tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Royal Line Pt. 05

The Royal Line Pt. 05


Chapter Five: Sedulous

In the chapel of Castle Grey, Father Sedulous knelt before the altar. With closed eyes, he bowed his shaven head in silent prayer. Above him, torches illumined a great mosaic depicting God in the act of banishing the dark forests. Light, picked out in warm yellows and glassy beads, haloed His horned and bearded head, and gleamed upon His glossy hooves and the rippling muscles of His chest. Upon the altar itself lay two drinking horns, black as onyx and bound in gold. One brimmed, as it always brimmed, with salt water, the other with a wine so dark a red as to seem almost black in the torchlight.

The sound that reached Sedulous' ears was not a loud sound, but in the cavernous silence of the chapel, it might have been a fanfare. It was the sound of a man clearing his throat.

Sedulous stood and turned round in one surefooted movement. His right hand gripped the crooked staff that was the symbol of his office. It might not have seemed like a deadly weapon, but in the hands of a priest of Sedulous' rank, it was a greater threat than any mere broadsword.

Nevertheless, the dark blue eyes that met Sedulous' own were perfectly calm.

"God grant you good even, Father," said Prince Satin, smoothly.

"May He grant us that and more, little brother," Sedulous replied. He did not relax, but then he had never visibly tensed either. "I take it you are not here to say your nightly prayers."

"I am not," Satin agreed. "I had wondered if you had taken confession of our dear brother Prowess of late."

Sedulous ran a hand over his neat beard. He was a half-head taller than Satin, with the same dark hair and cobalt eyes. Beside the latter's silks and gems, Sedulous' white cassock and lambskin stole were striking in their simplicity.

"Crown Prince Prowess still confides in me," Sedulous admitted. "Of course, such confidence is a sacred trust."

"Of course," said Satin with a small smile. "It just occurred to me that now that our royal parents have departed for Windlewoods he must find the weight of his impending crown sitting heavier upon his brow."

"So he has lead me to believe," said Sedulous, stepping away from the altar and beginning his walk down the long rows of empty pews. "Still, unless King Potent were to abdicate, dear Prowess would have little to fear in his immediate future."

"Quite," said Satin, nodding. "Alas the king is unlikely to take so momentous a step lightly."

"He must be counseled then," Sedulous said, musingly.

"He will not hear our counsels," Satin remarked, putting a faint stress on the penultimate word.

"No," agreed Sedulous. "At court, royal blood is a well-watered wine, with little force or body to command respect."

"Yet there are others whom our father does respect," Satin pointed out.

"I see we have been musing upon similar lines, little brother," said Sedulous, with a small smile of his own. "We will speak further on this soon, no doubt. The Lady Rue's journey proceeds smoothly I trust?"

"I have had word that her company recently passed through Shepford," said Satin.

"Ah, Shepford," Sedulous said, the smile vanishing from his lips if not his eyes. "A charming little village, as I recall. I hear that they have tragically lost their blacksmith."

"How unfortunate," said Satin, his face a blank slate.

"Indeed," Sedulous continued. "The poor man—a Master Logan Ferrier, I believe—seems to have fallen face first into his own forge."

"You are very welled informed, Father," said Satin.

"Are priests not to be the eyes and ears of God on earth?" Sedulous asked, spreading his hands wide in a gesture innocent goodwill. Together, they passed out of the chapel proper. The brassbound double doors swung shut behind them with a hollow boom.

Satin departed for the upper keep, while Sedulous made his way to the suite of rooms set aside for the Greyleon chaplain. These were not ostentatious chambers, not by nobleman's standards, but the chaplain was still the second most powerful priest in the realm, and there were few comforts that his rooms lacked. Woven rugs and tapestries draped the carven stone of walls and floors. A fire of apple wood burned upon the wide hearth, filling the chambers with warmth and sweet smells. Leather-bound books, written by church fathers and heretics alike, lined Sedulous' many shelves. Feather pillows graced the high-backed armchair that stood at one end of the mahogany table. Covered dishes of chased silver sat on the table, steaming gently. And in the armchair sat Tara.


One month ago, Tara Asher was crouched in the shadows of a dripping alleyway. Heavy clouds had rolled in from the sea around Greyport and now the rain was pissing down. Drainpipes belched out rusty water to scour the gutters of their filth. Tara's sackcloth shirt and ragged skirts were soaked through and clung to her rail thin body. She shivered and tried to duck farther back under the overhang of the inn's roof, knowing it was useless.

Had she had any coin, she would have been inside the inn, warming herself by the fireside, maybe nibbling at some of yesterday's bread. But she had no coin. Tara was not above stealing and quick as she was, she could generally keep herself fed. This winter was a bastard though. Everyone knew that, up at Castle Grey, Queen Callipygia was nearing her time yet again and this litter, the wise women foretold, would be her last. As such, nobles and merchants were flocking to Greyport, ready to take part in the inevitable festivities. And following them, like wolves following a herd of deer, came the rogues. Cutpurses and robbers from all over the Rivenlands now prowled the streets of Greyport. Like predators everywhere, they'd soon staked out territories and dealt harshly with interlopers. They were an altogether more dangerous breed of criminal than Tara and she was unwilling to tangle with them.

Tara had fallen back on begging but, with so many visiting nobles about, the city watch did their best to keep the thoroughfares clear of smut-faced beggars. The same largely applied to smut-faced whores, and besides, at eighteen years old Tara was too skinny to attract many clients. She'd made the odd penny sucking off farmers' lads or merchants too cheap to visit a proper brothel, but those pennies were long gone.

The splash of heavy boots at the other end of the alley made Tara spin round. A great bear of a man, his face obscured by a matted beard and the tarred canvas blanket he had draped about him like a cloak, was walking purposefully towards her.

Tara was on her feet and backing away before she knew what she was doing. "What do you want?" she demanded.

The man didn't answer, but he slid a hand under the folds of his tarpaulin cloak. When it remerged, it held a knife. Tara turned to run, but her bare feet, numb with cold, slipped on the slimy cobbles. The man caught hold of her long, mouse brown hair. She felt the cold steel of a knife blade against the skin of her throat.

Suddenly, the inn's back door banged open. Yellow light spilled out, nearly blinding Tara. She heard the thud of wood striking flesh and felt the hand gripping her hair go slack as her attacker howled in pain. She fell to the cobbles and rolled over in time to see the bearlike man slash at another man with his knife.

The new man, who wore a long white robe, blocked the cut with the crooked staff he carried. The blade bit deep into the wood and stuck there. The robed man tossed both weapons aside and lashed out with an empty hand. He didn't even make a fist, striking instead with the heel of his palm. The blow caught the bigger man under the chin, bringing his teeth together with an audible crunch. Tara's attacker toppled slowly over backwards and lay still.

Sedulous gazed down at the starveling girl he had saved. If one were inclined to believe in acts of God, always an occupational hazard, one might have supposed such an act had placed him there to rescue her. He had just concluded his meeting with an informant from the lower city and was stepping out for a breath of the admittedly damp night air, when he was suddenly faced with that murderous tableau. He had reacted, for once, almost without thinking.

The girl was staring back at him. Her eyes were huge, a tawny gold in color, and beneath the grime her skin appeared as pale as any noblewoman's. She was also waifishly thin. Her cheeks were hollow with hunger and her sackcloth shirt had slipped during her struggles, revealing a breast that was scarcely plumper than fleabite. Her nipple stood out pink and stiff in the chill night air.

Sedulous stooped and offered his hand to the girl. "Here now," he said gently. "Let's get you inside. What's your name?"

"Tara, if it please you Father," the girl replied. "Tara Asher."

"It pleases me greatly," Sedulous told her, helping Tara up. "I am called Sedulous."

His voice was wildflower honey, dark and sweet. He led her through the back door of the inn and into the private sitting room he had rented for the evening.

"Sit," instructed Sedulous, motioning Tara to a chair by the fire. Obediently, she sat. Gradually, the sound of her chattering teeth quieted. Sedulous picked up a basket of rolls from the table; he and his informant had barley picked at them.

"Eat," he ordered, passing the basket and a pat of yellow butter to Tara. She tried not to show how eager she was as she tore into the first roll. It was barley bread, still hot beneath the crunchy crust. She gulped it down in two bites.

Sedulous watched the starveling girl closely, cogwheels spinning in his mind. On the one hand, this was not a good time for him to be getting distracted. Once his mother bore her last litter, things would begin to change, he had no doubt. On the other hand, too much plotting and worrying would only prove destructive in the long run. He could use a project.

Seeing that the girl was staring at him again, a second roll clutched in her hands, Sedulous smiled widely. "Please, have another. Finish the basket, in fact."

She did so, licking the butter from her fingers, while Sedulous sent for a hot bath and more food. The bath arrived first, a tin basin that was filled with kettles of clean, steaming water. Tara stared at it as though it might explode.

"Stand up," Sedulous instructed. Tara stood. Her belly, full of bread and butter, gurgled nervously. Sedulous walked over to her and, very calmly, undressed her.

His big hands were soft and warm as they pulled the sackcloth shirt over her head and then undid the cord that held up her ragged skirt. The greying linen fell to the floor with barely a rustle. Tara wore no loincloth and kept her crotch well shaven to deter parasites. She hoped that the Father might think it only rainwater that left the naked lips of her cunt so wet. Priest or no, he was a handsome man, perhaps thirty years of age. He wore his short beard well and his dark blue eyes seemed to stare right through her in way that made her fleabite breasts tingle not unpleasantly. Beneath his robes, she could tell that he was all compact muscle.

"Wash yourself, Tara," he instructed. "The warm water will do you good."

She did so while Sedulous watched from an armchair. His face was unreadable, though his interest was so intense as to be nearly palpable. Food arrived as she was drying herself, the serving men tactfully effecting not to notice the naked tramp in the middle of the chaplain's rented room. When they had gone, Sedulous motioned for Tara to join him at the table.

"Are you still hungry?" he inquired, cutting a thick slice off glazed ham as he spoke.

"A bit, Father," Tara admitted. "Father, may I put my clothes back on now?"

Sedulous shook his head. "They are still wet, and very dirty besides. I will have new ones obtained for you. In the mean time, I have a proposal for you."

"What kind of proposal?" asked Tara.

Sedulous met her question with another. "Would you say that to starve a living thing was an evil?"

"I would, Father," said Tara.

"So feeding a starving thing would be virtuous?" Sedulous inquired.

"I suppose so," said Tara.

"What of training to become a priest?" asked Sedulous.

"Why, that could only be virtuous," said Tara, aware of her position.

"Truly?" Sedulous said, raising an eyebrow. "Then what if that virtuous deed came at a cost?"

"All things cost, Father," said Tara flatly.

Sedulous smiled. "The wisdom of cobblestones. Well, my proposal is to bring us both closer to virtue, as should ever be the aim of any man of God. I shall feed and clothe you, thus bettering myself, and you shall train as a priest, thus bettering yourself."

"And the cost?" asked Tara. She could smell the ham from across the table. Steam rose from the other dishes as well: gravy, long beans, onions, and stewed pears.

"The cost to both of us will be the same," Sedulous said calmly. "We must defy God's wishes and indulge in lustful excess, untempered by the vows of marriage."

"'We must', must we?" said Tara, raising an eyebrow skeptically, though she could feel her loins growing hot at the very notion. She was glad her lap was below the level of the table. "I thought this scheme was going to bring us closer to virtue."

"Indeed it will," said Sedulous smoothly. "For every sin can be absolved, while good deeds stand forever, like pillars of adamant. And indeed we must, Tara Asher, for God has made me a thing of flesh and you are in no position to deny me."

Tara gave a shudder of delight to hear the steel under the sweetness of Sedulous' deep voice as he spoke this. Beneath the table, her fingers, dimpled from the warm bath, began to toy almost unthinkingly with the nub of her clitoris.

"True enough," Tara admitted. "Very well, Father. We'll do it your way. But..." she added with mock sternness, "your flesh won't get its seeing to until after I have some supper."

"As you wish, Novice Tara," said Sedulous smiling widely. "But for expediency's sake I hope you will condescend to be fed. I imagine it might prove rather difficult to eat one-handed."

He glanced pointedly at the place where the table obscured his view of Tara's hand, which, out of sight, had begun fingering her increasingly slick cunt. Tara blushed crimson but did not pause in her activities. Instead, she began to worry her stiff, pink nipples with her free hand and opened her mouth wide, like a begging fledgling. Sedulous inserted a forkful of the ham and she bit down. Gravy ran down her chin as she chewed and her own musky juices ran down the insides of her thighs.

When at last Tara's belly was full, tight as drum beneath xylophone ribs, she leaned back in her chair and let the orgasm she had been nursing wash over her. Sedulous watched intently as her thin body trembled and shook. Silently, he moved to her side and undid the cord and clasps of his white robe. Tara's eyes were closed, savoring the sweet sensation of being warm and full as much as the orgasm, so the feeling of a hot tongue delicately licking a dribble of gravy from her bite-sized breast took her unawares.

Tara moaned aloud and rolled her hips reflexively, her tawny eyes still closed. Encouraged, Sedulous began to suck on her little nipple, his hands sliding gently over that taught skin of Tara's stomach. She moaned louder and reached up one hand to the back of Sedulous' head, holding him closer. She ran her fingers through his close-cropped hair, delighting in the soft prickling of it. Her other hand groped blindly until it brushed by chance against the length of Sedulous' rock-hard cock. She tried to grasp it, but found it so thick that she could not bring her thumb and fingers together.

With a startled gasp of disbelief, Tara opened her eyes. Her jaw dropped and the she began to smile.

"A crooked staff for a priest," she giggled.

Sedulous' cock did indeed bend hard to the right, but even crooked it was still nearly as long and thick as Tara's forearm. She slid from her chair with a wondering sigh and, kneeling on the floor, began to lick the head of Sedulous' cock while she rubbed and stroked its curving length with hands still wet from her cunt's juices. Sedulous gripped the edge of the table for support as waves of pleasure rushed up from his loins, making his head swim.

"Are you still so hungry?" he asked, as Tara crammed as much of his cock as would fit into her warm, wet mouth, her tongue still working madly.

"Mm-hmm," Tara grunted through a mouthful of throbbing flesh. "Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm..."

Sedulous came without warning, filling Tara's mouth with his semen, hot and thick. She slurped it down greedily, squeezing his shaft with both hands to extract every drop. When he was finished, she licked her lips in evident satisfaction.

"Your turn now," she told him.

Sedulous grinned and scooped Tara up as if she weighed no more than a ragdoll. He carried her to the low couch by the fire and laid her on it. Gently, he spread her legs apart, his strong hands resting on the insides of her thin thighs. Then he lowered his mouth to her cunt.

No one had ever pleasured Tara before, not really. Men had taken from her, but never given. Sedulous gave. His tongue worked her clitoris, darting and coaxing like something molten, and stabbed in deeper to taste the secrets behind her swollen lips. Tara whined, high and animal, and this only seemed to make the tongue dance faster. Tara came, then screamed aloud and came again as his lips closed about her clitoris, sucking it savagely.

Before she could recover herself, Sedulous was on top of her. He pinned her legs beneath his own and gripped her flanks with both hands. He could feel her ribs under the warm skin and the wild tattoo of heart that beat beneath. He placed each thumb over one of Tara's nipples and began to knead her fleabite breasts in slow, ungentle circles.

Tara could feel Sedulous' crooked cock—hard again and huge beyond her imagining—pressing close against the lips of her dripping cunt. She writhed, arching her body and rolling her hips, and felt the great hook catch. Her cunt, still tender and trembling from the three orgasms it had already endured that evening, opened before Sedulous' enormous cock, which slid inside with tortuous slowness. Sedulous gave an involuntary grunt of emotion and began to thrust his hips in powerful, rhythmic motions. Tara gasped and moaned as she felt herself crammed full of hot, throbbing cock. It was a fucking like nothing she'd known before, because the priest's misshapen manhood not only pressed her most sensitive places but also plucked at them each time it was withdrawn for a fresh sally.

"Faster," she begged, and Sedulous obliged. He was nearly frantic himself, in any case. This little street urchin's cunt was so tight...

"Faster!" Tara pleaded. Sedulous redoubled his efforts. The push and pull of flesh on flesh grew overwhelming.

"Faster! Please Father, faster!" Tara implored, her voice full of a desperate need. Sedulous snarled, an unpriestly, animal sound. He was gripping Tara bodily now, drawing her featherweight body toward him with each mighty stroke so that their loins collided with heart-stopping force. Tara threw her arms about his neck and arched herself towards him until they were nose to nose. Sweat beaded on Sedulous' handsome brow and ecstatic tears leaked from the corners of Tara's tawny eyes. Unmindful of the prickling of his beard, she kissed him with lips still sticky with his seed, kissed him as though she would devour him.

They came as one, spurting and twitching and shuddering. Tara clung to Sedulous for support as her ears rang and her vision blurred. He held her close and lay back on the couch, wrapping them both in his robe. Soon the rhythm of Tara's breathing told him that she slept. Sedulous however lay awake yet awhile, considering the future and listening to the patter of the rain on the inn's roof.

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