Then the rasp of my breath as I come back to myself. Then the pain…
I shudder on the cold stone of the balcony. Every nerve feels raw, exposed; I feel as if flayed alive. I fight tears. Mustn’t cry.
Though who’s to see me cry?
I look up, muscles protesting, to see the corpses of my associates. Janos. Olivia. So many more, just meat on the balcony, eyes open in horror.
Am I free?
I pull myself up slowly. Hands and knees, my hair falling in my face, tangling in this ridiculous armor. Armor couldn’t protect any of us, could it? Not from that.
I look with my mind, not my eyes, and I see her. Surrounded by a nimbus of green light, the remnants of the blue fire crackling around her. Miniature Valkyrie. Death walking. Power incarnate.
My baby sister.
Come to make sure I’m dead.
I hear her footsteps on the balcony stairs, and I grab the railing, start pulling myself up. I will not face her on my knees. I will have the dignity at this last moment that I have never been allowed before.
I am still Lishaya. It is a stolen crown, but I wear it still.
My body is so weak, and the pain is intense. More pain than even he gave me, perhaps. My arms tremble as I haul myself up, bit by agonizing bit. And as I straighten, trembling, she is there.
She looks at once exactly and nothing at all like me. Were it not for my hair and our age difference, we could pass for twins. I was unprepared for that – Tessa and Katrianna have their own faces. This one – Julia, her name is Julia. Julia has my eyes, my mouth, my tumbledown curls…
But Julia has a clarity to her that I have never possessed. She has purpose. Looking into those steady eyes as she stands there, shortsword in hand… Julia has strength.
I have never been strong.
Weary from the battle, bloodstained and bruised, pale and resolute; she looks like Tiala in the old pictures, Tiala after the Fall.
So this is what a Lishaya looks like.
“Sister,” I whisper, and her wary eyes flash angry. Thoughts cascade through my mind. All the things I’ve done. All the unforgivable things I’ve done.
This is my death, and it is earned.
“Sister,” I say quietly, accepting this… “I’m sorry.”
Her eyes shift again. And I read… sympathy from her. Sympathy, and curiosity, and… reluctance?
I feel a wild, desperate stab of hope. Can I survive this? Can I live, and atone? Can I…
And then I feel him rise behind me, impossibly, inevitably, and the despair swallows me whole.
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Playing the repost card again, because my head is so stuffed full of mucus that there's no room for the writerbrain. I have to keep getting up and walking around, because being fully vertical helps a *little*, but then that messes with the plantar fasciitis...
This is the prologue of Mask and Marionette - Alanna's side of the story.
And with this, Blogathon is at the halfway point, and we all have writer's block. Can we pull out? Will pseydtonne ever finish cooking? Will I ever put any clothes on? Stay tuned!
And keep the questions and suggestions coming! I've been staring at the same prompts for twelve hours, gimme something fresh.