It was over.
Zardria looked up at her with blank eyes, that same small smile on her face. Yarrow reached up and brushed her sister’s eyelids down, glad the woman was finally at peace.
She didn’t know what had happened to Umbra. The Goddess was no longer in Zardria, and so far as Yarrow could tell, no longer around. She sat, almost waiting for an answer from Kore, but none came. Perhaps They are dealing with Their own aftermath, she thought.
That was what she had to deal with now. She picked Zardria up, and the sword that had been sticking out of the woman’s front slid out again and landed on the floor. Yarrow placed her dead twin beside the body of Caelum. They would be buried together, for she knew Zardria had fought at the end. Her sister was as much a warrior as she.
She looked up, then, and saw Ghia, who was being held up by Jules. Behind her major stood the High Priestess Sarai, her hands on his shoulders.
“Jules,” she said, finding her voice back. “How do we stand in the town?”
He shook his head and raised his eyes to look at her. Everyone was as stunned as she had been, but now it was time to get to work.
“I think we’ve won the day. Bellica Agate and others came in to join the fight and we greatly outnumbered the Vocan forces, but I left to bring Coalette to the hospitalis.” His face was bloodied as well, but he stood strong. Yarrow thanked Whoever listened that he had lived through the battle.
“Anala!” Ghia suddenly said, and broke free of her fiancée to run, limping, to the admiral, who was crumpled on the ground.
Yarrow’s heart went to her throat. She’d not thought of her friend, who she knew was injured. She followed Ghia, fearing the worst.
Ghia turned Anala over on her back and checked her. Yarrow knew the healer used her powers, for Ghia’s eyes were closed, hands pressed on Anala’s forehead and chest.
“She lives,” Ghia said in a whisper, and Yarrow choked back a sob of happiness. “Broken arm and leg. But she’ll be fine yet.” The healer set to fixing the admiral; Yarrow stood back, letting Ghia do her job.
She stood, feeling numb. Jules made eye contact with her. “I’m not quite sure what to do,” she said, a nervous smile on her face.
He laughed; a ragged sound. “Rule, Yarrow. You’re Empress now.”
She shook her head vehemently. “Queen.”
He nodded once, and looked over his shoulder to his sister, who had not stopped smiling. She moved forward, to Zardria’s body, and took the signet ring and coronet from the dead woman. The Sceptre was not in residence, but it hardly mattered at the moment.
Sarai came to stand before the bellica, and Yarrow was kneeling before the woman in the next moment. Sarai smiled at her. “Quite a bloody ascension,” she said softly.
“Aye. Will They sanction my rule?” she found herself suddenly concerned with the Goddess’ favour, and searched Sarai’s face desperately for confirmation.
Sarai shrugged. “I can see no reason for Them to forbid it. The people have sanctioned it, Yarrow. That is where Divine Right is decided.” Yarrow nodded and bowed her head. She felt cold metal encase the frizzy hair that had escaped her braid. She looked up, and held her hand up for the ring to be slid onto it. It fit her finger perfectly. “I have no Book of Aradia with me,” Sarai said ruefully, “so we can go through the formalities later. Do you swear to uphold the Will of the Goddesses?”
“I swear it,” Yarrow said, feeling the lump come to her throat again.
“Then rise, Queen Yarrow,” Sarai said, and held her hand to help the woman to her feet. “You’re pregnant,” she said suddenly, looking shocked. She dropped Yarrow’s hand as if it burned her.
Yarrow grimaced. She’d thought herself dead in this venture, and now she had to live with the possibility of her child being irreparably damaged — either by her drinking, or the battle she’d ridden into. Who knew what trauma might do to her daughter?
Sarai was no longer focusing on Yarrow’s face; her eyes moved back and forth as if she read a page from a book. “High Priestess?” Yarrow asked, wondering if Sarai was possessed by a Goddess.
“Your daughter is of two noble bloodlines — the Ereven and Zarqon lines joined, but she shall not grow to be Queen. Her destiny lies down another path.” The voice, when it spoke, was not that of Sarai, and Yarrow knew that a Goddess spoke through the priestess.
“Is my daughter healthy?”
A small nod; Sarai’s mouth was parted slightly. “She is healthy, and will be healthy in her childhood but she is marked by one of Us, Queen Yarrow. Do not try to keep her from her path.” Sarai blinked and swayed; her brother stood close by and he steadied her now.
“Sarai? You alright?” Jules held his sister up.
Sarai smiled. “I’ve just been Called.” Her face held indescribable joy.
Jules smiled as well, but his eyes still held worry. “Haven’t you dedicated to Umbra? Didn’t Zardria order it?”
Sarai laughed and patted her younger brother’s cheek. “I’m not that spineless, Jules. I’m still free to serve Kore,” she said. Yarrow was already drifting away, leaving the family to their reunion.
She went back to Ghia and Anala. The admiral was still unconscious, and Ghia looked close to fading out herself. Yarrow knelt beside her cousin and held her by the shoulder. Ghia looked at Yarrow confusedly. “Don’t kill yourself, Healer,” Yarrow said sternly. “I need you to rule Atton now.”
Ghia was too tired to smile, but Yarrow could tell she meant it. “As long as it’s not right away. Get someone to splint Anala’s arm and leg, okay?” she said, and then fainted onto Yarrow’s chest.
Before she could lower the girl to the ground to lie more comfortably, Jules was there, checking over Ghia with all the worry he’d had on his face for his sister a moment ago. “Jules, calm down. She only fainted. At this rate you’ll give yourself a heart attack,” Yarrow said, a bit of her sardonic self coming back. Jules only glared at her.
Yarrow stood and went to the door of the banquet hall. She needed people to do work, and she needed them now. First, she would tend to her troops and her town, and decide what to do with the Vocans.
“It’s a long road,” she whispered out loud to no one in particular. “But I think I can make it.” Her hand rested on her womb of its own accord, and she looked down with a smile. “We can. We can make it.”