Capri is one of the last surviving Tamrani female in the city, the last person who could potentially challenge Alanna herself - so she is well-guarded, and has been living in a tightly-shielded building with the city's militia, her soulbonded not-yet-lover, and the man she's not supposed to know is her father. Long story.
The bit that follows is the same night from puppet queen Alanna's perspective. This story was originally a Wind Tunnel Dreams story, and Alanna's perspective on all five of those anniversaries was the sponsor bonus. This slice is posted openly for the first time. (Note: Spooky made me those statues!) I feel weird putting a PayPal button out there today, especially as this is getting reposted because the Iranian revolution reminded me of it - but you can hit the PayPal button on Shayara.com if you want the rest of the story or just wanna tip.)
Kieran adjusted Capri’s mask, letting his fingers trail from the soft leather to her soft skin. “You sure you’re all right in those boots?”
She danced a few steps back, executed a neat pirouette, and bowed. The boots made her several inches taller - markedly taller than the average Tamrani. With her height camouflaged and her features obscured, she could pass, shouldn’t set off any red flags for any Councillors or Hounds. The Council had been more active lately - more along the lines of skulking malevolently than an outright attack. But if they were going to attack, this world be the night to do it. Halloran hadn’t wanted to let Capri join the vigil, but she’d insisted.
She had not been outside the Tower these five years, after all.
Halloran paced, peering out the windows. Even Fenris seemed quieter than usual. He handed Capri a cloak - full-length, to hide the boots and maintain the illusion of average height. She fastened it, three silver buttons over her chest. “Be careful,” he said, his reticence clear. “Vic and Joseph are assigned to you, and Halloran-”
She hugged him. “It’s okay. I promise. I’ll be careful, and it will be okay.”
Fenris nodded and stepped away. “Let’s move out,” he called, and the Kirayth mobilized - clad in black leather with their silver flame logo emblazoned on the backs and arms of jackets. Armed to the teeth. Wary, but with their practiced calm. They had held the line five years ago. They could do it tonight, if they had to.
Halloran stood by the door, lighting candles; he followed Kieran and Capri out. The Kirayth fanned out into the twilight.
Capri suppressed a gasp. Halloran felt it, but Kieran was distracted, being hugged by a small mob of chattering Narsani. He flashed a grin at them, and Halloran slipped his hand into hers. She leaned back against him, breathed deeply.
She recognized some of those parading. Grown-up old friends, shadows of a past - intimations of some alternate world where she wasn’t officially five years dead. Halloran squeezed her hand again, waves of strength and comfort flowing over the soulbond. He did not need to ask her if she was ready, and she did not have to tell him.
They stepped out into the flow of Dasaroi. Was anyone in their home tonight? It felt like the entire city had poured out into the street. A river of their people. A river of light, wending its way down narrow cobblestone paths, flowing toward the deep and ancient heart of the city. Those not carrying candles carried drums, pounding the ancient call of House Bartomn; as they emerged from beyond the Tower’s shadow, there were other instruments, guitar and flute and voice. There were masked dancers - masked for fear of Council retribution, but free in their anonymity. Capri clutched her candle, willing the tears to stay in her eyes and not spill forth.
Singing and walking, hundreds of thousands of candles burning, down to the heart of Shayara. As close as they could get to where their race began.
The outer wall of the castle, impassable to any until the true Lishaya returned.
Someone had reproduced the mural from the city’s entrance on the castle wall - Tiala na’Roth, the Firstborn, war-torn, cradling the city in her outstretched hands. And a makeshift shrine had sprung up around it - candles and flowers, written prayers, scattered beads. Driftwood Angels stood by the castle gates, tuning up, as the light swept in from all over the city - and Sara Tallart’s voice rose, rich and strong, singing their new song.
Singing an invocation - turning a vigil into a summoning.
The light was a tide, golden and bright, and Halloran wrapped Capri in his arms; they joined Sara on the chorus, they and everyone there - come home, come home. Capri’s alto and Halloran’s baritone, her feeling him singing, his chest pressed to her back. Capri tilted her head back and sang, willing the message into the night; Kieran joined them, and she could feel his hope and his longing, his soulbond with the true Lishaya, wherever she was, extending out - Capri wove her song, her hope, in with his. Come home.
The heart of the city glowed, pulsed, and the voices and hope rose into the night - come home.
The parade is visible from the balcony of the house that was once House Bartomn. Alanna stands, clutching the rough grey stone, watching the river of light. Rivers. Several of them, like spokes in a wheel, converging upon the heart of the city. The one place I cannot go.
Behind her, the rest of the Council debates. The Hounds are in position, flanking the parade. It is the perfect time, the perfect place, to wreak havoc upon their little rebellion. To slap them down again. Another purge.
Because that worked so well last time.
Their voices fade, blur together. So much static. So much white noise. Alanna sits and contemplates the thing Janos brought to her. It is a statue, small and fairly simple. A raven-haired woman with a cruel expression, black-clad, wearing a green sash that reads “Lishaya”. Before her, a parade of skeletons.
This is how they see me. Alanna, bringer of death.
And the other thing. The other statue. It radiates peace, this thing. It is in the style of that human icon, the Virgin Mary, green-cloaked and golden-haired. Silver wings spread behind it.
One an icon of death, and one of hope.
They are all over the city, Janos says. Her city. No one has witnessed their placement. No one knows where they come from. Different styles suggest multiple artists.
A defiance, and a prayer.
“She was a warrior queen,” Alanna mutters.
The balcony falls silent, save for the music the breeze carries over from the castle. “Lishaya?” Olivia ventures.
She finds herself gripping the icon of peace. “Tiala na’Roth was a warrior queen. Not this sweet-faced thing. She led her people to war, lifetime after lifetime. She is not this thing. She has more blood on her hands than I ever will, and they worship her, they build little shrines, they -” With a sob, she flings the statue at the wall - it shatters, small silver wings picked up instantly by the breeze, swirling through the air, then gone. She spins away, leans on the ledge again. Gathers herself. Breathes.
Looks at the image they have made of her.
Let them fear me, then.
“Release the Hounds,” she says, feeling the phrase echo down the years. She takes less joy in it now. “Have them harry the edges. Do not kill unless provoked to do so. Terrorize. Wound. Make them suffer. But do not let them die.”
She feels his presence behind her, and his approval; she closes her eyes.