A/N: I know that the prologue tells you absolutely nothing about the story. And to make it even worse, don't expect chapter 1 for another month. Life right now is absolutely insane. But I still hope you will accept this small offering, and consider taking Emery and Zan into your hearts.
"My Lord..." A knock on the chamber door was immediately followed by the creak of hinges. A neatly dressed man stepped into the room, a water pitcher in hand. He looked toward the large bed that dominated the room.
"Mmrpf..." The groan came from a mass of blue-black hair that peeped from the top of the quilted blankets. As if detecting the presence of a disapproving look, it disappeared beneath the covers.
The servant sighed and pulled back the drapes to let in the sunlight. It reflected off of his red-brown curls, turning them copper. "My lord, it is morning," he said in a louder voice. Silence answered him, and the servant sighed again, a long-suffering sound. To the bed he went, and with a sweeping motion yanked down the bedcovers.
The move was met by a high, feminine squeal and cursing in a deeper voice, followed by the covers being hauled back up to hide the curvy blonde that shared his lord's bed. The servant blithely ignored it all and moved away from the bed. "Your morning appointment will be arriving soon, my Lord." The sound of water filled the room as he filled a porcelain basin with water and set it on the table.
"Oh, dragon shit." Lord Emery Bluehill's voice was rough with sleep. He scrubbed at his eyes with one hand. "I forgot about that."
"Yes, my lord. Will you be wearing blue today?" Emery's servant carefully draped a woman's silk chemise and a pink dress over the foot of the bed, then knelt down to search for a pair of heeled shoes in the same color.
"Yes. No wait. He will most likely wear blue. Put out my grays." Emery disentangled himself from his bedmate and sat up, ignoring her protests.
His servant went to the wardrobe in the corner of the room and pulled out a white linen shirt and a pair of dove gray breeches. They were draped over a chair by the bed as Emery crossed the room to the wash basin. Sunlight streaming through the window caressed his naked figure, casting shadows over cream-pale skin and lean muscles and bringing glints of dark blue to his hair.
Emery dipped his hands into the water and grimaced. The problem with living in the ancient stone citadel was that it was always cold; even on early autumn days like this one, following a summer that had been hot and sultry. And that chill affected everything right down to the water.
But then, that was what magic was for; and there was a lot of magic at the Citadel. A muttered word and a pass of his hand heated the water to tolerable levels. Satisfied, he splashed some on his face, listening absently as his liegeman assisted his current sleeping companion into her clothes.
He was drying his face when slender arms wrapped around his waist. The lingering smell of sex and stale perfume came from behind him. "Why can't I wait for you here, Emery?" asked a sulky young voice.
"Nonsense, dearest Elspeth." Emery turned in her arms and draped his own over her shoulders. "You must attend your lessons. You don't want your father pulling you back to the estate, do you?"
She pouted and tilted her head up, demanding a kiss, which Emery gave her with a smile. "Would you visit me?"
"Of course." He smiled and kissed her forehead. "But would it not be better to stay here at the Citadel, away from your father's eagle eyes?"
Elspeth sighed. "You are right, of course. Very well, I shall go to my boring spells class. But be warned; they are teaching love charms this week."
Emery grinned at her, amused partly by her coy words and partly by the roll of his liegeman's eyes behind her. "Is that why you are even more bewitching than ever, oh beautiful one?"
It was several more minutes before Elspeth snuck out of the room to return to her own chambers. When she was finally gone, Emery let his breath out in a loud sigh.
"You brought it on yourself, Lord," the servant noted. Now that the girl was gone, his liegeman's tone became more easy and familiar, amusement coloring his voice.
Emery made a face at him. "My clothes, or I'll be late, Zan."
"Of course, Lord." The shirt was picked up again and held for Emery to slip his arms into. "You should go after the more experienced in the game. At least there would be no misunderstandings that way."
"Ah, but the young are so innocent, so refreshing. The wide-eyed delight, the honest blushing; it disappears so quickly. I want to enjoy it while it is still there." Emery took his breeches away from Zan and stepped into them. He tucked in his shirt and sat down so that Zan could slip on a pair of butter-soft suede shoes. "In a few months, her flower will fade to paleness, and the garden of weeds that is our city will take its toll on her youth." He let out a loud sigh. "As it has all the others."
"There are those that might say that you are the fertilizer that feeds those weeds," Zan said as he laced the neck of his lord's shirt closed.
"Those are the ones that cannot see my great deeds. I merely ease the young into the ways of our society. Keep them from stumbling and falling." Emery sighed again. "It is not my fault that they take to it so well. Why, when I was their age—"
"—You had already carved a score of notches on your belt."
Emery chuckled. "A point. Remind me not to wage wars of wit with you first thing in the morning."
"What, again? You never listened before." Zan stepped back to admire his handiwork. The dark gray of Emery's coat and pants drew out the stark whiteness of his shirt while bringing out the blue highlights in his hair. Yes, his Lord cut a mighty fine figure. Tall and straight, proud and charismatic, he did his family proud.
Emery seated himself at his vanity, pulling out several rings from a hidden drawer. Each one bore a single gemstone of a different type and glowed unnaturally bright in the sunlight. He fiddled with them as Zan caught up his wavy black hair and tied it back with a ribbon of light gray. The rings were his treasures, each one imbued with a different power, designed to augment spell casting and give him protections that were occasionally needed. He selected two and slipped them onto the first finger of either hand. The others were tucked into his pocket. He didn't really expect to need them, but it never hurt to be cautious.
It certainly didn't hurt with this morning's guest. He'd learned the hard way a long time ago that being friends with the Crown Prince meant that there was always the potential of a sudden, unfriendly interruption. And Lord Emery Bluehill seldom made the same mistake twice.
Zan gave Emery's hair a light tug. "Done."
Emery looked into the mirror. He looked the perfect court hanger-on—pretty and bored, a small, dry quirk to his lips. "Good. We wouldn't want to keep his Highness waiting, eh?" He stood and adjusted his sleeve. "Have tea and those berry tarts he likes served in half an hour. If I know Joseph, he woke up so late, he hasn't had breakfast either."
Zan opened the door for Emery, once again the perfect servant, bowing his lord out of the room. "Of course my Lord."