Shadows of the Past
You'd think that most Faeries of a given element would have similar personalities. At a very basic level, that holds true. But each Faerie is still an individual in their own way, some more than others.
My name is Urasina. I'm a Speckled Uni mare with the unusual gift of dragon wings instead of normal Uni wings. How I got those is a long story, and not the subject of what I'm telling you now. When I was but a yearling filly, I risked my life to save a Light Faerie from Balthazar. That Light Faerie turned out to be a very powerful Faerie named Kouren, who has been my guardian ever since. While my owner, BG, takes care of me and trains my physical strength, Kouren trains my magical aptitude.
Kouren is rather unique in that she looks much different than your everyday Light Faerie. Her hair is black, and she wears no makeup. It seems that a Faerie's magic enables them to look identical to most others of their element, and Kouren prefers to stand out. After an incident in my homeland of the Lost Desert, she moved in with me and my family so she would always be nearby to watch over me.
And that's when I learned something truly astonishing about her.
Kouren had built a small tower near my family's Neohome that she could live in. Because of my own strength in Light magic, we shared a kind of connection. One morning, I sensed that she was feeling rather sad. That didn't happen often, so I entered her tower to find out what was wrong.
I found her on the top floor, idly staring at nothing.
"You OK, Kouren?" I asked.
She came to her senses and turned to look at me. She did look sad.
"Just thinking... about something," she said.
"Can I help?" I questioned.
"Maybe you can," she admitted. "Tell me, Urasina dear... Do you think we can make up for mistakes in our past?"
I was surprised to hear that coming from her. But I didn't hesitate to answer.
"Of course," I replied firmly. "It can be done. You just have to be willing to work at it."
Kouren smiled slightly.
"Good answer," she said. "I have my doubts, sometimes... Especially after..."
She fell silent. Now I was very curious.
"What happened, Kouren?" I pressed.
"I guess you deserve to know," she sighed. "Let me show you."
The walls of the tower seemed to vanish, and the clouds of old Faerieland appeared. Kouren and I were standing on nothing at all, looking at a dark and sinister tower.
"What's going on?" I asked, not sure what to make of this.
"We're looking at images of the past," my guardian replied. "Thousands of years ago, no less. These images can't see, hear, or respond to us in any way."
An explosion rocked the dark tower in front of us. Moments later a Faerie wearing a brown cloak that obscured all but her wings flew out a window, diving quickly through the clouds. Several other Faeries, clearly Dark Faeries, flew out after her, but didn't see where she had gone.
"Blast that Kouren!" one of them spat. "She's getting carried away!"
"Vigilante Light Faeries are the WORST!" agreed another.
"It'll take MONTHS to gather all those spell ingredients that she destroyed!" whined a third.
I stared in shock as the scene shifted to a lower level of the city in the clouds. That Faerie that had flown out of the tower first landed not far from us and pulled her cloak's hood back.
It was Kouren, or rather, her past self. With a smug smirk on her face, she tossed aside her cloak and headed down the street.
"As a much younger Faerie, I was determined to bring down the Dark Faeries wherever they hid," Kouren said to me. "No trick was too low, no risk too much. I left a trail of destruction behind me whenever I went on the offensive."
The scene changed to show a pair of Fyora's guards talking.
"That's the third explosion Kouren has set off this week," said one.
"Don't you think she's got a noble goal in mind, though?" asked the other. "I mean, Fyora lets the Dark Faeries do what they want, just as she lets all the Faeries do what they want. What did that win her? A Darkest Faerie attack. I think Kouren might have the right idea."
The first guard glared at the second.
"She's being a Light Faerie, true, but she's taking it way too far," she responded. "Not all Dark Faeries are evil. But she refuses to see it that way. Everything's black and white to her. Why Fyora hasn't had her arrested yet is beyond me."
The images faded away, and I found myself back in Kouren's tower. I stared up at my guardian in shock, unable to speak. She looked even sadder than before now.
"I'll show you more tomorrow, Urasina," she said quietly. "This is all I can stand for today..."
Knowing that she needed some time to settle down, I respectfully let her be.
Bright and early the next morning, I hurried to the top of Kouren's tower.
"Why are you showing me these things, Kouren?" I asked her.
"You deserve to know what I did in the past, that I'm so ashamed of," she replied.
Once again, the scene changed. It showed Fyora's throne room now. The Faerie Queen sat on her throne, glaring at Kouren, who was held firmly between two guards.
"You've gone too far, Kouren," she said coldly. "The Dark Faeries have every right that you do."
"But you don't see!" Kouren replied. "They can't be trusted! They'll rise up against you once more! I'm just trying to keep us all safe!"
"You say so, but you're not," the Faerie Queen retorted. "I hereby sentence you to prison for crimes against the city."
I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. Kouren, my gentle yet powerful guardian, was a felon Faerie?
"As I look back on this chapter of my past, I know now that I was blinded by my rage," Kouren said to me. "Please don't think badly of me, Urasina dear."
I nuzzled her gently.
"I can't think badly of you, Kouren," I reassured her. "All you've done for me, and that I've done for you... I know you're not like that anymore."
The scene changed again to show a cell in the Faerieland palace dungeons. Kouren was chained to the wall by her wrists and ankles, and the outer edges of her wings were tipped with black.
"The mark of shame, the way to identify a felon Faerie who had escaped: black-tipped wings," my guardian sighed as she looked at the image of her past self.
"Your wings aren't tipped with black anymore, though," I pointed out. "So you were freed."
"But I spent several years in the dungeons..." she admitted, looking very sad now.
The images began to flicker and waver as Kouren's power began to fluctuate with her sadness. Then they vanished completely.
"Lean on me and cry a little," I instructed her.
She did just that.
"Thank you, Urasina," she said when she had pulled herself together. "I'll show you more tomorrow."
I was back at the top of Kouren's tower bright and early the next day. But the image she summoned this time was much different.
An army of Dark Faeries was attacking Fyora's palace, led by one who looked quite familiar.
"The Darkest Faerie?" I asked.
"Not the one from Altador," Kouren replied. "Her predecessor. There is only ever one Darkest Faerie, and when one falls, another rises to take her place."
Fyora's guards were falling fast. The Dark Faerie army was too strong, and the Darkest Faerie herself was clearly very powerful.
The scene changed again, showing Kouren still chained up in the dungeon. But the dungeon itself looked different.
"Fyora's power maintains the magic in the dungeon that keeps captives locked up," my guardian said. "With Fyora trying to maintain a shield over her palace, her control on the dungeons began to fade."
With one mighty heave, Kouren's past self ripped the chains binding her wrists cleanly out of the wall. Then she did the same with the ones on her ankles. The cuffs were still on her, but she was free.
"I knew what was going on," Kouren told me. "Even though I had been falsely imprisoned, I was still loyal to Fyora. And I couldn't pass up the chance to deal with some Dark Faeries."
I watched as the image of Kouren's past self hurried out of the dungeon and up to the armory. Once there, she quickly selected a two-tipped spear and a massive round shield made of enchanted silver. Then she flew out the nearby window.
The scene changed again. Fyora's shield around the palace was down, and the Darkest Faerie was looming over the injured Faerie Queen.
"Now, I deal with you as you dealt with my predecessor," she hissed.
She raised one arm to cast a spell on Fyora, but suddenly a flash of light blinded her. When it faded, Kouren stood between the Darkest Faerie and the queen.
"You'll only capture Fyora if you can get through me first!" the past image of my guardian shouted.
Without hesitation, the Darkest Faerie cast a spell, but the Light Faerie bounced it off her shield right back at its caster. Taken off guard by the reflected spell, the Darkest Faerie dropped to one knee.
"What is this?" she panted. "A felon Faerie standing up for the tyrant who locked her away?"
"She's no tyrant," Kouren snarled. "YOU are!"
With that, she lunged, her spear flashing. Her overzealous strike missed its target, giving the Darkest Faerie a chance to stand back up and summon an ugly-looking claymore. The fight was really on this time.
Kouren and I watched as her past self and the Darkest Faerie ripped into each other. Despite the power of a claymore, the enemy Faerie just couldn't get close enough to the Light Faerie to land a hit. Kouren danced around her adversary, making lightning-quick spear thrusts that were probably no worse than Selket bites, but they were doing their job.
Then, out of nowhere, Kouren's past self threw her shield. Before the Darkest Faerie could raise her claymore to block it, it slammed right into her face, knocking her down. Kouren lunged again, and with one stroke, the Darkest Faerie fell.
"Not even Fyora was able to fell a Darkest Faerie," Kouren said to me, smiling a little.
"Pyoga told me once that she read an account of you defeating one," I replied quietly. "Was that... this incident?"
The scene changed once more, showing Kouren kneeling before Fyora. But instead of looking triumphant, she looked sad and scared.
"You are safe, my queen," she said. "And now you may do with me what you wish."
Clearly, Kouren had expected to be punished, or worse, for escaping from the dungeon. But Fyora didn't do anything of the sort. She made a gesture with one hand, and the cuffs fell from the younger Light Faerie's wrists and ankles. Another gesture removed the black tips of her wings.
"My lady?" Kouren asked, puzzled. "What are you doing?"
"I am sorry, Kouren," Fyora replied, helping the other Faerie to her feet. "I should have heeded your warning. And though you escaped from the dungeon, you saved me, and all of Faerieland. I hereby declare you not guilty, and remove your brand as a felon."
The images faded away once more, bringing us back to the tower.
"I had saved Fyora, and won my innocence and freedom," Kouren said to me, looking happy again. "I promised the queen that I would not go on the offensive against the Dark Faeries anymore. Instead, I turned my focus to training myself to become as powerful as I could. I may not be as strong as Fyora, but I did become one of the strongest among my peers. Sadly, that strength came with some measure of overconfidence... Can you guess what knocked some sense into me?"
I didn't even have to guess.
"When you got caught by Balthazar," I replied. "When I saved you."
"I saw so much of myself in you when you did that, Urasina dear," my guardian finished, rubbing the sweet spot between my ears. "Quite aside from owing you and BG a life-debt, knowing that such nobility existed in such a young Uni filly made me realize just what I had done, and what I could do still. That's one of the reasons that I became your guardian. And look at you now!"
I couldn't help but blush at her praise.
"Do you feel better now?" I asked. "You look better."
"I do feel better, now that you know what I went through," she answered. "Thank you for letting me show you my past, and for not judging me the way everyone else did. You truly are a hero, Urasina."