Listen to Regina Spektor “Fidelity”, try to find the version from Vintage Cafe Trilogy – The perfect blend.
Empress woke up in the mud. Fog was hoovering over the river bank. This was a cold dawn, no sun in sight. She was shivering. When empress saw him, she mumbled,
“It’s you! Great! Come closer, help me get on your back and carry me into the forest, I am not safe here.”
He obeyed her. Once she was on his back, she put her legs around his waist and embraced his shoulders. He laughed, his cousin’s sweet little daughter liked to make him carry her like this. She was the only one he knew with a bright color around her personality. It was because she was honest and her mind was not corrupted by toxins other people usually produce, he figured. When she heard him laugh, empress whispered something in his ear. Those weren’t clear words but, judging by the tone of her voice, they were meant to calm him down. She even padded him on his chest.
It took a while before they came to his temporary camp deep in the forest. He turned the fire on, took off her wet clothes, washed the mud and dirt off her body and put his fresh shirt on her. He wasn’t doing this like a man that desired her, he did it like a eunuch would take care of a wounded soul. After he wrapped her in a blanket, he let her lay near the fire.
When she woke up, she sat up, looked him in the eyes and asked, “Who are you?”
“The person that saved you.”
“Did I ask you that?”
“No, but that is what I answered.”
He offered her hot tea and some meat. She accepted but demanded to drink from his cup and ate after he tried the meat.
“You don’t trust no one, do you? I could have killed you by now if I wanted to.”
“Why would I trust strangers?”
“I am not a stranger.”
“You are a stranger to yourself, let alone to me.”
“What makes you think that?”, it was amusing for him to finally talk to her. He wanted to eat her mind, drink her thoughts, get warmth from the energy she was radiating with.
“How long have I slept?”
“Three days. You barely made it, I had to wake you up occasionally to give you fresh water and tiny pieces of food.”
“It seems you are a good host. Thank you for this.”
“Lets get back to the topic now. What makes you think I am a stranger to myself? I happen to think I know about myself and some other people all there is to know.”, he wanted to lure her out in the open.
“Will you get me my knife?”, her refusal to play disappointed and thrilled him at the same time. He was hoping she will do this.
“If it is somewhere near, yes.”
First she looked around them, then the sky and then in his eyes.
“It is couple of hours ride from here, in that direction. Near ancient ruins.”, empress pointed to the north.
“Couple of hours ride is very far on a horse. On foot it is even further away.”
“What did you do with the horse? The one that found me on the river bank?”
“What horse are you talking about? There was no horse.”
“Yes, there was. It was a young stallion. Even though it was still untamed, he helped me mount him. It was so natural to lay and cling to his back. I hugged his neck and felt the strength of his muscles between my legs. Riding him made my heart tick faster, he has a great sense for rhythm. Rhythm is very important.”
“In riding stallions?”
“In everything. Once you lose the rhythm, you start making mistakes. Mistakes might be expensive.”
He looked at her head, her hair was one centimeter long.
“You lost your rhythm it seems.”
“I merely changed it and adjusted it to fit my current liking.”
“Does rhythm of almost bald head fit you better than all the luxury things you used to own?”
“Oh I didn’t own them, they were owning me. Will you fetch my knife or not?”
“I already told you, ruins are too far away.”
“And I told you to take the horse.”
“There is no horse, I carried you on my back from the bank.”
“No horse? So what I felt between my legs was just you?”
He looked her in the eyes, “Yes.”
She looked down in the fire and blushed. He wondered if that was a true blush or just a part of her game. Empress sat there with her mind clearly occupied by something. When she finished her tea, she got up.
“Fetch me some clothes please and borrow me your rope, I will get you a horse.”
“I don’t have a rope.”
“Yes you do, attached to the saddle.”
“Why would I have a saddle if I didn’t have a horse?”
“There is a a saddle underneath that pile of clothes.”, she pointed to the pile behind her, “You had a horse once. What happened to it?”
“How did you manage to see the saddle?”
“That pile looks a bit unusual and you fed me by horse’s meat. I notice things that can put me in danger and those that I can benefit from. If handled properly, dangerous things can become beneficial and vise versa. Now answer my question.”
“It broke a leg on the river passing. I had to put him down.”
“And you didn’t waste the meat.”, she smiled. The notion that the meat wasn’t wasted made her feel satisfied.
When he handed her the clothes and some rope, he turned to allow her to get dressed.
“Come, lets reach the meadow we passed by on our way from the river.”
He knew exactly what meadow she was talking about. There were some horses running free the other day but those horses were wild. Nonetheless, he followed her.
“The morning we passed by that meadow, there were no horses on it. You know your way around this forest, it seems.”
“Not really, I know a bit of the history of these parts. I also know about this country’s trading business. Combine this with the glimpse of trailing techniques I had a privilege to witness as a child and voila, you end up here.”
“I always liked your dry sense of humor.”
“If I was serious now, your statement would create an awkward moment. Be more careful next time not to fall into this trap.”
When they reached the meadow, empress stopped to observe the horses. Half of the day she spent just to choose a horse. The other half she spent on catching it and making it tamed enough to be ridden to the camp. He enjoyed watching her think and assess the situation just as much as he enjoyed watching this almost bald headed woman tame the horse. She let him mount the horse and continued walking next to them on their way to the camp.
“You just became a horse owner again so nothing is stopping you from bringing me my knife.”
“You had the strength to tame this horse, I am sure you have the strength to go and get the knife yourself.”
She sighed, “You and me both know the knife is not there anymore.”
“Do we? And how do we know this?”
“You know because you took it.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Well, how do you know?”
“I know everything.”, the smile on her exhausted face was enthralling.
“Tell me please, how do you know?”
“You were in the camp for quite some time, this means you were waiting for someone, waiting for me. But, why would you wait for me here, why would you seek me on the river bank? What made you so sure I will pass through this part of the forest? You must had found my knife and concluded I will get back to get it.”
“Yes you are right. Would you like to know why I waited for you?”
“You knew I will need help. Dismount here please. My hands are sore and I don’t think I can pick these herbs. I need them to make a mixture to sooth the pain.”
“He picked the herbs she showed and mounted again. Their camp was only a few minutes away but he had to ride the horse as much as he could.”
By the time they reached the camp, his hands grew heavy. He wasn’t aware this horse exhausted him this much. Apparently, empress was aware of it.
“Fetch me my knife while I take care of the horse.”, she said. Empress tied down the horse near juicy grass and gave him water. She padded him and said “We should name him, you know?”
He handed her the knife and sat to light the fire. His hands disobeyed him.
“Yes, I cannot call him a horse.”
“Not the horse, I meant you. Horse already has a name. Horace is a perfect name for the horse. I will pronounce it ‘horse’ of course.”
“I have a name too, it is..”, empress interrupted him.
“It doesn’t matter, let me decide how to call you.”, she sat next to him to light a fire instead of him. Once the fire was lit, she put the blade of her knife in the fire.
“Tell me now, why are you here?”
“I came here to meet you.”
“I hoped once I help you, you will see me fit to be your companion.”
“Companions are such a nuisance.”
“No, they are not. They are here to make our lives better.”, he couldn’t feel his hands anymore.
“I see you have problems with your hands. Those herbs’ toxin finally started to take effect.”
“You did this?”
“Technically, you did it, you picked those herbs without wearing gloves. This was reckless of you.”
Again that beautiful smile, he thought.
“I can still move my legs, so do not try to come near me.”
She sat on his knees and started to untie his pants.
“I will do this and you wont stop me because you want to know what will happen next.”
She is right, he thought while trying to hide his smile.
“Having a companion triggers the need for emotions and we all know having emotions suck.”
“You cannot be a loner forever. People are sociable creatures. You need someone by your side.”
Empress lowered his pants and briefs down to his knees and turned him on his stomach. She took a knife from the fire and sat on his legs again.
“You can try to put up a fight but your hands are useless so I can easily overpower you. Please do not move, I do not want to hurt you more than necessary.”, her left hand was on his lower back and her right hand held a knife. He bit his lips for her touch was both enjoyable and bloodcurdling. When she finished carving his right ass cheek, she noticed, “You are not afraid of pain, I like this.”
“Physical pain is nothing compared to emotional pain.”
“Can’t agree more with you. I will put these herbs on your wound. Do not move them until tomorrow morning. In an hour your hands will regain sense of touch.”, she made a bandage of old rags and herbs he picked earlier that day and tied it around his pelvis. With her help he turned on his back.
“I am still alive, does this mean you accept me as your companion?”
“No, this means I accept you as something else. Please excuse me, I need to claim my freedom.”, empress stood up, put a knife in her girdle and walked away.
Next day in the morning he took the bandage off like she said. It had a blood trail in the shape of mirrored letter e. I am her possession now, he thought content with the idea.