The Incarnations: The Incarnal War (Chapter 7)

A Deficiency of Desire

The war has taken some unexpected deviances from the original plans. After Madam Sadness defeated and captured Sir Happiness, we thought the war was on its way to ending, and I foolishly allowed her to maintain her new territories instead of marching against Sir Peace.

I had thought Lord Dread could advance upon the enemy strategist, but he was ambushed and cut off by a surprise attack from the new army of Lord Guilt. Lord Guilt had never had an army before, it had never suited him. Now the Lords’ armies are smashing against each other as Sir Peace lays safe in his home.

The Dukes have still yet to meet, which only angers me. The Duke of War is withering away my patience with his inability to navigate the molten lands of the Duke of Destruction. He’s only now discovered that the Duke of Destruction now ventures to other lands.

With the war now at a standstill again, I find myself looking back upon the Incarnations.

King Good maintains the onslaught against Lady Justice, and moving half of his army to join Lord Dread. Madam Sadness and Sir Happiness seem to be coping with their newfound sibling relationship. King Evil sleeps. The Duke of War and Madam Honor both continue walking. Sir Peace plots, and Lord Guilt tries to lead an army having no experience in the practice. Sir Gratitude continues to waste away in bed, saving strength to chastise me later.

Who is left to check on?

There is the Lady Love, and it appears she has company.

The Lady and her people have seemingly taken quite well to being nurses and medics in Lord Dread’s army. Before she arrived, if one of them were wounded they were left to die, but now that they have someone willing to heal them, and now they fight for her.

The Lady is not completing any difficult task, she currently tends to soldiers in her tent along with her servants. She has been placing her hands upon the Knights of Dread to heal them.

She moves her hands over another, when her train of thought is interrupted by her friend.

“I just don’t understand how he rejected me!” the Duchess of Desire complains, quite loudly. She seems to have taken her failure quite hard, as she should. While I accept my lesser son’s neutrality, it does not change the fact that the Duchess failed in a mission she promised would be easy, and he made a fool of her, and more importantly, me.

The Lady curls her fingers back into her palm as the Duchess has now broken her concentration. She sighs heavily, and closes her eyes as she moves her hand to rub her forehead. She flicks her green locks from in front of her eyes as she reminds her distraught friend, “He didn’t want to fight a war. Why do you find that so hard to understand?

The Duchess tilts her head with a clear expression of insult on her face. She reminds the Lady, “The mortals fought wars over me. Why shouldn’t King Evil?”

“Because he’s not a mortal?” the Lady offers shyly.

The Duchess looks at the Lady blankly, as if she were crazy. “Maybe I’m just in a rut.”

Then the Lady flings her hands around, and offers, “Well, can you please wait while I help this poor soul? Maybe help me, yourself? I can’t heal anyone and listen to you.”

The Duchess of Desire then rolls her eyes and after a moment of realization, smirks. “Alright, I’ll help.” Then she stands up from the crate she was sitting on, and leans over the soldier, who becomes very uncomfortable, and offers to him blatantly and suggestively, “How can I help you?”

Lady Loves exclaims, “That’s not what I meant!”

As the Duchess starts laughing, the soldier mumbles, “I’d rather not have that kind of help.”

The Duchess immediately stops laughing and gestures towards the soldier before complaining, “See! There’s something wrong if simple servants don’t want anything to do with me!”

The Lady shrugs and reminds her, “Well, he is a servant of Dread, and my Lord has never wanted anything to do with you.” Even I have to admit, that reminder must have hurt the Duchess’s ego.

When the Duchess makes a hurt expression on her face, the Lady apologizes. “Oh my, I’m so sorry, De! I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings!”

The Duchess slumps her shoulders down as her eyes start to gaze towards the floor. “Why bother? At this rate, I’ll be gone by Absentness with Despair before I know it.”

How the Lady does not roll her eyes, I have no idea. She embraces her friend with a tight hug and tells her, “That is a very strong overreaction. You’re not going to die from Absentness, ever.” Then she turns her back to call upon one of her servants. “Liefde!”

From across the tent the servant calls back, “Coming, my Lady!” As she trots to her Lady’s side she is surprised to find her Lady embracing a sullen Duchess instead of helping the patient knight.

The Lady asks of her servant, “Would you please help this patient knight? I have to try and fix,” then with an awkward swirling gesture over the Duchess’s head, finishes, “this.

Liefde understandably nods her head, and assures her Lady, “Of course, anything you need.”

With that obligation passed on to another, the Lady leads the Duchess out of the tent, and tells her, “Let’s go for a walk so we can talk privately.” As she leads the sullen Duchess she then remembers something the Duchess just said. “Before, about Despair, is losing her what has you so sad?”

As if insulted, the Duchess assures the Lady, “Of course not. I know my Despair will Reincarnate, she always does, and rarely does it ever take that long. She’ll be back.”

“She won’t be the same though,” the Lady reminds her. At this point the two are walking past many empty tents, absentmindedly closer and closer to the front line.

“I know,” the Duchess of Desire mutters softly. “Besides, she wasn’t happy, and I couldn’t be with her all the time. I can remedy that when she comes back.” Then after a longer silence, Lady Love thinks to place a hand on her friend’s shoulder, but the Duchess mutters, “If I ever got my hands on Peace… I’ll-!

Desire!” the Lady yells to snap her friend back to reality. “Don’t be that way, that’s not you, there are others who carry that torch for us.”

The Duchess looks at the Lady sideways with disbelief. She reminds the Lady, “Love, I think you forget that you’re the pacifist between us. Not me.”

The Lady begins, “But-”

“No buts,” the Duchess interrupts her, “I have felt blood on my hands before, and in my mouth, I have no revulsion to it. If I ever cross paths with that cowardly Sir, he’ll suffer.” Then she looks away from the Lady, and proceeds to walk ahead of her.

The Lady starts to slow down, dipping her eyes at the idea of possibly offending the Duchess. The Duchess quickly realizes that the Lady is falling behind and stops to turn around. She sees the Lady sulking, remembering how rather fragile she can be.

The Duchess rolls her eyes before assuring the Lady, “I’m not going to seek him out if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No,” the Lady mumbles. More clearly, “I know you to be smarter than that. I’m sorry if I insulted you.”

The Duchess assures the Lady, “No harm done, not at all.” Then the Duchess walks back to hook her arm in Lady Love’s and prompt a smile from her face. The Duchess of Desire admits to the Lady, “We don’t know what’s going to fix my confidence, so let’s avoid talking about me for now. How has life in the company of the Lord of glaring and no smiles treating you?”

The Lady squints to mock being mad before honestly answering, “Life has been quite good. Despite all the terrible falsehoods you and the others have told me about my Lord, he has been nothing but accommodating, respectful, and a joy to be around.”

The Duchess’s neck recoils as her expression becomes that of a confused smile. “Accommodating, I guess, respectful, sure, but a joy?” she asks full of doubt. Then she pokes fun at the Lady, by also mentioning, “And ‘your Lord,’ if I did hear that right.”

Lady Love grows a face of embarrassment before briefly explaining, “Common syntax, you’re overthinking it. But in all seriousness, he is not the Lord of nightmares that you all told me about. He has a heart, believe it or not.”

The Duchess of Desire huffs with doubt, “I’ll believe when I see it.”

Then the Lady realizes where they are. “You can actually, his war tent is nearby. Let’s go!” Then she pulls on the Duchess’s arm, dragging her forward by her arm.

Love, wait! I don’t imagine he’ll appreciate us interrupting him while he’s fighting a war!” the Duchess reason.

“It won’t be a problem! I do it all the time and he never minds!” the Lady exclaims with glee. The Duchess is not convinced.  

The Lady continues to haul the Duchess across the camp, right to its edge, where the large war tent blocks out much of the sky from view. Behind it, the sounds of dark catapults launching towards the enemy pound against the Duchess’s ears, and she wonders how the Lady seems so unbothered by it.

When they climb up the hill to the war tent where Lady Love knows her Lord Dread to be, two Knights of Dread stand guard at the entrance. When the Lady tries to walk through she is sharply cut off by the knights moving their weapons in a cross to block her.

The Lady tells them, “I’m only here to see my Lord,” as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I find that maybe the Lady was neutral more so because she doesn’t understand war, and less so because she doesn’t have a side.

The knights informs her that, “The Lord has ordered for no interruptions until the meeting is over.”

The Lady tries to reason with them that, “But I’m sure if the Lord knew it was me, it would be-”

“What is this?” a thicker, huskier voice calls out from inside the tent before a larger, more decorated black knight walks out with his helmet in his hand.

He has similar features to the Lord as all of his servants do, but his scarred face displays a sense of experience and hunger for battle that the others do not.

The Lady recognizes him. “Strach! I wish to see our Lord, but these knights won’t let me enter.” The Duchess looks this knight up and down with nothing but distrust. The Lady acts as if this knight is a friendly acquaintance, but the Duchess takes notice of how he looks at the women with distaste, an expression a mere servant should not give to an Incarnation.

Strach moves ahead of the knights, and too close to the Lady, blatantly acting to intimidate her. The Lady behaves as he anticipated and steps back, more confused than fearful by the large servant’s advance towards her. The Duchess becomes much more defensive, having already laid a trap before the servant. She does step between the Lady and servant for good measure, knowing the Lady’s pacifism.

“I would step back, servant,” the Duchess threatens. The Lady attempts to calm her, not realizing the disrespect and threat the knight knowingly paid them both.

The warlike servant answers the Duchess, and makes it clear, “I will not. The Lord said he does not want to be disturbed, and his word is law here. So remember Duchess, I do not answer to you.” The knight then leans his head down to more closely intimidate the much smaller Duchess.

The Duchess of Desire is about to tighten the twine she laid when the knight of Dread wasn’t paying close enough attention, but they are interrupted by several knights.

Knights, as warlike but none as large Strach, exit the tent’s entrance and are befuddled by the sight before them. The last one to exit is the Lord Dread himself.

As soon as Lady Love sets her eyes on the Lord and his coat that flows in the wind, she acts as absentmindedly as ever.

She calls out to him happily, and sidesteps from behind the Duchess. She seeks to walk to him, but Strach lifts a hand to block her, incidentally causing her to walk into his armored arm with an audible knock.

Then Strach pushes her back.

The Lord’s face immediately becomes that of concentrated rage, his eyes flaring open and his mouth a frown of stone.

In swift dash of black smoke, he materializes behind the servant Strach, then grabs hold of the servant’s skull where it meets his spine.

As he lifts the servant, Strach’s body contorts in pain as he is lifted above the ground.   

The Lord questions his servant with cold venom as he lifts the knight away from Lady Love. “What exactly, do you think you are doing?

Strach croaks out in pain as the other knights look on in indignation. The Lady clings to the Lord’s arm and questions her Lord, “Dread, what are you doing?!

The Duchess, as she calms herself and crosses her arms, answers the Lady’s question. “He’s disciplining a disrespectful servant.”

The Lord responds to the Lady by stating, “He oversteps his place.” Then more montone, he asks the Lady, “Why are you and the Duchess here?” As he finishes his sentence the Lord gazes downward to match the worried eyes of the Lady.

She looks back with fear, not for herself but for the servant, and explains, “I wanted to see you, but you had laid out an order that you must not be disturbed. This servant simply wished to see that your word was followed by not allowing me to pass. There is no need for this!”

Having listened to her explanation, Lord Dread tosses Strach with a twist of his hand, sending the servant onto his stomach into the mud, where he purposely stays to not anger his Lord.

Gently, the Lord turns to place a hand on the Lady’s shoulder, a hand she thinks to look upon when it touches her. When he seeks her attention, he brings his left hand to her chin and gestures her to look at him.

“You are always welcome to see me. If you would wait in the tent for me, I would appreciate it greatly, my Lady.” It seems he has taken to her same informal vocabulary.

Lady Love smiles at him, as if hypnotized by how he attends to her. She nods her head and allows her Lord to gesture her towards the entrance, where the guards do not dare to block her way. She turns back, expecting the Duchess to follow her.

The Duchess assures her, “I want to watch.” This confuses the Lady, who then becomes nervous again for the same knight who overstepped his place.

Lord Dread notices this, and assures his Lady with a bow of his head, “No one is going to receive something they did not earn.” The Lord already seems to be mastering the art of lying and misleading, an excellent skill to have.

The Lady nods as if she understands and steps inside the tent. As soon as the Lady is out of sight, the Lord wastes no time summoning the Terror into his hand.

He sternly orders, “Get on your knees.” There is no question that he is speaking to Strach.

Strach struggles to all fours to not move too fast nor too slow before his Lord. Before he can open his mouth, his Lord interrupts him with an order. “Be quiet.”

The servant begins to shake with fear as his Lord walks towards him with the large and menacing executioner sword in hand. He mutters quietly, his voice shaking, “I was only following your orders.”

“Yet somehow you still managed to forget your place,” the Lord states.

Strach raises his head to speak out but faster than he can blink, the Lord swings the Terror down through the knight’s head, sinking it in deep to split his nose. The onlookers gasp, except for the Duchess of Desire, who grins.

The Lord removes his sword from the servant’s skull to hold it before his own head.

He then speaks to the servants that look on, not just the commanders, but all who have been walking about and preparing for battle, they all listen with fear and apprehension.

“Look upon this sword and know, it will remove you with greater speed than my hand created you. Remember this sword, and your place. Your place is not to threaten, or question the Lady Love, you will abide by her wishes and demands, until I state otherwise.”

The Duchess cannot help but still grin, a grin the Lord does not ignore after his sword disappears into smoke.

He turns to the Duchess and approaches her with cold determination. Before her grin can fall, he has bent over to bring his lips to her ear.

He whispers to her, “Do not forget yourself either, Desire. You are here only at the wish of my Lady. There is no care for you elsewhere among this camp, so beware what you wish to grin about.

She feels his ghostly pupils bare into her skull as they stand so close, and she finds she cannot move, nor even swallow. She stands still, her arms crossed in front of her as she’s caught of guard.

Eventually, she responds quietly, “The Lady is waiting.”

Lord Dread bends back to stand tall, and look down about the Duchess, who is shorter by a foot, but who also stands at a lower elevation.

The Lord responds plainly, “Yes, she is.” Then he turns his back to her, with such speed the ends of his coat nearly whip the Duchess in the face. It takes a moment before she shakes her head and regains her composure to follow him.

When she enters, the Lady is already wrapping her arms around the Lord, asking him of his war plans, and worrying about his health. The Lord answers with replies that do little to quell how she worries over his mental state.

The Duchess then takes the time to inspect the war tent.

She looks over how weapons stand against walls, weapons of the enemy as a reminder as to what they are combatting.

A table with large, sharp talons to act as legs at its four corners.

A map with pieces similar to chess to act as the armies of Guilt and Dread.

She stops snooping when she hears the Lady start to speak quietly. The Duchess stands on the other side of the table to watch the Lord and Lady closely. The Lady stands with her arms around his torso, with him standing straight, making a point to not touch her anywhere but her head. He strokes her hair with his right hand, but lets his left hand hang at his side. The Duchess takes notice of how he’ll only touch her when he feels it necessary, but much prefers to refrain. The Lady does not behave so conservatively.

Lady Love mutters to him, “I worry about you. You seem on edge, stressed, you don’t do anything to relieve it.”

Her Lord tries to assure her, “I am perfectly fine, I promise, you worry over nothing. I am fueled by all that mortals fear, their nightmares, and darkness itself, how can I tire?”

The Lady then ceases her embrace, and encompasses the Lord’s face in her hands, telling him in a knowing tone, “Being physically tired and mentally tired are two very different experiences, and you show signs of suffering from one.”

“How so?” the Lord asks unsarcastically.

“You are irritable towards your soldiers, lashing out at them for failures and misunderstandings out of their control,” she attempts to reason with him. “If you are tired or stressed you should do something to relieve it, not push head first against the symptom.”

The Lord shakes his head, and places his hands over hers to remove them from his face, though not letting them go. The Lord does his best to assure the Lady once again, “This is simply how I must carry myself in war. I cannot be easy or lax with my troops, such behavior would lead to loss, and that is unacceptable.”

“You push yourself too hard.” The way these two speak, one would forget that they have only known each other for a week, but in that time they have a sense of trust and care that the Duchess of Desire built with King Evil over eternities.

It pains her to think of him now, and how she has betrayed his trust as he has her confidence. In this moment with a loss weighing upon both of her shoulders, she feels incapable next to the Lord and Lady.

Lord Dread informs his Lady that it is time for him to take his leave. He apologizes to her, but not the Duchess. “It is nearly time to make another push against Lord Guilt out of our way to Sir Peace, and I must oversee its start.”

As he moves to be away from Lady Love’s grasp, she clings to her Lord as she did when he went off to battle Lady Hate. This time she has far more confidence in his ability against more meager opponents, and this time only asks of him, “When you return, you will see me immediately, won’t you?”

“If that is what you wish, I promise to see you,” he swears. “I’ll inform your servant of my return if you are asleep.”

“I promise I won’t be, and even if I was you should still wake me. You’ll come see me and we’ll talk and eat, something I know you don’t do.” The Lady shows more care and worry for the Lord’s health than even his servants do. The Lord doesn’t realize it, but this care is what touches him where no one else has.

Once again, without annoyance, and a warmth that others would miss, he swears to her. “I promise.”

Then as he makes his way to leave, he does turn back to ask, “You haven’t forgotten that we don’t need to eat, Love?”

“How lucky they are,” the Duchess mutters.

With a sweet pout of annoyance, the Lady says, “It’s for mental health and sociability.”

Almost sounding sarcastic, the Lord mutters, “Yes, for mental health.” He nods his head to his Lady and leaves her with her friend in the war tent.

The Duchess finally sees her chance to comment on the budding companionship between the Lord and Lady. She moves quickly to her friend’s side to playfully poke at her words.

“Mental health? What do you know of such things? Have you developed a practice without telling me?”

The Lady narrows her eyes at her friend for making light of her caring nature. “I know that my Lord has no outlet for his stressful tasks. I wish I could help him.”

The Duchess of Desire nudges the Lady’s arm and makes a suggestive movement of her eyebrow. “I know one way you can help him remove stress.”

Lady Love becomes flush and waves her hands over each other to push away such an idea. “No, I couldn’t. I couldn’t… my Lord would never… it’s, just not…” The Lady finds herself trailing off as she tries to explain a reason for why she must deny the Duchess’s recommendation.

The Duchess pokes fun by capitalizing on Lord Dread possibly frightening the Lady. “Just not what? Are you afraid he might ravage you? I thought you loved that.” 

The Duchess doesn’t receive an answer when the Lady grows serious and states without doubt, “I know I have nothing to fear from Lord Dread. He would be beside himself if he thought he had done so.” The Duchess looks upon the Lady with great surprise, believing that maybe what’s between the Lord and Lady isn’t as simple as the on and off trysts that Lady Love has with the Duke of War.

Suddenly acting like her more joyous self, the Lady becomes excited as she has developed an idea. “I know who could help my Lord.”

“Who?” the Duchess quickly asks.

The Lady replies just as quickly, “You!”

The Duchess’s head recoils back, finding the idea absurd.

She reminds the Lady of the last time she lusted after the Lord centuries ago. “Last time we shared a bed, he banished me almost immediately, and still very much despises my presence. As much fun as I had, it has been made perfectly clear that he wants nothing to do with me.”

The devious grin on the Lady’s face doesn’t go away which prompts the Duchess to believe that she has something else in mind. The Lady explains, “Have you really so little imagination? You do not have to bed him yourself, no, I was thinking that you…  manipulate him,” then for a moment the Lady realizes that those last words may sound quite menacing so she adds, “for his own good, of course.”

The Duchess expresses only doubt in her face. “Explain,” she demands of the Lady.

“Gladly,” the Lady begins. “I’ve noticed something here in this camp, with all the servants, the hundreds of thousands of them are all warriors and laborers. No servant is here to do anything but fight and build for a fight.”

“But what does that mean?” the Duchess interrupts to ask.

“Patience, I’m getting to that,” the Lady scolds the Duchess. “I’ve noticed that they’re all men, and based on the Lord’s previous indiscretions he does not fancy them. So why is there not a single woman? A single servant of pleasure like my Amour or your Envie?”

The Duchess makes a quizzical look not believing what the Lady is insinuating. “What? Are you saying that Lord Dread doesn’t have a servant of pleasure?” The Lady nods her head as if proud for figuring this out. “Well, what would you have me do?”

Then the Lady sighs and makes an exhausted look on her face. “Come now, Desire, this is how you prove you haven’t lost a step. If you can manipulate-, I mean push Lord Dread into creating his own servant for pleasure, you’ve done something much more difficult than convincing another Incarnation to join a war. And as an added bonus the Lord has his outlet for stress.”
I sometimes wonder if the Incarnations are misusing their servants.

With a finger to her chin the Duchess actually begins to consider such an idea. She agrees, “If I could do that, it would be overcoming a great challenge, indeed. I don’t know if I would consider that more difficult than manipulating King Evil to commence war, but definitely difficult considering its Lord Dread.”

“So will you do it? Please?” the Lady pleads.

“You know, I find it strange that you’re so interested in getting him into bed with another woman, but to each her own I guess,” the Duchess jokes.

The Lady says again, “I told you, I just want to help him. I care for Lord but it’s not like that between us.”

Yet,” the Duchess adds to pester the Lady one more time. The Lady glares at the Duchess with a comical look, prompting the Duchess to say, “Fine, I’ll try to plot and connive to help your Lord with his stress relief. Just stop staring at me like that, it’s adorable.”

“Thank you!” the Lady exclaims before embracing her friend.

The Duchess of Desire already begins to plot as she asks, “You asked Lord Dread to dinner before he left, did you not?” The Lady nods her head. The Duchess makes a devious smile and reckons, “Good, that will work in our favor.”

For the rest of that day the Duchess and the Lady plot. They first decide together that it is necessary to make the Lord unrestful, more so than usual. It’s a common occurrence with his many attempts against Lord Guilt. After this, the Duchess takes control of the plan, focused on a task designed for one of her many talents.

The Duchess concocts stimulants that can be mixed into a drink to push the Lord Dread to become uncomfortable. She does consider the possibility that he may become violent instead and lash out as an outlet, so she adds ingredients that should increase his arousal. She knows them to work because that was how she seduced him the last time, albeit with his consent.

This will be mixed into a drink that the Lady will offer. To make sure the Lord drinks, the Duchess has instructed the Lady to say that she made it herself, thus making the Lord feel obligated to drink it. The Lady actually has a knack for brewing beer so she does not have to lie.

Then the Duchess specifically plans to have the Lady dress in a more revealing attire, one that would surely put the thought into the Lord’s conscious. With subtle gestures the Lady is to draw attention to her features and allude to her frustrations, which the Lady denies having.

The Duchess connives that at this point, the Lady should mention the Lord’s visible discomfort, whether he shows it or not, which should continue to prompt the idea into his conscious. Following such discussion, the Duchess instructs for the Lady to mention her own servant of pleasure, and to ask the Lord about his. When he informs her that he does not have one, the Lady should find that strange, and recommend it. Then continue the dinner acting suggestively and pushing the Lord’s buttons until he leaves.

During all this, which the Duchess does not mention to the Lady, knowing she would not approve, plans to use the Passion, the most strange weapon of the Incarnations.

The Passion is really more of a device, the only Incarnal instrument not meant only as a violent tool.

On the Duchess’s right hand, a circular device stays attached. At the Duchess’s will, it will spin and unravel twine invisible to most. The twine can split and separate into multiple ends to attach, encompass, or tether to anyone, like a spider’s web or a puppet’s strings. The Duchess can then physically utilize the twine to entrap a person and contort their body, or she can tap into their nervous system, and manipulate their feelings and thoughts. She can lay the twine down with mere flicks of her finger across several feet, and can attach them to bend and form as if hanging from objects that aren’t there. She planned to use this against the servant Strach, had the Lord not intervened.

The Duchess of Desire will lay her twine for Lord Dread to walk through and unknowingly become entangled in when he enters Lady Love’s tent. While the Lady does what is planned, the Duchess can manipulate his nervous system to arouse and manipulate his feelings even once he leaves the Lady. This is more so how she plans to drive the Lord towards lust, and thus show to herself that she is not losing her touch.

I’ve witnessed wars be waged with less planning and plotting than what the Lady and Duchess are putting into the Lord’s supposed therapeutic temptation. It’s the most interesting thing currently happening during the war nonetheless.

Then the time comes, and everything is set. The Lady waits that night in her larger tent with a meal she prepared for both her and her Lord. Unknown to her, the Duchess has placed her twine in the entrance, the Lord cannot enter without walking through them.

The Lady takes up the beer mug in her hand to see if it smells any different than usual. It may seem strange, but during her tryst with the Duke of War she found she quite liked the taste, and the act of making the drink. She finds it to smell as much like beer as it should.

Then she continues to wait, and wait, and wait. The night grows into adulthood, and the Lord has not yet returned.

She knows that her Lord did not return and forget, as she would have heard the marchings of many knights, but she did not hear that. She begins to worry whether or not the battle against Lord Guilt still goes on, and if it may not be going in Lord Dread’s favor.

Lady Love banishes the thought from her mind, she has seen her Lord in battle, and believes him to have no equal. To defeat such a beast in combat one must rely on dirty tricks and unfair tactics. She naively forgets that such things are commonplace in war.

She forgets the phrase she once coined, all’s fair in love and war, and purposely ignores the fact that the Lady Hate almost bested him.

Admittedly though, to worry would not do the Lady any good, so perhaps her naivety is preferred to sullen anxiety, and when the dark of the night becomes the dark of the morning, the Lady’s worries start to seep to their surface.

The Duchess of Desire on the other hand, thinks to look where the Lord is, and finds him to be on his way, neither victorious nor driven by loss. Lord Dread’s army had slain all of Lord Guilt’s servants, but the Lord was nowhere to be seen, and with that fact hanging over Lord Dread’s head, he ponders what can come next.

The Duchess watches upon the Lady’s tent yards away, watching and waiting, playing with her twine in anticipation.

The Lord finally comes with his men, marching them back and sending them to rest for the next day, and nevertheless, dissipating and appearing before the Lady’s tent. He considers the idea that she may be slumbering, but after hearing the ruffles inside, he knows his Lady is awake.

The Lord opens the flap, and reveals his presence. “I apologize my Lady, the battle lasted longer and proved more difficult than I should have allowed.” The Lady begins to deny a need for such apologies as the Lord walks in, and steps through the Duchess’s twine.

The Lord stops, and he knows instantly what surrounds him. Before the Lady can stand, his form dissipates into his black smoke to materialize in his seat in front of her, releasing himself of the Duchess’s clutches.

The Duchess knows what he has done to her twine, and for some reason develops a devious grin. He does not reveal the Duchess’s use of the Passion to the Lady, seeking to learn more himself, and tells the Lady, “I did not want you to have to rise. Surely, you must be tired.”

“That’s sweet of you,” the Lady assures him, and asks him how the battle went, noticing his lack of wounds and being thankful for such.

Her Lord begins to explain to her how the battle has left things, though unbeknownst to her, he appears in another place, as a ghostly and threatening spectre, taking advantage of an ability to be in as many places as he wants at once.

The Lord’s second manifestation appears before and above the Duchess herself, with a look of vengeance in his eye. While the original maintains a conversation with his Lady, the second questions the Duchess in a threatening tone, “What is it that you think you are doing, Desire? Did you honestly believe you could manipulate me?” Then he notices something strange about how the Duchess casually sits before him, looking at her fingernails as if he weren’t fully prepared to behead her. “Why are you grinning like you’re Evil?”

The Duchess sighs and stands to her feet, showcasing a sense of casual confidence in her form. As she crosses her arms, she sends forth an expression of pity, but also that she knows something he doesn’t, and that bothers him.

With condescension in her tone, the Duchess tells the Lord, “Calm yourself, I’m no fool. I knew you wouldn’t fail to recognize the Passion as soon as some twine touched you. I wanted your attention to help you with your Lady.” While her added emphasis meant to tease him does not go unnoticed, he ignores it.

Lord Dread responds in kind. “My Lady and I are making pleasant conversation, so please do tell, why would I want your help.”

The Duchess’s smile cracks as she tries to prevent herself from laughing. She openly mocks the Lord by pointing out, “You think war and killing is pleasant conversation for a Lady such as Love? You are quite a dunce sometimes aren’t you?”

The Lord’s head actually recoils in confusion, not understanding the Duchess’s the point, though he must secretly see some truth to her words already if he hasn’t struck her for her insults.

When the Duchess notices that the Lord isn’t catching on, she explains, “Just listen. I’ve watched you and Love go back forth for a day, and I can already see the cracks. For one thing she’s trying to get me to manipulate you so you have a pleasure servant, believing you to be too stressed. Then because she’s a pacifist, she finds your violent tendencies unhealthy.”

Now the Lord is quite shocked, realizing that his current conversation with his Lady is not doing him any favors.

The Duchess notices the realization on his face and pounces on it. “Yes, Lord Dread, realize the hole you are digging for yourself right now. Telling her about a battle that not only proved unfruitful, but stress inducing, is only strengthening her conviction. You need to be careful, because Lady Love tends to do what she doesn’t always do best, and that’s care for the ones she loves especially.”

“If you would,” the Lord begins ask in a more humble tone, a cough into his hand, “explain to me what you and my Lady are doing?”

“Of course, dear Lord,” she begins sarcastically, “the Lady, wanted me to help drive you mad with arousal, hoping to force you to create a pleasure servant, because she believes that based on her own experience that one will help you. Of course, you’re not exactly like the rest of us so that won’t work even if you do as she tinks. That much is clear since you haven’t noticed the corset she’s wearing, one I picked that out, along with the formula in your beer, which is fake.”

The Lord becomes confused, pondering why the Duchess would lie and betray the Lady’s trust, and also not follow through in their attempt to manipulate him. “Why are you revealing all this to me instead of helping the Lady?”

“Because it’s stupid,” the Duchess states boldly and with no hesitation. “While I understand her reasoning, this whole plan of hers is stupidly convoluted and pointless. You two must simply talk and compromise if you want her to be happy and not pester you like the most anxious of housewives.”

Calling his Lady a housewife, prompts a strange and embarrassing twitch across the Lord’s face. Then with a sigh and a simmering temper, the Duchess offers a bit of specific advice. “Ask her why she wants what she wants, and find a way to meet her halfway. Pretending your problem doesn’t exist, whether it does or not, is not how you handle a woman’s ‘pestering.’” She puts air quotes around that. “Quite the wrong way actually.”

The Lord brings his hand to his chin, and ponders the Duchess words with much thought. He grumbles and grimaces, then after seconds of silence, admits, “I fear you’re right… and she’s not pestering me.

No, of course, you like the attention, and why wouldn’t I be right? It’s not like I’m Love’s closest friend, or another woman. I guess there’s no reason I should know what I am talking about,” the Duchess remarks with more condescension.

The Lord glares and reminds her, “Watch your tone. I’m thankful for this conversation, but your assistance does not earn you the right to speak to me however you want.”

The Duchess of Desire rolls her eyes and turns her back to the Lord. She sarcastically apologizes, “My sincerest of sincere apologies, Lord Dread. Maybe you should get back to giving your Lady all of your attention instead of wasting my time.”

Lord Dread growls quietly in anger, but knows better than to attempt a battle of insults with this Duchess. Right this second, the second Lord dissipates and takes this new information to the original Lord, who’s finishing his retelling of the battle to his Lady.

After listening to him finish, Lady Love with a look of great concern asks, “My Lord, are you sure you are alright? Maybe have a drink? I made it myself.”

Sitting on his pillow, one leg over the other, the Lord sighs and rubs his forehead. He speaks truthfully to the Lady, “My Lady, I know what you and the Duchess are trying to do, or what the Duchess pretends to do.” The Lady immediately makes a look of fear and shock, worried that the Lord may feel betrayed or even angry with her friend. The Lord continues to inform, “She told me all about your plan and how you worry for me. Why do you want me to have what she called a pleasure servant? I’m not sure sexual relations will do for me what you think it will.”

The Lady first grimaces as she realizes that her friend sold her down the river, but realizes that she has been caught and must explain herself.

“My Lord, I realize the connotation that goes with the term, ‘pleasure servant,’ but that’s not their whole point. After being with someone in such a way you come to trust them. I’ve entrusted so many personal thoughts to my servant, Amour. After such throes, I’m reminded that I feel safe speaking my mind to him, having someone to trust. We all need someone to give us their shoulder.”

The Lord asks the Lady, “I think I understand how this servant is for more than just pleasure, but if you feel I need someone talk to, why not have me talk to you? Or do I make you uncomfortable?” The Lord worries that the Lady does not wish to have such a friendship with him, and fears a response of fear or uncomfortableness.

Instead, the Lady smirks and questions the Lord, “As much as I would love to be such a person for you, you and I both know you’re too masculine to trust me with your feelings.” The Lord becomes befuddled by such a strange accusation. The Lady continues, “Do not patronize me by acting as if you would really relay compromising thoughts and emotions to a Lady, a Lady you feel you must protect and shield. Because of this you wouldn’t admit earlier that you worry for the future because of Lord Guilt. Instead, you assured me that you would find him. That’s not honesty to me or yourself.”

The Lord, upon hearing such a brazen and hearty response, shocks me to my core.

He actually smiles, just barely.

With a tone of humor, he responds, “You’re more observant than you let on, and perhaps more right than I would like.” And now the smile disappears.

“Thank you,” she says appreciatively. Then she explains, “Because you cannot be honest with me in such a way, does not mean you can’t be honest to another. Someone who you can trust to keep your secrets, someone you know you owe nothing to, someone who will actually know you.”

The Lord guesses that, “You think I should have a therapeutic servant. Someone I can tell my,” then with hesitation, “worries.” The Lady contains her grin over how he almost admitted to having fears, thus showing the problem she claims he has.

The Lady smiles more innocently and comments that, “I like that term better. And just so you know my Lord,” then she crawls over to him, to finish her sentence with a more tender connotation, “you are not the only male with this problem.

Then she leans her head against his chest, and tries to snuggle her way under the crock of his arm. “Actually, I think this the fastest I’ve heard one somewhat admit it.”

He realizes what she wants, and wraps his arm around her, slowly and with reservation, but eventually with the tenderness he believes she wants, and deserves.

She asks him with her eyes closed in contentment, “So will you do it?” Then as if appealing to his masculinity, “For me?”

I think I see another smile creeping along his lips as he knows what she is doing, but he does not.

In an interesting fashion, he asks her, “Do you want to create this servant with me?”

The Lady moves to gaze at her Lord with surprise, then with excitement. “I would love to!” Then she transitions back to lay against him, this time grabbing his arm so that it drapes over her chest, which makes him uncomfortable, feeling as if he shouldn’t be touching her in such a way. Still, he knows better than to deny her such things at this point.

With his arm draped over her, he points his finger out before him, and she grasps his hand as if she were using it as a paint brush. Unlike a generic warrior which he can summon in puff a smoke by the dozens, this one servant is going to be crafted with more thought in mind.

Lady Love asks her Lord, “Would you prefer a male or female?”

Her Lord shrugs and informs her, “I don’t have any female servants,” confirming previous suspicions. “Maybe that would make her stand out already.” The Lady smiles from ear to ear at the thought of adding some must needed diversity to the servants of Dread.

Dark shadows and smoke begin to materialize from the Lord’s hand and flow forth away from them. They swirl together in a large and misshapen mass, indistinguishable from a small black cloud. Lightning even flashes in the clouds revealing a feminine figure.

The Lady thinks to make the servant taller than her, and muscular to stand alongside Lord Dread’s fearsome knights. Her Lord instructs her, “No need to make her physically imposing. I don’t plan to have her fight if I want her to listen.” The Lady appreciates how he is actually willing to cooperate with this idea. Thus she begins to shape the servant more akin to herself rather than a warrior. She makes her her own height as well, and then wonders about her features.

The Lady asks Lord Dread, “Do you prefer long or short hair?”

“Whichever you prefer,” he offers.

The Lady sculps the servant with long hair that touches her shoulders, and pushes further past her forehead on her left side, hiding her cheek. The Lord begins to add the physical matter, which causes for the servant to grow a physical form rather then just a silhouette. The servant has her Lord’s pale skin of snow, and her eyes are similar to his. Black eyes and irises, with only white pupils.

The Lord asks his Lady, “Is there anything else you would like to add?”

“No,” the Lady replies, “I think she’s quite beautiful, and finished.” With confirmation, the Lord closes his hand into a fist, permanently bringing his power together to form the servant.

The servant forms over the ground and falls to her feet. Lady Love sits up as the Lord de-materializes to rematerialize behind his new servant, with a dark cloak to enwrap and cover her revealed form.

The servant is shaking, both with fear and cold, much like all new servants. The creation process can sometimes leave them without their body heat, but also unable to immediately understand their surroundings, especially if they are as specially made as this one.

As the Lord holds his servant still, the Lady begins to stroke the servants vibrant black hair, adding a bit of light to warmth.

The Lady shushes quietly to calm the servant. She assures the servant, “It is quite alright. Everything’s fine, no reason to be afraid. You’ll remember why you are here in a moment. Just try and remember that.” The servant stares at the Lady with a lack of understanding, and thinks to herself to try and remember. It actually takes some time, and when she thinks she knows she turns to look at her Lord.

“I am here to serve you, my Lord, in whichever way you deem,” the servant speaks as her first words.

Lord Dread helps the servant to her feet, and assures her, “I believe you will do well, and we can experiment with your purpose tomorrow. First, I must give you a name.” The servant’s eyes open wide, waiting with anticipation. It’s a very different experience for a servant to be given a name than any mortal or Incarnation. They are not born with their names as their masters were, and they are sentient and competent when they are given theirs, unlike mortals. For many servants, this is the moment their life is defined, and every single one remembers receiving their name vividly. The Lord gifts upon his servant the name, “Crainte.”

“Crainte,” she repeats her name. She looks away from her Lord to repeat it, and think of it.

The Lady compliments Crainte, saying that, “You have a very pretty name.”

Crainte replies, “Thank you, thy Lady.”

“Your welcome, but let’s allow you to rest now,” the Lady says.

As all this happens the Duchess of Desire continues to listen and spy, her expression one of pride and contentment, feeling as if accomplished with her task. She finds it no longer necessary to watch with bated breath, everything is done. She mutters to herself, “I’ve still got it.”

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