“Dreams aren’t bad, I had turned back
I love the girl
But God only knows it’s
Getting hard to see the sun coming through
I love you…
But what are we going to do?
Picture I’m a dreamer
I’ll take you deeper
Down to the sleepy glow
Time is a low...
Don’t you know?
What are we going to do?”1
I could feel the moment cinch up around my neck like a noose, making my breath hitch in my throat. Rivulets of sensation trailed under my skin, making my hair rise.
I leaned against the door, and some merciful spirit must have passed, because I was able to take another breath. My eyes batted as I saw Elmiryn lean over the edge of the small brass tub, the water sloshing around her curved hips. Her hair dripped all over the floor, but she didn’t seem to care. She just smiled at me. Her breasts pressed up and together against the tub’s side like suggestive pillows. The slope of her back caught the candlelight, and I could see the top of her soft rump peeking from the water. There were bruises on her sun-kissed skin, dark and yellowed around the edges. The marks of her hazardous life. Tragic, proud badges of survival. I even found myself wishing I could bear those marks with her.
I managed to raise my gaze.
Elmiryn’s smile turned wolfish. “Hi,” she said.
I grinned shakily, trying to keep my eyes on hers. “Hi.”
She tilted her head to the side. “It feels like it’s been ages, hasn’t it?”
I let out a hysterical giggle as I slid to the floor. I saw less of her down there, and felt it easier to concentrate. I let my legs stretch out, feet apart, and blew at my bangs. “I…yes. Sweet Aelurus, yes.”
Elmiryn frowned softly at me, but her smile remained in place. “You okay, Nyx?”
“That’s…” I shook my head, my grin widening. “That’s such a complicated question.”
“Being ‘okay’ can be interpreted any number of ways. In answering, a person can mean that they are really perfectly comfortable, or it could mean that they are every bit shaken up. It could mean, ‘I can stuff down my feelings and pretend for now.’ Or it could mean…nothing. A sort of automatic response to an automatic question.” I rubbed at my eyes. “Are you okay? Am I okay? Who knows.”
Elmiryn chuckled as she laid her head on her arms. My eyes fluttered at the sight of her long slim neck exposed. “I guess, given all that’s happened, that was too simple a question. It’s like asking a newborn what their life will amount to.”
I pouted at her, letting my lopsided bangs slip forth again. “I’m hardly a newborn.”
“No.” The woman blinked slowly at me, her smile turning warm. “Yet I love to call you ‘kitten’.”
“Despite my protests.”
“Which I’ve heard less and less of lately.” The woman’s lip curled mischievously as she raised her head and tapped her chin. “Hmm…fancy that!”
“To wit, the Lady Picaroon doth makes off with all hope of protest,” I said wryly.
Elmiryn laughed. “Ah! I’m a lady now?”
I displayed my own version of a smirk. “I refrain from comment.”
The warrior wagged a finger at me. “You can be quite the tease.” When we got through giggling, she took a breath and sat up straighter.
Over her hands, which gripped the bath tub, I could see just a flash of her pink nipples at the edge of my vision. I swallowed and averted my eyes.
“Back to my original question,” she said. “When I first asked if you were okay, I was asking about this given moment. With me. Like this. Are you…comfortable?”
I didn’t even hesitate. I gave a quick shake of my head. “No, I’m not.”
I could see Elmiryn’s eyebrows go up high from the corner of my eye.
I felt a clench of panic and looked at her in full, my tongue tripping over itself to explain. “Ah! That isn’t to say–I mean–It’s perfectly–ah–okay…not being okay. So…S-So I’m okay, being…n-not okay with you. To be okay all the time either means you’re apathetic, unaware, or…dead.” I became aware of her chest again and looked away once more. My face turned hot. “Right now, I know, I’m really not dead!”
“Well! Aren’t you in a curious mood?” Her voice had that promise of a laugh tucked away in it, making it jump pleasantly in my ears. Elmiryn’s voice could be many things. I’d heard the steel in it. Heard the fear, and the sadness. But when she was like this–pleasant, happy, content…there was nothing else like it. I had missed her voice so much…
I bit my lip and twirled a lock of hair around my finger. “If I’m a little odd, I think I have a reason for it. I just rode in on a dragon’s back, after all.”
The woman let out a whistle and laid her head on her arms again, effectively removing the sight of her chest. “Lots of thin air up there, then?”
I looked at her, relieved…and a bit disappointed. “Enough to make you lose your mind.”
“You should join my secret society of loonies, then.”
“Oh? How many members are there?”
“Including the prospective members? Uh…just me. But if you join, you could be my vice.” She leaned back in her tub, the water sloshing, her smile like a hook that drew me in. “…President, that is.”
I shook my head and covered my eyes. “You…You are…” I let out a breathy laugh.
“Beautiful, charming, witty?” Elmiryn said with a wiggle of her eyebrows. She had picked up the sponge again and resumed her grooming.
I swallowed at the saliva that had collected in my mouth and tried to dislodge the want that constricted my throat. “You’re all of those things,” I murmured, watching the sponge trail from her wrist up the length of her toned arms and back again.
The warrior paused to glance at me. She hadn’t expected me to agree with her like that, judging by the way she tugged needlessly at her ear. Her smile widened, then lessened, like a sail catching wind. “Thanks.”
My wry smile returned in full and I crossed my arms and ankles. “…You’re also perverse, cocky, and insanely aggressive.”
She pouted, and I had the crazy notion of biting her lip.
“Kitten, you wound me. Another stroke of your scornful tongue, and I’ll perish!” She slapped a hand over heart and feigned distress.
I rolled my eyes and sighed melodramatically. “Then I suppose I’ll have to nurse you back to health.”
“You’d have to take my temperature. Check my pulse. Give me medicine. Speaking of which, what would you prescribe me?”
“Leeches. Lots of leeches,” I said.
I took in my surroundings for the first time. The wash room seemed to serve a dual purpose for both laundering clothes and bathing. A mop leaned in the far corner. There was a drain near the foot of the tub. A small square mirror hung on the western wall. Shelves all around held bath salts, hair tonics, sponges, and towels. A collection of candles was lit on the end of one such shelf, to the west end of the room. A wicker basket was to my left. I suspected that was where Elmiryn’s old clothes were. There was a small window high on the southern wall, and this was opened a crack to allow somewhere for the steam to escape. A small table was pressed against the eastern wall where I saw the clothes Elmiryn had set out for herself. Intrigued, I stood, using the cushioned chair on my right to help me stand. I felt a little light headed and waited for the dots to vanish from my eyes. I made sure to keep my eyes away from the tub.
Just in time, too, because Elmiryn was reaching for her back with her sponge, which sent her chest up out of the water, and…well…
“Leeches do not sound fun, Nyx.” Elmiryn poured water over her back, filling the room with the sound. “Come on, don’t you have something better than leeches? That’s what two-bit healers use in the ghetto. Surely I’m worth better medicine than that.”
I ran my hand over the frogged coat she had lain out, my back now to her. Next to it were her other clothes–her shirt, vest, and britches. Tucked under these were fresh cloth wraps for her chest, a pair of long socks, and a slim pair of underwear. Her sword, dagger, and belt were off to the side. On the corner of the table was a heavy cotton towel. My eyes became hooded. I swallowed, flashes of her flesh haunting my mind. “…What about tender loving care, then?” My eyes flickered up and I stared at my shadow on the white wall. My heart was in my ears.
Elmiryn let out a low hum, and the splashing of water quieted for a moment. “I think, then, I’d do whatever it was you asked.” I heard her take a breath, and when she next spoke, it was to me, and not the opposite wall. “But you’d have to instruct me, kitten. I’m not a psychic.”
I wasn’t sure if we were still playing a game anymore. I decided I didn’t care. Slowly I turned, my hand taking with it the towel.
She was sitting sideways and looking at me with those architect eyes–taking in every flash of emotion, every move of my body. It electrified me, sending shivers up and down my spine and limbs. Gripping the towel before me, I knelt next to the tub and leaned over the edge, my free hand reaching to cup Elmiryn’s face as I came closer. Her pink lips quirked up into a smile as my nose brushed hers.
“You’re going to get wet…” she breathed. Her warm breath fluttered over my mouth. My heart skipped a beat.
I shook my head. “I’m already wet.” It was another one of those not-thinking-about-it moments.
The woman let out a surprised laugh, and though my face was flaring red, I laughed too.
Then I silenced us both with a kiss.
I raised myself up, dropping the towel to better hold Elmiryn’s head in my hands. My fingers tangled in her wet hair, which was made slick from something she’d used on it. I sucked at her lower lip. Fulfilling my previous desire, I bit it lightly, and she let out an appreciative sound that echoed in my head. I laid my hand at the base of her neck and turned my head, my tongue tasting her lips before hers met mine. She tasted so sweet. Like plums.
…But there was something sharp there too. It was a familiar tang. Alcohol. She hadn’t had so much that it was overpowering, but I could still taste it there.
Given the course of the moment, I didn’t spend too much time thinking on it. I think the heat of the steaming bath was doing something to me, because my thoughts became clouded. I’d known this splendor before. Felt that tumultuous surge of desire and emotion sweep up over my head, until it felt like I was under water, and all outside matters were muted.
This passion…was a doorway…her doorway.
And I’d walked brazenly through.
Elmiryn clutched at Nyx’s shoulders, a lost feeling making its way back to her through the thorny hedges of her heart. Like a beast, it burst across her skin, running rampant, making her sensitive to every touch, every smell, every sound–
Gods. The sound of Nyx talking that way had tested every bit of the redhead’s self control. It would have to be enough to wait and let the girl lead, because Elmiryn knew there was a hunger creeping behind Nyx’s eyes, but the youth had to reconcile with it herself, not because she’d been forced there.
Nyx’s hands trailed from Elmiryn’s hair, down her neck, where they brushed down the sides of her breasts, making her shiver. As much as she wished for otherwise, the girl clutched at the woman’s back. When Nyx pulled Elmiryn closer, however, the woman felt the space between them vanish, and her disappointment was quickly lost. The Ailuran broke away to lay a trail of sensuous kisses along Elmiryn’s jaw to her ear, where she took the woman’s earlobe between her teeth in a light nibble. Elmiryn bit back the moan that came up her throat at the feel of the girl’s tongue and her warm breath lighting along her skin.
She took the opportunity to whisper, “Nyx…you’re driving me crazy.”
A small laugh, but the woman caught the tremble in the girl’s voice. “Craz-ier, oh Madame President?” Her lips teased Elmiryn’s ear.
Elmiryn nuzzled the girl’s hair, and breathed in deeply. The girl’s scent was different. The warrior found herself missing that wild musk, that menagerie scent of forest and animal fur. Now, the girl smelled of…honey? And jojoba. The woman murmured into the girl’s thick dark mane. “So you do want to be my vice…”
Nyx dipped down and laid a wet kiss in the crook of Elmiryn’s neck, making the woman groan. The girl spoke into her skin. “Vice President, Lady Picaroon. Leave off your roguish nature.”
“But Nyx!” the redhead gasped–both in play and with sincerity. The girl’s teeth on her skin was disrupting her avenue for composure. “It is all I have!”
“If you cannot cease your ways, then I demand suitable payment in place of my request.”
The redhead wrapped her arms around the girl’s shoulders and squeezed. She was beside herself with joy. To have Nyx in her arms again, to hear her voice, to feel her warmth, to smell her, taste her…Elmiryn didn’t want to let go. When next she spoke, the silliness had fled her and all that was left was a warm husky voice. “Then listen here…what say you to this, kitten? If you’re the night, then I want to be the stars in your heaven. I will make this so.”
When Elmiryn said that, my hands flexed against her back, fingernails digging in a little bit. My heart was doing somersaults and I felt a rush of joy come over me. A big silly grin spread my face and a strong shiver blasted up and down my body. Then a dark inky cloud billowed into the sunny feeling, and I thought of all the other people she may have said similar too. And what did it mean really? My eyes darkened and my smile waned. I thought of all the lovers that had come and gone in Elmiryn’s life, and felt like hissing and snapping my teeth at their phantom presence.
Elmiryn started to pull back at my long pause. “…Kitten?”
I grabbed at her, fingernails digging harsher into her skin, and took her neck into my mouth. My teeth bit down hard. The woman’s arms tightened around me and she let out a gasp, one that turned into a hiss as she inhaled sharply. I sucked on the skin as hard as I could. When I pulled back, my teeth raked. My eyes fluttered as I gazed on the bruise I’d left, and a rush of satisfaction hit me. I pulled back enough to look into the woman’s face. “Stand up,” I said.
Elmiryn pulled back and held me by the shoulders. Her worry wrinkle appeared as her brows pressed together. “Nyx, what is it?”
My half-mast gaze was tinted with aggression, I knew it. I didn’t let that stop me. I pulled away from her completely, sitting back on my heels, and grabbed the towel. “Stand up,” I repeated more forcefully.
The woman blinked at me, her heated gaze still alight, but a heavy question lurked there too. Then without a word, she stood.
I swallowed and watched as she rose, the water cascading down the length of her strong legs. Her body was lined by the glow that came from the candlelight. I let my eyes take their time, for what was the use in looking away now? Despite the virility that seemed to possess her, there was no doubting that Elmiryn was a woman, and a beautiful one at that. The ruddy patch of curls between her legs seemed delicate. The curve of her hips, the lean build of her legs and arms, the slender slope of her neck was graceful. Her breasts were generous but not more than desirable. They were just perfectly sumptuous, making my mouth water all over again. But she was a warrior, too, amidst all this. It was in the way she held herself, aware of her body and unashamed of it. I could see the muscle shift in her powerful thighs and her sculpted abs.
Elmiryn’s cerulean eyes fastened onto mine. Her face was shadowed with her back to the candlelight. “What would you have me do?” she murmured.
I swallowed and held up the towel in both hands. “Step out. Let me dry you.”
She did so, having to grab my shoulders to keep from slipping. I dried both her feet, then let my touch creep up. Elmiryn’s grip tightened on my shoulders and I looked up at her, my eyes fluttering. That wicked feeling had not left me, and a devilish grin curled my lips as I raised myself from my heels so that I was at waist level. I let my eyes linger on her, and watched as the question died from her gaze, leaving only her lust.
Her mouth parted, and I heard her exhale slowly.
I murmured, “Listen closely to me, Elle.” I put in my power of expression. I let it layer my voice with all of my desire and frustration. If she heard my jealousy amidst the words? All the better. I wanted to please her as much as sting her.
I turned and kissed her right hip, my hands now at her inside thigh with the towel. Never did my hand touch her skin, but Elmiryn’s hands went from my shoulders to tangle in my hair when I pressed against her sex. I closed my eyes and circled my tongue along her skin as I caressed her through the fabric. The movement of my hand was slow–I didn’t want the towel to rub her unpleasantly. My other hand came up over her left buttock, feeling its supple shape.
The redhead let out a choked sound over me, and I saw her eyes roll shut. I didn’t want this going too far. I withdrew with a snap and rose to my feet.
“Our task today, Elle,” I chirped merrily as I wrapped the towel around her shoulders. “Is to get you dressed.”
Elmiryn blinked thickly at me, her mouth hung open, her face red. “…Wh-What?”
I grabbed her by the back of her neck and pulled her down forcefully. “You heard me. The clothes are going on today.” I started rubbing zealously at her head and hair. The woman sputtered beneath the fabric. She tried to grab my hands. “Now–Hey–Fuck, wait a second!”
“It’s a nice change of pace, isn’t it?” I cooed, letting her come up just enough that she could stand hunched. I held the ends of the towel, which in turn was wrapped over her neck. I gave this a tug and she winced. “From all those conquests of yours that made haste in removing their clothes and yours, I’d say I’m being rather original!”
The warrior grabbed my wrists, a pained expression on her face. “Come on, kitten. Be fair!” I suspected her anxiety was more for my denying her satisfaction than what I had said.
This stirred my wickedness even further. “But Lady Picaroon, you have guests waiting!” I gave a strong pull and stepped aside as the woman was sent tumbling into the table behind me. I still held the towel in my hands. With a twirl, I snapped the end of it against her bottom. Elmiryn yelped and spun around to stare at me, her hair still damp and dripping, but the body starting to return to it. If there was any doubt of my possession by a dark spirit, it will have been cleared by now. I was just enjoying this too much. Never had I been in such a position of control.
The warrior didn’t seem to know what to make of the situation. She opened her mouth, a look of insult on her face, then it melted to bewilderment, then amusement. She laughed and shook her head slowly. “Nyx! Oh…Nyx, you are…”
“Not done,” I said pointedly. I held the towel up before me and stepped close, wedging my left leg between hers. I caressed her cheek with the corner of the towel and smiled. I stood on my toes and planted a chaste kiss on her lips. She let out a sound as my thigh pressed between her legs, and I held my breath at the way I had pressed into her. I fell back onto my heels, and with both ends of the towel in hand started to dry Elmiryn from the shoulders downward. I kept my eyes on her, and she gazed back, her look of question back in place.
Her breath hitched as I squeezed her chest, and I could see her grip on the edge of the table turn white. I savored the feel of her beneath my hands and massaged her breasts slowly. Her head came low and our lips almost touched, but I never let her have that kiss, moving my head away every time she came too close. A curl was on my lips as I felt her breath of frustration.
Finally, I let my hands come down to take take care of what water was left, and that done, I threw the towel over to the wastebasket. I brushed my lips against hers as I reached around her, my thigh pressing into her again.
“Nyx,” she shuddered into my mouth. I pulled away with my prize held up–her socks and underwear. I slid down into a crouch and tapped her left foreleg. With a pout, Elmiryn lifted her foot, and I slipped her sock on.
“Gods, you’re really serious…” she muttered. I didn’t respond. I just turned to the next foot, and we did the same.
At last, I held up her underwear.
I smirked up at her. “I’m disappointed in these. There’s no flair! I thought you noble women were supposed to be all about the frills and lace?”
Elmiryn snorted. “I’m a soldier. What did you expect? For my knickers to be a secret weapon of femininity?”
I smiled fully and tapped her left leg again. With a sigh, she obliged. Once both legs had slipped through, I started my slow ascent up her legs. I couldn’t help but squeeze her thighs a little, feeling them all around. It made for slow progress, but to actually touch Elmiryn’s skin was making me dizzy. My fingertips tingled and my breath came deep.
Then my hand touched something slick and warm along the inside of her leg.
I looked at the woman sharply.
Her face was red, and she glowered at me. “What? You thought I’d stay dry as a desert with your hands and mouth all over me?”
I swallowed hard and looked at my hand. I was being so arrogant about this. I had lost myself in the lust and the thrill of the moment. Now, things were starting to get beyond me. Could I stop it if I wanted to anymore?
…Did I still care?
My eyes fell shut as I leaned in, and with a flick of my tongue, I tasted her.
Elmiryn shuddered violently, and I could hear her hiss at the ceiling. “Halward help me…fuck…”
The taste spread over my tongue, warm and slimy and tangy. When I let it sit on the tip of my tongue, I picked up something fruity. I shoved her underwear up the rest of the way, sweeping my tongue over the trail of her desire. At the edge of the fabric, I stopped and said with a tight voice, “And the rest you’ll have to deal with.”
As I came to my feet, the redhead grabbed me to her and kissed me roughly. Her hands tightened around my upper arms and her thighs squeezed around my leg possessively. I met her passion, feeling wild, hungry…intoxicated. Her tongue fought its way into my mouth, and I quarreled with her, making her earn her full entry.
But the woman broke the kiss and we stared at each other, gasping for breath. My lips throbbed and felt swollen. Then her eyes narrowed and she panted, “You’ve changed.” I must’ve looked hurt or something like it, for the woman was quick to smile and add, “I’m not complaining! I just–I want to make sure this is okay.”
“As in not okay?”
“No, as in…as in I don’t want you to regret this later.”
“Regret what, Elle?” I said with a shaky smirk. “Putting on your clothes?”
The woman laughed and my eyes fell shut briefly at how the sound reverberated through me. She shook her head, giggling. “Good. Because I won’t regret this! At all!”
I reached behind her and pulled up her britches. “Let’s get these on, next.”
Elmiryn felt the fabric slip on and watched with a frightening swell of love and affection as Nyx buttoned her. Now and again, her fingers brushed the woman’s abdomen, and she felt her heart give a flutter, her smile broadening each time. She didn’t know what to do with herself. Nyx hadn’t been kidding–she really was quite different from all of the redhead’s past lovers. The Ailuran’s tawny eyes burned into her mind. Her shock of dark hair was brilliantly defiant, being the very essence of the bureaucratic nightmare. Elmiryn wanted to tangle her hands in that hair. The girl’s full lips, the shade of thulian pink (Elmiryn knew, because it was her mother’s favorite color) seemed to invite a kiss.
And if the girl could just…
“Say my name,” Elmiryn breathed. She swallowed and added, “Please.”
Nyx’s eyes flickered up to her, and suddenly she appeared shy, her uneven bangs curtaining her right eye. “Elmiryn,” she said quietly.
Weaved into the girl’s sweet voice was a something–golden and bright and warm–and it made the woman feel like laughing. Her eyes threatened her with tears, but she couldn’t help herself. “Again. Nyx, say my name again.” She almost sounded desperate.
The predatory gleam that had possessed the girl’s gaze vanished. Nyx leaned forward, pressing pleasantly against the woman’s center. Her hands brushed along her back, and Elmiryn felt the girl wrap her cloth wrap around her chest. Before she pulled back entirely, she whispered into the woman’s ear, “Elmiryn…”
The warrior’s smile trembled and she let her head fall forward as she felt Nyx’s eyes rest on her face. A tear slipped down her nose and she giggled. “Halward…you bastard…help me…” she shuddered. Then because she knew it was a losing battle, she looked up. Nyx still held the cloth wraps, but a look of concern was on her face. Elmiryn let out a short laugh and wiped at her eyes before placing her hands on the girl’s hips. “I’ve been a mess without you. You can ask Sedwick.”
The girl’s eyes fluttered and she looked at the cloth in her hands.
Elmiryn squeezed the girl. “Tell me. What happened to you after we were separated?” She heard the girl swallow loudly, and without a word, Nyx resumed wrapping the cloth around Elmiryn’s chest. The warrior frowned and grabbed at her hands. The girl didn’t put a fight. “Nyx, stop. What happened?”
Nyx’s tawny eyes began to water, but her chin did not tremble and the tears did not fall. “It was a nightmare. All I could think of was being with you again.”
Elmiryn cupped her face, stroking her cheek. “Tell me.”
The girl did. She recounted her arrival at the Kreut Forest to her trials therein. She told of Lacertli and Argos, and of how she came to arrive in the Fiamman shard, having been sent there to escape a creature who called herself Izma. She went on to tell of her experiences with Tristi, how she’d saved Farrel from Volo, and their mad race to escape the golden dragons that inevitably lead to her and Nyx’s reunion.
“There. That’s everything.”
“So Tristi is a legend, huh?” Elmiryn only commented on this because she was still processing everything else.
“Yes. So now I hope you see why I didn’t want you picking a fight with her–I mean–him. Tristi is a Legend, like the ones in the stories.” Nyx rubbed at her temples, as if just the thought of the strange champion made her weary.
“A Legend, like you…” Elmiryn said slowly. They had finished wrapping her chest and the girl was in the process of buttoning up her shirt.
Nyx shook her head, her eyes wide. “That’s not the same! I haven’t been in His service that long.”
“And…what. Does Lacertli own you now?” The woman’s voice was hard. She tried to ease the tension from her face, but she knew the girl could see her anger. “He cornered you. He manipulated your need. If he’s so fucking powerful, why use a girl like you to–”
The Ailuran’s gaze steeled and she stepped away, leaving the warrior feeling cold. “He saved me. He’s given me a chance at something better.”
The warrior finished buttoning herself and started tucking the fabric in. A sneer was on her lips. “Sure. You just need to play his mortal meat shield while he inspects the dirt beneath his claws.”
Nyx’s voice lanced into her head. “Stop.” Her shoulders were up around her ears and her eyes were wide. She breathed hard through her nose and glared at the woman, but her eyes held fear, not anger. “Stop it. It’s blasphemy to talk that way. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Elmiryn’s jaw clenched and she stared at the girl hard. Finally, she let out the breath she’d been holding and rubbed hard at her face with one hand. “I should’ve been there. You were hurting and I should’ve been there. You’re my ward. My responsibility. This wouldn’t have happened if…” her voice trailed away.
I’m not sure what I was expecting Elmiryn’s reaction to be. I imagine it would’ve been worse if I’d told her I’d agreed to be Lacertli’s champion mostly for her sake. I’d left out Tristi and Farrel’s indiscretions as well. I was very careful to pay attention to the level of sincerity in my words, lest my innate power give me away.
The woman sat up with a great breath and looked at me. “There’s no way back from your contract with Him, is there?” There was a note of resignation in her voice.
I shook my head. “Not until he releases me…or I die.” I tried for a smile, but it was wan. “And look! I’m not dead.”
“You’ve pointed this out before,” The woman said, a shadow of her smirk back in place. She glanced off to the side and rubbed at her neck.
I came close and touched her arm, my voice gentle. “I fear we’ve taken too long here, Elle. We should get moving. I told Praxidice we’d leave within the hour.”
“It seems we’re always running…” The woman muttered to herself. She looked at me, then flashed a smile. “Yes. Alright.” The warrior paused to regard me. She flicked my chin and tilted her head to the side. “Nyx…Godly favor or no, danger will find us.”
The statement was asinine, and I could see that she knew it from the way her smile took on a wry edge. But I took her hand and kissed her palm, pressing it to my heart. “I know. But we’ll make it through this together… Trust me.”
Elmiryn nodded, a satisfied look coming over her face. “Go on. I…need a second.” Her smile turned wolfish again. “I’m still recovering from your tender loving care.”
My cheeks flared, but I smiled. “Alright. I’ll be grabbing something to eat then.”
As the girl left the room, the warrior stared at the door. She ran a hand through her damp hair and let out a shaky laugh. “Dear gods!”
Then the familiar music came.
It would appear
That your little thread
Is truly a golden rope.
“Good feeling…gone.” Elmiryn said, rolling her eyes. She turned and plucked up her vest.
Oh come, come.
I haven’t even said anything snarky yet.
“I don’t want to hear your lies right now.” She quickly pulled her vest on and buttoned it up.
And I don’t want to hear your
Awful human voice.
Speak to me the proper way, please.
Elmiryn tongued her cheek as she stooped for her boots. She went to the chair next to the door and sat down, loosening the laces. Her fingers were steady as she went. The shakes had stopped after her splash of brandy. She could feel the anxiety start to claw its way back, however, and Meznik’s presence didn’t help.
Your outburst about Lacertli
Was very filling.
I suspect I won’t need to feed for a few days.
I’m so glad I could be of service.
Would you like a sword for your gullet?
Now there really isn’t any need for veiled threats.
Their beneath you.
You don’t usually come chirping
Unless you’ve got some ulterior motive.
So what do you want?
I just wanted to let you know
How pleased I am with you lately.
You’re really coming into your own.
Is that so?
Me, the attention stealer?
The nitwit, the ninny?
I thought you hated me?
We’ve been over this.
Just because I get a little frustrated with my toys
Doesn’t necessarily mean I hate them.
You’ve…got more than one toy?
I’ll never tell.
Elmiryn glared at the ceiling as she finished the last knot on her boots. She stood and went to the table and grabbed her sword belt. She quickly put it on, slipping her weapons into their holds, then went to the tub grabbing the edge. She took a breath, then lifted it. The woman watched as the water gushed out and bubbled down the drain. That done, she set the tub on the floor and went for her coat.
Did I ever mention you’re an asshole
And that I still plan on killing you?
It’s just that I get so bored,
Watching you play at humanity.
It’s like a little boy
Trying on his mother’s clothes.
It doesn’t suit you.
And being a fae is so much better?
What’s not to like?
Didn’t I tell you?
The fae were alive before the gods were.
The woman shook her head as she straightened out her collar. She had traveled to the other side of the room and was looking at her reflection in the mirror. The glass was clearing of the steam, but the edges were still foggy. Her eyes held a storm.
When have I ever lied to you?
To believe that your world and its pathetic pantheon
Is the center of everything!
First to see the rising sun!
First to see the flowing tide!
First to know of death and life!
How utterly conceited!
I get your point.
You really like to lay it on thick, don’t you?
Is this half-way dimension not a testament
To the things that can be born out of the chaotic elements?
Of course there are things older than the gods.
Meznik how old are you?
How would you know any of this?
The music trilled like laughter and took on a sing-song quality.
Elmiryn’s expression turned into an ugly scowl as she took a bit of string and tied back her hair. It was still wet and made her coat feel damp, but she didn’t mind. She didn’t have time to brush it, but hopefully the tonic she’d used would keep it from getting too unwieldy. Not that beauty mattered much where she was going.
Your games are so annoying.
Don’t you have another life to ruin?
Not at the moment, no.
Not when I get to see Nyx dance to the reaper’s song.
She left quite a nice mark on you, I see.
Better hope it isn’t a death curse.
Elmiryn leaned in toward the mirror and pulled back her collar. Sure enough, there was a hickey at the crook of her neck on the right side. The woman ran her fingers over it. It felt tender when she pressed. “Gods damn, Nyx…” she breathed. But she was grinning.
As they say,
It’s always the quiet ones…
Or is that only for homicidal lunatics?
I think it’s the latter.
It’d be a shame to lose one such as her,
To someone as indifferent as a god.
The warrior pulled away from the mirror, her hands clenching to fists as she gazed down at her boots.
I don’t know anything about this ‘Lacertli’.
I’ve never even fucking heard of him.
Is he really part of the pantheon?
Oh my, yes.
One of the oldest.
I don’t give a fuck how old he is.
If Nyx dies because of him,
I’ll kill him.
You aren’t strong enough.
You can’t see me yet, can you?
Do we really owe the gods our lives
To fling ourselves into servitude,
And thank them for it?
It’s all a matter of how you see things.
I may have made a deal with your father,
But in the end,
I had to choose whether or not you were truly fit for my plans.
Not only did you fit,
You were my exact ideological match.
You gazed at the stars and saw the attainable,
While others only saw limits.
You hungered for celestial glory
While others scrabbled for the dirt.
You promised Nyx the heavens.
I can help you keep your word.
The warrior leaned against the wall, her eyes fluttering.
I was just…speaking out of passion.
It wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
Your effervescent hatred bubbles not only for me,
But for the silent god that has loomed over your life.
Halward, the Star Ruler.
Have you not wondered
If such a being were conquerable?
When we spoke back at the crossroads,
I had told you:
We can conquer the gods.
The way for this is easy.
I’ll even put it in words you can understand:
You just have to fucking listen to me.
Elmiryn’s jaw clenched. She waited, but Meznik said no more.
Glad for the silence, she looked around the room, and her eyes fell on the topmost shelf where a tin bucket sat, shrouded in the dark from the candlelight. There were so many things pressing down on her, now that Nyx’s comfort was gone. Her head started to hurt. Her chest to throb and ache. The woman grunted as she jumped up, knocking the bucket over. Its contents fell into the tub with a loud clatter. The woman winced and looked to the door. No one came.
Quickly, she reached down and plucked up the empty flask bottle. It was dusty and empty, made of pewter. Etched into its sides were flowing designs of thorny vines and blooming roses.
Elmiryn thought about the brandy outside and wondered how much more time she’d have to fill the flask up without anyone seeing.
All the while, Meznik’s words echoed in her head, and she could the feel the tremble creep back into her hands. She tucked the flask into the inside pocket of her coat, and with a furtive glance around the room, she left to join the others.
‘Every Planet We Reach Is Dead’ by Gorillaz, from the album ‘Demon Days’. Parlophone, 2005. [↩]