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
The day was bright, too bright for such an occasion. The sun had risen as it usually did; the sky was blue, not a cloud in sight. The women of Belleza had woken and got up reluctantly, not one of them wanting to make the journey they had to that day, their hearts heavy as they thought of the life that had been lost.
Not wanting to, but knowing she had to, Rayna had got up, reluctantly leaving her bed, dressing in sombre clothes before leaving her room to go to her daughters. She had to wake them, had to dress them for the day, had to make sure they ate something before they began their journey from the palace to where the funeral pyre was. Carrying Lynnea in one arm, Rayna held Raleigh's hand, while Ava shuffled along beside them. None of them were their usual selves, even the atmosphere in the palace was mournful, the staff just as sad as the Royal family.
Downstairs in the dining room, breakfast was an unusually quiet affair. Little was eaten. Everyone sitting silently with their own thoughts. Athena sniffled every now and then and lifted a hand to wipe her tears.
Finally giving up on the pretence of eating, Athena stood up, pausing as all eyes turned her way. "I must...get ready. We have to...we should...leave...soon." She looked to her wife, knowing the dark-haired woman was hurting as much as she was. Reaching out a hand, she squeezed Dionis' shoulder. "You should probably wear your armour, love." Watery green eyes flicked to Rayna. "You, too, Rayna. 'Tis a...Royal funeral after all." Seeing small nods from both women, the Queen shuffled from the room nursing her broken heart.
"Raleigh, try to eat something, love," Rayna said softly. "We're going to be standing outside and 'tis hot. I don't want you fainting."
"Not hungry, mama."
"I know, me neither, but just have a little something." Rayna looked to Dionis, watching the older woman staring at her plate. "Can I leave the girls with you while I go and get into my armour, Dionis?" She waited for a response. "Dionis? Did you hear me?"
Dionis looked up and blinked. "Sorry?"
"Can I leave the girls with you while I go and get changed?"
Dionis nodded. "Yes, of course." She took Lynnea from Rayna, humming softly to the little girl as she started fussing.
Raleigh stood from her chair and ran around the table to grasp Rayna's hand. "I want to come."
"I'm just going to get into my armour, sweetheart. Stay with grandma. I'll be back in a moment."
"But I want to come with you," Raleigh whispered.
Rayna smiled and caressed her daughter's cheek with her free hand. "You, my little one, have a habit of finding trouble. I fear if you come with me, we shall find ourselves in some adventure we don't have time for today." She crouched down to Raleigh's height. "Will you stay here and look after grandma? She needs a cuddle I believe."
Raleigh nodded reluctantly. "You will come back, won't you?"
"Yes, love. I'll be right back." She watched as Raleigh walked to Dionis and hugged the older woman, then stood up and left to go and get changed.
* * * * *
Holding Lynnea in her arms, Dionis arranged the warriors who were to lead the procession into some order. No one was quite sure what the protocol for a Royal funeral was as it had been a long time since a Royal death. Dionis had had to delve into old diaries to find out about Queen Abrona's funeral. Behind the warriors would be four palace guards carrying the body, followed by the family. The procession ended with the personal guards, who despite the occasion, were working.
Striding out into the courtyard, Rayna looked up at the clear sky and silently cursed the good weather. It was too nice a day for a funeral. Turning her attention back to the courtyard, she smiled at Lorenza, who held Raleigh in her arms, and made her way over to the guard. "Good morn, Lorenza."
"Good morn, Your Highness," the redhead greeted. "You look as uncomfortable as I feel," she lightly joked, prodding the warrior's chest armour.
Rayna smiled sadly. "Yes. I rarely wear this. The last time was when...when I got married." She cleared her throat as a lump formed, noticing Lorenza shifting uncomfortably. "What...what are we waiting for?"
"The Queen. Dionis is arranging the warriors who are to lead the...the procession. You and the family will follow behind the palace guards."
"The guards go ahead of us?" Rayna asked frowning, not knowing the order of things herself.
"The uhm...the four guards chosen to...to carry the...body."
Rayna swallowed hard and merely nodded, unable to speak as her heart jumped up into her throat. "I...I must find my daughters," she said softly, reaching out to take Raleigh from the guard.
"I believe Dionis has Princess Lynnea, and Ava was with Karita."
Thanking Lorenza, Rayna left to go in search of the head guard, not wanting to disturb Dionis while she was getting everyone ready to leave the palace. She found Ava standing between Karita and Keera, her little girl watching what was going on with watery blue eyes. Nodding a greeting to the two guards, Rayna said nothing as she offered Ava her hand. "Come on, Ava, we shall be leaving soon. Let's leave Karita and Keera to their duties."
"What is grandma Dino doing?" she asked, taking Rayna's hand and following behind the warrior.
"She's getting everyone ready to leave the palace, love."
"Can Elektra come, mama?" Raleigh asked softly. "She wants to say goodbye too."
Thinking it might help the girls if they had the puppies to concentrate on, Rayna nodded. "All right, but you'll have to put them on a bit of rope. We don't want them running amok during the service." She set Raleigh down on her feet and watched Ava take her hand, her elder daughter leading her younger sibling towards the palace to get their beloved pets.
With everyone finally organised, Dionis stood beside Athena and took her arm. "I'm right here with you, love," she murmured softly, smiling as red-rimmed eyes turned her way. "And so is the whole island." With a nod of Dionis' head, the tall wooden gates were opened and the day got underway.
Women and children lined the path that led from the palace, all there to pay their last respects to a much loved woman. The warriors led the way on this day, all wearing their parade armour, usually worn when they got married or were to meet a member of the Royal family. Four guards, who had been selected by the Queen herself, followed behind the warriors, carrying the uncovered body on a cot, they were followed by the Royal family. At the back were the personal guards for each family member and the rest of the palace guards.
The women of Belleza all stood in sombre silence as the procession slowly walked the path, many bowing their heads in respect, many a tear being shed.
Rayna smiled sadly at her family as she walked slowly past, Nyx kissing her fingertips and pointing to the warrior. She saw Leslie in tears, the redhead standing with her daughters, and Bedilia and Gayle embracing, both nodding in Rayna's direction. Rayna found herself swallowing hard a number of times in an effort to stifle the rising emotions within her.
* * * * *
The ceremony itself was short, Johanna, head of the religious community, spoke briefly, acknowledging not only the Royal death, but the other losses as well. She talked of rebuilding and women bonding and growing stronger. As stories and memories were shared, Rayna held her daughters a little tighter, noticing Dionis holding Athena tightly, both women in tears. Then there was singing, everyone at the service joining in proudly. The service finished with everyone being handed a mug filled with a small drop of wine, a toast being made.
Rayna watched as the pyres were lit, her chest tightening painfully. Swallowing hard as she fought tears, the warrior crouched and embraced her crying daughters, speaking softly to them in an effort to comfort them. Death was hard, losing someone you loved was hard to understand and live with, but it was a part of life.
* * * * *
Back at the palace the Royal family gathered in the living room, Athena sitting with her sister Rosana on one of the couches, Cherie sitting between her mother Endora and Dionis. Unable to stand the stilted atmosphere, Rayna excused herself and hustled her daughters out of the room and led them upstairs, just wanting to be alone with her family.
In her bedchamber, Ava and Raleigh ran over to the bed and climbed up onto it, while Rayna closed the door. Walking over to the bed, she sat down and smiled. "Every time I see your beautiful eyes open, I am thankful," she said softly, bending to kiss Arcadia's lips.
"And every time I see you my heart fills with love all over again," the princess replied. "Hand me the baby," she said, as she sat up and got herself comfortable.
Rayna handed her wife Lynnea, then started to take off her boots, wanting to get herself comfortable on the bed. "It was a lovely service, love. Aaronia would have been pleased to know she was so very loved by the women of Belleza."
"I've never known a Royal funeral," Arcadia said sadly. "The last was so long ago, before we were even born." She snuggled against Rayna's side, her head resting on a strong shoulder. "What happened? Was it very different to a normal funeral?"
"Not really, no. Though, when we left the palace the path was lined with the women, there to show their respect. The warriors led the way, followed by the guards carrying Aaronia, then the family, followed by the guards. Behind them, the women who lined the path fell into step and followed us. The girls behaved, I was very proud of them."
Arcadia looked to her daughters, smiling as she found them all asleep. "It seems such an early start has worn them out," she whispered.
"It might have been the sun, 'twas very hot out," Rayna murmured. She sighed. "There is so much to do."
"Can it not wait?" Arcadia asked softly. "I'm still recovering and would very much like my consort to be by my side."
Eyes closed, her head resting against the top of Arcadia's, Rayna smiled. "I'm sure I could be persuaded."
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