The Last Warrior
Creeping softly across the outer parlor of the Buffalo Bill’s tent, Black Lion didn’t pause until he had at last reached the Japanese constructed room dividers.
Squatting down, he peeked around the partition. A woman swayed to the pulsing sound of a music box. Her back was turned toward him, and all he could see was the cascade of long dark hair, a slim body and gentle curves beneath a robe that hugged her silhouette.
She danced. And she danced. After a while, she began to hum in time to the music, as well. As though bewitched, Black Lion couldn’t move. Who was she? She began to sing, softly as first, but then with more conviction. Her voice was spellbinding, like nothing of this world. And he wondered if he had stumbled upon a goddess.
The tinkling music in the box slowed. The woman walked to the music container, turned the key, and the tune began all over again. Barely daring to breathe, Black Lion continued to watch.
Should he announce himself? Was it right to stay here and stare without her knowledge? But if he made her aware of his presence, would that knowledge end the enchantment? Because he feared it might be so, he remained hidden.
Still swaying to the slow beat of the music, she turned her profile toward him, and for the first time since arriving here, he saw her in full. He also witnessed the tears falling down her face. She inhaled a ragged breath, breathed out, and more tears slid down a perfect profile. It was a countenance he recognized.
It was she, the beauty from England. The one he had knocked into the mud so unceremoniously.
But what was she doing here? And why was she so sad? She had been anything but melancholy that day when he had met her. Black Lion rose up to his full height. Within him was an urge to reach
out and give the woman comfort. Fortunately, the memory of her sharp tongue that day countered the feeling. He would stay where he was for the moment.
And so she danced, and she danced. She cried, her sobs seemed to wrack his soul. How long he stood there, entranced by her, watching her, he could never be certain. It wasn’t until she pulled back her hair, fixing it away from her face, that she walked toward the music box, where she picked it up and shut its lid. And that was it; the music faded from the room. But not so the magic.
He inhaled deeply. Either he should leave or announce himself. To continue to spy on her was not an action of honor. He decided on the former, and had turned away from her, when he heard
another of her weakened sobs. He couldn’t go. It was simply not in him to do so.
Breathing in deeply, he stepped from around the divider. He cleared his throat. At the sound, she spun around toward him. Wide, red eyes clashed with his. “You!” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“I am honored that you remember me, and I am here because–”
“How long have you been here?” she interrupted.
“Long enough,” he said.
Shadows, cast from the soft, single light in the room crossed over her face, lending her a fairylike appeal. She studied him momentarily before she said, “It’s funny how these things happen, is it not? I thought to never see you again. And yet, here you are. Here I am.”
“Hau, here we are.” He paused. “And we are alone together. It is enough to ruin your reputation yet again.” He cast her a lopsided grin. “I fear that now you truly have no choice but to accept my proposal of marriage, if only for your own sake.”
“Marry you?” She frowned, then shook her head and turned away from
him, presenting him with only her profile. “I…thank you for coming.”
There was a tremble in her voice. He swallowed hard. It was not in his heart’s nature to intrude on
another’s privacy, yet, he would give comfort if he could. He said, “Jesting aside, is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything that you need?”
“You mean besides a chance at another life? Oh, please…”