[Asteria] Return

The Kowlani Territories, or the Solarity of Kowloon, is a small suzerain to the galactic south of the Tai Pan empire. Home to dozens of species, it is ruled as a monarchy, and underneath the Lord Empress, Bhelith tu Andes Arleigh, it nevertheless prospers in opposition to its democratic neighbors. Fortunes are made or broken in the wild edges of the Solarity, and the names of those who made or lost them rise and fall with equal severity.
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Jimmy
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[Asteria] Return

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The ship shook gently a few more times throughout the groups rest as burns and manoeuvres were performed, but the bolthole was undisturbed for a few hours more. Finally, the warbling cry of a baby in need stirred them all. Kikyo lay wrapped in Velmaia’s arms, her head against the other womans chest as they all groaned and rose to wakefulness.

Velmaia was disappointed but not at all surprised when the clothes she had worn for her brief career as a magistar didn’t fit after the half foot of height she had added last night, but she squeezed on what she could. The puffy pants were significantly tighter, and the borrowed cloak was now more a waist-length poncho than a thigh-length garment.

The babe was changed, cleaned and fed, and slowly the trio ate from the food container that Velmaia had smuggled out of the pantry the day before. Sitting in silence around the crib until the wetnurse broke the silence.

“A bold disguise today?” She asked pointedly, raising an eyebrow.

The older elf woman was clearly enjoying a moment to herself as the babe lay sprawled across Velmaia’s thigh, the babe cooed as she was gently bounced by the sturdy muscle. The Wetnurse looked at the facsimile of the Lord Empress curiously, her pale eyes judging Velmaia’s work for herself.

Velmaia’s fingernails gently scratched the back of the baby’s scalp as she bounced her thigh. Soft eyes looking up to stare right back at the elfess without skipping a beat, taking half a second to judge right back before replying.

“I had something that needed to be done.” Velmaia replied tersely.

“Perhaps you meant last night?” The older elf asked, she sipped the top of her bowl as she waited for a tell.

The elf and Velmaia stared at each other blankly for a few seconds. Kikyo was able to cover a blush, but her ears folded down against her hair. She hid herself behind her food but regained composure in an instant. The old elfs eyes flitted to Kikyo before she leaned back, satisfied.

“Nosey old biddy.” Velmaia said with a proud sniff as she turned back to the laughing infant.

Later the trio washed with rags from the bubbling water faucet, freshening up from the stresses of yesterday, and trying to wash away the worry and grief of today. Velmaia was taking her turn with the rag and water, wiping off in the small side room that the tree had tried to make into a kitchen when the sound of boots echoed from the door. Crisp shouts of command came closer as the heavy booted individuals attempted to navigate the hostile layout within the depths of the ship.

Velmaia stepped out of the kitchenette and looked at the door wearing little save a poorly fitting pair of pants, her skin still shone with the wetness of the sponge. Quickly she stepped to her bag and opened it, her brow furrowed in concern as she rummaged through it before taking out a small laser pistol.

“Don your armor and weapons.” She told Kikyo quickly as she checked her own. Aware she had nothing to protect her modesty, never mind her vitals.

The nurse hushed the baby and went into the other room to take cover behind the bed.

Kikyo nodded, already tying up her long dark hair into a bun with haste. Velmaia looked sideways at the other woman doing her hair before the potential battle, then, safety on, she put the weapon in a pocket and walked over to Kikyo. Her new height meant she had little problem picking the cat woman up by the hips of her bodysuit, lifted her and walked to her armor.

The faithful suit of Tianshi armor stood ready, the torso was split, bisected down the sides to let the pilot slip in from the top. Its resting posture was slumped and its form sagging like slack jowls, the arms hanging down the air. Velmaia hefted Kikyo up and carefully moved her over the armor, letting the other womans legs find the holes to slip into the armor proper even as she was still doing her hair.

“Kyaaa!-” Kikyo cried out, cut off by Bheliths hand on her lips. The woman moved away again when she nodded.

“Cold.” Kikyo whined apologetically.

Velmaia smiled and turned, leaving Kikyo to resume her own preparations. She brought her weapon back in one hand and stood sideways in a duelling pose, other hand behind her back, weapon pointed coolly at the door. Her body between it and the warrior still preparing behind her. The sound of boots came closer, meandering around the nonsensical spaces the ship had tried to fill, taking wrong turns and doubling back, but slowly heading towards them.

A hiss and mechanical whirr locked the Knight’s armor, the once saggy form and loose innards tightened around its occupant before the armor layers shifted and slipped naturally into place upon her. What had once been a slumped, empty looking shell quickly transformed into a sleek extension of a warrior's form. A pouty look bore into Velmaia before being concealed by the armor’s helmet erecting itself from the suit’s neck.

Kikyo pulled the blade from its sheath on her hip, the blade shining in the low light. On her left hand, small emitters came loose to a high pitched whine. She was going full bore. Within half a second, a transparent shield crackled to life across the Catgirl’s arm, covering the entire front half of her body. A second set of emitters hummed to life, much more bassy than the first yet were concealed somewhere. She looked back at Velmaia and nodded before looking back towards the door, ready for whatever attempted to enter.

Velmaia replied with a nod of her own, lifting the pistol up and moving to take cover behind the armored woman and shoot around her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on edge, nerves maybe, but mostly from the energy surrounding the energy shield, making her shiver as she passed it.

The hiss of the shields crackling to live caused a notable pause in the strides of the boots outside. They shuffled closer, taking smaller quieter steps, until eventually a voice called out from the other side.

“Hail, who goes there?” It was a strong military voice of someone used to command.

“I could say the same of you. Pray tell who comes to my door?” Velmaia replied, heedless of her shirtless state.

“In the name of the Empress, I bid you open this door.” The voice replied sternly.

“Oh? Which one? The sector is lousy with empress’s.” Velmaia taunted back, the Lord-Empress’s usually strong authoritative voice tinged with a hint of Velmaia’s own viper-like tongue.

“Our Empress, you cretin! Open this door!” There was a sound of somebody stifling and a pause on the other side.

Kikyo triggered the door through her armor’s systems, the bassy hum gained intensity as the door unlocked and began to hum loud. Her hand tightened on her sword’s grip, but she wasn’t at the table empty handed. The bassy hum gave a low boom and the door flew open at great speed. Her sword arm coiled up and aimed for a stab for what she could see.

The colorful puffin jackets of kowlooni infantry greeted her as men, elves, and other such lifeforms scrambled out of the way of the door. Willowquille stood at the forefront with her mouth open, clearly having been about to speak.


Kikyo froze and then quickly stowed the sword and dropped the shield before she bent down to the floor and bowed a silent apology, the helmet receded back into the armor’s neck as Kikyo apologized profusely in stunned silence.

The Archmagister put her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow at the power armored woman in mild displeasure before her eyes shifted to the woman behind Kikyo and widened in surprise behind her silver glasses. The rest of the soldiers there peered in in amazement.

Behind Kikyo Velmaia sighed loudly in relief as the tension slowly defused, both sides lowering their weapons as the threat subsided. She let her weapon down easily to her side as her other hand went to her own hip, tilting her head at Willowquille. Her body was a perfect copy of their Empress’, lustrous dark skin, piercing amber eyes, wild dark hair with a touch of green, and the massive scar of a slash across the chest. All that was missing was her jade crystal on her forehead.

“At this rate, half the ship is going to see my tits before the week runs out.” Velmaia commented dryly.

“I did tell you I would keep an eye on you.” Willowquille replied in equal tone.

Bhelith closed her eyes and tipped her head at the point with a slight nod.

“You should have brought clothes.” Velmaia chided with sniff.

The corner of Willowquille’s mouth curled just a little, and the silver beads of her chains jingled as she turned her head to the rest of the assembled soldiery.

“You heard her, the Empress needs new clothes!”

----

Fresh clothes that fit were brought to the rooms for the women to change into, and the young princess was brought back to Bheliths chambers with more of Kikyo’s comrades in the house guards. But Velmaia made sure the young woman stayed firmly by her side as they followed Willowquille to the assembly room.

Bhelith was wearing one of her usual formal dresses, refined and elegant, with uncomfortably high shoes. Velmaia giving Willowquille a dirty look as she was handed them. It was a long walk to the conference room for her. Kikyo had polished her armor and attached a House Arleigh Green cape with gold fastening to her shoulders. She fixed her hair in a more regal manner, letting it drape down but kept most of it braided for a quick fix in the cast of combat. Her Violet eyes even seemed to glow almost as regally as the polish.

Bhelith herself was wearing a dark bodice that tied up to her neck, its panels decorated with flowing golden elven embroidery that curled and gave the suggestion of natural shapes and antlers. The pads on her shoulders were edged in silver replete with more embroidery and rested above elbow length gloves augmented with thin gauntlets. Her legs had a full length skirt with a tabard front. She looked fit to meet guests of honor, the various panels declaring her familiarity more with armor than dresses.

“Are you planning to show me off?” She asked with a hint of distaste in her voice.

The hard clacks of her shoes on the wooden floors were only a little quieter than those heavy boots the half dozen soldiers that surrounded them protectively all led by Willowquille. The sound grated in Velmaia’s ears as she walked, not helping her already dour mood.

“Perhaps. If you pass this meeting. If you do, there will be more after it. I’m sure you have some idea of what’s happening already. Which reminds me, you’ll need this.” Willowquille replied.

She stopped and turned holding out a bright green diamond on her finger. It shone luridly, hinting at a deeper depth even though it was only an imitation of something that had meant far more pain and power to the original woman.

“The rest of your disguise.” She said, offering it to Velmaia.

Velmaia clicked her tongue in annoyance as that thing was brought up, she had been glad to be rid of it. Willowquille shook it in front of her a little. Reluctantly the Lord-Empress took up her gem and placed it carefully in the centre of her forehead. It rested there regally in place of a crown. The change was complete.

“I think I understand part of your plan. But I’ve no idea how you intend to make me return from death?” Bhelith asked, shaking her head to test her work.

“I’ll explain more when we get there.” Willowquille replied, turning on her heel and continuing her walk.

“You’ll be happy to hear that the Asteria performed adequately after your little stunt. Despite the efforts of our guests. Right now both sides are trying to decide if it’s war yet. But there are matters we must discuss first..” Willowquille replied, waving a hand over her shoulder.

----

Willowquille pulled open the door to the council meeting room, it was a modest rectangular room with walls of warm reds with a splash of green from the baseboard. Dominating the centre of the room was the ocean blue table, a thick heavy-set thing with matching upholstered chairs arrayed on either side, four deep. It squated upon a lush red petal embroidered carpet with gold trim. Overseeing it all was a modest, but plush red and gold throne on a wide raised dais. The throne was empty, and waiting.

Velmaia recognized this place and took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, her face settling into serene calm. Bhelith opened hers.

Protect my children.
Secure my house.
Restore Ayana.
Launch the Asteria.


Bhelith glided into the room with the air of authority, as her time was precisely on time, and turned her head to see who else was in the room. The rest of the seats sat empty bar one woman.

Violet Ran, the dragon-form premier of Kowloon, sat with equal majesty upon her own chair, closest to the Empress’ own. Her grey eyes looked from the display she was reading on the ocean foam table to look at the queen, and with slow grace she stood in respect.

A purple cloak hung from her shoulders, flowing loosely behind her back and arms, her body was clad in a long-sleeved white tabard with matching purple stripes that ran down the length of her body to her ankles and wrists. Golden scales decorated her chest, and above her high collar flowed her straight strawberry blond hair and golden horns, almost antlers, gem speckled and regal. Below them were framed soft, gentle features, her eyes were calm pools of contemplation and compassion.

The two women eyed each other in their finery for a few seconds, getting each other's measure, steady amber eyes met tranquil grey. Bhelith went to her seat and took it gracefully, crossing her legs easily and leaning back against her throne, her hand going to her cheek with an expression of patience for this gathering. Her gloved finger pointed at Kikyo and tapped the side of the chair for her to come over.

“Be seated.” The Lord-Empress told the other women.

Willowquille went to her seat and the three of them sat to decide the future of a nation, and possibly the entire sector.

“Your grace.” Violet Ran replied, she bowed slightly and glided back down to her seat.

Kikyo, face solid as normal, marched to her newly assigned spot. The jingling of the cape fastenings as well as the heavy footfalls generated by the armor echoed in the room with each connecting step. She stopped to Bhelith’s right, violet eyes shimmering as if silently saying something, however she looked to no one and looked directly against the far wall.

“Tell me all that has happened.” Bhelith demanded gently, setting herself up for a long explanation.

Willowquille opened her console to glance at her notes before she turned to address the room.

“The Taianese ship has been badly damaged, and with the help of our escorts the Nemesis is currently trapped in the Gor Gozen system. Admiral Dies has put the rest of the fleet on full alert and is right now involved in a standoff at Rangoon. Everyone is waiting to see what happens next.”

“It has not all gone our own way, however.” Violet Ran interjected, her eyes flicking to Willowquille.

“Yes, the Asteria has taken significant damage herself, several subsystems from sabotage and the battle itself. However, the main cannons are still functional. It seems the Taianese were not expecting the Asteria to have that level of firepower.” Willowquille agreed, her smile at that last sentence betraying her satisfaction at her own creation.

Bhelith sat, absorbing all that was being said, her eyes on Willowquille as the woman spoke, but her posture never changed. Her fist shifted from her tanned cheek, her eyes going between the other two languidly.

Launch the Asteria.

“What are our next steps.” Bhelith asked calmly, directing the conversation.

“We’re about to announce the tragic death of your body double on Gor Gozen, you’ve delayed mourning until this crisis is resolved. Your rule will continue from the Asteria while it’s being repaired. Ground command will move to an officer.” Violet Ran stated perfectly calmly, her eyes turned to focus on Bheliths, waiting for a response.

Bhelith’s brow rose just barely, but her calm, slightly bored expression remained. She took a few seconds to respond, clearly thinking very thoroughly her next few worlds.

“What are the reactions to my potential passing?” Bhelith finally asked.

There was a hint of tightness in her voice, controlled, it could even have been sorrow. But the question was direct, pointed. Political.

“I will not lie, certain members of the interior circles have praised the demise of the Lord-Empress, though others have… other thoughts on the matter.” The Kowlooni Premier’s voice showed no obvious preference to either the former or latter groups. Her voice was cold and steady, even after she began to reveal her position.

“Kowloon is a unique item, and I believe that the Blackspear is one within the lore of Kowloon itself, inseparable. Your citizens are upset, some ready for war even.” Her eyes never left Bheliths, boring holes through her as those of some unholy proctor.

“Quite.” Agreed Willowquille, nodding deeply. “Between the different noble houses, military bands, and the chaotic situation. The crisis would be, frankly untenable.”

The archmagister turned her head to peer at the empress around her silver spectacles, green eyes glittering with scrutiny for the queen but saying nothing else.

Secure my house.

Bhelith remained in contemplative thought for a moment, her amber eyes going from Willowquille to Violet slowly before she sat up, her hand going to its rest.

“It seems a weakness of our state that all of it relies on my good health.” Bhelith replied slowly. “This is not a long term situation, I imagine?”

“You are quite right, it was a calculated expediency to rally a nation from a bunch of disparate refugees and exiles. We do not live in enlightened times, and many expect, perhaps even were comforted by the strong hand of a single ruler.” Violet Ran agreed calmly.

The dragon looked down at her console with a hint of sadness, the gleam of intellect sparkled in her eyes.

“One day perhaps we will have liberty, peace, and happiness. Today we will have war, chaos and death. Today, The Blackspear rules, and that is good.” She turned to look at Bhelith and raised an eyebrow.

“Wouldn’t you agree?” she asked simply.

Restore Ayana.

There was a pause as Bhelith blinked, taking her time to think before speaking. Her voice was slow, deep, melodious even. Steeped in thought, but guarded.

“I would not, liberty is the more terrifying prospect of your ambitions. For they are a people who’ve never known it.” Bhelith replied.

She paused to eye the ambitious dragon woman intently. Violet Ran, born once as a taianese royal, once again as an elf noble and survivor of the Wangdaio disaster, and now once more as the premier of the Chauncers of Kowloon. But before all that, she had been Ayana. The daughter of the Taianese Emperor and his most beloved concubine.

“I suppose you wish to use the Blackspear as a rallying point? A tool in your agenda? A stationary point in a sea of uncertainty?” Bhelith queried, already knowing the answer.

“Yes, especially now that conspiracy is already spreading of your resurrection from the divining pool. It has shaken the circles who celebrated your potential death, and instilled a cult of personality in some others. A dangerous combination without an air of authority.” Willowquille said nodding.

Protect my children.

Bhelith's hand went to her chin as she thought deeply, her eyes going down to the table between the three of them. She sat back up again, slowly, graceful motions for careful thoughts. She leant forwards towards Violet intensely.

“Suppose we do carry out this process. What is the role of the House of Arleigh after these changes?” Bhelith asked, eyes focused on the dragon woman.

The two looked at each other, gauging the other with her eyes Bheliths tree sap amber against Violets blue steel grey. Calculating and measuring. It was a very good question indeed, what happened to a monarch and her house after they were no longer a monarch. Such things rarely ended well for the replaced regime.

“You could retire, I suppose. Either by abdication, or acceptance as ceremonial head of state.” Violet replied slowly.

Her voice matching the Lord-Empress’ beat for beat. Her eyes were not unkind, her patience was long. But she was not one to be crossed, and slowly her touch on the pulse of the state grew more intricate.

Bhelith held for a few seconds longer before leaning back again.

“My daughter must be protected.” she stated plainly.

“It will be done, your grace.” The two women replied.

“If this meeting is done, I will retire to my chambers. Assemble my council and we will prepare a plan within the hour.” Bhelith ordered, uncrossing her legs and standing.

The other two stood and bowed as the Lord-Empress left them, brushing past Kikyo to the exit The Catgirl knight did a curt about face and followed in rear marching order behind, violet eyes tinged with a hint of anxiety and worry to all who may be able to read her. She followed until they were out of sight before she let her face begin to relax. She kept staring at Bhelith, silently trying to wrap her mind about what had just happened.

Bheliths chambers were conveniently close to the conference centre, so it was only a short walk. The extra guards placed around the palace immediately made their presence felt as an eclectic mixture of whimsically colored puffin jackets, the occasional dull half-plate infantry armor, and rarely the grey, intricately etched and gilded power armor of the knights were visible at every corner. They were all within eyesight of each other, a precaution against any further boarding attempts, perhaps.

Bheliths own door was guarded by two armored knights whose helmets turned to the Lord-Empress and Kikyo. Saying nothing. Bhelith opened her door and turned to Kikyo.

“Attend me.” She ordered, before going inside and leaving the door open expectantly.

The two guards stiffening slightly and unspoke glances at each other told Kikyo she was in for a whirlwind of rumors and hearsay. She swallowed and looked to the two guards. “No one enters until either I or the Empress says.” With that statement, she walked through the door and pressed it closed behind her.

----

As soon as Kikyo closed the latch she sighed loudly and immediately began removing herself from her armor. Her body slithering out of the shell like a fleshy, endowed snake changing her skin. She pulled her hair pins and loosed her raven lockes to fall behind her freely. When she stood outside in her tight undersuit she was shivering slightly and as she desperately tried not to show it on her face.

“That was… interesting.” She said, trying to keep her voice from matching her shaking as best she could.

“Keep going.” A familiar voice jokingly called out.

Across the room, sitting in a comfortable chair next to a rocking crib sat the wetnurse, her hand on her chin, fingers up next to her eye watching Kikyo as she looked up, and gave her a smile. Bhelith was sitting upon the couch of the boudoir, her hand against her forehead, hiding her eyes in deep thought, her shoes were kicked off and sprawled on the floor by her ankles.

Kikyo barked in her Colonial Taianese, something roughly about biting something before she sat down next to Bhelith on the couch. She looked back at the wetnurse then at the princess Nimue resting in her crib before finally she turned to Bhelith. Her shaking was less noticeable, but she was now violently bouncing her left knee while staring expectantly into Bheliths false amber eyes. She was expecting her to say something.

Bhelith sat up straight and took a long breath before her head turned to Kikyo, her wild dark locks swaying as she turned. Her eyes captured Kikyo’s and she took the woman's hand gently to her lap, her dark thumbs rubbing over the top of catwoman's pale skin.

“Kikyo. From here on, you must treat me as your Lord-Empress. If you deviate or fail to act exactly as if I was your master, those two will have you killed.” She said her voice soft, deep, but tight with tension.

“There can be no slip ups. I am Bhelith, and you are now my personal guard. I will protect you, and you will protect me.” She said quietly, her fingers tight on Kikyos hand.

Confused and embarrassed red cheeks made the stalwart knight’s previous performance look like some lucky facade. She moved her jaw to speak but couldn’t find words for a moment.

“But, w-what about us? L-Last night...” She trailed off, her violet eyes seeming to try and find something in Bhelith’s own, but after a moment seemed to forget what they were looking for.

“Last night I was a free woman, today I am a slave to the needs of elvenkind once more.” Bhelith replied evenly, her eyes not deviating.

“Do you not know anything about her kind, woman?” The wetnurse asked aloud from the corner.

Bhelith leaned around Kikyo to give the woman a leer.

“The veil of silence extends to you, too.” She spoke with a little growl.

The wetnurse sighed and leaned back with resignation, she had expected this already.

“It’s not my first go around, girl. I know how the game is played.” She replied dismissively. “I just want the girl to know who she’s jumped into bed with.”

Kikyo’s stare faltered and she looked between the two innocently, confused as a lost child, yet a hint of understanding began to fall over her face as she looked across Bhelith’s features before once more trying to look through those sap colored eyes and maybe into her very soul.

Bhelith gave the wetnurse a glower that spoke of a dressing down later, but she turned back to Kikyo. Drawing her hands up and holding them between them, her sap green eyes returned the look, but better and it was Kikyo who felt herself be drilled into. Kikyo's face slowly went from confused to concerned and then to a very upset look. Before she could say anything, Bhelith spoke again.

“Last night, a woman named Velmaia chose you because you both needed each other, in that moment and beyond. Today, Velmaia went back to being a shadow, present, but unable to act or speak. Today this woman is Bhelith, and will be Bhelith until others have had their fill of her. Do I make myself clear?” Bhelith asked tightly.

Her deep voice wasn’t raised, but it demanded her attention, it expected her compliance. The words were said melodiously, but the tension behind them broke the pitch just slightly. It was exactly like the Lord-Empress.

As if rose-colored glasses had been shattered, Kikyo's eyes grew dim and her face awkwardly relaxed. She had no idea what to think, she was confused in both identity and placement as if she was recalling a dream. The wind she thought she had put into her sails faltered, and she mouthed out the word “I” repeatedly before trailing off.

She couldn’t speak, she suddenly felt like she had both been blessed with the previous night’s actions and then cursed by this sudden change of faces. She had told herself that something had happened that had connected them, but today she was unsure of it all. Her face screwed up in confusion and her violet eyes fell to Bhelith’s hands holding hers with intent. She suddenly felt like she was about to cry.

“Come now, girl. You have just spent a night with the greatest lovers the worlds of elves or men have ever known. Songs are sung of kingdoms rent apart from her kinds work, seducing kings and queens and luring them to madness. You did not expect her to live a quiet life, did you?” The wetnurse said with a sigh, trying to reassure the girl.

Though quiet, Kikyo found a verbal footing. “I wanted a life, I’ve never known quiet and I expect I never will.” Her dim eyes looked depressingly towards Bhelith and then to the wetnurse. “I’ve put my life into people’s names before, and they died and left us. The Colonies were ablaze and turned into a living hell when Ayana died. We had no guiding force, just a shattered banner with more holes than the day before.”

Bheliths eyes widened a little at the mention of Ayana’s name, but otherwise remained stalwart. In her hands, she felt Kikyo shiver again, though just as suddenly she had stopped. A strong sense of emotion touched the Ahura’s mind hidden beneath the guise of Bhelith. It had come from Kikyo.

“Kikyo.” Bhelith spoke, swallowing a little before continuing. “I need you.” She said simply.

Deep in Bheliths chest was a maelstrom of emotions buried behind her mask as Lord-Empress. She knew that having someone she wouldn’t have to pretend in front of would be vital, it would centre herself, and stop her falling into the death of identity. Even if that other person was a little ball of nerves.

“I don’t care who you pretend to be,” Kikyo sniffled, turning her full attention to the Lord-Empress, “But you need to remember who you are.” She broke one hand free and pointed aggressively between Bhelith’s eyes, “I don’t care who took me to bed, nor do I care who walks out of this room. I don’t know why I care for you, but I am attached to you, both Velmaia and Bhelith.”

Kikyo brought her loose hand down to hold Bhelith’s now, the catgirl sniffled, the upset look on her face began to melt before she got a hold of herself again.

“Kikyo, last night a woman chose you because both you and she needed a human being. Today, if you wish to live, one of those women disappeared. Today you are the confidant of an Empress, an Empress who must do terrible things to keep everyone in this room alive. Love her or hate her, that woman took the only choice that protected everyone here.” Bhelith sighed as she let Kikyo take her hand, heedless of what it may look like to the wetnurse’s prying eyes.

“I’m sorry you got caught up in this. Life has not been kind and we must suffer extraordinary trials before this is through.” Bhelith said sadly, her deep womanly voice soothing and caring.

Kikyo made a noise that sounded like a general agreement, her hands dropped from Bhelith’s and began to run a finger across the edges of her nails anxiously. Shifting her eyes to stare off into a corner silently.

“Please don’t leave me…” Kikyos voice trailed off.

Kikyos ears fluttered before her anxious hands went back up to redress her hair. She was still a Knight of House Arleigh, and Bhelith’s impromptu personal guardswoman. She leaned up, her face close to Bhelith’s perfect features, and looked into the other womans eyes for a moment.

“Don’t leave me behind, your majesty.”

Violet eyes twinkled with a wet yet contained look before the knight bounced onto her feet. It was only a moment before she was chattering to herself while trying to get back into her powered armor again.

Bhelith sat, watching the woman go. She gave a little smile at the women's new found fortitude and sat back, putting her jaw against her fist in her classic thinking pose. She had a lot of new information to process, and not a lot of time to do it. But for right now she needed to prepare for this council of war.

She stood and brushed her skirts before going to the dressing room of her boudoir, the wet nurse following to make sure she was flawless for the council.
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