The war was ended. Ended for them, at least. She wondered how many of her people would celebrate.
She took the stairs two at a time. She knew she ought to be back in the council chamber seeing to things. There were preparations to be made, official notices to be drafted for the city and letters to send. Grovelling, complimentary letters. She balled her fists.
At the top of the stairs, she burst through the door and out onto the battlements. The sun was shining brightly, burnishing the stones with gold. A stiff wind threw her hair back. Usually, she’d have luxuriated in a day like this. Now it just stirred her rage.
She stalked along the walkway to her favourite look out spot: the wide opening bracketed by two large bears. She stood between them, unconsciously assuming their position: arms out before her ready to attack, chin up and eyes towards the sky. She could hear the sounds of the city very faintly over the gusting of the wind. The news would be spreading. The war was ended. Ended for them, at least. She wondered how many of her people would celebrate.
She lowered her eyes from the clouds and surveyed her home, set out before her like a child’s city of blocks. And perhaps that’s what they were, what they all were. Toys for these kings to squabble over. They had fought and bled and died for the last one. For his father too. And he had given them up. Offered up their city, her people, to the Western Lord just so that he might live in peace.
She kicked at the great legs of the stone bear to her left, then tilted her head in apology. A chill ran over her, lifting the hairs on her arms. The King must have heard the tales of the Western Lord just as she had. What he did to the lands he took or that were thrown at his feet to appease him. She squared her shoulders. Whatever happened, she would not bow to him. She closed her eyes. But what if that defiance meant trouble for her people? Her restless spirit twisted uncomfortably under the weight of her title and what it meant. A bell rang from the city: strong, deep and not a celebration. The fire kindled in her again. She flung back her head and answered it with her own voice. She would not tell her people that war was over. She would tell them a new one had begun.