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.”
The gothic style suit did wonders for Zinjo’s appearance. Mr. Silke clapped his hands as the young werelion emerged from his cocoon, a stunning butterfly. “A finishing touch,” he placed a pair of glasses with red lenses on his face. Zinjo didn’t care what the human tailor had to say in the least. He responded with, “Hmmm.” He faced Aurelia in his finery, “Does this please you?” he asked. Aurelia swore she heard a hint of worry in his voice. Words could not describe how Aurelia felt at that particular moment. In her mind, she had already torn the suit from his body and took what was rightfully hers. A second thought reminded her, they still had dinner with Sophie. An overprotective queen for a mother complicated matters a bit. Aurelia found her voice, “You are easily the most handsome m
Aurelia laughed at the way people hurriedly ate in the presence of Zinjo. Everyone left and Zinjo, The Queen, and Aurelia remained. The werelion was dangerously close to stealing her heart. Since they’d met, Zinjo had done nothing but lift her and made her feel like a person again. It bothered her that people hoped to see her miserable. It bothered her that everyone waited to laugh at her next mistake. The queen kept watching her with a strange look on her face. “Something wrong mother?” Aurelia asked. Zinjo sniffed the air and kept the raptor yellow eyes on the wall, “Hmmm.” his ears twitched. “No,” she put her hands down and folded her hands on the table. “Tonight was not what I expected...is he okay?” Sophie pointed to Zinjo who now walked along the wall, his nose in t
The queen urged Zinjo to bathe before they spoke again. Aurelia led her future husband to the tub area where a fresh bath awaited him. He began to strip in front of Aurelia who closed her eyes tight and put up her hand. "Zinjo, you could've waited for me to leave." She fumbled around and almost fell in the tub. Zinjos' strong hands guided her to the chair in the corner, "You smell embarrassed," He commented as he sat her down. "I'm not embarrassed, I've never seen a man naked before," Aurelia stroked the muscular chest and felt dizzy with excitement. Apart of her wanted to join him in the tub. A part of her said to savor the first steps i
Aurelia found it odd to have any man sleep in her room. Even if that same man was technically her future husband. Zinjo did not try to force his way into her bed, even though a part of Aurelia desperately wanted him to. To fill the long awkward silences she asked the gorgeous man about his life. “Why do you think the Hyena man attacked my mother?” she asked. Aurelia spent much of her time trying to divine their purpose but lack of information saw her come up empty. Zinjo laid out a bedroll for himself next to the fire, “It will depend greatly on how many more remain. If this is indeed an isolated incident, we can close the book on it.” “And if not?” “The hyenas are like the lions, if it serves the whole tribe, then it is an action worth taking.” “You think there is more?” “I smelled many different hyenas on t
Before they left the market in search of the Hyena's origin, Zinjo armed himself. The polished bone and Ivory shoulder guards highlighted the silk tan face and hair. Interlocking plates made up the chest guard and shin protectors. Zinjo turned to Aurelia who was dressed in her usual black and red silk gown, and hair in a tight elegant bun. “How do I look?” he asked while he gingerly cradled a rolled-up blanket. Aurelia's whole body reacted to the werelion's appearance. Her hands shook with excitement, and then a thought crossed her mind: What if she removed the armor and they stayed in versus going to the market. “I am more than proud to walk beside you,” She gripped his hair and pulled him down for a kiss, the image of the last one was fresh in her mind, and her loins begged her to take another. “What's in the blanke
Down in the sewers, Aurelia and Zinjo stalked their prey. Well, Zinjo stalked, Aurelia clung to his back like a tree trunk as he waded through the murky smelly water. Despite the low light, Zinjo negotiated the stone maze with ease. He stops and sniff the air and would adjust his course according to what his nose told me. Aurelia couldn't help but question how he could smell anything over the stench of human feces and excrement, “How do you know which way he went?” Zinjo gave a throaty chuckled, “The thief does not smell as bad as this tunnel,” He turned down a much larger tunnel and growled, “There are many bad men down here, I can smell them. Do you know how to fight?” “No, I was raised in statecraft.” “Foolishness, every leader should know how to protect themselves. Guards can be bought, best friends can become enemies in the blink of an eye, enemies can
It took several baths to get the stink of the sewer off of Aurelia. Zinjo waited patiently in the next room for her to finish. Despite being immersed in the putrid liquid the lion man didn't smell at all. Her lady in waiting, Madeen scrubbed her hair, “How are things with the beast?” Aurelia took offense to the term, “Zinjo is a man, a good man, his kind are nothing like werewolves at all. Not to mention he is our only link to the Hyenas. He thinks that Mshindi is not alone. I'm inclined to agree.” “You intend to get involved in the affair?” Maddens hands were like magic to the scalp and Aurelia felt the tension in her body release. “Yes. It's about time I stopped moping aro
The afternoon sun warmed the streets of Shadowfen. The people's attitudes toward Zinjo remained petty and suspicious despite the fact a goddess had chosen him for Aurelia. It bothered Aurelia at first until Zinjo shook his head. “I thought you didn't care what they thought?” Zinjo gestured to a bench and leaned his partisan against the stained wood. His massive calloused hands cradled Aurelia's with a gentleness that belied his size. “I try not to, but it seems like I can't please them at all,” Aurelia spoke in a glum tone. “You are the best thing to happen to me, and nobody wants to be happy, not even my mother. You saved her life, shed blood for this kingdom and its future, you deserve better.” &