The City of Mordove

Foundations:

No one is sure precisely how Mordove was founded, or when.  There are mentions of strong stone walls in the first records to be found in ancient Palentian.  They took the city despite its defenses, and kept it as an outpost protecting against any potential Anderhale incursion several decades before the Lycian genocide.  The conquest of Lycia redoubled the importance of this outpost, which fell to Anderhale forces ten years before the Lycian rebellion retook their nation.

Ancient Mordove was sacked three times during the following decade as the three nations fought over the strategically important position.  It was ultimately abandoned by Corinthian forces after the fall of the Anderhale capitol, as Corinth recalled troops to help hold a tenuous grasp on the conquered nation.

Palentine retook the abandoned outpost, and built a new set of walls that would later outline the shape of the main academy.  Mordove went unassailed for a decade, and the general holding it refused to accept initial introduction into Corinthia when southern Palentine joined.  This meant Mordove operated as a city state for another decade, and remained an independent nation state when joining the empire under the Lord General’s successor.  This title of Lord General would persist until the treaty of Mordove restructured the city state to function more as a capital, and less as an independent body.

By the third decade of Corinth’s reign Mordove had already become a challenger to the royal academy.  The original central fortress was completely subsumed by the institution, and spilled into the surrounding city.  The main royal academy would however continue to outshine it until the destruction of Corinthia during the dragon war.

As the most renowned surviving institution of higher learning in the post war world, Mordove was the natural place to found the Council.  Representatives of all the nations of the former Empire were called to write, and ratify the Treaty of Mordove.  The articles of which helped enshrine the next few centuries of relative peace.  One of the critical articles called for the encouraging of migration of gifted to Mordove.  This was done in a number of ways, from political pressure, to stipends for gifted residents based on the strength of their aura.  Further support was given to gifted women who bore and raised gifted children.

Mordove was the place to be if one sought power or prominence in the post imperial world.  Mages were banned from military and governing positions in most lands, with a few grandfathered in exceptions for some royal lines.  A limited number of positions as caravan mages, and mercenaries were all that were left for the conventional battle mage.  Enchantment became an over saturated market, and many competent mages found themselves to be lack luster enchanters.

This did lead to a number of renegade mages forming bands of brigands, a pattern which continues into the modern era.  All together though, most mages are happy to seek out Mordove, and find a place, and a role.  Councils, sub-councils, instruction, raising more gifted youth.  Bulk enchantments for distribution by caravan where needed.  Fortune telling a perennial niche.  More mundane craftsmanship flourished, often refined with magic training.

Structure:

The city of Mordove is the largest contiguous city on Thaea with a population of nearly a million residents, and a disproportionate gifted population of over thirty percent.  More than a fifth of its residents are at least part time students, instructors, or support staff of the Academy.  Fully a third are in the direct employ of the city for upkeep, maintenance, construction, and other public services.  The overlap between these two catagorise is harder to parse.

City government is primarily managed by seven elected Ministers who represent the physical areas of the city, and eight appointed Councilors from the Low-Council who represent broader reaching concerns and disciplines.  One of these is elected by the group as Chancellor, who in turn technically answers to the sitting Archmage, but the two historically stay out of each-other’s business.

The Archmage is a mostly honorary position granted to an elder council member, and requiring their replacement as sitting council member.  The Archmage does however have a number of enumerated functional powers in directing council business, and may vote in the event of a tie, or abstain, leaving a deadlock, and direct business on.  The Archmage may be drawn from Provisional Seats, and in fact three of the past ten Archmages have been enchanters, and one Diviner.  The Archmage may also refuse the post, forcing another vote. This has happened five times in three hundred years.  The Archmage is also the de facto head of the Academy, but many have appointed all major duties to a deputy administrator.

The Actual Treaty:

The Treaty of Mordove is one of the most lengthy, exhaustive, and convoluted legal documents ever crafted.  This often impenetrable, ever growing collection of precedents, subsections, appendices, and amendments outlines a deceptively simple premise.

Kings are not mages (not always true, given a number of exceptions,) and reign at the sufferance of the Council, and the laws of the Treaty.

Only two kings have been deposed under the terms of the treaty, and a third by the super majority vote of the council, requiring seventy percent dissent, and a clear moral imperative.  The very definition of clear moral imperative is outlined in one of the lengthiest appendices, which itself has an entire volume of amendments.

If all this seems absurd it is perhaps because the council often has little better to do, given their function is not to govern.  Rather they manage who governs, the legality of their decrees, and the best interest of the world as a whole.

The Prime Council seats:

The Prime Council has 16 Members, representing the nations of the former Empire.  Their relationship to the nations they represent is however often complex, or even indirect.  The successor to each seat is sponsored by the sitting member while still alive, and need only be accepted by assent of both their peers within the Mid Council, and the members of the Prime Council.  Assent requires a vote of always one less than half the votes available.  That is seven votes for from the prime council, and whatever it amounts to among their available peers.

Voting Council members may be removed by a vote of seventy percent of the Prime and Provisional council, or the unanimous vote of the rest of the Prime council.  The prior has happened twice, the latter only once.

There are sixteen Prime Council seats, but for brevity we will discuss only the most controversial in their number.

The Clarion Ascension
Corinthia
Western Palentine
Eastern Palentine
Southern Palentine
Central Palentine
Napir

Notable is the seemingly disproportionate influence of Palentine, this must however be taken in context that these four nations are very often not in agreement, and contentious with one another.  Though Southern and Central Palentine are often more moderate, and unreliably will side with Eastern or Western, often canceling each other.

Corinthia conversely is disproportionately influential as more than a quarter of this nation has been rendered uninhabitable, and the border territories have grown ever more depopulated.  Corinthia votes reliably, and all but in lock step with Lycia.

The Clarion Ascension is made up of many smaller city-states, and governed regions.  It has petitioned relentlessly to see its power in the council expanded with additional seats, and been consistently denied.

Napir openly refuses to recognize council authority in their nation, and yet wields it with a voting seat.  This muddled arrangement however is enshrined in the Treaty of Mordove, and Napir’s very particular structure of governance cannot be adapted to council rules.  This is largely due to the unique nature of the position of Storm Queen, and the incredible literal powers wielded by this landlocked sovereign.

The Provisional Council:
The Provisional Council adds a variable number of seats that hold votes, though these seats are sometimes dropped to the lower council, it is most often enumerated as:

Enchanters
Architects – the only council seat occasionally held by an ungifted.
Diviners
The War College
Healers
Druids
Shapers
The North Eastern Tribes
The North Western Tribes
The Knights of the Empire – most often absent.
Osyrae

The Osyrean seat is particularly controversial, as Osyrae has recognized their own representation only four time in three hundred years.  King Heron recognized the sitting representative at the time of his ascension to the throne, and so the Osyrean seat is currently a member of the provisional council, in spite of his brother taking his place.  King Vharen has neither recognized or refuted the sitting representative.

As a rule the active inclusion of many of these seats is determined based on the question of the Prime Council’s view if they are both in alignment with the charter of the Treaty, and if they truly represent those they stand for.  Three times an entire Provisional seat has been dissolved, and reformed.

The Mid Council:

The junior entourage, circle of support, and heirs apparent to the seats of the Provisional and Prime seats of the council.  Mid Council members do sometimes stand for the sitting member if they are ill, by order of precedence of their understood position within the group.  Beyond this Mid Council members often make up committees, rather than deposing a Prime or Provisional member with the details of legislation.

The Lower Council:

A somewhat erratic list of guilds, aristocrats, and other intellectual circles.  They tend to grow in number, rather than shrink, as the council has proven more apt to add lower seats than rescind them.  This council has limited power or influence on the far reaching affairs of the council, but significant power over governance of Mordove itself.

The enchanted wares and textiles of Mordove are second only to those of Osyrae, but cheeper, and more plentiful.  All other rivalries aside the crafters of these two nations are locked in ageless war of refinement on their arts.  Osyrean silks and fine wools, satins and delicate dense threaded cotton from Mordove.

One of the more exotic wares from Mordove however are the work of an isolated druidic circle who have grown a small forest within a corner of the city.  These master shapers create practical, and aesthetic works of living wood, and are the last great school of shaper magic in the world.  The rise of this sub-group of the druid circle created the modern Shaper seat on the provisional council.

The Knights of the Empire:

The Knights of the Empire are recognized, and sanctioned under Council law, and only two of the Imperial Knighthoods have been stripped since the founding of the council.  One was stripped, but restored.  Three more have died out.  There are twenty three recognized Knights of the Empire, of which three are practicing mages of note, the rest primarily martial in training.  As most (Lord) Knighthoods through the former empire the title is heritable, but easily stripped for miss deeds.

The Knights of the Empire directly serve not the council, but treaty law, often with much wiggle room around the expanded volumes that have been written since the signing.  The distinction on this is often lost, particularly since the Knights were given their own seat, but it is filled less than half of the time.

Officially Knights of the Empire cary a rank slightly below that of a Duke or equivalent in any given Council land, but rarely exert this authority, and rarely would such flexing work.  Leading only to complicated political ramifications.  Though the Knights do not directly serve the council the Council does have enumerated powers to “call” the Knights to any given land to serve as they see fit.

A City by Any Other Name:

A great deal of confusion exists about the name Mordove, and competing theories swirl around possible origins.  Mor, not to be confused with the western moor, was a rather specific Anderhale word for a common rocky terrain type that is hard to cultivate, develop, or traverse.  However in old Palentien mor was simply more.  Dov in old Palentian is white, where as e was often added to Anderhale nouns to imply whiteness, and duv was their word for pidgins which are a common bird in the land.  This pattern is known to be the origin of the modern dove.

What this leads to is a bit of a miss match.  In straight old Palentien Mordov would be more white, the sense of which is not understood, and the origin of the e would be mysterious save to form the rather redundant more-white-white.  Mor of Doves is suggested as an Anderhale origin, which while not completely implausible does rub up against a general belief that Palentians first made the settlement there before fortifying it, and later being conquered by their kin.  White Mor is suggested by other scholars, as the rocky outcroppings in the area are mostly pale to white granite.  This is a plausible transitional dialect option.

Most popular amongst common residents however is the inverse suggestion of simply More Doves.  This translation gained notoriety due to joking about the overpopulation of pidgins and doves through the city.  The absurd suggestion is rejected by most, but not all scholars.  The only strong linguistic argument against it is that it is silly, but it is none the less as valid a transitional dialect solution as White Mor.

The Resolve of the Council:

In over three centuries, and baring the initial decades of marginal chaos for which records get spotty, there have been four recognized rebellions, five coups, two civil wars, three royal assassinations, and fifteen border skirmishes that have been deemed to warrant Council intervention.  The result of every single one has been controversial, and re-litigated to stalemates, upsets, or upheld only on technicalities.  In spite of this the actual force that the Council has occasionally brought to bare maintains enough fear to keep most nations on the straight and narrow.

All of this of course also ignores acts that occur outside the bounds of the Treaty of Mordove.  From internal struggles in Osyrae, to abuses of the peoples of the northern wastes, or wars between them.  Their seats on the Provisional council have proven ineffective at best, and superficial more realistically.  Given these regions are fractious the representation has been spotty if the sitting member is not of an effected tribe.  More so the two seats do not show any common interest, and in recent decades the Eastern seat is more closely aligned with the Clarion Ascension.

The single most controversial case was the assassination of the King of Thebes in 523 E.R.  This assassination was blamed on the heir apparent, shown later to be the work of his younger brother who got Council favor to take the throne.  He was then deposed, and the rightful heir freed, only to be killed in a Clarion backed coup.  This finally resulted in the installation of Queen Regent Margarite, the consort of the slain King who reigned for fifteen years till her son was of age to take the throne.  The boy however in the meantime proved to be a mage prodigy, and Margarite was left on the throne for another twelve years while the Council bickered over succession.  They finally picked the young Duke Astair, who rather than simply taking the throne instead married the aging Margarite, and deferring to her as the proper ruler till her death in 590 E.R.  He then stepped aside, naming his bastard son by his well known mistress to the throne.  The Council relented to this rather than destabilize the nation again.

This particularly egregious series of failures, and lacking leadership has left the clout of the Council in question for decades, and is considered endemic of a larger problem shown through other historic examples.

Advertisements

Chapter 18

TheSword_Reversed.png

Not all nature hath given is worthy of trust,
the instincts of body are animalistic urges,
these care not for light, mind, or spirit will,
and err toward a primitive world that was,
yes endure we must to walk worthy paths,
yet a tainted soul is for the voids sure gain,
commit not the nature fickle flesh to spirit.

– The Path of Ascension, Saint Taurien, circa 10 B.E.

Fighting Instincts

Jovan 1st, 645 E.R.

“The Empire Reconciliation began in the year thirty-four of the reign of first Emperor Corinth,”  Kiannae read, and then frowned.  “Though Corinth is said to have resisted putting such emphasis on the year of his ascension, it was ultimately…”

“We’ve covered this,” Katrisha protested.

Moriel turned a bit tersely, but then hesitated.  He marched up to the desk the twins were sitting at, flipped through a few pages, checked the cover, and shook his head.

“My apologies, I seem to have crossed up lesson plans with the young prince,” he said, and walked the book back across the room.

“But we covered that a year ago,” Kiannae said a bit incredulously.

Continue reading “Chapter 18”

Chapter 10

The twine once unwound,
shall again be re-bound,
and from the least of these,
shall come the greatest to be,
all things move both ways,
just as in those ancient days,
that which once has passed,
shall come again at last,
and order’s brightest day,
shall in deepest night decay.

– Book of Entropy, circa 30 B.E.

Shifting Threads

Rhaeus 40th, 641 E.R.

Wren glanced nervously around a large room as he entered.  He had never been inside one of the classrooms, and didn’t really know the nine older children that surrounded him.  There was a glimmer of mutual recognition with a girl sitting by the door.  After a moment the girl waved Wren over, and seemed to be searching for his name.  “Wren, isn’t it?” she finally asked.

Continue reading “Chapter 10”

1-6b: A Journal of War

Here we have the first of the Chapter Extras.  This is a collection entries from the journal of Gwendoline (referenced in Chapter 6,) Princess of the Empire, Duchess of Midrook, and Queen Regent of Avrale.  This series of excerpts chronicle a very personal experience of the Dragon War, from one of few mortals to witness both the beginning, and the end of the most bloody conflict in recorded history.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

It has been a century since I have truly looked into the eyes of my sister… Of all the horrors of the day, this is what hangs on me.  I have seen a goddess bleed.  I have seen scales like diamond rent, and heard the baleful cry of our Dragon Empress.  I have seen her fall weakly upon the cliffside before my gates…and I have bared to look into her eyes…after all this time.

My sister was dead.  My sister was something timeless, and inhuman… I had let her go.  I had mourned, and pledged nearly the same fealty to the dragon that had taken her name.  I had looked at those eyes before.  I had seen the dragon…and how wrong I was.  For today as she cried, as healers tended to our Empress, and I looked into her great eye.  I saw her.  No matter how large, and changed that eye, it was hers.  It was my Roshanna, eldest princess who would read to me when we were little.  I abandoned her, I forgot her, I left her alone for a century of our lives.

My old bones could nearly crack beneath the weight of it.  My sister…my sister who lives, who by all measures seemed immortal, the last ruler this world would ever need…  She has nearly perished, fallen at the might of another dragon.  Fear grips me, there is not merely another of her kind now in the world, he has an army like him, and we…my country…my son will be first to bear the brunt of what is upon us.  The horror of an age.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

The Empress…my sister…  She has gone against the advisement of healers, and flown on to the east.  Some are whispering of cowardice, others do not blame her, but few see the truth.  She has failed once against our coming foe, she must seek hope at the heart of the Empire…and yet what hope can there be?

Now I must flex my own political authority, already weakened by the Empress’s retreat.  My son seeks to rally the troops, and prepare to defend against the inevitable.  I must depose him from the station he seeks to take up, and send him away.  I pray that he has more of my reason, than his father’s steady but stubborn will.  It is fortunate perhaps, that I wed the young duke, and not the elder prince after all.  For now I may press my dear cousin in law, our King to tap my son to diplomatic service.  By this force him out of the path of the coming storm. I have sent my letter, now…now I wait, and hope.  My years are short, let a princess of the Empire stand, let it be my blood that is shed when the war comes, not my son.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Ashrook has fallen, only a lone soldier was spared the dragon’s wrath.  I wonder if he was allowed to escape, only to spread fear.  It is unclear how many might have been taken prisoner, and there is no word of the duke, though his wife arrived some days ago on her way to Broken Hill.

My entreaty has been answered, and my son has threatened to defy the King.  I have pleaded that he accept the role he is called to, and he has correctly blamed me for the King’s order.  First I have waited for word, and now I wait for my son to see reason.  There cannot be long for him to accept.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Broken Hill is aflame.  My son is no longer a Duke…he is a King.  A King in a war where the high mountains of Avrale mean nothing.  Where a force of dragons can fly swiftly in the dead of night, and lay siege to the capital before even an alarm is raised.  There is no longer any command that he need head.  If I can no longer go above him, then my dear daughter in law is my only hope.  If she cannot speak reason to our new king, then at least she can carry my grandchildren far from here.  I only worry to where.

Would South Rook be safe enough?  To Wesrook perhaps, and the chance to retreat across the Strait of Carth?  To send her all the way through Niven, to seek refuge from our cousin?  Could even the Storm Queen stand, if the Empire falls?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

My son…my King.  I think I have lost any right in his eyes to ever call him son again.  He has abided his wife’s words, and she has left for the south.  He knows this was right, but my constant maneuvering behind his back has wounded him.  It matters little if it were for his own good, that of his family…this nation….

Now we wait, and an old woman will fight beside her son… My only hope left, that I die first – for I cannot imagine victory.  Nohrook has been sacked, though some reports say the tower itself still stands.  The greatest mage king of our age could not even scratch Roshanna, and these dragons laid her low.  Nothing has phased the attackers.  Human mages and soldiers march in unresisted to clean up the destruction the dragons bring.  Pride will kill my son, duty be my undoing…but my grandchildren will live.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

They have set up camp down the pass, and dragons circle high above us, out of reach.  It is only a matter of time.  The wards of Midrook are strong, some of my best work, and my son’s.  I am proud of him, much as I wish he would have fled, and let me stand here for the inevitable.

He has looked into my eyes again, for the first time since his wife departed.  No words were said, and no words were needed.  What could they be?  Neither of us are sorry, but there is still love there.  It is good to know that again, before the end.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have been permitted my journal at last, and may finally record the fall of Midrook, my home.  My son is dead…I have outlived him.  Perhaps I was too stubborn to grant my own wish for death.  We stood side by side on the wall when it fell.  That even with the best of my skill I broke but a single of my brittle old bones, being thrown clear into the heart of the city, is a wonder.

Flames, death, destruction.  The screams of the dying, and the crackling of burning wood, as dragons melted a path of oblivion through the city.  There was nothing I could do but try to tend to my own broken leg, and watch as the smoke rose.  The street where I fell was empty.  All the remaining horrors of that day distant.

It was the flames that saved me.  Not a pain I could bear to die in.  I extinguished the fire around me before shock took me, and woke some time later at the point of a sword, and the azure coat of a royal Osyrean mage standing over me.  I surrendered.  Could I have bested him?  Perhaps, even in my condition – yet what was the point?  A lone old woman with a broken leg, in a fallen city, surrounded by enemy soldiers.  Dragons still perched on hilltops.

I did not offer my identity quickly, till it was forced from my lips to spare the life of some poor servant girl.  From then I was important…and guarded closely, kept from the eyes of any other prisoner.

Recently I have been moved to a tower chamber that was chosen – I am sure – for its view out over Midrook.  A black trail of glass cuts through the wall, and the city.  The houses around it reduced to scorched rubble.  Much of the city still stands, cut in half by that obsidian scar, but I do not imagine it ever rising to her former glory.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Smoke fills the sky to the north east.  I have heard the whispers of guards.  The Sylvans are putting up a remarkable fight, and I wish them all the best.  Perhaps one day they can be allies after all, if they do not take Osyrae as merely a part of our human world.

There are other rumors of the Empire fortifying Helm.  Towers that can unleash beams of pure light, one of which purportedly exploded.  The guards chuckled over that.  I am in the end just a prisoner listening to the quiet chatter of her jailers.  What I know does not matter, and does not leave this tower.  What I know confounds me more than it comforts me, terrifies me for the world so much as those I could ever even name.  This will get worse.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have lost a sister, and Vhael has lost a general.  Oh Calista, dear proud Calista.  It did not need to be you to finish the cursed dragon.  Her name is not mentioned, not by my guards, but a woman who lead paladins, who’s blade cut the throat of a felled general of the black flight.  It could have been no other.  Pride and sorrow, joy and tears.  I am wracked with clashing emotions.  That a battle went at all in our favor, and then the cost of that meager victory.  Dear little Calista…a princess who wanted nothing more than to be a knight.  She died living her truth.

I cannot even write anymore, my tears smudge the ink, but I must.  If nothing else I will leave some memory in this world of my love for my sisters, as all the world falls to ash and ruin around me.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I cannot even comprehend the whispers of my jailers.  They say Corinthia is no more, burned to nothing.  That it was this terrible crime that lit the night sky a thousand miles away.  Yet all at once they whisper their King was wounded, that a god was born on the battlefield, and defied them.  Harsh curses of traitor.  It is all madness, utter madness.  Are they toying with me?  Are we winning?  Losing?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

My high perch, the one they gave me to witness my country laid low.  Even my old eyes could see their Dragon King flounder.  Yes, the beast is wounded.  His Queen though is strong, his general loyal.  Oh but the other vultures circle, black fiendish flying things that they are.  Let not their scales fool you, they are no more than scavengers, not proud birds of prey.  All ready to fall upon the chance to take command for themselves.

Can I hope that this setback will tear them apart from within.  Can I believe that treachery, the betrayal of the empire will be met in kind among these traitors, these monsters.  I can name a few old gods, none I believe in in my heart, and yet I pray to every name for this simple justice.  For my enemies to be their own greatest foes.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Dragons, green, white, one even black as the enemy.  They routed the Osyrean’s from my city, driving back their leaders, and leading all that remained to throw down their arms, and up their hands.  The Emperess has returned, and when I heard the feet scramble up the stairs to my chamber, when I heard the key turn.  I was ready to slay any who came to end me before I might see her again.

One of the guards, he had killed at least one other who had such ideas.  He prostrated himself before me, he begged his life.  I was sorely tempted not to oblige him, but no more would I kill him there on the ground.  I made him look me in the eye, and then I lost the nerve.  I am not them, I cannot kill in cold blood.

I nonetheless kicked the bastard to the ground as we left the tower, as I marched amongst the prostate soldiers of Osyrae, up to my sister, and threw my arms around her great fore leg.  So gently she set her vast snout to my back, so gentle this giant I had once scorned in my heart.  I knew the war had not ended, I knew there were terrible deeds left to do, and yet, there, that moment, nothing could ever be wrong with the world again.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have never thought much of the Clarions.  Some, noble enough, I suppose.  I know less what to think of this…thing…the adherents call Avatar.  The tale none the less gives me pause, a man who stood before dragon fire, who stood defiant as enchanted shield, and armor failed him, who did not burn away, but burned brighter than the fire that sought to consume him.  He is glorious, strange, strong, and yet oddly frail.  I am not sure I see him right at all, and I do blush sometimes to look upon him.  He wears nothing but light, though I must admit that brilliance does sometimes blind one to the details, he remains a man, even if some now worship him as a god.

This creature is our ally, and yet, I worry.  He does not speak, though they say actions are louder than words.  There is much we do not know about his nature, and much more I fear in the reverence the Clarions feel for him.  The Clarions already often undermined Imperial authority, now they have a god, a thing to hold up against dragons, for he has proved at least so powerful as several.

I see it in Roshana’s gaze, she does not trust him either.  Though her words are of implicit faith, she sees it, she sees perhaps more than I.  What are these things I see in the shadows cast by his light.  What are the echoes he calls up around us.  They only appear in the corner of the eye, always familiar, but never fully seen.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I ride with the army.  They abide my presence grudgingly, but I want no claim to the world that is left if this campaign fails.  Let me be there to see it done, to victory, or ruin.  Yet every day it seems victory is more likely, and every night strange, and incomprehensible dreams wrest me from somber sleep.

She shines brighter than even the Avatar.  I see her before him, a little girl, unafraid, then a great woman brighter than the sun, awash in light, devoid of gravity.  I know the prophecy of the storm child, yet why am I seeing it?  Who is this girl to me?  Just a fragment of this Avatar’s future?

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

The Black King is dead, but my heart finds little solace in it.  I find almost more hope in his son, maddening as that is.  He stood defiant before my sister, a sword held up.  Not a threat at all, just a punctuation, a sign of conviction, no more.

Roshana has had no part in it.  If there is to be peace she says it is for others to forge.  I have ridden to the high hill where she has perched, and she gazes not to the fallen capital we took, but east, I know in my heart, to the one we lost.

She has spoken to me of the words of the infamous Sylvia Grey, a name that has reached even distant Avrale.  I am of mixed opinion, though I have tried to console my sister.  I believe she judges herself too harshly, that the blame cannot fall to her.  She who ruled fair, and kind.  Who founded another golden age for an empire determined to hunger for darker days.

Yet what solace lies in the lack of blame.  She is the image of the monsters that have ruined our world, and whatever treaty is struck, how gladly will the world again bow before a dragon?

Yet even these worries pale to fights yet to be had.  Niven still stands occupied, and my sister, my Empress, she plots more war, even as her heart is no longer in such endeavors.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

Less than half the council survives.  Yet even then they have never held true authority before.  I cringe at this course, but I can offer no better.  The Empire will be no more.  We will enshroud what we can of all that it stood for in new treaties, and laws.  We will steal from the world the brightest gifts, bringing them to Mordove.  They will live together, they will be family, friends, and the free nations listen to their kin.

It is a new world though, one now more divided, borders tighter.  The open roads of the empire now subject to sovereign regional authority.  Will they maintain the spirit?  Will these few centuries stick in their hearts?  When already they longed for war.  Perhaps that fire is quenched, perhaps it will work.

Mage kings are forbidden, or at least discouraged.  Exceptions have been made.  Nohlend’s King is a good man, with precious few to pass authority to.  My grandson shall not be trained further though it pains me.  I am a Queen, and a regent even then, small distinctions.  I shall live out my days, rebuild that proud tower at Broken Hill, and leave this world as best I can.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I have said goodbye I think, perhaps for the last time to my sister.  All that I saw, the girl I still knew in her that day beyond my gates, it has faded, though the shadow is there.  This war has cost much of what was left of her humanity.  The final battles of Niven have left her shaken.  She will not even speak of what happened in the routing of the dragons from that land.

Her throne renounced she says she will take refuge in Napir, with the grace of our cousin.  She jokes she will take a nap for a century…and I wonder if there is any jest at all behind the growling laugh with which she said it.

⁃ ◇ ❖ ◇ ⁃

I was wrong.  Though I needed be carried to the castle gate, my sister has returned to me.  She offers me a scale, one wrested painfully from her own hide.  It contains the magic to make me immortal, if I survive it, to make me like her.  I wept at her side, cried into the night tucked beneath her mighty wing.

I have read much written by the woman Sylvia, now passed.  I have asked a group of her followers to take up residence at Highvale, and tend the orchards there.  I am torn.  Death…it is the great unknowable enemy.  Do I defy it, do I give up my humanity…or do I embrace the foe I can never love?

Only two sisters remain of seven daughters born to our kind Emperor.  When I die…will anything be left of her?  If I become as her, can I save her from the morose I see in her great eyes, or will it take me just as well, in time.

I know my answer, and yet I can hardly believe it is so.  If there is a world after, I will seek my son, and husband there.  My lost sisters, our father…and wait to see if one day an errant dragon might come home to roost.  If there is not…at least there will be peace.