Alisha watches her future husband through a gap in the curtains. “What a brute”, she whispers. His muscles coil like knots, his face locked in a permanent snarl. “He is the one, my sparrow”, says Nanna Tersia gently.
[He radiates an animal grace that’s irresistible. No wonder the clans follow him, birds drawn to the sun.]
Her parents offer salt and bread, as is the custom. Her suitor gulps and chews. Alisha, in the shadows, watches with sickened fascination.
[He shares their offerings, honouring their house. Alisha watches, enthralled, entranced, enchanted.]
“It was a miraculous thing, child, to negotiate this. Our people could not hope for a better union.” Alisha agrees, understanding the politics completely. If only she was braver. She reaches for the vial.
“This is serious magic”, Mama Tersia warns her. “You will both be undone. Do you understand?” But the thought of his monstrous arms embracing her, his foul breath on hers, his bulk on her small body, shakes her to the bone. She’s not strong enough.
She lets a drop of the potion fall into each goblet, sealing their fates.
[She thinks of the clans united, the dream of a golden age. She imagines touching, caressing, loving him. Being his.]
She emerges, carrying the wine. “This her?” His cold eyes judge her, dismissive. “Let’s hope you bear sons.”
[Their eyes meet and lock, finding each other for the first time, completing and consuming one another in a burning moment of realisation.]
He raises the tainted wine. They drink. The love potion takes effect, and they are both unmade, [remade, for each other, in all the past and all the future, for ever after. ]