She curled her fingers into the red silk, clinging to hold her husband close just a moment longer. Val knew he had to go - the city...their friends would need every chance they could get against the cult that was threatening to tear Rhy?Din apart at the seams. But she couldn?t let him head into battle without one last kiss. Lips pressed fiercely together, it was more than a kiss for luck, it was a kiss to remind him there was something outside the Void.
Pulling back, she locked eyes with Rand,and did what women of her line had done for generations. ?Go, my love. Go, so you may return to me all the sooner.? And with one last kiss, she let him go, duty calling. It was only when she was certain he was away, the last bright flicker of his gateway faded, that she pressed a single hand to her belly, and closed her eyes, whispering into the empty air. ?Vous allez ?tre p?re...?
A single deep breath, and Val made her way down the stairs, pausing to check in the nursery set up in the second bedroom. Not for them, not yet - for now, it was empty, filled with bedding and toys for the children sheltering in the house against the rising chaos. The marble entryway held tables of food, and piles of personal items stacked against the walls. The very young and very old were settled in the library, the fireplace merrily burning - many of the adults had seen the writing on the wall, and sought refuge early. Smiling sweetly, Val checked in with each one, making sure they wanted for nothing, before crossing the marble floor once more to check on her kitchen. Or, as it would serve this evening, the infirmary.
Dr. Caiser looked up, salt and pepper hair slicked back as he washed his hands. ?Thank you again, Lady al-? A slight cough, and he reached for the towel ?Valentina. Hopefully we won?t need all of the bandages and poultices, but it is good to have them on hand?? She?d insisted on the familiarity, but he was getting on in years, and defaulted to the formality he was used to. Human himself, he did not sympathize with the Temple?s aims, and had agreed eagerly when they had approached him to assist.
?I hope so as well, Doctor, but it is better to be safe, no?? Some of the adults were in the library, those with any healing skill here in the kitchen. Val had sent back to Eisheth?s Temple for supplies, and her aunt had been happy to assist. Looking over the sterile space, usually filled with light and delicious smells, the floor set with cots for anyone who might need help, she sent a fervent prayer to all the Companions that the coming conflict would be over as swiftly as possible, and that their preparations would not be necessary. ?Mind the boxes of chocolates in the refrigerator, please - they?re very important.? Samples of her new flavors, one each for Chryrie and Kitty - chaos or not, Val took her family responsibilities seriously.
Hours passed, the converted warehouse warm and safe despite the sounds outside. She read stories to the children, kneeling among them on the library floor, only to rise and make sure everyone had enough to eat and drink. Keeping busy was the only way to keep herself from thinking about Rand, about Jewell, about the battle raging outside. Elua, keep them safe. Keep them all safe. Occasionally, someone would come to the door, seeking sanctuary. They were always let in, and more often than not, ushered into the kitchen for bruises and scrapes. Val kept half an eye on the ?windows? Rand had opened to let them see out without letting anyone, or anything in from the outside, even assuming they could make it through the wards that surrounded the property.
?Lady Valentina! There?s a child coming to the door!? Burgundy skirts swept the marble as Val headed in that direction - she thought they?d made certain all the children were safe, either with House of Summer, here, or at one of the other safe houses set up throughout the city. Caution forgotten, she opened the door, scanning the darkness for the sighted child. There! A little thing, iridescent scales along bare arms and legs catching the light from inside. Val took a few steps outside, catching the child up and turning back toward safety before she heard a vaguely familiar voice from just beyond the wards.
?Lady alTan. How kind of you to gather the monsters together for the slaughter. I was beginning to think you had forsaken the cause?? Samuel Ellis stepped just close enough for his blond hair to catch the light. What was once charm and poise in the meeting had become sneering poison in the midst of all he?d helped to create. Val could see fires here and there along the docks, hear the angry yells drowning out the soothing sounds of the ocean. Slowly, she set the child down, tucking it behind her as she backed toward light and safety.
?Mr. Ellis. I am so- No. Not sorry. I am rather pleased to inform you that you shall not pass. These people are sheltered here under our protection. They are not monsters. You are. You and your hateful little cult, your fear-mongering tirades. You have no place here, and you will fail as those who preach hate and fear always fail.? Such faith. Back straight, head held high, she could feel the others waiting, and silently urged the reptilian female into the house into safe arms. Jade green eyes flashed, her voice steady, calm - perhaps all those hours at the knee of the Lady of Maraskillios had not been for naught.
?I see. We never should have trusted you - I told Harold that. Now you will die with them. All of you.? Sneering in the hellish firelight that was drawing closer, Samuel pulled something from his pocket, and threw it directly at Val and the still open door behind her.
She had just enough time to turn, one foot across the threshold when the projectile hit the wards and burst. The world exploded with sound, and light, and something slammed into her from behind. Val half flew, half slid across the floor, landing like a discarded porcelain doll against the stairs. Through the fog, she could barely see someone closing the massive doors, but it all seemed so far away. Closing her eyes, she could finally hear the ocean?s roar, swallowing the buzz and ring of the night. She?d always loved the ocean...