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Of Duty and Pleasure

By Aurora

Raphael was suddenly struck by how ravishing Liana was, as he watched her from the soft divan by the window in their private chambers. Her hair was magnificent, gathered at the top of her head flowing down her back in a sea of large, softly tussled red curls. Her ears, thinner than his, were a bit more finely pointed than a Hylian's. Her face was so delicate, painted artfully, as if she were a porcelain doll. Truly, illumined by the soft candlelight, Liana appeared as nothing less than the image of a goddess come to life.

This was something every Ticonderan bride did on her wedding night, she'd said, a tradition that stretched as far back as anyone in Ticondera could remember.

"Shareth is our God of Desire," Liana explained, pouring out the libation of rich red wine into the small onyx bowl. "My people have long served him."

"A fitting one to serve," Raphael said with a smile, making no attempt to hide his gaze when he watched her bend down to place the dried flowers upon the silver tray, around the bowl. She was slender, a slight woman, but her curves came in all the right places. And she walked about the chamber barefoot, the bells on her anklets making a soft tinkling sound as she did so. There was something profoundly arousing about simply watching her move, Raphael thought, going through the motions of this strange ritual, lighting the votive candles. It fed into the air of exotic mystery that surrounded her. "Forgive my curiosity, Liana, but you don't sound like the other Delvians I've spoken with. Your accent is different."

"You have not met many Delvian Elves," Liana replied as she lit the coals in the small, golden burner, setting a bit of resin granules on it to create a wonderfully sweet and rich, earthy smoke. "We are among the few Elves in my homeland who retain the knowledge of our original language. I grew up speaking it in my household."

"I see," Raphael said. "It's quite beautiful."

"You are too kind," Liana thanked him, her long lashes fluttering girlishly. It made him smile. "Please, come here."

Raphael nodded and joined her on the floor, at the makeshift altar. "What would you have me do?"

"Simply follow my lead," she said. Liana raised the onyx bowl to her painted lips, drinking briefly from it, then held it to Raphael's lips for him to do the same. The wine was of an excellent vintage, naturally, with a full bodied flavor. Delvian wines always seemed to be of such quality. She said something then in a language Raphael strangely did not recognize--something highly unusual for the well-schooled prince, but it was presumably in her Elven dialect. Liana gently picked up a small bronze dagger from the tray, and kissed it in an unbelievably sensual manner for such a brief gesture. She held it before him, and Raphael closed his eyes to kiss it as she had, the metal still warm and stained faintly red from her lips. Liana replaced it after that, speaking another Elven incantation, and then sat in quiet serenity, contemplating the small candle flames.

"I see the way you look at one another," Liana said, breaking the long silence at last. "You and your delightful Sheikah concubine."

Raphael stared at her. This was not a woman to be underestimated, by any means. Perhaps he'd done so, at his peril. "Then you must know that I will not set her aside," he said with uncharacteristic frankness. "You will bear my heir, as is proper and necessary. But Nira remains mine."

"My father has three wives," Liana laughed, a deeply melodic sound. "I know how this game is played, my Prince. There is duty, and there is pleasure." She leaned forward then, swirling a finger in the offering bowl. "I am under no illusions." She paused then, her eyebrow raising a bit. "So long as you are under none of your own."

Raphael knew well what she implied by such a statement, and as he contemplated it, he found himself rather indifferent. He was not an unreasonable man, by any means, and it would only be fair to allow her the same freedom he demanded from her. Though, judging by her expression, Raphael laughed silently at the notion of him "allowing" this particular woman anything at all. Hers was no less an unwavering declaration of intent than his, and that boldness was something he found himself admiring in her a great deal. "Then we have an understanding."

"We do, my Prince." Liana's smile grew positively wicked then, her angular eyes narrowing a bit as she placed her wine-touched finger to her lips. "Perhaps you should have invited your sweet Sheikah here, tonight."

"There are other nights, I suppose." Raphael returned her smile, in genuine amusement. This truly was a remarkable woman, and for perhaps the first time, he sincerely felt as though this marriage might not be such a matter of obligation after all. How could it be, with a woman this alluring?

Liana rose to her feet, and Raphael did the same, pulling her close to him. Her scent was simply intoxicating, as was the way her eyes smoldered when she looked at him. "True. And this night is mine, Raphael," she breathed, slipping her slender hands between the folds of his silk mantle, her sharpened fingernails drawing down his back in an utterly delightful manner. "Duty and pleasure need not be so contradictory, my love. Perhaps I can soothe that burden."

"Perhaps," Raphael agreed softly, and followed her as she slipped out of her gown and onto the enormous bed.

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