She sat perched on a snow covered tree branch, overlooking the scene underneath her with apparent disinterest. It was all a ruse, because she was in the perfect position to hear every hushed word said between the two men below. It was her job. A job that she has taken substantial pride in over the last five years of her service. Today, she is gathering additional intel on a small group of rebels that have been stirring up trouble in the south end of the realm over the last several months. The Queen’s Oracle had warned of a darkness seeping up from the depths of the South Sea, a darkness far more foul than Raedia had witnessed for decades and the matriarch sent a group of knights to investigate caves along the coastline. When they failed to return, the Queen had sent her to ascertain their disappearances. She discovered a clan of Dark Elves harboring in the depths of the caves, and from them she learned of their leader’s plan to over through the Queen’s rule. Thus, she has been gathering intel for a full scale elimination since the beginning of winter. A snowflake invaded her open eye, and she shook her head quickly to relieve the sudden cold. She really missed thumbs during times like these.
"Dakard requests your presence immediately.” The first, a tall, muscular brute of a man, boomed through the harsh wind around them. Judging by his lack of a shirt, natural good looks, long dark hair and large size, she reckoned he was a Ware. They had no regard for the elements, often walking around barely clothed even in the worst of storms. The second man, a human she’d been following for the last several days, was much smaller in frame and looked like riding a horse was so far out of his element that it was painful.
The human confirmed his orders and then asked where he was to meet their leader, Darkard. The Ware, who was standing barefoot a couple of paces from the mounted man spoke gruffly through the howling wind, “You will be informed of the details before the night falls.” before he turned back towards the path he’d plowed through the snow and disappeared in the dense evergreens that surrounded them.
No longer concerned with being caught by the sharp eyes of the Ware, she shook the snow off that had accumulated on her feathered body and tilted her head in a bird-like manner to watch as the human turned his horse back towards his camp. She let him get nearly a half of a mile ahead before she took off after him, flying low just beneath the trees as to not get swept up with the winds. The raven was one of her most useful shifts, giving her the ability to blend in nearly anywhere in the realm and allowed her to travel unburdened.
She landed skillfully on the low branch of a oak tree after he stopped at his camp later that evening. Glad for the rest, she flitted down a few branches so she could benefit from the flames of the campfire. Although her heavy down feathers had kept the wind from cutting into her small frame, the warmth was a welcomed treat. It was nearly dark now, and the human was busy unsaddling his horse a couple of paces away. Uninterested in the care the horse was receiving, she let her keen bird eyes roam the surrounding forest for any disturbances. The Ware had said the human would receive instructions before nightfall, yet it was nearly dark and there was nothing moving through the trees to suggest that was true.
If she was able to sigh in the state she was in, she would have. This part of the job was always her least favorite. Thoroughly bored, she started preening her feathers - a bird habit that seemed to have transferred into her humanoid brain in the several days she had been in this form. The longer she stayed in a shift, the more animalistic behaviors she began to display. Luckily she had never stayed in a shift long enough to know what happened if she stayed in a form for too long. Shifters were rare these days, and little had been written about them as her people preferred passing traditions down through coming of age rituals. Having been taken at from her parents at the young age of twelve, she had never learned the limits of her body.
She paused when she registered the human walking off to relieve himself, and remembering that he kept biscuits in his saddle bag, she flew down to the log where the saddle was resting to help herself to some well deserved dinner. It wasn’t much, certainly not what she was used to back at the royal palace, but she wasn’t about to complain since she was several miles from the nearest town and about a day’s flight from home. She had torn and eaten three large pieces of bread by the time she heard the footsteps signaling his return.
Flying back up to the safety of her branch, she eyed the human amusingly as he went to fetch his dinner from his saddlebag and realized nearly half a piece of bread was missing. His confused expression caused a quiet cackle to escape her as the man looked around for the vermin stealing his food supply. When his dark beady eyes followed the noise to her tree, she went back to absentmindedly preening her feathers. If she were caught it would only be as a food-stealing raven. Not a shifter.
Luckily, just as his eyes landed on the branch she was perched on, a sound emanated from the west side of the camp and he turned to investigate. A portal opened, revealing a Portal Jumper. The girl that stepped into the camp was in her late teens with long fiery red hair that was braided to one side and had piercing green eyes that the shifter couldn’t help but admire. She wore black leather pants and a matching jacket with a wolf pelt draped across thin shoulders for added warmth. When the human saw her arrive, he stood from his seat on the log and walked over to greet her.
“Your instructions.” The girl stated stoically, extending her hand that held a scroll out to the man.
“Aye.” The man said, taking the scroll. While he busied himself with pulling the thread and opening the scroll, the pressure in the air around him snapped the portal shut, taking the girl with it. “Friendly lot, aren’t they?” he said to his horse who was standing quietly eating the dried clover it’d received for dinner. He ran a hand through greasy salt and pepper hair, reading the scroll as he came back to sit on the log by the fire. He read and re-read the scroll several times while he ate bread and berries, she watched him with mild interest until he fell asleep hours later with the scroll still in his hand.
‘Stupid man.’ she thought to herself as she floated down to the log and quickly bent her beak over the side and carefully slid the scroll out from the human’s grasp, her wings extended for added balance. When the task was complete, she clutched it between her claws and took flight. Whether the man woke up from the sound of her wings was obsolete now that she had the instructions she’d waited so patiently for. Hopefully the location enclosed in the scroll would lead her to Dakard and she could eliminate the threat against her Queen.
The flight back to Raedia took her the rest of the night and well into the morning. By the time she landed safely in her room inside the castle, she was absolutely exhausted. She had been gone for nearly two weeks, and once she had shifted back into her human form, she immediately placed the scroll on her bedside table and collapsed face down on the plush mattress in her bed chambers. Her long black hair was sprawled around her, effectively shutting out the daylight as she paid homage to her furs and silk bed linens. Being the top spy and assassin in the realm certainly had its perks. Her room comprised of a moderately sized sitting area, her personal armory, a bath house and her bed chambers. Living well above the standards of any of the servants, guards, knights and commanding officers, she found great pride in knowing that the only room in the castle that was more elaborate than her own belonged to the Queen herself.
Speaking of the Queen…
She groaned and rolled over, puffing a few strands of long hair out of her face and staring up at the ceiling. She should get up and report to the matriarch before word spread that she was home and had not immediately sought conference with Her Majesty. Sitting up slowly, she began to unbuckle the skin tight leather half-vest she donned, setting it off to the side before she slipped the loose cream undershirt over her head. Her torso now bare, she stood and shucked her boots off. Walking towards her bath house, she undid the buckles and ties associated with the leather pants.
The water had began filling the moment she’d arrived, a nice feature the Queen had thrown in by way of magic during one of the woman’s more generous moments. Not that the Queen was cruel in any way, but she ruled with an iron fist and did not tend to extend gratuities to her employees. However, somehow over the years, the shifter had managed to wiggle her way into the good graces of the hard-faced royal, and often enjoyed royal privileges. Stepping out of the pants and kicking them to the side, she entered the warm water with a contented sigh.
“Lady Skyla?” A female voice called from the doorway. She groaned, wishing for once that the sentinel wouldn’t spot her flight in and immediately inform her ladies maids of her arrival. Was it too much to ask for a few moments of rest and relaxation before taking on the next task?
“Bragita, I have just had a very long and tiring last couple of weeks. Is it possible for you to leave me be for the next fifteen minutes so I can wash the grime from my body?” She asked dryly as she waded deeper into the bath, stopping when the water reached neck level. She turned her ice blue eyes on the young maid, standing uncertainly in the doorway with a fresh towel and a jar of bath salts. “Alright, c’mon.” She allotted with another sigh, motioning the girl inside. Might as well get it over with. “After you deposit those will you take care of my clothes and see to it that they are washed? Then inform the Queen I wish to have an audience with her as soon as possible.”
“Of course, m’lady. Would you like something to eat as well? If you don’t mind me saying, you’re looking rather peckish, and I am sure the Queen won’t like that.” The girl quipped lightly with a wink as she set the towel and bath salts down by the edge of the bath.
Skyla rolled her eyes good naturedly and splashed a bit of water in the servants direction and chuckled when Bragita squealed girlishly. “Yes, Bragita, I would like to eat a real meal besides stolen bread and mice. Now run along before you’re whipped for insubordination!” The shifter mock-threatened as she watched the girl trot off towards the other end of the pool to collect the discarded pants before exiting whilst still giggling. Shaking her head, Skyla drifted over to the side of the bath where the bath salts had been placed and took a healthy handful in her hand. Sniffing them carefully, she noted the sweet fragrance of lavender oil and thyme. It was good to be home.
Once she was clean, she had exited the bath house and dressed herself in a clean pair of tan trousers, a ruby red blouse and black riding boots to match. When she stepped out of her bed chambers into the sitting area, Bragita had returned with a plate of food and Skyla immediately sat down at the table to demolish the cold meats, cheeses and berries. While she ate, Bragita combed out her damp locks in a soothing rhythm that was caused the shifter to doze periodically mid-chew.
“Would you like me to braid your hair for you, m’lady?” Bragita asked during one such moment. Skyla’s head jerked up as she came back to consciousness and she nodded quickly as she reached for her wine goblet. She really needed to sleep soon.
“Did you get word to the Queen about my request?” Skyla asked nonchalantly in an attempt to keep herself from dozing while the maid worked on her hair.
“Yes, the Queen has cleared her afternoon schedule, and wishes for an audience in her chambers as soon as you are clean and fed.”
“Good.” Was all Skyla managed to come up with as she continued to fill her mouth with food and wine. A silence wrapped around them as Bragita worked and the shifter ate, both lost to their own thoughts. When her hair was complete and her tummy full, Skyla dismissed the maid to the kitchens with the empty plate before exiting her chambers and heading up through the castle to meet with the Queen.
“Enter.” Skyla heard through the thick wooden door just as she raised her hand to knock on it. It was really strange how the royal could always tell when she was near but over the years she had learned to accept it. Turning the handle, the shifter walked down a short hallway and turned the corner that led her into the large common room at the end of it. Beyond the common room she could see the doorway that led to the Queen’s bedchambers, and as tired as her body was, it still hummed in response to the memories made there. Those feelings only continued to burn brighter as she was completely hypnotized by the delightful image in front of her.
The Queen was sitting in a chair facing her with smoldering brown eyes and a sultry smirk playing at one corner of red painted lips. Her long dark hair sat loosely around her shoulders and framed an attractive round face. The royal was wearing a transparent dress with strips of black velvet sewn in a intricate design. She looked like pure sex and Skyla felt her mouth go dry. The Queen was an enchanting sight. The shifter briefly recalled the first time she had entered the Queen’s chambers to a similar display, sixteen-months prior. The Queen had requested an audience and when Skyla entered the common room the Queen was sitting Indian-style on the rug near the hearth with two glasses of red wine in her hand. Naked. Skyla found out shortly after that one of the guards had let slip to the Queen that she had a preference for women, and luckily for the guard it ended up being beneficial to the shifter who would regularly share the Queen’s chambers on the nights she was home.
“Skyla, how lovely to see you dear. How was your time away?” Monet inquired, voice deep and husky as she sensually twirled a lock of hair around her index finger. Skyla was so engrossed in the amount of skin showing beneath the dress she could only continue worshipping the other woman with her eyes, oblivious to the question. “Skyla..” the older woman purred, rising out of the chair and waltzing towards the shifter, taking her lower lip in between her teeth as near-black eyes roamed the shifter’s form appreciatively.
At the second call of her name, Skyla snapped out of her daze and smiled apologetically at the matriarch. “I am sorry, your Majesty. My time away was.. successful, but it is good to be back. I have missed my... home.” she finished with a predatory smirk as her hooded eyes remained fixated on the royal approaching her.
“Mmm… well, I have certainly missed you, shifter.” the Queen declared salaciously as she stopped mere inches from the taller woman, looking up into ice blue eyes as a finger played with the ties at the top of the red blouse.
Skyla swallowed thickly, Monet’s touch igniting a small inferno along her skin as brown eyes flickered between the fabric of her shirt and her eyes. “Not nearly as much as I have missed you, Monet.” she admitted, proud that her voice hadn’t betrayed how aroused she was as the Queen titled her head thoughtfully. Skyla was one of the very few allowed to address the Queen by name, another fact she was quite proud of. Every time they were alone, Skyla used it as many times as she could, especially during their more intimate meetings.
“Mmm… how about you show me just how much I was missed?” Monet suggested seductively, trailing her fingertips over the exposed flesh above the shirt. Skyla inhaled sharply when nails dug into her skin and were roughly dragged from her collarbone to the valley between her breasts, her nose assaulted with the scent of fresh picked apples and something completely Monet. Skyla responded with a lustful moan before capturing the shorter woman’s lips in a passionate kiss, hands coming to rest on shapely hips as she pulled the Queen flush against her possessively. Monet wrapped an arm around the back of Skyla’s neck, using the other to cup her cheek as she melted into the shifter’s kiss. Skyla heard the other woman whimper as her tongue made a practiced swipe along the Queen’s bottom lip and was pleased when she was immediately granted access to the warm muscle inside. They kissed hungrily and passionately, silently communicating to the other things that would never be said aloud.When the need to breathe became too much, they separated. Brown eyes rose from her lips to meet her gaze, the look of pure lust undeniable to the taller woman. “Is that how much you missed me, dear?” the Queen replied with a dark chuckle, eyes leaving hers to look over her shoulder as she leaned in, red lips brushing against the shell of Skyla’s left ear. “I expected more from you…” Monet challenged flirtatiously before pulling back and walking purposefully toward her bed chamber. Skyla chuckled huskily before following her Queen. Oh, it was so good to be home.