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The End and The Beginning

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“Here lies the Black Queen of Orisia,” said the Father of Darkness, his voice devoid of mockery or severity, of sadness or mirth, it was merely a statement that lacked any truth. He had taken up a physical form near the sepulcher, and appeared to be examining the likeness of his daughter. 


He was a nearly shapeless thing -- an oblong form with no limbs, no observable head, and no facial features to speak of. Still, she could approximate these parts of his body by the way he leaned this way or that, but wondered if he lacked the will or the ability to form a more appropriate shape for himself. She may have asked, but time was of the essence, and the reality was that she didn’t much care. 


“It doesn’t look anything like you,” the creature of darkness said.


“It’s not supposed to,” she answered, stepping out of the threshold of the mausoleum and pocketing the very special key that had allowed her entrance into this secret place. A key to any door, the last great treasure of Orisia -- a masterpiece she had commissioned before being forced to leave her throne for the last time. She may have kissed the key, a brass skeleton key that hardly looked as important as she made it out to be, but she didn’t. The gesture would have been needlessly sentimental. But somewhere, in the quiet of her mind, she said a prayer of thanks to a woman who no longer existed upon this world -- a woman who had fled away to a better life, a better existence perhaps. For a moment, as she walked from one shadow to the next and closed her golden eyes, Gabriela could hear the jingle-jangle of Alexandra’s silver jewelry and smell the warm and inviting scent of baked apple and cinnamon.


But that was a lifetime ago. 


“It’s an idealized figure -- something people would come and look at to remember someone who never really existed,” she opened her eyes and the gold within them was a glow. 


“That seems tragic, all that hard work and then so little recognition,” a tendril escaped from the black mass that was Tenebre and it reached up and stroked the stone cheek of his daughter’s sarcophagus. 


Gabriela had approached and stood on the other side, she peered down and examined her likeness. 


“Living forever is all that ever mattered, in what respect, that’s all a blurred line. But passing down the blood, echoes of my existence from one generation to the next. I suppose that was the goal in the end, before I ever even realized it. A silent but irrefutable recognition. It’s all that ever mattered, until it didn’t -- and now it's gone. He’s gone.”


It was her turn to touch the sarcophagus. She didn’t bother with caressing the figure’s face like some self-involved lover -- no. Her small, human hand, warm and mortal, settled over under the ice-cold crossed-arms of the stone figure and rested upon the flat belly. There, her touch lingered, as if she might feel the stirring of life through the dense and dead stone. Against her will and all her might, she felt the muscles in her throat grow tight. In all the world, of everything she was on the verge of losing, she knew that what lay beneath this hard and cold stone was all that she would miss -- the tiny bones of her beloved child. 


“So it’s decided then?”


“Yes,” she answered, nearly breathless -- a mere whisper.


“And you’ve had your fill of the world?” he asked, the figure drawing closer and leaning forward over the sarcophagus. 


“Yes,” she nodded for fear that she had made no sound, and after breathing and wetting her lips with a tongue that felt and tasted equally dry, she looked up into the face of darkness, “-- I have had my fill of this world. I find that there is nothing redeemable. And the suffering and the pain, it has earned these creatures their rest. I wish for respite -- an end to this, to all of it, for everyone.” 


“You are prepared to make that choice for everyone -- every man, every woman, every child?”


“Yes -- especially the children.”

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Posted (edited)

Tenebre began to solidify. The opaque creature became denser and denser, and his figure began to take on the form of a man. Two thin tendrils thickened to become arms and from them sprouted rounded shoulders. The rest came about most naturally -- a neck, a torso, a rounded head with a square jaw, what might have been considered handsome features to anyone who could actually see them beyond the pitch-black darkness within which they existed. He took on the appearance of a man, and stood there like a statue carved out of polished obsidian, bending and reflecting the light that fell across his smooth and sharp edges. 


“You do not need my power to sink this island into the ocean and drown all those who live upon it. Simply invoke the right of your blood and the magic of the land will answer your call and do your bidding. You know this.”


At no point in time did the figure’s strong jaw move -- at no point in time had his lips parted to speak the words that now resonated within the mausoleum. And Gabriela, who could not lift her golden gaze from where her hands continued to rest upon the belly of her own stone likeness, managed only to nod her head in agreement.


“I know,” she replied -- eventually. 


“Then what is this?”


“I don’t know,” she answered frankly, offering a one shoulder shrug, “-- perhaps, just an opportunity to say goodbye.” 


“So it will be the end of you, this island?” 


For the first time since she could ever remember, Gabriela thought she heard the slightest indication of disgust in her father’s voice. At long last, she shifted her gaze to look up into the visage of darkness. 


“Not this island,” she corrected, “-- him, the child that lays sleeping here. He was my beginning and now he will be my ending. I will rest with him. We will sleep together. We will all sleep. You’ll welcome us, won’t you? You’ll let us into the slow running waters of that cool, black river and we’ll all float away under an infinite night sky. I remember that place. I think of it often. When I am most tired and most hurt, I think of that abysmal current and how I used to float upon my back and how it carried me away from everything.”


Darkness stood still with one hand set upon the stone likeness of his daughter’s forehead and the other on the edge of her sarcophagus. He appeared to be a man who was leaning forward to hear a story, but she knew better. He wasn’t listening. Rather, he was somewhere deep inside of himself and the speckle needle-points of light that began to shine across his face made that clear. She saw the immensity of the cosmos float across his face and downward, spilling like blood through his throat and down his chest to spread from his belly into his veins and into all of his body. He had swallowed the universe -- and all of the stars burned brightly against the contrast of his infinite darkness. 


“That’s what you are, isn’t it?” she asked softly.


He did not reply.


“The great river upon which we all float…Under which I will drown us all.”


Her heart beat fast -- it hurt in her chest. There was more to say, but he stopped her.


“I can bring him back -- I can help you, bring him back.” 


She couldn’t fight the tears -- she didn’t try. It was anger mixed with hopelessness. It would be a lie to say she had not considered it herself, but the thought had come and gone almost as quickly. She would not make a monstrosity of her child, and she would most certainly not allow Tenebre to do worse. But there was such agony in that moment of hope, even when she didn’t believe in it -- to have it exist only to have to douse it herself. It was beyond cruel. 


“He would not be a monster,” he went on to say, as if he knew her worries and doubts. “He would be whole and perfect -- like his mother.”


“How?” she asked, she uttered the word through clenched teeth. 


“Those you would lay to rest, those you claim to love enough to end… Sacrifice them, use their lives to fuel the necessary ritual for you to ascend and take my place. Yes, I am the river upon which you all float. But my source has run dry, and I am weary of existence. Be the new fount, and carry the cosmos through space and through time in the cold, darkness. Trade your mortal life and give him life, I do not want your life -- I never did. I will bequeathed it to your child, a gift to my grandson. I will take your place here, I will sleep with those who will sleep here. I will be their keepers. I will sink with them into the new River of Darkness, and your child will live again, and you will be Mother Darkness. You will be the river.”


The tears had stopped and now she stood there with half-lidded eyes and trembling limbs. She hardly could make sense of what she was hearing, and yet she understood it perfectly -- she knew what he was asking, what he was explaining. And perhaps, for the first time, she looked at him with clear and true eyes and saw him for what he was. She had never been more afraid, for she saw that he was not corporal. He was nothing but shadow. He was cold and dark, and nothing but a thought and idea. Never would she be able to embrace or caress the child she was bringing back from the dead. She wondered if she would ever even feel love again. 


Darkness laughed, and she was startled by the sound because it was so genuine…


“You were never ready to take my place until this moment, and it is because you never loved quite so fiercely -- love is a requirement for this position. You must love enough to sacrifice everything for something. You were my something, Gabriela. From the moment of your conception, I knew it to be true. There was nothing I would not do for you. And now, you have found the person you are willing to move sky and earth for. Now, shall we begin? I know you will not decline my offer.”


He did not wait to hear what words she might say. The hand that lay upon the statue’s forehead spread it’s fingers and gripped at the statue’s face. Having a good hold, he pulled the sarcophagus’ lid straight off and revealed the sealed tomb beneath. The sarcophagus’ lid was dropped and with a clatter and rumble, it broke into pieces. Next, he made short work of the tomb’s lid, leaving exposed a clean white linen cloth, which he allowed Gabriela to pull away. 


Rather than find the bones of Gabriela’s imposter -- the human woman that Lucis had murdered in order to fake his mother’s death -- what lay in the Black Queen’s tomb were the skeletal remains of a tiny infant. The bones were so small and frail that they looked as if they had been cut out of paper or eggshells. She could hardly bear to look at them.


“My sweet darling,” she whispered, leaning down, leaning close to the tiny skull, “-- my sweet, little prince.” 

Edited by CasualCrisis

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Pale but warm fingers curled around the edge of the sarcophagus. His words echoed in her mind like a curse -- they accused her, and tempted her, and she felt them digging at her innermost desires. Was there anything in this life that she wanted more than to be a mother to this little child? She had fought so hard for him but ultimately failed. And that failure had been so painful because of its proximity to success. So many failures, but not once had she come so very close to success. No, not once. So much of her hope had been placed upon that little child before his birth that she was certain that it had crushed him before he ever had a chance to take a breath of air. She felt responsible for the loss of his life, and it was that guilt that made the allure of Tenebre’s offer all the harder to resist. There was a dark and greedy part of her heart that yearned to snach up the opportunity, and it urged her forward on the basis that it was not for her own benefit but for the sake of that child who never got to live. After all, didn’t Philippe deserve a life? Didn’t he deserve the chance to have a loving mother?


Past trembling lips she let out a gasp from a breath she did not know she was holding. It was ragged -- nearly a sob.


“...I know you will not decline my offer.”


“No,” she replied, shaking now from head to toe as she pulled her hands from the edge of the tomb. She wrapped herself in an embrace to keep from going back to her child’s side. In that moment she knew that if her golden eyes should happen upon the remains of her child once more that any and all resolve that she had left would melt away and she would be lost. “No...I can’t.”


Tenebre recoiled as if he had been struck. But the creature had no distinguishing features, not even the markings of nose, of a mouth, or eyebrows -- there was no way to read an expression. There was only body language, and even that was exaggerated to a point that seemed difficult to trust. Even so, the message was clear. He was offended that his generous offer was refused. And where the easy and comfortable familiarity that they shared had once been, she felt the creeping coldness of discontent start to settle. And perhaps it was in response to his sentiments of displeasure that she felt a prickle of power zap at the balls of her feet through the thick leather of her booted feet. It was as if the fire coursing in the earth itself, deep under the mantle of rock and gravel, had felt her distress and jolted in response. 


“There it is,” said the shadow.


The crackle came again, the spark of fire and electricity that burned and sparkled in her blood but did not hurt her in the least -- it made its way up through the earth, into her body through the soles of her feet. She felt it in her knees, circling around and around, until it climbed the inside of her thighs and pooled into the empty womb. She held her belly as if it hurt, and grimaced because of the sensation, but it was not pain. 


“They thought that they could bind you with children. They did not know,” the shadow went on, as he reached into the tomb -- and for a moment, Gabriela watched in mute horror, as she expected him to take out the frail bones of her son, but instead it was an orb of pure black that he pulled forth. “...They did not know the fierceness of your love, and they quaked and rattled in the presence of it. And then they gnashed their teeth in rage when they did not understand it. You ended her life before it ever began in order to ensure that he never had influence over her.”


Beyond merely holding herself, Gabriela was stepping back. Back into the shadows, back through the fading light of day, back further and further from the open sarcophagus and the remains of her dead son and now also, the exposed fetus of her unborn daughter, for Tenenbre had dropped the black veil away from the orb he had pulled out of the tomb. And that’s what he held, some artificial womb that held the tiny creature aloft in amniotic fluid -- floating and careless. Alive, but not alive. Sleeping, as Gabriela had wished her to be. Here, in this isolated and abandoned mausoleum where the supposed remains of the Black Queen had been laid to rest perhaps some two years ago, this is where her children now awaited her. 


“If you will not take my offer for one of your children, then perhaps you will take it for two of your children. If not Philippe -- then perhaps for Ophelia as well? You don’t have to pick between them. They can have you both, they can both have their mother.” 


She gripped at her stomach harder. For so long now, the power of the land had been called La’Ruta, but as she thought of it in this moment, and as her eyes grew glassy with tears, it all seemed silly and inconsequential. To give a name to power, to give forces of nature any sort of title -- to come to feel any sort of connection or familiarity to a thing such as Tenebre. It was utter nonsense. He was no more human than an actual shadow. He spoke, but he did not speak. His words had no more meaning than individual letters scattered across the floor. He was trying to make some kind of point and express some sort of importance here, but it was all meaningless in the end. He was a being of infinite age and wisdom, against whom she could have never hoped to compete. She was a creature of emotions and sentiments. Her mortal ties to her mortal children had been her downfall. 


She nodded her head. 


La’Ruta -- or whatever it was, whatever old and terrible power inhabited this little island, it was heavy and dense in her body now. It had been pouring upwards into her through her feet, and it was filling her up. But she nodded her head, looking at him through teary eyes, looking at the orb that he held and the floating child within the amniotic fluid. It was one thing to see the bones of a dead child, and something totally different to see flesh, and blood, and tiny movements of life.


He was right, and maybe he didn’t understand it himself. But he was right. Nothing else mattered. No number of lives -- not a dozen, not a hundred, not a thousand, not a million. Just her two babies. That’s all that mattered now. 


“I’ll do it,” she whispered, feeling the weight of the power in her limbs pull her down to one knee. And she did go down, rather hard. It felt like a crushing force bringing her onto the polished flower below, sinking her until she was flat on her bottom, her knees spread out on either side of her body. It was uncomfortable, but she managed. When she set her hands on the ground to steady herself, it gave the earth beneath her another anchor point to grip from. More fire and more lightning crackled and burned at her. This time there was pain, and this time she couldn’t help from clenching her jaws tight as her eyes rolled into the back of her skull. 


The earth began to shake. It was a gentle rolling at first, just the slightest shaking.

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Posted (edited)

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.

Edited by -Malice-

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Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass, and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.


They had made too many assumptions. 


But in the end, she had made her own assumptions. And no one's underestimations of her abilities and potential lack of scruples had been worse than her own. She had thought herself untouchable, unmovable, and beyond corruption. It was one thing to have others place you on a pedestal -- to scoff at them and their lofty ideals, to resent their expectations, and to blame your eventual failures on their presumptions. However, what became of those excuses when the pedestal was self constructed and the expectations were self proclaimed…


Gabriela had no answer save for the taste of destruction that filled her mouth.


It was the taste of ash -- of burnt ground. 


Was it for her children or for herself? Was it for motherhood or for vengeance? The answers did not come as easily as she would have hoped -- as she would have liked. And was it because she was a mortal woman? Could it be that the answer would have come easier if she was still of vampyric blood? There was something to be said for the closure of a straight answer, but was it to be denied to her now because she had given up her birthright. What a cruel twist of fate that would be! Regardless, she would have accepted whatever the answer was. In her heart, she knew it. Whether it made her a villain or a tragic hero -- she would have accepted it without qualms. But there was no solution to this conundrum. Not in her current state, and perhaps, not in any state. There was a lifetime of pain. Countless transgressions full of agony, of humiliation, of sheer sorrow, and all of them hurled directly against a single person -- herself. She had suffered time and time again the offenses of cruel men and women, gods, and demons, and monsters alike. And the reason -- it was still unclear to her.


The strength of her convictions? The goodness by which she was certain she lived her life…It had never made sense, and it still didn’t make sense. Why had she been targeted above all else? Why was she made the object of hate and obsession -- of devotion and of torture?


Her jaw clenched in growing anger and remembered hurt, and as Tenebre’s shadow began to fade in his hour of death, a blacker form fell across her from behind. She was so self involved in her remembering that she nearly missed it, but the presence was far too dense to ignore. She was not startled, though it did cause her to straighten uncomfortably in response. 


Malice needed no introduction. Oddly enough, even without the heightened senses of her vampyric blood, Malice was a presence that was instantly recognized even without her eyesight to guide her. Perhaps it was a mortal's reaction to the very essence of the divine -- who could ever know these things, but whatever it was that gave him such a pungent aura was the very same thing that was slowly but surely feeding into her own spirit as the world began to fall apart and shake under their feet. 


Defiler of Innocence.


She grimaced at the memory of their first meeting -- not upon Valucre, but further back in time. She was a child, a true innocent back then. Kalicity had taken her to a tournament, the Dark Goddess was intent on having her adopted child witness her first bloodletting competition. Gabriela had been brave and outspoken about her views concerning the event, but she had been no more than a child -- a foolish child. She had spoken out of turn to Malice, a creature to whom Kalicity had shown reverence back in those days. Had that single interaction set the wheels in motion for all of this? She had to wonder now, she had to wonder as the sound of the earth falling away into the ocean was slowly accompanied by the choirs of wailing, of crying, of screaming. 


It was the song of the dying


It was the voices of men, of women, of children -- of tiny infants. And from across thousands of miles, she heard their voices in unison rising up through the heavy, hot, humid air of the tropical island in glorious music, a mighty chant, a prayer to the gods for retribution of this great wrong. Then her anger and hurt, it wavered in response to this greater hurt and this greater anger and for a moment she felt the claws of cowardice grip at her as untold deaths began to pour forth from every direction as the surrounding coasts of the island were swallowed by the sea. Cities crumbled, buildings crashed down and crushed those unfortunate enough to still be inside. And those who had managed to evacuate found no sort of solace beyond their brick and mortar walls. The earth cracked open and water spilled forth flooding everything. Men and animals alike were swept away and drowned. Forests were cleared, entire citizens were decimated, mountain ranges crumbled as if they were made of the most brittle sandstone...


The weight of the power that had gathered in the palms of her open hands became too much, and it pulled her fingertips down between her folded knees. There, in the nest of her thighs, she nursed the ball of invisible energy that spun in a sphere within a trembling cage created by the length of her stretched and strained fingers. It wouldn’t be long now. The low growl of the earth was a savage thing that they could all hear -- the dying God, the God who stood as witness to it all, and the fledgling God who knelt through it all and had set it all upon this dreadful course. 


Bones sinking like stones…


Tenebre was little more than a shade at noon, a pale thing with no voice. He was hardly a figure. But he lingered, watching perhaps. But he had no features. And yet his presence presented a powerful thing, a messenger perhaps of comfort as it remained close to the sarcophagus where Gabriela’s children remained resting. The life that he intended to take, he did as he promised, and passed on to the two children. However, in the mess of it all, with screaming souls swirling about them all running away from their violent deaths right into the awaiting maws of the Great Devourer, who knew what would become of the two tiny spirits of her beloved children. Gabriela herself was in an odd state. She lingered on her knees trying to contain the surge of power that she had collected in her hands, which, had she remained a mere mortal, would have destroyed her by now. But as Tenebre faded, and as she grew in power, she maintained. The change was not visible. She did not know how to make it so. In fact, she did not know what the change meant, if it meant anything at all… The birth of Darkness was no little thing, but as a fledgling there was so much to learn, and already so much she didn’t know. 


Gabriela clung to what she did know. She knew that she was human, she understood the body she had been occupying for the past year. That was the reality she held onto. But she needed to tap into the power that had just been gifted to her, at least long enough to survive, and at least long enough to snach back something out of the clenching jaws of death that tore and ripped at everything she loved -- everything she had needlessly sacrificed. 


Turning from her position on the floor, twisting on her knees so that she could keep her hands together -- pushing them closer together in fact, forcing the ball of flickering energy, of heat and shadows, into a tighter and more compact sphere -- she shifted far enough to regard the purple-haired fiend. 


Deep inside me I’m fading to black -- I am fading. 

Took an oath by the blood of my hand won't break it.


There, upon the floor of the mausoleum, where everyone that she loved lay dead -- including the only true father figure she ever had, there knelt the new Tenebre. There was a woman, or rather a creature in a woman’s guise. Everything was the same, except her presence. Except her eyes. Not a hint of the glorious gold remained. Black as night, they looked up at him heavy and full of gravity. Nothing escaped them. 


She saw his mouth open. His lips curl. He smiled to prove a point, but she saw the vastness of eternity in the gesture. He showed satisfaction and pride -- all the love of a father witnessing his tiny fledgling take flight.


“All hail the new Mother of Darkness, in this life and the next.”


“You once told me that ‘no man may have more than they can take,’ and that, ‘no soul stretch farther than their reach.’


Slowly, as if it caused her great pain, Gabriela rose to her feet and wavered upon her legs as if they were new -- as if she did not know them.


“You have had enough. You have feasted enough. You have gorged yourself at my expense, but it is enough and you will have no more…” 


Once she was up, and from this humble height of hers, she opened her hands and dropped the orb which she had been nursing and cradling. It fell and cracked at her feet. There wasn’t much she could do. There wasn’t much left to fight. Malice had a control over La’Ruta, especially the darker side of it that Gabriela had never come to understand, much less command. He was always meant to be the other half of the magic. She could have never been his equal, and so the proportions would have never found balance had they attempted to fulfil the prophecy together and the island would have forever been in dissension. But she could do this much, and with Tenebre’s gift -- with his dying wish finally completed, she could at the very least pushback this much. The destruction of Orisia was stopped, at least to this degree, at least around the borders of the capital city -- beyond that it was all lost. 


It was exhausting, her first task as a fledgling god, and it left her utterly spent. Every ounce of her strength and power went into stopping the very thing she set into motion. Every soul she fed the beast, every soul that was meant to feed her own transformation. Left with nothing, she dropped right back down like a wilted flower and sat on the floor once more, breathing hard and pushing through the sudden tiredness that felt so much more potent than anything she could ever recall as either a mortal or a vampyre. 


But the earth, it continued to groan and to growl. She may have stopped things for now, but could the gears that she had set into motion truly be stopped now? She pinched her brows in confusion and set her hands on the smooth marble floors, pushing aside the glass-like substance of the shattered orb she had just dropped. She shifted past the material, she felt for the connection she shared with the land, but felt it weak and distant. She was losing her bond with La’Ruta -- with the land. Meanwhile, what was left of the island still seemed intent on self-destructing. 


“Please,” she whispered down to the ground, “...please, stop it. Stop it now.”

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