Arianna was given a royal suite, a celebration, a dinner in her honor. She dressed in the Seelie finery she was provided, ate and drank and danced, but her mind was somewhere else, her heart frozen somewhere deep. She would have rather hurried things along, but after she explained to Queen Titania the situation, her plan, their part in it, they received a message from Queen Maeve, requesting audience, permission to talk to Arianna.
Arianna had effectively gotten delayed, and there was nothing she could do but wait for the unseelie convoy to arrive the next day, so Arianna pretended she was normal, attended both festivities thrown on her name, deflected the flirtatious attempts of the Seelie males, danced another night with Oberon.
But the third day finally came, and with it, queen Maeve and her royal entourage’s arrival.
It took Arianna time to convince both queens and a lot of arguments and denial on both parts before she was able to convince them there was no other way, that they had no other choice but to follow her plan.
She was forced to reveal a few secrets, explain what she had learned before she had retreated to wait for her friend Zantry, made the queens understand that they had to work, if not together, then in tandem with each other. But the queens had as much to lose as anyone else, so they listened attentively, even if they acted nonchalantly.
A fortnight later everything was ready. Now, all she had to do was to convince her friend Matilda to perform the ritual.
Matilda and her husband sat on the couch as they listened to Arianna explain her plan with precision and with care, proving to them that although she had been idle during her stay, her mind had not.
Arianna knew the entire plan hinged on her friends acceptance of the unspeakable, so once she spoke all she had to speak, she left the couple alone to debate among themselves and moved to the kitchen to prepare herself a cup of tea, to give the couple a sense of privacy.
When she returned Matilda was standing at the window, watching the New York traffic outside, her husband nowhere to be seen.
“You know what you ask of me, Arianna?”Matilda asked without looking back at her.
“Yes.” Matilda would be considered a practitioner of dark arts, might even be banned from the local coven. The residual of the dark art would reflect upon every work she performed after that.
“Have you talked to Archer?”
“Are you going to?” at this, Matilda turned to look at her friend.
Arianna met her eyes with a steady gaze. None of the grief and pain she had left with a fortnight ago showed through. “No. You will tell him you have no news of me, as you have been doing for the past year.”
Matilda sighed and came to stand beside Arianna, taking her friends hand in her dark ones. “Can’t you find another way?”
“I have tried. There is no other option.”
“If I do what you ask of me,” Matilda inhaled a deep breath, recomposed her thoughts. “You understand you will be human. You will lose what is essentially you.”
Arianna’s soft green eyes held no doubt, no fear. “I know.”
“You might forget about everyone, everything. I don’t know if I can spare that part.”
“How are you going to teach the child if you can’t remember? If you don’t have any more magic?”
“You…” Matilda dropped Arianna’s hand, huffed a humorless laugh. “You want to forget, don’t you? You think that if I do this, the pain will go away, that you will no longer grieve?”
Arianna didn’t reply, didn’t feed her friend any bull.
Matilda turned around, moved away a few steps. Whirled back, her brown eyes blazing with anger. “What about those of us you’ll leave behind? Don’t we get to grieve, to feel?”
“If we don’t do this it won’t matter who can grieve or not, Mattie. The portal can’t be closed. If we kill Remo, even for a few weeks, the portal could activate at a time he isn’t present to capture the beings. I’m giving you a chance here to close the portal and get rid of Remo.” She opened both her hands and showed the empty palms to her friend. “I can’t do this again and know I will lose what I cherish at the end, Mattie. This way, I give you all I have without the pain of me feeling.”
“And get a chance to live a normal life, away from everyone.”
“Do you begrudge me that wish, Mattie?”
“And if it doesn’t work? Then we lose you for nothing?”
“It will work. I have both the sidhe queens invested on the plan.”
“Both? Seelie and unseelie? You bargained with them?” Matilda asked in horror.
“Not bargained, no. I explained the situation, told them I could give them a weapon to fight the invasion. They are both willing to teach it all it will need – mentally, physically, magically. It’s the best weapon I can make, the best plan –”
“It’s a baby!” Matilda exploded. “It’s a life, for god’s sake, not a weapon!”
Arianna’s eyes iced over, her voice cooled. “It’s a weapon, Matilda, that will be created for this sole purpose. It will be raised and trained by both sidhe queens to become this deadly weapon that will save all those planets. At the end, it too, will die to protect you all. Don’t belittle it.”
Matilda swallowed a terse reply, knowing she had hit a festering wound. “What about Archer?” she tried again.
“He already thinks I’m dead. He’s already grieved for me. I am not his mate, Matilda. He’ll find someone, eventually.”
Matilda closed her eyes briefly, grief already beginning to carve a hole inside her.
“If I do it wrong?”
“Maybe if I leave something for you to build on, you won’t have to forget, to – to” she almost choked on the word “Maybe, like with Cara, maybe I don’t have to dabble in the dark power. I can invert some of your energy inward, we can work something from there.”
Arianna didn’t say anything. They had already tried that before and it hadn’t worked. Plus, she didn’t want to raise a child, or be part of that child’s life, knowing she would be sacrificing it later on.
Matilda exhaled deeply. “It will take time pulling everything inward, getting it ready.”
“As much as it needs.”
“It could be years.” She exaggerated. “It’s not like I can yank it all and redirect it toward your womb.”
Arianna inclined her head once.
“Won’t you want to know how it ends?” Matilda asked with a frustrated snap.
Arianna shrugged. The truth was, she felt empty. “It will be a means to the end, nothing else. Fitting, for the trio to undo themselves, don’t you think?”
“Zantry might still come back.” Matilda argued fiercely.
“No. he could have come back within a few days. A few weeks the longest. It’s been more than a year, Mattie. He doesn’t register in the ether, and I can sense Remo even in the Low Lands. I know something bad happened to him. Remo knows it, so it must have been him. I don’t know. All I know is that he’s been gone from the ether for a long time.”
“Maybe . . .” Matilda began.
Arianna shook her head. “Not without letting me know.”
Matilda slumped to the sofa, closing her eyes in defeat. She understood the necessity of her friends sacrifice, but damn it, Arianna was the closest thing she’s had for a sister.
“Tonight.” Arianna said, sitting beside her friend. “We will start with the ritual tonight.”
“And once you’re ready to go? How will we know?”
“I will be watched by the sidhe at all times. No one is to interfere until I’ve conceived.”
“Do you have the father ready?”
“No. But you’ll make me want to be near someone strong, preternaturally or otherwise.”
“And once the baby is born?” Matilda demanded.
“The Seelie will come for you. You will erase my memory, give me an impression of a past, then let me be. You can even show up later on, introduce yourself.” Arianna suggested with a faint smile, but they both knew that wouldn’t happen. Once the dark ritual was over, they wouldn’t be seeing each other again.
… …. …
Check out the previous chapters:
- Chapter 1 – The Secret: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-1-the-secret/
- Chapter 2 – The Ritual: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/chapter-2-the-ritual/
- Chapter 3 – The Bargain: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/chapter-3-the-bargain/
- Chapter 4 – The Awareness: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/chapter-4-the-awareness/
- Chapter 5 – The Grieving: https://authorsinspirations.wordpress.com/2017/07/28/chapter-5-the-grieving/