Chapter 1: A Waltz with Evil
Summary: Beatrix felt as if she was entering a waltz with evil. A dance she did not know the steps to; a song she had never heard before; in a language that was unknown to her. The only thing she could do was follow as he lead her through the motions until the end or until she could find a way to make him stumble.
Days, they were all that would pass before the Princess would turn fifteen and all of Alexandria would celebrate for her. The very idea of the princess' age made Beatrix feel old, had it really been so long since she was born? She hadn't even been general then, a captain at best, albeit a very distinguished one. So much time had passed and so many scars had been placed on her. The General had still had the ability to use her right eye when Garnet was born, but in a few short years that too had been taken from her. Beatrix did not resent its loss though, a well placed sacrifice for her beloved kingdom. It was thanks to sacrifices such as those that Alexandria had its peace now, despite the loss of the King only months ago.
All of this weighed on the beautiful general as she wandered the silent halls of the castle. It was a sharp contrast to the entrance hall and ball room which were both filled with the bustle of servants. Queen Brahne had been planning her daughter's birthday for months and was giving no sign of halting her involvement in the celebration. It would truly be a night to remember, even for the silent general. Garnet would be presented with the Silver Pendent as a sign of her coming of age.
The thought stopped her in her tracks and her hand came up to her forehead as she worked her memory. It had been something the strange visitor had said about a very different 'coming of age' for the princess. A thing that had interested the Queen a little too much for the General's taste. Normally the words would not have been so difficult for Beatrix to recall, but admittedly she had not been paying too much attention to the man as he spoke. Just another courtier come to try and win the favor of the recently widowed Queen, or so she had thought. Beatrix had been terribly wrong in that assumption, he was an arms-dealer seeking to aid the Queen in 'defending' her nation. The general had taken care to listen more closely once that was mentioned
The man had been beautiful, not only in looks but in speech as well. He dressed exotically as if he was from some unknown nation on one of the many unexplored continents. The mysterious man quoted plays and philosophers that the Queen loved so dearly. Moved as if every gesture was rehearsed and had a deeper meaning behind it, like some actor. He had certainly done his homework and it was needless to say that he had captivated the Queen easily. She had even invited him to stay in the Castle until after the celebration so that they could speak more in-depth about things.
"Does something trouble you, my lady General?"
A feather soft voice floated through the air, intruding on Beatrix's searching and she turned to find the very man she had been thinking of. 'Think of the devil and he shall appear.' It was the only thought that came to her mind as she gazed at him. Evil was what she always seemed to feel when he was in her presence, the undeniable shift in energy as it tipped in his favor. The man looked frail with his silk clothes, pale skin and slight form, but the seasoned warrior could sense the power that lay beneath that angelic façade. It was the feeling the had her hand drifting towards the hilt of Save the Queen whenever he approached her.
The General's reaction to the deceptive angel only brought a smile to his perfect features as he gently moved a few strands of hair from his face. "Why so tense lady General? Did I startle you?" The way he asked his questions was almost mocking, as if he already knew the answers and only spoke them to annoy her. And the way he looked at her was too intense, too searching. Every time his eyes glided up and down her form she felt a strange heat on her skin, like his gaze was literally burning holes in her. Overall he tended to make her feel ill at ease with every word, gesture and look he directed at her.
"Even you, Lord Kuja, could not startle me." Beatrix's tone was curt, almost violent as she stared the man down. She gave little pretense as to how she felt about him, seeing no need for lying about it, he would probably see right through her act anyways. Anyone who could put on a show as well as he could, would no doubt be able to spot one in an instant.
Laughter, like the bells of Burmecia, drifted from Kuja as he took a few steps closer to Beatrix. "Oh, I highly doubt that. I'm quite full of surprises." There was a slight warning in his tone that sent a chill down the general's spine.
The sudden lack of space between herself and Kuja made Beatrix uneasy and she had to fight the urge to take a step back. She would stand her ground, as she always did, and show no fear to this sorcerer who weaved his words as beautifully as he did his spells. There would be no captivated adoration directed at him or all-consuming fear from her. If everyone fell under his spell, she would be the one who remained immune to his poison.
The sudden clamor of metal against marble sounded the approach of a rather noisy captain of the Pluto Knights. "General! General!" The even louder sound of his voice followed and what would have usually annoyed the general soothed her beyond understanding. Any interruption- even if it was Steiner - was welcomed by her to this particular conversation.
Beatrix turned with a sigh of relief as opposed to her usual annoyance, "Captain Steiner, there is no need to shout. I'm partially blind, not deaf." It was her usual response to his overzealous approach to greeting her, he never heeded the slight warning in her tone though. "What is so urgent that you must go running through the halls in such a state."
Steiner came to a stop in front of her, hunching over and placing his hands on his knees as he gained his breath. "The…Queen…Wishes to see you." The captain huffed and puffed a moment before standing back to his full height and saluting his superior. It wouldn't have hurt the man to spend a little more time training, he had grow slightly more…large in the past three years of peace.
Beatrix nodded and turned to head back to the ball room where, no doubt, the Queen would be. She was not surprised to see that Kuja had retreated back into the recesses of the castle. The man's presence there was not very public, having an arms-dealer present in the castle would cause suspicion. With the man out of sight she felt normal again and began moving on her way to serve her Queen, hearing the not-so-quiet footfalls of Adelbert Steiner following behind her.
Beatrix's fist were closed tightly as she gazed into the mirror, the soft gloves on her hands the only things keeping her nails from sinking into her skin. Her reflection looked wholly foreign and went so far as to infuriate her. Wearing a dress was not something she ever enjoyed and it was not usually required of her under any circumstance, but when it is 'requested' by the Queen then it becomes a necessity. Having been asked to escort Kuja to the princess' birthday had been bad enough, but having to wear a dress while doing so was just an insult added to the injury. It had to of been Kuja's doing, another ploy to seize some of her dignity. The general would not allow it, she would not play his game, tonight this would end.
With a nod she turned and grabbed Save the Queen from her desk, strapping it to her waist. Beatrix was slightly relieved that it didn't look too awkward with the red and white dress she wore. Just like her metal eye-patch, the sword was an accessory that was never removed from her. All in all she looked- to herself- like some sort of warrior princess. The thought was ludicrous, but it was the only thing that her reflection reminded her of.
The knock at her door tore her attention from the mirror and sounded the beginning of her nightmare. The general reluctantly moved to the door and opened it, the image of Kuja being reveled before her . He was the same as ever, the only thing out of place being the white rose in his hand. It was large, oddly so, and she could not seem to take her eyes off it. A small chuckle made her eyes venture up to Kuja's face where she found a smug smile awaiting her. "Beautiful." He said, his tone making it seem as if he was apprising a piece of art rather and a human being. At the same moment that he uttered the word he held out the rose, holding it gingerly like at any moment it might break.
The general accepted the flower, grasping the stem with less care than Kuja. A stabbing pain pierced her fingers and palm, she did not wince but she did drop the rose and gazed down at her hand. Her glove was torn and ruined with small droplets of blood staining it. Beatrix expression was slightly agitated, coming as close to pouting as she would ever get. She looked up at Kuja, her eyes narrowing, suspecting he had intended for this to happen.
A sigh escaped the sorcerer as he shook his head dramatically, "It has thorns, not unlike you." Kuja's tone made it seem like the most obvious thing in the world and he came forward, being careful not to step on the offending flower. He took Beatrix's bleeding hand in his, examining it before bringing his other hand up over it and healing the wounds the rose had inflicted.
Beatrix gazed down at her hand as the healing warmth did its work and, under his spell, even the cloth was mended and stain free. She looked up at the sorcerer and allowed her eyes to soften a moment, the only 'thank you' the man would ever receive. The general was still weary of the stranger, it was her duty to protect the royal family from danger and she felt that he had a lot of danger in store for everyone.
Kuja shook his head, brushing aside her own disregard of his help. He stooped down to pick up the rose as gracefully as any prince charming could have done. When he had returned himself to full height he broke part of the long stem off and tossed it to the side. Kuja then placed the rose into Beatrix's glossy blond hair, placing it so that its thorns would hold it in place but not scrape her scalp. He took a step back and appraised her like an object for sale, bringing a hand up to his chin for a moment before nodding his approval.
Kuja's deep blue eyes trailing over her skin left that feeling of being burned, again. It was all she could do not to shift under the weight of his gaze. The way he looked at her made her feel naked and exposed, something no one had ever managed to do to her. And the new found silence between them disturbed her even more, she preferred him talking endlessly so that she was not left feeling restless.
Kuja did break the silence a moment later, holding out his arm for her to take. "Shall we then?"
The breath she had been holding left her in a noticeable sigh, she didn't care if Kuja noticed it. She was more worried about the nobles noticing her but, thankfully, all eyes were on Princess Garnet. She knew very well that her soldiers had already noticed her, that had been mortifying enough for one night. How was she to keep their respect if she was going around playing at nobility? This whole thing had to be a ploy for Kuja to gain power, it was the only explanation that her mind could conceive.
The general's heart dropped down into her stomach as they approached the throne. Not only must she approach the royal family with all her shame, but Steiner too. He would no doubt revel in her fall when it came, he had resented her position for many years. Beatrix's good eye fell onto Kuja as they entered the line of nobles waiting to greet the Queen and Princess and hand over their gifts.
Never before had she hated her enemies, no she had understood that they too were only defending their country and beliefs. It was only luck of the draw that they wound up on the wrong end of her sword, but for Kuja there was a hate growing in her. She knew not where he came from or what he stood to gain and his tactics troubled her greatly. The sorcerer would be the first kill that the General would ever rejoice in. There was no gray area with him, no common ground, just simple black and white.
Her thoughts must have been almost audible because Kuja caught her gaze and lifted his chin slightly to her, challenging her. The expression she wore was equally challenging, but there was no hate in Kuja's, his only carried an annoying hint of amusement. It was plain to Beatrix that he saw her as no threat and the way he looked at her made her think that, to him, she was nothing more than a prize to be won.
Their silent exchange was interrupted by the Queen clearing her throat. Beatrix's gaze flew up to the royal family and she saluted them while the sorcerer at her side bowed. There was only a brief conversation that passed between Brahne and Kuja before they were dismissed. Those short minutes felt like an eternity to the general as she did all she could not to look directly at the scowling captain perched just to the side of the Queen. The only thing Beatrix could be truly thankful for was the fact that the Princess was too wrapped up in her conversation with a few noble women to even recognize her.
Before she could realize what was happening Kuja was leading her to the dance floor, he hadn't even asked if she knew how to dance. Beatrix knew, though, and she placed her hands in the proper position. As much as she hated dancing she would permit it for now. It was the perfect moment to speak with the arms-dealer without bringing attention to the fact. As Kuja began to lead her in the waltz she began to speak, "Whatever this game is that you are playing at, you are delusional if you don't think I see right through it." Her voice was just a whisper but the anger in it was unmistakable.
Another of those smug chuckles ushered from Kuja's throat as he bent his head so that his lips were at Beatrix's ear. "I play at nothing, dear General. Do you not already see what I am capable of?" The band's pace picked up and the pale stranger began spinning the general more quickly. "All I need to do is give a simple suggestion to your queen and she does exactly what I wish. How do you think you ended up in a dress?" Beatrix could practically hear Kuja's smug grin as he hummed a taunting 'hmm?'. "Certainly the queen does not care how her most prized warrior looks so long as she gets the job done."
Kuja's breath washing over her skin sent a disgusted quiver down Beatrix's spine. His words stung as much as they rang true to her. It was the bitter truth, he had already sunk his claws in the Queen and now he was using Beatrix herself as a mere plaything. "I will not let you have your way." With that she turned and slipped from his grasp easily, but she only managed to take two steps before she felt his hand on her wrist. Kuja's grip was firm and with only a little more pressure he could have bruised her, but before he could do that she turned back to him with narrowed eyes. The general's hand crept over to her sword, a disapproving sound at the back of Kuja's throat the only thing stopping her from drawing it.
"Now, now lady General. Her Majesty is watching." His gaze did not shift from the blond in his hand, and Kuja's expression remained as calm and friendly as ever. He did not doubt his control over the beautiful general, there was no choice for her but subservience.
This battle was lost for Beatrix, it was her duty to please the Queen, and if this was what she wanted then it would be done. The general returned to Kuja's arms with a deep breath and allowed her mind to focus on anything but the man that held her. Beatrix felt as if she was entering a waltz with evil. A dance she did not know the steps to; a song she had never heard before; in a language that was unknown to her. The only thing she could do was follow as he lead her through the motions until the end, or, until she could find a way to make him stumble.
Author's Note: This first chapter is a little short, I know, but this was originally just an idea that crept up on me during a bad night of insomnia. This story had been nagging at me for a couple weeks now. So, I am finally posting it after months of letting it sit in my computer. Hope you guys like it and the chapters to come will hopefully be much longer. Not sure where I'm taking this one yet, but it ought to be good. For those who are reading my other story, The Hymns of Fayth, I'll be posting another chapter in that once the inspiration hits.