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She is theirs and they are hers. They have crowned her in flowers and draped her in welcoming arms, holding her and echoing her pain.

Everything is at once clearer and easier when it is shared. When each wail is echoed, each sharp breath mirrored, it is easier to take, easier to breathe once more. Easier to breathe through the pain when it is spread throughout. When she is held.

Everything is shared, though, not just pain but joy. She feels Maja’s joy at the feeling of the baby in her womb kicking, the warmth that brings a smile to both of their faces as it spreads through them and the rest of the women surrounding Maja. Each of them have a hand to her growing flesh, all sharing in the cycle of life and death they are linked by.

They had shown Dani the best way to wield a knife, Ines’ hand covering hers, showing her to glide it across skin so that it parted without ruining anything, how to take life so that it could be given back. Someone had stumbled upon them through the woods, a blessing from the forest to honor the new life in Maja’s belly. In her past, Dani hadn’t even liked cooking all that much, handling raw meat then, but there is a rhythm to each stroke of the knife now, of crafting something as she feels the energy blossom and flow underneath her hands.

They each wear a flower—a bright, black-eyed poppy—those that had shared in Dani’s pain, those that had allowed her to ascend to be the May Queen they all deserved. Lykke, who had brought Dani to the dance, wears them threaded through her braids. Maja does not wear a flower--she does not need to, not with lips painted as red as the blood that had been spilled at their hands, the blood that had blessed her child, blessed their crops and fields and would sustain Harga for the next year.

Dani would wonder what they will do next year, if she will serve the next May Queen as well as she is being served, but that is not even worth the time to think it. She is theirs and they are hers. When the endless dark of winter comes, they will wrap around each other more tightly than this, keeping warm and cradling the light of their love and kinship close.

She doesn’t know who starts it, Ines perhaps, but the ripples of joy echoing through their circle turn into a meeting of lips, of bodies as they all press against one another.

There are lips upon hers, softer and more giving than Christian’s ever were, and Dani gives herself to them freely, more eagerly than she has given herself to anything before. She would find this odd if it didn’t feel so natural, so right to be held like this. A part of her looks back at what life was like before she came to Harga and she does not know how she lived, alone in her pain, alone in her life. She thinks sometimes that she hadn’t lived, not really. How does one person live only on their own?

Here she is held; here while she is a Queen, she is part of the web of life sustaining Harga. Here she is part of something.

There are hands on her shoulders, slipping her dress down from her shoulders and pressing her down to the floor. She is still freshly crowned enough that there are still flowers upon it; they had tread lightly upon them, not wanting to sweep up the pieces of the making of their Queen. Just another sign of her integration with them. They are endless.

Sometimes Dani feels like they have sprouted from her, that it does not matter that the flowers in the field were harvested and lay strewn underneath her. Her season is summer, and her summer will last for years to come. Those close to her will not go unadorned, just as she is carried by them. Her fingers clutch the floor, imagining roots spreading from them as grass covers her.

She doesn’t need the tea to understand them, not now. Not with hands — it matters not whose — smoothing back her hair, cradling her as the rest of the dress falls away, spreading her legs apart.

A hum starts, starting from the ground itself and picked up by each of the women in turn. It sounds sweet, and Dani can imagine honey, sweet and sticky upon her tongue, upon her skin. There is a sweet taste upon her tongue and she laps at it, hands rising to grasp the hips that kneel for her above her mouth and hold them steady, even as her own begin to twitch in time with the rhythm of the song that surrounds them and the first touch of a tongue against her own sex.

Their skin is sticky--with sweat, with honey, with blood, it does not matter. It is one more thing to hold them together, to unify them, to bind them to each other.

In her past life, perhaps Dani would have thought watching Christian’s fate would be the most satisfying thing, but that was merely the beginning, a shedding of her old life so she could begin anew. In her rightful place.

Someone says something to her right, and though she cannot make out the sounds, the words’ meaning is clear. She lets go of the hips she was holding onto, soft and pale and slick with sweat. There are flowers below her and flowers above, wildflowers blooming and petals parting, their centers glistening, calling to her like the voices around her.

“Join with us, Dani,” they chant, and as she nods, as she drives her hips further against the hands that hold her, the fingers that drive deeper into her, until she is known inside and out. A mouth presses against her skin in the most gentle of kisses. The hands that hold her, the lips that worship her, have brought about death and life, have cursed and blessed, and Dani basks in it all.

She is aware of more flowers, then, raining down upon her and the woman above her. Dani reaches out with roots and hands, enveloping those around her as she has been enveloped by them. Their cries reach a fever pitch, perfectly timed with one another. They are bound together now, by a power greater than any man, any law, and a part of Dani knows that she would spill as much blood as necessary to keep her new family safe.

She is theirs and they are hers.