Megan sat, rocking the baby. “Shhh, Ashmita,” she crooned and the misty pale blue eyes fluttered closed again. “Husha baby,” she said and got up quietly, to pad along in Shkai’ra’s wake. "I'm going to be able to live to see you grow up."
It was roaring rain in Arko. The worst of the noise, the bells and gongs and the thunderclaps, had disturbed the little girl and Shkai’ra had fed her, then handed her off to her wife and stamped out. “You’re the reason Hotblood left me,” she snarled, but not terribly loudly.
She had her sword on, peace-bonded, but she was looking for trouble. A drink. Beer would do just fine. Even the Haian said beer wouldn’t hurt a nursing baby. A fist-fight or two. Something, anything to soothe the sore and bleeding part of her soul where she and Hotblood had been linked. And it was just that kind of remedy that had brought the two together in the first place. Shkai’ra raised her lip at the guard. Paused at the Gate.
She’d gotten soft living with Zak and Arkans and all their lot. Haians even. She could step out into that pounding rain. She could go looking for a vile bar, smash in a few heads. The square was full of people dancing in the downpour, turning the sudden storm, and the knowledge that there was a newborn Heir to their Crystal throne, into the new opening of the Goddess Mella’s Rain Festival.
"Glitch look away," she said. "You should have enough fools to worship you here."
She could have gone out, but she found herself just standing. Watching. Everyone was grinning like a fool. They were all celebrating that their Imperial female squeezed a brat out of her body successfully. As if the world needed more fools in it. Too many people already. At least on the steppe outside Brahvniki I can breathe. It’s almost like home.
They’re calling it love. They’re calling it joy. The strange feeling I get under my breastbone when I look into my daughter’s eyes when she nurses, or when I want to jump Megan’s bones, or Rylla’s, or Shyll’s. Not just take them, make them service me. Once I would have thought them weak, ekafrek, but they’re not. Sova taught me part of that. Megan taught me part of that. Kh’eeredo.
“I’m sorry he couldn’t stand you loving us,” Megan’s voice from behind, speaking Zak, giving them some privacy in this rat’s nest, ant-hill, ape-cage of a city. “I’m sorry, Kh’eeredo.”
She turned around. There were a few people dashing into the public gate, out of the rain, laughing. Many stood in the shelter of the overhang that usually kept off the brutal sun that typically baked these people’s brains in their skulls. Her hand clenched on her sword hilt, loosened, clenched into a fist.
“You loved him, didn’t you?” Megan said. “He couldn’t bear it.”
“I loved too much,” Shkai’ra said, bleakly. “He said I had to choose my filly, not him.”
“It shows how much he still loves you,” Megan answered. “He knew that your connection wasn’t good for you.”
“I’m not the ‘Great-KillerLeadMareNoFear in his thoughts anymore,” the Kommanza said.
“What does he call you? Or what did he call you before he left?”
There was a faint and distance rolling growl of thunder and the rain began to lighten up a trifle. Shkai’ra stepped out of the protection of the overhang and turned her face to the sky, let the cool rain pour into her face, drenching her as if she stood under a waterfall and stood for a long, long moment before stepping back inside.
She blinked the water out of her eyes. Of course, my tough, tough lover, Megan thought, gently patting the baby. You must never show tears. It’s just rain on your face.
Shkai’ra took a deep breath. “He called me ‘Mother’.”