Author’s Note: So… I decided not to prolong the pick-a-serial thing as the website’s overhaul might not be done for a while due to recent upheaval in both my life and the programmer/artist’s. So… I’ll get organized by the weekend and give both serials their own categories and pages with summaries and all that fun.
In the meantime, it is time for Three Word Wednesday and a twist I mentioned before.
The words today were: endure, destruction, and trust. They worked rather seamlessly into this one. 🙂
If she could endure being queen, she could endure a bit of pain in her ankle. She forced herself from her bed, testing her ability to walk unassisted, first doing nothing more than a short circuit from her bed to the balcony and back again, then a wider circle until she had made several laps around the room without faltering. She did not imagine that the herbs Anokii had given her had undone all the damage that Omamhi had done, but she did feel much better—not only in the physical state of her ankle but also in her mood.
That might also have something to do with the fact that the second sun had set, and she preferred the times before it rose or after it set, without the oppressive heat. She had never thought about how much influence the night had upon her—in her moods and her sleep and more—but having no night here made her exile that much worse.
“I miss the night,” she said, stopping in the middle of her room. She could pull down the curtain, but she wasn’t about to sleep after so long in bed after Omamhi’s body was removed. She closed her eyes, and somehow she found herself wanting to drift into the steps of her footwork, that old comforting ritual. She shook her head. That was a foolish thing to do after that fight with Omamhi—and yet her trainers would have said it was what she should do, even what she must do.
She could ignore it. The trainers were not here, some of them had already passed on and would never know that she had failed to follow their instructions, not just now but also with Omamhi.
She let out a breath. She should not let that happen again, not a fight that sloppy. She had no desire to kill, and she needed to know that no one else bent on her destruction—and perhaps that of both lands and the king—would be able to get close to her as Omamhi had done. Her ankle was a weakness that she could not allow to hinder her.
She crossed over to curtain, pulling the cord to drop it down, and after it had fallen, she closed her eyes again, drawing in a breath. She let it out and took a step to the left first. Double back, side to side, one careful placement after another, feeling her way through the steps. The motion was soothing, though her ankle started to protest after she started in to the more complicated part. She stopped, cursing as she did.
“Do you always dance alone?”
Her head jerked up, and she whirled to face the voice, shaking her head in disbelief. She would have said it was Malzhi, back from the north to torture her again, but she did not think Malzhi would ever wear a cloak like one of those he called worms. Nor would the king. Omamhi was dead. This should not be happening. “What did Anokii give me?”
The man under the hood shook his head, pushing himself away from the wall. She watched him come closer, her throat dry. She could not be seeing him. She had to be confused again. It must have been the herbs Anokii gave her. They were making her see things—hear things.
“To my knowledge, nothing. I do find it curious that you never do these exercises with a partner. Oh, it is, in some sense more beautiful to watch that way, but I think it does not accomplish what it is supposed to do without an opponent.”
“I think I’m dreaming,” she said, though her ankle was trying to say otherwise. “This isn’t possible. You are not here. I’m going to wake up in my bed cursing my maid and myself because I got tricked again.”
“Being so suspicious all the time must be a great burden,” the cloaked man said, now standing facing her. “You didn’t seem so startled the last time we spoke, though you were injured at the time. Perhaps that accounts for this sudden fear. You trusted me then. Is now so different?”
“Now I am supposedly lucid, and yet I cannot be,” she whispered, backing away. She knew that voice, but no, it could not be the man she thought she heard. She was either dreaming or drugged or perhaps even both.
He followed her, point and counterpoint, and she realized that she’d started in on a defensive form, ready with all but the blade—only to have him match it step for step. Oh, this must be a dream, but why should she do this to herself?
She feinted right, stepped left instead, and while the move was supposed to be finished with a flourish that ended her opponent’s life, she thought the moment where her hand yanked off his hood was more than enough. She frowned. “I’m not sure what I expected. I don’t think I ever saw your face before.”
He gave her a slight smile, almost bringing some color into his otherwise pale face. “No, I don’t believe you did. You would have, if you’d been at the negotiations, but that wasn’t you, was it?”
She shook her head. “No. Still… How can this be you? You’re Agache. You’re the king’s cousin. You’re… I don’t understand. They said you were… dead.”