I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have a wonderful night.
I woke up the next morning feeling as if I were dreaming; as if I were sleeping on a cloud, unable to fall from the soft cushions and the sweet draft.
The light purple light caressed my body, warming the cold skin on my arms. I had been too lazy to cover myself with the blanket after Raja left, but it seemed that I didn’t have to.
Peeling my eyes open, I noticed with a blush that he had covered me; and while he didn’t exactly tuck me into the bed itself, I still found it sweet that he tried to make me comfortable after knowing me for barely a day.
My heart thumped heavily in my chest, feeling lighter than it had felt in days. Heat coiled around my neck, flushing my cheeks as I sat up in bed, the silk sheets sliding around me. The feel of Raja’s lips against my skin still burned on my forehead and I found myself wishing for more of his cold, sweet kisses.
He was nervous last night, just as I had been. Perhaps that was why he kept himself hidden from me? He certainly was something to look at, if I ever got the chance to look at him in the light. He was tall, that’s for sure. Through his silhouette, I could see his large arms, a dark fabric covering them. He said he wore gloves after I touched his hand. Why, I had no idea.
I licked my lips, feelings that I had never felt before pounding in me; in my chest, in my core, in my mind. What was it? Why was I so flushed? I had only just met Raja-I knew absolutely nothing about him! Yet, he was already stirring something foreign, yet nostalgic at the same time. Meeting him yesterday, I felt as if I had seen him before, before the night, before the auction.
I dug into the depths of my mind, searching for any darkly dressed, hidden man in my memory. Mukhauta was a relatively small town, so everyone knew each other there (which made it easier for gossip to spread).
Unsurprisingly, no image of Raja appeared in my mind. Maybe it was because I had just woken up, or maybe I didn’t really meet Raja before last night. I was probably only imagining things; my excitement at meeting a potential husband still coursing like magic through me.
I blinked, glancing at the table beside my bed. Just like yesterday, there was a note taped to my lamp, the same, familiar, cursive script dancing along the page:
I have some work to attend to; should you need anything, do not hesitate to ask Damien, Lucifer, or Saira.
I smiled. So he did like the name I had given him. I was skeptical as to why he didn’t reveal his name to me, but since he’d covered not only his eyes, but also his hands, I wasn’t too worried, not anymore. He was probably nervous about us; he did mention something about his past relationship going wrong.
I trudged to the bathroom, heat spiking in me when I realized Raja had laid out a dress for me to wear. I was wondering if I’d have to go through the large, expensive closet he’d prepared for me but thankfully, it seemed that I’d get the chance to do so later.
The dress Raja had laid out for me was so smooth it seemed as though it was made out of silk; not the rough, itchy fabric my dresses used to be made out of.
Looking at it now, it reminded me of a picture I once dreamt about; about a woman in a dark red sari, like a wedding sari. There were no glittering gems on the fabric, however, which was a relief to me.
As stated before, the dress was a dark red color, reminiscent of a Vampire’s eyes. The sari was embroidered with dark gold lace, lace that brought back images of the eyes Raja had hidden last night, images of his dark, gold eyes searing into my soul...
I shook my head, lifting the sari and placing it on the table gently. A few other garments slipped from the folds of the dress, such as a necklace, bracelets, and a headpiece. I blushed. He really was spoiling me.
Stepping into the large shower, the water soaking my hair and coiling at the roots, I felt myself sigh in peace. It felt as if I had held my breath for my entire life, and now, I was able to breathe once again; I was able to keep my head forward and not worry about anyone trying to stab me in my back.
Despite feeling that I had seen Raja somewhere before meeting him last night, I already started to like him. I knew he wanted to take it slow, and to be honest, so did I. I hardly knew him; I didn’t want to jump into bed with a man I couldn’t see. He needed his time, and I needed my time.
One attribute I liked about Raja so far, though, is that he was patient with me, and he gave me a choice. If I said no, I didn’t want to be in a relationship with him last night, then I genuinely think that he would have let me go. He didn’t want to force me into a relationship, and I didn’t want to be forced to marry a man I didn’t love.
Thankfully, marriage was in neither of our plans right now. I guess getting to know my mysterious, hidden roommate (and potential husband) was next on my list. It intrigued me that he wasn’t human, and while I did theorize that there were aliens out there, it surprised me how easily I believed him when he said he was a demon. Maybe seeing what Damien did at the auction made me believe him so quickly; so easily.
I sighed, leaning against the bathroom stall. “I’m going mental,” I mumbled to myself, the droplets soaking my head as if fingers were scrubbing through my scalp. Blushing, I remembered with heat coiling in me how good Raja’s, albeit gloved, fingers felt latched on with mine. His lips were cool against my forehead, soothing my overheated body.
Never in my life had I felt a hot, warm attraction to a man before. Usually, they were always overweight, grubby men that my Dad had picked out as potential suitors for me (suitors in which I ultimately rejected or found a way for them to make a fool of themselves in front of my Dad). Never had I met a man as kind as Raja. Sure, he was a bit nervous last night, but the dominating, hot aura he vibrated still raked through me, gripping me with its hot fingers, drawing me closer to them.
I licked my lips, forcing my eyes open. I couldn’t keep thinking about Raja; I had a massive palace to explore! Yesterday, I had only managed to see part of the extravagant Mahal, as Damien was in a rush to get me to my room before Raja appeared and realized that I wasn’t there.
“I wonder who Saira is, though. Raja never specified,” I thought out loud, switching the hot water off. I reached for the smooth purple towel Raja had left on the rail, smearing the fabric along the curves and slopes of my body, dragging my fingertips along small places of my stomach and thighs. Raja’s gloved fingers laced with mine remained prominent on my skin, and for a short time, I wondered what exactly it would feel like to have his fingers on my body, before shaking that thought away with a blush.
Calm yourself, Radha, I spoke softly. It’s only been one day; you’ve only known him for one day. Hell, you don’t even know his name! Don’t get too ahead of yourself!
Raja had mentioned that he was a King, something Damien repeated over and over again while we had been talking, something Raja vehemently denied, despite traces of sadness on his tongue. Raja was a mystery; I shouldn’t be trusting him so easily, but something about him made me feel sorry for him. As if he had made a mistake and was paying too large of a price for it.
I exited the bathroom, a trail of hot steam following me. Clutching the blanket to my chest, I carried the crumpled clothes in a wonky ball in my hand, dropping the garments onto the bed. The books had briefly caught my eye, but, shaking my head, I returned to my task at hand: changing.
The clothes Raja had taken for me were simple, yet elegant. The petticoats and cholis were not very hard to put on (although, I had to look in the mirror to fix the jewelry on my body). The earrings clipped easily onto my ears, the bracelets smoothly slipping onto my wrists. That, I was grateful for. Usually, my Dad would force the bracelets onto my skin, leaving indents. Not this one, though. These were gentle, almost ghostly, on my wrist.
The necklaces were beautiful; glittering gems, all colors of the rainbow, pushed into the golden slots. They glimmered in the dark purple sun (or moon, not sure), and reflected on my collarbone, pushing the shadows of my fingers out.
I smiled at my reflection, brushing my bangs out of my face. They fell along the side of my eye, some of the strands kissing my eyelash. My lips were a dark red, and despite not kissing anyone (in my lifetime), I couldn’t help but have Raja invade my mind again. What would his lips look like? How would they feel on me? I had noticed last night, when his mouth touched against my forehead, that something pricked against me, but I hardly worried about it. He was a Demon; didn’t Demons have fangs?
A knock clicked gently on my door and I flinched, the baritone like sound unexpected at this time in the morning. Carefully, cautiously, I padded towards the golden handle, pressing on the lock and prying the brown wood open.
In front of me stood a woman who looked like she could have been in her early thirties, or perhaps thirty itself. She had dark brown locks, the tendrils winding like serpents just above her breast. She had dark orange eyes and a dark blue complexion, her tongue flickering in and out of her mouth.
Looking down, I realized that she didn’t have any legs; no. Instead, she had a long, scaley snake-like tail that curled around her body, the end rattling slightly.
She smiled at me, bowing slightly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness,” she said softly, her voice low and raspy, with a slight lisp.
I smiled shakily, leaning against the doorframe. “H-Hi...um, who are you?”
“Ah, pardon me,” she smiled coyly. “My name is Saira. I am the head maid here...and the only maid. I used to be the head maid.” She looked over me, her eyes reminiscent of a...well, snakes.
“W-What are you, if you’ll pardon my surprise,” I asked, my heart thumping. I was sure I had seen something like her in an old mythology textbook before, but I wasn’t too sure.
“I am a naga, a snake-woman,” she replied patiently. “I presume you had a good night, Your Highness?”
“I did,” I affirmed. “And you can call me Radha. I’m not...royalty.”
Saira smiled again, an eerie, placid smile. “Oh, but you will be. My master has taken a liking to you, Radha,” she tested my name on her lips, her tongue lapping over her curved upper lip.
I smiled, heat crawling like ants up my neck. “Has he?”
“Yes, but then again, who wouldn’t? You are quite the beauty,” she complimented, smiling warmly at me. “I can see why the Master can not stop speaking about you. You are all that rests on his tongue, do you know?”
“Well, now I do,” I mumbled, biting my lip. “Um, anyway-!”
“Are you the Queen?” A shy, squeaky voice questioned.
I frowned, pinching my eyebrows. “What? Who said that?” I looked around, unable to find anyone in the corridor except for Saira.
She laughed daintily, her clawed, scaly hand covering her lips. “I apologize; I nearly forgot to mention her.”
“You always forget me!” The voice whined childishly, only growing my confusion.
“Who is it?” I repeated, looking around.
“This is my daughter, Chandra,” Saira explained. From the folds of her tail, she pulled out a pale, red-eyed girl with a pink tail coiling around her body.
The girl smiled at me. “Hi! I’m Chandra! It’s nice to meet you, Queen!”
I couldn’t help the giggle that slipped my dry lips. “You can call me Radha.” I stooped down to her level, squeezing her cheek gently. “Aww, you’re so cute!”
Chandra giggled, and with her pale, almost moon colored skin, I could see why she was named after the moon herself.
Saira smiled. “Now that introductions have taken place, the Master has instructed me to show you around the palace, get you comfortable with everything here, since this will be your new home.”
I grinned. “Really? You don’t mind, do you?”
Saira rolled her Cheeto colored eyes, scoffing. “Of course, not! I don’t really have anything better to do these days, unless you mean listening to Lucifer and Damien squabble.”
Chandra giggled and I laughed with her. “Okay. Thank you!”
Saira nodded. “My pleasure,” she lisped quietly. She nodded to me, and with a bow, she led me out of my room and into the hallway Damien had taken me through in a rush the night before.
While I didn’t get a chance to appreciate the magnificent palace yesterday, I sure got a bunch of time today to look around. The hallway was a long walk, so it gave me plenty of time to take everything in.
The carpets were dark red and smooth, just as they were the night before. In the day, somehow, they looked brighter than they looked at night. They glowed with vibrance that I didn’t know a carpet could glow at.
Since I had better vision now, I was able to see the circular lights implanted into the ceiling above me, although there were torches lining the dark grey walls. Smooth to the touch, the cobblestone barely crumbled underneath my palms, dust collecting in the crevices of my hand.
The hallway was slightly cramped, but since there weren’t many people in the palace, it wasn’t unbearable. There were actually many doors in the hallway I was staying in, which Saira explained were other rooms for the highest royals, which is why the doors were sparse.
She led me down the staircase and towards the intersection; a large, circular platform opposite the door I had been escorted through the night before. Chandra rambled aimlessly about unimportant things (Well, important to her) and I nodded every now and then, pretending that I was paying attention to everything that she was relating to me (almost everything, I lost track on a few lisping sentences).
The whole castle seemed to be carpeted, except for the kitchens, which were covered in wood, and in some places, cobblestone. Torches were the main source of light, although there were certain areas where Raja had lights installed.
The living room, oddly enough, was above the kitchen and welcome area. It was beautiful, just like you’d see in a princess or Disney movie.
There were two velvet couches, each on one side facing each other in the room. A bookcase supported one of the couches, a fire crackling in the brick fireplace by it. In between the couches was a glass table that had a supporting ledge underneath. Chandra explained quickly that Lucifer, the Butler, kept his magazines and newspapers from Damien there.
A couple of times, throughout the tour, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was being watched, as though eyes were following me, burning into my body. I tried to hide my squirm, but I knew Saira knew I was feeling uncomfortable. She tried to distract me, but that couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched.
Do you know that feeling when someone creeps up behind you; your hairs stand up behind your neck? Well, that’s exactly how I felt, yet, I could never catch that person behind me. The earlier feeling of safety that I had felt was immediately gone when we reached the outer parts of the palace, and I made a promise to myself to not leave my room alone, even though I knew that I’d forget and break my promise soon.
Shadows swarmed the corner of my eyes once in a while; a dark, hulking frame dashing from one room to the next in haste, as if he or she didn’t want to be caught. It confused me, but it also felt familiar; like I had seen that frame before.
I asked Saira, but all she’d given me was a sly shake of her tail and a coy grin, wordlessly leading me to the next room. It vexed me, but it also intrigued me; like a mystery book I never wanted to end; a mystery I wanted to find the answer for.
“And...that should be it,” Saira announced, bringing me back to the hallway of my room. “Do you remember anything?”
I blushed. “Um, a few places, like the kitchen and living room. I...got distracted...”
Saira shrugged her scaley shoulders. “Well, you got the major places, so I’m not too worried about your future here,” she said. Chandra, having gotten bored after ten minutes of the tour, had left early on, presumably to her room. She was a cute nagani; a child I didn’t expect to see here. Then again, I also didn’t expect to meet three demons and two nagani’s in the first place.
“I do have a question, though. Well, two, actually,” I said, brushing my hand against the silky fabric by my hip.
Saira nodded. “Ask away.”
“Why are there no pictures on the walls?” I asked, noting the quiet intake of breath Saira had taken. “I mean, don’t most palace’s show off their lineage? With a man like your Master, what would there be not to show?”
Saira looked away, rubbing her arm so that her scales made a screeching sound against her claws. “I-I do not know if I am being honest. The Master had taken down all of the portraits years ago, before we had even dreamed of having another resident in the castle. He didn’t tell us why; he doesn’t fathom speaking about his past.”
I looked around, bobbing my head slightly. “Ah, I understand. Um, one more thing, though.”
“You didn’t show me the south part of the castle,” I asked, frowning. “Why not?”
Saira licked her lips with her long, slimy tongue. “It is not my place to say, Radha, but I can tell you one thing.”
“What is it?”
“Never, ever, go into the South Tower. Ever,” she warned, her dark eyes alert and widening suddenly.
I bit my lip, my eyebrows drawing together, but nodded anyway. “Okay, I understand,” I agreed, even though I hadn’t gotten a straight answer.
She left after a slight pause, and when I retreated to my room, awaiting for Raja to visit me, I couldn’t help but wonder:
What was in the South Tower?