“I wish to know of your wedding night, of her body and skin of—can you recall something as simple as that? It was so long ago.”
But to Ludas, it was not simple and not so easily forgotten. Of course he remembered that night. He could recall, with perfect clarity, the frown Lorelei wore when they were married. He could remember the veil covering her beautiful face, how her long, ginger hair stood out, glowed behind the delicate fabric. She was so young, ignorant of her own body, her own beauty and he wanted her from the moment of her creation. She would have no childhood, was manifested fully grown, as all Muse were, born of thought and imagination, of logic and pure intent.
His sister Fae, Lailah, imparted Lorelei with beauty and poise. From Gavreel, she was given kindness and tenderness. Hamael bequeathed her with reason, Liwet, creativity. Rahael and Ambriel endowed in Lorelei loyalty and tolerance, Picious, dispensed cunning and Ludas, himself, instilled in her intellect. She was their greatest creation, a Muse whose endowments exceeded all others, one that commanded adoration, attention. How could such a creature be so easily forgotten? How could Ludas not instantly covet her for himself?
“Tell me, Ludas, please.” The Queen did not often beg, only when she was desperate for more Draught and so, Ludas, eager to appease her, to assure her loyalty, humored Zezolla.
“I took her into my chamber, soon after we were married.” At this, the Queen’s hold on his arm tightened. “I could not wait for the festivities to end. It had been many years I desired her, knew she had been designed for me alone.” He thought back, remembered her kindness, how she tolerated others attentions, so many wanted her, but it was Ludas who won her over. “She was crying, but was not overcome by it. I sought to make her comfortable and so I made her drink Rowan wine. By her third goblet, her tears diminished.”
“Surely she was innocent, nervous.”
“Perhaps. Yes. I’m certain of it.”
“And then, you kissed her?”
“I did. Her lips were soft, like a plume and she tasted of the wine and something else, honeysuckle, perhaps. The Muse are a queer sort— creatures of such imagination, such passion, but Lorelei is different. So tender, yet obstinate, defiant.”
The Queen laughed, her voice lulled and hazed by the Draught. “She did not refuse you?”
Ludas smiled, his eyes stared ahead, remembering, became unfocused, as the specters of the past, of that first kiss, returned. “No. Not that night. She was quite—amiable.”
Zezolla moaned, a low, rasping sound that relaxed Ludas. Her touch tapered and she lay back, away from him, but Ludas was caught in the remembrance of Lorelei. He sat staring, focusing on her face, on the smooth contours of her skin, reddened by the wine, how her breath rolled against his face. He remembered her touch, the taste, again, of her skin and closed his eyes at the thought.
“Such beauty,” he told her. He whispered tributes against her breasts, venerated the curves of her hips, the sculpted form of her stomach, the soft texture of her legs, praised himself, his brethren, for their perfect creation. Then, when his body met hers, when he had taken from her what he knew was meant only from him, his heart raced, palpitated into a thundering rhythm, harder and harder. His breath became labored, his pulse strummed into a single, heavy beat and he watched his bride, stride atop him, stare down, no emotion on her face, save alarm, perhaps wonder. His mind swam, throbbed and fear sieged him, corrupted the meeting of their bodies.
“What is this? What have you—” He slipped away from consciousness, faded until all he could manage was to reach for her. He thought, to touch her face, to feel that streak of power, of dazzling light that encircled her, would be his salvation, that his pulse would slow, that warmth would return to his cooling body.
It did not.
By morning, she had vanished and he found himself frail, pathetic and impotent of his power. He discovered his fairies, his loyal masses, in the same weakened state, unable to fly, to evoke, to pull from themselves their most rudimentary abilities. And the Muse, his collected congregation of unwilling laborers had vanished along with her, absent forever from his control.