By Lana Elizabeth Gabris
The fires lit the heavens, calling to Neptunus as we danced in great circles, holding hands to the wrists tightly, heads thrown back with the flush, hair tangling. Men who had coveted from a distance were now eyeing us boldly but in the throng we no longer cared. Whispers of promises, fortunes, bodies to serve us and even love were tempting from all that we knew. Fathers, brothers and others were forgotten, left in a deep slumber brought on by the thick brew our neighbors had plied on the men leaving us to laugh gaily into the stars. We tumbled onto the soft grass under the thatched roofs, carefully built by these strange men who had bid all in the land to join them in a grand celebration of the heavens.
Great feasts had been pounced on under skies clear of any frowns as the celebration began with the sacrifice, overseen by their priests who had pondered carefully over the entrails before a cheer had rung through our hosts and the fire had caught, sending plumes of smoke above us. Our breath caught as the lupa king himself knelt next to the altar, his shining hair thick over dark brows and flashing eyes framed by a beard framing his chin neatly above the mane of the wolf worn proudly over the arch of his shoulders as he pressed his fingers to his lips then touched the flat slabs still warm with the blessing.
The sky began to darken, shadows of the night birds passing over the hills around the city, above the wall they said he had dug and molded with his own hands. Above, the gods sent an omen trailing through the heavens, sending my thoughts on diverged paths. His senators had begun mingling with our own chosen men, making offerings and out of the corner of my eye movement on the altar drew my gaze back to his lone figure, still honoring the sacrifice, the smoke sweet in the air.
His eyes lifted and my breath caught at the image of the flames cloaking myself standing frozen under the gaze so many feared, as my own father could command having been born cousin to the king of our people. Through his soul I could see grand pillars being erected into temples reaching to the gods doorstep and I had almost reached the altar before I realized I was moving towards him. His lip had curled into an edge of a smile, the gleam of his tooth bright.
He rose, the silver in the fur mantle rippling with his steps towards me. He spoke, his voice deep with teasing conviction. “This is what will be,” Long fingers just brushed over my shoulder, “You see it too, a land for kings, a palace for a queen.” His breath lifted my hair, teasing, “My queen.” I tipped my chin over my shoulder to follow him as he stepped behind me, pointing to the high hills above us lining the night sky.
“I would build you pillars of dreams taking you beyond the heavens and reap you riches you deserve.”
I laughed, letting his hand drop to my waist. His voice had been so full of passion for a moment I could almost see the stones being erected into the sky by his own hands. Around us the fires burned and shadows danced as I ran my fingers through the cape, the fur alive. “I’ve already been promised pillars of gold dreams.” But my thoughts had already forsaken my intended.
His head tipped and he looked down at me over his nose, “I knew you’d come.” His words caressed past his lips, the mocking gaze I remembered so well from years ago along the riverbank instantly flushing my cheeks. Even then, the two brothers had been ambitious, each tempting, though my heart had been quickly captured by him alone, his eyes with the flecks of gold haunting my nights throughout the years.
Two brothers, so unlike beyond the matching looks only those close to them could ease the differences apart, from the hitch of a smile, to a scar on a shoulder. The ever so slightly different shade of golden eyes, the touch of a kiss always tempting.
Our king had forbidden contact between the two regions, rumors from the Oracle to beware the river people had been boiling since before my time, but I had longed to see the beautiful twins after whispers from the priests had been circulating and I had closed my ears to the warnings.
Even then, they had had their own strong visions of what would be and now in these years some had come to pass, leaving him the sole inheritor to their dreams. Tensions had begun to rise with the waters of the river and whispers of trades between some of the families, forbidden dowry’s being negotiated and accepted, against our kings’ orders.
The pressure of his hand on my elbow, demanding to follow him into the darkness of the wall, made the feeling weight of the promise to another dragging at my hand slip away.
“You loved me once.” His breath was hot on my cheek, “But I love you still. Help me build this life.”
“It would start a war.” I could almost feel my intended’s eyes looking for us but it didn’t seem to matter.
His lips pressed against my hair. “Let it.”
The patterns of the stars, traces of the gods drawing their plans, sparkled above the flames that streaked along the walls as I ran, not in fear, but in bliss. Drunken from the moment, my skin still hot where his sure hands had guided me, I sought my sisters, many women I had grown with, and some I had never met until these past few days. Their glowing eyes, warm with the thrill of men so unlike our own were already willing to follow their desires and flesh started the war that only words would dispel.
Words cried and rent across battle lines even as blood pooled up over our ankles, spilled from bloodlines now mixed across opposing forces, until arms were lowered, the peace wrung from the stubborn and we ruled the world.
Lana Elizabeth Gabris currently lives in the heart of British Columbia with her floor to ceiling sagging bookshelves, along with her fiancé and their much loved dogs of various sizes. Her illustrations of flora have been published in several outdoor magazines across North America.