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2009-06-18 17:30:09
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The Rose and the Ruin
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The Rose and the Ruin: A Visit with Shydia: Page 2
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-Her Highness was in a royal fit. Or, to be more precise, she was angry at herself. Angry because she had allowed her Councilmen to twist her around their slender, frail fingers and make her do the very thing she had sworn to never do. Submit. She had submitted to their whims. This farce of a courtship. She was to be courted by all five of the world's greatest Elvine Princes. High Prince Shes'Lykai, of the Drow'ayne. High Prince Verdia'Vaer of the Land Elves. High Prince Bysaes'Shol of the Airial Elves. High Prince Morol'Mal of the Desert Elves. And High Prince Taerol'Shali of the Sea Elves. All of them would be coming to her kingdom. All of them would come expecting to court her. And all of them had no doubts that they would win the lovely Rose of the Forest Nation. Their conceit sickened her. But, at the very least, Bysaes would bring his sister, Princess Myraes'Shaeji, whom Mura was familiar with and could even count on as an ally against the invaders of her home. Myraes had suffered a similar fate, and had, by grace, managed to elude betrothal to each and every one of her own suitors. Confounding her father in the process. 

She needed allies. Allies to help her route the invaders of her kingdom. The hopeful conquerors of her bedchambers. And the victors of the Consort Throne. Mura's shoulder ached stiffly, reminding her that she needed to work the healing muscles. And it was with that decision that she whirled around in-step, her bared heel finding the faint grooves etched into the onyx floors, showing her the path to the Blade Master's Weapons' Room. Near a wall, a tiny, mithril bell was brushed as she glided past, tingling merrily, telling the Drow'ayne Blade Master that someone approached.

...

She needed allies indeed. many times throughout the past 50 years Shydria had attempted to speak to her of her people. Her disdainful eyes and her proud sneer had done little to aid her in her cause, however, for Mura had never desired to know. She'd always denied to herself that the day would come that she would be forced into this position, no matter how clearly she saw it as a falsehood. Mura had...hoped...that perhaps things would change. That the High Princes would marry in their own right and forget about the possibility of marrying the Rose. Marrying her. But no. The day was merely a week away that they would come, with their own traveling courts, and seek to court
her in an attempt to bring themselves to her coveted Consort's Throne.

Even Io turned traitor when things came to bare. 

Mura had met each Prince. All but the Dark Elf. He was an unknown. Prince Verdia was a stately elf. Almost one hundred years older than herself, he was expected to ascend to his people's throne soon, for there were rumors that his father was ill and in the last ages of his life. Prince Bysaes was handsome, but his younger brother was even more so. He was also a hard individual. Very little softness, and a great deal of arrogance. Prince Moro was another handsome elf. His skin was dark...almost as dark as the common Drow...due to the suns. Also arrogant, he did possess a bit of humor, but was excessively conceited and often chose a show of strength over cunning. Impatient, was the impression that Mura had received from him. And Prince Taerol was, perhaps, the most striking of them all. He was tall for an Elf... His aqua-marine eyes fairly shimmered with life and vitality. He was witty, cunning, fast, had no qualms about facing an enemy. There was really...nothing to not like about his leadership and personality. Except for the fact that he wanted to marry her. That in of itself made him repulsive.

Mura, at least, had come to terms with the knowledge that she needed Shydia's council on the personality of the Prince Lykai. She needed to know -how- he ruled his kingdom. Or, at the very least, what her people were life...and if Mura could tolerate their being in her Court. After all, if they didn't behave, she had every right to send them home...except for the fact that it would cause a war.

Sigh.

The queen finally came to the large, solid doors of the Blade Master's Wing. behind it was...death. Except there had never been a death in those great rooms and corridors. Nevertheless, Mura knew without a doubt that her Weapon's master had daydreams of striking down the entire Forest Nation. She was...odd...in a lethal manner. Much like Io, except not.

Despite that, Mura had a great deal of frustration to work off...and she knew without a doubt that her Weapons Master could handle most anything Mura threw in her direction. So, with an internal sigh, Mura pulled the doors open and slipped inside, leaving her guard behind as she closed the doors and slid into the Drow's sanctuary.



He moved like a cow blundering through a byre, his grip weak on the pike, his wrists limp and with all the grace of a massive draconian in its death throes. Death is a dance, beautiful and eloquent, perfect in its composition and flawless in execution. Sloppy. Clumsy. For all that the youngling was elvish, his feet carried him poorly through the intricate steps of the dance. Too young comprehend the artistry of killing, too foolish to recognize the beauty in the killing of a lesser being – ‘prey’, too ignorant to recognize the danger he courted when he entered my Weapons Room. I do not socialize with the Forest Queen’s court, and the massive, obsidian doors, dark and foreboding, to my wing of the Palace remain closed for good reason. Any brute can maim and kill. For me, it is an art.

He is beautiful. It is almost a shame to ruin his pretty face, but the very faint ringing of a soft bell plays through black-coated halls distracts my younger opponent, the delicate tip of slender, graceful ears twitching and a muscle rippling up the side of his neck marking his distraction by the sound. I am more accustomed to it, and do not flinch as in the flickering torchlight rimming the black stone-hewn chamber the gleaming flash of blades extending from my hands glitter and wink in a deadly spiral that a twist of the supple curves of my body and a light step with an inward spin sends the air whistling in a clean cutting blur of silver and crimson curved wickedly sharp, and so very swiftly that he does not feel the parting of flesh high against his cheekbones. Instead it is the faint tug of metal against his face that draws a look of wide-eyed surprise an instant before the twin slashes, shallow cuts along the hollows of his cheeks that would make for a striking pair of scars one day, filled with a thin crimson line of blood.

Another light step back, the balls of my booted feet supple with a lithe grace that moves the lean lines of my body hardened by decades of weapons training, an arcing curve of the whispering blades, each edge keen enough to split the finest of cloth without giving the slightest resistance, and from a crimson-washed haze, I watch the novice. Watch the pike fall from his hands, watch his fingertips lift to touch his cheeks, then come away and stare with dawning horror at the bright red stains on slender, supple fingertips. The look he gives is one of sudden comprehension as my gaze locks with his. I want to kill him. He is weaker than I, inferior; he is looking into the eyes of someone who will kill him, and he realizes it.

He will never know what stays my hands, though they quiver with the desire to loose the flash of my swords, their curved blades singing a song of promised pain before death, that those kisses were naught but the first of what I could do to him. He backs away, twin slivers of crimson spilling softly down his cheeks, moving in thin rivulets along his jaw to drip with a soft ‘patter’ against the raw linen of his shirt, the garment finely stitched but adequately ‘homely’ enough to be plain for crossing blades with the Dark Elf Sword Master ensconced in the Palace. For every step he moves back, I pace him one forward, disgust scrawling a vengeful script over my elegantly elven features.

”I could cleave your skin from your body and use it to make boots for my feet. First the inner thighs, because that skin is softest and most sensitive.”

My words are a near-sibilant hiss that strike a chord of fear when they register, his eyes widening, a deep, sky blue hue, as I can almost see the image flicker through his mind that my words implant. Good. I want him to know fear, to be afraid. It is the first step in true torture – fear can warp the mind in ways that the body cannot know. He is afraid of me, moving back faster, the pulse in the side of his neck fluttering as his heart hammers in his chest, a rhythm I can all but hear, feel, smell, taste. It is a glorious, heady flavor, the taste of terror, like ambrosia.

”Then from the skin of your stomach, I will make a new pouch.”

He all but stumbles, and I advance, light playing off the razor-sharp edges circling my slender shoulders, the raven-black armor something hideous and dangerous at once, gleaming metal and blades, hugging my dark flesh yet flowing with my easy movements while a thin wisp of white fabric as sheer as a veil dangled from my breast-plate, both fore and aft, the very tips of that fabric covered in a myriad of tiny razors and sharp hooks designed to prick flesh and slice eyes while in motion, though by some whimsical fate never seemed to kiss my own skin while I advance on the novice guard. When his back comes up hard against the solid obsidian wall of the room, I continue forward, until silver and crimson swords cross at his throat and the tips kiss into the stone of the wall.

Black lips peel back from the flash of gleaming ivory teeth as my mouth splits to a sneer at the mad scrambling of the novice for the dagger belted to the simple woven sash around his waist. The wink of orange and yellow flames along the edge of the blades plays like a jaunty melody as the metal hums with the bloody desire I keep in check. He stops, but is still afraid.

”Y-You cannot k-kill me, Blade Master-r.”

A defiant lift of his chin as he scrambles to retain a measure of his courage, little realizing the depths it takes to merely enter my sanctuary, as someone else has done, evidenced by the ringing of that bell, causing his defeat. I can smell the bright metallic scent of blood on his cheeks. My red eyes blaze at him as the restraint I have shown for nigh on the past 50 years draws dangerously close to snapping. His words spark a fury in me that is barely contained.

Because he is right. I cannot kill nor maim him, no matter how much weaker than I he might be. The savagery of the growl that rips up from my throat is as feral as the hatred burning in my crimson eyes. I jerk the curved tips of my swords from the wall and remove the threat to his fine throat. Already he wears the mark of his bout on his fine features. Somehow, he is still quite handsome, and to my eyes, the scars will bear handsome testament to his skill as a warrior.

”Get out.”

I am not polite. I do not have to be, and I won’t be, not to them. My back is turned to him so that I hear him move, hear him pick up the abandoned pike from the floor and return it to the rack of several such deadly instruments that line the walls of my Weapons Room. I do not worry that he will run me through with my back turned, because the same could be said for him. He cannot kill me. The Lady Io herself has brought me here, and while I do not know if they know what she is or not, I know, and it is enough – more than enough – to stay my hand against the Forest Nation while I reside here. And so long as I stay my hand against them, they will stay theirs against me. An uneasy truce, but one I am forced to accept and live with, no matter how it chafes.

The very faintest smudge of crimson mars the tips of my swords, and for a moment, I think about wiping it off, then decide not to. If the fleeing elf from my rooms does not speak plainly enough, then perhaps armed with blades already bloody will. I know the other will have to come down a long corridor after entering my doors to the wing of the Palace I occupy. The doors to the left and right will be locked against intruders, but their destination will be only one – the massive obsidian doors at the end of that corridor. That is where I am nearly always found; in the huge, open room lined with weapons of various description, size and use and lit by torches to cast a flickering scrawl of light and shadow at war over the gleaming black walls. And that is where my visitor would come to find me now, standing in the midst of the floor and facing those doors, waiting for them to swing open and admit my next victim. My next ‘prey’.



She pushed those wide doors open without any effort whatsoever. They flung away from her fingertips, and Muralasa'Majere, Rose of the Mantis Court, and Queen of the Forest Nation, stalked into the Weapons Room, the clean rush of air in her wake causing the torches to flicker wildly. 

Hair as white as virgin snowfall spread out behind her somewhat like a banner, free of any constraints but for the thin circlet settled on her brow, which served as both humble crown and a setting for the slender veil that hung down over her eyes, apparently blinding, for there was no manner in which she could see through the cloth. But then... Muralasa'Majere had little need to see...for she was well and truly blind, and had been since birth. 

It was far from a well-known fact. Io, perhaps a few of her most trusted council members, and a handful of her personal guards and assistants were aware of the fact. It was...perhaps...suspected by the Weapons Master that this was the case. But from the way the elflet moved across the onyx floor, one couldn't say for sure. The secret to that...was the finely etched patterns on the clean stone floors. She read her path with her feet, could sense, smell, hear, and taste those around her. When she was in doubt, air currents guided her, as well as her acute sensitivity to various amounts of light and heat. Mura could read the world around her far better than any sighted creature would. And in the Weapons' Room, she could smell the spilled blood, taste the bottled anger and aggression, and feel the fear of the fleeing novice as he slipped out of the room, his footsteps and very heartbeat fading with the sweet scent of his fine Elvine blood. 

Shydria's body reeked of pent-up frustration. Her heart spoke of anger in its rhythm. Even her breathing, and the imperceptible manner in which her limbs brushed her own body. All of this Mura read in an instant. But the Elvine Queen was just as frustrated as the weapon's Master. Her reasoning was different, but the results were the same. 

"Ai'mi'o'thalaer'sai'cor'eilyraes'oli. Kaerol'mys, Shydia?" I see you failed to kill another one. Getting soft, Shydia? 

It was a taunt. It would take so very little to push the Drow over the edge and into a reasonable fighting mood. Such was not a tactic that Mura might have used in any other circumstance, but for her own burning resentment. 

She wasn't resentful of merely the Dark Elves. Nay. It wasn't that she found herself angered at any of her fellow elves at all. She was angry...because long ago the ones who were supposed to love and cherish her had sold her into marriage with an elf, any of the available Princling suitors, without once considering that she might have felt differently about the arrangement than they did. They had meddled. Twisted her Fate until she was facing the consequences of that meddling. It wasn't fair to her, any more than it was fair to the Drow standing before her, that their paths had come to this. She shouldn't provoke the woman. Shouldn't, but did.

So she would have to pay the price for that provocation. 

Standing weaponless in the middle of the Weapon's Room, Mura waited for Shydia's reaction and expected explosion without a flinch.




For a moment, an instant, the swirl of air rushing through the Weapons Room sends the torches flickering around the edges of the massive chamber and sent the world into a writhing torment of light and shadows, darkness flickering at the edges and teasing the world with a midnight veil that I would delight to feel wrapped tightly around me in a dark lover’s embrace. The crisp burst of fresh air seemed to scour away the stale scent of death that seemed to linger in a room ripe with sweat and fear and aggression, swirling and ushering out what was old for me to welcome in the new ‘prey’ to my chambers; never mind that I have just gone full out with another young elflet, and another before him as the thunder of my heart keeps my blood racing fierce and violent through my veins. Another young elflet, coming to face the Drow Blade Master.

But it is not simply ‘another young elf’ coming to face me. Instead, crimson eyes gleam though the flickering lights on perhaps my second most ‘honored guest’ to these chambers, though in the common Forest Elf’s eye, Mura herself would hold that place. Only when the Lady Io herself came did I know the truth of what I faced, and thus, the esteem I held in the ferocity of her visits. But with a quick sweep of my eyes, I could see the violent tension that seemed to near-radiate from the young Queen, the tense setting of slender muscles in the nubile younger elf. But too could I see her flaws. The firm planting of her feet on the floor that would keep her anchored during the steps of the dance; the upward tilt of her noble chin exposing the throbbing jugular winding up the pale, delicate neck that I had to tighten my fingers on the grip of my blades to keep from slicing in a winding river of red; the grips of her inward fury that would be potent, and blinding all at once.

It is no secret how the young Queen is resistant to her upcoming courtship, and each time I have tried to speak to her of High Prince Lykai or the people he leads, she has not listened, shunned my words until they would no longer fall on deaf ears and I would stalk away feeling impotent with the raging urge to wrap my fingers around her lovely, slender neck and choke her into listening. I know she is no doubt furious that soon her Court would be filled with Outsiders, all with a singular intent, to take her in her royal bed and join her on her royal throne – even my own Prince would have such intent upon meeting Queen Muralasa’Majere.

Her words prick a violent slap of pride straight down my spine. I can feel my features hardening to an icy mask, my eyes burning on the white-haired elf facing me, hatred, violent and fierce, pushing any thoughts of ‘mercy’ aside as the weakling before me spits words that she hardly realizes she will pay dearly for. My fingers very lightly adjust their grip on the twin, curved blades dripping with a very soft, faint ‘pat… pat… pat’ on the stone floor. She has stepped into my circle, and uttered words that would have seen her beheaded were I Home, and I allowed civility to be swept aside.

”Ai cali shael sharol thys os shyr sai byl saes.” I have been waiting for your blood to join theirs. As the words drip acid from my black lips, I am already moving, the supple play of my dark skin merging with the shadows and gleaming in the light as the flicker of the torches winks over a crimson blur coming from my hand extended from my side while I dart directly towards my prey, physically charging the slender woman with my muscular, lithe frame and the bloody red blade in my left hand curving in a wide arc out that would usher her mid-section directly into the slightly slower but deadly violent silver blade my right hand swept forward in an effect that would sweep both swords meeting at the center of her spine and sawing her in half from her fleshy midsection.



-A charge of violent rage. Her feet light and quick, the air moving around her in a manner that allowed the elflet to 'see' the one charging at her, all the way down to the smallest throb of her pulse at her slender neck. The open blades cut the wind, giving Mura's ears the music of their path as the Drow female charged her. Such a charge was...foolhardy... The Drow had, over the long years, essentially lost their magic to the burning drive of mastering the Ice Gems. They, nearly to an elf, refused to bring in outside bloodlines, leaving the common drow to grow darker and deviant as they married among themselves, and the nobles to become brighter and sallow until even their Prince was as pale as a fish's underbelly. A pity. For as the Drow had grown closer in their blood to their own beasts, the Forest Nation had brought within its fold new blood, new magic, to the point where Mura's own grandmother, Ithel DeInen had been the daughter of a true Fey and a great Wyrm. 

Such were the secrets of Mura's bloodline, for her father had also been a Wyrm, a great Shifter so old as to make the entire history of Celtrillus look as no more than a blink when compared to the span of his life. A Light Wyrm. Light Incarnate. Not as devious as the true Incarnates that battled for supremacy upon her sister's world, and it came as little shock that her twin was married to one such being, but a lesser Incarnate; much as a bonfire could be considered a lesser of the Sun. Nevertheless, she was the daughter of a great being, also the daughter of a Majere, and thus, possessed a great deal of ability where many of the Elves in Celtrillus could claim none. 

With such knowledge of Mura's ancestry and bloodlines, what little she might have shared if coerced, it might have come as little surprise when two long, slender staves left from the wall and spun across the room with frightening agility directly into the Queen's slender hands. One stave never ceased its movement as the Queen spun, adding to the momentum as she spun it between nimble fingers, her arm pulling to her chest and shooting outwards at a 9 o'clock direction from her body, which was positioned so that her 9 o'clock directly faced the charging Drow. 

The stave flew, it's blunt wooden end sailing directly towards the Drow female's unprotected abdomen, an attack the would force her full charge to either change dramatically with a hard twist that would leave her momentarily off-balanced, or attempt to leap over the projectile, less it collide with her, promising to knock the very air from her lungs. Her only other option might be to cut the stave out of her way, which was a move she was most likely to make, but this too would also force her to lose momentum, and her attack would be severely altered as a result. 

In any case, Mura finished her spin, drawing the second stave loosely across her body from shoulder to opposite knee, fully facing the charging drow within a split second of releasing her first weapon.



While I do not admit it lightly, I will admit that the Queen is graceful in her motions, like a fluttering song whispering on a breeze, moving lightly when she does finally move, though I am anticipating her reaction, though I might not know precisely what it will be. I know there will be one, and I can harbor a few guesses as to what it might be, given the times past when Mura has stepped into my circle, willingly making herself my adversary and placing herself intentionally in the path of my disgust for her and her kind. They are not like we of the Dark Elven kin. They have intermingled with others, diluted their purity, weakened their ways, and when the Rose of the Forest Nation comes to my Weapons Chamber, she comes knowing full well that only a few spoken words are all that keep her from certain death at my hands. I do not ‘go light’ on her for her station. She does not deserve my mercy or compassion, weakling that she is.

But she has stepped into my circle before and we have crossed blades, the Queen and I, on occasions in the past, and I know that she will yield me as little quarter as I yield her. I know she will react to my charge.

And in truth, my charge is meant merely to set our dance into action. I do not expect it to connect, but it forces her to move, and move she does. From the corners of crimson eyes, I see the motion as she collects a pair of the weapons from the multitude hanging from my walls – everything from barbed whips to flails to daggers to lances and swords of varying lengths, all honed to a razored edge, all meant for killing the weak and lesser beings that would face the Blade Master living in her Palace, even if that lesser being was the Queen herself.

The very faint melody of the multitude of tiny, cruel hooks and needles that could be tipped in poison and barbs meant to prick the skin and tear at the flesh could be heard as soft, black leather boots pelted across the stone floor glistening a shiny black tinted with a deep crimson hue of blood spilled past, the whistle of air being sliced by the silver and crimson blades in my hands adding its sweet tone and pitch to the melody of the stave being hurtled through the air towards me. Ahhh, Sweet Symphony of the Dance of Death, hinting at what could only be termed a bloody and brutal finish. Her throwing of the weapon was a silly parlor trick that was designed to take me off balance, a trick I saw through with her defensive stance her grand finale, and while it’s true, it forced me to alter my charge, it did not alter it so much as she might have thought.

Lightning quick, without truly a thought, my knees folded mid-charge under me as my legs came together, my momentum carrying my suddenly-dropped down body forward still while allowing the impact of the fall to lean my entire torso back and down as I skid over the stone floor with both those long, wickedly curved swords in my hands altering their grip just slightly, feeling the stave slide through the air over my leaned-back head and curling my lips in a snarl as I came up again, hearing the weapon clatter to the floor harmlessly behind me, my eyes burning on the woman.

An unnatural corkscrew of my limber and flexible arm saw the silver sword in my left hand twisting so that if she remained in that defensive posture, the blade would slip under the defense of the stave Mura still held, my slender silver blade aiming to come between the stave and her right leg at the height of her knee and then jerking upright to knock it up and off balance from her body while the crimson blade in my right hand shift so that I could bring the shining, wickedly sharp curved blade hard against the backs of her ankles, effectively crippling her from further motion, my skid across the floor coming to a rapid slow and preparing my lithe muscles to tuck up close, duck my head down, and roll past the Queen so I could spring back to my feet and assess the damage of my charge.




Footsteps pelted the smooth, cold onyx floors. The whistle of the staff flying through the air, and the nearly imperceptible displacement of air followed by the gentle thud and glide of knees hitting and sliding across the floor alerted Mura to the change in the Dark Elf's position. By sheer presence, Mura knew exactly where the staff fell to the floor, clattered, and rolled away to a stop. In a moment, Mura gripped the staff in her hands, twisting the two halves apart so that they were of even length even as she listened to the hiss of Shydia's blades cutting the air; the ominous approach of her body skidding across the floor. 

Only when Mura could feel the kinetic heat of the blades curling mere inches from her body when she finally moved. One blade was meant to off-balance as the other sought blood. 

The blade of Shydia's crimson sword spliced the first two layers of flesh at at the back of Mura's ankles as she brought the stave in her left hand down against the floor, the other laying against the razor-sharp edge of the silver, using Shydia's own momentum and muscles against her, leaning her weight into the right staff half and using the left against the floor as a stilt, pulling her body up into a highly unbalanced state within the air. Curled within the air for that split second, the stave resting upon the floor her only support, Mura kicked outwards, her feet planting against Shydia's skidding body, the hard breastplate of her chest depressed beneath heels as Mura launched her body away, the staff in her left hand brushing the silver blade from harm's way even as she flew away from Shydia.

Mura flew nearly six feet away from the Weapons' Master's form, her senses desperately attempting to absorb the trajectory of her short flight and the distance of the floor beneath her. She caught herself a moment before she crash-landed on the floor by a clumsily out-stretched hand. The execution of her escape had been almost flawless, but for the stinging in her Achilles heels, yet her landing had been naught but sheer luck. Even her heightened senses could not account for everything. Flipping over to her feet, Mura threw her staffs down to the floor, disgusted by her short-comings. It was the first time she had ever thrown a fight against Shydia and not fought the Dark Elf until they'd both been a little bloodied and happily exhausted. The Queen knew full well that when Io visited the battle between the Dark Elf and Death Fey was truly vicious and left them both more than bloodied from a few scratches. 

The staves clattered to the floor, bouncing with the force of her self loathing. Weaponless, Mura stood in the Dark Elf's Weapons' Room, the scent of old blood tickling her nose as she took light breaths to calm the burning adrenaline roaring through her bloodstream. "Your High Prince will be arriving at the Mantis Court in three days as of the morning, Shydia. What am I to do with him when he comes? Send him the finest courtesans from the East? Entertain him with mysteries from the Sea? Shall I expound on your excellent services here for my Court? His Court has just entered the edges of my kingdom and will arrive a day after he himself appears. I am being besieged by the Dark Elves, Sea Elves, Desert Elves, Land Elves and even the Prince of the Airial Elves for the sake of this wretched courtship. I understand what all but the Prince Lykai wish of me. So tell me. What would the ruler of the Dark Elves, a man who despises myself and my people as weak, want with my Consort Crown and my body? Have you any notion? Or do you simply wish to resume this pointless battle of sword and staff?"

It was the first time that Mura has ever offered to listen to Shydia's words. Perhaps it would be Shydia's only chance to speak to her of the things that Io had bid her to impart to the young Queen, for Mura listened to Io's words on the subject with the same attitude that she had offered Shydia; stony silence and a distinct lack of interest.




For a flicker, an instant, I feel the resistance of blade and flesh at the backs of her ankles, though I am too experienced to let victory consume me and make a mess of a perfectly executed sliding slice followed by a tuck and roll, though the varying factor is Mura herself and how she will respond. I know it will not take much pressure to completely sever tendons at her ankles, but she moves before that can happen. For a moment, she dangles up in the air, using my own muscular body as the springboard for her action and flipping around in a lovely somersault that I could not see when her heels pushed into my chest and abruptly altered the course of my rolling body, sending me lurching across the floor and the crimson blade clattering free from my hand as my arm flailed out wildly in an effort to stop the careening movement.

It does not take much, however, before I am tucked back into an upright position in time to see the Queen catch herself with that open hand, and then with cat-like reflexes, come back to her feet again in time to throw those duel weapons to clatter across the floor, much to my perplexing amusement. Did Mura now seek to face me unarmed? Inconceivable that she would concede the fight err it began, but that appeared to be precisely what she was doing as I came vaulting back to my feet again, shifting my grip on the sword left in my right hand so that it was as deadly and effect as when paired with its crimson sister.

I did not move as she spoke, hearing the frustration come leeching through her words as she informed me of what I knew would be coming soon. Dark High Prince Lykai would be at her Court soon, and soon would his own Court follow, until I would not be the only Drow presence. She appeared to be conceding because she was finally ready to listen. The flicker of torches ringing the room played lightly in a cunning blue wink along the edge of the blade as my stance relaxed only slightly. Perhaps she simply needed that first sting of pain to purge her blood from the fury that it raged in. She came straight to the point and expounded without beauty or pageantry the feeling of the Dark Elf for the rest of the Elven kind, and I smiled coldly. At least we would not need to mince words here.

I remembered the urgings of the Death Fae before speaking.

”This ‘wretched courtship’, as you call it, will bring your people a great strength through an alliance with the Dark Elves. What will the Sea Elves bring you? Water? The Land Elves? More land? The Desert Elves? Sand? The Ariel Elves? Air? But what does High Prince Lykai bring? Strength, Mura. And with that strength, then need have you to barter for the rest. Instead, they will be forced to barter to you, a strength that will weaken others. Your people will never need worry nor want again.” I do not care for her ‘feelings’ in the matter of her upcoming marriage, nor that she is besieged with other races of Elves. They are all inferior to the Dark Elf and why she thinks they are worth her concern is quite beyond me. There is only one true choice that she can make, in my mind, and that is the Drow Prince.

But too, I know that the Lady Io has also charged me with instructing the young Queen on the behavior of my race, and so to that end I give pause, my sword finally lowering though not relaxing as a long, silky strand of my hair fell to partially obscure the burning of my crimson eyes. ”As for what he wants, Mura, that I cannot answer, for he does not confide in me of his desires nor can I fathom them after all this time in your Court. All I can say is this – Offer him nothing less than that which you are ready to part with, least of all yourself. I prefer you to leave me from your conversation, but no doubt he will learn soon enough of my presence here. Eastern whores would disgust him, no doubt, and I doubt he would find entertainment in mysteries of the Sea. He comes with a purpose, Mura. And you know what it is.”



"
Strength? Shydia. My people do not need strength. There are none but the Dark Elves themselves that would dare to march on my empire. And even your people would not win. The Majere Gift is as much as coveted blessing as it is a curse. Do you believe, for one moment, that you could stand before me, with two million Dark Elves and survive is I loosed the thing that resides within me upon you? I do not know where or why my ancestors received this thing that we call a gift. It plagues me every moment, seeping into my dreams so that I see the lives and emotions of the Dwarves in the Black Mountains. I watch the Orc and Goblins in the East slaughtering one another from their eyes. I have seen into the hearts of your people. From the moment the Majere Gift flourished within me I have lived within the minds of human, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Dark Elf and even the rare Fey that take their un-waking lives within this world. Your people hate. You are so very unhappy it is no shock to me that you seek to deal pain and suffering on everyone else."

Mura shifted, moving across the floor to sweep up the two staff halves. Screwing them back together, she hefted the wooden weapon in her hand. "As the Majere Heir I have the power level nations. If it were not for my gift, which your people envy and fear, as well as the meddling of my aunt, whom even
I fear, your people would have marched upon mine a Wurm's age ago. My ability, passed from Majere woman to Majere woman is one of the few things that prevents this world from becoming a blood-fest. The male Majere do not possess this power. They but carry the ability to give life to a woman that shall." Striding across the room, Mura unerringly found the first staff, picking it up as well. 

"My people do not need strength. We do not covet land, sand, the vast skies or even the mysterious oceans. Even your rare Ice Gems are useless to us. We live in peace and prosperity without the interference or squabbles of other races. What more could my people want? They but wish to see me give them another Majere Heir. So I must offer strangers the Consort Throne to every Prince who wishes a chance at it. Your Prince, as well as the others, want nothing more than to control my gift. That is what they wish. That is why he comes. To control me. So to that end, I must offer him the Consort Throne. I wonder at his shock when he realizes that with the Consort Throne he will suffer my gift with me." A humorless smile crossed her lovely face. "I will know his every thought, feel his every heartbeat. My gift will surround him, consume him, and leave nothing left."

Shifting, Mura glided towards the wall from where she had plucked the staves from the wall by will alone, setting them back in their place. "If he wins the Consort Throne he will receive only the crown for his efforts. He cannot love, and I cannot give him an Heir if he cannot love. My sister will produce the next Majere Heir and he will have failed his people. I know well what happens to those who fail your people, Shydia. I will die with him the moment he takes his last breath. Your people will try to overtake mine, my aunt will arrive, and the world itself will be undone by her hand." Shrugging in a nearly fatalistic manner, Mura moved from the wall. "I only find curiosity in the High Prince's reaction when he learns that the weak woman he seeks to marry and use is not only
prey, but further weakened and made useless by her blindness." The Queen's humorless smile grew. "Lucky him."

An admission of weakness. She was...less than an elf. Those born not whole in the Prince's kingdom were almost guaranteed to be put to death. The handicapped were often put to death in Mura's own as babes by the parents. Weakness was not tolerated among the elves, no matter what race they were born into. Mura had only escaped such a fate by the fact that she was the Majere Heir, and by the rare happenstance that she could, in fact, 'see' in a manner that baffled the few others who knew of her handicap.





The Rose and the Ruin
The Rose and the Ruin: Page 2
The Rose and the Ruin: Page 3
The Rose and the Ruin: Page 4
The Rose and the Ruin: A Visit with Shydia: Page 2
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