The bounce of the carriage as it moved over the stone roads of Sanctum. The sound of its wooden wheels as it met stone after stone. The clicking of the horses’ hooves as they pulled Shani, Lucius, and their coachman along. Lucius hated all of this, but more than anything, the damned sunlight that Shani insisted on letting through the windows of Lucius’ carriage.
“Why… the hell am I awake right now, Shani…?” Lucius complained, trying his best to relax on his padded seat.
Shani was sitting across from him, enjoying the view as she watched Sanctum slowly shift from the tall, beautiful buildings of the inner city into the smaller structures in the outer city, “Because we need to get to Vatic early, Lou.” She explained.
Lucius groaned, grabbing a pillow by him and throwing it at her face, “No.”
Shani jumped when the pillow hit her and glared at him, grabbing the pillow and putting it to her side, “Take a nap if you’re so tired, punk.”
Lucius sighed, “I fucking can’t. This thing is bouncing so much, I can’t even relax… and I need that pillow back.”
“Too bad.” She replied, shifting a bit so that she was sitting on it instead.
He watched her, his cold glare boring into her in a fashion that would put anyone else on edge, “Don’t think I won’t take it away from there. Wouldn’t be the first time, I touch your a—”
“Shut up.” Shani snapped back.
Lucius leaned forward, placing his hands on her thighs, gripping them and tugging on her slightly, moving her just a bit closer towards him, “Shani… let’s make this more interesting. I’m bored.”
Shani sighed, moving her hand to one of his own, gently grasping it, “Lucius, I’m your employee. Not your sex toy.”
Lucius sighed lightly, leaning closer towards her and kissing her cheek before whispering against her ear, “Why not both…?” He asked.
Shani’s eyes shut quickly in response to his actions as a deep sigh left her. She scooted herself back and pulled her head away from him, “Lou…” She let out before her hand trailed to his cheek, cradling it gently. She turned to face him, kissing his lips softly before leaning forward, and whispering in his ear, “I’m on my period…”
Lucius leaned back, staring at her for a while before asking, “So?”
Shani couldn’t help but laugh at this. She grabbed the pillow under her and threw it at his face, “You’re so gross, Lou!”
Having acquired the pillow now, he placed it behind his head and leaned back on it, “Whatever, I’m great.” He responded.
Soon enough, the carriage slowed to a stop. It had reached the walls of Sanctum and the gate leading to Vatic. The coachman opened the door for the pair, helping Shani out before Lucius followed.
Shani made her way to the gate guards while Lucius stood at a distance, “Hello, boys! We need to get into Vatic. Could you open the gate for us?”
The guards looked at Shani, then Lucius, and nodded, “Of course. That carriage won’t do well in the unpaved roads of Vatic, though.” He explained.
Shani smiled and nodded, “It’s fine, we’ll leave it here for now.”
The guards simply nodded in acknowledgment before walking to the gate, opening it enough for Lucius and Shani to step through.
As the pair stepped into Vatic, they were instantly greeted by a drastic shift of atmosphere. Vatic was known for being the home of the poor and unlucky. While Sanctum was filled with beautiful wooden and stone structures, Vatic showed off rundown huts and slums dirtied with the sand of the deserts of Sharbain, where Vatic was built.
Shani and Lucius stood out quite clearly here, dressed in more expensive clothing than anyone else here. They made their way past the curious stares and begging of the less fortunate here. Eventually, the two arrived at the door of a wooden building. After a few knocks, the door opened to reveal a young man clad in leather armor.
“What business do you have here?” The man asked.
Shani blinked a bit at the question, then chuckled, “You must be new, kid. I’m Shani. This is Lucius. We’re here to see Draven.”
The younger male narrowed his eyes at Shani for a moment before looking at Lucius. The glare coming from Lucius put him on edge almost instantly. He looked back to Shani soon enough and stuttered a response, “P-please wait here… I-I-I’ll pass th-the info along.” He said before closing the door in front of them.
Shani sighed and glared back at Lucius, “You scared him!”
Lucius glanced at Shani, “What?” He asked, having been thinking of something else this entire time, “What happened? What did he say?”
Shani stared at Lucius for a while, before sighing, “At least you’re cute…” She muttered as the door opened back up.
This time, in the doorway, stood an older man. He was tall, weathered looking with a few scars on his face. He had a goatee and hardened brown eyes. He looked over to Shani and rose a brow before speaking out in a calm tone, “Who’s cute, Shani?”
Shani’s eyes widened in surprise, “Draven!” She let out.
“Damn right.” He responded.
Shani laughed lightly and waved him away, “Move, it’s hot out here.” As he moved to let the two into the building.
“Welcome back, Lucius.” Draven greeted as he closed the door.
Lucius nodded in greeting, “What’s the situation, Draven?”
Shani sighed a bit as the group walked through the dusty, dark building filled with various crates and barrels, “Right down to business…” She muttered.
“There is a bandit gang that just made it here from the east. They call themselves the Desert Lilacs and have recently begun encroaching on our territory here in Vatic. They’re well armed and seem to be getting support from an unknown party.” Draven explained.
Lucius raised a brow as the group arrived at a table with a map laid out on it, “Unknown party? Do we have any leads at all?”
Draven sighed slightly, reaching into a small box on the table. He pulled out a dark red leather band with a name embroidered into it, “During one of our recent fights with the Lilacs, we found that some of their men carried bands like this with ‘d’Vaterio’ embroidered on it.”
“Property of Vaterio?” Lucius questioned, taking the band and looking over it.
Shani peered at the band curiously, “Isn’t Vaterio the family of witches that lives in the Blood Sands?”
Draven and Lucius both nodded in response. Lucius sighed before putting the band down, “So what’s unknown about the party supporting them if you found these bands? Seems pretty cut and dry to me.”
Draven nodded in return, “Right, and we recently sent a team over to the Blood Sands to get answers. As it turns out, the interaction actually went very well, and we have no reason to suspect them. Especially since they sent a representative as a form of goodwill.”
Lucius looked to the side, towards the shadows of the room they were in, “Is that who’s been hiding this entire time, then?”
When attention was brought to her, a stunning female stepped out from the shadows. The woman had tan skin and long, snow-white hair tied in a tight braid. She was clad in a gold and dark red brassiere, and a low-riding gold mesh skirt that didn’t do much to hide the dark red thong bottoms beneath it. Her outfit was rather ornate and flashy looking. As her hips swayed with each step, the metal charms on her outfit jingled softly. Her piercing red eyes locked onto Lucius’ glare with a sultry smile, “Hello, Mister Nox. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. I am Veronica Vaterio.” She spoke in a melodic tone as she stepped up to Lucius.
Lucius’ amethyst eyes stared down into Veronica’s ruby gaze coldly, “Hm. We’ve only just met, I wouldn’t say it’s a pleasure yet.” He commented before holding the band up to her, “Do you have answers about this?”
Veronica smirked at Lucius’ words, then pouted a bit when he brought up the band, “I was hoping to get to know you better before diving right into business.” She complained, leaning against the table, “Well, the band is real, but… if you look on the inside, you should see an identification number. On that band, it’s scratched off.”
Lucius looked at the inside of the band, spotting the remains of gold paint, “What does that mean?”
“Well, that’s why I asked Draven to bring you here before I gave any more information on the topic. My father has asked me to inform you of a private family issue that may be of interest to you.” Veronica explained, then looked at Shani and Draven, “Privately…”
Draven and Shani looked at each other, before looking to Lucius, who merely nodded to them. The pair took the message and walked out of the room. As they stepped out, Draven closed the door to the room behind him and looked to Shani, “Hey… can we talk?”
Shani sighed, turning her head from Draven, “About…?”
“Us.” He responded.
“Draven… we ended things for a reason. Can’t we just leave it there and stay professional?” She asked.
Draven sighed out, scratching at the back of his head, “So… that’s it? Is there any other reason?”
Shani raised a brow, glaring at him, “Like…?”
“Lucius…?” He muttered, avoiding eye contact.
Shani began to walk off immediately after he spoke the name of their boss, “Fuck you, Draven.”
“Shani! Wait!” He called out.
She turned back, with a vicious glare, “We broke up because all you care about is your stuff. You ignored me for most of our relationship, and I can’t be with someone like that. I am way more valuable than anything you own, but you’ll never be happy.”
“I’m leaving after this issue is taken care of.” He admitted suddenly.
Shani’s eyes widened slightly, but her glare wouldn’t leave, “What…?”
Draven rubbed at the bridge of his nose with a sigh, looking down, “I can’t work for Lucius anymore. Not knowing that you live with him. I’m going to sail away from Sharbain once this is all over.”
Shani sighs and nods, “Alright. I won’t tell Lucius, but I don’t want to know anything else. I won’t lie to Lucius.” She stated before walking out of the building, leaving Draven to his own thoughts.
Meanwhile, in the other room, Lucius was now leaning back against the table with an arm around Veronica’s waist, who was facing him with her body pressed against his own, “The rumors were true, Mister Nox. You really are stunningly handsome… and being around you brings out the worst in me…”
Lucius sighed lightly, nodding, “Yeah, it happens. Now, what did you say about Maldicites?”
She chuckled, undoing the top two buttons of his dress shirt to run her long, sharp, dark red and gold-tipped fingernails along the flesh of his muscular chest, “Mmm… Maldicites are an ancient legend. Beings infected with a curse that makes them need blood to live. My family has done a lot of research on them due to our… family trade.”
“Witches who use blood magic, right?” Lucius asked as he stared down at her.
She looked up into his cold glare and grinned, biting down on her lower lip, “Mhm… don’t look at me like that, though, it makes me all giddy. I promise we’re not bad people.”
Lucius nodded lightly, “Right, well, you’re thinking that there’s a Maldicite leading the Desert Lilacs?”
She undid one more button of his shirt and leaned closer to him, taking in his warm scent, “Kind of… we have no proof that Maldicites exist these days, but someone is definitely taking on the title. I’m pretty sure it’s my little brother, actually.”
He raised a brow at her last words, “And you want me to take it easy on him? I can’t promise anything. He’s causing issues for me and will be taken care of.”
She chuckled, gliding her nails up his chest and then wrapping her hands around his neck gently, “No, Lucius… I want you to kill him.”
Lucius looked at her questioningly, “Why?”
“He betrayed my father and stole something valuable from us. Something that we were planning to give to you in order to build a relationship.” She explained, “A beautiful purple stone that helps the owner harvest great amounts of blood energy.”
Lucius’ arm around her waist tightened lightly at the same moment that his free hand gripped her throat, “An amethyst?” He asked, his voice reflecting a minor aggravation.
Veronica’s eyes widened as a grin came over her face. She stared up at Lucius and nodded slightly, “A Dark Amethyst. You like those don’t you, Mister Nox?” She asked, her nails digging into the back of his neck in response to her own neck being gripped.
Lucius offered a wicked grin before leaning closer towards her, their lips brushing as he spoke, “Now you’ve got my attention, Miss Vaterio.”
She licked her lips, grazing his own lips in the process, “If you kill my dear brother, feel free to keep the amethyst. Our family will owe you a big favor in hopes that it can build the foundation for a great partnership.” Lucius’ hand trailed from Veronica’s waist down to her rear, gripping it firmly and lifting her. Without a second thought, she wrapped her legs around his waist and let out a gentle moan.
“Is your company part of that partnership, or will your father be angry if he finds out about this?” Lucius asked.
Veronica chuckled deeply, pulling her hands away from his neck, revealing that she had dug them deeply enough to draw blood. She licked the blood off the gold tips of her nails and shivered at the taste, “Mister Nox… at this point… I don’t care what Father says or thinks. Let’s consummate this partnership, already.”
Lucius took the woman into a deep kiss, getting a taste of his own blood and her sweet saliva. As he pulled away, he swatted her behind and gripped it, “Maybe later… I think your brother’s stone is going to be the first step… once I have that, we’ll talk again.” He said before turning and sitting her on the table.
She pouted and groaned out, “You tease.” She spoke as she released him from her legs.
Lucius chuckled darkly as he made his way to the door, “I’ll see you soon, Veronica.”