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No Silent Prayer for the Faith-Departed #James #Malia #sarnai #francesca

Rachel Balla
 

Who: Malia
With: Sarnai
Where: King's City, Throne Room
When:
Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

Vigils across Eventyr were traditional. Families would stay with the bodies of their loved ones, saying goodbye, comforting one another, and sharing stories from happier times… while, of course, watching through the night carefully for trouble or omens. There were always worries, of course, that a body could rise again as a vampire or zombie, but there were also tales of witches trying to take their end of a bargain before the body was laid to rest or dragons reclaiming stolen goods the deceased had hidden.


Few of these were real concerns at the wake of the late King Philip, Malia mused, for with the level of security present, it would have taken a dragon landing on the castle's rooftop to disrupt the vigil, and the Duchess doubted that even dragons were traveling in this weather!


While there was a banquet served in the hall, most passed first to pay their respects. Philip's body was laid in the throne room in an ornate coffin gifted by the Northern duchy - all fine marble and covered with jewels glittering in the low lighting. More than a few whispers found their way to Malia's ears, sneers about what an unnecessary show of wealth it was, and, more concerningly, wonderings about how it had been constructed so very quickly…


At least, Malia had the foresight not to pack a funeral gown. The king's death had been sudden enough and the storm had severe enough that few nobles had the proper somber attire for the occasion, and so Malia's violet gown in the colors of her duchy was appropriate.


The Duchess found herself in the throne room, making an appearance, but she was unwilling to actually go see the body. Her body language screamed simple ladylike squeamishness, the tension in her shoulders and low, averted eyes, and Malia did not care to unpack it more than that. Maybe it was guilt, maybe it was all too similar to the funerals of both her husbands, or maybe the cancer eating away at her other body made that coffin shine a little too brightly…


So instead, Malia latched on to the somewhat easier task of approaching the widow. Was widow even the right word? The consort was so very pregnant for how very small she was...


"My condolences, your majesty," Malia offered, after an appropriately respectful curtsy.


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Manda
 

Who: Sarnai
With: Malia
Where: King's City, Throne Room
When: Friday, March 7th, 872 RoK

Wearing: https://i-h2.pinimg.com/564x/7c/14/0f/7c140f954a517a17ec56e263f6201cd7.jpg


It was Sarnai's second public appearance as the King's Consort but instead of a party in honor of the child she was carrying, where a near constant smile had been needed, this time it was a funeral. Tears would have been suiting but no matter how much she tried to muster them, her cheeks stayed as dry and smooth as ever. So instead, she settled for a somber expression with just a hint of sadness in the set of her brows and slightly downturned lips. It went well with the gown she wore in rich black velvet, long enough to cover her comfortable shoes but cut so as to emphasize the unmistakable roundness of her belly. As if such a visible reminder were needed.


Sarnai desperately wanted this all to be over. She wanted to sit down, to rest her aching back and sore feet, and maybe even indulge in a bath while everyone decided what to do with her. Because that was the question, wasn't it? Did she, as Consort and the only living mother of one of the King's children, have any sort of claim to the throne?


The very thought was laughable. Sarnai had no interest in being Queen and if given the choice, she'd renounce any claim to the throne, leave her child here to be raised a Prince or Princess, and go home to the Grasslands...


Malia: "My condolences, your majesty,"


Your majesty. It was tempting to roll her eyes at the title but this certainly wasn't the time nor the place and instead Sarnai offered the Duchess of the North a modest smile. "Thank you, Duchess," she answered, quite willing to latch on to the welcome distraction. One could only stare mournfully at the bejeweled coffin for so long before the threat of eyes losing focus became a very real one. "And my thanks, again, for providing such a lovely resting place for our King."


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Rachel Balla
 

Sarnai: "Thank you, Duchess," "And my thanks, again, for providing such a lovely resting place for our King."


"No thanks are necessary," Malia responded - her tone was kind and would have sounded modest to anyone listening in, but Malia hadn't forgotten their conversation and doubted Sarnai was mourning any more than she was. The frowns weren't optional, but their words did not have to be false.


The truth was that Malia had taken quite a bit of heat from Northern nobles as to the expense for a King that had not been well loved in years, but she had reminded them that the royal crypts would be visited for hundreds of years and the coffin would be a tribute as much to their own wealth, prosperity, and skill as it was to Philip himself.


"After all you have been through, you must miss your home and family," Malia said, eyes moving back from the coffin to the young woman, curious as to her reaction. With Philip out of the picture, the one responsible for bringing her and compelling her to stay, Sarnai's circumstances were now quite different...

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Manda
 

Malia: "After all you have been through, you must miss your home and family,"


While Malia's eyes went to Sarnai, the Consort's, instead, drifted over the crowd. Had half of the people here even known the king personally? Probably not, yet still they dabbed at their eyes and made a quiet show of mourning his death.


Back home in the Grasslands, funerals were a much louder affair, held outside and their lost loved ones honored with games of prowess and strength. There were some tears, of course, but the focus was more on celebrating the life the deceased had led, rather than publicly mourning their loss. Things were done so differently here, as Sarnai had come to find out over the last nine months.  


"I do," she answered, simply. "But this is my life now." It wouldn't be if she had any say in the matter. "And I am honored to be able to serve the Realm in any way I can." They were pretty words, spoken for fear that she'd be overheard but also because she wasn't sure she could trust Malia any more than she could trust Francesca or Castile or any other noble in this room. "The midwife says that it is only a matter of time before I birth the King's son or daughter . . ." And then they'd all see just how much use the Realm had for her . . .


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Rachel Balla
 

Sarnai: "I do," "But this is my life now." "And I am honored to be able to serve the Realm in any way I can." "The midwife says that it is only a matter of time before I birth the King's son or daughter . . ."


Malia fancied herself very much the shrewd politician, fully invested in the long game and above allowing her emotions to influence her carefully-orchestrated moves…


But there was a note in the young consort's tone, or perhaps a connotation in her words, that made an absolutely irrational wave of anger wash over Malia that she couldn't help. It caused heat to pulse over her chest and up into her cheeks, and her muscles to tense, most notably in her jaw as her teeth clenched…


Serve the realm? Serve the realm? The realm had given Malia life anew, an entirely new chance to become who she was - as Nietzsche would have said - far more than Earth ever had - and thus inspired the truest devotion, through and through her body and soul…


But Sarnai's words were hollow at the prospect. And why wouldn't they be? The realm Malia treasured had done nothing but fuck Sarnai over at every chance…


It was unwise, but frankly Malia could not stop herself. She took Sarnai's elbow and lowered her voice, meeting the girl's eyes with a dark intensity Malia hadn't truly known was there until she heard the harshness in her whisper as she spoke.


"Go home, girl." 'Your highness' was out the window, apparently. And, somehow, her voice grew more intense as the volume dropped to barely more than breath over her lips. "You don't belong here. You would be wise to get out... before you're removed."

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Manda
 

The grip on her elbow was so unexpected that Sarnai found her muscles tensing as she jerked her arm away, only a breath away from driving that very same elbow into the Duchess of the North's sternum on instinct alone. Go home, girl. The hissed words brought a curl to the Consort's pretty lips as she met Malia's dark eyes with her own steady glare.


Malia: "You don't belong here. You would be wise to get out... before you're removed."


Inside her chest, Sarnai's heart thud-thudded, adrenaline surging through her system and causing the child in her womb to react with a jabbing elbow to her bladder. Had it not been for the undercurrent of anger in Malia's bearing, Sarnai may have taken those words for a kindly-meant - if intense - warning, but there was no mistaking it for anything other than what it was.


"A threat, Duchess?" Sarnai returned, her voice equally low. "I'd considered you above such things."


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Rachel Balla
 

Sarnai: "A threat, Duchess?" "I'd considered you above such things."


Usually, yes, the girl was absolutely right. Malia was above threats. Anyone who deserved one from her felt the sting of it before they were warned. So why did this girl rub her so differently?


The obviousness of the realization, somehow, only angered Malia more - and she had no choice but to break eye contact to glance around and be sure their conversation was not drawing notice. Aside from one noble - finely dressed but young, who had likely been watching the two women anyway - most were wrapped up in their own conversations… and young man withdrew as if Malia's gaze were a physical sword forcing him to back away.


The Duchess's hands returned to a graceful, ladylike fold at her waist, projecting calm to anyone at a distance and none of the fire that burned in her eyes to one up close. But she bit back the harsh words she wanted to snap - See? You're not very good at this, are you? - and fought back the vitriol in her voice. She had an argument without it, so Malia strove to make it, although the image she had wanted to project - the experienced woman offering encouragement to the younger - was out the window.


"You have your life - eleven of your sisters of Eventyr do not have even that. And now you have your freedom as well. You should use it." Sarnai had more power than her station or situation afforded her… and more than she cared for, Malia suspected. So why fight the war? Perhaps the Royal Scholar and General would decide her claim was strongest, but what then? Would she live out her days ruling out of spite...?


"Who would you serve, staying and ruling against your heart?"


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Manda
 

Malia: "You have your life - eleven of your sisters of Eventyr do not have even that. And now you have your freedom as well. You should use it." … "Who would you serve, staying and ruling against your heart?"


Sarnai wanted to sneer at the implication that she was somehow unappreciative of the fact that she'd survived when the others hadn't; like she should feel guilty for being the strongest of the twelve of them. Of course, she felt remorse for their senseless deaths, but she wasn't to blame for their loss. None of this was her choice and it wasn't her fault. It was only that this was a funeral and there was a certain decorum to uphold, that those very words didn't burst from her lips in a childish display of defensive anger.


Instead, she took a deep breath.


Malia's words sounded so sensible, so obvious, but all they did want make her want to dig her heels in. There was more going on here then the Duchess wanting Sarnai to follow her heart and it made the young mother-to-be leery of the entire exchange.


"You don't know my heart, Duchess," Sarnai said evenly, her eyes meeting the older woman's. "You don't know anything about me."


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