Author’s Note: Yay, no more writer’s block! This is complete fluff, but you should read it because you love me. ~ H

Steel, Thorns, Blood and Vanilla

Ivory forced himself to take a deep breath. The stress was beginning to make him mildly sick, and he couldn’t have that.

“You ready, Your Grace?” asked his loyal advisor from the doorway behind him. “They will receive you in five minutes sharp.”

Ivory exhaled. “Thank you, Fairen.”

Fairen nodded once, then slipped discreetly away.

Ivory was left alone with only his reflection in the large mirror opposite him for company. His immaculate silver ceremonial armour glinted in the light of the crystal chandelier, and his strawberry blond hair was flawlessly gathered in a sleek ponytail.

He looked like the perfect Duke.

He felt like the perfect nervous wreck.

Then, the second door in the room, the one next to the mirror, abruptly swung open, making Ivory jump a foot in the air in his jittery state.

In strode Ebony, her cascading mane of black hair in wild disarray as if she’d been outside in a windstorm, her dark armour scratched, dented and slightly bloodstained, her void-like eyes glittering and alert. She shut the door behind her and marched purposefully up to Ivory.

“You look like you want to cry. What are they doing to you?” she demanded without preamble.

Ivory winced and tried to rearrange his features into a more dukely, stoic expression. “Nothing, Ebony. The council merely wishes to speak with me.” he answered.

Ebony raised an imperious eyebrow. “Are you alright?”

That question. That stupid, simple, sensible and utterly inconvenient question. Why, why, why must people always ask it?

Ivory laced his hands together and tried to take another deep breath. “Yes. No. Ebony, tell me what to do!” he wailed.

Ebony seized his hands and rather roughly pried his fingers apart so that she could entwine her gloved hands with his.

Ivory met her gaze, his breath hitching slightly, as it always did when he looked at her directly. Her eyes were so utterly dark. He wondered if her heart was the same colour.

“Ivory. You’ll be absolutely fine. You’re their Duke, damn it! Besides, I’m here now. I came because I thought you might need me for moral support. I provide excellent moral support, do I not?”

Ivory’s lips compressed in a vain attempt to forestall a smile. “You have no morals. You’re a genocidal maniac.” he reminded her.

Ebony’s lips spread into a pleased grin. “And you’re a genocidal maniac’s favourite husband. If they upset you, I’ll slit all of their throats and watch while they choke to death on their own blood.” she promised.

Ivory shuddered, but found himself laughing.

“Really. You’ll be alright.” Ebony soothed, her maniacal grin softening into a more human smile.

Ivory pulled her into a hug.

Ebony stiffened in surprise at first, inhaling sharply.

Ivory took a lungful of his wife’s comforting scent. She smelled like steel, thorns and blood. How that managed to be comforting, he did not know, but perhaps it was the secret warmth beneath her cold-blooded disguise that allowed him to look beyond her aura of pain and combat.

Ebony would always be a warrior; it was unlikely that she would ever stop locking herself into her protective armour and impossible that the blood on her hands would ever wash away. But she was also his protector. She guarded him from harm with a soldier’s skill that was utterly detached in its execution, yet born entirely of her own desire to keep him safe.

And therein lay the distinction between Ebony and the rest of her sancoeur kin: Ebony’s desire. Her will. Her selfless vow to keep him from harm, no matter what it cost her.

Ivory held her tighter as she nestled into the hug, her armoured form feeling so much smaller and warmer in his arms as she let her guard down.

Steel, thorns and blood.

Ivory buried his face in her hair. And smiled.

Steel, thorns, blood and a delicious hint of vanilla in her hair.


Written by Helen C. Viorel

Artwork by Yomare

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