.:: The War of the Skies ::.
Once upon a time, there begun a battle. A battle for the right over the heavens, which shook the world below. A war of seven armies that rent the skies aglow With the light of a thousand suns, And cast over the world below, a pall of Shadow. There rose, the moths from the lands of paradise To challenge the dragons of the eternal Pride. There stood, the lady of the endless night, Whose white wings blotted out the sun. And to her challenge, answered the king of dragons, The great serpent, and on his tail, came the warriors of the dawn, the dusk,
And the armies of the unnamed and the damned…
The battle lasted for days, months, years, decades, centuries, millenniums.
But still it raged on, from one side of the globe to the other and the world watched as silent spectators, as alliances were made and broken.
As Nations rose and fell,
Never attaining what they yearned for, in the wide blue yonder.
The skies were cold and stained with death.
And one by one, they started to fall.
-::- Schatten -::-
.:: A memory ::.
[ I stood in the heart of a cathedral.
Or that would be the closest thing I could associate it to in human tongue.
For us, we called it the hall of remembrance, for it was an eternal reminder of our defeat, as well as our greatest victory.
It was a large spacious room with a ceiling of wax that loomed hundreds of feet above, the entire structure was held up in place by ivory pillars said to be made from the bone of an ancient dragon slain by the Grand Queen herself. My eyes scanned the room with undisguised awe, as I saw the countless arches and ringed the entire hall, all the way to the top. And behind them, I saw figures shuffling in the darkness, all of them eager to learn of my verdict.
I sensed a ripple in my awareness.
My mind was jerked back to the centre of the hall, where a lone figure sat on her throne behind numerous veils of silk. Stained purple, trying to mask the legendary poison that sought to escape. An oppression like no other started to weigh down on my mind. I couldn’t think straight, my vision blurred, and I felt inferior in every way an individual could ever manage to hope. Such was the unimaginable glory and power that emanated from the being in front of me.
An existence that I feared and admired from the very bottom of my heart. It was someone I grew looking up to, someone who had my undivided loyalty, but one which I was forced to uphold in rather questionable means.
It was for that reason that I was here today, wings crippled and limbs bound. If not for my impending demise, it would have been a memory which I would have cherished, with every fibre of my being. But the fact that she was here, meant that rather than being honoured at such a presence, it spoke of the weight of my actions. That it was indeed as evil as I knew it was, and that I should be punished for it.
I always loved my people, my nation, my Queen, but all that I’ve seen goes against everything that had been taught to me in the hive and I acted upon my own principles.
The Queen rose behind the silk screen, and tears rolled down my eyes as I saw her silhouette rise. A dark shadow spread as I saw the shape of her glorious wings unfolding.
Two of her left arms raised towards me.
A melodious voice rang through my mind.
It was merely one word, but it broke my heart.
“State you reasoning, or your defence, if you will.”
My eyes erupted in tears which I’ve held in for so long, and my voice broke as I slowly tried to communicate, like a mere hatchling who was learning the ways of the world.
“ I don’t have anything to say in my defence, My Queen. As much as I am honoured to have you decide my fate, I am as guilty as I am told to be. The crimes I have committed are too grievous. I’ve harmed the hive in pursuing my own ideals, my own goals, my own selfishness. I have nothing to say that will fix the irreparable damage I have inflicted upon our kind.”
There was silence, and I heard the sound of fabric rustling, and I was shocked to see the Queen parting two of the inner veils, just enough so that I could see her more clearly.
I saw her beautiful, perfect form, her humanoid figure, clad in glistening white carapace and four arms covered in delicate strands of fine sensory hair, and of all the most famous, her wings.
It was like our names suggested, a pair of moth’s wings. It was in no way an insult to call us moths, for we were very akin to them in some ways, but even that compliment was wasted on what I saw before me. I saw four pairs of glowing eyes. It was but a pattern, but it was so full of power, so full of life, so… full of emotion, that it had me completely entranced. They were still folded, but I could make out the ripples that ran along it’s surface, plusating as it reflected the queen’s every thought. It was like I was but a mere insect gazing into the eyes of a great beast.
Finally, my head raised and our eyes finally met. Her eyes radiated even more deep power than her wings. Power that sought to break free, power that unsettled the very air, which I could feel even so far away.
The outer silk was starting to stain purple as well, soaking up the poison her majesty produced even without any conscious effort. I stared at her in awe, for before me, stood the First Queen.
The Queen of Moths, known to outlanders as the dreaded lordess of Venom,
Veleno the Maleficent.
A ruthless monster from one’s darkest nightmares to those who dare oppose her.
But a kind ruler to her own kin.
I heard her voice once again as I gazed at her antennas that leaned over her silky white hair and to my surprise, saw that she was surprisingly tranquil.
Maybe she had learnt how to control them over her long life. It was very much in contrast to my own, which were flailing all over the place like I was drowning in my own emotions, Which pretty much summed up my mental situation accurately.
“ I know what you’ve done, child and I’ve yet to forgive you for it either, but on the other hand, you’ve revealed something that has lain hidden from my sight for so long. I am not omniscient, the knowledge of what my own people have been doing behind my back, their true thoughts, their true voice, was hidden from me for so long. Hearing it in such a manner was quite astonishing to say the least. For that, I wish to thank you, despite whatever happens afterwards.”
My head dipped in gratitude and a deep sadness.
Even if I die here today, at least I’ve fulfilled my duty.
“ Thank you, my Queen.”
Her hand let go of the silkscreens, enveloping her form in shadows once again.
“ You are not forgiven but your actions spoke for your loyalty, even if they harm the very principle behind the hive itself. I was made aware of many loopholes in the system I had laid down here myself, and that is but my own fault. Thus I decree that you, Schatten of the sixty-eighth generation shall be banished onto the mortal realms, where you shall reflect on your actions, and where you shall die, on your own terms. ”
My mind went blank.
Was I not going to be executed?
My head rose with so many questions that it nearly made me forget my place.
The mortal lands? Weren't those the Landmasses down below?
Banishment? I’ve never heard of such a punishment before…
The Queen’s words rang in my head.
“Where you shall die on your own terms” I mouthed.
I was going to be abandoned. Alive with this heavy guilt despite my crimes just because I was spared by the Queen..
In some ways, it was even worse than death.
But before I could voice my protests, I noticed that the queen had disappeared.
And then my vision blacked out. ]
I slowly opened my eyes, escaping the memory that replayed in my mind for the hundredth time. It was all so surreal. I stared at the rays of light that broke through the canopy of the forest above me, They washed the forest floor in motes of light that reflected off the dead leaves and ferns that dotted the place.
I closed my eyes once again.
It had been nearly a year since my ‘banishment’. I’ve already made contact with a few locals of the realm. They seemed a bit strange, for they looked extremely similar to our own kind in shape, but they lacked our wings, and also an entire pair of arms. It was a bit hard for me to adjust to seeing just two hands attached to such a similar torso, and it seemed like they found me strange in the same manner as well. I had to wrap my wings around me like a piece of clothing, and keep a pair of hands folded up at all times. It was extremely stressful, but it had to be done.
I was in no way the strangest thing in these parts apparently, but I still stood out far too much for me to remain comfortable. Then I realised that it wasn’t enough either. Despite the similarities of our head and our torso, they had no antennas on their heads, nor did they have any carapace, nor any sensory hairs on their arms. They even used some sort of vocal vibrations to communicate, and I didn’t know a single word of their language. If not for the telepathic tether I could attach onto most sentient beings, I would have had a hard time here. Even still, they found it unnerving, so I had to slowly learn to use my own throat to make sounds. It was odd and I made a lot of squeaky noises at first, but I managed to figure some words out.
It all felt so alien to me, but I guess I was the one that stood out here.
Eventually, I got some baggy clothing and a cloak, with an attached hood to cover myself up. It worked to a certain extent, and I wouldn’t stand out unless there was someone intent on exposing my disguise, which was still a concern I had to worry about.
The fact that confused me the most were their genders. It was a bit hard to differentiate it at first, but then I started to understand some characteristic traits, but even so, they differentiated greatly from race to race and I had much to learn yet.
That also meant all of them were unique in appearance. There was ALWAYS some variations, no matter how minor it may have been. It was the strangest concept so far for me, who was used to seeing very identical features on nearly everyone around me.
To see such large variations in nearly every single part of the visible body, it felt too chaotic in contrast to uniformity I felt back in the hive. I was a stranger to change, to individuality, to the feeling of ‘uniqueness’. I made such drastic changes in my own realm with only a simple idea that differentiated from the norm, and the resulting aftereffects were catastrophic. Thus I found it hard to even comprehend how every single individual down here could be so… different, yet live on with each other so… peacefully.
I wanted to understand them more, to understand this world that was hidden from us all this time, properly and thoroughly as much as I possibly could in what remained of my lifespan. I do not know if I will die of age, or if we aged at all. The first Queen had remained long enough unchanged but I couldn’t draw a conclusion from it since ‘Dreadlords’ were always a bit different from those of their kind anyways.
The mortals here seemed to regard death as a certainty, and now I understood why they were called as such.
For me, I would have lived until I exhausted my use, and then either die in battle, or willingly step down to be ‘rewritten’ after my allotted time had been used up. It had everything to do with the very reason I was forced to act according to the silent voices of my kin, why I was forced to follow my own ideals. But here, things were different.
Too different for my liking.
As I sat on a boulder overlooking the small cliff that hung over the forest below me, I stared at the setting sun with an air of melancholy.
I was alone here.
Suddenly, a butterfly flew into my vision.
I tried to swat it away, but to no avail.
I hated butterflies.
The poor insect didn’t do me any wrong, but they reminded me too much of our cousins, the Fae. The tiny, annoying troublemakers worked with ancient magic and were too chaotic to be actually reined in by anyone. Despite being so fundamentally similar in origin, we couldn’t be any more different. We still had a handful of them back at the hive, and what memories I did have of them were those which I were not fond to speak of.
“You must really hate butterflies judging by your reaction.”
I heard a soft voice behind me.
I jumped up in absolute shock.
I didn’t hear anyone creeping up on me, but anyone who managed to do so without absolutely any presence or sound was a serious threat I had to deal with quickly.
Or so I thought.
What I saw before me made me freeze.
It was the strangest sight I’ve seen in my entire life, and that’s really saying something.
What was before me, was a human.
But at the same time, it was not.
It was a she, I thought, recognizing her as a female.
The first thing that stood out was that she seemed to be made of fog, or a light mist, which seemed to flicker in the light. She was a levitating, disembodied mimicry of a human and it unnerved me for some reason. I didn’t understand why I could make out her finer details when she was but a whisp of fog. I didn’t understand how she could speak, or see, or even hear. I can't even tell how we could even understand each other. There were so many questions that I didn’t even know where to start.
So I went with the simplest one.
“What are you?”
The not-human raised an eyebrow.
“I could ask the same, but where are my manners, my name is Ilianora Licht and I’m a spirit.”
I was confused.
“What’s a spirit?”
The spirit seemed really surprised at that.
“Well, it means that I’ve lived once and died, and that I failed to pass on.”
“My psyche didn’t dissipate after my death, nor did it leave. I don’t know what usually happens but in my case, My consciousness just condensed and here I am, roaming this forest for all eternity! Or at least till a necromancer chances upon here.”
My mind couldn’t even get around the concept she spoke of.
Does that mean that Humans have a consciousness that was able to separate from their material bodies? Or was it a common feature in all creatures which just went unnoticed? I remembered what I was told of the curse of undeath. It might be something similar.
“What is life then?” I asked eventually.
She beamed at me.
Then she spun, with wisps of fog twirling around her like a skirt, and little motes of light glowed in the air as she laughed.
“I have no idea!”
“Excuse me?” I was in disbelief.
“Wouldn’t a ‘spirit’ like you know, having experienced death already?”
She eyes narrowed.
“ You mean to say that having known death, that I should know what life is? Sadly, I know the answer to neither, only the endless cold between my life and my second awakening which I was somehow dragged out of. I knew something happened in between but I remember not.”
She floated higher as the wind around us started to blow dry leaves into the sky until we were surrounded by a swirling vortex of red and yellow.
But I didn’t feel fear, for there was no malice.
Just pure joy, emotion, affection... and it’s expression.
Her voice started to resonate in the air as she sang.
“ Life is not about where you go,
But the voyage that takes you there.
Savour that journey with those your heart calls for,
And go where your life takes you!
What have you experienced?
What have you seen?
What have you heard?
Was your life exciting?”
I remained silent. I didn’t know the answer
“ All I knew was war.”
“Oh, then, mighty warmonger!
Why did you wage your war so terrible?
What did you fight for?
Why do you seek the meaning of life?”
I couldn’t answer that either. Was it my ideals? Was it for my people? My Queen? Myself?
“ I don't know the answer.”
“Tsk tsk tsk.” She mocked me.
“Oh, then ignorant warrior, heed my words!
Ask not what life is, nor what it means,
For life is brilliance, life is wonder!
Of all things to say, life is not enough,
So it is not meant to be wasted.”
She danced towards me in fluid movement of perfected grace.
“In life’s path, all are connected,
By the endless crossroads in the labyrinth of fate!
And on every inch of it’s brilliant way,
There lies a moment.”
Her voice was but a whisper, but I heard every word.
“A moment, however small,
Shall always be brightly lit by others,
Others very much like yourself.”
Licht closed her eyes brought her hands together.
“Little memories, little tastes of joy,
That makes your life sweet.”
Her eyes shot open, and she pointed a finger at me as a sad smile spread across her face.
“ At times when priorities stand strong,
They do not give much to offer.
But perhaps one day, you’ll understand.
That those memories are truly-
Memories to carry unto the grave.”
A single golden tear slid down her misty face.
She caught it with her right index finger, inspected it, and with the same playful grace, she danced and flicked it at me, and it exploded in my face with brilliant flash of gold.
I stumbled, clearly taken aback.
Silence returned once again as the leaves settled back onto the ground.
“ I’ll show you something, follow me.”
And like that, she drifted into the woods, carrying the same mysterious air with which she came.
I hesitated for a moment.
But I reminded myself that I didn't have anything better to do right now.
So I I followed my curiosity.