Faerie Wars I: The Six Kingdoms - Part Eleven
Everyone had expected the war between the light and dark faeries to be short-lived, but after five years, it was still going strong. Many dark faeries had been locked away in the dungeons of the Light Kingdom, and light faeries in the Dark Kingdom's. In the darkness of the dungeons, the light faeries withered and grew weak, while the dark faeries thrived. Continually stronger and stronger magical barriers had to be cast to keep the dark faeries restrained.
When this issue was brought to Fyora's attention, she considered suggesting keeping the captives in above-ground cells—the sensible thing to do—but instead said nothing. She also did not assist them in casting the protective barriers. She thought it might be interesting to see what would happen once the barriers proved too weak for the dark faeries, but mostly she just wanted to be left alone. If she didn't acknowledge the war, it couldn't hurt her.
In the Dark Kingdom, Nereza was given the title of Chief Strategist for the queen, though her position was essentially still the same. She had a brilliant gift for strategy, and Sithira leaned on her heavily for decision-making. Despite their efforts, however, they knew they were losing. Some blamed Nereza's defensive tactics, claiming that they needed to focus more on attacking the other kingdom and less on protecting their own. But it was Nereza's defense-heavy approach that had kept them even a player for this long.
In the early days of the war, it became quite obvious that the dark faeries didn't stand a chance. There were not nearly as many of them as there were light faeries. The fire faeries had sided with the dark faeries, and the air with the light, with earth and water remaining obstinately neutral, despite Sithira's imploring of the earth faerie queen, Isithra. The air and light faeries were faster and had higher power; the fire and dark faeries were stronger, however, and had better endurance. Nereza had played to that effect and kept the Dark Kingdom from crumbling within the turn of a moon, but she knew it couldn't last. It was simply not probable that they would be able to win by waiting it out.
"I have to go to my sister," she had been telling Sithira for years. "I have to make her see reason. She started this; she can end it, too."
But always Sithira refused. "It is a folly," she insisted. "Any faerie deluded enough to think wraiths do not exist and that we risk nothing by going to war with our own kind is not going to be swayed by the sister she abandoned."
"I have to try. Sithira, you must let me go."
The Dark Faerie Queen looked at her advisor and dear friend sadly. "I will not. I am sorry, Nereza."
One day, Nereza made up her mind to go anyway, explicitly against her queen's orders. Her word may be Law, she thought, but Law does not reign in war. This has gone on long enough. There must be an end; there must be Justice.
She packed a small bag, donned a black cloak, and, in the dark of the night, swept away from the kingdom. Unbeknownst to her, Sithira watched from the balcony, her purple hair flowing gently in the breeze.
"Be safe, my friend," she murmured to the night.
"Queen Fyora, there is... someone here to see you."
Fyora's eyes flicked to the messenger warily, then returned quickly to the papers before her. "Who is it, Aili?" she asked curtly.
"The... Dark Faerie Queen, Your Majesty."
Fyora stood up sharply, knocking over several of the items on her desk, including a glass bauble, which shattered. She winced at the sound, but turned, clutching at the desk behind her.
"Sithira." She tried to sound vicious, but her ferocity had long since left her, and her voice fell flat. The messenger slunk out of the room, leaving the two queens alone.
Fyora cleared her throat and managed to smirk. "You realize now I'll have to imprison you?" she asked sardonically.
"It is not truly I, you fool," said the Dark Queen. "You think I would go in person to my enemy's domain?"
The Light Queen scowled, and looked away, eyes narrowed.
"I've come to tell you that I intend to relinquish my crown to Nereza."
Fyora's heart stopped at the sound of her sister's name, and her knees turned to jelly at Sithira's words. "Oh? And what do I care of that? I know no Nereza." She knew her lie was transparent, and yet she could not help but say it. The war had shut her away in her tower, where she could pretend it was not happening. She had grown jumpy and paranoid, constantly in fear that her sister would come to usurp her, or worse. If she did not acknowledge Nereza— if she did not acknowledge anything, then, maybe—
"Let us, ah, 'cut to the chase,' as they say." Sithira's illusion flickered. "You know I know the truth about you and your sister—how you stole her right to be fyora beside you, then abandoned her, alone, without a friend in the world."
"She hasn't a friend in the world anymore."
Fyora squeezed her eyes shut.
"In any event, she would make a far better Queen than I," said the Dark Queen. "She has power beyond understanding. Even my power is as nothing, and I know what I am." She stepped forward, close enough to touch Fyora, and pointed at her chest. "Don't think I don't know what you are."
"And what am I?" Fyora challenged, though her voice wavered.
Sithira's lips curled into a sneer as she answered, "An abomination."
"An... abomination?" The words were like ghosts on her lips.
"Yes. I was an ancient once. I once looked as you do. But those days are long gone, and the time for ancients is over. Yet you—you are born a Type, a light faerie, and then become an ancient. That is unnatural. You are unnatural."
Fyora looked away again. She didn't know what to say.
"Make amends with your sister," Sithira advised darkly, "release my people, and end this thoughtless war."
She backed away as if to leave, but Fyora, finally finding her voice, stopped her.
"If I am what you say," said the former light faerie, "then what is Nezzie? What is my sister?"
"A queen," was the answer. "A fiercely loyal friend. A powerful faerie. Better than you."
Without another word, she vanished, and Fyora sank to her knees, tears flowing steadily down her cheeks.
"Is that true, Your Majesty?" asked Eyfa cautiously. "Will you really abdicate the throne and name Nereza your successor?"
Sithira, back to herself in the Dark Kingdom, nodded once.
"You realize, Majesty, that Nereza will never accept the position? She believes too firmly in rights and the law, and hierarchy. She believes you are the rightful ruler of the Dark Kingdom."
"I realize." Sithira's jaw tightened. "Yet it must be done. She is the rightful ruler... and I believe that if she can reconcile with Fyora, they will unite the Six Kingdoms."
Eyfa gasped. "Unite the Six Kingdoms? Where in the world did you come upon that idea?"
"It is what she has wanted all along." She thought of her own sister, who was not a dark faerie, and from whom she had also been separated. "It is what I, too... have always wanted."
Several days later, Nereza arrived in the Light Kingdom. She had managed to journey unnoticed thus far, and intended to remain so. She traveled only at night, slinking in and out of the shadows like a wraith.
The Light Kingdom was on open grassland, and was prowling with scouts and soldiers. It was fairly easy for her to slip past them unnoticed, which made her wonder at the skill of the other dark faeries who had come here and been captured.
She knew from the reports that Fyora was largely absent from the battle, and spent most of her time locked away in her tower. What she was doing in her tower was the subject of much of the common gossip. Nereza knew it was the tallest tower in the kingdom, protruding from one of the palace wings, and found it without much difficulty.
Like a shadow, she entered and ascended the tower, the guards seeing nothing, hearing nothing. I have grown more powerful over these years, noted Nereza, yet I couldn't say how.
When she reached the top, she opened the door with ease, locks meaning nothing to her. She thought she had prepared herself for what lay within, but she was mistaken.
Fyora—no; Uriele, she reminded herself—was sitting on the floor, shrunk against a cupboard. The room was in disarray and full of magical items strange and wondrous. Her hair was wild and unkempt, and her purple dress was frayed at the hems. In her hand, she gripped her fyora staff like her life depended on it.
The once-inseparable sisters locked eyes for the first time in over ten years.
"Nezzie," said the faerie Fyora, who looked nothing like Uriele, and yet it could be no one else in the world. Her throat closed and choked on the word, as sudden emotion swept through her and tears filled her eyes.
"Nezzie," she said again. "Nezzie... forgive me. I have been a fool. I know that now. Please... help me."
At first, the dark faerie did nothing. Then, in an instant, the door was closed behind her, and she had flown across the room to her sister's side, where they held each other desperately. Uriele sobbed into her sister's shoulder, but Nereza's eyes were dry.
"Forgive me, forgive me... forgive me..." said Uriele over and over.
Nereza said nothing all the while, but closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the cupboard. She was finally reunited with her sister, after all this time. And, astonishingly, Uriele wanted forgiveness. As the once-light faerie broke down her walls and opened herself to her sister's love, the dark faerie felt only hollowness, and knew she had no love to give.
To be continued...