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lay together in the twilight years

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"It was a lie."

"Hm?"

"It was a lie. What you forced me to feel was a lie."

The Maid of Windermere laughs very softly, halfway under her breath. It still comes out sounding like music, and Belmaid grits her teeth, thick with hate. The Maid sits on Wencen's throne, resting her head on her hand with her the curve of her smile hidden in the corner of her palm.

"I didn't force you to feel anything. I simply—amplified what was already there. There are no witcheries here, my love."

"How dare you."

"I am your queen. I dare."

"Only because—"

Magwyr's smile is terrible. Belmaid remembers what it was to love her, in this moment. Her insides alight with adoration; Magwyr had been home, the awfulness buried deep inside. It is slick between Belmaid's thighs, hungry and hollow with wanting.

Again, the witch says, "I dare."

Belmaid wants to gnash her teeth. Emotions are so dark, now, so fetid and hot, overflowing with change and strangeness. Her lungs rupture with it, vitriol and sick. She wants to dig into the witch, rip out her throat, crush her still-beating heart between her hands and consume the pulpy aftermath.

She does none of these things.

Belmaid moves as though in a dream. The reverie slides over her like water, and she settles in Magwyr's lap, knees splayed out over hips like a wanton thing, starving for the touch. Belmaid curls her hands around the witch's face, tilts her chin up to inspect her.

"I have never hated anyone the way I hate you," Belmaid murmurs. "You are the death of everything I have ever loved."

"I would expect no less," Magwyr smiles. Her hands contract against the flesh of Belmaid's waist. It hurts, but it's a good hurt, cleansing as a forest fire. Belmaid makes a tiny thin noise and grinds down against her, searching for Magwyr's mouth and hating herself for it with every breath.

It is a betrayal.

The Maid of Windermere allows herself to be held down and kissed. Belmaid bites down, bites hard, draws her bloodsap into her own mouth. Sweet and thick as honey, the thrall comes roaring back.

"Will you kill me, Belmaid? When the twilight comes, will you be my end?" Magwyr asks. Her eyes are blown black.

Belmaid hates her. Belmaid loves her, too. She curls a hand around the Maid's throat. "You can be certain of it."

And they fall into one another, again.