Jourd’Umbra, 25th Decima
Lyra paced anxiously in her room, rocking her newborn son, willing him a calm she herself did not feel.
She had not felt calm since the siege broke and her home had been destroyed, the people she loved all killed.
All but two.
She thanked whatever Goddess was responsible for sparing her life, the life of her son, and her attendant, Desdemona, while she cursed the bad luck that had taken her beloved Saul from her.
So many dead. All for the spurned affections of the Empress! It was excessive. Heartbreak was suffered by people every day without turning them homicidal. What gave Zanny the right to kill a man simply because he did not wish to share her bed? What had happened to the sacred laws of Desirelle, the rules of consent?
She felt a wetness on her face and hastily she wiped her tears away. As if called by her lady’s sadness, Desdemona entered the room and took Basi from her arms. Lyra looked at her with gratitude.
Desdemona was an older woman, though her face still held youth. Her dark curls reached her shoulders, and the golden tone of her skin was unlike any Lyra had seen before. She did not know Desdemona’s past; the woman had appeared in Nucalif a few years before, a former resident healer of Aeril. She had applied for a job within the Keep, and Lyra had taken an instant liking to her. She hired her as an attendant. It remained the best choice she’d ever made.
It was Desdemona who had sensed the fall of the Keep and their immediate danger. Somehow the woman’s preternatural senses had alerted her before the danger had even occurred, and It was Because of her, Lyra and her son were safe.
Saul would have been, too, had he not been so foolish. She’d begged her love to escape with them to the beach and the lesser dangers of the North Sea, but he had refused.
They’re here for me. If I stay I can give you a chance to escape.
Escape is not worth it if I cannot have you by my side.
He’d smiled sadly, and kissed her one last time.
She’d known he was dead when she stood on the beach, facing Bellica Yarrow. Saul’s blood still dripped off the blade. Spotting a sword in the hands of a fallen soldier, she’d picked up the weapon. It was heavy, and with Basi in her other arm she could only hold it up so high.
She stood in defiance of the one sent to take her life away.
Bellica Yarrow had merely smiled, shrugged, and walked away.
Not daring to believe what had just happened, she quickly ran to the end of the dock, where Desdemona had readied the boat. Quickly they made their escape, taking turns rowing north.
They’d arrived within the boundaries of Nighttide a few days later. The Sisterhood of Night, ruling priestesshood of the archipelago, had granted them asylum. The Divinitary herself, Syrana, had even invited them to stay within her apartments, a large building on the highest point of the islands, rocky crags jutting out of the ocean like teeth or bones.
Lyra was given to understand from the other priestesses that such an invitation was never given; there were other places for refugees, on lower islands. Whatever Syrana’s reason for offering the Lady Timor such luxury, Lyra was grateful. It was still but a small comfort in face of the destruction of her life.
Nighttide was not home, however, and every day Lyra missed Nucalif more. She supposed it was likely no longer its own province, no doubt annexed by Athering by now. Her face hardened in anger. Historically, Nucalif was her family’s seat of power. She’d been born in the Keep, spent her childhood running underfoot there and in the town proper. Her first skinned knee, first broken bone, first formal peplos, first blood, first love…all had happened in her hometown. Nucalif was as much a part of her as she was a part of it.
To think of it in the hands of Athering’s current ruler…Lyra’s blood seethed.
She wanted revenge. To avenge not only the death of her love, of dear sweet Saul, but to avenge her people. Her town. Her home.
“As long as I stay here, I remain powerless,” she whispered to herself, looking out the window at the storm-tossed sea.
Lyra had almost forgotten Desdemona was there, so lost was she in her emotions. She turned and looked at her infant son of the Timor line in Desdemona’s arms. Half of her soul screamed for return to the continent to take back what was rightfully hers, or die trying. The other half urged her to stay, to keep Basi safe, and wait for a more peaceful time in Athering –under a new Empress, one willing to repair the havoc wrought by the current one.
That would happen only if Bellica Yarrow called challenge on her sister. The warrior didn’t seem the patriotic type. But perhaps there is some soul lurking beneath her brutal exterior, Lyra thought. She did let us go.
“What do you think about Bellica Yarrow?” she asked Desdemona abruptly.
Desdemona hesitated before answering, looking at the baby she rocked in her arms. “I think there is more to her than any of us realise,” she said at length.
Lyra nodded, saying nothing more. She didn’t need to. Desdemona had given her the answer she already knew.
Yarrow was the key. The key to restoring order in Athering — but she would need help.
The question was, what in Tyvian could Lyra do about it?