Written on November 25, 2020 (♐)

Content Warning: Incestuous desire is certainly one of the major elements of this piece, although it is non-explicit and not welcome.

Author's Notes: Meant as something of a follow up to Boreas in the Field.

"I've decided it would be better for you to go to Lesalia for a while," Dycedarg said gravely, pouring out a glass of claret. "It's become clear I am not the brother you wish to winter with."

Alma, rigid as a statue, looked at him with a quiet intensity, as if she knew he would not meet her gaze.

"I think it is very clear which brother's company I would keep, given the choice."

He didn't rise to the bait. He drank instead, thinking ruefully as to how much easier it would have been for all concerned if he could have sent her back to Orbonne. They had always really been strangers, even before the events of the past year had estranged them further, and it would have been better if she had remained immured behind monastery walls all this time instead of ever setting foot in Igros.

"Good," he said after a long time, "I suppose it's settled."

"I suppose it is." She bowed slightly but did not turn to leave.

"Alma..." He still did not look at her. "Don't think I do not care for you."

"I never gave any indication that I thought otherwise," she replied calmly. "When should I anticipate leaving?"

He told her he could arrange something by noon and silently thought that he should bid whoever accompanied her to take a route that avoided Zeakden. When she finally left him, he finished his drink, wondering why in the face of all he had done and all he was about to do, his understandably sullen sister should become such a source of discomfort. He touched his chest briefly, fingers running over the half-moon scar that the assassin's blade had left him. Even when she had been a sympathetic child laughing within the halls of the ivy-covered manse, even before they had all but executed her friend, even when it had been her hand on that wound pressing desperately to keep the blood in him, she had always unsettled him.

The most obvious explanation was that she was more intelligent than anyone ever gave a woman credit for, and there was something strange in having an unasked for sister appear so suddenly and perceive him with more acuity than anyone around him. There was more than that, though, and he paced the long hall trying to think on it, wondering if and when he would receive word from Lionel as to developments with other maidens better kept in convents. The past year had left him feeling the full brunt of her disdain, and he had begun to wonder if some aspect of the cold imperiousness she showed him had always been present—if there had forever been something lurking beneath her sunny demeanor that others did not see.

When he retired, it was to dreams he did not wish to recall: visions in which she and he were not themselves. In that phantasy she stood empowered over him, a cruel monarch toppling all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he, like some dumb beast bowed before an augur's knife, stood ready to throw himself before her and be trampled in supplication. There was a terrible ecstasy in looking to her: at lingering on the perfect geometry of her face, of longing to kiss those red-stained lips that he knew would fain devour him.

Such shadows clung to him when he awoke, and he was ashamed of them in due measure. When they finally met to say their goodbyes, he did his best to refrain from flinching as she embraced him, feeling as though some dark thing in the negative space between their bodies waited to overthrow them: as if some portion of the two of them had been carved out and fitted back together wrongly. He tried not to think of that parting in the days to come, and he did not feel the weight of such unease again until word reached him she had been declared a heretic.