tagSci-Fi & FantasySay a Prayer Ch. 03

Say a Prayer Ch. 03


Esther Urvine was the head agent of the Royal Investigators, or rather, the Invests, and she was determined to do her job.

She was sitting in her office very early in the morning when Judge Henrio Glasky knocked on the door frame. As he peeked into the room, Esther saw that he was wearing his official black robe and his gray hair was tied back with plain leather cords. He must have been fresh from a hearing or something.

"Agent Urvine," he said with a mildly concerned expression, "is this a bad time?"

Nudging a thick stack of paperwork across the desk's tabletop, Esther shook her head. "No, Sir. It's not. Did you get a domestic request?"

The judge moved his hand from behind the wall, and he revealed an envelope of plain leather, secured by a tan colored cord. "I have the forms right here. Someone is challenging Marquess Bram Masen's custody of his stepson."

Her fingertips rubbing into her temples, Esther muttered to herself, "Why, oh why, must every case be so fucking obvious?" Then she sighed, put her palms on the tabletop, and said, "Thank you very much for your help. I'd love to see the request now."

The judge entered the office and very neatly, as if there were expert measuring devices in his eyes, put the envelope in what seemed to be the exact center of the tabletop. He watched as Esther opened the envelope and cautiously slid the documents out. Her dark eyes scanned the forms, and she became even more bored ... yet even more angry ... if it was possible to have both emotions at once.

A middle aged woman, related to nobility but without any title, was requesting custody of Ismael Masen. Her name was Rotemna Dufan. She was actually Lillitu Masen's cousin. Her argument was that Bram Masen hadn't been an adequate husband, and most certainly was at fault for Lillitu's suicide. Therefore, he was in no position to properly raise the heir to the Kloen province, especially since he wasn't his child by blood.

How stupidly predictable.

The average amount of time it took for a domestic request to reach a judge's eyes was normally a week or more, no matter the status of the person sending the request. Lillitu Masen had died only a few days ago. Was this woman legitimately, clinically diagnosed as a person with an intellectual disability? It was the only way Esther could understand the reasoning behind the woman's actions. Rotenma Dufan might as well have put her naked body, whatever it happened to look like, on a great stage of gold and called out to law enforcement, "I did it! I did it!"

"Thank you very much, Sir," Esther said, slipping the documents back inside the envelope. She laid it flat on the desk, and she put the heels of her hands on top of that, her fingers weaving together. "Now, Dear Judge, would you be so kind as to close and lock the door? I'd rather not have anyone listen to us."

Judge Henrio Glasky nodded and walked over to the door. He closed it softly, and he locked it in much the same way. Then he went back to his standing position before the desk, folding his arms.

Esther spoke to him in an even tone, not wanting anything to be misunderstood. "Would it be illegal for me to ask you to refuse this woman's request without arranging a hearing?"

"Well," the judge said, "you'd have to tell me that you consider the applicant to be a suspect in a crime. Then it would be completely legal. Do you suspect her of a crime?"

"I do," Esther admitted, her face stern.

"That's fine, but what is the crime you suspect this woman of?"

"Murder, unfortunately."

The judge rolled his eyes. "That's just sad. I'll have to refuse her, then." He waved his hand at her as he went to the door and unlocked it. "Have a good morning, Agent Urvine."

Esther was wondering how the suspect would react to being rejected so quickly, and without a hearing too. Someone as apparently stupid as Rotenma Dufan would likely make herself appear even more guilty.


"Why do you want to pray by yourself?" Erdgar Adurant asked his wife on the cool, but comfortable morning.

With an uncharacteristically wicked smile, Danetta said she had a special prayer to give, and she'd join the family in their favorite pleasure garden after a short time. Unwilling to deny his wife much of anything, Erdgar kissed her lips very sweetly, and he dropped her off at the Lotus Shell.

Duchess Danetta Adurant hummed to herself, her gait buoyant, as she sought out a priest and purchased a charm from him. It was a small carving of bone, shaped like a pregnant woman wearing nothing but a chemise. She then gave the priest a gift. It was a small box of incense that was considered to be medicinal.

Time for a hopeful prayer, indeed!

The duchess floated on down a hallway and to a prayer room. She closed and locked the door as she entered. She knelt on a cushion, put the dorsa of her hands together, and prayed silently, grinning and vibrating with exhilaration.

She wasn't certain. She truly wasn't certain, but there were some signs in her body. There was definitely a possibility of a child.


Mr. Roiters' match was meant to take place in the evening, but it wasn't evening yet. It was the morning. Instead of the excitement of a sporting event, a different sort of excitement was in her nerves. Delma was praying, waiting, hoping to see Mr. Kuno. She didn't wait long.

He entered with a warm greeting. "Good morning, Angel."

"Good morning, Mr. Kuno," Delma said as she rose from her cushion and turned around. Her face was hot and her feet were oddly hotter. Her skirt nearly tilted as she curtsied.

Black leather fingertips drummed against a dish he held. "I had to whisk the eggs forever and a minute to make this. This normally requires several cooks, but I did it all on my own. It's a cake with white sugar, cinnamon, dried apricots, raisins, brandy, and rosewater. I think it's a fine offering."

Her fingertips going to her bosom, Delma said, "Sir, that's a foolishly expensive cake! It's fit for a wealthy man's wedding!"

Mr. Kuno held the dish out to her, and she took it in her hands. She untied the cord so she could peak at the contents. It was a little wheel of a cake, coated in pure white icing.

"Whisking the eggs was actually very good exercise," he said to her very proudly. "I'd do it again."

"Were you once a cook in a fine estate?" Delma asked, returning the lid and retying the cord.

His laugh was thick and soft like a fluffy cat's fur. "No, Angel. This is only a silly hobby."

Delma shrugged and went to a corner of the room. She put the dish on the floor and said, "It's too fine a gift. Accepting it would be unwise of me, but if I refuse it, you might feel slighted, and that would be even more unwise of me." She thought of Mr. Roiters, and a contrite exhale blew out from her lungs. "I should tell you that another man has given me rather interesting gifts, and I'm worried that he might want something from me." She bit at the inside of one of her cheeks. Then she said, "I think we both know what he might want."

"Have you declared your love for him?" He sounded like he was telling the punchline of a joke.

"Of course not. I don't know him well enough."

"Then you have no shame, Angel." The floor seemed to surge with his footsteps. Then his voice was close behind her. "So, won't you let me touch you?"

"What?!" She spun around so quickly that her skirts twisted for a moment. Her eyes focused on the gray mask. "You'll have to remove your gloves, won't you?"

She heard his knuckles and joints crack. "Turn around. Don't look back. Then, after a moment, I'll feel like a man."

Not sensing any sort of danger, but a nearly manic thrill instead, Delma turned around, facing the corner of the room. The statue of the God of Hope was behind both of them. Sometimes, people literally called that god Hope.

Hope ...

Hope was right behind them, as if it was waiting on them to do something.

Delma heard her skirts being gathered from behind. Mr. Kuno was going to touch her between her legs. She knew it. She wasn't an uneducated person. She knew what people did when lust shot through their veins.

Something fell onto the stone floor, something light that made a pat of a sound.

"Don't look back," he reminded her.

There was no reason to disobey, at least, none that she could think of. Her eyes remained nearly attached to the line where the two white walls met. The apprentice priests were very obedient. They had regularly scrubbed the stone with soap that was just gentle enough to keep the place tenderly white.

She gasped at the heat that grazed the little space between her buttocks.

He wasn't wearing a glove on that hand!

His skin wasn't fully smooth. There were rough parts to it. She imagined he probably knew how to build things, or garden, or something of that nature. Calluses could be surprisingly attractive!

And they felt so damn good against her fragile labia.

Inside her boots, the balls of her feet flexed and her toes squeezed together. Her fingers needed something to clasp. They went to her scarf, claiming little balls of the fabric.

The mask rubbed against the skin behind her ear. His voice was insistent. "You have hair here. Is it brown and curled?"

Why in the world that question sent liquid through her channel and moistened the bare fingers was beyond her thinking. All she knew was that she needed to answer him truthfully. "Yes. It's just like that."

"How charming!" His fingers slid up from behind. Then his fingertips hovered right at her clitoris. She knew because of all the heat coming from him. "Do you ever trim it?"

"Some ... sometimes?" She hadn't ever worried too much about how she looked down there.

Mr. Kuno breathed into her ear, "Aaaah, sweet little thing." He touched her fully. Her clitoris bloomed; her lungs panicked. "Do you like this?"

Delma tried to restrain herself, but the plucking, twirling feelings in her body had her keening. "Ah ... ah, ah! Ahhhhhhh!"

"It's marvelous, Angel. I can smell you. Even with this mask, even with this distance, I can smell you, and it's finer than any incense."

Her upper body went forward. Her hands abandoned her scarf. They slapped against the white walls at uneven angles.

"Come now, Angel. I know you have it in you. Cry out for me."

A mixture of zigzagging and circles, that was what was pressing into her clitoris. If she wasn't supporting herself with the walls, she would have collapsed. "Oh ... oh dear gods! Oh please!"

"Yes ... you're almost there, aren't you? I need to hear it, Angel. I need to hear your pleasure."

She couldn't see, but she could moan, and she did. She moaned low and deep, almost sounding like a man. Her hips ground back and forth, pressing herself into the hand. Her skin felt like it was exploding. It took forever and ever for the high to fade away.

"Ohhhhhh ... damn, Angel." He sounded like he had taken a drug. "That's so good."

Then his hand left her, and Delma felt her skirts flop down.


Blatant, obvious noises were heard. Curiosity was far too strong in Danetta's mind. She partially opened the door to the prayer room and peeked out through the crack. There was nothing for a few moments. Then, she exited the prayer room and stood in the hallway.

Suddenly, the door across from her opened. She flinched as she saw a man exit the prayer room. He reminded her so much of her husband. Not only was he tall, but he had leather gloves and a mask of fabric.

It wasn't Erdgar, though. Erdgar was with the boys. Besides, this man was only slightly thinner than Erdgar. Danetta could tell by the tightness of his breeches.

The man offered her a polite bow. Danetta curtsied.

A few people happened to emerge from the end of the hallway, their eyes curious.

Danetta thought that maybe, just maybe this was all none of her business. So, she shrugged and walked down the hallway, planning to rent a carriage to take her to her husband.


The Fighting Hall was a massive structure in the Entertainment District. It felt obscenely large in this city where many buildings were packed together. Some sections of the building had small fighting rings for anyone to practice in. Some sections had lodgings for the lower class fighters that participated in tournaments. One very large room was a great kitchen for food to sell to the guests. Most of the building was made up of several larger, fancier arenas with rows and rows of seats for large audiences. The more expensive seats were at highly prized angles, and often in box-like structures with cushy atmospheres. Servants, employed by the owners of the hall, often offered treats to the customers in those boxes.

One of those boxes was where Delma's seat was located. There were three rows of red wing chairs. There were already many high class looking people there. When Delma sat down, she noticed a family to her left.

First, there was a sonsy woman with pale blonde curls all around her form. A circlet of silver and dangling black gemstones was on her forehead. She was sitting right beside Delma, and she offered the priestess a cordial smile.

Second, on the blonde woman's left, there was a small boy in breeches. He was clutching a soft toy of crocheted yarn, apparently stuffed, and made to look like a white puppy with unusually large black eyes.

Third, a larger boy was seated to the small boy's left. He had a wooden ball and cup toy in his hand to keep him entertained while he waited for the show.

Fourth, a man was on the left of the larger boy. He was heavily scarred and bald. Delma immediately knew he was the Duke Adurant.

"Ah, pardon me," the woman who was obviously the Duchess said as she continued to smile at Delma, "aren't you one of the Children of Hope at the Lotus Shell?"

Delma wasn't wearing her typical uniform to identify herself. Instead, she had on a slightly formal gown of fern green with a neckline that was somewhat low. Still, the duchess had seen Delma lecture or play music on occasion. It made sense that she'd recognize the priestess.

With a very polite nod, and a bow of her torso, Delma said, "Yes, and the crest on your fine clothing tells me that you must be the good Duchess Adurant. Is this so?"

"Yes, Miss." The duchess' upturned nose wiggled as one of her shoulders rose. "This is the first time I've attended a martial arts match. Other than witnessing violence, I don't know what to expect."

As for Delma's experiences, she had performed quite a few ceremonies in the Fighting Hall, but when it was time for a match, she couldn't stay and watch. The owners were quite strict.

The duchess rose her hand towards a passing servant. "Excuse me, Miss?" The servant was a modestly, yet smartly dressed woman. She rushed to the duchess, curtsied, and asked what was desired. The duchess spoke to her in a mellow tone. "My family and I would certainly like to have refreshments, and the same for my companion here." She gestured towards Delma. Then she gestured towards her sons. "Do you have any sweet things for the boys?"

"Yes, Your Grace," the servant answered. "We have chocolate creams, comfits of chestnuts and syrup, jumbles, light cakes, lemon tarts, cinnamon scones, and glazed strawberries."

Duke Erdgar Adurant interrupted with a voice so firm that Delma decided then and there that he was certainly not the masked man who had been visiting her. "I want a serving of each, same for the boys."

Both boys suddenly gazed up at their mother with hopeful, pining gray eyes.

The duchess giggled for a moment. "I suppose we can let them have a night of sweets." She leaned in a bit towards Delma. "What would you like, Miss? You're my companion now, and so, you won't have to pay for a thing."

Giving another seated bow, Delma said, "That's very kind of you, Your Grace. I don't believe I can refuse."

"Well then," the duchess said, brushing away one of her curls, "what would you like?"

"A few cinnamon scones?"

"Ah, did you hear that?" the duchess asked the servant. "The males here would like one of everything. My companion would like a cinnamon scone. As for myself, I'll have some lemon tarts. Everything's served with tea, correct?"

"Yes, Your Grace."

"Then tea for everyone." The duchess nodded. "You'll have to bring tables for us, of course, so do hurry with that, if it wouldn't be troublesome."

Delma watched the servant walk away with purpose in her gait. Then she asked the duchess, "Are such toothsome sweets normally offered here?" She had already forgotten that the duchess was new to this place.

"I'm not certain," Duchess Adurant said, sitting back in her seat.

There was sprightly conversation as they waited for their food. The duchess was very, very proud to talk about her boys. The older one was Andreo, and the younger one was Amalric. They had another boy at home, named Roland. Roland was still in his skirts, and so, his parents didn't approve of him watching violent shows.

Soon, though, a few servants arrived with tables to be put close to the guests' knees and trays of sweets and tea. By the time everyone was served, a great gong had been slammed, echoing all around the arena, and an announcer stood in the center of the octagonal fighting ring. There were tall, metal walls all around the ring, reminding Delma of a cage without a roof. The walls did have doors, but they weren't very noticeable.

The announcer hollered out to the audience that the two fighters were ready for their match, with the rounds consisting of, "Best Three Out of Five." Delma noticed that Mr. Roiters and his opponent had entered from opposite sides of the massive room. As they walked down the aisles between the rows of seats, the audience members cheered and applauded. One child, perhaps of twelve years, reached towards Mr. Roiters. Mr. Roiters blocked him with a single, stern look and clasp of his arm. An adult, possibly the boy's father, pulled the boy backwards with an apologetic expression.

Delma noted that the fighters had their hair tightly braided around their heads. They didn't wear coats, waistcoats, or even shirts. They did have, however, padded bandages wrapped around their hands. Somehow, those bandages made their hands look like weapons.

Delma smacked her lips. She gulped down a hunk of unexpected saliva.

Those men looked so ... sinfully good.

Robust and tall, their chests and arms heavy, their abdomens just thick enough to hold them up, and there was a perfect amount of fat too. They probably wouldn't be able to fight or even live well without the fat.

Delma pressed her thighs together under her clothing, wondering if it was inappropriate to think of the men in this way. They were about to ... well ... fight, and it likely wouldn't be gentlemanly.

The fighters opened the cage's doors and stood near the announcer, staring at each other as if they truly wanted to do a bit of murdering. The announcer kept riling up the crowd, saying this and that, while the referee hurried into the room and made his way into the arena. Soon, the announcer had to leave, exiting through one of the metal doors.

The referee held out a large bell, like something one would put on a cow. Then he said, "Ready? On the count of three!" He very slowly took a few steps backwards. "One." His back went to one of the walls. "Two." Delma heard the grainy, scraping noise of the duchess beside her cutting a piece of her lemon tart away. That's how quiet everyone was. "Three!" The referee rang the bell.

It was as if they were the worst of enemies.

They went at each other almost like wild animals. Kicking, punching, tackling, bouncing off of the cages.

The audience was wild, roaring at the show. The referee watched the two men closely, following at a safe distance. Delma couldn't tell who was winning or losing. Her heart could barely withstand the show. Still ... they were both giving and taking hits almost as if there was no problem. It was a strange, loud game.

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