tagNonHumanThe Jabberwock's Treasure Pt. 02

The Jabberwock's Treasure Pt. 02


Naveen woke to find a pair of clothes neatly arrayed beside him. He jerked up, horrified. He'd fallen asleep! Fallen asleep while trying to find out as much as he could about Vorpal from all the items here in her treasure room. The lyre... he'd been looking at the lyre.

And he'd had the strangest dream. He'd felt as though he'd been surrounded by her tentacles, felt their tongues licking his body.

He lifted the hem of his dress. Oh god. The underwear! Had Vorpal noticed he hadn't been wearing any, had she found the stained pair he'd desperately tried to wash himself? Was that's why there were more clothes here for him?

He looked them over. But these were no woman's clothes. They were the fashionable clothes of a young man - laced top, leather pants, and normal, white, plain underwear, with a jacket. They were the sort of thing he would wear on a casual day, free of duties, when he could go hawking or ride in the forest - a brief time of freedom, although his mother the Queen was always sure to have some soldier or other shadowing his every movement, Still, such moments were always long-awaited and passed all too quickly.

Now he was free of his mother... but still a prisoner. And yet, this imprisonment did not weigh so heavily on him. Even with Vorpal's teasing, her arrogant pride, he did not hate spending time with her.

The strangeness of the realisation made him shake his head. He took the clothes, washed and put them on.

They fit perfectly.

The bathroom was misty, the scent of fragrant oils and shampoos lingering in the air. Ah, but Vorpal must have bathed while he was asleep, safe in the knowledge that he would not be able to use the time to escape.

He wondered if she was still asleep. He moved towards the doorway, his heart pumping, a strange tension flooding his body. Oh, but he should leave her to sleep. That last time, when he had watched her... that had scarcely been the princely thing to do. And yet...

But Vorpal was awake. She was sitting at her dresser, applying make-up. When she noticed him, she turned.

"Ah, so you're awake at last."

Her lips wore a frown, but her eyes sparkled at him. Those eyes! They really were beautiful. But why, now...

Oh, but she was wearing eye shadow.

"Thank you," said Naveen, lowering his eyes. He did not want to stare. "For the clothes."

"There are those regal manners again," said Vorpal. "You are most welcome."

As the prince entered the room Vorpal put the finishing touches of eye-liner. He was trying to avoid looking at her. Her heart skipped and she fought back a smile. Ah, but males were all the same! They loved to see a female in make-up.

How long had it been since she'd worn it? It had always seemed such a foolish affectation. And yet it made her feel powerful, now.

"I have been a bad host," said Vorpal. "A guest of the Queen of Hearts should not be mistreated. So I thought tonight we might share some food and drink."

She swept a hand at the new table which stood in the centre of the room where the old one had been. Small plates gleamed there, arrayed with colourful delicacies, and at one end sat a large wooden cask, no doubt of ale since two tankards rested atop it.

"Magic?" gasped the prince.

"Ha ha, no," said Vorpal. "I had my friend Dovedale deliver us some Wonderland food - there is always more than enough at hand, given my friends' love of tea-parties. But worry not - it is of the benign kind. I stressed this. Sometimes we delight in flavours and texture of food in their own right, you know, not for their effects."

The prince stepped toward the table, his eyes never once having left the food. Vorpal felt a twinge of regret. For all her joking, she truly had been an awful host. He must be starving.

"Please help yourself," she said. "But I should warn you - the meal is not free."

The prince turned, frowning, his eyes suddenly full of disappointment. Vorpal decided the joke had not really been worth the effort.

"Why that face? I'm merely speaking of entertainment. Perhaps you would be kind enough to supply it? You said you played the lyre," she said. "I have one."

Naveen blushed. Surely she knew that he knew! "You... you play as well?"

Vorpal laughed. "Alas, no. Although these talons would perhaps make good picks, don't you suppose?" She sighed. "Not a musical bone in this entire body, though I can appreciate beauty, of course. I took the lyre as for the beauty of its appearance." She gave a lazy point with a single leathery wing. "It's in the far cave, where I store all the treasures too large or fragile for my bed."

Ah, the room he'd found before on his exploration of the cave. So it was indeed a treasure room.

"Go on," she said. "If we are to live together for even a little while, I will not have you stand on ceremony, especially since we will be drinking together. I can't stand it. Please find the lyre and bring it here."

He already knew where to find it. He took hold of the lyre, carefully wrapped in an its cover, and brought it back into the living room. It was heavy and he walked slowly.

"Yes," said Vorpal. "That's the one. Go on, Open it."

He tentatively pulled the cover away. The gold he'd glimpsed in his initial examination, now unmasked, set its glow about the room. He gasped.

"It's so beautiful!"

Vorpal sighed. His words of praise pleased her. It was true, she did have good eye for beautiful things. Her eyes slipped over the newly clad prince. Ah, even though he'd been a delight for the eyes in that dress, his slender form was equally beautiful in clothes more appropriate to his gender, shifting his girlish beauty into a boyish and rakish charm.

His eyes slipped over the strings and they sang out. He looked up, his face alight with boyish delight.

"Oh, but this is already tuned!"

"It is enchanted," explained Vorpal. "A fine treasure."

And finer still in your beautiful hands, she thought to herself.

The boy-prince let the tips of his fingers dance across the strings again, as though he could not resist touching the instrument. This time it was no mere test, but the chords of a song. But as soon as the gorgeous trill began to fill the air, he stopped.

Vorpal started forward, frowning. "What's the matter? You don't want to play for me?"

"Oh," said the prince, startled by her intense reaction. "Oh no. It's just I have no idea what I should play."

"What was that piece you began just then?"

"Oh that?" He blushed. "Just a stupid practise exercise."

Vorpal's amber eyes narrowed. "I know little of music, truly, but that was no exercise. It was the beginning of a longer piece. I do not know it."

"No," said the prince. "No, no-one knows it. I... it's a stupid little thing I composed."

Vorpal's eyes went wide. "You... you wrote that?"

"Well," said the boy, and he looked away. "Like I said, it's a silly little thing."

"I want to hear it."

Naveen opened his mouth, ready with another excuse, but the look of eagerness on the jabberwock's face made the words die on his lips. "Very well," he said. "But please forgive me if it does not please you."

"I shall reserve my judgement until I have heard the rest," said Vorpal.

She lay back, her tail twitching. His blushing had moved her, where previously such a thing would have annoyed her. Instead, his modesty had been most becoming. She squirmed on her treasure pile, found a comfortable place.

The prince, ever attentive, waited until she was settle before he began.

His fingers slipped over the string and a gorgeous melody sprang forth. It was different from the section he had played before, but Vorpal could hear shadows of the developed theme in the introduction.

As the music flowed, she felt her heart follow every note. It was a beautiful song, but forlorn, as though something was lost, or rather, something which was long desired had yet to be found. That, at least, was what she felt flowing beneath the melody. But as the song continued, as the prince closed his eyes, grew more confident, his fingers striking every string with delicacy and exactness, the energetic under-note she had heard before grew more pronounced, began to dominate the song - no, not dominate, but rather take the pride of place. The forlorn melody never truly left, shifting in and out, as though dancing with the more fiery dashing of notes.

At last the piece came to its end, with a flourishing climax, the prince's fingers a blur across the shimmering strings. As the final, triumphant cords fled away, that earlier gentle melody reappeared. It had been there, all along, a hidden counter-point, but subtly changed, unnoticed beneath the rousing clashing of the triumphal notes. It had lost it's bitterness, and a sweet, gentle, almost languid tone melted away into the air with a final shimmer, like gold trickling through her talons.

Vorpal jerked forward. Ah, but her heart had followed that melody all the way, drawing her into strange half-sleepy trance. Her eyes had never left the prince's fingers, and now as he drew them away from the still humming strings, her gaze fell on his upturned face. He was flushed, his eyes wide and open, his soft chest heaving. He had given his all to the tune, just for her.

Just for her? You silly, sentimental wyrm!

Yes, it had all been for her. Now, as he looked up at her, his face was eager, a mixture of boyish pride and an embarrassment he was valiantly trying to mask.

Ah. He was wondering whether the song had pleased her.

Vorpal closed her eyes, unwillingly, and sighed.

Naveen's heart leaped in his chest. High up on the hoard of silver and gold and gems, the jabberwock lay, languidly stretched out the full length of her voluptuous body, her tail whipping the air. He knew now what that signified, that she was happy. She was smiling to herself, too. But her eyes were closed, those exquisite glimmering eyes. And so he was not sure, was not sure whether his song had...

Vorpal opened her eyes, their brightness meeting his gaze.

"My princess," she said. "I have never heard anything so beautiful."

He grinned, a gorgeous, victorious grin that pierced Vorpal to her heart.

"I - I'm glad you enjoyed my song, milady."

Milady. The word hung in the air, shimmering, just as the last notes of his beautiful song had. Had... had he ever called her that before?

Yes. But it had been ironic, then. Now, when he said it, warmth flooded it, as though it was a totally different word.

Vorpal sat up, sending gold and silver streaming down the side of the mound. No, she could not stay up here any longer. Lazy wyrm though she was, she could not bear to be so far away from this gorgeous creature who was smiling shyly now, his heart touched by her praise.

She came over to him, her heart racing, and reached out a single, taloned claw.

"Come," she said.

The prince, blinking, hesitantly reached out for her. The slender fingers of one hand hesitated, then curled about a single talon - it was all they could encompass. Vorpal could feel the warmth of him, the soft firmness of his grasp. His hand was so beautiful, so tiny against her claw.

His eyes looked up at her, questioning, his face and neck flushed. Oh, he was nervous. Was he afraid of her still? Did he think her capable of harming him, after the moment they had just shared?

But no. He was afraid as a virgin was, afraid of a different violence.

Vorpal felt her own face heat.

"Let us eat and drink together," she said. "You must be hungry after your long day. And I asked for entertainment as payment for our meal and was gauche to demand it in advance."

The boy nodded.

Two couches flanked the table, one human-sized, the other far larger. The prince mounted the smaller, his eyes glittering with amusement. Vorpal, sensitive to his every movement, wondered what had tickled him but then she knew. Ah, but her own couch! Unlike the one the prince was already arranging himself upon, it was no true dining-couch. No, it was a day-bed, it was true. She had decided to use it so that she could join him at his meal and had not even noticed the ridiculousness of the size difference.

Self-consciously, Vorpal mounted her seat. She felt the stirrings of anger, at herself for making herself a figure of ridicule, at the boy for finding her ridiculous. But when she looked to him and found his eyes meeting hers, she knew she had misread the situation. He was amused, it was true, but there was no hint of mockery there. No, there was warmth dancing in his eyes, the reflection of summer sun in the blue ocean of his bashful glance.

Vorpal found herself smiling back. She knew she must seem simple to him, but right then it did not matter.

"I asked Dovedale to bring things which would be especially pleasing to humans," she said. "And... well, how should I put it? Unconfrontational?"

Naveen nodded. The array of food laid out before him would have led him to salivate even if he hadn't been ravenously hungry.

"Try the sugar cakes," she said. "When I feel predisposed to eat, they are my favourite."

She indicated with the nod of her head the small pile of delicate pink cakes covered with what appeared to be powdered sugar. They seemed little different from the cakes he had often enjoyed at home. He hesitated for a moment, but at Vorpal's prompting he took one. No, the cake was not poison. If she wished to do him harm, a single sweep of her tail or claw would end his life.

He brought the cake to his lips, bit deeply through the thin glazing, tasking the sweetness of the sugar and the creaminess of the fluffy interior.

He drew it away regretfully from his lips, chewed the melting sweet, and finally swallowed.

"It's delicious," he muttered. "Absolutely delicious!"

Vorpal grinned, pleased. She took a cake for herself and brought it to her lips, watching as the prince attacked his own with a second bite.

Naveen's senses reeled at the intensity of the flavour. Oh, but this was Wonderland food, wasn't it? He let the sugary morsel melt in his mouth as he glanced across the table at the jabberwock. She was devouring her own cake with a daintiness which surprised him. It was no affectation, he knew, but her normal way of eating, holding the cake between two talons of one claw, taking small bites, like any of the aristocratic ladies he dined with would be expected to. Of course, the ladies he had known had not possessed tentacles which licked their lips with every bite, enjoying the indirect savour. But the sight did not surprise him any more.

She caught him looking at her and he turned away, flushing, and grabbed another cake. His eyes fell onto the cask as he chewed.

Vorpal finished her cake with a final bite and chuckled. "Ah, you've read my mind. A drink would be most welcome. I've never been much a fan of tea, so I asked Dovedale to bring us some ale. It's a fine brew, one I drink often."

The prince looked to her and she inclined her head to the two tankards on top of the cask. "Please, if you would be so kind as to pull me a draught as well?"

The boy swallowed and nodded. He took the tankard closer to him in both hands and Vorpal realised then how huge it was.

"My apologies," she said, stifling a laugh. "I only have tankards I use myself. Please don't feel obliged to meet me drink for drink. But I do insist you drink!"

"I know how to drink," said the prince, without heat. But Vorpal could sense the masculine defensiveness in his words and his boyish need to save face charmed her.

"Then you know how to pull a draught without too much head."

He nodded. His tongue slipped out as he pulled the tap and the refreshing smell of yeast and hops rose with the thin misting of the liquor. Foam spilled over the edge of the tankard and the prince yelped.

Vorpal took it from him. "No matter," she said. "It'd good luck for the first drop to be given to the table, after all."

He poured his own, and this time he did not let it overflow.

Vorpal lifted her drink. "A toast perhaps?"

The prince, hefting his own tankard two-handed, blinked at her. "A toast?"

"I know it is traditional amongst humans," she said. "I insist on you offering one."

The prince stared into his drink. "My mother always toasts to good-order and common-sense," he said. "Whenever she had to drink at a gathering. She's never liked liquor, but she'd never dream of breaking tradition."

Vorpal lifted an eyebrow. "To good order, then?"

The prince shook his head. "No," he said. And then he lifted his tankard. "To happiness."

Vorpal caught the glimmer in his eye. "To happiness," she repeated, and brought her tankard against his, taking him by surprise. The foam splashed onto his hands and he gasped, but Vorpal put a finger to her lips and flicked her eyes at the two drinks. He understood and together they drank.

He'd already pulled his drink away and swallowed while Vorpal drained hers to the bottom. "Ah!" she gasped, pulling the tankard, now empty but for foam, from her lips and thumping it down on the table.

"Delicious," said the prince.

Vorpal laughed. "Delicious? Now, you really need to learn to drink like a man! A sip won't do it. Have a real draught, so you can taste it!"

Naveen did as she told him. This time he tasted far less of the bitter foam and more of the golden sweetness of the beer itself. But as he drank, the tankard proved too heavy for him and he found his mouth overflowing with the liquid. He pulled it away, coughing, as a good splash of it ended up on the table.

Vorpal snorted in mock-annoyance, but her eyes glittered with her true amusement. "It's only the first drops which are lucky," she said. "But you did very well."

Naveen prickled at the condescension in her voice and was about to retort, when he noticed the foam moustache on his upper lip. He licked it away, mortified, but then he laughed.

"My mother never approved of me drinking alcoholic drinks," he said.

Vorpal glanced over the cusp of her tankard as she finished the dregs of her drink. "Was there anything your mother approved of?"

The prince smiled ruefully and shrugged. "No. Not really."

Vorpal felt the coolness of the liquor shifting to heat in her blood. The sight of that pink tongue slipping over his full lips had sent a thrill through her. Stupid! But what was the harm in it? He was a beautiful young man. Of course the sight of him would kindle such feelings in her. She was a woman, after all. She leaned over the table to refill her tankard from the keg. She should have had the prince do it, but she wished to move closer to him. The scent of him, freshly washed and warm, was tantalising. She took her time refreshing her drink, letting the foam settle.

"So you've never -" She turned her head, but the prince straight-away looked away from her. Oh, of course. Her boobs. At this angle, her could see right down her cleavage. She knew he'd been looking. That flush on his cheeks and neck was not from the liquor, which he had but barely tasted. She hastily filled the rest of her tankard and sat back.

"I've never...?" His words hung in the air, questioning. Clearly he wanted to seem focussed on the conversation rather than her body.

"Well, been in a situation like this."

He smiled at her. "You mean held for ransom?"

"No," said Vorpal. She chuckled. The alcohol had loosened his tongue and he was being uncharacteristically cheeky with her. Ah, no. Perhaps he had just grown more used to her. She felt her breath, hot, against her lips. The thought excited her. You pathetic wyrm! To have such a simple thought make you sticky!

"No," said Vorpal. "I meant... I meant to be in a social situation with a woman."

The prince took another drink. He was clearly getting used to the bitterness now. "Oh. No, well. I've been in... uh, social situations with women many times."

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