Avalon has taught her loneliness. She is cold without their light. Her noopathy is useless, a carcass she cannot unhinge herself from. A void that offers only the echo of her own grief. She has known loss. That is not a lesson Avalon need bestow on her. Born in the darkness, in the graveyard of dead ships, surrounded by the ghosts of their former lives, it had been a long and arduous road to stability. From hiding and scavenging to simply being. To giving them everything they deserved: life, luxury, love. Cut deep by any candle of Awoken life that sputtered out, all those hundreds of names she can still feel written on her, the lettering long cold. Cut deeper when it was her decisions that lost them.
Cut open when Avalon extinguished every single one.
When a star blinks awake, it steals her breath. A sudden, unmeasurable pleasure poisoned with fear. For all the acumen in her marrow, she bottles the emotions, steels herself. A petulant refusal to accept it as a truth. Not even when they tell her she has a visitor. Not even when hope chokes her. Mara does not express many things physically. Fear, ambition, hesitance. She opens the door as she comes to it as if the guest was expected, braces herself against flinching when she closes it. When he speaks she can feel his name burn in her marrow, a proof that this is not a trick. That he is real. Here with her. That she is not alone.
Avalon, too, has taught her selfishness.
She recoils at her greed and understands her desire for this to be a lie: he shouldn't be here. She would not subject him, any of them, to this. Her happiness hardens, curdles at the knowledge that he too is trapped. That The Reef is without him. Here, she is not a queen. Here, she is inconsequential. She can no longer protect all of their people trapped in an endless cycle of war. Here, he can no longer monitor it to keep them ahead. The Awoken are weaker for his absence. “What,” the first word cuts, a knife, anger winning this battle, “are you doi – ” Her voice catches as she rounds the chair and sees him.
Mara does not cut herself off. Her words are measured, calculated, decisive. She does not speak as Uldren does: uninhibited. She does not speak when she does not feel the need to, when there is nothing that needs to be said. No rhetoricals, no unnecessary questions, no fluff simply to fill a quota. But she stops all the same at the sight of him.
Pressure thickens the room when the blank shock on her face hardens. The starlight in her eyes flares, but she has no power to call on here. Nothing but the little star that is Uldren's presence. The singular Awoken connected to her now, a warmth amongst the cold that plagues her in Avalon. Her inhale is audible when she remembers to do it. She burns with it, fighting agony the same way she fought her selfish joy, the same way she has always fought it: with anger.
Speech comes hard, quiet. Shaking with her fury. Other things she has never named. “Who did this?”
Uldren Sov i rewrote this actually 100 times because The Boy deserved it