Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
~ Porphyria’s Lover; Robert Browning
They bring me jewels and fruit and strange exotic animals. They throw flowers at my feet, or when they have no flowers they throw themselves. They put their lives in my hands, kissing my fingers for the honor of it.
My first husband was gentle. He had showered me with gold and cloth and servants and all I had ever asked for. He had the wealth, but he lacked the will to give me a crown. I longed to be the queen that he could not touch. The headiness of power and strength courses with my blood and I cannot be rid of it.
Now I have power over not only palaces or cities or provinces but countries, who listen to my voice and try to anticipate my will. Men offer themselves to me as my playthings, knowing that their life hangs from my fingertip. They beg for my touch, my attention, my glance. They desire me, follow me, live as I say, die for lust for me.
My daughter is satisfied with mere notice paid her. She finds being desired fulfills her highest goal. I trained her well: to never be my rival. She will always be dependent on me. She does not see it yet, but she is my pawn: helping me to achieve my ends and wreak my revenge. Where my body and wiles could not get my way, I use her to destroy the man I hate.
His eyes were full of peril.
That man, who would not bow or grovel. His lack of subservience was not an insult – it might even have attracted me. His calm denunciation of me was only part of the larger crime.
He dared to be confident. His humility and strength were not subject to me and my strength.
He looked me in the eyes.
He told my husband that it was wrong to live with the wife of his brother; that our alliance was sinful.
He looked me in the eyes and smiled.
I fled to see him that night, wrapped in my darkest cloak. I told the guards to let me through and they fell back before my approach with fear and wondering. I slunk in, hiding from my lord and steeling myself against the filth and grime that I might discover.
The man was standing by the wall, his ankle chained, watching me. He looked at me in my simplest silk and smallest jewelry with solid, silent patience. He looked at me with no sign of obeisance, his passionate eyes held level.
He saw me and offered me a glance, a choice, a different life. He saw and still looked.
The insufferable man.
He knew the power I had in my hands; that I would ultimately decide his fate, but he still dared. He offered me a look of love so powerful that it overcame the walls and guards of pride that I wrapped around myself; he had such intense care and desire for my soul hidden deep under my heart that I trembled before him.
He dared to see who I was, and he offered his life in exchange for mine.
I had to kill him.