No, no, //too// right maybe. It's [[always]] like this. Too perfect.
<<if $scars>>\nYou pull a dress on, a peach shift. You are not ashamed of the scars but they raise questions. And any skin is an invitation to Father's esteemed guests.\n<<else>>\nThe peach shift, then? It's light against your skin. A little kohl across your eyelids is all you need.\n<<endif>>\n\nThe stairs curl upward, all heavy stone and old splintered beams. At the top you hear voices. Perhaps the [[singer]]?
Poor dear. [[Yes]], she means, of course. Too much wine, too much wine. <<set $no = true>>
You sit silent in your [[bedchamber]]. Wind slithers between the curtains and nips at the candle flames.\n\nThe [[walls]] are cold stone, pocked like old skin.\n\nWhat to [[wear]]?
You stand at the window.\n\nThe bars are cold to your touch. The terrace above flickers with light and noise.\n\nBefore you, hanging heavy in the darkness, is the [[moon]].
The candle's burned down to the base, wax hard and pooled. Smells of myrrh.\n\nYou sit, and you breathe in deep.
Music.\n\nYou rarely hear any besides the raucous, atonal trash that [[enlivens]] your father's banquets.\n\nIt's religious. Simple, [[droning]] chant.
He reaches out.\n\n"Please," you say. Quietly.\n\nHe hesitates.\n\n"Who is it? Who is in there?"\n\nYou [[touch]] his arm.
You strain to compactly describe the situation. It resists definition. Cut it down, pare it bare.\n\nYour mother. His brother's wife. \n\nBut his niece, too.\n\nYour father's...familial proclivities do not stop there. You know this too well.\n\nHe's eying you now, you and the guard and your hand on his arm. Animal eyes, probing and skittering about. \n\nYou do not like the [[look]] he's giving you.
Where you sleep, when you can. Bars on the window.\n\nSo you don't fall out, of course.\n\n[[The matter at hand.|Start]]
It will not happen again.\n\nYou turn abruptly, and walk away. \n\nThe feast recedes behind you. Your father makes some stupid joke. They all laugh, drunk and oblivious.\n\nDown the [[stairs]].
It's strange tonight. Like a woman rising from the [[tomb]].\n\n
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Just a touch of sarcasm. You find it a reliable way to cope, but it only goes so far. \n\nNever in public, [[of course|melody]].
seven veils
"I would look at the moon awhile, father."\n\nHe shrugs and pours half a goblet of wine down his throat.\n\nYou stand by the terrace edge, the sky even more intimidating as it yawns before you. Below are the rock-strewn waters, white-capped and rough. Dizziness threatens to take your legs, but you grip the rail and close your eyes.\n\nFrom your right comes the droning [[chant|chanting]] once more.
An itch, on your inner thigh. \n\nThe old [[scars]].
"The prophet," he says. "Princess."\n\nThe prophet?\n\nYour father fears him. Of course. You have heard about this man. The cistern, though? We have [[cells]].\n\nYou know the things he accuses your father of.\n\nUnsavory things. But [[not]] untrue things.
They'll call you an engima, a spectacle, a harlot, an object. You must speak [[louder|same]].
Yes. Walls. Walls all around, around your room, around the walls around your room, around those and those again. \n\nYour father's palace, set into the sky-reaching crags.\n\nA hateful hideous place, if anyone were to [[ask]] you.
You stop. \n\nThe cistern, set against tarnished bronze, should be full of rainwater. But rainwater is not religious. Nor does it sing.\n\n"Father?"\n\nHe frowns.\n\n"Come away from there, girl. Come drink with us now."\n\nOne of the guards [[moves toward you]].
Oh, the eternal question. Ochre silks, sea-blue shawls, headdresses inlaid with gleaming gold, dresses like clouds.\n\nYou're a bit oversaturated. Nothing against water, but you aren't too fond of drowning.\n\n[[The candle jumps.|Start]]
You cross the terrace in silence. Your father looks satisfied. A pair of guards stares at you. A word from your father could have them gutted and tossed to the rocky waters below. Or worse.\n\nBut let them stare.\n\nFrom the great cistern to your left, you hear the [[chanting]].
The stairwell is gilded with torchlight, flickering and warm.\n\nYou heave open the door back to your [[chambers]]. The hinges groan with its weight.
<<if $no>>\nAh. You still believe in choice. Endearing.\n<<else>>\nYes, yes, of course. Even if you meant no.\n<<endif>>\n\nBut - what's this? You rise from the bed.\n\nSome sort of [[melody]], carried in on the wind.
Like the men at the feasts rumbling with war stories, their voices thick with wine. They'd slap the servant girls on the bottom, and if they were drunk enough they'd go for their breasts, pawing like a cat at a toy.\n\nThe music seems to [[beckon]] you.
The banquet hall is full. No one mentioned this. Your father in his gaudy gleaming throne; your mother beside him, looking remarkably interested in her cuticles.\n\n"Salome, my daughter! Come drink!"\n\nHe has seen you, as he was bound to.\n\n"Wine! Wine from the isle of Samothrace!"\n\nHe is never not shouting, and the details of this particular libation - as if you would care - likely woke children in Jerusalem.\n\nYou say [[nothing]]. Or [[do]] you?
Wait.\n\nYou put a hand to your forehead. This isn't right. Something isn't [[right]].
You turn away. \n\n"Princess," you hear. "I would speak with you."\n\nThe prophet. Keep your voice down, you think, but your father has heard. He laughs.\n\n"The prophet would speak with my daughter," he says, looking around as if it's a punchline. His sycophants chuckle.\n\nLet them laugh at [[this]].
You release your grip. The bars are imprinted in your palms, feverish red.\n\nYou look faint. \n*[[Lie down]].\n*[[Go upstairs]].
"I would speak with the prophet," you say. "Father."\n\nHe frowns. Your mother pulls the corner of her dress slightly, to conceal her smile. \n\nYour hair streams across your face as the wind picks up.\n\n"Anything for my [[daughter]]," he says.
You know the story now. You will succumb to some inexplicable, wanton urge. A girlish impulse, perhaps. It's never [[clear]].
You live in one, do you not?\n\n[[The feast rumbles.|touch]]
It was a small rebellion, and it did not last long.\n\nYou get the urge almost every day. The scars are small but they itch, nagging you for new siblings.\n\nYou sit up, brushing these thoughts from your mind. Some time [[out|Go upstairs]] of your chambers will do you good.\n\n<<set $scars = true>>
You are not here for your opinion. You have many, and have read many, but no one at court wishes to discuss them. They wish to know if you like the food, the music, the wine, the dancers, the great slavering lions, the sword-swallowers, the jewelled scimitars arrayed on an intricate etched plate. \n\nYou do, don't you?\n\n* [[Of course|Yes]].\n* [[*shrug*|No]].
The bed is predictably luxurious. All your damned dresses for something [[imperfect]].
Morbid. You rub your temples.\n\nIt is clear tonight, though. A massive pearl, frighteningly large. If the bars were not here...\n\nWould you climb out the window? Leap?\n\nAnd float as if through water, swimming toward that [[pregnant]] orb?\n\n
You will be boxed in, your actions defined and neatly categorized by [[men]]. You were born into this, a small narrow tunnel of a life and no matter what you do it will funnel you just the [[same]].