Immortality is a strange thing.
You think with all the time in the world, anything is possible. You’re able to become unfathomably wise, with every experience gained and lesson learned. But, I’m not wise – or, at least, I don’t feel like I am. Time erases everything, including those lessons, those memories. Until there’s nothing left but the pieces of ourselves that we desperately cling to, despite not fully realizing why. Those fragments, they make us who we are.
Certainly, there’s things I would much rather forget. The festering viruses lie, waiting for a moment’s weakness to come back and swallow me whole once more. Those inescapable thoughts bring back others I hadn’t realized were forgotten.
What feels like long ago, the mere mention of wraiths brought back an catacomb of fear. Days that are so blurry now that I can hardly describe them, but I can feel them. Like a ghost over my every action, pushing me forward. It was my duty that no one will ever bear this same fear or know that it even exists.
Now it’s different. The fear hangs over all of us, a reality we fight desperately against. But now, instead of blurry memories, the ones I see are clear. It’s… heartbreaking. I never wanted them to feel like I do. But now that they do, am I allowed to relish in the understanding? To feel like I am finally not alone, and be happy?
I can’t, because my guilt has taken a new form. She sits in my private garden, face twisted with such fury I almost didn’t recognize her.
The lesson is right in front of me. Someone wiser would take it and move on. But to move on is to forget, and then I will remember when it is too late. As much as I want to forget, I can’t. I owe that to her.
She was so small when we first met.
That speckled Xweetok, the perfect medium between her mother and father, white and green respectively. They were peasants from Meridell, used to living on very little and sharing all they could. They were worried about their daughter, the violence and power of her magic. I could hardly believe it. She had a gap in her grin, and a glean in her violet eyes. Even then, I could sense the untapped magical potential, one that her parents said exploded without warning.
“Alexandra, you’re going to train with me for this summer,” I told her, kneeling down to her level. Somehow, that smile grew wider. Her glasses sliding down her nose, she nearly tackled with me the ferocity of her hug.
I do not remember much of that summer. She wasn’t my only student, but part of a small class of pupils with varying needs preparing for their magical education at Faerieland Academy. Though it was not my duty as Queen to teach them, I wanted to. I always thought to myself that I might be a professor if I wasn’t ruling…
I do remember the way she followed around her classmates, intimidated and star struck, but somehow even more curious. When they ate together, she hesitated to eat the faerie wings that adorn our food.
“I feel bad,” she said, stealing glances at the weakly flapping wings. As the others laughed and reassured her, I couldn’t hide my smile. Such empathy, from someone so small, for something as small as food!
Her powers were not small however. In fact, they threatened to rip her apart. Her magic sparked without provocation, and with provocation, it was more akin to a small bomb. I healed many burns that summer.
After summer, she returned to her family. She was still young, and they were concerned with her continuing her studies. That last day, she sobbed into her mother’s stomach. I told her that she could come back next summer, and that her progress was great. Truly, it was. She went from lighting every feather on fire to levitating multiple with ease.
The years blur together. I wish I remembered more of those early years, to pinpoint the earliest sign, but nothing unordinary comes to mind. She often became frustrated, a crease forming between her brows, gritting her teeth and clenching her fists. I told her to take a walk, to which she always frequented the garden. I often caught her dozing off in the library, lightly snoring. The Library Faerie was certainly charmed to find someone who shared her enthusiasm for learning.
She grew up from idolizing her classmates and became their equal and friend. She was especially close with Danae. They were inseparable, whispering, laughing. She told me she hated how others would look at Danae differently for being a dark faerie. Perhaps that was the first sign.
The day her parents relented and let her go to Faerie Academy, she cried again.
Though I wasn’t her only teacher anymore, I still saw her. She still stayed in my castle, floor 4, room 28. She visited me in the Hidden Tower, bubbling with new spells and stories. Her enthusiasm was different now – instead of the adorable adoration of a child, she lived and breathed magic. It was her life.
But then, the years began passing so quickly.
She glued posters around the school about relief efforts in Maraqua. She pleaded with me to do something to stop the fighting during the battle of Meridell, her home. She stormed out when I told her there was nothing to do for the Lost Desert.
She evacuated pets out of Meridell when Faerieland almost crushed it. I wish I could say that it was my so-called foresight that insisted she visit home that day. But really, it would take a fool not to look at the darkened clouds and know something was wrong. But, as I was told, she fought tooth and nail to evacuate her home. She wasn’t above using magic to drag the unconvinced, she wasn’t above risking her own life to save others.
She was there, at the award ceremony. The finest hall in the castle decorated, pets and faeries beautified. But I hardly remember any colour scheme, any centerpieces, it was all simply a blur, a show we put on after every disaster.
Tormund and Roberta glowed with pride, while she glowered with something dimmer. Her braids were meticulous, she wore no glasses. I should’ve known the perfect appearance was a façade to mask what was happening beneath. I proved to her once more how superficial faeries could be.
“You look beautiful Alexandra,” I told her, crinkling dark purple fabric between my fingers. She whipped around, violet eyes widening with surprise- then narrowing with apprehension.
“Your Majesty?” Her eyes were darting everywhere but my own. “Would you mind if I asked you a question?”
“Anything to be rid of your troubled expression.”
“Where- Where did the faeries go when the Darkest Faerie’s magic was in effect?”
The question took me aback. All I wanted was to celebrate our victory and put the messy ordeal behind us. Or I was afraid of letting my calm face slip, letting anyone know how close we were to utter destruction – and how scared I am. So, I opted for the platitude, like I was placating a child.
“Into hiding, of course! They would have been corrupted if they hadn’t!”
“Right.” The word held the weight of dozens more. “So… so they didn’t even try?”
Her voice raised unnaturally, like she had been fighting to keep it leveled and lost.
“Alexandra…” I murmured, choosing to repeat the words I had so often told her. “There was nothing we could do.”
“Because you do nothing,” the accusation cracked like a whip, and with it, she turned on her heels, high heels clicking behind her.
What did you want to ask? I could’ve answered it, could’ve put your doubts to bed, like I did all those years ago. Maybe you didn’t want my answers, half-baked, simple, brittle. Avoiding the things that I fear. The horrors I believed I was right to shoulder the memory of alone.
They would have never sufficed. But, maybe they could have caused you less grief.
Why did you come to your sweeping judgement, that all the faeries were the same? That we were not capable of change, undeserving of anymore chances? That I was a tyrant and we were colossi, refusing to use our powers out of sheer laziness?
You hated how the world fell apart to disaster, so you became one yourself.
And now, we’ll pay the price together. You, your potential wasted on a wasted conquest. And me, remembering too much and not enough, idealizing that little Xweetok, trying to pinpoint what I did wrong, when in reality, there were so many things wrong that all it took was someone who wanted to do something about it for it to all fall apart.
In the end, it didn’t have anything to do with magic. Isn’t it funny, Xandra?