Pain was no stranger to Vhalla Yarl, and yet she had never felt this level of agony before. Aldrik grasped her hand in a feeble attempt at comfort, his presence as steady as always but his eyes betraying worry for his wife. She closed her own as another contraction swept through her body.
"You'll be all right, my love. Elecia will be here any moment now," Aldrik whispered in her ear. She felt his other hand on her forehead, smoothing her sweat-damp hair away from her face. In that moment, she loved him more dearly than she thought she ever had. (She also longed more than anything to let a gust of wind send him flying through the open window for doing this to her. Oh, how the tables would be turned… )
As if she had been listening in at the double doors and waiting to be announced, Elecia burst into the room and made her way over to their bed. With Aldrik’s help, she repositioned Vhalla more suitably for the task ahead. Then, carefully, she placed her palms on Vhalla’s stomach and let her magic flow out of her and through the Empress’s veins.
In a brief minute of peace, Vhalla was content to lay back and let Elecia probe, though she watched her closely for any signs of bad news. Aldrik was less patient, “How are they?”
After a few more (excruciating, to the soon-to-be mother and father) seconds, Elecia looked up at him and, with a genuine smile, said, “The children of fire and wind are excited to meet their parents.” With that, Vhalla shot up from amongst the pillows and groaned through a new wave of discomfort.
* * *
The girl came first, and where her head was covered with the same straight dark hair as her father’s, the boy favored his mother, with straw-colored curls. (It was a wonder to everyone how they could come from the same womb and look so different.)
Their grandfather had arrived from Leoul at the start of winter, and the Northern princess shortly thereafter, to await the twins' births. Vhalla and Aldrik knew that their daughter, as their firstborn, would be leaving with Sehra to fulfill their agreement towards peace, but for now, they decided to focus on the few days they would have together as a family before that would happen.
“Baldair would be…” the words died on Aldrik’s tongue, the loss of his brother still too fresh in their minds. Vhalla let her head fall onto his shoulder, and the baby in his arms cooed up at them, the other fast asleep in a bassinet a few feet away. Aldrik immediately perked up and beamed down at the child, and the wounds of war were momentarily forgotten.
* * *
In the end, a trade was made. Vhalla’s father stayed with them at the palace, and Jax traveled to Soricium with Vi. They had not yet chosen a name for their son, but Vhalla and Aldrik couldn’t see sending his twin away for fourteen years without first giving her a name.
After carrying the child in her belly for nine months, Vhalla knew in her heart that Vi was more special than they could ever believe as her mother and father, destined to be more than the heir to the Solaris Empire. She decided to share with her husband the name of the Westerner she had met in the Curiosity Shop so long ago. Or, at least, the name that she had given Vhalla.
“I don’t know why, and I know your feelings about the woman, but I think...I think our daughter’s name is meant to be Vi, Aldrik.” And, because he would never tell his lady no, it was so.
* * *
When it came time to celebrate the children’s first birthday, the Emperor and Empress traveled to the tree kingdom to see their daughter again. Their truce with Shaldan was still new and delicate, so to be safe, Romulin was left in the care of the recently wed Minister of Sorcery. As their horses walked through the gates and away from the place they called home, they turned back to see Fritz waving enthusiastically, and their blond-haired boy snuggled in the single arm of his husband, Grahm. Elecia went with them on their journey, though when teased by Vhalla and her cousin, she insisted that it was not to see a certain Firebearer.
* * *
A little over three years later, Romulin received his first official letter from his sibling:
Uncl Jax and Ant Elecia say I cant come live with u and Mummy and Daddy yet. What if u came to visit us? Mayb that wood b ok. I hope to c u soon.
Lots of luv,
Vhalla and Aldrik cried when they received the message. Romulin climbed into his father’s lap and wiped each one of their tears away until they finally stopped coming.
* * *
When they were just barely seven, the twins were finally reunited at the Crossroads (though, it should be noted, that they would not remember the encounter due to their young age at the time). Aldrik was headed to Norin to visit his Ci’Dan family on imperial business, and after many letters and pleading (yes, even the great Fire Lord is not immune to begging if it means he will get to see his little girl), they were able to convince the Chieftain of the North to let Vi meet them halfway. Za, still Sehra’s faithful guardian (and more), arrived alongside their ward and her caretakers.
Elecia hugged Aldrik, inquired of their favorite Waterrunner back home, and Jax smirked at him over her shoulder. It wasn't until Elecia stepped back that their eyes fell to where a blond head peeked out from behind his legs, and Aldrik noticed the small hand clasped in Jax's. Attached to it was his daughter, all grown up. (Well, almost.)
"Vi," he breathed. He reached behind him, gently nudging Romulin forward to his side before crouching down to their level. Did he reach out for her? What if he scared her? Did she even recognize him?
He settled for introducing his children to one another, "Vi, this is your brother, Romulin."
Her reply was immediate. "I know." She studied Aldrik, then her gaze moved on to her twin. Finally, she smiled, and stepped towards them. Romulin, where he usually would have hesitated to be approached or touched by a stranger, welcomed her tight embrace.
It somehow hurt more than even the very first time to part ways, but he knew his little girl would be okay. She was a fierce one, the balance to her brother's shy intellect. He had seen the fire in her eyes, and he knew it would come to serve her well.
* * *
The day the twins turn fourteen, Vhalla and Aldrik are the ones to dry their son’s tears when he realizes his sister won’t be coming home anytime soon.
* * *
Shortly before seventeen years have passed since Vhalla and Aldrik Solaris became parents, Aldrik writes his daughter what he prays will be his final letter to her. As he quickly scribes his explanation as to why he is making for the Crescent Continent so close to the parade's coming to collect her and bring her home, he envisions holding both of his children, fully grown (truly this time), together in his arms again. Though he knows that the world could take this one dream from him like it has time and time again, he has hope.
Where his father was the Emperor of War, he was the Emperor of Peace, and he had faith that his daughter, with her brother by her side, would be Empress of something bigger, bolder, better. They would be an even greater force to be reckoned with than the woman with whom he shared bed and Bond. They would change the world, just as the library apprentice Vhalla Yarl had changed his.