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They All Do It

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What her mother had told her was true; they all do it.

Who, you might ask?

Men.

She'd been young, so very young, when her mother - no more than a girl herself - had told her this as she sat combing her hair in the shade of a broad leafed date palm. Thinking the words nothing but the squawking of a bunch of discontented old carrion eaters, she'd ignored them in favor of squishing fruits already fallen from the tree into the dust.

She should have listened.

Now she sat before the open window watching fading sun turn the city's bleached stone walls into glowing amber like the baubles around her wrists and neck. Behind her the serving woman plucked and fussed with her hair, arranging its fine strands into a confection of loops and coils that would have rivaled any clutch of newly hatched asps.

The palace was fine. Her jewels were beyond compare. She was the envy of all women. And yet she was not satisfied, was not contented, for she knew what her mother said to be true; they all do it, men. When it suited them, they all lie.

In her time, her mother had been Queen, beloved by her husband and by extension, his people. By day she'd been pampered, protected, the cosseted prize of the proverbial roc's hoard draped in the finest of his adversary's tributes. By night she'd sat beside him at the table spinning tales to entertain them - the cunning, wealthy, and noble men, his adversaries of the other tribes.

In her time she had held a privilege few other women possessed; education, knowledge. Now her possessions amounted to nothing but her tales, glittering dully like the desert dust with which her daughter once played.

No, she vowed, ignoring the serving woman, as she tamed the last of her curls with oils, that would not be her lot. She was cleverer than her mother. She knew their games, these men. Clothed in their clothing, their fine costumes of indigo and gold she would smile, dance, sing. She would outwit them all. And when she was done she would leave them, these great and noble men. With a small smile slightly turning the corner of her lip, she would leave them to their baubles of amber, their children's games of dice and bones. She would leave them. She would fly.

Beyond the reaches of the world of men, she would return to her mother's nest. Clothed with nothing but feathers of her own making there would she truly smile, dance, sing. There would she warble the tale of her adventures in the worlds of men to her sisters and her daughters. And what of it if her daughters thought them nothing but the squawking of an old simurgh past their prime, these tales of hers? Some day they would venture forth as she had. Some day they would confirm it for themselves that these words are true; they all do it, men. When it suits them, they all lie.