Chapter 1

We All Come From Somewhere, Part 1

"Come to bed, my lord and husband," Shen purred at him from their bed. Eighteen years old, and she had landed in the lap of luxury. For some reason, the Duke had come to her village, and decided to take her, out of all the available women there, as his bride. She stretched out to her full five feet and thrust her hands through the mass of pillows, thrilled at their softness, arching her back as she did. She pulled her hands back down and through her shoulder length black hair. The ladies maids that were here in the Ducal mansion had cleaned and combed it more thoroughly than it ever had been before, making it irresistible for Shen to touch.

The bed she lay on was the biggest she had ever seen. There would easily be room enough for five fully grown men to sleep comfortably, to say nothing of just her petite body and her new husband. The sheets were the softest material she had ever had against her skin, and the blanket... she had no idea that one blanket could make a body that warm. Especially when that body was laying under it naked, another completely new experience for her. "Dominic? That last time did not hurt me nearly as much as the first. It was actually very enjoyable near the end. Maybe we could do that again? That thing that you said all married people do?"

Duke Dominic Romanov continued to stare out the open window at the gathering storm, oblivious to his newest wife. He pulled his robe tighter against his chest, giving him some protection against the chill coming in from the open window. His mood was getting as foul as the weather.

Shen got up and walked up to him, pressing her young body against his back. She wrapped her arms around his narrow chest, pulling herself closer to him. "Please," she begged, rubbing her naked flesh against his back. "The storm is nothing out of the ordinary for these parts. We get them all the time, as I am sure you know. We have for as long as anyone here or down in the village can remember."

He glanced over his shoulder and down at her. What little light there was in the room reflected the coldness in his blue eyes. She shuddered under the weight of his eyes, and felt tiny. Cringing, she let go and got back into the bed. It was not so much that she was smaller than him, as he was only half of a head taller. No, it was the fact that he was more than twice her age that made her feel small.

And those damnable cold blue eyes. His three daughters by his previous two wives each had the same eyes. All of the men and women of her village were a bit put off by those eyes. They all seemed to carry an anger, or possibly a deep-seeded hatred for the world. She wondered what was in his head.

For Dominic it was a bit of a hatred. Hatred at the two wives that had given him only daughters. Hatred for the brothers that were to be duke before him. Hatred for the father that had never given his third son a second thought. Everyone knew that Dominic would never be duke, so why bother with the importance of teaching him to run his lands? But most especially hatred of the Drow Elves.

The Drow had raided his lands many times over the years, and his position as Duke had come with a huge price. He had struck a deal with the Drow chieftain, Jareth. Dominic never should have been the Duke, but he wanted the power, so his deal with Jareth would see his father and brothers die of "natural causes" at young ages. Jareth, taken by the audacity of the the ambitious 17-year-old agreed, providing Dominic give him his first son after 25 years from the day. Dominic had never liked children in the first place, so he readily agreed, and married immediately.

It was a nine years later, that Jareth returned to fulfill his side of the bargain. Dominic and his wife, Amelia, had recently returned from an extended vacation. They were both still aglow with one another's company, when the storm came in.

The mid-afternoon sun was blotted out by the thickness of the clouds overhead. Under cover of the unnatural darkness, a band of six Drow assassins and one mage slipped through the village, unseen and made their way to the Duke's mansion. The gates to the outer wall of the mansion were open, as Dominic's father preferred it. He never turned away guests, and left the gates open in a display of friendship. Getting in the front door, however, was another matter. There were four guards stationed at the entrance, in hopes of keeping out any Drow raiders.

There was a large courtyard there. Several brick-lined pathways wound their way to various outside places to sit and enjoy the grass and gardens. On the left side of the entrance to the mansion itself, there was a dirt training arena, where visiting knights, and the Duke's three sons practiced with their weapons of war. To the right, and several yards forward, was an eight foot high bush maze. It was through there that the Drow made their way to the door.

At the head of the maze was a clear line of sight to the entryway, and all four guards could be clearly seen. They were easy victims to the elves' crossbows, and the group was in the door as silent as mice. Things inside the manor seemed to be unusually quiet for the time of day, as though the storm had pushed all of the noise to another place. The band of seven split into three groups, Jareth taking the mage and his thickly-muscled lieutenant with him. They had Duke Edward as their target.

The trio found the Duke in his study, talking to his youngest son. Jareth smiled as he pulled himself out of the shadows and strode into the room in their full view. Dominic could only gasp in horror.

"What is the meaning of this?" asked an angry and confused Edward, bringing himself to full height to confront the elf.

"Simple," Jareth replied. "One of your sons wants your place. The only way he gets your place, is for you to die. I came here to put your son in your place."

Dominic stood up and stepped in between the two men, stopping Jareth with his out-turned palm. "No," he exclaimed, "this is not how it should be. You said... you promised, Jareth, 'natural causes.' This can not possibly look natural." He turned to his father to register the expression the man wore. It carried all of the shock and fear Dominic might have hoped for under ordinary circumstances. This was anything but.

"Stand aside, whelp," Jareth replied, pointing his crossbow at the Duke. "You knew it would come to this. Besides... I believe that a bolt from a crossbow will kill him, quite naturally. You actually thought that I might do this any other way?"

"Challen, Layne" Jareth barked, switching to his own language, "come and make the appearances good here. The future Duke, escaped with his life." The pair that were still hidden moved into the room. Layne directing a small spell at Dominic as Challen roughly picked him up and carried him to a large picture window. "Wait, Challen..."

"Dominic," Jareth said sweetly, returning to the other man's tongue, "Duke-to-be... look at the storm. Remember it well. You shall see it again in 16 years when I return for your son. In the meantime, say goodbye to your dear father." He fired the crossbow at point blank range, the bolt penetrating the Duke's skull and sticking into a bookshelf behind him.

Dominic screamed as he watched his father's head explode in front of him, and screamed again as Challen hurled his body through the pane of glass. His body rolled in the air, and he could see the ground, four stories below him. He found himself with enough time to contemplate the grass he would land on, as well as any bits of broken glass. He could feel blood running off his head and arms. And yet... he still had not dropped to the ground. He rolled his body around again, to discover that he was falling as slow as a feather. "Drow magic," he whispered to himself as he continued down slowly. "I will be spared... I will live," he realized aloud as his body settled slowly into the grass. He sat up, almost laughing at his situation, wiping the blood from his forehead on his sleeve. His laughing stopped as he saw in a window.

There on the ground floor, was his eldest brother, his upper body hanging out of a window, blood pouring from his mouth and throat. He watched the assassins crawl out the window, using his brother's body to protect their own from the jagged glass. He could only stare in open-mouthed horror, as the pair spotted him, and decided that they were not quite done. The smaller of the two drew a long scimitar from his hip, and neatly decapitated Dominic's brother, before the pair darted away for the shadows of the bushes.

His brother... who would have been Duke the day his father gracefully died of old age. Who had been trained for the position since birth. Who had trained with their father's knights from the time he was 14. Who now lay dead before him. It was all suddenly too much for Dominic, as he rolled over and emptied the contents of his stomach onto the grass.

Lightning crashed again outside. Dominic remembered. He remembered only too well. This could be the night that the Drow would return.

Pushing the memory away, he turned back to his bed, where his new wife lay, sleeping now. He climbed back beneath the sheet, dropping his robe on the floor beside the bed. Shen rolled over in her sleep, snuggling herself into his chest, making him a bit uncomfortable. He briefly contemplated shoving her away, but instead arranged her so that he would be pressed against her back, drawing some of the warmth from her skin.

It was nice, he thought, to have someone to lay with again. After his second wife, Corrine had left, he had given in to the idea that there would be no more women sharing his bed. Now, here was this beauty, a mere two years older than his daughter Elizabeth, curled up in his body, and earlier asking him to come to bed for "more of that thing that all married people do." He settled in and closed his eyes, taking in her scent.