When we arrive, even the decked out ball for the afternoon dance, filled with the softest flowers, can’t distract me from Zarcar’s harsh words before we left. While he had been somewhat soft and flirty since overtaking my tower and murdering my friends – I had not expected this dark turn of discipline. I had the strange feeling he was hardening up on me.
His tough wording to me was out of the blue and shocking.
I could only expect that he intended to shock me on purpose, to scare me into being complacent.
I wished I could say it didn’t work but in a city that was once home, now invaded and now changed forever – I couldn’t help but cower a little.
So, even as he made sure I was on his arm for the dance, as he made light chat with other people of his culture – I stayed quiet.
In fact, I only said a few words here and there.
Before we entered this ball, Zarcar had sneakily slipped out the bands holding my braids together. He had taken off my gloves and pocketed them.
I was now simply what he wanted me to be; an escort.
However, my mind was worried by his change in temperament and what he meant by observing me...
...it bothered me that his intentions for me was not made clear.
If he would just say it... whether it be if he was aiming to, hmm... eradicate my magic... control what I learned... turn me into a pet witch like Andoll... use my power in war... I needed to know what the big secret was.
I’m so deep in thought I have lost track of the light chatter he has been sharing with fellow members of his army. I’m not thinking about the present moment, as he has taken me to the edge of a ball... by a window. I only realise when my nose picks up the scent of night flowers and my nose crinkles in delight.
I raise my head toward the smells and I bite my bottom lip as my hand stays on his forearm.
I don’t realise he’s looking at me, until I turn slightly and feel the force of his gaze.
I quickly snap my eyes back to the ball and flatten my smiling lips into a line of composure.
“The fresh night air gave me the first hint of a reaction since I yelled at you,” Zarcar murmurs... almost... guilty, “Did I frighten you before we left, Chyronex?”
I turn to him slow and haughtily, shaking out my hair that was meant to be bound.
“No,” I’m pert as I respond, my eyes running over his handsome face, taking in his cruel unmoving lips and curious black eyes, seemingly drowning in our interaction. Drowning was the wrong word. More like hungry. Ravenous. Seeking something from me.
“So, you are just shy of crowds then?” Zarcar pries for answers.
“No,” I’m pert again.
“An attempt to ignore me,” Zarcar finally settles with this, “To ignore your fate.”
“Maybe,” I whisper before I can hold it in, the truth just fell from my lips.
I attempt to turn away yet again. But, he doesn’t want me to move. He grabs my elbows unexpectedly and it shocks me enough as he spins me to face him.
“You’re in my possession now,” Zarcar says firmly, “You needn’t worry of your fate. All you need to do is live in obedience to what I say. In my culture, men keep the women safe –”
“You burned my friends and they were all women-”
“They’re not coming back, Chyronex, you must accept it,” Zarcar tightens his hold, “But you are here... you breathe as I do. Find peace in that.”
“I’d like to take a private bath when we return,” I do something I had learned from Kendra – when she was still alive. Change the subject smoothly enough and you can control any conversation with ease.
“Are you starting to feel the dirt and grime building under your finger nails?” Zarcar’s mouth curls a little, “I would love to see you clean, Chyronex.”
“You bathed,” I avoid his words carefully, “I enjoyed seeing you out of that black robe and hood, covering your face,” I’m simply being honest, “You are far more handsome this way.”
“Handsome. There it is again,” Zarcar doesn’t seem to like me using that word, “What are you preparing to ask of me?”
“...oh, nothing,” I use his words and his tone against him from when he withheld information from me in the bedchamber. I look down at his throat, and his heart beat pulsing through his veins, “I will tell you... when I’m ready, sweety,” I look up into his eyes, which now adjust to my wit and my barely contained smirk.
“So, not only do you act like an abandoned animal with no home, you are also deceivingly sly, patient and biding your time... ” Zarcar murmurs.
“The Moon doesn’t even give me answers as to what you are trying to convey to me,” I whisper, “I bore of this dance. We should skip the midnight festations and go home.”
“What do you suggest we do, Chyronex?” Zarcar entertains the idea.
“Go our separate ways,” I incline my head, “You, to my bed. Me, to my bath.”
“And where shall you sleep?” Zarcar inquires, coyly.
“Probably in a windowsill,” I murmur, “Or the rooftop, or the library, or an empty room.”
“How about a bargain, Chyronex?” Zarcar asks after a moment of hesitation.
“Oh, please –”
“We can return now to the tower if you agree to undress, help me undress, and sleep w- next – to me in, in the bed. Or, we can stay out tonight, but you must dance with me either way.”
“Dancing or sleeping next to you, I see or hear no bargain, but a trick,” I nod at him, respectful of his cunning ways, “Expected from a sorcerer as renown as you. Perhaps on the nights I wish to sleep on the roof, you’ll call the rain down on me.”
“When it comes to my assessment of a witch, I need experiences to draw out your particular ways,” Zarcar tilts his head to the side, “I’m simply giving you a choice of what you would prefer to do. Dancing within a crowd... or sleeping intimately within a tower... what would you prefer?”
“Neither is not a choice,” Zarcar interjects.
“I wish to bathe,” I add, “In a warm bath. I must say I am tempted to return with you... but I don’t know what you intend – by sleeping next to me? What an odd request. A strange thing to ask... hmm...”
“So... you ramble when you’re nervous,” Zarcar murmurs, “Interesting.”
“You did not answer my question –”
“What will it be?” he asks, pushing me toward an option.
“I am not enjoying company tonight, I admit. I am tired. The tower, would be... a fair choice, I guess,” I shrug my shoulders, looking down and biting my lip.
Zarcar was a dangerous and mysterious Master of Witches. I’d rather find out more about him in private. I felt at a loss and a disadvantage in his world of comrades and soldiers.
“We will return to the tower,” I freeze when I hear the voice right next to my ear, drawled as if a promise was just sealed.
I say nothing and only look up after he pulls me along.
I hold onto his arm and wonder how I can interrogate him – just as he was hell bent on finding out my own secrets.
The only problem for Zarcar was that I didn’t have anything to hide.
As time went on, I was all the more sure, I didn’t have the answer that he was looking for.
Once in the tower, I pry my hand from Zarcar and prance ahead, lifting up my skirt as I run up the steps. I don’t think Zarcar expected me to lurch from his grip and separate myself so quickly.
However, I was excited for a bath and I knew it would be relaxing – I may even fall asleep in the water.
When I get to the top floor, I run to the windows and sigh with wonder at the night sky. The overcast day had finally cleared and all the sparkles of distant suns, lit up midnight.
I had become entranced with the night a long time ago.
Now, I stare at it with that same feeling. Every night it was the same. A feeling of witnessing the sky for the very first time, every time I gazed upon it’s navy hues.
“Sweet Moon,” as I whisper to myself, my ears are not attuned to Zarcar approaching.
Perhaps he made more of an effort to be more stealthy or perhaps I was really that oblivious to his obvious presence. However, I don’t expect his hands to grab my hips, turn me around and fling me over his shoulder.
“We’ll have none of that nonsense,” he murmurs, firmly as he carries me to the bedroom where he kicks the door open.
“You are well aware my magic is powerful,” I laugh despite his ignorance and insult. I just couldn’t quite believe I was on his shoulder, being carried like a sack of potatoes! It was quite amusing.
Zarcar deposits me on the bed with a half-smile.
“Very interesting,” he murmurs to himself as he takes a stool and sits on the small chair, kicking his boots up onto the bed, “Help me with the laces, Chyronex.”
I pause, leaning back on my palms, my smile faltering when I hear the drop in his tone. I get up and lean forward, surmising that he wouldn’t have an easy time with these tight knots. Indeed, they were tight this time round.
I fumble with the laces and for the life of me, even though one boot comes off... the other will not. I try my hardest, even sighing multiple times in annoyance.
And then I just whisper without a second thought.
“Moon guide the leather straps to separate their paths,” I hover my hand over and the laces undo on their own, “Thank you,” I whisper, while holding one palm in a patch of moonlight which shone on the bed sheets.
Only when I grab the boot and haul it off do I realise what I just did.
My gaze snaps to Zarcar and I see he doesn’t look impressed. His mouth is downturned, his eyes calculating how to handle this.
“Habit,” I murmur, hoping to defuse the fire of irritation in his gaze.
“...so you touch moonlight and guide the magic,” Zarcar murmurs, equally carefully.
“Yes!” I’m delighted he has acknowledged my power and I grin.
Zarcar takes his feet off the bed and reaches forward for my folded legs. He grabs me around the back of my knees and jerks out my legs toward him so he can help with my sandals. But he is rough and I don’t appreciate it as I watch him jerk at the knots and undo them with violence.
“You’ll ruin them!” I hiss, “Get your war lord hands off my sandals!”
I watch as Zarcar flings my sandals aside and gazes up into my eyes with a twitch in his cheek.
“...quiet down...” Zarcar murmurs this, out of the blue.
I suck in a breath and open my mouth but the look in his eyes is so dark, I shut my lips.
Zarcar had this dark, unforeseeable side to his nature.
With my hand in the patch of moonlight I use it within me to read his face as he glances briefly at the fireplace.
When I look over his mouth, nose and ears, I feel he is craving something... when I look into his eyes – I jerk my hand out of the moonlight and cradle my palm as any last remnants of happiness are taken from me.
His black eyes.
He was hungry.
“...what?” he growls, looking back at me.
“...are you hungry?” I murmur.
Zarcar pauses. He focuses on the patch of moonlight and blinks in realisation.
“If you keep using magic I will personally lock you in a dungeon,” Zarcar is dry as he threatens me with this, his eyes lazily reaching back to mine, “...even if I have to make one within this tower. A room where you cannot leave. Where you will be locked until you obey without question. Do you understand? Obey and be rewarded. It’s simple.”
I had no idea.
I didn’t understand.
But I nod anyway.
I focused on what the moon had told me moments ago.
Zarcar was hungry.
For what, specifically? I had no idea.
Well, that was a lie.
As I realise it, the words just spill from my mouth. An idea I had entertained every now and again, but refused to acknowledge... until I just say it in this moment of spontaneity.
“You are... you are trying to seduce me,” I gasp, grappling to my knees, “This whole time, you were trying to get in bed with me?”
“You slow witted priestess... indeed,” Zarcar shakes his head, but he manages the faintest of smiles.
“Threatening to lock me in a dungeon is not romantic,” I can’t help but hiss as I cross my arms over my purple ribbon bound chest, remain on my knees in my purple skirt and I eventually raise my hand to my black lip paint, “...Master of Witches... may I ask a question?” I add in the propriety he expects at the last minute, hoping to gain his full attention.
He has been watching the fire and it’s been making me uncomfortable as he plans things in his head.
Zarcar looks back at me now as I expect.
“...what is it...?” he drawls.
“Why... why would you want to bed a priestess if you detest them?” I ask.
“Your question made no sense,” Zarcar clearly liked to pry apart my weaknesses at any given opportunity.
“You don’t detest me,” I change my words.
“Not a question,” Zarcar is playing with me now as my cheeks flush.
“You... like me,” I whisper, more to myself than to him.
“Like is a strangely inconvenient and inaccurate word to use in this instant,” Zarcar murmurs.
I glance at him and realise he is a Master of Words too.
Nothing was straight forward.
“Can you be straight forward?” I blurt.
“Yes,” he nods, inclining his smug handsome face, “...you are a naïve... little fool... aren’t you?”
“I would say I was and still am when it comes to your intent,” I am proper now as I climb from the bed and go to the wardrobe. I can’t find anything good enough so I turn to his black cloak hanging on a hook by the door and I take it – shrugging it over me like a blanket.
I am dwarfed by the thick heavy thing and I slip over to the fireplace and sit before it, wrapped and covered.
“The deal was we go to bed,” Zarcar murmurs, “...is there a reason you ran for my black robe – are you shy of me as well?”
“Your lack of clarification terrifies me.”
I do not face him as I say it. But now I look into the flames.
“I will be more bold, but you’ll have to promise you don’t run screaming,” Zarcar adds.
“Be bold and you have my word,” I turn to him now, my hair sliding over his black robe as I swivel to him, my eyes wide and hopeful.
I needed answers.
“The truth, Chyronex, is that I fuck virgin moon witches - priestesses - when I can, at any given opportunity,” Zarcar states, boldly, “As it enhances my own powers. If I take your virginity, if you allow me to... my power will strengthen.”
“Sex and power were always meant to be perfect lovers,” I whisper a poem I once read and was intrigued by, “So you wish to take my virginity. No courtship. And then what? I suppose after you do that, you kill me.”
“Well, I would have no use for you afterwards, that’s correct,” Zarcar hits so close to the point that I want to throw up but I stop myself from reacting to hear the rest of his admission, “But something about you... Chyronex... something is different. Something about your way.”
“I thought I was a common witch,” I whisper, hinting at his insult a while back.
“You are common, indeed,” Zarcar shrugs, “But something else... maybe it is your beauty, but I can’t stop looking at you move. The way you try and defend yourself. How you play games, even. It’s all... very much... entertaining, for lack of a better word. All the other witches I defiled bored me to tears. You are different.”
“Perhaps you love me,” I say.
“Perhaps,” Zarcar doesn’t even bother dismissing me this time, “But before I successfully seduce you... I think I’d rather watch you bathe.”
“A bargain,” I murmur, “I’ll bathe in front of this bed. You can watch. In return – you sleep on the roof. I sleep in the bed.”
“Deal,” Zarcar nods and I raise a brow as I’m surprised by his answer.
That was the irony.
Everything about him surprised me, just as much as I seemed to surprise him.
“Maybe we are soul mates?” I ask him, “How delightful,” I can’t keep the dread out of my tone.
“If you were indeed that important to me, Chyronex,” Zarcar is completely serious, “I would never let you out of my sight again. Nor would you be allowed any kind of freedom while I am abscent.”
“I suppose I always fancied a handsome lord,” I shrug, playing along with this fantasy of a mate-bond.
“Well, sweetheart, I always fancied my future bride to be obedient, patient and... good with her hands,” Zarcar is still being bold with me and despite his base level answer, I appreciate the honesty.
I stand up and drop the robe from around my shoulders, reaching for my bindings on my bra, I unwrap them and slowly pry them off my chest before him.
“Obedient. Patient. Good with my hands. I am all of those things with my Master,” I whisper, coming closer towards him, but not too close, I lean forward and add, “...being the moon that I speak of. The moon that I worship. It’s the only Master of mine.”
“Careful,” Zarcar murmurs, “...I wish for you to be silent... as you undress.”
I turn to my side and release the rest of my binding, kicking it aside.
“It will be silent on the roof where you sleep tonight,” I taunt him.
Zarcar almost reaches out to grab me since I am so close.
But he pauses very suddenly.
“I will gather servants to prepare the bath,” Zarcar stands abruptly and leaves, “I will return when you are bathing,” he doesn’t look back as he says his brief farewell.
He leaves, just like that... and I wonder if I frightened him off.
I leave my skirt on and head to a window sill.
I sit there as the servants bring up a bath and start to fill it with water.
Zarcar is no where in site but I know when he returns I will be encased in hot water.
And I would have another opportunity to use my wiles to get even more answers.
Because so far his attempts at seduction were one thing... but his use of me as a war lord was still hidden.
I wanted to know why he wanted my power.
I wanted to know why he felt I was different.
Once I had the answers, I would know whether tonight I should kill him or not.