Tag Archives: PG

28. Wand

“This is you getting back at me for dragging you to the Temple of Black Water, isn’t it? I knew it was coming.”

“Why on the War God’s Earth would I want to willingly run through the desert? No, this is not payback. This is me wanting to get paid. The reward is a good one.”

“But the desert is awful.” Absinthe groaned, looking over the paperwork that Alnyx had put in front of him. “It’s so hot and dry. Not to mention that the sand gets-Wait that many zeroes?”

“Yes. That many.” Alnyx preened the feathers of the hawk that had delivered the papers and then perched on his shoulder. “But you are right. We can always tell Garnet that we are not-”

“Fine fine, we can go to the bloody desert.”

“Should the heat really bother you that much? I mean…You are a demon so…You come from a plane of fire, do you not?

“Oh my Darling-”

“I told you not to call me that.”

“Mildly racist elf. Yes, I’ve got demonic blood. But, we aren’t ALL from planes of fire. My line hails from the plane of darkness.”

“I have literally seen you incinerate large groups of people.”

“We’re fire plane adjacent.”

Alnyx rolled his eyes, picking a scrap of meat from his plate to give t the bird. Once it swallowed, the creature flew out the open window it had come in through. Alnyx took the paperwork back from Absinthe, rolling it up carefully so not to tear or smudge anything.

“If we leave in the morning, we should have more than enough time to get there, complete the task ,and get back home in time for the new recruits ceremony. Malja will be so happy.”

“I hate those stupid things. The robes are so damn stuffy. There’s a reason I don’t like to stay in the Red City.”

“Yes, but Malja was our first LIttle Bird. So we have to be there.” Alnyx shook his head, the massive wolf at his feet standing as he did the same. “Try to get some sleep tonight. You are more of a pain when you do not.”

“Bed already? It’s barely half past ten. The night is so young.” Absinthe frowned at the elf. “Surely you can manage to stay up a little longer, Grandfather.” he batted the lashes that protected those bright, green eyes.

“We have a job to do. You can feel free to be exhausted and put yourself in danger. I have no such desire.”

“Does the stick ever come out of your ass?”

“You will never know.”

“Never say never, Al. I love a challenge.” Absinthe licked his lips as he watched the elf go. “And you are a fantastic one.”

 

As Alnyx had predicted, Absinthe was far from well rested for their ride to the southern desert. The elf constantly had to wake his companion who fell half asleep in the saddle at every chance.

“We are not taking the horses into the desert with us.” he warned. “And I doubt a camel will be as good about following order from you half asleep.”

“What are we even romping into the stupid sand for anywhere?” Absinthe shifted uncomfortably as Alnyx stared at him. “I didn’t actually read the contract. Just the number.”

“You…I am not surprised.” Alnyx shook his head. “We are going to find the tomb of an ancient wizard who was a religious leader. A collector is paying well for artifacts from the old world. The one attached to all those zeroes you saw was a very specific one. A wand, likely buried in the hand of the wizard’s corpse.”

“So we’re grave robbing?” Absinthe arched an eyebrow. “From a powerful dead wizard.”

“Grave robbing is such a strong series of words. The contractor is from the same religious tradition as the wizard was. Think of it as….Securing holy relics.”

“And I’m the evil bastard.”

 

It took them almost four days of travel by night to get to the site marked on their map. Alnyx rolled the parchment back up, lowering his hood.

“The entrance should be here.” he squinted his eyes. “Probably a rune on one of these stones. Start looking.”

“That’s hardly helpful.” Absinthe wrinkled his nose. “There are like a hundred rocks here.”

“If it was easy, they would not be paying us to do it.” Alnyx shook his head. “It will likely be some sort of warding glyph. You know what those look like, right?”

“I’m not an idiot.”

“Debatable.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Just get to looking. You too Fish.”

The wolf let out a single park before starting to sniff at some of the smaller rocks. Absinthe shook his head, waving his fingers to cause small whirlwinds that blew sand off of the stones.

“This is ridiculous.” he huffed, kicking one of the stones. “MOrtal wizards hiding their toms…If you were any good you wouldn’t have died in the first place!”

“As he kicked another stone, the ground under them rumbled. Fish lowered his ears, growling as his master rolled his eyes.

“Yes. Kick rocks outside the dead wizard’s tomb. An excellent idea. You certainly are not an idiot.”

“Hey I-”

“Move!” Alnyx lept, tackling him as the ground opened under where he had been standing.

“Wow that was-”

“Shut up.”

“But you-”

“You are annoying but I need you alive.  Alnyx dusted himself off as he stood, shaking sand out of his hair. “That is all.”

He walked to the edge of the hole as Absinthe pulled himself back onto his feet. Fish sat on the ground beside Alnyx, peering into the hole as well with a tilted head.

“Should be easy enough to climb down if we anchor a rope up here.” Anlyx nodded to himself, removing the backpack he wore and setting it in the sand. “Would you stop staring?”

“You save me.”

“Hardly the first time. It is not a big deal.”

“You normally just let me fall.”

“Would you like me to cut the rope as you go down? It would have the same effect.”

“Well no-”

“Good let us go then.” He started by trying off one end of the rope to a larger, half-buried stone. “FIsh, you stay here. You know what to do if anything comes up.” The Dog barked once after his master before the two began their climb.

 

“Better than the temple, right? No spider women.”

“No, just a wraith and his undead minions. The blood loss is making you delirious.”

“Maybe a little.”

They had managed to retrieve the wand, safe in its box within Alnyx’s cloak. But, in doing so they manage to wake the dead wizard from his “slumber,” along with the small army of skeletons that were buried with him.

“The way up should be this way.” Alnyx grabbed Absinthe’s arm before he could go the wrong way again. “Come on.”

He could nearly see the rope now. But, unfortunately, so could the wraith. Alnyx growled, pulling Absinthe harder as they sprinted down the corridor.

“Get up it. I can hold them back. Once we are in the sun, it should be easier for us to fight them off.”

“But I-”

“Go!”

Alnyx turned to face the oncoming skeleton horde, drawing the two short swords that were at his sides. He’d much have preferred having Fish down here with him. The wolf-

He felt the fireball before he saw it soar over his head. THe skeletons turned to ash before him, the wraith dissipating into smoke with a howl. He covered his mouth with a sleeve, smirking behind it.

“Is there a reason you didn’t so that a few minutes ago before you got chewed up?” he put his swords away, frowning when there was no biting response. “Absinthe?”

As he looked up, the man was limp, barely hanging on to the rope only a few feet above his head. Cursing under his breath, he climbed up and managed to get Absinthe on to his back, and carefully on to the ground. He head a single bark and a whimper from Fish above them.

“We are fine. Down boy.” Alnyx spoke calmly as he located Absinthe’s pulse. “Shit.” Faint. Very faint. “Come on you bastard.”

He moved and straddled Absinthe’s hips before digging into his bag for bandaging. They has a single tonic left that would help as well. Making a mental note to pick up a few more with their earnings, he undid the ridiculous clasps on the chest piece. He wrinkled his nose as he smelled more blood than he had before.

“Idiot.”

Working quickly, he bound the gashes tightly in order to stop the bleeding. With a pop that echoed in the empty tomb, he uncorked the small bottle of tonic. Alnyx leaned over his mostly unconscious partner, pouring it down his throat and coaxing it down with his fingers. He relaxed only when he finally saw his throat move as he swallowed.

“‘s that a wand in your pocket,” the acidic green eyes cracked open just to slits as he croaked the words out. “Or are you just happy to see me?”
“You great stupid bastard. You know well-”

The kiss silenced Alnyx faster than any argument in the last three years ever had.

“I…” the elf stood quickly, high cheekbones suddenly very pink.

“Bit of both I’d say.” Absinthe picked up the ruined chest armor from the ground, grabbing the rope. “Comeon. I hate the damn desert.”

The silence that followed him up the rope made him smirk. Nearly dying aside, it was quite the successful mission indeed.

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27. Sword

“It’s only a little further now. Come on, keep up.”

“You said that almost an hour ago, Absinthe. You will have to forgive me if I do not believe you.”

“You’re just upset that you got mud on your boots.”

“Yes, a warning would have been appreciated.”

“It’s called The Temple of Black Waters. What on Earth were you expecting?”

“Water. Not mud.”

The man named Absinthe laughed, stepping over yet another puddle of mud that was deceptively deeper than it looked. His companion’s growl made it that much sweeter.”

“You had better hope that it is here, Absinthe.”

“Or what, Alnyx?”

“You know exactly what.”

“Oh baby, don’t tease me like that.”

Alnyx rolled his eyes, pushing past the other man and towards the tree line, where it finally began to thin out just a little. Absinthe followed behind him, fingers glowing violet as they stepped forward.

“Ancient crumbling stone and ominous clouds? Looks like the place.”

“Good. Let us get your toy and get out.”

“You’re so fiery today. I like it.”

“Shut. Up.”

 

“There it is. Have you ever seen anything so perfect before in your life?”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

Alnyx was covered in mud from outside, a spike from a trap had torn his cloak, and a skeleton managed to sink its teeth into his left forearm. Murder was more present than usual in his almond shaped eyes.

“It glows, look at it! It’s going to be fantastic. Formerly owned by a Chaos lord…You can’t tell me it’s not the most beautiful-Oww!” The almond-eyed man rammed a dagger into Absinthe’s thigh, pulling it back out only once he was silenced. “You’re not mad at me are you? Seriously?”

“You dragged me through a swamp. For a stupid glowing sword.” the elf wiped the blood off of the blade onto his torn cloak. “Yes, I am mad at you.”

“You know that I don’t-”

“No no. Go on. Get your stupid sword. Clearly you need it.” Alnyx moved his hand in a shooing motion.

Absinthe growled, placing a hand against the fresh wound as he stepped forward. He’d have to do something to placate his moody elf later. First, there was treasure to-

He shouted as the ground fell from under him, revealing the six foot deep pit full of asps that had been under it. Removing his hand from his leg, the glow from before began to surrounded the beasts.

“You knew that was there, didn’t you.”

“Yes.” Alnyx smirked, pleased with himself as he walked to the edge of the pit and looked down as the asps began to explode into goo one by one.

“And you aren’t going to help me out of this, are you?”

“No.”

“Would it help if I said I was sorry?” Absinthe lowered his hand as the last snake popped.

“No.”

He groaned as he carefully pulled himself out, using his magic to make himself footholds in the stone. Once he was finally on the temple floor again, he took the last steps across to the black stone altar. He removed the longsword from the stand it was displayed in, unsheathing it from the scabbard. As he held it up, a deep red aura began to pulsate from it.

“Nothing to it.” he picked the scabbard up, inspecting the violet gems that it was inlaid with.

“Absinthe-”

“Oh now you want to speak?”

“Put it back in the scabbard. We need to go. Now.”

“I don’t know. I think I rather fancy this place.” Absinthe walked across the dias, swiping at the air with the blade. “We should clean it up. It would make a nice little base.”

“We need to go now.”

“Ugh, Alnyx stop. I’m sorry, okay? I should have told you that it was in a swamp, I get it.”

He blinked when he looked to the elf and saw that he had his longbow drawn, pointed upwards at the ceiling. Specifically, at the half spider-half woman that was descending from it.

“Oh now we HAVE to stay.”

“If you do not stop talking and start stabbing-” Alnyx snarled as the blood spatter hit him.

“Sorry!”

“No you are not.”

“Nope, I’m not!”

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65. Candle

“You’re fibbing! I’m gonna go and tell your mom you’re fibbing again.”

“Harmony no! I”m not fibbing.” The little girl grabbed at her friend’s arm to pull her back on to the floor where they were sitting. “Not fibbing.”

“Magic isn’t real, Kelsey. Only babies think that it is. Sister Terry told us in Sunday school that it’s all just stories to tempt little boys and girls. Jesus is the only person with magic, and that’s because  God gave him the powers to make miracles.”

“But what about Moses? He did magic too.”

“Either way, you can’t be Jesus or Moses. You aren’t even a boy.” Harmony crossed her arms.

Kelsey groaned, diving under her pink and fluffy bed for something. The other girl pretended she didn’t care, arms still crossed with her head tilted away. She peaked from the corner of her eye though, watching Kelsey’s little legs wriggle madly as she searched.

“What are you doing?” Harmony finally gave in and asked. “You’re going to get all dirty.”

“I’m lookin’ for something to prove that I’m not fibbing.”

“Well you can stop.” Harmony ‘humph’ed, turning her head away again. “I already know that you aren’t telling the truth so-”

“Found it!” Kelsey wriggled back out from underneath the bed, clutching a box to her chest. “Okay, this will prove everything.” she set it on the floor between them.

“A box?” Harmony frowned as she looked down at it, clearly expecting something more exciting than cardboard. “How’s a box supposed to prove you can do magic? I’m not dumb, Kelsey.”

“It’s the stuff inside the box, Harmony. Duh.” Kelsey nudged the lid up just enough to slip out a small, plastic bottle. “Sand, from when I went to Florida with my mom and dad.” She pulled out the stopper, pouring the sand on to the lid of the box. “Now watch.”

Harmony held her breath as Kelsey pointed at the little pile. Kelsey moved her finger in the air above it, making sure she wasn’t touching the grains. As she did they moved, forming the shape of the heart that she had been tracing.

“You’re touching it!”

“I am not. See.” Kelsey held up her clean little finger. “Not touching anything.”

“Fibber. I don’t believe you.” Harmony’s arms remained crossed.

Nor did Harmony believe  that the pretty blue feather moved even when they both held their breath. The same went for when the box itself moved across the floor without either of them touched it.

“You just put strings on it. Like the pretend magician at Sarah’s birthday party last month.” she shook her head. “Just wait until your mom hears what a fibber you are.”

“I’m not-Fine, I know what you’ll absolutely one hundred percent believe.” Kelsey went back in to the box, pulling out a package of unopened birthday candles. “I can light one of these. without a match.”

“We’re not supposed to play with candles” Harmony gasped as if Kelsey ha just suggested that they go get the scissors out of the “no touching” drawer in the kitchen. “My mom says-”

Harmony fell silent when Kelsey pulled one of the blue and white wax sticks out of the paper packaging. Kelsey pinched the bottom between two fingers with her left hand, and the wick with her right.

“Kelsey, don’t.”

“Why? Because you believe me?” The little girl smirked wickedly when her friend gawked.

“No. Magic isn’t real.” Harmony still shook her head. “But your mom is gonna get really mad if she knows you have candles in your room.”

Kelsey rolled her eyes, removing her fingers from the wick. In their place, a small fire burned. Harmony’s jaw nearly hit the floor.

“Told you so.” Kelsey blew the flame out and dropped the candle into the box once more. “Wait until you see what I can do with my dolls.”

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10. Eyes

“Okay guys, that was great. Let’s take a fifteen, and then we’ll hit the second act.”

There was a chorus of “thank you fifteen” as the stage manager turned off the house microphone. From up in the light booth, she watched them all scatter away. With a soft sigh she stood, turning to exit the house left doors. She didn’t bother to flip on one of the switches on the way out. It was a small room, so it wasn’t as if she’d get lost on her way out anyway. The light from the lamp over her script was enough for her to get to the door.

“Cold up here tonight.” she muttered, rubbing her arms absently. “Gotta grab my coat.” Se left the booth, making her way down to the house of the theater.

“Hey, you left a light on up there.” the director pointed up at it when she retrieved the coat she’d left on the chair beside him.

“Yeah, it’s my stand light. I didn’t have time to put the blue over it tonight. It’ll be in for the top of the act.” she zipped up her puffy coat. “It’s that noticeable?”

“No, it’s something red. Two of them. Look.”

“Oh no, not you too. The actors have been trying to get me to believe this place is haunted all week.” she rolled her eyes, but looked up to the windows of the booth.

Near the corner, by the house right door, there they were. two bright, unblinking lights that burned red. They were rounded and oblong, looking almost like a set of-

“Oh that’s just the exit light. You know, the ones by all the doors. I’ll turn it off when I go back up. You’re a great big bunch od superstitious babies.”

“Hey, you know the stories.”

“Yeah yeah, take it up with the producer. He’s the one that booked us here.” she laughed. “They’re just stories, Will. Call places once you see your little spook go out.”

She walked back up the stairs, humming to herself as she went. It was still far too cold as she walked up, so she dug her gloves out as well.

“Heat must be busted.” She pulled them on “I’ll have to leave a note for the house manager. This place is as old as sin anyway. They should just tear it down to the ground and build a new one.”

When she re-entered the booth, she crossed to the exit sign and flipped off the little light that kept it on. Sure, the fire department would be pissy. But they weren’t there tonight, just a silly director afraid of a few old stories. She sat in her seat, frowning when she didn’t’ see anyone taking the stage yet.

“Call places!” she shouted down through the sliding window.”

“It’s still on.”

“What do you mean-”

She looked over to the door when she heard a noise that might have been a laugh.

“Very funny, Garret. You got me. Now turn it off and go to your place.” she turned back to the windows.

When the noise happened again, she turned to fully face the direction it came from. Now, level with her own wide ones, were a pair of burning red eyes.

“No. You aren’t real.” she moved a little closer to the table that had her script. “You’re…Just the product of stress, and not eating pr-ahh!”

The scream echoed through the theater and sent the director up to the booth two stairs at a time. He turned the lights on quickly, finding it empty.

“Jenna?” he walked into it, brandishing the rolled up music score he’d grabbed. “Where are you?” he looked to the tipped over chair, and then under the table, where his stage manager was curled in to a ball.

“Will, turn on a light. I can’t see anything.”

“Jenna, I did.”

“Stop messing around! Turn on a light so I can see….Will where are you…Will?”

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30. Purity

It wasn’t faith that got him in to trouble. Faith didn’t force you to say things in front of cameras and reporters. Faith did not teach you blindness to another man’s struggles, or that a person was a sinner for love. No, that was a fucked up notion of purity. At least, that was the word that the handsome little TV star had used.

“It just isn’t pure.” he said as he leaned back in the chair across from the interviewer. “It says right there in the bible, in Leviticus.” He has the nerve to brush of his shirt, which was made of a blend of poly-cotton fibers, before finishing up with the usual “If a man lies with a man as he does with a woman” citation.

And then, he went as far as to say that segregation was a time of “great purity in our nation’s history.” He took a drag on a cigarette and fiddled with a pure gold gross around his neck before he continued. “See now, we were all truly free then. We were all people of God then.” He threw “we” around as if he had been there. “My father worked in those fields. See, I grew up poor. White trash, so my father was with them. And we were godly, and they were godly.”

After all of that, he was still surprised when his network suspended him, threatening to release him if he didn’t make a full apology to both the gay and black communities. Of course, he did what he thought to be the most logical thing: he got himself a lawyer. Law and rights never had to apologize for anything. And the woman he got was the best that money could buy, since he had in spades to spare.

The network still released him, but she ensured that they paid a pretty penny to do so. A loophole, breach of a contract; whatever it was she found it and made sure that it would work. Free speech meant that you could speak your mind, apparently without repercussion. Or just the loss of one TV show, it was certain someone else would pick him up anyway. He didn’t make it easy, though. Through the whole of the hearings, he made sure to say that the network was godless, or promoting the new gay agenda and polluting the minds of children. When he’d been on a show that had more sex than dialogue. But as he thanked his fans for standing up for him, his pretty lawyer was there, smiling sweetly and toying with a pretty gold cross that always peaked out from the cut of her coat.

With the case won, he extended an invitation for her and her husband to attend his Christmas party. After Church of course. And there would be a chance to go caroling. After he picked up his jaw from the floor when she’d mentioned she wasn’t married, he assured her that a boyfriend would be acceptable, though he couldn’t believe that such a good, Christian, woman was without a husband. It was the least he could do, he had assured her. No one should be alone on Christmas, so even if she had to come by herself. And she smiled and thanked him.

And she did indeed show up at the outrageous mansion, with her hand firmly clasped in her partner for evening’s. Mr. Hollywood nearly shouted as he picked his jaw up from the floor. But she still smiled and politely shook her head.

“See sir, my wife and I have our own view of purity.” she was perfectly collected as she spoke. “Me, I believe most strongly in the kind of purity that our founding fathers wrote about. Because I may think you’re wrong, and I might be hurt by the things you have to say, especially when they include people like me.” She touched her cross almost exactly when he did. “And you know what, we’re not so different, and I know that it can be hard to see. But even if the things you say make me angry, and I think you’re an idiot for saying them, I’m going to make sure you can say them. That’s the kind of purity I believe in.”

“You-”

“And loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s a biblical purity. And that’s important to you. So is forgiving a sinner. So fine, I’m a sinner as far as you think. But I’m your sister in Christ, and that’s a very, very pure thing.” she took her partner’s hand again. “So, you can either tell us where to put our coats, or kick us out on the purist night of the year. It’s up to you.”

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98. w/c Lily

She could still remember her first time. It wasn’t so much the pain that rocked her to her core, as the blood. There was so much more of it than she’d thought there was going to be. She had done the research, watched the videos. She even asked her friends who had done it.

“Don’t worry so much.” They all seemed to swear in unison. “You’ll barely feel a thing. After awhile, it starts to even feel kinda good.”

“And after you pop your cherry.” One of them cooed, eyes closed as if recalling his own first. “Oh man, you’ll want to do it over and over again. If you’re smart, and you find someone you really love, you won’t have to move around from person to person.”

And she thought she had. He was gentle, the way his fingers cascaded over her skin. He promised her she’d love it. That he’d been the first for so many girls like her. He was experienced, and he laughed and smiled. So she laughed, and she smiled, and she laid down for him. The goose bumps came from her own excitement, watching him get ready. She wondered what was taking so long, her tank top having already been tossed onto a chair, her jeans pushed down off slender hips.

“All right.” He had finally said, fingers brushing her side. “Let’s do this. You ready?”

And when her mother had found out…She’d never seen the woman turn so white. She was certain it would be her last night in her own bed. Last night on earth, if the fire in the woman’s eyes had anything to do with it. She just kept saying to herself-

“Oh my baby, my baby…Where did I go wrong? What did I do wrong?”

Five years later, she looks in the mirror and laughs at the orange flower blooming on her hip. The first of many, all done by a young man’s loving hand and her mother’s disapproval. The older woman had always thought they were hideous. Even that morning, she had sneered at the latest blur of color across a freckled shoulder, a small bird’s delicate wing in those same colors that kissed her hip.

“Oh my baby, my baby. Your body is a temple.”

Well, hers was going to be as bright as the Sistine chapel when she was done with it.

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71. Scars

 Every scar was a ridge of mountains or roaring rapid along the knight commander’s body, a map of his long career of service to his kingdom. The oldest of them was faded away, hardly visible under the coarse hair on his left arm. With a closer look, there was the silver, winding river of a parry gone bad as a Page. It was the first time he’d ever seen his own blood, happening even before the first callouses broke on his fingers.

The ones he was most proud of were the large, angry looking marks on his chest. There had been a fire on a diplomatic mission to a southern kingdom. Nothing intentional, likely just some idiot putting their candle too close to their windowsill and caught a drape on fire. He’d pulled the young princess from her room, and went back in for a yapping little dog she pleaded for him to save. The damn thing jumped out the window just before the scorching hot metal bar that held up the curtains fell on his chest. The burn had him in the medical wing of that backwater kingdom for almost a month. He never looked at charred meat the same way again. But, from left pectoral to right hip, the scar lingered even still, five years after the fact.

On the other side of his chest was the one he was most proud of. It was small compared to all of the others, only about two inches long, as thin as a blade. It was between his ribs on the right side, something you had to search very hard for, and few people got close enough to do so. And the man that got close enough to inflict the wound was an even rarer occurrence.

*~*~*

It was just two years ago, at some overly fussy ball to celebrate the birth date of the founding King. It was fitting that it had only been a week since his charge, the youngest prince of the Kingdom, ascended to the throne.  His brother was a madman deemed unfit for the position, and had not been too happy about the decision. But, the Knight Commander, newly made then, stood proudly beside his king, one hand on his sword and the other on the back of the throne. All night long people had been coming to pledge their allegiance to their new ruler. There was all the bowing, kissing rings, Lords from distant towns bringing gifts of grain or gold; the kind of things that the children’s stories would have skipped over.

He did not recognize the last in the long line of men and women as he stepped up to the dais, because the man wore a dark cloak, hiding his face. He had ignored the order to remove the hood in front of the King, and so the Knight Commander stepped forward. No one saw the blade that slipped from under the long sleeve of the cloak. It wasn’t until the man was fleeing from the ballroom that anyone noticed the tear in his leather armor and the blood pooling on the marble floor.

The bump on his head from when he had fallen backwards hurt more than the blade sinking into his skin. The medics told him that it had severed a major artery, and he was fortunate to be alive. He wouldn’t consider himself fortunate until the would-be assassin was in the ground.

*~*~*

And two years later, the man was still on the run. Which brought him back to the bed, and the newest in his collection of scars. This one, though, was from something much less…Lethal. The young King was wrapping up his finger, which he had managed to slice open with a small knife as he peeled a fruit.

“How did such a klutz like you become my Commander?” the King was clearly teasing, the candle lights sparkling in his dark eyes.

“My dashing good looks and charm?”

“Something like that.” The King pressed his lips to the covering he’d applied, eyes falling on the thin mark on the man’s ribs. “I never did thank you for that day…”

“Well then, perhaps you should start.” The knight tucked his fingers under the King’s chin, pulling his face upwards.

“Perhaps I should.”

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