The morning after.

            The next night Saber met Lady Zoya once more in her room. She sat at her writing desk wearing what looked like all the jewels from the castle treasury on her hair and clothes.  

“Evening Milady.” Saber said, striding towards her.

Zoya frowned.

“I never hear you enter.”

“Who says I walk?” Saber asked.

“You are full of riddles are you not?” She amused aloud.

Saber chuckled.

            “Confusion is the best plan of attack. Unpredictability.”

            “You speak too highly of yourself.” Zoya noted. “Yet I had solved your riddle before sun rise.”

            “What is the answer than?” Saber asked.

            “It was simple really.” She took a moment to enjoy her victory. “What loves none, yet slew for love. It could not be a man for men do love something; if it is not some other or some god, than he will love himself.  If he loves none of these, then it is some material thing that captures his heart. So it must be an animal, they know no love.  Therefore the answer to your riddle is a beast!” She applauded for herself.

Saber chuckled letting her continue on with her self-congratulations a while longer.

            “ You are close but not free.” Said he. “Why a beast could be anything, could not a man be a beast? Could not a beast be a man? Must a beast be real to slay what it eats? Is Not fear a beast? Or a beast fear? There is an answer to this riddle but it is a name.”

Zoya’s face fell. She looked disappointed.

            “I must produce a name? of a beast? Living or fictional?”

            “You must give a name to ‘it’ that will be the answer to the riddle. Though it maybe be real, fictional or dead.”

Zoya made an unhappy face.

            “That riddle is unfair. It could be anything under the sun.”

Saber chuckled.

            “Did you think it would be easy? I really do want you for my own.”

“Do I get a hint?” She asked desperately, sensing his early notions of victory .

“Hmm. It is not something you would not be able to guess.

Zoya smiled and began listing off every beast she knew, either living or dead, real of fake. They sat up until little before dawn. By the time the moon began to vanish from the sky and Saber made his departure. Zoya was half asleep at her desk, her head rested upon her arms folded upon her desk. She muttered the names of beasts inaudible into her sleeves.  Saber smiled to himself knowing she would never find the answer to his riddle. No one had ever managed to answer this one. They would say the answer almost constantly but never recognize it as such.

Lady Zoya would soon be his. He brushed her hair behind her ear. He bent and kissed her on the cheek, whispering good night. She hardly stirred. Then with the wind, he was gone.

          That same morning, several hours later, Saber was awoken by a knocking at his door. He had only managed to sit up and gaze sleepily at the door before it was pushed rudely open. Sebastian stepped into the room as always dressed in his exaggerated lordly attire. He looked his sleepy brother over amusedly.

            “Saber you do realize it is noon?” Sebastian asked.

Saber shrugged, climbing out of his blankets over to the edge of his bed.

“I’m confined to my room, and facing execution what else would you have me do?” He retorted bitterly. Sebastian averted his gaze from his brother to the floor.

“I’m sorry brother. I tried.”  He said with no sympathy in his voice.

“I’m sure you fought like a champion.” Saber said sardonically, rising from his bed. He rummaged around for in the closet for a fresh set of clothes. Sebastian made no more attempts at conversation. Saber found a tunic that was the least repulsive. He despised the Siberian attire. 

“So when is my final day?” Saber asked pulling the tunic on over his head and doing up the laces.

“Tomorrow.” Sebastian replied, watching his brother carefully for a response. Saber made none committal mutter taking up some black trousers.

“I assumed it would be soon.” Mused Saber. He pulling on the trousers and tucked the long helm of his under tunic in. Saber glanced over towards his brother. Sebastian was unconvinced by this nonchalant attitude.  

“So Siberia gets to watch the killer of her sons die but what does Russia get for your efforts?” Saber asked running a comb carelessly through his hair before tying it back in a pony tail.

Sebastian looked reluctant to say, but surveyed Saber thoughtfully.

“Fair enough.” He finally concluded. “Follow me.” They left the room and as they walked down the hall. The small army guarding Saber trailed behind them. As they stepped out into the courtyard Saber blinked in the sun light reflecting off of the snow.

“This way.” Sebastian said, leading Saber towards a bench where several simply dressed ladies in white stood around a seated lady in a gold dress. As they drew closer Saber recognized the Lady seated upon the bench.

The End

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