"There's a humming in the restless summer air
And we're slipping off the course that we prepared
But in all chaos, there is calculation."
-Glory and Gore, Lorde
The throne was digging into her back uncomfortably. It was handmade, ornate, with jewels set into the pristine gold with the care of a mother tending her newborn babe. Despite the extravagance it exuded, it was damn irritating.
Normally, she could have sent one of her male servants to fetch her a new chair (or at least a pillow), but this was the royal throne. She knew better than to be disagreeable in the throne room. And complaining about the throne in the throne room would definitely fall under the category of being disagreeable.
It didn't really matter; in fact, it only forced her to sit up straighter.
And, of course, look more fierce to the cowering boy trembling in front of her. Pathetic.
Really, the throne was just another irritating thing to add to her already horrible day.
Azaria rolled her eyes once the boy was escorted out by the guards and she slumped in the throne. Her mother eyed her slouching body with distaste but did not bother to reprimand her daughter.
This was all her idea anyways Azaria thought savagely.
The idea of marriage was laughable to Azaria. In the past, most empress's did not take a husband until they needed an heir to aid the line of succession. Azaria was young, nearing twenty years old in the next fortnight. She had no need for a man in her life.
But her mother insisted.
She talked about the wonders of love and the fantastical idea of a strong union between the two. As if Azaria could not rule the kingdom herself. The implication of such a comment would easily give Azaria rights to hang her mother for such treason, but Azaria humored her. She knew the women was going insane with age. It was best not to argue with the trouble-minded.
But this kind of torture was simply unbearable. All of the men she had inspected were...boring, simply put. They bowed when they were supposed to, and hung on to her every word. Of course, Azaria would certainly not have it any other way, but she couldn't see the use in a husband. After looking at her available suitors, she saw them as a pet needed to be taken care of.
And the role of a pet was already dutifully fulfilled by her dear cat Jasmine. Azaria stroked her now behind the ears as she waited for the next imbecile to walk through the throne room.
"Sit up," her mother hissed as the attendant announced the next man. Azaria huffed impatiently, and straightened her spine. Her whole body felt bogged down with the weight of her dress (even if it was spun from the finest silk of Cahira) and her crown felt elephantine on her head (literally and metaphorically).
But her aggravation was thrown out the window once a figure entered the throne room. And, for the first time in her life, Azaria's breath rattled in her chest at the sight of the man standing before her.
He was colossal. Broad shoulders strained against the thin material of his shirt, and muscles were wrapped enticingly around the skeleton of his long arms. His copper-toned skin seemed to glow against the golden color of the room as she eyed him appreciatively. A burly, muscled chest tapered down to a slim waist and equally massive legs.
Azaria nodded for him to approach closer and he moved towards her with the grace of a swan bird. She expected him to be stumbling like the others; to be awkward with his limbs. But he wasn't. He was not what she was expecting at all.
For one, he was wearing a shirt which surprised her. Most of the time, her suitors were shirtless in order to impress Azaria. Their bare chests did not only serve to dazzle her, but was symbolically seen as an action of vulnerability.
But this man was clothed fully, and his conservative nature threw her off a bit. She narrowed her eyes at him, and inspected him more.
His hair was cut close to his head, which emphasized the strong line of his jaw and the cutting angles of his cheekbones. Thick eyebrows framed a pair of beautiful, deep brown eyes...which were staring right at her.
Her mouth dropped open at his audacity. Why was this perfect stranger staring at her with such familiarity? She should have him beheaded for his forwardness. As an Empress she demanded respect at all times. No suitor of hers would be allowed to stare at her so unabashedly.
In all of her simmering rage, she had unconsciously stood up.
"Azaria?" Her mother whispered softly. She ignored her mother, and sauntered up to the insolent man.
Another surge of fury trickled down her spine as she watched his bright caramel eyes rake down the length of her body as she walked up to him. Once she got close enough to him, she slapped him across the cheek. The sharp, staccato sound echoed in the room and she smiled when he hissed through his clenched teeth .
"That'll teach you to watch your eyes, boy," Azaria snapped, her hand itching in a satisfying way from her actions.
Turning his head back towards Azaria, his eyes burned into hers before glancing down in respect. An angry red mark was stamped clearly across the side of his face despite his dark shading. Briefly, Azaria wondered if his skin tasted as good as the black plums she devoured in the summer markets of Cahira.
"I am deeply sorry, Empress," the man apologized, his voice husky and soft. Azaria glared at his bowed head and stepped closer to him.
Immediately, the musky scent of mint combined with cocoa beans invaded her nose. He smelled divine, and that was putting it lightly. She had to close her eyes for a brief moment as her senses were pleasantly invaded by him.
"What is your name, boy?" Azaria demanded. Once again, his eyes glanced at hers before lowering back down to his shoes. It was as if he couldn't help but look at her.
"Zafar, Empress," he answered. Azaria cocked her head to the side and started to circle him, like a lion hunting its prey. Despite his irrefutable lack of manners, he had caught her eye.
"Zafar," Azaria repeated brusquely, rolling the sound around in her mouth, contemplating the way it sat at the tip of her tongue. "What does it mean?"
She was back in front of him, now. When he glanced up, he gave her such a disarming smile that her eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
"It means winner, Empress," he responded with a cocky smirk that made her want to slap him again. But then his eyes were back down at his feet, and she could only stare at the ghost of a grin that haunted his face.
She wasn't used to seeing those kinds of lively grins from men in her presence. Most of the time they were cowering in fear before her, and quivered if she so much as coughed. Zafar, however...
It was almost comical watching him now. He was a behemoth compared to her, and yet his head was bent in respect in her direction. If she were to take any man for a husband she'd want someone strong beside her to emphasize her own stable standing as Empress. She did not want the weak cowards the had passed in an out of the throne room for the past two days.
Perhaps, she'd tame the jungle of arrogance that obviously thrived in the cavity of his heart. After all, she had always liked a challenge.
At this thought, her hand rose to unwittingly to linger on the edge of his prominent chin before she tipped his head up. She sensed rather than heard the rushed whispers that broke out from her actions. All she could focus on, were his eyes that seared straight into hers.
Without taking her eyes off him, Azaria called, "Jasmine!"
Her cat leaped off the armrest of her gilded throne, and trotted towards her and Zafar. Azaria waited patiently, her hand meandering down the line of his neck, while her cat circled the two of them. After a few seconds of tense apprehension, Jasmine finally rubbed herself against Zafar's leg.
"She likes you," Azaria remarked, her eyes darting down to appraise her feline companion. "And so do I."
There was a collective gasp in the room and Azaria finally smiled (albeit, wanly). The hand that had been kneading the collar of Zafar's shirt, left to hook around the belt loops of his pants. Zafar stiffened, before letting out a slow breath.
She turned, facing the delighted audience in the room, and addressed her mother.
"I have decided that I will take Zafar..."
"Nassar," Zafar supplied, helpfully.
"I will take Zafar Nassar as my husband," Azaria announced confidently, her eyes sweeping over the others in the room as if challenging anyone to defy their engagement. Her mother, clearly bubbling with excitement, clapped her hands together.
"Praise the spirits of Cahira! Azaria, darling, this is simply wonderful. I am so happy. I expect a marriage in no less than a week!"
She went on tittering and bumbling, but Azaria could not care less about the preparations for the wedding. As far as she was concerned, her part - choosing a husband - was done, and so she had nothing left to do. She'd leave the rest of the merry festivities up to her dear, decrepit mother.
So, she walked towards the exit, still dragging Zafar by the belt loops, thinking dearly of the warm bath that was awaiting her. Azaria was so lost in thought that she almost did not notice Zafar gently holding her wrist, so her hand was cradled inside his.
A hot flush spread across her cheeks, but Empress Azaria did not say a word.
Her room had the best view of Cahira. From Azaria's balcony, one could see the whole landscape of sloping hills and the tops of villages. During holidays, it was easy to hear the gleeful screams of children running through the cobblestone streets.
Zafar stared out her window now, his eyes scanning the darkening sky. He wanted anything to distract him from the giant elephant in the room. Or rather, the giant bed.
He could hear a soft humming sound escape from the door that led to the bathroom, where Azaria was showering. Zafar glanced at the door, wondering just how he managed to get in this position.
He wasn't a farm boy. No, he was a sailor boy. He managed to unload and load all of the cargo, and shipments that came in and out of a Cahira. The job had long hours and little pay, and there was no room for dreamers.
And yet, Zafar had managed to survive there with his dreams intact. He wanted to get into politics, even with his low social standing. However this wasn't exactly the way he planned getting there.
As if on cue, the door to the bathroom opened. Azaria stepped out, engulfed in rose scents, with her nightgown clinging to her like a second skin.
He couldn't take his eyes off of her.
He understood the consequences of such a blatant action, but he could not help himself. She was a vision. Her hair was a black storm unfurling at the curves of her shoulders and trailing down to the arc of her back. The ivory night gown only served to highlight the golden sheen of her skin as it fell along her curves gently.
Her eyes were dark green and piercing and resembled the jade gemstones that were found very rarely in the Cahira markets.
When he decided to volunteer as one of her suitors, he never expected Empress Azaria to be so breathtaking. Perhaps it was his luck finally kicking in.
"Quit looking at me like that," Azaria snarled, her green eyes narrowing at him. Zafar ignored her; technically, since they were now engaged, he could look at her any time he wanted.
Azaria turned away from him, and started to take off her gold hoops that were clasped on her ears.
"You're sleeping clothes are on the shelf," Azaria said gruffly, her back facing him. Upon further examination, he realized that there was only a pair of light shorts folded for him since nothing else was needed during the hot summers of Cahira.
Zafar glanced back at Azaria, but she was studiously ignoring him; he shrugged, and decided to change there. At her sharp intake of breath, he turned and saw her mouth formed into a small "O".
"We will be married soon," Zafar said, by way of explanation while he finished doing the drawstrings of his pants. He smirked when she continued to look at him with a horror stricken expression. Despite being a fierce warrior of Cahira, Zafar was sure that Azaria had little experience with men.
He walked towards the bed, pulling his shirt off as he went, and settled on top of the covers. Azaria frowned, and turned away to brush the wild mane of her hair.
"So you were a sailor, before you came here?" Azaria asked quietly.
"And...and you worked there for ten years, right?" She asked carefully.
"Why did you want to come here then?" Her voice was back to a low growl, and Zafar sat up cautiously as if his very movement might startle her.
Briefly, he wondered if he should tell her about his dream of being in politics. After all, it was seen as scornful to have a men in politics even if it had been done before. But now that they were engaged she wouldn't harm him...right?
"I-I wanted to go into politics," Zafar finally stuttered out.
Faster than lightning, Azaria was slamming him against the headboard, her legs pinning him to the bed, and a knife at his throat. The blade seemed to have appeared out of thin air.
"There are riots happening all over the harbors of Cahira and you expect me to believe that you have entered my palace in peace?" Azaria hissed, her green eyes darkening into a deep, forest green; swirling with the force of a tsunami.
Zafar flinched away from the cool, metal blade and grabbed her wrist - the only part of him that wasn't pinned down.
"I am not here to overthrow you." Zafar grabbed her wrist and pressed against her. She resisted; her arm holding steadily. They were like two tectonic plates shifting against each other. Any moment now, an earthquake would rupture.
"I didn't come here looking for trouble, Empress," Zafar continued, "I came here looking for a job and when I noticed that you were searching for a husband...well I thought it wouldn't hurt to try."
"Bullshit," Azaria growled, her knee digging deeper into his abdomen, causing him to hiss out in pain. He jerked Azaria's wrist, bringing her head closer to his.
"If you really thought that I was a traitor, I'd be dead by now," Zafar guessed. Azaria stiffened against him - her eyes softening ever so slightly.
"I hope I am not wrong about you," she murmured, her soft pink lips falling into a sad smile.
She climbed off of him, leaving a trail of burns behind, before padding across the length of the room. Zafar could see the muscles flexing and tensing in her back.
Suddenly, her dagger was spiraling through the air, her blade piercing the headboard inches away from his ear. It was so close he could nearly smell the harsh, metallic scent of blood.
"Do not ever cross me, Zafar," Azaria warned. She looked an animal. All ferocity and stealth and predatory edge that Zafar couldn't help but flinch when she blew out the candle. The room was shrouded in sudden darkness, and the beat of his heart sounded like a lone wolf.
But then the bed was dipping under Azaria's weight and there was a rustle as she moved the sheets and his heart was thundering in his throat for an entirely different reason.
Perhaps he thought I am a masochist.
Their wedding was as luxurious and expensive as predicted. The same items that Zafar had lugged and toiled over in his previous job were present, which somehow made the whole thing tainted in his eyes. He didn't want any royal wedding. Neither did Azaria.
She had humored her mother for far too long, she realized belatedly as she stared at the gold plated silverware. Everything in the ballroom of the palace seemed too loud, too much, too gold.
At least it matches my dress she mused while fingering a spoon.
Over the past week, Zafar and she had gradually grew to become cautious friends. They realized that they had many factors in common including food preferences, colors, and sources of entertainment.
Granted, these things were nice, but they certainly did not make a perfect couple. It seemed as if they disagreed on all of the important things, like politics, and how many kids each wanted. (Zafar wanted many, and Azaria could never think of her potential kids as anything more than a target for her enemies.)
But here they were. Getting married.
It seemed surreal to Azaria. Everything from the deliberately careful makeup on her face, to the guests. Her arrangement with Zafar was a transitional stage in her mind. It would never last; it would never become as permanent as her position as Empress. It was simply a favor to her mother. Perhaps the last one she would ever give to her mother.
Well, unless her mother managed to live long enough to want kids. Oh, that will be the day Azaria wryly thought.
But for all of her complaints, Zafar had not made the situation any worse, which was a miracle in itself. He had even bought her a ring. "Jade," he had said. "Like the color of your eyes."
It was the nicest gesture anybody had ever made for her. She had always been a women of high power, and generosity was guarenteed; never genuine. But Zafar...Zafar was different. He seemed to see her in a different light. He saw shooting stars when he looked at her, when everyone else saw black holes.
He made her feel good. Plain and simple. But she wasn't quite sure good was enough to please the people of Cahira, much less the spirits.
"Are you well, Empress?" Zafar asked, his eyes concerned and endless and beautiful.
She looked at him carefully, her eyes lingering over the gold bangles that adorned his wrists and the loose, gold cotton material he wore. It hugged his figure snuggly, and for one heart-stopping moment, Azaria was nearly jealous of the fabric.
She rested her head in her palm, and smiled at Zafar, "You can call me Azaria, now that we are married."
Zafar bowed his head in her direction, a small grin playing at the corners of his mouth. "Yes...Azaria."
A warm feeling erupted in the cavern of her chest, pulling on her breath slowly.
"Yes. Very good," Azaria grunted, turning her head away from him. She pretended not notice when his hand slipped into hers, gripping onto her lithe fingers like candy floss.
Later in the day, during the final marriage ceremony, Azaria and Zafar were seated together in the middle of a long table. A bowl of ceremonial red rice sat in between them. Both of them were eyeing it in nervous apprehension.
In the middle of the room, the shaman spoke in reverberating roars that echoed in the ballroom. She, like the bride and groom, was dressed in full gold from head to toe. Her ears were pierced several times, hoops hanging off of the large earlobes in dragging ringlets.
Her black hair was so dark it looked nearly blue in the light, which complimented her dark-colored skin. A large nose seemed to take up most of her face, and her skin reminded Azaria of the black outer-covering of an avocado; it was very wrinkled and lined. Tied to her neck were white feathers that hung from several long gold chains. Her feet were bare, and the guests looked at her in wonderment.
"Empress Azaria, please proceed with the red rice," she boomed.
Azaria took the gold plated spoon, scooping a generous amount of rice, before directing it into Zafar's mouth. His eyes carved into her like she was marble and his presence was all-consuming. With a cheer from the wedding guests, his mouth closed around the spoon and swallowed the ceremonial rice.
It was one of the most sacred traditions of a marriage that even the poorest villagers did it. It represented security within a union; it symbolized a partner's pledge to always take care of the other. It was a vow of eternal sacrifice.
Azaria gave Zafar a weak smile.
"Zafar, it is your turn. Please proceed with the red rice."
Zafar reached with wide, open palms for his silver spoon, and gathered a large portion before moving the spoon towards her waiting mouth.
Azaria noticed the almost imperceptible trembling of his hand, just before her lips closed around the silverware. Then, as the guests cheered in jubilation, the hard line of his mouth broke out into the most genuine smile she had ever seen. It was all teeth and whiteness and she nearly choked on her mouthful of rice.
"You may now kiss the groom," the shaman quipped over the racket. The band her mother rented, picked up a lively tune that had guests jumping up to dance.
Quickly swallowing her rice (her pride), Azaria leaned forward into the abyss of Zafar. Her mouth descended on to his, and, for a split second, everything else was white noise. She couldn't hear anything else besides the rocket ship of her heart that was attempting to blast off in her chest.
Zafar's mouth massaged her own, and his hand came up to cup the edges of her jaw. All too soon it was over and she was gasping while Zafar just stared at her in that inexplicable way of his.
She turned to face her guests, and smiled politely at them while Zafar's hand sneaked it's way down to her knee.
Azaria pretended not to notice.
Back in Azaria's room it was a bit different. She couldn't think of anything but the words consummation and marriage and he seemed to take up so much space. She couldn't look anywhere but him, him, him. Her fingers trembled around the clasp of her necklace, and she couldn't do anything but shake, as if static was collecting on her fingertips.
And suddenly they were leaning into each other, breathing each other in and out. His lips found her own in the dim light, and his palms caught her hips in a foreign gesture. She swore she tasted redemption on his tongue, and suddenly she felt light enough that she could float away; become one with the galaxies, the stars, the black holes, and everything in between.
Azaria wanted to travel across the ever-lasting sky with him by her side. This feeling left her in pieces - in shambles - and she felt as scattered as the meteorites in the asteroid belt. She felt like her planet was spinning off it's perfectly tilted axis and she was careening into something indefinable and utterly new; something extraterrestrial.
Both of them drifted upward, higher and higher until they were gliding up and over each other. They were buoyed on their own fragile affection, (love), fondness. She felt weightless with Zafar.
They were rising rising rising until she felt like she was filled to the brim with helium. And, for a moment, she hung somewhere in between the heavens and the stratosphere. She didn't know whether to pray or breathe. Her lungs were expanding like balloons, just so she had enough air to spare; enough air to consume him all over again.
Eventually, his palms pulled her waist against him, so she sat on his lap as they continued to discover each other. His mouth massaged hers fervently as he angled his head just so.
Like an archaeologist, her fingertips explored him, scraping gently against his bones. His body was her excavation site.
Palms brushed across his shoulders, and rubbed every single individual vertebrae that made up the ladder of his spine until he was arching against her chest. She pressed her fingertips into his skin, exploring the topography of his body: the valley in between his shoulder blades, the hill of his collarbone, the cliff of his jawbone, the plains of muscle that created his shuddering chest, the fathomless canyon of his mouth.
His arms were a sanctuary, and they engulfed her in a harbor of warmth. She never wanted to leave this kind of comfort ever again. Azaria groaned against the hot heat of Zafar's skin, and his mouth left hers to delve into the pillar of her neck, the vast expanse of her clavicle, and, eventually, he inhaled the rest of her.
She was a burning comet waltzing through the cosmos. She was a meteor gallivanting across the galaxies. She was a satellite and he - he was her whole world.
Zafar fell back against the bed, and Azaria swayed over him, her legs settling on either side of his hips. Nebulas crowded the edges of her vision in the faint light. Unconsciously, she peeled off her wedding dress, and helped Zafar do the same. She wanted to swallow him whole, when her hands found the flexing muscles of his body.
She saw star clusters when she finally drowned in the depths of his eyes. It felt chaotic and tumultuous and she thought she would be sick with the vertigo of it all, but, instead, she clutched Zafar and orbited him like a planet does to the sun. And then she was oscillating, teetering on the edge of the universe just before she came crashing down like a torrent of stars and rays of light so brilliant she thought she was momentarily blind. She was incandescent with smoke and radiation and luminosity.
When she finally collided against Zafar she was breathless, and she thought her heart might rocket launch right out of her chest. But he just settled her against his burning chest, his arms cradling her against him like moth to a flame. He enveloped her in his bliss, his ecstasy; he trapped her in his atmosphere.
Her eyelids felt heavy, and she struggled to hold on the last vestiges of reality, but his soft, gentle kisses lulled her into a deep sleep.
She dreamed of constellations that night.
A week later she was in a meeting with her closest advisors.
They spoke in hushed whispers about riots in the streets of Cahira. They spoke of men, abandoning their posts, boycotting jobs, all in the name of justice and peace. But all Azaria could see was a rebellion that needed to be handled with an iron fist. She would not be overthrown as Empress. No, she would be known as the Empress who could control her country. She was never one to sit back, and wait patiently.
But still, the part of her that wasn't an Empress ached at the thought of anyone in Cahira being so unhappy they felt the need to rebel and fight back. She prided herself on being a good, fair ruler, and this is how she was awarded?
These thoughts echoed, and reverberated in her head when she climbed into bed that night. She thought she heard gunshots in the village, but it was only the pounding of her heart. How could she have let this happen? She could deal with foreign countries encroaching on her territory, and making war with her, but a civil war was not something she prepared for.
Zafar rubbed her neck and back with a broad, open palm, his fingers creating some semblance of safety and refuge in her brawling mind.
"What's the matter?" he coaxed, all soft and sweet, like honey in the palm of her hand.
And, despite her better judgment, she told him.
"There is war in the streets of Cahira. There are men...there are men protesting," Azaria replied. She told him about her decision to send royal troops in to the country to disband violence. All throughout the explanation, she could feel his breath on the apple of her cheek, and his scent surrounded her in a blanket of cocoa and mint.
"I-Is that what you think is right?" Zafar stammered, his voice quiet and low.
"Are you questioning me as Empress," Azaria accused disbelievingly, already attempting to pull away from him.
"No. No, I'm just asking if...if you've thought about this yourself, or if one of your advisors suggested it," Zafar responded, his hands holding her tightly to his chest.
"Well," Azaria began grudgingly, "she did advise it. But I fully agree with her. How else do you respond to riots? You must let the people know that the royal family is strong, and that they will not let anyone go unpunished."
She had meant for the statement to come out strong and intense, but she just sounded weak and lost. Her head dipped down to bury in Zafar's neck.
"I-I don't know if that's right. But I think it's the best I got," she finally admitted. Goosebumps erupted across her skin at the thought of riots at her front door. She had never encountered anything like this before. In her mind, this was her first true test as an Empress; unfortunately, she already felt like she was beginning to fail.
"Do you know why the men are protesting," Zafar questioned, his brow furrowing together.
Azaria shrugged in his embrace, "Something about men's rights. Nothing new there..."
For a moment Zafar was silent, before he whispered, "Have you looked into it?"
She was about to argue over the tone of his voice (which was a little too accusatory for her taste), but she just shook her head instead.
"What's there to look into? It's all the same crap they've been arguing about for years. It's just that they've gotten a bit more...violent in their arguments now."
"Azaria do you believe it's fair that only rich men are allowed to vote on issues in Cahira? Do you believe it's fair that men are not allowed to divorce their wives? Do you believe it's fair that women get paid more than men for the same exact job?" Zafar pressed, his eyes turning volatile.
"I-I don't mean-" Azaria stuttered, "I-It's always been that way."
"Doesn't mean it's right," Zafar said softly, his eyes focusing somewhere on a spot behind her shoulder. He seemed shaken by his own pent up anger.
Azaria was quiet for a moment, staring at the hard angles and contours of Zafar's face. A month ago, she wouldn't have thought twice about the strife that men faced everyday. But now, after being with such a kindhearted man, she cared about what happened to others like him. For years, she had never thought fondly of men; it was just the way she was raised. They were beneath women, and that status would never change. But now...now she wasn't so sure of her beliefs.
"You're right, Zafar. It's not fair at all. And I want to be a fair Empress," Azaria expressed, tentatively placing a hand on his shoulder. Zafar's eyes met hers, and he placed his hand over her own.
"You know, Azaria," Zafar said slowly, "displaying tolerance and patience is not a sign of weakness. It's a symbol of strength."
Azaria let out a slow breath of air, her heart hammering in her chest. "Well then...I hope my strength does not cost me."
Zafar squeezed her hand in response, before leaning forward to place a feather light kiss on her forehead.
She didn't sleep well that night; it felt like she had grenades placed in between her ribs. But being in Zafar's safe clasp reassured her that they would not detonate. Not yet, at least.
Her palms were sweating and the conservative, sapphire dress she wore clung to her skin in a sweaty manner. Her hair, was thankfully in a braid down the side of her neck. Beside her, was Zafar, a steady, magnificent presence. Heat radiated off of his skin, but she stopped herself from clutching his hand in hers.
She was an independent, warrior of a women. When her mother was Empress, Azaria had ridden out to face battlefields of destruction. The people of Cahira looked up to her in every way possible. She was their protector; their provider. She was their Empress.
They wouldn't ignore her until they heard what she had to say. And she definitely had something to say on the topic of riots.
Near Azaria was her war advisor. She was a thin, stern women with cat eyes and short ebony hair, who directed Azaria to the podium.
Taking deep breaths, Azaria gripped the edge of the podium and surveyed the crowd before her. There were people of all sorts of status; men and women, elderly folk and teenagers. They stared at her with a mixture of apprehension and skepticism.
Azaria thought she was going to hurl.
But then Zafar stepped close to her, and just his presence brought her comfort and strength.
She cleared her throat and spoke into the microphone, wincing when she heard her own voice.
"People of Cahira, it has come to my attention that many of you have been unhappy with the law recently. As Empress, I have taken your words into consideration in order to better the lives of my people. I have decided that, in the future, all men of Cahira may vote," Azaria boomed. At her decision, the women of Cahira gave an outcry of disbelief, but Azaria ploughed on. Her voice seemed to gain courage, and momentum as she continued.
"Despite how radical this notion might seem, I believe it is time that we give equal opportunities to men. They have done their part to help the community of Cahira, and they deserve recognition for that. Furthermore, I believe that, as Empress, I must practice these new measures of equality as well. That is why Zafar will not only be by my side as husband, but as Emperor of Cahira, as well. I expect that he will receive the same amount of respect that I do."
The men of Cahira seemed to drown out the shrieks of the women as they cheered on the Empress. Azaria's heart swelled at the sight, and directed her attention to the women next.
"Women of Cahira, I believe that this inclusion of men will not only strengthen Cahira, but it will be the new birth of Cahira. A new age, where men and women are equal and we, as a country, are powerful. I would not be doing this, if I didn't believe that it would benefit my country and people. At the end of the day, my love for my country transcends everything else," Azaria reassured.
Her voice seemed to echo in the streets, and women watched in wonderment as Azaria turned to her husband and kissed him chastely on the cheek.
There were more shouts of jubilation mixed in with the surprise and Azaria could not be happier than she was in that moment. She smiled once more to the crowd, her hand slipping in to Zafar's, and they both waved their hands as the retreated back to the palace.
Once they had reached the front palace gates, Azaria turned to Zafar and placed her hands just below his collar bone.
"Thank you for everything Zafar," Azaria said shyly, her mouth turning up at the corners.
Zafar's hands came to rest at the small of her back. "There's no need to thank me for anything, Azaria. You were wonderful out there."
Instead of arguing, Azaria stepped closer to him, her chest pressed up against his, and blurted, "I love you."
Zafar's eyes widened before his mouth broke out into the widest grin Azaria had ever seen.
"I love you too, Azaria." The kiss they shared was unlike anything Azaria had ever experienced before.
And for once, Azaria was perfectly content.
A year and half passed with careful compromises and reluctant alliances. The people of Cahira were slowly approaching a new reality, and Azaria and Zafar worked together to further that change.
They also worked together to serve by example. So, just as the weather changed and Azaria's belly started to swell, the people of Cahira finally introduced to laws for men's rights.
And, for the first time, an Empress of Cahira sobbed with joy at the birth of her baby boy.
A/N: Hello my Pickle Monsters!
Well I know this isn't a Tug of War update, but it's certainly something, right? What did you guys think? The idea of Cahira and Empress Azaria randomly came to me while I was showering one day and I just couldn't get it out of my head. I thought the concept of misandry, strength, and equality would be an interesting one to explore and I hope the story reflected that!
Fun Fact: I was practically listening to the Lorde song I quoted on repeat. Her songs are great for writing.
Fun Fact: Yeah. I may or may not have written a sex scene. I'm not entirely sure how that happened. Sometimes I get carried away.
Anyways Happy New Year! I hope you are having a fabulous start to 2014. Review Challenge: What did you do to celebrate the New Year? What are your New Year Resolutions? Best part about 2013?
Thank you for your constant support! Please leave reviews if you enjoyed (or didn't enjoy) this story! I'd love to hear your thoughts :D