Love was such an ephemeral thing. It could be shared between two people or between many. It could last eternally or could die within the first months. Lust, however, could be roused at any moment by any hand.
Crown Prince Rudolf was a man who enjoyed his lusts, though he knew his loves to be few and far between. It was much easier to indulge in one than the other.
Frau Wolf’s salon was all heat and colour and ripe, throbbing pink flesh with generous bosoms and quivering thighs. It was pleasing, in a common way, the base carnality accepted by all the men who crossed the threshold.
In the dark of the night, in the chilly, fireless gloom of his chamber, it was when he found his most secret pleasures.
He left the curtains open sufficiently to allow a shaft of cloud-hazed moonlight to wander across the floor. The window was ajar. It was strange, he knew, that the chill in the air was so much more thrilling than the heady warmth of la Madame’s Salon.
The fire was long-since doused, and before he snuffed out the candle, he took a taper and touched it to the knot of opium nestled in his pipe. Nights such as these were all the better for the sweet cloud that the poppy brought.
Wreathed in the fragrant smoke, he drew deeply. He watched his reflection in the long glass, every swelling glow of the opium casting eerie shadows across his darkened face. He touched his tongue to the stem of the pipe and drew a shivering breath as he felt the touch of fingertips across his shoulders through the fabric of his nightshirt.
“Little Prince.” There was no mouth yet to speak, the wind gently rippling the curtains. “Rise, little Prince.”
“You came,” Rudolf whispered, rising from his chaise.
Unseen, icy lips swept across his throat making his breath catch. “You called upon me.” The voice seemed to echo about him, even through the very centre of his mind, neither male nor female, impossibly inhuman. “You want me.”
Rudolf was impelled to move forward, one foot, the other, until he could see his ghostly shape clearly in the mirror, haloed by moonlight. The chill light shaded his skin in shimmering blue, his breath a wisp of mist.
“I want,” he whispered, searching the shadows around his reflection. He could see naught but his chambers. The embers glowed red as the flower they came from, reflecting strangely in his eyes. The eyes of another also shone there and Rudolf smiled and turned his head.
There was nothing to be seen, yet lips touched his and claimed the misty coils of smoke. A slick tongue tasted his, and his mouth was utterly ravaged, as arms as strong as eternity closed about him. His pipe fell from his hand, smouldering and forgotten.
Rudolf uttered a sound not unheard in a whore house, as cool fingers slid along his throat. It ached to be twisted so, but were he to turn, he would be alone. This was the way it had to be done, if he was to gain all that he desired. The very fingertips pressed to his windpipe, stifling his very breath.
The probing tongue moved sensuously, thrusting lazily, and Rudolf shuddered, knowing well what that wicked mouth was capable of. His head swam wonderfully, buoyed on poppy clouds and the very flicker of his last breath.
“Kneel.” The kiss was unbroken as the words filtered into his mind.
Without thought, the Crown Prince fell to his knees. He pressed one hand to the glass of the mirror, uttering a gasp. The fingers at his throat loosened and slid beneath the collar of his nightshirt. The other arm was yet about his waist, and in the surface of mirror, he could see the shimmering jewels in ornate patterns on the near-transparent arm.
Rudolf dared a glance downwards, yet - as always - nothing could be seen. He shuddered again as a long-fingered hand teased open the buttons of his nightshirt one by one, and another hand curled slowly, dragging the heavy fabric aside, baring his flesh.
“Look to me.” It was not without tenderness, chill kisses on his naked shoulder a counterpoint to the command.
Rudolf raised his dark eyes to the glass. Mist clouded the surface around his hand in soft, dull webs, but that mattered not. All that mattered was the face gazing back at him, features glittering and translucent in the moonlight.
It was not a beautiful face, sharp and angled, human enough in shape, yet not human. It bore a shadow of a human skull, yet was finely-honed, delicate and bird-like, with black, bright eyes that glowed with eternity. Dark hair swept around its shoulders, scattered with starlight that it wore like a mantle. That he wore.
It became he when he came to these chambers on nights such as this.
Rudolf chose women in warmth and colours and brightness.
The dark, the cold, the bleakness were all for him.
“Please,” Rudolf whispered as the final button slipped loose.
His earlobe was touched by teeth, then licked delicately, as if he were a dainty. “What do you want, little Prince?” It echoed around his mind, as one hand dragged the nightshirt down his arms, all but restraining him.
“You,” Rudolf whispered. His eyes fell closed as sharp-nailed fingers whispered low, close across his belly. Every hair on his body was rising on end, and the touch brushed the very tips of the hair, making him shiver wantonly.
A hand closed about his throat again, merciless. “Look to me.”
Rudolf forced his eyes open with a cry. Black eyes were fixed upon his face, inscrutable, as bony fingers squeezed. His vision swam, blurring, and he pressed his other hand to the mirror to keep him from falling.
“Good.” The hand moved upwards, gentling, turning his head to allow his lips to be kissed by that wicked, glittering mouth.
Rudolf moaned softly into the kiss, a sound which only deepened as the other hand touched him more intimately still. Such a cool touch should have damped the flames of his ardour, but such was Rudolf’s longing that he arched greedily into the chill caress.
He did not notice when his nightshirt was cast aside, his body caught in sensation. Every part of him pricked and rose with the cold and with lust. His fingertips slipped against the glass before him, leaving shining smears on the misted surface.
A body that was both broad and narrow pressed to him, shaping against him as closely as a shadow, and he cried out in pleasure and not a little pain as he was pushed fast against the mirror’s surface. His cheek pressed and breath clouded the glass. He moaned again as hips rocked slowly against him, working deeper, each stroke merciless and demanding.
He felt fingers at his throat again, squeezing and kneading, stifling and releasing with each thrust. His head, already swimming, was a blaze of dark clouds and dazzling lights as he met each press of his lover’s cold body. The iciness burned through him, drawing tears from his eyes, and weak mewling sounds from his throat, puffing breaths of pained desire onto the dulled surface of the mirror.
Despite the bitter chill and the whisper of the wind about the chamber, heat was surging within him, rising to an unbearable degree as he writhed and shivered against the mirror. He gave a great, strangled cry as pleasure came with scorching force and collapsed against the glass, his mind awhirl.
He slid down the damp surface, unsupported now, and alone, and crumpled onto the carpet and polished wooden floor.
Somewhere close to, he could see the faint glow of his pipe.
He reached a trembling to it, bringing it to aching lips, and drew a last coil of smoke from the dying ember.
A hand brushed his side, and lips touched his ear.
“Good night, sweet Prince.”
The voice that spoke sounded so like his own, but not.
He dropped the pipe and shuddered again, every inch of his body aching and chilled and utterly, utterly spent.
The wind lifted the curtains in crude swells, and the moon’s light was obscured, as the Crown Prince lay alone in the dark, his clouded mind already drifting in hopes of the next such visit of his dearest friend.