Published: July 9, 2022.
Like every little girl, Furiae laughs and cries and promises herself to her brother in marriage.
(It's only a problem when she fails to grow out of it.)
ahhh, what a treat it was to see a dod1 prompt!! i have been dying to write furiae for years, so i may have gotten a bit carried away lol. (dod1 is so rich in really fascinating stuff that is only so explored, and man...furiae really makes my brain itch.) i really hope you enjoy it, barbariccia!! i had so much fun getting to write it!!
Like every little girl, Furiae laughs and cries and promises herself to her brother in marriage. Their mother speaks of Furiae's future marriage in vague terms, a certainty that will one day come to pass, but it spurs something intense in Furiae's young self. It swells until, one day, she must give it voice. She attaches herself to her brother and says not as a rebuttal, not as a refutation, not as a refusal, but as a fact: "I'll marry Caim!"
No suggestion of names; simply the acknowledgement of her irrefutable future, and Furiae knows in her heart that yes, she loves her brother best, so he must be the man for her.
Caim might make a face--Furiae cannot see from where she presses her face against his side--but that's all right. She'd forgive him that and more.
"We'll see, darling," her mother says. "Now come here."
Oh, that is right. Furiae waylaid Caim on his way down to the castle courtyard where Inuart awaits him to cross wooden practice swords. She needs to release him, but first--
Furiae tugs on Caim's sleeve. "I love you."
He withdraws from her grasp, not to push her away but to face her. "I love you too." He kisses her forehead and runs off.
She smiles after him, gently laying a palm over where his lips touched her. Yes, Caim is the best and only one for her.
It's so romantic, she thinks, to be the princess locked away in a tower and rescued from that damnation by a dashing hero. From the first time Furiae hears the classic premise, it adheres to her psyche. She slots in perfectly as the princess awaiting liberation, and this fantasy dominates her reveries during meals or lessons. She loves it best in how her nursemaid tells the tale:
Once, there was a young princess in a far off kingdom. She was beloved by the people for her beauty and magnanimous spirit. But with such gifts came envy, and for her own safety, she had to be locked in a tall, lonely tower until a brave man could prove worthy of being her protector. The young princess passed the years in idleness alone for she demanded a high price from any man who might desire her. Only one man dared to rise to the challenge: a prince from a neighboring land. He was as handsome and benevolent as she deserved and surmounted any obstacle before him with ease. He conquered her isolation and took her into his arms. She knew love as his bride and as his queen.
She retells it to Caim and Inuart. But only once for Inuart makes a face and queries holes into the story that do not matter. Why did no man but the prince try to claim the princess? Did her father erect challenges to overcome in pursuit of her tower? What mystery forces pursued her to such an extent she had to be exiled for her own protection? And to Inuart's frown and questions, Furiae makes a face of her own and urges him to shush.
"That doesn't matter!"
"But it does, or it is a story for silly girls!"
That crosses a line, and Furiae tears up. Inuart awkwardly begins an apology as Caim glances between them.
She does not speak of her favorite stories to them again.
Sometimes, when Furiae would like to play but the boys are busy smacking wooden blade into wooden blade, she will stand bored on the outskirts of their makeshift fighting ring. She amuses herself doodling in the dirt. She traces out a delicate, little figure to be the princess with the tip of her shoe and beside that figure, she draws the prince. The ground is not an ideal medium for additional details; she attempts a more complicated pose of the princess in her prince's arms, but, well, a simpler one is better than an incoherent scattering of dirt and lines.
The princess is her.
And the prince is Caim.
It makes perfect sense to Furiae, but less so to Inuart. He comes to gawk on a break, and when she explains her artistic vision, he appears unsettled.
"Why Caim?" he asks, and after a moment, he frowns and adds, "Why always Caim?"
"Because I'm a princess." Furiae giggles, looking over her scrawled drawing. "And Caim is a prince. Who else could it be but him?"
He says it abruptly, like it's been at the tip of his tongue for a long while. She blinks up at him.
"In the stories--the ones written down, not like what your nursemaid made up to tell you--it is a knight who rescues the princess. It isn't a prince like Caim." Under his breath, he says, "A knight, like I might be."
She hears him, and she does not like for Inuart to be sad, so she says, "You can both rescue me then. I like that better."
He smiles. She smiles.
(And she still dreams of her brother and him alone as her savior.)
Furiae learns her letters, and she learns disappointment. Inuart did not lie: the stories she reads are not like the ones she heard. She requests a fairy tale from the librarians and then another and then an entire tome of compiled stories. She skips over ones without princesses or magical kisses of true love (both impatience and disinterest guiding her fingers to flick past), and--
Yes. It is like Inuart said. Knights rescue the imperiled princess and receive a reward in being both husband and future lord king to their prize.
Princes do not rescue princesses. Princes do not wed princesses. Princes belong in tales separate from princesses.
Furiae slams the book shut and marches out of the library in a huff. Whoever penned those stories is terrible and thoughtless and cruel. A princess and prince are equal in station, in lineage, in destiny. They belong together so obviously that the mismatch with what she read heats to a boil in her.
She passes by a window looking out into the courtyard and leans her cheek against the glass. Caim and Inuart train with their wooden practice blades like they do near every afternoon, and she considers going down to watch and whoop when Caim deftly parries and throws Inuart's blade from his grasp. They are well used to her as an audience.
But she doesn't move from where she stands. Discontent swirls in her stomach. It summons a memory from a year or so ago when Furiae was similarly confused and upset. With a fond, slightly exasperated smile, her mother had responded to Furiae's hundredth or so assertion that she will marry her brother by saying, "You'll grow out of it, darling."
Grow out of it. Grow out of loving Caim. Furiae could never move on from loving her brother.
She didn't understand it then, and she doesn't understand it now. Why is it so strange that she would still want to love and be with her brother? Caim is wonderful and strong and kind. He makes her happy. Any good mother would desire such a partner for her daughter.
But, like with her fairy tales, reality does not seem to conform to Furiae's conception.
The prince with the princess makes sense to Furiae. Everyone else says the princess belongs with the knight, though.
For the first time, Furiae wonders if she is wrong.
Furiae does not request stories from her nursemaid like she once did. Nor does she crowd around Caim and Inuart when they train in swordplay. She settles into her future role as a woman, as a princess. She begins to accompany her mother for more hours of the day than she spends running free and operating on a whim. Her personality gentles with growing maturity.
"I'm pleased to have you beside me," her mother remarks. "There are things only a woman can teach a girl."
"Of course, Mother."
Sometimes, a small part of Furiae whispers that her mother must be equally pleased to see that no longer does her daughter chase after her son. Furiae cannot place it, but she comprehends now that it is not an expected behavior. She prefers to not think about it, to not feel the knot of distress in her chest that she cannot undo no matter how she tries. (Never will he say it, but she thinks Inuart is pleased by it too. Furiae is not there to see him lose to Caim as often, and so those losses sting less. It's better this way. It really is.)
"You will be a lady of great status and prestige, but as my mother taught me a woman's tasks, I shall too teach you. All women ought to know a few basic tricks such as sewing, my darling."
Furiae hums in acknowledgement as she pinches thread through her needle's hole.
"It will please your husband to see you capable in some ways."
Her husband. The words drift gently down to impact her with all the weight of a beheading. "Of course, Mother," Furiae says, and she hates herself for how peculiarly ill that inevitable future makes her feel.
It is one of those private moments that her mother tells her. Furiae is fourteen, outgrown begging her long gone nursemaid for stories, and she supposes that overall, much isn't as interesting to Furiae now as those fairy tales once were. But, her mother requests a private moment with her daughter away from her entourage of ladies. Furiae and her mother settle in her mother's solar with a pot of fresh, dark tea. The summer sun shines bright in high noon outside the wide window.
"Your hand is promised in marriage to young Inuart," her mother states without preamble. She smiles warmly, pleased with the development. "The ceremony itself won't be for many years still, but it is happy news, I trust. You two have always been close. I advised your father that it would be a preferable match for you."
Inuart shall be her husband. Furiae sips calmly at her tea, the hot liquid flushing her cool body with its warmth. It isn't a strange development. Their fathers are old friends, and Furiae has known Inuart nearly as long as she has known her own brother. Inuart doubtlessly feels affection for her and would treat her well.
(And, it makes a certain sense, doesn't it? The princess is betrothed to the knightly lord.)
"I hope Inuart is as honored to be wed to me as I am to him," Furiae replies.
Like it is effortless for her, she maintains a delicate smile through the idle chitchat and reflections on her mother's own wedding. Her mother embraces her and kisses her forehead when the tea is cold, and she sends Furiae off to her afternoon lessons.
Furiae wanders through the halls in a daze and scarcely notices her brother until he waves a hand in her face and calls her name.
She blinks and takes in Caim. He's gotten taller and taller, filling out into the figure of a proper young man. More stress and responsibility than in their youngest years shadow his eyes, but his smile is still free and lovely when he graces her with it. His hands are calloused when he takes one of hers in his and repeats her name once again when she fails to answer him.
Caim is good and king and caring and handsome, and as Furiae stares at her brother, she feels on the cusp of something she cannot name.
"Have…you heard the news from Mother or Father yet?" She sounds normal. Her cadence is indistinguishable from her at any other hour of any other day no matter how dry her mouth feels.
His hands are warm, comforting a way the tea could never be. "Father told me this morning." Smiling--he smiles, a bit cheekily. "Inuart should know how fortunate he is--and how he best treat you like the princess you are unless he wants to face me."
He's happy for her, happy for her future with Inuart.
Furiae swallows against nausea as she forces a return of his smile. "I know you would protect me from even him."
"Protect you from Inuart? I jest, but you and I both know he would never hurt you. With how he looks at you at times, I expect he has hoped for this."
A tremble shakes through her, and Caim meets her eyes in worry, and Furiae wants him to never look away. How vile. How repulsive. This is why princes do not belong with princesses. This is why she must outgrow loving her brother.
"Nerves," she says. "It's a tremendous announcement."
(Her love is wrong.)
(Once, before she and Inuart have even conversed privately about the betrothal, Furiae overhears him playing the harp and singing. His voice is beautiful, fraught with raw sincerity, as he sings for love. But, oh, shame overtakes him when he realizes, and he apologizes to her. It's dirty, isn't it? For him to want someone like he wants her?
She hadn't realized they were akin in that way. That he loves her with his heart, his soul, and his body.
There is an appeal to his songs, a pure-hearted desire. She means it when she praises him for his singing.
Maybe that is why she can take a single step forward in gazing upon her sin. Her smile curves upward in truthful longing as she permits herself, here in this den of open need, to think yes, yes, yes, she does love her brother. Love is good and wonderful, and mayhaps it is a tragedy that her love must be buried six feet down to asphyxiate in the earth.
"I don't mind," she whispers to Inuart. "I'm rather dirtied myself."
Yes, Inuart. There is nothing to be ashamed of in loving the princess. It is the princess who must wash herself of the filth.)
Words fail her more than ever.
She cannot voice her deepest desire for it is a blackened and terrible thing. She cannot tell her brother she loves him without an undertow of more, more, more. She cannot accept a kiss on the back of her hand from her husband-to-be without searching out her brother behind him. For the sake of her reputation and to not stain those of Caim, Inuart, or her parents, Furiae must lock herself up tight. Even when she might slip up (her snappish rebuke of Inuart yesterday when he unintentionally injured Caim; her fretting, near-weeping state as Caim ushered her back indoors and allowed her to sit beside him until this minor wound of his was cleaned and bound), she must strive to never again permit it.
Words frighten her when there are so many she must not utter, so many she mustn't chain together. Never can she forget what wicked desire she harbors within. Her own mind exists as her sole sanctuary away from disappointing and disgusting all, and so, little leaves it as she speaks less and less. Her tongue grows heavy and unwieldy from lack of use, always reminding herself to think before she acts.
Maybe that is why she does not scream, merely gaping, when the black dragon bites down on her father. Maybe that is why she does not cry out when the black dragon's claw skewers her mother. Maybe that is why her mind is as hollow and void as her mouth when the black dragon stares back at her before it flies off.
He howls in fury and despair and hate. There is their father's forearm, torn off ragged from the rest of him by the beast's teeth, on the stone floor of the great hall. Over there, too, is their mother's nearly divided body, her waist feebly binding her top and bottom halves together with a scant measure of flesh after the dragon's claw pierced through her. Caim screams for so long; Furiae can't discern the passage of time as she stands paralyzed in the carnage.
Grief overpowers ire eventually, and Caim goes quiet where he hunches over. Each exhalation and inhalation wheezes out of Furiae's mouth; the scent of blood so thick in its permeation that she swears she can taste it. Other corpses litter the rubble, hazily out of focus, from where Furiae anchors her stare with her parents' ruined states. That might be a head of hair belonging to Inuart's father peeking out from the pile of stone near her mother's scattered viscera. Furiae doesn't recall them being near during supper, but her memory ebbs and flows, and oh, what does it matter really.
Caim rises in a stumble and then takes her in his arms. He is warmer than the final few rays of the setting sun shining through the crumbling wall. In the dead numbness of her mind, Furiae knows a modicum of peace--Caim survived, and that is a mercy for which she is grateful. (She hopes he knows the same.)
"Let's go," Caim whispers, throat scraped raw and hoarse by his despair. He places her arms over his shoulders and carries her from the wreckage of their home.
"Why? Why shouldn't we go, Furiae!?"
She looks askance from Inuart. "Caim." Both a prayer and justification for her. "I'm worried about him…"
Inuart's demeanor softens, and he frowns.
She crosses her arms, forces her stress-curled fists to flatten out straight. Anxious energy buzzes through her; she wants to pace and babble, but she pushes her frayed nerves as far aside as she can.
"He hasn't seemed well," Inuart concedes, almost chided by her mention of Caim.
"You've seen him. He isn't himself. Not since the--" Directionless energy steers Furiae into walking the length of the room, more diminutive than she is used to here in this village lodge, and back. "He doesn't seem unwell, Inuart; he is unwell. I hear him at night, screaming from what we witnessed, and there is nothing I can do. I can only lie there while he suffers. I…I can't leave him." She turns sharply to glare at Inuart, desperate tears welling in her eyes as her voice cracks with emotion. "I won't leave him! Could you? When he is already so alone?"
Both Caim and Inuart have grown so much taller than her, and though still dwarfed by her brother, Inuart covers the space between them in a few quick strides. He folds her in his arms, presses her to his chest. (Too short, too scrawny, she cannot well imagine it is her brother holding her instead.)
"Forgive me. You are right. It would be wrong for us to leave when your brother, my friend, is suffering." There is only a hint of trepidation in his tone as he declares, "Let us stay."
Furiae digs her nails in to justification and concern, refusing to let Inuart cart her off to a faraway land where they can be wed in ignorant bliss. She sleeps certain that this status quo will remain undisturbed, perversely comforted when Caim's nightmares shatter the quiet of the night with his shouts. She demurely requests continued shelter on behalf of her troubled brother from the village elder, who bids they and their small contingent of loyal men linger until all are recovered. Yes, Caim's condition is woeful, and it would be a cruelty of cruelties to spirit away his last living family member.
Caim needs Furiae. It is for him that she denies Inuart. It is for Caim that she fights to stay.
And that is the bitter irony of it.
Three weeks later, it is not Caim whose screams ring out--it is Furiae's. She wishes her brother and Inuart a good night to retire to her private quarters. (In spite of their betrothal, Inuart has never attempted to convince her to share a bed with him, aristocratic decorum holding him tight in its grip though nobility is a distant concern.) She lays herself down and closes her eyes. Vaguely, she thinks she must have slept some for there is a gap between then and when pain sears through her, like a thousand heated knives thrust into her flesh. She shrieks and writhes as her body contorts in misery. With a heavy sound, she rolls from the bed onto the bare wooden floor where she can only scream and sweat and shout for her brother.
The door bursts open, and--
All her senses melt into a muddy facsimile, thick and murky through the pain. Voices lurch to and fro, distinguishable and then not, comprehensible snippets of her native language interwoven with an alien tongue. Feverish heat flares through her, flushes her so red and hot that she dissolves drop by drop into sweat.
Sound bleeds erratically for her and disintegrates in coherence until what she hears is nothing akin to the familiar. Her vision swims, a torrent of color and light. She thinks someone might hold up her seizing body, the heat of their lap a poor competition for the flames licking her body from within. Might she be dying? So difficult for her to guess, but, ah, with how vibrantly pain races through her, she cannot be that near death. The tang of iron proliferates, a hotspot of blood oozing from her bitten lip, and she heaves against it and the memory of her parents' bodies.
She screams like she couldn't weeks ago, like Caim had done. She screams and screams until her throat is a raw center of its own pain and her voice is lost to all but the scratchiest of pleas.
Pain ravages her until the small hours of the morning. Furiae murmurs deliriously, slipping in and out of a shallow slumber. Inuart and Caim take turns sitting beside her to keep watch.
Noon delivers a doctor and ill tidings. By then, dread has begun to mount in Furiae as she sips broth from a bowl, pain subsiding. Vague, embellished stories have always been passed around, an unlikely fate to titter and tease over tea, but Furiae sees the glances and whispers thrown her way in the hours since she has regained consciousness. Confirmation makes her stomach drop.
"The goddess died last night."
It resounds like a death knell, but none of them protest when word must be sent.
The hierarch, a bald and bony elderly man, arrives amidst an entourage of lesser priests and soldiers. He is curt in identifying Furiae and kneeling her in the dirt outside. Together with his fellow priests, he brands responsibility into her body in an arcane ritual. The hierarch aids her in rising, a new weight burdening her like a second shadow, and then, simply and abruptly, it is time for her to bid farewell to her loved ones. Caim stands apart from Inuart and the men who followed them across the border. They salute her and wish their princess good health and fortune in her brave sacrifice. Inuart gathers her hands in his, his shaking where hers are steady.
"Forgive me," Inuart says, "for not being able to make you happy."
She smiles, bland, and tells him to care for Caim in her stead.
To Caim, she says goodbye last. He gazes at her with an implacable intensity as they stand before one another. In the background, the hierarch whips his people into line, snapping out orders because they will be leaving immediately once the girl is done. The rules shackling the goddess dictate no contact with none but the priest who cares for her. It doesn't seem real that she will never see her brother again. Nothing, truly, has seemed real since that night of all-consuming pain, since her father was half-devoured by a black dragon, since she peered down into a puddle of her mother's blood and gore.
Caim holds Furiae too tight, but this is a pain she does not mind. She hopes he leaves bruises, discolored blotches in the shape of him for her to poke and prod into lingering. All that fighting to remain with him, and yet she is being forced away.
"I love you," she says into his chest.
And she listens close to the beat of Caim's heart, ignoring the hierarch's calls for her, to ensure she dedicates it and what he whispers to memory: "I love you, Furiae."
No one knows quite how tedious it is to be the goddess.
The other priests that accompany her and the hierarch to the castle that will be her prison dare not to speak to her. They address her in a roundabout fashion even when she is there beside them; after all, only the hierarch is permitted to speak to her. The Union soldiers who escort them depart to other postings or to man the castle's perimeter once they arrive. The surrounding lands are as vacant and dusty as the castle's interior. Others must call it home, but Furiae never observes them.
It is her and Hierarch Verdelet. This is the world of the goddess.
Her private room is unsurprisingly sparse and dreadful. Plain walls and floor, both drafty and stifling somehow. Furiae clothes herself in the same dress day in and day out. A few books line wooden shelves--theology, to her disappointment. She couldn't possibly bring herself to care about such a boring topic, but a sheer lack of anything else to do between Verdelet's droning monologues on scripture and her noon walks with the hierarch around the castle, she does cave to flicking through them. The text might be drier than Verdelet's lectures, if such a thing is possible. She asks him for other books; he presents her with more religious-themed tomes. They gather dust on the shelf, abandoned.
She becomes familiar with the view from the single window in her room, with how the land brightens at the cusp of dawn and blazes in the full-sunned noon and darkens to a snuffed dream at dusk. Her chair beside the window never moves once it is placed there.
At first, she fears she might go insane from relentless ennui. Verdelet's sermons blend together until she wonders if yesterday was a week ago or a month mayhaps. But, no, that is hyperbolic drama concocted by her subconscious to give her something other than sheer tedium to fill her thoughts. Such little variance in her day to day in this static environment dulls her to an unparalleled extent.
Verdelet seems to prefer Furiae quiet, only nodding every so often when he gesticulates with particular force during a lecture. He comments in appreciation for her noble upbringing in comparison to past goddesses he has served. She does not weep and demand release; she sits and does not interrupt his circular and repetitive recitations of scripture.
Not knowing the number of days or weeks or months is a blessing. Furiae does not count on her fingers how long it has been since she last saw her brother, since her parents were alive, since she wasn't burdened by an otherworldly pressure as the goddess.
The last words she heard Caim speak, while wrapped in his arms, were that he loves her. He spoke her name with gentle desperation, keenly missing her already even before she had gone away.. She wonders how he might be doing, how he might still be missing her. Maybe he sighs to Inuart in remembrance of her. Maybe the loss of her drives him to the brink of insanity. Maybe he is so lonely and despairing that he would defy tradition and government to return her to his side.
Every day, after knocking on her door, Hierarch Verdelet asks her: "Are you well this morning, my lady?"
"Yes," Furiae replies automatically from her seat beside the window. "Simply a bit tired."
"You endure a difficult role for the sake of us all."
She smiles emptily, a force of habit to satisfy the hierarch. "It is my honor to safeguard our lands with my body as the only sacrifice."
Furiae has too much time to think. The hierarch reads scripture aloud and rambles his speculation on what its authors might have intended, and those hours are free reign for Furiae's mind to wander. She has only herself for company, and so it becomes increasingly pointless for her to lie to herself--and she has become quite adept at lying. Nor is it difficult or arcane to discern what others desire from her. She shaped herself to those desires years ago.
I love you, Furiae.
Yes, those are good words. Warm words that could only be bettered if they were whispered against her flesh, her forehead, her cheek. She is not as pure and innocent as she should be. She's a terrible girl who takes perverse pleasure in how her brother needed her in the wake of their parents' violent deaths. Furiae retains herself through the repetition of memory, of her brother mumbling I love you, I love you, I love you.
If Caim had asked her to leave with him, she knows without doubt or hesitation that she would have leapt into his arms and told him yes. She will be with him however and wherever he chooses. They can abscond under the starless night, leaving a scrawled plea for forgiveness from Inuart and the lingering remnant of their kingdom's men (already pledged to the Union). They can hold hands and walk out and away from judgment and expectations. When the curse of the goddess blights her body, Caim will run with her, and if they can no longer run, he will return to her bloody and out of breath. She will hold his blood-flecked face in her hands and tell him how she loves him.
Hierarch Verdelet does not question the vague smiles Furiae aims at the window amidst her reveries. A morbid, filthy peace like this is what a girl like her deserves--if she deserves anything at all.
The Empire cleaves deep into Union territory, and oh, how vile that Furiae feels nothing at the lives lost in the conflict. The number of occupants in and around the castle that has been her prison these past six years swells, and it is sheer pragmatism that permits her to speak and be spoken to by others. Once, she might have found this enliving, but she is used to keeping to herself. It is more trouble to comprehend how she is needed to behave and articulate appropriately. She prefers to smile and return to her daydreams.
War delivers Caim back to her.
She embraces Inuart warmly when he is introduced into her quarters. Union forces muster to prepare a bulwark to meet the sweeping wave of the Empire's army here at the goddess' castle. A symbolic victory if it occurs, but that hardly matters to Furiae. Is Inuart well? How is Caim? Has he been with Caim? Will Caim be coming? Sheer giddy zeal consumes her with a fury she cannot contain nor she has felt since her youngest years.
When she sees Caim, face lined with fatigue and smelling of a long military campaign, she outright weeps. She takes his callused hands and angles them to cup her face, needing the skin-to-skin contact. Inuart watches, and she cannot bring herself to care when it has been six years and her fantasies have sustained her until he came.
"You came," she whispers. "You truly came."
He does not smile, but that's fine. She isn't hurt by it.
"For you, yes," he says. She still recognizes his voice, though it has deepened since he last spoke to her, a well-worn and beloved memory for her. "I came."
Furiae is special. Furiae is loved. And in that moment, Furiae is happy.
But Furiae is also wrong.
It is only appropriate that her undistilled joy be fleeting, that it blow away to reveal the rot underneath. She threw aside the facade of virtue so utterly that she dared revel in the obscenity of her filthy affection in Inuart's view. So natural punishment should be in ensuing that Furiae would have been suspicious if it hadn't.
Caim charges out mixed in the general throng of Union soldiers. He is as capable as ever with a blade and acknowledged by the rank and file for his unrelenting ferocity. (Or, so Furiae hears whispered. What reason does she have to doubt that her brother's skill would ever dull?) However, he is only a single man, and none, not even his most ardent supporters, could fault him for being matched by the teeming masses of infantry the Empire can muster. Chaos abounds on the battlefield, beyond what Furiae can envision, so she knows neither betrayal or shock when Imperials break through ally lines and into the castle. To have embraced her dearest brother one last time suffices, and she can face death without regret contorting her heart, combating the resignation that has become her default.
Inuart does his best. He places himself in front of Furiae when a trio of Imperials batter down the door. One arm braces Furiae, like he anticipates she will succumb to terror and sprint madly into danger, and the other balances the length of a blade. Brave of Inuart, truly, but he never had Caim's natural talent, and age only widens a gap that was wide to begin with. A dodged swing by an Empire soldier, and Inuart is disarmed and thrown to the floor.
Death looms, and at best, Furiae could shrug. She can pass on with her wicked heart satiated. Survival would guarantee more of the last six years. A shame Inaurt will die in her defense, but--
Furiae falters at being a good person, and she is terribly tired, so it's all right. Unfortunate, but what can be done? The crimson eyes peering out from under metal helms offer neither mercy nor weakness. One of the soldiers winds up a kick aimed for Inuart's abdomen, and yes, a pity. Such a pity.
Only, there is Caim.
Of course, Furiae recalls him as in the vicinity, fighting hard to protect her, and still, she is stunned when he tears into the room. He plunges his sword through one enemy and carries on that momentum to whirl bloody and vicious toward a second. Impaled through the forehead, that one clutches at the wound and crumbles with a grotesque gurgling sound. The third slumps over in two pieces, head cleaved from body. Caim heaves for breath as all three lie as corpses at his feet, bloody and sweaty and unharmed. His gaze darts over Inuart, who staggers up, and her to account for potential injuries. Impetus must remain unspent in him because next he rounds on the nearest body and stabs the tip of his blade into it again and again and again.
Inuart glances at Furiae and calls to Caim, "Enough. They are dead."
This man unable to contain his rage, who channels it into base brutality, is not the brother she recalls. Even in the aftermath of their parents' deaths, Caim had been removed, almost forlorn in his numbness as if he could not fathom the next step on from grief. Now, Furiae sees that the next step was anger.
What a strange and lovely thing to see someone so furious for her sake. Warmth flushes her and anchors her to the moment, even as Inuart deduces that Caim is now apparently mute. (She doesn't quite process it. So engrossed in Caim's presence and actions, it takes until they have departed the castle for her to realize that no, she will not hear her brother's voice again.) Inuart retrieves his harp and plays a song, and Furiae is as dissonant as both men. Caim smiles over the corpses he butchered, perfectly comfortable and relaxed. Inuart smiles as he sings beautifully, like he cannot smell the blood permeating the space, like he is not quelling his friend's bestial nature. Furiae smiles in a not-quite-present manner as she relives Caim's unneeded demonstration of vengeful violence in her mind.
The utter surreality of the situation astounds: the dear days of her youth are once more in place with its most important tenets. Inuart is here. Caim is here. And Furiae is here, too.
How peculiar this would have felt even a fortnight ago. But the impossible can become real; Furiae now understands that.
She focuses her gaze on Caim, where he listens to Inuart, bloodied in her defense. A thread of dark desire weaves through her, and she is truly there, contained within the confines of her body and feeling the present moment in a way she has not in so very long.
(Her all-too-familiar castle looms as an angular silhouette on the horizon. In the shadow of six years, en route to a proposed destination of a neutral village of elves, Inuart kindly deigns to explain when Furiae inquires about Caim's muteness.
"I understand. You must have been in shock," he says, and she nods docilely. He is even kinder to provide her an excuse.
And, then, Inuart proves kinder yet when he steadies her when the truth rips a sob from her. Horrible. Absolutely horrible for Caim to be forced into making a pact with a dragon of all beasts. She hopes it does not hurt him to look upon this creature bound to him.
For herself, she sheds a tear or two, as well. Because, oh, she mourns the tragic loss of Caim saying her name.)
Neither does Furiae expect it and nor does she express it, but she loathes the red dragon. She hates that it speaks for her brother, addresses Furiae dismissively and without affection. She hates that it fights beside him, unbound by the love that commits her brother to her defense. She hates that it knows her brother's mind, plunges and glimpses its darkest depths, its every secret, its--
No. She mustn't go that far. Even during those years of pensive loneliness, she did not permit herself to cross that line. She will not name it, though she knows it intimately. To label it would be the ultimate act of condemnation and acceptance.
She mustn't. She mustn't. She mustn't.
She endured years alone, pining and hopeless and comforted by only her impossible reveries. She did not anticipate; she should not have anticipated. She learned as a young girl that rarely, if ever, do fantasy and reality meet, so hold them discrete. Some things simply belong locked away inside and never uttered. Do not hope, and do not act. She can be the girl all expect her to be in spite of her horrid thoughts and feelings to which the world will never conform. Furiae accepts that this is how it must be.
Caim returned. None except the hierarch may speak to the goddess, and yet now she eats her meals beside her brother and smiles at him and sees him nod or shake his head in response to her words. He sheds blood in her name, runs off into battle and comes back to her. Never should they have been reunited after the curse of the goddess ravaged Furiae's body that one night, but he is living and breathing and inches away from her.
Their kingdom is a ruin absorbed into the shifting, amorphous borders contested by the Union and Empire, but Furiae is a princess by blood. She spent years locked away alone, meant to never be released under the justification of tradition. Against all the odds, against all the rules of the world as she has come to know them, a prince took her hand and ushered her away from her prison.
Princesses are saved by knights, Inuart once told her. Yet who was it on his hands and knees, lacking the strength to save her and himself from their impending deaths? Petty glee bubbles out from Furiae, though she should be sitting calm and unperturbed as their party breaks for a meal on their long trek. A smile pushes at the corners of her lips even as she tries to deaden herself.
She is on a precipice of impossibility, peering over the edge. She shouldn't. Oh, she shouldn't. But, she was not as wrong as she thought she was, was she? Princes do save the princess. The goddess does leave her castle. Sisters can marry their brothers.
It is a tremendous revelation for Furiae to witness that the world's order can be defied. The impossible is not so impossible, and--
She doesn't have to content herself with daydreams. She does not have to sit idle and repressed as the untouchable goddess. Her mother was so foolish, and Inuart even more so. The prince does rescue the princess, sillies, and by virtue of all and everything: Furiae is not wrong to love her brother like she does.
Her desires do not have to stay buried inside. Caim came back for her, and this time, after this terrible, obnoxious war has concluded, she will not permit herself to be stolen away again. Like she dreamed, Caim will prevent it himself if necessary this time. She's seen the ferocity with which he confronts opponents, and she experienced his tender feelings for her when he held her at their reunion. Maybe the hierarch will perish during the war, him and all his priests so that none will recognize Furiae as the goddess. Maybe Furiae can embrace her brother, and they can build towards a happier future. Maybe Caim can be king like he should be--
--and she his queen.
Yes. It is not so impossible. The present is not ideal, but after the war, there will be no dragon and Furiae can be Caim's voice for him.
Hope curls certain and warm in Furiae's chest.
Desire unconstrained blooms wild and perilous in Furiae. No longer does her love suffer as prey with herself as its predator, and so it invades and grows on the most fertile of soil. She is flush with the glory of admittance.
Desperation is the unfortunate companion to her love because the question of Caim follows her every breath, her every heartbeat. He loves her. He must. She knows it in his choices. She has waited her entire life already, and she has been so lonely and isolated and untouched in her tenure as the goddess.
She needs to know. She deserves to know.
(There is a hunger welling inside her.)
Bereft of shoes, Furiae clothes herself in only her plain dress when she slips out the back of her tent. They positioned her near the center of their temporary encampment for the night, angled toward the campfire where a few men and Inuart sit watch. (Though, it is less Inuart staying alert for danger and more that he keeps the others awake with simple jests and ditties.) Furiae skirts around the firelight, tiptoes through over the dirt and grass in the shadows. She isn't sure if she fully conceives of her intent with this late-night excursion, but she is too possessed by the need for something tangible to second guess herself.
She can sense the red dragon resting in the outskirts, an inhuman presence with one eye cracked open in curiosity of Furiae's movements. Or so Furiae supposes. The dragon had wearily proclaimed a desire for slumber and wouldn't stray that far from its human pact-partner. A sly, thin smile teases at Furiae's lips. Very well if the dragon knows; if it cares, then this is simply Furiae regaining her rightful territory as Caim's nearest and dearest.
Because what she thinks is not wrong. Furiae peers past the lies and pretenses. Just because what she desires isn't convenient to the desires of another does not mean she should look askance from her dreams. Why shouldn't Furiae live her best and truest life?
It is a brief journey for her to arrive beside Caim's tent, but it has been an ever so long and winding one for her to surpass petty judgments and assumptions.
Since they were last together, Caim seems to have become a quieter sleeper.
Furiae pauses outside of his tent and doesn't breathe as she listens close. Maybe sheer physical exertion has him passed out beyond the grasp of dreams and nightmares. Maybe time dulls trauma and bad memories don't torment Caim quite as brutally as they once did. (Maybe the comfort of having her nearby is sufficient to grant him peaceful sleep.)
The question of what she does intend gives her a slightly longer pause. But she casts it aside without thought, overflowing with echoes of past desires unacted.
She has examined and quibbled and stressed enough. It is no longer necessary.
Furiae slips from the scarce firelight into the shadowed silhouettes of her brother's tent. She squats down, arms around her knees, grass and dirt a pleasant chill between her toes, and she traces out Caim's form. In another life, this might not feel as exhilarating as it does currently to her, but she is confined to this life and this sense of freedom, however small, is ecstatic.
Caim sleeps without sound, steady inhales and exhales show in the rise and fall of his chest, divested of armor. He sleeps on his back, sheathed blade in easy reach. Furiae creeps forward. The lack of space forces her down onto her hands and knees, and ah--none of this has involved foresight from her. She simply felt and felt and felt to the point it was bursting out of her. It is a happy accident that she ends up bracketing her sleeping brother and hovering about him, her face hanging over his, hair loose and dark around it.
He must be terribly tired to not be awakened by her entrance and movements. How hard he fights for her sake. Furiae smiles fondly, sweetly, lovingly, and she leans down to where the tips of her hair brush Caim's cheeks and truly and completely crosses the false lines placed before her since her youth.
A chaste press of her lips to his--Furiae kisses her brother.
Divinity died for Furiae the moment she experienced the cursed miracle of bearing the goddess' burden. God is dead, and Furiae does not care. But, this--ah, this. Worship of falsehoods comforts no one. Worship of one's beloved is the true and only comfort. Furiae could preach it, could kneel in sincere contemplation and prayer for it. She could endure any despair in the name of her dear brother.
Dress hiked up to around her thighs so she can hover over Caim's abdomen, Furiae presses a tentative palm to his cheek. Her first kiss is so blessed. Waiting was difficult, but the outcome transcendent. Now that she has kissed him once, she must kiss him again.
She exists in limbo, a detached pocket of reality where actions are without consequences and thought is truly optional. Here, Furiae is free, and there is nothing to be concerned about with kissing her sleeping brother.
She freezes. A sliver of Caim's opened eyes peer up at her, a glint of white in the dark of the tent. He does not move, does not breathe, does not blink. Nor does she.
A long moment.
Furiae smiles and lets her weight gently drop onto Caim's chest, her legs tucked up against him."Forgive me for waking you," she whispers.
His mouth opens, and she tilts her head, still smiling. Surprise rendered him forgetful, she assumes. But that's okay. There is no need for words between them when his actions have conveyed his heart to her. Still smiling (ah, so hard to not be), she presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth and that seems to be what breaks Caim from his immobile staring.
Fingers dig into her shoulders as Caim jolts up, shifting her into his lap. He looks at her through wide eyes, expression vulnerable in a way she hasn't seen since they reunited. She understands. It's been so long, and he must have never thought it could be between them either after she was taken as the goddess. It's a process; she knows that so well, better than anyone.
"It's okay," she reassures him, smiling softly, one hand still cupping his face and another now on one of the hands clawed over her shoulder. "You don't need to be anxious or fearful. I understand."
He looks at her with a hard, conflicted expression. Really, Furiae does despise that terrible dragon for stealing his voice when she most longs to hear it. How despicable for them to be in this circumstance: the valiant prince drenched in blood and bereft of voice, the princess chained to a callous burden, and only now are they together in the midst of war. Tragedy must precede a happy ending, however, so, like she says--
"It's okay, Caim."
Tension ebbs from his stiff arms and permits her to lean into a half-embrace, her face pressed into the crux of his throat. His heartbeat hammers wildly, faint perspiration having broken out along his skin. Into his neck, she says, "I love you."
He cannot say it back, but his grip on her shoulders is tight enough to say it all regardless. He won't let her go.
She leans back up to kiss him again, heady with the fact he can now return her affections. Her eager mouth against his, chaste but tantalizing. Her palm slides down and over his shoulder, and she fully embraces him, her breasts ghosting his chest. She doesn't quite know what is supposed to come next, but whatever it is, she does want it. She wants it with a growing fervor that envelopes her whole.
Caim almost flinches away suddenly from her, his head jerking back enough to separate their lips. The limited space of the tent and her weight on his lap impedes him from moving farther (unless he throws her off, but he wouldn't do that). His hands are still such tense claws around her shoulders. He looks at her wildly, eyes flickering between her own and her mouth and back, and for a moment--
Furiae's smile fades. "Caim?"
He swallows hard and turns his face down and away from her.
Ah. Then she understands: he's embarrassed. Her smile returns, and she cannot help but draw back a hand to stifle a laugh into. How sweet that her daring big brother is nervous--and not at all in the way that Inuart was in his attempts at wooing her. Caim is all forward momentum, yet he has always treated her gently. He loves her, but he needs to control himself. She's witnessed him decimate Inuart in training duels throughout their entire youth. She's felt the calluses on his hand and smelt the stench of a hard work's sweat on him. She's seen the power in a single hand when he thrusts a blade through a body. Caim is thoroughly adept at killing, and yet, here he is, so distraught at having to restrain himself for her sake.
She loves him. She loves him. She loves him. It sears through her in licking flames of desire, and so even as Caim cannot seem to look at her, she throws herself against him, relinquishing all her weight onto him. She accepts all of him; she desires all of him. She blazes with love for him, a small fire fanned into an inferno. Reality suffuses her far more ardently than her reveries, set to a background of tuning out Verdelet, ever could.
She is warm, so very warm sitting in her brother's lap, and she does love him so very much. She entered with very little consideration given to what she would do, but now, desire curling as a bed of coals in her, instinct guides her toward the sharing of intimate touches.
Smiling--oh, how she cannot stop smiling this wicked smile--she gently removes one of his hands from her shoulder and presses it to her chest, splays it over where her heart beats.
"Caim," she says, low and heated. His gaze twitches back to meet hers finally, and she looks at him through lidded eyes. "I need you. Having to be without you these years…it's been so painful. I missed you. Please, stay with me."
He softens ever so slightly and opens his mouth like he intends to speak. But he can't. That dreadful dragon stole his voice. (How miserable that the hierarch didn't pay this price instead.) A true mercy and gift that they have been reunited, never to part again, because Furiae will be his invaluable queen and partner, able to interpret his actions clearly.
So, she understands, then. The message is clear in the slight trembling of his grip, the rapid pace of his heartbeat--observed under her fingers--the faint working of his mouth as cruel fate constrains the ultimate declaration from his own tongue: I love you.
Furiae smiles, somehow wider yet, a rictus of bliss and bright days ahead. "I love you too, Caim."
His clumsy kisses are no more indelicate than her own. To think they both had waited, to think that she is his first--it is right. It is so terribly right. This is an indulgence she has justified and won through her existence, through her undying love no matter how she once tried to smother it. She kisses the outline of Caim's lips, marks the territory of what is hers and hers alone, and then seals her mouth over his open one. The inside of Caim's mouth is not dry from nervousness; it is wet and slick, red and warm and full of life. He seems most comfortable with letting her take the lead, letting her angle his head to best meet her mouth.
She parts from him, a string of saliva following her. "It's…" She heaves, hungrier for air than she realized. "It's all right to touch me. Please."
Oh, Caim is so pliable now. How much reality can differ from dreams; Furiae never thought she would be the one in control, but it's so sweet how nervous Caim remains. So powerful and strong, and her dear brother all but melts in her arms. She maneuvers the palm splayed over heart to press firm around the swell of one of her breasts. She exhales, heavy and heady, squirming in his lap.
Desire all but oozes out of her pores alongside perspiration. The contained space of the tent heats up with her, becoming an all-consuming shrine devoted to the expression of their love. She loves Caim so terribly. Two decades of existing for him boil to a lid-rattling conclusion here. She wants him in every possible configuration a woman can desire a man. Her mouth is wet with his saliva and below, she anticipates him. The pressure of his fingers over her breast shakes her, the space between his fingers squeezing her nipple. The fabric of her dress is thin enough to convey it like there is almost nothing separating them.
"Caim," she breathes his name. Once more, she simply must say it. "I love you."
She cannot repeat it enough. She loves him. He loves her. Their story is worth a fairy tale.
Her movements have unintended, but needed consequences--slowly, something hardens below her, a firm shape forming in testament to her brother's equal desire for her. The act of intercourse itself is hazy in her mind. Young women only received so much education in that field when she was growing up, and certainly her mother had intended to pass on her own knowledge on that subject--from mother to daughter in a long line going back--but she herself had passed too soon to do it. And as the goddess, Furiae was never supposed to experience this indulgence, this beautiful unification of love. So, here she is, partially clueless to her own desire and her brother's desire. Caim can't have much more of an idea than her, or she at least doubts he would understand a woman's perspective on the matter. Their father certainly gave him some concept, what with Caim having a few years on Furiae and Inuart.
But Furiae is in the lead here, and she is not so callous as to demand Caim enact her desires for her.
She can do this just fine herself. She can wrest her own fate from the universe.
In a better world, they would be doing this as a wedded couple for the first time, clean and lovely and approved of by society. But, well, fairy tales require overcoming adversity. She'll have her love here and now and later.
The basics, she knows those at the least. She had overheard a thing or two from maids and peeped a secret perverse text in the library. A man's cock is inserted into a woman's cunt to produce offspring. How such a thing results in pleasure, that was beyond her, but she thinks she has some idea now.
"Caim," she says, leaning in once more to press her face into the crook of his neck. "I love you. You know that, yes? I love you more than anything."
So let her demonstrate that in the most profane and holy of ways.
She lifts herself up and reaches down single handedly to divest herself of her undergarments. They are soaked through, and she could laugh with how she thought she could repress this most fervent of desire forever. Of course it burst out of her eventually. She wants it too badly. Dropping back down, she takes one hand to the waistband of Caim's pants, above where he strains against its confines. A single touch, signaling her intent--
And he winces so suddenly and violently away from her.
"Oh, Caim," she whispers. She moves forward to regain the space imposed between them and cups his face between her hands, presses their foreheads together. "It's all right, I promise. I love you." She cards one hand through his sweaty hair and then reaches down once more.
Her fingers do not make as quick of work with the ties of his pants as she would like. The closer she comes to the ultimate act of love, the more desperate she becomes. But, eventually, her single hand working to wrest his desire free succeeds. Caim does not aid her, but that's okay. She understands how nervous he is. His hands are braced on nothing, full of air as he looks hard over her shoulder.
One more barrier gone, and then the last one is easily surmounted. She strokes a hand down the hard heat of his bared cock. Her breath comes fluttering out in a desirous gasp. Ah, she wishes she could spend more time to devote this precious thing to memory, the first time she saw Caim as a man in all his glory. There is nothing that could stand between them now. She is unobstructed and needs him so badly. This love is meant to be consummated.
"I love you," she whispers once more, lips shaping the syllables over his throat. She positions herself over him, hovering her heat above his. He leaks like she does, and his hands fly up to fist in the fabric of her dress in the back. He pulls her back, and her mouth makes an "o" of surprise as he looks at her with such intensity, such desperate emotion. She understands. Really, she does.
And, so, she lets herself sink down and onto his cock.
She gasps aloud, unbelieving of the girth that fills her for the first time ever. She is so thankful in that moment that she saved herself for him, and that he saved himself for her. This is the ideal. She is so very, very thankful. This is the dream she had in all those years while captive as the goddess. Caim is her brother, her savior, her lover.
His breath comes ragged and stuttered, punched out of him as if it is against his will. His fistfuls of her dress shift to opposite sides as he pulls her in and down against him, overwhelmed. Air chokes out of him in a mimicry of cry, a trick of how his inhalation rattles through him.
She is so full, aching almost in how hasty she was to have his entire length inside her, gravity driving him into her deep as he can go. She drops her chin onto his shoulder and half-laughs as she looks down. Her dress covering their union is amusingly perverse. She lays a palm against her belly, wondering if she might feel him through it. (A dream within a dream--to feel her belly swell one day with their child.) She feels delirious with the thick member of heat piercing her, in this culmination of longing made manifest.
Unintentionally, she tenses, and the tightening of her walls spurs a snap of Caim's hips. She cries out sharply, and it trails off into a moan as she quivers. Caim's breath comes out rough and ragged. Furiae leans back slightly, angling to catch a glimpse of his face in profile. Flushed and sweating, he does not seem to notice her. He is intent on staring hard past her. His fingers flex, and after a beat, like he has achieved some kind of conclusion, they fly down to grab her hips and Caim finally takes the lead.
Without much thought, without much concern, without much anxiety, Caim transforms into the beast he is on the battlefield, driven by instinct and unstoppable. His momentum increases rapidly as he takes his pleasure from Furiae. She cries out at first as he pounds up into her, his grip on her hips grinding her back down, but stifles her voice with a hand over her mouth. The rough pace, bouncing in his lap, makes it too difficult, and so, she bites down on her hand.
It is good. Terrifyingly good once it has begun in earnest and the initial overwhelming sensation faded to pleasure. She knew he felt the same, that for as hesitant he seemed, he wanted her too. It is wonderful for them to consummate their love, even if Furiae must contain her voice and hope in the back of her mind that the fleshy slap as they meet isn't notable outside the tent. (Though, ah, some small, inane part of her wonders at how nice it might be to not hide. She has done it for a long time, and there is a blossoming relief in her, a weight lifted, at living this truth.)
Climax shocks through her when it occurs, a crescendo of pleasure that has her biting harder yet into her hand. She spasms around Caim, and he must know something has occurred, but he does not slow. Ever so sensitive now, he continues to plunge into her, and she moans low and with the faintest modicum of protest.
This is the true end, the one she now realizes she was actually chasing. One thrust, two, and he comes inside of her, air wheezing out between his clenched teeth. If she had not already orgasmed, the wet heat filling her now would alone have pushed her over the edge.
They sit in silence for minute or so, recovering their breath. Furiae whispers a quiet prayer to no one in particular for this beautiful life she shall now lead.
"Thank you," she murmurs, and Caim lethargically removes himself from her and places her beside him. His come begins to leak from her, and she, thoughtlessly, reaches down to catch what drips out.
Caim's expression is hard and stoic. She still smiles. He is such a reliable man; he would make a wonderful father.
It is late, so she understands the message. She needs her rest as much as he does. To stay together all night would be tantamount to discovery and temptation. Carefully, she slips her undergarments back on, a shock of arousal singing through her as her still wet panties are dripped on by her semen-filled cunt.
Caim does not respond when she kisses his cheek and embraces him for a long moment. It is a lot to process; their first time together of many to come.
She slips carefully out of his tent and cannot help but pause and look out into the darkness. The dragon must lurk there somewhere. Smug glee sparks in Furiae; she has nothing to fear or envy. She retreats back to her own tent, having staked her claim on her beloved and with a rivulet of his semen beginning to drip down her thigh.
In Furiae's story, the Empire stands as her greatest foe. It razes the forest seal, shatters the desert seal, and posits her as three-fourths of the bulwark against apocalyptic evil. The suspicious movements of Imperial squadrons rob her of the comfort of Caim's presence as he takes off wordlessly to investigate and reappears only at the fall of desert seal. The Empire abandons Verdelet as a captive and instead flees with Inuart in tow.
It all tries her patience.
And then tries it all the more yet when Inuart slips off the back of a black dragon with crimson eyes.
She understands. Truly, she does. No longer does she pretend to not. She knows what it is like to long for someone and think it unrequited, impossible beyond the most desperate and dark of circumstance. Jealousy burned in her heart, and yes, she looks forward to when the red dragon vanishes forevermore. She has harbored a love since her youngest days, so she understands Inuart.
But, it is what it is. The princess belongs to only one man, and for all Inuart's insistence it must be a knight, Furiae proves it can be a prince. If he will not accept his loss, then Inuart is simply destined to play the role of dastardly villain.
Against all odds, Inuart overpowers Caim. He throws his oldest friend to the dirt and hoists Furiae over his shoulder. Bile surges in her throat as Inuart carries her atop the black dragon, the memory of the dreadful day her parents died assaulting her until she looks down.
There is Caim. He struggles up to his knees, defeated but furious, and she smiles.
He'll come for her. Like he already has, he will again.
Furiae has nothing to fear when her happy ending has been earned.
Stark silence, and deep darkness. Each devours Furiae when she awakens in an impossible space. Up and down, left and right--nothingness dominates, nothingness subsumes, nothing is all. She traces the path of what she recalls before now, and ah, perhaps Inuart snapped her neck, sensed from her that she and Caim had consummated their love. But, no, she does breathe, and something soft lies under her.
The revelation that she is doubtlessly alive flushes her warmly with confidence. Being alive is all she must be for Caim to rescue her.
Furiae regains her patience now that a denouement must be on the horizon, so when it takes time for anything to occur, she is comfortable and calm. Slowly, the darkness cracks open to yield a hazy view of herself and then expands to include the surface below her.
"Toys?" she murmurs, shifting to an upright position. She sits atop a bed covered in a child's plush toys, resembling animals both mundane and fantastical. In each, it unsettles her to see there is a blade. "How cruel…"
"Much like all humans are wont to be."
Furiae stiffens. A voice, low and assertive and emanating from an unidentifiable direction, skulks out to encircle her with its presence.
"Is someone there?"
No answer. Furiae glances at one of the knives stabbed into the toys.
"You can try! But the Watchers won't be harmed by that tiny thing!"
Now, a far higher-pitched, girlish voice rings out to observe like it might as well be seeing her thoughts.
"Whoever is there, come out," Furiae says. She gingerly places a foot off the bed, chains ominously jingling, and is relieved to feel cold stone. As she stands, she notices then the change in her attire. Gone is the plain garb of the goddess in favor of a sleeveless red dress. Unpleasant implications lurk on the tip of her tongue, but she ignores them. "Where are we?"
"Does it matter?" replies the girlish voice. "Lalalalala!"
Furiae blinks, hazy darkness clearing to hazy darkness. It doesn't matter. Not when--
"--he'll come rescue me."
Dim light illuminates, eye-wateringly bright in its abruptness, and Furiae stumbles back onto the bed. Chains hang from a distant ceiling to lock the bedframe into an unmoving location. To her right, a slanted pillar of blue-tinted, opaque material stretches up from the stone floor. The eerily wide space contains little else, near overwhelms in its vacancy that Furiae misses the girl at first. She waits with a broad smile for Furiae to notice her, and once Furiae observes her, the girl launches into a twirl.
"Lalalalala, lalalalala! The Watchers laugh! The Watchers sing! The Watchers dance!"
Her blonde hair and overly long red garb swirl out as she spins. Furiae can only watch, eyes wide.
"Are you frightened?" The girl tucks her hands behind her back and skips a step forward. "Can the goddess recognize fear?"
"Of…of course I can," Furiae says. Shock keeps her thoughts surface level, shallow and immediate. Caim--she hopes he comes soon. Something about the girl unnerves her.
"Lies, lies, lies! The Watchers do not lie!" The girl stomps a firm foot, and then, it is no longer her voice she speaks with. "The Watchers do not lie. Lalalalala, I'm a normal girl who needs what every normal girl needs. I shouldn't be ashamed. I'm a good girl, a normal girl."
Furiae leans away as the girl advances one step and another toward her.
Spoken as a girl: "A normal girl needs a normal boy to love, and love is good, so I should have love. They're all wrong." A gesture to each side, like she sermons to an imaginary audience, and the girl's voice dips down to an unnatural deepness. "What we did together was good because we are in love and love is good. I'm not wrong. Lalalalala, lalalalala."
"How do you--"
"The Watchers can see into your heart!" the girl chirps. "They can see all your filthy lies."
Pointless to debate a child armed with suppositions, but still, Furiae cannot stop herself from shouting, "I haven't lied about anything!"
Giggling, the girl grabs at her stomach and answers in the impossible tone of a grown man. "Didn't he seem shocked? Yes, but he didn't expect our love to be requited. Didn't he seem hesitant? Yes, but who wouldn't be during their first intimate contact with their lover. Didn't he seem afraid? Yes, but it's a scary thing to take the next step and transform your relationship forever."
"Lalalala, what funny excuses! The Watchers laugh!"
"Stop it! You have no idea what you're talking about!"
"The Watchers speak! Unlike some that can't."
Furiae swallows hard. "You…you need to be quiet."
"So you can make up more convenient answers?" The girl laughs and spins on a single foot. "The goddess is a liar! Lalalalala, the Watchers do not lie!"
"I never lied!" Furiae's hands curl into fists, and she snaps out her retort, volume escalating. "I only ever lied to myself for what I thought was for the best. I…"
Furiae loves Caim. Caim loves Furiae. It is a good and wonderful thing, their love. Everyone else couldn't understand, but Furiae is not wrong or dirty for loving someone, even her own brother. He loves her too, so it can't be. He came for her after she had given up. He let her kiss him and touch him. Yes, he pushed her away, but he was nervous. Yes, he didn't initiate, but he wanted to let her lead. Yes, he couldn't look at her, but he was overwhelmed.
"I…" The girl's crimson gaze meets hers, and Furiae's mouth goes dry. "I…didn't…I love him…"
The girl smiles.
Furiae loves him. That's enough. End of story.
Nothing else is needed.
(But that isn't how any story concludes.)
Caim comes. Of course, he comes.
He wouldn't leave her. That awful little girl understands nothing, speaks filthy lies as she accuses Furiae of doing the same. Furiae will not mourn her when Caim runs her through, when her small body slides limply off his blade, when she knows all-consuming agony in her final moments. Caim heaves for breath, eyes wild, and blood flecks his armor and face; he longs for slaughter, and Furiae will be a gracious audience.
He is a magnificent sight striding up to where she waits with the girl, the brutal, war-hardened reality of a shining hero rescuing his princess. She recalls the feel of his lips against hers, the warmth of him against and inside her, and she knows with certainty that the world can be a sweeter place than mere fantasy. No matter what that girl utters, it's all foul lies.
He loves her. He has come for her. So, when he hears her voice, that maniacal, bloodthirsty grin of his will soften. He'll throw out an arm and welcome her sprinting into his embrace. He'll enact vengeance for Furiae's kidnapping on the girl, and they shall depart, a few more sacrifices made on the altar of their future together.
A step forward. Her shout resounds in the dim room.
And Caim flinches. Her brother who throws himself into the thick of violence--he flinches at the sound of her voice.
Furiae freezes, and like heavy chains coiling around her ankles, the girl's words come back to haunt her. Furiae's eyes are wide as she shuffles toward her brother. She just--
"Caim!" Once more, she calls for him. He doesn't move from where he stands, but his stance is wary--not welcoming his sister, his lover, his dearest. She ignores it, already concocting justifications. "Caim, you're here!"
He loves her. He loves her. He loves her. She inches forward. If she can keep believing it, then it must be true.
From behind, a dark, low voice: "He won't even look at me. He looks past me. Just like he did that night."
That horrid girl and whatever eldritch horror lurks in her mind.
"He held me, so he must love me. He'll take me away from everything, from all the responsibility and weariness. Who cares about being the goddess? Let the world rot. I don't care. I want him to take me away."
Air rasps in and out of Furiae as her eyes blow tremblingly wide. She whips back to see the girl twirling in oblivious merriment.
"Such an ugly heart," says the girl in her child's voice. "You take and take and take even though you know it's a naughty thing to do."
"No!" Furiae shouts, then under her breath: "I haven't…"
Deep and dark: "I haven't done anything wrong. Brother of mine, beloved of mine, answer me this: you desired me, didn't you? This wasn't merely the perverse lust of a filthy girl gone mad. You must love me. You held me."
"Caim…" Fearful though she might be, she cannot help but seek out Caim. He is focused sharply on the girl, and Furiae cannot decipher the nuances of his steely expression. She creeps forward. "Caim, please."
"I can see your heart," the girl says with a giggle. "It's an ugly and rotten place, you know. Who wants a goddess who forces herself on her own family?"
"No, no!" Her eyes well with the beginnings of frustrated tears. She rushes across to close the remainder space between her and Caim and is horribly relieved when he doesn't run, when he lets her collapse against his chest and grab onto his shoulders. "Caim…Caim…"
The girl laughs, mirth echoing in mockery.
"Caim…" Furiae looks up. "I love you."
Caim does not hold her. He does not kiss her. He stares down in unreadable emotion.
"You…love me. You always said it." There's such a thin line between sister and lover. "You always, always said it to me."
She fists her hands tight over his shoulders, desperate for an answer she fears he won't give. (Ah, perhaps, this is how he felt that night--)
"Please say it. Caim, please." She shuts her eyes tight, tears squeezing out to track down her cheeks, and clings to him. "Please…please say you love me. I love you. I need you to love me."
An impossible task, but love defies fate and fact. If he loves her, he will convey it. So, she leans back to look up. Caim meets her gaze--
--for the length of a heartbeat before avoidance resumes.
Furiae wobbles back, one step and another, shaking her head. It's too much. She can't parse everything she should feel and think, and when the bed is in her line of sight, she runs for it, nearly tripping over the hem of her dress in her haste. The myriad knives thrust into toys tantalize her.
An eerie calmness descends over Furiae, and she throws a glance over her shoulder. "Caim."
Now, like he has also makes the connection, he does not look away from her.
One last time, she tries: "I love you."
Fleeting, but he falters, glancing away from her and back. She knows he does love her, but--
(A fairy tale can end in tragedy.)
--it isn't like she needs.
Her heart's blood blends prettily into the red of her dress.