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[Current Day]

 

The cell door opened at the bell chiming three, sounding out against the singing and chanting of ‘Kill her’, ‘Off with her head’, and other disgusting phrases.

Barbarians, all of them. 

“It’s time.”

Closing my eyes I turned and stepped forward, allowing my wrists to be roughly tied together. Once we began to walk again, I opened my eyes, holding my head high with pride. 

These heathens would not see me break. 

As we stepped out of the building and into the sunlight, the cheers became a deafening roar. I stepped onto the platform to be fronted with the tall guillotine. I looked at no one, ignoring all as I turned my gaze to the sky, feeling the soft caress of the Vortice easier from this position. 

The Dusk was a beautiful color today.

I paid no heed to the crimes I was being charged with, and the jeering from the sick onlookers helped drown everything out.

I hoped all of these people would meet with a terrible fate one day. How dare they, all of them; acting as if they were any better. 

I was grabbed roughly by the back of my dress and forced down hard onto my knees, shoved forward so my chin rested on the blood-stained wood of the guillotine. I must have missed the order to kneel. 

I closed my eyes before a sharp, three-note whistle caught my ears that tempted me to open my eyes and look into the crowd. 

There, cloaked with a hood up, stood a familiar set of dark curls and brilliant green eyes. 

My dear cousin. 

My heart sang, seeing the forced smile upon my cousin's lips, knowing the pain hidden behind it, but I stood in my conviction.

I smiled back and closed my eyes as I heard the command to drop the blade.

 


 

[Three Days Ago - Livio]

 

My Lady’s commands had destroyed Calere. Without a Noble to listen to its City Daemon, or to command any Magician in their country, burning the city to the ground resulted in the deaths of thousands, with no way to recover.

I worked quickly, leaving to allow the army to handle the rest of the massacre so that I could return loyally to my Queen’s side.

Prince Adamo was distraught over Princess Serafina’s death. When he took her home to her people, he arrived to nothing but a devastated wasteland. Rightfully, he pinned Livia as the cause, and called for war against Cosa.

Livia was fine going to war, declaring Cadere an enemy against the Gelo Alliance, and so the two countries battled for the whole of the past year. But as our country’s economic plight became worse, many of our own people defected to Cadere instead.

Such unloyal scum.

And now they were marching on the castle. I could see them from my window, led by Prince Adamo and a woman glowing in orange, Adamo's father’s Court Magician. 

Our soldiers fell easily to them or ran without a fight. 

I had to protect Livia from these people. They, who so easily called her a demon, would kill her if they got her. We could flee, but they would just chase us, and that was no life for my cousin. I suspected the rumors of Stella D’argento’s curse of greed were true, and Livia had succumbed to it. If so, I needed to free her of the curses’ shackles and give her a true chance at life. 

I found her in a hall, watching as the castle’s defenses caved in with hardly a push from the rebel militia. She looked frightened and it only strengthened my resolve. Grabbing her hand I pulled her into the nearest room. 

I embraced her tightly. “Change clothing with me.”

She froze in my arms. “Wh-what?”

“You will change clothing with me and flee. Get far away from here and live a happy life. I will go in your place.”

Livia cracked and sobbed in my arms. “You can’t! You’ll die! We should run away together, we could-”

“Rescind the command, Livia,” My voice was soft, and she hesitated in her crying. “My Liegeoath means I must protect you, and I cannot give you a better life with these animals hounding after you.” As she began to cry harder I cupped her cheeks and tried to wipe the tears away. “Should they want to paint you as the embodiment of their vices so they may slay you, then I shall not let them have you.”

“I can’t-” she hiccuped.

“You can,” I encouraged, embracing her tighter. 

Her sobbing peaked, but finally, she rescinded all her commands, before grabbing my arm and tried to run for the servant’s quarters. I would not budge, realizing her trick to prevent me from hurting myself with the Liegeoath, and smiled sadly to her.

“Livia, please. I was born to serve until I die. I cannot live my life on the run, knowing you will be unable to live a proper life.”

I remained still as she unleashed a few strikes to my back in anguish, sobbing hysterically. Finally, she stopped and I turned to embrace her once more. 

Reluctantly she agreed and we quickly changed. I dared not put on the Stella D'argento but kept it in hand before I pushed her through the servant’s door. 

“Smile, Livia,” she hesitated as she looked to me in pain. “Smile, and I shall be with you forever,” I smiled softly and shut the door before she could utter another word.

Quickly I spun to march out of the room, lowering my hair and spinning it over my shoulder while straightening my crown. Thankfully we never matured physically too differently, keeping youthful appearances and our hair about the same length.

As I stepped into the hall, I was greeted with a blade that belonged to my adversaries. I immediately closed my eyes.

“It’s her!”

“You’re under arrest for crimes against the Gelo Alliance!”

I bowed my head and kept silent as I was roughly grabbed, my arms tied before I was taken to the cells of the dungeon. 

The nervous chattering of the soldiers from Cadere expressed nothing less than disbelief. They had done it, they captured the Evil Queen of Cosa. The war was over

The cheers faded as the cell door shut behind me.

 


 

[Four Hours Later - Livia]

 

I only stopped crying because no more tears would fall. My heart ached, and my mind was so much clearer than it had been in years. I wish it had been foggy again, this pain was too much to bear. 

And yet here I stood for hours, having escaped out the servant’s quarters and swept up as a refugee of the Evil Queen’s. Once news arrived she would be beheaded, my stomach knotted and I wanted to vomit.

My poor Livio, but what could I do? Even without an Obligation, he was determined to take this path, and in my heart, I knew he was right, that I could not stop us being chased; but I wanted Livio with me, it wasn’t fair! 

Once he was brought out I felt my panic rise. I had hoped by some sick twisted fate they would realize he was a Magician and let him live, but there he stood, eyes closed, and when he did open them he had his head tilted to the sky. Such a clever, stupid, cousin.

I didn’t want to watch, but I did not want him alone in his final moments either.

I whistled sharply with three notes as he taught me when we were younger. 

His head jerked up and for a moment our eyes locked together.

From here you could not see the glow in his eyes, so I willed everything I could, and smiled to him. He deserved to see what he asked of me as his final moments.

He smiled back; he looked so happy, so satisfied with everything-

The guillotine fell. 

I stood frozen, the smile plastered on my face as I felt everything in my body shatter. Finally, the tears fell anew as I bowed my head, gritting my teeth to keep any sounds down so as not to attract attention to myself. 

Oh how much I wanted to hate him for leaving me here alone. 

I walked numbly with the crowd as it finally dispersed. In time, it join the refugees who were traveling to Cadere. From there, I would leave on a caravan to Sombre further out. All the while, I fought to accept the feelings of pain and loss and abandonment. 

  Why did my emotions feel so much stronger? And why I could think beyond what I wanted? It was confusing and terrifying. 

Livio, why did you leave me?

 


 

[Years Later]

 

Dearest Cousin, 

 

Oh, how I wished I still had you here. You have missed quite a bit, but I imagine you’ve been watching this whole time like always, have you not? Christiano suggested I could perhaps write to you to help clear my conscience. Christiano is my husband, in case you didn't know. We have a little girl now, Daniela, and she looks so much like me. 

It is so strange writing like this, you can probably see my shaking in my letters, but I wanted to thank you for everything. I am uncertain what happened through those years, though that does not excuse me. I just really wanted to help people, but I cannot explain why I made the choices I did, and nothing will ever have me repent for such sins. 

I wish you would have let me die that day. I know it is cruel to say, but sometimes I wonder if, as well, this was intentional. You did it to save me from myself, so I could understand why what I did was wrong. 

I cannot tell, and that pains me every day.

Just know I love you very much, my sweet cousin. 

I live with Christiano and his family on their farm. We met after I left Sombre to escape the constant cheering of Evil Queen’s passing. It hurt too much between coming to terms with my crimes and your passing. I have a job working with the animals; feeding, cleaning, all of that servant work. You would probably not recognize me anymore. 

For all the pain I still have, I do thank you for giving me this opportunity, even if at times I hate you for it. I wish there was another way than how things happened, but I cannot change the past.

Christiano said if you throw a message in a bottle with a wish, it will come true, and so this letter will serve as both, for I cannot risk leaving anything like this to lie around, but I need to say what is in my heart.

You will hold my wish for me, and help it come true, won’t you?

I wish you will wait for me so that we can be reborn again into a happier life. You would like that, wouldn’t you? I certainly hope so, for I wish to see you again so deeply so. 

Please, oh please, wait for me, because I cannot leave yet, not while I have Daniela. Until then, know I will live for us both as I have been, but I will try to be happier. 

 

Love,

Your ever grateful cousin. 



I read over it a hundredth time before I rolled it into the bottle and corked it. I looked over to my hulking husband, who had rowed the boat out this far out already. He was such a loving man, one that I did not deserve. He seemed to have caught the down-swing of my thoughts and caught my chin so I looked up to his kind smile. 

“Are you ready?”

I nodded slowly, and he helped balance me as I stood. We did not live near the ocean but on occasion, we delivered cargo to the harbor in the next town over. A breath escaped me and after a long prayer, holding that bottle so tight, I reeled back and threw it as hard and far as I could.

In silence, we watched as the bottle bobbed and was pulled deeper into waves, before the current caught it and carried it off. We stayed until it was out of sight. I was not sure if it was because Christiano was waiting until I said I was ready, or if he knew I wanted to make sure it was gone before I sat down.

“Let's go get something to eat,” he encouraged gently, and I nodded in agreement, watching the horizon of the ocean as he rowed us back to shore.

I hope it reaches you, Livio.