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- Posted: Sat, 08 Sep 2012 19:45:04 +0000
Xanthia clutched Abel’s coat and held on tight, returning his embrace. Beneath the fabric she could feel his muscle: warm and formed like the work of a master sculptor. His shoulder was wet with her tears by the time they stopped flowing. There was so much more she hadn’t told him. Indeed, she had merely hinted at the fact that Denre was a shapeshifter through using the pronoun “she” when Abel knew her only as a man. That ability hadn’t disturbed Xanthia at all, only sparking her interest. What were its limits? Gender obviously wasn’t one of them. Could she do animals too? The questions bubbling inside started to pain when Xanthia realized she might never get to ask them, let alone talk ever again to someone as cool as Denre. In a fit of emotion she had spoiled it. The insults she had flung at Denre were tearing apart her insides for all their cruelty. How could she be so nasty to someone who needed a friend more than anybody? What shoulder did Denre have in a time like this? She would have to find her as soon as possible. For now though, Xanthia left it to ferment in her mind, lest she drench Abel’s coat with another wave of tears.
“I’m sorry Abel. I’m so sorry you have to see me like this … I guess my hopes were just unrealistic.”
"Tell them to find another cartographer. You shouldn't be on that expedition, Xanthia. The last place you should be is in that godforsaken land to the South. The Blood-Lord is an unforgiving and cruel ruler. I don't... You shouldn't be there. We'll talk with Jhandel and tell him to get a different cartographer."
“No” , Xanthia declared before she could even think. The word had flowed instantly off her tongue with a defensive accent and she was caught for a moment in confusion. Why did she say that? It was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Abel was darn right she shouldn’t be on a military mission into a blood-lord’s domain. Xanthia could hardly wield a blade let alone fight with one and she knew it. If they were going to die then she would be the first to go. She didn’t have superhuman strength as Nero did, some otherworldly gift like Denre, or the years of experience that Jhandel packed under his belt. No, Xanthia cracked rocks not skulls and would never stand a chance against some monstrous forest beast if it decided it didn’t want her drawing its portrait. She was a naturalist that drew maps. If Jhandel needed a cartographer to draw his battle lines then there were a hundred others more employable than her; ones that could draw maps and fight.
“I…I’ll talk to him.”
There was every reason to agree with Abel’s suggestion but still Xanthia’s soul had jumped to a rejection. There was more to it and she couldn’t lie to herself. What was left for her in Zenithis? The museum had kicked her out, she was too liberal for politics, and the university didn’t appreciate her impulsive-interest approach to academics. What a waste of money it would be anyway; starting something new just to change the focus of her studies a year later. Her mother’s shop: that was left. Though her father delighted in the security of literally never even leaving the house to work, Xanthia’s mother seemed to loathe her presence these days. It wasn’t that she didn’t do a good job, the hynamo thing being an exception, of course. But her mother knew that she was born for something more. She had the blood of an adventurer and Xanthia’s mother hated seeing her caught in the monotony of transcribing maps in their very own household. Yes, there was so much more but Xanthia let it be for now. The silver light of the moon, the beauty of the Magnolia, her open heart, and the warmth she had felt in Abel’s embrace all convinced her that words were probably not necessary.
“Dance with me”, Abel beckoned. The scratches on Xanthia’s arms and ankles had started to sting only after Abel pointed them out. They had finished bleeding a while ago so Xanthia simply ignored them and allowed Abel to help her to her feet. She began to blush as Abel’s hands cradled her own and hoped with futility that the pale moonlight would hide the pinking of her cheeks. As they began to sway, Xanthia noticed for the first time the muffled music emanating from some far off corner of the banquet. It was magical, more perfect than that play could ever hope to be. Together they swayed, back and forth under the beauty of the magnolia that rained gentle pink pedals. She held Abel close, grasping his coat as she did before and posed one last question amidst the gentle romance.
“Abel…if I went, would you come with me?”
Lifting her head from Abel’s sweet caress, Xanthia looked deep into his eyes and trembled.