tagMind ControlCourier Service

Courier Service

byImperatorMentus©

The setting sun caught Karoline's eyes as she crested the last hill. Momentarily blinded, she flinched back from the glare just as the object of her long ride came into view.

Villa Ambrosia shone golden in the late afternoon sun, glistening like yet another of its owners fabled jewels. The palace - and it was a palace, for all that the Duke insisted his home was just a simple country estate - was a sprawling complex. The product of many generations trying desperately to outdo one another. The imported marble facade came courtesy of the Duke's grandfather. A vain and careless man, by all accounts, he had almost bankrupted the family. Only his early death had carried them from the brink of disaster.

He did have good taste, though. Costly though it had been, the approach was impressive. Even to a courier like her, who had seen the front and back of every major estate in three kingdoms, it still evoked a sense of wonder.

That was the point, of course. Unlike his forefathers, the current Duke had no lavish buildings of his own. No sprawling new wings to bear his name until some careless descendant got bored. His time was spent more carefully. Taking the scattered collection of whims, he ha subtly altered it. He had turned the oversized estate into a palace, and now every piece fit together seamlessly, as if it had been one careful construction from the start.

A smart choice, cheaper than his predecessors' oversized contributions, and far more effective. Clever, and all the more dangerous for it.

The path became cobbled as she passed the opened gate, the soft thud of her horse's hooves turning to sharp clops as they met the stately paving stones beneath. With a practiced eye, she noted that the wall was in disrepair. They showed signs of recent work, but it was all cosmetic. Even from the gates, she could see numerous spots where an intruder could easily scale their way inside. A nice looking wall, but it served no real purpose.

Carelessness, or merely supreme overconfidence? She wasn't sure which, but it went into report she was already composing in her head. Duke Mayburry was unlikely to act on the information, but he would certainly be glad to know it. What did that mean for the suspected alliance between Ambrose and the kingdom's marshal? Lord Mayburry had dismissed the suggestion. The marshal's hatred of the Duke was well known, after all, but Karoline wasn't so sure. If the King's army stood behind him, the wall really was a formality.

They opened the front doors for her. Only fitting for a Royal Courier, but some nobles were prickly about welcoming such a dusty, travelworn rider. No matter their title or position.

Though the disrespect rankled, Karoline never pressed it. However far she had risen, no one was likely to forget that she had come from peasant stock, and could go back just as easily if she crossed the wrong noble. Of course, working as Lord Mayburry's spy had its perks, and the money she had stashed away meant that her fall would not be so great as some might believe.

Still, no reason to pick a useless fight. Lord Mayburry was a solid employer, but Karoline was under no illusions about how far that would hold if her usefulness ended.

A woman greeted Karoline at the door, and it took every ounce of professionalism not to turn her nose up at the woman's appearance. Dressed in a mockery of noble elegance, the woman's thin gown pretended at fashion despite being its cheap and tawdry construction. A single layer of thin, all but transparent fabric was cinched into a far too tight corset. At her ears and neck the woman - certainly no lady - wore "gemstones" that were surely glass and cheap semiprecious rocks. The strand hung low, the largest nestled firmly in her oversized bosom, glistening as it caught the light with her every breath. The fabric at her chest was just barely opaque enough to conceal her charms, though sheer enough to tempt a more interested observer. Her face was artfully painted, but that was true for many whores.

Remembering her duty, Karoline stood stiffly and retrieved her satchel with a flourish.

"I am Karoline of Orchard Bend, courier of His Majesty's special service. I come bearing correspondence from His Lordship the Duke of Mayburry, to be delivered personally to Duke Ambrose."

"Right this way, your Ladyship," the woman curtseyed low, flaring out the front of her dress, much to Karoline's dismay.

"I'm no lady," Karoline said instantly, even as she followed the woman into a small waiting room.

A cozy study of sorts, whose fire was long lit and crackling by the time she entered. The walls were lined with books, though a quick glance suggested that they got little real use. Even with his Majesty the King's printer service, shelves full of unused books were quite the lavish spectacle, and many of these were handcopied. Astounding, though hardly unexpected for such an image conscious family.

"Can I get you anything while you wait?"

"Tea would be fine if that is available," Karoline said, "Or water elsewise."

No wine, that was a certainty. It was always a good idea to be clearheaded, and most especially here, considering the Duke's reputation.

The door shut, and Karoline took the opportunity to look around. Scanning the titles on the shelves, she found that they were mostly just old histories, with the occasional genealogy scattered in between, with a few theology texts to round the collection out. Dull, but quite proper for a man of his station. No wonder they'd been left to sit long enough to collect dust.

Above the fireplace hung a large portrait of the Duke. Lifesized, or nearly so, it captured the image of him standing proudly, sword in hand like some conquering hero. A rather sharp contrast to the political mastermind he was best known as. How arrogant, she thought, to display a picture of himself so prominently in his own home.

The door opened, and a serving girl walked in. A new girl, dressed in a brief black dress. Cut low like the doorkeeper's was, her bodice was tightly cinched, but not nearly so constricting as the other woman's had been. Over it she wore a thin, mostly decorative apron. Her skirts were quite short, overly fluffed with white petticoats that especially showed off her legs as she bent to pour the tea.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, my lady?" she asked when she had finished, still bowing slightly as she turned to address Karoline. She couldn't help but note how the dress left the servant's deep, heaving chest halfway exposed, nor the way the soft flickering lamplight played across her soft mounds.

"No, thank you."

"Are you certain?" she asked softly, leaning forward. "If there's anything you want, anything at all, I would be very happy to serve you. In any way possible."

Realizing that she had been staring Karoline forced her eyes upward to the servant's painted ruby lips and deep blue eyes. So wide and innocent, yet utterly pliant and willing. So easy to get lost in. For a moment, Karoline wanted what she was offering. Then she snapped to her senses.

"N-no. That will be all."

"Very well," the servant said with a wistful smile. "I'm sure the master will be with you shortly."

She turned to leave, skirts swishing across her plump behind with every swaying step.

Get a grip, she told herself, Just a few quick weeks on the trail and you're drooling over some underdressed tart? What's the matter with you. You aren't even into girls.

She made a note to schedule some alone time after this mission was over.

Karoline waited, carefully nursing the hot tea until it had turned lukewarm. Another servant came to refill her cup - a blonde this time, but otherwise similar to the first. Karoline was quick to send her away before things could grow awkward. As she tried not to stare at the retreating servant, it occurred to her that almost all the Duke's staff had been female. In most estates, there would have been far more men around. Grooms, valets, even the doorman would have been, well, a man. The only men she had noticed so far were a handful of guards.

What a lech, she thought, though she had to admit that this was far from the worst eccentricity she'd seen from a nobleman. Still, no wonder the Duke was still unmarried.

Just as she was growing restless, the door opened. Not the servant this time, but the master. The portrait hadn't done too poorly by him. A few obvious embellishments, perhaps. It hadn't captured the slightly crooked hook in his nose, and had perhaps slimmed him down ever so slightly. Certainly, the Duke was nowhere near as imposing in life as the martial picture had imagined him. Yet, there was a certain self-possession, told in the carefree, utterly unconcerned way he swept into the room. As though a courier visit was for nothing more than friendly court gossip.

"Ah, my dear. I'm terribly sorry for the delay. My, don't you look ravishing," he took her hand gently, and before she could snatch it away had kissed the back of her hand. Karoline blushed, despite herself. It was the most bold-faced of lies, considering how she was dressed, but a very pleasant courtesy.

"A- a message for you, my Lord Ambrose," she said, remembering her own courtesies as she fumbled her way through the messenger satchel to retrieve the sealed letter.

"Ah, and just what does my good friend have to say this time?"

Good friend? Ha! Those two were the most bitter rivals on the council.

As he took it from her, his hand lightly brushed against her outstretched palm. Her breath caught for a moment, stomach clenching before she regained control of her reactions.

What's the matter with you, girl?

"Hmm..." he said, "and I suppose he's expecting a response?"

"If it pleases you, your lordship, he would."

"Hmmmph. How is the old rascal, anyway? Are you finding your service pleasant? There is always room on my staff for a clever and talented lady such as yourself. I am known to be quite generous to those who serve me well."

Yeah, and what happens when you're finished pumping me for all of Lord Mayburry's secrets?

Then she noticed the covetous, almost predatory way the Duke was staring at her, and realized that secrets were not the only thing the Duke intended to pump her for. She stiffened, with only her professionalism keeping her in place as she tried not to show her dismay. Dismay at the Duke's desires, and at the illicit knot of excitement they stirred deep within her belly.

"Thank you, your lordship, but I am perfectly happy with my current assignment."

Worryingly, she saw no change in the Duke's expression. Shouldn't he have been bothered by her refusal, even a little? If there was one thing she had learned about nobles, it was that they hated rejection. Even - perhaps especially - when the refusal was justified.

"A shame. I could have used someone of your... talents. Very well. I'm afraid my reply might take some time. Please, would you care to accept my hospitality this evening?"

It had been a long ride to the estate, and longer one to come when she left. Her legs were sore, and salted trail food was getting old. Her horse would get to rest after she exchanged it at the next messenger post. She would get no such respite.

Yet for all her fatigue, something warned her against spending even a single night under this Duke's roof.

She refused politely, trying her best not to offend.

"Very well. I will call on you when I am ready. For the meantime, please wait here."

The door closed, and Karoline was alone. Bah, the nerve of that man, she thought, shaking her head. With the Duke gone, she chanced another pass through the room. A few old letters turned up in the small writing desk in the corner. She dully memorized their contents, although the missives were nothing but standard official correspondence. Some of which dated back to the Duke's father.

She paced the room, searching for any hidden compartments that might show themselves. Not likely, but taking the opportunity to snoop was part of her job. As it happened, there was actually a secret compartment in the writing desk, but contained only dust once she pried it open. The painting was firmly fixed to the wall, with nothing behind it save the wood paneling the Duke seemed to favor.

Another maid came and went, another pot of tea silently left behind. Karoline took a sip, savoring the taste. Things could certainly have been worse. At least the Duke had a strong sense of hospitality. This tea was delicious.

After a quick glance outside showed that the room was carefully guarded, she abandoned her plan to sneak out and snoop around the estate. Protesting that she had just gotten bored and gone wandering lost much of their impact if she had to slip past the watchful guards.

Fatigue settling on her at last, Karoline gave in and sank down onto one of the comfortable, high backed chairs. A shame to get them dusty, but by this point she had grown exhausted.

Another sip of her tea. Eyes closing as she let the rich, complex flavors wash over her. The room smelled wonderful as well. The last maid had left a scented candle lit on the far table, its gentle aroma quickly filling the small chamber. The scent was indescribable. Flowery, she thought, though it was impossible to recognize which. There was something else, too. An earthy underpinning that added body and substance to the overall effect. Another deep breath, a relaxed sigh. The mixture made it all the more compelling.

Intending a quick nap, Karoline instead found her leather-clad legs brushing together in a way that drew a sharp gasp from the courier. She bit her lip, shifting in the chair as she tried to find a more comfortable position, but soon there was no denying that her discomfort had nothing to do with her posture. Now that she was comfortably at ease, Karoline realized that she had grown increasingly aroused.

No, not just aroused. She was downright horny.

Blast it girl, just keep it together for a little longer. You can find a place to stop once you're back on the trail.

But her need refused to be brushed aside so easily. Her hands found the drawstrings of her buckskin leggings, and her fingers slipped down past her linen undergarments.

Just a little bit, that's all. Something to take the edge off.

Mmmmm... yes.


Though she had only meant to rub herself, it was a matter of moments before her fingers plunged into her greedy snatch.

Oh, that felt good.

The room seemed darker now, lamplight flickering softly, gently. It fit her mood as she sank back in the chair, leg splayed with her trousers down at her ankles. Her breathing deepened, mewling softly with every ragged gasp.

It was only natural that her eyes drifted over to the picture above the mantle. It wasn't that she felt anything for the Duke. No, it was perfectly normal for her to seek out the closest thing the room had to a masculine presence. Just a convenient image that might help ease her loneliness.

In and out. Slowly now. Deep, almost satisfying thrusts with each movement. The room, the estate, all slid away as she focused solely on sating her growing need. She almost imagined the lanterns pulsing in time with her as she slipped her fingers in and out, the entire world moving in tune with her pleasures.

In and out.

The Duke wasn't all that bad looking, really, now that she paid attention. Quite handsome, in his own way. Distinguished, important. It was no wonder he had so many ladies fawning over him. Who wouldn't be drawn to such an impressive man?

In and out.

Had she imagined his earlier interest? What use would a man like that have in a house full of beautiful servants. What was wrong with her, anyway, turning down such a generous request? Who could possibly cast aside such an honor, the chance to serve so great and wonderful a man?

In and out.

Maybe it wasn't too late. Perhaps there was still time to change her mind, to throw herself at his feet and beg his forgiveness.

Dimly, in the back of her mind, she realized that she had been speaking. Scattered desperate words. His name at their forefront, but she couldn't pay attention to the words.

In and out.

They didn't matter. All that mattered was the chance to serve such a powerful, superior man. To love him, please him, worship him. To do his bidding in any way possi-

*CRASH*

Karoline jerked back awake, eyes sweeping wildly as she looked for the source of the sound. The empty, shattered teacup lay scattered across the floor. Her breath came now in quick, shallow gasps as she tried to remember what had been going on.

She looked at the lights, and realized their flickering had not been her imagination at all. The steady lamplight had given way to a pulsing and flickering display that seemed to draw her attention ever towards them. Her fingers were warm and wet with her juices, sliding back to her center as she gazed into the mesmerizing -

NO!

What was happening to her? The Duke! He was doing this. Doing something to her. Trying to control her, subvert her will through his strange and unnatural powers. The rumors were true, then. She had to get out of there. Had to inform Lord Mayburry.

She hiked her trousers up, choking back a guilt filled sob as saw the wet patch covering her underclothing. Evidence of the humiliating display she had been forced into. Yet even as she released it, the sob threatened to twist into a lust filled moan fueled by the animal need still coursing through her body.

The guards were caught flat-footed by her sudden appearance. In a fair fight, she wouldn't have had the slightest chance against either of them, but neither couriers nor spies were in the business of giving people fair fights. Her lead filled sap swung out. Catching the first guard low and sending him doubled over onto the ground. Before the second even realized what was happening, she'd caught him under his chin. He too collapsed to the ground.

Still the light behind her shone, calling her back. She could feel the pulse within her still. Moving, swelling in her mind, tempting her to sweet, blissful surrender.

Karoline ran.

Frantic, terrified. She had absolutely no idea where she was going. The carefully counted steps she had noted on first entrance fled from her mind. All she could think was that she needed to move, that she had to get away. She couldn't remember where that safety was, or how to reach it, only that she must keep moving.

Sprinting past startled maids, frightening a passing cook. Karoline had no idea where she was going, only that she must reach it. Panting in terror and exhaustion, she pushed past a heavy doorway, instinctively knowing that safety lay just behind.

"No!"

A bedroom. Large, richly decorated and warmly lit. Yet it was not what she found that frightened Karoline, but who.

The Duke smiled, rising from his desk as he saw her enter. He was... glorious. Gone were his formal clothes. Instead, he wore only a rich silk robe that hung tight to his powerful frame. It was already half open, revealing his nakedness beneath, save for a large ruby pendant dangling onto his chest. The gemstone caught the light, flashing in the dim candles' glow.

Or perhaps it glowed with a fire all of its own.

"No" she gasped, softer this time. Disbelieving. She shrank back, unable to tear her gaze away from him.

"You are early, my dear," the Duke said, "How eager you must be. I wasn't expecting you for some time."

"Get away," she cried, her back pressed against the door. "I- Whatever you're doing, it won't work."

"Oh, but it has," he said, advancing on her. "It brought you right to me."

She tried to retreat, but there was nowhere she could go. His hand pressed against the door, arm against her head as he loomed in. Shaking, she realized that at any moment she could have opened the door and fled, but she hadn't. She had stayed, and now it was too late.

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