Listening to: Aphex Twin – Didgeridoo
3/500 | Anger
The ringing crack of a calloused hand on a smooth cheek stood still in the air, like an invisible floating island. Athril’s skin stung with the force of it, but she refused to shake the soreness from her wrist.
“Take your horse and go,” she said, barely able to move her teeth enough to make the words legible.
Wodynis, typically unfazed by the blow, let his eyes coast up and over as he shook his head. Sighing, he lowered his gaze back to hers and quirked an almost undetectable smile. “Always the professional.” He lifted a hand and flicked his fingers in a brief, yet intricate gesture, conjuring a rose. “Haven’t you even a single thought for the sweet words I–”
He stopped himself, his bright eyes dimming somewhat. It was a ploy that Athril had deconstructed long ago. Yet that had somehow been the appeal of it. She blinked, using the innocuous action to clear her head. “My only thought is for your departure.”
“In my experience, you rarely have one thought. Narrow-minded focus is only a part of this disguise you wear.”
She nearly flinched, habit interpreting his relaxing shoulders as a sign that he would reach for her hair or face with a gentle hand. “This is not a game, Wod.”
“Now that is a shame. A world where Athril Tielt has no heart for a game.”
“Speak not of hearts, vile serpent.”
“My own heart lightens to hear you turning my own words against me.” He winked.
Athril stepped back, closer to the door. “They aren’t your words. Your playwright wrote them for you.”
A strange light entered Wodynis’s face, changing the colour of his face and eyes to a foreign pallor. He twitched the rose between his fingers. “I beg your pardon?”
“It isn’t my pardon you ought beg,” Athril snapped, feeling her ire rise out of the ashes of uncertainty. A thorn pricked one of Wodynis’s fingers, tearing the skin. “Games are one matter, but cheating people is quite another.”
Unaware of the blood ribboning thinly down to his wrist, Wodynis snapped off a rose thorn with his thumbnail. “Who is it that you believe I am cheating?”
The air around them began to feel heavier, but somehow unfulfilling. Athril tried to breathe deeper without letting him know it. She glanced down at the rose, half-forgotten suspicions suddenly fogging her mind. “Your audience,” she murmured. It was mostly a lie. “They all believe you to be a true poet.”
“Who is to say that I am not?” The near lie should have reassured him, but he had come to know her too well. Dangerous lines creased his face, his shoulders tightened, sharpening like dagger points.
“I am.” Her own show of confidence belied its wavering stability.
Another twitch of his fingers, and the rose was gone, replaced by a wicked-looking knife. Too small to be a dagger, it was a lady’s weapon. Athril’s gaze flickered between it and his eyes. They seemed darker somehow–no longer the merry brown of rock kestral’s back, they had become the near black of wet leather. The muscles in his neck were taut, the rigidity in his jaw not quite reaching the empty smile.
Then the tightness eased as he blinked once, with the slow languor of a tired child. Athril relaxed, moving her hand away from her own weapon, a bog oak bollock dagger with an ouroboros carving. Succumbing to fits of temper was not Wydonis’s way.
Emotion spilled into his smile, a mixture of amusement and sadness. The silent fury was gone. “Who made you believe that I am not what I say?”
Clutching her arm, Athril turned away from him to face the horizon in the east. “When you asked for my interest, we had an agreement.”
“A promise,” he corrected her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could still see him watching her. She wished he had left when she had told him to leave. A slap had been too subtle. “We agreed not to lie. But you’ve lied all along. Bannock Bair is the poet, you are merely a face and a voice.”
His eyes widened, his lips parting in the same motion. “You’ve met Bannock?”
Chin parallel to the ground, Athril grunted in confirmation. “Aye. He showed me papers in his own hand, words you spoke only the next evening.”
“Only a fool calls the past impossible.”
“No, my dear Athril Tielt…” The sadness in his smile grew until it weighed down his lips into a bewildered frown. “Not a fool.”
She turned to face him, a question half-formed in her mouth. Wydonis’s little blade pierced her chest, driving through muscle and bone.
His face was nearly unrecognisable through the sadness as tears slid down the quieting red mark on his cheek. “Not a fool,” he repeated, removing the knife before placing it in her still hand. “A trickster.”