Location - Ashkevron Residence in Askavi
Fatima lifted her head as the old woman spoke. The way the lines and edges looked - somewhat blurred or wobbly made her feel a bit sick to her stomach. None the less she stood, looking at the healer with as much confidence and guile as a young Queen could. Her hands were folded delicately in front of her as she listened carefully. She stiffened at the thought of someone entering her brainspace. This was where all the dark thoughts she held about the realm lived. It was where the evil deeds she had witnessed had sunken roots in deep. Fatima refused to look away.
Bowing deeply to the woman, her hair fell over her shoulder. It has a dark shadow over her face as she prepared herself to do whatever it took to ensure the lives and safety of all in her care. "As you wish, Madame Healer. I am an open book. See what you will, but I must apologize for almost none of it is pleasant."
She stayed in this position and awaited the response.
Taking the Queen's hand into one of her weathered ones, Faeril spiraled down into the full strength of the Red for she would more than the charms she had placed about the room for the unwelcome visitors that might transpire through her domain. Fatima would feel a presence move against the mental shields of Grey that protected her mind. "Allow me entry, Grey Queen."
The mind-voice that spoke to the feminine nature within Fatima was far younger than any old hag, but there was a regal element to it that demanded respect and she give way. "It is not often I come against one stronger than I these days."
A true enough fact as most were the strength of red or weaker due to Dorothea's constant removal of threats. Fear had become the taint of the Blood instead of trust. As Faeril considered this she was well aware her mind too had seen horror and some most likely would leak into this Queen. Like called to like after all.
It felt slimy. Not that she thought that the mind that brushed her barriers was a bad one. She had never felt anything quite like this before. It was as if someone were stroking the inner and most deep parts of herself. Fatima could not help but shudder. At first, she couldn't quite bring herself to open the gateway. This was a lot of trust to place in a stranger. Then the face of a dead child flashed in her mind's eye. First, there was anger and a desire to pull away. The memory of it made her sick but it was the reason for the way she was now. After all, this woman already knew she was of the grey. There would be no going back. The Queen hesitantly lowered the shields. Slow at first, but soon they came down to allow this stranger entrance into her being.
The Black Widow did not hesitate as her power slipped and spread tendrils of a web through Fatima's mind. It was not the ruthless claws Faeril would use with her foes, but a gently pulling. Urging that if any ill thoughts were there they would come forth. Urging the reasons and truth to be revealed. The Widow knew her Craft and she wielded it well. Noting the death of the child, her heart ached in agreement. The unbidden memory of heart-rending loss tore through Faeril's mind and brushed against Fatima's, though the last of the Ashkevrons was able to keep the detail from being known. She did not trust this Queen fully and even if she had... That was not something she would speak easily about. Gently she stroked the young Hyallian's mind as her voice spoke with the wisdom that went beyond her age. "You speak true. You do not seek to destroy, but to embrace. But can you embrace the Darkness and all it is? Can you give up a great sacrifice for the greater cause? Can you hold the leash to the triangle?"
Three males appeared as shadowy figures in Fatima's mind. One held the sense of great power, a tidal wave held fast at bay and yet it seethed to be unleashed.
It was as if every time a thread in her mind was plucked, a new and fresh memory ventured forth. Did the healer see it too? See what had happened when her carriage had hit the orphan? When she had milked goats, birthed sheep, and turned her hands to a blistered mess when she had helped work the fields? The moment she had felt the tongue of her whip on her back for protecting a landen child? Tears stung at the corners of her eyes before rolling down her cheeks. This bizarre intimacy made her want to vomit. As if looking through the angled web hadn't been bad enough.
The distraction of the woman's voice brought some relief. However, the words made rage boil in her belly. "The darkness is my mother, my friend, and my lover. I will do all it will take, sacrifice anything and everything in order to destroy Dorothea."
The shadow image of the man made something her heartthrob and the rage she felt begin to diminish. She didn't understand. Triangle? Her own people? "Yes,"
she breathed as if a calling to her truth made her peaceful. "Absolutely."
Faeril withdrew from the Queen's mind gently. Each thread carefully pulled away. Her own eyes were clear of tears though there was sorrow in them. No longer did an old woman sit before the Hyallian Queen, but a woman in her prime. Dark black hair spilled in waves over one shoulder as her glacier blue eyes softened from their coldness, the black dress that draped across her in artful folds accented a body that many a man would look at though few would dare after tasting her sharp tongue. "You pass my test, Fatima Damiana."
The voice still contained iron in it, but there a gentler side as a cup of tea was poured and floated over to rest in the Queen's hand. A flask pouring in what smelled like a good furring of alcohol. Something to stiffen the nerves. The room about Fatima came into focus. This was obviously a room for something that was not Healing of the body, but it did not appear like a room a Black Widow would do her work. With a large bed and many different pieces of furniture for comfort it was a room that spoke to different requirements. A bit of everything for whatever was required. "You have done much, and while I do not fully approve of all of it... There is enough to sate my wary nature."
As the flask floated to her hand, Faeril took a healthy drink from it before screwing the lid on and vanishing it into the odd cabinet dimension where the Blood could store bits and bobs."You say that you will take the Darkness as lover, mother, friend. Father, brother, and ally."
Studying the woman across from her, Faeril plucked a pair of delicate black gloves that had been shielded from sight and pulled them over her hands. "You will sacrifice anything and everything to destroy Dorothea. Even your own people? Your current Court?"
The widow leaned in carefully as her eyes hardened. "Your prosperity will not go unnoticed for much longer, rivals will learn of your mother's death despite what your current Court may try to do to hide the fact. Should one of them feel the draw to another Queen? He will betray you and surrender himself. Seeing safety and way out from a very dangerous situation. I have not forseen this, rather it is something I have witnessed before."
There was regret at revealing this possibility to the Queen, but Faeril knew the facts and she was a pragmatic person.
In completed shock, once her mind was free of the strange presence, she straightened, became dizzy and fell backward into the chair. The woman was speaking but it was hard to make out as her mind cleared. When she finally was able to focus she noticed that it was not the old woman but a young one in her place. Quite beautiful too. The edges of things and even the woman no longer moved in that strange way. Fatima had never thought she would come to appreciate the sharpness of her eyesight. The tiny Queen straightened herself and accepted the teacup with relish. Sipping it delicately, rather than gulping it down as she wished, Fatima watched and listened. Each new word cut into her soul with the truth of her situation and the direness of living in this realm. None the less, she was determined.
Once the healer had finished, the girl looked toward the fire and thought a moment. "Of course I would like no harm to come to my people. I will do all in my power to save and protect them. But if a life must be lost in order to save the whole I will do it. My current Court knows this of me. Many have been with me since I was a child. And they know they are not truly mine. And if one should leave me for a different Queen... Well... They have been doing this long enough to become quite excellent at creating unfortunate travesties."
She turned her face back to the woman. "If it were not for the grey I bear, love, and cherish, I would have put myself in the path of Dorothea long ago. My mother hid me from the world and in doing so I learned more about the realm than most Queens. If only I could hide my grey... I can act stupid and silly enough to never pose a threat. I am quite small, after all. Not a true danger to most. If my land can heal and become fruitful, none would even begin to guess that it is I who have done so."
She gave the woman a wry smile and drained the last of the cup. "Will you help me?"
There was a sharp hiss of breath as the blue eyes turned to ice. "I would not heal Hyallian land if you begged me."
Faeril snapped with a harshness in her voice that spoke of hatred. "You listen to naught, yet you are the one to grip the leash and lead the turn of tides."
Pinching the bridge of her nose, the Widow cursed in several languages. Of course, this child could not see beyond what she desired! Hyall folk had a knack for that. Though they were hardly alone, the woman admitted. "Your lands will be noticed, your grey will be discovered, and your court will turn or be cut out from under you, foolish girl!"
The Red rippled through the room dangerously and outside three men stiffened in worry. "I have seen it happen before, and you are not so great that you may withstand all Dorothea will hurl at you and more!"
Faeril's voice was harsh as she hissed at the vapid Queen. Thoughtless and only concerned with what was hers! "A choice lies before you. To be broken and shackled for your power, or to step up to the line. To take your place in the triangle and accept that so many will be lost, but all may yet be saved."
Faeril swore sourly again. "Foolish Queen. You are naive in thinking you may continue to hide for the rest of your long life. That your court would defend you even if their lives and families were weighed against yours."
Fatima gently set the teacup down upon the table. She moved forward in her seat, her toes resting against the ground, back straight, and face held high. She was regal. She was a queen. What could this Healer and Black Widow know if her true feelings? Sure, she had been inside the girl's head and seen the things of her past. Had she bothered to really look upon her though? She waited patiently for the healer to finish losing her temper. What good could that do either of them? The energy of the red filled the room but it caused her not to balk in the way the woman was likely used to. Instead, the cool, stormy grey rose from her in a gentle and cloudy way. She did not fill the room with it. Fatima had never felt the need to do such a thing. Her presence and the knowledge of what she was was enough. Young. Inexperienced in the rules of the court. Tiny. She was no fool. She knew herself quite well. She had spent a few hundred years in her own head after all.
In a calm and cold tone, she responded, "I do not imagine myself to be great. I do not imagine my life to be any more valuable than that of a landen. I know full well how easily I can be replaced. How easily the men of my court can be swayed and how soon my people will leave in the hopes of a brighter future. But my people starve, lady. I think you have seen it. I know you have. Drawn faces, stomachs that eat themselves, and the willingness to do what it takes for just a bite of something. Salivating at the thought of taking a bone from a dog? Doing anything in order to feel something within your belly. Have you ever felt that Lady? Have you ever starved? Have you watched your children die and waste away despite skipping your own meals in the hopes that they have one more day?"
She paused, deciding to stand now for she shook far too much to sit still. Fatima approached the fire place as she spoke again. "You may look upon me and see a young thing with no thoughts beyond money and smiles. I have had my fair share of losses as you have seen. I know my desire to see Dorothea slain by the hand of one she had deemed close is naught but a fantasy. However, I need to ensure my people can eat so they can see next year. Tell me, will you help me free this realm?"
She pressed a hand against the hot stone and listened to the logs crackle. "Will you help me so that I can help our realm?"
Faeril recoiled as the Queen's words struck her own wounds of the past. The loss of her child, her mother and aunt's death. Watching her land descend into the same greed as Hyall. Her lips thinned in a grimace as she looked away from the young Queen lest the Hyallian see the pain in her blue eyes. "I know well the sacrifices of a Queen, my mother was one. I watched this land descend into a mockery of what the Blood should be."
As Fatima laid a hand against the warm mantle of the fireplace, Faeril studied the Queen and her quiet Grey. "I will help you so you can save our realm, but I cannot do so if you insist on returning to your Court and village. You possess a leash already in your hands, one that makes your heart flutter. I will tell you only this, if Dorothea were to control or slay you then all indeed would be lost."
Her thoughts warred with each other for a time, hemming and hawing over what might be. Holding her peace Faeril inclined her head slightly to the dominant jewel. "Though I will tell you this. Terreille is no longer safe for you. Lady, you must travel to Kaeleer if you seek to survive past the Winter Solstice. If you wish for all the people of this realm to survive past the Winter Solstice."
There was a terrible knowledge behind Faeril's eyes. Dorothea was but one threat. In truth, there was another, far darker than the taint. While it would free them all, it would not be a freedom of hope but of finality and death. Nothing but a Whisper in the Darkness.
Aaaah. So she knew. She did know loss and grief and starvation - perhaps not of the body but maybe the soul. Elation filled her when the woman told her that she would help but it quickly caused her heart to plummet to her feet when the woman said she would need to leave her land. A Queen leave her land? How could she do so easily? Fatima thought perhaps this woman would understand just how much this choice would hurt her. At the mention of the shadow man, her heart swooped back upward and her stomach exploded into butterflies. She pressed a hand against the fabric there and tried to calm them. She had never met this person, how could such feelings exist within her?
Wait. Leave Terrielle entirely? This had been her home. She had always lived and existed here. Fatima turned swiftly and surveyed the woman. It was no jest though. The young Queen brushed some loose hair back from her face and looked up toward the ceiling as she fought back her tears. "I need to see my men. I need to let them know. I cannot disappear on them again."
Mother Darkness knew this would be the easier route. Let them think the Healer had kidnapped and perhaps killed her. No. Wait. What if she was eventually betrayed by one of them? The knowledge of her existence could foil the plan entirely. She moved back to the chair and rested a hand on the arm of it. "My saying goodbye is perhaps not wise. I apologize. I truly wish I could say goodbye but... they were never mine. They belong to someone else. Someone who could mean my death."