Tara Geonette studied Lysona from outside the alchemy lab. The woman was petite, even for a Breton. Her blond hair sat in a bun, with a long, loose strand tracing her face. A functional hairstyle while she worked.
Was Tara really going to do this? Sacrifice her true tastes?
Yes. She’d thought on it long enough. There was no other way. Plans had changed with Bedore. Lysona would have to do. And she, Tara, would do whatever was necessary to reach her goals.
She could do this. She could do anything.
Besides, she’d find ways to take care of her own needs.
She stepped into the lab. “What are you working on?” She let her voice drop into a casual, sultry tone.
Lysona jumped and turned around. She beamed at Tara.
“My queen! I am working on the fertility potion, as you requested.” Her voice was high pitched, rising in her excitement to see Tara.
“Is it ready?” Tara stepped over to the main alchemy table and looked at the small, black pot Lysona had been leaning over. The liquid inside was red, with a distinct smell of lavender.
The alchemy lab sat high in the tower, one floor below Tara’s lab. Lysona’s domain, few were allowed to enter it. Tara admired the stone work in the room; the way sunlight from the five high windows gave everything a rich glow. Neat, wood tables were scattered about. All contained various mortar and pestles, plus an alembic set. Ingredients lined the west side of the room. Every plant Tara knew as useful sat on a shelf. Rarer ingredients lined two bookcases with glass doors. The setup was an alchemist’s dream. Tara had made sure of that.
“Almost,” Lysona said, breathless. She stepped close to Tara, as if wanting to bask in her presence. Tara felt Lysona lightly touch her arm.
Tara had changed into leather pants and a flowing shirt, with the order’s emblem sewn on the upper left chest. She’d had a variety of clothes made for herself. It seemed important to not dress like the rest of the order. She was the queen. Couldn’t look like a common member.
The shirt was low-cut around the neck, showing enough skin to be enticing.
She probably didn’t need to try this hard, Tara thought. Lysona’s desire for her was plain to anyone. Not a speech went by without Lysona staring at her with abject longing. Her eagerness to do anything Tara asked was both disgustingly simpering, yet perfect.
If not Lysona, who else? She was so easy to control. Besides, Tara needed her skills. And blood.
The woman could be bold, too. Lysona had now pressed herself against Tara as they stood at the table, studying the potion. Her shoulder and entire arm leaning against Tara’s arm. No one else had the audacity to touch their queen like Lysona did. It was charming. Similar to the boldness Bedore had shown early on.
If only she wasn’t a woman. Oh, well. Sacrifices.
“The new potency is perfect. Your suggestion of lavender was brilliant, my queen. It overpowers the flavor of the wine, though. I need to cut it with something, so no one knows it’s in the dinner wines. I’m going to try snowberries. Perhaps juniper berries, as well.”
Tara nodded at her. “Splendid. Have it ready to start dispensing next week. For now, only you are to add it to the casks. No one else is to know.”
Lysona nodded and gazed at her with intense blue eyes. The raw longing was there. Tara smiled at her.
Lysona had a round face, with light freckling decorating her nose. She was not plain, but her looks did nothing for Tara. There were several other women who loved only women here in the order. Tara had observed them all ask Lysona out, but she had turned them down. She seemed to be saving herself.
Time to give the woman what she wanted.
“I’d like to discuss something else with you,” Tara said. She stepped away from the table and closed the door to the alchemy lab. They needed to be alone.
Lysona’s eyes stayed glued to Tara. Tara stepped towards her.
“You still haven’t had children yet,” Tara said.
Lysona looked down, then back up at Tara. There was hope in her eyes. “You know who I want to have children with, my queen.” Her voice quivered.
“We can’t have children together, Lysona.” Tara switched to the patient voice she used with Tristand and little Lysona.
“There are ways,” Lysona said. Excitement crept into her voice. “I’ve heard Mara has a ritual…”
“No Divines! No Daedra!”
Lysona flinched and stepped back until she was pressed up against the alchemy table. Tara took advantage and moved closer, trapping Lysona against the table.
She lowered her voice, back to a patient, gentle tone that worked so well on the children.
“Divines or Daedra. Any of them would interfere with our goal. We can’t risk them noticing us.”
Tara reached out and grabbed Lysona’s hand. She caressed it. She had a fine line to walk.
“You and your entire family are incredible mages. You are the best alchemist that’s ever lived. I want the Meric and Geonette blood lines to blend,” she said. “We need to do it differently, that’s all.”
Lysona’s gaze was focused on her hand being held by Tara. Fear had been replaced by longing.
“I’m an only child, though, how can we blend?” she asked. “If not the two of us?”
“Through our descendants. Through another powerful family.”
Lysona’s brow creased. “Another?” She frowned. “Oh, you need me to get pregnant with a man. Who?”
Lysona pulled her hand away from Tara and stepped away from her. The mutter of disgust was unmistakable.
“Of all the…” she stammered and shot Tara a bitter look. “You know I hate him.”
Tara considered her words.
“I know,” she said. “I need you to do this for the order. For me.” She kept her gaze on Lysona, trying to give her a look of desperation.
“His blood line is essential to the order,” she added.
Lysona paced. Tara marveled the woman felt she could disrespect her queen this much.
“Is that why he sleeps with so many women in the order?” Lysona spat. “I’ve seen how he treats your relationship with him.”
Tara smiled. “He sleeps with them on my orders,” she said. Lysona stopped and studied her, to confirm the truth.
“The Ashsmith blood is too important to keep to myself,” Tara said. She took a step towards Lysona. “I’ve planned out the lines, and he’s only been with the women I approve of.” She gave Lysona a sly smile. “You don’t really think he’d be allowed such dalliances without my approval?”
“No, my queen,” Lysona’s voice softened. “Of course. I should have known.” She paused and swallowed.
“What about Maline?”
Tara felt her face harden. Fear crept into Lysona’s eyes. She’d stepped out of line.
“He was not to touch her,” Tara said. Her voice was stiff. Here was her chance, though. She cleared her throat.
“What happened to Maline is why I’m here,” she said, dropping back into her sultry tone. “I’ve realized my mistake.”
“Mistake?” Lysona looked confused. A fish taking the bait on the hook.
“You, dear Lysona, should have been my second in command this whole time,” Tara said. Was she affecting a tone of desire and remorse? She wasn’t sure.
She stepped closer to Lysona and took her hand again.
“I let my attraction to him, to his magical abilities, get the better of me,” she’d dropped her voice into a soft tone. “I…I hope I can rectify that now. With you.”
“With me?” Lysona’s eyes bore into Tara. The hope sprouting from her was delicious.
Tara pulled Lysona to her. She placed Lysona’s hand on her back, then took her right hand and gently tucked the loose strand of Lysona’s hair behind her ear, letting her fingers trace the woman’s ear lobe.
“Be my second,” she breathed. “I need you to sleep with Bedore once. Get pregnant by him.” She paused, letting her finger trace Lysona’s face, then her lips. The woman shook. “Afterwards, you and I can be together.”
“Together? As in, a couple?” Tara felt Lysona tremble again. Her hand had pressed into Tara’s back, pressing the two of them into an embrace.
“Yes,” Tara whispered. “You and I. Together in every way.”
“My queen…” Lysona’s eyes had widened, tears forming. Her voice wavered. “I…this is all I’ve ever wanted…”
Tara stepped back, pulling herself out of the embrace. She kept a smile on her face. She needed to keep the woman wanting. To ensure she obeyed.
“I’ve created a special fertility potion for Bedore,” she said. “I’ll give it to him on the day you’re with him. This will guarantee you’ll only need to be with him once. You make sure to drink your fertility potion that day, too.”
Lysona swiftly composed herself. “Yes. Of course.”
“Invite him over for dinner.” Tara paced as she gave instructions. “Cook him something he likes. He loves venison. Perhaps make him a stew.” Tara stopped pacing and gave Lysona her full attention.
“It’ll be like dating a woman. Just let the conversation flow. I have no doubt he’ll take the intuitive when the moment is right. Like the other women, I will give him the order to be with you.”
Lysona nodded. She dropped her gaze.
“You’ve not been with a man before?” Tara asked.
Tara set her tone gentle. “Your blood line and his mixing. It’s essential for the order. Just this once. Then, you and I. Forever.”
Lysona brought her eyes back up to Tara. There was a greedy look in them. The look Tara had noticed that day she’d met her in the alchemy shop back in Wayrest.
“He won’t like giving up his position of power.”
Tara smiled. “Your queen has plans for Bedore. You won’t have to worry about him after your night with him. I promise you.”
Lysona nodded, satisfied. She looked back over to the black pot with the fertility potion. “Well,” she said. “I should get back to perfecting the potion.”
Tara gave her a broad smile. “Make sure to tell me what night you’ll be with him.”
She stepped to the lab door and gave Lysona one more look. Longing had returned to Lysona’s face, though it was now edged with hope.
“You and I, Lysona. Forever.”
She opened the door and swept out.