The small blade fell from Rahim's hand with a clatter, though he barely heard the sound. With a flash of panic he realized that there was blood on his hand and suppressed the sick feeling that swelled up in his stomach. It was a small amount, only painting the tips of his fingers, but it was her blood.
Adonia stood hunched over in front of him with her long hair falling over her shoulders and shadowing her face. Rahim's eyes focused on where her hand clutched at her side, blood oozing between her fingers from the gash. He staggered back in horror as fear and anguish rushed through him.
She let out a ragged breath as she lifted her gaze to meet his. "Rahim?" Her pale green eyes bored into him like teeth into raw flesh.
He winced at the pain and disbelief in her voice. "Adonia, I never meant to-"
"Get out." Her eyes were closed now. Beads of sweat rested on her face and arms, reflecting the light of lanterns.
Rahim gaped at her, searching for words, but there were none he could say to her now. Not after this. The thought that she might die- at his hand- flashed through his mind. As fear pierced his bones his limbs began to tremble.
When Adonia faltered Rahim moved forward toward her, but she caught her balance on a small table just as he reached her. She shoved him away with her elbow as an ornate vase fell from the table and hit the polished floor with a crash. "Now!" she hissed.
He wanted to throw himself at her feet, but the fierce look in her eyes chased him from the room.
He ran from the chambers they had shared as quickly as his feet would carry him, praying harder then he had ever before that it was all only an awful dream. Promising that if he woke up he would shower Adonia in kisses and tell her he would never hurt her.
Rahim couldn't even remember drawing the small blade. He had held Adonia in his arms only moments before, his fingers playing lightly at the ends oh her long hair. Then, she had began to speak to him of politics and of what it had like to be the Sovereign of Nivahl.
They both had been raised in the outer palace among the Chosen, children brought up and taught as potential Sovereigns of the future. All his childhood Rahim had dreamed, and believed, that when the time came the Elders would coronate him as Sovereign and Adonia would have been his loving and supporting wife, proud that her husband had been chosen to lead her country.
But when the Elders made their announcement and called out Adonia's name, Rahim had been knocked off balance. He remembered bitterly that she had had little interest in becoming Sovereign. While he and the other students studied and competed to impress their teachers, Adonia preferred to ride horses or swim in the river. But when she stepped forward to receive the blessing of the previous Sovereign, a man well aged by that time, she stepped forward with the calm serenity of a leader. Love and jealousy sprang up unanimously in Rahim's heart as he watched her climb the marble steps from where he keeled among his peers. His fellow rejected. As time went on his jealousy ebbed past his love and began to saturate every nerve, vein and muscle in his body and before he realized what he was doing, the knife had already tasted her skin.
The halls of the inner palace were empty aside from Rahim, but he forced himself slow to a walk in fear of rousing suspicion from the guards as he approached the palace doors. They were painted bright red and decorated with the golden shapes of birds and flowers. The two guards that stood vigil before them eyed Rahim with concern.
"Master Rahim," one said, "it is late. Is something wrong?"
"No," he answered breathlessly. "I just need some fresh air. I'm not feeling well." He ignored their questioning looks and passed through the doors with all the calmness he could gather, though his hands still shook.
Once outside he resumed running. Through the dark he found his way to the palace stables. He slowed as he entered, wary of the stable-hand sleeping in the loft above, and crept past the stalls. When he came to the one that belonged to his horse he stretched out an unsteady hand through the dark. When his fingertips met Agrah's shoulder, the horse gave a start, then a soft nicker as he recognized his master's scent.
Rahim flinched as shouts rang out from the palace and the stable hand began to stir. They would be looking for him now, and there was little time to waste. He slipped a bridle over Agrah's head and unlatched the stall with shaky hands. Not bothering with a saddle he scrabbled onto the grey stallion's back and dug his heels into his flanks.
He pushed Agrah harder than he ever had before, weaving through the buildings and high walls of the city. He did not allow Agrah to slow until they were well clear of the densely packed buildings and Agrah's neck was speckled with lather. Twisting in his seat, Rahim watched the dark night behind him, searching for any sign of pursuit. The shouts had long since faded as did his fear, leaving behind only suffocating sorrow. He leaned forward and patted the grey stallion's sweat-soak neck with an exhausted sigh. They would still have a long way to travel before they could stop to rest.
As the moon rose higher into the sky and Agrah trudged on through the dry landscape, Rahim's thoughts began to fester. In the black night all he could see were her eyes staring at him. Sorrowful at first, then, accusing him. Hating him. It was all too much.
For a moment he didn't know whether to laugh or sob, all his emotions seemed to swarm and contort togther. He dragged his fingertips across his face wearily. This can't be real.