Delusion's Colours The woman wore his colours, hair as white as snow on sand and eyes like the ocean. That alone would hardly have captured his interest, for she was a mortal as they all were, and would be gone in the blink of an eye. But hold! For the words outpace the story, and the truth of things will be found somewhat earlier. The crowd thronged the grounds, dirt and stone alike trampled by hooves and feet, shoes and skin, as they jostled for places, good-natured and expectant as the pack before a hunt. The great granite arch before them was crowned in a living myth, edged and embraced by the wings of the great reptile that mantled the stone within its wings, scales like swords edged with rime-frost as it stooped its head like the great beast of prey it was. Yet it was the empty space beneath it that all eyes turned to, that breath was hushed for. Among their number passed one, overlooked, a beggar in riches or a poor prince. He said nothing, violet eyes lowered as he looked through the lashes, the right of his face fair as a youth's as the locks of golden hairs fell across unmarked skin. The left side was decorously covered in the fall of his hood, though the slave women whispered that to see that whole face revealed must be the greatest beauty in the world. They were wrong. They were right. For all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the eye that saw that face unveiled would evermore see all else through its shape. A close observer may have thought they heard the faint clicking of brass from the gloved right hand, to put it aside as common sense drowned it in the ringing of steel swords and shod hooves on cobbles. The left hand held the robe of rich damson close, the cloth too rich, too heavy, for the heat. Daring much, one reached to stroke the sublime softness of the material as he passed, and gasped, for the hand she drew back was jewelled with blood, the fingers sliced as though she had stroked glass. And he had walked on, unseeing, uncaring, that sole violet eye downcast decorously when all others were raised to the great granite arch. Some of those in the crowd spared him not a glance, dismissed him as unimportant compared to themselves. Self-obsessed, wilfully blind or merely stupid, those ones were his already. Others watched him sidelong, somewhat attracted by, somewhat repelled, by his appearance. The Unsullied made way for him gladly, their oldest companion and their closest, though not one could have given him a name. All of them, slave and warrior, chattel and queen, dreaded his presence, banished him with each unspoken thought, every unworded fear, and so of course he came, entranced, intrigued. For such as he to be offended by a mortal was insanity itself and so, for that was what he was, he was. Or perhaps it was merely the madness of the age that drew him, the rise and fall of kings as often as the turning of the tides. The coronation of a queen without a throne was a delightful diversion, an inane insanity, to be savoured and forgotten like ice on parched lips. His unbrother's lessons, taught and forgotten before ever the world was reshaped, had been learned well, the mortals’ disregard of the gods as complete as the gods' disregard for them. If man, blind to the heavens, mistook that lack of care for lack of presence perhaps that was the truth of it, for the crystal-skinned, crystal-blooded deities of the above were long vanished, their last intervention a tale to divert children. Maybe the gods' long quest was complete, differences erased, cares abandoned, relegating themselves so far above the world they were no longer of it, and therefore into nothingness, for as any teller of tales knows, the difference between an absent god and a non-existant one is nothing at all. Regardless, nothing more had been heard of them, and so let nothing more be said. So the gods were gone and the world was round, and if men did not believe madness had a master any more, still they feared it and that was enough to keep him and call him. And through the arch walked - nay let the truth be spoken, she did not walk, she strode, armoured in a queen's confidence that owed nothing to the steel and leather she wore – the woman they awaited. Her gaze, stormy as her name, fell across the crowds, seeing all of them yet seeking none, as haughty as any mortal could be, which was as nothing to the arrogance of those from underearth. His smile, most delicate, graced the half of his lips that could be seen. She named the bloodsoaked Unsullied, though they stained the land they walked on, and in turn they named her, roaring it from a thousand captive throats. Freer of slaves, they named her, yet the slaves were yet here having merely exchanged one set of chains for less tangible, more permanent, ones. Breaker of Chains, an empty title from one mortal to another, yet a sweet echo of the near-forgotten, never-forgotten, voice of his lover when he had, with more meaning, worn that title and she had worn his colours. In fond memory, he raised his head and looked full on the girl, and smiled. And if she picked from the crowd the flash of violent eyes and looked as long on him, he scarce regarded it, memory painting another girl in her place, one of loveliness surpassing all others and the mistress of more fearful things than mere dragons. It was madness itself to think to find that one here, but he was madness and so he did. For her, she would be shaped by that glance for all of her days. His touch already lay on her line, through the shattered shards in the sands of metal once gold but strangely silvered. A boy in a desert who seeing a glint, had clawed at the dirt, brushing it aside until he dug out the pieces until all lay in his palm. In his fingers they formed a cube, the shape and size of a gaming die but bereft of markings, and crushed beyond recovery or restoration. Had the child but known it, upon his palm lay the holiest and most dreadful of relics, a treasure beyond anything he would ever behold. Before time, before the reordering of the world so that it was no longer flat, the pieces had lain discarded, abhorred, the last vestige of a goddess who once ruled all of the world that mattered, and that was all that lay between underearth and upper sky. They had known the touch of demons and gods and delusion, and a goddess, and the sun itself, a treasure beyond price or imagination. But the child did not know this, and they were scraps and no use to him, if pretty enough, and so he melted them down and had forged them into a ring and wore it placed upon the fourth finger, that scholars know carries the vein to the heart. And in her that memory which was not a memory was brought to full bloom, her nature reduced instantly to its barest elements and her line's unknowing, enduring, unbreaking, devotion to his nature. For himself, the single glorious glance encompassed all she was, and would be, and uncaring turned aside, let the hood fall as he left upon his own business. He had other diversions and, even for a certain uncousin of his passingly named the master of night, the dark hours are not eternal. And if in his contradictory manner he hastened things, the end was inevitable and so why should it tarry? A burning tower, a lover's knife, he knew none of this, and all, and cared less. For Delusion's Master had other games, and if he should turn back this way in a blinking of eyes both glorious and hideous, by then the towers would be sand and the islands changed and a new madness arisen to divert him. But the Mother of Dragons had glanced full on the face of Chuz, Prince Madness, Delusion's Master, and, you may be sure, she would remember him far longer than he would her. ~ Author's Notes: If the direct intervention of the incarnation of Madness is a more credible way to explain your character’s actions than the actual plot, you are doing writing wrong. (Just something I have heard about Game of Thrones Season Eight). Also Tanith Lee's style is hard to write.