sky full of song

POSTED: Thu Oct 04, 2018 2:17 am

I thought I was flying but maybe I'm dying tonight

When she'd come home, everything was all at once different and the same.

She and Akantha wept openly in each other's arms and then erupted into laughter, and back and forth like this, to the dismay of their respective partners who were forced to stand awkwardly aside as the sisters reunited. Semini did not know if Isandro knew how much of the new world had changed them both, or of how far they'd come since they had left this city so many years ago with a passion burning in their wounded hearts. Lokr of course knew - he'd been there, growing with them through the seasons, but for the first time would lay eyes on the pieces of Semini that were her making, the parts that she could not reveal except in memory.

After that, it was a whirlwind of travel, horses, markets, long dusty roads and the talk of their journeys. There was no more camping beneath the stars, but she and her lover still found ways to steal into the night and remind themselves of the cold northern forests and how to find warmth.

When at last they came to the villa that was the Amaranthe estate, it was not as busy as it once had been but was just as beautiful as she remembered. The gardens, the fountains, the trickling streams and the river that nourished them all; the idyllic landscape remained untouched by the time that had marked everything else. Semini noticed right away that there were no servants to be found, and later learned that the reason for this was all because of their mother and what she'd done to procure such help. This news had been painful to hear, but not as deeply as the rest of it.

That all came later however, much later, when she and Akantha were the last ones awake and basking in each other's presence as they once did as children. Before this they had feasted, with preparations done by family of Robles and Amaranthe alike, and drank and danced on the veranda. Semini had been energized by the return, and some time past midnight she remembered looking back and seeing her exiled prince slumped into his seat, fast asleep. The sight had made her smile.

Gravity returned to them the next day. Semini knew that before they could truly begin any sort of plan, however, there was one more loose end that she needed to tie up.

Akantha was many things, but she was not a vindictive creature, and she had not condemned their aging mother to a dark, cold dungeon (though Thalia had, on many occasions, done just that to others for lesser crimes). Semini found her mother in a comfortably large room sequestered off from the main estate, with tall windows and a view of her personal garden, the one she'd tended to so diligently throughout their lives. She was seated in the window that morning, with light streaming in gently over the bountiful red curls that had begun to change in hue at the roots. Her clothes were modest and somewhat frayed - without so many hands to tend to these things, Semini realized, their quality was quickly deteriorating.

Much of Onuba's enterprise had begun to fray since the Day of the Slaughter - which is what the citizens called it, to Semini's dismay. That her daughter - her tiny Tia, the little girl she'd held in her arms and kissed goodnight - could be responsible for such gruesome acts had been a difficult idea to swallow. Whether those killed deserved these ends - none of them had been well-liked per se, and some had been downright bad, but the swiftness of Tiamat's judgment and the condemnation - that was not something Semini had ever taught her child. It was told to her that Tiamat had spent a period of time with the people of the south, barbarians that lived in the sands and wilds, and that she'd been embroiled in some war - these facts hurt Semini. It seemed her daughter found a turmoil that suited the one that had been living within her, the one that she planted in her the day she couldn't sustain the illusion of happiness any longer.

That had been her fault, and for the rest of her days, Semini would regret this act that had so irrevocably hurt her child.

Her own mother did not seem so haunted by the past. She looked placidly at her, in the way one might perceive a latecomer at the pew of their congregation, and then gestured for her to enter. Semini crossed the room, and noticed how distinctly lacking in decoration it all was, and wondered if this was by choice. Thalia had long been a woman of material, and to view her without it was...unsettling, to say the least.

She grabbed a plain wooden chair and set it beside the bench where her mother sat, and then settled into it. Thalia closed her eyes and let a long, slow breath seep through her teeth. Semini began to shift in her seat, thinking that her mother would rather see anyone but her. Even if she hadn't been directly traitorous, she'd been absent, which by her count was just as good.

She could not condemn Tiamat's actions without first naming her own lapses of judgment, and for a moment she wondered if the woman before her felt the same. A touch at her hand surprised her, and she looked down to see that Thalia had wrapped her fingers between her own.

We made you with love, Thalia said in a voice as quiet as a prayer. I never thought I could love anyone after the death of my parents, and then I met your father, and then I met you. My girls, She looked at Semini, and for the first time in her entire life, her mother's golden eyes were alight with palpable, tearful regret. My beautiful girls; you are my pride, my heart, my only downfall. Everything I've done, I've done for you.

Mama, Semini wrapped her palm over her hand. It was strange to be the one comforting, and stranger yet that it had come so naturally. That in itself almost made her light-headed.

When she spoke, her voice sounded tired. You don't have to justify anything to me. I am not Tiamat, she thought. I have not come to judge you.

No, Thalia said and looked away. Everything seemed to drape across her, the sunlight, the wind, the white of time that dusted her coppery fur. There would never be a moment that Thalia did not seem so completely perfect. No, I suppose not.

But I have not come to forgive you, either. As she said this, she gently withdrew her fingers from her mother's hand.

It was hard to describe the look on Thalia's face, and recounting this moment to Akantha later would take a long time and an even longer discussion. If anyone believed Semini had grown soft after the birth of her children or after uniting with the love of her life, they would have been surprised to see what the sea had returned to her. She was miles of moonlight and the ages of stars, the depths of darkness known only to the night sky.

Thalia did not say a word, but remained in a stiff and expectant silence. She knew her daughter - how else could she have manipulated her so well for so long - and knew that the explanations would come. She likely believed she was owed the reason why her kin had turned on her.

There was a weight in Semini's chest, the kind that stopped a person at the threshold of a cliff and held them there.

I don't want this to continue. She said, slowly, carefully. I don't want the Amaranthe family to be what it's been. I don't want the deceit and the illusions, Mama.

Thalia sighed deeply. Again, Semini? After all this time? If you've perceived anything incorrectly, -

No, she sat straight. This is what I'm talking about - what needs to end. Can't you see how you've hurt all of us?

She could tell that her mother wasn't in agreement with this premise, but Semini couldn't wait for her to catch up.

Akantha is starting something new, and it's going to be amazing. And I'm going to help her. And we're doing this because we think Onuba can be better. We've seen what better is and we know better now, but it has to be done right. It has to be done with integrity, and honesty, and - her mother had stopped listening. She had stopped looking at her entirely. She had turned her gaze back to the window and had folded her hands across her stomach, and she looked much too tired for the first time in Semini's life.

Mama, Semini implored. I came to tell you that we're going to take care of the Amaranthe family now. And, there is a place for you here. With us.

Thalia did not say anything after that. Semini waited for a long time, but the old baroness continued to watch the day pass beyond her reach, until the light shifted to fall on the soft pale hairs of Semini's own countenance.

She rose from the chair when it was clear that Thalia would not answer. There was so much to be done, and Akantha was awaiting to hear what would come of this peace offering. Nothing, it seemed, which both relieved and disappointed her. As she began to step towards the door, she thought she heard her mother shift. On looking back, however, Thalia had not moved an inch. She was still gazing out the window at a world so far, far away.

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