(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Francesca was written by V. P. Allasander.)
A mist-laden land appeared in front of her even as she rode up the small hill on her white mare. Francesca Meliorne could see the spires of the huge castle in front of her. Not a few days ago, she had received a parchment. A woman named Kelly was going to meet her at the castle of Aoilicanthor. It was rumored to be one of the most beautiful castles in the world, but now, most of it was covered by mist.
Francesca patted the horse on its side and reduced the pace to a trot. Fifteen minutes later, she came to the castle gates. Smiling, she flicked her fingers, disappeared into the air, and passed through the gates without anyone noticing.
Through the long corridors she walked, invisible to others who scurried about the castle. The walls had mirrors hung all about them. Finally, she came across a young woman standing, taking in the fresh morning air through a huge open balcony.
“Kelly,” she greeted. “It’s so nice to see you here.”
Kelly turned at the sound of the woman’s voice, and she smiled at Francesca, bowing her head to her. “Your Highness, it is a pleasure to meet you, and this place is quite lovely.” Kelly turned back to the view before her. “Are you from here? Or elsewhere?”
“This castle is not mine. Belongs to the King Marcus. But I hail from The Prairie, which has been destroyed by those who would do the world of men harm.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “That is unfortunate. How long ago did that happen?” She glanced to the princess beside her once more.
“Not a long time has passed since,” Francesca replied, fingering the golden tresses of her hair.
“Do you miss it?” Kelly asked this because she got the odd sense that Francesca was quite content with the destruction of her kingdom, and Kelly wanted to understand.
“Well, it was a home I grew up in, but I do not remember it so fondly. That home has given me nothing but bad memories.” She sighed as the sun rose gradually. “I am not exactly happy either,” she added. “Yes, the people did not deserve fire and death; they deserved so much, but well, fate has given its decree and now I figure I should move on.” She gave a little smirk.
This puzzled Kelly, and she turned from the view of the pasture to face Francesca completely and took note of the small smirk the princess had. However, Kelly furrowed her brows. “What do you mean you have nothing but bad memories? You were princess of the land. That gives you certain…privileges above others. Surely it couldn’t have all been bad.”
She laughed. “When you are different from the others, people look at you like you are a freak show. Well, suffice to say, that my father did not like my gifts. He called it a curse.” She sighed, felt sad for a moment, and then looked up, smiling again.
“You mean your magic?” Kelly lifted her brows then motioned for them to walk at a slow pace.
Francesca nodded at Kelly’s suggestions. “People could never trust those who used magic. The old world is no more and those who are descended from the ancient faremen are shunned,” she replied. “There have been many among us who have tried helping the people as we know them now, trying to heal their wounds, cure their sickness, amongst many other things. For example…” She raised two palms to her side and conjured a fire on each hand. “This fire can hurt, yes, but it can also purify. Once there was a witch who could use fire to heal people; for that, she was burned. People have always called us cruel names. My father was the most cruel of them lot. Deserved to die, I say, that one.” She released her magic and brought down her arms. The golden fire dissipated into nothingness.
As Kelly observed the conjured fire in Francesca’s hand and listened to her tale, she nodded as they continued walking through the corridor of the castle. “Did you bring down your kingdom? Or at least have a hand in it?”
She just raised one of her brows and asked, “What do you think?”
Kelly shrugged nonchalant. “I think you could have if you wanted to, but it doesn’t matter what I think. I merely want the truth. If you did or if you didn’t, I won’t judge you on the matter. I just want the truth.” She met Francesca’s gaze, unwavering. “So did you?”
“I do not have to kill people to get what I want.”
“Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t help bring down your kingdom since it did, after all, bring you such horrible memories,” Kelly pointed out.
“The people in my kingdom did nothing but sympathize with me. The royal family deserved to die, but not the people.” Francesca turned down a corridor. “I would rather the people had survived. I really do not understand the need for war when things could be done without need of bloodshed.”
This made sense, so Kelly nodded as she walked beside Francesca. “So, what do you intend to do now? Take back your kingdom? Let it go and create a new life? Or what exactly?”
“There is nothing there to take it back. The grass is charred, the city in ruins. Those who attacked us leveled the kingdom. Not a house exists that stands there. Just empty ruins,” she replied, her fingers touching the stony walls by her side as she walked. “So I am going to create a new life and get what I desire, what I deserve, here, in Aoilicanthor, in this castle.”
“And what exactly do you deserve?” Kelly lifted her brows as she traced her fingers across the walls of the corridor before glimpsing back at Francesca.
“Power and Respect,” she cried out loud. “Fame and glory. The freedom to do what I will, with the people fearing me. What I deserve is the friendship of those who are exactly like me.” She roared a raucous laughter, the voice shrill enough to break the glass of a lamp nearby.
Kelly stopped to observe Francesca as she made this bold declaration, and once she finally silenced, Kelly had to put her hand on her hip and tilt her head to a side. “And why do you deserve that?”
“After what I have been through, after what my kind has been through, I think I deserve it. And what I deserve is what my kind deserves. Freedom from the oppression that is meted out to us by weak humans.” She spat. “And humans only respect those with power.”
Kelly considered this for a while then shook her head. “If you’re hoping to get followers with that attitude, I’m sorry to say, but you’re not going to succeed—no matter how powerful you are. However, for sake of conversation, how exactly do you intend on getting all these people to follow you? Because fear and power do not create followers.”
“Well, I will have followers amongst my kind. Those who are considered normal will be subjugated to follow my whims and fancies. There is no dearth of people who wish to be free from the oppression of men.” Francesca smiled from ear-to-ear and continued, “And as for how I will accomplish my desires, well, I have a diabolical plan.”
“So tell me about your kind I’m assuming your father didn’t have magic because he mistreated you, but was your mother magical? Or is that not how it works?” Kelly tried to comprehend this exactly.
“My father had magic and he had developed an animosity towards those who use it,” she scoffed. “He tried to pass himself as a normal human and lording over those he construed weak.” She fell silent. After a while, as she led Kerry down a spiral staircase, her boots tapping loudly on the marbled steps, she continued, “Once, my mother told me a story about how my father came to be that monster I now remember. If I am a monster, he has made me in his image, albeit unknowingly. The only difference is I use magic to achieve my goals. He used the blood of men and wars to achieve his.”
Kelly wondered if her father knew something about magic that Francesca didn’t, so that was why he did what he did, but Kelly knew she wouldn’t get those answers from Francesca herself. Instead, she focused on more questions. “”And who are Tatiana and Cara?”
“Tatiana is my sister, my younger sister,” she smiled. “Oh, I love that one! Cute, adorable; not gifted with magic thought, but one who understood my gifts. She is now nowhere to be found. And, Cara, well, I haven’t heard her name. Who is it?” she asked, brows furrowing.
Kelly pocketed this away and gave Francesca a smile. “Oh, you’ll learn in time then. However, Tatiana—you said she is your sister but is nowhere to be found?” Kelly raised her brows as she regarded Francesca. “Did she disappear during the attack or something?”
“I assume she fled the kingdom,” Francesca said, sounding a bit concerned and doubtful. “I’ve been searching for her and that is why I’m here, in Aoilicanthor. The last place I would look for, but still worth a try.”
“And why would she be here?”
“Three years ago, she fell in love with a merchant. I am hopeful that she has found her way to him.”
Kelly nodded as she mused over this. They continued through another corridor which led to a courtyard. “You seem fond of your sister. What is your favorite memory of her?”
“The day she had stood up to my father, almost crippling him, because he had dared hurt me.” She smiled, reminiscing her memories. “I love my sister and am fond of her. I have always been proud of her achievements. Even though young, she went on to become a queen, a merciful one at that.”
“Wait…” Kelly halted and turned to Francesca. “She’s your younger sister, and she became queen? How did that happen?”
“Politics,” she muttered. “Humans play despicable games.”
“So your father overlooked you as his rightful heir and made her queen?” Kelly frowned but then shook her head. “Why did your sister become queen? What happened to your father? My apologies, I don’t understand the timeline of all the events, therefore I am confused a little.”
“Father hated magic, abused me when I was a child. When we came into our twenties, Tatiana fell in love with this handsome young man, whose father demanded that his marry one who would become the queen.” Francesca fell silent. “Father would not have me on the throne, so he married my sister off to the man. Rightly so, because the two loved each other, but the throne was not his to give. If only my mother had been alive!!!”
Kelly took note at her exclamation about her mother being dead, but she had to come back around to this about the sister being queen. “One moment, did your father die in the attacks of your kingdom or before then?”
“Father was murdered in cold blood and when the murderer was found and was to be hanged, I freed him and paid him gold. That’s when my sister thought I undermined her rule, but eventually, she began to see why I had done it.” She smiled, her fingers in the pockets of her silken blue dress.
“So your sister became queen upon your father’s death,” Kelly concluded with a nod. That would make the most sense because most rulers wouldn’t abdicate their throne unless absolutely necessary.
Moving on to the next topic though, Kelly resumed their stroll through the courtyard of this castle. “You mentioned your mother was dead. How long ago did she die?”
“No. My sister became queen after my mother’s death. And my mother died when I was eight.”
“How old was your sister?”
“She was seven when she was the queen, but the rules state that the throne cannot have a ruler whose age lies below twenty-five. So, father took over the rule. Kings hold no power in my land. And Father, he was a terrible king. Lowered our coffers to nothing, he did.” She spat and cursed.
“Ah, I see, that makes more sense. So…if Tatiana was twenty and already determined to be queen when she fell in love with this ‘handsome young man’, why would the man’s father demand that his son marry the daughter who would be queen…when it was already known that his son loved the woman who would be queen? You made it sound as though your father overlooked you at that time because of that, but you just told me that Tatiana was queen since she was seven…” Kelly trailed off, not sure if any of this made sense, but this was how confused she was, and so she asked the questions, seeking clarification.
“The father of the man Tatiana loved was under the impression that I was the queen. You see, in reality, only the royal household was privy to the fact that Tatiana would be the queen. To others outside the citadel, I was. And people loved me.”
“Oh, I see—that makes more sense!” Kelly nodded, and finally they came to a beautiful view of the pasture, so Kelly stopped here, considering her next questions. She had to think for a moment to word it properly. “What do you imagine the future to be like if you succeed with your plans?”
“Something dystopian,” Francesca laughed.
“Well, that’s specific.”
“Well, yes. There is always a time when you need to be specific.”
Kelly sighed, lifting her gaze to the sky. “Very well, I’m just going to be absolutely blunt with you. I don’t care if you succeed or not. I don’t care if you’re powerful or not, but you are absolutely selfish. You may laugh at me now, and you may dismiss everything I say. I don’t care.” She met Francesca’s eyes firmly. “But you are proving yourself no better than those mere humans who have mistreated your kind for so long. You see, when one falls, another takes it place, and eventually that one will fall as well, and another will assume its place. That is how it goes throughout the ages. That is the tide of change, and you can’t stop it. So the world you’re trying to create, the world you might succeed in creating…it won’t last forever. So what is worth?”
“I crave power only to do one thing, dear Kelly, to resurrect the Old World. I remember it in dreams. It was a paradise. Green fields where farmers tilled, forests with an abundance of fruits, rivers with sparkling waters, and mountains with ice on its peaks, glazing gold with the light of the morning sun. Everyone was happy until mankind was born. ” Francesca grunted. “What is it worth? Everything.”
“But such peace and happiness..you won’t be happy.” Kelly shook her head. “You won’t be happy because you must have the validation of others to feel powerful, to be worthy. You said you want people to fear you. So, only you will be happy or they will…unless you came to care about them.”
“I want mankind to fear me, not the old ones. The ancient line is already seething with anger, and I am the channel through which they shall vent.” She smiled. “Yes, what I do is terrible, immoral, but sometimes, you have to cross the line to get what you want.” She drew a line and said, “There is no good or evil. There are only things that you can do or cannot do. Fortunately, for me, subterfuge and manipulation, I have no qualms crossing that line.”
“Is it not what you can do or cannot do but rather what you will do and will not do. There was a reason why mankind was allowed to come into existence. There was a reason why the ancient ones were allowed to fall.” Kelly maintained eye contact with Francesca. “And I pray you know your history well, or else you’ll be doomed to repeat it. Although…” Kelly tilted her head to a side, regarding Francesca, and a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “You already know this, don’t you? You already know all these is to ever know, and you have everything figured out. However, I will tell you this: you may succeed for a thousand years, but eventually that too will come to an end, and eventually over time, it will be forgotten. You will be forgotten.” She then paused as a thought caught her, and she tilted her head to a side, curious. “But if you were to be remembered, how would you want to be remembered?”
“Everything comes to an end, dear Kelly. Even mankind,” she proclaimed ominously. “And if I am ever to be remembered, I would have people think of me as a Messiah who led the oppressed into the paradise, which their ancestors were a part of.”
“One word of advice then, if you want to be a Messiah, don’t lord over people. That whole laughing thing you did back there? If I were one of your people beneath you, I would determine that you are a mad individual drunk on power and not necessarily a Messiah. and if enough people think that of you, they’ll eventually rebel because that’s just how it works. So…that’s something for you to consider—not that I expect you to at all.” Kelly gave her a tight smile, and then she let out a breath. “Well, it appears our time together is drawing to a close. Thank you for this conversation. It was quite interesting.”
“If you think I will not obliterate people who rebel, you would be mistaken. And yes, time flies past and I have a sister to find. So I guess we must draw this to a close.”
Kelly nodded. “You have a good day.” She walked away then vanished out of that world.
Francesca watched as Kelly disappeared and then smiled. “Quite preachy that one,” she told herself and continued walking the pasture, thinking that one day, she will have her people smell an air even more fresh than this.
V. P. Allasander’s novel ‘The Girl in Cinders’ is not yet published. Release date is set in August. He has many other works in progress and ready to be released. Follow him on Twitter for more updates: