yob 1190, highfrost.
it’s a vision of sweetness, brought to life so far from candia. a princess and an archmage and a wife and a sister, lazuli rocks stands against an impossible foe and does not live to tell the tale. she sends away the gummy bear knight that stands by her side, she does not let a single candian or candian ally die on the battlefield that day.
she does not manage to save herself, and she thinks of the visions that will not come to pass as this one comes to completion.
yob 1190, frostdusk.
i miss you. i wait for you to come home, to look through my correspondence with candia’s allies, to read through my notes on candia's wellbeing and how to prepare the country for the war that we have just entered. you say that your foresight is not all-knowing, but i have learned in our years together that your intuition is just as if not more reliable than any looks into the future.
i ask myself if that meant that. that you knew before you left how your trip would end. but still, reports are inconclusive. there is no one who knew more of the Sweetening Path than you, I have seen the many old texts and tomes you have translated. still, i must have faith for what will i do without the promise of you here with me again.
come home, my love.
yob 1183, highbright.
a woman’s face, one of the politicians in the court, smiling, warmth - cherish it / a young boy, becoming a cloud and flying away - find him / a man in fructera, planning, hope - remember him / rococoa, sitting on the throne looking over peace - rococoa, sitting on the throne looking over strife - rococoa, change irreversibly, magical, sugarless - rococoa, a dragon on her shoulder, blissfully happy / a girl in the diary islands, a milkmaid working tirelessly - significant, potentially / a hill, a last stand, electric crackling purple arcane magic, a storm of arrows, lazuli - dead.
With all beginnings, endings come walking hand in hand. On the day of Princess Lazuli's first meeting anew with Duchess Caramelinda of House Meringue, Lazuli sees her death for the first time. Not that Lazuli could have known that this picture of her end would be the one to come true, of course. Her visions have always been unsure, and the Archmage of Candia has long learned to rely moreso on intuition and patience on for the most probable future to become clear.
On the day Lazuli meets Caramelinda for the first time since they were children, she is granted bright skies and fractured, halfway glimpses into what might come to be. It is five years before there will be any hint to the conflict that will begin the Ravening War. Lazuli is six and twenty, in a time of peace that is young. It is not until peace is broken that it seems so terribly old, so saged and used to the horrors of the world. Lazuli has been seeing horrors since she was little, she knows of war that could have been and tragedy that still might come to pass, still, six and twenty is young.
Don’t you know, the young see themselves as immortal? Lazuli might have seen herself die in different futures, but so too has she seen herself live.
On the twenty-ninth day of Highbright, death is not impossible, Lazuli takes careful note of it, but it is not yet paralyzing. No, not yet.
After all, she has not yet realized all she can have to lose, and all she might be to those who will lose her.
On the twenty-ninth day of Highbright, when Lazuli sees herself die in one possible future - that she does not yet and has not yet made the decision to live - she meets Caramelinda late in the night in the kitchens.
A meeting along these lines would have happened inevitably, Lazuli being both princess and archmage of Candia with her own many projects to bring Candia to the bright future she dreams of, Caramelinda an extremely motivated and devoted addition to Candia’s diplomatic team. Neither will ever learn to break the habit of working late into the night, and it is here in the kitchens where they have turned to with dinner having been served long ago and both missing it, much work still left to do, that they run into each other trying to sneak a late-night bite.
When Lazuli descends the stairs all the way from her tucked away tower to the final flight from the main floor to the kitchen, there is a single candle already burning in wait. The candlelight illuminates the plain gingerbread table, where glazed lemon loaf and a pitcher of cola have been pulled from the shelf onto a dark red cloth.
Duchess Caramelinda of House Meringue is four years Lazuli’s junior and occupies a very different place in the court than her. Caramelinda, being new to the castle in this capacity, has yet to cross paths with Lazuli since her arrival. Still, Lazuli knows her face. She sits on the bench by the table, looking almost as surprised as Lazuli.
Lazuli has been surefooted since she was young, while not omniscient she has lived in a world where her path is clear and defined, decisions carefully considered and the future settling gently in line for her convenience. She is not unused to the unexpected, but she has lived a life in Castle Candy that tends towards outside factors being rather…predictable. Something itches at the back of her mind, that she should have known to expect this.
“I’m allowed to be here!” the Duchess Caramelinda defends herself, after a brief moment of weighted silence.
Lazuli, having gone to the kitchen for late-night quiet visits for years and very much in the right as second in line to the throne and Archmage added on, can’t help but mirror the Duchesses’ exclamation - it’s what having siblings does to one, she reasons, “Well I’m not the one in the wrong.”
It is very much the wrong thing to say, as Caramelinda leaps to her feet and steps forward to get a better look at her and Lazui can’t recall why, but the image of Caramelinda all ruffled and affronted is so familiar and her hand twitches, aching to reach out. Of course, that very much seems like the wrong instinct and instead in her addled, hungry tired state she goes for a shield.
The Duchess Caramelinda startles at the sight of her for the second time that night, “...Princess Lazuli?” Caramelinda asks, an eyebrow raised but most of the irritation seeming to drain out of her.
“Well,” the Princess Lazuli says, “Yes.” She drops her shield and is self-aware enough to recognize the ridiculousness of using what was her last spell slot of the day to protect herself from a woman she hasn’t seen since they were children. She clears her throat, reaches up to adjust her glasses and offers a slight smile, “Would you mind if I joined you?”
Caramelinda shakes her head, and for a moment Lazuli sees an older version of her face superimposed and - oh. At first, Lazuli had assumed it was only forgotten childhood memories that were lingering somewhere in the back of her mind, she should’ve known better. Lazuli knows this almost stranger’s face far too well for that. Lazuli had seen Caramelinda’s smile in her visions just earlier today, and as Caramelinda leads the way to the table, looking back once to make sure Lazuli is following, Lazuli realizes that today was not the only time she’d seen Caramelinda in the future.
They sit, the warmth of their candles surrounding them even while everything else remains still, quiet. The Duchess pushes her silk sleeves up to her elbow and Lazuli carefully follows the smooth movement of her hands as she reaches for the knife and cleanly cuts her a slice of loaf. Lazuli thanks her as she takes it, only a moment behind.
“You’re not what I expected,” Caramelinda offers to break the silence.
Lazuli tilts her head to the side, “Are you sure?”
At that, Caramelinda laughs and the room seems to sparkle at the sound, “I try not to place much stock in rumours that I don’t know the source of, but everyone describes Candia’s Archmage as lost in her head and so removed from the day to day and - you are lost in your head, a little, but I think you’re warmer than the people give you credit for. Sapphria, at least, has nothing but nice things to say about you.”
“Sapphria’s gifted at telling carefully worded truths,” Lazuli informs Caramelinda, helpless but to smile back at her. Lazuli’s visions are never quite as lifelike as the world they let her peer into, but the picture of Caramelinda lit up is something she does not think could ever be captured as well as in life.
yob 1191, brightdawn.
why did you do this to me? you promised to love me and left me? did you know, when you swore to let only death do us part when we were married by citrina and when you swore to not let even that, when we were tied together in a handfasting by your aunt? you’ve left me here.
you promised never to leave me, and did. you promised to love me - was that a lie? we were supposed to have a future together. to have a family together. everyone else says there’s not time to mourn, and i’m left here in a castle with a skeleton population, everyone in other lands trying to win a war while i try to keep a country afloat. you devoted your life to the study of the sweetening path and i prayed to the bulb every night and day you were away - but none of it granted any blessings. what was the point in all your magic if it couldn’t bring you back to me?
no higher power, none of candia’s armies, no one in your family could save you. why didn’t you let anyone help?
why did you have to be candia’s princess, candia’s archmage? why couldn’t you be my wife?
yob 1184, bloomdawn.
cara, glowing with a purple aura around her, effervescent and full of magic - teach her / a man of strawberry cake, embracing amethar, amethar’s smile bright, a woman with love in her eyes for amethar, her hand brushing across his wrist, cara alone on a balcony, amethar looking out at her but not seeing her / her mother, clouded, returned to fructera once more - why? / a temple of ice cream, full to the brim of long lost histories that lazuli has searched for, dangerous - stay away / a hill, a last stand, electric crackling purple arcane magic, a storm of arrows, lazuli - dead.
Visions repeat, it’s not abnormal. Lazuli reminds herself, over and over again as she sees her death more and more frequently.
Maybe once, there had been a time where Lazuli could have filed it away and planned for it as any other potential future, but as Lazuli wanders through the gardens on Caramelinda’s arm, feeling the soft lace of her gown as she rests her hand on the bend of her elbow, her eyes catching the gentle dip of her collarbones or the sharp tilt to her smile that Lazuli knows means Caramelinda is deeply satisfied by something or other going according to plan there is no future Lazuli does not want to spend by this unbelievably brilliant woman’s side.
The gardens are not a new sight to Lazuli, yet somehow Cara - even without a childhood spent hiding away from hyperactive siblings in the library or the garden - knows twists and turns Lazuli cannot recall.
Cara laughs at her when she says as much, “Well, I imagine you let your intuition find the most tucked-away spot to hide in and left it at that. From what your siblings tell me, you’ve been in the habit of getting caught up in the forest and forgetting to look at the trees since you were small.”
Lazuli wrinkles her nose at the suggestion, but her expression turns fond as Caramelinda places her hand over hers on Cara’s arm, gently caressing her thumb. Finally, Caramelinda guides her through a final arch of shrubbery and sugar roses, a bench awaiting them. This is their first walk about the gardens since the frost has settled and bloom has come, and of course, that makes it the perfect time and place for a magic lesson.
She had never considered herself much of a teacher, besides the situation with Theodore who Lazuli still wasn’t quite sure what to do with, but at Caramelinda’s side - well there was no better student than Caramelinda Lazuli was certain. Caramelinda who believes in the bulb, who believes in the people of Candia, who believes in Lazuli. A daughter of the church and so wickedly smart, so clever of a woman who knows how to draw Lazuli out just the right way with promises of interest in the arcane - and she is interested because everything about Lazuli interests her or so she says. And Lazuli is not the practiced liar that Sapphria is, she is willing to admit to Cara at least that she can’t help but believe her, can’t help but go along with what she asks. (After all. Even Lazuli does not know for certain how much time she has left).
Caramelinda sits first and tugs Lazuli down next to her, they are perhaps to close to be proper, but Cara is well-loved in Castle Candy and anyone who might stumble across them would have no desire to say an unkind word about her.
“What do you want to teach me today?” Cara asks, her eyes sparkling.
Lazuli hums, there are several excellent spells that would be helpful for Caramelinda. She really should help Caramelinda learn a spell that doesn’t require a somatic component, but that would mean she wouldn’t have an excuse to hold onto Cara’s hand as she shows her the right movement. Perhaps…yes.
Lazuli smiles back and casts message, How’s this?
When Lazuli first learned message she startled every member of her family as she’d run about the castle, pointing and giggling with Citrina who had a variation on the same idea as they sent silly poems and jokes that no princesses should know, especially ones aged eight and ten. Amethar had tripped over himself when he’d been on the receiving end of it. Caramelinda does not even pretend to look surprised, whispering back a Very nicely done.
It is quick work for Caramelinda, though Lazuli cannot seem to help herself as her touch lingers over Cara’s soft wrist, her perfectly positioned hand, her gloves long discarded revealing pink varnished nails…Cara’s hand stills under Lazuli’s touch and Lazuli freezes in place. She does not look up into Caramelinda’s eyes, staring only at their still touching hands. Slowly, Cara moves her hand palm up, reaching up to interlace their fingers. Lazuli’s gaze follows as Cara brings her hand up to her mouth and presses her lips against the top of Lazuli’s knuckles. Her eyes are closed shut in the way Lazuli has seen her offer prayer.
While she lowers their joined hands, Caramelinda meets her eyes and holds them there, Love? She messages.
Oh, Lazuli thinks. Yes, my love. Cara’s eyes widen at that and Lazuli leans forward at the sight of finally catching her off guard, her mouth quirked up and her shoulders pushed back in the slightest of movements. “I love you,” Lazuli says, feeling overcome with warmth. How did she not see this before? She wants to spend all the time she can by Caramelinda’s side. Her stomach drops, for just a moment, as she remembers the dream she had for the second time the night before.
But then Cara squeezes their hands and she looks triumphant as if she had known all along and oh Lazuli finds she doesn’t mind being the one without the answers this time. She pushes away the fleeting feeling of outrage at the thought of leaving Caramelinda, this is not the time. This is more important, as Caramelinda shares her own confessions of love while the sugar flowers bud above them.
yob 1192, harvestdusk
light, dear heart, my love. should i have asked after your visions more? should i have left behind the bulb - if i had been better versed in the wild magics of candia could i have come helped you, would another mage have saved your life?
you kept so much close to your heart, yet i thought myself your confidante, your partner. citrina tells me not to go looking through your notes, to accept your choice but i know she too prays to the bulb for a miracle.
citrina is the most gifted follower of the bulb i know, but it has not chosen to shine on us in this. i listened so carefully to everything you told me, but i cannot remember any instance where you described any method of bringing someone back. if…if you had seen this would you have told me a way to save you?
i’m so used to your gentle nudges in the right direction, your comfort and reassurance when things go wrong. how can this be right? how can this be fair?
i’m trying my love,
yob 1186, harvestdawn.
two girls, made of licorice one in caramelinda’s arms and the other in lazuli’s, the red licorice girl has lazuli’s magic and the black licorice girl has caramelinda’s heart, two necklaces halves of a heart - love them / / sapphria, two steady knives, a smile on her face, a complex web unfolding just right, a string she isn’t pulling - be wary / a young follower of the sweetening path in bulbian robes, not half as good a liar as he thinks - make a space for him / a hill, a last stand, electric crackling purple arcane magic, a storm of arrows, lazuli - dead.
The light of the bulb has only just begun to peek through the window as Lazuli pushes aside the covers, moving to sit on the edge of the bed. Matching mugs sit on the nightstand, hot chocolate long gone cold in the night. Lazuli turns to the side, trying to find her glasses. She sighs as she leans down to where they’ve been discarded in a pile of work that must have slipped off the bed. It’s a terrible habit, bringing work to bed and she’s slowly trying to shake it.
There are shifting sounds behind her, and then soft kisses pressed into the back of her neck as Cara winds her arms around her middle. Lazuli leans back into Caramelinda’s embrace, chasing her touch. She can feel her wife smile into her shoulder and Lazuli turns around to meet Caramelinda’s kiss.
They part, and Lazuli rests her forehead against Cara’s, she’s found that there are very few things in the world as comforting as her wife. Still, it does not quite shake the vision she’s been unable to lose no matter how hard she’s tried these past years with Cara. Lazuli has spent most of her life learning how to balance probability and intuition and the vast, many possibilities of the future that the Sweetening Path shows her. She doesn’t want to know what it means.
Cara gently rubs her thumb against the side of Lazuli’s hip, “Come back to bed, my love.”
“I can’t,” Lazuli sighs. “There’s…there’s so much work to do, still.”
Cara just hms, a pinch of annoyance in the sound. “You’re stressing,” Cara says, the corner of her mouth turning down. “Lazuli, if you’re worried…you know you can talk to me. Please.”
What is she supposed to tell Caramelinda? That she’s been seeing her death in a war that she knows Sapphria thinks is fast approaching since the first day they met? That she doesn’t know if this is a future that she can workaround, not with the order so new, the druids still so few in number with the growing influence of less than cooperative members of the Bulbian Church.
Lazuli has never wanted to hurt Cara.
“I know,” Lazuli tells her. She leans forward and kisses her wife and lets Cara bring her back to bed, but she takes her papers with her. Caramelinda presses a final kiss against her cheek, her jaw, her shoulder and then she smiles gently, “Partners? Remember?” Caramelinda tells her, poking her side for good measure, and then she slips back to sleep.
Lazuli has never wanted to hurt Cara. Since she has known her, she has loved her. Lazuli is the Archmage of Candia, if she knows anything it’s her own magic. The future remains malleable up until it becomes the present and Lazuli might still be building up her imprints across her country, but she still has resources beyond anyone else in all of Candia.
There are worlds where Lazuli will die in a war no doubt as pointless as any other, she is left with no other option to do her best to make sure that in this world she survives it. That she keeps from causing her wife any pain, that she lives to meet the twin daughters she dreamt of just this morning. Lazuli has seen the smile on Cara’s face and the headaches the two will cause them, Lazuli wants it all.
She hasn’t told Caramelinda about them yet, she has to make sure to gets the chance to. Lazuli rifles through a letter written a century or more before, from a sorcerer ancestor to a friend in the Dairy Isles. There’s something hiding in the north, a dragon, perhaps, or something of its ilk. She doesn’t trust it, but it’s a start.
Next to her, Caramelinda shifts in her sleep and Lazuli reaches out to hold onto Cara’s hand.
yob 1196, frostdawn
i am all alone, my love. what is left, now, that the war you died for has ended, that the sisters you sought to protect are gone, that i stay here in a castle left cold without you.
yob 1189 highbloom.
cara a crown fit upon her head that does not weigh her down almost identical to the one lazuli gave her three years ago, cara a crown fit upon her head that seems to swallow her whole, lazuli has never seen it before, cara her forehead bare her face lost, cara her forehead bare warmth surrounding her / citrina, praying to a woman who does not know how to return them, a church divided, a living miracle a saint a pontifex in the making - reach out to her / a hill, a last stand, electric crackling purple arcane magic, a storm of arrows, lazuli - dead.
The gift of foresight has never granted Lazuli insight into a clear picture of the future. She has spent her life muddling through quick visions and hazy dreams and trying to understand which future is most likely. It did not tell her - or she chose not to see - the death of her mother.
It has been a long time since Lazuli and her sisters have gotten along with their mother, even before Pamelia first told them that the war brewing could be an opportunity for Candia to grow their political power. As if war is ever anything other than pointless suffering. Perhaps the one thing Pamelia did for her children after their childhood was give them a common enemy to connect over. Tonight, however, her siblings have all scattered throughout Castle Candy, never having quite learned the art of being vulnerable around each other. Rococoa is likely in their father’s study funnelling grief into productivity, trying to use this to push him into giving in, to joining Joren and his forces and offer support to the Dairy Isles at the very least. Citrina could be in the chapel praying, no one would dare disturb her there. Or maybe she’s at Amethar’s side if Amethar turned Theodore away. And there’s no doubt that Sapphria has hidden somewhere she will not be found until she wishes.
Lazuli thought she would be better at this, the grieving. She’s seen death frequently, but it has never been set in stone like this. There is no spell for resurrection through the bulb or arcane magic. Worst of all, Lazuli doesn’t know if she would use it if it existed. It’s frustrating, that it’s left her paralyzed when she doesn’t even know what she’s mourning. Her sisters have fled seeking distraction, her brother no doubt found by someone. And Lazuli left clinging to the rail of the balcony attached to the room that their father broke the news. The fresh air on her face has only left her cold to the bone. She wants to scream at her father with Rococoa, she wants to turn to a higher power with Citrina, she wants to hide away with Sapphria, she wants to hold Amethar tight and remind him to be careful.
She wants time. Time enough so she can do everything above, but only after collapsing into the bed she shares with Caramelinda and sleeping for days.
It’s been a while since Lazuli last felt like she wasn’t living on borrowed time.
The bulb has long been set when Caramelinda joins her on the balcony. It’s the sight of her wife, her love, her partner in the most important parts of life that Lazuli loses her grip on the balcony rail and with it, the present. Lazuli hears Caramelinda call her name, the steady press of Cara’s hand across her back and then nothing.
The future is never clear, it comes at inopportune times and does not always remember to settle in gently first. When Lazuli was young, making sense of the time she spent drifting through series’ of pictures over happenings over whispers she could barely hear left her sick. Now, a word so confusing when you are one foot in the present and the other in uncertain still futures. Still, for the closest approximation to now that Lazuli can manage, she is left trying to see through the purple haze and sparkling pink and the odd fizzling comfort of the magic of the Sweetening Path when she anchors into it, a man captured in her mind’s eye. A man of the vine, young - he’ll be steadfast and loyal and he and Amethar will make fast friends but - oh no not - but it is, a war awaits him but he will manage after he gets his title - Fructera. To take Count Tomate’s place.
She comes to in Caramelinda’s arms. Lazuli has not had the time to find peace from her mother’s death, but she has been granted purpose. Cara holds onto her as she finds her footing, a frown slipping onto her face, but Lazuli presses a hand into hers.
Cara raises an eyebrow and Lazuli nods. She’s tired and exhausted and in this, she and Caramelinda need no words. Lazuli wants to say it out loud, though, and she smiles in relief, “I have it.”
Caramelinda doesn’t pause for a moment, not a step behind as they move back into the castle and Lazuli relays her vision. Caramelinda holds her tight. “I trust you,” Cara tells her, and this, above all else, Lazuli has faith in.
Her father will not like this, but it has been a long time since Lazuli and her sisters listened to their father.
yob 1215, highbright
it’s been twenty-five years since you were here with me. you were and always will be the love of my life and i don’t think i will ever stop missing you and wishing you were by my side. it took me twenty-five years, but i think i’ve learned how to live without you, how to be happy and at peace. i have a kingdom i treasure, my new love amanda - not your brother, but bulb above can you blame me? i love him, but never like that. i think you would like amanda, she’s honest and upfront with me always just like you were, though with a little less premonition you had to keep to yourself. and of course my beautiful daughters. they have the necklaces you made them, so i know you knew they were coming and sometimes…sometimes i wonder if you knew that they would be amethar’s, or if once you thought they were yours.
with the way i’ve raised them, they might as well be yours. the necklaces are perfect and they love them dearly. i think ruby might have inherited the same gift you had, the one you shared with me. she would’ve loved to learn magic from you, but in this world, i will be the one to teach her. i think sometimes of what the world would be like if you had gotten to live the past years with me, i think of it less often now.
one day, i will see you again if the bulb and the sweetening path give us this one last kindness. until then, i pray for peace. my daughters turn eighteen in a few days, the emperor himself sends for amethar and i know what it means if he does not. amethar the emperor, did you ever see that in your visions? i think i will stay in castle candy and help jet learn to be queen. i have forgiven you for leaving me behind, but i have not forgiven the world for letting you go, just yet.
i wish you did not have to leave for peace, but i thank you for it all the same.
yob 1190, frostdawn
a hill, a last stand, electric crackling purple arcane magic, a storm of arrows, lazuli - dead.
The official place for goodbyes to the royal family was at the gates of the castle, where Lazuli held tightly onto her wife and closed her eyes to avoid meeting her gaze. The intimate place for goodbyes to one’s wife as they prepare to leave was in bed in the royal chambers, slow, careful kisses in one last attempt to memorize each other’s bodies. Caramelinda and Lazuli’s final goodbye, as goodbyes have never been something either has any talent for, is at the Dulcington harbour.
Lazuli is lucky in that she is not travelling alone, with Theodore and Amethar having seemingly grown up and decided upon fighting in the Dairy Islands. Rococoa has already left for Ceresia and Citrina has not left her post in Comida with the Church by her lover Belizabeth’s side, despite Lazuli’s growing poor feeling for the place. Sapphria alone remains in Candia, and Lazuli has no faith in the bulb but she has asked her sister to stay in Castle Candy until her return. She can only hope that Cara is not alone when the news comes to her.
Caramelinda holds onto Lazuli’s hand as last-minute things are moved onto the ship around them and Lazuli is filled with only love as she looks at her wife. There…there are futures where Lazuli does not die in the battle she knows is approaching. There are versions of her that are granted the blessing of returning to Caramelinda’s side, of meeting their twin daughters, of growing old and continuing to protect and uncover Candia’s magic.
Lazuli presses her lips against Caramelinda’s forehead, her cheeks, her mouth. Caramelinda holds her face in her palm and she leans into the touch. Caramelinda does not ask for promises of a safe return, and Lazuli wonders if her wife knows that something is wrong. If her sweet heart has realized Lazuli is clinging too tight. She had never really thought it would happen, in the end. She’d never realized quite how much it would hurt to lose this.
“I love you,” Cara whispers into her ear. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Lazuli closes her eyes and listens only to the soft sound of Caramelinda’s voice, focusing only on the way her mouth shapes around the words. She does not want to go. She does not want to die.
She says her goodbyes and gets on the ship. She has spent years preparing, she has weeks still to see if what she has brought with her and if all her work, her careful planning will be enough to see her home again. Lazuli stands on deck until she can no longer see the harbour. All the while that she stands on the deck, Cara waits on the docks.
lazuli rocks was a princess and an archmage and a wife and a sister. she stood against the impossible and brought the concord its emperor and recovered magic thought long lost to candia, founded orders and societies dedicated to safekeeping. she was wondrous, she saw the future. she never realized how much it would hurt, how much would lose when the future came to pass.
she fell in love, knowing she could not stay and desperately wishing she could.
It is not for many years, in a different peace than the one promised, that Caramelinda finds Lazuli again. It is impossible for her to mistake her wife here, in the beautiful magical incarnate version of Candia, the beginning of everything beyond where her radiant wife waits for her. Her eyes drink in the familiar crease of Lazuli's eyebrows, the soft thrum of magic that Caramelinda can just hear underneath everything else if she strains, the feel of Lazuli's soft hands and her ring clinking against Cara's own as she reaches out for her. Caramelinda steps closer, ready to relearn her wife. All around them is magic, the magic Caramelinda first learned in the gardens of the castle they called home together and oh so much more.
For once, there is no future to hang over them.