Into the Fire
The argument between Aric and his mother raged until he realized Liberty was no longer near.
Looking around the room, he saw that she was not even there anymore.
"Mother," he said, holding up his hand to stop her from giving yet another bitter retort, "I am going to marry her no matter what you say. I love her!"
"Love is not enough," Leanor replied hotly.
"Love is enough," a voice said behind them.
Turning, Aric saw Liberty standing in the doorway, her head held high.
"Januarius himself told me that our love was special," she continued, moving to stand next to Aric, her hand intertwining with his. "If he believes in us, why can't you?"
"I know you think you...." Leanor paused, looking at Liberty with suspicion. "Did you say Januarius spoke to you?"
"While I was being turned," Liberty replied, nodding her head. "King Januarius spoke to me in the void. He told me that the love between Aric and I was so strong he could feel it in the spirit world.
"He gave us his blessings," she said, looking up into Aric's eyes, "but even without, I would still give Aric all the love, support and encouragement I can to make him the best leader I know he can be."
Aric returned her gaze, tears brimming in his eyes. Never in his life had he had anyone stand up for and with him.
Pulling her close he kissed Liberty deeply, relishing in how eagerly she responded to his lips.
Finally separating, he looked back at his mother.
"Liberty will be my wife," Aric said firmly, "she will be my Lady and together we will fix the many mistake my father made.
"I would be grateful to you if you would also stand by my side and give me advice," he continued, looking at her earnestly. "Your knowledge and years of experience would be helpful and probably save me many, many sleepless nights, but if you can't do that, and support my wife, then we will do it without you."
"Aric," his mother breathed, feeling like she was seeing her son for the first time. "You love her that much?"
"I do," he affirmed, pulling Liberty closer.
Seeing the way that Liberty looked up at her son with so much love and adoration, she felt tears form in her eyes.
She'd never believed that kind of love actually existed in the world, but here it was, right in front of her.
Aric had started a war to be with this woman, and Liberty had lived through hell to be back in his embrace.
Maybe she was being too critical of the pair. So what if Liberty had once been a lowly pet, she could be taught the things she'd need to know to rule.
And, as a former human, she could be instrumental in healing some of the wounds created by her husband.
Squaring her shoulders, she stepped towards the pair and opened her arms to them.
"I am so proud of you," she told her son.
"And, you," she added, looking at Liberty, "I would be proud to call you my daughter."