Once Upon a Time, Mirabelle awoke to the echoes of prayers reverberating around the chamber, pulled from a lustful, twisting dream like a fish from water. The air shimmered with the heat and she reached for the wide wooden bowl of water, washing away the grit from her eyes. Her travelling clothes were too thick for the climate, and she had a white robe and a Shayla, a headscarf which she put on with care, recalling how Asra wore hers. She walked around the room, marvelling at the woven tapestries, the furred textures and colours were sensuous enough to take her breath away. Banners and tapestries at home were martial celebrations, fallen enemies and lauded victories in colours of blood and soil. The Caliphate was a place where sense and spirit were indivisible, knowledge seen as a weapon to equal the sharpest spear. Mirabelle was here on business, but the atmosphere had seeped beneath her skin.
Eilhu would love this place. The thought was bittersweet and she pressed her palm against her collarbone, fighting the ache of his absence.
‘Good morning, your highness.’
Asra stood in the doorway, without a Shayla but wearing a red loose gown which had the liquid sheen of silk, stressing the lean length of her physique as she smiled at Mirabelle.
‘Please, I am Mirabelle.’ She said.
Asra’s smile widened as she rolled her eyes, gestured towards Mirabelle with her tattooed fingers.
‘Mirabelle.’ She said.
Mirabelle’s nascent mood dived downwards and she recalled her father, both in life and death.
‘I owe you an explanation.’ She said.
Asra offered her hand, her dark eyes weighted with expectation and curiosity.
‘Over breakfast, then?’ she said.
Mirabelle took her arm and they went down to eat in the garden.
They took the long route through the qusur, a series of tunnels which ran through the reservoir. Mirabelle took it all in with awe as Asra showed her the gardens, but stopped at a corner kept apart by a large wall and a spiked metal gate with a large, ornate lock set into the centre. The change in temperature made Mirabelle shiver, but it was a pleasurable sensation to wander through the cool darkness.
‘I expected to meet the Caliph.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra nodded as she retrieved a key with a slow flick of her wrist and turned it in the lock.
‘All in good time, Sir Carrey sent word of what you needed and it is something I can provide.’ She said.
Mirabelle enjoyed the low purr of Asra’s voice, cultured and erudite with a note of dark power which resonated in the hollows of her bones. She fought the tender sparks of nerves which flew up within her.
‘You’re more informed than I.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra pushed open the gate and waved Mirabelle through.
‘You wish to know the face of your enemy.’ She said.
Mirabelle gasped at the variety and tumescence of the plant life.
Thick, purple vines with swollen berries dripping white, pearlescent liquid.
A horned bush which undulated in patterns of exploration, a sinuous, blind dance which unnerved and intrigued Mirabelle.
A tall bank of yellow flowers, which hummed, the pressure and volume pooling in Mirabelle’s sinuses until she swayed on her feet.
Asra put a hand on her shoulder and drew her backwards, which made the effect of the plants lessen until it became a curiosity.
‘What are those?’ Mirabelle said.
Asra took her arm and led her from the garden.
‘As an exercise, ask yourself the question and we can discuss your answers.’ Asra said.
Mirabelle frowned with polite distaste but Asra chuckled.
‘I offer knowledge but you must earn it.’
Mirabelle turned and faced Asra.
‘I’ve had to trick the people I love into believing me dead, Lady Asra, the least you can do is answer a straight question.’ She said.
Asra locked the gate and appraised Mirabelle with care.
‘You face an enemy who has feasted on the bones of Gods. Some idiot summoned it.’ She said.
Mirabelle paled and sucked the cool air into her nostrils, the hiss of a candle flame extinguished in a single deft pinch.
‘They murdered my father.’ she said.
Asra bowed her head.
‘No, I meant an idiot in they have unleashed something they cannot hope to control.’ Asra said.
Mirabelle thought of Carrey, Eilhu, her father. The people who loved her.
‘What does the garden have to do with it?’
Asra shook her head.
‘Ask yourself and answer it as we break our fast.’ She said.
They feasted on dates as sweet as stolen kisses, milk as thick and rich as a lover’s thigh. Asra asked Mirabelle for her answer.
‘They’re plants.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra nodded in agreement.
‘What does a plant want to do?’ she said.
‘Feed and grow.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra clapped her hands together.
‘Does it know reason?’ she said.
Mirabelle shook her head.
‘Then it becomes a matter as simple as black and white. What are you to do?’ she said.
Mirabelle swallowed, recalling the agonies she faced at the hands of this unknown antagonist.
‘Find out what it takes to kill it.’ Mirabelle said.
Asra smiled, as cold a gesture as a knife drawn across a throat.
‘I like you.’ Asra said.
(The Wild Man – Omnibus from the beginning. Season 2 is https://mbblissett.com/2017/08/11/the-wild-man-season-2-omnibus-2/.
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