Zaidah luxuriated in the feel of Ralania’s hair as it slid through her fingers. Her niece sat upon her lap, chattering away about nothing at all, a warm breeze gently ruffling the curtains. The room was huge, opulent, fit for for a queen.
She walked the halls of the Jade Tower, people bowing to her respectfully but casting fearful glances at the shadow that followed in her wake. Part of her mind was aware of the shadow and disturbed by its presence, but for reasons she could not explain she simply kept smiling and walking.
Her path took her to the top of the Tower where she looked out over the green land her husband had first shown her in her mind. Their dream was a reality now: Athas, green and fertile. She felt a presence behind her and strong arms encircled her waist. She leaned back into them but just as suddenly as they had appeared they were gone and she found herself falling, falling, falling.
“Auntie Zazu! Wake up!” She woke, once again in her opulent bedchamber, Gathania shaking her. The girl had a fearful look on her face and over her shoulder Zaidah caught the shimmer of steel in the moonlight. She followed the outline until her gaze settled on the sneering face of a tall elven man.
“I told you I would protect them,” Sil said taking a step forward. “And I will, even if that means I have to protect them from you.”
She was running through the halls now, twisting and turning down dark passageways until she burst through a pair of double doors and found herself in the throne room. Tlaloc stood at the foot of the throne and bowed to her as she entered.
“Tlaloc…” She breathed a sigh of relief. “Where is Huar? Where is my husband?”
He tilted his head to the side and peered at her curiously. “You don’t remember? That was the price you had to pay.”
“Price? Pay for what?”
“You think becoming a god comes without a price?” His face melted and reformed and it was Huar himself who stood before her, bathed in blood with the pallor of death upon him.
She was back in her bedchamber hovering somewhere near the ceiling as she watched. Her body lay limp on the floor, Sil standing over her, the girls cowering in the corner. She could sense the life seeping from the body as he withdrew the steel rapier from her chest. Despite the tears that rolled down her incorporeal cheeks, something about the scene felt right. She was resigned to her fate and felt somehow that the girls would now be safe forever.
And then the body on the floor began to rise. The eyes opened and everything living in the room began to shrivel and die. Her nieces screamed. Sil writhed in agony on the ground as her body rose to its feet.
They were all there now. Arkin, Fezzik, Tzadkiel, Tlaloc… even her sister and her parents were present. All were bound in chains and all eyes were on her as the walls of the room dissolved and reshaped themselves into the dias. She watched from outside as her body ascended and settled upon the throne. Then her eyes locked with those of her body and a voice spoke to her with her own mouth.
“Now my dear you see what it really means to be Queen.”