Argent Stag, Silver Rose


When had I started to notice her in ways other than as my twin sister, my constant companion and my life-long, loyal friend? I really cannot say for sure, looking back on it. She was always there, a constant presence in my life since the very beginning. I cannot even think of a world in which she doesn't exist.

We've shared everything together: the same womb, the same traumatic expulsion from that dark, quiet, peaceful world to this one, though I made the journey before her. We've shared the same nourishment and loving presence of our mother, the same protective strength of our father, the same idyllic, bright childhood, and we also shared the same darkening of our world and the same deep sense of fear and loss when suddenly our parents were no more. We clung to one another, finding comfort in the familiar, able to go on because we had one another to rely upon.

We both were young children surrounded by adults, thrust into the roles expected of someone far older than we were. The other children around were those of the servants, and were never considered by the adults who wanted us to take on these mature roles as being not good enough to be anything more than merely acquaintances. After all, we were still the prince and princess; the servants' children were never allowed to forget that we were of far more noble blood than they.

So we remained isolated, having truly only one another to keep from feeling completely and utterly alone. In those few times we were not being coaxed, cajoled or even firmly forced into something protocol or the good of the kingdom obligated us to do, Madule and I played together as any other siblings would, sharing our toys, our imaginations and our experiences in stories and games that let us be just children.

Even so, I always knew in the depths of my heart that there would come a time we could no longer be together, that we would have to go our separate ways. Obligation and duty would see to that, in time, so I never truly did anything to hasten that. If I'm guilty of anything, it's procrastination. I came to depend so much on Madule--and she on me--that I balked at the thought of us growing up and going our own ways. Instead, I ignored it, and concentrated on whatever duty or obligation was expected of me at the moment, and jealously kept seeking out my sister's company in those moments I had to myself simply because she was always there, always a part of who I was.

It would be a lie to say that I never knew the moment when I realized I could not, would not, let anyone come between us. It had been years in the forming, but the realization crystallized the day that one of the ministers smiled at us and remarked that soon--soon--we should begin to look for appropriate marriages. "Royalty has obligations," the minister said, with a cheer that I found offensive. Hadn't we fulfilled enough obligations and performed enough duties? Couldn't this obligation be ignored?

The idea of being betrothed to anyone made me feel ill. Let an outsider come that close? Let someone touch me, kiss me? It was intolerable. Far less tolerable was the idea of an outsider, some shallow, giggling female, trying to take my place at Malaquin's side. He belongs to me, and I to him--it is as eternal and immutable as the stars, as the moon. The thought of some woman receiving the gift of Malaquin's smile, his laughter, his comfort--it fills me with a frantic, wild rage. She'd be a princess, no doubt, but no matter her bloodline, she could never be worthy of my perfect brother.

It's known that twins share a closeness that ordinary siblings, even the most loving, can't imagine. For Malaquin and myself, this is a simple truth. We share everything--everything--with an unselfish, open trust. From our birth until the present day, we've been nearly impossible to separate for any great length of time.

Malaquin has always protected me, the first one to step forward in my defense, the first to give me comfort. He even went before me at our birth--coming out into the world to make sure it was safe, I like to think. My brave cavalier, my knight in shining armor, my heroic prince . . . the one who soothes me when I weep, warms me when I am cold, brings me joy when I feel sadness.

I hate the thought of some other woman receiving that protection, that comfort. No woman could ever know him as well as I do, just as no man could ever know my secret heart. What do we need with others? We have each other. That's the way it's always been, the way it will always be. A world without Malaquin is a world that I cannot even conceive of.

One memory comes easily to mind when I think of all the times that Malaquin has protected me, soothed me. When my first moon-time came, staining my sheets with the secret woman's blood and piercing my belly with talons of pain, I was terrified--thinking that I was dying. It was Malaquin who found the nearest woman, one of the serving maids, and almost dragged her into my bedchamber to explain. The girl couldn't have been more than a few years older than we were, and of common stock beside, but that was a point in her favor. Royal children are sheltered, kept in a bejeweled golden shell until they must be thrust out into the world like startled chicks pushed rudely from the nest; the children of servants have an earthier upbringing that they must conceal behind careful language and practiced manners among the nobility. Two kinds of blindness, perhaps.

The girl didn't want to explain what was happening at first. She protested that it was only for women to know, and Malaquin shouldn't hear--but he refused to leave me. And I wouldn't let him leave; I clung to him, only finding courage and dignity with him beside me. When he pointed out, quite calmly, that I would only tell him everything she'd said anyway, the girl gave in. The half-hour that followed was a series of shocks for us--poor, sheltered royal children that we were--because our various tutors had always encouraged us to be curious, to ask questions, to learn. The serving girl's initial explanation of my bleeding provoked a few questions, indeed--and those led to frank and straightforward answers. Now, at least, we understood in far more detail what the differences were between boys and girls--and what usually happened when one of each were in intimate proximity.

It wasn't very long after that when I began to realize that I hated the idea of Malaquin doing such things to some girl--just as I hated the idea of some boy doing those things to me. Yet . . . it wasn't the thought of the actions themselves that I detested . . . it was the notion of letting someone else, someone I didn't really know, that close to me. There was only one boy, I knew, that I'd ever want to experiment with.

Malaquin, of course.

It made perfect sense to me. We were already so close, sharing so much. Why not that? Still, something held me back from making the suggestion; some might believe that it was my conscience, but I don't believe such a thing. Rather, it was most likely my realization that if I dared show my feelings in that manner, others might force a breach between us--maybe even send me, or Malaquin, away! That thought was a horror in and of itself; to be separated so from Malaquin was to contemplate the loss of half my very soul. We were still children, subject to the plans and power of the kingdom's ministers.

But we're not children anymore . . .

When we reached our seventh birthday, the segregation began in earnest. We were "too old" now to continue sharing a room, "too old" to always remain in one another's company. Girls and boys were different, each one having a divinely assigned role in life, and it was time for us to learn those roles. Though we would both now be pages, we would have different tasks given to us. After all, as the prince, I needed to learn the ways of knighthood, honor and leadership, since I would one day rule this fair land of Aleona. Madule, however, had to learn those skills needed to be a proper chatelaine, for it would be her lot to one day oversee the household and finances of some noble's estate.

So we were given separate chambers. Mine were the royal apartments, where I would one day take a bride of noble rank, since I would be the next ruler of the kingdom. The same wave of deadly disease that swept away my parents and made my sister and I ill had also taken from this land my uncle, who was the sovereign prince before me. Madule, however, was far less than pleased with the choice of room the regents made for her. Relocated to the west wing of the palace, far from where I was to remain, it was a separation that neither one of us truly liked. Madule showed her contempt for the regents' idea by slipping from her room that night and creeping into mine. When I awoke to find her sleeping next to me, her arms wrapped around me, I could only smile in joy and hug her back. I had missed her so, feeling so utterly alone.

Night after night, my fiery sister attempted this. Those evenings when her maidservant forced her to stay in her room, I could feel Madule's sadness and frustration through the bond we have with one another, and I would lie there and whisper to her, mind-to-mind, that I would always be with her. Once the maidservant was asleep, reassured by my sister's pretense of being already in the depths of slumber, Madule would slip out and sneak along the familiar path to once more climb into bed with me.

In the end, she and the regents both won a partial victory. She was promised quarters right next to mine, if only she would swear she would sleep there instead of slipping into bed with me night after night. I remember that moment, holding her in my arms, reassuring her that everything would be all right, since I would be in just the next room over. We both needed rooms of our own, I told her; we were getting old enough to want some privacy, even from one another, but I swore that if anything happened, or if she was scared about something, she could always come next door and be with me a while. After that moment, she settled in to her quarters and didn't give the servants fits, though she did sometimes come seeking comfort when the thunderstorms or the darkness of the night frightened her. Over time, even those moments stopped as she came to appreciate just how precious privacy could be after all.

"Too old." I came to hate those words, to hate the patronizing smiles of the regents as they "explained" why they were trying to force a wedge between myself and my brother. What difference was age supposed to make in the way we cared about each other? It wasn't fair!

There were other things that I began to see as being unfair--terribly so. Malaquin learned the ways of knighthood: riding, swordsmanship, archery, all the means of proper fighting. While he was out in the courtyard or the practice field, training, I was stuck in a stuffy room, being bored to tears by the droning voices of the old women who were trying to teach me how to be a proper wife and chatelaine.

I hated it.

I hated it so much that there were times I wanted to scream or weep--and I often did, back in my own rooms. The things they told me awakened a rebellious spirit in my breast--that I would have to maintain the properties of some lord, my future husband. I didn't even know my "future husband," and I already hated him so much that I felt sick when I thought of the future. The questions I fired at my teachers disconcerted them, made them pull their lips tight in biting disapproval. "Why should I have to keep house for some man while he rides off to the nearest tournament or goes hunting? Why should I have to take care of everything, yet have to rely on some man to keep me fed and clothed and housed? Why should I spend all my time looking after the lands, when everyone knows that the nobles can lose their entire fortunes and all their properties if they spend recklessly and engage in games of chance with nobody to stop them?"

Those disapproving expressions always wavered slightly, though, when I flung my ultimate argument down like a cavalier casting his gage before a foe. "What life is that for me to look forward to--me, a princess? Everyone always tells me that I have so many obligations and duties to the land and the people, and that I'm a daughter of the Goddess . . . so why am I supposed to submit to some man like that?"

I usually was sent to my room after that.

Malaquin always listened to me when I alternately cried and raged, pouring out all my frustration and despair. I didn't want to grow up! I didn't want to face a life of being little more than some ignorant noble's slave and brood mare, existing only to run his household and bear him children!

Nighttime was the worst. My anger at the regents grew stronger with every twilight, knowing that I'd have to sneak through the halls like a thief--in my parents' own palace, my own palace!--just to be with my beloved twin. I quickly discovered a few excellent routes that would get me from my quarters in the west wing all the way back to the royal apartments, where I could clamber into the vast bed--too big, really, for a young boy, or even a pair of young children--and be with Malaquin. Safe and warm and comfortable, we could sleep peacefully together . . . even though the ministers voiced their disapproval almost every single morning.

My maidservant was a woman of about twenty-five. I suppose that she was originally given her position because she seemed mature enough to act as some sort of authority figure in my life, and yet still young enough to relate to me.

Of course, it didn't work that way.

It quickly became obvious that she'd gained her position either through outright lying or careful bribery. She acted as servile and obsequious as possible in the presence of others, especially the regents, but she was brusque and sharp with me in private. In truth, she was more childish than I--selfish and narcissistic, forever preening, coveting my jewelry and other belongings. She even dared to wear some of those jewels when she went to meet her friends.

The first night she caught me slipping out of bed, she sneered at me that I was a very disobedient little girl and that if I wasn't careful, I'd wind up getting a severe spanking for my behavior. Then she locked me in my room. Of course, she didn't know that I had no fear of heights, so the thought that I might actually climb out a window and make my way along the broad ledges until I reached a safe entry point into the palace again obviously never occurred to her.

The second time she locked me in, I promptly told my brother. He, in turn, demanded that the regents tell the maid that she had no right to treat me in such a shabby manner. For once, the adults agreed with us; the maid was firmly rebuked. After that, she took to sleeping on a cot in my room, trying to keep an eye on me, but I knew that she was a deep sleeper. I still made my nightly escapes to snuggle into the big bed next to my twin.

One night, though, she did catch me on my way out of the room. Standing there in my nightrail, listening to her shrewish scolding, I reached a sudden revelation. I was tired of this, of being treated like I was nothing. Drawing myself up, I stared her in the eye until her stream of harpy-voiced criticisms dried up, fading away; she was staring back at me now. I think she was the first outsider ever to see past the mask of innocent childhood and see the real me--the one that I shared only with Malaquin. My voice was cold, cold . . .

"I am not some peasant's get, you ignorant slut. I am Princess Madule, sister to the sovereign prince and daughter of the Goddess Herself, and you will never speak to me as if you have forgotten that."

I swept past her as if my childish nightrail was a queenly train of ermine and velvet. As I went out the door, I heard her mutter behind me--"royal bitch-brat!"--and in that moment, I made my final decision on the matter.

It was easy to hide some of my jewels in her room. Easier still to accuse her of theft. Many of the servants had seen her wearing my jewelry, flaunting her half-imagined "status". She pleaded her innocence, saying that she'd never jeopardize her position just for a few sparkling baubles . . . and if she'd left it at that, she might have gotten away lightly. But she went farther, embellishing her defense with fulsom praise of myself and Malaquin, arguing that no one in the land could possibly revere us as much as she did. But servants tend to be fair-weather friends most of the time, and many of them had heard the disgraceful things that she had said about me and my brother belowstairs. They were all too eager to offer up evidence against my maidservant.

I had some trouble keeping from smiling when they hanged her in the courtyard.

In the end, I was the one who actually won the fight over the housing of myself and my brother. I would accept the lone wall between us, separating our rooms; I could still slip in any time I pleased and share Malaquin's bed. The bond between us made up for that single wall.

The first time, however, that I truly noticed what a beautiful woman my beloved twin was destined to blossom into was the day of my coronation. Having been orphaned at the age of five by the same illness that swept away our uncle who had sat on the Stag Throne as sovereign Prince, the great lords of Aleona ruled over the kingdom in my name because I was too young to take up the reins of government left untended. However, that changed on our thirteenth birthday, for that was when Madule and I were old enough to know right from wrong, to know how to make rational decisions and to be responsible for our actions. However, the great lords were wise enough to realize that we were still children, even at that age. Though I would be crowned as sovereign Prince of Aleona, the Council of Regents would continue to hold veto power over my decisions until I reached the age of eighteen.

The coronation . . . I remember it well, it being a high and glorious ceremony, the first time I truly realized the awe and power of the station to which I was born. I awoke that day to a flock of regents descending upon me, acting as my manservants that day and bringing with them an expensive, truly regal outfit of clothing in the highest of fashion in Aleona's heraldic colors of sable, emerald and silver. For once, I had to put up with these great lords fussing over me and dressing me as if I was the most simple-minded of children, but I understood then that my mind should be focused on the great burden about to be handed to me and not on the intricacies of how the rich clothing should be draped, fastened and laced. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I could sense that Madule was being fussed over as well, but she was far more relaxed about it. After all, she wanted to look her best that day, for she had an equally important role in the ceremony.

Perhaps it would be the best to explain something before I go further. I rule Aleona because I was born of the womb of a woman of the blood royal, and it is the blood of the mother that determines who is royal, who is noble and who is not. The ones that sit on the Stag Throne after me won't be my sons, but rather, the sons of my sister; of the two of us, she alone can pass on that divinely given distinction to the next generation. At an Aleonan coronation, this fact is quite blatantly paraded before everyone, which always makes the Church grumble. However, they, like all the rest of us, must bow to the mandate of Heaven and do as duty requires, or risk the very order of the world.

Though I was the one crowned and presented before the populace as the new ruler of Aleona, she was the one that anointed my hands and head and said the words that made my actions and thoughts sacred things for the preservation and protection of the land. She was the one that gave me the regalia of my destined office and spoke the words that told me what they stood for: the sword of state that stood for the practice of justice that was my right, the royal seal that was the ring that essentially wedded me to the land as its protector, the scepter which symbolized my role as shepherd of the people of the land, and the crown of state which was the weight of the responsibility of rulership. As I knelt before her and accepted the regalia, I felt as if I was in another world, being given divine gifts by the goddess of the land herself as her chosen consort. In that moment, my twin sister wasn't Madule, but rather Sovereignty Herself, a gorgeous girl on the edge of womanhood, the embodiment of Spring and Royalty, and I was just a humble, clumsy creature of flesh somehow found worthy of Her divine gifts. I was still in a daze of rapture when Madule took me by the hand and walked a small circle with me, stopping at each of the cardinal directions to present me to the four Quarters as the rightfully crowned prince in a youthful voice full of joy. I truly didn't start feeling like myself until after I had been seated on the Stag Throne and my beautiful sister—when had her body begun to take on the feminine curves she now had? I had always seen her as having a body almost completely like my own until that day—took up a position next to me, out of my immediate range of sight, the royal princess giving tacit, divine approval by her presence as I, in my first act of sovereign prince, called forth the members of the Noble Estate to swear homage to me as Prince. Even so, as I stood up then performed the ceremony of homage over and over there before the Stag Throne, I could feel her eyes on my back, watching me, still the girl-Goddess of Royalty. Needless to say, it is a day I will never forget, no matter how long I live.

I've always taken a protective role with my sister. If anyone deserved to be sheltered from the cruelty of the world, it was my beloved Madule. Every time anyone did anything to her to make her upset or cry, I did my best to fix the situation with whatever power I had at my disposal, such as the time her body confirmed what my observation at the coronation had been. A rude shock indeed to hear from a frightened, nervous serving girl in her mid-teens just exactly why boys are boys and girls are girls, yet it crystallized for me precisely why the adults around us had insisted that we had been getting "too old" to share rooms with one another, as well as why I was experiencing some of the things I had begun to experience–though in the cases of my wet dreams and erections I already had some idea why they were happening, just as I had some idea that my sister's bleeding that day had been a "woman's thing".

Nature was forcing us to grow up after all.

The day of the coronation, when we were both thirteen, was a real landmark in our lives. I could sense Malaquin's annoyance at being compelled to stand still while clothing was put on him, like a horse being saddled. I accepted the fussing as my just due; I realized that I was starting to show a promise of extraordinary beauty, and I suddenly wanted Malaquin to see it too. I always had seen him as the most handsome male alive, but boys are different from girls--they sometimes need to have facts smacked into their faces. In all honesty, it wasn't entirely the coronation that made me so concerned with my appearance; it was mostly the desire to make Malaquin realize that I was pretty.

My gown was a perfect match for Malaquin's royal garb--black, silver, a green the color of our eyes. I was actually a bit startled, and pleased, to look into the mirror and see a hint of curviness to my bosom and hips that hadn't been there before. The corseting and style of the gown was such that those details were rather obvious.

It was so strange, standing up there on the dais with Malaquin kneeling before me like a worshiper. My fingers trembled a little as I smoothed the sacred oils onto his hands and brow, speaking the words carefully, clearly. The first of the vestments was the gorgeous signet; when I slipped it onto his finger, I felt a tiny tremor run through him as well. Perhaps it was only supposed to represent a marriage to the land, but the action was somehow intimate, resonating between us. I pressed the royal sword into one of his hands, the scepter into the other; he bowed his head to accept the splendid crown. It felt so heavy and unwieldy in my hands, yet Malaquin bore it with dignity as he rose. He looked dazed, enthralled, as I led him in the stately circle, announcing him as the new sovereign of Aleona; he only came back to full alertness after I guided him to the throne and took up my position at his side.

Watching the nobles swear their oaths of fealty, I felt a strange, hot satisfaction course through me. Perhaps now we would be taken seriously . . .

With a long sigh and a foul frame of mind, I pull shut the door to my quarters, the large suite of rooms that have been my home since I was seven. Yet again two subjects had been brought to my attention–as if I didn't already have them always weighing on my mind–by the always-helpful regents. The first one doesn't actually bother me that much, for it is merely the regents' shrill cries as they feel their allotted powers slipping away. Only one month left before my eighteenth birthday, before I celebrate the long-delayed feis and rule the kingdom independently. Of course, the great lords don't like that thought, and it's been draining to dodge and delay the various things they want to push through before they become an advisory council only that I think are ideas detrimental to my fair realm. The biggest trend I see that I'm trying to delay is the growth of the temporal power of the Church; I do not like some of the attitudes of this religion that claims to be the only true faith. How can they be the One True Faith if they hold all things female in scorn and contempt? It just isn't right or fair to hear that my twin sister is somehow less than I am simply because she's a woman. I know better than that. She's my equal, and then some. In many ways, she's better than I am, for she doesn't have to bear the stains of seeing that justice is done and the taint that comes from being a warrior trained to kill in order to defend. Knighthood has its glory, but the spilled blood also has its taint. I would rather spare my beautiful silver rose that fate, though I know she's more than capable of handling just a burden if she must.

Another sigh as I run a hand through the damp locks of my hair and cross the floor of my sitting chamber. I'd already dismissed my manservant in the bath chamber, preferring to stroll down the hall in my deep sapphire colored robe alone, my mind on the one thought that truly weighed down both mind and soul.

Madule . . . Why won't you tell me who you prefer to be married to? I know you have someone in mind, the way you just give me a secret, little smile when I ask you who you want for a husband. Yet, whenever I ask you if I should inquire into negotiations with some worthy noble I think might be the one you have in mind, you just smile even more sweetly and say, "Speak to whomever you wish about it, dear brother."

The regents are harping on me now to get her married off. "The succession must be secured." "The kingdom will be torn to pieces in chaos if you die and there's no clear heir." "She's well past her time to marry. Soon she'll be too old to attract the best matches despite her royal blood."

I have to laugh at that last one. From what the Church says, Madule would be attractive for the power alone even were she as ugly as a toad and a crone to boot. Even those of the true faith that honors Goddess as well as God would see in her the reflection of Sovereignty, no matter her outward appearance. The promise of a crown and throne is a strong motivator, indeed.

Not that my sister is either ugly or a crone. Heaven forfend! She's blossomed into the most stunningly gorgeous women I've ever seen, her body in perfect proportions, her lush curves ones that almost beg to be touched from what I can glimpse from the sideless surcoats she loves to wear. The Church calls the style the "Gates of Hell" because the sides are open to give others tantalizing glimpses of the silhouette of the feminine body underneath that is clad only in tight-fitting undertunics of contrasting colors.

I shake my head, trying to get that image and thought from my mind as I open the door and step into my bedchamber. It's not right to think of my sister in such ardent terms. Instead, I go back to the regents and their shrill cries to get her married to some worthy noble.

They've tried to go around me and negotiate what they think are appropriate contracts, but I've stopped them at every turn. Long ago, I promised my sister that I would never force her into a marriage she didn't want. We both have had such lonely childhoods that I swore I would see to it that she would always be happy. Someone has to watch over her interests, and who better for that than myself? I alone know what she likes and dislikes, for I'm the only one she's been truly open with. Just as she's the only one I trust enough to be relaxed and open with.

Besides, the thought of her marrying someone else makes something in me hate it. No one else could ever really know her as well as I do, and how will I know for sure that I won't accidentally give her to someone that sees her in all the ways she fears? I'm well aware that she's afraid of becoming nothing more than a household slave and royal broodmare, and may the heavens strike me dead if I should ever misstep that badly and give her to someone who would treat her like that.

I know I'm the best one to take care of her, but the succession demands that she be given away. I strip off my robe in frustration and disgust at the quandary I find myself in, tossing myself onto the inviting surface of my large bed. My hair, still damp from the bath, clings to the bronzed skin of my back, a cool contrast to the fire-warmed air in my room.

Were I to look in the mirror at this moment, I would see staring back at me a handsome youth with a noble bearing and regal appearance. My hair is iridescent black, the highlights a sapphire sheen, and it falls to a decadent length to brush the place on my back where my ribs end. Normally, when I'm training or otherwise engaged in public conduct, my sable locks are neatly confined at the nape of my neck into a tidy queue, but at the moment my dark mane is unbound. I'm tall, standing head and shoulders above most other men, and my body shows the signs of my long, hard hours of training to be worthy of taking on the noble estate of knighthood when I'm old enough at the age of twenty-one; well-toned and well-defined muscles ripple smoothly under the tan of my skin. My eyes are a vibrant green, as verdant as the finest of emeralds, and my lashes and brows are as dark as my mane of thick hair. Broad shoulders give a hint that I have yet to reach my full depth of chest, but even so my body seems in perfect proportion, narrowing to a trim waist and firm hips, all the hard, angular planes of an adult male.

There was once a time when Madule and I looked almost alike, with the same slim children's bodies and dramatic coloring, though the obvious difference in ourselves was all that marked us as being unlike one another. Now, however, I suspect I would find her more of a harmonious complement than something the same. I turn over in my bed, looking up to the ceiling, the breeze of cool night air making my nude form shiver despite the heat of the fire that warms my room. I like to sleep with the window open; though most would consider it something of a heresy, I know I sleep better with fresh air coming into my room instead of keeping the room sealed against whatever supposed evil influences are out there floating around in the air.

I dismiss my maid, bidding her a brief good-night as she leaves, closing the door with a respectful little curtsy. Sitting at my dressing table, wrapped in a blue-green satin robe, I look into the mirror, holding my ivory comb in one hand, my skin glowing and hair damp from my bath.

I see myself clearly--a beautiful young woman, silky raven-black hair glinting with a bluish sheen in the firelight, long enough that it always has to be nudged aside lest I sit on the ends. Large eyes, green as emerald or jade, fringed with long dark lashes under sleek black brows.

Standing up, I unbelt the robe, letting it fall to pool around my feet. My reflection shimmers, looking like a goddess rising from the sea, clad only in the veil of black hair. I'm a woman now, with a woman's body; my breasts are high, firm, and full, round as the moon, tipped with pale pink. My torso narrows gracefully down to a slim waist; my hips flare out, then taper to long, sleek legs. I may be a princess, but I don't sit idle; my body is firm and smooth, taut muscle lying beneath the soft, flawless skin. I had never liked the stage of adolescence when I started to grow hair in places that had never had it before, and so I had taken the appropriate steps. My legs, the hollows beneath my arms, the place between my thighs--all are bare, clean.

Perhaps it's sinful to feel so much satisfaction from looking at my own body. The idea doesn't bother me, especially since I gain even more satisfaction from other things. Putting down the comb, I tuck my hands behind my neck, under my hair, watching myself in the mirror; with the lifting of my arms, my breasts rise as well, and I deliberately shift my weight to plant my feet just outside of shoulder-width. I find this pose interesting; I've entertained quick fantasies of being compelled to stand so, flaunting myself, knowing that I mustn't resist whatever's done to me . . .

I shiver a little at the thought, then relax, dropping my hands again to my sides. I hear Malaquin's chamber door open, and I know he's finally going to bed; our apartments are side-by-side, of course.

I also know that he leaves a window open at night.

Slowly, I cross my bedroom floor to the window alcove. Unlatching the window, I push it open; the night breeze swirls into the room, making me shiver at the chill. Padding quickly back to my bed--sumptuous indeed, fit for a princess with its white satin draperies and silken sheets--I climb in, pulling the covers up enough to ward off the draft. The fire dances on the hearth, sinking down into a heap of glowing coals; I wait until it's quiet in Malaquin's bedroom. He's dismissed his manservant; he must be in bed too, or perhaps reading a little, dealing with some paperwork.

Then I let my hands roam, under the covers. Cupping my breasts, feeling their weight and shape and softness, I run a finger over a nipple, feel the soft bud bloom into hardness. The contact is jolting, and irresistible; I touch the other, feel the same prompt response. Caressing myself, stroking, gently squeezing; every touch makes the slow heat grow more intense. Pinching each nipple sharply between thumb and forefinger, I twist and tug until I can't help but moan softly . . . then more loudly as I torment myself, becoming almost cruel as I work my flesh.

When the hot throbbing between my legs becomes impossible to ignore, I let one hand remain on my breast, the other moving down my belly to cup the soft mound. My fingertips find dampness; my middle finger lies along the crease, over the fleshy pearl that tingles at the touch. Here, too, I move softly at first, rubbing my palm against the place until the need for a more intimate touch takes over; then I part the tender petals with first and third fingers, pressing the pad of my middle finger just below the tip of that feminine bud. The sensation is a jolt that tears through me; my moaning sharpens, becoming breathless. Louder.

My hand leaves my breast as I rub at myself; slipping down, I press a finger against the place below that pleasure button. The slickness comes as almost a surprise; I feel so wet, so hot, that it seems I might burn my own probing fingertip. Running that finger along the cleft, still rubbing steadily with my other hand, I feel the pleasure build with aching slowness. That fingertip slides in, tiny muscles clenching in reaction, and I stroke it slowly--in and out, in and out, keeping the rhythm.

When I can't stand it any more, when sensual teasing becomes a driving need, something in me seems to snap. It's almost like some dark half of myself takes control--a part that cares nothing for tenderness, knows only instinct, only the desperate urge to find the culmination of this pleasure.

Cruel, now, so cruel, as if my hands are possessed by a rapist's spirit; my legs quiver as I open them as wide as I can, silk gliding against my skin, my back arching as I ruthlessly plunge two fingers into myself, my other hand seeming to try to scrub my pearl down to nothing. I can't put my fingers very deep, not yet; my maidenhead blocks the way, but that doesn't stop me from working myself to the best of my ability.

I arch and buck and writhe under my own violent hands, my moans becoming sharp shrieks; I cry the name of my beloved, the name of the one I wish was here with me, the one I imagine using his hands and mouth and manhood on me.

"Malaquin, Malaquin!"

I know he can hear me. His window is open, and so is mine--for very good reason. I want him to know, now; I want him to realize that no other woman could desire him as much, or be as desirable to him . . .

I hear the window open next door and a smile comes to my face. Madule usually stays up and listens for me to retire to my room. Then the door opens to my room and I sigh. Cathal's come in to make sure I'm all set for the night. I spend some time telling my overeager manservant that I'm fine, yes I want to sleep in the nude, no I don't need anything more or help getting something on, yes, I want the window to stay open and he should be used to that request by now, no, the fire's just fine and it'll die down without it being stirred around. I actually adore Cathal–-he's the closest thing I have to an actual friend other than my dear sister, of course–-but I think he takes a perverse pleasure in seeing how much I'll complain to assert my independence. This little scene's become an almost nightly ritual for the two of us. And, in some ways, I'd be sorely disappointed if he didn't hassle me some. I'd wonder if he stopped caring about my well-being.

Once my dusky-blonde "nanny" slips away to try his luck with one of the buxom serving wenches that make up some of the palace's kitchen crew, I lie there and once more let my thoughts dwell on what to do about my beloved twin. Perhaps it's not that surprising that it takes a while for me to realize that all's not quiet over in her room.

My first thought as I hear her voice is that she’s crying. Frowning, that makes me sit up, all my protective instincts surging to full wakefulness. What’s happened? Has one of the ministers or regents said something to upset her? I swear, I’ll let the one that made her cry feel the brunt of my anger. I slip from my bed, bare feet making no sound on the carpet on the floor that flanks the large, expensive bed, ready to burst into her room–but I then pause as my mind registers the fact that those aren’t the sounds of sadness I’m hearing. My eyes wide in shock, I turn and look at the alcove with the open window in my room. They’re the sounds of pleasure. From my sister?

Like a moth drawn to the warmth and brilliance of a flame, I silently walk over to that alcove, my next thoughts on who could it be with her to pleasure her so. I must admit, a spark of ire ignites within me at the thought, that there’s someone after all that my sister holds dear enough to invite into her like that. The night breeze plays with my drying hair and chills my skin, helping control the flush of heated blood that fills me. I didn’t know until just now how aroused I could get listening to the sounds of another, but the tightness and leaden pooling of heat in my groin is proof enough of that. Bringing my will to bear against my traitorous body, I reach out with my mind to find out who it is that’s with her, who could it be that is lucky enough to disport between her legs.

I rest one knee on the padded seat there in the window alcove, leaning my weight on that leg as I balance with the other, my manhood stiffly erect in reaction to Madule’s continuing cries. Touching her mind, her ecstasy fills me, making my own ardor flare even higher in response. Normally, I would leave her to her privacy, but the question of her future marriage spurs me on. I sift through her increasingly frantic sensations, shivering in sympathetic lust, only to discover that my beloved twin is quite alone. I feel sudden heat in my cheeks as I realize the truth, that Madule is doing this to herself. It makes sense, however, that as I can tame the sudden, overwhelming urges of desire by my own touch, she could tame hers in a similar manner. But it isn’t until just now that I even thought of my beloved sister being old enough–and woman enough–to even have urges like that.

It’s something of a shock, akin to the one I got when the servant girl told us the whole story about how men and women play the game of desire with one another.

It’s also something primal, arousing, something I can’t deny no matter how wrong I know it is or how guilty I also feel. A flash of a memory flits through my mind, of that moment during my coronation where I knelt before the Goddess in the form of my sister and accepted the ring that wed me to Her.

My heart pounds in my chest, the rapid beat throbbing in my aching loins. Bowing my head, I close my eyes; my hand drifts down to curl around my proudly erect appendage. I shouldn’t feel like this, not from hearing my sister; guilt and desire war within me, but the sensation I get when I slide my hand up and down my hard shaft is pure pleasure, no matter the source. Slow at first, then faster, faster, I stroke myself, keeping rhythm with the short, sharp cries of my twin sister coming from her room over the chill, night air. Friction makes my palm and the sensitive skin of my manhood faintly burn, but I’m too driven by pure, animal need to stop. Besides, the pain is a worthy punishment for giving in to such sinful urges.

Harder, faster–my arm starts to ache with the effort of pushing myself so, but lust has me in its grip, and I’m so close to that final, blessed release. My sister screams out a name, the feel of her release blossoming in the back of my head from that psychic bond we share then spreads through my own body. My muscles lock up as I cup my free hand in front of myself and toss my head back. As the cold feel of my still-damp hair slides across my back and my soft groans fill the chilled air of my room, my narrow hips jerk forward with short, sharp motions--once, twice, three times, my hot seed spurting into my cupped hand.

A final shudder and I abruptly relax, my mind in a very pleasant haze. Lowering my head, I open my glazed eyes and look down at my hands; one remains wrapped around my now slightly flaccid member, the other is filled with the milky white fluid of my semen. Giving my manhood one final stroke, I squeeze from it what remains of my seed, then wipe the rounded tip against my soiled hand. Feeling suddenly so very cold, I turn loose of myself and walk over to the basin and pitcher of water resting on a redwood table built just for them, the fine porcelain basin sitting within the hole built for it within the top surface of the table. Picking up the matching pitcher, I pour some of the clear water into the basin, but it’s not until I’m washing my hands clean that I realize that the name my sister had shouted was my own.

No, it couldn’t be. I shake my head at that, dismissing the thought. Someone else, someone proper must be the one she imagined drove her to such pleasures; it had to be my own dirty, guilty mind that made me think she called out my name.

Just as it’s my own dirty, guilty mind that makes a sudden thought lodge in my consciousness and won’t let it go away. What does she look like now? Is she as beautiful all over as I imagine she is? And what does she look like, when she’s pleasuring herself?

Another, more violent shake of my head. Malaquin, you must be losing your mind to even think like this, I tell myself. Madule’s my sister, for Heaven’s sake. Brothers and sisters do not think of one another in such terms. I violently fling the water from my clean hands, then symbolically mangle the emerald green towel in my strong grip as I dry my hands.

Even so, I lie awake for a long time afterwards, the echoes of her cries sounding in my memory, haunting me as I try to lose myself in sleep. And as I lie there, the beginnings of an insane plan start to form. A plan that I don’t intend to act on, I tell myself, as I finally drift off to sleep . . .

On to Chapter One

This page formatted and © 2000 by Dianna Silver

"The Silverlands", "The Obsidian Tower", "A Character's Chronicle: Zoey's Story", "Alpha Psi", "Argent Stag, Silver Rose" and the "Rose Realm" all © 1997 - 2000 by Dianna Silver. Some material also © 1998-2000 by Krissy Ryan. "Shoujo Kakumei Utena", also known as "Revolutionary Girl Utena" and "La Fillette Revolutionnaire" all © 1997-2000 by Chiho Saito/Shogakukan, Be-Papas, Shokaku Iinkai, TV Tokyo, and Central Park Media.

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