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Suryavanshini

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When she was very young, her mother whispered to her that two suns could not shine in the sky together; always, one would become the moon instead, pale, frightened, and forgotten, fleeing the field of battle in the end. Of all people her mother would know the truth of such words. Her father had married sixteen times, but nevertheless had treasured her mother best of all his wives.

So when in turn she married, and only to a lesser son, she had known exactly which one she would be to her husband's family, and exactly which one she must become. 

*

It was easier than she had expected. A whisper here, a murmur there, and the throne was empty again: for mere days until she ascended to it. Not alone, of course; her husband claimed his rights, but it was all her doing, already forgotten. So much the better; she preferred them to tell her story that way.

But: one last piece of advice her mother had told her, forgotten until it was too late - she was never to set her sights too high. The sun might be blazing and beautiful, but it burned when you looked too long upon it. 

*

Sickness and grief are the enemies she cannot outwit. Her husband dies; her illness worsens; she knows she will soon join him. This kingdom she has worked so hard to have and to hold will die with them. So will their child.

Her only hope is her sister-in-law, that daughter of mere merchants, so often laughed and sneered at, who tends to her in her final days. She remembers her mother murmuring once that although the moon fled from battle, it always returned, resilient.

"Protect my son," she whispers, reaching out blindly.

"I will," Sivagami promises, and closes her eyes.