Once upon a time there lived a poor vintner who traded his eldest daughter to a great white bear in exchange for good wealth and fortune for the rest of his family. They lived in delicate harmony until homesickness and doubt crept into the daughter’s mind that drove her to light a candle that revealed everything, including the cost of upsetting the balance. The white bear princess was stolen back to her cage, in a castle that lay east of the sun and west of the moon. The daughter did the only thing she could and followed. She travelled across land and sea and sky to find her wife, collecting the strangest company of friends along the way, all just as determined as the daughter to free the princess. Racing against the clock, with just three nights of deception they managed to break every enchantment the princess’s wicked step-father had placed, including the one that bound him to this plane of existence. Tallow drops washed out of her cloak and curse broken, the princess was now free to stay in her true, angelic form day and night and do as she please. And she wishes to live happily ever after with the vintner’s daughter, her wife, in the castle that was built in an impossible place. It’s everything the daughter had dreamed of, hoped for, and then some.
Jester insists it’s the best love story of their age. Veth takes offense to that.
The castle in the cliffs is lost to them. It fell into the sea the morning Beau woke up alone in the woods, and while she regrets not being able to say goodbye to the beautiful library they created and the canopied bed where she stole that costly first look of her wife, the land is not lost to them. The black sand beach and its welcoming waters are waiting for them once they get things in order long enough for them to not be missed for a couple of days and for Caduceus to be on the mend.
Beau is nostalgic for the glittering halls that looked like they were made of ice, the spiral staircase and the enchanted dining room that left them wanting for nothing. A few simple caves are all that remains, just as cool as the castle halls had been. All that’s left are her and Yasha’s memories, those they share with the group their first night there, camped out in the open air just out of the sand. It was a beautiful place to live, and Beau will mourn it being wiped off the face of the earth.
The home they build with their calloused hands is endlessly more perfect.
It’s smaller than the castle. A one roomed cabin, dividers made with curtains instead of walls. A bed, a small kitchen, a space to eat and gather, bookshelves on every spare wall. There’s ground cover of lily of the valley and baby’s breath just outside, spilling out from the woods. There’s also plenty space on the cliffside. If they want to expand it one day, it wouldn’t be hard.
It helps that their friends come along. Caleb spends most of the time they take to build the house in one of the caves that survived the castle falling into the sea. When he finally emerges, there is a permanent teleportation circle placed there.
“For when we need one another.” He says. “So Beauregard never has to go on a wild goose chase to round us up ever again. I’ll make sure we all have a matching set.”
The procurement of materials would have been the difficult part, but Jester helps them skip that with magic. Caduceus tries to help, but he still looks so tired and pale that every one of them have to ban him from doing anything more than resting. Veth, in her sharp bluntness, seems to be the one to get through to him, threatening to have Caleb teach her magic so she can force him to sleep like his brother used to. They could have used magic to speed up the process, but there’s something satisfying in pulling the beams up with their own hands and Jester needing to pull out her magic paints to quickly make another hammer.
It takes them less than a week to build the cabin. Their hands are full of splinters and Beau’s got a knot beneath her shoulders she’s unsure will ever come out, but they did it together. That night, tangled up in a pile on the floor, is some of the best sleep of Beau’s life. They have to return east of the sun and west of the moon the next morning, and some of them have to depart from there to their homes across the continent. It’s been a hectic few months. They’ve been missed in their lives. They won’t be gone from the castle forever, so their parting isn’t bitter.
Beau and Yasha do have a wedding on the black sand beach, with the people who really matter. Most of them. Beau’s siblings aren’t able to come. She can’t get in contact with anyone in Kamordah, no matter how many letters she writes. She wonders if her father hopes her dead.
That is not to say she is without family. The six that helped them put Obann down forever are there, as are a few choice others. The small alchemist and his toddler son, who never stops trying to animate every branch, toy, or scrap of wood he can find when he thinks no one is watching. A drow man she’s never met holds a little bird girl for the entire day, never more than a half pace away from Caleb, though the group of them that have been friends since childhood clearly know him and are comfortable around him. When Yasha introduces him as Essek, it clicks into place. They also have three more godlings in attendance, all needing Caduceus’s encouraging to mingle. It helps that the friendliest woman in all of Exandria is there, freckles glowing with more radiant light than Beau had ever seen in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon.
None of the castle servants Beau befriended are there. Yasha had helped break the contracts that bound all of them to the land and has returned to them their freedom. Many have taken it and run. Some, like Lillith, just want some time off to see how the world has changed since they’ve been trapped on the island. Beau and Yasha had offered them all invitations, as they had with Jourrael and Ganix. They all declined. Beau doesn’t blame them. There are parts of her three days on the island under Obann’s rule that are still too painful to think about. She doesn’t know what she’d do if it was years of memories she was struggling against.
They hold their wedding just after sunrise, without a priest and only their vows with simple wedding rings Caleb had helped them craft. They’re already married, but this ceremony is still important. It’s saying their promises to one another, out loud, in front of those that they hold dear in the world. Beau never thought she’d have a wedding, didn’t want one, but watching Yasha walk down the aisle in a plain white dress on Mollymauk’s arm and the way it made her heart do cartwheels confirms that this moment was meant to be.
After the ceremony, they spend the rest of the day celebrating with friends. Beau and Yasha had already had a honeymoon of sorts, in the seasons spent in the castle in the cliffs, so they’re in no rush to start their second one, which is just two weeks away from the castle to settle into their new cabin. They’d rather spend the day with friends, on the beach and under the sun.
It’s the first time the seven of them have been together with others and watching everyone mingle and trade stories is more fun than it has any right to be. The day passes in little vignettes between drinks and small plates that they snack on instead of ever settling down for a real meal.
Luc and Kiri take to one another quickly, playing all sort of games down the beach and in the shallow water. Clarabelle is always at their heels, entertaining them with flashes of red-hot magic and the endless handfuls of flowers she produces in her palms.
It’s good to see Reani, especially since she’d had to leave so soon after Obann’s defeat to her hometown, her secret work as a vigilante always keeping her busy. The way Yasha’s eyebrows quirk up every so slightly at Reani’s recollection of the last assignment she’d taken on, Beau suspects her secret identity may be more of a public knowledge, but one that’s still very appreciated.
Molly spends a good amount of time with his peacock feathers puffed up around Essek as he grills the elf while passing drinks to him. Essek looks more than a little uncomfortable until Caleb makes it over their way, one hand clasping the back of Molly’s neck in greeting, the other giving Essek’s free hand a quick squeeze. The drow relaxes after that, less frightened of the tiefling and his intense questioning he has of his intentions towards their wizard.
Calliope stays close to her brother’s side, constantly worrying her hands through his hair. Colton doesn't touch him, but keeps an eye on him the entire night and brings him plates throughout the day to make sure he's eating. Some pink has returned to Caduceus’s mane, but he’s got a long way to go. His ribs aren’t so sallow though, and he’s keeping his food down today with ease. He’ll be strong enough to make his journey to his home in the far north soon.
The only people who are more attached at the hip than the re-newlyweds are Jester and Fjord, who share more dances than Beau and Yasha get to. They evidently have a lot of catching up to do from the past years of separation, if the never-ending banter of whispers they share are any indication. Beau doesn’t think she’s ever seen Jester smile more than she does at their wedding, including the day after they slaid Obann and Jester got to herald the good news around the entire castle.
Beau wishes she had a way to seal these memories in amber, return to them whenever she’s missing her friends or feeling down. But all she has is her steel-trap of a mind, so she just takes it all in and dedicates every interaction she can to recollection. She knows she’s going to be a little forgetful, but so would anyone so lucky to spend the day tangled in the arms of Yasha Nydoorin, distracted by whispers of sweet nothings every spare moment alone they have. Beau misses out on a fair amount of conversation by how distracted she gets trying to plot different ways to surprise her wife with a quick kiss, and even more in the execution of these plans.
There are accommodations for those who want to spend the night outside, tents and sleeping rolls scattered around the cabin, but inside it’s also prepared to hold as many of their friends as it can. People begin to mill up the cliff towards the cabin, bedding down as the sun starts to set and the moons take its place in the sky.
Before she realizes it, it’s just Fjord and Beau left on the beach, watching the sun sink into the sea and below the horizon. She looks half a mess, one of her suspenders unclipped and both shirtsleeves and pants rolled up in an effort to stay dry earlier when Veth baited her to chase out in the water. Wordlessly, Fjord passes her one of the few cups left down here. Beau takes it, finding it full of the dark nutty beer she’d first tried back on the Menagerie Coast.
Everyone had spent a fair amount of the day drinking, but Beau had let herself hit it harder as their festivities began to slow down. Fjord had too, if his unfocused half-lidded eyes and lazy smile were any indication.
They drink in silence for the most part, enjoying one another’s company and the sound of gentle waves reminding her of those three weeks they spent on the open ocean in Fjord’s schooner. Jester says the Tide’s Grave is still in the sheltered cove in Xhorhas that they’d left it in. Beau wonders if he’ll ever go back for it.
“I’d wish you luck on your wedding night,” Fjord says, eyes playful over his mug of beer, “but I guess you two will have to wait a little while considering how full your cabin is right now.”
Panic races down Beau’s spine, but she’s able to force herself to laugh, if a little too loud. Fjord doesn’t seem to notice, just laughs in return, and gives her a hard pat on the back.
They finish their drinks, dig their cups deep in the sand so the tide won’t carry them off, and do their best not to stumble up the cliffside. Yasha is waiting for both of them at the top, crossed arms and gentle smile. Beau buries herself in the woman’s side, hoping her face isn’t as red as it feels, and that the darkness is doing her favors. They deposit Fjord by the pile of tangled firbolgs that is the Clay family, before Yasha guides them to the door.
Using Beau’s dulled senses to get the drop on her, Yasha swoops up Beau in her arms and carries her across the threshold of their cabin, having to press a kiss to her lips to muffle Beau’s laugh of surprise. After they tiptoe around Veth and Caleb, as well as their families that have sprawled over the floor, Yasha gently lays her down on their bed before diving under the sheets beside her.
Getting to be the little spoon, curled up beside Yasha, is normally Beau’s favorite way to fall asleep, but it’s a struggle for her that night. She’s consumed by Fjord’s reminder. They’d spent the weeks since Obann’s defeat so busy that one or both of them were dead tired every night, and quick to fall asleep. Sex hadn’t really come up, and Beau doesn’t have any sort of relationship to compare this one to, so she wouldn’t even know where to start. Sure, they have moments that get heated, running their hands along one another’s bodies and biting bruises into flesh, but it never had escalated past that. Did Yasha see something defective in her? Was she going to have to be the one to take the first plunge?
She waits until tomorrow, once everyone has left. The teleportation circle Caleb made in the cave takes them back to the castle east of the sun and west of the moon, for when their return is required. Their friends leave in waves, different parting words and promises to see one another soon. Yasha is picking away at the last scraps of breakfast before Beau can
“Yasha I-” No matter how she tries to start this, it’s going to sound lame, Beau needs to just bite the bullet and get it over with. “I’ve been calling you my wife for months.” The blush is racing up her cheeks, Beau really ought to duck her head and pretend to have some humility. “And we haven’t even…”
The plate is already abandoned as Yasha crosses the room so she can hold Beau steady by her elbows. “Hey.” She’s blushing too, but Yasha doesn’t look embarrassed at all, the pink blooming into red looks good on her. “I haven’t had any sort of relationship that’s come this far.” She squints a little, looking like she’s about to laugh at herself what she just said. “Obviously. Hopefully that’s obvious. We’re taking it at our pace, and that’s all that matters to me.”
“It-” Beau tilts her head, trying to find the right words. “It feels like we’ve done this all in the wrong order and I’m not sure how to keep progressing? If that makes sense? I want to. But I don’t really know how.”
“What, getting married first isn’t what all couples do?” That gets a snort out of Beau, an unsexy one but genuine. “In our defense,” Yasha says, all gentle smile and glowing and Beau’s never felt safer than when she’s held by her, “I was a bear half the time and then you were preoccupied breaking a curse created by the most evil creature I’ve known. A lot’s been going on.”
“We’ve been busy.” Beau agrees, smile breaking through and no longer paralyzed with worry. She uses that to loop her own arms into Yasha’s, pulling her wife in for a tight hug. There’s a beat when there’s nothing more than the pair of them, bound tightly together under the roof their friends helped raise. “Should we plan it? That feels weird, right?”
Yasha leans back, tracing the line across her wingspan where a navy-furred shawl had once resided, unwillingly stitched into her flesh. “I was allowed one impatience. Whatever pace the rest of our lives come at, I won’t mind. I think it’ll just happen when it does.”
When they do, it feels fated and more natural than Beau ever could have thought up. They’re waiting for a sunset a few days later, half exhausted from swimming all day under the summer’s scorching sun. Yasha’s skin is a little red, but the color has taken wonderfully into Beau’s.
When the rain starts, it’s gradual. Beau doesn’t mind at first, tilts her head back so the warm droplets can run down her face, neck, undoing the little bit of drying her clothes had managed.
Once the thunder crackles and the rain begins to really pick up, Beau does have some minor regrets, but they all evaporate once Yasha’s wings unfurl, sheltering Beau at her side. Beau hadn’t expected girlish giggle that comes out of her, but it’s okay because it makes Yasha break out in a grin, something more than slightly reverent in her mismatched eyes.
It makes Beau want to ask her. “Did you really dream about me?”
Yasha blinks at her, once, twice, frazzled white hair and unwinding braids making her look almost owlish in combination with that expression. “I wouldn’t fib about that. There was a girl in the mountains, with a hungry, unlucky family. Where I expected to see bitterness, for your family’s vineyards, for the way the cards landed, for the world, I found nothing but love. Fierce love, off-putting love that could be easily misread, but I knew what it was from the moment I saw you in that dream.”
“I mean,” Beau considers this, tilting her head. “It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of girls on the continents that that could apply to. But when I’m with you, it feels like we were meant to be. Inevitable. From that, you knew it was me?”
Yasha presses her lips together, Beau can practically see the thoughts flying around behind her eyes. “Yes but. I don’t know if I can explain it properly. I just… I knew the way to you. Your father opened that door and I saw you, behind him, arms outstretched to cover your siblings. And I knew I had been right.”
Beau wonders what she must have looked like, half frozen from the storm and frightened of what a strange talking bear might have planned for her family. “Such a romantic first meeting, who could blame you?”
“Well, I’m technically cheating.” Yasha’s brow quirks up. “I got to see you twice, once as a bear and once as myself, that first night. You weren’t asleep yet, I could tell by your breathing. But you never flinched. In darkness next to a stranger, you chose to trust me, who was a strange bear to you. Any act that courageous inspires love.”
Beau can feel a heat begin to burn under her skin from the compliment. “Aww baby, you think I’m brave?” She teases.
There’s a hand, rough with callouses and a little bit of sand, that holds her jaw. “Yes.” Yasha’s entirely sincere as she pulls Beau into a long, deep kiss that strokes the heat under her skin into a flame. “And I love you for it. And so much more.”
Beau’s arms are around Yasha’s neck as she pulls herself into a straddle across Yasha’s lap, forgetting all about the rain. She’s on a mission now, to kiss all the good sense out of Yasha that she can. Her hands snake down Yasha’s back, and when she rubs the spot below her shoulder blades where her wings sprout out from, the moan that comes out from Yasha is the best sound she’s ever heard. It also makes it all the easier for Beau to try to claim Yasha’s mouth as her own, as foolish of a task as that might be.
It’s Yasha that breaks their kiss, one of her hands having worked its way under Beau’s top to massage the flesh underneath. “Do you want to…” She whispers, all breathy like they’ve just raced up an entire tower’s worth of stairs.
“Yes.” Beau pants right before a giant crackle of lightning comes from above. “Although, maybe in our castle here?”
Yasha tilts her head back to laugh, letting Beau come in closer to mouth at and suck a bruise along her neck. “Okay, yes. Our castle here.”
She must untangle her hand so she can properly hold Beau to her as her wings begin to beat, lifting them out of the sand and scaling the cliffside, to seek shelter in their cabin and more importantly, the bed in it.
They stay up well past the conclusion of the thunderstorm, until the sun starts to rise. Beau can’t bring herself to care that her lips are kiss-bruised and she’s sore in more places than she thought possible. She’s tangled up in bed with Yasha, her wife, her lover. It’s not until late afternoon that they awake, but it doesn’t take long for them to pick up where they left off. They don’t bother getting out of bed except for quick breaks for the rest of day.
And the day after that.
Before she is anyone else, Yasha is a princess from east of the sun and west of the moon. As Jourrael is, and Ganix is a prince. Obann took the three of them in under that castle and molded them into a family, for better or worse. Beau had thought the castle to be made of ice, just like the first one Yasha had taken her too. She knows now that Obann shaped it into one. He tried to tear out the warmth in the hearts of his children, sink it into the stone of every building.
She’s so glad it didn’t take.
Jourrael finds her one day, when Beau’s alone out in the baily early one morning. Yasha had terrors the night before that had kept her from sleeping. She’d woken up in the dead of night, dry heaving and instantly rousing Beau. She’d held her wife until a thunderstorm picked up outside, and that helped calm her down enough to lie back in bed until the moons set and the day started anew. The storm has left them now, but Beau is thankful it came when they needed it.
“I’m sorry.” Jourrael’s head is held low, she looks more shameful than a dog that’s gotten into the trash and made a mess. “I’ve been trying to figure out what to say to you, how to make up what I did to you, but I have nothing. I can tell you that it wasn’t me, but our father shaped Ganix and I into those monsters a long time ago. I don’t want to be his Caedogeist ever again. I don’t expect you to forgive me, but I have to make sure you have these.”
She pulls from a shoulder bag three items. An apple, perfectly shaped with a flawless golden sheen to it. A comb, with sharp gold teeth meant for carding and missing its other half. A book, navy cover worn so much that the golden thread is starting to fray too and heavier than it ought to be. It still contains her flowers.
Beau doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know if she can speak when tears start to well up in the corner of her eyes when she realizes what Jourrael is saying.
“I’m sorry.” She says again when Beau remains speechless, regret practically rolling off her.
“You saved everything.” Beau can’t keep the wonder out of her voice. “I thought you destroyed them all, but you kept them.”
Jourrael’s red head ducks even lower as her gaze becomes fixed on a single blade of grass. “I knew what we were doing was wrong. So did Ganix, but we couldn’t stop. But that, that I had some say over. I’m sorry I took them from you in the first place.”
Beau tears her eyes away from the books, takes in the slight drow woman who’d been trying to keep herself hidden in the shadows for the last few weeks in the early morning light. “It’ll take time. I want to forgive you now, I really do, but I need time.” She pauses for a beat, before deciding to be completely honest. “I think it’ll help that he made you take another shape. I don’t see that cruel tiefling or that toothy monster when I look at you and Ganix. It sounds unfair to say, but I think the fact that you both look new will help.”
“I hope it does.” Jourrael is grasping at her own wrist, squeezing it tight. “I hope I can earn your forgiveness, though I’m sure I’ll never deserve it. I’m glad that we’re in our old bodies too. It reminds me that he had to make us into something that we weren’t to act like that. Small mercies, I suppose.”
Beau feels an ache in her heart for the other woman. “I look forward to the day when I look at you and don’t feel anything but love for my wife’s sister. And I hope you will be able to forgive yourself for what he forced you to do some day as well.”
That’s a step too far, makes the elven woman turn sharply and take a few steps away from Beau. She can recognize the panic in the other woman’s body and already a clumsy apology is on her tongue when the other woman just shakes her head, and angles her head ever so slightly towards Beau.
“Give her those flowers.” Jourrael says, soft as the breeze as she turns away to the temple that she and Ganix are turning into their own sanctuary. “She deserves beautiful things.”
Beau holds the items close to her chest, unable to believe that at the end of all things, she has everything she was willing to sacrifice for Yasha. Items she’d once had to use as bartering chips, freely given. She wants the day she gives Yasha her flowers to be perfect, untouched by the shadows of their pasts that keep haunting them. Today isn’t going to be that day, so she makes sure to hide away the gifts Jourrael had given her.
Soon. Not today but soon.
There is still love in Obann’s children. She sees it in Jourrael when she isn’t wearing a mask of neutrality. Ganix is thoughtful to everyone around him, quiet and always listening to anyone who wants to speak. It’s when he’s alone that Beau sees his face fall, the melancholy take in. They try to make sure that doesn’t have to happen so often. Yasha, though not in the same way, is Obann’s child too. She has better days and worse. The good ones tend to outnumber the bad, but when she’s in less than top shape, she has the rest of them to lean on. There isn’t any darkness in this castle that cannot be rooted out with time, patience, and love.
She’s out in the bailey one day, going through her full routine of stretches that she’d neglected in the hecticness of the past few weeks when Molly comes up to her and decides to join in without welcome or invitation. The way he’s puffing his breath in some of the deeper poses and his inability to hold a headstand are more than worth the price of him crashing on her moment of solitude.
“You know -” He says, unprompted and cross-legged on the grass while Beau sinks deeper into her reverse warrior.
“I don’t, actually.” Beau cuts him off, earning a halfhearted scowl and childish tongue stuck out from her friend as she laughs.
“Oh piss off.” Molly unfolds his legs, finally joining her in stretching as he folds himself in half and attempts to touch his horns to his toes. “As I was going to say. You know what been bothering me about how we got Obann?”
She arches her back a little more, drawing her raised hand further over her head. “That we didn’t make it more embarrassing for him?”
“That it didn’t fit my vision. Shut it!” He gives her a pre-annoyed look before she can interject with snark. “It’s because some of it was right. You were there, and to say you had a hole in your heart is entirely fair. We all did, when Yasha was away from us. And the stone building looked exactly like his temple that we fought his second form in.”
Beau brings herself back to center, before raising her back leg and extending her arms forward while making a flat back. “Maybe it was only a partially true vision.”
“Thought you knew by now.” Molly says. “These things don’t happen halfway. Magic doesn’t work when you offer up someone else’s liver when your own is what’s necessary, just like when someone casts blindness it doesn’t only work in one eye. It’s all or nothing, just like love.”
She would shrug, but it would ruin her pose, so Beau just gives him a grunt of confusion.
“Anyways, my point is I think I figured it out.” He pauses while he unfolds himself, stretching all the way out from fingertips to toes. “I thought you’d need the objects you were holding to win, but they were really symbolic of Yasha’s ‘family’.” He throws up the biggest air quotes Beau has ever seen him use. “Obann was the orb, he had it in him. Or whatever he turned into, I suppose. Was still him. The teeth were just.” He pauses, cocks his head if the sudden jangle of jewelry is any indication. “The mouths he made Ganix have, I guess. Ugh, I still have nightmares about that thing Obann turned him into. Jourrael is the one that doesn’t really fit, but the more I think about it she’s so obviously the thread. She held them all together, loyalty to Obann, however forced, her love for her foster brother, very real, and attachment to Yasha, which Obann was going to abuse to help him stay in power but now is on the mend. Plus, I think you broke her first, when you gave her the book, and that’s when Obann’s plan really started to unravel.” He waggles his fingers at that, proud of his pun.
Beau thinks about Jourrael’s recently returned gifts. Yeza insisted that she keep the apple, and Fjord didn’t want anything to do with the comb. She gave it to Jester instead, figured she’d have more luck finding its missing partner, and maybe a clue about where Fjord came from, than Beau ever would. Caleb got the magically shrunken wheel back the night after they killed Obann, though she doesn’t know what he did with it. Her mother’s book of fairytales still lives in the rabbit-furred bag, and that’s where it will stay until she’s ready to share it with Yasha. “So, what I’m hearing is that if I start having magic visions, don’t take them so literally.”
Molly snorts. “Well. Less than I do, at least. Though if you start developing magic, I would plan an exorcism before believing it was something that came from you.”
Beau breaks her pose to reach out and smack Molly right in the center of his stomach for that. He shrieks in surprise, curling in to protect his squishy parts as he rolls out of her range. He’s on his feet in a flash, but Beau’s just as quick as him so he won’t be out of reach for long as she races after her friend.
“Wait until I can take out my horn piercings before you use me as a punching bag!” He howls, looking over his shoulder to make sure that she’s giving chase and they’re on for a sparring match.
On her good days, Beau will be in the library, or the kitchens, or an abandoned guest room they’re repurposing into something more useful and feel a rush of warm air. Slowly but surely, life is coming back to the castle.
But something is missing. Beau knows better than to call it a curse, it isn’t that. It’s just a simple fact. No children will be born in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon until the chill of oblivion is rooted out of every corner.
That doesn’t stop children from coming. The first one that washes up on their shores comes to them clinging to her life. Beau would not have recognized Kori with her broken nose and welted eye were it not for the ragged doll she had named Sestra cradled to her chest. Yasha is a thing of riotous fury when she blubbers out her reason for coming and becomes so bright in her anger that Beau can barely look at her to find her hand so that she might take it and bring her back to earth.
It doesn’t frighten Kori, though Beau reckons it should. The way Kori looks at Yasha, with wonder in those doe brown eyes, reminds Beau that the first thing she told her sister about her wife was that she was kind.
Yasha offers to kill their father for them, in the same monotone she used the first time she proposed his death, when Beau only knew her as White Bear. Beau considers it for a moment but abandons it the second she sees that look in Kori’s eyes. It’s not about what she wants, it never has been. It has always been about her siblings. The difference now is that Beau doesn’t have to choose between her happiness and theirs.
“Don’t send me away.” Kori begs, still shivering despite the swaddle of blankets Beau has wrapped her in at this point. It’s still summer, but the season isn’t immune to its cloudy days and chilly nights. “Don’t walk away and make me watch again.”
Beau feels something in her break, only to immediately meld back as Yasha wraps an arm around Beau and another around her sister. She gives her a look and Beau knows she’ll never have to feel that terrible tear ever again.
They offer her a room, and Kori accepts. It’s a simple as that. Her wildcat sister is here to stay.
But Kori is only the first. An elven boy washes up several weeks later while Beau and Kori are in the library, it’s restoration and recategorization having become a pet project for the two of them. It’s Mollymauk who nearly trips over the boy during one of their walks, Yasha having to carry him to them, hollering for her adoptive siblings to bring them towels and hot drinks. His stomach is covered in bruises, and Kori somehow gets him talking as Beau and Yasha do their best to warm him up as fast as possible while Molly releases a string of curses not appropriate for young ears while he tries to light the fireplace.
“It was my father.” The boy says while trembling, from cold or fear Beau can’t tell. “But my mother let him. I mean so did I, it was me or her. I’d rather it be me.”
Gods, this boy wouldn’t be more than thirteen if he were a human. Beau’s unsure how closely elven and human develop is, she’ll need to write to Caleb and have him send her a book. Maybe for more than a book if they’re going to start collecting children here.
“My father gave me this.” Kori says with a soft smile as she points to the still puffy break in her bridge. “My sister-in-law keeps trying to convince me to take her up on her offer to kill him.”
The elf looks over to Yasha, who’s retreated to the doorway to convince Ganix to join them for a moment, arms already full of the offerings he’s brought them. “I bet she would. You at least get him back for it?’
If that doesn’t get Beau’s attention. “Sorry?” Out of reflex more than any real worry on what the boy might do, one of her hands settles on Kori’s shoulder while the other balls into a fist.
His pale eyes are affixed to Beau’s fist, but he wisely doesn’t say anything about it. “Just curious. I managed to break my father’s arm before he let me go and the wind pulled me out the house and into the sea.”
Molly’s chuckling, mostly at Beau’s posturing, but raises at what the kid says. “Sorry, the wind pulled you into the ocean?”
The boy ducks his head. “It felt like someone was grabbing me. It sounds like I’m crazy, but she told me that I’d be safe. She called herself Hler.”
“Calliope did this?” Yasha’s mouth is dropped open, alone in the doorway. Ganix must have shuffled away, both her siblings are still unease in the presence of the rest of them so it’s no surprise to Beau. “No warning, just dragged you away?”
“I sent a prayer out to anyone who might hear me when Father was in his rage.” Kori offers as she wiggles the mug out of Yasha’s iron grip and into the elf’s more careful one. “The South Wind is always listening. She’s the cat, the one of Sigrun’s, that always finds us when we go off to cry.”
Beau looks up to Yasha hoping her wife will have some idea of what to make of this, but the other woman looks as baffled as she does. Kori was one thing; Beau knows where she came from and how to care for her before she washed up on their pebbled beach. This beaten boy is an entirely different animal, Beau isn’t certain how to approach him without making him bolt, how to let him know that he’s welcome and wanted here.
Of the three of them, its Molly who knows what to do. He swaggers over from the fireplace, popping down into a squat so he becomes eye level with the elf. “I’m sorry for what’s happened to you. And I know that doesn’t mean anything because I’m a stranger, but I’m glad you’re safe with us now. But firstly, I ought to amend how rude I’ve been.” He extends a hand out towards the boy, wearing the kindest smile Beau’s ever seen on him. “My name is Mollymauk Tealeaf. Molly to my friends.”
The boy looks at the hand, up at Molly, then takes it. “I’m Corfiser. Just Corfiser. I don’t want my father’s name anymore.”
Molly gives the hand a good shake. “You don’t have to be anything you don’t want to be here, Corfiser. And never try to be something that you aren’t.”
That makes the boy laugh, and Kori looks up to Beau with a hopeful expression. Beau gives her a nod, and her sister is introducing herself to the newest resident of their castle, if he accepts.
Yasha wraps an arm around Beau’s waist, pulling her to her chest. “You know.” Yasha murmurs, nosing gently against Beau’s ear. “We have four stories of fine guest rooms in the keep that we have no real need for. Visitors can always take up residence in the tower of rooms meant for longer stays.”
“I know those rooms well.” Beau agrees. “It brings me comfort, knowing they’d be sleeping just above us.”
She can feel the curve of Yasha’s grin. “We’ll have to practice being quiet.”
Beau shoves a lazy elbow her way. “We have our cabin on the black sand beach if we need it.”
“If you two are done being gross,” Kori has an eyebrow arched in disapproval, something she learned from Molly, “I’d like to introduce you to our newest resident in the castle east of the sun and west of the moon.”
They do eventually visit Thoreau Lionett. Not to kill him, like Yasha would prefer, but to make a deal.
“I want the cottage.” Beau says, arms crossed, and chin held high. She hasn’t come alone. Molly had wanted to knock the bear-headed door clapper once he’d finished laughing himself to stitches over it. Allowing him to do so also had given Beau the small pleasure of getting to watch a bewildered servant fetch her father, who was still looking at Molly like he’d watched the tiefling grow, well, horns wouldn’t be inaccurate, but something preposterous, like another set of eyes.
Beau had been nervous for all of them to leave Kori and Corfiser alone, but Jourrael and Ganix have taken a real shine to the children, and the slow return of castle staff made her confident that at the very least, they wouldn’t starve. Jourrael had even had a break from the shroud of self-loathing and guilt she always seems to wear around Beau to tease that it wasn’t like she was planning on locking them in their rooms for months on end, and even if she did Beau would be back in a few days to beat some good sense into her. That had made Yasha snort out her coffee over their rushed breakfast.
“Who are these… people, Beauregard?” Her father hisses while taking in the group behind her. It’s not everyone; Caleb and his family are currently with Veth’s, trying to start Luc’s magic education, Jester makes up for the years of lost time with her mama as often as she can, and these days its near impossible to convince Fjord to leave her side. Yasha has come, because she’ll tell anyone who will listen that she refuses to let Beau have to face her father alone ever again. Mollymauk has come because he’s been promised he’ll be allowed to be a nuisance. Caduceus was unexpected, but his curiosity of Beau’s homeland made him unwilling to not be included on this trip. It was easier to let him tag along now that he’s wearing a full head of pink hair again, and the brightness has returned to his eyes. They’re all gathered behind her now, and Beau knows they make an odd group. “Take them away from my home, they don’t belong.”
“I will.” She keeps her jaw held firm. “Sell me the cottage, and you’ll never have to see us again.”
That gets his attention, eyes now locked on her. “What further wealth could you offer me that your cursed bear hasn’t already given in exchange for taking you away?” Before he can finish his question, there’s a low snarl from behind her and Beau knows Yasha’s hackles are flared more than she’d ever done when she was forced to live in a bear’s skin.
Beau already has her hand on Yasha’s, hoping that will be enough to keep the other woman just growling at him and not raising a fist. “Name your price.”
“Something more than money.” Thoreau, right now, just for a moment, looks like her father again. Suspicious, but sharp. It’s almost enough to make her miss him. “Something the world has never seen before.”
“What about an invention?” Beau offers. “Never been seen before like you said, the only one that I know of in the world. You take it sight unseen and I get the cottage.”
She’s got him now; she knows what that quirk of his brow means. “One of a kind, you say?”
Promising, but not a contract. “Do we have a deal?”
There’s a moment, a beat where she thinks it might not be enough and he won’t take it. But it’s only a moment.
“Yes.” Thoreau says. “Go, I’ll have Thoreau bring you the deed there. Keep these people hidden, they don’t belong here, and I don’t want it coming back to me.”
Beau can barely contain herself from rolling her eyes as she turns away. “Will do, Pops.”
“Wait, your pay- “
Before he can finish, Beau has dug Yeza’s golden apple out of her bag, where it’s lived since Jourrael returned it to her. Without looking, she tosses the apple over her shoulder and into her father’s hands. She knows he’ll catch it, can hear it marveling as she walks away as fast as she can. If he plays with it, he’ll discover its properties and that it is in fact a real apple. He’ll learn of its value, of the worth and energy Yeza imbued it with. She doesn’t care. He wants something rare more than he wants to ever see Beau again, and that makes a feeling in her throat catch as she puts as many paces as she can between herself and this miserable mansion her father has built his dragon’s den in as quickly as her feet will carry her.
There’s silence, for a little while. But her friends aren’t the kind to let a wound like that fester, not without treatment, or at least alleviation.
“What a miserable man.” Caduceus remarks as they follow Beau’s lead, taking the long way around the heart of Kamordah and up the hillside to her childhood home. “You swallowed your tongue for him?
“For my sisters, for my brothers.” Beau bites back, no real heat for Caduceus behind the words but her ever-present protectiveness for her siblings has only grown stronger since Kori washed up on the shores of the castle east of the sun and west of the moon. “I think he might have been a good man, once, but money made unrecognizable.”
“Shame.” Molly says, bitterness sharp. “He must be blind and a fool, to willingly chase away a daughter like you.”
That’s the highest compliment Beau thinks she’s ever received from Mollymauk, and it does put warmth back in her chest. Yasha’s fingers tangled in her own helps too, especially when the other woman just squeezes her hand as she lengthens her strides so the two can walk shoulder to shoulder.
The voyage to three-room cottage is brief. Beau knows how to get here better than she does anywhere in the world. There’s dust settled in, more so than the last time Beau was here. Her father leaves this place untouched, this building that sheltered him and his children for nearly two decades. No one’s been here since she last visited Kamordah.
Her friends follow in behind her, single file. Molly wanders their gathering room, fingertips dancing patterns in the dust. Yasha is still at her side, hand held tighter than before as she says nothing, just takes it all in. Caduceus pulls out a stone from his pocket, and softly whispers a few short sentences into it. Then he turns to the cupboards, flicking on one of the stove’s burners as he fills a kettle with water he conjured from thin air, at starts to make them all tea.
Two minutes later, the center room is filled with six more people. It’s crowded now, even with three of their new guests with as small of a stature had by halflings. The chaos explodes as little shape throws itself towards Yasha, Luc’s greeting sounding more like a high-pitched battle cry. Veth is cackling as she watches, eyes darting away subtly so she can take in the small room they’re in while her husband already starts to apologize. Wordlessly, Caleb passes her mother’s storybook back to Beau, nod of thanks from behind a body of dark feathers that’s wrapped around his torso.
“I have not known rest in weeks.” Essek bemoans as he takes the first chair he can see. “Ever since your wedding, all this man does is drag me across the ends of Exandria, making me help him create teleportation circles in every corner of the world.” There’s not an ounce of frustration in Essek’s voice. If anything, it’s weighed down with fondness as his eyes never shift from Caleb’s face, who is wearing a conspiratorial grin as he passes the bundle of feathers that is Kiri off to Molly so he can hold the kenku.
Free of bird girl, Caleb takes the four steps required to cross half the room and muss Essek’s hair. “All we needed to do is lay the groundwork.” He scolds, teasing expression softening with something Beau knows is adoration. “Colton and Clarabelle do all the real heavy lifting; you should be thankful they make it so we don’t have to recast those circles every day for a year.”
Essek rolls his eyes. “Gods, godlings.” He mutters, shaking his head. “Only the most codependent people in the world would bend the ear of the divine so they can visit one another whenever they get the urge.”
Caduceus snorts at that. “You weren’t on the trip there before the circles. Asking for a divine miracle would have been easier than our crossing.”
Still slumped in the chair, Essek gives a deferential nod that tells Caduceus he believes him. Beau just shakes her head as she helps pass out teacups to anyone who wants them. The amount of time they’ve all spent together since Obann’s defeat, Essek is primed to become just as reliant on them as they all are with one another, if he isn’t already.
The pantry is empty, but Caduceus solves that by summoning some simple ingredients. Beau, Veth and Caduceus immediately get to work, Veth taking command of the kitchen as Beau helps them find all the cookware necessary and Caduceus pulls out an impressive spice rack to make sure that the magical nature of the food is reflected in the flavor.
From across the room, it’s perhaps a little less chaotic than in the kitchen but no less noisy. Yasha is on the floor with both Luc and Kiri, somehow having found a few simple wooden toys that had been left behind by younger Lionett children in the move, and is weaving an intricate tale while Luc climbs onto her shoulders and Kiri coos bits of dialogue from her lap. Molly is catching up with Yeza, mild torment of Veth’s husband seeming to be one of his favorite recent hobbies. Yeza may be better mannered than the tiefling, but that doesn’t keep him from giving as good as he gets as they trade barbs over tea, and Beau can hear him sternly correcting Molly’s ideas about what early childhood education should look like over the fast chopping of her knife. Caleb and Essek are the quietest, probably intentionally so they can be forgotten in the chaos. When Beau looks up from starting the stovetop to heat up the oil in the pot, she catches Caleb massaging the line of Essek’s neck with one hand, his other preoccupied with Essek’s hands returning the favor, rubbing small circles in the human’s calloused palm. She ducks her head down so they don’t catch her smiling at them.
Dinner is a simple vegetable soup, but not a plain one thanks to Caduceus’s spices. So much of this cottage was abandoned as it was, so thankfully that means there are enough crudely carved bowls for everyone to eat at once. There isn’t room at the table, there never was for Beau and all her siblings, so they scatter on the small countertop, the floor, any surface they can find so they can all be together to eat.
No one really starts up any conversation, they’re too busy with dinner. Beau leans ever so slightly into Yasha as she brings her bowl up to her mouth so she can drink the broth. Watching her wife just over the lip of her bowl take in the rest of their friends that fill the room with a soft smile makes Beau’s heart purr in content. The silence they’re all soaking in right now feels so good, the way this many hearts can all be at peace with one another. They’re missing two of their rank, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a hole here. Jester and Fjord are just busy, they’re gone but they’ll return to them soon, and this cottage of Beau’s can be even more crowded in the future if they want it to.
The silence breaks with a knock at the door, but before anyone can scramble up and answer it, it’s being pushed open. The face that awaits them first drops his mouth open in shock and breaks out in a great big grin when he sees Beau. Without any care for manners, Beau throws herself out of her seat and into her brother’s arms as fast as he can catch her.
“I missed you.” Beau murmurs, unable to stop the tears that gather in her eyes and unable to care. She’s held in so many tears for so long, she doesn’t care if her brother sees her cry.
TJ’s grip is so strong, Beau has the thought that he might crack her ribs if they aren’t careful. “I missed you too.” He whispers, voice thick. When she pulls away, he’s weeping just as openly as she is. “Is Kori…?”
“Safe and warm with us.” Beau promises, pressing a few forceful kisses into the side of TJ’s face. Predictably, he pulls away from her at that with a groan in protest, but not before she can sneak another kiss.
“Dad said you had weird people with you, but…” TJ’s eyes are as wide as saucers, and seeing her own blue reflected in his reminds Beau of her first weeks really immersed in the crazy world of Yasha and the rest of their friends.
“I like to think of us as more of an unusual party.” That gets her a bit of a laugh out of him. She’s struck again by just how much time she’s missed, his hair is really getting an unruly length now, there’s more of an angel to his jaw. He’s growing up every time she leaves, and there’s nothing she can do to stop it, no way to get those missing months back. “I’ve been away for too long.”
“Not alone, evidently.” TJ says with a wave across the room.
“Yeah. It’s…” She tries to think of how she can explain in any way that will make sense in less than an hour without any of her friends interrupting to fill in parts she’s forgotten and comes up short. “It’s a long story.”
TJ’s arm around her stays strong as he goes from the only other human, Caleb, still huddled in a corner with Essek. They never see elves in Kamordah, especially not drow. The Brenatto family next to them probably surprises him the least, halflings aren’t entirely uncommon, especially at market. Molly looks about as weird as he always does, but not exactly as frightening as he was before when they met Thoreau, especially considering he’s sprawled out on the floor and has a black feathery toddler on his chest. She knows TJ has a hard time looking at her wife for too long. Beau may have grown used to Yasha’s ever-present radiant glow, but even away from her homeland where she normally keeps her wings folded up, Yasha still is a lot to take in. Beau has no clue what he can even begin to make of Caduceus.
“Why don’t you tell me?” He asks, smile so wide Beau thinks she could count all his teeth like this. “No one’s expecting me for a couple hours.”
So he stays. And absolutely does not believe the tale they weave him, in no small part because Molly won’t stop interjecting with bullshit. Their story already holds enough twists and turns, Beau doesn’t think they need further elaboration to make it even more unbelievable.
TJ narrows his eyes as Molly says how Obann’s first demise opened up a pit in the castle floor. “You remind me of one of our brothers.”
“Thank you.” Molly says flash of his fangs as he leans towards the teenager.
“Oh please.” Caduceus rolls his eyes from next to the collection of bowls he’s been magicking clean. “That obviously wasn’t a compliment.”
TJ’s eyes flash in a way Beau knows her own often do, smug approval plain on his face. “You, now you I like Jord.”
Their tale does get wrapped up, TJ shaking his head in disbelief once every five minutes. Beau wonders how much he believes right now, how much he’ll come around to later. He does do what he originally came here for, giving the deed to the cottage at the barn behind it to Beauregard. The distilling equipment had long been removed, as had anything of any monetary value. Beau could care less. The worth of this house is the memories it holds and the three woman who rest beneath the soil in the backyard. She has her childhood home. She has her mothers. They’re safe, for whatever happens in her father’s future, whatever man he becomes. There’s just one missing piece, seven really, and one is standing right before her.
“Come with me.” Beau begs as he opens the door into the darkness of the early fall evening. “Don’t go back to that loveless house with that man who wears our father’s face. Don’t let him try to shape you into his legacy. Come home with me.”
Her brother wears a bittersweet smile, the only one she’s seen that night. “I can’t leave them.” He responds, and Beau thinks of Sigrun with magic teeming inside of her and all of them too blind to see it, watching music being what helped Asta overcome her stutter and Viggo his lisp, the way Trond will allow his unyielding curiosity to rule his learning, Leif’s obsession with counting anything he can, from the days, to grapes, to clouds in the sky, and their sweet baby brother Brenn, who must be so good with his words now. Kori, for all her patience and timidity, didn’t survive that house. Neither did Beau. She can’t fathom how TJ stands it.
She couldn’t have been asked to leave them earlier. Beau was forced out of that house, away from them and out of their lives. TJ isn’t so different from her that he’d take the easy way out now and do what was best for him. Not when the rest of their siblings are still in that house.
Beau pulls him in for a parting hug and whispers just so he can hear her. “Send them here, once he pushes too far. Then save yourself and get out.”
TJ lets out a little laugh, sad and high pitched. “Where in the world am I to go if I’m no longer wanted at home?”
“With me.” A final kiss to his cheek. “If you can’t get yourself to me with the magic we’ll put in this house, call out. There’s no distance too far. I’ll find you; they’ll make sure of it.”
She waves to her friends behind her, filling up her childhood home. TJ looks from them, to her, then gives a small nod. Then he’s out in the darkness, walking back to the Lionett mansion. Beau’s heart aches to see him go, but it’s soothed by Yasha’s soft grip on her shoulder and the faith that she’ll see her brother again.
The first time Beau realizes it, she nearly keels over in shock. It’s one of fall’s final days, the chill of winter around every corner. She’s spending the sunset on the beach where their castle in the cliffs used to reside and now below where their little cabin lives, more than a year past the night that a great white bear showed up on her family’s doorstep. When the thought strikes her, Beau has to pull a hand to her chest to make sure her heart isn’t actively beating out of it and sink her toes deeper in the black sand to solidify she isn’t dreaming, that this moment is real and she’s living in it.
She’s at peace.
Beau has the three things she’d asked for if her life had happened once upon a time. She starts every dawn calm, no worry of too thin siblings to rouse her while it’s still dark outside. She wakes each day at her wife’s side, and every night they return to one another, no matter where the tasks of the day take them. And she no longer is bound to a small village nestled in the mountains and forever smelling of volcanic ash. Beauregard can come and go as she pleases to the castle she shares with her wife, friends with open doors residing all over the map with teleportation circles allowing her to be there at a moment’s notice.
The full-body sorrow Beauregard had assumed would live in her bones until there was no memory of her in the dirt is gone. She lives with her friends, her family, and she gets to be happy.
Though not without paying the price of gut-wrenching suffering that she inflicted on herself, she supposes. But the months of travel, the months of work she put in to get Yasha back, Beau has no regrets. She’s at the side of the woman she loves more than anything she’s ever known, and she knows that love is returned just as intensely as it burns in Beau.
They’re taking another weekend for themselves. She’d finally been introduced to the famed Ruby of the Sea when Jester traveled her mother to meet them last month. Fjord had come a few days later, having spent a few days in Caduceus’s domain working on building his relationship with the Wildmother. He was finding his own peace in nature, he no longer looked out at the sea with such anxiety, but there’s a voice in the back of Beau’s mind that tells her this chapter is not finished. Fjord is honest about much, brutally so, but she knows there’s a side of him that none of them have seen. Maybe it’s because they’re the ones that haven’t known him since childhood, but there’s moments when she’ll exchange a look with Veth and Caduceus that tells her they’ve arrived at the same conclusion. Whatever has happened, whatever comes for Fjord, it doesn’t matter. They’ll help him get through it, overcome it. He’s theirs, and no force in the world is strong enough to tear them apart.
With the arrival of the Lavorres, there’s been a shift. All of their friends have taken up permanent dwellings in the castle, rooms that are undisturbed when they leave. Beau doesn’t know when it started happening, but there are places she just associates with each member of their party. Caleb and Essek have a room above the library, with a trundle for Kiri that rarely gets used as she prefers to wedge her way between the two of them when they sleep. The Brenattos are just down the hallway from Yasha and Beau, in a room technically meant for next of kin to the king and queen of the castle. So, right where they belong. Beau doesn’t know if Fjord intentionally picked the room Reani had been assigned to before Yasha’s thankfully averted first wedding, but she doubts his choice was random. Caduceus, in a move surprising none of them, prefers the outdoors, and has a small hideaway built in the sparse gardens. On one of their slower days, Beau and Yasha were able to come out and watch him build it, twisting and shaping the plants with a flick of his wrist and murmurs in both the gravelly language he shares with his siblings and the melodic one he normally saved for combat. As they leave him to his work, he conjures them a small bouquet of delicate blue and yellow flowers that he passes to Yasha while giving Beau a knowing smile. Jester somehow has maintained two residences, her old room she was given as a chef as well as one of the largest guest rooms that looks over the sea. Molly is the only one without a permanent room, preferring to wander around and take turns sleeping in increasingly bizarre places. Once, they find him cocooned in a hammock hanging from the rafters in the sauna. Beau still can’t figure out where he’s keeping all his clothes.
Their castle is full of family. Even when it’s just Beau, Yasha, her siblings, the children that are washing up on the shore, and Mollymauk, the feeling is unmistakable. This castle is their home that they share, as freely as loaves of warm bread passed around the dinner table.
Sigrun had joined them too, appearing in the teleportation circle that led to Kamordah with a bundle of silver tabby cats in her arms. Essek has been the one coaxing her magic out of her, somehow finding helpful overlap between his complex arcane and her simple ties to nature. Beau doesn’t understand it, she knows she never will, but she knows what her sister looks like when she’s happy. She folds right into their growing family as if they were saving a space for her. Only Fjord keeps his distance, the sight of her cats enough to make him sneeze himself into a tizzy.
They’d had a busy month, but everyone at the castle means that its full of life, and that they can afford to be missed. Leaving them behind gets easier every time, especially now that Beau knows it’s not forever. The solitude is something she even looks forward to a little, time for just her and Yasha. She wouldn’t give their ragtag family up for anything, not for gold or money or wonders unseen, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate alone time with her wife.
Time away from home often leads her to these little epiphanies, realizations that will follow her back east of the sun and west of the moon when their weekend ends and they return to the castle filled with the ones on this land that they love most.
She’s at peace. Gods alive, she gets to spend both her waking and resting moments being relaxed and happy.
“Beau?” Yasha’s calling out from her, towards the pathway in the cliffs that leads up to their hand-built cabin. “You said there was something you wanted to show me before the light fades. Did you still want to?”
A glance towards the grass, out of the sand, reveals Clara Lionett’s book of fairytales, still holding the flowers Beau had pressed in the months it had taken her to get back to Yasha. They hadn’t really had a decent stretch of respite since Jourrael had given it back to her, but then this weekend had happened. Beau knows that everything that those pages hold will bring her joy, not sorrow. Her journey isn’t a tale of struggle to mourn, it’s one of hard work, friendship, and love. One with a victorious triumph, one that makes her happy to reflect on even in its worst moments.
She wants Yasha to be able to see it the way she did. She wants Yasha to have that book of flowers, real ones, from across the continents to be able to marvel at before her and know Beau’s connection to each and every petal.
“Yes.” Beau shouts back, feet dancing across the black sand that’s clinging on to the last of the setting sunlight. “I’ll be up in a moment.”
When she turns her back to the ocean, the sun is behind her and shadows fill her path. But Beau doesn’t mind, not when she goes to retrieve the floral catalog of her journey to a place she’d thought impossible, not when her feet find cool stone and start to trek upwards to the cliffs, not when she’s walking half blind at this point towards nothing more than her recollection of where the Yasha’s voice was coming from.
She’s not lost in the darkness. So long as the woman she loves beyond the edge of the earth and all reason breathes the same air as her, Beau will never be lost again. It’s not something she’s said, maybe it will remain unspoken for the rest of their lives, but there’s a compass in her heart that guides her better than any map or directions or language might hope to.
She doesn’t need to ask ever again. She knows the way.