The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 19byLady_Blackhawk©
Disclaimer: This fanfic is based off the Neverwinter Nights community module by the name of "A Dance with Rogues" created by Valine. I fell in love with this story and felt compelled to write something that compliments it. This story is rated Mature (NC-17) for explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Ni'as, Nicca, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
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A Dance With The Enemy
Shiloh returned to the sewers and Vico's home. He still hadn't returned. She wondered what had kept him away so long. She knew he could take care of himself, but it made her worry. It wasn't like him to stay away so long...especially not from her. Vico could never seem to get enough of her. She thought back to the night before the messenger showed up. He had woken her from a deep sleep, coaxing impassioned cries of sheer pleasure from her lips as he took her to the highest peaks possible. A pink blush covered her skin as her thoughts were overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of his ravishment of her. Their lovemaking had been incredible. She had lost count of the many sweet peaks he'd presented her with. It had been unlike anything she'd ever experienced before. She hadn't thought it possible, especially where Vico was concerned. She knew he enjoyed fucking her, yet it seemed to go much further than that on that particular night. He did everything he could to please her. It almost seemed like he let down his guard and let her see a part of him he kept closely guarded.
She was thankful for those little pieces of him that she held so dear. Those little moments she kept close to her heart. It made her smile as she snuggled down into the thick soft blankets that covered his bed. She hoped he would return soon. She needed him to return. She wanted to feel his strong arms around her, keeping her warm. The empty space in the bed beside her felt cold. Lonely.
Where was he? That he would come back to her was her fondest wish at that moment. It flooded her with joy and relaxed her enough for the warmth of the room and the blankets surrounding her to lull her into the dreamy caress of sleep.
The sound of heavy booted footsteps roused her. The tang of sickly sweetness filled her nostrils. What was that smell? She pushed herself to her elbows and blinked until she could focus.
"Vico," she called out as she sat up and swung her feet to the fall. Cautiously she walked into the other room and gasped aloud at the sight before her. Two large gashes rent the front of the blackened plate mail. Purple bruises marred his handsome scruffy face and he appeared to be moving with a bit of a limp. She ran to him, pulling the sword from his grasp and directing him to the chair before the fire. He seemed somewhat dazed and weary. His eyes did not meet hers at all. She quickly stripped him from his armor, unbuckling the breastplate and setting it aside. The bracers and the greaves followed. When she had him out of all of it, she removed his clothing as well and began to examine his wounds.
His chest was slashed in two narrow wounds. She hopped up and gathered the necessary supplies she would need in order to clean and bandage them. The wounds were not all that deep. It was if the weapon pierced his armor and gazed his flesh. She wondered who was responsible for such a thing, but deep in her heart she knew it had to be the Dhorn.
Shiloh quickly set to work. She bathed his chest and cleansed his wounds, forcing a draught of healing down his throat. He hissed at her and growled for something somewhat stronger. She knew what he meant, but had nothing to give him. She wasn't about to allow him to crawl into a bottle of spirits. No, she couldn't. She needed to know what had happened to him.
She watched as the shallow wounds knitted and coalesced. She wiped the blood away and continued to bathe his chilled skin. She wrung the cloth out in the water, watching the water turn a pinkish-red, and brought it up to his face. It looked like his lower lip had been busted. He growled again as the cloth swiped over it and knocked it from her hand. Shiloh hissed at him in indignation, grabbing the cloth up. She was intent on finishing what she had started.
But Vico had other ideas. He shoved her away and staggered to his feet. Grabbing her up by a hank of her long blonde hair, he dragged her to the door. Shiloh let out a squeak of pain as she felt herself being slammed against it. "Get the fuck out of my sight, slut!" He growled, opening the door and pushing her through it.
Shiloh squirmed and protested. She was naked! How could he put her out without clothing? She brought her knee up and rammed it into his groin, eliciting an 'oomph' of pain from him. She wriggled from his strong grasp and dashed back into the bedroom, grabbing up her clothing. She hastily donned the catsuit and cloak, grabbing up the few belongings she had here. Then she returned to the door, slapping him soundly. "I don't know what has gotten into your fool head, you ass, but you shouldn't take it out on me. I was only trying to help you."
"I don't need your help, little bitch. Now do as you are told and get the fuck out of my sight. And never come back!" He shoved her through the opening, locking and barring it behind him.
Shiloh let out a scream of exasperation, kicking the panel, and stormed away. She noticed the smirk on Mick's face as she passed by him, "Trouble in paradise, huh, coozie?"
"You would do well to mind your own business," she snarled at him, pulling her poison blade and slamming it between his ribs. Mick let out a grunt of pain and doubled over, gurgling as bile and blood filled his throat. She stood over him, watching as he sunk to the cold stone floor and writhed as the poison entered his system. She yanked her blade back out, watching with cold detachment as his blood trickled down the length of it.
She glanced over at Kasha and Gina who had the bows drawn and arrows nocked, pointing straight at her. She flashed them a cruel caricature of a smile and sauntered towards them. "Now ladies, he insulted my honor. Who else do I have but myself to defend it? Surely you can see it my way or perhaps you'd prefer to join him?"
The malevolence in her voice was unmistakable. Kasha and Gina eyed her warily as they lowered their bows and let her pass. Once Shiloh was out of sight, they ran to their fallen comrade, examining his wound. His breathing was shallow. His skin had taken on a sickly sallow pallor. "I'll staunch the bleeding while you run upstairs to get Alfons," Gina told Kasha who quickly dashed into the hallway leading up to the thieves' guild. Stopping momentarily, she pounded on the panel, hoping Vico would open up. And when he did, he glared at her menacingly. She gulped down a breath of air as his dark eyes pierced hers.
"Don't you know any better, stupid slut, not to disturb me?!" His outburst took on a darker milieu than his scowl.
"Your little whore just stabbed Mick and I'll be damned if whatever lover's spat you are having is going to be the cause of his death," Kasha ground out between her clenched teeth. "I don't care who the hell she is, but Alfons and Master Nathan will hear about this. So I suggest you had better get your shit together and find her before she hurts someone else who didn't deserve it."
Vico snarled at her, "Fuck off, Kasha. I'll take care of it. Not a word to Nathan." His brooding glare nearly matched the malevolent one Shiloh had flashed her. Her eyes widened and she dashed up the stairs, leaving him alone.
Shiloh noticed the time on the mantle clock as she entered the kitchen. With a gasp, she remembered the job the Mando had given her to do. She had forgotten all about it! By the hells, if she didn't hurry, she would be late. She raced into her bedroom and quickly changed out of the black catsuit and took the time to wash her body and apply perfume she had purchased at the Palace of Beauty. Then she slipped into the elegant looking blue dress she had purchased for the occasion. It was similar to the one Vico had ruined the night he had raped her. The one he still kept in his armoire she assumed as a souvenir. Next, she applied some cosmetics to her face quite artfully, giving herself a more mature and elegant appearance. And after checking herself in one of Chella's mirrors and liking what she saw, she stepped into her shoes and dashed back out into the kitchen and out of the Bear Pit.
She made her way up the street to the address Mando had given her and used the key to let herself in. Her date had not arrived yet. She noticed the clock on the wall had chimed the quarter hour. She smiled to herself, thankful she had made it on time. With all the problems she had had lately, she did not need to add to it by making Mando look bad in the face of his client.
She wondered who this... lonely... man was and what information she could possibly gather from him. Glancing around the lavishly furnished apartment, she wondered over to one of the bookshelves and begun to peruse some of the titles. She smiled to herself as she pulled one off the shelf and ran her fingers over the cover. Blackguard -Dreams of Destiny. She didn't know why it beckoned to her. Probably because of Vico. He was her blackguard, her dark knight. And despite the fact that he had thrown her out, she knew he would come back. He always did. He couldn't stay away from her for long. They both knew it.
She put the book back in its place and skimmed over a few more, murmuring aloud their titles. "Heart of Winter, sounds so cold. A Dance with the Devil, how dangerously wicked. The Cave of Songs. Twilight Calling. Perchance to Dream."
She stepped away from the bookshelf and entered the small kitchen off the main room. She noticed a wine rack and pulled from it a bottle of red wine. She read the label and smiled. It was a good vintage. Grabbing it and two glasses, she carried them with her back to the main room and set them on a small table next to a cozy looking divan. She poured herself a glass and made herself comfortable while she waited for him. The minutes ticked by as she finished one glass and poured another. Her ears perked up as she heard footsteps in the entry way. Her date had arrived.
A cloaked man approached her with a confident gait, although a dark cowl hid much of his face. Shiloh eyed him speculatively. She wandered who he was to have to hide his appearance from prying eyes.
"I knew you were in this business, the moment I first saw you," a honeyed voice spoke from beneath the hood. He threw it back and removed the cloak that shrouded the red and black mail beneath it. His eyes danced with cold appreciation as he eyed her head to toe.
Shiloh let out a gasp and slowly backed away. She glanced around, looking for a way to quickly escape the room. How could Mando knowingly set her up with a Dhorn? How could he endanger her very being like this?
The man before her noticed her wariness and offered a surprisingly warm smile. He held his hands up in plain view. "Have no fear, I mean you no harm."
Shiloh raked her eyes over him, studying him quickly. She recognized him. He was the Dhorn officer who had saved her from the drunks at the Swordfish. She wondered if he had realized that as well. Did he know he had been her savior as well as her greatest torment? Far greater than even Vico. Whereas Vico had only been responsible for robbing her of her innocence, the Dhorn had done worse. They cruelly murdered her parents and everyone she had held dear. They could even be held accountable for torturing Rhys.
He must have noticed her tension. "Truth be told, I had expected someone older. You look so young," his piercing blue eyes held a look of disapproval.
Shiloh poured another glass of wine, handing it to him. "What did you expect, my good officer?"
He accepted the glass and took a small drink of it. "I can't really say what I had expected. Certainly not someone as young as you. You should go home."
"I am older than you think I am," she smiled at him brightly. "And might I remind you, M'lord, you asked for this date. That is why I am here."
The blond haired officer chuckled. She had spunk, that was for sure. It was not a quality that the Dhorn had ever cultivated in their women. The Dhorn preferred them to be docile and compliant. A Dhorn woman bowed to her father and her husband in all things. "Seeing you in this situation is quite sickening. It is what I hate most about this uncivilized country. If you had grown up in Dhorn, you would have been sheltered by your family until it was time to take your place in your husband's household."
Shiloh knew her cheeks had to be turning redder by the second, for she could feel the heat coming off of them. But she knew this was not the time or place to start a war of words and ideals with this man who was obviously used to being in control. Her job was to find out as much as she could about him. She changed her tactics and flashed a petulant pout at him. Her lashes fluttered and she took a sip of her wine. "And I had hoped you would be happy to see me, my handsome Lord."
His eyes raked over her head to toe once more in the same appreciative way as he had before. "I didn't mean to imply that I was not happy to see you, sweet girl. I have a daughter that is not but a few years younger than you are. Truth be told, you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid my eyes upon and if it weren't for the fact that I am a married man, I would take you home with me this very night. Then you would never need to be in this desperate of a situation again."
Shiloh lowered her eyes dutifully. "Would you tell me your name, M'lord?"
"It is Arto. Arto Benthur and who are you?" He asked, eyeing her every move.
"Belara," she told him. "Forgive me for asking something so bluntly, my lord, but in reference to your comment of taking me home with you. Do Dhorn men not ever take mistresses?"
His eyes flashed instant anger and he looked as if he might strike her. "No, we are faithful to our wives and expect the same faithfulness out of them. You must be incredibly uncouth to dare ask such a question."
"Begging your pardon, my lord, I should not have asked," Shiloh looked away from him and took a deep sip of her wine.
"Truly, I had not expected that your father would send his own daughter. Why a man would do such a thing intrigues me?"
Shiloh smiled at him warmly, her eyes going all soft and liquid. "My father... he raves about my beauty. He tries to do his best by us and he thought I would be best suited to meet you."
"Did he not tell you anything of me, dear Belara?" Arto asked, gauging her reaction carefully.
"No, he told nothing of whom I would be meeting. You came as much of a surprise to me as I suppose I did to you, my lord."
He shook his head at her. "I am no lord, young lady. I am a man of the field, a soldier." His eyes met hers as he raised his glass to his lips once more. "You are aware that bawdy behavior and prostitution are capital crimes. I know have seen you somewhere before. I just can not put a finger on where.... hmm... perhaps it was at the Swordfish. Your family must be really desperate."
"We are poor," Shiloh blushed and studied her feet. "I made this dress myself."
"That is why I am willing to overlook this. I met your father at the docks. I think he is a good man. We were searching for a runaway thief and he directed me to a few hideouts. Your father and I started talking. He told me about you and your seven brothers and sisters. It was refreshing to see a man trying to do a hard day's work and trying to support his family. It didn't seem to me that he was looking for a hand-out. After a while, I told him how I had been stationed in this gods forsaken place for nearly a year and how long it had been since I've seen my wife. I mentioned how lonely it has been and how it would be nice to meet someone local. Something more along the lines of a voice to talk to, nothing sordid, but I can clearly see how he misunderstood."
"And did you catch the thief you were looking for?" Shiloh asked, wondering who it could be that they were looking for.
"No, we did not, but we'll find the rat sooner or later. It's all a matter of having the right kind of bait." An evil grin crossed his face.
Shiloh took another sip of her wine, thinking quickly. She had to keep the conversation going. She didn't want him to leave so soon. "You mentioned you have been here for almost a year. Were you one of the soldiers that saw battle in the castle?"
"I am the commander of the special units. We were the first to storm the castle. The fighting was fierce and that bastard king refused to give up. He actually ordered his own people to be killed instead of allowing them to surrender. How can anyone be so heartless?"
Shiloh swallowed back a sob. It couldn't be true! Her father wouldn't do that. Arto moved closer to her, tucking his hand beneath her chin and lifting it ever so slightly.
"My mother died in the castle," she whispered. "Are King and Queen Aurelius dead? Did you see them?"
Shiloh knew she had to look miserable, but she couldn't help it. Arto's eyes narrowed as he watched the expression on her face. "I saw only their corpses, but I can assure you that they are quite dead. One can not live without a head."
A tiny sob slipped from her lips. She turned away from Arto and buried her face in her hands. She felt a hand on her shoulder and shuddered as cold chills raced down her spine. "That night was horrible," Shiloh whispered as she looked back at Arto. "I lost so much."
"Your mother?" Arto replied, watching her every move intently. "Your father spoke of his wife, but he failed to mention that she was dead."
"Some of my siblings had different mothers," Shiloh remarked as she wiped her tears away. "My mother is not the woman in which my father spoke to you of. She was beautiful and kind. Why did they all have to die? She merely worked in the castle. Why?"
Arto set aside his drink and placed both of his hands on her shoulders, his thumbs softly caressing her bare skin. "Terrible tragedies happen in war, dear girl. We are the saviors of this city. We rescued this city from the clutches of that bastard who would have rather seen his people dead. Things will get better. You will see. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but we will bring peace to this city. I promise you that and you will never again be hurt by such a savage brand of rule from a king who cared more about his own glory than his own people."
Shiloh rested her head against the cold metal of his mail. She needed a moment to still her anger and quell her tears. She mustn't let that get away from her. This man must never learn her true identity. It couldn't be true! Her father cared for his people. Betancuria had been a nicer place before the Dhorn came, before her world had been shattered.
She pulled away from him and wiped her tears away. "I am sorry, M'lord. I am still grieving my loss," she refilled her glass once more and drank it down in one gulp.
"And I am sorry for your loss." His voice sounded so sincere that it brought a smile to Shiloh's face. If not for the Dhorn armor and ideals, she knew she could have fallen for this charming man on the spot. She cracked a shy smile at him and lowered her eyes once more, hoping to appear submissive.
She didn't know how well her ruse worked, but she knew he couldn't take his eyes off her. "Would that you were not a married man... There is much that I would love to know about you and... Your country," Her eyes flicked up to meet his and she could feel a soft blush rushing into her cheeks. "I have seen so many Dhorn soldiers, but I know naught of where you come from. And I do not believe I have ever seen a Dhorn woman."