While She Is Missing

Snow — thick and heavy, lush and crisp, sometimes wet, sometimes light and flurrying. And then it’s a sudden rush, a blanket, one foot, two… three. The city crawls to a halt as priests, mages, and men from the army come to clear the streets. Warmed in the comfort of the palace, several of those missing the Holy One worry for her in these storms. The birds will go back the instant the skies are clear enough, to tell her they hope she is well, and that if she does not return soon, they would like permission to simply retrieve her, so that she is not in danger of remaining out there for the whole of the winter.

While she and her grey-eyed thief remain at the cabin, quiet and calm and tender, learning one another, the dragonmaids continue to sing to their flying, flirting, shrieking males. The noises come and go, at times far, far louder than the wind. The frosted windows are heavy with ice and snow — only the dimmest shapes can be seen, but it seems as though they run around the cabin itself, so near, playing.

The song is high and sweet, sharp and clear, smooth, perfect icicles of sound. Her thief listens, awed and chilled, and holds to her more tightly, sharing warmth, offering his own, gathering hers in.

Far and away, the Emperor lays on his bed, and the Otherlander comes in, yet again. This time, she allows him to take away the knife, and she settles down against him. It is not love — they do not make love. It is not quite simply fucking; it is slightly more tender than that, pleasurable enough, but overlaid in grief for them both.

When it’s over, she leaves without a word as she always has, but this time, she looks back once, over her shoulder, and meets his eyes.

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