I am almost three thousand words into my goal of four thousand for the night. I’m trying to keep trucking. Meanwhile, I thought I would leave my favourite snippet of the night here for you to enjoy!
Your Most Adored,
Encarz had always thought he would be the first to die. It was true that Graeme had been an idiot, but Encarz was the eldest. He never thought he would light his brother’s funeral pyre unless he had been the one to do the killing.
It was almost insulting to have to light the pyre underneath a corpse of Pharaun’s making. It was too much like cleaning up his enemy’s mess.
The night air was crisp and the wind nonexistent when they bore Graeme’s body out on a marble slab. It was the perfect night for a burial.
Graeme’s corpse had been dressed in its best, the hideous wound that had officially killed him covered up by velvet and brocade. He was not to be burned with his sword, as Encarz would one day be. Rather they had set his hands over an ancient leather tome. Traditionally it would have been his grimoire, but that remained lost to them and the book was more than likely a collection of public records from the days of Encarz’s childhood.
The corpse had been dressed with myrrh and frankincense, its pillow packed with herbs such as sage and lavender. Encarz watched as the procession men lay his brother’s slab on top of the pyre built of dried wood and straw. The pile groaned beneath the weight of the slab. But even though the marble wouldn’t burn, it was an insult to let a royal body rest on anything less.
High priest Malhii stepped forward, holding in his hands a book of prayers. He didn’t need it – he knew them all by heart. It was just a formality. Encarz had made certain to steer clear of the high priest and anyone who might try to comfort him. He didn’t need comforting. He just need space – room to breathe.
Malhii opened the book of prayers and flipped through some of the fragile pages, finally landing on a selection that looked good. He cleared his throat and began to read – his voice cracked and hollow with age. Encarz waited patiently as the rites were finished and a small acolyte in robes too big for him passed a lit torch to Malhii. The high priest of Azrael took the torch. Holding it up high, he too paused to take one last look at Graeme. Encarz couldn’t imagine how he must have felt. Malhii had been a grown man when the both of them were still children.
Malhii threw the torch done, and the pyre caught fire immediately. The wood took longer to light than the straw, but eventually the sky was filled with a heavy black smoke, acrid from the corpse it was ferociously consuming.
Encarz did not turn away. The entire funeral party was eerily quiet. No one knew exactly what was appropriate to say during the funeral of a man that they had all come to largely ignore.
A soft body brushed by him. Encarz’s hand touched velvet and jerked away as if he had been burned. He turned his head to catch sight of the offender and he saw the figure of a woman. Her face was barely visible beneath the hood of her dark green cloak, but in the firelight he could make out near perfect features. The sweetest pert nose, full red lips, and eyes… eyes that sparkled with as many facets as a flawless emerald. Eyes like Eireann had once posessed.
Encarz was unable to look away.
The woman looked up at him briefly, and then averted her eyes. Encarz turned his attention away from the funeral pyre and to her, overwhelmed with the sudden desire to know her name.
“I’m sorry, sire,” she said, as if she had committed a hideous sin by brushing up against him.
“I do not recognize you,” he said. “Are you a courtier?”
“Yes, your majesty,” she nodded, and dipped a belated cursty. Her skirt was an elegant pool of velvet at her feet. “Forgive me, I shall move on.”
He grasped her elbow, as if his words alone could not hold her in place and he needed the security.
“What is your name?” he asked.
She smiled, a gentle curve of soft lips.
“Neysa,” she said, gently. “My name is Neysa.”