Mark of Favor Ch. 01bytwilights_kith©
"I'm surprised you answered my summons, Siu." Marit's murmured comment greets the tall, lean man as he steps through the open garden doors into her chamber. "I'd have thought you would ignore it on principle." Her throaty, silken voice holds a hint of amusement, but it sounds forced tonight.
Siu leans against the door frame, dark eyes picking out the vampire's slender form as she stands in front of the mirror. Her expression, reflected in the glass, is strangely smooth; not the mobile, wickedly mischievous visage he has grown accustomed to seeing. In the months since she had first shown him the extent of her power she had taken to appearing suddenly and without warning; it might be a glimpse of her watching him from across a crowded plaza, or she might step out of a dark street and walk beside him, or he might turn around as he walked the grounds of his own home and she would simply be there, waiting. It was disconcerting to say the least – but though he waited for her to bring him painfully to heel as she had before, she only looked at him with those dark, knowing eyes and disappeared again into the night; sometimes after speaking with him for a time, sometimes without saying anything at all.
"I've heard …things." His low, rumbling voice finally answers, as he crosses his arms across his chest and watches her. "I heard that there was a challenge for your place in the Triad." The simple, rumpled elegance of his dark slacks and un-tucked silk shirt suited him, but it seemed mundane compared to the garments she'd donned for the night's ‘festivities'. His eyes roamed over the fall of ebony hair that brushed her waist, the pleated white linen of the dress she wore, the glint of the beaten gold gorget she wore about her throat, and the matching cuffs about her wrists.
"Yes, there has been a challenge." Marit's voice hesitates as she meets his eyes in the mirror; watching his face, noticing inconsequential things such as the way the golden light of the lamps lit about the chamber burnish his skin. When the silence had stretched into minutes she speaks again, "I want you there at my shoulder, as my sword-bearer." Turning in place she faces him, "But not if I have to force you, or if you are going to be sullen and brooding. It must be a show of strength; yours and mind to have you to heel."
Siu frowns, sensual lips curving down as his brow furrows. "I'm not sullen." His gravely voice sounds offended and, yes indeed, sullen.
A momentary smile flickers on Marit's lips at his response before she levels a serious stare upon him, without even a hint of magic behind it. Just pinpricks of golden light reflected in the ebony depths of her eyes. "Tonight is no game Siu – I'll not toy with you, and I must know that you will not hinder me or make me look weak." She allows just a thread of entreaty to enter her voice, the sound of her first language - now long dead and forgotten to all but her - accenting the honey and amber of its rich tone. "I ask it, I do not command."
Siu contemplates her for long minutes, still frowning. The struggle is apparent upon his face; his stubbornly independent nature and his fear that she would make him a slave, against the draw of her power and the attraction he felt for her as both man and lion. Finally he nods and unfolds his arms, straightening from the slouched pose he'd taken. "Alright, what do I have to do?" His voice is wary, but it's evident that his intent is to help, as she'd asked.
"Excellent!" Marit had been completely still while she awaited his answer, her dark gaze never wavering from him. Now she moves, gliding across the room to a chest, where she extracts a carefully wrapped bundle, "Put these on. If you need, I'll help you." She lays the bundle on the divan next to the standing mirror, opening it to reveal a white linen kilt, heavy gilded belt, and an Egyptian-styled collar that would cover his shoulders.
Siu picks up the collar with disbelief written on his face, momentary shock registering at its weight. "What is this?"
"Gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian, jasper…." Marit waves a hand, "It doesn't matter." She returns to the mirror and draws her hair over her shoulder, plaiting it into long braids that are then wound about her head and stabbed with jewel-picked pins. She obviously expects him to change, and after a moment Siu grumbles under his breath and strips off his clothes, tossing them on the divan as he glares down at the costume she'd laid out. Picking up the kilt he wraps it about his waist, though he has more than a sneaking suspicion that it isn't arranged correctly. The belt and collar – as well as the wrist and arm cuffs he finds under the folded cloth – are at least easier to put on.
Patting the last pin into place Marit turns her head to look at him, an amused smirk touching her lips as she shakes her head. "The folds are wrong, here…" Gliding over to him she reties the belt and pulls the folds and creases of the linen kilt straight, making sure they fall correctly. He looks down at the top of her head, bemused, as she fusses with his clothing, smoothing the lay of the material over his lean hips and muscular thighs. Touching the thinner cuffs on his arms she pushes them up to rest above his biceps. "There…now kneel and I'll fasten the collar clasps." Still watching her with bemusement he complies, silent until she adjusts the collar, brushing the back of his neck with hands as cold as death.
"Your hands are icy Marit," The rumbled protest stills her, as she stands behind him fastening the last tiny, nearly invisible clasps. "You haven't fed tonight have you?" Siu turns his head to look at her over his shoulder, having to tilt his head up only slightly to look at the vampire woman. He blinks, having not really realized how petite she was; the sense of her power made her seem taller somehow.
"No, I have not. I did not trust this challenger not to try and ambush me beforetime, when I was…distracted." Marit doesn't elaborate; her eloquent shrug is explanation enough. After a moment, however, she adds, "And I felt I should be here, should you decide to answer my summons."
"So you need to feed, or you'll be weaker than you should." Siu catches her hand in his as she steps around him, preventing her from moving into the shadows and away from his scrutiny. He feels the chill of flesh and sees the translucent pallor of her bronze skin before she pulls her hand away, expression startled at his show of boldness.
"I am strong enough." Marit's chin comes up, her dark eyes flashing with arrogance and a touch of anger at his presumption, "And besides, there's no time to hunt." She sighs, a very human gesture, and glances away, "It begins soon."
"You said a show of strength, yet are willing to appear weakened?" Siu lets a note of derision enter his low voice. "You can't tell me that the other vampires won't be able to tell you haven't fed, or use that knowledge to their advantage somehow." His eyes are sharp as he looks at her, "What would backing you mean to me – to the others who answer to me – if you lose, Marit? You think I want to risk that either?" A touch of anger enters his tone as he reaches out and grabs her wrist again, suddenly. "Feed on me; take my blood." He says it fast, his voice rough; as though getting the words out before he can change his mind.
"On ... you?" Marit returns her gaze to the lion kneeling before her, relaxing instead of yanking her wrist away again. Her rich, melodic voice is surprised, but has a rising note of anticipation. "You truly offer this?"
Siu nods, pulse suddenly speeding as he meets her dark, depthless eyes. "Yes." Releasing her wrist, his hands fall to his sides, fingers flexing as if he's unsure what to do now that the offer has been made and confirmed.
Marit turns and slowly crosses the short distance between them, stopping in front of the man as he turns his head to watch her. Raising her hand she brushes her fingers against his cheek, running them down his skin to his jaw, cupping her hand against his face. Her gaze remains locked with his, and whatever she sees reflected in his expression seems to please her. Power begins breathing off her skin, the pale bronze taking on a dim, unearthly glow. It curls around him, a caress that coaxes his own hot, electric power to the surface in answer.
"What are you doing?" Siu's gravely voice hesitates as he feels the brush of her power again, its touch stirring his desire and calling forth an answer from his beast. His hands come up and settle at her waist, the muscles of his arms flexing as though he can't decide whether to pull her closer or push her away.
"Open to me and I will take away the pain." Marit's dark eyes shine like obsidian, the touch of her power strengthening; whispering over his skin, murmuring in the back of his mind. Her other hand rests on his shoulder against the cold metal of the collar, as she begins bending her head over him, "Let me wash it away..." The soft words breathe against his skin as her lips hesitate over his cheek.
His nod is imperceptible, but Marit knows the moment he lets his barriers down; as his mind opens her power closes around him like a vise, pulling a groan from his lips as she fills him with spiraling desire, feeding his burgeoning pleasure until he feels nothing else. Her hand cupping his jaw she turns his head, stretching his throat into a clean, smooth line as her lips trail over his cheek and down, to the pulse that throbs below his skin. With a sigh Marit's lips draw back from needle-like fangs for an instant before she sinks them into his neck.
Siu's hands tighten around her waist, sliding up her back as he draws her tightly against his body. Any resistance he'd felt is washed away under the influence of her power, leaving only the need to feel her slender, supple form pressed against his flesh as the pleasure of her magic courses through him. The feel of her lips sealed against his throat pulls another rumbling groan from his chest, one hand sliding up further to cup the back of her neck.
Marit's hand slips from his jaw to the nape of his neck, fingers curling tightly in his hair as she hold his head immobile while she feeds. The taste of his blood - hot and powerful as only a shape-shifter of his strength could be - intoxicates her. It is an effort of will for her to finally draw back, drawing her teeth from flesh, dainty tongue licking the last drop of blood from her lips even as she loosens her power's hold upon him. Letting the unnatural pleasure ebb she gently tilts his head back, ebony eyes meeting his own - heavy-lidded and dazed still - before she leans in and presses a kiss to his lips.
Though Marit hadn't intended the kiss to last more than a few moments, Siu's fingers slide into her hair and send delicate hairpins pinging to the ground as he pulls her mouth more firmly against his own; his lips and tongue playing against hers as he tightens his arm around her. Though it is the taste of his own blood in her mouth it excites him more, the coppery scent mingling with her own fragrance of honeysuckle and smoky incense.
Marit allows him to explore and taste, the press of his mouth becoming more confident and demanding as her body relaxes compliantly into his own. Only when a low growl trickles from his lips and his hands begin roaming over her does she pull away, her laughter like a brush of velvet darkness that makes him shudder. "Enough, enough for now my cat." Her voice is full of breathy pleasure as she backs away from the kneeling man, watching him as he fights against the primitive desires of both man and beast.
The wash of need and pleasure recedes from his senses, but Siu still watches the vampire, dark eyes tracking her every move as she steps back. When he finds his voice it is a rumbling throaty bass, deeper even than it had been before. "It hurt before ...when you used your power on me. This..."
"Didn't hurt?" Marit's warm, melodic voice betrays amusement as she replies, bending and sweeping the scattered hairpins into her hand before turning to glide towards the mirror and correct the damage he had done to her hair. "Dare I say you enjoyed it?" The sly, throaty purr is accompanied by a sidelong glance, eyes dancing wickedly.
"Yeah..." The lion glances down his body ruefully, running a hand down to cup the evidence of his arousal. "I did." His hand doesn't linger on his erection, though his eyes darken with need again as he watches her, watching him. Feeling a trickle of warmth trailing down his throat his hand raises to his neck and the puncture wounds there, coming away smeared with blood.
Pushing the last pin back into place Marit turns her head, noticing the blood on his fingers and neck. "I'll get a bandage, so that you can cover the wound." Her voice takes on an empty, dispassionate note. "If you want to."
The oddly emotionless intonation of her voice catches the lion's attention, "What's wrong?" Siu very deliberately, without removing his gaze from her, licks the blood from his fingers. "I know something is, so just tell me."
Shaking her head sharply, as though irritated by her strange reactions, Marit removes a small packet with an alcohol pad from the drawer of the vanity that stands next to the mirror and moves towards him. "I …" The vampire frowns, emotions flickering across her features. "I would like it if you came to Court with the bite left bare, for all to see." Reaching out she gently touches his throat near the wound, tracing the edge of the golden collar draped over his shoulders. "It is considered a mark of favor among my kind, and showing it openly means you do not feel shame for it." Her voice drops to a whisper, and for a moment – her skin warm and glowing with life from the blood and power he'd fed her – she much resembles the woman she must have been centuries before. "It would please me."
Taking the alcohol pad from her hand Siu tears it open and swabs the bite clean of blood as he rises to his feet. The wound is already healing, and doesn't bleed further, though the freshness of the punctures is unmistakable to those with senses such as a vampire or shape-shifter possess. "I don't need a bandage." Dropping the swab he moves towards her slowly, the light playing over the muscles of his chest and stomach, only to stop when someone pounds upon the door of her chamber with a heavy hand.
Tearing her eyes away from the lion stalking towards her, Marit turns and gathers up a long silk-wrapped package from the vanity and holds it out to Siu, her manner suddenly very formal. "It's time, my cat. Take this sword; it shall be your duty to present it to the victor of this challenge." Even as he steps forward to accept the wrapped sword he can see the change in her; the chill that replaces the sensuous warmth in her voice, the emotionless, dead-eyed expression in place of her insinuatingly wicked smile and glittering eyes.
Siu grimaces as the pounding comes on the door again, accompanied by a concerned voice, muffled by the thickness of the door. "Mistress, the time approaches."
Cradling the sword in the crook of his arm he inclines his head as she moves past him, murmuring throatily, "When this is done…" The lion hesitates, unsure in the face of this new aspect of the vampire.
Turning her head as she rests her hand on the door handle Marit pauses, her ebony eyes as hard as the stone they resemble. "When this is over and I have survived. Then …we'll see." Her expression softens for a moment as her gaze flickers to the bite he wore uncovered upon his throat; the mark of her favor. "Then we'll see."