Rating( generally): NC-17
(this chapter): PG-13
"Sapphira," a voice called, but she didn't turn around. He would come to her. "Sabrina." The drow baroness could hear the begrudgement in his voice as he used her personally chosen name. A smirk flashed on and off her face, but she still did not answer.
A tall figure leaned against the balcony, sweat pouring down her face as her gaze swept across the courtyard below. A dragon, wedged between ivory pillars and chained to the ancient ground, snarled in her direction and her shoulders tensed before she forced them to relax. With concealed effort, she retook the bored expression of before and sighed, hands cupping her cheek while she stared. A hand dropped onto her proud shoulder and she glanced at it. The slender fingers led up a dark-skinned arm to bare shoulders and the diamond choker around her brother's neck.
"Hail, Eli," she murmured without thought.
A frown graced his beautiful face, and she noted in the back of her head, albeit reluctantly, that he was even more pleasantly deposed in his features than she, with her parade of suitors and gentleman and lady callers. Elijah had callers too. Men that he ignored because he didn't want the gilded cages they offered him so politely. In her own opinion, though she never committed to one woman, he was missing out. Those ambassadors and countesses were good fun. He squeezed her shoulder and then cast the beast down below them a wary look.
"You shouldn't be here. Father doesn't like it," he said, grip tightening on the handle of the dagger he held protectively in front of him.
"Put away your blade, brother. If the beast were to escape it wouldn't do you any good, would it?" She laughed. "Or would you slice its fire with your kitchen knife?"
Elijah snorted, but stowed it away to its scabbard when she glanced away from him at the sound of the dragon's roar.
"It's not safe out here," he cautioned, but moved to stand beside her.
The scales of the dragon glistened in the sunlight, hard as diamonds and clear as water, and its nostrils flared and snorted out clouds of smoke. Its great wings flapped wildly, propelling it as far off the ground as the chains allowed and sending huge gusts of baby tornados, and its chest heaved with heavy ragged breathing. Even dragons, it seemed, didn't have infinite reserves of energy.
"It's not right you know," she said, watching it breathe fire in her direction, and knew if it had not been miles away and below them, she'd be dead. "Capturing it like this. Dragons are noble and wise, old as time."
"Not this one." Elijah jerked back at the spray of fire. "It's all wildness."
"Not by nature," she replied with passion. "If only we would let it go, if only it did not hate us to the point of murder...the things it could tell us. The things it knows."
Her brother sighed loudly and nudged the conversation in a different direction. "Besides all this pro-dragon propaganda, mother and father aren't pleased with you."
"Oh?" she asked, eyes wide and innocent as she turned to him. "Why?"
"You're debauched. The affairs and the..." He paused, mortified, and looked away from her, unable to put such a word in any association with his older sister. "...the orgies."
Even she flinched when he said it, to hear it from his tongue with such disgust, to think of what her parents thought of her, what they might've said of her.
"You say it like it's dirty."
"Because it is, Sapphira!" His voice was a bit too loud for her liking, too booming and exasperated. "The way you go on and frolick, and forget that you are a Baroness, the future Viscountess of Hatshari."
"Next to my brother the Count, I am nothing."
He swallowed down a half smile and frowned. "That is not the truth or the point and we both know it."
When she would not look at him, eyes hard and bright with shame that her parents knew, his features softened and he pushed her shoulder so that she faced him.
"Know that we love you, and want only the best. These girls, these women..." He shook his head and forced his tone into nuetrality. "They're no good for you. They won't commit to marriage, have no respect for the true religion, and..."
"And are beneath my station," she mumbled, and glowered at the ground. "I know all this."
"Then why..." His voice cracked. "...do you insist on breaking their hearts. Our hearts?" With one hand he grasped her chin and moved her head back till she stared at his eyes, and then he stepped back. He raised his other, hand twisted into the symbol of love, and he smiled sadly. "You have friends and family who love you. Don't try that and your title all away for a few flings. Abel has children to spare to carry on the line. Find a woman, if that is who you long for. Get married. No one is angry with you."
"So you say."
"So I say," he said, and opened his arms to her. "It is truth."
There was a moment where she looked at him, her face blank and eyes wet, and then she stumbled forward into his arms, sighing with relief and dismay that she did lie to him.
"Fine, brother," she lied. "I will do as you have said."
Elijah held her, closed his eyes, and mouthed a thanks to the gods. "We mean the best."