I only make it to the top floor of the tower before Zarcar because I’m not wearing heavy formal clothes like him, nor am I adorned with heavy weapons. My offending transparent silk dress over my ribbon dressed thighs, calves and feet – was all light attire – hence it helped me keep the lead.
I swiftly run to the very window sill that I met Zarcar at for the first time.
I open the shutters and sit with my back to the stones and lift up one leg, letting the other drape. I turn my head and watch the sky, pretending that we are meeting again for the first time.
The moment I hear his feet reach the stones of the hallway, I hold up a hand and one finger. I am not facing him, but I make sure to speak as proudly as possible “If you wish to interact with me, Zarcar... I suggest you stop comparing me to Andoll, your witch slave. Nor am I a guest. I am a moon priestess and can’t be contained by any one. I am free,” I hear him approach all the while, unfazed by my words.
As Zarcar halts next to me, I glance over to see him looking down the hall, avoiding my gaze as his cheek twitches, while he considers his words.
I am glad I have irked him back.
I wait for him to look at me, but when he does, I don’t expect a complete look of disregard for my truthful words.
“I am a Master of Witches,” Zarcar speaks, coldly, “Tell me... what was your upbringing like, Chyronex?”
“I left my parents to live in the forest when I was 7. I learnt all I would need on my own before coming to spend some time in a city, where my help would be appreciated. I taught myself to read,” I explain, proudly, “Why do you care?”
“...this is why you need a teacher,” Zarcar explains casually, “You weren’t taught manners nor etiquette. With my culture overtaking Swendula, you won’t last with that attitude or-”
“It’s not an attitude,” I hiss, rudely cutting him off, “It’s my soul you speak of!”
“Chyronex,” Zarcar is strained as he tries his best to keep a calm tone, “This entire time, I have been allowing you to grieve. I am quickly losing patience with your lack of respect. As far as I’m concerned, your life is in my hands. You will help me dress for the occasion tonight I am attending and if you’re willing, I will bring you with me. If you refuse, I will throw you into the streets... and if anyone reports you using magic... I’ll throw you in one of the dungeons,” Zarcar is plainly to the point.
“You offend me,” I bring my leg up and squat on the windowsill to gaze at his black and purple trimmed clothes under the black robe. I narrow my eyes while he faces me with a cocked brow.
“You look like a monkey poised like that,” Zarcar grabs my elbow and yanks me down off the sill, out of my squat. He forces me to follow him as I’m dragged along, but all the while, I simply laugh up at him.
“You are no king!” I taunt him, “You are nothing but a usurper in a land you don’t belong to!” once inside, he slams the door shut to my bed chamber and shoves me forward, releasing me.
Zarcar seems rather satisfied that he has me alone with him.
“I don’t listen to uneducated dull witted little girls. Besides, Chyronex, you are trapped with me in this tower,” Zarcar drawls the obvious, mocking me back, “Let us do something useful instead of bickering about your complaints. Will you obey and help me find the right attire, or shall you defy my orders?”
“I won’t attack you, if that is what you really mean,” I choose my words carefully as I straighten my dress and hold his gaze, “...I am far too curious to find out all your secrets, Zarcar, which you avoid through manipulative words. Perhaps you can tell me more than what you think I should hear. I will only give you trouble if you deny me the information I wish to know about you.”
“What do you want to know?” Zarcar asks, a guard instantly going up in the shift I witness within the shine of his eyes.
“...that,” I whisper, narrowing my own gaze at his changed expression, “You hide from me... you hide your intentions.”
“I am curious about you too, Chyronex,” Zarcar adds, cleverly avoiding my persistent inquiries, “I wish to know what you know of men.”
“Nothing other than that men are morally weak, quick to violence and stubborn like goats,” I respond, my own truth, “I do not deal with men when I can help it. I prefer isolation or limited time with the opposite sex.”
He is surprised by this answer.
“...you are just a little fool,” Zarcar finally lets down his guard which is an odd moment of choice... but to be fair, I was still unsure what he wanted from me, “This whole time you’ve been nothing but naïve like a child. I was playing my steps carefully, but you have no idea what you even are, do you?”
“What are you talking about?” I ask, freezing.
This was it.
This was the answer I was waiting for.
He pauses and takes in my wide, expecting eyes. As always, he considers his words carefully.
“...oh, nothing,” Zarcar whispers, in a direct provocation, “Perhaps you can help me undress?”
“I do not appreciate your hidden agenda,” I hiss, “You are lying to me about something.”
“A white lie is all it is,” Zarcar winks and starts to remove his hood.
“You admit it,” I add, “Admit more, you filthy pig!”
“If I really do smell like a pig’s ass, you should bathe me,” Zarcar is teasing me now, “Although many tell me I smell perfectly divine, I can’t say the same about your dirty black feet. You don’t wear shoes because you are... excuse my lack of a better equivalent... but you are such that you may as well be likened to a stray dog who has a false sense of confidence... in a very dangerous world.”
I swallow my pride because I refuse to get distracted by his cunning insults. I had to focus on what I really wanted and Zarcar is still far too secretive, but I get an idea.
“Will you tell me more secrets if I do as you wish?” I ask, loosening my anger while ignoring his provocation.
“...smart move, I think we can agree to that,” Zarcar nods at me and I close our distance.
I take off the rest of his heavy black hood and lay it on the neatly made bed. The whole room was clean from maid’s work.
“You’ve been sleeping in my bed,” I say as I turn back to him. He is taking off his tunic, already in an unnecessary rush as he pulls it over his head, exposing his torso. I take it from him and place it on the bed too. When I turn back to him, he grabs his breeches and turns to me, one canine biting his lower lip.
“Will you help with the knot?” Zarcar asks, lowly, “The ties were done with small nimble fingers from a maid, yours will do to untie them.”
I am confused momentarily until he explains this.
I hesitantly step forward, then step forward again. I stand in front of his giant form and glare at the loosely tied knot; liar! I grab one loop and pull it out with a single gesture.
“You idiot,” I look up at him, to see him sending me a fairly smouldering look, “...what?” I ask.
“You really know nothing,” Zarcar states, “How many summers are you?”
“I forget, 19 I believe,” I shrug, “I am not accustomed to men’s ways. You are very... odd.”
“What do you know?” Zarcar repeats as I prepare to take a step back, but he reaches out a hand to grab mine... pulling it down to the top of his breeches, “Help me, Chyronex. While we talk,” he is so coy. I don’t like it.
I blush slightly as I feel the heat from his torso and abdominals on my knuckles, but I can’t bring myself to pull his pants down.
“...what do you really want from me?” I whisper, while looking down at our feet.
I was confused.
I wasn’t sure what this interaction was about, but I felt funny inside.
“I will tell you when you are ready,” Zarcar murmurs, “You are not ready yet.”
“You confuse me,” I keep my eyes downcast.
“I know,” damn my usurper and his short and equally vague responses!
I grip the material in my hand and start to pull it down, while Zarcar kicks off his boots. I look away, not sure why, as I pull the breeches further towards his knees – and then I stand back and turn from him.
“...you’re shy,” he mumbles, while I cross my arms over my chest, facing the opposite wall.
“I am simply awaiting your secrets,” I state, while he now stands behind me.
I don’t expect Zarcar to reach out and grab a curl from my head, tugging on it gently to feel it’s softness and length as he runs it through his fingers.
“I don’t think I should ever tell you my intent,” Zarcar murmurs it so quietly, I almost don’t catch it, “Go to the wardrobe and search for an outfit for me.”
“What?” Zarcar asks, somewhat shocked by my sudden disobedience.
“I want to know why you chose to keep me alive,” I keep my back to him, “I will complete the task after you tell me.”
Zarcar hesitates, then chooses to close the tiny distance, his front slowly presses against my back, while his hand comes around my front, over my silky dress, he slowly raises his hand. His fingers brush my collar bone before he slips his fingers around my small neck. I hold my breath and I don’t jerk away. I wanted an answer.
Zarcar leans down until his hair mixes with my own brown curls, while his cheek presses to mine.
The strangely intimate gesture, slowly calculated, has my breaths getting stuck as my throat closes off in anticipation... of something.
“...I’ll tell you,” Zarcar murmurs, “...when I’m ready, sweety,” he releases my throat and he points to the wardrobe.
I slip out of his heat, a strange butterfly like feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I can’t think of a witty reply. So, I walk to the wardrobe while my mind is halted from thinking right.
Although Zarcar refused to tell me his secrets... I was presently overwhelmed by my reaction from within.
I felt... like my insides were smouldering like hot coals, like my blood was on fire and pumping fast through my veins.
I didn’t understand what Zarcar was doing to me... but I felt a loss of control... and it terrified me, even more so than his pet demon Dragons.