Master of the House; A Tale of Lust

Master of the House; A Tale of Lust

Back when I started the Seven Deadly Sins project, I joked that there were probably enough off-shoots of Domerin that I could write a prompt for each sin featuring him. It’s taken some time but I have, indeed, found a Domerin for every sin.

So far we’ve covered Wrath, Pride, Envy and Sloth, Gluttony and Greed.

That leaves only Lust to round out the series. I had a lot of choices for this one and decided to introduce yet another new-to-my-blog version of Domerin. This one is a mage in a land where mages have become rare. Every time he works his magic, it exhausts him. To stave off the cumulative effects, the members of his household have contrived a game to keep him well-rested and in good health.
. . .

In this modern age, it might seem odd to send correspondence by hand-written letter, but some things simply couldn’t be expressed with digital representations. It made his afternoon painstakingly slow, but the task was not unwelcome.

After dipping his calligraphy pen into a fresh vial of ink, Domerin shifted his wrist so that the pen’s tip would drag oddly across the paper’s surface. To an outside observer, it might look like he was ruining the letter he’d spent the last hour composing, but forms like this required unconventional methods to properly convey.

He had just lifted the pen to refresh the ink when a soft knock came from the door. He took the opportunity to sit back in his chair and allow some of the tension to leak from his shoulders. “Come,” he called softly, wondering which of his maids was bold enough to disturb this rare afternoon of work from home. None would have dared enter his study without knocking – it was one of the house’s primary rules – but all would have been warned away by the head maid during their morning briefing.

A shock of unruly blonde hair quickly provided the answer. Domerin slid his glasses from their perch on his nose and quickly rubbed his face, in part to hide the hint of a grin that graced his lips. Of course Crescent wouldn’t mind risking the head maid’s wrath if it meant getting to spend an extra ten minutes with the master of the house. Especially if he thought Domerin’s grace would protect him from the threat of punishment. Similar gambles had gotten him into plenty of trouble in the past, but Crescent didn’t consider those incidents lessons so much as he viewed them as challenges. It probably had something to do with his feline nature which, luckily for him, was as least as endearing as it was aggravating.

“I thought you might like some tea, Master,” Crescent proclaimed as he carried a silver tray into the room, brandishing it as though it were a precious jewel. “If nothing else, it will make your work more pleasant.”

Domerin arched an eyebrow, unable to ignore the slight flutter of Crescent’s long lashes when he spoke. Tea and calligraphy didn’t often mix, though Domerin had ways of preventing spills that weren’t available to others.

“What kind of tea?” he countered, not yet willing to offer a definitive answer about the interruption.

“Blood orange, of course.” Crescent lifted the lid of the teapot when he said this, allowing the soothing scent of orange and spice to momentarily fill the space between them.

“Of course,” Domerin murmured, finally allowing his smile to show. “You know me too well.” The blood orange was his favorite, and perfect for fall afternoons, no matter where he decided to spend them. He motioned to the far corner of the desk, a space clear of books, pens and papers, where his maids often left him snacks or drinks they hoped would lift his spirits.

Crescent couldn’t suppress his answering grin, though it lingered only a moment. He was a spitfire, that was certain, tenacious when it came to the game of seduction, but comfortable enough to drop pretenses when he sensed victory within his grasp.

He swished his hips as he crossed the room, showing off both his grace and his figure, lingering for a moment as he bent forward to deposit the tray, letting Domerin’s eyes trace his contours for as long as he pleased. Subtle was not in his nature, but Domerin rather appreciated that. He played enough games of guess the meeting at court to appreciate a little directness.

“Have you finished your chores?” Domerin asked, returning his gaze to the letter he had been composing, though he was actually watching Crescent out of the corners of his eyes.

The maid fussed with the placement of Domerin’s tea mug on the desk, making certain it was in the absolute center of the coaster before transferring the teapot into a place where Domerin could more easily reach it. There was a small plate of cookies on the tray as well, hastily arranged. Domerin noted that none had chocolate or powder coatings that could damage books or papers after Domerin touched one and then the other. A level of thought he appreciated when it came to kind gestures.

“Most of them, Master,” Crescent replied dutifully, though there was a hint of tension in his shoulders and a tinge of contrite admission in his voice.

“You know Master Abolan will be cross if he catches you in here before you’ve finished your assigned tasks.” The rebuke in Domerin’s voice was purely feigned, but it did make Crescent dance nervously from foot to foot.

“There’s only the patio left to sweep, Master. The work of a moment, really. And we all know how you get when you’re working. You won’t take a break if no one reminds you.”

Crescent was flirting again, waggling his eyebrows somewhat suggestively. If he could get away with it, he would have suggested Domerin sweep the work from his desk and take him right now. But that would certainly gain him the head maid’s ire, even if Domerin decided to accept.

The game had rules for a reason. Domerin might have needed the outlet, given the high-stress nature of his job, but he also couldn’t afford distractions. And he had delayed just about long enough if he was going to finish this letter without having to start all over.

“A fair point,” he conceded, motioning toward the empty mug, “though I’d hate for my comfort to come at your expense. Not too full,” he added as an afterthought, not wanting to risk dribbling drops of tea across his paperwork.

Crescent hastily lifted the tea pot and poured a measured amount of steaming hot liquid into the mug. Each movement was suggestive; Domerin didn’t know anyone else who could make pouring tea from one vessel to another look so damn sexy. But he certainly appreciated it. When Crescent was finished, he lightly pushed the mug and its coaster to the edge of Domerin’s reach.

The master of the house took a moment to appreciate the tea’s spicy scent before he sipped from it. He closed his eyes, letting the warmth and flavor wash over him, a brief moment of respite in an otherwise dull afternoon.

“Thank you,” he said when he set the mug back down, noticing that Crescent had already added the cookies to the semi-circle of offerings that had come from the tray. “You were right. This was just what I needed. Though you’d best be off.” He gave Crescent a stern look at the last. “We all have our tasks to perform.”

Crescent deflated ever so slightly. The maids liked to bring him tea because he usually let them linger to refill his glass whenever it got low. It was a chance to converse about something other than work and Crescent had perfected the art of using those reprieves to procrastinate. But he was wise enough to argue – at least not today. He nodded instead and made his way toward the door, though he hesitated on the threshold.

“Please do let me know if you need anything else, Master,” he pleaded.

“I shall,” Domerin promised, smiling appreciatively as he took another sip of the tea.

Crescent grinned again, well pleased with his efforts, and practically pranced into the hallway, closing the door in his wake.

Domerin shook his head as he set his mug aside and retrieved his calligraphy pen. The court would be downright scandalized if they caught the barest hint of what took place in his house. That his maids competed every day to win his affections, and that the victor of that friendly scuffle often spent the night in his bed. But it really wasn’t any of their business how the kingdom’s sole remaining archmage kept himself rested and relaxed enough to perform his magical duties. So long as the staff was happy, and the work was done, nothing else mattered.

He had just finished the complex calligraphy patterns that concluded the letter when a second set of knocks drew his attention. Amusement momentarily danced across his lips. Was this Crescent come to check on him? The interval was just long enough that he wouldn’t be surprised. He reached for the tea pot and refilled his own mug even as he called, “Yes?”

This time, the door opened only a crack. The waves of blond hair that peeked through the narrow space were far better organized than the last set, a clear indication he had a new caller.

“What is it, Elian?” he prompted before the maid could open his mouth, wondering if he was about to receive a second tray of tea and snacks.

“I beg your pardon, Master, I had hoped you would be finished by now. I’ve retrieved several books you left laying around the house and thought it would be a good idea to return them to their shelves.”

“Of course you did.” But Domerin flicked his wrists toward the bookshelves on the far side of his study, indicating that Elian should proceed.

Unlike Crescent, Elian managed to conceal his pleasure, merely nodding as he opened the door and retrieved the small stack of books he had gathered. Domerin noted the way his eyes swept the room, lingering on the teapot on the desk and the mug in Domerin’s hand, though he said nothing about either.

Elian was good at hiding his true feelings, no matter how intimate the situation. Which suggested to Domerin that there had never been such a thing as trusted company during his upbringing. But whether that spoke of a dark and slippery past, or a far less humble origin than he claimed, Domerin couldn’t be sure. The man had never given him any reason to doubt his integrity, so he didn’t suppose it mattered.

It wouldn’t have been hard for him to find a fair number of discarded books around the house. It was, indeed, Domerin’s habit to bring them with him – or ask the maids to fetch them for him – and then set them aside when he was finished, only to move on to another book the next time he had a free moment. And Elian would have known which were safe to move by the thin layer of dust that had likely gathered on many of the covers.

He set about returning each book to its proper slot on the shelf, silent as a phantom and quick as a cat. This was Elian’s preferred method of slipping into Domerin’s grace, one that didn’t often occur to the other maids. Find some neglected task in need of doing, or anticipate some need Domerin hadn’t yet realized he would have, and fulfill it without being asked. It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t always pleasant, and it didn’t often provide an opportunity for conversation. But it did bring him within Domerin’s notice far more often than any of the other maids, which meant that he was a near-constant presence in Domerin’s life whenever he was home.

Elian finished returning the books to their shelves so quickly, Domerin almost wondered what the point of the excursion had been. At least until the maid held up the last book and softly cleared his throat. “Pardon the second interruption, Master, but I thought you might need this one.” He tipped the book onto the edge of Domerin’s desk so that he could read the title.

He recognized it instantly. This book had come from the nightstand beside his bed, and he had been reading it this very morning. It wasn’t the sort of book he usually let the maids handle, given the subject matter, unless he needed them to fetch it for him. And with a start, he realized he was going to need that book in just a few minutes, to finish the research for a spell he was hoping to complete by the end of the week.

“Yes,” he admitted, somewhat mystified. “Yes, you’re right. Thank you.”

He eyed Elian as the maid slid the book onto the desk, but his smile was neither smug nor pleased, merely friendly. How did he do these things? He didn’t have the barest hint of precog talent; Domerin would have been able to sense it. But his answer was lurking in Elian’s shrewd gaze.

He was a clever man. Good intellectual company. Used to thinking on his feet and outside the box. He must have siblings, then, or had come from a background where making himself stand out was more important than everything else. Funny how he could make a man want him with a kind gesture and a well-applied look.

“Do you need me to clear anything away?” Elian asked, motioning to the half-eaten plate of cookies and the rapidly cooling teapot.

“Not just yet,” Domerin replied with a small shake of his head. “They’ll go down easier during my next task, I think.” He was skilled enough at reading people to tell Elian was happy with his efforts, despite the lack of change in his expression.

“By your leave, then,” he said, making his own exit without needing to be dismissed. He kept himself facing Domerin until the last possible moment, so that he could adjust his course at the slightest hint the master of the house might want anything else. But Domerin was still mulling over the sudden appearance of exactly the book he needed, so Elian closed the door to his study without delay.

Time slipped by much faster over note-taking than it did over letter-writing. The tea pot was empty and the cookies had long been reduced to crumbs by the time a knock startled him back to the moment. His eyes flew to the wall, but he didn’t keep a clock in his study, partly because he didn’t want to know how much time he whittled away over certain things.

“Come,” he called, closing the book and settling back in his chair. When the door didn’t open right away he furrowed his brow and added, “Has something happened?”

This time the door practically flew open, though none of the maids would have dared to let it slip beyond their control. The new face was framed by raven hair and the cheeks were as red as freshly blooming roses.

“My apologies, Master. I thought certain you’d have retired by now. I… I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

When Elian had spoken thus, Domerin had seen through the veil of the lie. But when Sesha said it, he trusted it was truth. If there was one maid in the house who would never speak falsely, it was sweet, innocent Sesha, the newest of the bunch. He might have taken to the game, but he hadn’t yet discovered his confidence. He secured his victories by waiting for properly opportune moments, favoring large gestures over small, the sort that weren’t easy to compete with. Such as the time he had taken the household out on the back deck and cooked them dinner over an open fire when the regular chef took ill. No one had questioned who would follow Domerin up the stairs that night.

“You must have needed something?” he prompted, arching an eyebrow expectantly.

“I only wanted to return the last book I borrowed,” Sesha replied, lifting the book in front of his chest as if it might serve as a shield. “And I thought, maybe, I could choose another?”

Domerin almost laughed. “Help yourself,” he said, waving again toward the bookshelves that lined his study. “I could never turn away a fellow intellectual.” And Sesha wouldn’t make so much as a peep if it looked like Domerin was working.

He lowered his head as Sesha passed, thinking it would make the man more willing to take the journey, though his eyes did follow the maid until he had passed the forbidden section of the library. He had made it clear during his first night with Sesha the man could read any book he desired, so long as it wasn’t from the shelf reserved for magical texts. He didn’t think Sesha would be bold enough to disobey, especially not with Domerin watching, but it wasn’t the sort of risk Domerin was willing to take. Magic in the wrong hands was more dangerous than an armed bomb, and he was one of the few people in a position to understand just how dire that threat was.

It took Sesha much longer than it had taken Elian to locate the right place for the book he had borrowed. Probably because he wasn’t yet familiar with Domerin’s filing system. Then he stepped back and tapped his fingers against each other while he scanned the spines lining the surrounding shelves. He didn’t seem to notice that Domerin was watching him, though of course he wasn’t rude enough to stare. The winged elf didn’t seem to realize how charming he could be.

After a few minutes, he must have forgotten Domerin was still in the room. He started muttering softly to himself, listing reasons to discard certain books while favoring certain others. Finally, he lifted one finger and pointed at several locations in rapid succession, before finally allowing his fingers to come to rest on a book that was just high enough he couldn’t quite get it off the shelf.

He grunted with the effort of trying to release the thick volume without spilling the books surrounding it from the shelf. And he might have gone on that way for some time, had Domerin not crossed the room and retrieved it for him, slipping it effortlessly into his hand.

When Sesha turned to find the master of the house standing beside him, his cheeks once again caught fire. “S…sorry,” he stammered quickly. “I hope I didn’t-“

“You didn’t,” Domerin reassured, laying a hand lightly on his shoulder to reinforce the message. “I’ve been working all afternoon, Sesha. I could use the break. Also, I didn’t realize you were interested in the history of law.” He tapped the book he had just deposited into the maid’s hands. “It’s going to be an awfully dry read.”

Sesha’s whole face had gone red while he was speaking. “It isn’t so much the law I’m interested in,” he said in a rush. “It’s… Well, it’s hard to explain. But the laws of a place say a lot about its culture. So knowing where the laws came from…”

“Will tell you about the people who made them,” Domerin finished when Sesha drifted off. “Interesting. You’ll have to let me know if it lives up to your expectations when you’ve finished.”

“I will, Master,” Sesha promised, bowing his head. “Though I do think I should leave you be now that I’ve found a new book to read.”

“If you like,” Domerin replied, not quite able to conceal his amusement. Sesha was so much humbler than the other maids, though it may have been that he hadn’t seen through the head maid’s stern exterior as much as his fellows had. “Would you mind taking the empty pot and plate for me?” He indicated the dishes on the corner of his desk. If nothing else, it would give Sesha a way to explain why he had come. “And don’t forget about the last book you borrowed just yet. I’m going to have questions the next time we chat.”

Sesha grinned, pleasure momentarily overriding his embarrassment. “Yes, Master. Of course.” Through some feet of balance Domerin didn’t think he could replicate, Sesha tucked the book under one arm and managed to lift the mug, tea pot and plate without leaving any at precarious angles. He had just turned toward the door when another knock sounded, causing him to cringe.

“The door is open,” Domerin called, openly amused by the fourth disruption of the day.

His latest visitor didn’t hesitate on the threshold, marching straight into the center of the room and pausing only when his singular eye fell on Sesha. “I hope none of the maids have troubled you, have they?” he said, not even bothering to look in Domerin’s direction.

“They haven’t, in fact,” Domerin replied, shooting Sesha a reassuring look.

The winged elf bowed his head and hurried from the room, somehow managing to pull the door closed in his wake.

Domerin chuckled lightly even as the head maid drew a deep breath and released it as a noisy sigh. “I shall be more stern with my lecture tomorrow morning.”

“There’s no need for that, Seibel,” Domerin insisted. “Though I do wonder what catastrophe has driven you to my door.”

“Dinner,” Seibel Abolan replied without the barest hint of irony.

Again, Domerin found himself looking for a clock he knew wasn’t present. “Already? It can’t be that late, surely?”

Seibel folded his hands in front of him, casting Domerin a look that anyone else would have considered severe. But Domerin knew the head maid too well not to read the amusement in his single grey eye. “I could push it back, if you like. Though I must say, Master, it would be nice if you took the time for a proper dinner. You’ve neglected yourself so often of late-“

“All right, all right!” Domerin exclaimed, holding up both hands as if in surrender. “Dinner it is. It just so happens I’m not in the middle of anything for a change. Unless you had a secondary motive for visiting my study?” He arched an eyebrow, this time suggestively.

And he could tell by the gleam in the head maid’s eyes that Seibel almost rose to his bait. He didn’t often play the game. Not because he considered it below him, but because he was impossible to beat when he made his intentions known. For all of Crescent’s allure and Elian’s wit and Sesha’s charm, there was something irresistible to Domerin Lorcasf about his head maid. It might have been his confidence, blunt nature and complete intolerance of nonsense. But it probably had more to do with how long the two of them had known each other.

Seibel Abolan could read the master of the house with the same ease Domerin read everyone else. There was no hiding from that kind of rapport and something deeply comforting about its existence.

The moment passed and Seibel shook his head. “Eat and then we can talk.”

It wasn’t the answer he expected. It seemed he had a very difficult decision ahead of him this evening.

In the end, he was merely grateful to have four such understanding individuals beneath his roof. Four men who understood what he needed and were willing to give it to him, without quibble or fuss, without making a spectacle of themselves. Each had their strengths and played to them. Each offered a unique form of company. And none would begrudge the others the time he spent with them. Would that he could split himself in four to reward them all.

“Give me five minutes to wash the ink off my hands,” he told the head maid as he brushed past. “But know that I’m very much looking forward to this chat.”

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