Epilogue: Standards of Victory

Four Months Later

“This gown doesn’t fit,” Alassiel spat as she tried to straighten the ornate white dress. The beautiful elf was wearing a white gown that left her right shoulder bare and draped across her in a lovely manner. Trimmed with gold and precious gems, it was a dress to suit a queen… far more ornate than Alassiel would prefer, but the demands of station required it. Frustration bubbled in her tone as she failed once again to adjust it so it was correctly comfortable. “It’s too tight. Seriously, who fit this to me?”

“I’ll be sure to send a complain,” Shevarn said airily, sarcasm evident in his tone. The wizard, her current valet in the capital, looked on with amusement as the elf tried to get the dress to fit her right. “It’s not really the gownmaker’s fault, you know… she measured you for it more than two months ago. Your highness has rather grown since then.” The capital suited the wizard far more than his tower had. His hair was short and newly trimmed, his beard likewise, and he wore his robes with a quiet dignity.

Alassiel looked down her body at the words, her hands moving slowly over her swollen belly with wonder. He was right, of course… the last thing she had been expecting when she had planned this was to be pregnant when the time came. Her injuries from her time as a slave had been severe, severe enough to completely erase any chance the elf had of every being with child… or so she had thought. The wave of renewal that had burned through her when she ascended, regrowing Eren Eregdos and removing her scars had evidently restored her more completely than the elf had been prepared to imagine. She must have gotten pregnant almost immediately, for she had had no monthly cycle to alert her to the change until it had begun to dawn on her that she was, somehow, impossibly, pregnant. A gift from the earth to her.

“No…” she whispered softly. “I suppose it’s not her fault at all, is it.” In truth, the gown didn’t look that bad. It was meant for a more slender woman than her, but Alassiel hadn’t grown all that much… the child wasn’t that far along, and her race rarely grew very large. A half-blooded child would doubtless be larger than the average elf, but it still would be far short of the size of a human child. She pulled at it again, half heartedly, trying to get it to go into place. It just showed a little bit more of her legs than she was planning on like this… not the end of the world. Strangers had certainly seen her wearing far less.

“Don’t worry,” Shevarn reassured her. “You look fine, your highness. And you know the prince could care less.”

Alassiel gave him a small smile. “Thank you. Aren’t you needed to help with the guests?”

He shrugged. “They’ve already all arrived. No one has tried to kill anyone yet. What’s to be needed?”

Alassiel’s answer smile was wry. “The night is young, I suppose. Still, see to it that no one is likely to actually start a fight, would you? I know there are more than a few guests here that hate one another for the actions of others in the war, and today is important to Liam. I don’t want it ruined.”

“And important to you as well, I’d wager. Don’t worry your highness, I’ll take care of it.” He bowed slightly before opening the door and stepping out of the room, never looking away from her until the door was closed.

Alassiel turned back to her mirror and the process of braiding her long, fiery hair to look presentable in the style of the capital, but she had barely managed to seperate it into the correct number of chunks before there was another knock at the door. Giving herself a helpless grin in the mirror, she released the braid and let it once again fall away. “Enter,” she said.

The door opened, and two women stepped in. Liriel looked ill at ease in the capital… she had never really been comfortable around a lot of people, and Calliban’s sparse streets were the closest she had ever come to a city before. Alassiel knew her former apprentice longed for the wilderness, to be out on the sea or in the woods again. The pale elf had come tonight for the wedding, because of course she had, but her passion lay elsewhere… and with another. The woman behind her looked much more at ease, the beautiful Alexandra looking much as she always did — impeccably dressed in plain, practical clothing, wearing no jewelry or makeup to draw attention to herself. Even with the war over, the former demoness had never taken well to abandoning her weapons, and Alassiel could spot knives in both of her boots and probably a third hidden at the small of her back.

“Morning your majesty,” Alexandra said as she walked over to the table, slipping gracefully into a chair. Liriel stood there slightly awkwardly before Alexandra beckoned her over, and the pale druid slid into the next chair, her fingers twining in the other woman’s. The two of them had been… close since the end of the War. Alassiel didn’t know how close, but she suspected very. They hadn’t said anything though, so it wasn’t her business… she just hoped her former apprentice was as happy as she appeared to be. “I’ve brought the latest news.”

Alassiel raised one eyebrow. Not purely a social visit, then. The woman had lost none of her skills or social graces in her transition between infernal seductress and mortal woman. Those skills made her invaluable to Alassiel, and she had volunteered her services to the elven woman almost immediately after the end of the war. She moved through people as effortlessly as an otter through a river… it made her a masterful master of intelligence for her, and reestablishing order in a kingdom used to anarchy was not a simple task. Under Lahk’s rule, corruption had ruled the day, and an unsurprising number of people wished to keep it that way. There had already been three attempts on Alassiel’s life in the last few months… and each and every one of them Alexandra had discovered beforehand. Unravelling the mess of schemes and sabotage that lay before Alassiel’s reign was Alexandra’s job. “I’m getting married today,” she stated flatly. “Anything that can’t wait?”

Alexandra shrugged. “Nothing lethally important. At least a few new things you should know.”

Alassiel sighed. She took her hair back into her hands and turned back to the mirror. “Lay it on me.”

“We’ve reclaimed Easthaven. Nessira’s company drove off the demons two days ago. She estimated about half of the demons were slain… the rest dispersed into the wilderness. She has companies working to hunt them down. About 200 survivors of the duchy have been rescued… although many of them will require extended healing to recover.”

Alassiel let out a sigh of relief. “That’s something,” she whispered. The Duchy of Easthaven was one of the few territories they hadn’t been able to make contact with after the Lahk’s fall… demons had come through the gaps in the Veil and utterly overwhelmed it, enslaving much of its population. With her victory, the Veil had stopped its collapse and no further demons were entering… but she could still see Entropy’s shadow in her minds eye, attempting to slither into the barricade one bit at a time. It made her want to shudder. Unfortunately, the Veil’s restoration did nothing to remove the demons that had already made it in… they would have to be hunted down.

Hence Nessira’s warband.

She turned to glance at the former demon. “I suppose its too much to ask for to have only good news today?”

The smirk on Alexandra’s face was a bitter one. “Of course it is. In other news, Elide has been busy. She lodged a formal complaint a few hours ago protesting your declaration of Maithum Falls as the new Elven capital.”

Alassiel closed her eyes for a moment. Elide’s recovery from Lahk’s brainwashing hadn’t been perfect, but it certainly seemed all of the parts of her that troubled Alassiel the most had made it out just fine. “I’m guessing the heart of her protest is that its not an elven city but a human one?”

“Her exact phrasing comes down to something closer to “Maithum Falls isn’t Caladwen.”

The elven queen sighed. “She does have a point. If we were in Caladwen, I could throw her into the volcano and be rid of her foolishness. There’s little else to recommend our old homeland anymore.”

“I’m not sure her ego would fit, your majesty,” Alexandra said with a perfectly straight face.

Liriel snickered, covering her mouth with one pale hand as Alexandra continued. “She protests the union of the Elven and Human kingdoms, you passing the Archdruid title onto Liriel, your marriage… there is little she doesn’t object to. Unfortunately, she’s charismatic and popular enough to become a focal for everyone who opposes you. She’s enough a part of the old system to appease most of the corrupt, and isn’t opposed to playing their games like you are… but her escape from beneath Lahk’s collar is enough of a symbol of progress to avoid outright alienating more rational parties that disagree with you. She’s dangerous.”

Alassiel sighed. “I’m still not going to have her killed, Alexandra. You know that.”

The raven haired woman shrugged. “I only make present rational options… the decisions, as always, are your your highness. You may come to regret your mercy… but as you wish.”

A brief chuckle escaped the queen’s lips. “Is there anything else?”

Alexandra shook her head. “Not that can’t wait.”

“The pair of you will join me for dinner after the ceremony, of course.”

Liriel stood. “But of course,” she smiled. “Congratulations again.”

“Thank you,” Alassiel whispered as they walked back out the door, leaving her with her hair in her hands yet again.

Alassiel and Liam met at the head of the amphitheater, where the surviving nobles of the kingdom, its wealthiest citizens, and pretty everyone else who could possibly travel and fit were seated. Liam was dressed in white as well, his tunic woven of a mix of clean cotton and strands of gold, festooned with emeralds and several brilliant topaz that were the same shade as her eyes. He looked almost unbelievably good in the garb, and her breath caught… at from the way his eyes widened as she walked towards him, her own gown inspired a similar reaction.

Alassiel wondered if they were both imagining the other naked. She certainly was thinking about it.

They smiled as they met and linked arms, holding one another at arms length for a few moments before they linked fingers on one arm and made the turn down the aisle, between the gathered dignitaries. Together, they stepped down the red carpet, moving between some ten thousand assembled assembled citizens, nobles, merchants, celestials, and at least two gods. Walking in step with the music, the two lovers walked slowly down the aisle toward the center of the amphitheater. By the time they were halfway there, they couldn’t even hear the magic anymore over the crowd.

That didn’t matter.

They had each other.

That was enough for her.

One thought on “Epilogue: Standards of Victory

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s