Karla was born in the capital city of Glacia to the Queen Natalia, the strongest Queen in all of Glacia and the ruler of that Territory.
Natalia's pregnancy was hard. Her Consort had left her when she had become pregnant and her First Circle was unprepared to deal with their suddenly vulnerable Queen. Their protective instincts demanded they shield the residence but they did not know how to shield their Queen from the demands of a strenuous pregnancy. The darker Jewels a witch wore, the harder it was for her body to accept the foreign presence in her womb. Natalia wore the Red.
Her only comfort was her sister, Isolda, a Red-Jeweled Black Widow. Isolda would bring her two-year-old son Morton and would let the babe play on the floor whilst she and Natalia sipped peach tea and chatted away. The two had grown apart over the years, the demands of the Hourglass and ruling a Territory making it harder and harder to find time to spend together.
Those ten months were an enjoyable time for the sisters.
A month before Karla was born, Isolda spun a Tangled Web at her sister's behest. Natalia had only wanted to know if the coming year would be a hard one for the Territory of Glacia. What Isolda found in that Tangled Web was far more.
She saw the coming of a strong Healer, one who would take the land of Glacia in her hands and turn it inside out. Blood would run but it would nurture the land, not destroy it. She saw yellow and gray locked in a vicious battle, the gray, weakened almost to the point of death, casting the yellow out. She saw snow soaked in blood, the blood freezing in a winter longer and colder than Glacia had ever known before.
Isolda smiled her Black Widow smile and told her anxious sister that Karla would be a Healer. The coming year would be bitterly cold. That was all she had seen. Isolda reassured Natalia, then packed her Tangled Web in a shielded box and took it to the Sanctuary. Her Sisters there would mull over the meaning of this.
Karla entered the world a month later. Within a second of her birth, the sisters knew that Karla was not only a natural Healer, she was a Queen.
Five years was a long time for a Glacian. They were a short-lived race and those first five years were a vital time in a Glacian's life.
Karla was a happy child, if bossy. She was a Queen, after all. Natalia was protective of her only daughter and rarely let her out of her or Isolda's sight. The girl accompanied her to all public functions. The Queen's First Circle was Karla's main playmates. They loved the child and saw in her their future.
Karla never played with Morton. She hated her cousin, hated how their mothers always shoved them together when they needed to talk to the grown-ups.
Morton, for his part, ignored his loud cousin. He was seven and quiet, shy as she was loud.
Karla was five years old when the accident happened. Their Coach lost control while traveling over Arceria. It dropped from the Winds into that strange, dangerous Territory where massive, invisible cats laid waste to any humans who dared pass their borders. It was unknown whether the fall or the cats had killed them. Whatever it was, there wasn't enough left of their bodies for the transition to demon-dead. They were gone and no one knew their story.
Karla was eight-years-old the first time she met Jaenelle. Even then, she had a strange yearning for something more. The world around her was changing and she, once the rose of her mother's Court, didn't like it. She had been born into the world of Protocol and service; she craved that again.
What Karla never seemed to understand was that Queens weren't supposed to enjoy bowing down to others. They were naturally interested in being at the top, of having all the men fawning over them. They needed others to listen to them, to offer up their lives in their service.
Maybe it was the memory of her mother that made Karla dream of a Queen to guide her. Maybe it was some quirk in her physical makeup. Karla never knew.
Jaenelle came to her one spring afternoon. Karla had tired of her lessons. She had escaped to the gardens to climb the trees with their melting ice and dig her bare feet into the freezing earth.
Jaenelle…Jaenelle just appeared. She didn't drop out of the sky or rise out of the earth. Karla leaned over backwards on a branch and suddenly Jaenelle was there, staring up at her with sapphire eyes.
"Hi," Jaenelle said.
"Hi." Karla stayed where she was. The blood was rushing to her head but she didn't notice. The girl had so much color. Her skin was dark, red-tinged. Her hair was the color of a Yellow Jewel. "Where'd you come from?"
Jaenelle shrugged. "Somewhere else. Wanna play?" Her accent was weird. Her hair was weird, big, sausage curls. Her clothes were weird. Karla liked weird.
When Karla was twelve, she had her Birthright Ceremony. Morton, now her closest friend, had his two years before and came away with a Rose Jewel. He didn't have to tell Karla that he knew he was a disappointment. Isolda's son, whose father had been a Green-Jeweled Prince, was a Rose-Jeweled Warlord. There were whispers that maybe the Prince hadn't been his father, after all.
Karla's father did not show up for the first half of the Birthright Ceremony. Karla wasn't old enough to understand but everyone knew he was waiting to see what Jewel she came away with. If she, like Morton, turned out to be less than expected, he would turn away and not claim her as his own.
Faina, the Healer from Natalia's Court, took little Karla's hand and accompanied her to the Altar. Then, when Karla came away with her Jewel clutched in her proud hands, she swept the girl away. They left the Ceremony before Natalia's old Consort could step forward.
Faina, in a last act of love for her former Queen, had kept the man who had never loved the child away from the power that child now held.
Because, at that very moment, the strongest Blood in all of Glacia, the only person who wore a Jewel darker than the Green, was a twelve-year-old girl.
But Faina, then an old woman, could not protect Karla from the coming years. Without father or mother, aunt or uncle, Karla had no guardian. Someone had to raise the girl.
Lord Hobart was a distant cousin of Natalia's Consort. He shouldn't have been able to use that influence to his advantage, since Natalia had not been alive to confirm paternity at Karla's Birthright Ceremony, but he did.
Natalia's Court had been disbanded when she died. Glacians did not live long enough lives to be sentimental about death. Theirs was a cold land, a dangerous land, and it was wise to find a way to survive before thinking of anything else. A new Queen was appointed, a Purple Dusk-Jeweled Queen from a distant province. She was appointed for her strength, what little there was, and nothing else.
Hobart quickly became Lady Polina's friend. He convinced her that the reason her Court was so fragile was because the Blood in Glacia's capital were very different from those in Anadir, where Polina was from. Those in Lisva knew that Jewels weren't enough to get a Court to love their Queen. A Queen, especially a Territory Queen, had to be less forceful. She had to appreciate the men who served her, had to appeal to their physical senses, and delight them with small chatter and sweet words. Protocol was just that, Protocol, old, stuffy rules that didn't mean much. When a Warlord Prince pledged his life to a Queen to form a Court, it didn't mean he was actually pledging his life.
Polina, wowed by the glitz and glamour of the big city, took Hobart's words to heart. When he convinced her to step down and let a council of men rule Glacia in her stead, she did. The Queen that replaced her, utterly and completely a figurehead, wore the Summer-sky. Polina, oddly, disappeared. It was said that she returned to Anadir.
Polina's disappearance was followed by many others. Lisva, during Natalia's reign, had a population of 80,000. Of those, fifty were Queens and two thousand were Warlord Princes. During Polina's, the Queens dropped to thirty-five and the Warlord Princes to one thousand. In the five years after Polina's disappearance, twenty Queens disappeared. The Warlord Princes were decimated.
Other strange things began to happen. One out of every three Virgin Nights ended in an accident and a broken witch. Young women were kept from their Birthright Ceremonies too long, until it was impossible to enter the Altar and return with a Jewel. Warlord Princes and Princes were sent on hunting missions along the Arcerian borders and didn't return.
Fifteen marked the year Karla gave in to the aching pain in her chest and wrote a world-changing letter to the High Lord of Hell. Finally, she learned what had happened to her friend, to her Queen.
It tore her apart.
Only Morton knew that her friend was Witch. Only Morton would have believed her but that was not the reason she told him. Something about Morton sang to her. They needed each other but they were closer than cousins should be. Hobart had tried to pull them apart. When it came down to it, though, he thought Morton looked to him for advice. The boy was harmless, too shy and too scared of the men around him to ever do anyone any harm.
Two weeks after watching his cousin grieve for the power lost, for the Queen she would never see again, Morton gave the Offering to the Darkness.
He walked away with an Opal Jewel.
Half a year later, a letter came into Morton's hands, addressed to Karla. Morton would remember the shriek when she opened that letter for the rest of his life. Piercing, halfway between pained and overjoyed, and so terribly, terrible female. She swept him into a painful hug, then shrieked again.
"What is it?" he bit out, clutching his ears.
"Jaenelle," she breathed, eyes full of fire. "She's back."
What is there to say? The next ten years of Karla's life were the best and worst. She spent a summer at Jaenelle's side, knowing that no matter what the other witches thought, she was Jaenelle's closest rival. She was the strongest, she was the answer to a prophecy, a dream, and she had the triple gift. For a witch like Karla, who valued strength and power above all else, it was a dream come true. She had her Queen and what a Queen.
When she walked away from the Dark Altar with Gray Jewels, cut though they might have been, her eyes were full of dark power and promise. There was only one thing that could stop her now.
Her Virgin Night was a walk through Hell, pure and simple. The lesson in flying did not mask the pain or the horror of the invasion. But she had what she wanted. She was whole; she could build her Court without fear.
The last of Karla's fear left her the day Jaenelle set up her Court. Karla shivered as she stared at her midnight Queen and her Ebony Jewels. Yes, she thought. This was what she had craved all her life long. This was what she wanted to serve.
It took two seconds and not a single mental word between them for Karla to make her decision. She yielded her Territory and watched Jaenelle's beautiful sapphire eyes as Territory after Territory ceded to the only Queen Karla ever needed.
Lord Hobart's power grew stronger every time Karla left to be with Jaenelle. She needed Jaenelle but her Territory needed her more. Witch offered to rid Glacia of the threat but Karla refused. Glacia was her problem. Witch had bigger things to worry about.
She should never have exiled Hobart. That was never clearer than when she lay on Morghann's bed, her body wracked with pain, cursing herself for not having realized that her sicknesses hadn't been sicknesses at all.
Karla only cried five times in her life. Once, when her mother died. A second time, out of happiness, when she received her Birthright Jewels. A third the first time a man touched her and she blasted him with her Jewels, then curled up into a sobbing ball and vowed to remain a virgin forever. The fifth was when Morton was killed. The fourth time? The fourth time was when Jaenelle made Daemon Sadi her Consort.
Karla never had a Consort. Consorts were men and Sabrina wasn't a man.
Jaenelle blasted the Realms apart when Karla was twenty-six. Karla was not surprised to learn that the Territory hardest hit in Kaeleer was Glacia. She grieved for the people lost and those left behind who couldn't understand why their friends and family were gone. She helped bury the dead. She rebuilt Glacia.
All from her wheelchair.
Karla mourned the loss of her Queen quietly. She, who had never shown fear, could not find the courage within herself to let Jaenelle know that she still dreamed of Witch returning in her full glory.
This was what Jaenelle wanted. Karla reminded herself that she loved the woman as much as the Queen.
Jaenelle was still a Queen. She was still strong. She wasn't broken. She was just…not what she had once been.
Her Ring of Obedience was a comfort when Karla was at her lowest. She would curl her fingers around the gold and white gold ring, remembering that it was a gift from Witch, when Witch was Witch.
Sometimes Karla prayed for someone to attack her, to come after her and try to hurt her, just so she would have an excuse to set off the Ebony shield in that Ring.
Karla died at the age of sixty-eight. She lived a full life for a Glacian, the shortest of Kaeleer's short-lived races. The Queen who succeeded her wore a Sapphire Jewel and was voted in by a council of Glacian Queens. She was a good Queen with a good court. Della's daughter served in her Third Circle.
Karla spent the next few years searching Hell. Those who met her in her search were few. The Arcerians had taught her well. She never said who she was searching for exactly and it was hard to guess. Lord Hobart had perished at the High Lord's hand and Morton had given his death up to purge the Realms.
Perhaps it was vengeance she sought. Perhaps it was love.
Whatever it was, she must have found it because one day, her search ended and she became a whisper in the Darkness.