It was rare indeed that Erastus brought anyone other than a client into his most private chambers. The room physically connected to the House he left for visitors and other prostitutes. Here in his extra-dimensional playroom, anything was possible. This was where he worked, storing all of his important belongings in his physically grounded chambers, just in case. A snap of his fingers, and anything he desired out of his real room would materialize in his hand.
Right now, the room was styled after a gothic castle. Gargoyles were carved into the mantle above a small, cozy fireplace, each holding a magical fireball. The walls were lined with great tapestries depicting famous magic users, as well as shelves and cubbies stuffed with components for spells and potions, scrolls, books, and all sorts of arcane paraphernalia. A scrying bowl sat in one corner near a covered mirror. Against two high-backed chairs, a huge pointed window showed the courtyard of the House. Right now the thick drapes were tightly closed. Erastus only opened them at night, when he needed the power of the moonlight. This was his preferred setup, and the one he used whenever he needed to be alone to work. But it could all go with a whisper, transmogrifying into whatever setting he, or his client, wished. He bade Paxiel to sit in one of the chairs near the window, taking a seat for himself so that they faced each other.
"Would you like refreshments? Tea, perhaps?" the warlock cordially asked.
"I brought my own." The two had stopped by Paxiel's room on the way over, and the aasimar had produced a peach-colored bag. He opened it and pulled out a bottle of similarly colored wine that sparkled in the firelight.
Erastus frowned. "I prefer the red, myself."
"I'm sure you do. But try this, it's a little something from my old days. I don't know what I've been saving it for, but now's as good a time as any."
The warlock peered at the bottle and found he couldn't read the writing on the label. He recognized some of the symbols as being High Celestial, and there was a little sketch of an angel holding a shining heart above the writing.
Paxiel noticed his puzzled expression and chuckled. "It's a type of Astral wine, made with auroral sunbeams in the Celestial realms. The name is a little fluffy in the common tongue, but roughly, it means 'Sweet Sunrise'."
The warlock cocked a brow as though questioning his friend's sanity, but snapped his fingers, and a table set with wine glasses appeared between them. He poured a glass for each of them, but didn't touch his own, only watching as Paxiel daintily sipped his.
"Mmm," said the aasimar. "That definitely brings me back...go on, try it."
He hesitated and sniffed it as though it would bite him. Paxiel laughed, a sound that reminded Erastus dully of wind chimes. "It won't hurt you, my friend! Please, I insist."
The warlock grunted and drank. As the name implied, the wine was sweet. But it was also crisp, cool, and light as an angel feather. It was nothing like the thick, dark reds that he preferred, but it wasn't awful. In fact, he felt a little bit refreshed. Though whether that was the wine or Paxiel's natural influence, he couldn't say.
"It's nice," he said at last.
"I can taste the sunbeams." Erastus smirked. "However did you get it?"
"Oh, it was a gift from my friends in the Celestial realms."
"And pray tell, what were you doing in the Celestial realms?"
"I was an angel once."
The bluntness of the statement struck Erastus dumb, for once in his life. "An...angel?" He asked, taking another sip.
"Yes. Commander of the 69th division of Sepulera's Angelic Army."
Erastus almost spat out the wine. The thought of complacent, easy-going Paxiel commanding anything was harder to believe than his angelic history.
Paxiel looked impassively at the fireplace, as though they were talking about the weather."What, you don't believe me?"
"I apologize. I...simply never took you for a military man," Erastus pinched his forehead, already irked, and he had to admit, a little jealous. Erastus had been having dreams of conquest ever since he started using magic. And here was one of the most gentle, compliant men he had ever known talking about commanding an army of angels? And he didn't even seem to care?
"I never did, either," Paxiel said, interrupting his thoughts. Now that the aasimar was free from the vase's influence, his emphatic powers were back in full swing. Erastus' jealousy rang like a bell in the back of his mind. "Admittedly, I never earned the position. It was...a favor, I suppose. At the time, I didn't think much of saying no to a goddess."
"She asked you herself?" Erastus leaned over the table. "You actually talked with Sepulera?"
"On occasion, but always briefly. Gods are fickle, fickle beings. Which, I believe, is why you brought me here."
Erastus slunk back in his chair and rubbed his temples. This was too much. He was so used to being the one who knew everything, but he had simply never dabbled in divine magic. The tiefling exhaled deeply. "Our Mistress puts a great deal of trust and responsibility in me. In all of us, but I assured her my spells were foolproof, and they've failed. I owe it to her to figure out as much as I can. So, yes. Please, tell me what you know."
There was a pause.
"Well?" Erastus tapped his fingers. He was quickly losing patience, Paxiel knew. But he didn't like being interrogated in this way. The aasimar felt himself being used as merely a means to an end. To let Erastus truly know the power of divinity…
A sly smile crept across his face. He eyed Erastus, with his thick dark hair, dark eyes, and masculine features exaggerated even more by his impeccably groomed goatee. "It's so...dark in here," he said at last. "Don't you think?"
"I prefer the darkness," sneered the warlock. "It helps me concentrate."
"Perhaps therein lies part of the problem. I was expecting something more fitting."
Erastus glanced at the décor. He liked his gargoyles, but of course, they could always come back. "What did you have in mind?" he asked. "Polished marble pillars, puffy white clouds?"
"I'll tell you." Paxiel smiled.
For a few minutes the two worked together, Paxiel describing and Erastus casting. Before long, the gothic castle had been replaced with a room fit for an angel of Sepulera. Indeed, the walls were lined with white marble pillars and enormous tapestries woven with the colors of the dawn. The floor was plush and cloudlike, and there was a small waterfall made from stones of rose-gold flowing into a pool full of colorful fish. Plants grew around the pool, roses and vines as delicate as butterfly wings. In the middle of the room, Paxiel had insisted on a large four poster bed, with rose colored sheets and silk drapes the color of morning dew. The ceiling was open to the sky, which was so full of stars the room didn't need any other light source.
"Is this better?" Erastus asked, once he had stopped chanting.
"Mmm..." Paxiel examined the room briefly. "It's not exact, but it will do. I think it's a bit more appropriate for the subject matter, don't you?"
"Yes, about the subject matter. I say we've dallied long enough." Erastus did well to hide his impatience. He had expected this to be so much easier, but soon enough he'd have what he needed. "If you would be so kind, I would be much obliged if you could tell me more about gods. About Sepulera, and what might be going on with the House."
Paxiel sat down and poured Erastus some more wine. The wine glasses had been replaced with crystal goblets, their rustic table with an ornate plate of white-gold. The aasimar began slowly. "It begins much like anything else, Erastus. Much like you would devote your life to practicing arcana in order to truly understand its power, to truly comprehend the powers of the divine, one must devote one's life to the service of their god. Their actions, speech, and thoughts must all align with their chosen dogma. You can teach someone spells, you can teach them history. You could show them all the scrolls and books in the world on the subject. But unless they have that close spiritual connection, it will be for naught. When it comes to Sepulera, you must know already that she is the goddess of beauty, love, and pleasure. So to serve her, all your actions must be done with the intent of preserving, producing, or protecting those things. Are you with me so far?"
Erastus nodded, feeling a little like a child being lectured. It didn't help that he felt so out of place in this setting, but he didn't show it. He drank some more wine.
"The gods themselves are much like us," continued Paxiel. "They make mistakes. They get bored. They get jealous. And yes, they can die. But all gods, to some degree, are vain by necessity. The more a god is worshiped, the more power and influence they have. An example would be our own Mistress," he paused ,sipping his wine.
"You've seen the rose on her thigh, have you not? That mark is a godscar. She was chosen at birth to serve the goddess for reasons known only to Sepulera. And so, I assume, she built this brothel as a tribute. Every pleasurable act committed within these walls is done for the Lady, whether they know it or not. Certainly, that's how I came here. But then the House got popular. Wildly so."
"And you're saying some other gods got jealous of Sepulera gaining such an influence, and are trying to ruin it for her?"
Paxiel shook his head. "Gods are not normally so petty so as to try and directly convert followers. They know how stubborn we mortals can be. More often than not, a devout worshipper would rather die before they denounce their patron deity. Besides, it isn't as though every client we serve suddenly turns into a priestess of the Lady."
"What happened, then?"
"I know not. She has been elusive as of late, and my personal connections with her, small though they were, diminished further with my descent from angelhood. But I have my theories. All I know is that Sepulera's power is looking quite...attractive, in the eyes of the gods."
Erastus rubbed his chin in contemplation. This conversation was as wayward as the clouds drifting overhead. "What of the incident in the dungeon? When our Mistress and I were summoned, she told me she had been communing with Sepulera, and that it had been quite fruitful for her."
"That would do it..." Paxiel muttered.
"The drow had painted a prayer to Sepulera on one of their walls. I offered a prayer of my own, and our Mistress must have been communing at the same time. I'm assuming the goddess heard our pleas and took pity on the whole House. It would explain how quickly the vase's power was snuffed out."
"Ah yes, the vase..." Erastus leaned back in his chair. "There was a talisman floating in that liquid, inscribed with a mask with a beaklike nose. You wouldn't happen to know of any gods that might symbolize?"
Paxiel thought for a moment, then shook his head.
"I see..."Erastus stood and began to pace, taking his wine glass with him. 'They'd nearly finished the bottle, but if it was affecting the warlock, he didn't show it.
Erastus didn't like this one bit. He had changed his quarters, been lectured to, and been showed up all within the same conversation, and it didn't seem like he would be getting much out of it. He was beginning to wish he had done this research on his own. The warlock sighed and stood, staring at the waterfall. "What is it that makes people do this kind of thing?" he wondered aloud. "Why bother with gods at all? If we can simply will them out of existence by forgetting them, why would anyone with a sane bone in their body devote their life to worshiping one?"
"You don't understand," Paxiel's voice drifted over his shoulder, smooth as cream. He felt the man stroke his arm and flinched away.
"Unless you are a paying client, don't touch me. Please."
"You don't understand," Paxiel said again, lower this time. "Do you...enjoy what you do here at the House?"
Erastus grunted. "I do what I do for the pursuit of knowledge. I enjoy exercising my skills and fulfilling fantasies, but in the end, what's most important to me personally is that I learn how to better manipulate magic so that each encounter is more effective than the last. If I can do that, I enjoy it."
"You don't ever do this just for the pleasure? Not even once?"
The warlock turned and locked eyes with his fellow prostitute. "No. And if you'd ask the others, I'm sure many of them would agree."
Paxiel stared right back into those eyes, and saw pain. So, so much pain. There was a lot he wanted to say, but he didn't need any extra ability to know that tensions were already high. "When was the last time you made love for love? For your own sake?" he dared to ask, his voice barely more than a whisper.
Erastus' face was dead set in an impassive expression. He didn't respond. He didn't have to.
"This is why you don't understand," said the aasimar. Paxiel's face grew soft and warm, golden eyes shining. "I can give you a taste of the power of the gods. Perhaps then you'll understand. But you must trust me."
"What exactly did you have in mind?" Erastus narrowed his eyes, his voice.
Paxiel's arms moved up to his the warlock's chest, up and over his shoulders, and around his neck. It took Erastus a moment to realize what was happening.
A hug. He was being hugged.
"Do you trust me?" the words caressed his ear, brimming with promise. The word dropped out of his mouth before even thought it. "Yes," Erastus breathed.
Paxiel backed off a bit, tracing the outline of his coworker's immaculate facial hair. He smiled, warm as the sunrise. Erastus considered the face before him, soft and inviting where he was defined and sharp. He felt his heart pound in his chest, knowing what was going to happen next but not quite believing it. Then Paxiel leaned forward.
Oh sweet Lips of the Lady, when was the last time he had been kissed? Normally he was strict about not kissing clients, but this was too much to refuse. Erastus wasn't sure if it was the wine, Paxiel's natural influence or a combination of things, but he could never remember being kissed like this. It was so tender, sending warm butterflies fluttering up through his chest. He fell into Paxiel's soft lips, his breath smelling strongly of the sweet wine.
The two broke apart, panting just a little. Paxiel seemed to glow ever so softly.
"What...what in the known realms do they put in that wine?" Erastus asked, his composure slowly regaining itself.
Paxiel chuckled. "It was blessed by the goddess of love, Erastus. And so was I."
"Love..." the word rolled around in his mouth, as if he was deciding what it tasted like. He shook the notion away. This wasn't about love. It was about needing to understand what he was up against, and what was on his side. He wanted to know just what he had been serving this whole time at the House. He had to understand.
The aasimar sauntered over to the bed, sat himself down, and gestured for him to join. There was no mistaking his intent. The tiefling stiffened. "You...want me to have sex with you," he observed bluntly.
"No, my dear friend. I want you to make love to me."
He stared at Paxiel a good long while. The aasimar wasn't unattractive, far from it. Half sitting, half lying on the plush bed, Erastus thought he looked simply delectable. But making love wasn't for him. He did his job with a sense of duty, always on a mission, and he was very, very good at it. He knew no other way of going about it.
That was it, he thought. If he knew no other way, what good was any of it? Erastus could feel Paxiel exerting his influence on him, trying to tempt him further. It was working, and he didn't care. This was an education he might never get again. "If you think it best," he said, trying his best to look nonchalant.
Paxiel smirked at him and began to remove his tunic. He moved agonizingly slowly, allowing Erastus to absorb every second. The fabric dropped to the ground, and Paxiel spread his arms wide, welcoming him. The image of this angelic man on the bed, his smooth, hairless body illuminated by a million stars, sent his blood rushing south so fast he nearly swooned. The warlock couldn't remember the last time he had been so aroused, and judging by the smug expression on his friend's face, he clearly knew it too. Erastus grinned. Well, if that was the game he wanted to play….
The warlock mirrored Paxiel, removing his robe so that only his undershirt stayed on. He gave his coworker a sly look before turning away from him, unbuttoning it and slowly shuffling it off so that the shirt hung around his forearms. He pivoted back and parted his hands ever so slightly so Paxiel could see that his trousers were unlaced as well. The fabric drooped against his lengthening cock, held up only by his hands, and Paxiel could make out a neat patch of dark hair peeking out over the top. His lips parted just a bit, and Erastus knew he'd had an effect. He walked towards the bed into Paxiel's waiting arms, and they kissed again. This time, Erastus put heart into it, following Paxiel's lead as his tongue gently infiltrated his mouth. He felt fingers intertwining in his thick hair, pulling it out of his neat ponytail.
Paxiel couldn't help but pity the warlock as they moved closer together. His frame was rigid and tense, and it was as though he didn't know where to put his hands. If it wasn't for the ardent passion Paxiel was getting on his lips, he'd say the warlock was almost shy. With a nibble on Erastus' bottom lip, he broke the kiss. Erastus had his mouth open like he wanted to say something, but he hushed as Paxiel ran his fingers up his torso, stroking the thick hair that peppered his chest.
Erastus had never considered the joys of being wanted in this way. Paxiel's touch was light, reassuring, and suggested that the aasimar cared more about giving pleasure rather than receiving. Of course, he should have expected as much coming from a fellow prostitute. Still, the sensation itself was new and invigorating, and he savored every moment of Paxiel's fingertips grazing along his shoulder muscles, down his back, over his hips, and back up again. This time, instead of going down his back, Paxiel's hands ran down Erastus' arms, cupping his hands. Gently he tugged and positioned them so Erastus was holding him close, and he put his weight into one side so that the two fell on the bed, holding each other. They rolled so Paxiel was lying on top, and the aasimar began to gently rock back and forth, brushing his rear tantalizingly against the tiefling's mounting erection while stroking and kissing his collarbone.
Paxiel could feel Erastus getting hard behind him, but he was determined to make the tiefling go crazy with need before he properly addressed it. He arched his back and kissed his way towards Erastus' nipple before licking and sucking it, making sure his touch stayed feather-light.
Erastus couldn't take his eyes off the form on top of him. Every movement, every curve and line of Paxiel was enhanced by the starlight. He forced himself not to twitch when he felt Paxiel's lips on his nipple, grasping Paxiel's ass instead. The assimar looked up and took his mouth off his nipple.
"No," he said, tenderly stroking the side of Erastus' face.
"No, none of that. Try it like this instead," Paxiel cooed. He took Erastus' hands again and put them on either side of his waist. Taking his lead, Erastus gently caressed the subtle curve where torso met pelvis, letting his hands ride over the muscles as Paxiel moved. He was surprised at how solid Paxiel was. The aasimar was muscular and spry, but he moved in such a smooth, fluid way that made Erastus think he would've been lighter. But he took comfort in the fact that his lover was stable, and relaxed as he watched Paxiel's hands trail from Erastus' neck all the way down between his thighs, careful not to touch his cock.
The sensation was maddening. Erastus had a few nights where a client wanted to be loved gently, but he had always taken pride in claiming them all the same. He gave all of his effort and a bit of heart in each session, but never had he been so consumed with simple, carnal need. Paxiel's golden eyes glowed in the soft light as he slowly walked his fingertips down Erastus' outer thigh and hooked his hands in the side of his trousers. He lingered there for a bit, then grinned and pulled them slowly, slowly down. Erastus' cock sprang free, and the warlock took immense pleasure in Paxiel's wide-eyed reaction.
"What else did you expect?" he asked breathlessly.
Paxiel stared at him and gently started to massage his pelvic area. The feeling was erotic and soothing all at once, and Erastus wanted to melt into the bed. "Nothing less," the aasimar finally replied, continuing his light strokes. He lingered for a bit and took Erastus' hands again, moving them on either side of his own trousers "But I will need some assistance..."
Erastus didn't need to be told twice. He gingerly pulled his partner's trousers off, going slowly over Paxiel's smooth, erect cock just as Paxiel had done with him earlier. That done, Erastus stretched a hand and muttered something in a language Paxiel did not understand. In his hand appeared a little bottle, full of what Paxiel recognized as one of Milo's signature lubricants. Erastus opened the bottle and coated his fingers with the contents. He could handle this part, he was sure.
The tiefling cupped Paxiel's ass tenderly in one hand, then worked the other around Paxiel's anus, rimming it and teasing it with his fingers before sliding one in. As he played with his partner's rear, it occurred to Erastus that he had clearly had his fair share of experience doing this. Paxiel was already ready for more, so it wasn't long before he was able to work a second finger in. Paxiel leaned forward then and kissed Erastus once more, moaning softly against his partner's lips as Erastus worked the fingers around, rubbing Paxiel from the inside. The aasimar shivered and trailed light, approving kisses along his neck as Erastus eased in a third. Paxiel's asshole warmed and spread, and he sat back on Erastus' fingers as he took out the lube again.
"Oh, yes…" he murmured as Erastus used his thumb against his taint. Paxiel slathered some lube on his hand, working it up and down Erastus' thick, hard shaft. The warlock inhaled sharply as Paxiel's thumb teasingly grazed the tip, and the aasimar was rewarded with a dribble of precum. "I want you inside me, Erastus..." he breathed, moving Erastus' hand out of his ass and placing it back on his hips. Effortlessly, Paxiel rose and slid onto Erastus' dick, wincing a bit at the sheer fullness of it. It had been some time since he had been penetrated so completely.
Erastus grunted. Paxiel accommodated him well, but he was so very tight. He moved slowly, tenderly, working with small thrusts as Paxiel fondled his balls with light touches. As the two moved more, they began to find a rhythm. As the pleasure began to swell within him, Paxiel moved to put Erastus' hand on his own cock. It was obvious what he wanted him to do, but the warlock only moved to stroke his balls.
"Aaah! Erastus, if...if you don't mind..."
"Trust me," the tiefling grunted. "You showed me something...now it's my turn."
Erastus began to chant again, and Paxiel felt a gentle probing in his mind. His first instinct was to fight it, but the pleasure had softened his resolve, and he let the presence in. Suddenly there was a warm, wet tightness around his own cock, pulsing with the same rhythm as –
That was him!
Paxiel gaped at Erastus' smug face. Erastus continued thrusting, and Paxiel was consumed with the dual feeling of filling and being filled. His emotional influence had flown itself wide, and the two men were consumed with absolute pleasure. Tension budded within Paxiel, and he arched his back and hissed with something primal that Erastus liked immensely.
"Harder..." Paxiel moaned.
Erastus complied, gripping Paxiel's ass firmly and shoving himself in more forcefully. Paxiel cried out, feeling the same heat, the same tension, and the same friction. A surge of pure pleasure shot through his loins. "A-again!" Paxiel cried, desperately searching for more. Within a few thrusts, the two were locked in a loop of pleasure that he couldn't describe. He could feel Erastus' budding excitement as well as his own, the two of them wriggling, writhing and shuddering in abandon.
Erastus was close, desperate to fill Paxiel's tight little asshole to the brim. Eagerly, almost mindlessly, he slammed into him. Tension built with every thrust, and Erastus was able to shift the spell to the back of his mind and take in all of Paxiel. His flawless body was slick with sweat, his muscles heaved, and he was smiling with pure bliss. Paxiel traced his hands gently once more over Erastus' body, and the sweet security of the touch sent him over the edge. Suddely Erastus felt his soul shatter into a thousand bright pieces as ecstasy cascaded through him. Cum leaked out the sides of Paxiel's bum as Erastus erupted iside ofhim.
Erastus' orgasm exploded through Paxiel's mind with a blinding flash, setting off his own in a chain reaction. His hot seed shot all over his lover's chest, and collapsed over him without caring in the least. There was nothing but emotion as the two fell against each other, panting heavily, their bodies slick with sweat and cum. Paxiel pecked sweet kisses all over Erastus' neck and shoulders. Erastus could only chuckle and hold him close.
The two collapsed in a heap of flesh, exhausted.
"That was...certainly pleasant," Erastus breathed, nibbling playfully on Paxiel's ear. "And I think I do understand better. You promised to show me the power of the gods. But I daresay you did more than Sepulera there..."
Paxiel cupped Erastus' face in his hand. His golden eyes burned brightly, casting his face in a heavenly glow. "Just wait," he said, but Erastus saw his lips form the words more than he heard them.
Emotion flooded the warlock. None of it was unpleasant, simply foreign. He felt like his brain was being cradled by soft, warm hands, hands that would keep him safe, Sepulera's hands.
Suddenly Erastus felt completely at ease. The goddess didn't speak in words, but rather, Erastus could somehow feel her intent. It was only for a moment, but Erastus felt content, satisfied, like he'd done something exceptionally well. He rolled his head back and the hands released him into the most incredible afterglow he'd ever experienced. The world around him pulsed with renewed vividness, as if every sensation were possessed with an amplified realness he'd simply never tapped into before. He opened his eyes, not realizing he'd closed them, and saw Paxiel smiling from ear to ear against the coming dawn.
Erastus took in the face above him, absorbed the dimples, the soft lips, the long eyelashes, the gentle, masculine structure framed by silver-gold hair with feathers woven in, the striking golden eyes that still shone, but no longer burned. Paxiel curled up in Erastus' strong arms, taking in the smell of sex and of Erastus, who smelled like old parchment and the metallic scent of magic. It was a heady combination that relaxed him deeply. His powers of empathy told him that Erastus was feeling what he felt now; a complete sense of harmony, a soul-connection with him, Sepulera, and the act of sex itself. He sensed a twinge of inquisitiveness edging his partner's bliss, however, so he wasn't surprised when Erastus interrupted their peace.
"Was it like that every time the goddess talked to you?"
Paxiel looked at his friend. His contentment was etched into every line of his face, but his dark eyes smoldered with desire to understand. This had been something new for him, and he needed to know all about it. Paxiel knew deep within that this was a part of Erastus, that no amount of pleasure would curb this insatiable thirst for knowledge. He admired that, but it sure killed the mood.
"No," he answered finally. "It was different every time."
"My dear Erastus, do you really want to discuss this now?"
Erastus sighed. The atmosphere had changed considerably with a few short sentences. Paxiel rolled off Erastus into a sitting position.
The warlock frowned at the empty coolness left behind by his partner. He wanted to turn over, but his chest was covered in his their sex, and he didn't want to smear it on the sheets, even though they weren't truly real. Instead, he admired Paxiel as he flexed and stretched his back. The starlight was very nice, he had to admit, but the coming dawn made Paxiel look absolutely ethereal. Rationally he knew it was evening, but this personal sunrise felt too good not to buy into, at least for now.
As the warm light glinted off Paxiel's gorgeous body, Erastus noticed two huge, light pink scars running parallel on either side of his spine. Paxiel turned his head over his shoulder to say something, and saw Erastus staring. He turned away, sinking to the floor so that only his head and shoulders were visible from the bed.
"I far prefer being mortal, Erastus. I truly do. But I will say, that's one thing I'll never stop missing."
Paxiel nodded. "Have you ever flown, Erastus? It's incredible. Above the clouds, above the mountaintops and rivers and cities...you see so many things in this world, things changing and dying and growing, but the sky is always familiar." His voice was low and dreamy. Paxiel stretched, arching his back. "I can't even begin to describe it."
Erastus sat up and crossed his legs. For the first time, he saw the strain this situation was putting on his coworker. He couldn't imagine what it'd be like to owe everything to a goddess, come to her sanctuary and have it suddenly be threatened. He waved his hand and a different bottle appeared in his grasp. He opened it, emulsified the contents between his hands, and began to rub Paxiel's shoulders. The aasimar melted into his touch as the oil warmed. "Thank you," he murmured.
"It's part of the job," said Erastus.
"No," the aasimar shook his head. "No. Nothing we just did was part of our job. I didn't feel like a client, did I?"
"Absolutely not." He was right, Erastus thought. That explosion of pure ecstasy had sent ripples throughout the core of his being, into the atmosphere he'd created. He enjoyed his time with clients, but this was a whole world apart. "Even so. I feel a step further in helping the House. I'm on the right path."
"How funny..." Paxiel laid his head back on the bed, looking up at Erastus. "I believe that path is with me."
"Hm?" Erastus stopped massaging. He had never considered the ramifications of what they had done. He had assumed their lovemaking was just in fun, never that Paxiel would want something more. "She was...matchmaking?"
Paxiel laughed aloud. "Oh goodness, nothing like that! I only meant that she came to me as well, and gave me much more specific knowledge than she gave you. The sex was...a gateway, of sorts. It makes it easier for her to get in when you have an open heart."
"Although..." Paxiel slid himself back onto the bed and cupped Erastus' cheek. "That isn't such a bad suggestion..."
Erastus put his hand over Paxiel's. He removed it from his cheek and kissed his knuckles. "Unlikely. Now, what did the goddess tell you?"
Something in Paxiel's eyes twinkled, but he let the matter drop. "It's very interesting…." The aasimar tucked his knees under his chin like a child. "As you can well imagine, the Lady of Love has many suitors. She loves to play with them all, and she cares for each one, but never does she commit herself to anything more than an alliance. One close alliance being with the goddess of night, Aracele. It appears one of Aracele's newest minor deities has become cross with our Lady and her hedonist ways. He claims she betrayed him."
"Yes. He goes by Umbros, lord of shadows. He's grown quite popular recently, but apparently he became infatuated with Sepulera, and she spurned him despite her alliance with his patron goddess. Gods don't handle rejection well. But yes. That's the root of it, so says the Lady."
Erastus was furious. "That's it then! All of this because the fool god can't get with Sepulera? People have nearly died, Paxiel! Over this pitiful wretch of a demigod? Unbelievable!" His tail jerked violently and he put his head in his hands, breathing hard to steady his temper.
"It always amazes me how petty gods can be." Paxiel murmured. "It's one of the reasons I retired from my position. Nevertheless, Umbros has gained a following quite quickly, claiming to get revenge for those who have been wronged in similar ways. He not only governs shadows of the light, you see, but shadows of the soul. Things like this aren't uncommon among the gods, but usually it stays between them. Since so many of Umbros' followers feel they've been betrayed in love, it makes sense that the House would be a target for their revenge."
"Unbelievable..." Erastus said again, muttering into his hands. "She told you all this?"
"Yes. Amaris was told this morning. But she said one other thing."
"And what was that?"
Paxiel hugged his knees tighter. "When we were in the drow's dungeon, dealing with the effects of that elixir, I said a desperate prayer to Sepulera, and sprinkled a little diamond dust on a prayer the drow had painted on their wall."
Erastus' eyebrows shot up. Diamond dust was not only incredibly expensive, but it was known to be used in spells so advanced and powerful, they were almost miracles. "What happened?"
"It turns out our Mistress Amaris had been communing in her shrine at the same time. Sepulera could not ignore a call like that. Amaris asked for more than I did, but we both begged protection, and I believe she gave it in abundance."
There was a pause. "Go on," urged the warlock.
"You remember the effects of the elixir...how they worked to influence emotion. I have a feeling that this sudden blessing of Sepulera is going to have similar effects, although more akin to her domain. I know not how it will affect anything else, but I can sense it strongly now. What we just did was not a happy coincidence, my friend, and I wouldn't be surprised if the other workers were affected similarly."
"You're saying she blessed the House to protect us, and now we're all going to want to make love to each other?"
"I wouldn't go that far unless the consenting parties already had some kind of connection...or in our case, for a purpose. But I do expect much more affection between coworkers."
Erastus stood and folded his arms behind his back. Despite the fact that he was completely naked and had dried cum on his chest, he still managed to look dignified. Paxiel would have been content just to watch him pace, but then Erastus spoke. "This isn't going to turn us all into lovesick imbeciles, I hope."
"It would be very poor protection if it did. I think we'll be far more able to resist temptation. Although we might not want to." He grinned. "We gained a lot from our encounter. I suspect anyone else who acts on their instincts will come out of it with something. She's doing this to help us, after all."
The tiefling's mind was reeling. It was a lot to take in, yet he couldn't deny the assurance the goddess had given him. He looked up. The fake sky was shifting. Starry night opposed the bright rays of dawn, but the magical sun was inevitably taking over. It gave him an idea.
"Say Paxiel, what say you about this show we're supposed to have?"
Paxiel swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "I think it's a brilliant idea."
"Yes. Our mistress is wise enough to realize that this is a struggle for favor, not fighting. What we need to focus on is eradicating these nasty opinions of us. All she knew was that people were getting spiteful, and it's not hard to fathom why. They are uncomfortable because they feel like we've made cuckolds of them, have stolen lovers, have made them feel inferior somehow. They despise us for providing a service so desperately needed. They're unlucky in love, and we make profit from it. These have been complaints from the start, but now that they have a figurehead, they feel more justified in their hatred. If we can change their minds and show them that none of it's true, nobody will bother harming us. In fact, they may well come here for comfort, because that is largely what they're missing. We are the House of Solace, remember. Not House of Pleasure, or House of Whores. A House of Solace."
It was the most logical thing Paxiel had said this whole time. Erastus nodded and walked over. "Do you have any idea what you might do for your portion?"
Paxiel shook his head. "Not yet."
"Good. Because I have an idea, if you're willing to partner with me."
The aasimar smiled. "Erastus, dear. I believe I've proven that I'm willing to partner with you," he teased. "What did you have in mind?"
Erastus smiled back and pulled Paxiel into a tender, hungry kiss. There was no dynamic spark this time, but a delicious satisfaction that some need had been fulfilled. Whether it was love, lust, or something else, Erastus didn't care. He broke off and stared right into Paxiel's shining, pupiless golden eyes.
"I want to return your wings."