Chapter XXII

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Jinah's attention was torn from the Arcturan labor reports streaming over her datapad as the doors to the throne room burst open. "Aunt Clarissa!" she exclaimed, recognizing her mother's lesser sister as she barged into the chamber. "To what do I owe this honor?"

Clarissa did not bow or even nod, choosing instead to just stand with her arms crossed in front of her seated niece. She lifted a fingernail to her chin and tapped as she examined the youthful Arcturan perched upon Doltanna's throne in her pretty golden dress, a small crown affixed to her hair. 

"Jinah, Jinah...my poor little Jinah. Tsk, tsk, so in over your head even the Arcturan crown has shrunk. Or would that be because of your swollen head?" the woman asked sarcastically. "Nevertheless, I hear you wanted to meet with me. Now, would it be in regards to my sister's death...and the untimely demise of your little troll of a husband, I suppose?"

"There is no need for that tone, Aunt Clarissa."

"And who might you be, girl, to lecture someone like me on etiquette?"

"I am Mother Arcturis..."

"Like hell, child! You never performed the Twelve and according to Arcturan custom, the Motherhood falls to the most powerful woman in the clan in the unexpected death of the current reigning Mother...and that would be me, niece," Clarissa said, placing a finger to her chest. "You need to remove that bauble from your head and step down from there before you hurt yourself."

"I will die before I'll give up this seat and my position as head of this family to you, Aunt Clarissa!" Jinah shouted, standing from the throne. She stepped from the elevated chair and approached the woman standing before her. "You know as well as I do that my mother would have never imagined you as Mother Arcturis! Hell, you don't even have any offspring..."

"And neither do you, child!"

"But, I am still young and as far as that goes, what makes you think that the vast majority of the family would be willing to follow you over me?"

"My dear Jinah, you forget who my slave is...one snap of his fingers and this whole façade of an empire burns to the ground along with anyone stupid enough to stand in my way!"

Jinah clinched her fists. "Then I call for the Rite of Dhuelle!"

"Are you out of your mind, girl? Do you seriously wish to die? My slave, your Chancellor would never allow..."

Jinah stepped up to her aunt defiantly and pointed a finger in Clarissa's face. "And that is why no one in the family would follow you. The clan has to follow your betrothed...but, you...you would just be his shadow. It seems to me Aunt Clarissa that you are just an opportunistic coward wielding your slave's power as a shield. I would rather bravely die in the Dhuelle, or even at the hands of your slave, than live life afraid!"

"That is ridiculous, child! I am not frightened of you!"

"Then what is the problem? Let's find out who is meant to be in that seat over there! Agree to the Rite...let's settle this for the good of Arcturius."

"You mean for the good of the Homeland, don't you?"

"No, Aunt Clarissa, I meant what I said, another reason why it was my mother's wish for me to lead this family and not you. The wellbeing of Arcturius is not your primary concern, your husband's ill-gotten power is!"

"I should have you killed for treason, Jinah, for uttering those words!" Clarissa exclaimed.

"Go ahead and you will spark a civil war that will tear the Homeland apart from the inside!" Jinah presented her two wrists to Clarissa. "Go ahead, aunt, here have me arrested!"

Clarissa sighed and turned away from Jinah to contemplate the depth of this tenuous situation. She paced a few steps around the throne room and stopped a few meters away with her back to Jinah. "You're right."

Jinah stood with her hands on her hips. "I'm what?"

Clarissa turned to face Jinah, tears rolling down her cheeks. "You're right, child. I am a coward. I am afraid to die knowing that the only thing I have ever done in my life is marry a mass murderer of Arcturan Subs. Our people."

Jinah was taken aback. She blinked and leaned her head forward. "Did I just hear you correctly, Aunt Clarissa. Did you just say that?"

The older woman nodded. "Yes I did, and you know it's the truth. He killed millions for power, including women and children. Most nights I cannot sleep thinking about it."

Jinah exhaled and walked over to her sobbing aunt to wrap her arms around her. "It's okay, this is why we Arcturan sisters need to stick together."

Clarissa broke down in the young girl's embrace. "I don't know what I was thinking, Jinah. I can clearly see why you are the perfect match for this throne. I just thought that maybe...somehow, if I were to sit there in that throne...I could somehow make up for all of the blood on my hands...the Arcturan blood."

"Connor did it, not you," Jinah said, wiping a tear from her aunt's cheek.

"In all honesty, I hate that fucking bastard. He only wants to come here and screw those twins. I never see him anymore. There are some days I have thought about putting a blade in his skull..."

Jinah released her aunt and held her at arm's length. "Aunt Clarissa!"

"What is it, child?" she asked at the surprise outburst.

"I have a brilliant idea. One in which we can both win."

Clarissa angled her head. "What do you have in mind?"

"How far are you willing to go for Arcturius?"

...

"...and so it is with much joy that I step down from the thrown and crown my lovely Aunt Clarissa, lesser sister of Doltanna....the rightful Mother Arcturis!" Jinah exclaimed as she placed the crown on her aunt's graying, red head. Jinah bowed before her aunt seated in her mother's thrown adorned in full Arcturan royal regalia and smiled.

She turned to the crowd of onlookers filling the mansion and shouted, "Long live, Queen Clarissa the First!"

"Long live Queen Clarissa! Long live Queen Clarissa!"

Connor Santum stood next to his wife beaming with pride.

Clarissa glanced down at Jinah and smiled, mouthing the words, "Thank you."

Jinah smiled back and nodded, happily realizing things were now back under control...her control.


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