The storm was raging on as the two figures ran through the wind and rain. One was carrying a bundle while the other carried a second. As they reached the cave within the woods, the storm grew less and less insistent and became a distant hindrance.
One of the bundles starts to cry and the holder removes their hood, exposing the face of a beautiful woman with black hair and brown eyes. “Shush now my sweet one. It’ll be all over soon,” she reassures it. The other person comes up beside her with his silent bundle and removes his hood as well. His hair was gold like the sun but his eyes were a beautiful green.
“You mustn’t my dear. Do not scare her,” he admonishes.
The woman removes the blanket around the thing and reveals a small baby with black hair and chubby cheeks. Her companion does the same and reveals a second baby girl, but with white hair. Both looked as if they were twins, yet they were complete opposites. One was to be the sacrifice to their goddess, while the other was to have her memories wiped of any other siblings. Although young, she would know of her if not for the alteration.
After a while of silently walking, the two come upon an altar made of wood and it was coated in red crimson. It was shaped like a cradle and was waiting for its offering. Clutching his bundle tightly, the man approaches the cradle and sets the infant inside. Her small eyes open and yellow eyes look up at the man. His heart contracts, but it is too late.
A chiming resounds within the cave and a figure appears of a tall woman, draped in white cloths, with beautiful white hair and yellow eyes. She watches the two people and their one child. Bring me the saved one. Her voice enters their minds and the woman complies. Bringing the second, crying child, she hands her over to the tall lady. Her fingers trail down the baby’s face slowly, in doing so; the baby goes silent and falls asleep. She will forget her sister, but the sister will not. And in time, ruin will strike you if you are not careful.
Shivering, the woman takes back the baby and the man pulls her to him. “Thank you for your mercy my lady,” he says. The woman looks at him with her yellow eyes.
“I have no mercy,” she states with a powerful, inhuman voice and all the lights go out. Somewhere in the darkness, the slice of a blade piercing flesh echoes and a baby begins to giggle.
17 Years Later
The knight watches the outskirts of Plaei scanning for any disturbances or marauders. Seeing nothing, he leans back and sharpens his sword, unaware of the emanate danger lurking in the lands. Her bright yellow eyes rest upon the unsuspecting knight. Pulling tightly on her bowstring, she aims a razor-sharp arrow at his exposed neck. The arrow flies loose with a whistle and speeds for the knight. Only when he is struck down does she proceed.
She maneuvers to the city walls and looks around. Only one knight was stationed here, they underestimated her. With a quick glance at the top, she started climbing up and silently slides over the edge.
The dead knight lies still in a pool of his own blood, sword still in hands. Bending down, the girl examines the sword and puts it in her empty scabbard.
Now looking over the opposite edge of the wall, she eyes a sleeping town, ignorant to its demise. Her lip curls into a handsome sneer and slowly, she lowers herself down into the inner walls.
There was no movements, no sounds. This put her on edge and she readied her bow. All around her there were closed doors and windows, colorful plants looking up to the sun, and clean streets lined with stone. Streets where common children would laugh and play, streets where festivals and executions were held, streets caked in blood. The blood of the innocent, the blood of the people.
Anger and revenge had taken refuge within her and she has fought hard to make it here to the city of nature. Born here, was she to call it her home, yet her home were the woods; the woods nobody survives. Her family sacrificed her as an offering to the creatures in the woods, her and not her sister. A mere baby at the time and yet she remembers her sister, Aednat.
Her parents favored Aednat more than her and she despised her for it. She never gained parental love, just the woods like an animal. They never named her, but the woods did. She was given the sacred, yet forbidden name: Fainiel.
Over the time, cities and towns knew her name. All would gaze upon her odd beauty and believe her to be a reincarnation of the Elven Goddess, Fainiel. Though she is seen as the goddess, people banish her from their towns; for she is bad luck to them. But now, no one will banish her; not from this town, not from any.
A bird chirps from a rooftop, as if in greeting to Fainiel. She raises her hand and the small bird perches itself upon her wrist. Mumbling a few words in Elvish tongue, the bird flies off.
With her message sent, Fainiel treads deeper into the city, making her way to the castle. She looks up at the castle and sees no motions nor sounds from within. Taking the chance, she sneaks closer and grabs upon the stone wall. Once at the top, she climbs down into the gardens and looks at all the plants.
Each plant slowly sways, waving to her and acknowledging her arrival. Passing each plant, Fainiel glides her fingers over each one and mumbles something to them all. In turn, each plant stands up taller and looks fuller.
Through the garden she enters yet another and repeats the process before making her way to the castle doors. Pushing the heavy things open, she slips inside and leans close to the walls; grasping them for protection.
No light permeates the dark foyer, causing the statues to look like dead corpses that have risen from the ground. Disregarding the unnatural looking statues, Fainiel makes her way up the stairs and peers down a long, empty hallway. No guards, how odd. This whole excursion seems too easy and Fainiel takes out an arrow, readying it.
She walks down the hallway and ends up in a huge throne room with tables and chairs and food set up, ready for a party.
“Welcome home, Fainiel,” a voice says. Fainiel spins around and jumps back quickly. The man was a high-ranking knight with black hair, black eyes, and a black heart.
“Clorthian,” she spits, glaring at him and pointing her bow at his head.
“Now, now dear Fainiel, let’s not be so violent.” He takes his sword and places it carefully on a table and puts his hands up in a vulnerable stance. Not putting her bow down, Fainiel takes a step to the left towards the throne. “Please Fainiel, put down your weapon and act like a civilized human,” he says, saying human with a touch of passion.
“Go be a human yourself somewhere else!” she spat.
Clorthian sighs and shakes his head before smiling maliciously to himself. “Do you not miss me and our love that we shared?” he asks. Fainiel eyes him along the length of her arrow, saying nothing. “I at least thought or reunion would have been a happy one, but all you bring is sorrow and pain.”
He dives for her, grabbing at her legs. She launches herself into the air, shooting an arrow at him. Quickly rolling over to avoid the pierce, he snatches up his sword and points it at her smiling. “I never knew Elves could be so violent,” he chided, emphasizing the word ‘elves’.
“You don’t know anything,” she states.
“Oh, don’t I?” Slipping his sword away at his side, the doors to the room open and guards pile in one after the other. “I knew you’d come back. You always come back.”
Fainiel keeps her face impassive and puts away her bow and arrow. Blinking slowly, she pushes her white hair out of her face, exposing her pointed ears. Multiple gasps circle the room at the sight. She is not afraid of who she is, nor is she ashamed. “You underestimate me Sir Clorthian, for I am not unprepared.” One step to the left.
“You are surrounded Fainiel of the woods. Surrender yourself to us and come quietly or we will be forced to use action,” he warns. The guards ready their swords and point them at her, encircling her into a coffin of metal.
“’Be forced to use action,’” she mocks. “You have no right to that, now do you?” They come closer. As they advance on her, an ululating sound emits form the gardens. Screams of agony and fear. Birds screaming and flapping madly. “You have forced me into action,” she says and jumps high into the air.
The guards take a second to look at her grace before darting to the doors leading into the western gardens, only to be bombarded by birds and bloody knights. Fainiel sits on a high ledge overlooking the chaos. Birds peck at the men’s armor and expose their soft fleshy areas that are most vulnerable. Eyes are pecked out, throats are gouged by claws, and shins are cut by thorns.
Fainiel watches one unlucky guard who escapes the attack of birds only to find himself entangled in roots. The roots have him held by the ankles and wrists and pull him apart, showering the others in his innards and crimson secrets.
She watches as Clorthian hacks down one bird and plant after another. “How annoying,” she chides and grabs a dagger from her belt. As he stops moving briefly, she lets the dagger soar across the room to bury itself in his upper thigh. He goes down with a clang of metal and a cry. “Shouldn’t have moved.” She sighs and forgets about her inaccuracy before slipping out the window.
The cries of men leave her ears as she hurries to the living quarters. She leaps from ledge to ledge as each window passes her in a blur. One of these must have been her nursery at one point, but which? Now one is her sister’s room, and soon to be her tomb.
Over here there is silence with the exception of birds chirping happily and the streams gurgling. Even she made no sounds as she descended on the window to her sister’s chambers.
A form lies under the covers on the bed to the far left. Across from that are a large piano and an arch leading into a private bathroom, as well as a wardrobe and two chairs for comfort. How cozy, she thought.
Not caring about the mud on her boots, she slipped into the clean room and slinked her way to the side of the bed. Kneeling beside it, she watches the sleeping form move up and down as it breathes. Scratching at her scar, she slowly moves the covers to reveal her sister sleeping. Her long black hair spreads out across the pillow and her perfect red lips are set in a pout. Fainiel trails her light fingers across her sister’s cheek and starts singing quietly.
“Let the monsters come,
And let them take thee away.
But if the Fae be here,
Beware of their queen,
For she has no mercy.”
The sun seems to shine brighter now as it comes through the window. Fainiel stands erect and looks at her sister hard before placing a silver mirror on the bedside table. “Death is too easy for you. They gave me this and it is imbued with many magical properties. When you look into it you will never see your face, as if you were blind. Madness will consume you and if you try to take your life, you will bleed forever in my woods.”
Fainiel exits through the window and drops down onto the hard ground. The grass has trails of blood spotted all over it like freckles on a face. She was done here and would return home.
The trees whisper silently to one another as Fainiel makes her way to the heart of the woods. She ignores their bantering and sits down on the large stone placed into the middle of the area where no trees stand.
Her bow falls down her shoulder and lands softly on the ground and the quiver of bows follow suit. Her eye stings immensely, but Kerin is nowhere to be found. “Kerin?” she calls into the expanse. Whispers start up again, louder this time. “Lye? Maern? Anyone?” Still no answers.
Irritation overcomes her and she closes her eyes and focuses. As she begins to calm down, her mind opens itself and every inch of the woods open up to her. Every dark corner is visible, every shadow, every being.
As the trance ends the trees speak louder and one who looks withered enters her mind. My lady, there is nobody. There is only you now. This causes Fainiel to look up quickly and stare at the tree speaking. “What do you mean Elder Aryn? Where are the other tribe members?” Wind snakes through the branches and leaves of the trees as she waits. They have been taken by the great Goddess Fainiel. Realization hits her like a horse kick. Her head falls and she stares expressionless at the ground.
Somehow she smiles at herself and looks up once more, but to the sky. “It is my fault yet again isn’t it?” she asks to nobody in particular. Another seems to speak up. It is not your intentions my lady. It comes with the curse of your name. Although a curse, it is also a blessing.
“Yes, a blessing. I am blessed with the company of you all and no others like me,” she starts but is stopped as another enters her mind. There have never been any others like you my lady, other than the goddess herself. The others were merely attendants to you until we saw fit that you were ready.
“I am ready Elders. I will go back tonight during the festival and strike then. Now I must rest and soothe my hindrance before the time comes.” Fainiel gets up slowly and walks to Lake Fain.
Kneeling down on her knees, she looks at her reflection. A deformed girl looks back at her. Where there should be rounded ears, there were fine, pointed ears. Two yellow eyes with large pupils stare back at her, one badly scarred down it. The scar reaches from her eyebrow down to her nostril and has blinded her in that eye. The Elders say her hair has always been white, but white hair is not natural; then again, neither is she. Her skin seems flawless when only moments ago she had caused massacre.
Cupping her hands together, she dips them into the water and splashes her face. Already her scar feels better and her body relaxes even more. “Jthiel. Soon,” she mumbles.
Aednat awakens as the sun is high in the sky and shining beautifully through her open window. “Did I leave that open?” she asks her maid.
“I had it opened for you madam. Fresh air is best to receive on coronation day,” she responds.
“Very well. Thank you, you may leave me.” The maid bows and exits the room still bowing.
Princess Aednat strokes through her hair with her long fingers and scoots to the edge of the bed. A glitter catches her eye from her bedside table. She turns to find a beautifully engraved mirror lying face down on the table. “A gift for my coronation?” she asks the air as she reaches for the mirror.
It feels cold to the touch as she grabs it and looks at its backing. A scene of trees is marked into it with a figure of a woman in long drapes standing in the middle, holding a dagger that seemed to drip blood. Her fingers trail over the bumps as she turns it over. Expecting to see her face in the mirror, she starts as she sees nothing in it but the room.
Her hand starts shaking and the mirror falls to the floor. She rushes to her bathroom and gazes into the glass. Lovely, bright green eyes stare back at her set into a pale face with long ropes of her black hair cascading down the sides. Everything was fine, she told herself.
Quickly, she hurried back to her room and eyeing the mirror, got dressed for the festivities. Once done, she sits in her seat awaiting her maid to aide her with her hair. Something inside the room calls to her. A song seems to play in her mind over and over again.
“Gaze into the lake of the goddess
And see that you are no more
For she has taken you away
To a land ravaged by demons and war.”
Aednat finds herself kneeling down on the floor next to the mirror. Its reflective surface looks up at her as she reaches for it once more. Picking it up gently, she gazes into it and sees the face of a smiling, yellow-eyed girl gazing back at her. The princess screams and throws the mirror at the wall. It lands on the ground face up, unbroken. Her maidservant later finds her speaking to herself silently about a witch in the mirror.
Fainiel straps the bow and quivers across her back, as well as two long daggers on either side of her hips. Although all this gear is strewn about her person, she feels lighter than ever. Are you ready my lady? Elder Yore asks.
“Yes, I am ready. I will take back this world for us all,” she promises and walks silently towards the kingdom of Pleai.
Cheers of happiness greet her as she slithers towards the walls. There are guards posted at every tower and each has torches and bowmen ready. Fainiel goes to her knees slowly and places her hands spread out on the ground. Closing her eyes, she starts mumbling in Elvish. Vines soon start creeping out of the ground and climb up the walls towards each of the men.
One by one, the vines wrap around their necks and snap them. As they each fall, Fainiel climbs the wall and goes over it easily, leaving behind the broken bodies of the guards and bowmen. “Soon you will be back. I promise you that,” she tells them silently as she passes them.
Once on the inside of the town, she sees people dancing about and drinking and eating merrily. Men clunked their glasses together so hard they would break and spill everywhere. Women are laughing and dancing with their friends or children. All this happiness hurt Fainiel’s heart. She has always wished to have such a carefree life, but she never got a choice.
She passed the happy party-goers and made her way to the castle yet again this day. Two times in one day was not usual for her, but this was her last mission. Sticking to the dark alleyways took longer but she was not seen once.
The castle loomed over her with its tall white towers and large, yellowed windows. Nobility feasted here and danced with one another. As she got closer to the castle itself, she noticed the lack of guards. Two mistakes in one day is not wise.
Laughter filled the throne room. Tables were set up on the sides while dancers danced happily in the middle of the large room. At the top of the whole procession was her family. Her father King Reywald, a robust man who has golden hair and bright green eyes, smiled and joked with Sir Clorthian. Beside him to his left was her mother, Queen Teiile, who had her long black hair tied up in a bun and her sharp brown eyes were scanning the room; and to his left was her sister, Princess Aednat, who looked frazzled and a little displaced.
All looked so happy, as if there was not a threat staring right at them. It angered Fainiel and she took out her bow and arrow and fitted it quickly. Aiming at one of the random nobles, she let it fly and sink deep in his neck. His dancer, most likely his wife, screamed as he collapsed into a pool of blood.
Every head in the room snapped to the dead man and were quickly trying to make way for the doors. Fainiel quickly closed the door she shot from and ran swiftly to the other two. The screams raised an octave as they pounded on the doors. Nobody outside in the gardens could hear their pleas, only those in the room and Fainiel.
Jumping with cat-like grace, she grabbed onto a ledge that overlooked the room and watched the people scramble around like sheep. She fitted her bow once more and fitted it. Arrow after arrow let fly into the necks and eyes of the nobles. The king watches as his subjects fall one-by-one. The queen looks impassive and Sir Clorthian looks angry. Aednat caught Fainiel’s eye though. Her sister was grasping a mirror in a bloody hand and was staring at it, stroking it. Nobody watched as she did this, but Fainiel did.
Taking her last arrow she set it aimed directly at the princess. Raise it. The princess startles at the voice in her head and raises the mirror willingly. Fainiel pulls the arrow back, stretching the bow as far as it will go. “’ But if the Fae be here, Beware of their queen, For she has no mercy.’” As she recites the song of her childhood, Fainiel lets the arrow attack the princess. It pierces through the mirror and makes home in her right eye. She does not scream out, only bleeds and watches the mirror.
Pain seers through Fainiel’s wounded eye and she lurches forward, almost falling off the ledge. “What…” she starts only to be cut off by laughter inside her head. The laughter of old and new, of beginnings and ends. The dead all around the room are rising and all in turn face towards the princess with the arrow in her eye.
Her face shows as she lowers the mirror into her lap. Her smile is brilliant against her white skin. The eye without the arrow is yellow and stares at the assassin on the ledge, hunched over in pain. White hair cascades down her head, framing her lovely, yet wounded face. “No mercy,” she says and the assassin plummets to the ground as if the entire world were pushing her down.
Her body breaks against the cold, marble floor. Blood mixes with her black hair and trails into her vibrant, green eyes which are now lifeless and sunken. No scars mark her perfect face, only blood. Fainiel watches as the corpses surrounded Aednat’s body. A person appears at her side. “My lady?” the voice asks. Fainiel turns to see Sir Clorthian, yet he is different. His black hair and black eyes gone and replaced with blonde hair and green eyes; green eyes with no pupils. “My lady it is time for your coronation.” Fainiel smiles to herself even as she hears the screams of her dead sister within her mind.
“Yes. It is time indeed.”