Two for Joy

DISCLAIMER: Dept. Heaven is the intellectual property of Sting. The Age of Wisdom 'verse is not intended to profit via the use of Sting's characters and worlds.

(I have daughters and I have sons – spring will come again.)

They had gone to speak to the healer for some trifling reason, and had only been half paying attention to her words in any case until she told them: "And if you're feeling any light nausea lately, milady, it's because your pregnancy has reached the point where your stomach will be easily unsettled. It's easily coped with by eating four or five small, light meals instead of large ones, so rest easy."

"What?" Yggdra answered in a single blaze of brilliance and wit, and the healer stared at her, and she turned to look at Roswell and then stared down at her own flat belly.


And that was very much that.

The most worrisome part of this entire affair, she decided to herself quite privately, would be making sure that Durant didn't have a hernia over the announcement. The poor knight paced around the rooms, gesticulated wildly in fits of rage and despair, and whenever there was the slightest lull he would turn to face his queen and her consort and then be set off once more by the fact that they weren't in the same panic as he.

"It's not really that big of a deal," Yggdra called to him, struggling to keep the smile off her face. "Roswell and I are already engaged, there was already a ceremony planned for next year, and so what does it matter if it doesn't take nine months after that for our first child to be born? I've already established to the court quite well that I don't care at all what they think."

"Think of the people, my lady, and how they will talk."

A giggle threatened to escape; Yggdra bit her lip, but the corner of her mouth felt like it was twitching. "I don't mind the citizens joking to one another about how I didn't feel like waiting to have my way with my fiancé until the wedding night. It's less unseemly than bragging to them outright, at the least."

Durant stopped dead and ran both his hands over his face, rubbing his temples. "Your Majesty, please. At this rate, it's not likely that this can be concealed until the wedding—and even if it could, the wedding itself would give everything away, with you in a dress like that in that state."

Yggdra rested her elbows on the table, wove her fingers together, and rested her chin on the plateau they formed. She gazed at Durant evenly and raised her eyebrows, putting all her effort into suppressing that smile and the giggle that just kept bubbling up. "Would it really be that terrible for the civilians to know?"

"Please think, my lady," Durant implored, stopping on his heel and swiveling to face her as he spread his hands. "There will always be some that would think you dishonorable for this. And those who still oppose you in the courts could use this to dispute the child's claim to the throne…"

"Hang the courts," Roswell breathed, and Yggdra looked at her fiancé to see that he was rolling his eyes. When he noticed her gaze, he smiled at her, his eyelashes lowering just slightly and his expression relaxing. "I suppose we could always compromise and push the wedding up a few months. It seems like it would be quite the bother to stand out under the summer heat once you're that pregnant."

"That's very true."

When she was met with questions about why the wedding had been moved back into the spring—especially given the way that the courtiers were all holding their heads and groaning over the political mess they were making over the conjunction of Fantasinia and Verlaine—Yggdra simply raised her eyebrows.

"They need an incentive to stop waffling," she said, and added "besides, I'm impatient."

They smiled and sometimes laughed, and she smiled back. It wasn't really a lie.

Whenever her friends drifted back into town, she told them, one by one, and made sure that they would keep it quiet. There weren't any other Durants among them, but while they all offered congratulations, Nietzsche seemed more bewildered than anything and Elena paled a little even as she smiled.

…There was Elena's case to think of, too. Yggdra knew that she ought to be careful—both of Elena until those wounds weren't so raw, and of her own health. There was always the possibility that things could go wrong, and she wanted quite strongly for them not to go wrong.

In between the court meetings and appointments with tailors who draped her in layers upon layers of white gauze, drawn in just under her breasts and left to sweep out like morning mist, she spent her time with Roswell, dreaming of the future.

"No matter what, one of our children should have a rose name," she decided, lying on her side along the mattress with her hair pinned up and a fortress of pillows lifting her up enough that Roswell's hands could work along her shoulders. "That's something of a family tradition, isn't it?"

"I admit I'd be happy if you'd consider it, but our firstborn probably shouldn't have the Branthèse traditional style—he or she will be your heir before mine."

"Who knows?" Yggdra rolled her shoulders and sighed happily as the tension in them started to unwind. "All I know is that we won't be looking through historical family names for inspiration, especially since this is a new era."

Behind her, Roswell chuckled. "I wouldn't let you name any son of ours Belganathos no matter what kind of persuasion you tried to use."

Yggdra turned, resting briefly on her back before rolling to her other side in order to better reach out and cup Roswell's face in her hands. "Are you willing to bet?" she asked, the playful giggle rolling out without any leave from her.

He arched an eyebrow; she tackled him with all the tenderness of an excited puppy, which made him laugh too.

Then, almost as an afterthought, he gripped her wrists lightly, urgently. "It's still all right?"

She picked up her hands to lace her fingers together with his, beaming. It was impossible not to love that he would worry about it.

"Yes, it should be fine for a while yet. I made sure to ask."

He let go of her hands then, and relaxed back against the mattress.

"All right then, why don't you have a go at it then?"

And so she did.

Much later, when they were lying side by side in the wreckage of the bedclothes, he rested his hand on top of hers without turning to look at her.

She looked to her side, assessed the wistful way he stared at the bed canopy, and waited. When he offered nothing, she asked, "What is it?"

"Are we really allowed to do this?" he said wonderingly, his voice somewhat awed. "Even though we are what we are—even though we've done what we've done. Are people like us truly fit to give life to new people?"

Yggdra joined him in gazing at the canopy. The curtains were drifting a bit in the soft breeze blowing through the window. "At the very least, it's up to us to make certain that the next generation won't repeat the same mistakes," she offered. "Even now, that's—still something we can accomplish with our own hands."

"—If we named it after her…" Roswell began suddenly, and then his voice trailed off. "It seems as though it would be so arrogant, somehow. But I can't think of any other offering to make."

"It wouldn't fix anything anyway. It would be better to teach our children about them—about the wrong paths we took, so that they won't do the same."

Roswell turned to face her, and his eyes were very blue against the white of the room as he stared at her, as he leaned in to kiss her again.

She wouldn't lie to him and tell him that it was all right, but she wanted at least to show him that it was going to get better from here as long as they did their best. Words couldn't quite suffice, but she did what she could anyway.

"Majesty," the healer said quietly, "there's something serious I have to tell you."

Her heart dropped a little in her chest, but Yggdra schooled her expression to stay blank as she nodded. "What is it?"

The woman with her serious eyes and tightly-wrapped bun reached out and laid both hands over Yggdra's own, staring at her for a long moment before speaking.

"You're carrying twins."

There was a bit of a jolt in her stomach at the words—less of shock than dull anger at the irony.

"I see."

"Your Majesty, it may be inadvisable to… think of the pattern of inheritance," the healer said carefully. "You know that this is difficult, and so—"

"It won't be a problem," Yggdra said very firmly, and deliberately removed her hands from the other woman's grip. Forcefully; she smiled. "Fantasinia is going to change from here on out."

The next morning, she left the castle early, not even really bothering to change out of her nightclothes first. The gauzy dress was well enough, and she didn't want to wear anything more cumbersome if she was going to have to swim.

But the slim gray boats were unattended, and Yggdra took one and its paddle and set off across the great lake.

It took her about five minutes to get back into the correct motion of paddling, and her shoulders ached with it. Yggdra just breathed deeply and waited for the pain to pass. She thought of Roswell, and thought of how she had to admit to herself that she felt the same.

The journey took time, and there was sweat running down her arms in rivulets by the time she made it there, drew the boat up to the shore.

The little tomb was growing weathered, and Yggdra knew she couldn't have expected anything else. That event seemed to have revived a little of the people's superstition, and her father and mother had not often come here; few other people would have. She'd sneaked down herself in her girlhood days, but as she'd grown older and less enchanted with specters of might-have-beens, she'd stayed away.

And it felt a little foolish, knowing that there might not even be bodies in these graves—that if there were bodies, they certainly weren't the right ones. But even so. It was the most appropriate place Yggdra could think of; she could hardly ride down to the wreckage of Flarewerk at a moment's notice, and she would hardly be welcome there.

"I don't know why it was that this happened to you," she said to the graves in a low voice, "but I want you to know that I won't let it repeat itself.

"There's no way, now, to find out why those things were done to you. I don't know if you were able to find any peace with your lot in the end. But you shouldn't have been abandoned, shouldn't have been raised like that. It was unjust. It's not the kind of thing I'll allow.

"And when my children grow—I will tell them what I know about what happened to you. I'll explain it to the others, too. About the future stolen from you—from us.

"I'm going to take it back now. Even if you can't forgive me, I hope that you'll watch. I hope that that can make up for your suffering even a little bit."

Yggdra took a deep breath, fisted her hand in front of her belly, and smiled with all the determination she could drum up. Her heart was beating so hard and so fast that she felt almost as if it would become a hummingbird and drift out of her chest any moment.

"—Then, Luciana, Aegina… goodbye."