Esparei had delayed unpacking for as long as possible. But she’d finally caved and put everything away carefully, every gown, every robe, all of her furs, her books, things that reminded her of Capacionne. She unpacked the portrait last- her family, in a dreamy pastoral scene, a smaller copy of the painting in their home in Beauclair. A tree laden with blossoms on an island that had never known a storm. Whole and perfectly preserved for all time. She couldn’t look at it for long. It hurt too much. It just made her think of…that night four years ago. There had been so much blood. And fire. And- no. Don’t dwell on it. She already couldn’t shake the image of Victor collapsing, bloody and shocked. She’d thrown up after, begging Rollo to help her out of her masquerade gown, nearly in tears as he helped her change into something easier to move in, so she could go help that reckless Njord.
She looked at the red flowers on her desk, next to a little wooden figure painted crimson. Such sweet gestures, from a person who was so loud, so, so chaotic- the gentle nature of his gifts was jarring, almost. When he’d been stabbed in the tavern, when Victor had gone after him, she’d shielded his body with hers, unthinking. That’s what you do when you protect someone, right? Not just with words and titles. Not hiding away waiting for her grandfather to call her home.
A tree laden with blossoms on an island that had never known a storm. Until the storm came. And now…being able to speak openly about the coup with Saga had felt like a cork had been pulled from her soul and everything poured out in that moment. They knew. They’d heard terrible things. They listened when she said how important it was to serve the people you are responsible for. They told her the plight of the Njords, of the suffering and the harsh, unyielding land they fought so hard to preserve. And it made her heart ache. She wanted to talk to Vernon more too, she’d felt so guilty for ruining her atonement. She wanted to tell Svanhildr everything. She wanted to hug Ragnar- he gave such good hugs, like nothing could happen and she was safe, if only for a moment. That comfort meant a lot when she was painfully homesick and lonely.
A tree, stripped bare by the storm. But still living.
A Lady, alone.