Now that she was dead, the Niftalemi girl could finally rest.
When she’d hit the ground after falling four stories, the glass of her helmet had shattered and shards had cut deep into the scaly flesh of her face, making new scars to go along with the old ones.
A chunk of glass had punctured deep into her eye and the green blood was still leaking out onto the snow. It ran together with the salt water that she’d needed to breathe, still bubbling softly from a tiny valve near her mouth, and the larger pool of blood that was gathering under her. It hadn’t frozen yet. She couldn’t have been dead for more than an hour.
Obsidian Morningstar’s long shadow loomed over her corpse. He knelt down and gently turned her over, lifting her out of the snow so that she lay on her back, and her brightly coloured dorsal fins spread out behind her like long pink hair. Her bones had torn through the skin and the cheap purple fabric of her bodysuit, but one clawed hand still clung to her throat. She’d choked to death on the icy air- a hard end to a hard life.
Obsidian’s keen red eyes narrowed. His perpetual scowl turned into a frown. He turned his pale face and looked up at the balcony of the crystal castle from where she’d fallen. Like all the ancient glassy fortresses that made up the neighbourhood of Horseshoe Downs, the outcropping was regularly swept of snow by servants. He would find no footprints up there, he knew, no more than he would at his own home of Fosfor Hall, not far from here. The mana-mineral powered torches cast pools of light across the broad white expanse. Above, in the sky, the polar lights lit the thick clouds. There was no sound. A few more hours and the snows would have swallowed the body, leaving no trace.
Turning back to the dead girl, Obsidian looked down the length of her remains. Now that she was no longer half-buried, he could see tears in her clothing that had not been made by broken glass or bones. He paused for a moment, and then dipped a bone-white finger in the pool of blood, lifted it to his colourless lips and tasted it with his tongue. Poppy distillate and nightshade. Seizing her other hand, he peered closely at her nails. Sure enough, the edges were red- with blood that was not her own.
Obsidian’s eyes began to glow with fury. Rage and disgust his bloodless features. He straightened up and let his long white-blond hair blow behind him as he stormed into the castle. As he darkened the doorstep the lord of the manor, who had been weeping silently as he sprawled on the rug of the entrance hall, cowered and shrank back from Obsidian’s black-clad form. His servants and family had seemingly vanished.
“You killed her,” growled Obsidian.
“What? No!” cried the lord as he looked about the divinely appointed room for someone who would speak in his defence. “She….she shot herself full of drugs and jumped. I warn you, I won’t stand for any attacks on my reputation…..”
“You gave her the drugs,” Obsidian snarled.
“I’ll have you know those were legally purchased,” the lord sneered. The accusations were hardening his resolve. “It’s hardly my fault if they take more than they can handle…..”
Obsidian grabbed the lordling by the front of his doublet and hauled him to his feet. Standing he was a good two feet shorter than Obsidian and colour spread to his apple cheeks, revealing the bloody scratch she’d left on one of them.
“She knew enough to cut your face,” Obsidian noted. “That’s why you threw her off the balcony.”
Instantly, the lord dissolved in fresh, guilty tears. His shoulders shook. “I…I did it,” he confessed, taking great gulps of air as he spoke. “She, she, she hurt my face and I…..I pushed her….ohhhhh, Polestar save mee-hee-heeeeeeee!”
“What Polestar does with your soulflame is up to Him,” Obsidian said, disgusted. Now that he had the confession he needed, he dropped the lord of the castle as though he had touched something filthy and let him puddle on the floor again. “I’m not here for Polestar, and I’m not here to protect you. You know that. I’m here to protect the King.”
“But…..but….” gasped the lord. “I’m….”
“Yes, yes. An Honourable Member of the Laurentian Legislature,” Obsidian said, allowing himself a roll of his eyes. “Your family has been loyal to the throne for hundreds of years. That’s why the justiciars are on their way, to clean up the body and make this all disappear. A dead fishblood is worth less than nothing. As such your little…..escapades…..with her are also worth nothing. But the fact that you had it in you to actually kill her? That is something. If the King knew….if the rest of Tau Omega Prime knew…..that would be something indeed.”
Now the colour fled from the lord’s face as he realized what was truly at stake here. “The Avalonians……” he began.
“Fair play is the Laurentian way, my Lord,” Obsidian said darkly. “Highborns do not slaughter lowborns up here simply because one was born higher than the other as the desert barbarians do. Perhaps you wish to cross the Great Border Wall and walk among our neighbours to the south?”
“No! Noooooo,” whined the lord. “Not banishment to Avalon. Anything but that!”
“Very well,” Obsidian said. “Your annual tribute to the House of Hoarfrost is to be tripled.”
The lordling stopped crying at this. This could be borne. Obsidian turned to leave, letting him have his moment of relief. Then he stopped and looked back at the murderer.
“Oh….and….your daughter. She will be brought to the King, to warm his bed.” Obsidian pronounced. “Consider yourself lucky. A new son, or daughter, of royal issue, no less…..”
Now it was the lord’s turn to redden with rage. Climbing to his feet, he flung himself at Obsidian with a cry of rage, only to have his charge turned effortlessly away and for Obsidian’s black-gloved fist to crush his nose with a single blow.
“You can tell your wife that the fish girl broke your face, and scratched it too,” Obsidian threw over his shoulder as he walked out into the snow. As he did, the screams of the lord shattered the quiet.
“Freak!” came the half-mad shout. “Monster! Demon!!!!”