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(( Related: Snapped. ))

Within the Westguard keep, amid the surroundings of stone, lit torches, and scent of burning oil, Arialynn Dawnfield stood at the war council table, a single document laid out before her. Its letterhead was the undeniable motif of a rose inked in precise dark shapes, stamped at the bottom was a waxen seal in similar likeness, at least as much as soft wax would allow. Written in fine script, it read simply:

I, Justicar Arialynn Dawnfield, lead of the Templars of the Rose, the sanctioned guardians and caretakers of Westguard Keep at the behest of the Alliance, order the cessation of martial law upon Westguard and its immediate borders.

Affixing her signature, the Justicar returned the quill to its ink pot and closed her eyes. Already the martial activities of the keep had shifted, the guards returning to former shifts, less fires burning as wood was kept for rebuilding and warmth and less for stoking watch fires that stared lidlessly into the night. Still, remnants of the martial law that clenched Westguard for months remained as scars; perhaps fading after time, but always marring the surface, darkly hinting at the burden beneath. Closing her eyes, Arialynn took in a deep breath, in her mind the full fury of the Templar war still waging, then slowly exhaled. Eyes opening, she took in the sight of the war room, seeing it for the first time in months as a summit to conduct the Rose in peacetime. However brief it may be.

Like for so many weeks, she stood partially armored, her thick fur-lined cloak obscuring most of her figure. She was a naturally thicker-set woman but nurture furthered that nature, a tribute to a lifestyle of armor and constant need for physically. A healer of the front lines, her life was to face the full brunt of danger while wielding the Light to bless those most daring around her. As Westguard took its first step towards normalcy, as its fatigued soldiers stole glances into the aurora night and beheld its eerie beauty without fear of ambush a breath’s width away, the Justicar allowed herself to breathe. Within the locked privacy of the war room, with a smile so rare to come to her stony face, she shed the winter cloak and breastplate, allowing the softer under armor to breathe underneath. Expertly fashioned into the breastplate was a supportive curve along its middle, the metal thinner and less heavy yet no less yielding. Freed of the weight, she let herself breathe, and revealed beneath the customized armor and obscuring cloak was the arc of an advanced pregnancy. 

Donning a far softer set of robes, the Justicar moved with a renewed ease, lighter without the metal that encased the waiting life within her belly. She then resumed her never-ending work, the reports coming to her desk unceasing, till Marshal Koryander Emberstone burst into the room, pointed an accusing finger, declared a triumphant “Ah-HAH!“, and bodily shepherded the Justicar to bed.

Author Ari
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