The Serpent and the Wings of Night

The young woman thought she was in love, or something like it. To be young and in love is an incredible thing. It teaches one so much.

She had never had a friend her own age, and so she learned how to share little pieces of herself with another.

She had never known a romantic partner before, so she learned how to kiss and touch.

She knew her father would not approve, so she learned how to hide things from him.

Her dark world was a little brighter; cold rooms a little warmer. Her young man was shy and sweet, and he seemed to be enamored with her. She would spend long days retracing his every word.

Perhaps in another world, these two people would not have found much in common. But in this world, in which they had so little else, they became everything to each other.

They fell hard and fast, and the young woman loved the rush of it. She wanted more. They pried themselves away from each of their meetings panting and breathless and forever greedy for more of each other’s skin.

The young woman had never experienced sex before. But oh, she wanted to.

She knew that night what she wanted from him. What she wanted to give back to him in return.

They met in his room. Their kisses were messy and frantic, punctuated with gasps and moans as lips grazed sensitive flesh. Their desire for each other fell over them in a drunken haze, more potent with every layer of cloth they ripped away.

She was faintly nervous as he pressed her to the bed and climbed over her. Nervous as he opened her thighs and prepared to push into her. But she was nervous as all young people were when losing their virginity. And that nervousness was nothing compared to her desire.

The pain was brief and quick. She buried it in the sensation of his shaking breath against her skin, their flesh as close as it could ever be, his mouth pressed to hers.

He was gentle. At first.

When he first began to move, swells of pleasure mingled with the remnants of the pain. With each stroke, slow and deep, it built.

The young woman turned herself over to it and thought to herself that she would never—never—feel anything this good ever again.

When did the first spark of fear come? When did that little voice in the back of her head whisper, Wait, something is not right?

Perhaps it was when his thrusts got too fast, too hard, the pleasure-to-pain balance disrupted despite her muffled words of hesitation.

Perhaps it was when she tried to sit up, seize control, but he forced her back down, the sharp edge of his fingernails opening little bloody wounds on her flesh.

Perhaps it was when his nostrils flared at those little drops of blood—maybe the blood on his hands, or the blood between her legs—and his kisses to her cheek, her jaw, her throat grew deeper.

Grew harder.

Grew sharper.

His lips were loving at first. Then passionate. And then it hurt.

It hurt, it hurt it hurt it—

The young woman cried out. She told him to stop.

Perhaps he did not hear; perhaps he did not care.

Bloodlust, understand, is a terrible thing.

Fear seized her. His teeth were deep into her throat as she thrashed. He was stronger than her. Her powerlessness was a noose, ready to strangle her.

The young woman came so close to death that day.

But she grabbed the silver candelabra from the bedside table and smashed it over her lover’s head. It was not enough to kill him, but she was not trying to kill her lover that day. She had never killed before.

She was shaking, her heart beating frantically. As she pushed him off of her, she caught just one glimpse of his face—dazed confusion, and then horror, as if he had not even realized what he had done.

Tears streaked her cheeks.

She thought she was in love. She had not learned yet how deadly such a thing could be.

She hid her tears, grabbed her clothing, and ran. She did not look back when he called for her. Her broken dream and her broken heart tore her flesh to pieces.

She was bleeding. She was frightened. She did not intentionally choose to run to her father’s room. But where else could she go, in a home where everything was dangerous?

The king opened his door and let his weeping daughter inside. She was a reserved young woman. He had taught her how to keep her emotions carefully tethered. But tonight, she was distraught. Her lover and his betrayal had shattered her defenses.

The king wrapped his daughter in a blanket, listened to her choke out her story, and was silent as he wiped the

blood from her throat.

He made a decision in that moment.

The young woman did not know it. Not yet.

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