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the last

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Her choices are her own, and the gods merely guide when they wish to. Some days it’s comforting to know that they have an interest in the preservation of Eddis, or, at the very least, its people. Other nights she can’t sleep for the memory of Periphys’ words, so casually spoken to the God of Thieves.

The last Eddis, was it?

What does one do with that information? There was a time, one particularly harsh winter when the court had been too long cooped up together, that she’d gone nearly mad with the knowledge. Every cousin a potential threat, every dark hallway containing whatever could bring down her entire country.

Spring had come, and the fear had melted away like powdery snow. Now she simply carries the knowledge in her heart. She believes her choices and her future are her own. The country will fall, but her people will survive.

And then Eugenides is captured.

She’s told that she is blessed. From the age of nine she’s been told so by everyone around her. Her mother, burying three sons. Her father, who never thought she would succeed him.

And she knows how bad it could have been. Attolia and Sounis are examples, warnings. Her people could be ambivalent about her; they could be ravenous. Instead, they accept her.

She thinks it might be more than she deserves. War is at their doorstep, and perhaps it would be kinder to surrender. She knows that the maneuvers to be made, the grain supplies, the flooded farmlands, the refugees pouring in, all of it could be avoided if she surrendered.

The greater threat, however, are the Mede. She suspects that Attolia knows this; Eugenides’ stories indicate she has a much sharper mind than the Mede ambassador and Attolia’s barons assume. Still, Attolia has sacrificed everything to get the throne, and Eddis doesn’t know what she can be relied upon to do in order to keep it.

Eugenides is returned to them, dumped on the stones of the courtyard like a sack of grain, and she loses herself.

She had prepared for his death. Even after his return, part of her thinks that he did die in Attolia’s dungeons. When he begins to scheme again, she’s almost grateful that the plan requires that they do not meet in person. She can face him, she has faced him, but to see someone that she has destroyed-

In the few quiet hours, she spends too much time thinking of the alternative routes her life could’ve taken.

In another life, she was a soldier. In another life, she did not lose her name. In another life, she died with her brothers.

There is no use in such thoughts. She is Eddis, the last Eddis. The knowledge is a burden.

She wonders what Attolia thinks about when she sits alone.

The dreams begin in the second winter after Eugenides is returned. She sees the Sacred Mountain spilling magma across Eddis, woman and child swallowed in its relentless heat.

If the dreams disturb her guards or attendants, they do not speak of it. She grows used to the nightly vision, to waking with her face scalded by some future torridity, by tears.

Moira appears once in the early dawn, greying light spilling across everything but her form.

We have given you time enough to prepare, she says, and nothing else. Her steady gaze betrays nothing, and is somehow reassuring because of it.

There are rare moments when she wishes that the position of ruler came with the absolute power that some liked to think it had. That she could defy all, ignore every obligation, every warning from the gods, and put things in the places she wants them.

When Gen tells her his plan to end the war with Attolia, to marry Attolia, she thinks about what it would be like to order him not to. To order the war over, the land restored, and Eugenides satisfied with the life she had tried to give him. A library, a good woman for a wife.

But they have never been meant for normal lives, and even the gods face consequences for their actions. So she lets Eugenides go, and spends the night sitting alone on her throne, wondering if she should have told him that Eddis would fall.

She thinks perhaps he would still go, regardless of the futility.

She trusts Eugenides because she must, because she knows his character and has heard him in the throes of nightmares.

Still, when she meets Attolia for the second time in her life, in dress uniform and slightly muddy, she can’t help but wonder if Eugenides is making entirely the wrong choice.

Attolia has cold, cold eyes, and a sharp smile. But then, Eugenides has these features now as well. The cracks that show in the Attolian queen’s mask as she insults the Mede ambassador is comforting. So are the fleeting genuine smiles, so similar to Gen’s.

She can scarcely believe that Eugenides fell in love with this woman before she cut his hand off, but the two of them as they are now are a matched pair. Attolia is merely lacking the hook.

When Eugenides tells her of the vision he’d recieved, the sky above the Sacred Mountain plumed with ash, she feels remarkably even.

She had thought it would be a relief for someone else to know of the danger they faced. Instead, she feels sorry for him. There is no way to carry the gods’ warnings lightly in the heart and mind. It’s one more burden on him, when the future holds so many already.

She does not speak of the night in the temple, all those years ago, of Eugenides’ namesake eating her sugared almonds and stealing the fabric of time. She could have, but she is realizing that the gods communicate in their own ways to each. Eugenides has searched for the answers and found only more questions. She has never searched, but the questions have been brought to her attention anyway.

Eddis is losing its Thief, and soon it will lose its ruler. She negotiates treaties in Attolia and keeps one eye on the future. The path is poorly lit, but her stride has always been sure.

She is the last, but her people will survive.