Elska-Chapter Two by Acton Bell

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"House L'u-cif-er has never handled shthor in such a way." The bland delivery of L'u-cif-er Da'anil Kaen's words was belied by the mischievous gleam in his golden eyes.
"Agreed," answered L'u-cif-er Be'eth Maran just as blandly. "But surely the prestige of House L'u-cif-er is such that it may try different things?"
Kaen's mobile lips curved upwards into a smile. "And if L'u-cif-er had no prestige at all, dear stepmother, you would insist we do this thing anyway, jaju?"
"Of course," she answered regally, before bursting into a peal of laughter. "But Kaen," she said, accepting the drink he handed her, "you do agree it will be much better for Zhazar to meet these young women here during a house party than for you to interrogate and choose one for him?"
Kaen arched an elegant brow. "'Interrogate', Maran? It's a simple interview between the fathers and the candidates." He ignored her inelegant snort of disgust and added drolly, "You survived the process."
L'u-cif-er Be'eth Maran, former pilot and second wife of the late Head of House L'u-cif-er Ini Ben, answered, "But we all know I am an extraordinary woman." Ignoring Kaen's bark of laughter she continued in a more serious tone, "You don't mind my innovation, do you Kaen?"
Kaen reached out and touched her hand, a rare gesture from her usually reserved stepson. "Minn yndi," he said, "I think it is an excellent idea. Let Zhazar meet the suitable candidates and choose one for himself. If the fodsyst complain, send them to me. I will set the aunties straight."
"Thank you," replied Maran. The fodsyst, the older women, the wives and sisters of Ini Ben, held no true power in the House, but they could make life unpleasant if they chose. Maran and her easy approach to House protocol often ran afoul of their rigid adherence to tradition. "If it comes out well for Zhazar, perhaps you...." She let the words trail off.
Kaen had taken his drink to stand by the double doors that opened onto the house's courtyard. His back was to Maran, but she could imagine the emotionless mask that had fallen over his features at her delicate hint. It was always the same when the matter of his shthor was mentioned. As Head of House L'u-cif-er, Kaen had a duty to marry and continue the line, but he refused. When the fodsyst broached the subject, he answered with "Zhazar is my heir. There is no need for another." Kaen was long past the days when his anger caused anything flammable within his range of vision to burst into flame, but should someone be unwise enough to pursue the subject he considered closed, the room would become uncomfortably warm, the air becoming almost suffocating in its heat. Maran knew something had happened at Kaen's shthor, but her husband had refused to speak of it, as had Kaen. All she knew was that the experience had scarred Kaen deeply.
Kaen wasn't without companionship. There were plenty of women, Housed, un-Housed, Byshen, Terran, and Avononian who were willing to fulfill his desires. But it seemed there were none who touched his heart.
Kaen had finished his perusal of the courtyard and turned again to face Maran, a half-mocking smile on his face.

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