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Note title: accidental drabbles

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Beshelar was a formidable opponent, but Csethiro stood her ground, sunblade in hand, dancing and twirling, slashing and stabbing, fencing and parrying. She wiped her forehead with her other arm and laughed in sheer delight of the challenge, of the motions, of just being alive.

Of the proud light in her husband’s watchful eyes.

When the fight ended – Beshelar won, of course, but it took him considerably longer than in the first practice sessions – she plopped onto the bench to catch her breath.

“My beautiful, strong and fierce lady.” Maia embraced her, smiling, and Csethiro felt the day glowing even brighter.

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Csevet woke to being strangled.

Again.

No surprise - couriers knew of the clingy lords who, even completely fucked out, just wouldn't stop trying to use their miserable bedpartners as both pillow and cover, but who would've thought that the Emperor of the Elflands was the clingiest of them all?

Proper and formal as Maia learned to be, once asleep, he immediately transformed into an Armfish. Csevet had to wrestle himself free (now also fighting laughter because Maia murmured something disapproving and turned away without even opening his eyes) before settling down again to embrace him, more gently, in return.

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"We beg your pardon, Serenity. We did not know if you required our services for anything else.”

The question, have you other duties? almost escaped but Maia bit it back. As a messenger Csevet surely had more than enough other duties, none of which included holding his clueless emperor's hand until he figures out what to do. Besides, no matter what Csevet said earlier, it would be a poor way to start his relationship with Chavar by poaching his trusted man.

"No, thank you. You may go." The words came out steadier this time. It made him feel slightly better.

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A diamond inlay diadem on his head. Pearls in his earlobes. A wide tiered necklace of opals and moonstones on his neck. Rings on his every finger. All silver, all white, all beautiful.

(The machine can't catch colors.)

And nothing else.

He is lying on his bed as they've arranged him, watching them, waiting. The rule is to keep a straight face but he can't help smiling a little.

A small muscle twitches in his raised arm.

The shutter finally falls closed, the bell chimes.

"Can I move now?"

"No." She leans over him. "We aren't finished with thee yet."

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The dance was meant to ease her concerns about their marriage. In truth, all he wanted to ease was the signing of the contract. He'd ease her annoying personality later. 

His grip tightened on her waist enough to hurt. 

"You may want to change your lifestyle soon. We prefer ladies who don't require a second look to take in all the sight."

A silent scowl.

"Oh, but we could be so happy together, if only you'd be a bit more willing to accommodate our wishes. Don't you see?" 

"No. Stop."

Eshevis only smiled and threw her into another, too-quick twirl.

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The handwriting of that day in my diary is abysmal -- luckily, I still remember everything clearly.

I dreamed of yelling in the hallways and woke to someone pounding on my door. Roused so suddenly, my mind rejected the shouted words; then the lock broke and in poured the Guardsmen looking for the Emperor. Of course, they had to look into every crack and corner but my room was a short task; by the time I stood, heart racing, they were out again. I could even have gone back to my bed.

Except I was sure I wouldn't sleep ever again.

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He always thought it was only a flourish of words used by less-than-skilled writers to emphasize the dramatic moment -- but then dach'osmer Tethimar lunges and Maia can suddenly perceive every little thing around him with a strange clarity. The dagger seems to leave a trail of mirrored lamplight in its wake, Beshelar's face twists into a terrified and terrifying grimace as he throws himself against Tethimar, then something blunt hits Maia's ribs. Blue light flashes; there is a loud crack, and fire floods his chest, shrinking the world into a pinpoint of white pain.

Somewhere, in the crowd, Csoru screams.

**

At first there is only confusion. What was this flash and crash? Why would Csoru not shut up?

Why is the throne empty?

Confusion melts into cold alarm, and then she is running, too, elbowing her way through. Finally, the crowd parts, and before her there lies the Emperor of the Elflands, winter-white silks all soaked in ---

She falls onto her knees beside him, grabs him instinctively, but there is no one to catch, to keep.

Red, red, the whole world is swimming in red. Csethiro zhasanai holds her bloody hands in front of her eyes. She is falling, falling.

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A gloomy November dawn wakes them, the clouds above only a shade lighter than the frozen mud below. Long, dull hours lie ahead of them, full of bleak tasks and even bleaker people.

Maia sits up on the bed, shivering. He cannot think of a reason to move, to stand -- to rule.  

"You might want to reconsider your early morning schedule, Serenity." 

The voice, coming from deep among the warm blankets and pillows, is prim to the point of rebuke; an Imperial secretary at his nastiest. Maia, somewhat to his own surprise, laughs out, and the morning light takes heart.