Reverie's End: Blades of Malice
Date: 3/22/991; Time: 13th hour
It was a hot day; the season of flames was reaching its halfway point. The fourth month that followed was going to be even worse. On this particular day, Ordalia was sitting at her desk in the study room, reading the text that Gerdo had found for her about a month ago, while they were still in Gamma. They took a few valuable tomes from the royal library that they were planning on borrowing permanently. Now, she was back in Isles, a castle situated on a cliff, with a sprawling metropolis of 280,000 denizens right below it. Ordalia was the lady destined to rule them, although that honor should have gone to her runaway brother. William's absence was the least of her worries at this very moment. Gamma, and all of Charon could be at war very soon. If the peasants below her didn't start an uprising first, then the Blades of Malice would start one for them.
Ordalia had her men look into the Blades of Malice for her. She had a vast information network, at least in Eastern Ethos. Her spies proved sufficient for the task and returned with some details about the power structure of the Blades of Malice. The organization was rather small, only 25,000, but each individual member was highly skilled. Many of them started combat training at the age of 5, a time when most children were out playing. The leadership was made up of 6 commanders, each possessing a rare beast under their control. Above everyone else, there was a "grand commander", no one even knew his real identity.
The Blades of Malice had stayed underground for a long time, biding their time for the right time to strike. By themselves, they could be easily crushed by Gamma's military, but if the Malice ever got control of the Stones of Ethos, then the effects could be catastrophic. Ordalia could not take any risks; they had to be stopped.
Keeping all of this a secret from Gamma's council was going to be difficult. The stones in the hands of the council were an even bigger threat than in the hands of the Malice. The council would just start a totalitarian rule over Ethos in its entirety. Of course, to be honest, Ordalia's main concern was the wellbeing of herself, her brother and then maybe her vassals. She was certainly no philanthropist, a hero or a "champion of the people's rights".
The Blades were dangerous because their targets were the nobility; the peasants were merely collateral damage. The council was dangerous because they had no discretion with their usage of power and allowed for peasants to be collateral damage as well. As the situation stood, no one cared about the peasants, Ordalia included. Any of the parties mentioned could end up creating a very angry populace ready to overthrow the powers in command.
Ordalia was selfish but she was shrewd and could see the possibilities that lay in her future if the stones were ever used. That is why she needed to get to them first, but so far, they had little information. She only learned that the stones worked best when used during the appropriate season of the year. This could prove useful to know in the future. She slammed the book shut, tossed it to the side, and sighed. She pouted and fell on her desk. Nothing new was found yet again. Ordalia was growing impatient.
She got up, stormed out of the room, and went to the dining room. The table was ready with the usual lineup of filet mignon, lobster, shrimp, and other similar "high-class" items. Seafood was especially easy to come by, given Isle's location. Ordalia ate her food in silence and then looked up at the Isle's family crest. It was a mere tidal wave, a simple yet powerful image. For years their family had drowned out their foes and sent them to the depths below. If Ordalia wasn't careful, perhaps this time it would be her enemies that drowned her. She shook her head in disapproval of the notion. House Isles had stood unmoved for over 700 years, and it would not fall today. Ordalia carried its burden on her small shoulders and was determined to not falter.
She stood up and left the dining room, letting the maids take care of the mess that she left. Her next destination was nowhere specific; she merely wandered the halls of the five-storied gray castle. Ordalia needed to calm her nerves, so she continued walking aimlessly for almost an hour, before deciding to go back to her room. As she walked in, she remembered that she had not taken out her diary today. Many used them because it helped them recollect their thoughts and evaluate the day that just passed, but it served a much more vital purpose for Ordalia.
She looked over the last few pages, didn't see anything of import, and set it down. After staring off into no particular direction, she took out a pen and started hastily scribbling in it for a few minutes. Ordalia put away her pen and diary and decided to go to bed much earlier than usual.
She woke up screaming and in a cold sweat, at midnight after having the usual nightmare. Her parents were dead in a corner of the room covered with blood. She could only look on in horror at the cloaked man shrouded in black in front of her, as he stabbed her stomach and right hand, leaving scars on both. It was an accurate recollection of the night two years. She still couldn't see the man's face; despite the numerous times she's seen the nightmare. Ordalia got up or rather, it was Athena that got up. The two shared the same body and every midnight, the transformation took place. She was Ordalia for one day and Athena for the following. This annoyance was caused by a curse placed on her right hand. She wore black gloves to hide it from sight.
Advisor Gerdo and other well-meaning associates had tried to heal her of the condition, but to no avail. Even the mind magic specialist couldn't do anything. No one had a cure, at least not the people she could trust. Besides, her closest vassals, nobody was allowed to know. Even William didn't know because she didn't want to worry him. Gamma's high council was especially dangerous. Ordalia was not allowed to show weakness. If they knew her condition, she would lose her position at their table. Staying sane was sometimes difficult for Ordalia, but she persisted.
There were several issues with her condition, the worst of which being the memory loss. Ordalia and Athena did not remember what happened on days when they were not in control. Keeping a diary was essential so that the two could communicate properly. This was not a perfect system, but it at least kept the two informed of the highlights of the day. Without the diary, Ordalia and Athena would not be able to keep their secret for very long. Any meeting to be arranged with Gamma's council was always scheduled on days when Ordalia was present because she was the more eloquent and less impulsive of the two.
The second problem was ability. This was not a problem most days but could be fatal if the timing was wrong. Athena's abilities were weakened and nowhere near the power she had before the curse. Ordalia, on the other hand, had absolutely no combat prowess. All battle instincts and magic were completely sealed. Ordalia was a regular frail woman.
Finally, there was the problem of personality. Athena was once a part of Ordalia, and together they are the real Ordalia. In the present scenario, Athena was impulsive and ready to fight at a moment's notice. Ordalia was eloquent and retained all of the academic and scholarly qualities befitting a noblewoman. Both were known to be self-centered. The contrast between the two women was responsible for some rather inconsistent and capricious decision-making. Her vassals always tried to be patient with her during these times. It was certainly an unfortunate situation which they might have to live with for the rest of their lives.
Athena walked over to the table, lit a candle, and opened the diary. The part about the Stones of Ethos was certainly interesting, but very little else of import. She looked at herself in the mirror, and it was the same pale face, copper hair, and brown eyes as before. At least her appearance never changed. She walked over to the bed and fell asleep.