*This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.*
“It is well known when the six kingdoms were not yet formed and no king had been established, the Provider gained his name among the people of a great land. Anyone who followed the Provider had bountiful crops and great health. The land yielded its fruit with relative ease and the people were healthy because of it. Disease and famine seemed to be occurrences plaguing others in myth, so far removed were his people from them. People began to call their good fortune the Spirit of Blessing.
But there was another land, with another leader. His name was Hazar Maveth. He craved authority and power more than anything else. He dove deep into the darkness of the world and found abilities that should not be wielded by man. Instead of this new power increasing his land and peoples, he found his realm began to succumb to darkness and more death. Disease ran rampant, crops would not yield their fruit and those who followed him and lived in his land fought against each other. Because of this, some people from Maveth’s realm began leaving to share in the bounty of the Provider’s land. Silent caravans in the dead of night traveled miles and crossed borders unannounced. Jealousy of the gifts and power of the Provider ate away at Maveth’s every thought until he could stand it no longer. Maveth vowed to destroy the Provider’s kingdom and name forever.
“But for all his fury, he was willing to bide his time, seeking for a way he could wreak the most havoc and destroy the Provider. Every night, after the world fell asleep, Maveth would come to Aoife, the Provider’s great love. There, he would awaken her and speak softly and gently, tempting her with tales of great adventure. Drawing her with all the wonders of the world she hadn’t yet seen. Telling her that a life with the Provider would never grant her the greatness a life with him could give.”
At this, Lady Kaelah walked over to a table where stacks of old books were laying. She picked one that had been laid open. “This is supposed to be an eye-witness account from one of Aoife’s maidens, written for record by Elder Roem.
He spoke to her all night, painting a picture for her of the world he had seen and the many splendors held within it. He spoke to her of waters so expanse, the ends could not be found. He told her of birds colored in bright blues and greens. He described what it felt like to fly. To soar over raging waters falling off mountain sides, to stand on the edge of cliffs and overlook valleys, green and lush. To feel the sweltering heat of the desert and warm sand between your toes. The gentle manner of glaciers as they crawled across the surface of the earth, hiding their true power far below arctic waters. When his arms moved with the rhythmic motion of birds in flights, her head followed in amazement. When he jumped around her room mimicking a gazelle bounding across a prairie, she nodded her head in time with each leap, laughing. And I watched from behind the dressing curtain as he walked close to her and brushed her cheeks to tell her it was what a cloud felt like as you flew through it. She didn’t pull away.
And I could see it in her eyes, the softness, the longing of the world he painted.
And I knew. She forgot how dangerous he was.”
Kaelah slammed the book shut, startling Dennis and Edward enough that he stood up from against the wall, anticipating her next move. But she laid the book back down and starting wiping off ReAnne’s forehead again.
“Over time, Aoife fell in love with his deception. By the time the Provider found out about their secret meetings and revealed Maveth’s deceit, Aoife was torn in her love. For her protection, the Provider locked her within her room and set guards at the doors so that she may not escape. He summoned those who could, to carve blessings of protection down the hallway and curses upon the door to her room against any man who entered uninvited. But Maveth was clever with trickery, practicing powers in this world that were not meant to be abused. Using these, he fashioned himself to be a flying creature and flew in her window. Aoife, angry that the Provider would treat her as property, begged him to make her fly, that she might flee her captivity and be with him forever. In the morning, the only remnant of Aoife was a lock of her long, chestnut hair she had cut and put on her bedside table.
The Provider was distraught over her disappearance and searched for her for three long months, sure Maveth could not have true love for her in his heart.
Finally believing her to be dead, they held a Ceremony of Remembrance for her. During the Walk of Reflection, when all is to be silent and the streets crowded with mourners, Aoife was found by a wandering child, collapsed on a hilltop. She lay unconscious, no one able to wake her, nor give an explanation for why she slept so soundly. The Provider had all his best healers examine her in an effort to pinpoint the cause of her deep sleep, but it was to be of no avail. Any attempts at healing were met with the near death of Aoife and the Provider chose instead to let her succumb to her fate, whatever it may be. Elder Roem would write that the Provider was in anguish as he prepared himself for the loss of his great love forever.
And then something else began to occur that no one could have foreseen. Her body began to morph into what was described in the histories as the likeness of a cocoon. Despite the vigils of the people outside her chamber window, no matter what the healers tried, it continued to harden, her body slowly contorting into a ball.
Four months to the day of her discovery, Aoife emerged. Elders wrote in the histories of fangs, while others, reptilian scales and claws like an eagle. Old wives tales speak of the putrid flying snake that steals children in the night if they don’t fall right to sleep. All of these originate from the moment she broke free of her cocoon. It is known in the forgotten histories as Aoife’s Corruption.
Aoife, as all had known her, was now truly gone and the Provider was overcome with grief. Seeing the monstrosity she had become, he banished the creature far from the land, never to return.”
Lady Kaelah glanced to the corner before lowering her voice to whisper the rest. The three brothers leaned in close so as to not miss a word.
“Dark legends, that only the night would dare speak of, claim Hazar Maveth counted the days of her gestation and called to his creation from out of Aoife’s cocoon. She heeded his call once again, breaking free of her self-inflicted prison and went to him to serve him and to bring destruction on all the people under the Provider’s protection.
“The creature would have innumerous offspring and they would come to be known as the Vex.” Lady Kaelah glanced again towards the corner where Edward had fixated his gaze earlier in the day. “Many years passed. The Provider’s lands continued to flourish, in spite of Maveth’s great deception.
But Maveth was not finished with his assault of the Provider. He taunted the Provider from the borders of the kingdom with an army of vex. Still not over the corruption and loss of Aoife, the Provider gave in to the battle’s call and a great war spread throughout the land. Some turned from the Provider and died in allegiance to Maveth and his dark creation. Others sought refuge in the kingdom and fought as great warriors against Maveth. Many men lost their lives until a final battle was fought on the very hilltop Aoife’s collapsed body was found between the Provider and Hazar Mavath. For many days and nights the battle waged on between them. So great was their power, they left the lands around them in ruin. Villages suffered from famine and disease, waterways were blocked off and infestations of insects and rodents ate away at any wild crops that sprouted.
According to the histories, a final push from Hazar Maveth forced the Provider to unleash a great force that shot light into the heavens and out across the land. It felled the surrounding forest and caused a tidal wave upon the sea.
A few, valiant warriors had stayed within sight of the battle, though the Provider refused to let them enter it. From the foot of the mountain, the light from the Provider was so great, they fell back, unable to stand again until the light was gone. Had they not fallen, they would have surely been ripped in two. When they arose, all six were blinded. These men became the lines of kings that created and signed the Providence Treaty.”
“Is the line of the Great King one of those men?” Benjamin asked. Lady Kaelah nodded.
“After the blinding light, neither the Provider, nor Hazar Maveth were ever seen again. The Vex fell into the shadow and no longer attacked the Provider’s lands or his people. Over time, their numbers seemed to dwindle, though they were sometimes found roaming the streets. Many believed Maveth still lived, calling to the Vex to retreat. Some believe the Provider killed Hazar Maveth that day and they no longer had a master directing them. Still, others are convinced they are just biding their time, growing in numbers too great for a man to count before joining ranks and destroying us forever.
Over time, the Vex suffered an unforeseeable side affect from roaming through the six kingdoms blessed with the Provider’s touch. Their kind became lost in the shadows, destined to roam in darkness from out of which their kind was born. Only those in the line of the original six kings can see them with the Foresight in Shadow. But most do not choose that gift.”
Edward couldn’t move as Lady Kaelah reminded him once more why they could never be together.
“Why?” Dennis whispered. He had been too young to attend Edward’s confirmation when the gift was explained in detail.
Lady Kaelah chose her words carefully, her speech slow and sad.
“To choose the blessing of Foresight in Shadow means to roam within the shadows yourself. So great is the pull towards the darkness…an immense danger lies in tying your heart to another with a Binding ceremony, less the ones they are bound to fall into temptation with them. Because of this great threat, all who are offered Foresight in Shadow either denounce it forever, or forever walk this earth knowing they may never be bound to another. It is the choice they make,” Lady Kaelah set her eyes on Edward and did not move them, “And all choices we make are linked to our great destinies.”
Edward felt Dennis and Benjamin glance at him, but he refused to move his gaze from hers. His heart was heavy in remembrance of the choice he had made, and yet, even today with Lady Kaelah before him, he knew he could no sooner denounce his gift than he could the knowledge that he loved her still.
For the third time that day alone, Lady Kaelah broke eye contact first. She feigned a smile at Dennis to set his mind at ease.
“But the Provider has been good to us and though he cannot be seen, we can see his provision. Our kingdom is the result of that war, walled off from the shadows and darkness that lurks beyond our borders by the ever present blessing of light. We are protected by the great love of the Provider, the Spirit of Blessings, and by the Great King.”
“But, if there were six kingdoms and six kings…how did one get to be known as the Great King?”
“I don’t know, exactly. My collection of the forgotten histories is incomplete. I am privileged to be in possession of those I have. Some say he was the most valiant of the six and had the greatest gift of Foresight. Many assumed other, smaller wars between the kingdoms was won by the king of Mirias and so whoever sits on the throne in Dritan Citadel is the Great King. One legend says he is the lineage of the Provider; the first Great King to sit upon the throne was the Provider’s son. But that is nearly impossibility.”
“Why?” Benjamin asked.
“Because the Provider’s son was killed by Hazar Maveth during the war and buried on the hill where Aoife was found that fateful day. The histories ensure us that there were many witnesses to this fact.”
“If there were witnesses, why is it not a complete impossibility?” Edward broke his silence.
Lady Kaelah wrung out water from the rag and set it upon ReAnne’s brow before responding. “Because the histories are told from a perspective of the one telling it. It would do us all well to remember that just because someone has spoken or written something as truth, does not mean you must take it simply at face value. I will not bore you with details to make my words ring true, but I have my questions regarding the forgotten histories and how well they were kept without the taint of man.”
Edward watched her, regal in her posture and devoted in her attendance of his sister. She wouldn’t betray the Order by speaking of the small deceits she had found within it in front of his brothers. They still believed the world held mostly joy mixed with a little sorrow, and that a man’s heart was inherently good intentioned. But Edward had seen good men corrupted with power and greed within his own ranks and knew of Lady Kaelah’s skepticism of those within her Order. Long ago, she shared concerns her young and curious heart had stumbled upon. Together, they had spoken of changing the world to ensure truth and justice always prevailed while they wandered through fields and crossed over rivers on long walks they were told not to take alone. She would have made a fine queen, but neither of them could have known how his gift would drive them apart. Still, it saddened him to think that a domino effect had been set in motion three years ago that he couldn’t undo. They would never be the same again.
“So, what about the orange color in ReAnne’s water, then?” Dennis was growing impatient.
Benjamin nudged him. “Quiet, Den. She’s getting to it.”
“In their unrelenting quest to find the source of Aoife’s transition, the Provider’s healers used the same herbal water I did to test the poison given to her. It was the only time the water had ever turned orange. Just like your sister’s.”