“Qasin, my dear, you have absolutely no reason to be afraid of me,” Eve commented as they continued their journey. They had been traveling together since their chance meeting along the road and Eve still clung to Qasin’s left arm as if he were escorting her to a formal gala rather than through monster-infested woodlands.
“Excuse me?” he asked, not entirely sure what she was talking about.
“Your blade, Qasin. You haven’t taken your hand off it since our journey began. I haven’t checked, but I could easily be persuaded to believe you even sleep with it.”
Qasin looked down at his right hand, resting squarely on the pummel of his sword. Have I really been holding it the entire time? He was taken a bit by surprise at the thought. The itch hadn’t gone away when Eve joined him, but the urge to kill wasn’t half as strong as she was making it out to seem. She had more than distracted him from his urges as they journeyed together, adequately fulfilling her purpose.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I hadn’t realized. Old habits never fade, I guess.” He lied–this was a new habit.
“Right. Well, it’s not entirely proper to keep your weapon so ready when you’re around royalty, you know? A more timid and untrusting queen might think you’d up and kill her for her throne.”
“It’s a good thing then that we don’t have to worry about you being ‘too timid,’” he mused.
“A good thing, indeed. Now, my curiosity has up and killed the dog, so I mu–” she started.
“Cat,” Qasin interrupted, correcting her. “Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Why, that’s an absolutely silly notion. Who told you that? If curiosity killed cats, then there would be none of them left. It’s care that killed the cat.” She said it matter-of-factly, as if it were common knowledge. Qasin had learned that it was part of her know-it-all personality.
“If you say so.” Qasin shook his head. She’s unique at least, that much is certain.
“Anyway, before I was rudely interrupted, I was going to ask what you actually plan on doing in the White-Horn area.”
“A man must have his secrets too,” he replied, still not exactly sure that he wanted to let her know who he actually was. He had been entertaining the idea of telling her for a while now. Debating whether or not he should had actually tell her had managed to keep his mind occupied a bit from the itch of his sword. He knew that the longer things dragged on, the harder it would be to tell her if he actually wanted to.
“Is that what they say? And here I thought that a good, wise gentlemen knew that honesty was always the best policy when women were involved.”
“Lies and secrets are different things, you know. I asked first though, so if you want my story, you’ll have to tell me yours.”
“Oh dear, next thing I know you’ll be asking about my age, weight, and if this is my natural hair color.”
“No, just the one for now.”
“Very well. Since you’ve been such an upstanding bodyguard and portable wallet, I don’t think it would hurt to tell you what I’m doing more specifically. You see, I am actually on my way to the White-Horn lands in order to make sure that my brother’s journey goes smoothly.”
“So you are running an errand at your brother’s request?”
“Heavens, no! He doesn’t even know I’m still in the area. All he knows is that there is a harbor in the White-Horn lands and that he absolutely must go there if he wants to achieve his goals.”
“So your goal is to negotiate with the head of a nation just to secure safe travel for one person?” Qasin was becoming more confused with every explanation. It was as if each answer came packed with two new questions.
“Again, Qasin, no. You’re assuming too many things incorrectly. You should perhaps stick to bodyguarding and not try so hard to take up divining. I’m going to make sure things go smoothly, not safely, for my brother and his people–not just himself.”
“Smooth isn’t safe?”
“Safe is boring. Smooth . . . not so much,” she said, wicked smile curling across her face that caused Qasin’s hand return to the pommel it had been avoiding.
“I think I prefer safe.”
“That’s only what people believe they should think, but it’s not the actual truth. I think this talking is something you’d rather throw to the sides for a good fight, a spark of danger, or a duel to the death.”
“What leads you to believe that?”
“Experience . . . But enough about me. I believe you now owe me your half of the reason for our joint expedition.
“Hmmm, I suppose I might as well say it. I’m the Human King, and I’m on my way to kill the leader of the White-Horns and take control of the area.”
“Oh my! That is a rather tall tale. What evidence do you have to prove such a claim?” She unclipped herself from the arm she had been holding onto for the last day.
Qasin stopped walking, reached into his backpack and pulled out his crown. “I don’t like to wear it when I’m traveling, but it’s the real deal, I assure you of that,” he said, not sure if it would suffice as evidence.
“I see. I suppose it would be impolite of me not to believe you at this point,” she said, grabbing the crown from his hands and playing with it for a second before resting it atop her own head instead of his. “And you’re going to go kill the leader of the White-Horns?”
“Yes,” he replied bluntly.
“Why?” she asked, adjusting the crown as Qasin had numerous times before her. “That doesn’t seem very stately–or tactful.”
“The White-Horns will never let themselves be led by a Human if I don’t,” he explained. “Sure, the Satyrs might listen to me today, but tomorrow they’ll have a fresh dagger for my back. The Minotaurs will have an axe for my front from the start.”
“So you have to kill their leader?” She was trying out various poses with her new accessory as if she had a mirror to pose in front of.
It suits her better than it does me. Maybe she is a queen, he thought as he watched her goof off with the crown.
“Yes, otherwise they won’t follow.”
“That’s true. You’ve made an excellent case for that, sir, but you haven’t made a case for why they need to follow.”
“Because if I don’t break them and unite the island, we’ll be stuck in petty wars for ages to come. The peace won’t last and people will die because I didn’t stand up.”
Eve gave him a resounding golfer’s clap. “Bravo, sir. Bravo! You’ve reached the point of arrogance properly expected of a monarch. Say it’s for the people; don’t say what you truly mean.”
Qasin began to get agitated. What I truly mean? It is for the people. This is all for them. “What do you mean by that?” he demanded.
“I don’t think your logic is bad,” she started, “it’s just that I think you’re lying to yourself again. You’re not after being a king. You don’t like it. It’s all politics, ordinances, decrees and constant bickering between fat, lazy, old men about what should or shouldn’t be. The only people you’ll end up talking to are either people who won their position by force, like yourself, or people who won it through lies and broken promises, like the councilmen, and all you’ll ever do is talk.”
“Someone has to rule them.” He started to argue back, but there wasn’t much confidence behind his words. Her opinions on the matter had already started to worm their way into his thoughts. “Without a strong leader the good honest and innocent people will die for the greed of those pigs.”
“That’s true. Someone does have to rule, but should it really be you? Wouldn’t you much rather be out in the world, risking your life, adventuring through dungeons and caves as you bounce from one fight to another? I imagine that this little thing,” she took the crown off of her own head and placed it on his, “feels much more like a shackle than an honor.”
Qasin adjusted the crown, thinking back on the hundreds of people he had murdered over the last few days in his gambit for power. It feels good to kill. She mouthed the words, mimicking the thoughts in his head, even as they came to him. It feels so good. He sighed, knowing she wasn’t wrong about either the crown or his need to find someone else to wear it.