Tales From the Universe Tree: Wolves of Ice and Fire. Part One: The Past is Dust.
When Summer Finally Comes...
When summer finally comes, then I’ll find Yuska a father. Risa Albus shifted in the darkness and tightened her arm around the woman snuggled serenely against her naked breasts. The promise she would never keep came to her with the ease of endless repetition. She sighed. How many times had she made it, she wondered. Why had she made it in the first place? She remembered the first person she had made it too, her mother. She remembered how hollow the words sounded to her and the proud smile that split her mother’s face when she had made it. She was glad that her mother had not lived to see it broken.
“The Past Is As Dead As He Is."
Her daughter had had a father once, of course. He had been an oil merchant from Jontal’s western (and only) coast. She no longer remembered his name, it was not worth remembering. Only his monstrous belly stuck out like a canker in her memory. And that had been as wide as his lust for gold. And his love for the bottle was matched only by his lust for young girls. Young girls with all the beauty and innocence of eleven. Risa shivered out of reflex. She felt no revulsion at the memories, not anymore. She had come to grips with it, hardened herself against it until the memories didn’t make her feel soiled…much.
She shut her eyes to the past and took a deep breath. “The past is as dead as he is.” She whispered, tightening her hold on the woman sleeping on her breasts as if afraid she would vanish. “Never again.” she shook her head. “Never again…”
She Was Beautiful.
“’Never again’ what, heart of my heart?” said her lover breathily. It was only then that Risa realized that the other woman was studying her sleepily. Risa met her gaze; her eyes were deep blue pools that Risa would happily drown in. Shenal Tallmin was a few years younger than Risa, with long smooth flame-colored hair that tumbled clumsily down her back and ending in ringlets that brushed the tops of her perfect breasts. And by the Tree, she was beautiful. More beautiful than her years had any right to be. The feel of her smooth skin against her own scar covered body made gooseflesh rise. She stroked her lover’s hair softly. Shenal’s hair was naturally the color of flame of course; many southerners’ were, as natural as the short ice blue hair that marked Risa as a Rofinin, a northern woman. Shenal’s hand brushed Risa’s cheek, kissed her. “Are you alright?”
Risa smiled and returned the kiss, “I was just thinking, Shenal.”
“About what?” Shenal peered into her the other woman’s grey eyes, her face full of concern.
“You’re A Queen.”
Shenal chuckled devilishly; her hand crawled down Risa’s stomach to the lips of her dripping sex. Risa let out a shuddering breath of pleasure at the touch. “The past is dust.” The flamed-haired woman whispered huskily, her kisses tasted like sugar and sex. “You have no use for dust. Only me.”
Risa shivered. “You’re a Queen,” Her breath was ragged, her cheeks heating with anticipation. She cupped her lover’s breast and squeezed it tightly. “I am your servant.”
“You are Shogun,” Shenal’s lips met Risa’s neck. “You are...my sword…and my heart.” She cut off all talk with a kiss. It was an hour of bliss, their nights together always were. She never wanted anyone else. When they were finished, the sun was breaking the nights grip on the world and Risa was sodden with sweat and musky with love. She smiled at the course, raw burning between her legs. She didn’t mind though, it was a good burn. The feel of Shenal’s wetness against her, throbbing against her, grinding against her, climaxing with her, made her feel more complete than any man she had ever experienced. She never wanted anyone else.
“I Am Your Sword."
Shenal slept beside her, the smile on her face was as happy as a babe’s. Risa lifted some of the Queen’s hair out of her face. The Queen of the United Kingdoms of Durranna. My sovereign…and the woman who loves me, a commoner. She pushed the silk sheets back and rose from the bed. It was a beautiful bedchamber. Paintings colored the wall, scenes of gardens and fanciful banquets and battles stared down at the occupants. The four post bed was simple but huge, big enough for six people, the headboard was curled at the top and the feet were carved to look like wolfs paws. Two wardrobes hid in shallow alcoves a few feet away from the bed. One was gilded with gold and handles made of jade and the other was plain and unadorned. On the far side of the wall, opposite of the bed, was a glass door that led out onto a balcony overlooking the city. Risa smiled at the balcony, remembering the nights that she and the Queen had spent out there, holding each other under the moonlight and basking in the lights of the Rinlon, Durranna’s capital city.
Risa giggled to herself. A faint memory bubbled on the tip of her tongue. It was sweet, like wine, and earthy like Shenal’s lips. How drunk we were that night? How much in love? It was very odd, Risa reflected, her relationship with the Queen. Not in the sense that two members of the same sex loved each other like a husband and a wife. That was a common occurrence in both Rofin and Durranna. But still, it was odd for a highborn lady and a commoner being in love like they were. Odd, Risa mused, but certainly not impossible. Almost every Nobleman she had ever met had at least one common born mistresses. A maid, a whore or an advisor that had risen above their status somehow. Risa glanced back at her sleeping lover and smiled. “Who cares about that,” she whispered. “I love you. And you love me. Nothing else matters.” For what seemed like the millionth time since she attained it, she wondered if she had gotten her title because of that love, and for the millionth time she laughed it away. I earned that.
It Isn't A 'Tale'.
She looked up at one of the paintings looming above the heavy wooden door. It was a battle scene. A tsunami of bestial shapes shrouded in shadows, shrank away from a group of thirteen people—twelve men and one woman—standing above them on a hill of bleeding snow. A single bolt of lightning illumined their faces, and the man in front of the others held it over his head like a sword, connecting him to the sky and ground. Risa sighed. “Gilannri tale” she muttered to herself. She knew the story the painting depicted. Knew the location where the image was depicting, it had supposedly happened in her homeland after all. But she had never really believed it. She was never a pious woman.
“It isn’t a ‘Tale’.” Shenal wrapped her arms around Risa’s waist, pressing her breasts against the other woman’s back. She twirled a finger in the blue mound of course hair between Risa’s legs. The Queen kissed her neck. “You know that better than anyone. You’ve seen the Breech, my love.”
Do You Remember The First Time We Met?
Risa gave a start at the contact; she had been was so intent on the painting that she hadn’t heard The Queen approach. When she realized who it was, she leaned into the embrace. “It’s enough of one.” She said, smiling warmly. She kissed her. Then abruptly and reluctantly, she broke the embrace. “We better get dressed, your majesty.” The Queen gave her a pouty look but she did turn and strutted towards the gilded wardrobe, popping her hips and looking over her shoulder, “come here” The Queen’s gaze seemed to command. Risa followed her, eyeing her hungrily, but she forced herself to focus. Now wasn’t the time.
“Do you remember the first time we met, Risa?” The Queen’s question was muffled slightly as she pulled a silk shift over her head.
Risa pulled a blue silken shirt over her head and set to work clapping two small gold rings around two tails that dangled around her face. “How could I forget?” she said with a nostalgic sigh. “As I recall you looked at me as if I was dung on your sandals.”
Shenal chortled, “Well, You did throw me into a muddy basement, and a barrel full of ale. I was soaked to the bone and stank like the stuff for weeks.”
“I’m not, believe me.” Shenal laughed. “You ruined my favorite dress. I wonder, did my army train you to treat your Queen so? Or were you so green that the summer snows hadn’t melted out of your ears?”
Risa grinned, “You weren’t Queen then. And we were under attack, remember? I was assigned to protect you and I did.” She chuckled. “Why was a princess at the front lines of a war anyway? Were you hunting for…” she shrugged, “Opportunities?”
“Oh, you’re terrible.” Shenal slapped Risa’s arm playfully. “And in ten years you still haven’t apologized.”
Risa’s face fell “The rebels would have done much worse than that.” She glanced down at her hand and shuddered. Ten years. She thought. And it still feels so fresh.
Memories Of War.
Her mind cast itself back to ten years ago, to the Civil War. Rofin, still its own Kingdom back then. And they had allied themselves with the remnants of Jontal’s royal family and their supporters when the Mountain Kingdom rode to war against the Jade Throne, hoping to rule themselves again as they had in the ages before the Kingdom of Durranna had conquered Jontal. Risa had fought for Durranna, had fought and killed her own countrymen. She had been there during the siege of Valintin Keep, the stronghold of the rebels in Rofin. The Keep had been months in dying. Only when Risa and a number of rats had snuck in through the sewers and opened the gates from the inside did it finally realize that it was dead. But even with their world burning around them, the rebels hadn’t surrendered.
Risa’s mouth tightened into a thin line, her hands tingled with remembered violence. They didn’t surrender. Absently she rubbed her hands on her skirt. We had no choice. It was war. The line of the Kings of the Ice Born had been extinguished that day. The war ended one year after that, after the battle of Yaluin Mountains in Jontal. Risa had been there too. She shook her head, stop thinking about it. It’s in the past.
“I tried to get you back for it,” Shenal giggled. “I and Dim released a family of mice into your tent.” Actually, it had been her small clothes and her bed while she had been sleeping, but Risa wasn’t about to remind her of that. “Do you remember?” The Queen tied a large silk sash the color of spring leaves, around her waist.
Risa shoved her arm through the sleeves of her own Kimono, smiled. “There were other things after that. The toenails in my soup I remember especially. It got so bad that I had to request a transfer to the front lines after the third year.”
Shenal walked over to the vanity and picked up the comb made of polished whalebone. The beautiful dark green silk Kimono she wore was wide below the belt, almost a dress. And the motif that encircled the skirt was a forest scene, the trees all connected by embroidered vines woven with cloth of gold and red silk. Mist rolled across the hem. Emerging from the mist, stalked a pack of perfect Red wolves, the sigil of the Royal family. Each strand of the fur rippled, as if alive, when The Queen moved. The eyes of the wolves were dragon’s eyes, small crystals of various colors. The crystals glinted in the pink glow of dawn. “I was so angry when I heard,” Shenal ran the comb through her flamed colored hair and chuckled, “I think I became a little obsessed with you after that.”
“A little?! Shenal, when I came back you were holding my daughter up for the entire court like she was a walrus. Elysium, I thought you had KIDDNAPPED her at first.” Shenal flashed a wide toothy smile and her eyes twinkled with all the innocence of little girl with a prank up her sleeve. Risa grimaced. Why was Shenal such a brat sometimes? She tied a large sash around her own Kimono, the twin to the one the Queen wore, only with the motif of a flock of Hrunting flying against a vast cloudless sky. “You’re only lucky the old King and the royal guard were there.”
“I’d say Yuska was luckier. Father did declare her the families ward, after all.”
Risa shut her eyes and then sighed. “Well, I am grateful for that.” She said evenly. “How did you find out about her, anyway? You never told me.”
“It wasn’t hard to do, Risa,” Shenal replied smoothly. “The woman you left her with a palace servant, remember? You practically left her outside my door.”
“So Gina told you then?”
Shenal’s smirk held back a giggle. “Oh, not willing. I had her flogged and…oh don’t look at me like that, I’m just kidding.” The Queen sighed, “If you must know, one of my ladies in waiting said that a guard she was sweet on said that he had seen you talking to Gina in a tavern or someplace. I got her name and summoned her to my chamber.” She smiled. “I asked her so many questions, she was ready to fall to pieces when I was done. The poor girl. But I was shocked to learn that you had a daughter and that you had been married. You were so young,” she shook her head. “Elysium, it sickens me just thinking about it.”
“I was a woman grown.” Risa finished tying the sash around her waist. “And I married young.”
“I hardly count eleven as a ‘woman grown’.” The Queen retorted. “And to have a child at the age you did, Elysium, I don’t think I had ever been more disgusted in all my life.”
Risa strode to the curved short sword propped up against the wall and wiggled it into her sash. “Things are different in Rofin.” She said absently. She wasn’t condoning or condemning it. Most married young in the North, where death was a constant neighbor. Sudden snowstorms could pile up as high as a man, sealing in entire families to starve to death. But that was the gentlest of fates. The practice was outlawed now, Shenal had seen to that after the war. But Risa doubted that that would stop it. You could not outlaw necessity. Risa shivered and clutched her fist at her sides to stop herself from shaking. Marrying young is the only way in the north. She wished she believed it. “We better go. There is much to do.”
(Story continued in Part Two.)
© 2017 Will English.