of the Last God
(Book II of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 2000 BY
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"Purr... You seem happy, my lord."
R'Narr smiled, running a paw lightly over L'Sala's bare abdomen as she lay next to him in the darkness. The moment they had shared had been exquisite, despite the hard ground beneath his pavilion. 'She is truly a consummate lover,' R'narr thought, his cat's eyes easily seeing her in the gloom, and enjoying what he saw. 'So much like her grandmother... It is like being young again.' R'Narr toyed with the idea of asking her to be his mate for a moment, then discarded the thought. L'Sala was young, strong, and might perhaps even harbor some feelings for him. Still, she was a Mentalt. She would hardly give up the life of scholarly study and quiet power of T'Masa Keep in exchange for being the mate of an old, scarred tom. Most likely, once he was firmly established as Shazad, she and the other Mentalts D'Zhin had gathered would simply return to the nunnery, there to continue to plot and scheme their intricate plans for the future. No, in the end, she was a Mentalt. Her being here was in accordance with yet another of their intricate plans and Manipulations, and once her goals were accomplished, she would leave him. If she were an ordinary female, perhaps he might try to exert his will, to dominate her, and take her as his own. But, she was not. Such an effort would be, in the end, futile.
"Purr... Yes, L'Sala. I am happy, for the moment. The Little One, Smith, has made an excellent repair to the damaged wagon, and now he has finished working on the axles of the others so that we will not be stopped by their failure, either. We near the pass through the mountains that will lead us back to our lands. Within a month, we will be on my own lands, and a week after that, we will be at my castle. With a little luck, a year after that, I will be Shazad of all the cat clans - thanks to you."
"Purr... Thank you, my lord. Still, this is the most dangerous part of our journey. We will be passing through T'Mrr lands - if T'Zama T'Mrr discovers we have the Little Ones with us, she will move to snatch them from our paws."
R'narr nodded, his fingertips idly tracing the outline of L'Sala's left breast. "Purr... She will not find out. I have my scouts before us that we may avoid her patrols, and none but D'Zhin knew where we were going, or why," he said, then smiled at her. "Purr... Still, you are right - it is wise to be extremely careful until I have the Little Ones safely in my own castle. My son should be encamped near my eastern border, with all the troops the western clans could spare. With luck, he will have followed orders and awaited my return, and the mus won't have forced his paw with an attack. Once we are safely within my castle, our only difficulty will be in getting the western clans to follow my banner against D'Zhin, rather than opposing me." R'narr paused, squeezing her breast idly as he considered the problem. "Mrr... If I can meet with D'Vring and D'Lahst, I may be able to convince them... Or, failing that, I may be able to simply dominate them."
L'Sala placed her paw over R'Narr's, holding it to her breast, and smiled. "Purr... Be careful of D'Vring, my lord. He is left-pawed, and quick to use his sword if he feels he is losing a dominance struggle. D'Lahst you may be able to dominate, but be wary - he is one who will submit on one day, only to return to contest you the next morning when he feels he has the upper paw."
R'Narr nodded, smiling. 'By the gods... If she would be my mate... I could rule the world with her advice,' he thought, and gazed into her eyes.
For a long moment, neither said anything - they simply gazed at each other. As he looked into L'Sala's lovely emerald eyes, R'Narr felt his heart stir with emotions he hadn't felt in years. 'More than that... I think I would be happy with her, even if we only lived in a small shack in the middle of nowhere, lost to history, with none to ever speak my name again.'
Finally, R'Narr suppressed a sigh. He flicked his tail, flicking aside the quiet love that welled up in his heart, and simply laid on his back next to her. 'Bah. You're an old fool, R'Narr!' he thought to himself with a mental snarl of irritation. 'This is no ordinary female, this is a Mentalt. She'd no sooner fall in love with you and be your mate than she would sprout wings and fly over the moon! They can't even feel love, if the stories are true. They live on quiet logic and their Grand Manipulations. Bah.' Reaching up to his cot, R'Narr pulled down his blanket, draping it over the two of them. He stared quietly into the darkness for a long moment after, then finally closed his eyes.
L'Sala gazed at R'Narr silently as he slept, her cat-eyes watching him in the gloom of the tent. Gently, so as not to awaken him, she slipped her arm over him, cuddling close to his side. She gazed at his face for a long time after, listening to his quiet breathing, her face expressionless, impassive. Gently, she laid her head upon his shoulder, and closed her eyes.
A single tear slipped out,
dampening his fur, but nothing more.
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