November 15th, 2003
E'natwa, the Ending and the Beginning by Miatrylle
In the Empire of E'natwa...
A young woman, wearing only a simple white silk shift, clung to the unmoving body of an older woman and cried. Her deep chestnut hair hung in wild strands around her tear-stained face. Both her hands were filthy with dirt and blood, and her shift retained little of its original white color. The woman she knelt over wore a torn, bloody, blue shift and a shredded gossamer overcoat. Her gray hair spread across the ground, and the golden circlet that had rested on her forehead had fallen backwards onto the floor. All around the two, a wild battle raged between the fiercely battling men and woman of the Imperial Guard and Army and the horrific creatures that had come straight from the depths of the underworld. The girl lifted her face towards the sky and let out a piercing wail of grief that ripped through the night air, causing the human army to fight with renewed strength.
Days later, the same young woman, J'Inaere il'Rafie, sat behind a plain wooden desk in the northern city of E'nat'dae, with her three military commanders standing before her. No sign of her previous grief showed on her carefully composed face. She now wore the golden circlet of the fallen woman, and with it, she wore the blue shift of the Empire and a gauzy silver overdress. The two women and one man who were in charge of the army in this area of the empire regarded her with respect, but their expressions showed just the slightest trace of pity. It was known now, throughout the empire, that her Imperial Highness, the Empress J'tiat il'Rafie had perished in the capital, leaving her granddaughter, J'Inaere, the reigning empress. After the tragedy of the previous year, when the girl's mother had been assassinated by the Sorceress Iness' dark beings, the girl was the last of the il'Rafie line, the family that had ruled the empire for the last three hundred years.
J'Inaere looked at the grim faces of her commanders, noting the wrinkles that the war had swept across their once smooth faces. She wondered if her own face would like that, and decided that with just a few more weeks of bad news, she'd be the worst of them all. Her entire being grieved for the death of her beloved grandmother; at seventeen she felt that she was unready for this challenge. Still, there was too much to do, too many people looking to her for guidance and help, for her to mourn her grandmother. Instead, she must now face the empire as their leader, the last of the long line of il'Rafie women.
The war had been waging for nearly three years now, ever since the Sorceress Iness had appeared in their world from some other plane and decided that she wanted the realm for herself. With her, she had brought an ever-increasing number of dark creatures, things never before seen in the lands of E'natwa. The creatures looked like mutilated pieces of an assortment of creatures, melded together and turned evil, with the blackest hate for the living in their rotten, corrupted hearts. The sorceress had set those things upon the people, letting them kill everyone they met and feast upon the corpses. Everywhere in the Empire, the desecrated remains of the citizens of E'natwa lay, rotting in the open, as the living were unable to approach them for fear of being attacked and killed themselves.
J'Inaere, called Ina by those closest to her, asked for the report from the commanders and braced herself for the news. Still, what she was told went far beyond her worst fears.
T'ayati, the female commander of the Desert Army, looked the Empress in the face and her eyes were bright with unshed tears. "Atioa d'E'natwa has fallen," she said, her voice breaking. "Our troops arrived to find that our capital had been burned to the ground. The bodies of our people were littered around the land near the walls. My scouts rode throughought the entire empire, but they found no cities with living people."
"There were no survivors?" Ina asked, her voice hoarse.
"Some survived by fleeing into the countryside when the attack started," T'ayati said. "We sent all we could find here to the Old City, and we are trying to find room for them now. My army, though..." T'ayati's voice trailed off for a moment, but she brought her head back up to finish her report. "We went for one last attempt to find survivors near Atioa d'E'natwa before heading here. I divided my army into smaller detachments for speed. I had hoped that we could make it here before the invaders, but their forces surrounded each group of my soldiers and slaughtered them all." T'ayati wiped a tear from her eye. "They left me alive that I might bring you the news. We are the only living city left, and I fear that the invaders are not far behind. We shall fall when they finally turn to us."
Ina swallowed audibly, her deep amber eyes showing a hint of the fear and
grief she felt. She wet her lips, closing her eyes briefly to regain control
of her emotions. "Then it becomes clear to me that we must flee," she whispered. "I will mourn the Empire later, but now we must save who we can. All of you, take your remaining men and collect as many citizens as you can. We will risk remaining for two days, for on the sunset of the second day, I will use the ancient spells to take this city to a safer place. We cannot stay any longer than that." She looked at her three commanders in turn. "We will leave and let the Holy Ones deal with the Sorceress Iness."
The commanders nodded, accepting her orders with little surprise; they had known that this would be the only recourse left, unless the Empress decided to stay and fall in battle. They left to carry out their directions, and the Empress collapsed into her chair as the door closed behind them.
Moaning softly, she wept into her arms, mourning her grandmother and mother, her long dead father, and the thousands of lives that had been extinguished by the evil sorceress. She longed for the strong arms of her grandmother, who had always hugged her and helped her learn statecraft. She cried for the lost cities, the beautiful, well-constructed cities, which had housed so many good people. She cried for herself, for a childhood ended abruptly three years earlier with the start of this awful war. So lost in her thoughts was she that, when the door opened quietly and another young woman entered, she did not even notice.
The Duchess d'Aunfae, Ina's cousin, paused and looked at her with mingled grief and sympathy before walking around the desk and kneeling at Ina's side, hugging her tightly. The two wept in each other's arms for a few moments, before they both struggled to control their emotions. The duchess spoke first, quietly saying, "At the Commander's orders, the servants are gathering all the Illutian crystals in the store rooms, as well as those from the city itself. They will be stored in the main audience
chamber by tonight, awaiting your command."
Ina looked at her cousin, her eyes silently thanking her for her support. "I will be casting the spell at sunset, two days hence," she said, "and I will need to be in the Audience chamber alone and uninterrupted from sunrise tomorrow until then. For now, I must rest and gather strength for the task before me."
Standing slowly, she gave her cousin another hug before moving to the door. Just as she opened it, the duchess spoke again.
"Ina ... be strong. I know you can do this. It's what grandmama was preparing you for. Just trust in yourself and the Holy Ones. We do."
The new Empress closed her eyes and smiled slightly and nodded before stepping out in the hallway and heading to her room.
Two days later, the sun was setting over the Empire of E'natwa, and Her Imperial Highness J'Inaere il'Rafie watched it one last time from the window in the main audience chamber. As the last rays of light fell beneath the horizon, she turned to the enormous mound of shimmering, opalescent crystals and spoke the words of the spell in the ancient language, followed by the names of the four great gods of the Empire.
"A'waa, ta'awt a ti. J'alua ter ma'dua. Mar'zat kios d'flur. Au'nativa, K'shiarra, J'thiri, L'yllema!"
The room began to tremble, as did the entire city, from the great granite walls to the underground rooms of the Old City. Slowly, the room filled with white light, blinding her. A loud crack resonated through the air, and all went black.
Waking hours later in the darkness of the night, Ina looked around. The once bright crystals now lay in a dark and powerless heap, spent from the spell that she had cast. She stood unsteadily and opened the door to the hallway. As far as she could see, people were lifting themselves off the ground, looking as if they were just waking up. She hurried down the hall and out of the front entrance of the palace, gasping with horror and shock as she looked up at the night sky. Instead of the pale golden moons of E'natwa, she saw a single white globe in the sky, surrounded by thousands of unfamiliar stars. It was then that the true implications of her spell hit her; they were truly in another world.
Curled up in her room, she held a scrying stone before her. Its mate sat where the Old City had been, and she watched through teary eyes as hordes of dark creatures swept over the gaping hole in the ground. He last sight of her homeland was filled with the sight of thousands of creatures exulted over the bodies of her people. When the scrying stone left behind that was destroyed, her own stone went black.
Her Imperial Highness J'Inaere il'Rafie stood, set the stone on a table, and walked to the door. Somehow, they must survive.
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