The Witching War (girlxgirl)

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Chapter 13: Lesath

Aida can’t say that she didn’t see this coming. Well, Elsie sleeping with Juniper was a bit of a surprise to her, but mostly because she never thought either of them had the guts. In truth, Aida is annoyed more than anything by this drunken confession. All she wants is to return to her chambers and catch up on much-needed sleep. She know she has to help Elsie though, if only to cover her own ass. The last thing Aida needs is more scandalous rumors about herself spreading through the castle like wildfire, especially with so many notable people here in Meliora.

Aida drags the giggling girl back to her bed chambers. She had planned on dropping her off in bed and leaving, but Elsie begged her to stay. Aida is notoriously bad at saying no to pretty girls. Several exhausting minutes later, Aida sits next to the tub staring at the floor as the blonde playfully splashes water over her own breasts. “C’mon, Aida. I’ve never known you to shy away from an opportunity to admire the female form... especially when it’s bare and wet,” Elsie teases and shifts in the tub, giving Aida an eyeful when she finally looks up. Gods, grant me the strength. “This is different, Elsie. You’re my best friend and you’re clearly not in your right mind,” Aida replies. Elsie pouts and draws circles on Aida’s inner thigh with a wet finger, “You’re not attracted to me, Aids? Is that it?” Aida clamps her eyes shut and bounces her leg erratically, “P-please, don’t do that, Elsie. I can’t. You need to sober up, okay? Then we’ll talk,” she manages to choke out. Aida rubs the back of her hands over her eyes; her mind is fuzzy from lack of sleep, “Come on, let’s get you out of here.” Aida lifts Elsie from the tub and helps her step out, ignoring the soft kisses being placed up her neck to her jawbone. She grabs a towel and dries the non-compliant woman as best she can before leading her to the bed. Aida pulls a loose silk gown over Elsie’s head and helps her to lie down.

“Are you mad at me?” Elsie whispers. It’s childish and innocent in nature, a stark contrast to the mood only moments ago. Aida looks up from her seat across the room, virtually as far away from the seductress as possible, “No, Els. I’m not mad at you. We should talk, though, about the things you said before.” Elsie sighs and rolls over to the edge of the bed to look at Aida, “Won’t you come any closer? Promise I’ll behave,” she giggles. Aida stands, hands trembling, and crosses the room to sit at the end of the bed. She can feel Elsie’s big brown eyes burning a hole in the side of her head which only makes her more nervous. Aida isn’t the type to be nervous around beautiful women, but it’s different with Elsie. There’s much to gain and even more to lose. Of course, she’s a mess around Samara. That’s different too. And sometimes she’s on edge around Zelina. Well, maybe Aida is the type to be nervous around beautiful women... at least those three.

Elsie scooches closer until her arm is pressed against Aida’s thigh. Aida gulps and places her palms flat against her thighs to brace herself, “You slept with my sister. When? How many times?” Elsie turns her eyes away from Aida in her first and only display of guilt, “Once. Last night... or early this morning. We were drinking a lot. Zelina was there; she wanted to loosen us up. Things have been hard around here after everything that’s happened. Without you. Juni started crying, confessing her feelings to me and then she kissed me and we just- I regret it, Aida.” Aida closes her eyes; she doesn’t want to think about her sister and her best friend. She doesn’t want to think how she had only just noticed Elsie in a new way and now it’s tainted with thoughts of her sister. Her sister’s feelings.

“And the other thing?” Aida whispers, her voice hoarse and quivering. Elsie sits up beside her and guides Aida’s face towards hers with a gentle hand, “I meant it. I’m in love with you, at least, I think I am. I’ve known for a while... I was just scared. You’ve got all of these other women that you toy around with. I don’t want to have that sort of relationship with you, and I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” Aida’s eyelids flutter open, she looks into the familiar eyes of her best friend. The sincerity makes her uncomfortable; Aida isn’t sure what any of this means or what she feels anymore. Elsie takes the opportunity to kiss Aida, a lingering kiss that says more than words ever could. Aida is too tired and too confused to consider what this means, so she does what she knows best and kisses her back. She pulls away ever so slightly, their lips reluctant to part, “I’m sleepy, Els. I need to sleep, there’s so much to do- so much...” Elsie nods and helps Aida to undress. She tucks Aida under the covers before climbing in beside her. Aida is asleep the moment she’s settled, but Elsie only stares and strokes her face softly as to not wake her, “Oh, Aida. Everything is changing.”

***

It’s late afternoon when Aida stirs again. The winter sun has already set below the snowcapped mountains leaving Elsie’s room in darkness. A sting of ghost pain spreads through her back where she was stabbed. She reaches instinctively to feel her wound, but her fingers find only smooth, albeit sensitive, skin. “Elsie?” she whispers into the dark and searches the bed for her best friend. She calls out for Elsie again, louder this time, but her voice bounces off the walls of the empty chambers. She slides out from beneath the blankets and pulls her old gown over her head. Aida pulls open the door as quietly as possible and slinks down the hall hoping she won’t run into anyone on her way back to her own room.

The corridor leading to her bed chambers is empty, thankfully, but she can’t shake the ever-present feeling that something isn’t right... that someone is watching her. She stops mid-stride as she notices every window in her corridor is wide open, against protocol for this time of night unguarded and post-attack. This is really becoming too strange to be coincidence, she thinks. Aida waits for a moment, listening for the sounds of her guards. Nothing. She peers out of one window and shivers against the frigid air. Seeing nothing, she proceeds to close all of the windows. It’s strange, of course, for her guards to be missing in a time like this, but she reasons they likely gathered elsewhere when she went missing for so many hours.

Not long after she enters her bed chambers does she hear a knock on her door. A hoard of handmaidens and seamstresses file into her room in a flurry of excitement with gowns in tow. Aida doesn’t have to ask what they’re doing there. A day from now, she’ll be doing this all over again preparing for the actual ceremony, but first she’s going to need to choose a proper gown. She lets them tug her clothes off and lead her to a bath. She sits perfectly still as they comb her hair and pay her compliments that she’s grown tired of hearing. Not once does she make a sound when she’s accidentally pricked by a pin as the seamstresses take in the gowns she’s meant to choose from. It’s almost certain by now that the women in the room are confused by Aida’s behavior. It’s unlike her to be so docile, so quiet.

“Are you alright, Princess Zoraida? Forgive me, but you aren’t acting like yourself,” one of her handmaidens, Trinity, asks. A complicated question, Aida thinks. She lifts her eyes to meet Trinity’s curiously concerned gaze and watches as the girl turns red and fidgets. She’s pretty. Uncomplicated. Overall, a sweet girl. Not a bad way to release some of my pent-up frustration. “I’d argue that I haven’t been acting like myself for a while. Tell me, who do you think I am?” Aida asks the handmaiden. She’s toying with her, but not maliciously. “I would never presume to know you, Princess. But from what I’ve heard, you can be very... generous,” the woman responds lowly, so the other women won’t hear. Perfect, she thinks. This is exactly what Aida needs to feel in control again. She smiles her most charming smile in response, the one she saves specifically for getting both into and out of trouble, “You heard correctly, I do love to give.”

“L-lady Zelina,” Trinity stutters and takes a step away from Aida. Aida turns her head to the side and catches a glimpse of Zelina standing in the doorway looking rather amused, “Don’t let her fool you. Zoraida likes to give, sure, but she’s much more accustomed to receiving,” Zelina teases. Aida cheeks flush pink, she rolls her eyes and waves the handmaiden away. “What do you want, Zelina?” Aida asks in a huff. She’s annoyed at her for interrupting what could have been an interesting night, but she’s got high hopes that the Lady Zelina is willing to make up for it. “An awfully nasty tone for such a beautiful girl. Aren’t you happy to see me?” Zelina pouts as she approaches Aida, completely ignoring the presence of the handmaidens and seamstresses. Once the seamstress finishes altering the last of the gown choices, Aida sends them away with a promise to make a gown choice overnight. “Depends, Lina. Why are you in my room?” she asks. Aida shivers as Zelina helps her out of the gown she’s in. Zelina kisses Aida’s shoulder from behind, “I’ve missed you. You smell... delicious.”

“Wait,” Aida turns around to face Zelina, “As tempting as this is, I’m actually starving and... I should probably speak with my sister. We have a lot to talk about, I think.” Zelina eyes Aida carefully with heavily furrowed brows, “You still haven’t gone to see her? I assumed that’s where you’ve been all day.” Aida shakes her head and gnaws on her lower lip. Zelina pulls Aida’s lip from between her teeth with her thumb and leans in to plant a chaste kiss on the corner of her mouth, “I’ll escort you to dinner. A lady should never arrive alone, much less a princess.”

Aida and Zelina sit across from each other in one of the private royal dining rooms. If it were up to Zelina, they’d be sitting on top of each other, but Aida nixed that idea immediately. Though, any other night she might have considered or even accepted. Aida absentmindedly swirls a spoon in her tea and pretends she doesn’t notice Zelina’s foot creeping up the hem of her dress, “You never asked,” she says suddenly. Aida sticks the teaspoon in her mouth and sits in a contemplative silence while Zelina mulls over her statement. “What didn’t I ask?” Zelina responds. Aida sighs and shifts in her seat, “About the incident with Juni, or the snowbank, or the attack in the woods, which I know you already know about. You haven’t asked me about any of it. Why?” Zelina laughs a little too loudly for the quiet dining room, “Aida, sweetheart. You’ve got enough people to answer to already, you don’t need to explain yourself to me.” Aida laughs softly in return. This is one of the reasons she’s always appreciated Zelina’s company. “Well said. But... it really is getting late and it’s time for me to face my sister. I can’t put it off any longer.” Aida kisses Zelina goodbye and leaves to find Juni and make a long overdue apology.

If only I had more answers as to why all of this is happening in the first place.

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