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Krul

The Trials of the Dawn

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Faery Queens Only

Even as the light of the Gem takes the divine beings and infused them with power and knowledge, those who were Fae Queens who choose to embrace Apothesis found themselves clothed in nothing but the warm air,  nothing made by mortal hands remaining with them, only themselves for these trials, and standing in a beautiful garden filled with flowers and fruit trees, but not natural trees and flowers, some of them were made of flame or ice, or had fruit and leaves of glowing moonlight, and a altar of shimmering silver and gold before them.

Words in Fire were written in the air, floating above the Altar, leaving a clue as to what needs to be done next

Where there is a Will, there is a Way
Choose the Path for Heart and Soul
Faery, Queen, Goddess, which Heart to Obey?
Or Forge three into a single Whole?

Your first Trial, to the Altar of Heart be True.
Find the Fruit or Flower that Most expresses You.

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Though of the High Fae now, Aurea had been born in the mortal realm, if with the seed of something more than mortal inside herself. She had never been to the lands of Faerie, though she had brushed their periphery in her travels, and she glided about the fantastic Eden, lavender eyes bright with delighted wonder. Bare breasts, full and firm, rose and fell as she inhaled deeply of the unearthly scents permeating the garden, unconcerned with her state of undress.

Red lips parted as she silently read the flaming declaration, then shook her head. Why did one believe that one thing excluded another, when Heart and Soul had the capacity to encompass so much more, infinite potential, if one were only willing? The Rule of Three was so prevalent among the Fae. Daughter, Mother, Crone. That Was, That is, That will be. Day, Night, and the Time Between. Seelie, Unseelie, and the Wild... Faerie, Queen, and Goddess.

She wandered about the garden, warm air caressing her bare flesh, lush, dew-laden grass tickling her feet, soft fingers brushing the wondrous and exotic foliage, those of fires not burning, those of ice not freezing, crystalline petals yet warm and living, searching for the one that spoke most to her.

Aurea stepped lightly from one blossom to another, her glorious voice blending with the gentle breeze in a sublime paean, her gaze lingering on this fruit or that, until one caught her eye.

It was a rose, but more than a rose, sharing traits of jasmine and orchid, more perfect than any earthly flower, its fragrance a heady, sensual perfume that suggested and promised. The flawless blossom was fashioned of pure, morning sunlight, bronze and gold, vivid orange, and soft pinks and purples. The stem and petals were of luminous, silver-white moonlight

At her touch, a pair of the blossoms fell into her palm, and the flinched as a thorn of fading starlight hidden among moon-wrought petals pierced her flesh, drawing forth beads of crimson. Dawn, where the Sun began to manifest, and the Moon and Stars were fading until the day passed once more, yet another trio. She smiled ruefully. Do as thou wilt... While she found the pursuit of desires to be something almost holy, it did well to remember it could lead to danger and pain, and it was well, for they too were part of life.

Aurea wove one of the Dawn Roses into her hair, then sashayed boldly towards the Altar of Heart, where she laid the other blossom, a faint, starlight thorn painted deep red with her blood.

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Sigil waited just a moment, letting the situation sink in...and watching the other 'queen' to see what she'd do. During the battle, she'd registered the presence of another powerful fey, but hadn't gotten a good look at her. In this case Sigil's attention wasn't lustful in the least. She was well acquainted with the idea that appearances are fleeting, while essence was enduring. Aurea, to her eyes, was a changeling like herself. Mortal born, but with fey lineage that in another day and age would have drawn her to the Good Folk like iron to lodestones.

Were you the one, I wonder? Were you meant to be the new Winter who would have ended my reign? But you never made it across. The Ways to the Marches are all but gone now.

Of course there could have been others, and given how much time here had passed, there almost certainly had been. Still...it was hard to look upon this lovely creature and imagine her with ice-white skin and jet-black eyes, her features twisted by the malice of Winter. Almost as hard as it had been to imagine herself that way.

To the issue at hand then. Fey Queen or goddess? When Sigil had been mortal, questions of gods and goddesses were ones of mute faith. Deities didn't walk the Earth, be they the saints of the Christians, or the older, scarier ancestral gods of her people. They waited in the world to come to mete out judgement. Where they moved in the mortal realm, it was with some stealth, some cunning, showing themselves through people...not to people.

Now it was different, wasn't it? Now the mortal world was much more like the fey...awash in magic and wonders both beautiful and horrific, where titans strode the land and contested with one another. In the Fey Marches, order was kept by the reigning Queen...but here in the mortal world there was no one who's power was absolute. Entities and people carved out what space they could protect and made it their own, as long as they could.

Was being a 'goddess' really that different from being a queen of the fey, in this sense? Maybe the distinction was a distraction.

She walked into the garden proper, her eyes searching out and discarding flower after flower, fruit after fruit. Until she found one.

A little to one side of the place, surrounded by crystalline lilies growing out of a pool of liquid moonlight, was a tree in full bloom.

Sigil reached out and plucked one of the flowers from that tree and held it out.

The power of Summer wavered in the air around her, shimmering like heat haze. The flower greedily took that power in, and swelled in her hand into a single red orb as the petals fell off. In seconds the flower had matured into a perfect red apple.

"Flower. Fruit. The only difference is time."

She took a bite and waited to see what happened next.

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Light gleamed upon the alter and then dawn flower within Aurea's hair shifted and changed, growing to become what appeared to be a crown made of flowers, a moment longer then the fruit in Sigil's hands changed into a what appeared to be a wand, and the air around her became filled with the scent of fresh apple blossoms, almost as though the fruit and flowers, and the garden changed, blossoms became fruits and flowers grew into vines, fruits and berries could be scented everywhere.

Every Choice Shapes the Soul
What you are Makes you Whole
You have Chosen well for Fruit and Flower
But what Price is paid for your Power

What do you Give and what do you Command?
What Sacrifice  does your Power Demand?

 

Now a temple appeared to growing where the altar had been before, rising from the garden around them, with those words burned into the doorway, and beside it, a feather quill and a writing board, though there was no sign of any ink to write with.

 

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"Oh ho, so it's like that is it?" Sigil inquired. She went to the altar and lifted a quill. "Not very sporting, asking for a bid before we know what we're bidding on..."

Trailing off, something occurred to her.

"...because we're deciding that too, of course. I could simply walk away, keeping what's mine and what I've paid for. But if I want more, you need to know how much more...and what I'm prepared to offer up in exchange."

The fey queen considered. What did she want? As a goddess could she break the wheel of seasons in the Marches and make it a place of eternal summer?

Did she want that?

No. The Marches are older than me. Made by a wiser hand. Doing that would be like shattering a perfect vase and gluing it back together again with the insides facing out, just because I like that color more. But if there WAS a land of eternal summer, where the fey of my Court could go...

Sigil frowned. Then there would be no one in the Marches to help the new Spring take root. The Winter would never be dislodged. It was through struggle that change happened, in Faerie as in the mortal realm. Remove struggle, remove change. Without change though, it may as well be one of the Fey realms that had fallen to twilight, endlessly static under a sunless sky. Beyond the touch of all time, forever.

But what good was being a goddess if one couldn't shelter one's allies and faithful? What good was gaining more power, if that power didn't let her transcend the limits she'd had as Queen? This was what she'd come here for. It was what she'd schemed and risked everything for the chance to do. To become something greater than she'd been. There had to be a way.

And then it burst in on her. And she wrote, in lines of fire, of light. 'Ink' borne of the power seething within her; as much her essence as her mortal blood would have been, and far less messy.

The Fey Marches are sick. New Queens do not rise. The Wheel turns, but the gears grind and catch.

This was the essence of Summer. Preservation. Spring marked the Flowering, the rebirth. Autumn the Reaping...both the bounty of the harvest, and the onset of decay and darkness. Winter was the Culling. But Summer took the work of Spring and carried it as long as it could. Protected it. That was what she wanted.

I would have the power to mend the Wheel, and let the seasons pass each in their turn. I would heal the Ways so the children of Faerie can pass freely to and from the Marches again. I would guard the cycle, with whatever power I need to do so.

Now the hard part. Sigil took a deep breath.

For that power, I would abandon my hope of ruling the Marches as Queen. For I cannot preside over the Wheel if I am bound to it still.

Sigil paused just before finishing the last letter, and gazed at what she'd almost written.

It wasn't too late. Nothing was sealed yet. She could put this quill down and walk away. The plan would still work. Her time in the mortal world would give her a chance to rebuild her strength. She would gather allies, gather power, and strike in the center of the storm of Winter. The fight would be long, and hard, as it had been before...but the Wheel turned. Eventually she would win. She could have it back again.

The Wheel would turn, but slowly. The Ways were closed...without some kind of interference, there would be no new Winter Queen crossing over. Eventually when she felt the Autumn stirring...why...she could do it again.

She wanted it. She wanted it almost more than anything. She'd risked her soul, breathed life into her mortal foe, all to get it.

But it was wrong. The only reason what she'd been planning was even possible was because the Marches were fraying, like old rope. Straining against the Wheel...allowing it to turn only on the barest of technicalities...she'd break it. Not this cycle, not the next...but eventually.

Sigil wrote in the last 'L.'

The Fey Marches needed more than a Queen. It needed...a goddess.

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Aurea ran a finger lightly over the diadem of flowers resting on her brow as Sigil approached the temple and lectern first.

Power. She had power, though it was not what she had sought. Not directly. It was union, communion. Every lover she had, everyone she lay with, she loved to some degree, in some manner, even when she only did so to seduce or influence. She could do no less, and would do no less for those seeking her blessing.

The Fey... they were souls made manifest, pursued their desires with every fiber of their being. It was a rich and intoxicating wine to her. They Fey were immortal, but when their road ended, it was final, whereas mortal souls traveled anew. Twilight's desires had consumed her when she could not offer as much as she demanded, and now she was no more. There was only her, and it pained her still.

She would offer the Fey, their souls, any who sought her, a new path to walk down, a way to a Paradise in the hereafter if they wish it so.

The world had been wracked beyond recognition. Many were rebuilding, forging it anew, seeking to make it a better place. Some did so in grand fashion, building cities, healing the sick, killing the wicked, protecting the weak. But just as important were the little gestures, a smile freely offered, tears shared for a loss, a helping hand up with no expectation of reward or recompense. An embrace when it seemed all hope had fled, a kiss when love appeared unobtainable.

Aurea glided up to the writing board after Sigil, a rhythmic, melodious beating of a heart following in her wake. The strains of soaring violins joined it, then the mournful, lonely howl of a wolf. The tinkling strings of a piano and a baby's cry. The gasps and whispers of lover's coupling and a wailing horn. More and more, until Aurea strode with the music of life.

Rose-gold tears welled from her eyes. They throbbed and flowed in time with the music, and settled on the nib of the feather quill. She took up the quill in a lover's caress.

I would be Desire, inflaming it in others. My Voice would be the Song of the Heart, giving them the audacity and determination to seek out their Desires. I would be Hope.

*Mortals do not understand compassion. In each moment of their lives, they betray it. Aye, they know of its worth, yet in knowing they then attach to it a value, they guard the giving of it, believing it must be earned. Compassion is priceless in the truest sense of the word. It must be given freely. In abundance.*

No sacrifice. A gift. I would share their pain and give them my compassion and love. Freely, and in abundance.

Aurea stepped back from the writing board, head slightly bowed. Vibrant, multicoloured hair fell forward to shadow her face, a luminous tear tracing the exquisite lines of her cheek and jaw.

Spoiler

* Quote taken (with slight alteration) from Itkovian, in Memories of Ice, Book 3 of the Malazan Empire series, by Steven Erikson

 

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The door into the temple opened, and within was a silver light, waiting for the two to enter, and once they did, the light expanded and both saw a vision, of a throne that transcended every meaning of throne to the point that even calling it a THRONE seemed to be missing the true depth of it's meaning.  It was empty, yet not, for the WORDS which both fae queen's embodied seemed to fill their vision, and for a moment they could not see anything but those words, before the vision vanished leaving only a empty room with a single sentience written in the silver in the air.

To be a True Goddess of the Fae
Is to find a different way
And take up more then Faery as your Domain
Embrace all who seek to fealty to your Reign
The High Court is your path now
Simply declare your new vow

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Aurea's eyes glistened as she looked upon the Words that made up her soul, and it was as though she looked upon herself with more clarity than the finest mirror could provide. Yearning and joy and determination and trepidation beat at her breast as the achingly beautiful nymph stepped to the center of the temple and knelt before the silver words hanging in the air, bare knees on the cool marble floor, reaching out a beseeching hand to where the THRONE had stood.

"Love and Desire as thou wilt be the heart of my vow," the neophyte Goddess breathed, and the pure music of her voice filled the temple and seemed to make it vibrate in symphony. "Seek ye the Song in all things and nurture Desire and Love and Music in thyself and in others."

The creature of flawless sensuality sat back on her heels and gazed upon the silver words with luminous lavender eyes, the expression on her exquisite face transcendent. Her voice grew even richer, warmer, firmer, the heart-stirring melodious tones now accompanied by symphony of unseen instruments rising in a crescendo.

"Let others clamor after gods of blood and thunder - Love and Desire are hard, harder than steel and thrice as cruel. They are inexorable as the tides, and life and death alike follow in their wake.

And know that all who would walk this path with me, through me, who would sing this song, you will never be alone, for I will be there with you."

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