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The Fire Within (It's Not a Price, It's a Gift)

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Sabella looks gorgeous like this, wreathed in blue fire, dark hair streaming out behind her. She lobs a fireball at a cluster of demons, and their screams as they ignite like kindling raise the hairs on the back of Landon’s neck. Sabella doesn’t stop to watch. She’s already moving again, flames streaming from her fingers. She forms the flames into a thin rope and lassos it around a demon’s neck, giving it a good yank and separating head from body.

Landon plunges his sword into a demon’s chest and yanks it out, spraying himself with black ichor. The body thuds to the ground, only to be immediately replaced by another one.  The demons are gaunt, skeletal things with dull grey skin patched burnt-looking black, even the ones who haven’t been subjected to Sabella’s fireballs. Any number of horns from two to twelve sprout from their heads, tangling like vines. Their eyes are black. Their teeth are black, and sharp, and dripping with blood-tinged saliva. Their breath, when Landon makes the mistake of letting one get close enough to breathe in his face, smells like rotting corpses and sulfur.

Slowly, they carve a path up to the castle, the rest of the rebellion cleaning up lingering demons behind them. Landon can’t think about that, can’t think about the danger to anyone behind him from any demon he doesn’t slay, can’t think of anything but Sabella by his side and the next demon to fall under his sword. His muscles burn, and his skin is sticky with sweat and blood and demon ichor.

They reach the castle gate. “Step back,” Sabella shouts. Landon fends off the demons launching themselves at her back as she blasts the gate with flames until the metal drips white-hot onto the stone. They vault the river of molten metal and Sabella blocks the way behind them with flames to keep them from being pursued.


Landon was a squire in training, barely more than a kid himself, when he half-carried a trembling young Princess Sabella through the servants’ passageways of the castle, stopping at every door to listen for demons’ claws on the stone. When they finally made it out, it was a pitch-black night and the coppery scent of blood was smothering. He held her hand as they ran into the forest, branches scratching at every bit of exposed skin, until their legs turned to jelly and they collapsed on the ground. He curled his arms around her, desperately trying to keep her warm, as she cried herself to sleep that first night.

They’ve both come a long way since then.

Sabella stands barely as tall as his shoulder but straight as an iron rod, no sign of weariness in her bearing. She holds blue flames in her hand, casting an eerie glow on her face.

Before her stands her older half-sister, Morena, and the army of demons she unleashed from Hell to take the castle all those years ago. Morena looks like Sabella but harder, more angular. The smile on her face speaks to a cruelty Landon has never seen in Sabella, and never wants to.

“This ends now,” Sabella says. Landon knows her well enough to see what she refrains from saying: that Morena could still live if only she gives all this up now. Too many have died to let Morena off that easily.

“Well said, sister,” Morena says, and raises her hand. The horde of demons rushes at them. Landon adjusts his grip on his sword.

When the last demon falls, the silence in the castle is deafening. Sabella stands over her sister’s body, face wiped clean of emotion. Landon moves to put a hand on her shoulder and then decides not to, instead just hovering awkwardly at her elbow.

Landon hears the clamor of the rest of the rebels storming into the castle. The battle is over, and they’ve won. Sabella doesn’t look excited; she just looks drained.

Landon drops to one knee, his head bowed. “Your Majesty,” he says.

Sabella cups his cheek with one dirty hand. “Rise, Sir Landon,” she says gravely, and Landon staggers to his feet.

Sabella leads Landon through the dark hallways she roamed as a child. The front rooms are filthy, with broken furniture and rotting food strewn everywhere, but further back the castle seems to be frozen in time, untouched except for a thin layer of dust. Landon supposes demons aren’t know for their housekeeping skills.

In the South Tower Sabella finds what she’s looking for, an empty and relatively clean bedroom. Perhaps the demons were too lazy to trek all the way up here. Sabella finds some candles and lights them with a flick of her finger, casting the room in warm orange.

“I need a bath,” Sabella says, when that’s done. She turns her back to Landon and sweeps her dark hair out of the way. “Unlace me?”

Landon’s fingers fumble with the laces of her torn, filthy dress. Once they went through puberty, he and Sabella were careful never to be nude around each other, even though they often lived in very close quarters. He’s not sure what it means, that she’s asking this from him now.

It’s not that he’s never thought about her. In the privacy of his mind, he’s let himself imagine what she might look like under her dresses, the wiry leanness of her muscles, how soft her skin might feel. He’s ashamed of it. He doesn’t deserve to be touched by her. She’s the rightful ruler of the kingdom, and he’s just a squire who never truly earned his knighthood.

He’ll give her anything she wants, though. He doesn’t think he has it in him to say no to her. He can’t imagine wanting to.

The dress slides off her shoulders and puddles on the floor, leaving Sabella in only her shift. She walks towards the door to the attached bathroom and glances over her shoulder at Landon. “Coming?” she asks.

Landon almost trips in his haste to follow her.

The bathroom is luxurious even in this small, out of the way room. The bathtub could easily fit four people. Fortunately, the plumbing still works, and water spurts out of the tap. The temperature doesn’t matter; Sabella can heat it.

Landon hesitates as Sabella pulls her shift over her head. The skin beneath is smooth, and the curve of her ass is so enticing that Landon wants to lick it. He blushes and hastily averts his eyes.

Sabella climbs into the tub and sinks into the water. And then she gives Landon a look. They’ve known each other long enough that Landon can read all her looks, and this one says stop being an idiot.

Landon struggles out of his chainmail and lets it clank to the floor. It’s an abominable way to treat armor, but his princess—his queen—is waiting and Landon can’t bear to disappoint her. He strips off his underclothes with brutal efficiency, staring determinedly at a spot just above Sabella’s head. He doesn’t want to watch her watch him undress, for fear that he might see disappointment in her eyes.

When he’s shed all his clothes, Landon climbs into the bath beside Sabella, careful not to slosh water over the sides. There’s plenty of room for him to sit without touching her, but Sabella inches closer. She again offers him her back. “Help me wash,” she says.

A little shelf by the tub has soap and small cloths. Landon lathers one up and gently rubs it between Sabella’s shoulder blades, wiping away the grime there. The water turns brown with blood and filth.

Sabella insists on him washing her hair, too. She leans back into his lap while he cards his fingers through it, loosening knots. When he’s done, she takes the cloth from him and tenderly wipes his face clean.

They’re close enough that he can feel her breath on his cheek. Her nipples brush against his chest. His cock is hard and aching. He holds his breath, frozen despite the warm water.

She kisses him gently but firmly, unhurried, as if the world will stand still until she’s ready for it to move again. Landon doesn’t know what to do but open his mouth to take whatever she wants to give him. Her lips are softer than he ever imagined. He’s drowning in her, his mind a rush of white noise, and he doesn’t know what to do with his hands or his tongue.

She straddles his lap, pressing her knees against the sides of his ribs, and deepens the kiss. Her ass rubs against his rock-hard cock, and he can’t help but whimper a little. His face burns in humiliation that she knows how hard he is, how much he wants this, but isn’t that the point?

Sabella pulls back, still holding his face in her hands. “Bed,” she says.

That is a great idea. The best idea she’s ever had, actually. They clamber out of the tub and give themselves a cursory rub-down with towels so they don’t drip all over the bed.

With space from Sabella’s intoxicating lips, Landon regains a little of his ability to think clearly. He grabs the back of her thighs, hoists her up so she can wrap her legs around his waist again, and carries her to the bedroom. She rewards him with another kiss, a little harder and faster than before.

He lays her gently down on the side of the bed, and then drops to his knees in front of her. Immediately, his turbulent thoughts calm. This is where he belongs, kneeling before his queen, ready to worship her. He looks up at her through the wet hair plastered over his face.

Sabella smiles down at him. “You look so beautiful like this,” she says, brushing his hair away from his face. Landon’s heart feels so full it might burst. She spreads her legs and rests one foot, heavy and grounding, on Landon’s shoulder. He takes a deep breath and then dives in.

He licks tentatively at her folds, unsure of what she wants, but the hitch of her breath reassures him, and he becomes more confident. He finds her clit and massages it with his tongue, and then swipes down to lap at the wetness dripping from her cunt, warm and musky. She drags her fingers through his damp hair in order to guide his head where she wants it, and he goes willingly.

“More,” she moans, and he gives her everything he has.

He feels her thigh quiver against his head as she comes, and he doesn’t pause his work until she pushes his head back. Her eyes are heavy-lidded with pleasure, and she smiles lazily.

She pushes him backward with her foot and gives him an appraising look. “Touch yourself,” she says. “Make yourself come for me.”

He’s almost been able to ignore how painfully hard his cock is while he’s had his face buried in her cunt, but now he can’t avoid thinking about it. Daringly, he meets her eyes as he wraps a hand around his cock, using his thumb to smear precome over the head.

It’s almost embarrassing how quickly he comes. A few quick strokes and he’s spilling all over his hand, head thrown back. When the aftershocks subside, he pants heavily and looks up at Sabella again.

He’d give everything he has for one of her smiles, he thinks. His chest aches with joy. Every moment he spends in her presence is a miracle. He doesn’t know how long he will have with her, but he’ll cherish every minute of it.

She lies down on the bed, still watching him. “Clean up and come up here with me,” she says.

Landon wipes himself off with one of their discarded towels and then creeps carefully up onto the bed. Sabella allows him to wrap an arm around her.

In the morning there will be work to do, but for now, sleep.