Lotus: To He Who Trusts


“None of them will thank you,” Inaris murmured sulkily.

“I don’t do it for thanks, silly. Now lie back,” Narys responded quietly, smiling sweetly as she gathered Inaris’ long, platinum locks to one side.

Making sure her grumbles of protest were heard, Inaris slowly lowered herself down, every muscle in her body screaming with fire and poison and a half dozen other sorcerous tricks as her head was cradled in Narys’ lap. “Then why do it? You’re only delaying the inevitable.”

Humming softly, Narys measured out drops of one of her herbal oils onto her hands and began to rub Inaris’ temples. “Do you want to be kept up by their screams? They deserve a better quality of life than reliving their days in their dreams.”

Mmmh… They will just die in a week… two weeks…. a month.” Inaris drew a deep breath, wincing a little as she exhaled. “They are all cowards and traitors, anyways.”

Narys’ hands slowed, and she frowned down at Inaris. “They are afraid. And you think they trust you any more than you do them? Everyone hates the favorite, my dear.”

“He who trusts first, dies first.” Unable to look back at the lipid brown eyes that peered down at her, Inaris turned her head to look over her friend’s knee. “Do you hate me? Even a little?”

“Of course I don’t. And I know you trust me.”

A wry smirk curled up her painted lips as a soft hand cupped her cheek. “You think I do.”

Narys chuckled, turning Inaris’ head to make her look at her as she massaged the healing oils under the young woman’s jaw and along her neck. “I know you do.” Hesitating for a moment, she then asked, “Will you let me? At least once? Just a little hypnotism… after the feast in a few days, perhaps –”

No,” Inaris interrupted firmly. Then with an apologetic smile she shook her head. “No, but thank you. Remembering is how I know how they move and react, and remembering fuels my hate.”

“Just… just don’t hate too much, hmm?” Narys responded, concern in her soft, ethereal voice. “Hate too much and it will do more damage to you than they ever could.”

For a long minute Inaris stared up past the dark waves of brunette hair. “Don’t let them know,” she whispered quietly. “I think you’re my only sanity in this forsaken place.”

“And you mine,” Narys responded, bending to kiss her cheek. “I know what you do when they summon you for their… lessons. Only you could get away with it.”

Inaris sighed, closing her eyes as her arms coiled around Narys’ waist in a small embrace. “When the war is over I need two years. We just have to make it till then, and they will all pay.”

Narys smiled, combing her scented fingers through Inaris’ hair. “I would like that, seeing you in the great chair before the Masters… Mistress of the Blue Door,” she added with a grin.

A wicked smile rippled across Inaris’ features as her eyes opened, bright and welling with purpose in spite of her weakened, used form. “Mistress… and I will paint it red.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jade’s eyes snapped open. The fire in the hearth had died down to coals, and instead of a cushioned nest she was on the carpet of the cottage. A pang of disappointment and loss tugged in her chest, but it quickly faded in the warmth of the body snuggled against her. Smiling softly, she took care to not wake Yusraa as she peeled herself away from the sleeping woman. There was no telling what hour of night or morning it was from beneath the canopy of the trees, but she knew a chill would creep up through the floor long before the others would wake.

First she fixed the quilt over Sadie, careful not to startle little Izzy as the pup peeked open a sleepy eye to see what Jade was up to. Retrieving the throw from the back of the couch she paused near the curtained window. Hidden in the darkness she peered through a crack in the drapes, careful to not disturb them. The yard, and road were empty, but she lingered, daring the darkness to reveal to her it’s secrets.

Satisfied, she quietly took a moment to ensure the lock on the door was fixed before returning to the thick carpet. Yusraa stirred a little as Jade lowered herself back down to spread the heavy throw over them. Curling back up with her friend and slipping a protective arm over the woman’s waist, her thoughts drifted to Dorsett, then to Sadie and Soron and the rest of her new wealth in friends. Mind finally settling on Yusraa, then Drew, the waves of sleep slowly tumbled over her.

Lotus: Garden Therapy


The small trowel made a terrible scraping sound as it dug into the hard earth. Unlike the grassy lawn around her, Inaris plunged the tool into the impossibly rocky patch, carving out a hole more by sheer will than anything else.

Ultimately, I suppose it’s your choice. Inaris winced as her nuckles scraped against the stones, but that only spurred her on.

I’m not doing it for her sake, Jade. I’m doing it for yours. I can’t in good conscience contribute to pain between the two of you . . . she’s also got power over you. Jade dug out one last lump of earth. Tossing it into the borrowed wheelbarrow, she stood to observe her work. What a joke. There had never been anything between the two women. Two — no, three short conversations in the past four months. Power over you. It reminded her of everything she had left; reminded her of everything she had fought for. Had she just wandered in a pitifully small circle?

Cadi,” she spat under her breath to the darkness that shrouded her lawn. Not slowing her pace, Inaris lined the hole, and fit a massive bowl she had purchased into the bottom. Then came rocks, and gravel. Her efforts only illuminated by starlight trickling down through the branches that hid her little cottage from the rest of the homestead, Jade took great care to make as little a mess as possible.

She looked out of place, kneeling in the dirt and pouring bucket after bucket water into the small pond. Her hands would be scraped and sore at work the next day, but she didn’t care. It was just trading one pain for another.

Looking the pond over for a minute, Inaris frowned. Not at the pond; that looked rather lovely. No, she frowned because she couldn’t shake it. She hated her. She hated her heartless gaze. She hated that she didn’t have the balls to confront Inaris herself, and instead sent him like a little messenger to threaten her job and have him say it was for her own good.

Inaris scoffed, and stooped to pick up the second to last bucket. Bitch, please.

Back home it would have been a snake in a coin purse, or poison in a kiss. If she had approached her, Inaris knew it would have been fine. But not this way. She hadn’t expected it. Not from him. This way nearly hurt as bad as last time. And she’d still given him the paper. Three people now knew her hideaway. Now, more than ever the thought of him, and the way he looked at her set her skin on fire. She didn’t care about his others, but she was at a loss to why she felt the foreign bitterness of jealousy. She didn’t mind sharing. She minded being discarded again.

Inaris sighed, and wiped at her brow with the back of her hand. Several fireflies had already begun to gather around the reeds she set into one side of the pond. No, it was what it was, and Jade was sure that after a few days she’d come out of her fog and understand that he only meant to do right by the situation. The gravedigger would do what he thought best, the Mistress would steal what little happiness she could from others, and Inaris would continue grabbing hold of her new life. If tomorrow morning the boss wanted a reaction, she’d get nothing but the same old Jade. She chuckled, hoping that the Mistress did expect something, just to spite her.

A new thought tugged a wry smile up her mouth. She had said — well he had said she had said that he, ‘can’t go to bed with you anymore‘. Inaris suddenly barked a laugh. “The old hag has no imagination.”

Her anger slowly subsided as plant by plant, she fitted water lilies and several small pads into the minuscule pond. She almost wished she liked roses better. Roses were easier to plant, and easier to acquire . . . . The poor water lilies deserved to be liked more, too, but Inaris couldn’t bring herself to. Though sufficient, they weren’t lotus flowers. Their petals weren’t as soft, nor stems as strong, nor scent as rich and intoxicating, but for now they would do.