I see you adorned in spots of blood like fallen rose petals. I see you victorious and bathed in light, I see you.
Consumed as she was with the scene in the arena, Caiatl forgot the chiddik in her hands as her young body imitated the action playing out before her eyes. The living accessory screamed, then leapt to the flagstones. Boneless or not, it resented having its neck wrenched.
"Gentle, small one," her father chided through a haze of wine. "Your chiddik was bred for a thousand generations to complement your tunic. Pick it up."
"Must I? It is always in the way."
"A princess must serve her purpose as much as any other beast. Once you outgrow this tunic, you may do anything you like with the chiddik. Eat it, perhaps. They are scrumptious boiled in wine with bitter herbs. But for now—"
"Yes, Father," she hastily recited, but already, her eyes wandered back to the red sand below. Ghaul lifted the slack-jawed head—torn, not cut, from his rival's body—toward the Imperial box. Every sinew in the warrior's flesh trembled with passion and triumph.
"Your prowess pleases us, gladiator." Calus rose. "You will join us this evening for repast."
In that moment, Caiatl realized that Ghaul would not wear an absurd chiddik to dinner. He had no use for a fragile accessory whose musk and chirping and scintillating tails boasted his position. He had never needed to learn the subtle gesticulations to summon a servant who would wick away the creature's urine without drawing attention. His hands had learned to direct blades, not cloacists.
She retrieved the trembling animal with hateful hands. For a moment, she clasped down on its maw. It writhed in wide-eyed panic, struggling for breath, but she quickly released. The beast bore no sin for its place in the world; no more than she assumed fault for hers.
But unlike a chiddik, she could create new purpose for herself.