Tara Geonette hugged little Lysona and kissed her on the top of her head.
“Go play with Tristand,” she said, nudging her towards her brother. Little Lysona waddled away and joined Tristand and the other children, who were playing with sparkle sticks, small branches carefully trimmed and coated with a mix of flint, sand, and a potion that made them light up and fire off small sparks when lit by magical fire.
Lysona had invented the potion, and the harmless sparks kept the children entertained endlessly. Even on such a sunny afternoon, the sparks dazzled.
“We made beautiful children,” Bedore said. He and Tara sat on the top step into the small single room building they’d built at the edge of the property to use as a magic school for the children. Several had shown magic abilities early, especially the ones Bedore had fathered, so Tara had thought it prudent to build the school.
“Can you feel their magic potential?” Tara asked. “Our families combined. We’re unstoppable.”
Bedore nodded, but Tara thought it a nod of convenience. He was agreeing with her because he should agree, not because he really did.
Why would he? He didn’t know the plan, didn’t understand the importance of his blood and what it meant for her, Tara.
“I need you to do me a favor,” Tara said. She turned her green eyes on him, adding a sly smile to tempt him.
Bedore studied her for a split second before answering. “Yes?”
There was a time he would’ve added “my queen” or “my love” to complete the sentence. They were past that, though.
“Lysona will ask you to dinner tomorrow night. Agree and sleep with her. I need her to have a child. You’re the one I want to father it.”
Bedore frowned and thought. He rubbed his beard, so neatly trimmed. Never a hair out of place. There were a few gray hairs in his beard now. A reminder time was moving forward for all of them.
Should she have thrown in some compliments? He was so vain.
Bedore sighed. “I hate her.”
“I know,” Tara said. “Use that to…enjoy your time with her.”
Bedore raised an eyebrow. He seemed to consider it.
“Why’d she agree to this?” He turned back to her, searching.
Clever boy, Tara thought. He understood there’d been a bargain struck.
“The hate is mutual,” she laughed. “She wants me, though.” Tara shrugged. “She knows the order requires her to have a child. She wants to please her queen.” Tara let her voice drip with sarcasm on the last sentence.
Tara ran her fingers along Bedore’s arm, keeping her touch soft. Inviting.
“Ashsmith and Meric blood mixing is almost as good as ours mixing.”
Bedore shrugged. “I only want to have her once, then.”
“I have a potion to guarantee it. I’ve added it to some wine in my bedroom. Come by and drink it before heading to see her.” Tara paused, to see if anything registered across his face about potions, wine, and her bedroom. He either hid it well or hadn’t put the combination together yet. Good. “She’ll also be drinking a fertility potion she’s come up with,” Tara finished. She ran her fingers down his arm again. “After tomorrow night, you won’t be with her again.”
Bedore observed Tara for a long minute, then looked back at the children playing. His face remained unreadable.
The afternoon was drawing late, and shadows had crept across his face, emphasizing his sharp features, the striking angles that made him such a handsome man.
He’d fathered ten children in the order. Soon to be twelve.
Maline was due any day now. There was never a way to know for sure, but all evidence, including casting a detect life spell on her, indicated she was having twins. They were always born early, so the original due date didn’t matter. She could go into labor at any time.
Talk had spread about her pregnancy. Tara hadn’t kept her confined to her room, so her obvious bump became a topic of rumor and speculation.
Bedore had said nothing, not even asked who Tara thought the father was. Many in the order suspected Bedore. Of course they did. It was open knowledge he’d been with many of the single women, and a few of the married ones. All understood this was under Tara’s orders, though.
Tara chafed that some thought she’d ordered him to be with Maline. She had standards. Morals. Forcing such a man on a child. Her boyfriend at that. The thought was disgusting. Insulting.
It eroded members’ trust in her. Inexcusable.
There was a benefit, though. More Geonette and Ashsmith blood in the order. Separate from her blood, but still with that glorious magical potential.
She’d adjusted her plans for this new reality. As always, she’d figured out how to make the best of anything handed to her.
Maline’s fate was still sealed. Delayed, now. She’d have two kids to raise first. In the scheme of things, the delay wouldn’t matter.
As for Bedore, Tara took a moment to glance at him again and admire his looks. His reckoning was almost upon him.
“I’d like to have one more child with you,” Tara said. Bedore seemed startled, as if he’d forgotten they were still sitting together on the steps, watching the children wear themselves out. A cool breeze had cropped up, playing softly with everyone’s hair.
Tara pushed hers out of her eyes, in that measured way she used to when first seducing Bedore. She gave him a deep smile.
“We still need to have a red haired one,” Tara nodded to Lysona and Tristand. Both were as black haired as their father. Their eyes, too, matched the deep blueness of his. The shape of their faces screamed Geonette, at least, with a balance of round cheeks and sharper chin that so many carried.
Bedore studied the children, then looked at her. His face showed curiosity. “You know I can’t control the color of our children’s hair. The redheads seem to be in your family.”
“Of course,” Tara laughed. “I’ve had ideas, though. More potion brewing.” She winked. “Up for trying again? It’s been a long time.”
Bedore thought for a moment. Tara admired he thought he had a choice in the matter.
Ever since she’d changed the rules in the bedroom, and given birth, he’d avoided sex with her. Another thing they seemed beyond. His pleasure came from being with the other women in the order. He was allowed to frolic with each until a pregnancy was confirmed. There was little doubt he continued the frolicking with them afterwards, too.
“Do you want to try tonight?” he asked.
“No,” Tara answered. “After you’re with Lysona.”
Bedore nodded. “Might we go back to the old rules? I’d be more enthusiastic if you’d let me…” he paused.
It had been the rule change, then. The loss of violence.
Tara nodded. “Have all the fun you want with Lysona. Then…” she smiled. “I think we can find a way to carry on that fun between us.”
Tara watched his face brighten at the thought.
Tara stood, stepped into the yard, and called out to the children.
“Dinner time. Time for everyone to wash up,” she said.
As they formed a loose circle around her, all dirt and smiles, she turned toward each and smiled back. The future of the order. The future of her dreams.
She flicked her fingers, disintegrating the sparkle sticks into ash. The children gasped and giggled. They never failed to be impressed by any magic she performed. Almost as if they worshiped her.
Soon enough, they would.