Faerie Wars I: The Six Kingdoms - Part Eight
Ten Years Later
The young dark faerie hurried along the castle hallways, flying to increase her speed. She had a very important message to deliver to the queen, and was moving as quickly as she could.
The queen was, as usual at this time of day, resting in her lounge room with her advisor. "I was thinking perhaps of 'Ahsla,'" she was musing aloud, "though it feels rather too fiery to me. What do you think?"
"My lady," said the messenger, interrupting the conversation and producing a sloppy curtsy. "There is news from the Light Kingdom. It is urgent."
"Very well, Eyfa," said the queen, not in the least perturbed by the intrusion. "What do they want? Have they accepted our proposal for peace?"
"Not quite," replied the messenger nervously. "You see, the Light Kingdom has recently crowned a new queen."
The advisor was surprised; the queen was interested, and asked, "Have they indeed?"
"Yes, my lady... and it appears that the new queen has decided that your gracious offer of peace is, well..." She wrung her hands.
"Don't fret so, Eyfa, dear. You are not responsible for your messages, remember? Continue."
"It's not that, my lady; I know you are good. However, the new Light Queen is not so certain. She has declared your offer insulting, and that though she hopes her first act as queen will not be an act of war, she may have no choice if we continue to, as it was put, 'promote lies and untruths, which are acts of hostility.'"
The queen smiled. "Fascinating," she said. "The Light Kingdom can have peace with the other five kingdoms, but not with us. Were Queen Endrita still reigning, this would have been dealt with." She thought for a moment, and then laughed. "It sounds like the new queen is quite the headstrong and arrogant little pest, talking so big of war. I would be willing to wager that she has some deep prejudice against dark faeries. What is her name?"
The advisor gazed intensely at the messenger, who answered, "I believe her name was Fyora, if I am not mistaken."
At that, the queen let out another laugh—harder and fuller this time. The messenger pursed her lips quizzically. No one heard the advisor sigh in relief.
"Fyora, is it?" exclaimed the queen, wiping tears from her eyes as her laughter subsided. "She is just as mightily arrogant as I suspected! An alias, I have no doubt; no one would be named so contemptuously."
"Actually, my lady, that appears to be her true name."
The queen's eyes widened. "Indeed? How peculiar. Fyora... Though, to be fair, she must be a wondrous magician indeed to have usurped the Light Queen. Speaking of whom, Eyfa, did you get wind of how she lost her crown to this hotheaded imp?"
Eyfa shook her head. "Only some mention of a duel. Endrita's exact fate is unknown to me; though it is clear she lost."
"I see. So the beast obtained her throne by battle, and has already tasted victory." The queen tapped her chin in thought. "Judging by what I believe to know of her character, she will declare war on us inevitably. Whether it will be tomorrow or next year or in one hundred years remains to be seen... Though I sincerely doubt it will be so late; she seems the impatient type. In the meantime, Nereza," she said, turning to her advisor, "what would you suggest?"
Nereza thought for a moment in silence, then replied, "If war with the Light Kingdom is inevitable, then we must, of course, prepare. It will be important to secure allegiances from the other kingdoms, of course, despite their alliance with the Light Kingdom. I have personal connections in the Fire Kingdom, though I am uncertain if that will be enough to secure their support. I suggest a meeting of ambassadors from all six kingdoms to discuss the matter. Hopefully it will not be as you say, and we can prevent war. I would not wish war with the Light Kingdom."
The queen had been watching her intently, and her eyes were filled with understanding. She nodded and smiled. "As always, you are correct, Nereza," she praised. "Eyfa, please deliver the summons. We shall have it held here in my court, for we have nothing to hide. It shall be set to occur in one moon's full passing from this time."
"Also"—said Nereza quickly, before Eyfa could leave—"did you find...?"
Eyfa shook her head. "I'm sorry." She curtsied, properly this time, and swiftly left.
Nereza sighed. "I may as well not even ask anymore," she murmured.
The queen placed her hand on Nereza's sympathetically. "We will find her someday," she assured her. "Do not lose heart. We faeries live long lives, and in time you will be reunited with your sister."
"But should I even want that? She has clearly made no attempt to find me, so if she is not lost or dead, then she has no excuse. Does she really hate me that much? I have done her no wrong; in fact, it was she who betrayed me. Yet I have made it a priority in my life to find her since we were separated, and I have been utterly without success. Uriele vanished from the world the night she was taken from me."
"I am sorry," said the queen gently. "I wish there were anything more I could do that I haven't already done. My own sister is separate from me, as you know, but even that is not the same."
"If you would only allow me to visit the kingdom myself—"
"You know why I cannot. That is the one thing I cannot do. You are a dark faerie. They have never allowed dark faeries into the Light Kingdom. I myself have never even been. If I sent you there, I would lose my advisor and dear friend. And at a time like this, when the Light Queen has been replaced with an angry and bigoted child who has threatened us with war, it is unthinkable. Perhaps someday, when the tides have changed and we are no longer forced into these silly type-based kingdoms, you will be able to look with your own eyes upon all the light faeries and find hers. But until then, I am afraid the answer must be no."
Nereza sighed again. After a moment, she asked, "What will happen if we go to war?"
The queen shrugged. "I hope it does not come to that," she answered. "I will do whatever I can to prevent that. Hopefully we can come to some agreement at the summons."
"But if it does?" Nereza pressed.
"...Then we will do what we must."
The month passed by without event, until it was at last the eve before the meeting. The representatives from the five other kingdoms arrived and were shown to their quarters; as important guests, they would stay in the palace to rest from their journeys. The summons was to be held the next morning in a private hall after breakfast, closed off to the public.
Nereza scanned the faces of the Light Kingdom representatives carefully, but Uriele's face was not among them. Her feelings were mixed regarding this fact, and she was both disappointed and confused. She was sure that Uriele, with her abilities, would have risen in the Light Kingdom to a notable rank, and yet she was absent. Was she not notable enough to be an ambassador? Or were Nereza's fears true all along, and Uriele was not in the Light Kingdom?
Five of the six queens were present: Queens Nuria of the Fire Kingdom, Isithra of the Earth Kingdom, Esen of the Air, Sedna of the Water, and, of course, Sithira of the Dark. They each brought their advisors and several other faeries important to them. Queen Fyora of the Light was notably absent. Her ambassador of the highest rank took her place.
When the time was appropriate, Nereza approached Queen Nuria and said humbly, "My lady, if I may..."
"I know you," said the queen, fire-red eyes widening in surprise. She waved her attendants away, leaving them alone. "You are that sorceress who renamed me."
Nereza blushed. "Yes. I am advisor to Lady Sithira now."
"A wonder you are not the queen," murmured Nuria. Her wings burned as brightly and as warmly as they had the day she first received them.
"Oh, no." Nereza shook her head. "I couldn't. Sithira is a good queen. I am happy where I am."
Nuria's eyes searched her face carefully. "I notice you say nothing of her power," she replied in a quiet voice. "Surely you have more than she. I know you have more than I."
"Power is not the sole thing a queen ought to possess to rule well."
At that, Nuria smiled. "You are wise, too. You would make a good queen indeed. And do not lie to me that you are satisfied with your station. It is loyalty alone that holds your hand."
Nereza averted her gaze. The queen's ideas were false, but also not too far from the truth. While the position of Dark Queen was not one Nereza particularly desired, she still burned with bitterness at the injustice done to her by Uriele and Morwen. "I was to be fyora with my sister," she told her. "I was betrayed by her and our mentor. Uriele became fyora on her own. At that moment the tribe was broken apart. I have not seen her since."
Nuria put a hand on the dark faerie's arm. "She is the other one, is she not? The other Namer who saved my people."
Nereza nodded. "She is missing, as well," she confessed. "That day, she vanished from the world. No one has found a light faerie by the name of Uriele anywhere. I have been searching now for ten years. I thought for certain she might have sought a position of power, even queen, as ambitious and arrogant as she is, and yet... she has done no such thing."
"Curious..." The fire faerie crossed her arms over her chest. "Did she not join the Light Kingdom fyoras?"
"That was the first place I looked once I was able. She was not there."
Nuria frowned for a moment, then replaced it with a wry grin. "I find you and your situation fascinating. Such a wonderful puzzle; such wonderfully puzzling sisters. I greatly look forward to what your futures hold. With as much power as the both of you possess, it is inevitable that extraordinary things are to come."
"I do not know about all that."
She laughed. "You are young. When you learn to see your immortality and time stretch before you like the horizon, you will see as all faeries do."
"I am not so young," said Nereza defensively.
"Younger than most, I would say." Nuria's eyes softened. "I am retiring to my rooms now, for I am weary. But I promise you, I will keep an eye and ear out for your sister."
Though her first impulse was to refuse the offer, Nereza knew she could do no such thing. If there was a chance of finding Uriele and being reunited with her, she would take it. Despite her sister's betrayal, she missed her dearly and wished to see her again. She smiled sadly at Nuria. "Thank you," she said, and they parted ways.
To be continued...