The Long Road to Ruin Ch. 26byLady_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 contains explicit content and graphic violence. All characters except Shiloh, Bastian, Rhys, Nicca, Ni'as, Narev and Essex are property of Valine.
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"You tempt fate."
Vico's words echoed in her mind as Shiloh ate her breakfast in solitude. She hadn't woken Shanna yet. She figured the girl needed some rest after her ordeal. Dying and coming back to life had to be taxing on the body. Her own experiences with Vico ridding her of Bastian's influence had not been very pleasant. Though the blackguard had thought he had succeeded in doing so, Bastian was still a part of her. He wouldn't let her go that easily. Not without a fight.
After finishing her repast of oatmeal, she took a leisurely bath and dressed herself in the turquoise gown she had purchased at Gaston's. It looked good on her. She liked the way the bodice hugged her chest and the way the skirt gathered enticing at her hips and flowed to her feet. She coifed her hair, buffed her nails and applied a light coating of cosmetics to her face. She wasn't sure why she was prettying herself all up. She planned to take Shanna to Vico's place. She knew her sister would want to see him. Though after his reaction the night before, she couldn't be sure he wanted to see her, but it was the chance she had to take.
As she headed back into the bedroom, she smiled at Shanna, who was sitting up on the bed, drowsily rubbing her eyes. "Good morning, my sweet," Shiloh chimed at her. "There is still some breakfast on the table and I can run you a bath, if you'd like. I thought we could go shopping this morning."
Shanna's brow furrowed lightly. It seemed odd to her that the princess was offering to do these things for her. Normally she had been the one working for the nobility. She couldn't help but express her concern. "This is very weird to me. You're the princess and I'm the servant. I should be running your bath and seeing to your needs, not the other way around."
"Things have changed. I'm no longer the princess and you're not a servant anymore. We're now equals. What's mine is yours. You're my sister. We're family, the only one I have left. I intend to take care of you and find you a good man who will love you the rest of your life. I just want you to be happy."
"But Vico won't marry me. He told me so once before." Shanna softly replied.
"That asshole isn't a good man. He and I don't get along. He may have saved my life, but he's never been nice to me. We had a job to do together last night and we spent more time fighting with each other than anything else. He hits hard and it doesn't matter to him that I'm a female," she scoffed tersely. "But I did promise you I'd take you to see him and that I will do."
"Does he know about me?"
Shiloh looked away, not sure what to tell her. She nodded her head, "Yes, he does. I brought him here after our mission was complete. It was very late and you were fast asleep. He didn't want to disturb you."
"Well that doesn't sound like the Vico I know. He used to wake me up at night. He would sneak through the kitchens, and through my mother's room to see me and he would lead me to one of the cellars." A pretty blush covered Shanna's cheeks and most of her upper body. Shiloh knew all too well what her sister felt. Vico was indeed highly skilled in the arts of giving a woman pleasure. "He cared for me very much. He was always gentle with me."
"Then you are indeed lucky, little sister. I've been the recipient of his wrath more times than I'd like to remember. I don't think my backside will ever be the same," a shiver coursed through Shiloh as she recalled the many times he'd used and abused her. It caused an ache to zing through her nether regions. She needed to visit Rhys and soon.
"Perhaps it's because of who you are. Vico hated your father and everything the nobility stood for. He probably sees you as some useless little princess." Shanna replied as she climbed out of the bed, favoring her back. "Ughh, your bed's far too soft."
"My father is your father as well. You're of noble blood, despite the fact that you were raised as a servant."
"Even if I'd have known, even if my mother would have told me or Shira, it wouldn't have done me any good. It wouldn't have bought me a damn thing. My mother would never speak of the man who fathered us. She never spoke of an affair with King Aurelius. I knew she was having one, though. Especially after I'd been seeing Vico. She'd return to her room wearing the blush of a woman well loved. I just never knew that HE was my father."
"I find that surprising because I'd heard the rumors for years. I think my mother knew because she had had her own affair. Do you remember the bard, Jaevirr?" Shiloh asked as Shanna sat down at the table and Shiloh served her breakfast.
"Oh yes, he was quite handsome. Many of the maids and kitchen workers were in love with him and he didn't let them down. I bet he was responsible for many big bellies amongst the female servants. I knew of a few that had babies that looked like him," Shanna smirked. "I was only eleven at the time, but I understood nonetheless."
"I didn't. My education came much later, only since I've left the castle." Shiloh admitted. "You eat, and I'll take care of your bath and your clothing."
Shanna eyed her sister surreptitiously. "Shiloh, can I ask you something honestly?"
"Of course. What would you like to know?" Shiloh had a feeling about what Shanna was about to ask her and she wasn't sure how to tell her the truth.
"What haven't you been telling me? I'm not a stupid little girl. I may be younger than you, but I can tell when you leave out certain things. Is there something I should know about you and my Vico? Has he had you?"
Shiloh's jaw dropped to the floor. The voices in her head tormented her fiercely. Shouts of Tell her the truth mingled with Deny everything. "If you must know, yes. The night he rescued me, he raped me. He tried to assuage his guilt of it by saying he only did it because he wanted to make someone pay for your death. He claimed it was a mistake. I should hate him for it, but I can't. We've fought ever since and he's usually very rude to me, but we have shared a few intimate moments. Yes, he's had me, but it's over. And that's why I brought you back. I can't make him happy. But I think you can."
"He isn't happy, though, is he?"
"I don't know how he really feels. He's been so cold to me. I don't know why. We were fine and then something changed. He had a job to do and he came back injured. I tried to clean up his wounds and he threw me out. It hasn't been the same since. I've made a mess of everything I've ever cared for."
"Do you love him?" Shanna asked plainly.
Shiloh nodded her head. "I won't lie to you. Yes, I do, but it's not enough. He doesn't love me. He doesn't love anyone."
"He loved me. He used to tell me quite frequently." Shanna stated. "He'll love me again. I know he will. He could never stay away from me for long and one day, he'll take me to see the ocean. He promised he would. I'm glad that you've told me the truth. I want you to take me to him. I have to see for myself that he doesn't feel anything for you."
After a visit to Gaston's for new dresses for Shanna and a makeup treatment at Carla's, Shiloh and Shanna intended heading for the southern part of the city and the ruined house where Stan worked the door, but were interrupted by a kindly faced man wearing faded purple robes. He rushed over to them excitedly. " M'ladies! M'ladies! A moment, please!"
Shiloh frowned at him. "We don't have time right now, sorry."
"Please, M'lady! I saw both of you pass by and felt like lightning struck me! You're both perfect! Beautiful angels! I beg you, please! Let me paint both of you so your beauty shall be preserved for all time!"
Shiloh looked at Shanna then back to him dubiously. "You want to paint us?"
"Yes! Oh, I'm sorry. I was so taken by your beauty and grace that I didn't even introduce myself. My name is Mart. I'm a painter. And I just have to create a painting of you! Of both of you!"
"I really don't think that's a good idea, good sir. Now if you'll step out of the way, we have things to take care of," Shiloh glared as a muscle ticked in her jaw.
"Oh, Shiloh, could we please? That sounds like a wondrous idea. I've always wanted to be painted. And I have such pretty new clothes I could wear."
Mart cleared his throat. "Actually I was thinking of a nude painting. You both have such wonderful shapes... If you're concerned about your parents, you could turn your head away while I paint you. That way you'd be absolutely safe and no one would ever know it was you who I painted. Please, allow me! I'll even pay you!"
Shanna gave Shiloh a pleading look. "Can we, please? It would be wonderful! I could give mine to Vico as a gift. He'd surely love it."
Shiloh sucked in a deep breath and exhaled it sharply. Deep down she knew it was a bad idea. What if someone saw the painting and recognized her? Yet Shanna seemed so enthusiastic about it, despite the fact that they would have to be naked. She cocked an eyebrow at her sister, knowing she couldn't allow Shanna to do it on her own. "If it's what you want, sweetie, then I guess we can. But good sir, you don't have to pay us. We aren't common whores."
"Oh no, I would never imply that you were." An embarrassed look crossed his face. "Very well, then. And thank you so much! Come! We shall go to my atelier at once! It's right here, the building behind me!"
Shiloh and Shanna followed Mart into his studio. A frown crossed her face. It wasn't more than a squalid one room hut. She plastered a fake smile on her face as she bemused what she'd gotten into.
He noted her apprehension and sought to inject a bit of levity. "Here we are! This is my atelier. It's not very glamorous, admittedly, but it's home. Now shall we?"
"It's a very nice atelier," Shanna piped up, not wanting to shame the man.
He smiled at her. "Thank you, M'lady. You are as sweet as you are beautiful. Shall we begin? Let me show you. I was thinking of something like a sleeping angels... You're both resting together on your bed, your clothes tangled up on the floor in front of you. You've picked up a cushion and cuddle yourself up to it. There's a gentle, relaxed expression on your face, your eyes are closed. The light of the candles behind you bathes you in a soft, glowing light, making you look like an angel from a star far, far away..."
Shanna shot Shiloh a pleading look as she began to remove her clothing. "This'll be fun to do together. And we can still give it to Vico. He might think better of you," she whispered quickly. "We both know he enjoys a whole lot of bawdiness from a woman."
"Ah, what the hell," Shiloh relented and began to slip her dress off. She'd taken her clothes off for less before. She smiled at Shanna as they arranged themselves on the bench together. Shiloh cuddled in behind Shanna, her arms up above her head with Shanna snuggled against her middle, covering Shiloh's groin. They placed a cushion over Shanna's, leaving their breasts bared. Her arms were draped artfully over Shiloh's skin.
"Beautiful, simply beautiful, M'ladies! Now do me a huge favor and try not to move for a while," Mart instructed as he picked up his paint palette. "Oh, this is going to be the best painting I've ever done. You both are absolutely stunning. Your bodies were made for being painted!"
A couple hours passed before the painter was finished. At one point Shiloh was sure she had drifted off for a short nap.
"Ah, almost done now, my beauties. I'll show it to you in a moment. Just a little more pink here and.... Voila!" A bright smile illuminated the painter's face. "This is so beautiful. Come, come. Have a look! What do you think?"
Mart turned the painting around. Shiloh gasped in awe. It was extremely well done. It portrayed two young looking girls resting upon a white fluffy cloud.
"Wow, it's so breathtaking, Shiloh. He made me look so gorgeous. Vico will love it when he sees it. Of course, once he does see it, he'll just have to have his way with me. He won't be able to resist," Shanna bubbled. "Can we keep the painting, good sir?"
"Only if you let me paint you a second....." He started to reply, then broke off as a group of Dhorn patrolmen came in following a Captain. "What is the meaning of this? You can't just barge into my atelier!"
"Oh, yes we can." The grey haired Captain barked. "I hereby accuse you of unlawful carnal knowledge, prostitution and the creation of sinful material. You and your two whores will be arrested at once!"
"Please, hold a moment, Officer. I truly must protest. Please, let me assure you, there's no need for such drastic course of action. I am an artist, a painter, you see. I was merely creating a piece of art which I intended to hand over to the Dhorn Governor as a token of my appreciation. Come, have a look. Isn't it the most beautiful painting you've ever seen? Don't you think the Governor would be most pleased looking upon it?"
The Captain scoffed, "Hardly. The Governor is a man of faith. He has no need for this... filth."
Mart dithered a bit more, "You surely have to believe me. My only intention was to create a work of art. I don't know these two fine young ladies. I only met them on the street a few hours ago and though I offered money, they refused. It's only a piece of art."
"You call this art?" He sneered at Mart.
"Ah, good Officer, you must look at it in the perspective in which it's presented. Look at how well the light reflects off their faces. You could almost touch their cheeks...," he smiled nervously.
The Dhorn captain sneered at him. "I see it how it is presented as sinful smut. I only see breasts, but okay. I'll spare you and your whores. This time. Consider yourself warned, however. Next time you're going to jail. And we'll be taking that painting with us so it'll be stored in a safe place, away from the public eye. Don't let us catch you in a similar situation again."
He motioned to one of his subordinates who picked the painting up off the easel and with that they headed to the door. Shiloh grabbed up her clothes and yanked them on, her face a visible mask of fury.
When Mart caught sight of her expression, he backed away from her, apologizing profusely. "You must forgive me, M'lady. I never thought they'd barge right in my home. That was so close. I'm greatly sorry."
"Damn them to the hells..." she growled, still pulling on her clothing.
"I bet they are taking it to the Administration building in the western part of the city."
"And how do you know that? Shanna, get dressed," Shiloh commanded sharply at her sister who sat dumb-struck on the bench.
"I thought it was common knowledge that they store everything they confiscate in that building. They once issued a summons on me due to another one of my paintings..." he smiled weakly and dug into his pockets.
"This has happened to you before?!?!"
"Oh yes. Here take this money. It's all I have..."
"No, thank you. We're not whores, no matter what the Dhorn think of us." Shiloh retorted, batting his hand away. "Do you realize that you might get me killed? Or both of us?"
All the color ran out of Mart's face. "I'm very sorry, M'ladies. I pray that it doesn't come to that. The other girl I painted hasn't suffered any ill harm from the Dhorn. I pray you will be left alone."
Shiloh pulled her shoes on and prodded Shanna. "Let's go. I'll take you to Vico and I don't want to hear another word about it. He'll protect you and keep you safe, I hope."
Shanna nodded. "He will."
Shiloh led her into the southern part of the city to the ruined house. She opened the trap door in the floor and motioned for Shanna to climb down the ladder. She followed behind her sister and directed her towards the plank bridge. Shiloh smiled at Kasha and Gina sweetly as she passed by them.
Then a fairly tall man stepped in her way as she approached the gate. "State your business," he demanded.
"Fuck you!" Shiloh retorted. "Get out of my way, peasant. I'm headed up to see Alfons."
The man laughed and winked at her. "Spoken like a true princess."
Shiloh eyed him thoroughly. His height was intimidating as was his wide muscled chest. His light brown hair hung down his back and an eye patch covered one eye, but what really clued her in was his voice. "Rhys?"
A wide smile crossed his handsome features. "None other, but you'll have to call me Marak now. This isn't my full time post. Nathan says I'm too valuable to be on guard duty. I'm filling in for the night."
"Wow, he told me I wouldn't recognize you and I didn't, honestly. That's amazing," she smiled.
"So who's with you and where are you truly headed?"
"This is Shanna, my half-sister and I'm taking her to see Vico. Do you know if he's home?"
"Nice to meet you, Shanna and yes, as far as I know he is. I haven't seen him leave. I know he's been in a bad mood."
"I don't doubt that. He tends to get all broody after he and I have gotten into a fight." Shiloh smiled, "Say, I need to talk to you...privately."
"Just say when, sweetness and I'll be happy to oblige you," he winked at her and flashed a radiant smile at her.
Shiloh inclined her head and stepped passed him to the gate. She opened it and walked over to the torch sconce on the wall. Reaching behind it, she grasped and pulled the lever, but the panel didn't open. Hmmm, he must have it locked. She knocked loudly and waited for a few seconds before knocking again. When no answer was forthcoming, she turned to Shanna. "Stay here. I'll be right back."
Shiloh dashed up the stairs and into the guild house. She breezed through it and found Vico sitting at the table playing dice with Kenny, Dara, and Pett. She leaned down beside him and whispered in his ear. "There's someone waiting downstairs who's waited a long time to see you again. It would be rude to keep her waiting any longer."
He turned to face her, glaring at her meanly. "I didn't ask you to. You should've left well enough alone, birdie."
"Get your ass up and get downstairs now, Vico. Or shall I be forced to drag your carcass to her?" Her eyes were glowing red again.
Vico snarled as he threw down the dice and grabbed hold of her, pulling her facedown over his lap. "Have you not learned your lesson, birdie? Or do you need another one?"
"Fine, let me go and I'll tell her that big, bad Vico doesn't want her anymore. I'll crush the hopes of a girl whose sole wish is to reconnect with you." Shiloh struggled out of his lap and kicked his chair before dashing to the door. She ran down the stairs. "Come on, little sister. Your precious Vico is being a stubborn asshole and won't budge an inch."
Tears welled in Shanna's eyes as Shiloh's words registered fully. "He doesn't.... want... me.... anymore?" she whispered brokenly before she laid her head against Shiloh's shoulder and began to sob.
"Rhys!?!" Shiloh called out and watched as the big man came over to her. "Take care of her. I'm going to kick his ass."
She transferred Shanna into Rhys's arms and headed back up the stairs, intent on starting another brawl with her former lover and the man that Shanna had longed to see once more. She charged at him, bringing her foot up to kick him in the back of the head.
Vico jerked violently as her foot connected and let out a hiss of pain as stars exploded before his eyes. He surged out of his chair as Shiloh's feet found purchase on the floor once more, his eyes narrowing dangerously when he saw who had perpetrated the attack. Shiloh pulled out her swords, and lunged at him swiftly. She went straight for his throat.