It's an early spring morning. Dew gathers and dips off the bowing grass. A mule whuffs out a misty breath in the cool air. Glasses clink together as Sera sits next to Lois, both in deep hooded cloaks, the cart trundling down the winding forest path.
With Sera to help her, Lois was finished making all her concoctions 2 days ahead of schedule. They were now headed to the castle, since Lois had checked her in the morning and deemed her all right to travel. It was now time for the usual delivery.
The two suns begin their ascent while the number of trees that the cart passes become thinner, one after another, until finally, they come to a open meadow, and further on, see the castle walls.
The heat of the two suns burned off the cool mists of morning air, leaving a gentle spring breeze that toys with Sera's skirts, given to her by Lois that morning. It felt strange to feel them swish about her legs after wearing jeans for so long. Just another reminder that she was really back.
While Lois showed her entry permit to the guard at the gate, Sera peered into the town behind him. A healthy stream of people walked to and fro between shop buildings on clean, organized streets. Children played with each other in the fountain while mothers chatted and kept a eye on their kids. Everyone seemed happy.
(Looks like Lucien kept the new policies I'd introduced..)
As Queen, she did her best to make the lives of her people better. By the Queen's order, all streets were designated a rotating groups of a neighborhood watch. They would promote safety on the streets at night, and held people accountable to keep their streets clean.
Before, with horses that did their business on the streets and all trash and filth thrown out windows and doors to the streets, people would only spend time outdoors when necessary. Otherwise, the smell would be too much.
Now, the scents of baking bread and fresh laundry were the only things Sera smelled as she took a short sniff of the air. Lois might think Sera was having a fit if she saw her breathing in heavily. She knew every time Sera felt a sharp pain in her side, her eagle eye glowering at her to keep still.
A group of girls ran to the cart as the mule pulled at a steady pace.
"Lois! Lois! Can you make me a potion to make my skin clearer?"
"Me! I want thicker hair!"
"And me! I need some more honeyroot dye for my skirt!"
They fluttered like a flock of chatty parrots in their simple, brightly colored dresses.
"Now girls, I'll set up shop when I'm good and ready, you hear? Now stop scaring my mule, we have to get to the castle first. Go on then!"
Lois waved her hand in a shooing motion at the girls, the sleeve of her cloak flapping with her big movement. The young girls jogging to catch up with the cart soon gave up, waving goodbye.
"Those skirts were pretty. Honeyroot, was it?"
"It's a root only found in our herb women's forest. Gives such a pretty yellow color. Now all the young girls are hounding me for it" sighed Lois.
The norm for women here was to wear long skirts, while men wore pants. During the war, people wore a combination of whatever they could get their hands on. She'd grown used to seeing the dark grey skirts made out of blankets and patch-worked with other scrap cloths. Lois wore one of them, a dark patch-work skirt that looked like an eclectic gypsy skirt. Things were different now. In the 5 years of Sera's absence, she could see by looking at the clothes the townspeople wore, the new prosperity of Thornmere. The nation now freed from the heavy burdens of war, was reflected back to her with the vibrant colors she could see on everyone they passed by.
Looking down at her simple yellow dress, Sera realized that Lois was right for making her wear this. Before they left Lois' cottage, she planned on going in the clothes she'd arrived in, a little worse for wear, but all right. Sera could cover everything up with a cloak borrowed from Lois.
Sera was shocked when Lois refused to take her in that outfit, and instead, brought out a brand new yellow dress. "I received this as compensation, but I can't wear this. I'm old and too well-endowed. Also, much too young for my taste." Lois said, gesturing to herself. Still, from Sera's wartime experience of a bright dress like this being extremely rare, this dress would be much too valuable for her to wear. The back and forth continued between Sera and Lois until Lois threatened to rip up the dress to become a part of her bandage stock. Lois had no use for it anyways.
Lois was right. A bright dress like this was common now. This would help her blend in with everyone here. She didn't plan on standing out in her form-fitting t-shirt and jeans, which would be seen as grossly inappropriate to wear outdoors here, almost like going out in your underwear.
It's good enough if she could fit in with everyone here.
The cart soon left the town and began the climb up to the castle, Lucien's home.
Fluttering shadows pass above them. A hawk gives a long, sharp cry, soaring over the two women in their cart.
(That looks like Lucien's hawk..He's close)
"Seems his majesty is returning today from another one of his border skirmishes. I hope I brought enough" Lois remarks, nodding to the hawk that seems to follow them.
There were a lot of arguments the in the time leading up to the moment she returned home. She wanted to go home to her parents, go back to being just a ordinary student. He wanted her to stay. During one such fight, Sera finally said the words she held in for so long, the words that, she knew, would utterly wound Lucien. She would leave him.
Lucien stared intently into Sera's eyes, thick arm around her waist holding her tightly, the other hand gently, tilting her face up towards him. He knew, too, she would try to run from him one day.
"A hawk always finds its prey. Even if you leave me Sera, I'll always find you. I'll never stop looking" Whispering the words like a caress across her lips, his eyes burning with a steel resolve.
That night, they embraced each other fiercely, fighting like desperate, starving animals. She'd bit into the deep, corded muscles of his arms, sighing his name, over and over.
Lucien would only respond with a quiet "I love you" each time. She never replied to that, not once.