Pillbug Toenibbler wrote:
My dear consort has received your request. Of course, you know we can't make promises.
Elegy Medvyed wrote:
Even one so long as your own? It is looking to be a boring handful of future centuries for you, I imagine.
Elegy Medvyed wrote:
Some, on the other hand, are so stingy with what they hold that they would not dare even the smallest risk regardless of the reward it promised.
It happens a lot more often than you think, but usually with the less canny mortals. It's been eons since one so powerful was so careless with his offerings.
Little time was allowed to pass before the children of this land sought to begin the ritual of reincarnation to return their ruler to the realm of the living. Alas, for as determined afore, she declined their invitation to return, thus forcing my interference. In the meanwhile, however, the aghast mortals found themselves astray without the one of their many, and were forced swift to seek new solace and gather their compatriots to plot a course for their journey now that their helmsman was lost. Over the course of the following days those in power were summoned to the long-forgotten shrine of the Frontier Walker, where they began to make ready the actions to be taken in lieu of their forerunner's assumed-permanent absence.
Which, of course, is when I deemed it most worthy to make my appearance. I have no doubt that my presence will go far from unnoticed upon the land, the touch of winter is unmistakable and ne'er soon forgotten, and the events of that meeting shall be long etched upon the firm stone of the minds of all present at my appearing. Accompanied by my chosen knight Sharlin, Le'Fay of Winter, I made clear the purpose of my presence posthaste, and delivered unto them their departed damsel - rebirthed into the form of the scions of the Spinner, long-lived and empowered as she had thus decreed herself in need - and allowed them a moment of silent suffering on her part as they unveiled their disdain, levying proper punishment upon the pitiful princess as deemed due by their decree. I allowed her to resume a frosted mirror of her former form to follow, and then deemed the time had arrived to declare the other reason for my visit - the sharing of necessary knowledge as agreed upon in my prior discourse with the Hand of my choosing.
I revealed to them the events of ages gone, how Summer had carelessly obliterated one of their own and cast its remnants aside without thought, suffusing the wild land with the essence of FaeReie nobility. How they had sought to recover this power and energy so thoughtlessly discarded, and how I had moved to seize it for my own, another minor tipping of the scales in my favor in the eternal engagement of creation and destruction, the dance of war and bounty. I revealed how in time I too tired of the battles, and set my champion Nieve to seal the land, fitting a restraint upon the region that would prevent both Winter and Summer from seizing the power inherent within, thus bringing an end to the conflict for time immemorial, for few would be so bold and daring as I to seek to invoke the presence of the malevolent melody, nor to brave their barrow with intent to amputate the anomaly. Yet after aeons agone, the land had given gifts of glory and might and dreams of greater gain to denizens dwelling within its wake, seized the stakes of striving savants, and lured the longing of greed and gain to its slopes and stands as sacrifice to the unending eagerness of the voracious vast.
And now these mortals had shattered that seal, revoked the restraint, and cleared the corruption that had locked the lands in stasis for centuries. Soon the call of power plentiful would seize the attentions of Summer's sentinels and my own offspring alike, and in time - perhaps not time enough for these mortals, save my Hand and the saurian soldier, but in time nonetheless - the ravages of rancor would resume. Which, as they were swift to surmise, was the wish of one such saboteur: the ill-informed-of but much-maligned Queen of Forgotten Time. Alas, my much-gathered knowledge of her history was not to be shared, for I had already parted with much material for meager merit, and none seemed eager to offer a price I considered appropriate for further information. I offered them time - time, time, with mortals 'tis always time; such a fell falling for the Forgotten Foe to associate herself so with its obsession - to consider their course, and departed along with my escort, returning to realms from whence we came.
With all returned to a semblance of normality, the following days were spent in adaptation. My chosen was adopted, as such might be called, by the spider sorceress, and in sylvan seclusion she was taught the ways of the web and the boons and banes of her new body. The huntress stalked the woods, guided by the wyldfae to meet the many of their multitude, for it had grown by grand gravities since last they had crossed paths - thronging thirteen-score strong. The spell-sword spent his solitude seeking solace in the pursuit of his power, in the unearthing of information, and in the new-turned talons of the thaumatist. And the ophidian champion and the wyveric warrior saw to the securing of their soldiers in the intervening hours, beginning the bringing of weapons of war to bay, for the time was growing short until it was sure their scorned foe would force the harridan hand.
Alas, 'twas here I deigned them no longer deserving of my devotion for the day, and abandoned my observations. I trust that time will soon tell of their return to pursuits perilous, in delving for danger, diamonds, and dignity in the face of fearsome foes.
From time to time I find myself presented with a group of mortals that demand, through whatever means, my full attentions for a not-insignificant span in their meager perspective. Such are usually either enemies mine, tools to my hand, or would-be supplicants of my favor. And may it be said that the Queen of Winter is not unwilling to provide what honors are due - these have managed to seize my gaze without being surely of one specific caste. Too firmly they resist such simple identifications. Rare indeed, and ever the more entertaining when so, is it for mortals to defy expectations of mine.
It was only a matter of time, in any case, before the allure and reasonable fear of the tower's fierce beyonder's song drew their attentions and sword and spell were taken to alien flesh to seek its silence. And though their numbers - bolstered by the presence of one of my own, an agent whose task ended long ago in mortal eyes but constrained by the invasive melodies could not return to my side - forced these would-be lords to temporary retreat, once recovered their will to proceed, despite initial frailties of complaint, would not be hindered. The ascent was made, plunging back into shadow and stretching hands and blades toward the alien stars, the remnant trails of the arrival of the accursed Song of Acheron from faraway worlds.
Upon returning to the shadow, their progress was checked by another of the Song's brood, the equine-reptilian Andante, in a quartet of quill-slinging hunters that lay in wait for the blood of the intruders. Unseen and undetected, the huntress crept up on the unwary predator and swiftly turned them into the prey, initiating battle and withdrawing only enough to allow the warrior men to engage and slaughter. The enemy, swift and nimble, navigated the ruins of a once-splendorous shrine erected upon this shadowy plateau, taking advantage of superior mobility and range to yield its prey helpless from afar; an admirable tactic, and effective, but ultimately for naught - my chosen piece proved herself capable of at least a minute level of sophisticated thought, and warded by magical silence swept the living harmonies into the empty sky. The victorious wanderers yielded the ruins of its treasures and proceeded on to higher ground.
Their destination proved a portal of elaborate design, but under guard of two Pianos, the Song's gentle minstrels of air and madness. The dragon knight and serpent sword charged into the fray, by flight and by might bounding the barricades of sapient song. The huntress set her fangs envenomed, rendering weakness upon weakness to the first of the brood and silencing the second's song with poison slumber; Summer's Edge in the hand of the sentinel sage then eagerly feasted upon its lifeblood. And while the warriors raged upon the first, blow upon blow, wound upon wound, it was the toxin of the tracker's timber that at the last brought it low.
It did not take the clever ex-a rugadh ar an Thuathaibh long to discern the activation phrase for the grand arcana, a lyric of praise to the abominable homeland of the music of aberrant hymns in the Old Speech - the only tongue the timbre of the tenebrous tenacity shares with this world - and to call upon the Song's magic to sweep he and his compatriots back to the realm of mortal men and the lair of the symphony's sinister maestro-superior. The unearthly maws of the many-mouthed monstrosity that awaited them were swift to pander its parley of pernicious participation in the psalms of planetary perishment. Grant them this much that the promises of such power yielded little interest to these mortals, secure in their stations as they are... though the lack of comprehension of the Old Speech to the ears and tongues of all save my Hand (and then only at the reception of a relic recovered from the ruin) and Summer's could very well have codified their carelessness. Blades were brought to bear against tentacle and fang as the bulk of the beast lurched toward the would-be conquerors with intent to crush. Yet it was for naught - in the end, though it took many into its maws and crushed the life from my Hand for a folly of her own doing, it fell before overwhelming force and superior numbers from its foes.
My agent, with my Hand deceased and none else sharing her desires to recover the lost one for the favor that might have been gained from her return, was left in the now-firmly materially rooted tower after being reduced to ash in funeral pyre, bringing at least an end to her excruciating existence as one of the twisted tempo. The survivors collected a shard of my selected for purposes of returning her to life, and salvaged a treasure trove of forgotten fantasies from within a cache shielded by the Song's champion, then hurriedly sought to return to their little civilization. However, wishing not to incur the wrath nor fear of their lessers, they instead bypassed their great city upon the water's edge and retreated to the forgotten shrine within the depths of the shadowed wood, where wait their allies in silk, and sent word to the witches of the swampland now living in their city to join their company and return their leader to life.
It is here that I was forced to intervene directly. When the magic was sent, my Hand refused to yield to the call, seeking perhaps escape by means of demise from the agreement we had made so shortly ago. This would not suffice, nor would I condone such insult, and sought her soul directly - nay, not even the First-Holder and Last-Taker nor the Daughter of Disaster would dare refuse to yield to my claim on what is my own, for the contract and the accord have been made and will not be sundered nor surrendered until fulfilled. I confronted the spectral remnants of the child of mortals noble-born, demanding her explanation for her retreat from return to life; her excuses were at first plentiful, but not without respect and due reverence, and for this I have deigned willing to spare her further suffering, indeed so that she has agreed to return willingly at my hand. But I will not go defied, denied, or departed from without consequence. Skill she claims she lacks, skill to complete what I have asked of her and we have agreed upon in ancient accord, this she has even if she denies its realization. But time, mortals speak so much of time, primarily in their lack of it. So be it then - if time enough she does not have, then time I will give, for I am a gracious and merciful queen even as the depths of the harshest storm contains an eye of gentle silence and calm. When in mortal flesh she is once again clad, it will be as flesh that will not fade so swiftly. If it is time she wishes, time she shall have.
So have I spoken, so have I willed, so have I done. So it shall be. I am Mab. Matron of Winter. Lady of the Shattered Plain. Maven of Arctis Tor. Queen of Air and Darkness.