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Anderson would feel Serafina's hands on his face as she pulled his head back to her. Her hands were cool and soft. It was nice as he looked up into blue eyes. He would chuckle a bit as he took her hand and stood up keeping eye contact the whole time. “Not that I'm complaining but what do you get out of this whole thing? Just the other day you seem more than happy to throw me back out the door I came in. I do need people I can trust yes but I have yet to see what you truly want. I understand this is your home but it seems like there something else I'm not sure what but I won't push you on it. As long as you're willing to help me that all I ask. I don’t want to change who I am so I need people around me the believe in the same things as me and as far as I know, you want what best for those around you. I do thank you dearly for your trust and help me. It going to be a long journey but as long as I have people like you, I don’t think it will be that hard.”
A shiver would run down his spine as he felt her hand run along his jaw to the base of his neck. Rolling his neck, he let out a heavy sigh. He quite like the soft touch over his ruff skin. He didn’t complain or say anything as he did as commanded and started to remove his shirt. He was well-muscled but not very toned. I was the body of a man that works and worked out. He had few scares from different injuries growing up. He dropped his shirt back on his chair and he looks back at her and said. “Do you prefer the floor or bed?” He teased really meaning if she wanted him to lay down on the ground or bed to give her easier access to his mussels. She wasn’t heavy form what he remembered so he imagined her standing on his back at most would pop at most.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] Serafina didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of letting him see what she did think about the shape he was in. She just listened, and smirked a little.
Then he got a little more serious, and she took a long drink of tea. After a moment she set her tea down,”It is a hard hand you’ve been dealt. You aren’t alone though.”
Serafina stood up and stood in front of him, turning his head to face her with delicate fingers under his chin,”You will have me. I don’t intend to repay you with a knife to the back. You’ll have the truth from me, even if it comes with a little attitude. Now, take your shirt off.”
There was a smile on her face as she started to move behind him, and rather than take her hand away she trailed her fingers along his jaw and back into his hair as she offered some explanation,”It will be easier to get the rest of your back that way.”
He would listen to her story and not say much as she did. He just leaned back in his chair closing his eyes and listening to her. He was trying to control himself a bit form her movement as with the stress of the last week and her teasing he had to prevent himself form just standing up and teasing her in more ways. No, he couldn’t show weakness around her or she gain the upper hand. “I see well an interesting way to grow up I would say. Seems quite easy leaning magic and medicine without much to worry about. No wonder you're so soft and slim never had a real hard life.”
When she asked him he just kind of shrugged. “Not much to tell really. My mother passed when I was young so I was taken in by my uncle. Never met my father or have any idea who he was.” He would take the tea and take a quick sip before continuing. “He was a farmer so over time I was expected to help out. We had a few hands but he expected me help out. ‘Nothing is free boy you must work hard for everything.’ He used to say to me when I was doing back breaking work. Over time thought I enjoyed it help me stay in shape.” He would flex on of his arms showing that it was tone and well-muscled.”
He laughed a bit thinking about the time back then. “Plus, help when you trying to get the lady to be the farm boy that stronger then the rest.” He would reach over and rub her chin and wink at her. “Again, stuff you wouldn’t understand.”
Her second question caused him to drop his smile and teasing as he looks away. For several second, he didn’t say anything. “It hard. Take everything you have ever known and replace it something you have no idea what going on. My life been flipped on it head. One day you’re a farm boy that works all day and party all night. Now I’m charge of a whole bunch of people with no idea what im doing. I don’t know anyone or even know if they care about me.” He didn’t look at her as he looked off into space.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] “Hm, the whole back? I ought to do a little more before it really starts to bother you.”
Serafina was aware of him watching her, and rather than be bothered she was moving a little more deliberately. Stretching up for the tea, leaning over for the teapot. “I suppose. Let’s see, the last Count was in my grandparents time, when my mother was still small, so I never met him. Magic has been in my family for as long as we have any records, so of course I would be a mage. I’m an only child, so no one else could, and I have the gift. My family has been specializing in plants and medicine for generations, so my mother taught me. Magic helps, but it isn’t all there is. There’s plenty one can do without magic. Or with only a little bit of magical help. My mother saw value in that.”
With the tea done she went to hand him his cup and took a seat with hers. She gave him a smile, her eyes sparkling like gemstones in the firelight,”My turn. How did you get started farming? What was it like to have this burden thrust on you so suddenly? Did you ever imagine doing anything but farming?”
She was curious about what his life had been like before this. Obviously now it was a lot of studying and learning he had never expected. She had been educated by her mother under the assumption one day a lord may require her, and she should be well versed in what was needed to run the land smoothly for him. It was obviously different for her to finally use skills she had been taught than it was for him to suddenly be expected to do all of this with no prior education.
“Thank you.” He said following her in and taking a seat at the same spot he did yesterday. He closed his eye and let himself relax. “It more of the training followed by the doing nothing. My whole back is killing me and it can't quite seem to pop my back enough to make it feel better.” He twisted his neck in a way and with a soiled click it popped. Turning his head, the other way he did it again. “I just need a little something to take the edge off is all.
He laughed a little at this. “And since you already offered yesterday how could I refuse. Need to see if you're as good as you say or just blowing air.” He rolled his head back and watched her form the comer of his eye. He had to say he like what he saw and wasn’t shy about her seeing it. “So, tell me about yourself? If we going to be working together, I guess I should get to know you better. What was growing up a magic like did you ever meet the last count or before your time. What made you follow in magic. Where you learn so much about plant and medicine.” He really did seem interested in learning more about her as he watched her make the tea.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] “More like attempting to squash ridiculous rumors.” Serafina responded with a smile,”Of course.”
Serafina didn’t mind walking with the older man for a ways. He had interesting stories too, about the new Count. Serafina listened, and nodded to return the greeting when they entered. She laughed at his suggestion,”Only natural charm. Hm.”
Had she been researching in the south on the same subject of whatever it was Serafina was looking for now? Serafina wasn’t sure, because she wasn’t sure what, exactly, she was looking for. Just that it was a family secret, and it would be Serafina’s duty one day. Not a lot to go on. “I don’t mind at all. Take care and good night.”
The whole noble situation was still very new to Anderson, as was the loss of his uncle. Speaking of, she found Anderson waiting by her door. She returned the smile and opened her door,”Of course. Come in.”
She leaned against the door to let him in, and shut it behind them. She set about getting the tea ready and made light conversation,”I can’t say I’m surprised. You’re having to study quite a bit, it’s hard on the back. And my tea is good.”
Devin waved as he slowly hobbled down the path. “Miss Serafine.” He smiled nodding at her as he slowly caught up. “Good evening what brings you out here?” He asked looking back at the town. “Spreading good new I hope.” He chuckled starting up the path. “Hope you wouldn’t mind keeping an old man company for a little bit. It has been such a long trip and as good as Lord Anderson is he a bore of a chat.”
He used a cane to get around but he only seemed to us it to steady himself more than walk with it. “He stubborn but I can’t blame him he was only a farm boy a fortnight ago. We found him almost knee-deep in the mud trying to get a cart unstuck. Cursed me up a storm when he found me. He couldn’t understand what we were doing on his farm. Thought we were the tax collector seems he been having issue of some sort. Was ready to fight about it too.” He chuckled remembering it.
“After we got him calm down, we told him who we were and why we were there. He didn’t believe us at first but after we showed his uncle blade, he went quiet. I didn’t cry or anything but quieted down and agreed to start believing us. Feel like he still caring some weight form his uncle passing. Not normal to bottle up your feeling like that. I tried to get him to open up but he doesn't seem to think much of me outside of teaching him and helping his out with all political parts of work.”
They would be met by a guard who would greet both of them. “Evening Sir, Mage.” He said letting them pasted.
“I'm surprised he hired you so quickly. He was pretty cold to most of us the first few days.” He gave her a mischievous grin. “You didn’t use a spell on him, did you?” He looked at her an eye raised before laughing. “I jest I know you wouldn’t do such a thing. Your mother would have thought you better than to abuse your magic like that. Though I must say you look so much like her. I did say I meet her once but I didn’t say for how long. He worked together for a while she was researching something.” He shrugged as if trying to remember it as the came up to his build. “Sorry for talking your ear off hope you didn’t mind an old man ramble.” With that, he bowed to her and left her behind.
As she would return to her room, she would find Anderson leaning against the wall next to her door. Looking over he would smile. “Took you long enough.” He smiled at her and standing up. “I was hoping to get more of that tea you gave me last night. It helps with my slumber and.” He would look away as he rubbed his shoulder. “If I could get you to message my shoulder again it would be nice. Helps with the pain.”
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] Serafina knew where to find most people this time of day. The inn wasn’t so much an inn these days as just the local tavern. Most came by at the end of the day for a drink, some socializing, and the days gossip.
Serafina wasn’t often there, but stopped by now and then. When she entered she got a warm, concerned greeting. “Serafina! There you are! How has he been treating you? How did you get out?”
The innkeeper's wife was a kind woman, but very nosy. She hurried to Serafina with a hug and ushered her inside,”I’ve heard he’s just beastly. But you look so lovely!”
Serafina raised an eyebrow,”Oh? Who’s been saying that? He’s been just fine to me.”
“Well, you know, just what people are saying.” The innkeeper's wife sounded a little flustered and defensive,”He did kick you out, didn’t he? Then snatched you up and held you captive?”
Serafina sighed. Getting the rumors squashed and the people to like him was going to take a little bit,”That’s ridiculous. There was a misunderstanding. I’m his court mage now, officially. I only came to let everyone know to expect more news in the next few days. The castle needs work, and he would prefer to give the jobs to locals rather than bring in workers.”
There were a few mumbles about how that was good. It seems like they’d appreciate the work and not getting overrun with too many southerners. Serafina didn’t particularly want to linger. The room was hot and crowded, and they were bound to fill her in on all sorts of terrible rumors or pepper her with questions about Count Anderson that she couldn’t entirely answer. She did still barely know the man. She headed toward the door,”I just came to let you all know. I’ll keep you all updated. If you’ll excuse me.”
The evening air outside was especially cold after the heat of the inn. She hadn’t thought to bring a cloak or anything in her hurry to leave. Serafina shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. How silly of her. She supposed she would just hurry back home and make herself a hot cup of tea. Would he stop by for tea again? Or not, since he had no business.
She was nearly to the castle, the side gate she prefered to use, distracted by thoughts about tea and other things, when she realized someone was calling her name and stopped.
Anderson would walk into the cool night air and drop his act. He was exhausted again so much he could barely stand. Walking off to one side of the castle he would find a tree to slump again it. Slowly he would slide down the side of it holding his head in his hands. It was easy to hold up a show in front of other but some time he just need to drop it. It felt like the whole world was pressing down on him. He been dragged away from his home given a command of solider and territory and was expected to take it.
Tear would start to fall out of his eyes as he did his best to hide it. If that wasn’t the worst of it his uncle his only family that he had was gone and he hadn't even been able to bury the body before getting dragged off. He was given all this without even wanting it. Sure, it was nice to have money and power but at what cost? His freedom? His life? his choices? No nothing was his anymore. Everything he did, would do, and would try would be watched by so many other and judged.
He suddenly heard feet approaching. He did his best to wipe away his tears but his face was still red as he looked up at one of his guards. They looked down at him concerned as the noticed his face. He expected them to laugh or make some kind of joke but they didn’t and simple looked sad.
“Is everything okay sir.” The solider asked. What surprised Anderson the most was it wasn’t a male. It was that of a female. He knew that females could become knights and solider but he didn’t think any of his was. He didn’t know them that well but form the armor and her hair hidden under a helmet he couldn’t really tell.
“If I say yes will you leave me?” He chuckled a little his voice hoarse.
“Only if you order it sir but you look like you need someone to vent to.” She said smiling.
Sighing he looked away as he started. “It this whole blasted thing. I never asked for this I didn’t want to be a noble or part of some higher society. I was perfectly happy with my life as a farmer. But then my uncle had to just go be the hero save some one importin life and then die on me.” He grabbed his head. “Leaving me as his only sole hair and making me a court.”
She would not say anything as Anderson just vented.
“Then I don’t even get to say goodbye or even bury my uncle before they drag me off here. Start teaching me all this stuff that I have no interest in learning or dealing with. Yet if I don’t then his sacrifice to give me a better life it pointless.” He just wanted to scream in frustration but didn’t. “Everyone will soon be looking up to me and I don’t know if I can handle that kind of pressure. By the end of this will I still be me? Will I be a good leader or just another hated and forgotten?”
He would then feel a simple hand on his shoulder. “It will be fine my lord.” She said smiling before letting go and standing up. “I may have only been under for a short time but I learned you are kind person. You care about those under you and even those you don’t know that well. Like with Miss Serafina. She was injured and you had me take her back to her room and stay there. Plus, you didn’t kick her out of the only home she ever known. Instead you trusted her to help you make this place better and make the people happy. To me that sounds like the start of a good ruler. Plus, you honor your uncle by not wasting his gift to you.”
Anderson would take some time to think about that finally answering. “I guess.” He felt lighter like a weight was lifted off his shoulder. “Thank you miss?”
“Serina Kaga” She said standing at attention.
“Relax.” He laughed. “It nice to meet you Miss Kaga.” Standing up he dusted himself off. "But no that you seen me cry I'm going to have to kill you to keep my secret.”
She would laugh as she nodded. “Don't worry my lord you secret is safe and if you ever need a ear I am hear my lord.”
He would nod. “Thank you I'll keep that in mind. Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to take a little walk.
Bowing Serina would turn and leave. Each would go their separate way as Anderson started walking the walls.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] Serafina smirked,”It all depends on what needs to be done.”
She made herself comfortable on a seat next to his. She had lived here her whole life, so there was no sense of awe or feeling like she couldn’t sit where she wanted. Serafina let him read in silence. Honestly him taking his studies seriously was something she appreciated.
When the others were introduced Serafina stood and gave a slight curtsey and took the hand offered. As much attitude as she apparently gave Anderson, she was also capable of behaving like a perfect lady,”The pleasure is mine. Ah, my mother. She did travel south when she was younger, before I was born.”
She took notice of the younger boy looking at her, but paid no particular attention to him. Plenty of boys and men had looked at her like that before.
There was work to be done, and Serafina proved herself as capable as she claimed. She went over the damages and made a few corrections, noting a spot missed here or there, or a spot where things were more or less serious than reported. She also had a list of the local men capable of fixing the problems, and a list of young men to [i not] hire for anything terribly important, adding that if needed they could “Clean up after the animals, but I would check their work on that too.”
She also had a good idea of how much the farms produced, how much people earned, and ideas about allowing some to pay part of the taxes in labor during repairs to ease people into it, since they weren’t used to paying taxes for years at this point.
There was one idea she put forward, pointing out a local spring festival would be soon, and it would go a long way in gaining trust and good will if the castle courtyard were open for the festivities, and the new Count made an appearance and joined in.
Once things switched to the more general studies Serafina quietly went over the documents from the morning for anything she missed, as well as more concrete plans for the festival that wouldn’t strain the tight budget they had. Anderson obviously had a harder time focusing on his studies very well, he wasn’t used to it. At a couple of points she would add a little bit of trivia for entertainment, stories about a particular mine being rather infamously infested with spiders, or a farm that funnily enough changed hands when the farmer lost it in a card game, only for his son to win it back. Being from here, she knew more than the textbooks could.
She tried not to interrupt too much though, which was a little difficult so she was relieved when he shut the book and was finished. While they wrapped up she tidied the papers she had been reading, quite glad to be done with them for the moment, and stood up.
“Hm?” Serafina raised an eyebrow at Anderson. What was he playing at? She watched him go, then looked at Dylan. After a moment she bowed her head,”If you’ll excuse me, I have a few things to attend to.”
Things like going to the town and letting them know she was officially the court mage to keep them from butting in curiously and causing more trouble. Just what was Anderson up to? Playing at matchmaker like that when she wasn’t even interested.
Anderson would look up from his book as he heard someone walk up. “And a good morning to you as the well.” He said looking up from his book and glancing at her. He was a little taken about by her appearance. He did think she would dress up as she already dress above normal. “And here I thought you were nothing but dirty handmaiden. Seems you know how to dress nicely after all.” He teased turning back to his book with a smirk. She did look amazing but he couldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing that.
“Could have been better felt short.” He said shrugging. He figured it be like this for a while until he got use to his new routine. Shortly after that two other men would walk into the room. One an older man in his late sixties and another in late teens. Both where dressed in white robes and carrying several book and scrolls.
“Good morning my lord.” The older one said not noticing Serafina at first until he set the books down and looked up. “O and morning to you …?”
“Serafina.” Anderson said setting his book down finally. “She will be my court mage and she more familiar with the local so she can offer help in help with rebuilding.” The man smiled brightly at this. “Serafine this old cote is Devin Valentine and his son Dylan valentine.” Anderson said pointing to each who bowed in turn.
“It a pleasure Miss Serafina.” Devin said as he brushed off his clock and reached out a hand. “Seems I will not have to send out a request for a mage now them. The reports said that your family had lived her a while ago but I wasn’t sure you were still around. I meet your mother one a long time ago when I was but a lad.” He laughed recalling the memory. Dylan just stood back a bit blushing at Serafina before looking away. Every few second he would take a glance back at her.
“Anyways.” Devin said taking a seat across form Anderson. “We have to save the small talk for later as we have a lot to get thought today.” He then went to work over some paper work.
“Alway a man of work.” Anderson joked waiting for the torture to start. Devin would take time sorting out some paper work before passing it out to the two of them.
“First order is the damages. The men have finished and it not as bad as I first believe.” He went over the detail saying the options overall cost and how much manpower they would need for each. Most of the information was given to Serafina so she could work with the local about the best people to hire. After that he would go over new taxes that would help play for the wall but would not over all cause people to get anger and cause trouble again her would refuse to Serafina about what people where making vs how much each was being charged in taxes.
This would take up most of the morning with smaller issues coming up everyone and a while. In the afternoon they would switch over to Anderson classes that would start to be taught by Dylan who seemed very informed. He would be teaching about the land that he was ruling over. About the history and how most of it was farm land with some mining that had been abanded year earlier without leadership.
Anderson would do his best to stay on track but it was boring to him. He never been one for learning and the time was killing him as every minute dragged on. He hated it but finally as the sun was setting it would end with Dylan ending with a close of his book. “That be it for today my lord.” He said smiling.
“Thank the maker.” Anderson said as his head hit a table with a solid thud.
“Sorry my lord I don’t make it sound so dry.” Dylan said looking ashamed.
“Don't be you did fine.” He said sitting up and leaning back. “I just hated learning since I was a boy. You should be rewarded for having to put up with someone like me of so long.”
“O it nothing really my lord.”
“nonsense” Anderson said looking at Serafine and smiling. “Why don’t you reward the young boy for his effect.” He said clearly having noticed the body looks a her. He couldn’t blame the boy he was just coming to that age of a man and a pretty woman was nothing to be ashamed of. “Anyway, I should be going I feel like a walk.” Turn around he would wave off the two of them. Leaving a very embarrassed Dylan in the middle of the room.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] “Hm. You should take the master room. I’ll show you why one day. A tour of the castle.” She knew where he was talking about. “Tomorrow morning then.”
After a moment considering him she stepped aside and opened the door,”Good night. Let me know if you have trouble sleeping, I have more tea.”
She flashed a smile that might have been a little mischievous and shut the door. After clearing things up he really was easier to get along with. And remarkably fun to tease.Serafina changed into her nightgown and after tidying up her room went to bed.
When morning came Serafina got dressed, taking some care to look more the part of a court mage. Her dress was a little nicer, something flattering with a lower neckline. She also got out a ruby necklace on a gold chain, something that had passed down her family for generations, and wore it.
To kill a little time after her own simple breakfast she wandered the castle out of habit. She hadn’t breathed a word to the newcomers, but there was something she was looking for. Though she knew the castle better than any living person, there was one secret that went to her mother’s grave. A secret she was determined to find.
That morning she found nothing, but did turn a few heads as she walked. The guards were looking at her, especially when they thought she wasn’t looking at them. Deciding to be early rather than late she made her way to the main hall only to find Count Anderson there already. Serafina wandered over and leaned back against the table next to him,”Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
He would only laugh at her comment and reply with. “Better complaining then attacking me with a knife in my sleep.” With that he was about to leave but she stopped him. He could tell when it was time to play and when he was being asked a general question. “No, I ended up talking one a floor down and in the counsel area. It smaller and a bit more to my taste then the master bedroom.” He just couldn’t get over the idea of having something so big to himself. He may end up moving when he had more things but at the moment found it to unsettling. “And yes I will see you tomorrow. Court study and meeting take place just after breakfast in the main hall. It the only place that has a good size working table so we meet there. Come in then and I will inform other about you and you joining my court.”
He figured she knew what place he was talking about as she knew the castle better than he did. Answering any last question that she had he would leave her in her room to return to his own. He felt a lot better than he had an hour before. It felt nice to have something seem so normal out of his now crazy life. Things like this had always been fun to him even if it didn’t end in the bed. Made it more fun that way if they didn’t give in at first. Made the reward even sweeter.
Returning to his room he quickly undressed and switched into a night shirt and shorts. He got under her cover and let out a tired yawn. He wouldn’t have much time to fantasize as he was quickly out. Sadly, rest wouldn’t seem to say long as he a woke for his new daily routine. It felt like he only been asleep a few minutes but really had been a 8 hour. Growing he would roll out of bed and start getting ready for sword practice.
It went mostly the same as the day before him getting her ass handed to him but slowly improving over time. He would learn but it would be a long time yet before he truly learn how to master the sword. With practice ending he would get for the rest of his day. Heading to the temporary baths the real one under repaired he would bath and change in to his court attire. Unlike most he kept it simple with a nice dress shirt jacket and pants. He couldn’t handle being over dressed and it was quicker to change in such attire. Finsh he would head to the meeting point and await ever one else. He was early and just took a seat at the table pulling out one of book that was given to him to help him learn letter and words he would wait for other to arrive.
[left [pic https://i.imgur.com/w3Wj8wg.jpg?1]] He liked it, that much was obvious. Not that she had much to complain about. She liked the feel of his hand over her arm and along her cheek.
Two could play at this game though, and apparently two would. “See, all talk. I suppose I’d see you if you ever wanted a real woman, but you’d settle for a waifish southern girl who’ll complain all winter.”
Serafina walked to the door with him,”Then I’ll see you in the morning. If I’m to be a court mage, then I’ll be involved in court business. One question though before you go,” she put her hand over the door, then stepped in the space between him and the door,”Have you taken over the lords chambers to sleep in?”
This question wasn’t so much flirting as it was business. There were actual reasons related to duty she needed to know where he was, to protect him, and possibly aid in his escape should anything happen. Not that she thought it likely, but she didn’t like the idea of risking it.
Anderson was surprise by her reaction as she would start massaging, he sore body. He had expected her to more pull back and be defensive but no she was more forward then he had guessed. Her voice sent chills down his spine as she talked into his ear. The mix of both the massage tea and her soft voice was enough to make him forget about that pain in body. His whole body would relax in her grasp as he let out a soft sigh.
He was however use to such attention and had much enjoyed it. He would then roll his head back to look her into the eyes. He would not give up so easy. He been challenged and he would step up and take it. It would make the reward even more sweet. “Come now.” He would say in a sweet smooth voice of his own. “All you show me is your strong headed and gorgeous but any woman with skill could do this.” He would run his hand down over her arm gently with the times sending goosebumps along it.
“I only have one of the three things you stated and that good looks.” He smiled and winked at her. “The rest come with time and hard work. I’d show you more than just talk but abuse woman.” He would then run his hand done her face. “I don’t need to do that you come to me when you ready.” He then let go and stood up. “I just wait until you're ready for a real man in your life.” He then bows to her smile. “Thank you for the tea and your contribution.” He said starting for the door.
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