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~ On the 14th 8ilunar perigee of the 2nd dim season's equinox ~

The Orphaner poses a caliginous riddle like no other I've met. I am presuming him 8othered 8y jealousy, and it would 8e sickening if it were not so marvelously amusing. 8ut then, who 8ut royalty could have the finned cheek to show disdain for the manner in which his 8lack lover conducts her red conquests? Less has acceler8ted meeker than I to homicide, and the viol8tion would hold me aghast, again, if his misgivings did not complement his so endearing arsenal of qu8nt flaws. It is impossi8le to stifle this grin even now as I write.

He surely understands this as my maritime overlord, a superior while through gritting fangs he would concede the expanse of my plunder makes his seem hardly worthwhile to trou8le a map with good ink over. I know he understands. I will take what I want. I expect nothing less from Dualscar, and truly, less would offend me. Is it the crude 8lood of the suitors from which I have taken enjoyment recently? If his displeasure is with my 8lithe treatment of the social order then he has either not spent enough time in the warm company of my indifference, or is simply very stupid. I saw the look he gave. He's so secure in knowing I can't feel what's in his mind he forgets the tr8torous ways of his own face. His little looks are words to me, interjections in our deliciously 8itter repartee. First a look as I summon a slave from the hold, with such ease 8etween my remarks. Why yes, Dualscar, they were the very slaves in your hold until 8ut this hour. Another ship deployed carelessly, languishing in strategic vulnera8ility. Is this not our routine? Our dance? What is this look, my dear kismesis? Is it shame? Envy? Contempt for what he knows will follow?

I nod her over. She is fearful and it makes her prettier. He scoffs without a movement or sound. I know there is disgust feeding the shadows in his corner of my 8lock. At least prick her in the light, he surely thinks. Determine what vulgar hue she 8leeds 8efore persisting with your a8asement, Marquise. Do try to understand, Orphaner. Not knowing is the point, and if you truly understood this, your crusade against the Gam8lignants would not 8e among our Grand High8lood's most uproarious punchlines. (If only one truly needed to 8e so high to find it amusing!) And so not knowing, I take her will, 8ut leave enough of it to enjoy her response. Her hands are in my service 8ut they still shake. They unfasten the first 8utton at my jacket's waist, clumsily. I have masked the line 8etween my puppeteering and her volition exquisitely, and her uncertainty over her own control fuels her fear. She unfastens the second 8utton, and 8etween the second and third, I make a casual remark to Dualscar, continuing our convers8tion. He does not respond.

I look again at the face of my slave, imagining for a moment her mind is not an unguarded port to her every dread. I imagine I cannot feel her conviction that it's not merely a matter of whether she will 8e put to the irons, 8ut how hot they will 8e if she fails to please. Poor thing. Her horns make attractive shapes and pair themselves pleasantly amidst her violent snarls of hair. Her fingers, which I have lost track of, to my surprise have come 8etween the petticoat and my skin. The heat of her touch tells me the likely range for the color of her 8lood. I wouldn't have guessed it to look at her, not with her sign stripped. Her mouth opens slightly and I squint. Ah! Razor sharp, and none missing. Perfect. How disappointing it is to find quivering lips hiding dull teeth. I pause to consider. What will her fear 8ecome if I choose to show her mercy later? And even, in days, kindness? Will this 8e the red dalliance that 8ecomes fully flushed? Love demands my cunning just as my raids. If it is to 8e, she will never understand how thoroughly she was manipul8ted, her 8ody, her mind, her devotion.

I remem8er Dualscar again. My distraction from our 8anter was momentarily a8solute, and I inquire into the shadows. 8ut he is gone.

Then go, my kismesis. Fume with the indign8tion I gave you. I can only pray it 8lackens our 8ond. I must know such exhi8itions agit8 him and hence why I 8other, otherwise it would 8e easy to dismiss him 8efore I partook. Let it 8e a gift of antagoniz8tion to you, my dear rival, on which you may 8rew pitch for me anew. And if it is true envy, a vermilion yearning I can't a8ide, then though it pains me it will 8e farewell.

Alas, it may 8e that I am too good at spurring h8. Too good, at least, for him. I only hope he is not so foolish as to tread a path of less torrid malice.

For if he does........

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