Marcus walked around one of the many rooms within the palace, taking in his surroundings with kohl-rimmed eyes. He scowled contemptibly with white teeth at the expanse of golden heirlooms and extravagant gifts from foreign countries. Icarus. The Golden child. Gliding over to the vanity, Marcus wrapped his long, tanned fingers around the ivory handle of a golden hairbrush. His dark reflection was easily thrown back from the polished metal. What extravagance this was, Marcus thought as he set the brush down. All gold and garnets and fine silks. Except for Aailiyah.

Oh, yes, Marcus had noticed that Aailiyah went about in cotton and not silk. He noticed the way she handled herself. The consistent focus in her magic golden eyes. Marcus had noticed how her bites were too big for a woman of breeding; how her strides were too long; how she held her head too high and gazes for too long. He had watched as Icarus took her, hot and wet and impassioned, on the foreign couch in that adorned sitting room, and how she had done nothing to protest. Marcus smirked to himself as he mulled her delicious secret over in his twisted mind. He opened the mahogany box sitting in the corner of the room and ran his fingers over every gem in the box before shutting it with a quiet click. Her delicious, dirty secret. With a sly grin turning up the corners of his mouth, Marcus left the room as quietly as he had entered, leaving no hints as to his intrusion.

Aailiyah bit down on her thumbnail, one arm crossed below her breast as she stared down at the village. The water in the outdoor bathing pools was being exchanged for fresher water so Aailiyah might relax outside for once. Her low-backed dress allowed sun to access the flower-shaped marking covering the majority of her upper back. It invigorated her, giving her a resolute feeling of strength through her tan limbs. Aailiyah sighed deeply. She needed a teacher, that much was certain. At the very least, she needed some practice. She knew how to fight with a blade; this was taught to the eldest of each family from a young age. Being Sar'Kashka's granddaughter immediately made her the primary candidate for the head of the village's small yet fierce militia. Aailiyah turned her head to look at the women drawing the water, frowning. So many people expected her to do so little. After a year of staying in this palace; of being pampered and groomed by others, Aailiyah's figure had softened, and her skin had smoothed. However, the gilding triggered a fire deep within her that made her restless.

"My Lady," Hortoc's deep voice called to her. Aailiyah turned her head, dropping her arms to her sides. "The bath is ready. Do you with for rose petals?"

"No," Aailiyah responded, examining the markings on her fist. "I am not fit for roses." Hortoc pressed his mouth into a line, but didn't argue. Aailiyah walked to the shaded bath and disrobed. A fine bath sheet and a long, simple length of white cotton was left by the tub. Aailiiyah slipped into the bathing pool with a deep sigh. The cool water was refreshing. The women did not help her bathe, as per Aailiyah's request. They bowed to her, picked up her clothes, and left. Aailiyah lounged in the pool and washed herself with the sweet soaps left out for her use. When she had finished, she pulled herself out of the pool, dried off, and tied the white cotton wrap around her neck like a halter gown, concealing her body but leaving the back open. With slow strides, Aailiyah wandered to the edge of the garden, a soft wind blowing the fabric against her smooth, hairless shins. She breathed in the sun-scented air deeply and tried to focus. How do Solfey channel their powers?

Aailiyah began to experiment. Bringing her hands up, she pictured the energy she felt from her back flow down to her fingertips. The markings began to glow with a soft light. With a calculated twitch, she managed to send a blast of energy in an arc out from her body. She staggered back and furrowed her brow. Taking a step forward, she thrust out her fist, focusing on sending another blast. It shot out from her curled fist in a concentrated bolt. Her lips curled into a smile. She could work with this.

By the time dusk approached, Aailiyah was sending energy in bolts from her fists and feet. She felt empowered and dangerous; a thrilling combination. She grinned, revealing her sharp teeth that had developed from her gilding. Aailiyah was built to be a predator. Hortoc approached her, arms crossed over his chest like usual. "You have been out here all day, my Lady. Are you not tired?"

Aailiyah kept her smile. "I am invigorated, Hortoc. And it is a beautiful feeling." The man smiled at her pleasure. "I feel that I have settled into my skin."

"Is that so?" Hortoc inquired gently, gripping her shoulders and steering her inside to dine in her chambers and have her nightly tea.

"Yes," Aailiyah breathed emphatically. They came into the room, and Aailiyah staggered. Hortoc's grip on her tightened to keep her upright. "He has been here," Aailiyah gasped. She flew from Hortoc's grasp to her bedchamber and staggered once more, the negative energy hitting her as would a punch to the chest. Aailiyah lifted the hairbrush on her vanity. Her face twisted, teeth bared in a grimace as the sickening energy of Marcus was absorbed into her system. "Damn him!" Aailiyah screeched, throwing the hairbrush int her mirror. The mirror gave against the solid brush and shattered. Aailiyah continued to tear the poisoned gems from the velvet lining of her mahogany jewelry box, throwing them into the mess made by the beryl glass.

She was glowing, magic surging to every part of her body as she ripped apart her room, searching for every bit of toxic, tainted, everything in her chambers. Most of her gleaming jewels lay in the middle of her floor, amongst shards of shattered porcelain and glass. Aailiyah's breathed heavily, her wavy hair falling into her face, obscuring her crazed features. Hortoc stood in the doorway, still and staring at Aailiyah and the horrifying mess. Aailiyah walked to him and placed a firm hand to his chest. She closed her eyes and exhaled through her nose in a long sigh. Her eyes fluttered open. She looked up at Hortoc.

"You have magic," she breathed. Hortoc nodded. "Can you teach me?"

Hortoc gazed at the powerful young Solfey with his dark amber eyes. He smiled the faintest smile. "I can try, my Lady. My ways are very old."

Aailiyah nodded, hand still pressed to the Outlander's chest. "Good. Old is tried and true. Much better basis than new and experimental," Aailiyah let her hand drop. She turned around and looked at the wreckage that was once her room. With a heavy sigh, Aailiyah went to begin cleansing each item. Hortoc gripped her wrists, stopping her.

"No need. Focus your power. Reach out with it like hands. Your energy is strong, and will cleanse without you having to absorb the energy into your body. Marcus will poison you." Hortoc released her wrists and made a motion with his arms, collecting the shattered bits of glass and pottery and releasing them into a bin. Aailiyah attempted to do the same with her gems. They gleamed when her magic cleared Marcus's darkness from the golden bands and bright gems. She managed to drop them unceremoniously into the jewelry box before letting her arms fall. Magic was tiring, especially as the sun had fallen.

Hortoc smiled and finished straightening her room with minimal effort. Aailiyah smiled a drowsy smile at the Outlander and exhaled a grateful "Thank you." Hortoc returned her smile and took her sarong from her, leaving her gold-marked, tanned, supple, body exposed to the night air. Aailiyah stretched her arms up over her head, reaching for the ceiling and popping her back.

"I will teach you starting tomorrow morning. You will be well learned, I assure you of that, My Lady." Aailiyah nodded at the hulking man. Hortoc extinguished the orbs around the room, bathing Aailiyah in darkness. The woman slipped between the cool sheets and drifted straight to sleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Icarus sipped at his wine, stiff in his seat while Marcus chat jovially about Serafina's service to him. He fidgeted with the fringe of a cushion. Marcus was, of course, being as detestable as ever. Icarus had no interest in Marcus's sex life, especially not with the woman to whom he was once to be wed. Marcus leaned forward in his seat, a sly grin curling up the corners of his mouth. His kohl-rimmed eyes narrowed as he leered at Icarus. "You are clever, Icarus."

Icarus frowned. "Why do you say that, cousin?"

Marcus chuckled, Aailiyah's past a sweet secret on his tongue. "The Lady Aailiyah. She is pretty," Marcus sipped on his wine. "How did you come across such a flower in this wasteland?"

Icarus's heart jolted. "Why do you ask, Marcus?" Icarus's voice was heavy with suspicion

Marcus's eyes glimmered. "Just a curiosity, dear cousin. It has been a while since we have seen her."

Icarus shrugged, yet wondered. Even he had not seen Aailiyah since their meeting in the sitting room, except for brief glances. That was eight days ago. He and Marcus were hardly apart, and it was difficult to keep Marcus from suspecting that Aailiyah was his lover. "She must be busy," Icarus supplied noncommittally Marcus's eyes narrowed.


Icarus shrugged once more. "I know not what she occupies herself with. Perhaps she has been kept in her room by her monthly bleeding?" Marcus wrinkled his nose.

"I am surprised you do not keep better track of your Exotics," Marcus poured himself more red wine and drank deeply. It stained his lips, giving him a malicious, red grin.

Icarus fumbled his chalice. It clattered loudly against the marble floors, white wine splattering the King's pants. "Beg pardon?"

"You heard me, cousin. I know your secret." Marcus's lips curled into a cruel smile as Icarus paled. "I know Aailiyah is an Exotic."

A/N: Sorry it took so long! I found out I have ALS, so I'm going to try my DAMNDEST to finish this. (I was fully intending on finishing it, but now I'll have more free time) Love you ALL!

Expect more smut in the future.