The sound of anklets wakes him.
For a moment, he’s bewildered, before he throws off his blankets and pulls on a dhoti. His sword is in his hand purely as a reflex; he doesn’t really think anyone would dare sneak into his own kingdom – into his own palace, no less – and kill him.
He follows the sound to its source, and finds his latest acquisition, dancing in the room she had been given, head thrown back, arms raised.
It had only been a few weeks since his chamberlain has brought this dancer into his court – Mohini, he thinks her name is. He has only seen her the first time she had danced, which had been technically perfect and certainly beautiful – but nothing like this. She looks half wild now, her feet moving faster than his eyes can follow the steps.
He must have made a sound, because she stops abruptly, turning to face him, eyes wide in a startled face.
‘I’m sorry I frightened you,’ he says, and it is the first time he’d ever apologised. But he finds he is sorry, especially because his presence made her stop dancing. It had been beautiful.
‘I’m sorry I disturbed you,’ she says softly, lowering her gaze. ‘I didn’t realise I was so loud.’
He waves his disturbed sleep aside as a matter of no consequence. ‘Will you dance for the court tomorrow?’
She nods with a smile, and he returns it as he leaves.
His mind is still alight with the memory of her form, so he doesn’t think to wonder why she had been wearing anklets if she had not wanted to disturb anyone.
The king was exactly as they had said he would be.
The dancer waited until the king’s footsteps had faded away before moving to shut the door. They’d all doubted her, but in the end, she’d had the last laugh. Everyone who’d ever seen her dance had laughed, had said it was grotesque and horrifying, but here was this king, held in thrall by her.
If this kept up, she wouldn’t even have to work very hard, he’d already all but fallen into her lap all by himself.
All she had to do was keep up the innocent damsel act and flutter her eyelashes at him, and get him to lower his guard.
Just as she’d promised, in a month, the king would be dead by her hand.
Featuring cross-dressing assassins, were-snakes, gods and goddesses, demonesses and asura kings, Dark Things Between the Shadow and the Soul retells age-old tales from Indian mythology—with a twist. Rearranging myth and legend to create new plots, these short stories will delight lovers of the unusual.
Image from here, with thanks.[mood| sleepy]
[music| Stop, Stop, Stop: Nu Virgos]