Alendghar spent the night creating the most magnificent armor, non-descript from the outside but built to conform to the governess’ body. To those looking at it from the outside, she looked as if she was one of the men. Within, it fit her like a glove so that it would stay up. The breastplate was a double piece consisting of an outer shell to appear just like the breastplate worn by the men. The inner piece was shaped so that it fits her womanly dimensions, holding her snugly while keeping the breastplate from slipping.
The bindings would easily hold the breastplate and back plate without causing any problems. No cross binding. No loose bindings. The breastplate fit perfectly.
While the armorer created his masterpiece, Khardym taught the governess the basics of battle. Strike. Parry. Slash. Stab.
They broke off training at midnight. Khardym felt it wise that his mistress got some sleep. Tomorrow would allow him to teach her more. He readied himself to go.
“Khardym,” she began, “stay with me.”
“Milady?” he inquired in surprise. “Wouldn’t that be inappropriate?”
“My dear general,” she stated, smiling warmly, “I am not worried about inappropriateness. Both of us are free of any—relationship and do not need to be concerned about appearances. After all. Your soldiers all have families, correct?”
“Aye, milady,” he replied, “but I don’t see—”
“And all my maid servants have families,” she continued, not to be spurned, “So why can’t we be each other’s family? I am lonely and I can tell that you are the same.” She saw panic pass across his face. “Come now, General. I could see your thoughts when you entered my chambers earlier tonight. I saw how you feel. Why not act upon those feelings? I implore you to do so. I need you, dear Khardym.”
The general was beside himself. Never before had a woman so begged him to remain. At least no woman other than his beloved late wife. But here was the governess, begging him to remain with her for the night.
“Milady,” he replied, giving in to her request, “I will stay. Just tonight, no more. I—”
She walked over to him and placed her finger gently on his mouth. “No more words, Khardym,” she put her slender arms around his neck. “No one else will know you are here. Besides, the only person you have to answer to is me…and I am not going to pass judgment.”
His lips sought hers, but stopped just before they reached their destination. She could feel his hot breath. His greying beard brushed lightly against her skin.
“Milady,” he whispered, “I—”
He gave in to the urge and their lips met. Their lips seemed to remain locked in a kiss for a brief eternity. A shiver of excitement ran through both before they pulled away from each other.
“I am yours, Milady,” the general quietly replied.
“And I, yours, Dearest Khardym,” she replied.
In Alendghar’s smithy, Thyrakos stood above the armor and sword that had just been made for Niobe. Her hands weaved above the blade and armor slowly. She knew for whom had been made, and she blessed the armor to both shield and conceal. For the sword, she cast a spell that its aim would ever be true and it would serve its mistress well. She slipped an amulet in with the armor for extra protection.
She was often mistaken for a man because of her name, and so she disguised herself as one to complete the confusion. Not that it actually caused as much confusion as her name, but she liked being a man. It felt natural to her.
Being a sorceress, she could be anything she wanted. No one cared what a sorceress did. Not even the Guild. Perhaps the governess would pick her as the court sorceress. After all every governor’d had a court mage or sorcerer.
“It is done,” she replied quietly, “it is all ready for the fitting tomorrow.”
Alendghar nodded in agreement and smiled, signing that he agreed. He was comfortable with the sorceress nearby. Mages and sorcerers had never made him nervous. They were a part of the Renge. Just as he was.
He watched the sorceress leave. His work was done. Tonight, he would put the newly charmed armor and sword up where thieves couldn’t get it. Tomorrow, he would deliver it to its owner.
It was still dark when Khardym awoke. Niobe was still asleep beside him. By the gods, how he hated to leave her! He had not had a night like that since before—he didn’t want to think of the past. Still, he needed to go back to the garrison. He had to retrieve a clean uniform. He needed to bathe.
He rose slowly and silently so as not to awaken his beloved Niobe. She had ceased being “governess” shortly after she had asked him to stay. She had become his lover. Or was he now her lover? Or was it both? He was unsure.
All he knew was that he loved her. Deeply. So much so that he would gladly die defending her. He only hoped that Myrtia was not angered by his leaving her memory behind. After all, it was not good to dwell on those who had died. Nor was it good to hang on to dead loves.
He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He dressed in the dark and pulled on his boots. Picking up his sword, he replaced it in its scabbard. He turned and gazed upon Niobe’s sleeping form once more and smiled. She had brought him a happiness he hadn’t thought possible.
He left her chambers, silently closing the doors behind him so he wouldn’t wake her or alarm the guards. He silently descended the stairs and made his way to the front doors of the palace. At the doors, he stopped and looked back up the stairs, almost as if he expected to see Niobe running down them to stop him from going. He nodded. Yes, he could definitely make the palace his home, even if he was nothing more than Niobe’s confidant. He turned back to the door and went outside.
The streets near the palace were deserted. Nothing seemed to move, not even in the shadows. He stopped momentarily and looked up at the sky. There was a full moon. A lovers’ moon.
He returned his focus to his task. Walking on, he made his way to the barracks of the garrison. He desperately needed to bathe and get a clean uniform. He needed to do both without being seen.