Still leaning gently against Wanderer for support as she walked, Andromeda began to lead the Invisus wolf away from Ra and the new Atroxian queen, back out of the territory she had once known like her own heart. The wall of thorns closed behind them, hiding the two Acerbus wolves from sight. It was a lonely feeling, she thought, being gone so long, and then coming back only to learn how things had changed. This world had once been hers; she had started wars and ended them. She had killed, and resurrected, and purified, and the only limit to her power was the hateful thought that she could not achieve anything she put her clever mind to; and whenever she had been told that something was impossible, she proved every naysayer wrong, over and over again, out of fury and out of spite. Andromeda let out a low sigh, her eyes downcast, and let Wanderer guide her for a moment as she walked along. Her movements were shaky, but growing steadier with each step. She was back on her feet once more, whether she wanted to be or not.
“Where will you go now?” Andromeda murmured to Wanderer after the silence between them had carried on for several long heartbeats. They were well away from Ra and Berthadhiell now, but she was not certain that their words would go unheard by the new queen, who wielded her power just as flashily as Andromeda once had. Even so, she decided this was worth the risk; Wanderer would leave, and Andromeda would watch her go to be certain of her departure from Atrox territory. The idea left her feeling strangely empty. She shoved the thought away, bringing her focus back to the warmth of Wanderer at her side, and tried to keep her voice casual and conversational. “Do you swear allegiance to Simul these days?”
And then she could not walk a step further, for her legs were trembling so terribly that she feared she might stumble and fall. Shuddering, she came to a halt, her body wracked with silent shivers. She felt Wanderer’s immediate concern, but for a second, all she could do was breathe against the sharp, crushing pain in her ribs, constricting her heart. This was not any injury that could be solved by magic—this was grief that tugged claws into her heart, and panic that clawed at her throat, piercing and unrelenting. Wanderer would leave, and she would be alone again, and somehow, the thought felt unbearable. Quail was gone; her mate was gone; Andromeda had clearly made her own bed, but now that the time had come to lie in it, she balked at the thought, because all she had ever wanted was stability, and yet she had never learned how to create it for herself.
Don’t go, she wanted to say. The very thought was terrifying; it was a betrayal of everything she had stood for, and everything she had been raised to be. She still vividly remembered the taste of Invisus blood in her mouth, hotter than fire, thicker than mud. She remembered the way Jezebeth had screamed.
She remembered the way Rory Suhail had died—with not a cry, but a soft, shallow gasp.
But she felt safe with Wanderer. She always had. She had put herself blindly into Wanderer’s paws, time and time and again, and Wanderer had always handled her with the gentlest care, as though she could sense the places where Andromeda was broken and jagged, and as though she cared for her all the same.
“I can’t stand it,” she confessed all at once, her voice tremulous. “I can’t bear the thought that we will be enemies again—if not tomorrow, then in two moons’ time, or three. This world is so volatile. Atrox is so cruel.” She lifted her eyes to Wanderer’s; brilliant within the gloom of her old kingdom, as richly blue as cut gemstones. She allowed Wanderer to see an expression of vulnerability that she had once thought herself incapable of making, and she breathed, “I can never go to war again. Not with you on the other side.”
Andromeda Naga Greenfire
If I cannot move Heaven, I will raise Hell
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