Interlude: Reflections

The King of Arcadia, once ruling monarch of Winter alone, but now sharing dominion of the realm entire, stood atop a hill surveying the disaster that painted the ground below. The unruly wind that rose from the torched ground carried the ghost of a familiar taste. Though most of what had been wrought below had been at the hands of others.

In the center of a ruined cathedral stood a stele upon which was crucified a thin man. His blood flowed freely down the words inscribed on the risen stone-ye of this land, suffer no compromise in this-and flowed in a circle within the grounds. Though nothing could ever truly be spoken of with certainty he could tell that so long as the blood flowed no other worshiper could cross the entrance.

The great pivots of Creation often imprinted themselves into Arcadia, many fae wandered through such places as one might visit a garden. This too should have been just another place to find idle amusement. Would have been, if not for that presence that faintly colored the proceedings. The Duchess of Moonless Night he had titled her once, and she had since born a crown as Queen of the same. He had first learned of her when she defied Contrition, revealing herself as a stone that could, through dint of sheer stubbornness that was kin to cleverness, turn aside the river of fate.

With her as an instrument the King of Winter had brought an end to the endless cycle of conflict that had etched itself into his land since time immemorial. Pleased with the result he had left Creation well enough alone, for with the birth of a new court came a time of… uncertainty. A new order had been born, and the shape of it forged, a single court rising and falling both. But such order was fragile still, the new stories and the details that could undermine his desired outcome needed a steady, patient touch to bring it to completion.

Now though, it seemed that there may be complications. Catherine Foundling, the one who had brought about a new age for Arcadia had since ended an era, placing in the crucible an Empire Ever Dark to be forged anew. More pressing, another court forged from a piece of Arcadia itself had been established. Though these Twilight Ways served to distance Arcadia from the stories of creation, and in time might prove useful, they also stood out as the continuation of a pattern. The Black Queen was forging a new age and until she was done, in success or failure, those who were part of her story might be struck by turmoil at any time. One need only look down the hill to see how disastrous that could be.

The King of Arcadia sighed, choices of momentous weight lay in his future. The simplest answer would be to nip this problem in the bud. Though such course carried dangers, not least of which the goddesses who had claimed the Black Queen as their herald. The other was similarly fraught with peril, though half his court had owed allegiance to Summer, season of war they were not that anymore, time may yet prove the pattern of the fae victorious on the field, setting the new foundation of that story with war against the King of Death may prove costly.

A shiver in the air alerted him to the approach of another, though in truth he had felt their coming much earlier. Ista, former Queen of Summer strode out from behind a tree to come stand at his side. He had been genuinely surprised to find that he held genuine affection for the other fae ruler. Those born of Winter had long buried such feelings beneath a thousand scars of broken promises and petty spite. But in the wake of the Arcadian reformation the feeling had bloomed anew and he was loath to part with it. Even if he knew that the echoes of resentment the Queen still carried might see it used against him.

“We truly live in interesting times.” She mused, taking in the sight for herself.

“Intervention may prove necessary.”

“Starting a pattern of intervention with the mortal world has risks. As I’m sure you know.” She replied, a hint of dry humor coloring her words.

She was right, though many fae had been called into that world, never had they been allowed firm foothold. Even Summer fae had fallen easily into patterns of defeat and banishment. Creation helping along the story that woulf see their kind banished had been one of the factors leading to their current situation.

“Doing nothing also carries risk.” He warned.

“Still, I council patience. Premature action will lead to ruin.”

There was a period of silence before both rulers disappeared as if they never were.

Down in the valley the echo of a thin man looked up at where they had stood and whispered judgement.

“Conspiracy against the People, Tyranny of the First Degree…”