Ahem. Notte’s having a really bad day. I won’t give more context for the moment. AS ALWAYS, this is unedited, so it will be messy. Apologies.
“I will end you!” I shouted to the mountains, to the distant east, from which he’d come. “I will find you! I will grow more powerful! I will find your weaknesses! I will find you and I will enter your cracks and your holes and I will tear them, I will rip them, I will hurt you until you cannot hurt anyone else again! And when you beg for mercy, I will not give it!”
In the silence that followed, my breathing was very loud.
My teeth grew cold as I pulled cool air through them. The mountains took my voice, those distant and purple walls, and I knew that somewhere, far away, Pulus felt me threaten him.
The slow sound of clapping drew my eyes down.
She stood there. The princess, the soon to be queen. Veiled as always, her eyes kohl-darkened, her form a subtle tease in her diaphanous gown. Her hair was down today – no crown, no braid – and tendrils of it escaped to frame her shoulders and cup, teasingly, the curve of her breasts. And she spoke. “Who has angered you so much, that you would sit atop my roof and threaten?”
“He is Pulus.” I snarled it, too angry for grace, crouching above her as if I were about to leap down and kill the whole city. “He took my daughter from me.”
Her eyes flicked up and down my form, pensive. “She must have been very pretty, this daughter of yours.”
“More than any other.” I crouched further, back trembling, and my fingers shattered the tiles beneath me. “She was beautiful.”
“I see.” She leaned back, the edges of her gown flitting through the finely worked brass of her balcony. “Am I as pretty?”
I scoffed at her. “No. You’re ugly, so you hide behind a veil.”
Oh, I saw the momentary tightening of her eyes, smelled the flaring spike of real anger, but she covered it. She knew, I think, that I was no man, despite the cues of my body. “And how would you know if I am ugly? You have never seen my face.”
Well, that was logic I could not dispute. I opened my mouth, hesitated, and scowled. “Then why hide it?”
“Because it is sacrilege to see,” she purred, tilting her head forward, inviting me with her entire body. “I am very beautiful.”
I saw the invitation. What to do with it… hm. “Why would anybody hide beautiful things?”
“I am sacred. I descend from the gods,” she said, and her eyes narrowed as if she smiled beneath her veil. “But I would show you.”
I recoiled. “Why?”
“Because you are special, of course,” she said, sliding her fingers through a single lock of glossy black hair that had escaped her hood. “Very special. Don’t you wish to see? To see what no one may see but you?”
Was I special? I certainly wanted to be. Of course, I also wanted to see if she were ugly. “Go ahead, then.”
She smiled, and she kept smiling as she pushed her headdress back, removing her veil, letting the wind steal it from between her outstretched fingers. And here was luscious skin smooth as melted sand and dark as the sun-baked rocks of the Sahara. Her hair caught the growing breeze and lifted, long and shining black, rich with curls and care. And her face….
My breath caught. Everything that mattered was her eyes. Her high cheekbones, her small, pointed nose and full, red lips framed them, her irises black as sin and just as knowing. Deeply, she looked inside me, a smile of promise and wonder and wickedness that teased like the smell of fresh bread, taunted like meat sizzling over a fire, beckoned like the warmth of a familiar bed on a night of great cold.
She was beautiful. For the first time since I’d lost my child, I knew there could be other beauty in the world. And fool that I was, youngling that I was, I fell.