Lord Vidori, as Esme was quickly shown, was a bit of a collector. The room he brought her to was filled with so many entrancing items. There were weapons, instruments, baubles and trinkets of all sorts. They covered the walls and lined the many tables, each one so unique in its shape and colors. You could so easily tell they were each from it’s own world and culture.
She stood in the doorway for a moment as she took in the sudden change in scenery. It was a lot to take in after the monotonous hallways. She took a slow step forward, then another. She wasn’t quite sure what she should focus on first, so she decided to start with whatever was closest, turning her eyes to the trinket, what looked like a small statue made entirely of some precious gemstone. It glinted beautifully in the light of the ship, almost as if it was glowing from within.
As she went around the room, taking each object in, she could hear Horde Prime’s voice from behind her.
“I thought you would enjoy it.” He started, voice as smooth as silk. “Each artifact is from a different planet, one I have so graciously brought into my kingdom. They hold great importance.” She heard his footsteps echo through the room as he drew closer. “More importantly for us, they are each beautiful, in their own way, a piece of another world far from here.”
She felt a hand alight on her shoulder, the barest brush of skin on silk, like if he put too much weight on her she would crumble. Did he think she was fragile, like a castle made out of sand or glass? She internally scowled at the thought but said nothing. Gently, that hand guided her away from the instrument she had been pondering and towards the artifact at the very end of the room. It was held on a pedestal unlike the others, nestled on a pillow. It looked like a planet itself, it’s surface swirling with blues in greens in an intriguing pattern, looping back this way and that. She wanted to reach out, to trace the patterns, but she stayed her hand. Such a trophy should not be touched by the likes of her.
“This,” Vidori’s voice came out almost like a purr above her shoulder. “Is one of my most treasured. It comes from the first planet I had conquered.”
Esme nodded, understanding the importance of such an artifact. Based on the size of this collection, Vidori’s empire was vast. She couldn’t begin to imagine how long it had taken to grow to such a size, how ancient he himself must be in turn. She suddenly felt so small compared to all this, to all the empire was, to what the empire was.
“We have nothing as beautiful as this.” She stated, voice ever so slightly tinged with an odd sort of sadness. “We never were a people to craft treasures. Such things aren’t considered important. We craft other things, stories, music.”
She looked around the room, turning as she did so to take it all in once more. To imagine there was still so much space in this room, more worlds to add, more treasures like these still undiscovered and waiting to be seen. Her planet, her people, they were nothing in the vast universe, just a speck in the stars, dust. They had nothing that would last beyond them. Once they ended and their planet died, there would truly be nothing left of them. Not even a single, small artifact in a room of treasures. She wondered how many of these worlds were already gone.
Her mind struggled with the thoughts that ran through it. Ultimately, she decided it did not matter. Her people had everything they could want. They did not care for such things as eternity, only for what was. She knew they wouldn’t care if they left nothing behind because the time they had been there was enough. The thought helped ease her mind.
She looked up to Vidori, a half smile on her face.
“I suppose you will have nothing of us to add to your collection.”
He hummed, staring back down at her. She wondered what exactly that smirk he was constantly giving her even meant.
“Perhaps nothing for this room. But then, there is more to a people than mere objects, as I’m sure you know. You already said your people crafted songs and stories. Those can last far longer than you might expect.”
“Yes, I can see what you mean.” She said, head tilting to the side as she gazed back at the floating orb before them. “These are all very beautiful, but oftentimes I find a song with even a mediocre tune tends to stay with me longer than any beautiful sight. Whether or not I actually want it in mind.” She scowled at the thought, remembering a tune from home the children would sing that would often get stuck in her mind. Sometimes it got to the point where she would willing drop a stone on her tail if it got rid of the dreadful noise.
Vidori chuckled, a deep sound that rumbled in his chest.
“Perhaps you could share some of these songs with me sometime. It has been so long since I heard anything I truly enjoyed. And from what I’ve gathered from my servant, you have quite the singing voice.”
She let out a peel of laughter before she could stop herself, remembering the look of the disheveled creature from the night before.
“Oh, poor thing!” She managed to say after calming her laughter. “I thought my singing had accidentally lured him in. He didn’t stand a chance!”
Vidori gave a laugh of his own, though much more tamed than hers.
“You gave him quite the scare, my little siren. He thought he was truly in danger. To think he had instead stumbled upon such a prize as yourself.” He said the last part with a purr, his grip on her shoulder tightening ever so slightly. She wondered what he meant exactly by that. Was it because of how much she was helping? She doubted it would have been difficult for him to simply send an army to wipe her people out and take the planet and its resources for himself. But then, such a straightforward tactic would mean all that knowledge on what foods the planet bore and, more importantly, how to cultivate those plants, would be lost. Perhaps he had intended to try diplomacy from the beginning and she smoothed that process out. Perhaps he had still been working on how exactly to take the planet when she was brought before him. In any case, her presence was helpful.
“Come.” His smooth voice interrupted her thoughts. “There is more to see.”
“You’ve already been so generous.” She said, speaking carefully. She didn’t want to reveal just how excited the thought of seeing more got her. “All this that you’ve shared with me, can I really accept more?”
His hand left her shoulder, a clawed finger brushing her jaw ever so slightly as he withdrew. She managed to suppress a shiver. He turned away from the treasure and she did the same, taking the extended hand offered to her and allowing him to lead her once more through the halls of the ship.
She was almost surprised by how easily conversation with the Emperor came. She was becoming more … comfortable around him, slowly but surely. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If she became too comfortable she could say something wrong, something that could set him off. She had no doubt that, if he wanted to, he could end her with a snap of his fingers. But she couldn’t stop herself from relaxing at least some. There was just something about him, something that drew her in and brought down her walls.
She took a deep breath. She needed to stay composed. She needed to stay professional, or at least as professional as she could be. She knew Lord Vidori was not someone she should get comfortable around.
“Ah, here we are.”
The door in front of them opened, a wave of warm air hitting them, and she gasped.
For a moment she wasn’t sure what she was looking at. Her vision was filled with plants, beautiful trees and flowers and blooming vines. In the distance she could hear what sounded like a small creek of some sort, making her ears twitch. The smell from the flowers was pleasant, warm and overwhelming. Had that door transported them to some planet like the column of light had last night? No, that wasn’t right. There were still the same white walls as everywhere else and a roof far above them, albeit one made of glass, giving the impression of a woods at night.
She took a step forward, eyes wide. This. This was far more beautiful than all the treasures in Prime’s collection. She had forgotten about keeping her composure at that moment. It wasn’t nearly as important as taken in the sight before her. She didn’t notice when she started purring, nor the smile that took over Vidori’s face at the sound, a smile of satisfaction, as if he was confirming a suspicion of his.
“This is my greatest treasure.” He said, giving a grand motion to the garden. “My sanctuary. How do you find it?”
She couldn’t find her voice right away. When she did finally speak, it was only a single word, spoken breathlessly.
“Stunning.” Esme wandered forward hesitantly, only managing a few steps before turning back to look at Vidori. He had called this place his sanctuary. It was only right to ask permission first.
He answered her silent question with a nod, motioning once more to the garden, inviting her to explore as she saw fit.
She walked through the garden, getting lost in the colors and smells that pressed in on her on all sides. Each plant, each flower, fern, tree, vine, they were their own world of fascinations. She could have spent hours in there, taking in every single little thing she could. Or she could have, if she wasn’t followed by the constant sense of being watched. Vidori followed her every step, never far behind. She thought she would be glad if he ever stopped talking, but now that he was silent it put her on edge. Her fascination with the plant life around her helped ease her anxiousness, but it didn’t entirely go away.
Why was he watching her so closely? What did he hope to gain by observing her in these surroundings? Was it to gain a better understanding of her people as a whole, or just a better understanding of her? No, it had to be for her people. So he would know how to best work with them? That seemed a bit unlikely. Would he even really care? Wasn’t that her job as ambassador? At least she thought that’s what she was supposed to do, help each side work together. Was she wrong? Had she gotten the wrong impression? No, that couldn’t be it either. That’s what she had to do in only a few days’ time, make that arrangement between her people and the Empire. So again, what did he gain from observing her so closely? Was it really just … curiosity?
She paused in her walk by the small creek, kneeling down to get a better look at the small blue flowers that dotted the stones along the water’s edge. They had only four petals each, going from a deep blue on the edges to more of a violet towards the center. Each one was hardly larger than the tip of her fingers.
She could feel Vidori’s presence behind her, his eyes trained on the side of her face. She sighed, looking up at him. He didn’t even attempt to hide his stare.
“If it isn’t rude, may I ask … Why you are doing that?”
“Doing what, my dear?”
She tried not to glare at the smug look on his face. He knew exactly what he was doing.
She stood up to face him, keeping her face passive as she stared back.
“Why are you staring at me? You’ve been observing me since we entered the garden rather closely. To what end?”
He just smirked, head tilting to the side slightly and hands clasped behind his back. She couldn’t place the exact look behind his eyes, but he gave off the air that he was … pleased with her?
“How very bold, to speak to your new emperor in such a way.” He said, voice low and smooth. She didn’t respond. Showing any sign of fear would do nothing for her now. Perhaps she had misspoke, but just because he was an important figure didn’t mean she couldn’t question his actions and she had tried her best to be polite. She was not at fault.
He took a few, slow steps towards her, standing only a few inches away. She was forced to look straight up to keep eye contact, his acidic eyes boring into her, like he was trying to reach into her very soul and bring her every secret, every hidden part of herself, to the surface. She found herself getting lost in his hypnotic gaze.
“I suppose a question asked so politely, no matter how bold, deserves some sort of answer.” He finally said, his breath warm on her face. They were so close now she could smell him, a mixture of metal and something warmer, more organic. The look in his eyes only intensified, his usual smirk gone from his lips. It was odd. He almost looked confused. “You fascinate me.” He whispered, cupping her face in his hand. It nearly engulfed the side of her head, those sharp claws tangling in her hair, but she didn’t pull away. Any sudden movements could end very badly for her. “I want to understand you. I want to understand why you’ve caught my interest so.”
She didn’t quite understand what he meant. It was like he was talking more to himself than to her. Still, she could feel warmth spread over her cheeks, her ears lowered, and her tail flicked back and forth. It was overwhelming. He was overwhelming. His presence, his warmth, his smell, it blocked out everything else. In that single moment, it seemed like the only thing that existed was him.
Finally, what seemed like an eternity later, he let her face go and stepped away, turning his back to her. In a single moment the world came rushing back to Esme, the smell of the flowers, the music of the creek, the warmth of the air. She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.
“I believe that is enough for one day.” His voice had returned to its usual, smooth tone. “We don’t want to overwhelm you, after all. It would be a shame to break something so precious. Come.”
He didn’t even turn to her as he spoke or when he walked away. She followed automatically, mind reeling from the moment they shared. The moment they stepped outside the room the doors closed behind her and his servants were by their side, standing at the ready.
“They will take you wherever you wish. Within reason, of course. I’m afraid I have other business to attend to.”
He turned back to her, just for a moment, before he walked away.Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in