Author: Guede Mazaka
He had a beautiful body, Jean-François had to admit. Dark rich yellow, like ripened grain, when seen in sunlight.
When seen in the flickering of torches, through the haze of smoke and violence, it glowed burnished gold from behind the splashes of burgundy and rust, from behind the wild black markings that the savage races loved to score into their skin. Even breaths away from death, Mani still looked the heathen god he must be. Dionysus being torn apart by jealous Titans.
Perhaps he had not yet admitted it to Sardis, but here, in this sacrilegious underground whirl of hatred and joy and drunken victory, Jean-François could acknowledge the other deadly sin coiling in his breast, right beside the image of his dear sister. Her latest suitor, who was slowly but surely stealing her away from Jean-François. Her chévalier, who himself had already been caught by whatever devilish spell his pet Indian had cast over him. Her prince, who saw only fresh young curves and ignored the maimed experience that stood before him.
Marianne couldn't know. She would never know-it would destroy her beautiful world. So Jean-François would carry the burden for them both. He was strong in ways that she still was not; he could bear the pain of seeing their sinful desires crucified. The excruciating pain of cutting out the promise of earthly happiness in return for eternal salvation. The-
--Jean-François shook his head, momentarily dizzied by the intoxicating fumes in the air, then narrowed his gaze and looked again. Glazed black eyes, their light almost gone, stared back at him. The eyes of a foreigner. Not those of a Frenchman.
As if it mattered, in the end. Grég-Fronsac would soon go the same way, if he did not cease his meddling. And after the discovery of Mani's body, Jean-François had no doubt that the naturalist would turn killer once more, seeking vengeance for his loss. It was what Jean-François would do, and for all Fronsac's smooth manners, he was little different from the savages of which he was so affectionate. Little different from Jean-François.
Well, let the knight come. He would receive a warm welcome, to be certain.