(and other Abrasions)
Pretty In Pink
Al Bruno III
Lorelei was almost thirteen years old, her bodyguard in his forties and they both knew they would never have another opportunity like this again...
The labyrinthian hallways and parapets of the Unified Abbey of the Greater Eastern Council of Mystagogues had once again erupted into chaos and bloodshed. Most of the Apprentices of the Seventh Circle had barricaded themselves in the auxiliary cloisters and were refusing to release their hostages until the amendment to the charter revising the requirements for the submission of peer reviewed dissertations was retroactively revoked.
They had already immolated four members of the cleaning staff to prove the seriousness of their intent.
Growing up in this building that was not quite a fortress and not quite a cathedral Lorelei had seen such conflicts before but mother had always been near enough and lucky enough to keep her daughter out of harms way.
That was before her mother had ascended to in the ranks- before she had become a Dean of the Fourth Circle of Greater Eastern Council. A parting gift from her mentor Cloantza Murdac. These new responsibilities had taken her far from her daughter, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Her room was high up in the southern transept and from her window she could see the Subdeans clashing with the rebelling faction of the Adepts; the Adepts had youth and numbers on their side but the Subdeans summoned tongues of flame that screamed and moved like living things.
Lorelei watched it all trying to catch of glimpse of her mother and whispering the forbidden names of the ordinary incantations she saw flash across the courtyard.
“You should come away from there,” Thane said. Her bodyguard was sitting by the door and picking at fingernails with his elaborate knife, “Never know what’s going to hit the glass.”
“If you say so,” she turned around to look at him, his broad shoulders and pale eyes; she was as hopelessly and humiliatingly in love with as only a twelve year old girl could be.
Did he even notice she had begin dressing up for him in her girliest clothes? The yellow and white number she wore now was a gift she had vowed would stay in her closet forever.
He glanced absent mindedly her way, “I do say so, leave them to their nonsense, maybe the Monarch-lovers will get themselves wiped out for good this time.”
There was a muffled boom outside but Lorelei kept watching him, self-consciously crossing her arms over her chest. It seemed like every day they got a little bigger and she didn’t know whether to be humiliated or proud.
Puberty had hit her like a freight train leaving her moody and uncertain and sore. Her chest had swollen up like a teenage boy’s dream while the lower half of her body had become a tangle of uncomfortable desires and biological aches. She felt sexy, she felt ugly and worst of all she felt like if the man in the room with her didn’t take her in his arms she would go mad.
Whatever would Mother think?
“Do you...” Lorelei felt the question come blundering out, “...have a girlfriend?”
Thane laughed a little, “Going to ask me out?”
Lorelei felt her cheeks reddening, “Just asking.”
“You and your mother keep me too busy for that.”
That was more than true, it seemed like most of the members of the Greater Eastern Council were trying to kill each other be it out of rivalries or spite or grudges going back a generation or two. Thanks to her unorthodox entry into the ranks of the Mystagogues Mother seemed to have invited more than her share of assassins and Lorelei frequently found herself a target by proxy.
That was where Thane came in, he was well versed in guile and brutality, in weapons and incantations. He had saved Lorelei’s life two times that she knew about but Mother had insinuated there had been more than that.
As if she didn’t love him enough.
She asked, “Don’t you get lonely?”
He paused thoughtfully, almost giving up one of his rare smiles to her but then turning his attention back to his knife and his nails again, “I’m content.”
It had only been a few weeks ago that she had started to feel a fluttering inside her whenever she saw him, it got stronger whenever he passed close to her or said her name. Now that she was alone with him it was almost unbearable. Did he even suspect that she had lain in the bed in the corner of the room and imagined him until her hands were fluttering here and there over her body like birds?
Oh Goddess... she thought, how can he not know?
It was too much, she turned back to the window to the burning courtyard, to the thick smoke spiraling up into the impossible sky that twisted and turned above the Abbey. She wondered numbly if any of the blackened bodies down there belonged to anyone she knew.
Thane sighed with exasperation, “I told you to stay away from the window.”
“I... I can’t...” she said.
The chair scraped on the floor as he stood, “What’s wrong?”
He signed heavily, she heard his footsteps approaching, “Hush now.”
“How long will we be here?” When he put his arm on her shoulder she began to tremble
“Hush now,” his grip on her shoulder was firm and reassuring, She felt his other hands slowly tracing its way up and over her hips.
Her breath caught in her throat. She pursed her lips. She had never felt more scared in her life, or more beautiful. It was almost too late when she realized the knife was still in his hand.
Lorelei started and tried to pull away but the grip on her shoulder had moved to her throat.
She had to put both her hands on his thick wrist to keep the blade point from her heart. The blood was roaring in her ears. She choked, already the edges of her vision were starting to dim. Lorelei realized bitterly that his embrace was just as powerful has she had imagined.
The knifepoint edged closer, she realized she would be dead in moments. She risked letting go with one hand and reaching back to claw at his face. her pinky nail caught the edge of something soft, something that popped.
Thane cried out and she pulled away feeling the blade slip against her side cutting cloth and skin but the wound was glancing.
Now he was cursing, coming at her again but Lorelei was ready. She spoke the forbidden name of an almost lost incantation and the bedroom mirror shattered. The shining slivers flew at her attacker like a swarm of insects.
Thane never reached her.
Lorelei knelt at the corner of her bed feeling tired and sick, feeling the ache of the wound throbbing on her side.
Her bodyguard’s blood and her own had stained her dress the color of pale roses. She wondered with the first of her tears who he had betrayed them to. Wu-Han? The Lunt family? Did it matter?
No, all that mattered was that she would never forget the day she lost her innocence to her handsome bodyguard Thane.