Chapter 4 Envy

          Aurelia secretly envied other girls. Some she envied for their way with men, others for their skill in matters of statecraft, and those who had been gifted in the chest area. Today, the tables had turned, thanks to Zinjo, the werelion. Aurelia walked tall next to him and carried herself regally, and pretended not to hear the petty comments coming from those who ridiculed her. 

“It won’t last, the princess in black is jinxed.”

“He can do better than her. She messed up the heart’s call twice…”

Each comment became a small arrow piercing the stoic visage of Zinjo, who probably heard everything thanks to his enhanced hearing. He turned to face those who would insult Aurelia. Aurelia didn’t know much, but turning into the werelion wouldn’t solve anything.

She gripped his hand and pulled him back, “They are entitled to their opinion. I am in a position of leadership, it’s going to happen. They are envious of us.”

Zinjo stared her down with his all-consuming gaze that put her body into overdrive and caused weakness in the knees. He nodded and said, “Hmmm.” He managed a lopsided smile, it looked strange on him, but the attempt endeared him to her.

 She fiddled with her dress string, “Zinjo, while I am grateful for your presence, why are you in Shadowfen?”

 “It is a long story,” he sniffed the air, “I come from a faraway land filled with forests and grassy plains, a place where the laws of nature are absolute. I was the son of a great pride leader, and next in line to lead my people.” He spoke in a distant voice as he missed home, not that she could blame him. 

Aurelia opened the door to the men's tailor shop, The spindle limbed Mr. Silke greeted them at the door, “Your majesty, I heard the good news,” He looked up at Zinjo,” My heavens, they broke the mold when they built this one.”

“I need dinner attire,” Zinjo’s voice while soft projected an air of command.

“Anything specific?” Mr. Silke asked with a big smile on his face.

Zinjo stared at Aurelia, “I want to match her.”

“I can already see it already black suit, red tie, and vest, it will offset those stunning yellow eyes,” Mr. Silke bubbled with excitement. 

“Hmmm.” Zinjo nodded in affirment. 

Aurelia took a seat in a comfortable velvet chair and took a deep breath, the smell of laundry fresh delightfully tickling her nose. “Why did you leave home?”

The yellow eyes of Zinjo watched the tailor go about his work, “Two years ago, I had a dream. A dream about you. At first, I shrugged it off, like nothing, but as the moon and sun rose and fell in the night sky, the dream persisted. An inexplicable sadness held me in its terrible grip.”

Impossible, that heart's call couldn’t do that, could it? The thought made Aurelia question everything she knew about the ways of magic. “I am sorry if the hearts call…”

“Do not apologize. You couldn’t have known.” 

The tailor smiled up at him, “I’ll use magic to make your suit, would you like an enchantment placed on it?”

“Hmmm,” Zinjo grunted, “Perhaps one that allows the suit to change shape with me?”

“Right, the werelion thing, it will be done. Give me about thirty minutes,” Mr. Silke bowed and left. 

Aurelia glared at the tailor for his interruption, “Why were you so sad.”

“I did not know at first. So I sought out Ayasu, our soul keeper...Ummm your people call them soothsayers. I told her about the dream, and she insisted I speak to my father at once.”

“How did that go?” 

“Not well at first. My younger brother was not ready to rule at the time. So a deal was struck, I will take another year to prepare him for the task ahead, and then I will seek you out.”

Aurelia hung on every word with a goofy grin on her face, all of that, just for her, “Did the dreams get worse the next year?” She asked. 

Zinjo took a seat next to her on the floor and leaned against the wall, “Yes. The next year a great spirit would visit me and tell me you waited in Shadowfen. I became the shell of a man as the sadness progressed.”

“How many days did it take to come here?”

“Many days, some places I found transport and help easily enough, others I had to work for. The dreams changed to bright sunset, each day that passed the sun got a little higher. I did bounty hunting jobs and some mercenary work to pay my way. That is when I heard Shadowfen was looking for soldiers,” I made my way here with all possible haste to find you.

Aurelia absentmindedly caressed her thigh, “How did you feel when you saw me?”

“The sadness lifted. I could see your inner strength from across the room, and my heart was drawn to yours. When the magic was cast, I worried I came all this way for nothing. Once again I was chosen to be by your side.”

Aurelia sputtered, “Again none of this bothers you?”

“The gods made the worlds and stars, who am I to question their motives?” Zinjos voice carried deep conviction. “When they call, we must answer.”

“I have a question. Can you turn me into a werelion?”

 “I can, but such things are not done lightly. Many do not survive the first change.   This is why the trial of the mane was created. A test to ensure the candidate has the best chance at surviving. I ask you to take some time to decide, you will be queen.” Facts, the werelion spoke in clear concise facts. Aurelia appreciated his honesty.



Thank you for coming. This is the best day I’ve had in a while.”

 Zinjo rose and took Aurelia in his arms. She leaned into the comfort of his shoulder, and ran her hand down his toned body, the sensation felt an awful lot like heaven, “It was no trouble at all. What’s next?”

 “We have to survive dinner with my mother and nobles.”

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