She grimaced at the black bitterness that stared unapologetically at her from the depths of the tin cup. Licking her lips, she reluctantly swirled it around before downing the last of the coffee. Swallowing, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she tried to forget the cruelty of the drink. As she always did every morning, she wondered why she even bothered. She obviously hated it; this much, she knew. So why force herself to undergo such punishment?
As a glove picked up the cup from where it sat, she wondered if it was done out of spite. The Black Prince didn’t seem to enjoy it. In fact, he didn’t seem to enjoy fulfilling his most basic human needs, like eating or drinking. She had never once seen him do either, though he obviously had to at one point or other when no one was looking. Which would have been a thought that made her smile, if not for the underlying fear that he had made some deal with the Devil. Superstitious it may be, but who was to say differently? How else could he go for months and months without any sustenance?
How else could he have been in two places at once?
She had thought it over every night since that afternoon, and the more she thought about it, the more sure she became. She hadn’t seen wrong that day. It hadn’t been some trick of the light or some flimsy excuse. She had seen him that day, atop a horse with a wild grin, as they had fled the town. Those violet eyes had been unmistakable, even through the dust and chaos; it was his eyes that she had seen that day, and no one else’s. No one could convince her otherwise.
Other than the Prince himself, she thought dismally, who had acted as part of the escort for her and the right hand.
She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he stood with his back bared as he consulted a hand-drawn map of the desert. What if, she mused, she just went up and untied that silk cloth? What could he do to stop her before it was too late? It would be just that easy – walk by him, and, just as she slipped by, reach up and tear it down.
But she didn’t. Even as she walked by him, she didn’t do as her curiosity demanded, partly because she felt that it couldn’t be that easy, and partly because… Well… It didn’t feel right to. It just felt wrong to discover the truth of one of the world’s largest secrets without deserving to. As if she were cheating the world of something extremely important in keeping its balance. A crook she may be, but the Fugitive Bride – as the media had recently christened her – was not was a cheat. She was an honest and honorable person at least in that regard, and she would abide to the unwritten code.
Not that there was time to break it. The moment she passed by him, a crack resounded and a split second later, the tin cup sitting atop the stack of plates in her hands bolted to the ground. Burrowing itself into the rocky sand, it lay still, wounded, and deserted, as the Court scrambled to their feet and took off into the cover of the labyrinthine canyons, as a familiar smirk watched them scatter like the wind from the comfort of its perch.