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Lucian circled her, almost dancing, occasionally reaching out with a slender hand to stroke her cheek, to caress her hair, to touch her mouth.

She looked lovely. He'd taken such good care of her. The soft brown hair, shining in the torchlight, curled softly around her face. Her robes were spotless. The small face sparkled with a rosy glow. Oh yes, he'd taken very good care of her. He'd even polished her holy symbol.

He'd washed her, dressed her, groomed her. It had been a great deal of work, but he'd applied himself with fervor. Now, looking upon her, he beamed with pride. Even Mirin would have to admit he'd done an excellent job. His eyes narrowed. Mirin. The whore.

"You must be my queen now, my Chosen one!" Around and around her he circled, breathless, his eyes never leaving her face. "And what a perfect queen you will make! Untouched, unspoiled, perfect!"

He stopped his circling and probed the large brown eyes; they were wide open, staring at nothing, at everything. She was as still as a corpse, her skin as white and unmoving as marble, her face as expressionless as stone. Lucian's lip trembled and tears burned in his eyes. He'd tried so hard to bring life to her.

For she would be his queen. That treacherous whore would be destroyed with her fallen Defender. It had been too long; he had been betrayed! He bit his lip. How had he ever considered her worthy? How could he have ever found her beautiful? This one was so pure, so perfect. His Chosen.

Lucian shuddered. To take his lovely, new flower and feel her petal softness, unfold her, make her his. She would be his, only his, always his. His Chosen.

The tears spilled down his cheeks. He had never seen her smile, had never heard her laugh, had never tasted her sweetness. Unbidden, a vision of Mirin flickered through his mind: her amethyst eyes bright with laughter, her small white teeth shining, her perfect body so warm and supple. "No," he moaned as he pushed the vision from his mind.

Here was real beauty, real perfection. Here, truly, was the Chosen. And she would yield to him. She must. She was his Chosen.

How would those blankly staring eyes look filled with love? How would that small, set mouth look parted with longing? How would that fragile, rigid body look animated by desire? He would know. He must know.

Staggering under the force of a violent surge of lust, he knelt before her and reached out, and, with exquisite tenderness, touched her still breast. Beneath his fingers, he could feel the slow beating of her heart. His own heart pounded mercilessly; it seemed it must burst. He stroked the breast, marveling at its delicate softness, its warmth.

She did not cringe. Her eyes did not blink. She remained inert, unseeing, like a statue.

Lucian closed his eyes and shuddered. Focusing his thoughts, bringing all his power to bear, he spoke gently into her mind. "I must have you, my queen. I must. You will see, dearest, precious, Chosen, that I am worthy of you."

But no thoughts returned to him. She remained silent, motionless. Her mind was a void. He could not even grasp at the edges, the fringes, of a thought. The door was open, but the room was as dark and still and silent as his tomb.

His face burned and his breath began to come in gasps. He clenched his hands into fists to still their terrible trembling, to stop them from striking.

"Precious, dearest, perfect queen, you must be mine! We were made to be together! You and I are truly the Chosen, the only Chosen! Can you not see that? Your Defender of the Faithful is weak, weak, I say! I could destroy him, utterly, with a thought. And the whore,” Lucian opened his eyes and their green fire burned bright, "she is low, base, unworthy!" A spasm seized his hand. He grabbed the coarse fabric of her robe and pulled her small body up off the tomb as if it weighed nothing.

Still, her face did not react. Her body did not resist. Lucian felt he would explode; the veins in his arms, his forehead, bulged. As he held her limp body effortlessly before him, his eyes blazed. Then he shook her, slapped her, and through it all he looked into the inert pools of brown that were set in her face where eyes should be. His whole body quaking, his handsome face contorted with fury, he struck her again and again and yet she did not react. She did not cry out, made no move to defend herself. Her eyes remained wide open, staring. Lucian stumbled backwards, open-mouthed, slack-jawed, and caught his breath.

Oh, but she would be his! He steadied himself and slid his free arm around her back and gently lifted her in his arms. He carried her to the sepulcher and, with reverence, lay her upon it. "Now, dearest, precious, Chosen, you will become one with me," he whispered with a smile.

Tears of happiness filled his eyes as he grasped her robes and ripped them asunder, to expose her untouched, white flesh. He gasped at the sight of her. He felt hot, so hot, and he trembled so that he could scarcely remain standing. Still, she did not move. Her eyes did not close. With a sigh, he gently lowered himself to her. He kissed her silent lips, every bruise, the places where the skin had broken. He fumbled at his robes, shaking with his wanting, then closed his eyes and drew in a ragged breath.

With a loving smile on his lips, he slowly opened his eyes.

He nearly cried out.

Her face had changed. Upon it was a smile: it held such warmth, such love, infinite compassion, perfect peace. At last! She would be his. From his green eyes, soft now, a single tear, of total joy, fell to her cheek.

He reached out to wipe it away as it coursed toward her ear. Her ear. So delicate, as finely formed, as translucent as a seashell. Her ear. Leaking blood.

Lucian's eyes widened as the trickle increased and began to wet her hair. He looked to her mouth. The beatific smile was fuller, softer, but here, too, a trickle of blood seeped from one corner to cut through the whiteness of her skin. His mouth fell open.

Frantically, he scanned her face. Blood had begun to flow from her nose, her other ear. Lucian gasped. In her eyes the blood welled up like tears and began to spill down her cheeks.

Her smile widened, so full, so generous as if to envelop the whole world with its joy. Lucian's mouth contorted in a silent scream. His hand grew sticky as he tried to wipe her bloody tears away.

His knees felt strange. Unwillingly, he looked down and saw that he knelt in a rapidly expanding pool of blood. It ran down the sides of the sepulcher, flowed to the stone.

He did scream then: he howled like an animal. Slipping in the blood, he scrambled off her and fell, writhing, to the floor.