More of the cut First Chapter of Savage.
“Have you forgotten what I was when I came to you?” Anleeh asked.
“No.” The Queen replied.
“Your faith is stronger than mine.”
“My faith will be enough for both of us.”
Forgetting their new roles, new lives, Anleeh dropped to one knee and pressed his forehead against the back of her hand, showing his obedience but giving her no response.
“This is a request from Queen to loyal subject. If I must I will make it a royal order, and if that still is not enough, I will make it a plea from a friend for aid in a perilous time.”
Anleeh raised his head to gauge her expression. She was deadly serious. Had it been left at requests and orders from the Monarch, he would have eventually given in but might have managed to bargain a good tussle out of the other men before acquiescing. Her friendship was one of his greatest treasures; he could not deny her the help she needed.
“You are a cruel and underhanded bitch, Majesty.”
Cryessa grinned. “I only do what I must.”
Anleeh kissed her fingertips and then rose, and leering down at her. “How far does that dedication extend, Lady?”
Cryessa looked him up and down and slowly licked her upper lip. “Is there something else I might do to… persuade you?”
“Persuasion is best when it is creative.”
“I pride myself on my creativity.”
“A promise. You have sampled of my creativity.”
“That I have, but there are improvements that could be made.”
“Improvements? You criticize my technique so soon after raising the subject of your arrival to the Great City? Perhaps you forget your lack of both creativity and skill when first you came under my patient and merciful tutelage?”
Anleeh threw his head back and roared with laughter. “Patient tutelage? I think you gave me four or five days before you expected me to be a cock-master.”
Grinning and continuing to toss the innuendo-laden comments that marked their relationship, they made their way down the steps and back into the Palace. Just inside the door, leaning against the wall in an unconvincing imitation of relaxation, was High King Tamlohn.
Anleeh stopped when he saw the High King, his anger trying to reignite, but the embers had been smothered by his time with the Priestess.
“The matter is settled and will be discussed no more.” With a quick stroke to Anleeh’s forearm, Cryessa made her way towards the High King, only to stop as he straightened and moved past her. Anleeh tensed as the other man came near. When they stood no more than a hand span apart, Anleeh met the High King’s eyes, prepared for anger or jealousy. He was not prepared for sorrow.
“Tonight at moonrise,” Tamlohn whispered.
With that the High King turned and move back to the High Queen. She shot a questioning look between them but allowed High King Tamlohn to lead her away.
* * * *
That night, just before moonrise, Anleeh handed the reins of his mount to one of the Temple stable lads. He took a moment to center himself, making a point of dusting off his cloak before he looked at his former home. The Temple stood before him, massive and graceful with its multitude of crescent balconies and warm stone. This building, and what it represented, had once been the only beacon of hope in a land that suffered under a terrible tyranny.
All that had changed when a rebel force from the North swept down like a bitter wind, overthrowing the old King and taking the Temple hostage. Despite the eventual outcome, Anleeh could barely bear to think upon that which had preceded the dark sacrifice of the King and High Queen. As a warrior, he hated remembering the despicable deception of the rebel force. They had first pretended friendship, claiming the usurper-King’s as a common enemy, and when the Temple army gave them trust and fought alongside them the rebels had turned on them.
He along with his fellow Zinahs had raced back to the unprotected Temple, and the High Priestess. Trapped, their army immobilized by the invades, the Temple surrounded and the lives of everyone in the Temple at stake, they had agreed to give in to the Rebel leader’s demand and sacrifice Tamlohn’s life in exchange for their continued safety.
Mouth bracketed by grim lines to match his grim thoughts, Anleeh made his way through the main doors of the Temple, his feet following a path he’d tread for many years with no conscious effort.
He could still hear the High Priestess’ tortured screams as they watched Tamlohn shot down, an arrow to the chest. He could still feel the echoes of her grief from the entire week they had believed Tamlohn dead, and, shamed as he was to admit it, could still feel the jealousy and anger that had been borne when Tamlohn’s imminent death forced him and the High Priestess to reveal their secret love.
But the Goddess had blessed them all; the Rebel leader was Tamlohn’s father, frantic to discover the fate of the son he had seen taken captive in battle many years before. On the day of their wedding, Cryessa learned she was not to marry an unknown Prince of the North, but her And it was on that same day that Anleeh’s slavery had ended.
When he reached the High Priestess’s chambers, Anleeh passed through the door. The spell that guarded these rooms had not been changed, and so he entered with no problems.
Once inside he turned down the private hall that led to the slave quarters. The rune inscribed on the archway at the end of the tunnel had been bricked over. Anleeh had stood with Cryessa as each brick was laid in place.
She had ordered it done to materially demonstrate the changes that had come into their lives with the ending of their slavery, the ending of the Zinahs. What Cryessa had not considered was that she was cutting them off from their home. Only two days after the wedding, reeling from all that had happened, Anleeh had wandered back to the Temple, looking for comfort, and come across Moregon slowly chipping away at the mortar between the bricks.
Then next night when they returned to finish the job, they found Sesah waiting for them. Over the course of the week all save the newly crowned High King had returned, and when they quietly let Tamlohn know what they had done he arranged to meet them, saying not one word to the High Queen.
Anleeh stepped through the archway into the Zinah quarters. It felt wrong to be so completely clothed in these rooms and so Anleeh stripped down to his leather knee length leggings, adding his clothing to a pile near the door.