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Chapter 2

I had escaped confrontation for fourteen long hours. Evading my tower, traversing through the city on regular breaks and visiting the other priestesses. After a long day of avoiding contact with any one I did not know, I can finally settle down. Knowing I should relax does not stop my instincts from being on high alert, however.

The midnight sky was shining down dimly while I looked through every window on the 12th floor of my tower, waiting for a sign. Eventually, I see a giant shadow, then a man, quickly approaching the tower from one of the paths leading through the small garden around the base of my residence and work. I had known all along that I would not be able to delay this meeting forever. I watch the caped man enter my tower and I freeze. I try to convince myself that I am wrong.

Had Zarcar decided to visit me at midnight, or was this a lonely stranger seeking an emergency spell? I am conflicted in whether to run or stay.

Eventually I instinctively sit on one of the window sills, glancing around the corner of stones into the long and deathly quiet corridor, where you can find shadows hiding in shadows.

I decide to wait until I see him. Then I would decide what to do.

I wait anxiously until the footsteps finally become loud enough to hear. As the giant man walks side ways through the door from the spiral stair case, I instantly pull my head back with the first glance.

It was indeed Zarcar – and I was deciding to run once again.

This man did something to my senses. I didn’t want to be cornered by him. I did not know him. I only had that one encounter months ago and all the stories I had heard since.

I pivot my body around to slip out the window’s open shutters to the small ledge, where I edge precariously up to a secret ramp to the rooftop. Scurrying along the slight architecture, I hold my breath almost the entire time. It was a secret and easy escape, but I had waited until the last minute like a fool... just to catch a glimpse of him one more time.

Danger being as addictive as it was to someone like me, who liked to play around with curses and blinding spells... I knew it would be my undoing one day.

I breathe again when I make it to the flat top, where I have plants in pots growing. I take a few steps forward and sit in the middle of the roof top, hugging my knees to me as my pots of plants keep me company. I look to each one, biting my bottom lip.

There were dangerous herbs up here that I grew. Forbidden herbs. The kind that can kill you, permanently derange you, or even perhaps be used to kill another. Most I used for the perfume, not that I needed to justify why I, a moon priestess, collected plants or not.

That was my business. So, why was I so nervous and my thoughts skittish?

My eyes are trained on the edge of the architecture, my pupils dilated as I hear a crunch and then a pull of a robe along the stones.

I tense as I see his fingers grip the edge of the roof, before he hoists his leg over and then his entire body. A graceful leap has Zarcar up into my secret domain.

I scramble to my feet and pretend to look shocked.

“You are not welcome here,” I blurt out, “You did not request a visit... and it’s midnight. Explain yourself.”

I watch as the glint of his teeth, shine in the moonlight as he smirks. He pushes back his black hood and I see the man from this morning.

Zarcar has long dark hair that curls behind his ears. He has a steadiness in his eyes that only men that have been through hell and back, seem to obtain. He was not skittish like a boy, or nervous like a stranger. He acted like a king. Which he was not, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought himself as one.

“I believe you have a problem you want to discuss?” he asks me this casually, as if we’re long time friends. As he prepares to take a step forward I hold up my hand.

“Do not come closer,” I sound hostile and frightened, nor can I keep the waver out of my voice.

“You are threatened by me,” he halts regardless, happy to oblige, “I suppose the natural power imbalance is making your magic nerves misfire. Rest assured, I have no intention of killing you.”

I drop my hand to my side, completely surprised by this omission. Not because I was relieved but rather because I had not even considered that murder was on the list of possible outcomes when we finally interacted again.

“Your way with words still confuses me,” I murmur, “...Zarcar.”

“You do not know me,” he adds, challenging my own way.

“I feel intentions well, it is a part of my specialities,” I counter, avoiding answering him directly.

“And what do you... feel?” Zarcar asks this while seeming amused at himself for having to speak such a silly question.

I do not answer this question the way he wants, instead I decide to show him I am also quite witty when I need to be, “Cold, although I do prefer to feel the chill naked, when I’m washing my clothes, I often feel the weather as I will.”

“Naked?” I knew he would choose that word, easily distracted as men usually were.

“It is my domain, I do as I please,” I shrug and relax, deciding to take control of the situation while I had him distracted, “I do wish to raise an issue with you. But it’s not an issue, rather a fact. As a priestess of the moon, I need quiet and isolation to work. My home is here. I do not own the tower, nor do I have any sum of money, but that is because in Swendula, priestesses work for free. In return we live here for free. I am in no way a threat to you, your imposing army, or your leader, whomever they may be. Now that I have explained this, I hope you will understand that the letter requesting I vacate my home, be dismissed. I will not leave.”

“Fine,” Zarcar shocks me so much, he almost catches me off guard, “You may stay here.”

“Thank you,” I nod and wait for him to produce a farewell, so he may leave me alone.

“I believe it’s 2 more days left, according to the letters I’ve sent your way,” Zarcar adds.

“What do you mean, that you sent...?” I ask, confused by his sly tone.

“I’ve been housed in the war tower the past month while settling an appropriate residence here. I’ve chosen this tower. I’m sure we’ll make great neighbours,” Zarcar is leaving out vital details, but even this strange admission has my hairs standing on end.

“...excuse me?” I can barely believe my ears.

“If you’re not happy being a guest in my home in 2 days time, you may leave at any time,” Zarcar shrugs, “Perhaps you will run naked along the streets at midnight while you sing to your moon?”

“You make fun of me,” I snap, “Are you not a sorcerer, this is one thing I have heard? Why do you mock my magic?”

“I do not relay personal information to penniless women who have no sense, no education, nor a single item to bargain with,” Zarcar seems to be getting slightly irate, which is ironic, considering what just fell past his lips. I should be the one irate.

“You disgusting and abhorrent man,” I snarl, “Get out of my tower and never return, or you will give me reason to do you harm. You have shown me no respect. Leave before I make you.”

“A priestess prone to violence?” Zarcar asks, “Do you think yourself as someone important? Perhaps you imagine leading armies into war,” oh, now he was boasting about his own medals and lively experience, “It doesn’t really matter, does it... you’re still as useless as they come. Compared to where I come from, your power is child’s play. You do not know the real meaning of curses. You’re an ignorant witch. If you want isolation you can live in the forest in a hut and raise some pigs to sleep with for warmth.”

“I will not be baited by your words, get out of my tower now –”

“When you calm down, you can apologise and I’ll allow you to stay,” Zarcar turns from me and looks up at the moon – his eyes shining with magic. He gives me a moment to consider his words.

“Unacceptable, I will wage a war with you in order to keep my tower,” I say.

“Chyronex,” he doesn’t even glance at me, “I wouldn’t go down that path if I were you.”

“If you think any power you hold over the moon, is greater than mine, I would like to see you try and prove it to me,” I challenge him.

“If I prove you wrong, you owe me your life,” he glances at me, “For an eternity,” I am confused by his words again, which clearly have meaning from wherever he comes from.

“A priestess does not leave her home,” I raise my chin.

“You will play the game I propose, then?” Zarcar inquires innocently.

“When I win you will beg for my forgiveness,” I smirk back at him, knowing my power well.

“Then in 2 days time, you will not only have no money and no home, but you will have no freedom,” Zarcar watches me curiously, “You’re a silly little fool.”

“What are you not telling me?”

“Precisely what you will become,” Zarcar holds up his fingers and I see sparks of light jump from one finger to another, “Do you still want to play?”

“It is not a game for me,” I explain, “None of this is a game. This is my home.”

“Not for long,” Zarcar turns to hide a smile that I catch at the last second.

I still feel completely detached as I watch him leave. I feel like he is completely holding back a side of him I have not seen. I had witnessed a mask, just like our first meeting. But what he was underneath the mask was an entirely different story.

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