‘You’re both done flirting now, yes?’ Zutiria stands up and hops off the bed, places her hands on her hips and gives Sam and I a stern look. Seeing the tiny girl look so dead serious is more than a little amusing to me, but I probably shouldn’t go and bring it up right now.
“For the most part.” I nod my head.
“I think I still got a little left in me.” Sam licks her lips, eying me up and down teasingly.
Zutiria says nothing yet remains visibly irritated, so we knock it off... for now.
‘Good. Sammy, you aren’t going to like what I have to say. I was praying that you wouldn’t ever have to hear this...’ Technically, she isn’t ‘hearing’ it per se, but I guess the little Mage could read my thoughts considering she shoots me a very dirty look. ‘I’d hoped you’d be safe from the legacy of your blood, but... here we are. What can you tell me about your family, Sammy?’
“What kinda question is that?” The Princess tilts her head. “You already know Mother and Father, and my brothers and sisters, and-”
‘No, no, no.’ Zutiria shakes her head. ‘Not like that. Your tutors taught you about your ancestors, yes?’
Sam makes a vapid, brainless expression as she tries to remember a single thing she was taught by the poor saps who thought teaching royalty would be a rewarding experience. “I am not in a position to confirm nor deny, Zuzu.”
I see the frustration grow on my lovely doll’s face, breaking her practically porcelain perfectness with a particularly sour look. ‘You remember your grandfather, yes?’
Wait a moment. The King before Sam’s father would have been...
Oh. Oh no.
“Grandpa Luca!” Sam happily blurts out the tyrant’s name with all the glee of a young girl remembering her beloved grandfather. “I miss him so much! I don’t remember him very well, he died when I was seven... but he was so nice, and he always loved to go on walks with me!”
‘Do you see where this is going, Sir?’
I really wish I didn’t, but I do.
“Sam, Lucadeus Lundreame started a violent crusade against worshipping the Twin Goddesses of Karnalle. Your father overthrew him but didn’t have the heart to kill him, so he kept the tyrant locked away in the castle for the rest of his life.”
Sam stares at me, perplexed. “Wha... What?” There’s a long silence. “I mean... I guess that explains why he was so damn enthusiastic about going on walks with me... I always thought that the chains on his feet were just something old people wore for fun.”
Zuzu, to her credit, takes that insane statement in her stride.
‘And what can you tell me about HIS grandfather, Sammy?’
Predictably, Sam stares blankly once again.
She looks at me to fill in the gap, and I am forced to sigh. “Miserale Lundreame tried to exile all non human species from Karnalle for seemingly no reason, and his brother Yurial served him as an overzealous executioner.”
Sam is starting to get more nervous by the minute. “Ok, so my family has some bad eggs. That’s hardly anything special and I’m not sure how that has anything to do with me.”
I press down on the sides of my temples, squeezing hard. It’s stressful but I need to get her on the same level as me and explain the implications and how truly bad her family history actually is.
“Tennerth Lundreame the Third. One day decided all other religions besides worship of the Twin Goddesses were invalid and set out to ‘cleanse the filth from Karnalle’.” Sam looks away, almost like she thinks that one isn’t a big deal. Fine. I’ll up the ante.
“Normand Lundreame. By all accounts he had a bloody fetish for the feet of halflings, and launched invasion after invasion into their realm paying a premium for any amputated feet his knights would bring back for him...” This one makes her confused. I don’t get it either, but it certainly happened.
‘I’ve got one.’ Zutiria raises her hand.
‘Saerus ‘Void Swimmer’ Lundreame. A madman who insisted that the black void between realms was just another ocean to be crossed, and to prove his point he sailed to the edges of Karnalle’s ocean to look upon the edge of the world, then jumped off his ship into the void. Suffice to say, the void is not just another sea. He fell down into endless oblivion just like anyone else.’ Sam’s jaw slacks open from shock, wondering how any sane human could have ever imagined himself able to cross realms without the use of a Void Ship.
“W-what... what the fuck are you g-guys trying to say... Boss? Zuzu?” Tears start to well up in the corners of her emerald eyes, and I can see Sam’s starting to become terrified of the prospect of having the blood of tyrants, fetishists and madmen coursing through her veins.
‘A personal favorite of mine is ‘Horny Hammy’ Hamelen Lundreame. One day he declared that every single woman in Karnalle was suddenly his wife, and insisted that the entire female population make a pilgrimage to his bedroom that very same night to perform their ‘wifely duties’. A pilgrimage indeed occurred, but the only toys they brought to his bed were pitchforks and castration equipment.’
Twisting her head side to side to keep up as the two of us list the complete history of mad assholes in charge, Sam can no longer take the pressure. “OK I GET IT, THE LUNDREAMES ARE TERRIBLE RULERS!” Sam bursts out. “What does this have to do with me getting super angry and being super strong?!”
‘They aren’t all terrible rulers. I’ll spare you the long theological explanation, but the abridged version is basically that when the Twin Goddesses of Light and Darkness created Karnalle they created a single family to rule it, the Lundreames. However, since...'
Sam sighs and cradles her head in her hands. “Light AND Darkness. I think I get the gist of it.”
I feel like I’m needed so I move over to the bed and sit next to the upset Princess. I wrap my arm around her waist and she groans, cuddling up to me for comfort. “So Zutiria, what specifically are you implying?”
‘The Lundreames are all born with a supernatural strength within them that we refer to as the Royal Blood. Using it here and there is harmless, but drawing on it more and more will make the user more attuned to the darkness within them. It really depends on the individual, some Lundreames use the power their whole life without falling. It used to be a lot worse when your family insisted on the whole royal inbreeding thing.’
Sam averts her gaze, “We don’t talk about that these days.”
Zutiria shrugs. ‘Indeed. Take heart, Sammy. For every horrifying, genocidal tyrant godking that comes from your family, we get like two or three mediocre kings and maybe a good one now and then.’
“Gimme that fucking thing.” Sam reaches over to where I left the whiskey bottle and she chugs down whatever’s left of it.
It’s time for me to use my brain a bit and figure things out. I’ve been quietly absorbing the facts and now it’s time to put the pieces together.
“So the base increase in strength Sam gets doesn’t count, correct?” I ask.
‘Yes. She’s just naturally several times stronger than your average man. However when she’s mad or when she purposely tries to draw out more of her Royal Blood, that’s where the problem comes into play.’ Zutiria smiles and climbs up to the bed, hugging the anxious Princess on the opposite side so that we sandwich her with our love and concern. ‘Don’t be sad, Sammy.’
“How the fuck am I supposed to keep calm when you tell me all this crazy bloodline shit?” She pouts harder than ever before and it’s hard to blame her.
Zutiria looks at me and I do my best to give Sam a comforting smile. “Because the answer is obvious.”
Skeptically, Sam rolls her eyes. “Boss I know you’re smart and all, but you can’t possibly have a plan to stop something that runs in my bloodline.”
“I do. Shouldn’t you know better than to doubt me by now?” I lift her chin to turn her head to me, and she blushes. “All you have to do is become so strong that you don’t need to rely on bullshit power boosts to finish your enemies off. This doesn’t change our plans at all. You need to learn to fight, and you need to become stronger with your own two hands, without having to rely on such a dangerous source of power.”
‘Exactly.’ Zutiria smiles and pats me on the back, glad that I figured it out.
Sam takes a moment for this to sink in. She stares at me with red cheeks until slowly a spark of excitement fills her eyes with optimism. A playful grin spreads across her face and in one dramatic motion she jumps up off the bed and onto the wooden floor in one fluid motion, posing with her hands on her hips and looking off into the (imagined) distance. “Hah! You’re right, Boss... Not like I was ever worried or anything in the first place, though!”
The Mage and I share a laugh together as we look into each other’s eyes, glad to have Sam back to normal. I’m sure Sam will be struggling with this internally for a while to come, but at least it seems she’ll be able to manage it if we’re there for her.
There’s a knocking on the door, “I would like to be included, children!” Opalina’s husky, deep voice coos from the other side. “I made cookies!”
“FUCK YEAH, TITS AND COOKIES!” Sam races to the door and lets the Doctor in, and as promised she’s carrying a comically large batch of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven.
Fighting off childhood obesity was a struggle when I was always so spoiled rotten by Miss Hart...
“Between the two, which one are you more excited about?” Opalina giggles and offers the plate towards the enthusiastic princess.
“Boff.” She replies while stuffing her face with a fat stack of treats in the most undignified way possible.
Zutiria sighs at the shameful display, but I can’t help but smile. Cute little moments like this with the girls are what I live for.
“Opalina, would you mind watching over the girls while I take care of the last few things I need to wrap up? I’m sure you’re, ah... eager to get to know them.”
At my suggestion her eyes light up with a mother’s passion. “What a LOVELY idea. You girls don’t mind, right?” She turns her purple eyes towards Sam and Zutiria and it’s clear from her expression that neither of them have much choice in the matter. They both make the safe choice and agree.
“Squeeze those bastards for everything they’re worth, Boss.” Sam pumps her fist up after shoveling a fresh load of cookies into her starving maw. Apparently breaking bones and ruining muscles and then being treated for said ailments cause quite the appetite to develop...
‘We’ll meet you back at the Guild when we’re done. I wanted to ask you a few questions about your style of magic anyway, Miss Hart.’ Zutiria says as she too approaches the cookie plate with a noticeable drop of drool forming at the corner of her lips, contrasting greatly with her cool and collected expression.
“I would LOVE to discuss spellcraft with you, little one. I take it you’ve noticed the... special way I do things?” Zutiria nods her head and as eager as I am to stay around and hear this conversation to it’s conclusion I really need to get going and grab a breather. Some fresh air will do me good.
“I’ll be on my way, then. Feel free to stay as long as you want though, I could use some time to clear my thoughts.”
Opalina gives me a stern glance. “No more drinking, you’ve had enough.”
I chuckle while heading to the door. “Not what I meant. I just need a nap or something, probably. And as for Sam’s treatment fee, can we discuss that in a day or two when I visit?”
The older woman smiles a sultry, mature smile and softly whispers, “It’s a date, sweetheart.”
Heart pounding, cheeks reddening, I leave Helpful Heals to the sound of cheeky girls giggling at my expense.
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