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“What you're doing, doesn't it seem cruel?”

“Hm?” They are alone, Dryya still pulling her armor back on, her cloak still on the floor where she had thrown it in her rush to get all of her layers off for her Queen.

“Not that it's my place.” She says, long careful fingers doing the straps of her white chest plate. “I can be silent.” She should be, she would be in the presence of anyone else, but her Lady allows her much.

“No, go on.” The Queen's Garden is an empty place, or at least the Queen's most private corner of it is. “Let us hear.”

How best to phrase it-

“The business with the children.” Dryya leans over to pull her shin guards on. Her Lady gives a another quiet hum behind her. She can't tell if it's intended to be appreciative or as a gesture to continue. Dryya looks over her shoulder. Appreciative. The heat in her face is gone as quick is it comes and she clears her throat. “Your children.”

“What of it?”

“I understand the sacrifice of it all, My Lady, and I would never argue but.” She leans over again, to pick up her cloak, but it's not where it was a few seconds ago. Her Queen stands next to her, utterly silent, save the whisper of rustling.

“Stand tall, Protector.” She does, and even at full height the White Lady stands taller. Her delicate roots wind the cloak to it's place, and now it is Dryya's turn to be appreciative. Her Lady is delicate and still she allows herself these acts of servitude. When the clasp is done, Dryya notices the small pale flower left in it's place, like a charm.

She doesn't dare touch it.

“Isn't there another way? That doesn't- doesn't demean your roll in it?”

“My role is not demeaned.” A cluster of roots run along Dryya's face before her Queen steps outside and Dryya follows. “We share the burden of childbirth equally, if that is the concern.” Her long needle is where she left it, lying in the soft grass. “If that is what you consider demeaning.”

“No- No of course not.” She hears her laugh, a beautiful tinkling sound that Dryya often thinks on during her patrols. “Then what, my protector?”

“Later-When it all works out, it will be His Highness's idea.”

“It was my Wyrm's idea. He arrived to it alone.”

“Of course, My Lady.”

The Stag Station is not too far, but the walk is filled with tense silence- maybe just for Dryya, probably just for Dryya.

“I love my Wyrm, just as I love you, my protector, just as I love all around us. They were born to die. One day, one of them will prove otherwise. And I will love that child as well, until they are sealed away. I've no great desires to be anything other than a footnote in some great tome one day.”

“My Lady.” Dryya nods quickly, even if she doesn't understand. She sought out her position, fought for it, and relishes her titles.

“You are young, Dryya. If you live as long as I do, you will understand.”

Yes- Yes of course.

“As you say, My Lady.”

“And Loyal Dryya-” Dryya steps down the ledge first, and holds her hands out to help her Queen. “You've not been telling my other knights have you?”

“No, My Lady. No one knows. The Beast, perhaps, and I heard whisperings by the Hive but-”

“That is well enough. Tell us, if the knights start talking.”

“Of course- Of course My lady.”

She doesn't dwell on the implications.

-



Herrah stares at the small thing at his work table.

“You're creating monsters.”

“Something like monsters.” He says.

She is slow to rise from his bed, in no hurry to get back on to that infernal mechanical nightmare that waits to the east of the castle. The room is too large and too spacious to be comfortable, but the bed more then makes up for it.

“And you do not care?”

“Not enough to stop.”

Not at all, if anyone asked her. Which they would of course. Dozens of her subjects undoubtedly waiting for her gossip of how the pale royalty lives. Now doubt Vespa waiting for much the same too.

She does not enjoy coming here, and does not particularly enjoy her time with the King, but she is not yet with child and they are to keep trying until she is. It's only fair. Her legs stretch and she takes another long look at him. What is unfair is his own children seem to come by the minutes. She doesn't see them around, and she can only assume where they are but still. He seems to have such an easy time of it.

“Would you ever come to Deepnest?” She asks because the sound of scraping drives her mad.

His tools stop, and she can hear him gentle settle a shell onto the work table. If she wanted to she could get up, could see how much muscle is still attached to the chitin, but she'd much rather keep her lunch.

“Would you want me to?” Not the answer she was expecting.

“Isn't it below you, why even entertain the thought.”

“It is not below me.”

Liar.

“Or the Hive perhaps. You enjoy tea, don't you.”

“My Root does.”

“Vespa would enjoy meeting you, at least once.” She doesn't imagine that Vespa would enjoy the interaction, but she couldn't possibly deny her curiosity.

“I'll see if I can find the time.”

“The time between governing and murdering your children?”

“Yes.”

She can't bring herself to be surprised.

“Don't you feel anything for them?”

“Not as much. One day, one will prove themselves above the rest. I worry I will care then, for that one.”

“And for ours?” If she had her way, her child would never even meet the king. They would have infinity better things to do, with better bugs, in better kingdoms.

“I think I would care for ours. If you would let me.”

“Come to Deepnest first.”

“I'll see if I can find the time.”

-


“My love.”

Her roots wind around his body, tugging him closer to her in their bed. He hums quietly, barely more then a whisper and turns in her grasp until he is looking at her again.

“Why do you not rest, love?” He asks, reaches up to run a hand over her face. “Is it not late?”

“Lost deep in thought.”

“Perhaps I can guide you out.”

“You've always been very talented pathfinder.” She laughs, a sound of home so far away and so long ago. “Do you pause to think of our...” She pauses to find the right word. Her eyes close with dissatisfaction. “Choices. With the children.”

“There is a kingdom to save, my Root.”

“And a god to slay, yes, yes.” Her eyes open slowly and his hand pauses. “If we were in her position, would we not do the same?”

“We've lost the ability to ask that question.” She sighs. “What moment of it troubles you?”

“None at all, which is what bothers me instead.” His wings flutter under her long fingers, just as delicate. “Everyone else seems to have so many opinions.”

He laughs, despite himself.

“They certainly seem to.”  

“My lovely Dryya seemed so upset earlier.”

“Herrah seemed none happier.” She sighs again and he lifts his face to hers. “Not so deeply now, my love. We will be here long after they are gone. We will forget their distaste.”

“Of course, my Wyrm. Of course.”

“Our solution will arrive any day.”

“Any day.”