Tales From the Universe Tree: Wolves of Ice and Fire. Part Ten: Mourning Period.
Comfort That Made The Pain Go Away.
(Continued from Part Nine)
That night, Risa thanked the Queen for her words. They lost themselves in their bodies, burying Their sorrow in tear-stained kisses and comfort that made the pain go away, for a while at least. When was the last time, Risa wondered absently, that she had cried this much? She couldn’t remember. She was not sure that she wanted to. When they were done, Risa felt numb. Shenal clung to her Shogun, her arms wrapped around the other woman’s middle. Her nipples dug into Risa’s back like fleshy spikes, breathing softly. Risa shifted uneasily, Shenal’s grip tightened as if she was trying to keep her where she was. Risa stared out into the darkness. Her eyes stung, red with her grief.
I'm Here For You.
Risa blinked, “I could have prevented this,” her voice was hoarse, and it held a slight tremble. “Why didn’t I kill him when I had the chance? Yuska would still be alive if I…” she eyed her outstretched hand. “It would have been so easy.” She hardly felt the tears fall again. “Yuska…I’m…sorr…” Her hand curled her hand into a fist, shaking, squeezing. The veins on the back of her hand throbbed. “Give me your neck, Bongal…” she growled low in her throat. “And I’ll crush it like a cabbage, Damn you…” The beast in her belly paced restlessly, pounding the walls of its prison. “I’ll kill you…” the beast threw itself against her belly, it wanted out, wanted what she wanted. And it wanted to get it now. Risa shuddered. “I’ll kill you…” her voice picked up in intensity. “I made you a promise, Bongal. I said I’d make you suffer if you harmed my little girl. But you did more than that, didn’t you? I’ll kill you for it. I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you. I’ll—”
“Stop.” Shenal’s voice was soft, pleading. Her grip tightened around The Shogun, Risa thought she heard The Queen whimper. “I know you’re angry. I know you’re suffering. But Risa, you can’t let it rule you. Yuska wouldn’t want that. I…I wouldn't…Risa, you’re scaring me.” Shenal quaked against her. Risa felt more than saw her fist unfurl. The strain in her muscles drained out of her like a towel having the water squeezed out of it. She swallowed, and rolled over, and wrapped herself around the other woman. Moonlight drowned half the room in shadows, but Risa could still see her well enough. Tear’s glistened on Shenal’s cheeks. And the look on her face was full of grief and something else. Not fear, not exactly, but something more desperate. Risa’s lips trembled. By the Tree, She’s hurting as much as I am. and all I can think of is… The thought trailed off.
“I…I’m sorry.” Risa’s voice was barely above a whisper, . “Y-you, I-“
Shenal smoothed back Risa’s hair, “Shhh. I know. I’m here for you.” The Queen leaned in to kiss her.
But Risa turned her face away. “Please don’t…” Her chest suddenly felt heavy. Her eyes stung. “I-I mean…” She swallowed. “Just hold me. Don’t let me go…please…?”
Shenal blinked and then nodded slowly. She snuggled closer to the other woman. “She had everything you ever wanted for her, Risa. You kept your promise.”
Risa didn’t answer. They cradled each other in the dark, trying to feel something. Trying to forget. That was all she wanted now. “Thank you.” She finally whispered.
On The Night Of The Third Day.
The next three days slogged by. Risa kept to herself. She did not attend court, she did not eat. Nor did she speak or see anyone, save for Shenal. She brooded by day and fell into a dreamless sleep wrapped in the Queen’s arms by night. Shenal understood though, She always did. She ordered no one to bother Risa during her days of mourning. And every night she clutched Risa as if trying to take in both their sorrow and will back strength back into the other woman. Risa didn’t know what she would have done if the Flamed haired woman hadn’t been there. She silenced the beast inside her, kept it at bay. Don’t let me go…
And then on the night of the third day, her period of mourning came to an abrupt end.
Risa and Shenal were awakened an hour after sunset with the sound of someone banging on the door. Risa and Shenal with jolted to their feet and robed themselves quickly. Who by Elysium could be calling on them at this time of night? And when they had orders to leave them alone. Risa growled as she added some fresh logs on the fire that blazed lazily in the fireplace on the opposite wall. Before Shenal bid the man enter sleepily.
It was Yalm who entered, his reptilian features grimier than usual. He bowed. “Forgive me, my Shogun, my Queen. I know you gave orders not to be disturbed, but this could not wait.” His expression suddenly became hard. “Your majesty, the First Sword is gone!”
Shenal eyes went wide, “Gone!?” She exclaimed angrily.
At the same time, Risa roared, “How!?”
“I do not know.” Yalm’s expression never wavered. “I have men scouring the palace and the city. And I have taken the liberty to have the Keep locked down and the guard tripled. If it pleases your Grace.”
“It does,” the Queen all but snarled.
“He couldn’t have gotten out on his own,” Risa said, making no attempt to hide her fury. By the Tree, how could this have happened? “I want a head count of everyone in the palace, including the servants and the guests down to the last roots crushed stable boy! Understood!?”
“It shall be done, My Shogun.” The Gilannri bowed to her and the Queen in turn. And then to Risa, he added. “Do not worry, my Shogun. With the Great Lord as my witness, if that horse eating traitor is still in the city we’ll find him.” He whirled and left.
Bongal Had Tossed The Die.
The next morning, Risa returned to the Court to listen to Yalm’s report. The Gilannri reported in quick, but detail sentences that Bongal was not the only one missing. Eric, the Ambassador from Dega and his entourage were nowhere to be found. “The servants say,” Yalm announced to the court. Every member of The Court was in attendance that day, not daring to breathe. Sitting on either side of the Jade Throne, was the Prince and Princess. Setsuka glanced at her mother worriedly. “That he and his men left in the night." Yalm went on. "Some say that there was one with him that was not when he arrived. Others say otherwise. But the most likely story, my Queen, is that The First Sword was freed by the Ambassador somehow and then fled. Others still say that the First Sword had been talking to the Ambassador on several occasions. About what I was not able to determine.”
Shenal nodded. “My own husband.” She breathed. As if that had been a cue, the court erupted into a flurry of activity. Some called out questions. Others chanting for Bongal's head, though few took it up.
Risa clutched her chair until her knuckles turned white. Bongal had tossed the die then. He had been the one leaking information to Dega. She realized. Her face hardened. I’ll kill him myself. She glanced at Shenal sideways. Bongal was a traitor. But would Shenal do anything about it? More importantly, could she? Wou—
Shenal stood abruptly, striating to her full height and proclaimed in a loud strong voice. “I, Shenal Tallmin XXX, Queen of Durranna, Queen of the Ice Born and Queen of the Mountain Kingdom, defender of the realm against the Flames of Winter, declare that from this moment till the end of time. That Igilance Bongal XXI, High Lord of Jontal, is stripped of all lands, titles, and incomes and I pass them to my son, Prince Damian Tallmin I and grant onto him the title of High Lord of Jontal. I denounce Igilance Bongal as a murderer and a Traitor to the Jade Throne. And sentence him to die” That raised more than a few shocked gasps. Risa gaped at her. Shenal sunk back down and then whispered as if to herself. “And may The Tree have mercy on my soul.”
(Concluded in Part Eleven)
© 2017 Will English.