Tales From the Universe Tree: Wolves of Ice and Fire. Part Five: A Wolf's Fury.
What We Do In Rofin.
(Continued from Part Four)
When she left her daughter, Risa stalked back down the corridor back towards the garden. She didn’t have far to go, though. Bongal was coming up the corridor muttering to himself, his face was a red nightmare of fury. Two guards flanked him impassively. Servants tripped over themselves to get out of the way or be trampled. Risa hurried toward him, her anger echoed off the stone walls, like a heartbeat. A servant all but squeaked when Risa shoved past her, but Risa hardly heard. Her eyes flared at him.
Bongal looked up as he heard her approach and snorted, and then his snort turned into a high-pitched yelp when Risa grabbed him by the collar and slammed him bodily against the wall with a loud ‘crack.’ And before he knew what was happening, Risa’s blade was kissing his neck. His guards started toward him but Risa stilled them with a sharp command. Bongal stared down at the blade, his eyes wide with sudden terror.
“If this were Rofin,” Risa’s whisper was like ice but it was meant to carry and it did. “I would have your head on a spike for what you did to my daughter.”
The knot in Bongal’s neck bobbed as he swallowed. “Is that what you’re going to do to me, peasant?” A smile crept over his mouth, with his mustaches it looked like two worms trying to fly. “That’s how your people do things, is it?” His lips curled into a smug smile. The word “people” sounded like a curse. Risa didn’t rise to the bait, his taunts were nothing to her. But he went on as if he had not noticed. “Do it, if that is your way. But do knowing that without me, Jontal will never accept Shenal’s rule. My death will spark another Civil War, woman. Are you ready to accept that? One death igniting thousands like a single spark starting a campfire? Can your puny mind even picture it?”
Risa’s glare stabbed straight into Bongal’s beady rat-like eyes and then the First Sword's smile vanished, shivering. She leaned in, a small trickle of blood flowed down his neck where her blade bit. “Who said anything about killing you?” The Shogun’s voice was pitched so only he could hear now. “You hate me, even Yuska can see it. But I don’t care what you think or what you do to me. But if you ever hurt my daughter again, then I will make you feel every tear she sheds. Do you understand me?”
Bongalhesitated for a long moment, staring down at the blade against his neck, then into her piercing icy eyes. His shudder quaked through her.
“You-you wouldn’t dare,” he spluttered. “You wouldn’t, I am the High Lord of—” he trailed off under Risa’s intensely cold glare. He was a coward at heart, but even an enraged Gilannri would back down under the fury of Risa Albus, Hers was the gaze of a she-wolf and her teeth were bared.
Risa leaned in, her nose almost touching his. He smelled of rose hips and oils and the pungent odor of fear. “Try me…” was all she snarled. In the next instant, Rise pushed away from him. Bongal stood motionless for a long moment, a small trickle of blood flowed from the wound in where her short sword had been. He sagged against the wall visibly. Risa looked him over and nodded before sheathing her short sword. “Take him back to his quarters,” she barked at his dumbstricken guards, before stalking away. As she turned away, she could feel the hatred of his stare on her back like a bonfire. Well, let him burn. Risa allowed herself a small victory smile. Yes, let him be swallowed up by his own jealousy.
Water Instead of Wine.
In the back of her mind, a tiny voice niggled her, berating her for what she just did. She sniffed derisively and stamped it down to silence. He won’t go after Yuska again, unconsciously her hand gripped the hilt of her short sword till her knuckles turned white. And the Tree shade him if he ever tries. She grunted and turned down the next corridor, not toward her chambers, But towards the kitchens. “I need a drink.” She muttered aloud. Shenal would have ordered a servant to bring her something, but Risa had never really gotten used to that. And doing something for herself helped her think at any rate. The servants in the kitchen ignored her as she stormed in and poured herself a glass of water. A few of the servants raised their eyebrows and glanced sideways at the enormous wine barrels in an alcove on the far wall. Risa sighed, Elysium, why is it so strange that I don’t drink wine during the day?
Risa shook thoughts of the servants away and wondered if Shenal had been told that what she had done yet. Bongal was too proud to stay quiet. But even if he had the pride of a goose it wouldn’t have mattered. Somehow, everything that went on in this overstuffed henhouse seemed to reach Shenal’s ears no matter how well you tried to hide it. One day, she would have to ask her how under the branches she did that. Still, it’ll be better to assume that she does.
When she returned to their bedchamber some thirty minutes later, Risa had her answer. The Queen sat on the couch with her legs crossed and fixed Risa with implacable irritation. “That was rashly done,” the Queen said dryly.
Risa shut the door behind her, “What are you talking about?” she flashed The Queen Her best-bemused smile. She wasn’t worried. If Shenal had been planning to do anything, she would have already done it. Risa knew her too well.
“You know what,” Shenal said firmly. “Roots crush me, Risa. What were you thinking?! If you had killed him—”
Risa smile vanished, “But I didn’t,” she replied tersely. “I just put the fear of Elysium into his worthless carcass for what he did. Elysium burn me, Shenal. A nick on the neck is nothing compared to almost beating her bloody.”
“I wasn’t,” Risa said sharply. “Her eyes were nearly swollen shut! Would you have done nothing if he had done the same to Satsuka or Daiman!?”
“Don’t be absurd,” Shenal stood, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. “But what you did was foolish. By the Tree, Risa, the whole palace will know about it by the end of the day. And do you know what will happen if—no, when— the Jontalian lords hear about this!?”
Risa took a deep breath and took a seat on the couch opposite of The Queen, crossing her legs. “They’ll do nothing and you know it! If they start a war over that, then they’re the most childish of the lot. And I know for a fact that you aren’t scared of unruly children!”
That Is My World.
“Hardly,” Shenal agreed tightly. “But I TOLD you I would take care of it. And I did, he paid a price in humiliation for what he did." She sighed. "I don’t think you understand how much I need him, Risa.”
“Everyone seems to enjoy reminding me,” Risa muttered. Her face hardened when she saw the look on the Queen’s face. “Oh, I understand! I’m not an idiot, Shenal. I’m not going to kill him. But I WON’T let anyone hurt my daughter! Not him, not ANYone! And don’t ask me to do otherwise!”
Shenal sighed exasperatedly. “I won’t.” She sat back down, holding her head between her thumb and forefinger. “I just wish you would learn how to be subtle. By doing this, you just prove what they think about you, don’t you see that?”
“What they think?! They can think I’m a bloody Daacal or the Winter Lord himself for all I care.” The Shogun snarled.
“You may not care, but they do.” Shenal’s voice sounded frayed, as her patients were getting ready to snap. “If you act the fool, how do you think that will reflex on me? It will seem like I have no control over my own people. And if I don’t have that. Then what right do I have to rule?”
“That is ridiculous.”
“That is my world, Risa.” Shenal looked at the Shogun and a sudden warm smile split her beautiful face. She stood and sat down next to Risa, taking her in her arms and planting a kiss on the Shogun’s lips. “And thank the Tree that I have you to share it with.” Risa returned the kiss.
(Continued in Part Six)
© 2017 Will English.