008 Faithful’s Bride
They lowered their weapons and tried to be diplomatic in their reply. “As we said, Natia does not wish you any harm. If this creature has persuaded you to keep her, then so be it. We cannot see how such a lowly animal can be worthy to wed, but if you desire her, then I pronounce her your wife. Natia will be displeased that you have treated her gift so strangely. However, this creature is yours to do with as you will. Take heed that you do not anger Natia. She intended to gain your friendship, but if you blaspheme her thus, you have condemned yourself as her enemy.”
I could not endure the way that they spoke to my master. Before they could respond, I sprang forward and stole their enmity toward him. Loathing for my master blasted into my soul. Only my terror of him prevented me from springing forth and slaying him.
“We are greatly pleased that you have accepted Natia’s gift so willingly. May she continue to bestow her blessings upon you. May your bride be granted eternal youthfulness and innumerable offspring,” the chief priestess announced.
As they marched away, the emboldened Faithful embraced his prize, oblivious to the ordeal of winning her. I had changed history or at least the memory the past and no one would thank me.
“You are able to love one who is as despised as me?” he thrummed.
“Yes,” she thrummed back.
Their conversation stalled as neither knew how lovers should speak.
Praise her beauty? I suggested.
“I don't know how?”
As we thought to each other, her formless body, comprised entirely of blood, began to take on shape and flesh.
You have the loveliest girl in all the Barren Caverns standing before you, yet you cannot praise her? Her beauty exceeds even the Queen's. At least kiss her.
Faithful tapped his lips to hers as if she would shatter at his touch.
No, No, no! Embrace her with passion. Make her know she is the only woman in the world.
“But she is not.”
Make her feel as if she is.
Whatever do you mean?”
She must know that no woman can compete for your affections, that you will never forsake her.
“No other woman can compete for my affections.” I rubbed my hands on my temples and groaned. Can you not hear her? Do you not have ears? Study her and find something to complement.
“I don’t know how.”
She truly was beautiful by Ildallyn or human standards. As Faithful's fingers ran through her fine hair, her body grew more distinct features and transitioned from formless blood to the form of a marvelous young woman shaped after his deepest yearnings.
A glorious smile encircled her fangs which dripped the most delectable nectar and flicked in and out of her mouth in excitement. Hair comprised of webs, silver strands, spider legs, and bat-fur flowed over her sharp ears. Large eyes blinked into existence. She unfurled her bat-wings, revealing a silk gown and pulled him toward her with a web that she wove from the spinnerets in her wrists.
Many impossibly thin spider legs of varying lengths protruded from her waist, forming a skirt and stabilizing her against the walls of the apartment's entrance. Her wings undulated gently as if a breeze blew across them. The tips terminated in fingers each a quarter throse long, with pure silver claws at the ends. Her unblemished fur, which flowed gently from her neck to her clawed feet, could not be improved. Another spinneret rested at her navel. Her hips marked the termination of her wings and led to powerful legs and clawed hand-feet.
“What is your name?” Faithful resumed the conversation.
“Whatever you wish it to be.” Here he stalled again.
Faithful's presence in the room and my mind agonized me. The hatred from the priestesses still remained. To free myself from the pain, I took their hands in mine and granted Faithful the ability to speak to his bride's mind. The hatred and fear fled along with my link to Faithful.
Never again will he comfort me in the perils of my nightmares.
“Does Silver please you? It matches your fur; it’s so fine and smooth,” He ran his fingers through her hair and thrummed with pleasure. Their mental communion removed all obstacles to affection.
“Yes, Silver pleases me, but any good name needs a second part.”
“Then you are Silver Nectarfang…”
I retired to the guest bower after asking where it was and hoped Faithful would be able to keep the conversation alive.
I laid on my bed of spider-silk alone. Sleep eluded me when the concerns of the coming day crashed into my mind like a collapsing tunnel. By refusing the girl publicly with so many witnesses, Faithful effectively declared himself an enemy of Natia’s order. The citizens of the Unlit Realms hated both of us. Faithful was once a slave, did not serve the country's gods, and did not share their addiction to women and wine. They despised me because I was a woman, unanimal, and a slave. Soon, they would despise me for carrying a child which no man would claim.
I did not wish to rob Faithful’s chance to become heir, but neither did I did not wish to rob my daughter of the status which would be afforded her. Conflicting desires tore at my soul. If I won, then I could perhaps gain the power to destroy Centin. The torment of Faithful’s past afflicted me in the form of nightmares, robbing me of the rest my scarce sleep should have afforded.
As I moaned in my bed, Silver's lovely form stooped over my mind.
“I wish he didn’t have to die tomorrow,” she thought to me.
What do you mean? I certainly do not intend to kill him.
“Of course you do. Think of all the pain he has put you through tonight. Think of how he forsook you for a stranger created to appeal to his passion. You have comforted him for his entire life, yet he does not show the same comfort to you. Instead he gives you all of his pain.”
I took his pain willingly.
“Do you actually believe that?”
I love him.
“Yet you also hate him.”
Yes. I have stolen so many woes tonight that I cannot help but do both.
“Do you know who I am?”
“I am Gemma. My 'creation' was a rather convincing trick, was it not?”
I tried to warn him. I knew you were false!
“Don’t worry darling. He won't suffer much longer. Tomorrow you will slay him just like you have slaughtered all those who have ever loved you. Do you remember Ana? Do you remember how you strangled her in her bed after how kind she was to you? Do you remember the terror in her dying thrum?”
*You forced me to kill her. You overtook my mind. I could do nothing to save her.
“Murderer,” her gentle voice imparted condemnation on my soul.
“Tomorrow, you will slaughter him in the dual. You will not stop hacking at his body until he is an emaciated heap of death.”
No, I will resist you this time. Why do you torment me so? What did I do to earn your hatred?
“Do you really want me to recount all of your treacheries? All of the murders? All of the betrayals?”
No, no, please no!
“You will not warn him about me and you will make a widow of me tomorrow. Sleep well my darling.”
The same monstrosity that haunted my dreams barged into my mind and violently expelled the offender. The she-monster took occupancy. It horrified me more than Gemma ever could. I felt the gaze from her eyes melt through my soul and examine all the depths of my depravity. No one heard my internal screams; no one could deliver me. I missed Faithful already.
Why did I not beg him to marry me? Why did I let Gemma steal him?
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