And just like that, the battle was over. What used to be Lord Viren now lay in a ditch, ready to be buried or burned.
The people of Katolis bowed to their promised King. But instead, Ezran started walking forwards.
‘Aunt Amaya?’ He asked, stumbling towards her. His face was scraped. He was limping, and the wound that the Dark Magic had left on him was still smoking faintly, even though its caster was dead.
‘Yes?’ She asked through Gren.
‘I’m… Not ready.’ He said. ‘I don’t want to be king yet.’
’What would you like to do instead?’ Amaya asked.
‘I want to go home, and eat a jelly tart.’ His voice was still so young, so gentle. After everything he had seen. Bait croaked at the mention of jelly tarts.
As a response, Amaya hugged her nephew tightly. She felt him say something to her, the vibrations in her chest.
Gren walked around to talk to her.
‘Can’t you be Queen instead, Aunt Amaya? Just for a while?’ He asked for Ez.
Her brown eyes met Gren’s blue ones. There was only one answer to that question. One nod.
‘Okay.’ Gren said to Ez. Then he wrapped his arms around the two of them.
‘Okay.’ He repeated.
‘So what will you do?’ Callum asked Gren. They were waiting in front of the doors; Gren, Callum and Rayla. Ezran was inside, making his case in Amaya’s favour to the rest of the Five Kingdoms, and the new ambassador from Xadia. No one else was allowed to enter. Not even Gren.
‘I honestly don’t know.’ He told him. ‘I’m guessing that Gener- Queen-Regent Amaya will have her choice of interpreters, all around the world.’
‘But what if she chooses you?’
‘That’s not for me to decide.’ Gren said, smiling weakly at Callum. The boy hugged him.
‘What if she doesn’t?’ Rayla asked.
‘I’ll join the circus.’ Gren said, seriously. She laughed, but knew it was not far from the truth.
The door opened. People streamed out. The Ambassador to Xadia, Runaan, mussed Rayla's hair as he passed. Only Amaya remained inside.
‘The Queen-Regent-To-Be wishes to speak with you, Commander Gren.’ Soren, posted at the door, told him.
He nodded, and walked into the room.
Amaya sat on the stairs in front of the throne, alone. There was no interpreter standing behind her. His heart skipped a beat with hope.
He met her eyes. They were kind, as always.
But was he enough?
Amaya stood up and embraced him.
’They kept me busy.’’ she signed then, apologies in her eyes. ’Wouldn’t let you in, though I demanded. Used their own interpreter as a “neutral party”.’ she said, the quotation marks clear in her signing. ’As if you aren’t neutral enough, redacting my curses.’ she said.
’I didn’t think you knew I did that.’ Gren told her.
She laughed then, a clear sound. And he knew.
All that I am. All that I ever was. It’s right here in her eyes. They’re all I can see. He had followed her to the very end. To the fires of the Breach, into the swirl of Dark Magic that would destroy the Elves. Out of it again, dragging Viren’s dead body behind them. And he’d do it all again. Without question.
Amaya searched his face, and found what she was looking for. She stood up, into an official stance. A General's stance. A Queen's stance.
’I will still need an interpreter, as well as an advisor. Will you stay with me, Gren?’ She asked, already knowing his answer. He smiled, and the sun rose on his face, and through the window of the throne room.
’I would follow you anywhere, my Queen.’ Gren signed to her, and bowed.
She stepped closer, and pulled him into a hug.
There were no fireworks. No rousing music from an unknown source. No sudden realisation.
It simply felt like coming home.
It felt like taking off your armour after a long day fighting, and finally collapsing onto a soft feather bed. Like taking your shoes off after a day in the snow, and enjoying a hot drink at the fire.
It felt like an ending war, and a promised peace.
It felt like the hugs they used to share, but enhanced a thousandfold. He sighed against her lips and pulled her in closer. One hand on her back, the other brushing away her hair. She pressed her body against his, closer than they’d ever been. Her palms framing his face, touching his freckled cheeks with calloused soldier’s hands.
’Gren?’ she asked, when they broke apart, both blushing. His gaze fell to her hands.
’I love you.’ he signed, a hint of tears welling up in his eyes. She raised his chin and met them steadily.
’I love you.’ she signed back. She kissed him again.
Then she dropped down to one knee.
She was done seeing him as a subordinate. As a lieutenant. She wanted to look upon him as an equal.
Therefore, the following question came as easy as breathing.
’Marry me?’ she signed, looking up at his furiously blushing face. Tears reached his eyes.
His response was to drop to his knees as well. The tears streamed over his cheeks, but they were happy ones.
’Only if you marry me.’ He told her simply.
In later years, Ezran would come into his own, his brother by his side as advisor. But right here, right now; a new Queen- and King-Regent of Katolis held hands as they lowered their heads for their nephews to place crowns upon.