Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Emperor's Third Peculiar Request

How can someone who is stone explain what it’s like to someone who isn’t? One fine day, Beatriss was awakened by the sensation of someone rubbing her face, at first her cheeks and nose. And then her mouth. And then her eyes—so they opened and she remember she hadn’t never fallen asleep exactly. She’d been fighting a basilisk, and then looked into its deep cold eyes.

And now the person (it was Cair, the wizard) was rubbing her chin, her neck, her shoulders.


He dropped his hand. “If you say so.”

Beatriss looked down and saw that the rest of her body was still stone. She was in a luxurious room, surely in the Emperor’s palace. Yes, there was the Emperor, lounging on a sofa, feasting with Jiaohu and other concubines. Beatriss frowned at Cair, “What are you doing?”

Jiaohu said, “Why did you start with her face?”

The Emperor, half-laughed, but his happy surprise was obvious—he tossed his plate of food aside and rose from the bed. “It’s working! You must continue!”

Cair bowed. “Yes, it’s working.” He pointed to a line on the floor, “But if it pleases your imperial majesty . . .”

The Emperor frowned, but retreated.

Cair spoke to Beatriss in a low whisper, warning her that once Cair's magic had taken its full effect, and Beatriss's natural flesh was restored, the Emperor intended to add her to his harem.  Cair had another idea-- the same one he had proposed to Bayan-- that they should join together in escaping Khanbaliq and Xiaodang altogether.  Beatriss said that she would need time to think it over.

When the Emperor interrupted the conversation, Cair showed him the empty pot of ointment.  Another whispered conversation, this one between Cair and the Emperor and much more heated ensued with Cair promising over and over, "More can be made, more can be made, two days, just gave me two days .  . ." as he bowed and scraped his way backwards out of the chamber.

The next morning, the Emperor made his intentions known to Beatriss.  Yes, he did want her as a mate, but less for his carnal pleasure than for the sake of son whom a woman of such proven martial talents could bear for him.  He went on to discuss a visitor from Monravia and his garden . . .

Beatriss did not follow the Emperor's interest in snow peas, but she did understand that the Emperor would consult his astrologers on the best time for her to conceive a son, and if she cooperated, she could, after a year or so, leave Khanbaliq with the Emperor's blessings, and with his assistance in constructing her own small rural fortress.  The boy would stay in Khanbaliq and be taught to be a great general.

Beatriss agreed.

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