April 27, 2015

In Which Morgan Meets a Stranger in a Broken Time

July 15, 1191

Morgan had no idea what had possessed her to wander into the forest in the middle of the night with her year-old son in tow. By the time she'd realized they'd left the bedroom, she'd been surrounded by trees. At least it was a warm evening, with no need of a coat for Kay.

The eerie quiet had not been confined to the castle. No owls called from their perches, no wolves howled at the moon. Not even the chirp of a cricket or the rustle of the wind. The world was a frozen stillness, sound no exception.

"So we finally meet." That voice, in some unfathomable way, did not fit the criteria of sound. "Welcome home."

She hadn't seen the woman before she'd spoken, but the figure hadn't appeared from nowhere. She'd been waiting, and waited still--staring amongst the trees rather than at Morgan and Kay.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that the world has waited a long time for your line to return to this place." Her head didn't move, but her eyes met Morgan's. Violet, even in the night. "Do you know the significance of this forest?"

Hadn't Naroni been a no man's land? Morgan bit her lip--but let go when she caught sight of a second figure. Her husband's former ward. "Searle?"

"He can't hear you." The woman glanced back at the still, seated figure--with a thing oddly akin to fondness. "No one in this kingdom can, no one and nothing. Think of time and space as a lover's body. If one knows what secret places to touch, they are clay in one's hands."

"You... stopped time?"

"I bent it. For all the world but the two lines immune to such distortions: yours, and mine." The woman smiled--or smirked, more like. "But you didn't answer my question. What is the significance of this forest?"

Morgan shook her head. "I don't know."

"Not many do. The world is rough place--rougher once than it was now, if you believe it. Rogue angels wondered about, mercenaries of a false god while the true creator watched their chaos spread, helpless in a cage of stars. Their lies nearly drove humanity to the brink of extinction. Brother fought brother, friendships were squandered, strangers were judged. Women were vilified and men became monsters. We set the world aflame with our backstabbing and raping and killing, destroyed ourselves as thoroughly as we destroyed anyone else. We were pawns in a game of deities, but how easily we took to such vile paths was equal to knowing and willing terror. Had we succeeded in killing off our entire species, we would have been well served.

"But the caged creator could take no more. Still, the Master Architect of the Universe, Being of All Creatures, Man and Woman and Both and Neither, sits imprisoned at the origin of the universe, where all began and all will end--but the decay of the earth was enough for them to launch from their bars a single shard of star. Where do you think that shard landed?"

Forest. Trees. "Here."

"Very good. Here, exactly where you stand now." The woman stepped closer--but still maintained a distance. "You're not the first to stand there. Another woman stood there, all those years ago. One of the a precious few decent people left on the planet. The blast of the shard engulfed her but she did not perish. A wave of calm tamed the beast of a world--not permanently, but just long enough. The magic of the shard took root in this forest and this land became the fountain from which all the magic of the planet springs. The descendents of the angels were drawn to this place, though their numbers dwindled in the absence of chaos."

Absence of chaos? "This is the most chaotic place I've ever lived!"

"It is chaotic by the laws of man. By the laws of nature, it is man who is chaotic, and this land bends for no man. That was why only the Nephilim dwelt here until recently. Humanity could only dwell here under the rule of one who defies corruption--someone who is more nature than man."

"You can't mean King Roderick. Or King Ietrin."

"No. I mean your father-in-law. It's hardly a secret who's really been pulling the strings all these years--though perhaps that will change, if the royal line manages to produce someone worthy." If she had any belief as to whether or not that would happen, her face didn't say. "But the magic has been waning for many years now. When the shard struck that woman--your ancestor--pieces of it vanished within her, tucked away in her blood. Your blood. Your son's blood.

"That is why you exist. The bloodline of your ancestor had dwindled until only your biological mother remained, and she was a sickly virgin dying in a convent. Had I not called in some favors from some otherworldly friends, you never would have been born, and it would have only been a matter of time before we once again plunged ourselves into darkness."

She thought she followed--logically. But, logically... what? "I don't know if I quite understand. Who are you?"

"My line serves your line. That is all you need to know." She would never even know this woman's name. "That, and that the magic of the world--the light of the world--is strongest when you are in this kingdom. How beyond fortunate it is that you married a son of Severin, as that family will always make its home in this land. Because you are this land. You, and your son, and any other children you may have and children they may have until the creator breaks from their prison and creates the world anew.

"At least one of you must be in this kingdom at all times, for all of time. If you understand nothing else of what I told you, do you understand at least this?"

In her arms, Kay squirmed. For his sake, Morgan tried. "Yes."

"Good." The woman's hands dropped from her hips to her sides--the first they'd moved this whole time. "Now, go back to your castle. Put your son to bed and return to your husband. Expect a rough morning; the rest of the world needs to catch up to you."