The hot sun burned overhead, and it reflected off the white stones of the massive castle as we walked through the arch underneath the portcullis and into the castle courtyard.

It’d been two weeks since I immolated the old kiss’s master in shadowy hellfire, and Niri had taken his spot. We still stayed at the Lady Unicorn Inn and Tavern in the middle-class section of Mythfall, but we had hopes that would change soon.

Lysa had kept her word, and visited me every morning to join my bed, share pleasure, and so I could harvest her soul for energy. It was that energy of course, that powered my half-demon talents as the son of an incubus. Our alliance with Lysa’s vampire kiss had also born other fruit, as we’d just been admitted to the most closely guarded part of the city, where the royal family lived and ruled. It was very odd for anyone other than a noble or castle servant to be admitted.

The nobles handled the general population, through the government offices and buildings in the government district of the city. Shit rolled down hill, and we normally wouldn’t be important enough to warrant such an honor, except my Cassia had been studying hard the last two weeks and a had a handle on a number of new spells in addition to the wards, spells that made her far more formidable than when I’d first met her.

Witch magic was dependent on both understanding nature, and knowledge of arcane words and spells. Her understanding had far exceeded her knowledge that way, and she was learning the spells quickly in those books. My own training proceeded apace as well, but outside of stronger witch shields, and the ability to heal myself of various ailments and wounds, hadn’t changed all that much.

Witch magic was all about nature, and casting spells was all about the balance in nature, shifting it to accomplish a goal. My demon magic, and sorcery, was more evoking magic and unnatural in nature, pulling the power from other realms of existence.

I still wasn’t ready to extend my witch power outward, to start to understand the nature of the world outside my body, but between my sword, throwing daggers, and my demon magic I was more than set on the offensive front.

Lysa may have only come by an hour or two a day, but my two lovely mates were by my side almost constantly, a part of that was my overprotective and possessive nature, the other part was they didn’t like being away from me either. Our sex lives hadn’t cooled one iota either, they were as insatiable as I was, though I wondered at times if that was because of my demon nature’s influence on them.

Either way, they weren’t complaining.

Cassia was a vision that morning. Her long reddish-brown chestnut hair hung like a shimmering silk curtain down her shapely body, and her warm brown eyes had a look of commanding determination in them, but they slightly warmed when she caught my admiring sideways gaze. Her heart shaped face had the soft beauty of the girl next door, and she had full lips and an adorable nose, lending her a slight aura of innocence with her young nubile nineteen-year-old complexion when at rest. Of course, her wise ass smirks often put that innocence to lie. Perversely, her voice did the opposite, her sweet dulcet and innocent tones were a part of her naturally speaking voice.

If her face and voice was innocent, her sumptuous body was pure sin. She was five foot five, with firm and bountiful rounded D cup breasts, a thin waist, and a heart shaped ass to die for. She’d only become sexier, when I’d inadvertently sculpted her flesh that first time that I’d made love to her with my mouth. Not much had changed there, I’d only removed a little of the extra, making her already sinful curves even sharper and more mouthwatering, she didn’t have an ounce of extra fat on her generous curves.

To top it off, she was in a lovely dress just elaborate enough to fit in, but not elaborate enough to offend a noble. It was a dark blue multilayered affair, that mostly hid those sinful assets of hers, but still hinted at them enough to be incredibly alluring.

Faith walked on my other side. She was petite at five foot two, and she was my exotically beautiful sexpot. She had long and wavy bright red hair that matched the fur of her shifted fox form, and her eyes were a startling light brown ochre color, that seemed lit from within. Besides being a shifter, she was also a half-elf, which is where the exotic mischievous beauty of her face came in. She had slightly pointed ears, a thin face, with a button nose and those ochre eyes, she was just breathtakingly and exotically beautiful above the neck. Just to add to that, my Faith’s voice was naturally seductive and sultry, a bedroom voice by default unless she worked at putting another emotion into it.

My Faith also had a body built for sin, she was shorter and more petite, so the generous C cups that stood up firmly and pertly looked even bigger on her frame proportionally than Cassia’s. She had a mouthwateringly thin waist, sensually rounded hips, and the sexiest most petite bubbled ass I’d ever seen. She had fair skin, and the lightest pink nipples I’d ever seen which drove me crazy. Fortunately, at the moment they were covered up by a similarly elaborate dress to Cassia’s, but in green instead of dark blue.

Their personalities were as different as their looks, my Cassia did dote on me, but she was far more independent of mind and enjoyed teasing me with wise ass comments and observations. She loved to be taken in bed and cherished, but she also loved to be on top.

Faith on the other hand, saw me as her alpha male, and she submitted to me in all things. I wasn’t a petty man, and wouldn’t take advantage, but she happily put every aspect of life in my hands, small or large, and it was my job to protect and cherish her, even as she served and obeyed me. If anything, my overprotective and possessiveness turned Faith on.

To be clear, her submissiveness wasn’t an invitation to abuse her in any way, shape, or form, it was an invitation to take care of and cherish her, and never to be seen as less, lowered, or shamed in any way. She was beyond precious to me, and I loved her as deliriously as I loved my sweet witch. She also didn’t mind being on top in bed, but only if I told her to, she’d never dream of doing it on her own, which is why I’d given her blanket permission to wake me up that way.

Lysa, the third woman in my coterie, wasn’t with us just then, but she was never far from my thoughts. I hadn’t planned it that way, but she was just as different as the other two. Her remarkable and stunning beauty was more classical and had the look of nobility with her high cheekbones. Her beauty looked as if it might actually be aristocratic, and she had lovely light blue eyes and golden blonde hair that glinted in the sunlight like spun silken golden ringlets.

She was tallest at five foot eight, and she had a lissome supple dancer’s body that was extremely flexible. She had pert and proud B cups, and her skin was lightly tanned, a few shades lighter than Cassia’s and a few shades darker than my fair half-elf. She also had a tight ass, and mouthwateringly long and toned legs.

We’d grown a bit closer the last two weeks with her morning visits. Out in public she was a lady, even slightly arrogant and held herself with an assumed authority, it looked good on her. In private she was somewhat of a kinky woman, and she preferred to be treated as my sex toy. She liked to be shamed, the embarrassment and shame of being called names, and being ordered to do dirty things with filthy words, drove her wild. It was her kink, and I didn’t think less of her for it, it was a time for her to be free and let everything go.

She’d also told me we could never be mates, that she was too independent and old to get tied down in a romance, despite looking eighteen she was truly over two centuries a vampire. She was in my coterie but as a distant ally, and for the purpose of allowing me to harvest her soul daily for my personal energy. Of course, she got the best sex of her life out of the deal, who and what I was guaranteed that, and she was more than eager for our daily morning rendezvous. We’d just come from one of those, actually.

I preferred the closeness of my two mates, the intimacy, but it seemed to be working out just fine so far. Thing was, I was definitely becoming fonder of her as time went on, and as we’d spent more time together, which was a future complication I’d have to deal with at some point. She was never far from my thoughts. Between the shallow closeness generated from the great sex, and my young and possessive personality, I feared the itch in the back of my mind at her lack of presence would grow over time.

It was what it was.

We crossed the large courtyard, and was met the door by a young page, who bowed to us despite the fact we weren’t nobility at all. He was dressed in a red uniform with yellow accents, and he couldn’t have been older than fourteen.

“Follow me please, I’ll take you to your appointment with the Seneschal.”

The seneschal from what we had learned, was the man who scheduled the king’s day and did a million other things around the castle to make sure it all ran smoothly. He was also a noble in his own right, Duke Andrew, and cousin to King Richard.

He’d be the one we’d have to convince of our trustworthiness, in replacing the Eternal Rose coven in maintaining the wards. Which, I imagine were probably breaking down by then, according to the book they should be maintained weekly, which took a few hours a week, and it’d been over two weeks since the Eternal Rose coven had met its end.

Really, that was a great thing, if we could generate our coin and wealth from working just a few hours a week, we could focus on building the coterie, tasks for our coterie members and allies, and starting a family and other aspects of our personal lives. In essence, working on our political and temporal power base, instead of working to put food on the table. The majority of our efforts and time could be spent on that.

Last, but not least in my sex-obsessed half-demon mind, was that there’d be plenty of time to set each other on fire between the sheets. I may have only fed on Cassia and Lysa once a day, and on my fox shifter twice because of Faith’s faster recovery time, but we had sex far more often than that. Two to three times a day, several rounds each time, more than that if we had nothing else to do on that day besides train and study. I just needed to suppress the feeding power during those extra times.

It was an ideal situation in that way, on many levels, but it would also come with risks and costs that would force us to remain forever vigilant. Of course, merely rubbing elbows with royalty had its pluses and downsides, we’d be shielded from the rest of the nobility, but we’d also be extremely visible to the power structure in the city. It would also reveal who had the tomes of knowledge, which would especially be of interest to the other covens in the city, who would covet that knowledge.

Perhaps to the risk of our lives.

Still, we were more powerful than they were, thanks to me and now Cassia’s familiarity with some of the more potent attack spells, we should be fine if we stay vigilant, and didn’t drop our guard at the wrong moment.

Lastly, the royal family itself would be as dangerous as they would be a boon. If we ever let them down, they could turn the entire city against us with a single command. Still, worth the risk, given all the benefits to such an arrangement, not least of which was all that time I mentioned.

The page led us through several hallways near the front of the castle, which was the public part. By public, I meant freely accessible to the other nobility, not the merchants and peasants of the kingdom. It was honestly a little overwhelming, the hallways were wide, the ceilings high, and there were paintings, carvings, statues, tapestries, and even flower arrangements. Outside of that, even just the walls had an intricate and beautiful carving that ran along the base and apex of the walls, making the building itself a work of art.

It was… way out of the league of a farm boy, and I felt a little out of place. Of course, the powerful half demon magic and witch abilities gave me confidence, but it’d been only about three weeks since my birthday, and I wasn’t quite accustomed to it yet, or my new life. The only thing I wore honestly, was my ability as a master swordsman, which I’d earned over the last fifteen years of my life. Still, I was confident enough to hold myself correctly, and fake it until I made it.

Well, that and the knowledge I was the best fuck in the kingdom, that confidence was honest as well, but that knowledge didn’t help me in that situation.

We were led to a closed door, and the page knocked. At the voice directing us to enter, he opened the door, and closed it back up after we’d gone through. I suspected he’d be out there when it came time to leave, we’d have been able to find our own way out, but I didn’t imagine they’d be comfortable letting us roam around without an escort.

The room was a small office, and a large man with a graying mustache and brown hair sat behind a large wood desk. Behind him was a bookshelf loaded with books, and the desk was a little cluttered with papers and objects. Before the desk was a few chairs, and there was a throw rug that covered all but a foot or so of stone floor around the walls.

The seneschal measured us for a moment with his eyes, then waved at the seats.

“I am Duke Andrew, the next time you walk into a room with a noble in it, that you are specifically meeting with in private, you need to bow. In public among many there is no need, but keep it mind. My cousin wouldn’t be so forgiving, but I know you aren’t used to the ways of nobility.”

He frowned, “You have acquired the knowledge that the Immortal Rose Coven once had?”

“Yes. Although, we’re not sure which wards are involved yet. No one seems to know that.”

Andrew grunted, “Let’s speak plainly, what happened to the coven?”

We’d discussed that possibility, and we’d decided it would be too dangerous to lie.

“They tried to sacrifice me and steal my life, to extend their own, and they lost the argument. I killed them in self-defense, with their assistance,” I waved toward my ladies.

He waved his hand in a come-on gesture, “Details.”

Outside of telling him I was half demon, I gave him an accurate accounting of the week following my eighteenth birthday, with Faith and Cassia adding details as appropriate.

He asked questions, not just about that but about our lives, ambitions, and morals.

He nodded, “The job is not nearly as important as the secret I must reveal for you to do the job. I believe you, the Eternal Rose coven had fallen far in their mores over the millennia, but we had no other choice but to deal with them. I believe you can be trusted, but I’ll have your oaths on it before we go any further.”

“How can you be so sure?”

He laughed, “That’s part of the secret, an oath?”

We all exchanged glances, and I swore, “I will not reveal the secret to anyone, nor talk about it outside this room except if needed to, to do our job.”

He nodded, “Sufficient,” and he looked at Cassia, and then Faith as they gave the same oaths.

He cleared his throat, “I can be sure, because I can’t be lied to, not without detecting the deception on the very air. The royal family, are sorcerers.”

My brain shut down, how was that even possible? The nobility hated the other races, not all of them, but enough of them. Then my brain caught up, none of the nobility knew the truth, they thought the king was human.

I laughed.

Andrew said, “It was thousands of years ago, after the great war, but while the land and peoples were still torn apart. We’d lost a lot of our knowledge, but us sorcerers could still influence humans including the nobles. We, took power, under the guise of being humans, and we’ve worked to minimize the bigotry, or at least the cruelty, of the human nobility towards the other races.

“Obviously, we could only do so much, even we can’t eradicate the dark places in a human’s heart. It’s also why we came up with the current system, there are no magical races capable of detecting the truth, inside the nobility, and they are the only ones who ever see us. If the truth got out, even to the servants in the castle, there’d be civil war and the kingdom would come toppling down.

“Regardless, those thousands of years ago we made a deal with the Eternal Rose coven, to keep us and our family in power. Believe it or not, back then they were just as… idealistic, as you are now. Time, power, and the lure of eternal life corrupted them. They should have trained their replacements, much as we train and raise our children to rule, once we pass. Point is, this is all well, and the king will be pleased with my report.”

He paused for a second.

“The rest of it, the reason for the ward, is that the sorcerer families in the Spire of Abyxis close to this castle are well aware of who we really are. They are… politically inconvenient, and they’ve resented our ascension to power since the founding of the kingdom. They’ve tried to replace us many times over the centuries, but quietly, they know if the truth got out their hopes of ruling in our place would be overturned.”

I frowned, “How would that even work, wouldn’t it be obvious?”

He shook his head, “Not with a sorcerer’s power of influence, it would be child’s play to convince the nobles the primary line of the king had died in some accident, and they were royal cousins. They are in their tower, and keep to themselves, I doubt anyone in the aristocracy could even describe one of them. The nobility avoids and ignores the other races, as long as they stay out of sight. Plainly speaking, they’re jealous, and very much think it should be their turn.”

That seemed petty and stupid, but ambitious people wanted power, and I supposed it wasn’t all that impossible to believe, it was even likely.

Cassia tilted her head, “A planes ward?”

Andrew laughed, “Very good. Of course, you’ll be provided with the blood of the royal family while casting and under watch, so you can add us as an exception.”

Planes ward?

Cassia looked at me and said, “I’ve already told you sorcerers pull their power from the planes of the elements, not our natural world, they invoke their magic and pull it here, so it isn’t natural or balanced. Well, a planes ward is like a barrier, that they can’t reach through into the elemental planes to invoke their power, or at least it would dim the connection and make them a lot weaker. Their blood would be like a key to the ward, and it’d allow the royal family to have normal access. It would make a coup attempt impossible, no other sorcerer would be able to match them on castle grounds, nor would they be able to draw enough power to bamboozle the guards or servants.”