This is turning into a picture blog. Oh well, at least they look pretty.
Bellera stood at the window, staring out into the night as she rubbed a smooth stone between her fingers. A rune-stone, protection. Her mother’s blood had run out years ago and Bellera had not kept it powered. She wasn’t sure why she kept the chunk of river-rock. Stone did not hold magic well and the rune had been carved as an emergency measure long ago, when her mother had first been captured and brought to Caynith. Why her mother had kept it, even after the fear had faded and she had made the decision to stay in Canyith, raising her baby daughter among the Warspeaker’s people, was a mystery lost to time and carried to the grave.
Bellera’s fingers traced the carvings – the same shape she had made for each of her children, that she continued to fill with her own blood. The shape that could not protect her first, her eldest, the fruit of those tender advances so long ago.
“Have you slept at all?” The sound of Thomas’s bare feet on the cold stone floor, his arm around her hips and breath at her neck. Bellera leaned into him.
“Sixteen years old and he still wakes me up in the middle of the night,” Bellera said, nodding to the window, where the gate could just be seen opening and closing as if on its own accord.
“I thought you were going to ground him to the tower this afternoon,” Thomas answered. Bellera frowned, reaching up to play with Thomas’s beard.
“I would if I thought that he would stay.” Bellera sighed, placing the rune-stone on the windowsill, her fist still resting on it. “He carries the weight of the world. Perhaps it would not weigh so heavily if it were not about to break.”
Thomas placed his hand overtop Bellera’s, squeezing slightly. “Do you wish you had not married a king? That you could have lived a long life among your father’s people?”” Thomas looked into her deep pools, Bellera reached up to stroke his face.
“I did not marry a king, I married Thomas Swiftglaive. I bound myself to him for better or worse, in living and in dying. I do not regret my decision, not for a moment.” Bellera kissed him, lingering as Thomas wrapped her in his arms.
“Your father’s people will take you?” Thomas asked.
“There is a place I know, just beyond the border. They take in battered Sylvan women, it is a place to start. Marcus knows where to take the young ones.” Bellera sighed, weaving her fingers through Thomas’s. “ZaZa is fifteen. He’s not ready for this.”
“No one is ever ready. But this is the only way I know how to stop another civil war,” Thomas answered.
“We are hanging the fate of a kingdom, the fate of our family, on the neck of a child who has always been told his gift is evil,” Bellera said.
“There is nothing more to do but pray the Triune have mercy.” Thomas pulled on Bellera’s hip, guiding her back to bed. Bellera pulled Thomas down with her, nestling into the hollow at his side.
“Ravens guide us all,” Bellera said. She stared out the window, at Eras’s face, which for the briefest of moments was shadowed by what might have been wings.
Or at least a map of the known world at the time I’m writing. Here is Myne:
And it turned out pretty! Yay! Now for the detailed one of Sylva…
It is not the home we had planned, but after they found my body with the neck snapped and bled dry, it is a happier home than we could have hoped for.
I sat on the counter, swinging my legs as Kaine prepared a meal for himself by candlelight. The children were already in bed, I could hear Fyren whispering a story to little Elswyte. Artair was likely already asleep or pretending to be, Lyn would be pretending not to listen. It was not a family by blood, but it was our family.
Regnis hid her face, the only light that came through the window was soft starlight reflected off the dark beauty of the lake. It was a night for the dead to wander, when the lines blurred and spirits could almost almost take on mass. It was our night.
“You look beautiful with the starlight shining through like that.” Kaine looked up from the stew he was stirring, smiling in that adorable puppy-dog way of his. I leapt down from the counter, spinning around to fall into his arms. He obediently raised his arms to “catch” me, and I hovered there, pretending for a moment that he could actually hold me. That I couldn’t just pass right through him.
“I love you.” I ran a hand down his scruffy beard, from his shiver I could tell he almost felt it.
“Always.” Kaine smiled back.
A pot of stew and flask of wine went into Kaine’s bag before he banked the fire and blew out the candles. I ran ahead of him down to the beach, to the canoe that was hauled above the waterline. Kaine followed, the soft crunch of gravel as he crossed the beach and stowed his bag under the canoe’s seat. Dark waves lapped at the shore, it seemed a double sky the night was so clear.
Kaine shoved the canoe out, a raspy crunch and a splash as it hit the water, as he leapt in. I found my perch in the bow, curling up as Kaine dipped his paddle into still water.
“Elswyte found an injured turtle today. She might be keeping it in your bed.” I smiled at the memory – she’d been so worried for the poor thing until I reminded her that it was safe to use her gift out here.
Kaine drew the intricately carved paddle through the water, content.
“I thought as much. Her mind is so rich it can be hard to tell what she did and what she imagined sometimes.” Another stroke and he shipped the paddle, letting us drift. Silence stretched between us, silence born of long years of companionship. I wondered, sometimes, if we would have been this blessed had I not been killed so long ago. If Kaine would have turned bitter living among the petty thoughts of petty people rather than here, in a place blessed by solitude.
“Chiara.” Kaine broke the silence, using my name like a song. I turned back toward him.
“Tell me your music,” he asked. I smiled.
“I was wishing that all nights could be like this.”
“We have become a beautiful story. I wish this was the ending.” Kaine let his hand trail in the water, sending ripples through the stars caught in its depths. He seemed distracted though. The far-away howling of Wardens drifted through the night. A familiar sound, but Kaine shivered as if he felt the touch of fate.