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Kuroth rose the following day feeling much better.  He had all but fallen into his bed the previous evening and could not even remember his head hitting the pillow.  That link stone had taken more out of him than he thought.  Coercion over a link stone was hard, and to accomplish it with two Orcs at the same time while being linked with two others was demanding to say the least.  He did not intend to use the stone today at all if he could help it.

He pulled the bell cord to summon his personal attendants.  He only had to wait for a few moments before three women filed into the room.  One of them carried the towels, and another carried the clothes he would wear this day, the third was empty handed.  They bowed to him as one and at his gesture they led the way to the bathing room, the one carrying nothing opening doors for Kuroth and the two others.  He admired the sway of their hips as they made their way along the hallway that separated his sleeping chambers from the bathing room.  The lush carpets under their feel caught the sun’s rays in the morning and felt pleasantly warm under his bare feet as they walked the length of the long hallway.  The distance was meant to keep the humidity of the bathing room apart from the sleeping chambers.

The bathing room was a large tiled room with a huge tub set into the floor.  In truth the tub had been chiselled out of the floor and a hole bored in the bottom of it.  This room had taken many years to complete.  There were many places on top of the fortress where rainwater was collected and ran into a series of water reservoirs.  It was actually quite ingenious.  The man who had designed it died a century before it was completed, but Kuroth was sure that the man would be quite proud to see that it was still in use thousands of years later.  In a room higher up there was a large vessel that was continually heated and the water from there could be splashed into the tub for hot water whenever it was needed, such as now.  Two levers were set into the wall.  Pulling one would drain hot water into the tub, the other released cold water. 

“Dory, please make this day’s bath quite warm.” 

The slim blonde woman and gave a short bow before moving to the leavers.  She walked over to the levers and pulled on the hot one.  She watched attentively as the water soon splashed out of the hole set right near the top of the tub. 

While the water started filling the tub, the woman with the towels set down her burden and then began to undress him.  She was a tall redheaded woman named Sarah, and every day he woke she wordlessly removed his clothing, with her smiling blue eyes darting here and there.  While Sarah removed his sleeping garments, the third woman (named Victoria) put his day’s clothing into a sealed wooden box where it would not get too damp from the steam that was beginning to envelope the room.  Sarah’s hands were warm and soft as she removed his clothes and then guided him over to a long padded bench set well back from the tub. 

There was a shelf along one wall and it held a number of vials.  Victoria walked over to the shelf, her long dark hair swaying as she turned and gestured to the vials “Do you have a preference today, my Lord?”  She had a little smile on her face as she watched him shake his head.  Victoria knew her craft, and she knew which oils he preferred better than he did himself.  She plucked a vial and was rubbing the oil onto her hands as Sarah laid him down on the bench.

Together those two rubbed the oils into his flesh, and he felt his tense muscles loosening up.    He enjoyed the feeling of their smooth strong hands kneading his body.  The oil and their rubbing creating a pleasant heat that permeated through him and he found his thoughts wandering pleasantly as the stresses of the last few days eased out of him. 

It wasn’t until they stopped that he realized how close he had been to dozing off.  When they got him to his feet he could see that Dory had the pitchers and soaps lined up and ready to be used on him. It was never a long massage session in the morning, just long enough to fill up the tub and for Dory to get everything ready. She had removed her garments and was in the tub waiting for him.  Her blue eyes twinkled as she smiled up at him.

This time of the day was his favourite.  These three had served him this way for over thirty years, and he had the power to keep them looking and feeling young for many more.  He had twelve personal servants, and he rewarded each of them with remarkable long life as long as they served him well.  He appreciated their company and their friendship and with a few of them he enjoyed the pleasures of the body.  As he sunk into the tub and Dory began to wash him, Kuroth realized that he was in the mood for the physical pleasures that sometimes accompanied his morning routine.  There was nothing so pressing he could not delay it for a few hours.

As he usually did when such feelings possessed him, he invited the other two women to join him in the bath.  As they disrobed and began sliding into the water he smiled appreciatively. Sarah and Victoria looked very different, yet both exuded strength.  Victoria had a fair complexion which made her dark eyes and straight black hair even more striking.  Sarah had a long mane of red hair and blue eyes that seemed to tinkle with mischief.  Her olive skin looked positively dark next to Victoria, and her tall lithe form contrasted with Victoria’s short and sturdy frame.

As they slid into the tub his gaze fell on Dory.  She was as unlike the other two as they were different from one another.  She was all willowy grace, and it looked like a stiff breeze would either blow through her or knock her down.  She moved in the bath every day without splashing or making waves as she slid through the water.  She looked up at him meekly while her hands cleansed his body using cloths and brushes and sponges.  This was at least as relaxing as the massage, with the added pleasure of having her naked body brushing against his as she worked.  

He was admiring the graceful way that Dory’s wraithlike form was moving through the water when she looked up wide eyed and then gave a most ungraceful jerk of her entire body.  Her small mouth was a dreadful grimace as she jerked again and again in the water.  Her hands had turned to claws and her whole body was shaking violently.  As she jerked around she created great splashes that made Sarah and Victoria shy away in alarm. 

                As suddenly as it had started, it was over.  Dory put her arms calmly to her sides and a triumphant grin filled her face.  The water began to steam even more than before and with a yelp Sarah and Victoria jumped out of the water, moving quickly back away from what they did not understand.  Their skin was an angry red where they had been in the water.  For Kuroth he felt out with his mind and exerted his will on the water, cooling it around him as he calmly removed himself from the tub.  He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around himself and then turned back to Dory who was still in the water.

                Only it wasn’t Dory who looked back at him.  He knew this instinctively.  The large grin had not faded.  If anything it looked wider and made her appear an idiot.  Her eyes seemed too wide, and she stood ramrod straight in the bath in a posture that he had never seen Dory in.  There was blood slowly trickling out of her ears and nose, but she seemed oblivious to this as she cocked her head to one side and spoke.

                “You are enjoying your empire, yes?”  The voice that emerged from that mouth was not Dory either.  It was a deep voice both gravelly and hissing at the same time.

                “Who are you?” Kuroth used his coolest voice.  He was pleased that it did not tremble with the knot of fear he had in his gut. 

                “Who I am...” she paused, bringing her head straight before canting it to the side again.  “Not important.  You need not know such things.  You only need know who I serve.”

                “Nemus.”  The word came out as a croak.  He had thought as much.

                “I see you fear her, too.  That is well.  I bring you warnings.”

                “Warnings?”  The knot in his gut sunk lower.

                “Yes, many warnings.”  The idiot-smile never left her face, she still stared at him with eyes too wide and a big grin.  Kuroth felt like he was being mocked, but he dare not take exception to it.  The blood from her nose had trickled over her lip and her teeth had blood on them.  The effect was enough to make someone think twice about challenging whatever was controlling Dory.

                “What is the message?” 

                “She warns you to remember the blood.  The time of Intervention has come.”

                “Intervention... now?”

                “Yes, less than a day ago.”

                “Where?”

                “That she cannot tell, but you are to be wary and watch for the signs.  No Intervention is without repercussions... you will see.”

                “What is your master going to do?”

“She is your master too.  Do not forget.  She sent me to warn, and that is no small boon.”

“How is it that you were able to take control of that body?”

“The mind had been broken and weakened by your tampering, that makes it vulnerable to... exploitation.”  With that the body suddenly relaxed and slipped down into the water.  Kuroth did not seek to revive her.  He knew she would be dead after what had just happened. 

He looked over to the other two women.  They were both on the far side of the room.  Sarah had her hands on her mouth.  Her Blue eyes were round with Horror, and Victoria just stared fixedly at the body of Dory.  They could not understand what had happened, but they knew too much now.  Kuroth put his best smile forward as he approached them.  They shied slightly from him as he put his hands on their shoulders, and then he felt them stiffen in panic and pain as their hearts both stopped beating. 

They both fell to the tiled floor in wet naked heaps.  What a waste!  Training new attendants was always a trying experience, and a part of him was sad that he had had to end them.  He found that his head was hurting again, which made it hard to think.  He shook his head vigorously, which only exacerbated the problem.  He squeezed his eyes shut for a few moments and then grabbed his clothes and fled the room.

As he got back to the bed chamber the fear started to claw at him again.  With an Intervention he would see signs, would he?  What kind of signs might he miss if they were on the other side of the world.  He wished he could think through the headache, he needed a clear head.  No one else could do his thinking for him; his Orcs were so stupid that they might miss it or just not report it. What would repercussions look like; what should he tell them to look for?  He stopped in the dead in his tracks as it came to him.  The earthquake.

He spurred into motion an instant later, running out of the chamber in his urgency.  He hoped it was not too late to do what had to be done.  He cursed himself for not being ready for this.  He had been told it might come, but somehow he had just never really prepared, but there was still much that he could do.   As he hurried further down into the structure he realized that his headache had cleared. 

 

               

The End

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