/the usual warning that this is an M-rated story in general, and this particular chapter goes as MA, 'cause, you know, explicit, blah blah blah, right down here below/
Family heritage on the scene, though some other activities steal the show.
First Chapter::His Father's Son
Previous chapter:His Father's Son 15
Next chapter:His Father's Son 17
16. A Late Delivery From Ancestors
The winter holds the Keep in its icy bonds; the snow whirls in the wailing wind, forming drifts in the courtyard and on the battlement.
However, the wind and frost do not make it into the room, kept warm by the fireplace and a brazier on the opposite side next to the bed. The window is well secured, the walls panelled with wood, the stone floor covered with pelts and woollen rugs… the comfort of the high status Nathaniel once took for granted, and hardly expected to ever enjoy again, not so long ago.
A good place to spend a winter’s day and not fear the cold, or loneliness.
There is a profound remedy against both; a most efficient way of keeping oneself so warm that blankets are unnecessary. He is actually even perspiring, as he thrusts to match Astrid’s moves, faster and faster, as she rides on the wave of the impending orgasm, tossing her head backwards and moaning.
‘I do like to be astride, with the right man.’
Digging his fingers in her hips, Nathaniel groans: his own climax cannot be detained any longer, and so he slides a thumb along her slit, at that particular point which safely brings her over the edge even as he spills himself within her.
Gasping, she leans against his chest. “You’ve cheated,” she accuses him.
“I’d hate to interrupt your entertainment.”
“Pah. A lame excuse. But you’re forgiven, for now.”
She dismounts, panting, and Nathaniel pulls her closer, savouring the touch of her skin against his. Not being one to seek quick pleasure, come where it may, from whom it may, he has learned to live such moments to the full.
The warmth, the woman in his arms, the softness of his bed. A good moment…
A good life?
Definitely not bad, he decides, feeling not only sated but thoroughly satisfied, without the constant strain and tension of the previous months... without feeling the acute burden of being who and what he is.
Being just here and now suffices, for the time being.
When, where did it start changing?
What he likes to consider as a turning point floats before his eyes.
“You take an unhealthy fascination with that bow,” Astrid remarks with a grin, following the direction of his sight to the grandfather’s bow, hanging on the wall.
“Hardly surprising, given that it hangs just opposite.”
Smirking, she rakes her fingers through the curls on his chest. “And just why did you hang it there in the first place, huh?”
Nathaniel cannot but laugh. “Now I am exposed.”
“Quite so,” she agrees, glancing along his bare body and snuggling even closer.
Adjusting the hold of her, he feels a smile form on his lips again, his eyes never leaving the bow.
For a reason, milady. A piece of the past unburdened by any sin…where else should I want it than just there?
With a halo of blue light, an enchanted arrow pierces the revenant’s tattered shape, followed by a shriek, bordering between anger and despair. With another white flash from the Commander, accompanied by Anders’ bolt, the black form finally dissolves, its last hiss lingering in the ears even after it’s gone.
They pause to make sure that this is really over, until Anders nods. “Done for good,” he announces merrily, then looks around at the shattered and upturned coffins, their contents scattered on the floor. “Wow, what a mess…”
The Commander sighs. “Sorry about that. I’ll have these restored, of course… sorry.”
Now, how exactly are you going to tell which bone is which, huh? Nathaniel feels like rolling his eyes, but the man sounds more than just a little embarrassed, and so he checks himself. “That’s alright… though assembling the bodies might poise a slight problem.”
The guilty look he receives makes him grin inwardly: to his own surprise, the hapless state of his ancestors’ remnants does not discomfort him as much as he’d imagine it should. He feels almost none of the awe that he had expected: the bones are simply… bones.
It is the living that matter, not the dead. Delilah. Myself. If there’s yet any hope, any greatness in future, it will spring from us, not from these bones. A couple of decayed bones in a musty cellar: all that remained from twelve generations of power and honour.
Time to start rebuilding from scrap.
He looks around. The main chamber displays several entrances to yet other crypts. “Want to tour the, uhm, unafflicted parts, just to make sure that everything is safe around here?”
“Yet unafflicted,” Anders mutters, which earns him a glare from both Nathaniel and the Commander.
Searching the side crypts reveals no danger but as they return into the central chamber, the Commander stoops and picks something long among the bones. Inspecting what resembles a part of an old bow shaft, he turns to Nathaniel: “I believe this should be yours.”
Hesitantly, Nathaniel accepts the dusted shaft, only then realising that it is not broken as he assumed but disassembled. The bear emblem on its middle part is clearly recognisable, as well as the monogram above it. P.H., and some obscure decorative symbols…
Then, the information snaps in its place. Nathaniel sucks in his breath. “This… this must have belonged to my grandfather.”
Ned Cousland raises his brows. “I thought your grandfather was… Tarleton?”
“That was his brother. Padric Howe… he was not remembered fondly, you know – or rather, not at all.”
Loath to share the family history in Anders’ presence, he pretends to be examining the inlaid letters, until the mage pestilence voices his impatience: “Well, could we possibly move on with your precious useless family heirloom?”
Slowly, Nathaniel sets the fitting parts against each other, yanking the hinge together – and gasps, feeling a surge of energy passing through the shaft, simmering in the etched lines and runes, leaving in his hands a shaft that is simply perfect…
“Well. Oh. Alright, I revoke that useless part,” Anders finally breaks the stunned silence. “Now, shall we go somewhere more airy and sunny so that you can indulge in your newly acquired passion?”
They rest for a while in silence, until Astrid sighs and gets up. “Now, the least favourite part,” she mutters as she cleans herself, using the towel next to the washbasin. “Though I shouldn’t complain, this –“ she lovingly pats the rug with her bare foot – “is so much better than that the cold floor in the barracks.”
The glint in her eye warns him, and so Nathaniel manages to raise his hand in time to catch the wet cloth before it lands on his bare stomach. Seeing Astrid’s apparent disappointment, he almost gives in to the urge to retaliate, but the pool of semen and fluids already drying on him makes him reconsider.
“Yep, the good thing about being on top is that things tend to stick with their owner,” Astrid remarks with a totally innocent expression
With a grunt, he gets out of the bed and walks over to the basin to wash himself thoroughly. After that, he starts picking up the pieces of his clothes, scattered on the floor together with Astrid’s.
“What, you’re not coming back?” Astrid inquires from the bed where she has retreated meanwhile, displaying her features as she stretches voluptuously, and rather obviously.
He cannot help but smile. “Tempting, but I should probably get dressed already, in case the Commander summons me –“
“Oh, don’t you worry – as long as the Commander is busy keeping Maverlies warm, he’ll have no desire of you.”
It actually takes him a moment before the realisation sets in. “What?”
Astrid laughs so hard at his expression that she rolls on her belly and buries her face in the furs. “Which is the shocking part?” she gasps between the fits of laughter, wiping her teary eyes. “That the Commander fucks, or that Maverlies fucks, or that they fuck each other?”
“Well…” Nathaniel finds himself pondering the options and shakes his head. “But… Maverlies? She is his older by, how many?”
Astrid scowls at him. “Maverlies has turned thirty one, and I do hope I’ll have the complexion and tits like hers when I am thirty one.”
“Ah. Uhm. I see.” Then, a thought occurs to him: “And how would you know the qualities of –“
Surprisingly quickly, she sits up and tosses a pillow at him. It misses him and nearly knocks the basin. “From the bath, you pervert man!”
“I stand corrected, my lady.”
A quick look. “Well, not quite yet, but that can be easily corrected, as well.”
“Then I should probably return to my previous post.”
“That would be most prudent. And fetch that pillow, will you.”
Yet, even with Astrid in his arms again, he finds his mind still too occupied by the previous topic to start something else, even as her hand playfully follows the narrow strip of hair running down to his abdomen. He covers the hand with his. “Don’t switch the topic yet. I mean, the Commander and Maverlies, are they… you think it is, uh, serious?”
“Serious?” Astrid snorts and shakes her head. “Why? You think that every time two people are for a fuck, they must be serious? – Like, the two of us should be serious, too?”
Nathaniel hesitates, since, in his experience, no is not an answer women like to hear.
Astrid chuckles, undoubtedly sensing the reason of his hesitation. Turning on her belly again, she rises on her elbows. “I do like you,” she says soberly. “You are a fine chap to be with, and I don’t mean just in bed. But, except that, you’re also a bloody noble, and a Warden on top of it.”
“I’m not a noble anymore,” Nathaniel says rather stiffly.
Astrid snorts again. “Yeah, that’s why it’s practically dripping from you. An official seal does not matter, it’s what you are. – And here’s what I am: a farmer’s daughter and a soldier. I’m good with horses, that I am, and once I have saved some decent coin from my wages and loaned as much as I can, I’ll go to Antiva. I’ll get there one of those fine stallions of theirs and bring him back to my brother’s farm to breed with our mares. In a time, we’ll breed the best horses in Ferelden: fast and fiery like those Antivan, but hardy and steadfast like ours. Horses fit for a king. Horses as fast as the wind itself.”
In growing excitement, she tosses her fair mane. “At least, that’s what I want to do. Honestly, Nathaniel: can you see yourself fit in this somehow? Would you even want to?”
No, he doesn’t, either part.
As he keeps silent, Astrid reaches her hand and taps on his chest. “And what do you want? Really, for yourself?”
What do I want?
His eyes are invariably drawn to the great bow on the wall. ‘To restore my House and my honour’ would be the first-hand answer, yet it somehow feels dull and lifeless, when compared to the dream of the fast horses, with their manes and tails flowing in the wind.
“To… settle,” he says at last, struggling to find the words. “Not like, with a wife and children, I don’t think I’m a family type, but… to have a place somewhere, I guess? Close to Delilah, and with people who – who don’t mistrust me or despise me on sight. To belong, to be accepted… to be Nathaniel Howe and not the Howe, the pariah, the outcast…”
‘I do not know if there ever may come the day when I look at you and see just yourself.’
The memory brings him to a halt.
Astrid squeezes his hand. “I guess you’re doing just fine,” she says sympathetically. “I mean, when the Commander brought you along from Amaranthine, the guys in the barracks were placing bets how long before you try to take him out, or he you.”
Oh. So good to know. He presses his lips.
“Don’t pout, that’s how it was, really. Was. I thought you two are on pretty good terms these days, or not?”
The very embodiment of buddy-buddies, sure. “I suppose you could say so, though I never expected it. What do the guys in the barracks say to that?”
A sneer. “Those who lost most on you still cling to the hope that you will eventually try to cut his throat and they will get their money back. Other than that, they say you are a fucking broody type but you’re pretty good with your arrows – and I can certainly confirm that.”
So she can, definitely – as soon as he had the grandfather’s bow re-stringed and took it to the training grounds to test, she appeared to ‘watch his prowess’, as she put it, only to dare him to prove it elsewhere, as well, after a couple of shots. He got round to truly assessing the qualities of the weapon only the following day.
Smiling for himself, he caresses with his sight the elegant curve of the shaft, and then moves his eyes to yet another elegant curve, displayed as Astrid is still lying on her belly, not bothering to cover herself.
I do like you, too, my fine horse-breeder.
Pondering what she has said before, Nathaniel frowns. “That plan of yours… You will definitely need a loan, a good Antivan stallion costs a fortune. Who would borrow you so much, for a business that will start to pay back in years?”
She gives him an impish, and rather self-satisfied grin. “Well, I don’t think I’ll have to go very far – not even outside the Keep.”
He blinks. “You would apply with the Commander?”
“Why not? The Wardens do want only the best for them and theirs, and they usually don’t wear all that heavy metal crap like knights do – which makes them perfect customers-to-be.”
He probably looks unconvinced, since Astrid narrows her eyes. “Oh, I believe there is more than just one way to cook the fish… or persuade the Commander.”
Nathaniel controls his expression a second too late, and Astrid starts chuckling again. “’Was just kidding. Don’t worry, I’m not about to hop from your bed to his this instant – and he seems to prefer black-hairs, anyway.”
That strikes a familiar chord: when high on booze, Oghren has several times mentioned a witch the Commander supposedly took to… a black-haired witch, though hair was quite low on the list of features the dwarf found of interest.
A slap on his flank brings him back. “Again the bow?” Astrid scolds him.
He quickly lets his eyes pass her bare form, and trails the outline of her throat and shoulder with his thumb. “Just pondering your assessment of the Commander’s preferences.”
“Try asking Oghren if you dare, he seems inclined to spread gossip when drunk.”
“Oh? There is a time when he is not drunk?”
Nathaniel laughs. “Well, the legend has it…”
Astrid laughs with him, and as she shifts, Nathaniel has to admire her finely shaped buttocks once again.
His attention does not go unnoticed. “Much better now. That’s yet another advantage of horseriding, keeps your ass firm.”
She shifts again, and Nathaniel finds the curve of the ass and thigh she keeps displaying irresistible. Rising, he moves on the bed and places his lips lightly into the knee pit. Astrid squirms and giggles at his tickling breath, but as the touch intensifies, she gasps and clutches her hands at the furs and blankets. Taking his time, he traverses with his mouth upwards, along the inner and rear side of the thigh, grazing the soft skin with his teeth every now and then, licking and sucking, while letting his hand caress the length of her leg. He adds his left hand, to slowly descend on the cheeks of her tight ass, but never really touching the juncture; only slowly teasing, until the hand and the mouth reach their destination at the same time, pushing her legs apart. Astrid’s breath becomes ragged, issuing in soft moans: urging, pleading.
Nathaniel slides his hand under her belly. “Speaking of horses…” he mutters against that irresistible curve, placing a wet kiss there and trailing back.
“Horses…” Astrid’s voice is hoarse; yet, as she rises on her knees and hands, she glances backwards, with her lips curled. “Well, you still do miss a bit for a horse… an inch or two, no more.”
“Do I? Does my lady find me insufficient?” He thrusts his hips forward, to achieve the desired effect of Astrid gasping loudly, enveloping his length with her warmth.
“Quite the contrary,” she admits, sounding suspiciously out of breath as he sets a rather fast pace. “I might want to take a closer look next time…”
“You are most welcome. You’re an expert, after all.”
Whatever Astrid may have meant to reply remains unsaid, as he shows his own expertise, leaning forward to brush his hand over her nipples.
Shaking his head to remove his loose hair from his eyes, Nathaniel abandons the conversation, to savour yet another precious moment.
‘A place somewhere, with people who like me and accept me.’
It seems that he has found some of it, at least for the day.