But if I know you, I know what you’ll do.
You’ll love me at once.
The way you did once upon a dream.
The syrup is thick and sweet as it slides down this throat. Mystogan falls back against his pillows and closes his eyes. He wants the dreams. He needs them. He only ever sees her in the fog of unconsciousness. Her scarlet hair falls against his neck and holds him tight as a rope. Her armor is hard but her body soft. She smiles and he feels it against his skin sharp enough to draw blood. Maybe she draws blood. He doesn’t know.
His dreams are always dark and swirling. She appears from the chaos and slides against him in the most familiar way. He knows her but she is also a total stranger. Her kisses are poisonous. Toxic. But he craves them through all his waking hours.
She tells him she loves him. He loves her, too.
She is everything smooth and harsh and sweet and deadly. Her black fingernails leave scores on his chest that remain even when wakes.
Mystogan doesn’t handle his days well. The kingdom is a dusty pile of rubble that even the creeping ivy won’t touch. Everything is too much. Lies and betrayals and eager blades lurk in every shadow – and the shadows are many. Not even his personal chambers are free of them.
Along with the sun comes the coffee and tonics that keep him awake enough to sweep the dust around. The moon brings the teas and syrups. He loves them best. They are made especially for him and he knows they’re too sweet. He knows. But he doesn’t care. He’s reached the edge of it all. Every night the winds of scarlet threaten to take him. The only reason he hasn’t let go and allow the thorns to tear him apart is so he can see her again. It is a slow torture.
Her fingers find him first and they feel red. She glides over his skin and slices him open with her smile. The poison is sharp and he feels his heart welcome it inside with every pump. Everything is green and gold and crimson and black.
“I know you,” Mystogan whispers.
“Visions are seldom all they seem, Prince.”
“I’ve walked with you –”
“Once upon a dream.”
The sheets are sticky with blood. His blood. It is both warm and cold. She’s cut him deep in the places that matter and shallow in the places that don’t. His heart works against him.
His final breath is a whisper. “I know you.”