Jourd’Althea, 24th Primera
Over. Officially over.
That was all she could think. Negotiations were officially over, and so it was time to celebrate.
She was not entirely happy with the results — but then again, could see no way she would be entirely happy with the results so long as they involved actually doing most of what the Empress wanted her to do. Damn Anita anyway. Yarrow didn’t want to see Molly and Jester put to death so young — and to have them choose it! Bellona. What bravery!
Well, she hoped it would not come to pass. Yarrow swore she would do her damnedest to break them out of prison when the time came. However in Tyvian I’ll manage that.
For now she had to pretend. Pretend loyalty to the Empress, that things were going to plan — basically what she had been pretending for years now. Except now there was a conscious decision to rebel on her part, to help the rebellion in Aeril while making it look like she was subduing it.
That’s why, when the decision as to who would go to Atherton as the captured rebel leaders had been finalised, they had staged a hostile takeover of the hacienda — the town was ‘theirs’ after a brief ‘struggle’. Tomorrow Selene would come forward as one ‘loyal to the Empress’ and Yarrow would give her the post of ruling the province in the absence of nobility. As soon as the regiments returned Zardria would choose someone else to take over Aeril, but hopefully by the time all the arrangements were made it would no longer matter. Until that time Yarrow was going to leave Selene with a unit from each regiment with her — the first and second having special, classified, different orders from the third. First priority: protect Selene and the province. Second priority: deal with any insurrection from the third regiment’s unit. Quietly.
Molly and Jester sat in cages now, though they were quite comfy, Yarrow had made sure. Now the bellica was getting drunk at the tavern — she’d set Lt. James to guard the rebel leaders, for she’d seen how he’d looked at the young Jester.
Bellica Yarrow, playing matchmaker, she thought sardonically. Fairly an ironic situation. Seeing as I can’t get the one I want. She watched Caelum make his way from the bar to his seat in the corner of the tavern, drink in hand.
They had come to some sort of terms with each other, back in Mudflat. Such a day, the day she and he had discussed treason, rebellion, spies, and trust. The day she had declared her decision to rebel against her sister and aunt — against the whole reiaume, really.
She still didn’t know what had possessed her to make such a decision, or when she’d even made it in the first place. She was happy being the first bellica, Goddessdammit! At least she thought she was. It was a good enough job: follow orders, kill people in an honourable fashion, serve Queen and country.
Except there was no more Queen. Her aunt and sister had taken the Sceptre, traditional symbol of sovereignty in Athering, and turned it into a jewelled beat-stick.
That was wrong. She knew it was. On some level, Yarrow hated the injustice and needed to see it stopped. And I’m the only one who can do this. Others may have the choice to rebel, she thought, thinking of Anala and Molly. But I am the only one who can hold the Sceptre once the rebellion succeeds.
Theoretically she could just sit back and let the others do the work, only stepping in once the dust settled, At heart, Yarrow couldn’t stand to do that.
Not because it wouldn’t be right. Because it wouldn’t be fun.
In a gotterdammerung, all the fun was in the fighting. For sure, she did not look forward to ruling part. But the battle leading up to that? The revenge for her mother’s death? Oh, yes, that she wanted. Very badly.
It was confirmed, finally. The suspicions she’d held so long, that Zanny and Zardria were, at root, responsible for her mother’s death, had been confirmed four days ago with Aro’s revelation. As far as she was concerned, that was all the proof she needed. And all the incentive she wanted to kill the other two women.
I’ve spent too long wallowing in self-pity and despair, flailing in helplessness. Too long trying to love Zardria. There is nothing left to love — there has not been for years.
So. Rebellion it was, then — and sure death for her sister and aunt.
In truth, she had no plan. Yarrow had lived much of her life that way. Intricate plans only fell apart; so she simply set a goal and however she reached that goal was good enough in her eyes.
With some stipulations, however. She would not, under any circumstances, use poison. Besides the legal gray area it rested in, it was a cheater and a coward’s way out — not to mention it took all the fun out of victory.
This was why she’d been so mad at Caelum — and he knew it, too. Had known it. She’d yelled at him still again. He needed it. “How am I supposed to enjoy my job when you bollix it up for me, Caelum? You took the fun right out of the East Campaign!”
He’d said nothing. Just sat there and took it, the best course of action if he wanted to survive her rant fest. “I mean, feck, man. If you keep on trying to save my life like that I shall be forced to kill you.”
He smiled at that. “Usually when you threaten to kill me, it’s the signal we’re friends again,” he pointed out.
“And why would that change?” she pulled him out of his chair and embraced him. “You’re an idiot.”
Yes, friends again. No forgiveness. No forgetting. It was impossible to do. But not impossible — at least, not for Yarrow and Caelum — to go back to friendship.
And lovers? She shook her head. Never mind what that meddling healer has to say. Cae is Cae and though I may love him, there is no indication that he…. her thoughts trailed off as she watched him again, and noticed how he looked over at her from time to time. She thought about numerous exchanges between them, over the past five years. Thought critically about the way he related to her. And realised who the real idiot was.
“Feck it,” she sighed. You only live once, if the Paxiemortiennes have the right of it — let it not be said that Bellica Yarrow ever was a coward.
With a predatory grace she rose from her seat and began to stalk her quarry.
It was not difficult. He’d not moved from his seat by Major Aro for most of the night — the friendship of the two men had seemed to blossom since the start of this crazy trip, for which Yarrow had been very grateful. But not at the moment.
“Major Aro, you’ve had Caelum all night — mind if I steal him?” she said, coming up behind Caelum and putting her arms around his neck.
Aro inclined his head to her gracefully. “Not at all. He’s yours first, Bellica,” he said, and Yarrow could hear the double entendre he gave his words.
Juno — the healer was right. Cae and I must be incredibly obvious.
“Good,” was all she said, however, as she left, gesturing imperiously for Caelum to follow her.
He got up quickly from the bench and nearly ran after her as she looked for an appropriately shady corner. Unfortunately, the tavern was too new and too well-lit to be as abundant with said necessary shady corners as a tavern should be.
Growling with frustration, she grabbed Caelum by his shirt and headed upstairs. If this worked, they’d end up in a bedroom anyway.
At the landing she stopped and pushed him up against a wall with her hands and body. And stopped, suddenly unsure.
“Are you mad at me again?” Caelum asked, trepidation written all over him.
“What? No,” she said, and stopped again.
Desirelle, Yarrow, you’ve done this a thousand times! She stopped and counted silently. Ok, a few less than that. But still! The idea of you being nervous….
Caelum still looked worried. “What’s going on, Yarrow?”
“I. Um. Well,” she said, stalling.
“Are you upset I haven’t been filing my reports? I’ve been meaning to, but, well, what with one thing and another — leave, our fight, the trip to Mudflat and Harbourtown, being deployed again — I’ve just not had a chance. I’ll get on it as soon as we get back to Atherton, I swear on — ”
She cut him off with a hand on his mouth. “Just. Stop talking,” she said, and then pressed her lips to his.
There was something to be said for experienced lovers. Both she and Caelum had had their share. It definitely pays off. She explored his mouth with her tongue and moaned in delight when he returned the favour. Two good kissers meant heavens on earth before they even fell into bed together.
The heavens — however long it had been — faded when Caelum pulled away from her.
Tenderly he brushed stray tendrils of hair away from her face. “Yarrow — as nice — no, wonderful — as wonderful as this is, I need to know if this is you or the ale kissing me.”
While part of her was glad to know he respected her enough to need to know, the other part of her wanted to slap him silly for even having to ask in the first place.
“Let’s just say that the ale has enabled Yarrow to do what she wanted to do, and has wanted to do for a while — sober or otherwise.”
The little bit of light in the darkened hallway glinted off his teeth as he smiled slowly. “So…you do want to be with me.”
“Yes, Cae. For years now.”
“You haven’t called me ‘Cae’ for a while.”
She snorted. “You haven’t deserved it. Now shut up and kiss me.”
He crushed her lips to his and she melted, folding her body against his more completely, and he flipped them so that now she was pressed against the wall. She smiled against his mouth at the dominant move. His hands made their way down to her hips as hers found their way to his chest, and soon they were working on removing each others’ clothes, forgetting they still stood in the hallway.
Suddenly realising this important fact, she broke off long enough to ask “Bedroom?” he nodded breathlessly and followed her as she made her way to the first door she saw. She opened it as Caelum pressed up against her from behind and they both stumbled in, giggling madly.
“Can we help you?” came a male voice from one of the beds, and Yarrow turned to see Jules and Lares. Together.
“Oh. Whoops. Sorry,” she said, and, still giggling, she and Caelum left the room, taking great care to shut the door soundly. “My room, I guess,” she said, and they made their way to the next door in the hallway.
Anala was not in the first and second bellicas’ shared room, so before the door was even all the way closed buttons were being undone and clothes were flying in bellica’s and major’s haste to get the other undressed. The second Caelum was naked and Yarrow almost there, she pushed him backwards onto the bed, kicked off her pants, and straddled him possessively.
He laughed softly as she gently bit his neck and shoulders. “I love when you take charge.”
She flipped her braid over her shoulder and looked at him wryly. “So — all the time?”
“Pretty much,” he answered evenly.
She rolled her eyes at him. “I think that’s just an indication of laziness on your part, Cae,” she said, and all of a sudden was on her back, pushed into the mattress by a now very dominant Caelum. He pinned her arms above her head and growled at her, nipping her lower lip as he kissed her. She smiled up at him and wrapped her legs around his waist. “Now that’s more like it. About time you did some work around here.”
He laughed seductively in her ear and a shiver ran down her spine. “Oh, Yarrow, I’m going to do so much work here tonight that come sunup you’ll be begging for me to stop,” he whispered silkily.
Yarrow moaned and shuddered underneath him. “If that’s a challenge, Major Caelum,” she said, voice husky, “I wholeheartedly accept.”