Dark Tyrant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 27 (v.1) - Darkness and Light

Submitted: October 03, 2013

Reads: 93

Comments: 1

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Submitted: October 03, 2013

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Chapter: Darkness and Light

I stared and gaped in awe and shock at Judith’s words. “You’re telling me?”

Quill’s sister sighed. “Yes, Angia, and for the last time! I’ve galloped all over the empire, spied on the enemy and slipped past death…” Judith tapped her lips. “Come to think of it…several times.”

I sucked in a breath through gritted teeth, astounded. Looking around the room, that wasn’t the only thing that I was awed by: Long, voluptuous, red velvets, lightly scented candles, plush recliners and couches, luxurious, chocolaty woods and all matter of expensive furniture. Even the huge arch that led to an enormous, palatial library was ornamental, dressed in gold leaf.

“Wow. And all from an eight-year-old!”

The messenger rolled her eyes. “I’m thirteen. Aged a week and a third ago.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “That’s insane.”

“Well, you’re sixteen and my master is only three years older,” Judith pointed out. “We all have a three years difference. My sister is fifteen and Amaria is seventeen. Many of us are teenagers, and few are verging on twenty-five.”

“I still can’t believe that’s legal!” I exclaimed.

Judith grinned. “It’s legal if the king says it is…”

I crossed my legs, brushing my hand over the patterned satin. “Speaking of His Majesty, what do you think of him?”

“Many things, but I can’t say a word against my master. It would be disrespectful. But, as you have already seen and maybe noticed, many disapprove of Brutus’ love for you and most are jealous, angry, or just plain derogatory. It’s disgusting,” She explained, her face souring at the last sentence.

“I think he’s sexy. Really sexy. And amazing.”

Judith laughed cheerily at my dreaminess, at my sigh of a head-over-heels lover. “True…true. But I’m more interested on what’s inside. A famous saying that I use when I’m looking at potential ‘mates’ is: Handsome is as handsome does.”

I raised a brow. “Never heard that one before. And mate?”

“Excuse the terminology!” Judith yelped, raising her hands in an act of innocence. “But in the end, we’re all animals. And I’m not the only one who’s had a rough time. Gods, you’ve been pulled and pushed in every direction possible! Even the man who loves you managed to give you an injury!”

I rubbed my left wrist, once more expecting to cry out at a sudden, excruciating outburst of hot, stinging pain. I remembered the screaming and Brutus’ desperation to help me, and his shock at what he’d done, and at his passionate remorse.

Yes, I agreed, this is the man I love. And what a man he is…!

“He didn’t mean it,” I mumbled, suddenly wishing to leave this room and be in Brutus’ arms, to confess his niece’s abuse and scorn. I imagined his hand running up my radius, and then my bicep, and then back down with such gentleness that it would be all I needed to start my heart in a rapid pace. I made my lustful fantasy fade and focused back on Judith.

“Whatever.” She narrowed her eyes. “You’re thinking about him, aren’t you? Naughty thoughts?”

I blushed involuntarily and against my will. “No…” I mumbled, my body heating up.

Judith stood, pointing an accusing finger at me as she grinned. “You are! What are you doing in it?”

I wasn’t exactly ready to share my private thoughts, and waved the question off, rising. “I’m sure the fort needs my potential to do duties. It was lovely conversing with you. See you later Judith!”

I rushed forward, only managing to sidestep the messenger’s hook through my arm. I sprinted down the corridor into complete darkness. Though I expected her to, Judith didn’t follow me and I wandered aimlessly through the black of early night. Suddenly, my foot caught on a rock and I tripped, falling down through blackness. I stretched my hands out, but the impact caused the sharp points of gravel to pierce my palm. I threw out a round of hushed curses at the numb pain, before realising I needed someone to come and rescue me from the quiet, eerie night.

“Help! Someone! Hello?” My shouts rang like echoes as I searched for some sign of human flesh. Something crawled gingerly up my hand.

Sp—sp—SPIDER! Everyone screamed mentally, and I joined in their terror, ripping out a high-pitched shriek.  How I wish for Brutus’ hold now! I thought desperately, the thing scuttling off. I’d do anything for him!

Light suddenly flickered across my face, a guard’s expression both cautious and concerned as he knelt down for a better view. “Lady, are you fine?”

I am now that you’re here, I wanted to exclaim with joy, but life doesn’t always go by the script and my supposed overjoyed thanks came out as a rude, “Do I look fine?”

The guard apparently didn’t learn sarcasm at school and grinned. “Very beautiful, miss.”

I sighed, covering up a potential round of giggles. “Can you help me up? I think I’m bleeding.”

“Of course, lady,” The guard agreed, setting down the torch a meter away and scooping me up. He used his head to gesture back to our only source of light, flames flickering gently, the affect comforting. “Could you lead the way? Hold the torch?”

I extended a hand and clasped the wooden stick, raising it. “Will do!”

He rose and I counted this as at least the third person that had carried me recently in their arms. There was Amaria, this man and Brutus…My heart ached, as I stared at the guard’s upheld face, his eyes sweeping at what the light revealed and further on, and I somehow hoped that he would change into those beautiful, heavenly features, calm, loving deep-green eyes and hair so black I wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from the star-absent night sky. He looked back at me with hazel eyes, the colour of honey. “Now, assuming from the sword and battle-dress, you’re with His Majesty, correct?”

The voices scoffed, Oh, yes, she’s with His Most Sexy And Amazing Majesty! Ooo la, la!

I pushed them aside, answering with my own sensibility. “Yes, thank you sir. Could you take me to the entrance?”

He shook his head, setting me down at the top of some marble steps dug into the gravel, taking the torch, but replacing it with another. He pointed past my shoulder. “See over there? The corridor leads to the Grand Hallway. Stick to the left side, between the columns and the wall and take the second corridor. That leads to the kitchens and then the dining rooms. The soldiers are eating dinner now.”

“Thank you,” I nodded, but turned around after my first step. “Do you know where the king is?”

The armoured guard narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What’s the king to you?”

Should I tell him? I asked, looking for an answer. I pressed my lips. “He…would—er, he needs to see me!” I spluttered.

The guard took me in, his eyes drifting up and down. “Tell me your name or we’ll see if the king really needs you.”

Dare to arrest her and I’ll make you feel the pain! The Voices growled.

I stepped back, raising my arms to prove I was no harm, dropping the torch. “Please, sir.” I widened my eyes as he unsheathed his sword; the tip pointed a few centimetres from my chest. “I mean no harm.”

The guard stepped forward as I took another nervous shuffle back. “The king doesn’t appreciate intruders,” he continued distrustfully.

I stuttered, “I’m not lying!” over his “The Ethropians are willing to make soldiers into traitors if it means victory…”

The guard growled quietly. “Then tell me this, soldier.” He said the word like it was a joke when applied to describe me. “What does six, one, eight and five mean?”

My mind scrambled. “Honestly, I’m with the king! You said it yourself!”

“That was before I realised this potential treachery! Now answer!”

“Uh…twenty?”

The guard lunged forward with angry triumph, and started dragging me. I didn’t fight—instinct told me he was taking me to my lover. “You’d better be scared, missy! His Majesty has no mercy for traitors!”

He led me through the corridors and up stairs, and as he took me higher through the fort the surroundings grew ever more extravagant.

“Where are you taking me?” I cried in an effort to satisfy his expectation that I was terrified.

“Not so keen to see the king now?” The guard smirked. I figured that he’d been standing around dead-bored and his sudden ‘discovery’ that I was a ‘traitor’ had made his night. We approached two more soldiers that I recognised from the second cohort.

One raised a brow. “Well, well. Would you look at this! Miss Temptress has got herself into trouble…again.”

The guard holding me looked baffled. “What are you talking about? She’s a traitor!”

Both the male soldiers grinned, gesturing to the door. “Oh, yes she’s a traitor!” One exclaimed with a hint of sly, the other one continuing, “Take her to her judgement...”

The doors swung open to reveal a huge hall, rosewood panelling the two story high walls, candlelight glowing around the walls, with rows, upon rows of mahogany bookcases filled to the brim with organised scrolls and books. “Move girl!”

I stepped forward several paces, the only entrance swinging shut. We were moving rapidly towards a huge desk positioned so that the person sitting could look out of a large, curtained bay window. And sitting at the desk…

“You dare enter without my permission?” My lover growled furiously to the window.

“I have found a traitor, my liege,” The guard explained hopefully, as if he was silently begging Brutus would give him some kind of credit.

I could feel his amused and sceptical smirk as the king rose and spun around, setting down a very complicated looking piece of paper—but I couldn’t tell since he was at least thirty meters away. His gaze settled on me, his eyes instantly laughing hysterically, yet he kept a displeased expression. “Traitor? Thank you, Cameron. I will deal with this traitor.”

Cameron shoved me forward and bowed, backing out. I stumbled at the sudden movement, my body and mind unprepared. “Come, you disgusting thing!” Brutus growled angrily.

I looked up, my chest crying and feeling like wolves were biting out chucks of my heart viciously. “What did you say?” I croaked nervously, praying that my ears where malfunctioning.

“I said come, ass!”

I gasped in shock, dropping to my knees at the aching emotion. Now, I knew, that my tears had no limit as for at least the thousandth time I broke down.

“Brutus…” I shook my head, staring at the timber, continuing at a whisper. “Please. Takeitback…”

His footsteps were barely audible, but they were there and I heard them. He knelt and kissed me with obvious apology before I could pull away at his nerve—how dare Brutus attempt to kiss me—and succeed at that!—after such insults!

“I’m so sorry, my love, but the guard was listening. He needed to know that I was dealing He said the word with such flirtatiousness that it made my heart flutter “—with such a naughty girl…"

My pulse sprinted, temperature rising. “Oh,” I whispered huskily, “That explains a lot.”

Brutus’ gaze was unwavering, so intent as he stared deeply with rich green irises and gentle, protective love.  My lover’s caress was so subtle and feathery, so different to the once hard, cold and cruel tyrant I’d once known.

Is Amaria right? I thought, against all of the disagreeing voices. I mean, am I changing Brutus? Is his love for me now not only for me?

I was slightly baffled at the odd question that probably needed rewording, but I refocused back on the surreal and angelic face that was so close and tempting. “Sweet, angel, you know I would never try to hurt you—purposely, of course. My love is for your protection, and to never harm you. I never meant any of those repulsive and derogatory words—they are saved for my most loathsome enemies.”

“Of course, Brutus,” I agreed, as it was the only thing I could really do. “Where are we? This fort is huge!”

The king laughed softly, like a snicker. “Yes, Angia, it is. And for reasons that you aren’t entitled to know…” The corners of his lips upturned slyly, “Yet.” Heat shot through me as I listened, even more so when Brutus placed his hand on my neck, his thumb on my lips.

Gosh, he’s sexy! The voices moaned, enjoying the sexual pleasure as much as I was. I bit flirtatiously on the offered thumb; it was something I couldn’t resist. The playful gesture brought the slightest curve to Brutus’ lips.

The lips! The lips! Oh, such supple and seductive lip! I heard them exclaim yearningly.

“This is my office. I hope you like it.”

I took another awed glance at my surroundings, instantly agreeing. “Oh, yes! It’s very…lavish.”

“I know,” the king said approvingly, as if he too was impressed.  “Now let me ask, how come you visited me in such a—” Brutus paused as if he was rethinking the scene for his own amusement “—surprising way?”

“What does six, one, eight and five mean?” I asked to his confusion, but my lover answered anyway.

“Hawk. Why—”

Hawk?” I asked, completely lost.

Brutus stroked my lips, smiling in apology. “Of course my guards would ask that question; of course you wouldn’t know the answer. My love, there is a secret code that I designed and use for reasons such as what that guard just did. Many of my soldiers are only fluent with the basics. It is my mistake that you are unaware of this—I will have to teach you one day.”

“Am I allowed one more random question?”

He laughed softly, yet his eyes seemed to never want to leave my nervous gaze.

Which is silly, because I have no logical reason to be nervous around such a perfect being.

And then I realised my mistake too late.

A voice cried, Ha! Knew it! Told you he was perfect! I won the bet, I won, I won, I won the bet!

I groaned mentally, but didn’t care as that meant one extra kiss with Brutus before I died.

“Go ahead.”

I choked on the words I was going to say, double-checking my emotional state. He continued to stare with hints of worry, but proved his anxiety with a suspicious who’s insulted and/or assaulted you now? brush of my cheek.

“All right…Brutus,” My lip trembled and I was reminded of how easily I could break down. The memory of Amaria’s hubristic, I’m-better-than-you-and-get-used-to-it stare didn’t make my emotions any happier.

“Sweet, calm down. What’s troubling you?” King Brutus asked—I purposely placed the term to assure me that I was in love and had the protection of the most powerful man in the empire; perhaps even in the world.  

I took a breath, taking his advice. The whole world seemed to be staring at me, and I imagined the walls closing in…I squeezed my eyes shut to kill the thought.

“Brutus, Amaria hurt my feelings.” I confessed sadly. “She told me to stay away from you. She kneed me in the stomach and she said I was a ‘lower-class dimwit.’” I waited for the rage, the burning, hating anger to surface in his eyes. And I continued to wait. All I got was a exasperated sigh, and added hopefully, “She also said you wanted to marry me!”

Brutus laughed seriously, yet his gesture of playful affection contradicted his tone. “I believe love is meant to last; leaving you would be like suicide, and personally, I hope to live as long as I can.”

“Does that mean you do want to marry me?” I pressed, the full meaning of the term queen finally dawning. Queen meant female ruler. Queen meant power. Queen meant that not even Quill or Amaria could touch me. Queen meant that Jarma would obey me. And most importantly, queen meant being wife to Brutus; being in an inseparable relationship with the only man—and king, at that—I’d ever love—we would be joined, bonded by our moments together and reminded by our love.

Brutus slid his hand to the back of my neck and guided me in for a kiss. Desire rippled through me, feeling both as forceful as a tsunami and as gentle as a lapping wave. His touch was so tender, so careful and caring; something that never wished to inflict any type of harm to me. His kiss was so protective and loving, something that made me feel safe and fuzzy inside. I didn’t need sight to know he was there, to know how he felt about me—in fact I didn’t need anything but his powerful love, something that vowed to cherish me. I pulled away, opening my eyes; Brutus’ were open too, watching for any other sign in my eyes besides desire and yearning. He stood, pulling me up with him, holding my shoulders at arms-length, face-to-face. Once again, at proper view, I was filled with awe, surprise and lust staring at such perfect features.

“Love,” Brutus started grimly, giving me the full power of his piercing gaze. I now understood why he held me—if he didn’t, I’d quickly cringe away from such an overwhelming, shocking lime green; I was so hypnotised by the surreal colour. “War comes in a few hours—the real thing, sweet—and already you’ve put yourself at harm. Already I’ve considered forbidding you—”

“NO!” I shouted indignantly, both furious at this choice and fearful of the taunting opportunity for Quill.

My lover placed his forefinger to my lips—I resisted the insane urge to kiss it. Out of the corner of my ear, I could hear faint shouting from three voices.

Listen. I will not do this,” Brutus explained, smiling at my relaxation from relief, “But you must—and I mean that when I say it—keep out of any opportunity for harm. I cannot be with you at all tonight—as I need to finalise our strategy, etcetera and discuss with council—but if you wish, you may sleep in my study. If anyone touches you, let me know.”

I was about to answer when, with a final angry shout, the doors were flung open, crashing against the stone walls. Brutus pulled away, manoeuvring around me and glaring at who ever had the audacity to enter. “Marius, leave. Now.”

Fear stalked me, but stayed where it should—on the sidelines. I stepped nervously and gingerly around, peering around my lover’s gold-leafed-armoured figure. Marius’ eye caught the movement and grinned, that characteristic sadistic glimmer in his eyes. He then focused back on his master. “Apologies, my liege, but I was wondering where you—” He raised a brow in amusement “—both had gone. It seemed I just disrupted a romantic moment.”

Brutus folded his arms. “I have ordered you to leave. You will do so immediately.”

Marius nodded, stepping towards me despite my lover’s snarl; it seemed he was well aware of Marius’ history with me. I assessed the commander suspiciously, taking in the silver breastplate and blue cape. “Of course, sire. But let me speak to your lady, please.”

Brutus started to object with exasperation, but I interrupted, stepping forward to his side and staring eye-to-eye at the commander, unfazed and unafraid. The king’s hand rested protectively on my left kidney, his muscled arm starching across my behind, almost supporting me.

“My king, do not worry,” I assured him, using the formality to make it fair for Marius, “He wouldn’t dare harm me while in your presence. You wouldn’t, would you commander?”

Marius raised his hands, shaking his head to prove he meant no harm. “Of course not, Angia,” he muttered, Brutus pulling me gently closer at the mention of my name. “I only wish to speak with you and then I will leave. I do hope that Your Majesty is going to be ready for council.”

Brutus kissed me almost possessively on my hair, not diverting his eyes away from his commander’s face. “Come right back to me,” he whispered, before releasing me.

Marius started off, walking around to the backboard of one the five-meter high bookcases, leaning on one. I followed and approached him with equal suspicion and caution, feeling Brutus’ watchful sight. “Marius, I don’t know what this is about but—”

The commander looked at the rich floorboards, shaking his head sadly. What in the name? I cried, utterly bewildered, The Voices agreeing.

“Angia, I am terribly, terribly sorry for those months that you suffered whilst in that cage under my authority. I am ashamed of this; in fact—and I know that this will be a big ask—” he met my gaze hopefully, four eyes: green and blue“—would you forgive me for that?”

I sucked in a quiet breath, astounded and taken aback. The scars suddenly flared and I was on fire all over, hearing the screams, the desperate begging and remembering all too well of my torturous experience as a slave: From the day I first met the cage to the day I broke and escaped the chains and Hisca. Funnily enough, it seemed I had grown some kind of ‘compass’ for Brutus, and I picked up his anxiousness and worried, slightly rapid breathing. A pained yelp escaped me as I cringed and suddenly pale, strong arms encircled my waist and pulled me against their torso. The king assessed what had happened before leaning down to my ear. “Sweet, I can send him away if it’s making you uncomfortable,” Brutus whispered so that only I could hear.

I replied gently back, staring into Marius’ hopeful and regretful expression. But not to my lover. “Of course I will forgive you, commander,” My smile-accompanied acceptance brought relief to him, but I added, “But you will need to work it off. That was four and a half months of torment and torture, you sadistic thing—” Brutus kissed my ear to sooth the unnecessary anger, Marius pressing his lips together in shame“—and because of that, I’m literally scared for life! I will give you credit for your nerve, but you’re exactly right when you say it’s a big ask! I vowed in that cage I would make all of you—you and your disgusting bastard-arse soldiers—pay, and I’m still holding onto that vow! Looks like you just basically begged for it! So, listen here—” I jabbed a finger at him, infuriated “—mister! You’re forgiven, all right, but for the next five months after we return to Jamarnia, you’re working in that boiler room with all the criminals—because that’s what you are to me! You broke countless laws decreed by His Majesty, and abused me mercilessly! You forced me into backbreaking work and whipped me for the smallest reasons!” I took a deep breath, finished with my screamed argument.

Brutus waved away Marius, raising an impressed brow. “Thank you,” he said, adding, “both.”

Marius inclined his head and rushed out, completely shocked.

After the doors banged shuts, Brutus cracked up, his booming, heart fluttering, hysterical laughing echoing around the lavish study. I spun around, staring with a creased forehead to express to him my bemusement. “I will remind myself to not get on your bad side!”

I didn’t bother to supress my grin, a quiet, girlish giggle joining my lover. “As will I!”

The laughter cut instantaneously. “Angia, you know that you are always in my favour.”

I blushed at his fondle of my jawline. “That’s nice to know, considering your authority and status.”

“Marius was right when he said that he just disrupted us…” Brutus smirked, my heart drumming.

“No, no,” I retorted slyly back, “You said you were just about to leave!”

We never get a break! A voice moaned, followed by grumbling of agreement, but that soon morphed in cheering and celebration at Brutus’ answer: “We have time.”

But I enjoyed making those Voices suffer and pulled away. “No we don’t!” I yelled triumphantly, much to Brutus’ amusement, setting off towards the doors. “Your council needs you!”

But—curse him!—my lover swept me swiftly off my feet and threw me over his shoulder.  I shrieked in protest, banging my hands playfully on his back. “You little monster! Let me go!”

The king’s firm hands held onto my legs as he jogged away from the only exit. All of the voices cheered, and despite my scolding and scowling, I was amused at imagining them partying like giddy drunkards. 

Brutus chuckled as I breathed in his delicious, exotic scent—the smell of chocolate, mint, lily and other extremely pleasurable, sensuous smells, including his own fragrance. “Sweet, please. Don’t make me lovesick.”

“Let me go, you horrible—”

“Don’t get offensive, love,” Brutus laughed, gently pulling me off his shoulder and placing me sitting on his opulent, superior, mahogany-like desk.

The king noticed my enchanted expression and provided, “It’s kingwood, Angia. Very prized, very rare and very expensive.”

I met his gaze and picked up a complicated-looking map, completely lost as I studied the neat drawings, arrows, jargon and elegant, tight writing. I gestured to the script. “What does ‘distraction’ mean?”

Brutus smirked, amused, and leaned over. “It’s when you are attacking the enemy on two fronts—first, front on, and while the enemy is ‘distracted’, another unit attacks on the rear, and from there you can surround and trap them.”

I raised a brow in appreciation, nodding to express that I understood. In my mind, I could imagine it: Brutus charging into battle riding Nightmare, looking glorious, his sword bloodied and stained red from the spilling throats of the enemy. I gave a final examination of the map before I replaced it with a much larger sheet. “And this?” I asked, much to Brutus’ amusement.

“Deception. It’s when the attacking force aims to trick the enemy into a false belief that can be used for military advantage.”

I looked away from the drawn-out strategy into his intelligent eyes, then back down the penned text, my sight running over his elegant, swift writing. “You’re very good.”

“I must be. Before you entered, I was finalising and reviewing a strategy that enabled many successes while I was conquering. Perhaps I may be able to subdue Ethropia in a few hours.”

I was angry at this suggestion, and slid off the edge, Brutus taking in my obvious protest. “You can’t do that! When you conquered Simeona, I lost everything!”

The king tugged my chin up gently, his kiss so seductively soft. “And yet we both gained so much more. Please relax,” he reminded me, stepping away a reluctant half step. “I will have a quilt and dinner delivered to you.” Brutus took my hand, playing with my fingers. “Until battle, love. Remember that oath…”

My hand fell to my side and my lover rushed out, the huge doors crashing shut. Alone, I tried looking out of the bay window, but soon grew bored and randomly picked a bookshelf.

Might as well see how good Jarmanish literature is. The shelves towered high, and I got a sudden fear that the colossal bookcase would topple over and crush me. Shaking my head to rid myself of that childish fear, I picked a random scroll, unravelling it carefully in my fingers. Bold, messy script caught my attention:

~

24th of Felpria, Nine-two-seven Morgen. 

City of Simeona (Capital of Simeona, kingdom of Simeon)

[please note that the author of this recording has rewritten the particular event with the correct protocol.]

The invasion has proved very successful.

Today, His Majesty, King Brutus, christened his empire, Jarma, meaning ‘gem’. Many Simeons attempted rebellion, but they were either subdued or massacred swiftly. As the attack on Simeona (both the capital and nation) leaned towards my king’s victory, [during the executions] a man interfered, attempting to attack King Brutus. Of course, this was in vain and this act was out of desperation. The man was captured. I took special care in recording the punishment. Brutus personally took care of the man (this took place in the lower dungeons of King Simeon’s palace):

(Please note that only the dialogue is recorded, with the exclusion of what I consider important events)

Brutus: Are you scared, man? Are you afraid of your sovereign?

Man:  No, because you will never be a sovereign.

(Comments like this often please the king as he gets the opportunity to inflict harm)

Brutus: Are you afraid now? Or maybe I will have to find some leverage?
Man: I have nothing for you to blackmail me with.

Brutus: Oh really?

(A young boy is dragged into a separate cell suddenly, much to the man’s shock. He keeps screaming, bawling and begging.)

Brutus: Such a beautiful child. Is he your son?

Man: It doesn’t matter! There is nothing you can get from me!

Brutus: Yes there is: the pleasure of torturing you. The people WILL obey me! Are there any others in your family?

Man: You won’t touch them!

Brutus: So there are.

I do not have enough paper to explain all of the scene, however, much was discovered through this man, such as the location of his village, Namira, which was soon burned and attacked—many were killed in this with the exception of one, an adolescent girl—several weeks later—

~

The paper clattered to floor as I stared and gaped in shock. Adolescent girl, I repeated. He’s talking about me, me!

I jumped as the doors opened, a young man entering. He looked at least fourteen, my eyes registering his servants uniform along with fiery-red hair flaming off his scalp, pale (but not as pale as my lover’s) skin, his thin arms carrying a thick quilt and pillow in front of him as he advanced quickly toward me. I hastily re-rolled the scroll and returned it to its ‘friends’, mentally laughing darkly at the term I used.

“The king has requested I bring you these,” The servant explained as if I was unaware.

I smiled brightly at him, my shock fading. “Thank you very much.”

He assessed me curiously, placing down the fabric. “What are you doing here anyway? It’s His Majesty’s study.”

This is where it got awkward. I shifted my weight. “I…prefer it. Books, literacy—helps me sleep.”

“Whatever,” the servant boy waved me off, raising a sceptical brow. As if out of thin air, his large hands handed me a bowl. “Though, I must say, you’ve performed a miracle—that’s camerole, a rarely prepared delicacy because of how difficult it is to make and to gather the ingredients. The king only favours someone like that in a million years.”

I disciplined my blush and took the soup, my senses swooning ecstatically at the aroma. “Again, thanks.”

“Don’t thank me, I didn’t give you this. If I was allowed, that camerole wouldn’t exist.” He patted his stomach, handing me a spoon. “Enjoy.”

The servant spun on his heels and left, taking long, brisks strides. After the wooden doors closed shut, I hastily satisfied my yearning and plunged the spoon in, the stream condensing on the metal and my fair-skinned hand. The spoon slipped through my full lips, flavours instantly making me moan in pleasure. It seemed the metal cutlery wasn’t enough and I abandoned the idea, throwing down the spoon and angling the bowl high, the hot, luxurious taste both heaven and hell on my tongue—the flavour was indescribably unique and glorious, while the temperature stung and burned horribly. Even so, in a matter of record time, I had finished the dish, much of it dripping down my cheeks and chin. My tongue desperately tried to collect the stray liquid, but with much difficulty, and I finally, and reluctantly, wiped the mess away on the back of my hand. I set the empty bowl on a spare area on a shelf, before turning to the concern of sleep. My stomach was basically worshipping me for feeding it such a delight; my mouth feeling like it just tasted liquid Brutus. Though the study had a connection to my love, it still felt empty and cold—no, foreign was a more appropriate term. I inspected the sheets, wondering if some secret passage hidden in the walls of this study would lead me to a bed.

A quilt, extra blankets which I could use for a mattress and a pillow. The mental list didn’t have much on it, but it was enough—the king’s generosity for me truly never ended. I smiled, wondering what council would be like.

Maybe if—my thoughts took great notice of the ‘if’—I become Brutus’ consort, I’ll find out!

I took the blankets and unfolded them three times, and when they were stacked, I got a considerable and hopefully tolerable fifteen centimetres.  Flinging the woollen duvet over the top, I garnished my makeshift bed with the tasselled pillow. What surprised me was a small decorative note pinned on it with familiar cursive:

~

Love you. Sleep well, fight brilliantly. Night, beautiful.

~

My heart melted—Brutus thought I was beautiful!

And once he called me ‘mildly pretty’, I added in thought, kissing the text affectionately and safekeeping it inside my breastplate, flicking the pin towards the direction of the desk. Every single voice was grinning like a half-moon in ecstatic, gleeful silence. As I pulled the quilt over my lone body, my eyelids sinking, it felt as though that single, possibly meaningless note, was making everything better. 

 


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