Evening -- Meuse
Three days and three nights had passed since Brigdha received word that her niece had arrived in Meuse and the Ambassador had not left her pavilion in all that time. Members of her Ghosts stood silent watch whilst her grandson Leopald rebuffed all attempts to disturb her meditation, though from time-to-time a non-descript figure would pass unchallenged on some private errand.
Brigdha had much to consider if she were to subtly alter the fate so long prepared for her niece in the court of The Dragon. That vengeful old lizard who slumbered, dreaming his dreams of chaos and bloodshed as Elven drums beat their incessant frenetic tattoo. Across the northern plains Lords marched to war, their eyes fixed on the great fastnesses of the Vix. To such Perdan was almost an afterthought. An ancient foe so utterly transformed by immigration that long-nurtured hatreds were largely irrelevant. If Brigdha could but leverage that ambivalence... and yet there were those for whom the destruction of Perdan was a sweetmeat long anticipated and amongst their number where the mightiest.
Nor was this Brigdha's only concern. Queen Glory was close to her time, mother to a scion of the Archirium-Dubhaine bloodline like her mother before her, the seed of a most unlikely union casting its shadow once more across the continent as surely as when its founders clashed all those years ago.
Fate has a strange way of playing her hand, almost carelessly placing the future of a generation on the shoulders of a few tragic figures. For Fontan perhaps half-a-dozen had unknowingly borne that burden. Tal the Superstitious who cast the north to ruin for fear that the Gods would punish him and Sullivan the Cunning whose stratagems overwhelmed all in his path. Mikhail the Lawmaker in whom the Constitution lived, and Gregor the Old who cast the lot for civil war. And then there were Aeneas and Moira...
Perhaps had her sister been of gentler character Aeneas might have been dissuaded from the tragic dream of Asena, and with him many good warriors whose long road led to an ignoble end. But she was no comforter who held no man her master, nor he one to be comforted who had lost all he loved. Two peerless blades, brightly ringing as the sparks flew from their sparring... two peerless blades... two blades merging... two blades becoming one...
Three days was barely sufficient to prepare what Brigdha had in mind, an ancient charm rarely attempted since the days of Lilith. As her mind's eye focused on the blades she thrust her will into the High Firmament, freeing herself of the limitations of flesh as she looked down upon the world from the vaults of eternity.
The hungry flame of Lannceann MacTirÃ© burned bright and strong across the wilds of Beluaterra, an all-consuming justice amongst the unjust. It was hard not to be drawn to its warmth, to swoop across that blighted land and see with her own two eyes her beloved sister wielding it. But now was not the time for such thoughts. Brigdha needed all her concentration for more urgent matters and she focused her inner eye on the warm, sustaining strength of the heirloom blade Glory now bore.
With a succession of logical propositions she wove a path of shadows to the blade and thence a shroud to enclose it. Such shadow forms were part of an acolyte's training routine and no great effort to a seasoned Balancewalker, but to share them with one uninitiated in the ways of the Flow was a considerably more complex exercise requiring a purposeful descension to interpose this higher reality into the mundane world of flesh and matter, a private factum beyond interference save by another sorcerer. And to do it such that the subject was unaware of its otherness? Well, three days would have to be enough as there was no more time to spare.
Summer Morning -- Nascot
It had been 5 hours ago now that the contractions started. Water had covered the floor as Glory was walking to her desk to write a letter and emediately she knew that the time had come. Months of nausia had preceded it, tye child was strong and restless in her stomach, often kicking and turning.
Pain had come and gone like the flowing of the water, and screams could be heard from Glory herself. Servants had gone back and forth and a group of midwives had gathered, but still she felt alone.
"AUAHAHAU!" She cried, "where are they?!" And at that moment Reinhart, her father's old captain came in "Your grace, I have sent a group of our fastests riders to get your aunt and guide her here. Untill then we shall not leave your side your grace. Your father would be proud of you."
Summer Evening -- Meuse
Midges danced in the late afternoon sun, warm shafts of high summer piercing the thick forest canopy above. Brigdha couldn't help but reminisce as she drank in her surroundings, the quiet beauty of the deep wood merging with her memories of the great forest of elfhame.
As her senses settled an unmistakable actinic tang spoke of powerful sorceries - considerably more powerful than those Brigdha had woven. The raw irrational essence of the netherworld but recently unleashed in its fullest intensity. Even the least sensitive noviciate couldn't help but see how the woods were steeped in it and to a Balancewalker every root and stone and forest stream screamed at its intrusion. The usually cautious fey folk were agitated, too surprised by the priestess's sudden appearance to cast their elfshot, and Brigdha soon had full report of the imposing castle which now stood at the forest's heart, and of the young Queen labouring within as humourless soldiers dashed to and fro with undisguised urgency.
A jovial brownie with flushed red cheeks and a jerkin to match took a swig from a seemingly bottomless tankard and opined that "The Iron Folk should learn to enjoy life," by which he seemed to mean they should drink more and parade less, whilst a fairy maid on gossamer wings like those of a particularly colourful dragonfly declared it tasteless for humans to perform such amusing magics.
"You wizards are such serious folk," she settled lightly on Brigdha's shoulder and looked her in the eye, "Why would you play such a splendid trick?"
"I really can't say," Brigdha smiled, admiring the artful glamour before her, "I prefer less showy charms. But I'm sure you wouldn't begrudge us a little fun from time to time would you?"
"Begrudge it?" the Brownie capered from foot to foot in an impromptu jig, accompanied by a lustily sung doggerel, "We know nothing of sorrow dear lady, for we are the children of ease, the summer brings joy to our marrow, and our spirits soar on its breeze."
"So I have heard good sir," the priestess crouched and reached her hand towards his ear, a shiny gold crown appearing as if from nowhere.
"Our King and Queen forbid us from meeting the Iron Folk for they are too dull-witted to appreciate good humour," the gossamer-winged fairy's carefree laughter invoked images of bluebells in midsummer, a merry rondel devoid of malice or concern.
"I know something of these Iron Folk. Your King and Queen are wise indeed," much of the Ambassador's adult life had been dominated by the wars with Perdan and she'd always presumed that if she were to travel this far into the interior it would be at the head of a war party, her famed black-fletched shafts carrying death to the unwary. To find herself here on a mission of mercy, both to her grand niece and to the people over whom she now ruled, was indeed a strange twist of fate.
"That we are dear lady," the Brownie's stature grew, shedding folds of fat and ruddy skin as it did so, revealing a handsome prince of the wildwood, as ageless and resilient as the forest itself.
A similar transformation overtook the slender fairy, the wisdom of long ages resting lightly on her comely brow, "And you are clearly more than the hedgewitch we first took you for," she finished her consort's sentence.
"I know a little of the Higher Worlds," Brigdha dropped her own glamour, that travelling cloak with which she so often passed unnoticed and unknown, and for the first time in many a long year assumed no pretence.
"You are Brigdha, the one the Iron Folk fear without knowing why?"
"I am," Brigdha curtseyed respectfully, "And you are Ayil and MÃ©bh the King and Queen of the DÃ©na ShÄ“, for whose blessings the old folk leave offerings."
"A gift of kindness is its own reward," the Prince upended his tankard and where the amber fluid touched the earth a riot of summer growth burst forth.
"Have you come to ask us a boon sorceress? To barter for our favour?" Queen MÃ©bh studied the priestess intently.
"No your majesty, I have not. I travel to yon castle for the birth of a child," she signed in the general direction of the massive fortifications, somewhere deep in the forest.
"Fate lies heavy upon mother and child," Queen MÃ©bh creased her brows, "A winter tale with much sadness, its end yet untold."
"That is why I travel there your Majesty, to weave a thread of hope."