoically silent, sort of very odd expression twisting his lips and lighting his eyes, by which I knew he was essaying to withhold a smile.