The End of part 4.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
A Tale of Two Kings #4
Anne Lenore stood frozen in mid-step on her balcony. She had just caught sight of what looked like a small black spot on the morning sky. The glare of the sun had all but hidden it, but the dark shadow fell like an arrow toward the city. Her eyes opened wide, following the object as it dropped. Then just above the distant rooftops, long leathery wings stretched out from the shadow. The great beast pulled out of its fall and its flight leveled out. From its long reptilian beak, it screeched in triumph for the successful maneuver, and flew off through the city.
“Magnificent,” she uttered before her last breath left her. Scree-noks were common transport animals, but that rider showed great talent in handling the beast. She had noted the colors of red and blue worn by the rider. That uniform placed him among the Imperial Flight Guard. They were among the best wranglers in all the lands. Then for a moment, Anne felt… envious. It was a passing feeling, but one she had had before. She had always wanted to try her hand in the saddle of a Scree-nok, to soar through the clouds. Her father would never allow it though. It wasn’t proper for a princess, he would say. Instead, Anne’s station saw her resigned to slow lumbering airships.
With a quiet sigh, Anne looked out over the cityscape. Her station was not without its perks though. A chance to visit Ara’Keim, and this view were among them. The latter alone almost made her forget about the things she couldn’t do. The view from her balcony was literally breathtaking, and had become more so, each time she stepped out here. She thought it strange how when one lived in a place for too long, they started to take things for granted.
When Anne was younger, she had looked out from this balcony almost every day. Then somewhere along the way, she stopped seeing what there was to see. Time apart, gave her a chance to see things with new eyes. Anne looked on in awe, of what had to be the greatest wonder of this age. Anywhere else in the world, when one looked off toward the horizon, it was a set place in all directions, but here in Ara’Keim it was constantly changing. One might call it a unique feature for a place that actually floated on air. The entire city hung high in the sky passing over all of the nine other kingdoms. She wondered how even as a child, that she had ever come to take that for granted?
Anne felt pain as her chest tightened. She realized that she really had forgotten to breathe, and felt like a foolish lightheaded schoolgirl for letting the moment take her. No one was around, but she still flattened her dress and composed herself, before taking another step onto the spacious ringed balcony. She rested her hands on the rail, leaning outward to take in the full view of the city. Between the buildings, Anne watched the peaks of mountains slide by. She knew the Teschian Mountains would soon be gone from sight. This time of year, the city was making its turn over the northern kingdoms. The time of Skylights would soon be here. During that season, the night sky would be filled with fluttering curtains of lights. Anne wished that she could stay to see them. She also wished that she had never left. Station and duty required things of her. It required her to come here, and after her meeting with the king, the same would require her return home.
Anne sighed and looked down over the rail.
“Careful,” said a voice to her left. “It’s a long ways down.”
Startled, Anne spun sharply toward the intruder, pulling a small concealed blade from her sleeve. Her father said that one had to be prepared for any situation, especially young headstrong princesses. Though she often pretended not to, she always listened. Annoyingly the old man was often right.
“Who’s there,” Anne called out. The figure of a man stood in the long morning shadow at the far edge of the balcony. He slowly stepped forward with arms raised. When he came into the light, she saw that stupid clever smile from last night.
“Easy, Princess,” Zareth said. “I think we can do without the sharp pointy things.”
Anne’s eyes narrowed to thin slits as she looked him over, but she did not lower the knife. Instead she gave it a slow twist in the air, mimicking what she would do once she stabbed him with it.
“How the hell did you get in here?”
“Actually, we’re on a balcony. We’re not exactly in, it’s more out… and maybe up. Maybe you should be asking how I got ‘up’ here.” Zareth’s smile widened. Anne considered cutting those lips from his mouth, as she gave the knife another twist in the air.
“How the hell did you get up here, then?”
Zareth licked his smiling lips, taking a step closer to her and the rail. The knife did not seem to bother him in the slightest. He just looked over the edge and then to her.
“The hard way of course,” Zareth replied. “After the little altercation last night with your guards, I thought getting through the front door might be a little difficult.”
Anne glanced over the rail at the long steep drop. She tried not to look impressed with the climb the man had made. What did this fool want?
“My guards are right outside,” she said. Anne let a cold chill enter her voice. “With a snap of my fingers, they can see you back the way you came, just as they helped you down the stairs last night.”
The threat did not faze the man, nor did the brandishing of her knife. Anne wondered if she should not maybe give him a small cut. It would at least teach him the proper consideration for sharp things, and then maybe he could fall from a very high place. She decided against it. Blood had a nasty tendency of getting everywhere and stained quite horribly. Besides… the fool would most likely love such a scar to brag about.
“What do you want, Zareth?”
Damn that smile of his.
“I just wanted to talk,” he said.
“To talk…?” Anne did not even try to keep the skepticism from her voice.
“I wanted to say… that I’m sorry.”
Anne just rolled her eyes and gave him a tired stare. He didn’t look sorry about anything.
“I truly am sorry, Anne.”
“Sorry…? Sorry for what, Zareth?”
“Everything,” he replied. “I’m sorry for last night. I’m sorry for every day that came before, for the years we have lost from your company. I cannot change the memory you hold of me and Roderic, but he told the truth. We are not the fools we once were.”
Of all things, that, she had not expected. Anne heard the sincerity in his words. She also noted an odd tenderness in his voice. He really meant this, but why now? Anne hesitantly lowered her blade and took a step toward him. She looked up into Zareth’s eyes. Anne saw nothing hidden in them, but this was Zareth after all.
“And you thought sneaking into a woman’s private quarters, was the proper way to relay your message?” she asked, letting curiosity ring in her tone.
“Actions and the limit we go to, speak louder than words, my lady,” he glance over the high edge and smiled at her again.
There it was… the twinkle in his eye.
“Indeed they do,” Anne smiled in return. She then pressed the sharp tip of her knife, against a very sensitive part of Zareth’s anatomy. By the way he almost swallowed his tongue; she knew for certain that she had his full attention.
“I believe that we’re on the same page now. Don’t you think?” she asked with a steeper smile and a bat of her eyelashes.
“Quite,” Zareth said. His voice was only a few octaves higher than before. He maintained better control than she thought he would.
“You may not be the fool you once were, Zareth, but you are still a fool.” Anne gave a small upward tug on her knife. The sharp squeak from Zareth’s lips told her he was truly listening. “As I said last night, I am not one of your weak-kneed handmaidens, whom might enjoy the tickle from your silver tongue.” Her eyes were locked with his. “If you ever darken my presence again…” Anne twitched the knife again, piercing cloth and touching soft flesh. “That tongue will be all you have to work with.”
Anne watched the discomfort in Zareth’s expression. He nodded his understanding of her terms, and she took a step back from him, tucking the blade back into her sleeve.
“As always, Zareth, it has been a pleasure,” Anne stated. “Please, see yourself out… the way you came, of course.”
She turned heading back into her quarters.
“Anne,” Zareth called.
She paused with an exhausted sigh. Would he try yet again to lift her skirt?
“It wasn’t Roderic’s fault, when we were younger,” he said, sounding out of breath. “I’m the one that knocked over the candle.”
“I know,” Anne replied. She lightly touched the edge of her hair. “You better start your climb. The guards will be here soon to throw you off.”
With a snap of her fingers, she walked on, but glanced back to see Zareth leaping over the edge of the balcony. Hopefully, with a little luck she thought, maybe he’ll break his neck on the way down.
I hope you enjoyed this installment, and part 5 will be along soon in the future.
Please leave your comments.
Also feel free to visit my other home on Facebook:www.facebook.com/TurnerBookPage