Chapter Twenty One

Dad’s old flame

Stars, cold and indifferent to the struggles of lives of mortals, shone in the inky darkness of the night sky. Hubert, who was eating an inappropriately romantic dinner with Dyannah, the Mistress of Midnight, an extraordinarily attractive wizard, envied their casual attitude.
Knights had broken oaths and betrayed all they held dear for the chance of a kiss from her sanguine lips. Some said that those were made red from the oceans of blood split in her pursuit but those were discounted by her as haters. Her age was unknown, and if you were wise, you would not ask. Not just because asking a women’s age was rude, but this one could curse you six ways to Sunday and then on the Wednesday with a wink of her bright jade eyes.
But that is not why Hubert felt so incredibly awkward. It was because she was his father’s ex. He had unwholesome thoughts about her in his youth, it would be impossible not to; she was devastatingly gorgeous. Quite literally, as the Thanes of the Steadfast Sword would attest, had they not been destroyed in a civil war that left none alive.
However, his fantasies of torrid lovemaking were dampened by images of his father and her indulging in a catalog of depraved and seemingly impossible acrobatic, carnal acts that at it most pedestrian involved a pudding made from the tears of orphans, a cave filled with angry bees and a mattress stuffed acrobatic midgets. These images were not idle speculation on his part. They were carved, along with a great many others, on the wall of the great dining hall, which is why he preferred to eat in his chambers.
Dining outside lessened the uncomfortable atmosphere but not by much. Hubert picked at his meal with a decided lack of appetite. She smiled at him, a smile that most men would have been reduced to a speechless heap at that smile but it just made him feel uncomfortable.
“Is the food not to your liking, ” she purred.
“No,” he lied, “I just a late lunch, evil things to do and all.”
“Your father would take time for a meal, he was a man of…” she paused, “great appetites.”
Hubert shuddered at the innuendo. “My father did enjoy a good sandwich.”
She licked her lips as he said ‘sandwich’ and he wondered if there was anything that wouldn’t seem sensual to her.
Dyannah leaned across the table and looked Hubert straight in the eyes. “So, if you are not hungry for… food, what is it that you want?” The amount of cleavage she displayed was enough to corrupt an Angel. Hubert tried to banish images of his father and her vigorous sex life from his mind’s eye with little success.
“Well, you see there is something my father gave you, for safe keeping,” said Hubert, in a very professional tone.
She smiled and said, “He gave me many things,” then arched one perfectly shaped eyebrow.
“Yes well,” stammered Hubert in a less professional tone, “you were close.”
Throwing back her head she laughed a loud braying laugh. A mule might laugh that way if being tickled against its will. It was at odds with her appearance and reputation.
Hubert would have wagered that the army of men who died for her attention would’ve described it as “charming” or perhaps “quirky.” But the truth is that it was as ugly and coarse as she was enchanting. Proving that no one is perfect.
“Close,” she snorted, wiping a tear that sparkled like a diamond, “that is a one way to describe your father and I.”
He sat up straighter, to try and bring this conversation back on track. “Yes, well… There was this one-“
Dyannah grabbed his face with both of hands and drew him close, her eyes blazing with crazed magic. “Balor-Nar and I were linked on many planes of existence. When we made love, it resonated through the Heavens and Hells, Saints and Sinners wept because they would never know a fraction of the pleasure that would flood our bodies, minds and souls!”
Then she turned away and looked off into the darkness. Hubert had little experience in comforting people, having never been comforted himself, he was unsure as how to proceed. He cleared his throat, and lied, “I miss him as well.”
She turned back to him, her eyes red from crying. She was a mess but a tousled, hot mess. “Of course, loosing your father is a blow that will scar you until your last breath.”
He felt as though he had been scarred quite a bit while his father was alive but just said, “Indeed.”
Moving to his side, Dyannah asked, “Is there anything I can do?” She ran her fingers through his hair. It was a simple gesture, but she did it expertly. It said, ‘I want to give you anything and everything you want.’ That’s a lot for one touch to express, but as was said, it was done expertly.
“Well,” stammered Hubert, “there was this one tome, that my father asked you hoooooooo-.“ His thought was cut short as she breathed on his neck.
“Yes… Go on…”
He struggled to get his thoughts in order. There was something that was very important but she was leaning into him and any other rational thought dissolved like a sand golem in the rain.
Dyannah purred, “Tell me I’m beauty itself, tell me you want me body and soul.” She ran her fingertips over his lips.
“Dmmm uuurnnd mmmm ttuusyy tooolund?” mumbled Hubert because her fingers were still on his mouth. He, very grudgingly, moved her hand away. “Do you really need me to say that out loud?”
She fixed him with a perplexed stare, which seemed to say What do you mean? and was followed by those exact words.
“Well,” he said, “you know that you’re extraordinarily attractive, don’t you?”
She laughed and said, “I do like to hear it out loud.”
“Of course,” continued Hubert, “but you know it in your heart of hearts.”
That was poor choice of words, as Dyannah had her heart secreted away in a hidden chamber, which made her immune most enchantments and kept her from the cruelty of the ravages of time, and as a result she was sensitive about the whole subject of hearts.
Narrowing her eyes she moved to her chair on the other side of the table. She said nothing to her host but ironically, or maybe not, it the was way she said nothing that said the most.
Hubert, whose experience with romance was, well non-existent, struggled with how to recover.
“Of course you are, beauty made flesh,” he sputtered, “I mean, if some beauty goddess were to appear right now, I’d be all “Who is that old ha”’ and of course I be talking about the goddess and not you!”
If eye rolling was a competitive sport, Hubert was witnessing a gold medal display.
“Don’t be that way, Nightshade,” said a ghostly voice.
It was Balor-Nar, who had coalesced in the middle of the table. The former lovers looked at each other and the night air, quite literally, crackled with magic.
Slowly standing up, Dyannah took a deep breath, which was quite a sight, then slapped the former Master of Evil. The effect was more like fanning smoke, but she made her feelings clear.
“You demon humping son of harpy! You die and send no word! Did I mean nothing to you?”
Balor-Nar glided out from the middle to the table and next to her. “You can see I am in an insubstantial state, it makes writing missives problematic.”
She turned her back to him. “An insubstantial excuse for an insubstantial man. I think you enjoy being dead.”
“Not being able to touch you is more torturous than the Hell’s infernal embrace.”
Dyannah whipped around and pointed at Hubert. “Torture? You dare speak to me of torture? To secure my position in the Court of Darkness, I had to endure the fumbling and timid attempts of seduction from this eunuch you call a son!”
Hubert stood. “Now see here-“
Balor-Nar, without looking, pointed at Hubert. “SIT DOWN.”
He did so and quickly. Old habits die hard.
“My succubus,” said Balor-Nar, smooth as snake-man’s stomach, “having Hubert send for you was my plan to see you once more.”
She pouted prettily, as she did most things. “Truly?”
“May I fade in the morning light if I lie,” he said,(a popular oath with ghosts).
She sidled up to him. “I thought you only wanted that tome you left at my place.”
“Ooo! Actually if you-“ Hubert interjected.
Spectral fingers snapped and he fell silent.
“That is secondary to beholding the perfection that is you. Even if I am dammed to being a cold, restless spirit, the memory of you will burn like a fire elemental and keep the icy hand of true death at bay.”
Which was exactly what she needed to hear. She smiled brightly and then cried, this time for real.
“If there was some way we could have one last night!” she flung a bolt of lightning off into the night, setting fire to a row of topiary.
“There is one way.” Balor-Nar smiled as he looked at Hubert who realized what was being proposed.
“Oh no,” protested Hubert. “I’m sorry, I do have to put my foot down! Absolutely not!”
“Don’t be a child, by the Compacts of the Dead, I cannot stay beyond daybreak.”
“This is not going to happen,” Hubert said as resolutely as he could.
Dyannah put her hand on Hubert’s cheek and looked him with a tenderness that was completely convincing. “Do this and the tome and anything else you might need for your plan I will provide without question.”
“What plan?” he asked completely unconvincingly.
“Oh sweetness.” She smiled. “Minions talk.”
He sighed. “You’ll give me the tome?”
Dyannah laid her hand over where her heart would be and said, “By the darkness.” (Which was a popular and binding oath with Fell Wizards.)
He looked at his father’s ghost. “And you’ll leave once morning arrives?”
“By the darkness. Don’t worry, you won’t remember a thing.”
“Very well.” He removed the magic ring that prevented possession and immediately was a passenger in his own body.
When dawn broke, he was once more his own man, just as his farther swore. And he remembered everything. Everything.

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