The gentle rolling of waves rang out against the sea wall of Daithi’s castle.
Daithi lounged in her study, surrounded by ornate marble bookshelves, thick tomes filling each and every bit of space. Ethereal butterflies danced around the tall ceiling of the room, filling it with a symphony of rhythmic wingbeats. Warming the room was a crackling fireplace that stretched to the ceiling, donned with intricate designs of metal and marble, woven together into a complex composition. Daithi perched on a luxurious floating recliner of soft, lavish furs; all of the opulence in her surroundings crafted solely at her will.
Daithi’s mind was reeling, reflecting on the coronation of their new Queen, Juturna. These moments of serenity provided the perfect atmosphere to organize her thoughts and determine her strategy as she reflected on the possibilities of today’s proceedings.
A slight ringing sound alerted Daithi to a servant, who wished to communicate with her. Daithi produced a live image of Enyo before her with a weak flick of her wrist. Enyo spoke as if she were before Daithi, “Lady Daithi, Lady Honah has arrived and is in the antechamber. Shall I see her in?”
“Yes, my dear,” Daithi commanded without any inflection in her voice.
Waving her hand, Daithi erased the image of her sentinel. A moment later, Honah passed through the door as though she were the ghost of a long dead, impeccably dressed noble woman. She possessed her usual deadly serious demeanor, and projected a majestic air of nobility as she greeted Daithi with a bow. Daithi returned the gesture, quickly deciding to follow the etiquette protocols, for no other reason than to avoid a lecture about the importance of tradition.
“I say unto you, Daithi, how does the day find you?” Honah inquired in perfect Pol, an ancient language used by an extinct race of scholars.
It was evident to Daithi that Honah was being playful with her, to the best of Honah’s ability at least, despite Honah’s body language remaining proper and stern.
Daithi smiled slyly and replied in equally perfect Pol, “I say unto you, Honah, I am well, although it is strange to meet in this way.”
Honah then began speaking in Charista, a language even more obscure than Pol, “What a thought. Agreement with you. Novel we come together in real time.”
Daithi laughed out loud, but maintained her dignity and shook her head. Her face absent of emotion, Honah stared at Daithi expectantly.
Daithi groaned in their common tongue, “Do you really expect me to speak Charista? You know I am not fluent.”
Honah continued with her blank stare until Daithi replied in broken Charista, “Me. Happy. Come Together. Strange. It is. Good.”
Honah’s lips curled upwards just a bit before she moved toward Daithi, taking her hands in hers and guiding them towards an archway that would lead them outside. The world outside was dreary - a mass of architectural ruins beneath somber, gray skies. The balcony was overgrown with vines and moss, with large gaps of marble missing from the guardrail. Statues of unidentifiable ancient ancestors stood amongst the ruins, mere remnants of their former glorious states.
As Daithai and Honah breached the archway, the area immediately warped to their combined will. Previously invisible butterflies, birds and all manner of ethereal creatures flickered from where they had been frozen in time, as magic painted the world around them, spreading out from each like ripples on water. The gray sky turned to a fluorescent green with clouds of deep crimson dotting the sky, and a magnificent golden sun burned brightly. The golden accents that once adorned the ancestral monuments had returned, majestically reflecting the sunshine. The guardrail that was broken and cracked had become whole and brilliant, stark white in color. The pair moved to a pillow-covered bench of marble near the balcony and took a seat, still holding hands.
“I’m worried,” Daithi said plainly.
“You have been worried for decades,” Honah replied as she squeezed Daithi’s hand. Reassured, Daithi let go, and they both placed their folded hands in their laps.
Daithi stifled a chuckle and nodded thoughtfully before replying, “I suppose that is true. Do you believe Juturna is ready to take the mantle of Queen? She is so young. I worry that she will fall into the wrong company.”
“So I have heard”, Honah nodded knowingly. They were thinking of Pasha without saying her name aloud. “Do you think that Juturna is at risk of being wooed by that temptress?”
“I do not. It is too early to know for certain, but we will keep watch, as a warden would a prisoner”, Daithi replied.
“Do you think the warden will be of importance? Or perhaps that scoundrel turned lap-dog of hers?” queried Honah.
Daithi nodded her head decisively before rising to her feet, offering her hand to Honah and stated, “We need to leave, or we will be late to the new Queen’s crowning.”
Carefully taking her hand, Honah rose to her feet. Honah closed her eyes and Daithi waited. Primordial purple energies began to scream as Honah’s will tore a hole in space and time. Daithi stepped forward first and pushed through the gateway of energy followed closely behind by Honah. As the portal closed behind them, the illusion of grandeur faded away and reality took hold of the world again. The estate of one of the most noble Mystic houses sat in ruins, as vermin scurried to find cover from the acidic rain.
Honah and Daithi appeared at a stone archway as if they had simply walked through it. They had arrived at the coronation chamber, in the center of which sat the staircase into the Repository, the greatest of all Mystic achievements. The key stone of the Repository hummed with a low rumble, filling the room with a warm white glow. Each of their sentinels had already arrived, as was custom to signal the approach of the nobility. Einar stood as still as a statue to the right of the archway as Enyo stood opposite him, idly resting her hand on the pommel of her sword. Standing next to the Repository on a raised dais, Juturna and Queen Caitlyn broke off their conversation in order to greet the arriving nobility. Honah and Daithi approached the dais, kneeling before it and lowering their heads. Honah greeted them, “Our Queen and our Queen-in-waiting.”
“Rise, Honah and Daithi,” Queen Caitlyn commanded, even though her voice shook from crippling pain. “I believe you will be the only others in attendance.”
The duo responded quickly, rising to their feet, Daithi looking to Juturna and smiling, “Yes, the Queen-in-waiting was very clear that she wanted the heads of the noble houses here in person.”
Juturna glared at Daithi and replied, “My court will be meeting in person, so let us proceed.”
Putting her hands into her sleeves, Honah shifted her icy gaze back to Daithi with a sparkle of interest in the unfolding conversation. Daithi’s face betrayed her as her brow furrowed. The ethereal butterflies surrounding Daithi dissipated into small sparkles of magic as she regained her poise, cleared her throat and simply stated, “As you wish, your Majesty.”
The hum of magic shifted the cadre’s attention to the stone archway that served as an arrival point for Mystics traveling by magic. Pasha’s magic appeared in a pink hue with black lightning that rippled around the tear in space as Pasha walked through. Strutting out of the portal, Pasha’s appearance was in stark contrast to her fellow nobles; while they wore long flowing robes, she opted for tightly fitting corsets and slit skirts. Pasha filled the room with the sweet scent of flowers with a shake of her meticulously styled red hair. Slipping in silently behind her, a rough-hewn man dressed in the regalia of Pasha’s house stepped just inside the portal, clasping his hands in front of him, sleeves rolled up to reveal the deep scars along his left arm, woven in the shape of chains. She approached her fellow nobles before kneeling towards Juturna and Caitlyn. Though Pasha’s voice could be described as soothing, Honah found her annoying, aloof, and brash.
Pasha spoke as she rose to her feet, “My Queen and my Queen to be, I am honored to be in your presence and the presence of the esteemed Honah and illustrious Daithi.”
Daithi’s mouth twitched as she began to retort, but thought better of it - this was not the time to have a spat with Pasha. Honah’s eyes were steely, but just beneath the surface was a bubbling ire. She struggled to hide her disdain for Pasha, and managed to nod thoughtfully toward her. Daithi could sense Enyo’s grip tightening around her blade. She glanced over her shoulder to Enyo, reminding her sentinel to maintain her composure.
The tense moment was interrupted by Queen Caitlyn's stern voice as she moved the coronation along, feeling her life leaving her like each word she spoke , “As we have all gathered here, and my time is short, let us begin with the ceremony.”
Daithi, Honah, and Pasha each took a position that formed a semi-circle. Together, they raised their hands, and in so doing, images of each member of their houses began to appear. The images appeared as fantastic bursts of plasma, filling the room with an unparalleled display of arcane magnificence. The subjects in the images only weakly appeared to acknowledge the proceedings. Each of them appeared to politely gesture to the royalty before them, before becoming distracted and going about their own business. Makimi absentmindedly combed her hair, Kerrigan silently picked at her violin’s strings, even Henry, presumably just a few floors beneath them in the repository, seemed preoccupied with a corpse he was preparing to inter. As the magic rose to a crescendo, every Mystic citizen was able to bear witness to the crowning of a new Queen, yet each seemed too consumed in their own trivialities to care.
“My subjects, I have gathered you here today to witness my ascension to Queen, not for my own glory, but because I must speak to you directly. I have brought your noble leaders before me,” Juturna said, and then paused.
Despite witnessing almost every citizen ignoring her address, Juturna spoke confidently, “This is the first time we have been in the same physical space in nearly six years! We cannot continue this way! Should something unforeseen occur, I fear that we will be ill prepared to address it! We have ignored the plagues that our magic cannot protect us from! Have they not ravaged cities? What of hunger? Have we not lost subjects to starvation because we did not plant sufficiently!?”
Despite her inflammatory and passionate words, still very little attention was being paid to the new Queen. Juturna grit her teeth as she finished addressing her people, “Therefore, we must come together as one people! I am humbled to be your new Queen and to lead us into this new era of revival.”
Caitlyn, Daithi, Honah and Pasha quietly applauded. Juturna kept her head high as she walked around the Repository’s keystone, the conduit through which a queen’s ascension transmits, and placed a hand upon it. Caitlyn spoke, “My subjects, I do not have much time. It is taking everything I have to maintain this life, so I will be brief. It has been a pleasure. I am grateful to have been your Queen, but now I pass this mantle to Juturna. Please, hear her words, as I wish I had many years ago.”
Caitlyn weakly approached the Repository and placed her hand upon it. The moment Caitlyn’s hand touched the stone surface of the keystone the room burst into a thunderous sound as raw energy exploded around them. For just a moment, raw plasma leapt around the room with Juturna as the focal point for the maelstrom of magic before dissipating as quickly as it appeared. Ears rang as those physically present recoiled from the transfer of power. As the litany of power softened to a pulsatile hum, Juturna stood alone, with eyes aglow and body shivering. Arcane energies pulsed around her like bolts of lightning. As with all other Queens before her, all that remained of the regal Caitlyn was a pile of ash that disintegrated into nothing as the residual magic obliterated the dregs of her being.
It took a few minutes for Juturna to regain her senses after the immense transfer of power. The pure white that had replaced her vision had begun to fade into a muddled darkness. By the time she had her wits about her, the majority of the Mystics who had scryed in to witness her coronation had already closed their connections. Daithi and Honah were nowhere to be found. She turned towards the only people left in the chamber with her, as Pasha and Davy stood flanking a portal, Pasha absent-mindedly picking her teeth with the elongated thorn of a rose.
“Always a pleasure, my Queen.” Said Pasha, with a gentle earnesty to her voice, before they turned and stepped into the portal.
A single arcane light remained flickering in the chamber, as Imara paged through a book, not even facing her scrying portal any longer. Juturna gazed momentarily at the image as her heart sank. Imara looked up from her book, just in time to see her new queen’s disheartened gaze before Juturna wiped away the connection with a frustrated wave of her hand.
Written by Christopher Tesorio
Edited by Connor Policastro