There are but two sides to a coin, outcomes without emotion, which shape situations and herald hope, if not woe.
Countless tales had travelled across Valucre throughout the ages, stories of splendour and sorrow, of triumph and terror, which had transformed the world and moulded the deeds of its denizens into its collective memory.
When that land lay wounded, when cities crumbled and reality itself was rent asunder, what then became of Orisia? Fairest of the Genasarian isles, whose people sang of summer, and once worshipped a Queen turned black.
DuGrace castle had withstood many assailants in its time, had hosted devils and aristocrats bound by blood, and though its halls still bore the scars of those encounters, it seemed that the final foe which would see the dynasty fall would come not from distant shore but instead the heart of its heiress.
Long ago, someone had warned Gabriela that she alone had not the strength to gird the kingdom from its enemies, a prophecy which the noble monarch had sought to subdue through alliances; first with a Warlord, whose methods proved too cruel, and then lovers led by ambition, rather than the good of Orisia. This destiny had haunted the Queen for years, had caused her footsteps to flee and ultimately falter, as she forsook her birthright and walked the earth as a mortal, indulging in the vices and vulnerabilities of man.
She could not have known, of course, that omens were ever a double-edged sword, that fortunes were fickle things and often it was the burden of one's supposed foresight, which led them inexorably to pursue a path they themselves made. Gabriela loved her people, loved her fledgling nation and the ideals it evoked, but it was in those final moments as the ground began to shake, that she realised that too, could be a weapon.
Tenebre, in their benevolence, held true to their intent; enacting a grievous toll on Orisia, as the peaks of the Areder mountains began to break, and the oceans that encompassed the island broiled as though the corners of their kingdom were cooking in some vast and terrible cauldron. The seas slithered and writhed like snakes, as the ritual took hold, and bit by bit, foot by foot, the Queen could feel her island slip away.
It was in that fateful moment, however, as she sank to the floor and sacrificed her principles for the promise of her children, that a shadow fell over the prone figure, a creature conjured forth from the leylines of La'Ruta which littered the land, the serpent that had crept into her Eden and never truly left.
The obsidian shrouds which had cloaked father and daughter from sight parted in that instant, as the familiar presence permeated the chamber and loomed above Gabriela, an armoured juggernaut whose purple hair pooled upon the skulls mounted on their shoulders, and framed a sinister smile, as she bequeathed Orisia's soul not to Tenebre, but instead something far more wicked.
That was when Tenebre's face changed, not out of dread or determination, but instead simple sorrow; for they had hoped she would not walk this path, that she would, even in her darkest hour, not forsake her people. The ache within her womb had been too great though, the longing of a mother for her offspring too powerful to ignore.
When Gabriela had met the Warlord those many years ago, she had probably believed, like so many before her, that the true power of the fiend lay behind their blade, or perhaps the daemons which stalked the sands beneath their banner. The being had been known by many monikers throughout the ages though, Great Devourer, Ankharu, or even simply Malice, but as Orisia shook and continued to slowly slip beneath the waves, another name might surface in the monarch's mind in that moment, a phrase which others had whispered, but she herself may have never believed of such a brute. Defiler of Innocence.
Ancient, eternal, and beyond all else patient, the Warlord had bided their time whilst Gabriela grew, had watched her fall from grace and triangle of trysts, observing her from afar as life led her slowly and inevitably back to her throne, back to her duty to protect and serve those 'neath the crown. Where once she would have resolutely rejected Tenebre's offer then, time had worked its spell upon her and given him all the opportunity he needed to interfere, knocking Orisia from its intended orbit toward his ever hungry maw.
Subtle as a swallow on the breeze, the monster's ministrations had been so innocuous, so fleeting, that by the time Tenebre understood what had transpired, by the time they could muster their might to retaliate against the wolf amongst their flock, Father Darkness was already in decline, his energy coursing toward his successor, whilst Malice stood vigil and watched the god die.
Bending La'Ruta to his will, the Great Devourer did not so much interrupt the ritual itself, as they did re-direct its recipient, peering through brick and bone alike as they gazed across the land with lidless eyes and witnessed citizens sup their last, witnessed families fade and fortresses fall; all for her glory, all for her greed. He had nurtured La'Ruta's discovery, fostered its birth like one would a babe, with the foresight that one day it would serve him, and now, these long years later, none save Gabriela could contend with his mastery.
Black and blood-stained lips curled open, in what resembled something like satisfaction, or even pride, as he intoned in his unearthly deep voice,' all hail the new Mother of Darkness, in this life and the next '. A statement which veritably dripped with irony, as Tenebre began to wane, their form flitting and flickering, whilst the former Queen doubtless underwent their own transformations, and the seas by now pierced the mausoleum in which they dwelt; ushering the land toward a grave of Gabriela's own making.
Eden had fallen, Valucre lay aflame, but now Gabriela would always remember his name.