Read on from Realm of the Witch Queen
She lay her eyes steady upon him, “Does it not concern you to see these people, old and young, man and woman, every one of them worshipping anything or anyone, so long as it holds the most power?”
“No,” Veron answered, leaning back onto the grass, propping himself up on his elbows. “It would be a waste of time being concerned by it.”
“Better just to play along with their superstitions, then?” Shenéa said.
“That is the approach your parents take with them,” Veron answered.
Shenéa looked across the fire to the meeting that continued on. “But can that build a lasting alliance?”
Veron pulled himself into a crouch and leant towards the couple. “It is a survival tactic, Shenéa, not some luxury of theoretical debates in the classroom.” He leant forward further, enthusing to the subject. “We see the world in our current perception. Our understanding will ever expand – or constrict – and change. We do not actually convince others of our argument; we can only speak and express the truth of our understanding. If another listens, then they will take it in, analyse it and – if they choose to – incorporate it into their own understanding. Anything more overwhelming than that, anything tyrannical, will only be an overlay – a shroud that will eventually be thrown off.”
Zan reached out and shoved Veron back. “You are insulting her.”
“Hush,” Shenéa pulled Zan’s hand back. “I’ve known Veron a long time. I know the manner of his speech well enough to take no offence from it.” She shook her head, weary exasperation in her voice. “He means no offence,” she glared at Veron. “He thinks this is what passes for lively banter.”
Veron met Zan’s scowl with a satisfied smirk as he leant back once more on his elbows. The curve of his mouth broadening into a full grin as he saw Shenéa flash her dark eyes at him. For her part, Shenéa could not help noticing that Veron’s smile displayed teeth stronger and even more gleaming than Zan’s, regardless of their somewhat crooked placement.
“You say that, Princess,” Veron countered her, “but I do not think you know me well enough at all.”
Zan twisted around to face Veron full on. He opened his mouth to speak but was abruptly halted by Artair’s hand clapping down on his shoulder.
Artair sat down with a careless thud, amused by his own lack of grace. “I’m exhausted,” he laughed. “I’ve had to appeal to Aneta’s mercy to let me rest a moment.” He reached out to take Aneta’s hand as she seated herself gracefully at his side. Artair and Aneta both looked from Shenéa and Zan’s stony silence to Veron’s beaming satisfaction. No one said anything. The music had stopped playing as the dancers and players all broke up to take a moment of rest, and the silence began to jar on Artair. He reached into the satchel he had left in his sister’s care and retrieved his treasured silver flute. “Music?” he asked.
“Yes,” agreed Aneta with relief.
As Artair began, Veron picked up the flat drum that lay idle at his feet and struck his palm across it with a flourish. Shenéa wrapped her arms around her knees and hugged them tight. She watched the expression on Veron’s face alter and move with the changing tones of the music and the shifting firelight. The silver voice of Artair’s flute spoke of glistening ocean waves, crisp and translucent under a distant summer Sun. While the pulse of Veron’s drumming seemed to soar above everything and everyone until it touched the very shield of the sky and then fall back to the Earth and graze over Shenéa’s skin.
She closed her eyes, picturing a bird’s beating wings in the rhythm of the drum. When she opened her eyes again, she saw Veron watching her. His curling waves of black hair caught up in knotwork and braiding. The deep sheen of his skin holding rich luminance in the fire glow. His eyes daring and joyful yet edged with hard-fought wisdom. He kept watching her as she began humming to the sounds, feeling out the pace and rhythm. And then she sang, changing the words of an old Ashtar song to meld with this music played by Veron.
Veron continued to watch her: the princess who evoked storms within him, though her eyes seemed to hold all of summer’s warmth and promise.
Renwulf Author: Tamara Rendell
Tamara Rendell is the author of the mythological / historical fiction novels Realm of the Stag King and Realm of the Witch Queen and her poetry and stories collection Mystical Tides.
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