Author’s Note: I may like dancing too much. Not that I get much of a chance to do it or am any good at it, but there is a beauty to the motions that makes me want to use it in fiction, and one thing I wanted this story to have was a shared dance… even if I knew the dancers shouldn’t be together.
“You’re supposed to be up with the crowds in the courtyard, not down here.”
“The king made me leave,” the queen said, sitting down, and Agache turned around to face her, frowning. Anokii did not much like the other woman’s tone, thinking it too much like when the queen had just killed Omamhi and was not aware of what was around her. Was it the king that had done this? Was it Malzhi? Or had this come from something else?
“How bad is it?”
“If the bindings were real, I suspect I might well be dead now,” the queen said, closing her eyes. “As it is, I believe he was satisfied with leaving me on my knees gasping and begging to go to my room if I displeased him so much. Bagquin. He was just poisoned. I do not see why he would have to be so vicious.”
“That is the way he is. He had to prove that he was still strong and that you were still his. Perhaps it was even intended as a warning if he was even the slightest bit suspicious that you had a part in poisoning him.”
Anokii examined the other woman’s throat. “He managed to get those bindings tight enough to leave a mark. He should have expected you dead. Why would he let you go?”
“Sometimes he is not as angry so long as I beg,” the queen said, taking a deep breath.
“He is a fool. Not to sound like Malzhi, but if the king were smart, he would not want to hear you beg but to see you in motion—to see you dance,” Agache said, and the queen snorted. He smiled at her, and Anokii saw Gekin frown.
“It was almost a relief to have the king send me away. I would rather not be in attendance for any longer than necessary,” the queen said, shaking her head, but she did seem to be moving with the music coming down from the rooms above them.
“I will repeat myself, even knowing how unwelcome the words were the last time—I can send you away now if you’d rather not stay.”
The queen blinked. “Excuse me? Again with packing me off to my homeland? I thought we had settled this matter. Why must you always—”
“You are tired. You weren’t supposed to come here. The king gave you leave, so take it. Go back to your room and rest.”
“You’re sending me away again? Is this because of the other night?”
Agache stiffened. “No. That is—I told you that was the eclipse. Nothing more. We should not discuss it again. We agreed to forget it, didn’t we? So that must be done, and we must do it soon. Would that we could change things or undo them or simply forget with ease…”
“We do not know such mercy.” The queen’s eyes darkened, but she raised her head, defiant. “I noticed that Malzhi did not dare approach me or the king. I do not know if he will try and convince the king that he did not do it or if he will be forced to make it a coup. It is difficult to know.”
“Point, counterpoint. If Malzhi does not move, he will be eliminated,” Agache said, and the queen watched him, waiting for more. Anokii thought there was much left unsaid here, and she did not like it. She felt Gekin touch her arm, and she knew he had noticed as well.
“Or point, counterpoint, point. Malzhi accuses me, and we all die.”
“That is not how it is. You know how footwork is, how it paces itself, balances itself. Malzhi cannot make an accusation when you were poisoned as well. He cannot prove anything. He looks guilty. He must act.”
“Are you that confident in your plan? If you are, why did you want me to go?”
Agache faced her. Anokii knew that neither of them had any true comprehension of whether or not anyone was around them. He stepped forward, placing his hands on her shoulders. “I am confident of nothing. You saw me lose control when the eclipse happened, and you have suffered because of my plans, and I not sure why you think you want to stay. Revenge means nothing if one does not live to see it, and that may well happen with a situation like this.”
She reached up, resting her palms against his cheeks. “I am not going to be locked away, and I will not let you discard me, either. I am still your ally. You need to be willing to listen to me as well as use me, and yet you seem to struggle with doing that.”
“You seem to struggle with knowing when you should stop.”
“Was that point or counterpoint?”
He laughed, looking down. “I’d say… counterpoint given your current stance, but I could be mistaken. Let us try another step. You think Malzhi is plans to regain favor? Why should he bother?”
“I think they would rather kill me than each other.”
“No, Malzhi wants more from you.”
Anokii had not understood at first, but the more they spoke, the more they moved, and yes, they had started in to that strange dance he called footwork, something that went with being a swordsman, an art the king had trained him in until Agache showed too much promise at it. If he could defend himself, if he was a threat, then he would have to die. He should have been dead so many times…
He was looking to have himself killed here, now. If anyone besides her and Gekin saw him with the queen, he would be dead. This dance was not just a revelation of their respective skills. Feelings had been exposed as well.
“Malzhi will not get what he wants.”
“It will not happen.”
The queen smiled, and Agache stopped their dance, his hand going to her face. “Be careful, my esibani. You are still at risk, and you have done enough tonight. Please go back to your room and rest.”
“Will you tell me what you are planning?”
Agache smiled, lifting his cloak and walking away. The queen cursed him, stamping her foot before leaving in the other direction.