The early morning breeze ripped between the two sides of the river bank. Palace guards in the imperial uniform dotted one side while the tribal representatives from the north on stout horses covered the other side. The emperor was present in his royal robes of black and gold. The rich embroidery in his clothes and the precious stones and gold inlaid in his crown spoke of his mighty power and wealth.
The prince of the tribes was also present, wearing a long sleeveless cloak with fur cuffs, leather boots, and no crown but instead a sapphire blue tassel with the feather of the great eagle hung from his short hair.
Between the two sides stood a young woman. Ink black hair softly fluttered in the morning breeze. Dressed in a royal white robe, she was glowing as bright as the moon over a cloudless night. Her porcelain face looked up at the emperor, eyes the color of the rich earth, slowly, she raised her arms and folded them in front of her, the start of a ceremonial bow. Her small hands peeked out from under her thick robe. Like an autumn leaf drifting toward the ground, she drifted down. Gracefully, she bent forward, almost touching the ground with her forehead.
Rising, she finished her bow. The princess of the grand nation, born to serve the emperor and the people. A tribute now to the barbaric tribal nation as a promise of peace. She had never been fond of the palace, a pretty cage trapping pretty birds into a bloody arena where power meant life. The emperor’s eyes were cold, for he must lead the nation into peace and tranquility through power. Sacrifices must be made for the benefit of all. Now she was leaving all that she knew to the plains of the north.
“I am grateful for your majesty’s grace.”
The princess raised her eyes once again to look upon the emperor’s face one last time. His eyes flickered for the briefest moment. And just like that, it was now time to leave. The princess stepped into the colorful carriage of the tribe and sat down. The prince signaled the people and the long march to the plains began…
The palanquin lurches and tilts as if to draw me a picture of the rocky terrain,
A thousand steps, a million years, how long have we been traveling?
We lurch to a stop,
I presume we must have arrived to the camp of the nomads.
Animals everywhere and the strong smell of dung,
I am led to a big tent,
inside, colorful tassels hang from the poles that support the tent,
heavily embroidered rugs cover the floor and walls,
I give my formal bows to the father and mother of my to-be-husband, the prince,
Outside I hear excitement as they prepare the wedding.
The princess has not spoken a word since her trip back to my homeland.
As the prince and husband-to-be,
I am not allowed to speak a word to her until the official marriage ceremonies end.
She steps out of the palanquin lightly and looks about to faint,
she is lead to the tent of my parents,
I wish to offer her some comfort.
I am given clothes that are not mine to wear,
my hair is fixed in their fashion.
looking at my reflection,
I do not recognize this girl,
she is not crying,
Tributes do not have feelings.
I am dressed in the ceremonial garb,
I cannot sit still.
I do not know what feeling this is but never have I been so unsteady.
As soon as I step outside, the ceremonies will begin and I will be wed to the princess,
a girl that I just met today.
For the sake of peace and the well-being of my people, I am willing,
Yet, I still feel uncertain.
It is time,
It is time,
I am slowly led to the prince,
Step by step on the path of flowers toward the prince.
The princess walks slowly toward me,
bangles on her wrists and ankles, our ceremonial tradition,
the bangles clang at each step she takes.
Now, I can see him clearly, lean, tall, and muscular with startling…yellow eyes!
She is beautiful but small and pale, big round eyes looking at me, startled at my eyes,
He does not look quite as scary like the rumors but his yellow eyes glint in the sun,
I cannot say, for he is a warrior and that strength makes me feel uncertain,
even emperors are not strong in front of great power and greed.
There have been rumors about other tribute girls,
I want to believe that they were just rumors, nothing more.
I drop onto one knee as she draws closer as is our custom, an act showing her that I
accept her as my wife and will take care of her.
He is beginning to kneel and my heart starts to skip beats for now I realize that I am not
dreaming and the rest of my life will be with him.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a gray figure,
I have heard that they keep wolves as dogs but this is my first time seeing one.
Its yellow-almond eyes steadily glare at me,
every step the wolf takes is breathtaking,
like flowing water, it is graceful.
Now the prince is only a few steps away.
She is nervous, I see her eyes trembling.
Funny, we are both so nervous, I wonder if this is really the right thing or if I should le her
Her eyes dart around and stop at the sight of one of the wolves,
she looks fascinated, I look at the ground.
My hands are cold,
I remember the wolf, it’s still there,
Really, your fur is mess mr. wolf!
Hah, it seems to say,
the wolf looks so free and strong,
I wish to be like that also,
I do not like my weak self.
My hand is given to the prince,
as sudden it is, his hands are warm and strong.
Her hands are given to me and I am surprised that they are ice cold and so small,
her eyes, the color of wet earth, I hope to see her smile.
I cannot look up at him,
so instead I keep looking at the wolf,
I ask silently for the wolf’s strength,
The ceremonies are over with both of us taking a drink from the wooden bowl and he
leads me to his tent.
I am trembling,
I try to stop before he notices but my hands don’t stop shaking.
She is definitely scared, probably of me, her hands are even colder now and shaking,
I suppose I am scared too, really, this is our first night together.
This is our first night together,
He stops and turns to look at me,
I look away, trembling, I know he is hurt at my reaction but it is hard not to be like this.
I do not want to force her to love me, yet I see that she is scared at my every action,
Perhaps, she sees my yellow eyes as a curse too,
I remember now, what I was going to do.
He tells me to sit down, then walks out,
The walls of the tent are decorated with various furs, like the one I am sitting on.
A great bow hangs by the entrance of this circular tent,
next to it stands a barbaric spear, I suppose he uses them to hunt and protect his people,
I am still trembling, Stop, stop!
Footsteps…he must be back,
This time I do look at him, eyebrows furrowed, he looks, perhaps nervous?
He kneels before me and looks at me, I do not know what to do!
For a while nothing happens,
he tells me to close my eyes, so I do and now even my lips tremble.
Her eyes flutter close and I cannot help but stare, she is trembling even more now,
Her face has no color,
Can a person die from nervousness or fear? I wonder…
I stop my hand just in time from touching her face and instead drop into her hands my
Suddenly, something warm and furry drops into my hands,
I open my eyes to look into sleepy yellow-almond eyes,
I cannot close my mouth, It snuggles into my hand.
I look up at him, it’s just like him, yellow-almond eyes.
He looks away and scratches his head.
She is surprised to see a wolf pup,
She looks up at me and smiles, I do not know what to do, all I know is that my heart is
Now it’s time so I quickly point at her then to the bed, tonight, I won’t be next to her.
He lays down on the hard floor and closes his eyes,
so I climb the bed with the pup and stare down at him.
Strong eyebrows with long slit almond eyes,
his hair is short and looks like a hawk’s feather.
Looking at him now, he is huge, yet he has been gentle to me,
his hands are big and rough, many cuts from hard work I suppose,
my fingers are skinny and pale, fingers that have only known palace walls.
Perhaps, over time my hands can become stronger like his and his injured hands may heal,
The wolf pup has fallen asleep.
I look back at him on the ground, poor soul, it must be cold, his fist is clenched,
I take one of the thick fur blankets and carefully tip toe over to put it on him,
But, I forgot, I am a clumsy person, so I naturally trip on thin air and fall next to him.
As I try desperately to sleep, I hear her getting up,
She is walking towards me, and then she trips,
She trips so fast, I open my eyes and she has already fallen,
I look to see what she has tripped on, but there is nothing.
His long slit yellow eyes open and stare at me,
What should I do!?
Only a tiny gasp escapes my mouth,
I see that she is startled like a hare in the shadow of an eagle,
“Do you need something?”
It is the first time he has spoken to me.
No I don’t need anything, I’m just clumsy,
“No, thank you for your concern. Ah, I just wanted to ask, if you like to take a walk with me?”
Of all the things I could have said, that is the first thing that comes out of my mouth.
She wants to take a walk at this late hour, with me.
I can’t help but laugh, she is a bit interesting.
He laughs. I suppose that’s a yes.
We walk out into the cold, dark night.
He walks next to me, not too close but near.
Besides the cluster of tents, there is nothing,
the plains are stretching far away into the darkness,
I look up and the stars glinting like jewels in the ink black sky, the stars are falling,
falling down on us.
We walk out into the cold night and she gazes intently up into the night sky,
I know, even though I have seen these stars every night, I still gasp at their grand beauty.
It is so dark that I cannot see the mountains to the east,
It feels like we are the only two alive right now.
We talk as we walk, she looks at me while we talk,
she seems to have gotten much more comfortable, her voice is getting brighter,
she tells me about the jasmine flowers back home that bloom with a fragrance that is
none like any other,
I tell her about the recent drought that has affected all of us,
She agrees that times are hard for all.
Her voice makes my heart calm down and I almost feel that I can let myself relax in front
of her, for she has not once avoided my eyes while we talked.
Even my people have shunned me for a long time because of the color of my eyes,
even now, they are scared continually even though I prove myself to them.
I notice, he evades my eyes quite frequently,
“Your eyes, they are yellow, it’s fascinating.”
I stare at her. Was she not afraid of my eyes? Isn’t that why at the ceremonies…
“Were you not afraid of my eyes?”
I quickly muffle a laugh. How can his beautiful eyes be scary?
“…no, I was afraid because I did not know you yet. I am getting to know you now,
and so far, I am looking forward to being with you.”
So she was not afraid of my eyes.
I look straight at him. Like that wolf. Steady and thoughtful.
“When I first looked into your eyes, they were so beautiful that I was surprised. My
eyes are just a plain dark brown but yours are like the stars in the sky, glinting.”
We talk some more. She is the daughter of a concubine, so am I.
While I grew up as a yellow eyed monster, she grew up worthless since she was not a son,
the very reason she was chosen to be sent here as a tribute.
She tells me that all the excitement and nervousness from the day is now letting out.
The starlight shines down on her eyes making them sparkle like sapphires.
I’m glad that she’s my partner in life.
I don’t love her yet, at least much, but she looks straight at me whether I have yellow
eyes or not.
I do not know all of him yet, but I feel it will be worth it to get to know him little by little.
He is gentle and strong, I am glad, he is my husband.
“I wish I had something to give you.”
“I’m fine. You should be tired too after the long day, let’s head back. It’s getting
much colder now.”
I do not own anything of value. But I hope I can give him myself, two people sharing a moment in the ever flowing current of time.
“Teach me how to ride your horses, teach me how to hunt.”
She wants me to teach her to ride horses and to hunt.
She smiles and starts to walk back to camp and trips on thin air.
I do not know how she does it. It is almost a miracle.
There is nothing to trip on. She yelps, it is already swelling, the ankle is sprained.
She cannot walk with this.
Then I take a look and then I realize that she is as cold as ice.
So I kneel in front of her and tell her to get on my back. It is still a long walk back.
He tells me he will carry me back on his back.
I am quite comfortable around him now, but I am a bit hesitant.
But what else can I do? I am a clumsy girl and I already have a bruise
on my arm from tripping in the tent.
So I get on his strong back and as his footsteps walk on, my head drifts into sleep from the
When has anyone ever carried me on their back? The daughter of a concubine is
unless she is a marriage tribute. But here he is.
I set her gently on the bed and return to my place on the floor. I’ll wait.
He lays down on the cold hard floor again. I am being too mean. Even the wolf has its own den.
“It’s too cold. If you promise not to do anything and just sleep, then come
up here. I’m afraid you’ll wake up with a twisted mouth if you sleep on the floor.”
He silently lies down next to me and shuts his eyes. I do not sleep until I am sure he is
sleeping. It has been a long day.
She has fallen asleep now. So I get up. It is an even greater torture to be next to her this
close. Tonight, I will sleep on the floor.
I briefly glance at her before I close my eyes and almost burst out loud laughing,
Her hair is tangled by the evening winds and her clothes are dirty with dirt and sand from
She doesn’t seem to mind at all,
It’s been a long day…
The wolf that I saw on my marriage day is now even more fluffy with its winter coat,
I frequently brush its fur as well as the fur of my own wolf cub,
It is looking very handsome,
It seems to know this and flaunts its fur while I struggle to tame my mane whenever the
Time has passed since our marriage. It was fall when I came and now it is nearing the end
He has taught me to ride horses and to shoot arrows,
I have gotten quite good, I am able to catch rabbits for dinner,
I have even earned the blue tassel with the eagle’s feather, just like him
Time has passed quickly,
The princess, is very quick to learn when I teach her,
She is now quite skilled on the horse and shoots accurately,
She even earned the blue tassel for saving one of the little boys of the clan from the river,
She seems to have an inner strength, and I admire that very much,
He always keeps his promise and respects my wishes. He is a man.
Every night, I watch her sleep and then close my eyes. She has become my best friend and
wife. But tonight, she just stares back.
“Look away, your eyes are not good for my heart.”
But she doesn’t. Instead she smiles.
So I lightly touch her hair and brush it out of her face.
“Turn away if you don’t want.”
His handsome face comes closer to my face but I don’t move away. His sweet kiss melts
the night’s snow away.
“You know, I must be honest.
You are not like the sun, gallant and aggressive.
But you are the sound of night when the stars fill the sky,
my moonlight that shines so I won’t trip,
I rest in your silent embrace.”