Aurelia sighed. If it were not for the protective layer of Andian crystal in the walls, floor and ceiling which shielded her private chamber the floor would be carpeted with the tiny star tipped Eidel flower her people wore to commemorate their dead. Sometimes the constant response to emotions her land evinced tore at her. At these times she wished for nothing more than to be in some other world where emotions did not lay so close to the surface nor run so infinitesimally deep. She worked so hard to keep her thoughts and feelings in check. With Elumin she could be freer but at times even his demands needed to be shut out. Perhaps that was why he did not like this room.
But every day now she felt the need to sit here for a while, to still the broiling mass of emotions she felt would overwhelm her if she did not have some time to simply be. Protected by the walls of crystal she had fashioned with ancient magic, Aurelia could let her thoughts drift unchecked to whichever place they wished.
Increasingly she had found herself wanting to run to the sanctuary of these walls, and more than once a day. It was unlike her to run from a problem. Wasn’t that the reason her father placed the net within her hands rather than her brother’s? Or was it that her father had received a pre-vision of Aris not surviving the battle?
Aurelia saw again the carnage of that time, how the world was laid waste with shards of energy cutting through existence. The air had resounded with the boom of countless explosions, followed by the misleading tinkle, like the sound of rain on the gold filigree tiles of the observatory. She remembered thinking how much sounds made by the martial machines resembled a concerto by Vargessa. How was it war could sound so beautiful yet have such devastating effects?
She had known the observatory was the safest place to be during the conflict but she yearned to be alongside her father and brother. As a trained warrior she had the right to be there. It was only her father's urgent insistence which had given her pause. But she felt trapped by the tower room with its walls covered in pebble shaped tiles. She wanted out. With her sword clamped between her fists, Aurelia sat poised, waiting, staring out towards the battlefield.
Eventually her waiting had been rewarded. But the look on her father's face when he appeared before Aurelia told her all she needed to know. She stood to receive him, laying her sword on the stool she had occupied. Her legs felt as though they no longer belonged to her but she forced herself to take the necessary steps towards him and embrace him.
“Should you be here father? The battle surely needs you more than I.”
He pulled away from her embrace, his features marred by his travails. “Aurelia, it is time for the kingdom to pass to a new successor.”
In that moment, she felt her brother's spirit depart to the Well of Shards.
“There is no time to observe the customary mourning. I must transfer the Weaving to you, now.”
“So you will go into the Heartlands for the final battle?” Aurelia's heart ached at the thought that her father passed his mantle to her because he knew of his coming death. It ached because she considered that the knowledge of one's own end must be a hard sorrow to bear and also because she would no longer be able to see her father whenever she wished, to trek with him to the lake where the eaglets sparred or sit with him in the Gardens of Contemplation. But a warrior princess did not have the luxury of showing her grief.
Aurelia knelt before her father as he slipped the cloak from his shoulders to hers. Then he wove the net and as he did, Aurelia felt the chords of his love intermingling with the essence of their beloved Faetaera. Not until she wore the mantle of leadership had she truly understood how much her father loved them all.
Some days later, when Aurelia sensed her father's passing, a single Eidel flower sprouted at her feet. She knelt, picked it and placed it in the coronation knot of the cloak she wore. From that day forth every emotion she felt was made visible for all to see. A queen could not allow herself to be so vulnerable. So she hid herself in the tower until the Elnights came.
Her father had known so much and yet told them so little. She had felt at the time that the secrets were a large part of what led to the near downfall of their world. And as much as Aurelia wished to have a more open Court with less secrecy and intrigue; she found it difficult. Instinctively she knew she needed to hide the way her emotions spilled out into the world.
Elumin was the only one who knew and she trusted him implicitly. He had found out shortly after he arrived with his Elnights. It was a time when she was struggling to gain control of her emotions. Aurelia had waited for him to use the knowledge to his advantage but he had not. And with time she had grown to value his discretion. It was then she realised any idea of an open Court was an impossibility. So instead Aurelia worked long and hard to be in command of her runaway emotions.
She remembered the rejoicing when the world was made whole and how she had been praised and raised up high. While she knew it was her due she had wondered if the people placed too much faith in her abilities. After all she was young when the burden of power was placed into her hands. But a queen must look and act supreme and so she did. And out of the rehearsed part she practised behind closed doors, a reality took shape which she was now finding difficult to maintain. With age her wisdom had certainly grown but so too had her sorrow. Only in this room would she consider that she may have made the wrong choices both for herself and Faetaera. The doubt weighed upon her, made it that much more difficult to maintain control.
Elumin made it easier to bear. He understood how to take on a mantle and wear it as though born to it. So, the two of them had a tacit understanding. And from that their love grew. And that she also loved another did not matter so very much when a queen took a consort because he was what was right for her people and abandoned the true kernel of love at the centre of her being to soft silk folds of forgetfulness and periodic regret. Besides, love of any kind is better than no love at all.
And so, in her gleaming carbonised room of rock, the queen thought these thoughts and felt the feelings attached to the thoughts. Then she abandoned them to the crystal surfaces where they became moving images trapped behind a many faceted mirror. She left the room and locked everything inside.