Blessed childhood NSFW
Anyi Brukir's backstory.
The maid's succulent thighs trembled beneath her skirt as Senna ran her long fingers over them. "Nillie... You dirty little slut. I told you what would happen if I found you staring at me in the bath again."
"M-Me? Never!" Nilda's eyes were wide with innocence. "You know I could never do such a thing to my m-mistress..."
But Senna could see the shady little pervert behind them, begging for more. More touches. More long looks. More of their bodies pressed together-
"Senna, love, we're here." Izi's soft voice floated into Senna's mind, shattering her daydream.
Senna fixed a thoughtful look to her face, hiding her disappointment. "Where is here, exactly? We're not home yet, are we?"
"I know you were against this, but I think if we just give her a chance-"
Senna's voice turned cold. "Ah. Izi, this is a waste of time, and at best you're just going to spend a lot of coin to have some charlatan raise your hopes. If she had any real talent, she would be advising some ruler somewhere, she wouldn't be here selling fortunes. We have to accept what is, not keep fantasizing about what could have been."
"This is important to me, Senna!" Izi folded her arms over her chest. "Just because you're happy never being able to bear a child doesn't mean I am. If there's any hope, I want to know."
The old fortune-teller shuffled into view. "Enough. I won't have you argue in front of my shop." She beckoned. "Come. I know why you're here."
"Do you? Did you hear us fight?" Senna muttered, hopping down from the carriage. "Think I'm convinced by that, pull the other one..."
The fortune teller turned toward Senna, her cloudy eyes narrowing. "I will be taken seriously, Senna Brukir."
Senna swallowed hard, stopping in her tracks. No, wait. Izi probably sent word ahead. Two minutes and she was already getting suckered. No wonder these thieves could stay in business.
Still, she followed Izi into the hazy, dimly lit shop. Izi plunked herself down into the chair opposite the crystal ball and gestured for Senna to sit.
Senna chose to remain standing.
"As it happens, your visit here was foretold, though the goddess did not say how much you would whine about it," the fortune teller said, shakily sitting herself down behind the crystal ball on her table. "Two years and a day, Senna Brukir. Two years and a day, and the angelic blood carried by you and your mother and your mother's mother and her mother and her mother before her will finally find form come noon. A child. A girl. She will shine like the sun, and like the sun, rise each time she falls."
Izi's eyes sparkled with the reflection of that sunlight. "Do you hear that, Senna? A child... We will have a baby after all..."
"She's spouting what you want to hear, Izi," Senna snapped. But those words. Five generations. That's what she'd been told. That they were blessed, divine blood descending five generations.
Senna hadn't even told Izi that much.
"Believe or don't believe as you like." The fortune teller leaned back wearily in her chair. "She will be chosen by the goddess. To shed light on the hero's path, and... to follow..." She trailed off into a pained grunt, reaching for a jar of ointment from a nearby shelf.
"A hero!" Izi gasped. She looked up at Senna, grabbing her wife's sleeve. "Can you believe it? All these years of trying and nothing, and then this..."
"Izi, we're leaving. This is worse than useless." Senna turned toward the door, peeking over her shoulder to see if Izi would follow.
"Aren't you going to have your cards read?" the fortune teller asked Izi. "Is that not why you came here?"
Izi hesitated a moment, staring at Senna's back... then nodded, withdrawing a bag of coin from her pouch. "Let her go. Tell me my future."
Senna gritted her teeth, but she wasn't about to sit down now, and walked out. All the more time to fantasize about what she'd do to Nilda when she got back home...
Cleria took the stairs two at a time, her bag of books about Sarenrae and her followers swinging at her back. Class was out early, well before sunset today, and she was going to spend the rest of her day playing out by the pond. Maybe she could get that maid's boy, Jassenn, to give up his chores and come with her. She liked to think of herself as his older sister, even though they were the same age.
She skidded to a halt at her bedroom door, which was closed. That was... weird. Hadn't she left it open when she went to class?
She leaned in close to the door, listening intently.
There was sound coming from inside. Someone was in her room! But who would even be in here?! The servants would have noticed anyone sneaking in...
Heroic. She must be heroic. It was her destiny, after all.
Drawing up her most hero-ly resolve, she twisted the handle delicately, careful not to make a sound.
There, in her dressing room, she found the intruder. It was Jassenn. He sat in front of her mirror, wearing one of her stuffy, boring festival dresses (though it was a little big on him). And his face... was clumsily marked up with her makeup, making him look like a clown.
Her laugh, stifled as it was, made his head whip around.
"Cleria?" His eyes went wide, and he stumbled back, knocking over the chair he was sitting on. "You're supposed to be in class!"
"Teach told me I could go play early today," Cleria said. She inched closer, and Jassenn scrambled back even further. "Whatcha doing?"
"Don't tell my mom, okay? I just wanted to be pretty like you..."
"I'm not gonna tell her, stupid," Cleria said, resetting the chair he had been sitting on for him to sit again and squatting down next to him. "I'll keep it a secret if you want me to."
Jassenn nodded awkwardly. He looked like he was about to cry.
"Gimme that wipe. You don't know how to do it. Here, I'll do it for you." That's what a hero would do. Save others from themselves!
The waterworks started when Cleria was halfway through wiping off the makeup. Slowly at first, dripping onto the wipe, and then more quickly, sniffles turning into sobs.
Cleria lowered the wipe, frowning. "What are you crying about? Geez, I'm trying to help."
"I know, but I thought you would be mad... Mom always says makeup is too expensive for her..." Jassenn scrubbed his cheeks with a sleeve.
"Oh, pfft. Yeah, I'm sure it's expensive for a maid, given what my moms pay her, heh. This is the cheap crap I wear to parties with unimportant people. Honestly, you're probably doing me a favor using it up so moms will get me new stuff." Cleria dabbed at Jassenn's cheeks, tossing the used wipe aside. "Here. Let me show you."
Cleria's body blocked Jassenn's view of the mirror, so it wasn't until she went to retrieve a different color of lipstick that he first caught sight of himself.
When she returned with the lipstick, he had ruined the mascara by starting to cry again.
"Oi, what are you doing? Big girls don't cry, you know! It ruins their makeup!"
"S-sor..." He trailed off, suddenly drawing himself up with a resolve she had never seen before. "Sorry. I won't do it again. But you did a really good job. Can you teach me how to do what you did?"
"Huh, well... yeah, okay. What are sisters for, right?" Cleria grinned at her little brother, ruffling his hair. "So, stay still. I still have to redo your lipstick."
Senna stretched, coming to a halt next to Izi at her writing desk. "Izz, you want to follow me to bed? With you down at the docks and with our daughter, and me busy with managing the changing seasonal staff here, I feel like I haven't seen you once all week."
"I suppose I can manage to take some time off for you," Izi said, her eyes twinkling with that sunny sparkle that had drawn Senna to her. She set her quill down and got to her feet, leaning against Senna. "How are the staff doing?"
"Mmm, I had to have words with Nilda over certain decisions she's made recently regarding the summer maids." And more than words... though that was hardly a punishment for either of us, Senna thought privately. "I'm still more than happy to have her as the head maid, however. It has taken so much of the work off my plate. I think from today I'll have a lot more free time for you and Cleria."
"I wish it was the same for me with the textiles," Izi said. Her laugh chimed in Senna's ears. As Izi went into the story of the trouble she'd had getting the materials for her latest project, Senna allowed herself to space out slightly. Izi's beautiful voice was a relief to hear again after a week of waking up to find her already gone, of getting to bed to find her already asleep.
In truth, Senna loved her so much. And yet... Even more so than before, Izi was uninterested in sex. She had wanted a child so badly, and Senna had reluctantly gone along with it because it meant Izi would allow her to sleep with her own wife. But once Cleria was born, Izi had refused sex every single time, until Senna had stopped asking altogether. And even before that, Izi never seemed to want anything more than to get Senna off as efficiently and passionlessly as she could.
So long as Izi didn't know about her relationship with Nillie... so long as Nillie was happy with her station and the care Senna showed toward her son... everything would be fine.
"Oh, Cleria told me an interesting thing about her and Jassenn, the maid's boy, earlier," Izi said, seemingly not having noticed Senna's inattentiveness. "Apparently, Nilda gave birth at noon the day after Cleria was born. So Cleria is just under one full day older."
"... Oh?" Senna smiled distantly. "How amusing. When was Cleria born again?"
"Isn't it? I thought it funny that Jassenn is a better fit to the prophecy than Cleria herself is." Izi laughed. "Cleria was born in the late evening. I believe you told me that you knew she was a charlatan. To which I said... it's surely noon somewhere." Izi gave a cheeky grin, and kissed Senna's cheek. "And now it is surely bedtime here. I'm exhausted after today..."
"Yeah... me too." Senna swallowed hard. That's ... not possible, is it?
The forest path felt good underneath Cleria's boots. She allowed herself to run, enjoying the wind in her hair, the way the dress she carried fluttered out behind her like a banner. For a moment, she was her future self, tall and strong and heroic, a source of hope for the people. Her sword would light the way to the future for them all.
Jassenn sat on a stump in the little clearing they had been meeting in for girly-time. He turned to look when Cleria got close, his eyebrows rocketing up when he saw the dress.
"Heya, lil bro," Cleria said, skidding to a stop and holding out the dress. "So you've been borrowing my dresses a lot. So-o-o, I figured, if you like this dress so much, why don't I just give it to you as a present?"
"You really mean that?" Jassenn took the dress gingerly, as if not sure it's real.
"It barely fits me anymore anyway," Cleria said. "It's better on you, don't you think? Happy birthday, Jassenn."
"Thanks, Cleria, but... Um, I've been thinking... I don't want you to call me Jassenn and lil bro and all that anymore," the maid's child said, looking down at the dress. "I want... I want to be your lil sis."
"Okay," Cleria said, sitting down on a nearby stump. "... Do you want me to call you 'she' instead of 'he', too?"
The maid's daughter nodded.
"So you're like Mom Senna," Cleria said, tilting her head. "You're a girl, even though everyone called you a boy when you were little."
She nodded again. "Yeah..."
"Okay. What name should I use for you, then?" Cleria put a hand up to her cheek. "Did you think of a name already?"
"No... I don't know... I just don't want to be Jassenn anymore... It's okay if you just call me 'lil sis', you know..."
Cleria had a flash of inspiration. "There's a girl in the book I'm reading named Anyi. She's a nurse who takes care of the hero when she gets hurt. I think that would be a great name for you. Anyi Temlan. What do you think?"
"Yeah... Yeah, that sounds nice..." The newly christened Anyi had a dreamy look on her face. "Anyi Temlan... Who takes care of the hero..." She repeated the name to herself a few more times under her breath, in different tones.
"Happy birthday, Anyi," Cleria said softly. "Should I keep calling you that when we're around your mom and everyone?"
"No, you can keep calling me Jassen with them," Anyi said hastily. "I don't... want them to know."
"Okay, you're the boss!" Cleria got to her feet. "Come on, put on your dress. We're going to play Rescue the Princess again. I learned some new tricks with a stick that I wanna show you."
Anyi didn't get up. "My dress... Anyi Temlan..."
Cleria laughed, rolling her eyes. What an adorable little dork... but she looked so happy. It was the first time Cleria had ever seen her smile this much.
Senna paused on her way to the servants' quarters, faced with a decision. It was time for Jassenn's regular haircut, so visiting her sweet Nillie was out of the question, but at least she would be able to catch a glimpse of her. On the other hand, Izi was getting curious why, if Nilda had taken over most of the duties of managing the servants, Senna still spent so much time there... but just seeing Nilda again...
Godsdamn, just thinking about Nilda was getting her impatient again. She'd been feeling stressed lately, and her sweet Nillie had become her stress-release valve. Nilda, too, seemed to be having trouble coping with her workload, so it was a release for both of them.
She hesitated, watching the children. Jassenn and Cleria had been getting along quite well lately, spending a lot of time together. They were waiting by the door of the servants' quarters, whispering to each other.
Well... that was one reason to go into the servants' quarters. To see if Jassenn and Cleria were up to anything.
She waited until they entered to follow them, seemingly unseen.
"I don't want any haircuts at all anymore," Jassenn was saying. Cleria stood by, looking proud of herself. "I want to have long, pretty hair, like Cleria has."
"Okay," Nilda said. From her angle, Senna couldn't see Nilda's face, but she could hear the consternation in her voice. "You... want to have pretty hair? But you look so handsome when you have short hair!"
"No," Jassenn said, more firmly. "I don't want to be handsome. I want to be pretty."
Senna felt a sinking feeling in her stomach as she realized what was going on. No way... It can't be...
"I'm not a boy," Jassenn continued. After a brief glance at Cleria for encouragement, "I'm a girl. I want you to call me Anyi from now on."
"What's going on in here?" Izi murmured at Senna's elbow.
Senna's heart jumped into her throat. "You startled me... I'm just watching. I think Jassenn... or, rather, Anyi, is coming out."
"Oh, my!" Izi said, smiling. "It looks like our Cleria helped. We did a good job of raising her. She's going to be a truly magnificent heroine."
It took Senna a few moments to realize why Izi was saying this. She doesn't realize... She doesn't understand. Please, Sarenrae, let me be wrong about your intentions...
But if I'm right... Izi's going to find out eventually, and what then? But I can't tell her, or I...
"Aunt Senna, I know you're probably upset about this... I'm sorry," Anyi said, apparently mistaking the unease on Senna's face for unease about her coming out. "I..." She looked back at Cleria, pleading for reassurance. Cleria only slapped her fist into her palm. Anyi looked back at Senna. "I won't apologize for being who I am, but-"
"You don't have to apologize for being who you are," Senna cooed, kneeling down to put an arm around the girl's shoulders and draw her into a hug. "I'm happy you know who you are, and we can figure out anything else together." She looked up, meeting Nilda's eyes over Anyi's shoulder. Is this really happening? What do we do? "And I'll make sure you get anything you need."
"Ooogh... careful with that, that really hurt.... hffftt..." Cleria sucked in a breath through her teeth. "Geez... Call yourself a nurse?"
"Sorry," Anyi said. She smiled sheepishly, tying off the bandage and cutting the excess. "Sometimes getting better hurts, that's what my teacher always says."
"When I receive the power given to me by the goddess, I'll be able to heal people without hurting them," Cleria said, taking Anyi's hand and standing. She winced and stumbled as she rose, though Anyi caught her. "Aaagh... I thought you fixed it..."
"I didn't fix it, I just made it not swell as much so it won't hurt as much. You won't be able to walk on it for a little while, you twisted it."
"Fff... ngggh." Cleria leaned against Anyi heavily, panting from the pain. "I guess I'd better get used to this. I'm probably going to face much worse when I start my hero's journey."
"I guess I'd better come with you, to make sure you hurt yourself any worse than you have to," Anyi said, smiling. She'd been in a much better mood recently, as her hair was starting to grow down her back. "My teacher told me that my nursing skills are getting better."
"Heroes don't need nurses to follow them around and get in trouble all the time, it's too dangerous," Cleria said, hissing out another breath through her teeth as she involuntarily put down her injured ankle. "We go out on our own. And the nurses stay home and worry about us, and when we get home, they stitch us up. I'll visit plenty, don't worry."
"Haaa, all right. One day I'm going to be like you, and I'll be able to accompany you," Anyi said, the hope in her voice undeterred. "So please wait for me!"
"I won't hold my breath," Cleria said, laughing.
"When the hells were you planning on telling me, Senna?"
Senna stood silently. She found herself unable to meet Izi's gaze, even knowing that her wife deserved at least that much.
"Did you think I would never find out? Did you just figure that what I didn't know wouldn't hurt me? Or- or did you just not care?"
"Of course I cared," Senna said, raising her head and gritting her teeth. "But you made it pretty clear that you didn't care about my sex life."
"Wh... What are you talking about?!" Izi took a step back.
"You know what I mean." Senna took a step forward, matching the distance between them. "Joyless, loveless, devoid of romance. Those are the only words I can think of to describe the way you touched me. And when I stopped asking you, you were relieved."
"You never cared to ask whether I wanted it!"
"You treated it like it was your duty, and one you didn't want to perform. So I simply gave it to someone who was happy to do it - and you didn't notice for twenty years."
Izi's eyes widened. "Twenty... This... this has been going on since before Cleria and Anyi were..."
"Since a few weeks before that... damned... fortune teller," Senna said. Tension went out of her as a secret that had been held for years upon years finally came to pass. And in that moment of relief, she saw the horror in her wife's eyes, and slumped. "... I'm sorry, Izi."
"I don't understand," Izi said slowly. "You... You've been sleeping with the maid all this time? Caring for her daughter?" A sick look shadowed her face. "Is it love? Do you love her more than you love me?"
"No, Izi, the only woman I love is you." Senna sat down on the bed, defeated. She rested her head in her hands. "But I... I felt so neglected. I thought you didn't care. That you looked down on me. I thought if I could just take care of my needs, then... I could still love you, and not have it turn to resentment."
"And do you?" Izi asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Yes. But I don't know how you could love me after I betrayed your trust like that."
"I..." Izi sank down the wall, laughing hollowly. "I don't know either. Can I trust that you're telling me the truth now?"
"You only have my word, which isn't worth much now."
Izi looked away. "I don't understand, though. She told us we would have a child. A child of legend. How did that child end up the maid's?"
"She wasn't talking to you, or to us. She was talking to me, Izi," Senna said flatly. "She was right. I did have a child. You did, too, by total coincidence."
"So our Cleria is..."
"Well, let's look at the facts, Izi. She was born on the wrong day, at the wrong time, she has no gift for communing with Sarenrae, and she still looks human in every way." Senna got up, standing at the window and staring out at the empty courtyard. "Anyi is looking more angelic by the day. These days she makes a shadow like a prism, or a stained-glass window. Clean and colorful, changing as she turns. She was born on the day the prophecy said, at the time the prophecy said, and the only thing that confused us is we didn't know she was a girl at first."
"Mm... and that we didn't know you were her other parent."
Senna rested her forehead against the windowpane wearily. "... and that, yes."
Izi had swallowed her feelings, and her voice was starting to take back its strength - but not its warmth, not its comfort. It would be a long time before Senna would hear those again, if ever she did at all. A fair but agonizing punishment. "But everyone believes the prophecy refers to our daughter. What are we meant to do?"
"Anyi, love... I know you feel strongly about this, but I promise you I will be fine," Nilda said, brushing her daughter's hair. "Your Aunt Senna has never been anything but kind to me. I will be taken care of."
"If you trust her, then I trust her too, but... mama, for you to be away from here, I'll miss you, and... it doesn't seem right, does it? You're important to me, too, but they're erasing your name from mine and placing theirs..."
"Whatever they call you, whatever you call yourself, I'll be with you in spirit," Nilda said, keeping her voice level. "The only other option we have been given is to leave in silence, without anything but each other."
"We don't need anything but each other!" Anyi said.
The corner of Nilda's lips quirked up. "That may be true in stories, but in reality we need food and shelter and protection from violence. If you are given a good life and I am given somewhere safe to live, then when you finish your training, we will see each other again, and whether you are a Brukir or a Temlan, you will be my daughter through and through." She set the brush down. "Please. This is what I've worked all my life for - a good life for you. It's being handed to you now. All I want is for you to take it."
Anyi remained facing away. "... if I say yes, when will you have to leave?"
"We have one more week," Nilda said, a hint of sadness to her voice.
"I'm going to make this the best week we ever had," Anyi said, whirling around and catching her mother in a tight, warm hug. "We're going to be sick of each other by the end of it. We'll want to spend ten years apart, because we'll have spent so much time together and it will have been so good..."
"Oh! ... Anyi..." Nilda embraced her daughter in return, resting her head on Anyi's shoulder. Ah, would that this could last forever...
Cleria grabbed a staff from the rack against the wall, moving onto the field where Anyi - Anyi Brukir, now - was practicing her movements.
She held the staff in one hand, beckoning with the other. "Come on, then, let's go, you've been practicing a few years now, you have to have it down by now... I'll even give you a handicap. I'll use my worse hand."
Senna raised her voice from the sidelines. "Cleria..."
"Okay," Anyi said, smiling and approaching Cleria with her own staff held level. She bowed-
Cleria's body moved with lightning-fast grace. Backs of the knees. Spin. Stomach. Spin. Back. Elbow. Spin. Face.
Anyi found herself in a dazed heap on her back, Cleria's foot resting heavily on her throat and the point of Cleria's staff aimed directly at her eye.
"You are such a slow learner, Anyi," Cleria said. There wasn't even a hint of affection in it, like the old days. Vile, naked anger and distaste. "You act like that out there, it's just going to get you killed. You have so much further to go to reach even half of what I know. You were the maid's daughter right up until you turned 18, and it shows." She lifted the staff as if to drive its point downward-
"Cleria, Anyi won't be able to learn if you continue interfering with her training," Senna said harshly. "Leave her be. Go."
Anyi made a gurgling noise. Cleria looked down, noting that she'd unconsciously increased the weight she was putting on that foot. Anyi was looking awfully blue. What a sad shade for her normally vibrant skin.
"... Fine," Cleria said, lifting her foot off Anyi's throat.
The girl sucked in a desperate breath, hyperventilating as she sat up. She watched Cleria go, but her half-sister never so much as looked over her shoulder.
"Cleria Brukir, isn't it?"
Cleria didn't lift her head from her drink. "Who's asking?"
"A... concerned friend, shall we say," the voice said. It was rough and deep - not one Cleria recognized. "You mind if we take this conversation somewhere more private?"
"Heh. Either you think I'm not her, or you think she's a real slut to go somewhere private with you for no fucking reason," Cleria said, draining the rest of her drink.
"I think you are her, and I think you will follow me if you hear that I know the truth of your sister... or, perhaps, your half-sister."
This got Cleria's attention, and she slammed the empty glass down on the table, turning toward the visitor. "Mmm. That does sound interesting. But if you'll pardon my language, who gives a fuck? Why should I care about anything to do with that little bitch?"
The visitor was wearing a thick cloak with a hood, held low, that hid their face. "Because she took what belongs to you, and we can return it," the visitor said. "It is a pity to see you like this when you're destined for so much greater."
"Now you're talking," Cleria said. She tossed some coins onto the bar, climbing off her stool. "Let's get out of here and discuss this, then. Got a place in mind?"
The visitor led her out of the bar and to a darkened back alley, up a set of stairs, across a walkway, down into a basement, and through a door into an area that seemed to be little more than the rough, bare-stone interior of a cave. The stranger lit a lantern, sending flickering shadows dancing across the cave's interior.
"If you know who I am, then you know I'm well trained. I could kill you if you try anything... in case you planned to."
"I believe you are of more worth to me alive than dead, or I assure you, I would have killed you," the stranger said. She pulled back her hood. A half-orc woman, by the looks of it. "That girl, Anyi. She took your claim to the title of Sarenrae's beloved, did she not?"
"If that's all you know, then I'm less interested in what you have to say than I thought. And my interest in this conversation is fading already, so get to the point," Cleria said coldly.
"Sarenrae betrayed you. She promised you power, fame, riches... and you were left with nothing. Truthfully... Sarenrae does not sit well with us, either." The stranger held out her hands. "Our patron would love to see her nose bloodied. The permanent death of her beloved one, the one she has invested so much of herself and her cultists in, would be a start. And you... you would love to take Anyi's life yourself, wouldn't you?"
Cleria's suspicions had been raised. "Who is your patron?"
The stranger continued, ignoring the question. "Our patron can grant you the power you were unjustly denied by Sarenrae if you will use it to strike at her heart. He does not make promises, and he does not expect promises. Join us, kill her, and use your power for whatever else you wish. So long as you keep him satisfied, he cares not what you do."
"I said, who is your patron?"
"The Great Beast will see you to heights like you have never-"
"I fucking knew it," Cleria said, shoving the stranger back. "I don't hate that bastard half-sister of mine enough to want to see the whole world destroyed. Take your doomsday cult and shove it up your ass."
The stranger gathered herself to her feet quickly, her eyes flashing a moment before settling. "I see. If that is your answer, then so be it. But you may find things changing in that respect." She pulled something from around her neck, offering it in her open palm. A small, cylindrical, dark brown object, with glowing red cracks spidering throughout making it look like a tiny chunk of volcanic rock. On it was scratched a tiny Fanged Maw, one Cleria recognized from her classes on Sarenrae as the symbol of Rovagug. "Take this whistle. Should your answer change, blow it three times outside the city limits. Tell the ones who come that Khengri gave you the hunger."
"I should kill you right here, Khengri."
Khengri's fangs flashed brightly in the dim light of the lantern. "To kill Cleria Brukir in lethal combat on an altar of the Rough Beast would be quite a privilege."
Cleria made a sound of disgust. "I'm leaving. Freak."
"She will return," Khengri said. She felt Rovagug's claw scratching the words into her mind. She was certain she was right.
In the year that followed, Cleria found herself remembering that night often, but never so much as the night of the presentation of Anyi's gifts.
Priestess Maisara al-Sala, a half-elven priestess with rich golden-brown skin who had often made trips to the Brukir manor to perform services, was running the service. She now held up a suit of ornate leather armor. It had been engraved with all manner of beautiful imagery evoking the sun. Cleria hated it on sight.
"This armor has been blessed with the mark of the Dawnflower, and with her love. Wear it as you wear her embrace - eternally with you, protecting you, keeping you warm and safe no matter where you go or what battles you fight."
"It's a bunch of cheap leather that you ripped holes in for the art. It's not going to do any of those things," Cleria said irritably, downing another glass of wine. She'd already drunk half the bottle, and at the rate she was going, she was surely going to finish the whole thing. Not that that was unusual for her lately. It was unusual for her to do it in front of her family, though. But she was beyond caring, now.
Priestess al-Sala turned her head, along with Anyi. "Cleria, I realize this is a small gathering, but that really does not excuse this kind of behavior. Please remain quiet until the proceedings have finished."
Apparently Cleria was being loud. She didn't really care. Ruining this ceremony was the least she could do to resist the unfairness of it all. She made a shooing gesture with one hand, urging the ceremony to continue, while she poured herself another glass of wine.
She scanned the gathering out of the corner of her eye. Her mothers were sitting apart from each other. She huffed. Most certainly Anyi's fault, though she couldn't put her finger on why.
And if that maid came over and tried to take her wine away...
Priestess al-Sala was still going. "This morningstar is the fist of the Everlight. Her mighty scimitar arm will come to protect you when you need it most. May the fiery rays of her justice protect you, and may she grant you the wisdom to know when to use it."
Cleria leaned over the table to get a closer look. The head was made of bronze-plated metal, and covered in ugly spikes. Hideous. Well-made, even Cleria had to admit. But hideous.
She gave another comment, raising her voice to be loud enough for everyone to hear. "She doesn't even know how to wield a scimitar, so this is what you came up with? A glorified spiked bat for the klutz to swing around, made a little shiny so it'll sparkle and keep her amused? At least until it gets covered in blood."
Priestess al-Sala drew in a sharp breath. "Cleria, I will have to ask you to leave."
"Oh, I'm sorry, am I ruining the fun?" Cleria made a show of knocking her chair to the floor. "Gonna kick me out of your little dinner? Don't worry, I'll show myself out."
As she made her way to the door, she could hear Priestess al-Sala continue. "... and I know that you will accomplish great things for as long as you live."
Cleria fished the whistle out of her pocket and stared at it, resolve suddenly filling her. Well. Now that her night was unexpectedly free...
Wonder how long "as long as you live" is going to be.
In her 25 years of life, Anyi had never locked her door. She never had cause to. She was protected - by her mother, by the manor guards, by her new family. By Sarenrae herself, it seemed.
So it was that on this night, the night that Anyi was packing her gear to leave the following day, Cleria did not need to break the door, pick the lock, or even sweet-talk her way in. All she had to do was open it.
Anyi turned before Cleria had even finished turning the knob. "Cleria! It's been so long since I've seen you," she said, beaming brightly. The slights of the ceremony had been forgotten, and were always understandable to begin with. "I've been wanting to catch up with you before I go, but you haven't exactly been available... I'm so happy that I don't have to leave without seeing you again."
Cleria's movements were unsteady and jerky. Anyi tilted her head. She didn't smell alcohol, but... "Cleria, did you come here drunk?"
"Gods, I wish," Cleria said - no, snarled. "Whenever I'm considering what you did to me - to us - sober, I get so angry. At least the alcohol dulls the fury. But now I feel it - hot and overwhelming." She looked down at her fists, clenching them. "Surging and demanding to be used."
"I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean," Anyi said, tilting her head to the other side. "I don't... I don't know what I did. But I'm willing to listen if you'll tell me."
"Don't - don't play innocent with me," Cleria growled through clenched teeth. "This was your goal from the start. You always wanted to be like me. You always wanted this. You wanted to be me. And now here you are. You're me. And I'm? Fucking nobody. Is that what you wanted, Anyi? To get rid of me?"
"No, Cleria, I never-"
Cleria slammed her hand on the wall next to Anyi's head, silencing her. "Shut up! Shut up. I hate you so much." She turned her back on Anyi, shaking her head and muttering. "I want to make you disappear. I want to switch back. I want you to be nobody. A maid's forgettable daughter. While I am the stuff legends are made of. I am the one who is hailed as a hero to the people. I am the one showered in blessings."
"That's not how it works," Anyi said quietly. She stepped forward, gingerly reaching her hand toward Cleria's shoulder. "Cleria, I had no idea..."
"No? But it will work. I will tell them all you couldn't take the pressure, couldn't cope with what you did to MY FAMILY, and ran away."
"I didn't do anything to your family," Anyi said in a small voice.
Cleria glared over her shoulder. "My parents barely speak. They were the most loving couple I've ever known, until they adopted you. Now they act like they don't know each other."
"Ah." Anyi pulled her hand back. "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. But that sounds like it was hard."
"It will all be much easier now," Cleria said. Anyi was distantly aware of the sound of something metallic clicking into place.
Anyi smiled, relaxing. "Yeah-"
Her body fluidly surged to the right without a thought from her, and Cleria's spiked gauntlet passed through the space where her head had been a moment ago.
Cleria stumbled forward a step, clearly not having expected Anyi to dodge.
Anyi was just as surprised, standing still with her mouth hanging open. Her body still had the relaxed stance of a girl welcoming her sister into her room, not a woman handling an assassination attempt. She tried to kick her brain into gear, but she just felt completely paralyzed.
Not completely, though. A twitch of a shadow out of the corner of her eye, and without any input from her brain, her body ducked and rolled under another punch. "Cleria, what are you doing?"
"Stand still and I'll make this quick!" Cleria laced her fingers together, bringing the gauntlet down hard on Anyi's vulnerable head where she lay on the floor -
- or at least that was the plan, but Anyi backflipped upright. A move she'd never done in all of her training. Her body really seemed to have a mind of its own. It was just a pity her own mind wasn't doing much.
At least, it wasn't up to now, but now she was awake, and she was going to stop-
The gauntlet connected with the side of her head. A sunburst swept over her mind, covering it all in white.
Anyi's eyes opened not long afterward to find herself on the floor of her bedroom. Cleria straddled her, pinning her wrists above her head.
Cleria stared coldly down at her. Nothing like the big sister she'd come to know when she was a little girl. This Cleria was twisted. But... there was pain in her eyes, too. Anyi could see it. The Cleria she knew was hurt to become this Cleria, and she believed Anyi was responsible...
Something warm dripped down her cheek. The injury she'd taken from Cleria's gauntlet. It was bleeding.
... She was pretty badly hurt, wasn't she...?
Cleria bent down and lapped the trail of blood off her cheek.
She laughed bitterly. "Godsdamn. You taste so citrusy-sweet, Anyi... Even sweaty and panicked and bloody from fighting me, everything about you is utterly heavenly, down to your taste. I hate that about you." She grinned twistedly. "But it will make this next part easier."
Anyi didn't know what was going to happen next, but she knew she didn't want it to happen, more than anything else in the world. "No!"
Brilliant sunlight flashed to life in the room, shining around Anyi's head, and Cleria shuddered and jerked back. "What the hells..?!"
Freed from her captor's grip and in the perfect position to grab the morningstar she was keeping under her bed, she swung it hard into Cleria's midsection. While the girl was trying to get her breath back, Anyi chanted a blessing, calling Sarenrae's sunlight into the metal. Flames danced along the head of the bronzed morningstar, and she swung it at Cleria's leg.
The sound it made told her she'd struck true. Cleria screamed, falling to the ground. So much... so much pain... no, worse, she was bleeding out. Internally. She could feel it. Her head ached. Her whole body felt weak. Her arm and leg tingled. So this was how it ends.
"No... no, that won't do..." Anyi knelt, pressing a hand to Cleria's wounds. The pain didn't change, but the ebbing of her consciousness slowed.
Anyi shook her head, standing again. "You're going to live. But I'm sorry, it's going to be painful. Both the wounds... and the living. Please, Cleria, I know you're confused right now, and I have to get away from you to be safe." She tossed the remaining items into her backpack. There was no time to add sentimental items now. Only the essentials.
She slung it over her shoulders, looking back at Cleria from the door. "But I'll be back for you. I'll find the old Cleria again, I promise."
"You'd better... not come back..." Cleria choked out weakly. "Or I'll... make sure... to finish... you off..."
This time, it was Anyi's turn to leave and not look back.