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Liquid Numbers

MEFAs, 2009:
Second Place-Genres: Romance: Gondor or Rohan

Written for the B2MeM09 Day Six prompt:

"Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable."


She had noticed him upon the fringes of the court, occasionally acting as his father’s secretary, but most of the time in a garden or a minstrel’s loft or some other out-of-the-way nook with his nose buried in a book. An untidy, bookish young man, handsome, (though without his father’s blatant appeal) but totally unaware of it. At her request, her maid had done inquiries and come up with a name. Prince Amrothos of Dol Amroth, the ruling Prince’s third son.

“A scholar he is said to be, my lady,” Ferza had said, giggling. “But with no use for women. He is never seen with one. Though he’s never been seen with a boy either. Perhaps he makes love to his books!”

“Thank you, Ferza. That will be enough,” Akilah had said, and dismissed the maid. Her interest was further piqued when her father told her that he had mentioned her treatise on astronomy to the young Prince, who had professed himself interested.

“He did not mind that it was written by a woman?”

Her father had shrugged. “He did not seem to care in the least, but then, these Gondorrim are odd. He said his mother had been a scholar. I would not have mentioned it to one of our countrymen, Akilah. You know I wish to see you wed before I die, and these bookish ways of yours…”

“Will you show it to him?”

The Ambassador had given her a resigned look. “He said he wished to see it. It is against my inclination, but if you truly wish it, I will take him a copy.”

She had scribed a fair copy, and had given it to her father, who had passed it on to the young prince. Days passed, and she heard nothing in response, though she queried her father every time he went to a council meeting. She spent endless hours either cooped up in their quarters or in the company of the Gondorian court women, most of whom were little more intelligent than the tiny, yapping dogs some of them carried in their sleeves. The Queen was not such a woman, and she was not unsympathetic to Akilah’s plight. She gave her access to her own private garden as an escape and Akilah gratefully made frequent use of it.

Which was why she was surprised one day, when entering the garden, to hear an oud being played. And not only played, but played well, a series of makams in the Bakshir style. Following the sound, she found Prince Amrothos sitting on one of the marble benches, playing intently, bent over a fine oud in concentration, his hair falling over his face. She stood silently, watching, until he had finished. Whereupon, he looked up and without so much as a ‘good afternoon‘, said in fluent Haradric, “There you are! I was hoping this would lure you out. That binary star business-are you sure your math is correct?”

“Of course it’s correct!” Offense that her mathematic ability had been challenged warred with pleasure that someone finally wanted to talk about something more important than cosmetics or the latest scandal. “But I cannot speak to you of it,” Akilah answered primly. “We have not been properly introduced.”

"Oh, bollocks on all that!” the prince declared, to her scandalized delight. “You know who I am, I know who you are. What a total waste of time! Do you want to do the social dance or do you want to prove your numbers?”

“I can’t prove my numbers, I haven’t pen or paper with me.” Amrothos promptly fished behind him with one hand and pulled a sheaf of parchment, an inkwell and a pen up from behind the bench. He grinned meaningfully, and Akilah sighed in surrender.

“Very well, then. Get up from there.” Obligingly setting the oud carefully aside on his folded up cloak, the young prince vacated the bench, then knelt beside her as they situated the writing materials upon the hard surface. He took up the quill.

“Here is the section I was wondering about,” he said and proceeded to write the complicated formula perfectly from memory. Impressed, Akilah said, “what do you think is wrong with it?” Amrothos scribed his own formula, and she examined it for a moment.

“No, that is incorrect.” She gave him a worried look, for men did not like to be corrected, particularly by an inferior woman. But though Amrothos was frowning thoughtfully, he did not seem angry.

“I didn’t think I was, but I’m willing to see the proof.”

Encouraged, Akilah took the quill from his hand, blushing a little as their fingers touched. “You have not allowed for the attraction between the two bodies…here, let me show you.” Numbers swiftly covered the parchment, and to Akilah’s joy, the prince had no trouble comprehending her proofs.

“Well, you’re absolutely right, and I am totally wrong,” he said with a rueful smile. “I can tell you that doesn’t happen often.” He met her eyes above the veil and the realization came to them both that they were on their knees, shoulders touching, heads together. Cheeks reddening slightly, Amrothos looked down at the numbers. He’s shy, for all his bluster! Akilah realized with delight.

“You play the oud very well,” she said, feeling the heat of her own blush beneath the veil.

“I like music,” Amrothos said, in a slightly strangled tone. “It’s liquid numbers.”

“Why, so I have always thought it to be!” Akilah exclaimed in amazement. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, blushes subsiding, as each acknowledged a kindred spirit. “Do you play the music of your country as well as mine?”

“Better,” Amrothos declared, and Akilah did not think it an idle boast.

“Then bring your lute tomorrow. I would hear some of your Gondorian numbers.”

They were the scandal of the summer.


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