Fire WithinMature

A cup of tea, and a large helping of vengeance.

Sleep would not come this night.  She sipped her fragrant tea, watching an orange flame flare and flicker out.  The fire burned lower now --- most of the blaze long since gone.  All night she had sat there, staring at the flames.

As she stared, she dreamed: of glorious futures, gone forever.  Of pain, and loss, and deepest sorrows.  She dreamed of duty and cunning and service, of poisoned banquets and treacherous ambassadors.  Most of all, she dreamed of her single true friend; her Lord and lover, his rightful throne, stolen, and the bitter, bitter emptiness of life without him.

The queen's cup grew cold in her hands as the wind picked up.  She tried to hold fast against it, setting the cup to the ground with a practiced elegance, carefully arranging her posture, her expression, to become the image of unmoved nobility.

For a moment, she genuinely felt strong again.  Yet a violent shiver soon welled up in her, the unforgiving elements mingling with grief to unravel years of self-discipline in a heartbeat.

She tried to re-compose herself, but it was impossible now; cold had penetrated to her core. Atop that peak, neither airs and graces nor steely determination could make a palace of the bleak desolation.  Even my own body betrays me this night.

She huddled closer to the wall of rocks at her back, pulling her legs tight to her body, feeling more child than woman here, alone.  And lost.  Clutching the rough leather pack tight to her chest, she savored the security of it. If nothing else, I still have that.

The fire flared once more.  She looked back toward the distant embers, craving their warmth.  Just a dim glow remained now,  a faint red painted across the southern sky.

Soon, the city she had once ruled, once the gleaming jewel in her Lord's empire, would be nothing but cold, wet ash.

The End

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