Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.

Bad language ~ The odd word here and there.

Love/sex ~ Loving relationships between women all over the island. Sex between consenting women. If this offends you...have a sneak peek, you might enjoy it.

Sickness & death ~ There are some deaths in this story, if that's not for you, I understand completely and hope you enjoy reading something else.

Copyright © June 2009

Questions, comments & thoughts all welcome. Loves_to_write_fic@yahoo.co.uk



Chapter Twelve

Leslie looked at her wife in disbelief, her mouth moving up and down as she tried to form words. "What do you mean your mother's sick?" she finally managed to ask in a high-pitch voice. "Since when? Which mother?"

Keera drank half her wine, before setting the mug down and running a hand through her tousled hair. "My mother Valonia, and I don't know since when as I was at work. I was just...told."

"I want to see Ava," Kinsey insisted, watching her mothers.

"Keera, what's going on?" Leslie asked in confusion. "Why are you home so early in the day?"

Looking up and meeting her wife's light green eyes, Keera sighed. "The Queen informed us she was shutting down the palace to protect the Royal family from this disease. She informed us we could leave if we wanted to be with our families, or remain to do our duty. My mother Karita chose to stay, telling me to come home to you and the girls. She...she didn't know about mama."

"Can we go and see Ava, ma?" Kinsey asked, not liking the fact she was being ignored. "She's teaching Barkley some tricks."

"Kinsey, enough! Go and do some reading." Sitting down heavily in a chair opposite her wife, Leslie tried to rub away the frown she sported. "The palace is...and your mother doesn't...Keera, love, why don't you go and tell her?"

"The palace was closed off as soon as the Queen returned from giving her speech, no one can go in or out." The guard finished what was left of her drink. "Your cousin is sick, Leslie. Arcadia has the...disease."

"By the Gods!" Leslie gasped, eyes widening. "Arcadia is sick? Does Rayna know?"

"I don't know. I don't know anything any more."


* * * * *

Rayna opened the front door and walked into her childhood home. "Hello, all," she smiled in greeting, in good spirits for once. "I'm home. What's for dinner? I'm starving." Spotting Bedilia and Gayle seated in a corner, the warrior walked over to the couple. "Hello, you two. Are you well? Bedilia, how is your mother?"

Mariah stood from her seat and moved towards Rayna, Nyx standing up behind her and placing her hands on her wife's shoulders. "Rayna...have you not heard?" Mariah asked, though it was obvious her daughter hadn't.

Rayna's smile slipped, a crease forming between her brows. "Heard what?"

Bedilia stood up. "We best be getting home."

"You won't stay for some dinner?" Mariah asked.

Bedilia shook her head. "Not tonight. Thank you for the invitation though." She looked to her friend, still in the dark as to what was going on. "Rayna, if you need anything, you know where I am."

"You're always welcome here, Bedilia," Mariah told the tall woman. "And you Gayle. Send Gaylene our best wishes."

As the front door shut behind her friends, Rayna looked to her mothers. "Heard what? What's going on?"

"The Queen...Athena, made an announcement," Mariah said.

Rayna's frown deepened. "How would I have heard that? I was at training. Why so sudden? What was it about?" Blue eyes widened. "By the Gods, Aaronia hasn't...died...has she?"

Nyx stepped around Mariah and walked over to Rayna, wrapping an arm around broad shoulders, to lead her daughter over to a seat. "A lot of women weren't there to hear her," she started to explain. "It was so sudden, we weren't there but have been told what was said."

"Well?" Rayna asked, getting impatient. "What was said?"

"The Queen is isolating the palace," Mariah blurted out. "Isolating the Royal family within while this...disease is around."

"I see. Well, no need to worry, I'm sure they'll let me in to see my girls." Rayna looked from Mariah to Nyx in confusion, seeing the look they shared. "What am I missing? What aren't you telling me?"

"Arcadia is sick," Nyx said gently.

Rayna laughed, pent up emotion escaping. "Don't be absurd! I saw her earlier, she is fine." She looked to each mother again, seeing they were serious. "That is ridiculous!" she insisted, standing up. "She came to training to ask how I dealt with the loss of Benedict, we talked, we hugged. She is fine, perfectly fine."

"Rayna, the Queen wouldn't say she was ill if she weren't," Mariah insisted. "Perhaps...once she returned to the palace, she...came over all...ill."

"My girls!" the warrior gasped, moving past Nyx and hurrying for the door.


* * * * *

Rayna walked the familiar path to the palace, her heart pounding harder with each step she took. It cannot be true! Please, do not let it be true! Having run most of the way, the warrior had made herself slow down as the palace came into sight. No word had been sent to her that the palace was being closed off, nor had she been told about Arcadia, for those reasons, she was sure that this was some mistake. She didn't want to alarm the guards by going charging in.

Reaching the palace gates, the warrior knocked firmly on the thick wood.

A small panel slid back, allowing Shylah, one of the guards, to see out. "Yes?"

"Shylah, let me in. I want to see my wife and children."

"I'm sorry, Rayna. I'm under strict orders. Nobody is to be let in."

"By the Gods, woman! 'Tis my wife and children in there! I have a right to see them. I would be living here if I hadn't argued with Arcadia!"

"I'm sorry, Rayna. Truly." The guard closed the wood panel.

Rayna pounded on the door. "I demand to be let in! What nonsense is this I heard about the Princess being sick?" She waited to see if she would get a response. "At least tell my wife I am here!" Hearing nothing and getting no response to her pounding, Rayna walked away, knowing the guards on duty up in the towers were watching her.

Following the path, the warrior walked into the forest until she knew she was out of the guards line of sight, then slipped into the undergrowth, merging with the shadows. She would wait until nightfall before stealthily making her way back to the palace and inside to her family. She had done it before when she was courting Arcadia. Patience. I just need to remain calm and patient, she thought, eyes on the palace wall. I'm coming, Cadie. Hold on.


* * * * *

"Why didn't we stay and have dinner with the Banks'?" Gayle asked, watching her silent wife staring at the dancing flames of the fire.

"Didn't want to."

Bedilia had been growing more and more distant and Gayle didn't like it. She tried talking to her wife, tried to get her to care for life again, tried to lift her spirits. Bedilia didn't want to know. "It was nice of Mariah to invite us." She tried again to strike up a conversation. "Perhaps we should have stayed."

Bedilia stood from her seat so quickly, Gayle jumped back in surprise. "I didn't want to have dinner with them!" Bedilia growled. "They are a family! They are all well! They are together!" She walked towards her wife, not noticing or perhaps ignoring the way the redhead shrank back in fright. "My mother is sick and does not want to see me in case she passes it to me! Do you really think I want to sit with a family and play pretend? All the while reminded that I cannot do the same with my own mothers?"

"Bedilia, I...I'm sorry," Gayle whispered.

Bedilia snapped out of the fog she seemed to be under and saw the pure fear in her wife's eyes. "By the Gods!" she beseeched, falling to her knees in front of Gayle, tears falling from her eyes. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I never meant..."

Gayle moved forward and stroked Bedilia's hair, feeling her wife's arms wrapping around her legs, the former warrior clinging to her. "Shh, my love. I know you didn't mean it. You're just frightened. Shh, now. I'm here."

"She's sick, Gayle. She's sick and she might..." Bedilia choked on a sob. "And now Arcadia, too. Do you know how devastated Rayna is going to be? Do you know how heartbroken? And I left! I left when I should have stayed because it would have hurt me just as much and I couldn't take it! I couldn't take any more hurt right now!"

Gayle slid down to the floor and cradled her weeping wife, being there and murmuring soft nothings, knowing nothing she said would make things better.

"Why them, Gayle? Why my mother? Why Arcadia? Why not me? Why not mean old Wanda?"

"I know not, love. Sometimes the Gods are cruel like that, sometimes they hurt the good and separate the lovers, sometimes things just don't make sense. But we are well, aren't we, darling? We have each other. We will always have each other, Bedilia. For I am yours, and you are mine." As Bedilia cried out her grief, Gayle held her and murmured softly to her, reassuring her that all would be well.


* * * * *

Rayna quietly made her way around the palace, keeping to the shadows as she made her way upstairs to the bedchambers. Before seeing her wife, she was determined to see her children, wanting to make sure they weren't ill as well.

Making sure the coast was clear, she hurried up the stairs and along the corridors to where her bedchambers were, her daughters having the large room next door. She knew as they grew older they would move off to other rooms, each having one of their own. But for now, they were together and close to her and Arcadia.

Opening the door, Rayna was surprised to find the room in darkness and cold, the fire not lit. Walking in to be sure there was no one in there, she turned and made her way back out, looking this way and that as she tried to work out where her girls could be. Would they be with Arcadia? she wondered, moving towards her chambers. No, surely not. Cadie wouldn't want them near her if she was sick. She would...Biana! She would have put Biana in charge of them. But Biana wouldn't have left the safety of the palace, which means... Rayna started moving, walking away from her bedchambers, they must be in one of the other rooms.

As fast but as quietly as she could, Rayna opened doors and peeked into rooms as she searched for her daughters. Not finding them on the first floor, she headed up to the next floor. Door after door revealed a darkened room and the warrior began to worry. Backing out of an empty room, she bumped into someone and spun around to face Kolleen Pond.

"Rayna!" the maid gasped in surprise. "What are you...?"

Rayna covered the woman's mouth with a hand, hushing her up before someone heard, and stepped backwards into the room she had just walked out of. "Kolleen, what are you doing here?" she asked, removing her hand from the woman's mouth.

"The Queen told us what was going on and told us we could go home," the pale blonde-haired woman explained. "But some of the women decided to stay, knowing things would need doing. I decided to stay as well." Her head tilted to the side in question. "What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

Rayna smiled. "I have my ways. Where are my children, Kolleen? I checked their chambers, but 'tis empty."

The maid pointed to the left. "Second door from the end. Princess Arcadia told Biana to take the princesses to a room and completely isolate them. Your wife...she's..."

"Sick, I know. Listen, Kolleen, don't tell anyone you've seen me. I just want to check on my girls, then I'll leave."

The blonde nodded. "I understand. Be well, Rayna."

"And you, Kolleen." Leaving the room they were in, each went in different directions. Reaching the door she wanted, Rayna tapped on the wood and listened and waited.

"Leave it by the door, please," Biana called out.

"Open the door, Biana. I wish to see my girls." Rayna smiled as she heard her daughters call out for her from within.

"I...I'm under orders, Rayna."

"I know of your orders, but I'm not sick and I haven't seen my girls. Now open the door before I break it down." As the nanny opened the door, Rayna walked in and fell to her knees as Ava and Raleigh ran at her, squealing and crying for her. She embraced the pair, holding them tightly, relieved they were well. "My girls," she murmured. "My beautiful girls." She pulled back slightly to look them over. "Are you all right?"

"We're not allowed to see mummy," Ava told her, tears trailing down her cheeks. "Biana won't let us."

"Mummy is sick," Rayna explained, reaching out to wipe away the tears. "She told Biana to lock you in here until 'tis safe out. You don't want to get sick, do you?" Rayna smiled as her oldest daughter shook her head. She looked to Raleigh and delicately wiped her tears away. "Raleigh, are you all right?"

"I wanted you, but you didn't come," the little girl whispered. "Mummy said she was going to get you."

Rayna frowned and looked to Biana. "When was this?"

"Today. The girls had a squabble and Raleigh asked for you. Then...everything changed and many things were forgotten."

Rayna stood up and walked deeper into the room. "Where is Lynnea?"

"In the bedchamber," Biana replied. "Sleeping peacefully."

Rayna strode towards the bedchamber, Ava and Raleigh hot on her heels; neither girl wanting to let their mama out of their sight. Stopping at the side of the cradle, she looked down at her sleeping daughter and swallowed hard, suddenly overcome with emotion. She reached down to gently stroke curled fingers, reassuring herself that Lynnea was fine. Kissing her fingertips she pressed them to Lynnea's head, then made her way back out of the room, not wanting to wake the little girl.

Rayna sat down in front of the fire, Ava and Raleigh taking a seat on either side of her. "I want you to listen to Biana, do as she tells you, and be good."

"Are you going, mama?" Raleigh asked, clinging to Rayna's arm.

"I have to go and see your mummy, but I'll be back. Do you have some parchment and pencils to keep you busy?"

Raleigh nodded. "I was drawing a picture for mummy."

"Good. You concentrate on that and before you know it, I'll be back to see you."

"With mummy?" Ava asked.

"Hopefully, sweetheart. I'll see what can be done. I want you to look after each other, do you hear? No more fighting."

"What about Elektra, mama?" Raleigh asked. "Biana wouldn't let me bring her with us."

"Elektra will be fine with your grandmothers, love." Rayna stood up, looking down into watery eyes. "I'll be back soon." She stepped over to Biana, who was busying herself across the room to give them privacy. "Take care of them, Biana. I'll try to come back, but I want to go and see Arcadia."

"Send the Princess my best wishes."

Rayna nodded and with a quick wave to her daughters, she left the room.


* * * * *

Slipping into the dimly lit bedchamber she used to share with her wife, Rayna quietly made her way over to the bed. Looking down at Arcadia, the warrior was shocked at the princess' appearance. Arcadia's skin looked grey and had a sheen of sweat glistening on it. Rayna took a deep, trembling breath as she absorbed the truth - her wife really was sick. "I...I can't believe..." she shook her head, as blue eyes trailed over Arcadia.

With a gentle touch that belied her fierce image, Rayna stroked aside limp, damp strands of blonde hair from Arcadia's face, the princess' hair usually silky and soft to touch. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she reached out for the damp cloth sitting in a bowl of water nearby. Wringing out the excess water, she softly wiped Arcadia's brow. "I cannot believe you are sick," she murmured. "You were fine earlier, worrying about your grandmother but otherwise fine." She kept up her task even as she heard the door open behind her, knowing she had been caught and not caring.

"I knew you would come," Athena said softly. "I don't think we have ever successfully been able to keep you out," she teased lightly.

Rayna glanced over her shoulder at the Queen. "Why was I not told?"

"There was no time, it all happened so suddenly." Athena walked closer. "How is she?"

Rayna looked back to Arcadia. "Fighting a fever by the looks of it."

"We were all so concerned with my mother, none of us realised Arcadia had been feeling off. When I was told she had sent Biana off with the grandchildren and that she was sick, I was completely taken by surprise. I...panicked. I ordered the shaman to come and look her over and I asked Jada to announce my appearance. It was all so rushed, Rayna, not everyone was there. Many of the women were still at work or on their way home."

"What did the shaman say about Arcadia?"

"Summer turned up. She told us Arcadia was showing the same symptoms as other women."

"Why Summer when you requested the shaman? Surely the shaman would be a better woman to get an opinion from. No disrespect to Summer, but..."

"The shaman is sick, Rayna," Athena said sadly. "She too has caught the disease."

"By the Gods! Is no one safe from this?" the warrior murmured. "How are they doing in finding a cure?"

Athena shook her head. "I don't know, all I know is there is no cure at this time. Evangelos Papadopulos and Marina came to us with some information, but so far there has been no change. At least not with my mother."

Filled with sudden determination, Rayna bent forward to kiss Arcadia's cheek, then stood to her full height, straightening her shoulders; having a sudden purpose. "Stay with her, Athena. If she awakens, tell her I was here and that I'll be back, along with a cure. I won't stop until one is found."

Before the Queen could respond in any way, the warrior was gone, marching swiftly from the bedchamber.


* * * * *

Rayna marched into the hospice, looking a lot calmer than she felt. She headed for the small office, knowing that was where the shaman kept her healing books. The warrior was sure that somewhere in one of the many books there was a cure, a remedy that was being overlooked by an overworked, weary, Summer.

Spotting a determined Rayna striding towards the back of the hospice, Summer left Vivianus Rolf's side and hurried after the warrior. "Rayna, can I help you with something?"

"No." Rayna shoved open the office door and walked in, stopping in the middle of the room to look around for what she wanted.

Summer stood in the doorway, more than a little afraid of the warrior. She watched horrified as Rayna started pulling old, delicate, texts off the shelves. "Rayna!" She stepped into the room, moving towards the dark-haired woman, her fear forgotten. "Please be careful with those!" she pleaded, as Rayna moved to the desk. "Some of them date back to the first settlers!"

Rayna opened the first book and started turning page after page, scanning each, searching for hope. She flicked past scribbled notes and fading pictures, turning the pages faster and faster, determined to find the answer, sure it must be written down in one of the books. The first book was merely a few pages bound together and was quickly discarded, replaced by the next in her pile.

Desperate to stop Rayna's rough treatment of the beloved books, Summer boldly grabbed one of Rayna's arms and tugged at her, trying to get her away from the desk. "Rayna, stop! Please! Just tell me what it is you're looking for!"

"The cure!" Rayna snapped. "It must be in here, you must be overlooking it!"

"No. Rayna, no. We are doing all we can, I assure you."

Rayna kept turning pages, eyes darting back and forth over diagrams of plants and herbs and notes. "My wife is sick!" she growled. "She has this...disease, and I refuse to just sit back and watch her die!" She looked up, glaring at Summer. "Do you hear me? I won't let this take her from me!"

Summer's gaze softened. "I understand. Truly I do. The shaman is sick, Rayna. She is the only family I have on this island and I could lose her if a cure isn't found. I want a cure just as badly as you do. But coming into our office and throwing around our books isn't helping."

Swiping aside the book she had been looking through, Rayna grabbed another. "I have to do it, you obviously haven't the time."

"I have looked!" Summer exclaimed in sudden anger. "I have looked and looked, just as you are now. If there was a solution, I would have found it." She reached out for the thick book Rayna was flicking through. "That's not even the right book, Rayna."

Rayna slapped at the hands distractedly as a diagram caught her attention. "What is that?" She pointed down at the faded picture. "I know this plant."

Summer paused in her attempt to get the book and looked down. "Yes, I know it too. But alas, it doesn't grow here."

Frowning, Rayna looked up at the redhead. "I've seen it here."

Summer sighed and put her hands on her hips, a look of disbelief on her face. "You have seen the armoracia rusticana plant on this island?" she asked sceptically. "That plant that is not native to the island!"

"Yes, I have seen this plant," Rayna insisted. "Over in the uninhabited part of the island. Near where the hidden stone building houses the urns and etched plaques of fallen warriors."

"You have seen this plant?" Summer repeated in disbelief, unable to digest what Rayna was saying, unable to believe it could be true.

Rayna nodded. "Yes, I am sure. How much would you need? I'll get some." She moved around the desk, ready to leave right away.

Summer reached out and grabbed the warrior's arm. "Rayna, wait! 'Tis forbidden to go over there unless 'tis a mourning day."

"I don't care if 'tis forbidden! Summer, this could be the cure. Read the note next to the plant." She moved back to the desk and pointed down at the fading penmanship. "Proved successful in treating bladder complaints and lower body problems," Rayna read. "The mustard oils can be used to treat lung infections." She looked up into Summer's eyes. "That's what the women have, don't they? Lung problems?"

Summer slowly nodded. "I...I believe that is what's causing the blood."

"Then I have to go," Rayna said defiantly. "Even if Athena sees fit to punish me, I have to go. You see that, don't you?"

Slowly nodding again, Summer smiled at the determination she saw. "I understand. Bring back as much as you can carry and I will do what is needed, then start giving it to the women."

With a firm nod, Rayna headed for the door.

"Good luck, warrior."


* * * * *

Bedilia hurried towards her front door, wondering who would be pounding so furiously on the wood at such a late hour. Swinging the door open, she blinked in surprise as Rayna pushed past her into the house. "Rayna! Is all well? Arcadia? Your girls?"

"I think I've found the cure!"

"I know I left you earlier, but you must under-...you...what?"

"Bedilia? Is everything all right?" Gayle called from the bedroom, having hung back in case it was trouble.

"Yes, love. 'Tis just Rayna."

Gayle walked out of the bedroom and headed for her wife's side, listening to Rayna's rampant explanation of what had gone on that evening. Her eyes widened when the warrior told them of going to the hospice and tearing through the books.

"You think you've found the cure?" Bedilia said, stunned. "Why you? Why not one of the students or the shaman? Why did it take you?"

"It was in a journal about plants and herbs that can help ailments but which aren't on this island," Rayna said excitedly. "Only it is! It is here Bedilia, I have seen it with my own eyes!"

Filled with sudden hope and joy, Bedilia hugged her friend, the pair dancing around and cheering in glee. "We have to go and find it," Bedilia said. "Why didn't the medical students go?"

"Well...'tis over in the uninhabited part of the island," Rayna admitted. "I know, before you say anything, I know 'tis forbidden to go over there. But if this is the cure, I'm going. Arcadia is sick and if there is a chance this will make her better, I will gladly take any punishment the Queen gives me."

Bedilia nodded. "Me, too. My mother is sick, friends and neighbours are sick. I'm with you."

Knowing she wouldn't be able to talk her wife out of going, Gayle hugged Bedilia and kissed her firmly on the lips. "Be safe, love." She looked at Rayna and smiled. "And you, Rayna."


* * * * *

"Why do we have to get Keera?" Bedilia asked, matching Rayna's stride. "Is it not bad enough we're going to get into trouble?"

"She is bored of the life she has, she wants a little excitement," Rayna replied, grinning. "We're going to give it to her." They stopped at their friend's door and knocked, patiently waiting despite their bubbling excitement at what could be.

Keera opened the door and blinked as she found her two best friends on the doorstep. "Bedilia, Rayna! What brings you here? Going on another drinking trip?"

"Remember you told me you're unsatisfied with the life you have?" Rayna asked. "How about breaking some rules with us?"


* * * * *

The trip was a long one, the uninhabited land being over on the far side of the island, far away from where the homes and work buildings were. Despite their haste, they had to move slowly along the overgrown trails, unsure of their footing and what they might encounter. Bedilia earned a cut just above her left eyebrow from a branch that caught her, Keera tripped over a tree root and limped on with a sprained ankle, and Rayna was covered in small, irritating cuts from plants and branches, taking the brunt as she led the way.

"Whereabouts did you see the plant, Rayna?" Keera asked, looking around. "And how are we going to see it with just a lantern?"

"It's big," Rayna said. "Comes up to your shoulders at least, and has a thick, white, tapered root."

"And that's what we want?" Bedilia asked. "The root?"

"No, the book said something about the mustard oils," Rayna said. "But we don't have to worry about that. Summer's going to do what needs to be done. We should just take the whole plant." She led her friends towards the building that was home to fallen warriors, knowing that it must have been around there that she had seen the armoracia rusticana plant, or at the very least, something similar to it.

"Your mothers told you about Arcadia, I take it?" Bedilia said, following behind Rayna.

"They did."

"Did you go to the palace?"

"I did. They wouldn't let me in."

"Why not? She is your wife, for the Gods' sake!"

"Orders were to let no one in or out. I snuck in though. I saw my girls and Arcadia." Rayna's jaw clench as she swallowed down her emotions.

"I'm sorry about Arcadia, Rayna," Keera said. "It seems we all have someone who is sick now, someone we are unwilling to lose."

"How is your sister?" Rayna asked, stopping to check a plant over.

"Sick. The light hurts her eyes and she has no appetite. The one good thing is she doesn't have a cough yet. You know things are bad when they get the cough."

They moved onwards, searching for the elusive plant, Bedilia and Keera laughing raucously as Rayna tripped and disappeared into the thick overgrowth, her curses filling the air. They talked easily, as old friends do, their troubles at the back of their thoughts as they enjoyed each others company. They walked back and forth, turned this way and that, unable to find the plant.

"Are you positive you saw it here, Rayna?" Keera asked, after at least a candle mark had passed. She sat down and looked around. "We've surely been all over and still haven't seen it."

"I'm sure. I come over here to pay my respects on the anniversary of our battle every year. I remember it from..." Rayna turned and looked up into the trees. "What a fool!" she exclaimed. "I came from the tree-tops, I must have seen it from up there." Hurrying over to the nearest tree, she scurried up the trunk until she was high above the overgrowth. "There," she pointed. She watched Bedilia and Keera head over to the right and directed them to where she could see the plant. Once they reached the armoracia rusticana, Rayna quickly climbed down out of the tree and hurried to join them.

"By the Gods, Rayna!" Keera exclaimed, looking up and down the tall plant. "The thing is huge! How are we going to carry it from here back to the hospice?"

"Not just one, as many as you can carry," Rayna told her. "All you have to do is keep remembering why we are carrying them, keep remembering all the women who are sick, all the women we might lose if we don't do this." She crouched down. "All right, help me dig it up. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can get going."


* * * * *

Rayna ran up to the palace gates and pounded frantically on the thick wood. "Open up! I must see the Queen!" She watched the panel slide back, Shylah looking out at her. "Shylah, open the gates, I must speak to the Queen."

"Rayna, I told you before..."

"A possible cure has been found," Rayna interrupted. "Now open the gate so I can pass on the news." The panel shut quickly and Rayna listened as the guards on the other side of the gates hurried to lift the barrier as Shylah barked out instructions. As one gate was pulled open, Rayna hurried in and raced for the palace. Not knowing where everyone was, the warrior opted to head for Dionis' office, knowing her mother-in-law was almost always in there. Luck was on her side, as she found not only Dionis, but Athena as well.

"Rayna!" Dionis exclaimed in surprise. "What are you doing here? How did you get in?"

"The guards let me in." Rayna put up a hand. "Before you race off to reprimand them, let me tell you that 'tis my fault they opened the gate. But it was for good reason."

"Let's hear it then," Dionis said unhappily. "And it better be good, warrior!"

"A possible cure has been found."

Athena jumped to her feet. "A cure? How? What is it?"

"I went to the hospice and went through the books they have. I stumbled across a plant that was said to help cure lung infections. Summer told me it didn't grow on the island. Only it does, I recognised it. So, along with some help, we went and got as much as we could carry. Summer is mixing up what she needs as we speak."

"You went to get it?" Athena asked. "I don't understand, why didn't the medical students go? Why was it thought not to grow on the island? All this time wasted, lives lost!"

"Where was it, Rayna?" Dionis asked calmly, having a feeling she knew. "Neither you nor your helpers are in trouble, especially if it turns out to be the cure."

"Over in the uninhabited part of the island."

"Where the fallen warriors rest," Dionis finished.

Rayna moved towards the office door. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know, before I went up to sit with Arcadia. Summer will be here as soon as she has the mustard oil." Before any more could be said, she left Dionis' office and ran for the staircase. She took the stairs two at a time, desperate to see her wife, to tell her all would be well, that there was a cure now. Reaching her bedchamber, she entered the dimly-lit room and saw that the fire had been stoked and the candles replaced with new ones. The room was humid, she supposed in an effort to try and burn Arcadia's fever from her. Walking quietly over to the bed, she sat down next to Arcadia, looking down lovingly at her wife.

Arcadia stirred, waking to find Rayna running gentle fingers through her hair. "Rayna," she murmured happily, lips curling into a smile as her eyes closed again. As green eyes slowly fluttered back open and focused on Rayna, the princess coming to her senses, her smile slipped as she realised her wife really was there. "Rayna? Oh, no, Rayna! You can't be here!" Lifting a hand, she shoved at the warrior's shoulder. "Go, please!"

"Where else would I be, my love?"

Tears flooded into Arcadia's eyes. "You have to go," she murmured, sadly. "Think of the girls, Rayna. If I die, they'll need you. They can't lose both of us. You have to..."

"No," Rayna interrupted. "Nothing is going to happen to you, Cadie. You'll fight this." She smiled. "I saw our girls. It took me a while to find them, mind."

"I wanted them isolated. I didn't want them getting sick, not if it could be prevented. I'm sorry I didn't send word to you. How are they?"

"Scared. They don't know what's going on. But I told them to listen to Biana and to be good. I heard of their squabble."

Arcadia started coughing and Rayna moved to get her a mug of water. "Thank you." Managing a couple of small sips, she handed the mug back to Rayna.

Rayna softly stroked Arcadia's hair. "You're going to be okay, sweetheart."

"You don't have to...lie to me, Rayna."

"I'm not love. I...I went to the uninhabited part of the island, where the fallen warriors are at rest."

Dull green eyes widened. "But...'tis forbidden, unless..."

"I don't care, I didn't care, that's not important now. I went to the hospice and caused mayhem, pulling books from shelves and being none too gentle with them. I found a picture and remembered seeing the plant over in the burial land, so I went," Rayna smiled. "I don't care if I have invoked the rage of the Gods, as long as this plant works and you get better. Summer is making up a cure now, sweetheart, and soon you will be back to your best and running around after our girls again."

Arcadia reached up to caress Rayna's cheek, tears slipping from her swollen, red eyes. "I...love you...Rayna Banks. I always...loved you."

"And I love you." Rayna watched the blonde's eyes flutter shut. "No. No, Cadie. Stay awake, love. Keep talking to me."

Arcadia's eyes fluttered open. "Ray...na," she sobbed. "Tired. So...tired."

"Stay with me, sweetheart. Don't leave me. Please, stay with me, Cadie." Rayna took Arcadia's hands in her own. "You have to mother at least one more child for me, love, remember? You said you were going to give me a large family. You wanted another just a few moons ago."

Arcadia smiled, even as more tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. "You...want another...baby?"

"I do. Don't you, Cadie? Don't you want more children with me? Don't you want a big family with me?"

Arcadia sniffed and managed a nod. "I want another baby...with you, love. I want...to be with you forever." Her lips curled into a loving smile, even as her eyes slowly closed. "I'll...love you forever."

"Cadie? Sweetheart, wake up," Rayna pleaded. "Come on, love, open those pretty green eyes for me. Arcadia?" She looked over to the bedchamber door in a panic. "Help!" she cried out frantically. "Someone...help!" The door burst open, permitting Dionis. "Call for Summer," Rayna ordered. "Now!"




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