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River of Ichor

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It still takes time getting used to everything, after all these years.

She was far too small, and sometimes she still feels so tiny and and failing, like grain of sand that plays at being desert. Meridian is so grand and great, for girl born and raised in tiny Heatherfield (part of her will forever remember to that tiny town, part of her will forever long for world without magic and danger). Even her room feels impossibly huge,  and it even seems to  her that sky is wider and sea deeper then on Earth.

She thinks she will never grow in her throne. That she will never learn to properly find way around her castle (her castle!). That she will never visit all places on Meridian, or understand it’s phrases, or meet all various people that live there.  Everything feels too tall and wide, and so rich and unfamiliar.  Too often she feels like leaf in storm.

The crown is too heavy. Her dresses seemingly trail endlessly. Her hair hangs low. Doors she passes through are big enough for elephants to pass. Her castle rests as high as mountains, city below her seemingly fit only for ants. There is ring of stone behind it, in which she could place whole of moon, that allows people to portal themselves to other worlds. And still she remains short, remains slight and slender while everything rises far above her.

Inside her, light stronger and greater then Sun beats. It will help her carry the whole of Meridian.

***

His cell is bigger then he expected.

He will never allow his surprise to show, but he didn’t expect it to be so spacious. Not nearly as great as his gardens, as his domain, rooms turned woods and meadows, but still bigger then burrows he would have given to his prisoners. It must be some poor attempt at subtle mockery, a concealed dig at him and his reign. Look how kind and better we are, to allow such comfort even to one such as yourself. We are good, we are just, even to monster such as yourself. let world see our queen’s grace. Fools.

Were it him, he would give his prisoners barrows and holes. There would have barely been space to breathe, much less for bed (he doesn’t sleep on it, as uncomfortable as he suspects it to be, because thankfully Elyon isn’t that gracious- he had been sleeping on earth for years, and that won’t change now), or chamber pot. No, he would leave his prisoners to rot in holes, where pressure hurt their skulls and stone rubbed their backs, where they could barely breathe, where they would rot in their own filth, as stone and steel crushed them. Nothing as nice as this mockery.

Electric bars are nice touch, however.

So he hides in shadows, and waits. Were it small cell, guards would have been able to see him, and they would laugh and rejoice in his shame and humiliation. Like this, however, he can retreat in darkness and shade, and wait and plot. He can look at how spacious it is, and size of all cells, afforded to prisoners by Elyon’s mockery, and collect his hatred and rage. She thinks she is being subtle and smart, ridiculing him and his rule like this, but she isn’t. She just gives him more reasons to hate her, more anger to fuel and feed his desire for power. But she will pay for that when she gets out, oh yes. He will bury her so far below , where not even roots of oldest tree stretch. She will see how generous he can be.


 

She adapts slowly. But she adapts. In years that pass, like a snake she sheds her earthly life, sheds her girl-skin, to become queen and Light. It hurts, hurts worse then if she had all her bones stretched and all of her hair pulled out, but it is worth it. It hurt when she went on hiking with Taranee too, but view when she climbed on top of mountain was fascinating. Was worth it all.

Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Change always hurts, but it is fundamental to growth. At least that is what Mrs. Lin, Oracle, her tutors all say. She wants to believe it, even if it sounds like old people’s  insufferable and useless advice and new age faux-tv-zen bullshit at same time. Still, she hopes they are right.

Nobody is born a queen, she is told. Every queen before her faced challenges, doubted herself. Elyon won’t be first, and won’t be last. Each new trial only strengthens her, each new ordeal only makes her wiser. History  will remember her as queen who started off as facing one of greatest threats to universe at age of 13. And someday, she will look at all her struggles, and laugh at how terrible they seemed. Well, she hopes at least.

***

Adaptation is key.  Key of everything. You can never be prepared enough, there is always chance for chaos to throw your plans in disarray. To be complacent is to be idiot, and suffer for it.

Seize the chance. take everything, anything, work with what you have been given. Anything can be used, everything can be repurposed. Let them come, let them imprison you thousand times, it is all good as long as you find a new way to escape.

So wait. Listen.  Watch guards. Learn. Memorize. And prepare.


 

She wonders often how they will write about her. What will children of her subjects tell their grandchildren about her. Now she is Elyon, the reclaimed queen, rightful ruler returned from Earth. She has saved them twice by now, and she is kind. But as years pass, she knows people will realize she is doing bare minimum, and what if she isn’t so good at managing anything? What if her laws and decisions turn out to be bad? What if history recalls her as weak, foolish queen, who knew nothing of Meridian, who might be stranger as well, who fell for obvious lies again and again, and was too naive and stupid to be of any use.

***

They tell stories about him even now, though they don’t know that.  Maybe some parents are ware, maybe some artist consciously  pushed for it in futile attempt at subtle rebellion. Listen to stories they tell their brats, painting in their picture books. Look and search for witches, and compare. How image of wicked witch has changed from awful old man in rags, spitting blood and crooked teeth, to that of a beautiful man with sly words and cold eyes. Look at how long their hair always is. He wonders what will they say in future, how will they ridicule and declaw him. Take away his strength and magic, leave nothing but pretty face and lies.


 

There are lies everywhere. It seems she can’t escape them. hat is what evil is, she decides, nothing but lie. That is how it grows, by weakening you with it’s claims and deceptions, and letting you give yourself over to it. But that is ok, because she has learned her lesson, even though it ahs been hard one, and now she knows she has people  she can rely on.  Who will forever stand by her side.

***

Everything is a lie. Everybody is liar, to others or even themselves. Once you learn that, world is much easier. You never accept what people tell you, you learn to expect betrayal at every turn. Lesson came too late, but now it sticks fully. And you  learn how to lie as well, you learn what words you need to feed somebody to make them yours. And you learn how to dispose of people once you don’t need them (properly, next time).


 

Once, she complained how small her family tree was. Now, she isn’t sure whole park could be enough to properly fill it all out. She has found so many of them, or better yet, they found her. Her parents, of course, but Guardians and their families too, and rebels, Caleb and Vathek and all guards. It seems that wherever she goes there is somebody  she can trust with her life, that there are so many people willing to risk their own lives for Elyon-Elyon brown, the girl who liked drawing and got A on math test, not Elyon Escanor, who wore heavy crown and brought abck the Sun.

She can only hope she will prove worthy of such love.

***

He had only one sister, which was horrible but Phobos found silver lining in fact that it was only one. His mother’s fragile health led to her birthing only two children, instead of having small armies, as most of their cousins did. Dealing with that litter was horrible  headache- nobody appreciated how much genealogy books you had to consult to make sure you disposed of them all. He was still sure a branch or two got away and was leading rebel cell in distant parts of Meridian. Though, to be honest, they weren’t that bad before. He liked them well enough when he was child and there were family visits.

Nothing quite as fun as watching them cry once their beds were set on fire, or pets hanged, or hair woven in thickets of nettles... Ah, those joyful, easy days. He almost misses them.


 

She never knew her mother- her birth mother, that is. She doesn’t even know how woman died, aside from obvious suspicions. She never even met her, or well at least not so she could remember. She doubts baby her thought of anything but being clean and fed. She didn’t even know of Weira for some thirteen years, and yet she still misses her. She loves mom, Miriadel, but still it doesn’t feel right. She should have known her birth parents, and that chance was forever taken away.

She still remembers false memory Nerissa had shown her, and how it seemed to cut her heart in tiny squealing pieces.

***

He remembers his mother’s face, moments before light (and Light) went out of her eyes. He remembers how pale it was, and sweat on her forehead.  He remembers bloodshot eyes and tears in corners and pupils shrunk until they were as small as seed of poppy, remembers saliva that pooled down her trembling lips and how her teeth glinted, remembers raspy, desperate breaths that left her as her hands shook and her chest slowed down, how her red hair fell over yellowing cheeks, how her neck fell down, as in broken doll.

He had never raised knife easier and held it tighter since that day.


 

She doesn’t think  of him at all. This is no lie, this is her victory and rebellion. She has seen him for what he is, a rose whose petals pale in comparison to his poisoned thorns,  and he can never harm her properly. He is but a tiny stain on her life, an ugly rotting thing in world full of beauty and wonder. She ahs put him in cell twice and shall do so again and again if he escapes. She is stronger and better then him, more powerful then he will ever be, and she has nothing to fear.  She has almost forgotten him, has left him in past to rot, and walked away, to world that deserved her attention. Mice in pantry are bigger worry to her now.

***

He thinks of her every day. It keeps him strong and ready and calm, thinking of his sister, longing for her screams, for her death. He listens and learns of all changes she made, and braids his hair, devising new torture for each strand. He think of how he will break her, how he will devour all Light inside her, how he will leave her out for weeds and vultures. Each day and each night, he recalls her face, and thinks of blood and bones showing.


 

There is so much to learn.

This is truly a whole new world, and she throws herself in learning about it. A mad hunger drives her, hunger for homeland denied and lost to her. She picks up it’s language, and learns it’s confusing letters, not stopping no matter how many times she seeks to weep because it is so strange to her, because it fits weirdly on her tongue, like something that was once part of her yet was thorn out, ache in her very bones. She learns of it’s history, even unsavoury parts,  and of it’s art and flora and fauna, it’s religion and customs, and it makes her want to cry and scream, happiness and loneliness colliding in her, for something she recognizes as hers yet so alien.

But her family is always there to understand and encourage her.

***

He despises this world.

There is no reason to his hate, no source.  That is why he became tyrant, when he could have plotted to make himself seem as just and gentle ruler. He despises it’s air and moons, despises people who walk it’s face, the ground he stands on. Every word he hears is disgusting, every thing he  lays eye on is false and boring. Only when it is all broken and dead and twisted can he appreciate it. Beauty is useless, and despair and ugliness make world worth it all.

He retreated in his garden before, all alone, and when he gets out he will make sure whole of Meridian becomes garden, all his.


 

Still panic rises in her when she pricks her fingers. Roses at least had been ruined for her, for she still remembers how throne chained her, remembers vines that wrapped themselves around her wrists, the thorn that dug in and seemed to scratch her very bones. She would rather bear knife in heart then pick up rose again.

She can almost remember how cold and empty she felt, once they drained Light out of her.

***

Pain is lovely. Nothing quite like pain to motivate people. And nothing like pain to please you, nothing like hearing the screams cut short and seeing faces twisting in agony. It can fuel man for century, pain can motivate anybody to become anything.

He holds his hands to bars, almost touching them, often, so he can feel energy sear and hurt across flesh, and remember.


 

There is nothing like magic.

It is so much more then flying, then calling upon elements, then all those impressive tricks. It is something nestled in your heart, whispering always, always keeping you strong and hopeful, a miracle propelling you forward. even once she had been drained of it, as she felt as if all stars were snuffed out, spark of it remained inside her, promising there is something better ahead, that she can reach for and make possible for whole world.

Her magic came from her people, was theirs, power of all their hearts bound in one. That was what it was, and why she had to respect it, why she could never fail as long as it was held within.

***

Magic was power.

There were many kinds of power, but magic was greatest of them all. It was knowledge and energy and privilege, all in one. It was ability to bend world to your desires, to make impossible real. It was hungry and grasping and merciless, drawn from lives and souls and secrets. It was something afforded only to special ones,  talent and knowledge and gift that couldn’t be challenged. Not unless you were smart and ruthless and strong enough to claim it, no matter how they tried to stop you.

Blood on roses. That is where it came from.

***

Magic was tool.

Impressive tool, but still a tool. You could be greatest sorcerer in universe, and yet, if you were just a fool with head empty of anything useful, full of nonsenses and dreams., it would be worthless. You had to gather it, hold it close, and never reveal what you knew. You could sue it to cheat death and strangle fate, if you were smart. It was as beautiful as shine of gem, as essence of love, and as deadly as good lie, as painful truth.

Magic could be stolen and hoarded. but it was useless if you didn’t know how and to what to apply it.