Author’s Note: So this is an alternate point of view for The Queen’s Blade.
Liana Mir passed along this prompt: Of a bolt of silk or a bolt of an arrow, I’d rather be the lightning bolt. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/245630
I read the poem, didn’t get it, and still wouldn’t if not for her paraphrase, but some things stood out to me and brought me to this scene with the queen.
The movement had draw his notice, causing him to turn back to the room he’d assumed was empty. He’d thought it was the cloak of the woman that he sought, but he frowned as he drew closer, recognizing the shimmer of zenie as the queen moved.
No, that was not the right word for it.
Alone, her curtain drawn to shut out the sunlight and give some facile of night, she had saved this act for the most private hours of her day. He had not meant to come here, nor should he linger, for he was not among those who would pry upon these moments, robbing her of what little comfort she might gain from it, comfort denied her by her position and her marriage. She might feel some relief with the king gone, but that would not last, and if he knew Malzhi, any peace she might gain with the king’s absence would be fleeting.
The familiarity of the dance stopped him. He had not realized what it was, not when he first entered, but the simplicity of the steps had given away their true purpose, bringing to mind his own childhood, the training he’d received before his cousin saw him as a threat instead of a nuisance.
“The Gichikane blood in you makes you a warrior.”
He snorted. Gichikane blood was good for only one purpose, and that one had no merit. The bloodlust and need for conquest the kings had inherited benefited no one. Certainly not his people. “We’re not fighting. This is… dancing, and if the king wanted a warrior, he’d choose someone else. He’s only doing this because he expects me to fail.”
The trainer raised his blade. He sidestepped, countering the blow. The older man smiled. “Then he is a fool. You show more promise at this than he ever did.”
Startled, he fumbled with his blade, cursing himself for falling for the trick as the trainer went on the attack. He should have known he was being baited. He started in a defensive rhythm, hoping to get back to where they were even, since he knew he’d never have the advantage—the trainer had to be under orders to kill him if he became too skilled.
At least this time the man wasn’t trying to draw out that Gichikane blood. The last time they’d done that, he’d almost killed his sparring partner.
She knew the steps. She knew the complicated dance of footwork, of swordplay. She did not carry with her a blade, but she did not need it. He had no doubt that her skill with it surpassed his. He understood a great deal of her now, a sudden comprehension that made his lips curve into a smile. That was his answer, the reason for her dual nature, for the cunning that had been concealed under the surface.
This was something unexpected.
Yet… It was not.
He had seen small indications of what she truly was before, though now he had no doubt. She was one of what their neighbors called esibani. She was no mere princess that had been bartered away for peace. The only question left was why she had not yet killed the king.
She went to the desk, picking up a blade that he thought had to have been made just for her, and he found himself somewhat disappointed to see the blade join the dance. The grace of her movements, fluid and beautiful as the soft zenie that she wore, was tainted by the weapon, and he thought it too easy to see her covered in blood.
The sound of the dagger cutting through the air did not give him enough warning, and he almost wasn’t fast enough to yank his arm away from the wall, the tip of the blade tearing his cloak before he slipped into the other part of her suite. He needed to reach the passage to the catacombs before she tried again. She’d given him no indication that she’d noticed him, and her aim was far too accurate for her apparent lack of sight. She was dangerous.
Of course, he’d known that before, but having seen proof of her skill, he found himself wondering what they might use it for. She could be an ally, a powerful one, if he thought they could trust her.
He cursed as he realized he’d have to watch her. He needed to learn her true intentions, but he did not know that he had the necessary strength to cope with her. She had struck as quick as lightning might, and his reflexes were dulled by the constant pain of his still healing body and his clouded mind.
Still, the resistance would continue with or without him. He may as well be the one that watched her. In his current state, he was fit for little else.