The Power of the Queen
by the Black Rose
AN: My apologies for the delay in posting this chapter. It's been a difficult time, but I'm almost divorced, although currently unemployed. I'm hoping to spend some time getting back into the habit of writing, finally.
FYI, the next chapter weaves us in and out of the events from episodes 8-21. That chapter is also accompanied by a side-story, entitled "In the Days I have Left", written primarily from Lelouch's POV, and containing a Lelouch x Euphie lemon. I will attempt to post what I can of the side story as it's own entry on FFN, and just link the lemon from my profile page (as per the usual). My thanks to those that are following this story, still. I appreciate the reviews and am always glad to hear what people think and have to say. Love, Rose
Warning: This story features a romantic storyline between half-siblings. Please do not read if you will be offended.
I was 'keeping court' in the parlor that day. I wore a dress - an elaborate affair with mounds of purple and white silk ruffles reserved for courtly affairs. I had asked Cornelia to watch Nunnally and Euphemia for the afternoon, assuming Lelouch had enough things to do, such as: homework, chess (his usual pursuits).
Whenever Charles visited a province or was absent for an matter of state, one of his wives sat in the throne room to hear matters from the homeland nobles. It could be anything from an invitation (which, for consideration, must be delivered in person), to a request for the assembly of a jury to hear a legal suit. I usually deferred the latter for Charles's return, but Henrietta was bold enough to make those decisions on her own.
It happened to be my turn that week while Charles was…somewhere. I can't for the life of me remember what kept him away. That particular day, however, I had no appointments. It was rare that nobles would purposely book a time when I was the one keeping court, as I was generally seen amongst the nobility as the queen with the least influence. Little did they know…
A sea of grey-veined marble stretched from the edge of rich, burgundy carpet. The plush fabric dripped from a platform where the official thrones of the Britannia emperor and empress perched high above its subjects; dark crimson flowed like royal blood over chiseled steps – secured by golden rods that bolted in to the marble. The sea ended at a set of two-story carved, mahogany doors.
The doors opened under the power of the attendants. I sighed and glanced down at the carpeted walk. I couldn't decide if I was relieved (to have something to do) or disappointed. I really hadn't been expecting to grant an audience…
"The eleventh prince, Lelouch vie Britannia."
His name was announced, and I glanced up, poised to tell him that this wasn't the place. But as soon as I saw him, the admonition died. My son paced up the aisle in the formal, white suit and royal purple cravat that showed his birth right as a prince. His black cape draped over his shoulders. He was so handsome. Like a miniature man more than he was a little boy. I rose and curtsied before sitting down again. Lelouch waited for me to settle on the edge of my throne.
"Marianne vie Britannia." His voice shook, but it had force behind it. He held his right arm against his ribcage and gave the formal bow befitting my station. Pride swelled in my chest. My son, the prince… It occurred to me how much I'd like for him to be a king.
"I have a request."
I smiled. What could a mother truly deny her son when he went through so much trouble? "I will hear your request." I folded my hands in my lap and waited. I briefly wondered what he might request so seriously. Perhaps it was to return to his afternoon chess matches. I mentally frowned. If that were the case—
"I would like…to have your permission…" At this point, he faltered. His head bowed lower than was proper. But at nine years old… I started to point out the slight transgression when he raised it again.
"To take Euphemia li Britannia as my bride."
I gave you the answer that I'd have to discuss it with your father. You seemed to accept my response, even though I had no intention of doing so. I knew what his answer would be. Or, at least, I knew he'd put me in the position that I would be forced to argue for the engagement in an effort to persuade him out of his tirade against you.
I loved Euphemia and Cornelia like they were my own. I liked, very much, the effect Euphemia had on you. I couldn't deny, even with all my reservations, that she was, in many ways, good for you.
But Charles never believed that you were good for her. And it is with deep regret, my son, that I must admit. In hindsight…
Charles was right.
I was spared having to give you a straight answer by my death. If you have the power, Lelouch, to give an absolute order, I possess the strange force, a much more subtle influence, that my wishes find a way of coming true. When I'm determined to have something, I can repeat that wish in my head over and over again, and watch things take shape.
The problem is when I feel a general desire for something…and this power takes hold.
And so, in many ways, I believe I set about this chain reaction that has led you to where you are today. It began the day you asked to make Euphemia your bride.
Because I wished for you to be king.
It's exactly as you said…The power of Geass is like a contract with the devil. I made my wish, and people who otherwise wouldn't have had the power to launch an attack on our home or who would have picked another target…
Well, as you know, they killed the Earth-bound body I inhabited. Took me from my children. Forced them to suffer.
My dear Nunnally…
And for so long, Lelouch, you made me proud. You fought to stay by your sister's side, you were kind to so many people. You held a genuine desire to help others. My son was a prince even without a title to speak of, but by his great and noble actions.
I knew the dark places in your heart. I knew how you struggled with them. And I knew how much you missed me. And though you never mentioned it directly, I felt the loneliness in your heart…
And in hers.
"Father, you must have noticed!" Schneizel stood hunched over Charles's desk, one hand planted on its surface. True to his nature, my former husband stared at the computer screen in front of him – never looking at his son.
"I know you've seen—"
"I cannot be bothered with that woman's children."
Schneizel rose to his full height. "But, Euphemia won't eat."
"Then don't feed her." Charles's lip curled up into a snarl.
"She's been upset since the invasion of Japan. Because you sent Lelouch and Nunnally…." The prince stomped towards his father and grasped the man's arm. "You sent them to die!"
"If Euphemia won't eat the food I provide, then let her starve." Charles wrenched from his son's grip and scowled up at the young man. "It's one less mouth to feed."
Charles became less of a mystery to me…I've looked into his heart, and I know, now, he rarely says what's there. There is a man inside that uniform, but he's been pushed aside to be this other personae we know as 'the emperor'.
I think you would understand him, now, Lelouch. What's left of your heart is filled with thoughts of her – bright, sparkling memories of her smile and her life. While I'm haunted by her pain.
I still see her: Listless. Grieving.
A pink-haired lump cowered against the headboard of her bed. Her knees drawn up to form a pillow for her head; the young girl stared out the window with the eyes of a porcelain doll I once saw in a specialty shop for Victorian-era trinkets.
"Euphie, your dance class…" Schneizel knelt beside her bed and placed a fond hand on her shoulder. "Aren't you going to go?"
The young girl hugged her legs tighter and buried her face in her knees.
Her blue eyes no longer held that light. She'd drift in and out of my garden like a ghost. Or a dream...
Cornelia stormed from my cottage onto the porch. Rain poured from the rooftop in sheets and formed rivers of mud at the end of the steps. The elder princess sloshed through the garden, grabbed her teen-aged sister by the arm and yanked her inside the house.
"Euphemia li Britannia, what in the hell do you think you're doing?" Her eyes flashed like the lightning outside.
The younger princess shuddered, hair soaked, her arms pricked by the cold. Her head bowed, but she didn't answer.
Cornelia growled. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"What does it matter?" Euphemia's voice was a fierce whisper.
"No one listens to me. Not you, not Schneizel—"
Cornelia made an indignant sound and placed both hands on her hips.
"Father, especially..." The younger princess's lips quivered. "He doesn't care what I think or what I have to say. He never has..." Another tremor racked her body.
"Euphemia. As long as you act like a child, you will be treated as one."
"Then I'm leaving!" She stomped past her sister. "I'm going away to school. Even if I have to run away."
Cornelia grabbed her elbow. "You can't be—"
Euphemia twisted from her sister's grasp and stumbled backwards. "I just…I can't live in this house, with these memories..." She rubbed at drops near the corner of her eyes, and for a moment, she was that same little girl, crying because Lelouch wouldn't play with her….
"Not for another minute." She spun on her heel and ran towards her room.
While you prayed for revenge, my son…And for Nunnally.
Euphemia prayed for you.
"I'm going to Area 11 to get things under control." Cornelia's image spoke from the communicator screen fastened to the wall of Euphemia's dorm room. The elder princess's dark, mahogany hair tied back at the base of her neck, she leaned forward - resting her weight on her sword with one hand still perched on her hip. She huffed with effort.
"I can't believe…Clovis. I haven't seen him since…" Euphemia lowered her eyes. "Since Marianne's funeral."
"I'll let you be sentimental about it, Euphie. I'm sorry. I have other concerns at the moment."
Cornelia straightened her posture and tucked away her sword. "Father's letting me have the Governorship."
"That's," the younger princess raised her head and stretched her mouth into a smile; her fingers gripped the edge of the monitor, "wonderful. It means he's finally—"
"I'd like for you to go with me."
"Cornelia?" Her hands dropped to her sides. "But…" She blinked several times. "I…"
"Area 11 is a long way from home, Euphemia. I've fought for this. You could live in my house and be the Vice Governor of the area."
The younger princess shook her head. "But, I haven't finished my studies…" She took a step back. "I have another year to—"
"You need the experience." Cornelia's image frowned from the screen. "You have a responsibility, Euphemia, as a member of this family. You must learn to rule. And this is an opportunity for you to do so away from father's critical eye. I'll teach you."
The younger girl looked away. She took a deep breath, folded her hands together, then nodded. "Thank you. I-I suppose you'll send someone to accompany me."
"I'll handle it. It will be good to see you again, Euphie."
"I've missed you, too, Cornelia," the princess said and smiled up at her sister. "And, I hope you know that I love you. Very much."
The elder princess's eyebrows rose. "What was that for?"
"I just…" Tears gathered in Euphemia's eyes. "Clovis. It's so sudden, and I. People seem to leave this Earth so unexpectedly. I'm tired of not being able to tell the ones I care about," her lips trembled, "how I feel. I'm tired of having that regret. So. Please don't forget that I love you."
"The people you care about," Cornelia smiled and the skin around her eyes crinkled, "we always know, Euphie. Now, pack your things and I'll see you in a few days."
For a time, I feared how Euphemia would react to the knowledge that you had been the one to kill your brother Clovis. But she was…Well, her heart has always been her power. And for all these years, she held on to her love for you.
As I watched you become more and more closed…Succumbing, little by little, to the power we call Geass. I watched it build a cage of steel around your heart. And in sharp contrast, I saw Euphemia's heart opening. Blooming like the flowers she used to watch and nurture in my gardens.
She wasn't in Area 11 more than a few hours before she quite literally crashed into your friend, Suzaku Kururugi. And it was the beginning of what would prove to be another series of difficult choices for the young woman. He fell in love with her. And she…she loved him as well.
As her surrogate mother, I was pleased to see her take interest in a man that, obviously, you would and did approve of. And he…As you know, he has a good and genuinely noble heart. I could have been happy for them, and for a time I was – believing that things had gone as they ought to go. You'd both grown up. If you met, again, as was more or less inevitable, it would be with affectionate hearts. But no more than is proper between siblings. Half-siblings.
I didn't know if I should wish for that meeting or not. As I said, I feared whether Euphemia would be able to forgive you for killing Clovis. But more than that, I feared that I was losing you…
She stepped into the room and I felt Lelouch's heart beat out of turn. He had known she was there, of course, but…Well, I knew my son well enough, or at least I thought I did back then, that he hadn't planned to reveal himself to Euphemia, or see her at all. "Did you trade your life for the hostages?" He called out to the girl in a clear, loud voice that scarcely trembled with his surprise.
Euphemia leveled a glare at the man wearing the mask.
"You're the same as ever." Lelouch smiled, then, and I felt relief wash over him. "Although, I hear you've become the Vice Governor General. Congratulations."
She scowled. "What is there to be happy about?"
"Ah, but perhaps you're only unhappy because I killed your brother Clovis. Would you like to hear how he begged me for his life with the same mouth that ordered the death of so many Elevens?"
"Is that why you killed him?"
"No. Actually, I killed him because he was a child of the Emperor. Which reminds me…"
And then you aimed your gun at her. I wish I could say it was the only time, or even the last time… How far had your heart already slipped away that you could threaten the very same girl you once loved?
But then I heard them. Your thoughts and feelings as you questioned the new part of you that was emerging. You didn't want to kill her. You couldn't let this growing emptiness you so aptly named "Zero" harm her.
You could kill Clovis, you wanted to kill Clovis, Cornelia, Schneizel - anyone who stood in your way. You thirsted for the blood of your siblings like a vengeful beast. They were what went wrong. They were the ones responsible, was your judgment, pronounced with the limited observations of a grief-stricken and angry ten-year-old child. They were responsible in some way you didn't know, for killing me. And leaving Nunnally psychologically damaged.
You wanted their deaths like you wanted nothing else…And this was the 'great' and 'noble' man my son had become!
I was furious with you that day. Congratulating yourself on killing your own brother, preening on television like some holier-than-thou champion. So much like the emperor you despised in your own father. I could have wished for an end to your little uprising right then, my son. I had begun to question whether you still had the heart to be a truly good and noble king, yet I didn't go so far as to lose my faith in you completely, Lelouch.
But from that day on, the day when your heart beat out of turn, when your soul cried that you could be given such a fate as to have to hurt her… when you realized you couldn't and wouldn't kill Euphemia li Britannia – your half-sister and the woman you had once asked my permission to take as your bride. I began to believe. Not in the control and influence you'd hold as King one day, Lelouch. No, my dearest son.
I believed in the power of the Queen.
Chapter 5 (excerpt)
...it is men who are the historians of that world. The victors, fresh from the field of battle wander home to tell the tale of their victories. And they thank their swordmaker for forging their sword of the finest steel so that it never failed them in the heat of the fight, and they thank their page (and yes, I'm being metaphorical) for their care of the horse that served the soldier so well. They praise their captain for his bravery, their king for his leadership. But they never thank their wife and children for the prayers that kept him safe.
No, the wife that stays at home, she's the one who is weak. But how weak can she be when she gives that same victorious knight the very reason he has to fight? To draw another breath, to live to see the end of the war…
…and so it is that women are rarely remembered for the sacrifices they make for the men they hold dear.
And so it was that two very different, but equally as strong and vital women were almost lost, and all but forgotten amidst the battle on Shikinejima island. Both of them desperate, both of them doing everything in their power to save the lives of the men they loved.
For you, my son, I saved them both.
And for you, Lelouch…I did everything in my power to separate Euphemia and Suzaku.