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Count Duphaston, they quickly learn, is known for his perversions. They hear rumors from the other mercenaries, and the Count radiates enough power that even without his title, Vivian would not refuse his summons. So she and Velnor arrive at the manor at the appointed time, wordlessly follow the Count's butler to the back of the house, down a narrow flight of stairs, through what appears to be a wine cellar to a small dungeon, extravagantly lit by countless candles.

The Count is waiting for them, the gleam in his eye predatory, but not cruel.

She has seen true cruelty. The Count is not kind, and she is well aware he will toy with them, but she is also well aware he is bound by both his duty and his word. They are safe from permanent harm in his town, and he has promised them information about their quarry. Whatever he will ask of them will do no permanent harm. They will be able to venture back out into Besek.

And when he is done -- he has only asked one night of them -- they will be closer to finding the man they seek.

"Thank you for coming," the Count purrs as his butler withdraws. The door shuts heavily behind him, and from the glimpse of it Vivian got, she suspects it is thick enough to muffle even the loudest of screams.

However, aside from the candles, there is little in the room. Vivian takes it in quickly, a chamber pot to the left of the Count, and on the small table to his right, a clyster syringe, a vial of oil, a pair of decanters -- one filled with what she assumed to be water, the other with red wine -- and one crystal wineglass.

The syringe is familiar, seemingly made from bone, larger than the ones used in purification rituals back home. She and Velnor have both experienced deep cleansing before receiving their tattoos. That the Count would...well, given what she has heard, she should not be surprised he has heard of their rituals and knows how insulting it is to use them for his pleasure.

The Count pours some wine to the decanter of water, then swirls it around until it is evenly mixed, the liquid a pale pink. Vivian glances at her brother. Velnor's jaw is clenched, his gaze focused on the syringe, and she knows he has drawn the same conclusion as her.

"But then," the Count smiles, "it would not be wise to refuse. From what I have heard, you are both exceptionally wise for your age."

"You flatter us, sir," she says, covering Velnor's low, angry noise.

"As I hope you'll flatter me." The Count's smile widens, and there's a hitch to it that makes Vivian think he heard Velnor.

Her brother can be...impetuous. It is best if she takes control, or as much control as the Count will allow. "What are your --" she does not have time to consider the right word "-- orders, sir?"

He laughs, and it actually sounds genuine. "Ah, that is what I like about your kind. Your obedience."

Velnor stiffens. Even Vivian flinches. Their kind, according to Valdians, is known for their loyalty, their obedience -- traits people breed into dogs. She should have said wishes, not orders.

"I want one of you before me, naked and on all fours." He pours a glass of wine. "It is not too much to ask, is it?" He sips the wine, watching them carefully.

Velnor inhales. Vivian reaches for the clasp of her vest. "Not at all, sir. We are, as you say, obedient." A lie. She and Velnor need his information. If they could proceed without it, they would leave.

"Vivian," Velnor says. "If you wish --"

She does not let him finish, does not take her eyes of the Count. "I am doing what I wish." She shrugs out of her vest. "If you wish to help, fold this. I have no intention of leaving here with wrinkled clothes. It would reflect poorly on our host."

"We do not want that," Velnor murmurs, and he almost sounds sincere.

She knows what the wine in the water will do. Even diluted, the alcohol will hit her. She cannot subject Velnor to it. She is the captain.

She strips quickly, handing each article to Velnor to fold and place carefully on the floor. And then she kneels in front of the Count, sinks down to both hands and knees, and tries to convince herself she is not prostrate before him.

"You are quite lovely, my dear." The Count pours the remainder of his wine on her. It is warm on the back of her neck, and the scent of it hits her, sharp and woodsy. It pools on the floor beneath her, and she hopes the Count does not expect her to lick it.

Velnor hisses behind her, and she hears him moving towards her, his boots heavy on the stone.

"I suggest," the Count says, and there is an edge of warning in his tone, "you prepare your sister."

"You," Velnor breathes.

"Do as he says," Vivian orders. And then she takes a calculated risk. The Count had referred to her as Velnor's sister. "Please, brother."

Velnor hesitates. " is your wish. Sister."

"It is." She shifts to better present herself. "And," she does not dare look up at the Count to read his expression, "if the Count allows it, I wish for you to administer the..." she cannot finish. It is, suddenly, too embarrassing to ask this of him.

"Oh, it is my wish," the Count purrs. "Open your sister while I prepare this, boy."

Velnor draws in another sharp breath, and Vivian is afraid he will refuse. They may have been raised to respect those tasked with duties like the Count's, but they were also raised to respect themselves, and this...this would be shameful if it were asked of them back home.

But they are not home. Velnor kneels behind her. His touch is gentle, and if she closes her eyes and forgets it is her brother treating her so tenderly, she can enjoy the feel of his oiled fingers preparing her.

And if she closes her eyes, she can convince herself this is another ritual. There is no incense, and the scent of the wine is too sharp, but she can push all that aside and relax as Velnor guides the tip of the syringe into her.

The liquid is warm. Velnor is careful not to allow her too much at once, and the slow, steady press is almost overwhelming. She feels so full, and the wine stings her, though not unpleasantly, and her body responds to the sensations in...embarrassing ways. Her cunt acts as if it is being filled, and it is not long before she is slick and wanting.

She shifts as Velnor withdraws the syringe, arching her hips, and that just makes it worse. The liquid moves inside her. Her breasts brush against the floor. She tries to convince herself it is that friction that makes her nipples harden and bites down on her lower lip. The Count has not ordered her to moan. She wants him to, wants the choice taken away from her, because to be aroused by her brother's actions...asking him to do this had been a mistake.

But the alternative is the Count, and Vivian is sure he would not be as gentle.

The wine hits her then, and she is thankful the Count did not add more. She is suddenly too hot and feels the flush spreading across her pale skin. A series of cramps roll through her, and she's fairly certain she whimpers, but she's not sure of herself anymore. She clenches, and the motion sends tremors of pleasure up her spine, and she's close, so close, to full release.

"My, my," the Count says. "I wonder," he steps aside, and Vivian can't help tracking his movement, can't help seeing he has moved to block her path to the chamber pot, "how long you can hold it. Impress me, my dear."

Velnor puts a hand on the small of her back. She does moan then, low and needy.

"Touch her, boy. Make her squirm."

"She's my sister!"

"And this is Besek. There are no sins here, only secrets, and I have one you want."

"Please." She gasps through another wave of cramps. "Brother, please. If you will not do as he asks, as I ask." If there are no sins here, there is no shame. "Touch me. My breasts. My stomach. Anything."

Velnor makes a sound that could be pain or could be pleasure, and she has to tell herself it is pleasure because she cannot stand hurting him. He wraps a hand over the back of her neck, pushes her head down until her forehead is pressed against the stone floor in the cooling puddle of wine. His other hand is rough on her breast, and he pinches her nipple until she cries out.

She needs release. "Please." The pressure is too great, and she's trembling with need. "I can't...not any longer. Please, sir." She crawls towards the Count. Velnor shifts and moves with her, sliding his hand up to grab her hair.

Her limbs feel rubbery. From the wine? From the pleasure? Some combination? It does not matter. "Please. Let me, sir."

"Since you ask so nicely." The Count steps aside, and she can feel him watching her as she crawls towards the chamber pot, Velnor's hand still twined in her hair.

"But you have to look at me," the Count says. "And release on my word."

She whimpers.

"Sister," Velnor murmurs, low enough that she thinks the Count doesn't hear.

"Please," she whispers. "Get behind me and hold me in place. I...I don't think I can do as he asks unless you help me."

He makes that maybe pained, maybe pleased sound again and helps her squat over the pot. He wraps one arm around her torso. It lifts her breasts, puts them on display, and the way the Count's eyes flare makes her...nearly makes her lose it right there. She is so exposed for him, legs spread, thighs slick, nipples hard, and Velnor's fingers are tight on her scalp as he pulls her head back, forces her to meet the Count's eyes.

It's too much. She can't even beg for her release, can only make little sounds, mouth working as she tries to find words. Her breath comes quick, and it takes everything she has to clench tight, to fight the urge to let everything go.

"Please, sir," Velnor says. He's pressed close enough to her that the fabric of his vest scratches her back and send sparks of pleasure through her. "She's had enough."

"Has she?"

"Listen to her!"

She realizes she's wheezing on each exhale. She's dizzy with the effort of fighting her body. The Count's sharp smile wavers, and for a moment, everything goes white.

"Yes," the Count says. "I suppose it is enough. Let go, my dear."

She can't.

"Vivian," Velnor murmurs in her ear, and then she can.

It's a horrible and thrilling sensation. She can't believe how grateful she is, especially for Velnor, who holds her steady through it and then lifts her up and moves back, lets her slump against him, strokes her hair.

The Count moves to the door. "Basil will show you to a washroom and then to the next room." His expression is entirely too pleased. "Morning is still hours away. Do make sure you wash your sister thoroughly, boy. The sheets are white."

It takes her too long to catch her breath. She needs Velnor to help her up. The room spins -- still the effects of the wine? -- and she feels as if she's watching herself from one of the corners.

"Vivian. I can...take some of his attention."

She shakes her head, and that's a mistake. She leans into Velnor, takes strength from his steadiness. "I will start what I finish." No, that's wrong. "Finish what I start." She needs Velnor strong, uncompromised, because she can't trust herself right now. "We need what he's promised." And they'll get it, because they cannot go home empty handed.