Banjoverse: The Full Epic
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Night-whispers: 2. II
The bedroom. Carpets. The thick curtain separating it from the rest of the house. Scented candles. Ornate tapestries – flourished designs – oliphaunts, rolling dunes, the sun – hanging across the beige walls. The herbs at the open window – jasmine, myrrh, pigeum, pellitory – mixing scents, wafting in. A chilled desert breeze rolled in, bringing with it the scent of the desert, the smell of the herbs.
Loosening the tie in her hair, she let it fall loose about her shoulders before pushing open the curtain, returning to the bedroom. He had fallen asleep on the bed, sprawled on his back, mouth slack, snoring. She smiled to herself, quietly went about to blow out each candle. Once the room was plunged into shadow, and the moon outside burned white against the desert’s inky sky, she sat on the edge of the low bed, ran her hands idly over his chest and stomach. Before her eyes adjusted, when all was dark, and she felt the rippling scar just above his navel.
He flinched when she touched his scarred stomach, coming awake. A heavy hand against her arm. And his accented Beshabari, a slurred growl.
“Come to bed…”
Smiling, she bent down, reached her arm across his chest, kissed him lightly on the lips. And there she tasted the sweet mirtem, the burning alcohol. As she slipped into the sheets beside him, and he made his way clumsily under the heavy blanket as well, she clucked her tongue in annoyance. He flopped down next to her. A huff of air.
“Amir, you drink too much.”
An unintelligible grunt. He shifted closer, burying his face into the crook of her neck, bringing a heavy hand up to rest against her bosom. She embraced him, nuzzled his hair, inhaled, laid a gentle kiss on the top of his head.
“Well, you shall deserve it,” she whispered into the sand-grey hair, “when tomorrow morning you are complaining to me for your headache.”
He raised his head, kissed her fully on the lips. The tongue. And now that her eyes had become accustomed to the dark, she saw him clearly. Eyes heavy-lidded, a wolfish grin as he pulled back to look at her. She ran her hands against his flanks, and he made a low, guttural sound. Leaning forward, pressing his beard against her temple, he whispered in her ear.
“Munehrah, I desire you…”
She was about to make a comment about too much mirtem again, or that Qudamah might hear them and perhaps they should wait another hour, but instead he drew his knee up, lifted himself on his elbows, kissed her again. And she felt the first deep flush of desire within her as well, low in her stomach, as she gripped him by the nape of the neck, and squeezed his flank, raised her head to bite his jaw. And he groaned at the touch, while she relished the taste of sunburnt skin, and he hastened to remove his sleeping pants while she pulled her nightdress over her head. Returning to her, a full embrace, the press of skin against skin, leaning, and he dragged his tongue down her neck and over her collarbone and bosom while she gripped his hair, tangled, rolled her hips against his chest.
He grunted a low Munehrah in that first moment, as he pulled himself back, and guided himself with one hand, entering her, before falling forward slightly so that his hot breath gusted against her eyes. And there he stilled, laying over her, his head buried in the pillow beside her. She kissed him lightly against the cheek, moved down and kissed him on the lips. And he returned the kiss, lazily, without moving.
The heart, thundering. Blood racing. A slow, lingering kiss. Tasting. Dark skin – her arm – resting like a shadow against his pale shoulder. And then he moved, a jerking twitch which caused her to gasp and him to groan. And when she pushed down with her hips, he grinned, breathless. But he maintained a slow pace, even as he swore under his breath, shuddering breaths, and she pulled, urged, grasped his back – feeling the ridged scars there, the pale lines – silent pleas.
And then his breath hitched, and he stopped his movements altogether, pushing his face into her neck and muttering to himself. She smiled. She loved Amir for this – for these quirks and vulnerabilities. He always spoke to himself when making love, a strange habit. It usually meant he was very close. Once or twice, she had even laughed out loud to hear some of his mumbled self-encouragements, but he had been too far gone in his own lust to give her more than a bleary grin.
And now… Starting again, gasping cries, nails digging into skin before a white-blinding explosion – collapsing forward into shudders – and soon enough they were both lying together, breathing hard, sweating, dazed.
A few moments of silence. Allowing the pulse to slow. Silence, silence, silence, and a breeze from the desert.
“Tell me again the tale of Kuklops of Khand.”
Muffled. He spoke against her neck. “Not tonight, wife, I am weary…”
She threaded her fingers through the sweat-soaked hair at the nape of his neck, ran her hand down his back, drawing her thumb idly over one of the scars striping across. He lay against her, cheek resting against her shoulder, mouth open.
Another chill night-breeze. The soft hiss of sand blowing. Eventually, she heard a gurgling snore. He was asleep. She smiled, reached down and pushed his chin up. Closing his mouth with a soft snap.
“There, else you will drool on me,” she chuckled. “You are worse than Qudamah.” He responded with a tired grunt before nuzzling closer, bringing a leg up to rest against hers.
“Shall I tell a tale then?” she whispered. He said nothing. “Very well. I will tell you about Târik-šahbânu, a Beshabari queen, and her pale husband from North.” Another labored snore. She smiled, continued, “One day the queen was traveling through the deserts of northern Beshabar. As they crossed over a tall dune, she looked on and saw him: a pale Man lying facedown in the sand, burnt by the sun, his clothes in tatters. And she was mystified. For she thought him a white devil, come from Duzax to torment the people of her fair city. Never before had the Beshabari seen the Northern Men, and so she was frightened.
“At first, she did not know what to do. But then, when she approached, and saw his face, she knew that this could be no white Duzax-devil, for he was fair and kind-looking.” She drew her fingers over his nose, and he twitched at her touch. “She liked his nose especially. And his eyes. Like serpent’s.
“And so she ordered the servants to make this Man a bed of the finest sheets in her caravan. And they rode on to Abbas, to the Great Târik Palace. There, they tended him with myrrh-karam and bathed him and clothed him. And with each passing day, as this pale Man recovered, the queen grew more and more infatuated with him. Finally, after seven days and seven nights, she decided to marry him.
“They were a happy couple at first, and they had a lovely son, Prince Qudamah. A strong and beautiful boy. But sadly, as the years passed, the queen began to see that her pale husband was not so enchanting. For he drank too much, and he fell asleep very soon after lovemaking, and he was generally very boring.”
A snort. He chuckled softly. “…’m not boring.”
Another embrace. Feeling his skin warm with sleep, and she smiled, burying her face in his neck. A kiss. Pulling the blanket up.
“No, you are not. Nikšab, Amir.”
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