In the septs following the treaty between Folset and its neighbors, septs supposed to be peace and a sigh of relief for a world so close to all-out war, instead one would find in Folset there has been anything but. To those it has concerned, letters were sent to relevant parties of the Matriarch’s departure. No intention, destination, means, or length were given. “Long enough to process it all” was part of the vague answer to any questions. “Long enough for things to settle”. And have they settled? In returning, no, the Matriarch isn’t so sure. The nation of holy order is still in chaos, is it not? She'd stopped off at a tiny port for supplies not a few days ago and received bits and pieces of news, none of it comforting. And none from home. She had no idea how Tyr'Arien was doing in all this. The mutters she'd heard of rebellion nearly sent her home right then. Old news? Hopefully finished news. If a war had started while she was not around to defend her home, no... the woman would never forgive herself. The rumor-speaker seemed unsure, comfortingly so, and she kept sailing. More time, more weeks, more gone.
Uneasy skies and choppy waves had occupied most of those weeks. A woman wanting nothing more than to take her most trusty vessel and means of casting and get away from the world. Was the small ship meant for open sea? Not at all. Did she know this? Most certainly. But Ciyera decided that, no, truly, she had to figure out the next step. Just because a war had been averted did not mean she could rest. Once upon a time, a woman had wanted to be happy. Was that possible to try to pursue again, or should she just focus on work? Out on the waves, the woman often dropped the sail and drifted, compass and star maps on hand but seldom looked at. She knew where land was and where home was, and that would be enough to get back when the time was right. Beyond that, it was just thinking. The Osprey, the Great Reef, the Condor some day, eventually. And what of her family, and what lingered on from them? Would Thalion ever marry, would things work out for Chiara, would Finn have any cousins, ever? Ciyera shoves the thoughts out of her mind. It's not the time.- Is this the time? Is there any other time? Out on the big ocean blue all alone, no better time.
More days passed. A conversation, long-passed, sounded in her ears. Ciyera had remembered a conversation she had with Drackar, after it came to light what his true allegiances were. Yet, unlike her more righteous companions, she could not bring herself to hate the man. The goddess that held him in her clutches?- Ciyera hated that fiend with a burning passion. But the Drow warrior had been one of her best friends, and even after this revelation, she would still trust him with her life.
Two stand at the edge of the wall, looking out over the Spirit Woods. A purple awning flutters overhead, shading the pair from an oppressive blackened sun. The midst of these cursed times had seen Folset bristling, nearly collapsing on itself in distrust. Yet still, Ciyera stands beside the Foli blessed, the deceived, the traitor. They both know his time is short, but, the two remain friends. Into a long silence, she asks, “Is there going to ever be a day of peace, you think, for people like us…?” The woman had asked this one night as they walked the gardens of Tyr’Drucaron, where he had been confined until Folset figured out what to do with him. He wasn’t a traitor, but, he was.. confusing.
The drow had turned his darkened plate helm to her and simply answered, “No. Not for people like us.” A pause. “… Likely not ever.”
And that had caught her sharp. She’d thought once that she would live long enough to prove him wrong, to smile and say, “No, old friend, we finally have our peace.” But he is long gone and she’s still here holding her breath until the world goes to war again, wary. Every war is the last war. Every fight is going to be the last fight, then it will be done.
“Not for people like us.”
Not for people with fire in their veins, with the old call of guardianship. It had pained them both, seeing him deceived despite his deep love for Folset. Of course, that was all long over by now. Now, it was just a woman, her catamaran, and the wind. Wind she bent to her will on occasion, wind that worked with her as she skipped down the coast and around the islands of the south. Just waves, silence, and thinking.
It will always be the last war. Hopefully, maybe, when all this is done, they can see a sliver of that peace she’d always fantasized about with her friends, her husband, her family. Even if she and Vulmar never saw that peace, maybe their kids would, maybe Finn would. Maybe maybe maybe.
A strong gust off the waves sent a splash of cold water into her face, jerking the woman from her thoughts and she got quickly back to her rigging. It is not until later that night that the sea seems to relax and the woman allows herself a small dinner, and to fall, for a brief time, into a dream…
“It all just disappears, doesn’t it?- Everything you are, gone in moments like breath on a mirror…”
In quiet halls and down secluded corridors lies a whole world of experience that no one might ever see. No one but the very, very fortunate few. Or unfortunate, depending on how one may look at it. What passes in the space between the death of a phoenix and its rebirth? When the ashes grow cold and the silence drags out, and one hopes for a furious dawn that always seems a few moments away. A light that hovers on the horizon, not sinking, but never rising either. Seconds of eternity passing in oblivion, a cold and crushing, uncaring darkness. In those fragile seconds lie strings upon strings of eternities all pulling simultaneously in every single direction, each begging to be fully entertained. Each begging to be given full devotion. Like a tapestry with frayed edges being pulled at by moths, millions of threads of consciousness demanding attention, demanding to exist in full glory for even a fraction of a second in the spaces in-between.
A gentle wind kisses the ashes and steals away a few to whirl and whisper along the way with it. Then another comes, stronger, and the ashes are scattered, leaving a ring of the feathery powder with its center lifted off and brushed away. But the light does eventually come. The strings that pulled away each fleck of grey dust drift away on the breeze and tug apart the clouds that linger over dawn. With anticipation does the day hold its breath, waiting to see if the rays will coax this sad pile of leftovers to become something new again. And again. And again. But this time, this time, surely? A fiery head rears from the silt and ash and the world might gasp to see how the firebird has come to collect itself once again. There is rejoicing, there is relief that the past storms did not finally lay the broken-winged being to rest. They do not remember that the middle of the ashes had been blown away. They do not recognize that this bird is hollow.
Pretty wings and a hollow chest, and flashing colors that catch in the light as it finally drags itself up from the horizon make for an impressive height. Hollow figurine, lacking the weight most souls would carry- the bird will surely fly higher and more brilliantly than ever before? No one needs to know how, or why. Results matter. The flight matters.
A single, piercing cry echoes through the sky of Void and ashes and from above descends a-
Startled immediately, the woman jerks awake. Shaking on the loose-netted hammock in the first glimmers of morning light, she sighs, collects herself… That dream again. Plaguing her since she has been gone. The stars are just starting to fade by the time she rises and goes to re-check her rigging, raise the sails, and consult charts and compass. It’s gonna be a long way home. She’ll try to put the images out of her mind, of the cold ash and the voidal sky above. Home…
And what is left of it, she thought for a bitter moment. Ash might as well cake the walls for how many have passed from its halls. Try as she might, Ciyera can't shake the dream, she can't shake the words of her old friend or the old, old fear that this will all turn out for nothing. Come home, sure. Come home to some stone she and her husband had hewn from the earth to make as a great nest for their family. What a bright and beautiful, shining idea that had been. Godswill was right. The old man, bitter and cold and lonely and only several decades younger now than he had been when they met, she could see how he was so withdrawn, so tired of it all. Perhaps the elves do live too long. The best and the strongest of the elves, why, they might outlive everyone they'd ever cared for. Almost everyone, at least. He would never forgive her if she gave up, if she proved to only be weaker than him...
Her eye turns out to a grey and choppy sea, the tide and the wind carrying her soon back to Tyr'Arien. It will be night by the time she arrives. Hopefully the thousand stars of Tyr’Arien still burn, all those beautiful candle lights... Every single one a soul passed on. How many have they lost, and how many more will they lose? It's always the last war, it's always the last fight, then peace. Ciyera will spread her wings even if they are naught but ash and bone, even if they rattle and shiver in the breeze. She will make these useless limbs fly, and this useless heart sore.
Finally, under watch of starlight, orange sails come down and a small, shallow vessel comes to dock at the harbor, off to the side, and moor to a knot of stone at the cliffs. The ledge for the ropes has by now been worn smooth, the boat moored here every single time for decades. It's just where it fits best. The water calms as the ship comes to rest and Ciyera hops off to wade in, her gaze moving slowly up to the halls of her home, up to the walls that protect her people.
... perhaps, finally, it has been "Long enough for things to settle"...