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Author's note: Welcome back, dear audience. Today/Tonight/Whenever you happen to read this I am glad to present what I personally consider to be quite possibly my finest piece of erotica/porn yet. Hopefully the lot of you enjoy it as well. Be forewarned, this story features dubious consent/blackmail/coercion. Rape is wrong. Don't do it. Everyone knows this. Also, all characters who engage in sexual conduct are of age. Now, enjoy the show...
On most days the throne room of Silverwing Keep, seat of House Terracroix and capital of the Leithien Duchy, rang with music, the dulcet tones of some traveling minstrel or another and his accompanying lyre or harp weaving amidst its marble columns to lend the stately hall an air of detached levity. On most days, however, Lady Sienna Terracroix, third child and eldest daughter of Duke Theovaire, had not brought her homeland to the brink of disaster. So as she stood before her lord father it was little surprise that there was no musical backdrop to be heard, only the steely voice of an enraged sovereign.

“How could you be such a fool!” the aging monarch spat out, the struggle required to suppress his royal fury readily apparent to each and every onlooker. Her father's anger was a spectacle entirely unlike anything Sienna had ever witnessed before, and that in itself was a fitting testament to the gravity of her recent error. Nonetheless, she stood before him with her back straight as a rod and her chin held high, for in addition to being a lady of high birth she was also a knight of the realm and would carry herself with the dignity which befit her station, come what may.

“Have you taken leave of your senses entirely?” the Duke thundered on, giving his daughter precious little opening to actually respond to any of his questions. It had been nearly a quarter of an hour already since Lady Sienna had been summoned before her lord father to give her own account of the day's events, not that he had given her much chance to do so before erupting. He seemed to be calming down at last, though, enough at least that the chastised knight hoped she might soon be able to say a few words in her own defense. “Assaulting an emissary of Etraskia... I should expect such ill-judgment from your brothers, but never from one who acclaims herself the paragon of wisdom!”

Sienna gave the slightest of winces at that last charge, a more visible reaction than any of her father's previous rebukes had drawn out of her. She could weather a great deal of abuse without wavering, particularly when she knew she deserved it, but being compared to her brothers always made the proud knight bristle. While she spent her days training for combat and serving the realm, they wiled away their hours throwing lavish feasts and bedding every simpering chambermaid who caught one of their eyes. Yet it would be one of those indolent brats who would be chosen to inherit the throne on the day their mutual father passed, not her. Never her.

Of course, in light of the catastrophe Sienna had just inflicted on them all, it may well come to pass that none of her father's children would have a chance to claim their birthright. Their duchy was but a minor player on the world stage, after all, just one more petty nation among the many which cowered before the mighty Etraskian Empire. The same mighty Etraskian Empire which loved few things more than an excuse to put its vast armies to work and whose ambassador she and her knights had attacked that very morning, killing two of the man's escorts and injuring him in the process. Never before had their vengeful imperial neighbour been gifted such a magnificent pretext to invade the Terracroix's lands. By all rights, the Empire would be perfectly justified in pillaging and conquering their homeland until there was nothing at all left to inherit.

“Father, I,” the young knight tried to cut in, biting her tongue the instant the words left her mouth as she caught her mistake. But it was too late.

“You will address me as your lord sovereign, girl!” the duke roared, his thunderous bellow reverberating throughout the hall. Sienna should have known better, did, in fact, know better. In private she could get away with such familiarity, but when acting as a knight of the realm, particularly as one who had earned her lord's ire, propriety dictated she demonstrate proper respect at all times. The fact that her misstep had come just as her lord father was running out of steam was... unfortunate.

“My apologies, sire.” Sienna almost stopped herself there, well aware that her freshly aggrieved father would be in no mood for any attempt at justification after she had demonstrated such disrespect, but having already spoken up she had little choice. Backing down and failing to defend herself after such a rebuke would only make her look as weak in the eyes of the court as she already seemed foolish. So she pushed on. “I only meant to ask what course you would have had me take. The ambassador's men comported themselves in a belligerent fashion befitting the bandits my company was tasked to hunt and the man had raised his staff against us. I and my knights adjudged him to be a mage, so I struck him down. Was I to wait and see whether he meant to call lightning down upon my knights? To tear the ground beneath our horses asunder?”

“I most assuredly would not have had you strike down an ambassador of the Empire!” the duke seethed, his eyes glinting with barely restrained fury.

“But he did not identify himself!” No sooner had Sienna said the words than she wished she could take them back. Such was an impossible task, though, so instead she was left to merely hope they sounded less like the whine of a spoiled little girl to the rest of her father's court than they did to her own ears. Already too many of the assembled lords and dignitaries, including her brothers, thought her little more than a jumped up brat who needed to be put in her place. A number which was already likely to grow now that her lapse in judgment had brought the executioner's axe to the neck of everyone present.

“And how exactly was he to do so when your company approached with blades drawn and struck before allowing the man to speak?” Her father bellowed back, holding his glare for several seconds before slumping back into his throne and lifting one hand to grip at his forehead.

“I... I understand.” As much as she might have wished otherwise, it was the truth. Whatever justifications she might have had for her conduct, the young knight knew as well as anyone present how little they would mean in the end. The damage had been done, and the finer details of the incident would matter little to her victim or his master. In matters of state, truth and justice all too often paled next to the raw reality of power, if they even mattered at all. When she spoke again Sienna's voice was somber. “I have failed you. I have failed the realm. I will accept whatever consequences you deem fit, my lord.”

For what felt an age Duke Theovaire sat silent on the throne, head cradled in his fingers. The great hall was so quiet his chastised daughter imagined she could hear the beat of her own heart, perhaps even those of the fellow knights and retainers around her. Finally, her father straightened up and cast his eyes across the room, the heavy weight of his crown readily apparent to all who looked on.

“Leave us.”

Not one among the gathered courtiers proved reluctant to depart. Even Sienna's brothers, ever keen to be seen at their father's side on any occasion of note, for once seemed eager to escape the throne room. Still, the hall was large and the assembled crowd took long enough filing out for the guilt-wracked knight to once more run her mind through the events of the day.

That morning she had departed around dawn at the head of a troop of five knights charged with investigating reports that several companies of unusually well-equipped bandits had recently crossed into the duchy. An hour or so before midday they had come across a group of travelers near the imperial border who seemed to match the de***********ions they had been given. There were seven in total, six of them clearly equipped for a fight and at their head a man wearing plain but well made traveling garb in the imperial style and carrying an ornate staff.

Suspecting that the strangers before them belonged to the bandit troop they had been tasked with hunting down, Sienna and her knights had approached with their weapons unsheathed and at the ready. They rode in tight battle formation, drawing up just short of the Etraskian delegation which had hastily formed up around their leader. The escorts had rushed to bare their own weapons and one stepped forward, demanding in the foreign tongue that her knights back off. Unfortunately, when the man decided to throw in a crass insult after his demand Sienna's pride had gotten the better of her and she urged her horse forward.

One of her men, she hadn't even been sure which at the time, had then shouted that the leader was trying to cast a spell. When she turned towards him, all the young knight saw was his ornate staff lifted in her direction and his face twisted into an expression of outraged fury. Operating on pure instinct, she made a snap decision to swing her weapon, bringing the flat of her blade to bear against the side of the diplomat's head. When the man crumpled to the ground his companions had leapt to his defense and all hell broke loose.

The ensuing skirmish was quick but bloody, leaving two of the foreigners dead and several more men on each side wounded. The emissary had yet to regain consciousness by the time he and his escorts were delivered to the dungeons of Silverwing Keep and Sienna accompanied her knights back to the barracks thinking their mission a success. It wasn't until late afternoon that one of her men, his face pale as the dead, tracked her down in the training yard and told her of their mistake. Immediately she rushed to her father's study in the hopes of a private word with him, but the chamberlain had turned her away and gravely instructed her to prepare for an audience in the throne room an hour later.

As her father's final retainers filtered out of the great hall Lady Sienna was at last left alone with the Duke. His dark eyes bored into her own as they stared at one another until the chamber's heavy doors had slammed shut. He looked tired, in more ways than one, and the loyal daughter felt a deep sense of shame at the position her mistake had put him in. “I am sorry, father.” Her voice was still crisp when she spoke, but not as stiffly formal as it had been before.

“I know you are, Sienna,” the old man answered with a heavy sigh. “Just as you know how little that matters.”

“I do.”

“His Excellency is being treated by my personal physician as we speak.” Duke Theovaire's tone was also more casual than it had been, but there was an odd stiffness to the old monarch as his gaze strayed to the stained glass windows lining one side of the hall. Sienna realized the day's strain must have been wearing on him even more than she had thought and again she wished she could take it all back. “Thankfully,” he eventually continued, “I am told the wounds you granted our guest seem relatively minor and he is expected to make a full and swift recovery.”

“I am glad to hear it.” That wasn't a lie. While their encounter hadn't exactly left Sienna with a high opinion of her victim, a lack of serious injury to the ambassador meant there was at least a chance of the incident being passed off as an accident and her home spared from imperial retribution. The two men-at-arms her knights had slain would complicate matters, true, but in the grand game of politics the lives of commoners were of far less import than the wellbeing of a highborn diplomat.

“Indeed.” The Duke at last shifted his gaze back to Sienna, locking his eyes on his daughter's. “Presently he is resting in the guest wing. Tonight you will go to him and make amends, ensure that when he leaves here he will have no thought of bringing his master's wrath down upon us all.”

The young knight went stiff at her father's words, a lump suddenly forming in her throat. “To... Tonight? Surely... you do not mean...” her voice faltered, unable to so much as bring the words into existence.

“You will do whatever is required to prevent the destruction of this realm of ours, daughter.” The Duke's voice was firm, his will absolute as he held Sienna's wavering gaze. “Am I understood?”

The maiden knight felt weak at the knees and in the stomach, her heart suddenly pounding beneath one breast. But as she looked into her lord father's eyes she could tell there would be no swaying his decision. And as much as she wanted to scream out her refusal, to slap him across the face for even suggesting such an affront to her honour, she knew that he loved her far too much to make such a demand of her had he even a single alternative. Worse, in her heart she knew it was... fair. It had been her mistake and no one else's which had brought the executioner's blade to his neck and that of each and every one of his subjects. Should the Empire invade they would be helpless to resist its might. Hundreds, maybe thousands, would die and countless more suffer under the callous rule for which their powerful neighbour was known. The misery of so many would be her responsibility. Thus, if it was within her power to forestall such a dismal fate for those she had sworn to protect, by whatever means, then duty demanded nothing less of her.

“I... I understand, father.” Sienna could feel the heat rising in her cheeks, father and daughter each knowing what would be demanded of her. What she was agreeing to.

“Then go. Prepare yourself. I must make another visit with the doctors soon.”

Sienna wanted nothing more than to flee from the hall, hell, from the entire Duchy. But she was a lady and a knight. So she would do no such thing. Instead she turned in place, striding from the hall with a steady, even pace and her chin held high even as she dreaded what the night before her held in store.

* That Evening *

By the time Lady Sienna found herself standing before the door to Silverwing Keep's finest guest chamber, one currently assigned to a certain imperial visitor, a nearly full moon had risen high in the night sky. That bright evening jewel bathed the castle corridor around the young noblewoman in a blanket of silvery light which seemed to ebb and flow like the tides. But then, perhaps such a perception was caused by nothing more than the pounding of her own heart and a fear that within each and every shadow lurked a witness to her hesitant advance.

Had any such witnesses truly been present they would have been treated to a rare sight indeed as no longer did Sienna look the part of a valiant knight. Instead of the polished armour which usually obscured her feminine figure, the unusually shy maiden was adorned only in nightclothes befitting a lady of her stature. A loose chemise trimmed with delicate lace hung from her shoulders, its pale pink silk opaque around her breasts but tantalizingly sheer everywhere below. Visible beneath it was yet more lace in the form of her frilliest knickers, a truly impractical garment which clung uncomfortably tight around her hips. Where her long tresses of golden blonde hair were usually bound up in a simple braid or bun they too had been altered, left instead to fall in unfettered waves which reached her shoulders and beyond. Perhaps most stunningly of all, the scent of fresh wildflowers hung heavy in the air around her, both soaked up from the bath in which she had recently washed away the day's grit and grime as well as emanating from a large pink bloom delicately tucked into her hair above one ear.

Steeling herself with one last deep breath, lovely Sienna reached out to rap her knuckles twice on the stout oak door before her, the resulting sound echoing away down the otherwise silent corridor in which she stood.

“Enter,” the emissary's unfamiliar voice called back, carrying through the door and into the hallway with ease. It was the first time his assailant had actually heard him speak, she realized with a blush, and that voice alone made clear why the man had been ***********ed to represent his sovereign. With no more than a single word his tone had managed to convey both an unflinching sense of authority and the self-assured confidence of an adult casually dismissing an unduly precocious child.

Instinctively ducking her head in the face of such a powerful presence, Sienna reached out to open the old wooden door. Its hinges made barely a whisper of protest as she slipped through and swiftly sealed that barrier behind herself once more, only then turning to survey her new surroundings. The chamber was largely unremarkable, a modestly-sized if well-appointed space dominated by a massive four poster bed. To one side of that centerpiece lurked a night table covered in an assortment of little bottles, no doubt various tonics and cures which had been offered up to the wounded guest. A large armoire, a pair of overstuffed leather chairs, and a well-stocked writing desk completed the room's furnishings, the last positioned beneath its sole window.

It was over that desk that the Etraskian emissary stood when his guest entered, his back to the chamber's entrance as he looked over a few scattered documents. In a way Sienna was rather impressed that the man retained enough confidence to leave himself so casually vulnerable despite the events of the day. No doubt he was as aware as she that some less scrupulous courts might respond to the situation her father's found itself in by arranging for his disappearance and hoping the Emperor would believe that his servant had been waylayed by bandits or met some such unsavoury fate.

Unsure what greeting could possibly be appropriate for such an encounter as that in which she found herself engaged, Sienna opted to simply announce herself with nothing more than a demure cough and then wait with her hands folded formally behind her back until the ambassador was ready to address her. Seconds seemed to stretch into minutes and then hours as he finished reading over whatever document held his attention until at last he set it aside and turned to face his visitor.

Once the diplomat's eyes finally fell on her, Sienna's already rosy cheeks darkened further at the way his gaze slowly swept down her body and back up again. Taking the chance to examine him in turn, the young knight realized for the first time that her victim was actually rather handsome himself. He looked to be in his thirties, or perhaps a little past forty, and was of average height and a slightly stocky build. While clearly no warrior, he had at least avoided the prodigious gut which many men in his position earned by dint of attending a few too many feasts. Above the shoulders his face looked naturally stern, the lower portion dominated by a thick but close-cropped beard of bristly, coal black hairs while the upper was home to a large pair of piercing green eyes. When her gaze inevitably drifted to the large bump visible above one of the man's ears, Sienna tried, and failed, to suppress a guilty shiver.

Eventually, the wounded ambassador addressed his visitor directly, but much to her surprise he did so with a voice as light and casual as if he were greeting a friend he encountered every day. “Lady Sienna, what a delight it is to see you once more. I had begun to wonder whether your father was mistaken in suggesting that you might come calling this eve.”

Tremendous effort was required for the disarmed knight to prevent herself from visibly flinching at the mention of whatever her father may or may not have discussed with the man standing before her. It had been several hours since her audience in the throne room, time enough and then some for Sienna to have mulled over that particular encounter in more detail than could be entirely healthy. She had no way of knowing which of the two men involved had first conceived of the ordeal which lay before her, whether her virtue had been a bargaining chip desperately offered up by her own father or a callous demand he had only reluctantly been pressured into complying with. Nor could she know just how overtly the matter had been discussed. In public her father could play the great game as well as any other lord, but in private he had always been a blunt man. The ambassador she knew little of, but unless her initial impressions proved wildly inaccurate she suspected he was much the same sort. In the end it mattered little, she supposed, but that knowledge had hardly stopped her from imagining a dozen ways or more in which the scene might have played out. Naturally, not one of those variations had involved herself as a party to the deal. When men haggled over a prize-winning mare, after all, they seldom sought the horse's input on what her price should be.

If the imperial emissary had any notion of just how severe the swirling tempest playing out between the ears of the young woman across from him really was he gave no indication of the fact, instead merely smiling cordially as he carried on. “I must say, you look utterly radiant, milady. Like a daughter of the stars come down to carry the will of the eternals themselves to us mere mortals.” Sienna couldn't help but bite her lip as the handsome foreigner gave a little bow in her direction, the heat raging in her cheeks steadfastly refusing to die down. She... hadn't been entirely certain what she was preparing herself for, not really, but if she didn't know better she might have thought the man was courting her. Whatever the motives for such an approach, it caught her entirely off guard.

It was hard to be certain, but when the man straightened back up a moment later she thought his smile stretched a little higher up his cheeks than it had before. He gave Sienna little chance to dwell on that suspicion, though, before beginning to speak once more. “If I might be so bold, the outfit you wore this morning flattered you not even a tenth so much as that you wear now. Truly, seldom have I seen a fairer maiden. But, I digress. To what do I owe the most exquisite pleasure of your company, milady?”

Such a question, while entirely natural on its face, caught Sienna by such surprise that she nearly took a step back. The man had to know why she had come, didn't he? And even had her visit not been prearranged, surely he was not such a fool as to think it customary for Leithien women to pay visits to men they scarcely knew dressed as she was. Then, that could only mean that... he wanted her to be the one who first broached the subject? To offer herself up? Was that it?

Not for the first time, Lady Sienna found herself wishing that matters of court could be as straightforward as those of a battlefield. Deception was key to warfare, true, but concealing troops for an ambush or disguising one's intentions via feint and misdirection was entirely different from the kind of maneuvers men like the one before her practiced on a daily basis. When words could mean a dozen things at once and each was as dangerous as a knife, when the only way to win was for your opponent to be oblivious of your intent until the moment their throat had been cut, when enemies treated one another with more courtesy than friends... In such a life it became only second nature to dance around the truth. For one like Sienna, who had never particularly wanted much more out of life than to be an honest soldier, such verbal sparring was nearly beyond fathoming. For her, the only way to win such a fight was not to take part.

“I... wanted to offer you my apologies, your excellency,” the blushing knight answered after a long moment's pause. “For this morning,” she swiftly added, as if there could be any doubt about just what it was she regretted. If this silver-tongued foreigner wanted to play with his food before he ate it, to flatter and tease and belittle, well then the best thing Sienna could do would be to plow straight ahead and deny him his little games. She knew why she had come calling and was resolved to do her duty, however distasteful it might be. Though, now that she had been granted the chance to see the man to whom her virtue had been bartered away, she supposed it could have been much worse. He was handsome enough, at least, and seemed to possess no small amount of charm. More than a few times she had witnessed a young lady like herself married off to an older man not even half so desirable, after all, and all she needed endure was a single night.

“I see,” the ambassador smiled, inclining his head towards her once more. “You are most gracious, milady.”

“I... uh, thank you, your excellency,” Sienna demured, swallowing heavily before she carried on. “I would... understand, were you to hold the incident against me. Against my father. Such an assault on yourself and your companions was unprovoked, unwarranted, and utterly shameful.” As hard as she fought to keep her voice steady, the young knight's genuine shame at her cataclysmic error coupled with the nerves she felt standing in her nightclothes before a fully dressed and rather authoritative man more than a decade her elder brought an undeniable quiver to her words. While her voice may have betrayed her, though, her eyes did not. They held steady on the wounded foreigner's own as she powered on through the rest of her thoroughly-practiced confession. “I regret my error with all the strength of my heart and am... prepared to do whatever it takes to make amends.”

For a very long moment indeed, the man standing before Sienna fixed her with the most curious stare. He just stood there, lips pursed and hands clasped behind his back in a polite manner as if he were mulling over her words. It went on so long the scantily-clad maiden almost started to believe he was actually surprised by her offer and contemplating its implications. That thought was swiftly banished, however, when she forced herself to remember that this was a man who acted for a living. Not on the stage, perhaps, an imperial aristocrat would likely consider such a vocation far beneath his dignity, but the art of diplomacy was not so different. It was his calling to lie, bluff, and twist the facts until those sitting across the table from him saw the world as he did. Such a man could never be entirely trusted.

When at last the ambassador snapped out of his pensive performance it was to flash his visitor a modest half-smile and lift one hand to gently tap at the bump her blow had raised on his head. “As glad as I am to hear that you regret our little altercation, milady, you need not concern yourself overmuch on my account. By the grace of the eternals, I escaped with naught but this most trifling of wounds.”

For the briefest of moments, Sienna allowed herself to believe that she had been the victim of some grand misunderstanding, that her father had been mistaken somehow and the eminently reasonable man addressing her had no intentions whatsoever of compelling her into any dishonourable acts. But just for a moment. Such childish illusions shattered as swiftly as they had formed when the emissary's face grew stern and he carried on in a heavier voice. “Of course, there are two members of my personal guard who will never get the chance to hear any apologies. One of whom happened to be a dear friend of mine for many a year. Their deaths would be travesty enough to require accounting for even were we to disregard the matter of my sovereign.”

If he had been authoritative before, suddenly the ambassador seemed downright intimidating. “As you are no doubt aware,” he declared, every last trace of cordiality gone from his voice, “an imperial emissary is nothing more or less than an extension of the Emperor himself. I may be a forgiving man, milady, but I assure you my master is not. His Imperial Majesty takes any attempt against his person, either directly or by way of proxy, as the gravest of offenses.” While Sienna could almost certainly have taken down the diplomat in even an unfair fight, her combat experience easily outweighing his advantages in both height and weight, the young knight found herself weak at the knees as the man rumbled out his threat. There was just something in his voice which, coupled with the knowledge that any violence directed towards him could and would be paid back a hundredfold by his powerful patron, left her feeling utterly insignificant.

“What's more,” the man continued, “it might interest you to learn that my master has for some time now been quite keen on expanding the imperial navy. Such an endeavor would require a great deal of quality lumber, however, and there are precious few sources remaining within our borders which lie near enough to our southern ports as to be of practical use. Thus, seizing your Duchy which, while quite small, contains a virgin forest full of mighty old trees is a prospect which would sorely tempt him.” Lady Sienna felt herself stiffen at the unveiled threat, her hidden hands balling into white-knuckled fists behind her back. She knew little of ships or their construction, had never set foot beyond the borders of her landlocked homeland, but the ambassador's logic sounded reasonable enough. As far as her tutors had taught her, much of the Empire's south had been cleared of forests several generations prior to make room for the vast farmland its massive population required. It seemed silly, perhaps, to go to war over wood, but then, battles had been fought over far less.

“There is, however, an alternative to such... drastic measures,” the diplomat offered, softening his tone just enough that Sienna allowed herself to release the breath she had been holding. “My original purpose in visiting your father, before our little entanglement this morning, was to negotiate for logging rights along our nations' shared border. Should such an arrangement be reached on favourable enough terms, I believe my master could yet be convinced to refrain from taking any Leithien territory by force. Even the modest sort of campaign such a task would require is quite costly, after all, and occupation can become even more so given enough time...”

The ambassador's proposition was more or less in line with what Sienna had expected to hear. He and his superiors in the imperial court would naturally milk the crisis she had prompted for every advantage it could grant them and threaten her father with war if he resisted their demands. It was galling, certainly, to hear a pampered aristocrat who knew nothing of battle dismiss the knights she had fought and bled alongside for years as nothing more than a minor obstacle, but she could hardly dispute such an assertion. His homeland could field a hundred warriors for each one her own put forward and in all likelihood the Empire would still have plenty of reserves to spare. No amount of skill, valour, or cunning could overcome such odds for long.

“In light of the fate which befell my companions, however,” the ambassador frowned, “there are many back home who would view any such arrangement as too great a risk to seriously consider. If we were to send imperial subjects into your territory without an army to protect them, after all, they would then be at the mercy of the very same knights who have already attacked us once. As such, I could only propose such a treaty to His Imperial Majesty and the closed council were I myself convinced that this morning's incident was not emblematic of any prejudice or grudge which House Terracroix harbours against the Empire.”

Sienna's jaw tightened and her back stiffened at the knowledge of just how the ambassador expected to be convinced of such an absence. She had already committed herself, though, and no amount of personal pride or shame would compel her to abandon the defense of her people by whatever means presented themselves. Thus, standing ramrod straight, the young knight mustered as much stoicism as she could and looked her opponent straight in the eye. “I assure you, your excellency, that neither I nor any member of my family bears you, your sovereign, or your nation any amount of ill will. The Leithien Duchy has always striven to live in peace with its neighbours.” Sienna couldn't quite suppress a subtle gulp before adding, “And, as I have already stated, I am prepared to do whatever is required of me in correcting any notions to the contrary.”

“I am delighted to hear you say so,” the ambassador replied, his tone reverting to honey-sweet so swiftly that Sienna caught herself blinking in surprise. “But please, enough with the formality. As we have yet to be officially introduced, I beg you permit me the honour of doing so myself.” Though it hardly seemed necessary in such a private setting, before his counterpart could even reply the diplomat surprised her with a full, almost theatrical bow. “I am Baron Hyacin Lyselliol III of the Lacanth Marches, Emissary of the Imperial Crown and knight in good standing of the Argent Order. It is the greatest of pleasures to make your acquaintance, Lady Sienna of House Terracroix.”

“The honour is mine, Baron,” the scantily-clad knight stiffly replied, holding her hand out for its customary kiss once the foreigner had straightened up. He obliged with an impossibly warm smile that left Sienna's heart fluttering nervously as his intent gaze never left her face.

“My dear lady Sienna, I see no courtiers present who we must impress with our embrace of proper decorum. Please, I think my name alone shall suffice this evening,” the baron suggested after releasing her hand, only the slightest hint of amusement leaking through his facade of friendly sincerity.

“As you wish, ba... Hyacin.” Somehow, just saying the ambassador's name aloud was enough to send a subtle ripple down Sienna's spine. They were all but strangers, and each of not insignificant station, so addressing one another with such familiarity felt almost... intimate. It was as if she were about to give herself to a betrothed rather than a dishonourable predator who had effectively taken everything and everyone she cared about hostage.

“There, now was that so hard, Sienna?” the man asked, a less-than-subtle smirk blossoming on his face. As much as she wanted to snap at him that it was, the young knight knew better than to let such a petty jab get to her. She would soon have to endure far more than mockery, after all. So, rather than lash out, she merely bit her lip and gave a gentle shake of the head.

“Good, I feel more comfortable already,” Baron Hyacin declared. Lifting one hand to his opposite shoulder and giving that joint an absentminded roll, he casually turned back to the writing desk which had held his attention when Sienna first entered the room. With her silently watching, he efficiently gathered up the various pages of parchment waiting there, rolled them up into a collection of slender tubes, and then swiftly tucked each one into a case which sat to one side. Only once he had finished did he turn back around and flash his visitor what she imagined was supposed to be an apologetic smile.

“As flattered as I am by your visit and as charming as your company has been, I fear I have little more time this evening to spare on idle conversation, my dear. Even on horseback a trip back to the imperial court will take more than a few days and it is imperative that my report on recent events be delivered with all haste. I'm sure you understand,” Hyacin explained, his unspoken threat hanging heavy in the air. “As a matter of fact, I was just getting ready to retire when you arrived. Today's events have left me rather drained, I fear, and so it is probably time I bid you the very finest of evenings and send you on your way. Unless, of course, you care to join me?” he asked as breezily as if he were inviting a friend to tea. As the diplomat aired that 'offer', his eyes drifted over to the bed which dominated one side of the chamber before returning to once more match Sienna's. The glance was impossibly casual, one which spoke of immense confidence in matters both of state and the bedroom.

“If... if that is your wish, your eminence... Hyacin... I mean... I don't...” The blushing knight had to bite down on her tongue in order to stop herself stammering on further, her maiden's heart suddenly pounding away like the mightiest of war drums deep within her chest as the moment of truth drew near.

At her acquiescence, one of the baron's eyebrows lifted dramatically in what had to be his most splendid facsimile of surprise yet. The expression was so perfectly executed that Sienna once more caught herself starting to believe the man hadn't known exactly how their encounter would play out from the very moment of her arrival. One part of her was desperate for Hyacin to drop the charade at last and simply take what he was due so the entire ordeal could be over and done with. Another, admittedly smaller, part of her, though, was almost... grateful for the act. While the warrior in her held nothing but distaste for such games, she was also a blushing maiden being taken to bed for the first time. That side of her knew that even the slightest semblance of normalcy could only make her sacrifice more bearable.

One side of the ambassador's mouth curled upwards as he responded by giving a little twist of his head that Sienna supposed must have been an imperial gesture of some sort as it did naught but bewilder her. “Well, I shan't turn down whatever hospitality you see fit to provide, my dear. I trust, in that case, you won't object to my getting comfortable.”

Without waiting for an answer, Baron Hyacin once more turned idly away from his recent assailant to languidly stride in the direction of the nearby bed. His hands were shielded from Sienna's view, but judging by the way his shirt started falling loose it was no mystery what they were occupied with. A few seconds later that silken garment hung limp from the man's shoulders, a single roll of which sent it falling halfway down his back. What its absence revealed was nearly enough to make the onlooking maiden gasp. While the emissary could hardly be considered a match for the kind of brawny warriors whose bodies she routinely witnessed out of their shirts, there could be no denying that he was far closer to such a figure than he was to the flabby state which most of the leisurely creatures of this or that court tended to exhibit by his age.

More jarring by far than the diplomat's unexpectedly athletic body, however, were the trio of wicked scars running the length of his back. One long and bold, another to each side faint and disappearing towards each end, the three marks traced a path from just inside his right shoulderblade down and across his back all the way to the opposite hip. As their owner slowly pulled himself free of first one sleeve and then the other, Sienna couldn't help but wonder as to the origins of those vicious blemishes. Whether the man had seen combat after all, only narrowly escaped a bloodthirsty beast, or simply endured a particularly drastic accident of some sort, however, she was not to know. Before she could even finish surveying them the scars passed from her view as Hyacin turned to face her once more.

A moment later the blonde knight felt her breath catch for an entirely different reason as the man before her lazily began to undo the clasp holding up his breeches. Once that task was complete they fell easily, requiring only a quick shake of each leg to slip past their wearer's kneecaps. In their absence the baron's thick, woolen undergarment came into view, stretching down to his mid thighs but doing little to disguise the hefty bulge between his legs. Sienna had seen such a sight on many prior occasions, had even witnessed more a few times. Unlike some in her father's court the fellow knights she trained and fought alongside had long since accepted the handful of women among their ranks as equal partners and while some maintained a certain level of polite decorum in their dealings with such sisters in arms, others possessed less discretion when it came to changing or bathing out in the field. Still, while she had seen a few men's members in the past it felt entirely different to do so in her current context, so much so that she found herself nearly quivering when the baron bent forward to roll the intervening garment down his thighs and expose himself entirely.

Assuming the handful of shafts she had witnessed over the years were anything to go by, and discounting out of hand the far greater number of idle boasts or jests she had heard bantered about between her comrades, Sienna was reasonably confident in guessing that Hyacin's manhood, which looked to stretch out around half a foot or so from his groin, was fairly average in size. Up close such a length proved more than enough to leave her awestruck, however, so even as its owner straightened back up her eyes lingered as if transfixed by the weapon which was destined to claim her virtue. Only the sound of a little cough a few moments later snapped the embarrassed knight out of the trance it left her in, that sudden noise prompting her eyes to flash up and meet the baron's then immediately dance away upon glimpsing the knowing smirk which awaited her on his lips.

“Is it your intention to come to bed dressed as such?” Hyacin inquired a moment later, his airy voice somehow dragging Sienna's attention back to him. It seemed the man possessed enough self-control to keep his gaze fixed on her face, but the young maiden could tell from the hungry look in his eyes that he was as eager to see her unclothed as she was anxious to be so. That realization, if such a predictable discovery could even be called as such, was more than enough to send a quick shiver down her spine. While it was true that a lesser man in the baron's position could have been far less chivalrous in pressing his advantage over her, such restraint was hardly enough to make Sienna eager to bare herself before a man she scarcely knew and had not even the slightest of feelings for. Still, she knew enough of the world to be familiar with the fate which awaited her should his nation invade and she find herself captured, in battle or otherwise. However much she might loathe being compelled to entertain a single imperial aristocrat in private the thought of being taken in public by a dozen or more of his lowborn countrymen was infinitely worse. By that reckoning she knew it would be better by far to swallow her pride and allow the ambassador his price now even before considering the fate which would befall the countless others who would surely suffer alongside her were she to invite imperial wrath by defying him.

With such dread of the alternative only reinforcing her resolve to endure the trial set before her, young Lady Sienna stood with her back straight and her chin held high as she lifted one hand to gently take hold of the delicate strap of lace which ran above her left shoulder. Her hand trembling but a little, she carefully slipped that strap past her shoulder until it hung loosely against her well-defined triceps, then repeated the same display on her other side. With that, the thin, pink shift was suddenly held up by naught but a solitary wrist clutching tight to its owner's bosom. After one last deep breath, Sienna finally pulled that wrist away and let her arms drop to her sides. In the absence of any support the feminine knight's wispy wrapping fluttered down around her body like a waterfall of lace and pink silk, only momentarily caught up by her slender hips on its way to the floor.

No sooner was his visitor bare above the waist than the admirable restraint with which Baron Hyacin had conducted himself, barring a single thorough inspection upon Sienna's initial arrival, at last came to an end as he let his eyes wander below her shoulders once more. Under the weight of that hungry gaze, the blushing maiden suddenly felt a wave of goosebumps rippling out across her body. Though seldom caring to flaunt her beauty, Sienna knew herself to be an attractive young woman. Had she ever been possessed of any insecurities in that regard they would have long since been dispelled by the lingering looks many of her fellow knights frequently cast over her body as they aided one another in or out of their bulky suits of armour.

As much as they might have respected her and her fellow lady-knights as warriors and sisters-in-arms, the majority of Lady Sienna's comrades were still prime examples of hot-blooded masculinity with an innate appreciation for any feminine body even half so alluring as hers. And though the snug padding a knight wore beneath heavy armour left little skin bare, it did even less to conceal the shape of the body lurking beneath. That particular feature provided ample opportunity for appreciation of a knight or lady-knight's figure, discrete or otherwise. As had many sisters-in-arms before her, though, Sienna learned early on to accept such attention as nothing more than a natural, unavoidable reaction to her body and despite her initial fears not one man among her comrades had ever conducted himself in an untoward fashion. Indeed, though at first more timid about her interest than they were, in time she too had allowed herself to enjoy witnessing the spectacle of her comrades' admirably-sculpted bodies.

Having such experience in being observed undoubtedly left Sienna better prepared than another maiden in the same position might have been, allowing her to stand tall in proud defiance of her nerves rather than wilt before the ambassador's hungry gaze. Despite every instinct to cover herself, the stubborn warrior remained silent and stoic as Hyacin's eyes wandered across the majestic tapestry of her nubile flesh. Starting with her pretty face and wandering all the way down past her long, sleek legs the man seemed to drink in the sight of her as if she were the sweetest of wines. In truth, however, Sienna had more in common with a robust meal than a sugary treat. Feminine bodies as powerful as hers were a rare sight in civilized lands, but judging by where his eyes lingered her appraiser seemed to appreciate her all the more for the strength she possessed.

Where most maidens who shared her age and station boasted lean, coltish figures and smooth, unbroken skin, Sienna's body made perfectly clear the sort of life she had lived. She may not have been a match for the full bulk and brawn most of her male comrades exhibited, but from her powerful thighs and sturdy arms to her chiseled torso every inch of the young warrior's body made perfectly clear that she was not one to be taken lightly. Perhaps even more worthy of note was the collection of largely faded scars which documented a litany of skirmishes and some of her more egregious training accidents.

When at last the baron finished his inspection and his eyes rose once more to Sienna's face, he gave her another odd little twist of the head coupled with a nod which seemed almost a gesture of respect. It was... jarring, to say the least, but she had little time to process the implications before he swept one arm towards the bed and asked “Shall we retire, my dear?”

Giving the man no response save for a curt little nod, for behind her facade of confident stoicism the blushing young knight was entirely too nervous to trust her own voice, Sienna turned in the direction he had indicated and took a few cautious strides to one side of the altar on which her honour, pride, and virtue would be made a sacrifice to the safety of her people. As she took a seat on the edge of that mattress, Baron Hyacin claimed his own place across from her. “Have you ever shared a man's bed before, Lady Sienna?” he asked after they each settled into position and she reluctantly turned towards him once more.

“I am not yet married,” she answered, simply and quietly. One side of the baron's lips curled upwards at his imminent conquest's response, prompted either by the denial itself or perhaps Sienna's demure little shake of the head which accompanied it and set the curtain of long golden hair about her shoulders dancing in the candlelight.

“That is not what I asked, my dear,” he chuckled back, “the two are hardly one and the same.”

“I am not some wanton peasant wench,” the young noblewoman quickly cut back, her self-control at last starting to waver. “An honourable lady would... would never...” but Sienna's voice faltered, the heat in her cheeks rising visibly as she found herself unable to complete the lie. For what else could such a claim be called given what was about to happen?

Over on his side of the bed Baron Hyacin just shook his head and sighed. “I sometimes forget how prudish you provincials can be. Trust me, making love is not so dramatic a thing as you make it out to be. I should know, my wife and I had each taken many a lover to our beds before we were ever betrothed and it mattered little in the end.” With that casual assurance, the man reached out and patted the bed beside his latest partner.

“You have a wife?” the blonde asked, her eyebrows arching in surprise as she went to lay herself down where the ambassador had indicated. Sienna couldn't say for sure just what caused the ripple of discomfort which surged through her at that revelation. It wasn't jealousy, certainly, not when he was a partner she had hardly chosen for herself. Nor was it a fear of scandal, for such a status meant far more for him in that regard than it did for her. Whatever the true cause, though, things were moving much too fast for her to dwell on such concerns for long.

“I did, once,” the baron answered, providing no further explanation. Intrigued as such a casual dismissal of the matter left her, Sienna had little chance to press her partner for answers as no sooner had she taken up position on her back in the middle of the bed than he answered by placing himself directly between her thighs. By that point the anxious young knight's heart was beating out a ferocious rhythm beneath her breast and she suddenly found her throat too dry to speak. Naturally, Hyacin's hands moving to grasp each side of her last remaining undergarment did little to lessen either predicament.

Sienna's strong fingers clutched tight to the bedsheets around her as the ambassador took firm hold of those very knickers. Instinctively, she found herself raising her hips up off the mattress as he carefully slid them down and off her body to reveal the precious treasure awaiting him between her thighs. When that last shred of modesty was whisked away the young knight was revealed to be as immaculately groomed as any woman could be, all traces of the soft, downy fur which grew between her legs having been scraped away that very morning. While it was hardly customary for every Leithien woman to groom herself so, for one who spent as much time as Sienna did sweating under layers of tight padding and thick metal which relentlessly soaked up the sun's warmth it became a simple matter of comfort and hygiene. The absence of such feminine fur only made the anxious maiden's cleft stand out all the more clearly against the field of pale, creamy flesh around it.

Not since her infancy had a member of the rougher sex witnessed Sienna in such a state. Thus, the mere presence of a man scarcely an inch from her bare snatch who she had never so much as heard of when last the sun rose was nearly enough to send the inexperienced noblewoman into a fit. Had she thought her heart could beat no faster, however, she would promptly have been proven wildly naive when her partner abruptly brought his face so near her entrance she could feel his warm breath against her skin. Entirely unprepared for such a development, she gave a gasp of surprise followed by a faint little moan as what could only be the man's tongue suddenly slipped between the gates of her sex.

The sensation which followed, one so powerful as to border on the indescribable, was unlike anything Sienna had ever experienced before. Her very first sexual partner steered his tongue with a grace and agility that far outstripped anything the chaste maiden's own fingers had ever managed on the rare evenings which saw her give in to the demon of lust and explore her body within the private sanctuary of her own bedchambers. Almost as soon as he began she started to feel her body come alive to his efforts, her eyes clenching shut as the heat in her cheeks and between her legs alike shot skywards like a bird taking flight. Within minutes the sultry soundtrack of Sienna's soft moans had blended together with what the baron's tongue coaxed from her increasingly slick pussy in a flawless rendition of the oldest and most cherished performance humanity had ever produced.

When the man eventually pulled himself back from the junction of her legs it was with no small amount of shame that Sienna caught herself biting her lip and gazing disappointedly down at him. However hesitant she might have been an hour before at the prospect of laying with a man she scarcely knew, after being on the receiving end of such skill the panting maiden's traitorous body practically burned with a need to at long last be put to its most natural of uses. From cheeks to heaving bosom her skin had flushed to an almost dainty shade of pinkish red and only the foreigner's presence between her thighs kept her from grinding them against one another in desperate pursuit of release.

“Are you ready?” he asked, a slight strain in his voice the only indication that Hyacin, too, was feeling the call of his most primal instincts. Eternals damn her for giving in, but Sienna couldn't bring herself to lie. As much as she would have preferred being brought to such a state by another, that it had been an honourable husband or at least the dashing prince of some forbidden romance whose efforts had left her so utterly exhilarated, any attempt to deny her desire for more would have been the most transparent of lies. Thus, still biting her lip, the blushing knight gave a single meek nod in answer.

With bated breath and a maiden's heart racing thunderously beneath her bosom, Sienna merely watched as the ambassador swiftly shuffled up the bed until his hips were nearly level with her own. Her anxious eyes went wide as she watched him line his manhood up against her waiting entrance and her breath caught at the thought of what was to come. When they were undressing that spear of flesh had already struck her as a terrifying weapon, but juxtaposed against her subtle slit it looked downright monstrous. Would it really fit inside of her? Could her body truly stretch enough to accommodate it? And just how deep was it supposed to go? To her eyes the thing about to breach her gates looked long enough to reach her navel, perhaps even farther. Surely that couldn't be right.

No sooner had Sienna's lips parted to give voice to such fears, though, than Baron Hyacin made his move. The ambassador's hips flew forward with such force that her words never found their form, instead coming out as nothing more than a startled, inarticulate cry. As her partner became the first man to enjoy her body's charms, the young knight's head rolled back and her eyes clenched shut. He had managed to lodge only an inch or two of his length inside her, but it felt like far, far more. Only a moment or two after loosing that initial cry Sienna found herself following it up with a demure moan prompted by the feeling of the ambassador dragging himself back out of her until only the crown of his cock remained inside. Opening her eyes and letting them lock on to those of her conqueror, the former virgin let out an almost pained gasp when he again surged forward to claim just a little more of her channel for himself.

Small mercy it may have been, but Sienna was at least spared the pain of having her maidenhead sundered in such a fashion. That fragile treasure never had stood much chance of remaining intact long enough to be claimed by a lover, not given how much of the blonde's life had been spent riding horses, sparring, or engaging in other such strenuous activities. Still, the sensation of having her virgin sheathe stretched out to accommodate a man's member was discomforting in the extreme. Fortunately, the baron was patient with his neophyte of a partner, taking enough time for her womanhood to adapt after each new thrust brought him a little closer to her womb. As such, it didn't take long for Sienna's gasps of pain to give way to more lustful exultations or for her hips to start meeting his every thrust with an answering counter of their own.

While the fire the ambassador's preliminary efforts lit between Sienna's legs had faded in the face of his first few excruciating thrusts, it didn't take long for that internal blaze to rekindle once her body had adapted to its new use. Indeed, soon Sienna's lust had soared to even greater heights than before. Fully a third of Hyacin's length yet remained outside his mewling prey when her arousal reached such a fever pitch that she found her back instinctively arching and her eyes clenching shut. The long moan which sought to accompany that display, however, lasted but a second as the overwhelmed maiden suddenly felt a presence approaching her face.

In the very same moment that Sienna's eyes flew open once more, the baron's lips met her own in a hungry kiss. Such unexpected intimacy prompted a muffled squeak to erupt from from the blonde knight's throat, but with nowhere else to go it was instantly swallowed up by her aggressive partner. It had perhaps been foolish of Sienna to think she could surrender herself to a man's predations without seeing him also claim the honour of her first kiss, but the shock of that precious milestone being taken from her with but a split second's warning caught her entirely off guard. Across the span of a single heartbeat the feigned chivalry with which her first lover had conducted himself warred against the shame her situation had prompted within her, the casual mastery he had displayed over her body clashing with the fact that she scarcely knew him...

When Baron Hyacin's tongue pushed past Sienna's parted lips, however, all conscious thought was eradicated from her mind. Indecision gave way to instinct and the sacrificial maiden's nubile body moved on its own to embrace her conqueror. To each side her hands released their deathgrip on the bedsheets, one shifting to wrap instead around the man's back where its thumb began to subtly trace the raised ridge of his largest scar while the other aimed higher and landed on the back of his head where its fingers promptly dove through his thick black hair in search of a firm grip. At the same time Sienna's eyes shut once more and her hips thrust up to meet the baron's, an inaudible gasp passing from her mouth to his as that single motion drew what remained of his shaft inside her body all at once.

The overwhelmed maiden mindlessly allowed herself to fall into the kiss which followed, her body positively electrified at finally being allowed to enjoy the sort of primal embrace her honour and chastity had so long denied it. The man in her arms may not have earned his place there in the fashion she would have preferred, may not have been the sort of lover she would have chosen for herself at all, but for so long as their embrace lasted it could hardly have mattered less whether or not he had won her heart. His were her first kiss and her first night, hers were a typhoon of contradictory instincts and emotions too convoluted to suss out. In the face of such an overwhelming sensory assault, all the honour in the world couldn't have stopped Sienna's body from responding in kind.

Initially, the inexperienced warrior was astonished by the salty-sweet taste of her partner's lips and tongue as they danced against her own. In all her whispered conversations with one or another of her more experienced friends not a one had ever led her to believe a man's mouth would be so unlike her own. It was a few seconds before she realized that it was not, in fact, the ambassador's mouth she was tasting but traces of herself left over from his efforts between her thighs. As that realization struck her, the former maiden's cheeks went as red as they had ever been and she caught herself whimpering into his mouth. She had heard, in the barracks for the most part, of men, or even girls of a certain inclination, doing such things to a woman and she could hardly dispute that the act had been positively thrilling to experience. Tasting the residue on her partner's lips, however, felt dirty in the extreme. It wasn't enough to make her pull away from his kiss, though. Not with how eager her body was to go on.

When Sienna's first kiss was finally broken it wasn't by her but the baron. The lust-addled blonde had no idea how much time had passed when he at last pulled away and lifted himself up to loom a few inches above her face, but it felt like entire ages could have gone by. Her arms proved reluctant in loosening enough to allow for his departure, but in the end she was given little choice. In the lull that followed, Hyacin smiled as he peered down into his panting prey's face and brought one hand up to stroke her cheek. “Was that... ?” he asked, his own breath nearly as heavy as hers.

Sienna just bit her lip and gave a single demure nod in answer, a ferocious shiver running the entire length of her body at how wide a grin that admission brought to her partner's lips. One part of her wanted nothing more than to smack the man across his smug face. Another was desperate to roll out of bed and sprint for the nearby door. A third yearned to simply lay back and spread her legs as wide as they would go. Yet another insisted she pinch herself in order to wake up from what surely couldn't be real... The overwhelmed knight felt so many impulses, so many instinctive urges fueled by her shame or lust or anger or duty or any of a thousand other competitors besides that they all roiled together in such fierce competition to dictate her response that none could ultimately prove victorious. As such, when the imperial ambassador straightened up and took hold of her hip in one hand while his other stroked up and down her opposite side she did nothing but meekly lay where she was.

“Not so ferocious now, are you?” the man asked, his lips twisting upwards into an undeniable smirk. Sienna just blushed at that assessment, for she could hardly deny it. As much as she wished she could defend herself, the belittled knight was scarcely able to imagine how feeble she must look laying naked and speechless with her opponent's cock hilted deep inside her womanhood. Their current entanglement was such a far cry from the scene which had played out between them that very same morning that any onlooker could have been forgiven for disbelieving that the latter had even happened. In the scant few hours since Sienna's assault on the diplomat, the upper hand she once held had been so thoroughly trounced it might as well never have existed and she herself had been reduced to such a powerless state that she could respond with naught but a breathy gasp when Baron Hyacin delivered a new kind of thrust into her pussy, one far less tender and more aggressive than those which had preceded their kiss.

When a moment later he followed that stroke up with another, even more assertive thrust, Sienna merely whimpered and clutched ever-tighter to his back. Her eyes clenching shut, she put up no resistance as the arrogant foreigner took full advantage of her surrender. Gone was the noble gentleman who had cordially invited her to his bed, such courtesy, however mocking, was replaced instead by the furious rutting of a savage. Suddenly it felt to Sienna as if she had been taken captive by some barbaric warlord from beyond the frontier, one more beast than man who was determined to enjoy her body to the fullest.

Over the next few minutes the captive lady and her conqueror carried on in much the same vein. Where before Hyacin had been considerate, even gentle, suddenly he was like a man possessed, his body pounding into hers with every last ounce of force it could muster. In response, Sienna could do little more than lay back and accept whatever he deigned to do to her. Within minutes of the baron's transformation, her hands had fled his bucking form for their previous handholds to each side in a desperate effort to brace herself against his ever-harsher assault on her snatch.

Enduring such treatment hardly dulled Sienna's own arousal, however. If anything, being treated as little more than a helpless prize to be enjoyed sent the shamed knight even further into the throes of passion. Her womanhood had already been slick as far back as the baron's earliest efforts, but in the face of his renewed assault it felt as if a waterfall had begun to pour forth from her core. She was so drenched, in fact, that her partner's every thrust was met with a shameful new squish or squelch the sound of which proved more than sufficient to sustain the ferocious blush which coloured her cheeks even as her legs wrapped encouragingly around the man's hips.

It was impossible for any but the baron to say what, if anything, prompted the decision, but not long after his shift in temperament Hyacin seemed to tire of taking Sienna as one would a wife. Without providing even the slightest of warnings, he released his grip on her hips and straightened up. For one brief and utterly naive moment, the bewildered maiden thought he might have been finished with her. That illusion, however, was swiftly dispelled a heartbeat later when all of a sudden his hands were at her side and rolling her over. Too far gone to resist even had she not been caught off guard, before Sienna knew what was happening she found herself belly down on the bed with her face buried in a pile of pillows. She was only just starting to turn back and glance over her shoulder when a sharp blow to her rear made her squeal. A second had landed by the time she could finish craning her neck far enough around to get a good look at the man behind and above her, then a third before she managed to catch his attention. Though less surprising, each made her jump at least as sharply as the first.

Wide eyed from bewilderment, Sienna met the ambassador's gaze with an unspoken question written plainly across her face. The man just gave her a stern look, however, delivering a fourth swat to her rump before he deigned to provide any actual explanation. “Don't look so surprised, Lady Sienna,” he finally elaborated, “You already confessed your crime. I know not the customs of your land, but where I am from bad girls are punished most severely.” With that warning, a fifth spanking rained down on the young knight's upturned ass, one so hard it left the receiving cheek nearly as red as those on her face.

Brought on by that blow, another little squeak escaped Sienna's lips before she managed to turn away and hide her blazing face. There was simply no way she could hold the diplomat's gaze, not in the face of his latest punitive fancy. It was unspeakably humiliating for her, a highborn lady and battle-tested knight of the realm, to be disciplined like some child or serving girl who had broken a prized vase or stolen a handful of sweets from the kitchen. Such an ordeal was only made that much more humiliating by the fact that she could undoubtedly have beaten the man delivering it upon her to a bloody pulp had she been given the chance.

The consequences of any such reprisal, however, were more dire than the young warrior dared even contemplate, let alone invite. So instead of lashing out, she simply buried her head in the pillows before her and resolved to endure this latest indignity. It was Sienna's own mistakes that had brought such humiliation upon herself, after all, and she had known ever since receiving her father's orders that her pride was forfeit for the night. Trying to bring to mind any thoughts might help her weather the coming storm, she meekly bit her lip and lifted her ass ever-so-slightly in tacit acceptance of the baron's intentions. Despite the silk and downy feathers all around her ears, the blushing blonde could hear all too clearly that satisfied chuckle which celebrated her answer.

No sooner had Sienna presented her rump for 'punishment' than Baron Hyacin delivered her next spanking. That one was followed by another, then five, then a dozen more until the humiliated knight's cheeks stung so fiercely she feared it would be weeks before she could bear riding in a saddle once more. For the next few minutes, each and every blow that struck her ass was punctuated by a gasp, or a yelp, or a whimper that had been dragged forth from her quivering lips. One after another, her protestations grew louder and louder until she couldn't imagine even the guest chamber's stone walls were capable of concealing her shame, let alone anything so flimsy as a pile of pillows.

When at last the baron stopped raining blows down upon her aching rump, Sienna gratefully allowed herself a deep breath of relief then followed it up a few moments later by casting a silent prayer up to the eternals that her penance was finally complete. By that point she could scarcely wrap her mind around all that she had endured at Hyacin's hands. The man had vacillated between chivalry and cruelty without warning, her body thrilling at each even as her mind struggled to keep pace. She wished none of it had ever happened yet at the same time was eager for more. She wished she could erase the baron from her life even as she knew he had left his mark on her in ways that could never be undone. She shied away from that very same touch which her body yearned for above all else...

Amidst such uncertainty, so many conflicting instincts and emotions, the one thing Sienna knew with utter certainty was that she was beyond exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally alike she felt as drained as she ever had after even the most grueling of skirmishes. It was only natural, then, that in the stillness which followed Baron Hyacin's assault on her ass she let her eyes close and her mind go blank. Such a peaceful reprieve, however, was not to last long.


So fatigued was the young knight that she heard her bedmate's voice as if it were coming to her through a fog, her brow scrunching slightly against the pillows before her as she tried to discern just what he meant by that lone word. She had yet to puzzle out his meaning, yet to truly stir, even, when the man's hand struck her ass once more. His latest blow was not nearly so sharp as those he had been delivering a minute before, but with how sore those earlier efforts had left her rear it stung all the same. Chastised and confused, Sienna shifted to once more peek anxiously over her shoulder.

At the sight of her obvious bewilderment Baron Hyacin simply rolled his eyes, such a casually dismissive gesture prompting the deflowered maiden's cheeks to burn just a little hotter. “Oh, for...” he muttered, leaning forward and reaching out to grasp her by the wrists. Far too exhausted to resist even had she not already surrendered herself unconditionally to the domineering foreigner's authority, Sienna let him take hold of her arms and manhandle them into the position he wanted. When each of her hands wound up atop one of her own ass cheeks and he repeated the initial command, she at last understood, swiftly turning away once more as she fought back a pitiful little mewl at the humiliation of what he expected from her.

Disgraceful as the thought of doing so was, Sienna reluctantly complied with the baron's demand. Hiding her face deep in the pile of pillows before her she closed her fingers around each of her cheeks and haltingly pulled them apart. The proud knight could only imagine how she looked with her face down, her ass up in the air, and her womanhood on full display for the viewing pleasure of the only man who had ever been inside it. As utterly humiliating as it felt to be in such a position, though, Sienna couldn't help but be infinitely grateful that there were no witnesses present to see her endure such an indignity. Any witnesses save herself and her imperial paramour, of course.

With the way her face was hidden, the blushing warrior was given no warning before she suddenly felt the baron's hands alight on the inside of her thighs and give each a little tug. After just a moment's hesitation she complied with his unspoken command, shifting her knees a few more inches to each side and in so doing opening up a space in between for her conqueror. It struck her a second or two later that he could have simply pulled her legs apart manually, she certainly would have been in no position to resist. Something deep in her belly fluttered at the realization that not having done so could only signal that he preferred she open herself up for him. A second mighty flutter followed in rapid succession at the thought of just how quickly and obediently she had done so.

Before her lust-addled mind could wander much farther down that perilous trail of thought, Lady Sienna was brought back to her senses by the increasingly familiar presence of the baron's tip at her entrance. Whether because of her new position or as a lingering effect of his previous efforts she lacked the experience to say, but when he entered her for a second time it swiftly became clear that the feminine knight's womanhood would put up far less resistance to the man who had laid his claim upon it. A soft gasp escaped her throat as he easily slid past her outer lips, then a breathy moan at the sensation of his shaft being buried inside of her.

Only a few powerful strokes were required for the baron to fully sheathe himself inside Sienna's eager snatch, his efforts almost instantly rekindling the fire which had intermittently risen and fallen between her legs since the very beginning of their encounter. Not long after the man resumed his place of honour inside her, the disgraced knight assumed his command to spread herself had lapsed and tried to withdraw her hands only to find herself grabbed by the wrists once more and manhandled back into position. Biting her lip and letting out a whimper just a little louder than those around it, Sienna complied with the unspoken directive and continued to hold herself open.

It only took a few minutes of the ambassador pounding into his mewling prey before his powerful thrusts, which before had typically remained steady and measured even when he was at his most aggressive, began to grow very erratic indeed. Her body rocking with each wild impact, Sienna suddenly realized that, when coupled with the fact his grunts and groans were coming ever faster and louder, such a development could only mean the man was nearing his peak.

Maiden though she may be, Lady Sienna was no fool. Many a long year had gone by since she reached the age at which a young lady was taken aside and taught how her body worked, so while it was her first time laying with a man she knew full well the risks inherent in such a coupling. Whether or not she had yet felt any urge to rear a child of her own could hardly have been less relevant, as there was not a single scenario in which her current bedmate was the man she would have chosen to do so alongside. It was with that thought firmly entrenched in her mind that the desperate knight found her voice for the first time since getting undressed.

It took more effort than she would have cared to admit for Sienna to lift her head and crane it far enough around to see the baron while deprived of the use of her hands, but she seriously doubted the man would look any more kindly on a second attempt to defy his orders than he had her first. The anxious maiden was rather motivated, though, and so a few wriggles later she had managed the feat. “You... you have to...” she began, trying to seize hold of the baron's attention with her eyes even as her voice caught in her throat. Getting no response, she tried again a little louder, “You can't... not in me...”

Several moments and a third attempt at begging were required before Sienna's conqueror at last deigned to acknowledge her pleas. Though his reaction, once it came, almost left her wishing she had said nothing. The baron didn't so much as glance down at his partner's face before proceeding to dismiss her concerns in the most callous way imaginable. With such a flurry of motion that she didn't even realize it was happening until too late, one of the man's hands found its way to the back of Sienna's head and harshly shoved her forward. The blonde managed only a momentary yelp of surprise before being effectively silenced, her face ground down into the fluffy pillows beneath with no more subtlety than Hyacin had shown in bruising her ass.

Any further attempts at protest on Sienna's part wound up so muffled by the downy pillows before her that even she could scarcely make out their feeble mewling. While hardly enamored with her new position, the mutely-squealing knight found herself helpless to escape it thanks to the weight of a decently-sized bedmate pinning her down and the presence of his hand planted firmly against her skull. As such, she could do little to avert whatever conclusion the man had in mind for their sordid tryst. And if there was any doubt as to just what that ending would be, it was dispelled a few heartbeats later by the series of triumphant groans which heralded her partner's imminent climax.

Trapped as she was, Lady Sienna had little recourse available by which to prevent her imperial conqueror planting his seed inside her body. Scant moments after being forcibly silenced she felt his shaft begin to twitch and the first impact of his seed crashing against the gates of her womb. The sensation which followed a heartbeat later as that liquid warmth began to spread throughout her core was not unlike the shock of a hot drink scalding her throat. Taken together with the way her partner's manhood was running roughshod over all the infinitely sensitive nerves which lay deep within her, however, it blossomed into something indescribably more wondrous.

Feeling herself filled with a man's seed for the very first time proved as exhilarating an experience for Sienna as it was a terrifying one. Her body seemed to have entirely escaped conscious control leaving her hips to roll enthusiastically against the baron's and her nethers to clench down around his shaft. Even as her body desperately chased its own release, though, a mighty shiver raced up the horrified maiden's spine as her thoughts leapt insistently to the possibility that her partner might even then be siring a child within her. Such a prospect was every bit as daunting as that of what would have happened had she refused the man's attentions, but it did little to dampen her body's riotous reaction to being claimed in the most primal of ways. If anything, the adrenaline rush that fear prompted only added fuel to the fire burning within her core as her body frantically sought out that promised bliss which lay just out of reach.

Tragically, such a pursuit was destined for futility. Sienna's hips were still desperately twitching when the man inside and atop her at last collapsed and fell still, her thighs flexing and unflexing in a vain attempt to force that last little bit of stimulation which might have been enough to trigger her own climax. Without the baron's aid, however, the nubile knight never stood a chance and soon her blossoming ecstasy started to taper off. Before long she was left with nothing but an ache between her legs, an occasional disappointed flutter within her core, and an uncomfortable feeling of utter fullness.

With her frenzied mind racing in a dozen different directions all at once and the tantalizing taste of an unrealized orgasm teasing at the edges of her senses, Sienna had stood little chance of tracking just how many salvos the ambassador's weapon had loosed within her body. Judging by the veritable lake of potential children which suddenly suffused her core, however, she imagined it had to have been a great many. Almost without thinking, the blonde maiden's hands at last released their grip on her monumentally sore ass allowing one to drift up and clutch instead at her belly. However much seed had actually been pumped into her, that perfectly-sculpted plane seemed to possess no more curve than ever, though. How such a thing could be when she felt so obscenely stuffed, Sienna couldn't say.

It was such thoughts which dominated the despoiled maiden's fatigued mind when her authoritative partner eventually recovered enough to give a mighty groan and roll away to one side. Suddenly released from the anchor of his weight, Sienna would have been free to put as much distance as she dared between herself and the baron had a new conundrum not arisen to distract her from that possibility. So long as he had remained inside of her, the foreigner's softening cock had served as a stopper for her ravaged channel in much the same way a cork did for a bottle of wine or spirits. In his absence, the vast reservoir of seed which he had left pooled inside her was suddenly unbound and already she could feel it slowly beginning to drain out of her womanhood.

Unnerved by the bizarre sensation that exodus left her with, Sienna acted without thinking and shifted the hand cradling her belly down to cover her sex instead. The freshly-deflowered knight blushed furiously as that hand arrived to find her once pristine snatch gaping open and utterly drenched in a sticky blend of her and the baron's combined emissions. Feeling like nothing so much as a little girl trying to contain an overfull bladder, she sealed that entrance with the palm of her hand and swiftly buried her blazing face even deeper into the pillows before her. The sensation of warm, sticky seed welling up from her depths to ooze out against her hand was enough to make Sienna's skin crawl, but she simply didn't know what else to do. And before she began to even contemplate what alternatives might exist, all were taken from her.

“C'mere,” the man beside Sienna absently mumbled, everything from his voice to his laboured breathing making clear that he was nearly as drained as she was. Perhaps even more so. Before the warrior maiden could take advantage of their newfound parity, however, his hand was stretching across her back to grip at the shoulder opposite him and then he was pulling her to his side. She tried to squirm away, tried to put some space between them instead, but between her desperate insistence that her thighs remain together and having but a single hand free it proved only too easy for the baron to manhandle her into whatever position he wished.

Almost before she knew it Sienna found herself face to face with the man who had stolen her innocence, his surprisingly strong body an anchor to which her own nubile flesh was tightly secured. Hyacin had positioned his prey so that her head rested squarely on his shoulder, a placement which allowed the arm beneath to stretch its way down her back to where his hand could clutch tight to the upper cheek of her achingly sore ass. That hand ensured her hips remained snug against his side, in the process trapping between them the despoiled maiden's own which yet served as the daintiest of dams in sealing up her still-leaking pussy.

The ambassador said nothing more after that, seemingly disinclined towards any activity more strenuous than mere breathing. Judging by how tight he held her, however, it was clear to Sienna that he was not yet prepared to release her from her night's servitude. For what might have been several minutes or nothing more than mere seconds she tried to hold her head up, but doing so quickly became tiresome and so eventually she let it settle down onto her conqueror's shoulder. When a moment later he lazily turned towards her, let their eyes lock for a long moment, then leaned in to plant a lingering kiss on her forehead, the blonde knight found herself utterly dumbfounded. She was so thoroughly stunned by the act that she had offered no response at all, either positive or negative, by the time the man let his head fall back into some pillows and at last closed his sharp green eyes.

Once again caught entirely off her guard by an act of what seemed almost genuine affection and intimacy, Sienna found herself gazing tentatively into the baron's now-serene features. Before her was a man who had coerced her into his bed by threat of arms, ravaged her with the ferocity of a wildman, left her rump so sore it was more like than not to still be glowing come the morn, and then ignored her desperate pleas to instead spend himself inside her. Not a single one of those acts spoke of so much as respect, let alone affection, yet in their wake the man was holding her as close as he might a childhood sweetheart without whom life was unimaginable. Could that disparity simply be chalked up as one more contradiction in a night which seemed utterly full of them, or had the foreigner come to actually... like her?

As that question surged through those few of Sienna's weary synapses which had yet to shut down for the night, the blushing maiden tried to make herself if not comfortable then at least not uncomfortable either. Such a task proved challenging, however, as the position Baron Hyacin had trapped her in was more than a little awkward what with her perched on her side with one arm trapped beneath their bodies and the other laying limp up above. Likewise, the rather aggressive intimacy of a largely unfamiliar bedmate pawing possessively at her rump only served to amplify that seemingly endless font of raw anxiety which washed over Sienna in such force as to prevent her from relaxing. With a range of movement limited to only what that grip would allow, though, she could do precious little to make herself more comfortable save slide marginally up or down the man's side, choose how much of her leg to drape over his, and reposition her one free arm. She tried several iterations of the last, but nothing quite seemed to help her settle in until she tentatively decided to curl it inwards and place it atop the baron's broad chest.

By that point the candles which had illuminated Silverwing Keep's finest guest chamber earlier in the evening had long since burnt out, leaving it nearly impossible for those inside to make out any but the broadest details of whatever lay before their eyes. Still, with her face so close to the imperial envoy's, Sienna thought she could see his lips curl slightly upwards when her hand came to rest above his torso. She couldn't be certain though, not any more than she could tell whether the subtle squeeze which the fingers cupping her ass delivered a few heartbeats later was a deliberate act or simply the routine twitch of an exhausted body.

Whether the baron's expressions of approval at her tentative embrace were real or simply an imagined fantasy, Sienna neither felt nor saw anything further for quite some time afterwords. Laying in the dark beside her unexpected bedmate, she was surprised to find herself unable to follow him into the realm of dreams. As exhausted as she felt, her mind and body simply refused to shut down. The latter twitched periodically as the last vestiges of her thwarted arousal stubbornly lingered on, and the former was steadfast in insisting she revisit every last element of her recent encounter. To make matters worse, every once in awhile she found herself distracted by the pool of seed within her belly shifting slightly as if it had broken through some new barrier and found yet another secluded corner of her womanhood within which to pool.

Inevitably, such reminders of what she soon might carry within herself guided the semi-conscious musings of Sienna's anxious mind down a few paths in particular. When she was yet a child and as she had flowered into womanhood, some of the innocent maiden's older peers and relatives had insisted that in time she, too, would begin to feel a certain urge towards the miraculous journey of motherhood. It would present as a subtle yearning at first, or so they said, but one that only grew as the months and years ticked by. There had been a time when Sienna vociferously denied such assertions, but in recent years she had started to understand where they were coming from. Certainly, many aspects of carrying and raising a child gave her pause, not least among them what pregnancy would mean for her martial career, but at the same time there was an undeniable... appeal... to the thought of shepherding a new life into the world.

Of course, when the intrigued lady-knight had caught herself imagining the father of her potential children he had always been far more caring and considerate of a man than the one in whose arm she was currently cradled. One much closer to herself in age as well. And, naturally, it went without saying that she hardly fancied the thought of carrying even a single child sired by a man who had forced himself on her, no matter how well such an assailant dressed the occasion up with honeyed words and feigned chivalry. Her children deserved a better father than that by far. Still, while the shame brought on by her current ordeal would likely plague her for months or years to come the act itself had been far less taxing a trial than she had anticipated. Perhaps, once the current crisis had died down, it was time she pulled her father aside and informed him that she might just be willing to reconsider her stance on his oft-stated goal of finding a husband for his only daughter. She wasn't ready to be married, not yet, but... perhaps being courted would not be such a terrible thing after all. As the duke was wont remind her every chance he got, it wasn't like she would remain young forever.

Sienna was still contentedly imagining the face of the man to whom she might just give herself (his strong, chiseled jaw... his tidy, thick beard... the sort of piercing eyes which would be able to see right through her feigned disinterest...) when a sudden noise snapped her from her reverie. While exhaustion had left the drowsy maiden far too sluggish to truly catch that initial interruption, her warrior instincts came alive a second later leaving her tense as she patiently awaited any indication of danger. A moment later the sound came again, but from far closer than she had anticipated. A loud snore, and nothing else, erupted from the man beside Sienna with such force that she only barely managed to avoid jumping clear out of her skin.

Blushing ferociously, the blonde knight closed her eyes and forced her rampant nerves to settle down. For a moment, she scowled at the revelation that Baron Hyacin was prone to snoring. More than a few of her comrades suffered from that particular failing, and the presence of such men on assignments which stretched long enough to require a night or two of camping always made the prospect of falling asleep far more of a challenge than it ought to be. Spending a night in bed with one was thus an entirely unappealing prospect. After a moment or two, though, the young warrior remembered how difficult it could be to wake a man once his snoring had started up. Eyes narrowing, Sienna contemplated whether it would be worth trying to disentangle herself and slip away if the baron truly was such a deep sleeper. No doubt he wouldn't take kindly to being woken up if she failed, but then he hadn't actually laid out any demands that she stay the night either.

Deciding that an escape attempt was worth the risk, the deflowered maiden carefully lifted her hand up off the slumbering baron's chest and reached behind herself to grab his wrist. Her eyes remained fixed on the man's face, warily watching for any signs that he was about to stir, but no such indications came even when she carefully pulled his hand far enough away to give herself room for maneuvering. Once she was free of Hyacin's grip, moving slowly and carefully to the edge of the bed without disturbing him became a simple matter. Upon reaching her destination, Sienna silently rose to her feet, gathered up the scant few garments which had decorated her nubile figure an hour or three prior, and swiftly slipped them back on. After that only one last test of the anxious maiden's good luck remained, a heavy door of aged oak which stood as the final barrier between her and freedom. Fortunately, the eternals seemed to be on Sienna's side as a quick prayer that the door make no sound was answered in the affirmative. With no further cause to linger, she swiftly slipped out into the moonlit hall and silently fled as fast as she dared in the direction of her own chambers.

* Seven Months Later *

Baron Hyacin Lyselliol III of the Lacanth Marches, Emissary of the Imperial Crown and knight in good standing of the Argent Order wore an ornate outfit of imperial blue, a silk cape bearing the insignia of the Etraskian Empire, and a very broad smile indeed as he strode confidently towards the throne room of Silverwing keep for the first time in his life. There were few things, after all, which brought the ambassador more joy than a feast held in his honour. It was certainly unusual for a nobleman of his pedigree to take such pleasure in the position he held, most of his contemporaries back home sought out a position in the imperial court above all else and considered venturing beyond the border a kind of living hell. Unlike Hyacin, they preferred to squabble like starving dogs over even the slightest scrap of attention their callous sovereign deigned to pay to the likes of them. But then, such courtiers were, to a man, imbeciles. Not even one in a hundred would rise to prominence through such efforts, yet far more than that would wind up poisoned at breakfast, knifed in a secluded corridor by the light of the moon, or, should they prove particularly fortunate, merely exiled from the court in disgrace.

No, fighting tooth and nail to survive in such a den of desperate vipers had never held much appeal for the good baron. Instead, Hyacin had only ever sought out the more humble position of an imperial emissary. Thus, while his myriad counterparts back home spent their days warring with one another over incremental advancements and petty rivalries, he wiled away those very same days being wined and dined by simpering foreigners. As a representative of the Emperor himself, wherever he went pitiful locals tripped over themselves seeking to accommodate his every whim so as not to cause even the slightest insult which might incur the wrath of his powerful patron. Hyacin's choice of career might have meant his name was unlikely to ever grace the pages of history, much less to inspire awe in the capital, but whenever duty called him to one province or another he lived like a lion among mice. To his eyes that was a very fine trade indeed. Some among his peers might have called him a bully, true, others going so far as to add cowardice to such a charge, but the baron could hardly have cared less what such hypocrites thought. He was a man of simple pleasures, all of which could be attained from spineless foreigners with far greater ease than they could his fellow imperials.

As easily as he could enjoy himself in any free city or petty kingdom, however, Hyacin had a growing feeling that the puny little Leithien Duchy to which he had just returned would rapidly become a firm favourite among the many foreign courts which served as his playgrounds. After the debacle last spring which saw their idiot princess attack him without the slightest hint of provocation, the baron was willing to bet her family and their various retainers would spend a generation or two desperate to avoid even the merest hint of imperial displeasure, to say nothing of placating him specifically. The little bitch in question had certainly gone the extra mile in her own efforts to earn herself a pardon, showing up at the door to his chambers that very same night all dolled up and practically begging to be ploughed.

Naturally, Hyacin had been only too glad to oblige in humbling the arrogant wench. He was, after all, no stranger to using his position as cover to lift a skirt or three. Indeed, after more than a decade in his post he considered himself something of a connoisseur of provincial pussy, a status which came from having sampled the charms of foreign sluts in more than a dozen different lands. Of all the world's many undeniable truths, the fact that every palace, great or small, was packed to the brim with serving girls who knew better than to refuse an important guest had long been first in his mind, and rare indeed was the city without at least one suitable brothel where desperate whores willing to debase themselves for pocket change congregated in the worship of their betters.

Of course, should such easy conquests alone not prove sufficient to qualify him, the baron could even boast of having had his way with a few highborn sluts here or there, a precious handful of those rare fools either gullible or reckless enough not to spurn his advances outright. Still, as many foreign women as he had taken to bed it was hard to think of even one he had enjoyed working over more than he had that idiot blonde who had been fool enough to attack him while playing soldier. What had her name been? S... something. Sierra? It hardly mattered. She was of little importance, simply an amusing treat he had allowed himself and nothing more. That said, the ambassador had spent much of the last few hours wondering whether the little brat would have the guts to show her face at the upcoming feast or whether she would instead spend his entire visit sulking in her chambers.

When Hyacin's confident gait finally brought him to the stately doors of Silverwing's throne room, the baron couldn't help but note the collection of local knights standing at attention to each side of that portal. Idly, he wondered whether any had been among those who attacked him on his last visit. With their visors down and their personal shields replaced by heaters bearing the emblem of their lord, however, it was impossible to tell one from another and so he simply breezed past the warriors without paying them a second thought.

Passing through the throne room doors, the ambassador entered a chamber every bit as crowded as it was elegant, the high-ceilinged space dominated by a quartet of massive wooden tables piled high with food and drink. There must have been a hundred local aristocrats and dignitaries sitting around them, perhaps even more. Hyacin was hardly an easy man to please but even he had to admit that the feast his hosts had thrown together seemed at first glance to be among the most impressive he had ever witnessed. It was little more than a pale shadow of those his master hosted, of course, but one couldn't expect too much from a pack of provincials.

The baron was still taking in the magnificent aromas of fresh bread and roast pig when his eyes began to sweep casually across the crowd before him, eventually coming to linger on one particularly comely maid. She was certainly pretty enough to strike his fancy, what with the bright coppery curls which bounced just so as her head turned and a pair of rosy cheeks that he imagined made her seem to be perpetually blushing. Hyacin couldn't imagine the girl's breasts were much larger than an apple each despite her corset's best efforts at accenting them, but on such a slender frame as she possessed he would have had it no other way.

As luck would have it the willowy maiden's freckled face turned her admirer's way mere moments after he first spotted her, but when Hyacin quickly flashed her a wolfish grin her cheeks darkened past their natural pink and she promptly turned instead towards the older woman sitting to her left. The pair certainly looked similar enough to be mother and daughter, he mused while giving the elder her own once over, though the companion could perhaps have been an aunt or cousin instead. The ambassador allowed himself an anticipatory grin as he turned forward once more, his target for the evening ***********ed. She was a touch on the young side, perhaps, but that only meant she would be easy prey provided he could separate her from her undoubtedly watchful minder. Once he had, though, the things he would do to her nubile flesh...

The very moment Hyacin laid eyes on the head table, however, all thought of that budding redhead vanished from his mind in an instant. It took all the experienced diplomat's self-control not to laugh aloud at the sight which awaited him there. His host, Duke Theovaire, sat at the center, the petty sovereign's full regalia no doubt sufficient to cow his own subjects but hardly impressive to one accustomed to the grandeur of an imperial court. At each of the man's sides rested two chairs. The pair to his right were occupied by his sons, both of whom were fully absorbed in their meals. At the opposite end of the table an empty chair awaited the guest of honour's arrival. It was the place in between that chair and the old Duke, however, to which Hyacin's gaze was drawn.

Theovaire's daughter sat stiffly at his left, the food before her scarcely touched. With her pretty face and long golden locks the young knight was every bit as fetching as Hyacin remembered, but to his great pleasure she was dressed as befit a lady instead of a warrior. Not that she seemed to have much choice in the matter. An elegant diadem pinned back the young aristocrat's intricately woven and braided hair and she wore a delicate dress of gold and white cloth which clung tight to her womanly figure in place of the gleaming coat of mail which had obscured those same curves from the baron's view during their initial encounter. The ornate garment she wore now must have been either new or recently modified as it fit perfectly around the prodigious jut of the blonde's swollen belly.

As he witnessed the change his seed had wrought in his one-time assailant, the veteran ambassador couldn't recall a single moment from all his life in which he had been more completely satisfied. Her defiled body was a glorious sight which proved more than sufficient to stiffen his manhood despite the many layers of formal attire holding it down. There could be no disputing that pregnancy suited the beautiful young noblewoman, and it was no worse a fate than she deserved for assaulting her betters as she had. Even a persistent rumour of having lost her innocence was enough to do serious damage to such a woman's chances of finding a suitable match, after all. Actually bearing a child out of wedlock? Whatever prospects the girl had once had for marriage would have been irrevocably shattered the moment her condition became apparent.

Fighting hard to mask his mirth, the imperial emissary came to a halt a few paces before his host at the end of the great hall. After removing his hat and briefly bowing exactly as low as protocol dictated and not a fraction farther, Hyacin straightened up once more and met the Duke's eyes.

“I bid you welcome to my domain, your excellency,” the stoic monarch pronounced, acknowledging his guest's formal bow with a crisp nod of his own. His bearing was as formal as could be and devoid of open hostility, but it also utterly lacked the warmth, sincere or otherwise, which usually greeted Baron Hyacin wherever he went. “I trust your journey was a pleasant one.”

“All was as you say, your majesty. My travels have been entirely peaceful of late and your fair realm has no shortage of truly delightful views which I have had the good fortune to behold.” As he spoke, Hyacin couldn't stop his eyes from flitting over to the man's daughter for just a moment. His gaze didn't linger long enough to be entirely certain, but unless he was much mistaken the girl's cheeks were distinctly darker than they had been a few moments prior. Whether that came as a reaction to his remark about delightful views or the subtle reminder of her past errors was impossible to say.

“I am gladdened to hear you say so,” the old Duke replied. Judging by the hint of frost which had slipped into the man's tone Hyacin's momentary indiscretion had not gone unnoticed. It was subtle, though, so subtle that the ambassador suspected few men present would notice it even were they close enough to listen in. He actually found himself rather impressed by that. No doubt even a minor sovereign like the Duke was accustomed to getting his way, yet he was entirely in control of himself despite the fury he no doubt felt over his daughter's condition. Had the old bastard been born an imperial instead of a provincial he might have been a very great man indeed. It was almost a pity. Almost.

“As this is your first official reception here at Silverwing,” the Duke carried on without missing even a single beat, “allow me the honour of introducing my children. These are my sons Lucien,” he nodded towards the nearer of the two, a mangy mutt with short brown hair and fresh stains on his clothes, “and Bastien,” the farther, a blonde who looked as marginally better groomed as he was younger. Each of the pair greeted their father's guest with a polite nod of their own before swiftly turning away. They were younger than Hyacin, somewhere in their early twenties most likely, and neither struck the ambassador as particularly noteworthy. Perhaps age or the responsibilities of a throne would shape one or the other into a man of consequence given enough time, but for the moment they appeared to be nothing more than two spoiled, indolent princelings of the sort the world seemed to possess in endless supply.

“And this,” the Duke rumbled on, “is my daughter, Sienna.” Ah, so that's what the brat's name had been. Sienna nodded stiffly at the ambassador when prompted, clearly struggling to meet his gaze. Hyacin returned the gesture with a wolfish grin that only deepened the disgraced maiden's blush. There was no doubt at all that his presence had brought recollections of their last encounter to the forefront of the girl's mind. Deep beneath his breeches the diplomat's manhood stirred as he let his eyes linger on his former prey. He couldn't help but wonder whether she was wet under that fine dress she wore. The little bitch may have played the blushing maiden at first when she threw herself at him, but once they had retired to bed she had responded as enthusiastically as any whore. Besides, it was no secret that having a child in her belly made many a woman all the more eager to be mounted.

“The honour is mine, my lord, and might I say it is a true delight to make your acquaintance properly, and the lovely Lady Sienna's as well.” For just a moment Baron Hyacin thought the Duke would rise to his challenge, but instead the old man just let it pass with a grim look on his face.

“Please, join us for the feast,” the old man gestured to the empty seat on his daughter's left, his voice downright icy.

“It would be my pleasure, your majesty.” Only after giving a second precisely executed bow did the imperial emissary move to take the seat which had been prepared for him. For once he paid not the slightest mind to the serving girl who pulled out that seat and filled his chalice, no peasant was worth his attention next to the radiant young woman seated to his right.

For the better part of the next hour Baron Hyacin gradually worked his way through the meal which was set before him soon thereafter, all the while enjoying as best he could what passed for entertainment in the provinces. Throughout the evening musicians serenaded the assembled nobles while a series of performers from fire-eaters to acrobats were brought in one after another to amuse their betters. For the first half of the feast the ambassador was also engaged in an intermittent conversation with his host, their topics ranging from the latest imperial news to a casual discussion of issues which affected each of their nations. Little of consequence was said, perhaps, but it was the sort of casual sounding out which would make the serious talks set to take place over the next few days pass more smoothly. Baron Hyacin Lyselliol III of the Lacanth Marches was, after all, an exemplary ambassador. Whatever his personal interests may be on any given day they always came second behind those of his master.

For her part Lady Sienna sat quietly as the men to each side of her talked at length, scarcely touching her meal and paying even less attention to the motley procession of entertainers who paraded themselves through the great hall. Every now and then her father or his guest would address her directly, but each time she deflected their inquiry as brusquely as propriety would allow and returned to staring at the stone blocks which made up the throne room's opposite wall.

Not until his host had departed to address in private some concern raised by one or another of his nobles did Baron Hyacin at last turn his attention to the man's daughter. By that point the lordly sun had already slipped beneath the far horizon, it's warm rays giving way to candlelight and a roaring hearth. All evening the din of provincial revelry had grown louder and louder with each barrel of wine or spirits the assembled nobility left drained, a phenomenon that did tend to happen at most feasts, so by the time Duke Theovaire left it had become quite difficult indeed for even the most determined of eavesdroppers to pick out any individual conversation over the general clamour.

Thus, with little fear of being overheard and her father no longer present to enforce proper decorum, the ambassador could no longer resist the temptation of engaging with Sienna more directly. “I fear I must beg your pardon, milady,” he began, his cheery tone a stark contrast to the somber words. “It strikes me that I have been most terribly remiss. Please, do allow me to offer you my heartfelt congratulations.”

An unmistakable look of utter bewilderment dawned on the disgraced maiden's fair features as she slowly turned to face her father's guest.”Congratulations?” she asked, her brow tightening as the word hung heavy in the air between them. “Whatever for?”

Baron Hyacin just smiled politely in answer to Sienna's quizzical look, unwilling to let her less-than-gracious reaction dampen his mood. It was only to be expected, after all. He was hardly foolish enough to believe a child conceived under such circumstances as theirs had been stood much chance of being greeted in the typical fashion. No, instead of the usual pageantry which celebrated the imminent birth of a new royal the arrival of such a bastard would have prompted only awkward silences and determined avoidance, it's very existence a source of shame every bit as undeniable as it was unspoken. Given Sienna's station in her homeland he imagined few men indeed would have been bold enough to remark upon it at all, but he had nothing to fear from the likes of her.

“Why, on your condition, of course,” The ambassador blithely explained. As the blonde's eyes went wide from shock he just kept on smiling, casually lifting his glass as if in toast before gulping down what remained of its contents.

“I... that's...” Sienna's cheeks flushed as dark as the wine Hyacin had just drank, his explanation leaving her speechless. The emissary had always found that highborn ladies expected such delicate topics to be broached only with the utmost discretion. He had also always found that the sight of them floundering when caught off guard by an abrupt, direct inquiry was one of life's true delights. Fortunately, despite her frequently unladylike inclinations Sienna proved to be no exception to that particular rule.

As the wide-eyed noblewoman fell into a fit of furious stammering it struck Hyacin that he might actually be growing a little fond of the brat. She was quite pretty when not playing soldier, he mused, and responded nearly as spectacularly to being teased as his long-lamented little sister once had. It was rather endearing.

By the time Sienna finally succeeded in collecting herself her cheeks were practically blazing and she no longer seemed able to meet the baron's eyes, instead fixing her gaze somewhere on the table between them. “Thank you, your excellency,” she eventually managed to grind out, though the manner in which she did so made her true feelings perfectly clear.

“You are most welcome, milady,” Hyacin replied with a gracious nod. When he reached down to pluck up a small fruit from the plate before him the fallen maiden began to turn away, no doubt thinking, or at least hoping, that their conversation had run its course. That escape was never realized, however, as no sooner had the emissary popped the carefully ***********ed delicacy into his mouth than he carried on. “But, and do forgive me if I am misinformed, are you not unmarried? I would have thought news of your matrimony would reach the empire.”

Though it had hardly seemed possible a few moments before, Sienna's one visible cheek darkened yet further as she haltingly turned back towards her neighbour. “You are correct, milord. As yet I have not been so fortunate as to find a husband.” The girl's voice had gone oddly stiff all of a sudden, but Hyacin was surprised to find her once more meeting his gaze. And unless he was reading her entirely wrong, quite the rare mistake for a man of his position and experience, it almost seemed as if she were... challenging him. The brat may not have possessed much in the way of brains, but one had to respect that she seemed to have no shortage of backbone. It was a curious combination which left her not entirely unlike a wild mare, Hyacin mused.

“I see.” The baron paused dramatically at that 'news', taking a long sip of his recently refilled wine while savouring the aura of obvious discomfort which radiated out from the young woman beside him. “Then, and please, forgive my impertinence, do you know who the father is?” Maintaining an air of aloof curiosity as Sienna's eyes flared with outrage took every last shred of self-restraint in Hyacin's arsenal, but he managed the feat. For just a moment after speaking, he was convinced that the mother of his latest child was about to hurl herself at him armed with naught but a dinner knife. But, In the end, she too maintained her composure, if only by the most tenuous of margins. Instead, the weapon of choice for her inevitable reprisal was limited to a voice which trembled with equal parts fury and shame.

“I have only ever lain with a single man, your excellency.” The disgraced maiden put so much sting into those last two words it almost seemed as if she thought the baron needed a reminder who had sired the bastard growing in her womb. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Hyacin very much doubted either of them would ever forget the events of that fateful day.

“Is that so?” the emissary idly mused, fighting back a smirk at the way his one time victim's eyes flared once more. Most men found anger unbecoming in a woman, and it was certainly a trait which could make one more difficult to manage, but to his eyes Sienna looked all the more fetching when she was riled up. “Well, your lover must have been a most fortunate man indeed to have shared the bed of such a fine and fair lady as yourself.” Whatever response the disgraced maiden had expected from the target of her wrath, clearly it had been something else. In the face of such an unexpected compliment her cheeks, which had only just begun to return to normal, darkened once more and she recoiled in surprise as if slapped.

“I...” Sienna's gaze lowered to the table once more, all the fight draining out of her in an instant. It was as if the fierce spitfire he had been trading barbs with was gone and the vulnerable maiden she had always looked to be was there in her place. “I am glad to hear you feel that way.” By the time she fell quiet her voice had dropped to scarcely a whisper.

Suddenly caught off guard himself, the ambassador leaned back in his chair and took a long moment to survey the beauty in question. “But of course,” he finally answered, “I have little doubt that any man so fortunate as to spend an evening in your company would consider the experience among the most precious of his treasures.”

“I hope so, Milord,” Sienna replied. As she spoke, her bright eyes slowly began to track back up towards Hyacin's face. “I confess, I have...” by the time her gaze had finally met his own the blonde's voice was positively quivering and she gave a subtle gulp before carrying on. “...anticipated his return.”

“Oh? You have?” Genuinely astonished, the baron couldn't help but raise one eyebrow and cock his head slightly as he stared back at the young noblewoman.

“It is true.” As Hyacin looked on, Sienna closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There could be no mistaking how excruciating their current conversation must be for the girl, but after a brief moment her eyes opened once more and she carried on in a steadier voice even as her cheeks grew darker. “I had hoped that once he knew of my... condition... he might... seek my hand.”

At that confession Hyacin's carefully maintained facade of detached curiosity finally cracked, his own eyes going wide even as one of his hands instinctively rose to stroke at his close-trimmed beard. “Truly?” he asked, scarcely able to believe what he had just heard “It is your intention to seek a marriage with this man?”

“It... it is.” Everything about the disgraced maiden, from her blushing cheeks and reluctance to meet his eyes to how much she struggled in getting the words out, told Hyacin that she was anything but eager to be his wife. Yet, at the same time there was a subtle strength lurking just beneath the surface which told him she had made her decision. “No decent man would have me as I am now,” she continued on, “but the father of my child would not be shamed for... formalizing our union. Were he to agree to such an arrangement, that might restore to me some semblance of dignity.”

“I see,” Hyacin mused, continuing to stroke his beard as he mulled over Sienna's words. She wasn't wrong about the merits of such an arrangement. Marriages of that sort were hardly unheard of, though typically they took place between illicit lovers who actively sought to be together rather than a predator and his prey. While hardly sufficient to eradicate her shame entirely, a wedding would reduce the stigma of her condition to a simple scandal which soon enough would be rendered stale news. Perhaps even more importantly, becoming his wife would also allow for her child to be legitimized and thus spared the indignity of living as a bastard in the eyes of mortals and eternals alike.

As much as he found himself respecting the young Lady Terracroix all the more for having the courage to make such a difficult choice, be it for her own sake or that of her child, Baron Hyacin couldn't really say he was in the market for a new wife. After all, he had already fulfilled his familial responsibilities once as a younger man. Many years before he had inherited his family's estate the then-untitled aristocrat's parents had arranged for him to wed a suitable maiden by the name of Phierri Gessa. It had been a loveless marriage, more a business arrangement than an affair of passion, but there was hardly anything unusual in that.

Prior to the ceremony the couple had only met a handful of times, mostly at some crowded social occasion or another, and they scarcely so much as saw one another after their first few months of matrimony. After that brief honeymoon period had concluded most of Hyacin's days were spent away on official business while his wife remained behind tending to his ancestral home. Over a touch longer than a decade of marriage the couple had spent little more than a year in total, two at the very most, sleeping beneath the same roof. During their time together Phierri had provided her husband two healthy children, a daughter born less than a year after their wedding followed by a son several years later. Eventually, their time together had come to an end when she succumbed to an illness which swept through the marches while her husband was away in some foreign court. Since then Hyacin had been perfectly content to live as a widower, his whims tended to by whatever convenient partners he happened across during his travels. Not that matrimony had ever done much to curb his indulgences.

Still, while Hyacin may not have set out from home in search of a wife he could easily see the appeal of bringing Sienna back with him. After all, the wannabe knight would certainly make for a more amusing bedmate than the litany of interchangeable serving girls with whom he usually distracted himself between assignments. And he had his children to think about. They could only benefit from once more enjoying the sort of maternal presence they had lacked in recent years, even were it to come from one only a decade or so their senior. Then, of course, there was the undeniable truth that life held a great many dangers and producing an additional heir or two would likely prove advantageous in ensuring that his line survived...

Yes, the longer Baron Hyacin contemplated taking young Sienna as his wife the more merit he saw in the prospect. So it was decided. “Well,” he finally smiled, “You need not fear. I imagine any decent man should agree to such a reasonable proposal.”

The look that dawned across the young noblewoman's face at his tacit acceptance of her request bordered on the indescribable. He saw relief and dread writ across her face in equal measure, each tempered by no small amount of shame. All the same, she nodded softly in satisfaction, her voice coming out steadier than it had of late, if no stronger. “It gladdens me to hear you say as such.”

“But of course, milady,” the baron matched his newly betrothed's nod with one of his own. “And your lord father? He looks favourably upon such a match?” The question had to be asked. Having already assessed the old man Hyacin deemed it unlikely in the extreme that he would object to such a reasonable course of action, but there was no way of knowing whether the subject had already been broached or not.

Sienna's eyes fell to the table once more and he could see her biting her lip as she glanced away. Her reply, when it came, was so quiet as to scarcely be a whisper. “He... knows I will not receive a better one.”

“Ah, I believe I understand,” the baron nodded sagely, allowing a modest smile to curl his lips upwards while the girl was looking away. “The Duke is a wise man indeed. But, I must ask, milady, do you truly feel prepared to fulfill the duties of a wife?”

When the highborn girl turned back to meet his gaze it was with a hesitant look on her face and one hand instinctively resting on her swollen belly. “I believe that I am...”

“Is that so?” Hyacin frowned, subtly straightening up in his seat so as to appear as stern as possible. “I know not what marriage is like in your fair duchy, but among my people a wife's duties are taken most seriously. It is a demanding calling, one which precludes other pursuits such as, say, knighthood.” The baron used every inch he possessed to look down at Sienna as he gauged her reaction.

“I am aware,” the girl replied sullenly, making no attempt to disguise her displeasure at the prospect of no longer being permitted her martial indulgences. If the demand came as a surprise, though, she didn't let it show. Unless the baron was gravely mistaken, it seemed his new betrothed truly had considered and accepted the consequences of her decision. That was something he could certainly respect.

“In that case, I wish you well in this matter,” he smiled, one hand reaching out to caress his soon-to-be wife's shoulder. The blonde flinched back from his touch at first but quickly bit her lip and willed herself to remain in place. That sight was more than enough to widen Hyacin's smile. “I imagine that were your lover present to hear all this, come the morrow he might wish to speak further of the matter with your Lord Father.”

“That would do my heart well,” Sienna answered, a clearly forced smile decorating her pretty face as she started to turn away. When she tried to do so, however, the ambassador's grip on her shoulder tightened and he pulled her back. “Milord?” she asked when their eyes met once more, trepidation clear in her eyes.

Hyacin allowed his smile to shift to a more predatory expression as he looked over the young noblewoman seated beside him, taking plenty of time to let his eyes play across every inch of her alluring figure before at last explaining himself. “I imagine,” he began, speaking slowly as if carefully choosing his words were a difficult task, “that your lover might also wish to... reacquaint himself with your beauty after so long apart.”

Sienna seemed to wilt as the implications of what the baron was suggesting hit home, her eyes going wide even as she shrank back into her seat. “I...” she stammered, her cheeks darkening in an instant, “I doubt he... would care to... to have me... in my current condition.” As she stammered, one of the despoiled maiden's hands fell to cradle her swollen belly.

His soon-to-be wife's display of hesitance, though, only served to widen Baron Hyacin's grin. It was without question a true delight to know that, despite her apparent acceptance of the fate she had chosen, Sienna still possessed plenty of resistance for him to enjoy breaking. “Nonsense,” he chided, “you look absolutely radiant, Milady.” Though some might not have shared the same assessment given her current condition, the man spoke with utter sincerity as he stared into his new partner's eyes. At the same time, his hand lazily traced a path from the blonde's shoulder up her neck before settling into a firm grasp of the underside of her chin. Despite a level of intimacy which would be obvious to anyone who caught sight of them, he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “I assure you, there are many ways to enjoy a woman while she is with child. Ways which endanger neither mother nor babe.”

Sienna gave a heavy gulp at her betrothed's suggestion, but she possessed spine enough and then some to hold his gaze as she gave her stiffest reply yet. “If... if you say so... I am sure it is true.” The baron couldn't be sure, but he thought he saw the hand with which his fiance clutched at her belly pull in just a little tighter as she spoke. Such a sight left him pleased beyond words and only reinforced his decision to take the former knight as his wife. It was tragic, to be sure, but he knew well that many a woman in her situation had been known to let what resentment they might feel towards their conqueror spill over onto the product of such an encounter. Sienna, though, seemed nothing but protective towards his child and hers. As far as the baron was concerned, there could be no stronger evidence that she would make a good mother for his heirs.

Satisfied, Hyacin leaned forward, his face drifting past the blonde's until they were cheek to cheek and his lips were all but at her ear. It was an undeniably intimate position, but if Sienna was to be his then he no longer cared in the slightest what any onlookers made of their interaction. “Oh, I assure you, it is most certainly true,” he whispered, their bodies so close he could feel the way she shivered in response.

By the time the emissary sat back up his young bride-to-be was as flushed as he had every seen her and not even the most imperceptive of fools could have missed the way she practically quivered in her chair. She was an utterly delightful sight, timid yet resolved, innocent yet despoiled, proud yet ashamed... and best of all, she was entirely his. Few maidens indeed had ever left the weapon between Hyacin's legs so excited in anticipation of their conquest, nor given him such satisfaction in the aftermath of their surrender.

Judging by the way she squirmed under her future husband's appraising gaze, it seemed clear Sienna was anything but comfortable with the outcome of their conversation. It had become no less clear, however, that the blonde was a lady who would never shirk from her duties, whatever form they might take. The baron's assessment to that effect was only confirmed when she tentatively offered her unconditional surrender. “In... in that case...” she began softly, her voice growing ever steadier with each word that escaped her supple lips, “if it were his wish, my betrothed would be... welcome to pay my chambers a visit this eve.”

Baron Hyacin just smiled in response, inclining his head modestly towards his future wife in silent acceptance of her offer. The former knight closed her eyes and swallowed visibly, no doubt requiring a moment to steady herself before opening them once more and bracing her hands against the table upon which her nearly untouched meal still rested. “I fear it is time I retire for the night, Milord,” she declared, her voice scarcely more than a whisper.

Never one to breach the sanctity of proper decorum, the imperial ambassador was on his feet before Sienna could even begin to stand herself. Once upright, he graciously pulled back his pregnant betrothed's chair and offered her his hand. Seemingly surprised by such a display of chivalry, Sienna offered her man the faintest of smiles and a timid little nod once he released his grip on her arm and stepped back. No sooner had Hyacin done so than he swept one hand towards the nearest of the great hall's many exits.

A moment later and the newfound couple were making their way out of Silverwing Keep's throne room, the baron's precise steps awkwardly accented by his fiance's waddling gait. When he offered it, Sienna took her man's arm hesitantly but without question, each of the aristocrats well aware of the significance that simple act carried. For his part, Hyacin could hardly have been smiling any wider as they crossed what distance remained between themselves and their destination. Such a display, after all, would surely put to bed any doubt as to just who had left the Duke's daughter in her delicate condition, and the imperial ambassador relished a public declaration of his triumph. No doubt a great many of the petty provincial noblemen present had long harboured fantasies of claiming Sienna for themselves as they watched the feisty lady-knight blossom into such a gorgeous young woman, yet in a single evening he had spoiled her for the lot of them and ensured his was the only bed she would ever warm. As delicious as such a triumph was, though, it paled in comparison to what the rest of the night would surely bring...

The End

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