Imp of the Perverted

Imp of the Perverted


Ann Marie Olson

Story 1999 Ann Marie Olson

Authors Note: If you are easily offended, then please don't read. It isn't my fault I didn't warn you in advance. If you take any of this at all seriously, then it really isn't my fault.


      It had all sounded good at the time. Isn't that how these sorts of stories usually start. The three of us, Sharm Lord Arkay Sergeyevich Azov, Lord Karola Mardinova Azov and myself, Sharm Lord Avilan Turovich Azov were all about to go crazy with boredom and being locked up in the town house. Even the twins and Vayer weren't enough distraction. So I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to go outside. I wanted see if there was a possibility I might get to see some light other than that made by man. It was a forlorn hope in Moskva in the middle of winter. Few have ever accused me of being a pessimist. Being more than slightly forgetful from all the long dark days locked into stone rooms, I forgot my heavy boots. The sun was actually almost out, briefly, and I stood there and luxuriated in what seemed like the bare moments it tried to peak above the southern horizon. Turning to return to the house I felt almost like I hated by now, I slipped and fell.
      Now this wasn't some little slip where you pick yourself up after a few curses, no. It was one of those spectacular, arm flailing, takes forever to hit the ground slips. You might think that after almost twenty years of martial arts I would be able to fall without hurting myself, right? ... wrong. As I sat there, on the hard packed snow, wracking my brains to try to think of a single curse I hadn't said yet, I realized I had broken my left ankle and it hurt! The pain must have inspired me to new lengths of eloquence in my cursing, for by the time I caught my breath both Karola and Arkay were standing there looking quite impressed at my vocabulary.
      "You know something?" Arkay turned to Karola and said with a twinkle in his eye, "I don't think I have ever heard the one about the Gypsy, the two cows, a rancid bottle of yak's milk and the three wise shepherds before."
      "Would someone please help me up before my ass freezes off?" I whined plaintively. I would have much rather have sounded in control and like I had meant to break my ankle.
      "We can't have that." Karola said, cocking her head to this side. "Its such a cute ass, even if you did almost break it."
      "We couldn't have that. What then would I do when you're too busy with the kids." Arkay winked. Huh? Did Arkay actually make an obscene joke in public? No, the sun had been swallowed by a dragon, therefore my hearing must have been faulty.
      "I fall down, break my ankle, and the two of you make jokes about it." I sniveled. Well, maybe snivel isn't the right word, but whining twice in a row was more than I could bear. Arkay came over carefully and picked me up. Now, usually having Arkay's hands on my body was a definite plus, this time, well lets say even the most perfect person would have jarred the damned ankle.
      "Sorry, Avilan." Arkay said, "but I think it best we get you inside and fixed up before it gets pitch dark out here again."
      "Sokay, it was a wonderful day though, for the entire half hour it lasted." I said, disgusted at the way this little adventure was turning out. Little was I to know my adventures were only beginning.


      After Arkay carried me inside and down to our suite deep within the bedrock beneath the Azov city house. Next year, I swear, no matter how much Karola bitches about the cold, we are staying above! Karola did her usual magnificent job of patching me back together again. For a brief while a lay back on the couch and simply lazed about as she did her work. It felt so good to have her there with me, feeling like she was ready for a good transfer. She finally stopped and I regretted every instant of her stopping. I was so looking forward to our next transfer I could almost taste he lips on mine and her tentacles around my arms.
      "I think we have a little problem here." Karola said.
      My eyes snapped open. After the years together I have learned when Karola sees a problem it is often in the nature of minor natural disasters ... floods, fires, earthquakes, suchlike. She rarely mentions the relatively minor vicissitudes of life, like getting run over by a horse, thrown across the room by a berserker or dealing with a pair of bitchy Sharm Lords who have been locked in the sharm for too long! Those sorts of problems don't seem to phase her much.
      Arkay stared at her in horror. He knew her almost as well as I did.
      "Neither one of you is going to be up for me this month." she tapped one toe on the stone floor in agitation.
      "Don't look at me, I didn't break my ankle." Arkay said innocently.
      Innocent, my broken ankle! He knew he didn't have to do anything about the situation and was being smug. Some partner in adversity he was. Anyways, "Why are you coming up short?" I admit it wasn't the most tactful thing in the world I could have said.
      "Because I have been on a three week cycle so the two of you won't wreck anything irreplaceable, for example, the children." Karola did not look pleased.
      I spread my hands and tried to look as innocent as Arkay. She didn't buy it. "We aren't destructive." I tried to weasel. Weasels are entirely under appreciated animals I thought, as weaseling seemed like the best tactic in the immediate circumstances.
      "What about the broken pitcher, the torn robe, the spilled carafe, the ..."
      "Enough already," I cut her off before she decided to remember the time I left the door open and a queen decided to litter on the bed, the time Arkay had forgotten to put the toilet seat down and she fell in, or even worse, the time I decided writing seemed like an admirable winter hobby and ignored her for an entire week. "Is there any thing I can do?" I probably shouldn't have volunteered but letting her continue her list of grievances was probably not the wisest thing I could have done.
      "You can find me someone to have transfer with."
      Me and my big mouth, I should have let her go on.


      When some people can't find a solution to a problem they pray. I prefer something more substantial ... I go talk to the two best gossips, Dominic and Raphayel, in the worlds best gossip generators, the sharms of Russia. They were an odd looking couple, lord Dominic would have been as heavy as I was if he were not a sime, but just as tall, blond haired and blue eyed. Sharm lord Raphayel was petite, whipcord thin and dark. I never knew how the two of them could stand to be indoors so much of the time, but at this moment I was very glad they could, since that was how they knew so much of what went on below the city of Moskva in the sharms.
      "So," after telling them my tale of woe, "What do you think I should do?"
      "Well, I think you have a problem." Raphayel said politely.
      Or at least I think he was trying to be polite. It certainly wasn't helpful. I could have been mistaken though and it was merely sarcastic. The number of times I'm mistaken, unfortuntaly, can fill a few calenders. It is not something to create a red letter day.
      "I might well have a solution." Dominic said, plainly.
      My back straightened and I leaned forward. A solution, a solution was what I required right now. I had hope Karola wouldn't steal all the blankets for the next month if she had to do a splice! "Please do tell, my good man." I was feeling extravagant, buoyant.
      "There is a price tag attached." he said.
      My heart fell into my feet, thump. Why is it there is always a price on these little transactions? Never mind, rhetorical question. "And just what is the price?" I could feel Dominic zlin me more thoroughly than he ever had before. One of my eyebrows went up of its own accord. Blink, I looked into his eyes, so much the mirror of my own. It felt wonderful, but it was only a step short of Domi running his hands up my arms it was so aggressive.
      "If you promise to give me transfer this month, I'll tell you." he proposed.
      One of those blue eyes winked at me. Blue didn't happen to be my best color though, so I finally decided breathing was a good idea. It was a really good idea, so I did it again. Yes, Dominic had asked for my hand in transfer. Nope, it didn't go away with oxygen.
      "We'll be a good match by the time Karola is ready for her transfer and this may be the only chance I get at you in my life." he explained.
      It was as good an explanation as any, I suppose. Sounded good to me, at least, to not have to go for so long without a transfer. Then I felt Raphayel's glare try to burn through my right cheekbone. Uh-oh. Pissed sharm lord was not a pleasant prospect.
      "Not unless my Sharm Lord Avilan Turovich Azov can find a lord for me, you won't be getting the chance." Raphayel said cattily to Dominic.
      Being a cat at the moment definitely had its charms ... say being able to hide under the bed sounded like an excellent idea. I looked anyways ... nope, wouldn't fit. When Raphayel used complete names, we had problems in Azov and hiding seemed like a really good idea.
      "What about lord Ivanya?" Dominic said with a grin.
      Oh-ho, I thought as Raphayel's blush lit up the room with its cheery glow. Getting into Ivanya's tentacles had even crossed my mind a few times, old bonded though I may have been.
      "If, I repeat, IF you can get her away from lord Marya for long enough, I think I might be persuaded to let Dominic go with you, once." Raphayel stated my doom.


      I sat at lord Ivanya's feet as she ran her tentacles through my hair. No, not. Just wishing it were so, sorry for the false lead. Actually I was drinking tea with her and discussing the merits of various bloodlines in horses. The woman could talk, I give you that. Every time I tried to get around to the topic at hand she neatly diverted me with yet another round of "But shouldn't we see about ..." and we were off again. I was about to swear lord Marya would never get here. It wasn't that Ivanya was hard on the eyes, far from it, with almost white blond hair and the most seductive laugh I have ever heard, it was her dedication to lord Marya. Admittedly enough, I thought Marya was quite a fine woman as well, but a bit fiery for my tastes. (and this coming from someone bonded to Karola might well give you the idea Marya was a bit, ahem, enthusiastic, shall we say)
      Marya finally made her grand entrance, but then she always made grand entrances. "I'm home!" she caroled out. I, quite sensibly, ducked as the two women hugged and kissed and generally acted like they hadn't seen each other in years, rather than the mere hours it really had been. No, I'm not going to repeat any of the mush they babbled. Go look it up for yourself in any cheap romance if you really feel the yen for such an experience.
      Feeling left out and ignored I cleared my throat. You would have though I shot them for they both looked at me like they had no idea who I was, where I had been, or even what species I may have belonged to. "Ladies, please. I came here ..."
      Ivanya rattled off the entire spiel I had so carefully prepared to try to convince her she really, really wanted to have transfer with Raphayel and not her usual partner, Findra. I hadn't even known she had heard me, much less listened to me. I listened closely, getting an entirely different take on what I had said as I listened to her. Was this an effect of going through the female mind or the sime mind I wondered in the silence of my soul where not a single female OR sime might ever hear it. What Ivanya had heard, it seems, was almost the exact opposite in implication of what I had actually said!
      Marya eyed me with a jaundiced look. I honestly didn't blame her, as from what Ivanya reported I was the next thing to a pimp looking for a cheap date for one of my girls as a special treat. "Ladies," I said. Maybe that wasn't the best word to start out with, for now I had both of them glaring at me, "lords," nope, that wasn't any better, oh well, I might as well forge on ahead, "please, I didn't mean my request to sound so harsh or unforgiving." Nope, definitely didn't help.
      The two of them waved their tentacles at each other in the fancy sign language some simes seem to love to use just to make us gens feel incomplete. I suppose I could have followed it if I really exerted myself, but right now I was feeling a bit lazy. I sighed and sipped some more of my tea, it really was very good tea actually.
      "OK," Marya said, unexpectedly. I paused with my mouth full of warm trin tea. "One one condition," you would think I would have swallowed at this point, but no, "I want Sharm Lord Fatima." I think you can guess what happened next, yes, I sprayed tea all over myself. If I hadn't been choking, I would have really stepped in it and asked why.


      Black. Black everywhere. Black velvet, black silk, even black wool and I swear there should have been black silver. I knew the house color of Fatima was black, but this was ridiculous. The room looked like it had been decorated by a angst ridden teenager in the throes of a seizure of bad taste. Can you tell I don't like black?
      Admittedly Lord Nashen Fatima looked quite grand in black, but when the entire suite is decorated in the color it is a mite depressing. His Sharm Lord, Taina Fatima looked as splendid in the color in quite a different way. She was a plump, fluttering young woman who looked about as harmless as a sparrow someone had upended a bottle of ink on. (I like that last metaphor, don't you) That was until I caught her bright brown eye and she gave me a lascivious wink. I jerked back a bit, as Lord Nashen laughed at my startle.
      "Don't you make the mistake so many others have of thinking my lady to be a fluttering little bird." he warned me too late.
      I looked at him again, more seriously this time. He had long silver hair and silver gray eyes. Against all the black, it made him look like a heirloom blade in a velvet case. He preened and I caught myself blushing, then figured why not and blushed anyways. The image of a blade in a velvet case stuck in my mind I tried not to think about it too hard.
      "Oh-ho, the tamer of wild Lords can blush." he said taking my chin in his tentacles and gently tipping my face up. I had been this close to Lord Fatima before, but the timing had been less than idea. He had challenged me to try to take Karola. This time I had far more freedom and I do have to admit at close range he was far more than grand. Particularly when he didn't intend on either killing me or stripping me. Although the latter had definate possibilities at some point.
      Images of what I would far rather be doing, such as ... well never mind, lets just say I had to pull my hand back before it did something embarrassing ... well, more embarrassing. He lightly kissed me on the lips and I am proud to say I didn't, quite, lean into it more than I had intended. Although I knew I had hummed.
      Taina's cheerful laugh filled the air and I opened my eyes. I hadn't realized they had been closed, to tell the truth. Nashen smiled at me, "Very, very nice. Sweet, as a matter of fact."
      "Do you let others have a turn, m'Lord?" Taina asked.
      My head was spinning enough as it was, so I thought it the better part of valor to submit to the inevitable. No, that wasn't it at all. Taina was a curvy and lithe as I would never have thought a fighting tough Sharm Lord could ever be. She added some decided embellishments on Nashen's kiss and ... well, lets get back to the topic at hand shall we, before we get more carried away with all this.
      "About my proposal?" I asked, then wondered momentarily why they laughed. Oh yes, proposal, hmmm ... bad choice of words there, perhaps. Proposals did sound like an excellent idea. Finding my train of thought sounded like an even better idea, though. Discovering it lying about on a side track, spinning its greased wheels, I got it going again, "ahem, about Lord Nashen?" oops, wrong direction, try again, "I meant to say, about lord Marya." Oh, I was being a barrel of laughs, despite the undertaker's decor.
      As soon as the two of them caught their breath, which took far longer than my comfort would have really preferred, Taina said, "Sure, its the middle of winter for pity's sake. It isn't like we were doing anything better. But then there is the issue of Lord Nashen...?" They looked at me avidly.
      I didn't think going there would be a really good idea at the moment even though another time, however ... get back here! I mentally shouted at the runaway locomotive.


      OK, this is getting really out of hand. Time to pull out the score card ... on second thought the scorecard is so scribbled on by now its illegible. Lets see ... Me to Dominic, Raphayel to Ivanya, Marya to Taina, Nashen to ... there we are, up to date. Lord Nashen ... Lord Nashen ... hmmm, hopefully less clever this time than the last ones.
      I looked at the solid steel doors of the Kirov sharm with trepidation. It seems whenever I come here looking for something I get into trouble. Of course not to say Arkay is always trouble, mind you, but there had been a few incidents ... well, never mind. If you haven't notice I hate winters which is the only time of year I come to the Kirov sharm and so that might have something to do with my dithering. Before I could make up my mind to go or stay, strong sime arms grabbed me and tossed me to face Lord Krasna Kirov, who kissed me, quite thoroughly. Hmmm, maybe this whole thing wasn't such a bad thing to be doing. I seem to be garnering quite a few kisses along the way, always a good thing, at least in my never so humble opinion.
      "What are you doing kissing my mate, you brute?"
      Good thing I knew it was Sharm Lord Yosef being himself, or I would have jumped right out of my skin and left it in Krasna's tentacles.
      "Do that again, Yosef." she told him, grinning up at me.
      "No fair, you get all the thrills as we stand out here in the hall." Yosef said.
      As Krasna's hands and tentacles were still trying to count my bracelets I wisely said nothing. See, I can be wise, sometimes, so there. Not that letting a Lord fondle my wrists in public was at all a clever thing to be doing, particularly in front of her Sharm Lord who could take me apart with one hand, sort the pieces with the other, then sweep them all under the rug with a negligent foot. Negligent, yes, well ... Krasna in a good mood could make almost anyone negligent.
      "Um, well, she started it." I was getting all the rings today with my quick wit, wasn't I?
      Yosef just laughed and waved us inside, incidentally, not!, separating me from Krasna. It was my attempt at being polite was why I hadn't backed away from her ... and if you believe that I have this promising colt you might want to look at.
      After well all got settled, "I hear you have been making the rounds." Yosef said.
      Yes, some bracelets are round ... oops, there we go again. "Well, you see its this way ..." and I went into my standard, now too familiar spiel.
      Yosef looked at me curiously, "Tell me again about Lord Nashen. I've never met him."
      "He's, well, he's ..." I thought about the feel of his touch and lost track of what I was saying, again!
      Krasna laughed at me. I mean she really laughed at me. This wasn't fair, she wasn't supposed to laugh, she was supposed to be sympathetic. Isn't that what Lords are supposed to be when a Sharm Lord drools over a Lord?
      "Tell you what," she said and I quailed, ducked and almost finched. I had heard this too many times of late. "If you can convince Arkay, to well ..." she actually blushed. I hadn't known the big, scary Lord Krasna Kirov could blush, and the color of her copper hair as well. I also had no idea she wanted Arkay. I mean I could understand wanting him, I sure would have if I were the right larity. Honestly, he was pretty damn impressive as he stood. I was certainly fond enough of him.


      "Krasna? Krasna Kirov? Lord Krasna Kirov? I never would have ..." Arkay stared at me. I tried not to giggle. Do you know how ridiculous giggling sounds coming from an adult Sharm Lord? If you don't, I wouldn't recommend the experience for the merely curious. I don't think I had ever seen Arkay this taken aback, by anything. I love the man dearly, but there are times when I think he could give a mountain lessons in imperturbability. Seeing him standing there looking at me like I had grown horns repeating the same befuddlement about Krasna finally overcame my restraint, I giggled.
      "Avilan, what have you gotten us all into?" he looked at me dubiously, then I could see him mouth the words, 'Krasna Kirov' and I lost it again. Seriously this time, great howling gales of laughter at the look on his face.
      I finally got myself under control, only by very carefully counting each and every button I could find in the room. "Well, lets see, there's ..." I tried to start my list again but he cut me off, quite unfairly I may add. I was really getting into this matchmaking business.
      "Haven't you forgotten someone?" Arkay tried to say in his best, 'I'm in charge here voice'. It failed though, due to the rampant curiosity I could see lurking beneath the surface of Arkay's normally severe outlook on life. I mean, he is a wonderful man, but there are definitely times when he could use some fun in his life. It seemed like this was one of them.
      "Oh shen! Karola!" I finally remembered the point of this entire exercise. I thought, rapidly, quickly ... anything. Ummm, oh there! "What about Sharm Lord Sergei?"
      "What about my father?" Arkay reminded me.
      "Bad idea, yes?"
      "Very bad idea." he looked at me with that horrible expression most people usually reserve for insects on the dining room table and students who haven't studied their lessons.


      They were laughing at me. Valentine and Kir, you know, the two kids who are the current leaders of the most powerful of the Demense ... yes, them. Val finally sputtered to a stop, holding up a leaning Kir and shook his finger at me. I had come here hoping for some support and they were laughing at me.
      "He did it to you, that devious ..." I never found out what Val was going to call his father, however interesting it might have been, because he started laughing like a loon again. This was getting old, either it was getting old or I was, and I didn't want to think about that while dealing with a couple younger than Karola, "Val, he did what?"
      "Arkay suckered you. He knows perfectly well Karola would do just fine with Sharm Lord Sergei for a single transfer but he wanted to yank your chain." Val said. Myself, thinking about it for the first time, fancy that, decided actually Arkay had been as bored as I had been and was looking for some excitement.
      OK, I got it. Admittedly I can be slow, as in the ice age slowly receded, but this was a bit more than usual. Arkay, my friend, my housemate, the person I talk about who I have managed bed and who I would like to, set this up. Then I thought about it for a moment. You know something, I've never had this much fun in the depths of winter before. Maybe I wouldn't hurt him so badly Karola would never forgive me. On second thought, maybe I should just kiss him. Even though after all the effort he put into this endeavor, almost none I'll have you know, I figured I might as well not disappoint him.
      "Currently the score is such that I am looking for someone for Karola." didn't I start here about seven people ago?
      To my surprise, Kir looked at Val and said one word, "Please?" I don't think I have ever even heard of Kir giving transfer to anyone but Val. He looked at me, I looked at him, we shrugged. I don't think he had anymore idea than I did where this came from. Must have been one of those female things if a sime and a gen were both as confused.
      "Um, sure." Val looked like bull had decided his hair looked quite tasty ... not sure whether to run, pet it or stay very, very still.
      "I like her, besides, haven't you always wanted a chance at Sharm Lord Sergei?" seems Kir was being very, umm, shall we say uncharacteristically forward today? She was right too, if the look on Val's face was any indication. You know something, seeing someone look like they had swallowed a live fish while simultaneously trying to keep from looking interested in a person of the opposite larity and keep any of it from showing on their face is one of those memories I will always treasure.
      "Well, I wouldn't put it that way ..." Val tried to waffle.
      "I would." Kir didn't accept the waffle.
      What had gotten into Kir? This was my week for stupid questions so I figured why not, "Kir, what has gotten into you?" OK, tact, tact, somewhere in the course of this whole thing any concept of tactful proposal went flying out the nonexistent window ... which of course was Kir's problem, like most of us.
      "I am sick and tired of being locked in a stone box with no one to talk to and nothing to do." she snapped at Val. I could understand her point, certainly.
      But Val brought up something I hadn't thought of, "You could talk to me!" Well of course, but family wasn't 'talking' it was what you did when you had to defend your latest blunder into the field of social architecture. What kind of man was Val anyways, to not understand this?
      "But you're family, that's different." Kir said. Nope, wasn't a male thing, definitely a gen thing.
      "Sister!" I had to acknowledge our, or at least my, newfound revelation.
      She looked at me, I looked at her ... aren't you getting tired of this yet? Anyways, the light dawned. "YES!" she cried and threw herself in my arms. This was the fun part. I had never gotten my hands on Kir before. Definitely the good part ... hmmm, kissing was the better part though. The new and improved, more forward Kir was certainly a lot more cuddly. Goodness, Kir was cuddly all on her own, I had never had the opportunity to test this theory before.
      "OK, you two. Enough of the conspiracy." Val tried to look serious.
      If you happen to be sime, just try to think of looking serious at two gens making out, just try it. Probably won't work any better for you than it did for poor Valentine. If you are gen, well, dream on, Kir was on MY lap. "It's a gen thing, you wouldn't understand." I said and went back to the business at hand, well, at whatever.


      I got the distinct impression I had been here before, doing something rather similar ... say draping myself over Sergei's big chair in his office and asking him to do something vaguely nonsensical. Nah, I would never do such a thing, certainly not twice.
      "Haven't we been here before, Avilan?" he asked. Well, maybe we had but this time it was different. "I distinctly remember the last time you decided to come here on a non-social visit and you not only swiped one of my best lords, but you knocked her up and kept her." he said and now I knew where Arkay got his best, 'I really don't think you are telling the entire truth and I don't think I am going to like it when you do' look, from his father.
      "Look, Vanya..." I thought, or at least tried to think, calling him by name would be a good way to start things off.
      "What sort of sharm tales has Arkay, my beloved son, been telling you?" or maybe not.
      "Well, he didn't tell us about the time with the two lords, the other Sharm Lord and the three kilos of honey."
      "He didn't, did he?"
      Oops. Maybe I shouldn't have been so specific. "Do you actually think Arkay would tell wild tales about his own father?"
      I think he knew Arkay in a good mood. It was a good story. Being very glad I wasn't a sime and so not quite so susceptible to Sergei's dubious look, I tried to look innocent. I don't know why but no one believes me when I try to look innocent. Really I am, I mean just because I kiss almost anyone who looks like they would like it, have been known to look at a pretty sime when I get the chance or even flirt audaciously at the drop of a robe ... well maybe a few people might think I am a bit forward.
      "Did he ever tell you about the pretty young Lord, the chocolate and the exotic dancer?" he asked, smiling at me, showing perhaps a bit more fang than I was used to seeing from Sergei.
      Actually I hadn't, "No, he hasn't told me that one."
      Sergei sat down and began a long tale, some of which might even have been true, of creative endeavors in the area of finger painting and alternative applications of silk scarves, ending with "... and Arkay could barely get out of bed the next morning."
      I howled. It was the only mention he had made of the name of the Sharm Lord. Arkay, next time I get my hands on some chocolate, you are in trouble, my friend. Even though the idea of Arkay dancing in nothing more than a few bits of leather and silk with a sword was certainly interesting. I would have to find out how hard Sergei was pulling my leg at some point, preferably some time when I had a good running start.
      "To get back to the topic..." of course telling stories was always a good topic, but I meant the one we were interested in for this story. "Do you have a partner this month?" I didn't think he did. For some reason Sharm Lord Sergei had been very wary of any lord who could be a possible match for him for many years now. Perhaps he was afraid of outliving one, sort of like some kind of pet. I know, petty of me ... but after a while some lords can be a bit on the immature side. I mean seriously, need, sex, need, sex ... there is more to life than these two things. Really there is, really and truly ... if you give me an hour or two I might be able to think of something. This is not to say some sharm lords can't be equally as immature, as long as you don't think of me in that category!
      "Please, I don't require your matchmaking skills. Look at who you ended up with."
      I thought this was a complement, "You don't think I could do as well for you."
      "That wasn't a complement."
      Nope, I guess it wasn't. "Um, if I could promise, really, they wouldn't be following you around afterwards?"
      Uh-oh. I knew that look too. "If, I repeat, IF there is no chance I will have them following me home."
      "Lord Valentine Kirov?"
      Hoorah! A hit, I dare say a hit! My but Sergei was still quite a fine looking gentleman, particularly with his eyes gone all to black with the thought of getting Val's tentacles on his arms.
      "So I can tell him, you are interested?" I said, face hurting I was smiling so hard.
      "Um, yes, well, I suppose you could do that, yes."


      What, me, nervous? I never get nervous. Irritated yes, on edge, certainly, nervous? nev ...
      "Aaaah!" OK, so I screamed ... maybe I was a little nervous. Amidst a fluttering cloud of papers I had thrown into the air like so much confetti, I turned around. I turned around again. Nope, still didn't help.
      "Trying to dance?" it was Kir.
      I had forgotten how short she was, stupid me. Looking down finally, she handed me one of the papers I had flung about at her little joke.
      "This is yours, I believe." she said, grinning. "As are..."
      "... the rest of them." I sighed. What a wonderful start to the evening, looking like a fool. Of course I hadn't exactly covered myself with glory in setting up this whole endeavor either.
      Careful of my dignity and fancy clothes, I knelt down to pick up the loose sheets scattered around my feet.
      "Hmmm, Karola seems to have you well trained." huh! I looked up this time to see Val looking down at me. That was a switch. Usually I felt like a giant around those two and this time I was looking up. Actually it was a rather interesting view from down here. Even though his smart comment about training hit a bit close. "How do you know it wasn't Arkay?" oh, stupid, stupid comment. Open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously. I certainly hoped this evening couldn't get any worse.
      "Because I would have trained him for other things than picking up papers off the floor." Arkay said with a wink and the evening did get worse. I mean, not even five minutes into things and already it was pick on Avilan night. OK, so I could have been more careful and not broken my ankle, or I could have thought about it and gone straight to Sergei or ... oh, well, live and learn. Just focus on picking up the papers Avilan and they might all go away.
      Conveniently, Arkay helped me get stuff cleaned up barely in time for the arrival of Lord and Sharm Lord Fatima. Kir was feeling quite rowdy despite her current condition and held my shoulder when I tried to get up. I couldn't meet the rulers of Fatima at Azov for the first time on my knees. Val took my other shoulder. Well, maybe I could. They wedged me between them. Hey, this isn't fair I wanted to say, but actually managed to not. Gee, the first time I manage to not put my foot in my mouth, someone else does it for me, "I suppose that is one way to keep a Sharm Lord from running away." Lord Nashen observed with a wicked gleam in his eye. But then he usually had that look to him. Sometime, I really wanted to try him, I found myself thinking.
      "Avilan, quit drooling." Arkay reminded me. I have no idea how he does that. Every time I get intrigued by a sime other than Karola he catches it. I think he cheats and it is because he is looking at them speculatively and projecting it to me. Or, well, I would think that if he weren't right every time. I don't think our tastes are so identical as to match every time.
      Eventually Val and Kir let me up. I wasn't entirely sure it was such a good thing. I'm not so certain Val thought it was a good idea either from the way he was caressing my wrist.
      A harried renSime tried to zip past the five of us. I stopped him and handed him the papers. Nodding like a bird he looked at his surroundings, two Lords and three Sharm Lords. He went haring off even faster than he arrived. Do you think he might have been a bit nervous at the group of us? Nah ... being looked at like a particularly tasty appetizer never has bothered me, why should it have bothered him?
      "Marya!" Sharm Lord Taina suddenly caroled.
      Oof! Good thing I got out of the way. What was this, old home week? Well, maybe it was. The two of them looked enough alike to be twins.
      Marya and Ivanya had arrived, looking splendid as always. I have always liked looking at the two of them, Marya dark and compact, Ivanya tall and fair. Beautiful couple ... but then looking at women has always been a favorite hobby of mine, sime women were even better to look at, at least in my opinion, I have no idea about yours.
      "Ivanya, I would like you to meet my sister, Sharm Lord Taina Fatima." Marya introduced them.
      Hey, I got something right! I hoped this wouldn't ruin my luck for the rest of the evening.
      Who? Oh, yes, me. Who was that calling my name? Tall, blond ... well tall and blond describes half the lords of the demense ... lord Dominic Azov?! He was dressed in the green of Azov but I had never, ever seen him wear the garb of Lord, only the far more conservative dress of a lord. Raphayel was on his arm wearing an outrageous costume, costume was the only word I could think of, with ribbon sleeves and a skin tight bodice, form fitting breeches and high boots. I caught the flash of bracelets on his arms and my jaw dropped, bouncing off the floor. Raphi was actually a Sharm Lord?!
      "Close your mouth before you catch a few more flies than you really want to Avilan. I don't wear them much anymore, but yes, I do have the right to them." he raised a hand in the gesture we all practiced and every Lord in the vicinity zlinned him speculatively. I loved doing that to simes but to see Raphayel do it was fascinating. I had known there was more to the two of them than they usually let on, but still, keeping secrets from one's friends isn't nice. "We never wanted to challenge Lord Azov but with you, Karola and Arkay as heads of the demense, we figured tonight it wouldn't be an issue."
      Oh, OK ... so I am slow sometimes, you don't have to rub it in.
      Dominic took my hand, running his tentacles over my own bracelets. Yup, he had been practicing. Most simes the first time they try to deal with the jewelry usually tangle their tentacles up at least once in it. Oh my, but it felt good. I leaned into him, yes ... nice, warm sime. It is one of my long standing beliefs the higher body temperature of simes was invented specifically to make gens feel good, other things about them too, of course. And yes, he did have the feel I learned long ago as the peculiar 'taste' of Lord and not lord. Hmmm, things were looking up for the evening. "Glad you forgot to ask me for my suggestion?" Domi asked.
      Suggestion, what suggestion? ... oh, yes right ... "I think things turned out for the best."
      "Good, I didn't have one."
      Bad Lord, very bad Lord. He sent me off on a wild goose chase and look where I ended up. Well, maybe you shouldn't, seems things were working out well enough anyways, even though I did harass him a bit for it by disturbing his counting my bracelets. Good thing he was used to them.
      Ivanya was no where near so lucky. Remember what I said about inexperienced simes getting their tentacles pinched by a Sharm Lord's bracelets? Well ... one of her dorsals got a bit trapped. Even though from the look on her face, Raphayel kissing it to make it all better certainly did.
      In my distraction with these new discoveries I had missed Sergei's arrival but he seemed content talking with a more than slightly nervous Valentine. "Domi?"
      "Yes?" his breath was hot on my neck, yes, distractions.
      "I think we might want to wait for everyone else to arrive, like say Karola." I reminded him.
      "Certainly," he said, playing with my bracelets. This wasn't helping!
      "You aren't helping, sweetheart." I tried again.
      "Yes I am," he rested his chin on my shoulder. This really wasn't helping.
      "I have to go talk with Val."
      He sighed, loudly. "If we must."
      Some simes ... one track minds. I went over to Val and Sergei. For once Dominic's antics did seem to help. At least by the time Karola arrived the two of them certainly seemed to be getting along, or I would certainly think so with Val cuddled up to Sergei the way he was when I left them.
      Krasna and Yosef made a grand entrance, and I do mean grand. Problem was Nashen took one look at Yosef and realized he was planning on having transfer with the top ranked singles fighter in the Demenses. The two men looked at each other. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look at them. We all looked at each other. Uh-oh. We backed up, everyone but those who were sitting and do believe they would have if it were possible. They stood looking at each other from the exact same distance a sparring match started from. I do have to admit they looked wonderful together, Nashen tall and elegant with his silver hair and eyes, Yosef solid and graceful.
      They bowed to each other as if it had been the start of a bout and even those sitting managed to back up. Then Nashen, actually managed to sneak up on Yosef and kiss him, just like he had done to me, fast as the striking of a snake but light as a feather. Yosef stood there, completely startled. I could see his eyes cross from here. The first time I had ever seen him taken aback by a sime. Nashen laughed and Yosef joined him. Good, no fighting allowed. I panted in relief. I think everyone did. The room panted in relief.
      Nashen held out his hand, tentacles extended to Yosef. Truce. The click as their fields finally intertwined was almost audible.
      Karola finally arrived as Krasna made a direct line to Arkay and snuggled under his arm. He still looked befuddled by her interest but she made no bones about it and kissed him thoroughly in appreciation. If Krasna appreciated me like that I certainly wouldn't mind and Arkay certainly seemed to agree by the time she let him breathe. Or at least so my impression went from the silly look on his face. Dominic thought Krasna had the right idea and she did. Yes, kisses with tentacles involved were definitely tasty.
      Kir seemed to have completely conquered her youthful shyness and pounced on Karola. I know, pounced is such a trite word, but she did! Karola was soon quite involved in the joys of running her fingers through Kir's bright red hair. I mean Kir has the wonderful sort of hair that just invites people to run their fingers through it. From what some Lords have told me, well at least one Lord, Karola, Kir's nager matches her hair. There are definitely times I wish I could truly zlin. The faint images I get, from what I've heard, are no where near as clear.
      One last piece of business. I untangled my hand from Dominic and raised my arms for attention. Boy did I get it! Everyone stopped, silent and looked at me or zlinned me. Woof! It was one of the most incredible sensations I have ever felt as the couples turned their attention on me. My skin felt like it was too small. Arkay raised his arms and for the first time I could clearly sense the image of great feathered wings rising over his head like a mantling hawk and he said, "Welcome to Azov! May you find life and joy as we meet here tonight. Our house is yours, as our life is our Mother's. To Rodina and the Demenses of Russia!"
      Karola dropped her showfield shocking the other simes in the room by projecting her need on the ambient. A ripping snarl went through the room as the other Lords matched Karola. Last, I could feel Marya and Ivanya join in.
      Oh yes, oh my, did it feel good, the combined need of five Lords and two lords. Dominic pulled me around to face him, silently I told him to wait a moment. Arkay flared his so distinctive field over the top of the darkness projected by the simes, joined by his father and myself less than a heartbeat later. The rest of the Sharm Lords were not far behind. Poised like that, for what seemed like an eternity, sime and gen, male and female, balanced to the very edge of pain until someone, I still am not sure who, flashed over into transfer.
      White hot and wonderful beyond words I dropped all the barriers against the Lord in my arms. Yes, oh yes, I could feel the ecstatic rush of selyn taken from my body and I drove it, rode on it. Soaring into the darkness that had been Dominic we met and twined about each other. Light banished darkness in indescribable rapture.


      I woke up in bed with Arkay and Karola. This was not unusual. As a matter of fact I almost always wake up, in bed, with them. We do live together after all. What was unusual is the fact I also woke up tangled in my own hair, Arkay's, and silver hair. Silver hair?
      "Good morning sleepy head." silver hair, or I figure whoever belonged to the hair kissed the back of my neck. Who do I know who has silver hair? Then I remembered last night. On top of that I remembered even more of last night. Last night was fun, lots of fun as a matter of fact ... absolutely wonderful to be honest. Rummaging through images of debauchery and pleasurable mayhem I deduced the person belonging to the silver hair must be Nashen.
      Tentacles and fingertips traced over my fortunately not ticklish ribs and I knew I had guessed right. "Nashen, we barely know each other." boy did that sound like a lame excuse, three legged lame.
      "You didn't think so last night." he purred and tried to distract me.
      It worked. "Mmmm, yes ... last night ... care for a repeat?" so it wasn't the most sophisticated line I could have come up with but under the circumstances I think I did pretty well. No matter, seems it was good enough.
      Approximately two weeks later ... "Arkay! Avilan!"
      "Yes Karola?" we said in unison, looking at each other. We were good at speaking in unison to Karola, particularly when she had a certain tone in her voice, like right now.
      "Do either of you know what today is?" she asked, with her hands on her hips.
      I thought she looked spectacular and enjoyed the view. Of course Arkay, the clever one of the three of us, said, "The day after your turnover?"
      He was right, it was. There was something missing in this picture.
      "There is something missing here."
      See, I do get some things right around here. What was missing I wasn't sure of though. Arkay figured it out quickly enough and went dead white. Oh dear, we were really in trouble if Arkay was blanching. What was it, what was it ... hmmmm ... I thought ... you could see the steam come out of my ears ... uh-oh.
      In a vain hope, "Cramps?"
      Wrong thing to say, "Yes, exactly ... I'm pregnant, again."
      "Congratulations," I told Arkay. Strangely enough he said the same thing to me and then we realized what had happened. None of us had any idea, whatsoever, and no chance of figuring out who had sired the child Karola was now carrying. Arkay and I were far too similar, physically and nagerically, to even have a chance of being able to tell after the child was born or even after becoming an adult of figuring who was the father. We all knew either Arkay or I was the culprit here, as Nashen had, ahem, arrived late as it were, but beyond that, well ...
      She tried to glare at us. We tried to look innocent, which we were not. Finally it was all too much and I had to laugh. Karola was so beautiful standing there, wearing not a stitch of clothes and trying so very hard to be upset and failing entirely at it. We held out our arms to her and she came to us.
      "I love you both, you great big oafs but this is a bit much." she finally gave in and laughed with me.
      "I don't think so." choir time again, making even Arkay laugh