She’d snarled at Caelum to leave her alone in her quarters after their visit to the hospitalis, and a good thing for his own health he had. If she couldn’t spar and had to show up in town that evening, she’d spend the afternoon sulking, she decided.
Soon her sulk turned into a doze upon her bed, and soon after that, a full nap.
She awoke to a banging on her door. Groggily she got up, still in the grips of her dream, and opened the door to stare blearily at her major. He looked down at her, slightly exasperated.
“If you sleep the night away we’ll never make it to the Cauldron.”
“Nghh,” she managed to articulate, and left the door open as she went to her bathroom. He went on talking. She ignored him as she placed her hands on the counter and stared at her reflection the mirror.
Nucalif had aged her. She no longer looked her twenty-nine years―new stress lines around her eyes and mouth made her look more like a woman of forty. New scars, too. The scar on her shoulder from Seigneur Timor during that fateful sword fight in the keep, witnessed by none save herself and Jules, and a scar on her face where a townsperson armed with a rake had gotten in a lucky hit. It had narrowly missed her eye, and now the jagged line ran from her forehead down her cheek to her jawline.
Looking at the frizzy, flyaway hair that had escaped the tight braid she kept it in, she thought she saw some gray among the deep, dark red. She hoped she’d imagined it.
Caelum had fallen silent and was staring at her. She glanced at him briefly, asking him what he was looking at without words.
“You had the dream again,” he stated.
She sighed and started to unbutton her jacket. “What if I did?” she asked, tossing the garment to the floor.
“Yarrow, when are you going to talk to a priestess about this?” His face was earnest, as it always was, as he came to the door of her washroom and looked at her, his gaze burning a hole in her side.
She shucked off the rest of her clothing and turned on the taps in her shower. “It’s just a crazy dream, Caelum. I’d be wasting her time,” she said, and stepped into the shower.
She heard his sigh of frustration and knew he walked back into her room to sit and wait at her desk or on her bed while she washed the sleepsweat from her body.
What would she tell the priestess anyway? “Hi, I’m a bellica and I keep on having a dream about a Goddess.” Yeah, you and the rest of the population. Who doesn’t dream, or at least think, on Them? You’re no different.
The dream never told her anything anyway. It was always the same: she and her sister, as young girls. They stood facing each other, and then she watched a great darkness loom up behind Zardria and swallow her. Yarrow turned her face away from the sight, and saw behind her a Goddess―Kore, she thought, but she couldn’t be sure.
That was it. No more; nothing else to explain it. Kore said nothing, and the darkness that had swallowed Yarrow’s twin was shapeless, nameless.
If Yarrow were to guess what it meant, she’d say it meant the Goddesses laughed at her plight. They have a wicked sense of humour, after all. Must be funny enough to Them that Zardria and I haven’t exchanged any words save those of hate for over two decades. That she wishes me dead while I―foolish as I am and always have been―while I still love her with all the sororial piety that I should. Sure. What Goddess wouldn’t laugh at such a situation of a mortal?
Her shower over, she was not in a better mood at all. She wrapped a towel around her body and walked back into her room, where, sure enough, Caelum sat on her bed, leaning his tall frame against the wall, eyes closed. One lid flipped open as she walked in and he regarded her in a cyclopean manner as she searched through her closet for another set of dress grays.
“When was the last time you brushed your hair?” he asked abruptly as she tossed the clothing and fresh underwear on the bed beside him.
Startled, she stopped to think. “Don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “Can’t say it’s been on my mind lately.”
He sighed affectionately and stood up, heading to her washroom. “Yarrow, if you’re not going to take care of that obscenely long hair of yours, you should cut it.”
She looked over her shoulder, seeing where the end of her braid hit the backs of her knees. “What’s wrong with it?”
He emerged, holding her little-used hair brush. “It looks unkempt,” he said flatly, staring at her as if he couldn’t believe she could be so oblivious.
She was, usually, but also she just liked to annoy him. “Fine,” she said, rolling her eyes as she grabbed her clothes and started to get dressed. “Find a knife and cut it―around the small of my back.”
“Why don’t I just chop it all off?” he muttered, pulling his boot knife out.
“Because my spouse hasn’t died,” she said simply, pulling on her shirt. “Quickly now; I want to go get drunk.”
She heard him snort, and then felt his hands gently holding her hair. She heard the knife cut through the strands, and then heard the bottom half of the braid fall to the floor. She hadn’t cut her hair in over ten years, and it was as if a piece of her had fallen with the braid. For a brief moment, she felt bereft. Then all thought was pushed out of her head and all she could feel was Caelum’s hands as he undid the rest of the braid and gently brushed her hair, working out the kinks and tangles with skill and patience.
She closed her eyes and savoured it, a small tenderness she allowed only from him. Though she’d never say it out loud.