The Betrayal of Itemiel

Moonslight glinted off the copper-laid ribcage of the great drake that encased the city and all was peaceful. Eius, Viridi, and Ancora, knew no such luxury. In the dead of night the wives of Itemiel met in the baths while their children slept soundly.

They sat up into the small hours conferring. Ancora was pregnant with Itemiel’s twelfth son (his third by her). She knew in her heart that this son would be the one to kill their husband. A vision had come to her of her son, a bleeding star on the horizon of her mind’s eye, riding the skies from the southwest and driving a blade into Itemiel’s belly. 

Her son would grow tall and dark as his father and wear his palms painted in gold. Across his brow would hang the moons Itemiel had named for his very wives– a crown prince. The twelfth and final son given to the god who could not keep the sea would play the assassin.

They were wives to each other as easily as they were wives of the great god-king from beyond the seas, the first son of the Isles, and Viridi and Eius kept Ancora’s secret as their own. For as Viridi and Eius listened they heard in Ancora’s words every day that had passed under Itemiel’s reign over the twelve tribes. The crack and thunder of war drums across the dunes and the howls of ravenous zuayón mingling with those of their riders as they leapt over city walls to end a siege– any siege, every siege. She spoke her prophesy in frightened whispers.

(What if her boy, her bleeding star, Adon’eil’sutul gre Ancora, was discovered too soon and cast forth from her womb? Killed in his cradle? Found poison in his dinner cup?)

She spoke and her sisters, her wives, heard the snakes that poisoned aqueducts in their fair cities with envenomed skin never before seen in Mushav’een that rotted the throats of all who drank from the inside out.

Ancora, the youngest and most-worshipful of Itemiel’s wives, could scarcely breathe for her fear. “What if he knows,” she whispered, “What if he knows? What will he do to us?”

When Viridi’s brood, a miraculous set of triplets, woke, and they all paused and recalled with chills the screams of Eius’ first sons. The youngest had still been a babe at the breast when he was slain.

Itemiel had suffered no heirs that were not his issue.

The baths were still in the aftermath of Ancora’s confession.

The wives of Itemiel– sisters to no one but each other and the mothers of princes– sought peace whether or not they lived to see it.

While their husband slept, hidden from the three moons that bore their names and all prying eyes, they made a compact holier than the blood spilt in birth: by the laws of long-dead Beresut their sons would serve Adon’eil’sutul. With the strength the twelve princes could raise, the Bleeding Star would conquer Itemiel and bring peace and unity to Nihira once again.

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