Chapter 45: Judgement Day Part 3
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Chapter 45: Judgement Day Part 3

 

I slowly circled the square as I watched the scene unfold below me. I saw the people cheering and I felt a small smile grace my lips. Looks like this time it will be a bloodless coup. This is great of course, it makes my life easier. Killing your average human doesn’t exactly give me anything worthwhile. Besides with Tralis itching to start some shit I have plenty of humans available eventually. I have some plans for that… mostly involving live prisoners that I plan to drag deep underground. But I’ll see how it goes, there are still some kinks to work out…

I saw Volnil step up to speak, another ruse by Cecilia. If the head of the adventurers guild vouched for me, that would go a long way to gaining the people’s acceptance. Then I saw Cecilia look up into the sky, she couldn’t see me naturally considering I was flying above the clouds. I saw her shield her eyes for a moment from the sun before waving slightly.

I guess that’s my que… 

With that I rolled my body, arced downward, tucked my wings in and dived. Right as I got reasonably close to the ground I extended my wings again and slowed my descent. I did a lap around the square to bleed off some of my speed and make sure the people could see my golden wings glinting in the sunlight.

Finally I landed next to Cecilia to the stunned silence of the crowd. I don’t know what Cecilia said to them but I expected a lot more screaming. Well whatever, I’m not complaining, time for some theatre…

I sniffed the air as I looked around at the surrounding area. I didn’t actually need to turn my head, 270 degree vision and all that.

“No blood, huh, guess I was wrong.” I said as I looked down at Cecilia.

“I win.” Cecilia replied with a slight laugh.

“I’ll get you your flower from the mountains, as per our bet.” I said with a laugh.

“Now then you said you’d ask me to come down for that whole question and answer session?” I said.

This was another ploy about Cecilia, humans fear what they do not understand. If they got to ask me questions well that would go a long way in diffusing some of the fear. I could sense pretty much all of them were shaking. But no screaming, no screaming is good… although I could hear some screaming from the city. Someone must have seen my descent, oh well we should be done here before the whole city browns their pants.

“Yes, my dear friend. Now come the people of Averlon, ask away. You will find my friend here is not so different from you and I.” Cecilia said with a smile as she faced the people turning her back to me, showing she had no fear for me.

At first there was silence, no one dared to speak. But of course this was a possible and easily foreseen outcome. What is easily foreseen can be easily prepared for. Then one of Sarana's spies spoke out from the crowd,

“What is your relationship with the Queen?” I heard someone say.

“Well it’s quite simple, she’s my friend. When I woke up I decided to check the woods, since that is my home after all. Then I came across your new queen caged like a little bird. We conversed and she made me an offer. It was a good offer, at the time, she told me she would give me information on the world as it is now. 

You see when I went to sleep, the Elysian Empire was still in control. So you could say I was quite out of touch. I have lived for a very, very long time, and the one thing that I learned is that information is probably the most valuable resource of all. So it seemed like a good trade at the time.

But as we resided together I found that I enjoyed her company. Cecilia is kind, fair and very intelligent, a welcome change from the dullards and brutes that comprise most of the humanoid races.

So simply she’s my friend and I would rather not have anything bad happen to her, if anyone wants to try and test me I could always use a snack.” I replied calmly. The idea for this QA is to avoid making me seem human, I needed it to just seem human and reasonable enough. If I tried too hard it would look fake after all…

“Erm what was that about a flower?” I heard another random citizen ask.

“Oh that, it’s a bet I had with your queen. You see, I have been around for a while. I have seen how you humanoids are. Wars, civil wars, rebellions, seccessions, so many conflicts. Brother against brother, father against son, daughter against mother, the cycle of blood spins and spins grinding generation after generation into mince.

I expected all of you to start killing each other, but I was wrong. Surprising definitely but also a welcome surprise. Saved me a lot of trouble all things considered. As much as all of you like to hate monsters like me, in truth you kill each other a lot more than monsters do. What’s the worst we do, burn a village? A city? 

You collapse empires, you leave swathes of dead in the wake of your wars. Then at the end of all that, you build statues of the biggest murderers in recent memory. You stamp your words in books and on statues. You stamp your words on these lifeless things…

As if those words will bring all the people you slaughtered back…” I said as I cast my gaze over the silent crowd.

The questions continued some mundane like how old was I, where am I from, what am I and some stupid questions like, will I eat them and have I killed anyone before, etcetera.

The good news: by the end of the session the stress levels of the crowd has gone down quite a bit. I guess just the fact of me calmly answering questions with my own twisted monster logic was more interesting than terrifying. In fact most of them looked curious, they were still uncomfortable but at least the fear was kind of gone… ok maybe kind of gone is a stretch… the fear was… less, yes less… no screaming good… yeah let’s go with that for now.

“Good people of Averlon, return to your homes by the morrow, a new age will have begun. I have much to do but I promise you prosperity, Heaven willing this will be the beginning of a new golden age.” Cecilia said.

I watched as the crowd slowly began to disperse, with that I turned to look at the prince who was being held down by the Royal Guards. At the end of the day, Cecilia was legally the new ruler which just made this idiot a king slayer.

“My Queen, what do we do with him?” Arthrun asked as he looked down at the Prince.

“I am not Queen yet Lord Commander, I am Crown Reagent until I take my oath as protector of the realm.” Cecilia replied.

“Of course your majesty.” Arthrun said, using the honorific of the royal family instead of the honorific for the sovereign.

“As for my brother, detain him in the dungeons.” Cecilia said as she dispelled the gag.

Immediately Pelice began to scream. 

“THE PROPHECY! A DIVINE PROPHECY SHE WILL BRING RUIN TO US ALL!” Pelice screamed frothing at the mouth.

“What… are you talking about?” Cecilia asked in mock confusion.

I watched as the Lord Commander sighed and all the soldiers looked away. It was well played honestly, now whatever he says will sound like a madman's ravings. The truth has now become a lie…

“We will move him post haste to the dungeons, your majesty.” Arthrun said as he motioned for two of his men to grab the Pelice and they began to drag him kicking and screaming into the palace.

“GEORGIA KNOWS! SARANA KNOWS!” Pelice shouted as he was dragged away.

Athrun and Rober gave Georgia and Sarana questioning looks. The pair of women just looked at each other with a look of mock confusion before staring back at the two men.

“If there was such a thing I was not informed.” Georgia replied calmly and Sarana just calmly shook her head to indicate she knows nothing as well.

“A man’s mind often breaks when all doors close. I know this all too well.” Sarana said.

“Yes I suppose you would know all about that.” Arthrun replied with a sigh.

“It is difficult to watch, I must confess.” Cecilia said with a slow nod.

“Well regardless, duty calls first I must speak with my mother and my other siblings.” Cecilia said with a clap of her hand, indicating it is time to move forward.

“Rober, can you send out the heralds, the people should know what has transpired. There will be some confusion but I will resolve that in the coming days.” Cecilia said and Rober nodded.

“Sarana should check the palace, there may be some who are not so pleased about your rule. I am no stranger to human treachery.” I said.

“Good idea friend.” Cecilia replied and Arthrun gave me a small nod.

“I can tell if someone is lying so if you have suspects bring them to me.” I said.

“You can tell if people are lying?” Arthrun asked.

“Well I can tell if people think they are telling the truth or lies. The Prince thought he was telling the truth, no idea where he got that idea from but madmen believe the sky is green and the grass is blue.” I replied.

“Very well, Lady Sarana, if you find anyone I will put them under guard until the time comes for questioning.” Arthrun said.

“Very well.” Sarana replied with a nod.

“Volnil send out your adventurers to calm the people, an ancient monster in the walls will cause some fear. Assurances will sound better from the adventurers.” Cecilia said.

“As you wish.” Volnil replied with a bow.

“Now then… time to meet the family…” Cecilia muttered as she began to walk up the stairs to the palace.

I followed close behind, this is going very well. After this I don’t need to hide under a rock anymore. Well I would still need to keep a low profile but at least I’m not kill on sight. From what I gather, the angels don’t bother with much of what happens in Terra unless there is a serious threat to the people.

They do get their powers from the worship afterall, playing the hero is an easy way to earn and maintain followers…

I followed Cecilia deeper into the palace and I found I could move easily through the main hallway. The hallway was massive, reminding me of those churches back in my old world. Well good for me anyway.

“You seem nervous.” I said and she froze in her steps.

The guards around us all stilled their armoured footfalls going silent.

“Leave us…” Cecilia said softly and the guards paused hesitating.

“Crown Reagent, we do not know if your family bears you ill will.” one of the Royal Guards said.

“Even if they do, what chance do they have against my friend here? I will send for you when my chat with my family is done.” Cecilia said.

“As you wish, your majesty.” the guards bowed as they turned around and began leaving the area.

Once they were out of ear shot I leaned down and whispered into her ear.

“I thought you would be excited.” I mused, Cecilia didn’t reply, she just waved her hands and a purple dome appeared arounds us, locking out any prying ears.

“I thought so too… friend I never told you this but have you ever wondered why did my father keep me alive?” Cecilia asked as her eyes continued to stare straight ahead.

“He was either too soft or someone else was. If it was me I would have thrown you from the cradle into a river.” I replied.

“You would have been wise to do so, considering what I have just done.” Cecilia said.

“So who was it, the father or the mother or someone else.” I asked as I turned my head slightly to see her biting her lip.

“My mother, my mother was only a Countess, an unworthy bride for a king. Still my father loved her and they were wed, despite the scorn from the courts. Then when their first child was born a seer appeared on their doorstep. 

When my father wanted to smother me in my crib my mother forbade it, she threatened to leave him forever. So I lived and my mother did everything she could to stop the prophecy. But fate cannot be avoided, they saw the signs early. My magical ability, my intelligence, learning my first spell as a toddler. It was too much… 

They say you often find your fate on the path you take to avoid it…” Cecilia said.

“And here you are…” I replied.

“And here I am…” Cecilia muttered in response.

“So you don’t know what to do, should you kill or show mercy, vengeance or forgiveness… I’m guessing the cradle was a compromise…” I said.

“Yes, it was a compromise. My father wanted my head when he found me in bed with a woman. The laws of Heaven forbid homosexuality, perhaps it was the years of paranoia and this small thing was the straw that broke the camels back. The last sign of a prophecy that they could no longer handle, one more sign of my defiance to the Order of Heaven.” Cecilia replied.

“Hmmm, people do strange things when under pressure, one can only bear so much until they crack… So how long are you gonna keep up this whole vengeance facade?” I asked wryly and Cecilia flinched.

“What do you want to do?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” Cecilia replied through gritted teeth.

“You got a coin?” I said as I remembered an old trick I used to use back in my world.

“Huh?” Cecilia asked in confusion.

“Trust me.” I said with a smile.

“Heads is kill, tails is spare.” I said.

“You want me to flip a coin on my mother’s life? You want me to leave it to chance?” Cecilia asked incredulously.

“It isn't chance, flip it and I’ll tell you why.” I replied.

Cecilia gave me a final questioning look before flipping the coin. She caught the coin and she paused as she looked down at her closed fist.

“Some would say this is fate’s decree, chance is fair, the great equaliser…” I whispered in her ear.

“Nervous? Good…” I said with a small laugh.

“Now open.” I said and Cecilia opened her hand revealing heads, so kill it is...

“Disappointed?” I asked and Cecilia nodded slightly.

“Good, that is what you wanted, spare her. If you were relieved then I would have suggested you kill her. It was never about the coin flip. It was about how you felt with the result.” I said.

Cecilia visibly relaxed as she nodded in understanding.

“It was never about chance...” Cecilia said.

“Yes, fuck chance, fuck fates decree, fuck fairness. We decide our own fates, no?” I said and Cecilia smiled as she looked down.

“Thank you friend, I don’t know what I would do without you.” Cecilia said with a small smile as she placed her hand on the side of my face.

“Probably a lot worse. Anyway, I think it’s time for that reunion.” I said as I reared up back to my full height and faced the end of the large corridor that held the door to the throne room.

“She will be there. I know it. News would have reached her by now. This will be the first place I go, so she will be there to meet me.” Cecilia said.

“So what are you waiting for? Don’t worry I got your back.” I said with a smirk.

“And I have yours. Thank you, friend, for everything.” Cecilia replied gently.

“Don’t thank me yet, the fun is just beginning.” I said with a wry smile.

“My siblings don’t know only my mother does, besides my eldest brother that is.” Cecilia said as she began to walk towards the door, she waved her hands and the dome vanished.

“Good to know.” I said as we began moving towards the massive door that led to the throne room.

The doors were made of a red mahogany wood, painted on the door was an ornate mural showing the emblem of house Averlon.

“Should I?” I asked.

“No, this is my door to open.” Cecilia said as her hands and eyes glowed.

The doors glowed and with a push of her hands the massive doors began to creak open. Then with one fierce push the doors flew open with a loud bang. There ahead of me I saw a woman sitting wearily on the steps in front of the throne. To her left sat a girl halfway through her teens, she had Cecilia’s red hair and eyes. In the woman’s left she cradled a small toddler, probably two to three years old. 

The three of them froze at the sight of the two of us. Cecilia strode into the throne room and I followed behind her my tail weaving over the smooth marble floor. I could see the fear in their eyes as I approached. 

Cecilia’s mother shakily handed the toddler to Cecilia’s younger sister.

“Take care of her…” I heard the mother say softly.

An ominous thing to say, her tone betrayed the fact that she did not expect to survive.

“Mother…” Cecilia said softly as she gazed at her gaunt face.

As I examined her appearance and did a quick once over on her body I noticed several things…

Cecilia’s mother was malnourished and severely sleep deprived. There were dark circles under her eyes the size of coins. Overall she was a pitiful sight. I saw Cecilia’s right hand go to her chest as it formed into a fist.

Cecilia’s vitals were going crazy. I could sense grief, pain and anger all at once. Her hand trembling from grief, the pain from tensing of the muscles and the increased heart rate from the anger.

“Cecilia, my baby girl…” her mother said softly as she approached.

Her mother held out a hand and Cecilia took a step back. Her mother’s hand recoiled and as if struck.

“You are angry of course you are…” her mother said, her voice sounding like broken glass.

“Of course I am…” Cecilia replied softly.

“I owe you… an apology…” her mother croaked as she slowly and shakily fell to her knees.

“I couldn’t protect you, I was too weak to protect you…” her mother stammered as tears fell from her eyes and flowed down her cheeks.

“When I heard you had allied with a monster, I could only think of what I had done…” her mother said through her tears.

“I couldn’t eat, I couldn't sleep and I neglected your sisters… I am an unworthy mother…” her mother finally cracked as she clutched her body and lowered her head to the floor.

As I watched the scene it struck me how different I was to humans. In my old body I was sure I would at least feel some sympathy. Instead all I feel is a vague sense of pity and my mind wandered to how low the once great queen has fallen.

She was beautiful in her youth, now look at her, a pathetic wreck, just a broken shell.

How the mighty have fallen…

Now it is your turn to bow, look how the queen has fallen now…

I saw the emotions rage within Cecilia, she was like a string pulled taught. Now the real question was which way this string would snap…

“Do you think your apology means anything?” Cecilia said, her voice shaking. Whether it was from rage and sorrow I couldn’t tell, but shake her voice did.

“You left me to rot… you poisoned me for years to made me believe I was sick… you hung her… YOU HUNG HER!” Cecilia screamed as her mother raised her head and Cecilia slapped her hard across the face.

Her mother, the queen, went sprawling onto the floor from the blow clutching her face.

“Yes I did… I deserve this… your hate, my fate, all of it… “ her mother said softly.

“But your sisters… They are innocent. I beg you to spare them… take me, end me, heaven knows I deserve it...” her mother said as she raised her head, her eyes held a gaze of broken glass.

“Heaven knows? You think your words mean anything to me? I HATE YOU!” Cecilia shrieked.

“Cecilia…” I said my voice firm.

Cecilia paused as she turned to look at me and I saw the tears on her face. The proud scheming princess was now just a tearful girl, demanding an answer from a parent.

I sighed and began to speak…

 

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert

Near them, on the sand, half sunk 

A shattered visage lies…

Whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well where those passions read

Stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed

And on the pedestal, these words appear

I am the King of Kings, look on my works, ye mighty, and despair...

...

And nothing beside remains...

Round the decay of that colossal wreck 

Boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away…

 

I said as I fished that particular memory from the Eternal Mother’s ridiculously long life. It was a parable of how doing great things can often make someone forget what is truly important. Build your empire, do your great works but one day all will be gone. Nothing will remain but the decay of a wreck…

Cecilia is saying what she thinks she should say, what she thinks she wants to say…

What she thinks she wants to say…

Human hearts are such brittle and fragile things, confused, messy, yet exceptional in their own way…

And so I spoke again…

 

Cecilia…

You are lying…

 

At those words Cecilia’s face seemingly crumpled as she shut her eyes and tears flowed anew.

That shattered visage of a vengeful princess was always brittle, I’ve known this for awhile. I didn’t know it at first, but I soon figured it out after spending some time with her. Maybe it was my new mind and intelligence. Maybe it was the fact I could read her physiology so I could get a very clear picture. A person’s body reacts when it lies, even when the person lies to itself or... herself…

Humans so often say one thing, do another thing and truly want something else entirely. I should know… I was one…

I can see why the Devourers of the past viewed the lesser races as beneath them. From my eyes they truly do look like petty, foolish mortals. But I was human and I know how hard it is. If I chose to give up my memories I would be a very different person. Was this a good thing? Well only time will tell...

I watched as Cecilia struggled, her mind no doubt a whorling mess. Then at last it all came pouring out, she screamed as her hands glowed. She swung them to the side and discharged a wave of crackling ether into the ground. Quick as I lightning I placed my hand on the floor and drew the currents towards me, thanks to my [Ether Manipulation] this was an easy task. This was no spell, just a discharge of rampant energy… 

I felt the current of Ether course up my arm and scorch my flesh. It hurt but better than the currents frying her family.

Cecilia's eyes widened when she saw the glowing scorch marks in the marble floor, she turned to look at my singed arm and her shock turned to horror then finally to shame.

“I’m fine, just a scratch.” I said calmly as I flexed my burnt hand, my regeneration already healing the internal damage. There wasn’t much damage honestly, my body was too resilient to be seriously damaged by attacks like this anyway.

“Go on then, be with your family. I’m fine.” I said with a small smile.

Cecilia looked down at her hand that was still crackling with magical power. I looked at the spider web like patterns of melted stone and I couldn’t help but smile bitterly at how accurate that little parable was…

 

Tell that its sculptor well where those passions read

Stamped on these lifeless things,

The hands that mocked her, the heart that fed

Look on your work, ye mighty, and despair...

 

“I’m sorry…” Cecilia muttered.

“You have every right to be angry…” Her mother said as she walked towards Cecilia and reached out with her hand.

This time Cecilia didn’t recoil; she just stood still as her mother cupped her cheek. Then her mother pulled Cecilia into a hug and Cecilia returned the embrace as she wept into her shoulder. I watched as her sister approached with the youngest in hand and the four girls embraced.

“I thought you died…” the younger sister said.

“I’m back now, Celene…” Cecilia replied.

“I missed you…” Celene said as she pulled Cecilia into a tight hug.

“I missed you too…” Cecilia replied.

This would be a touching scene if I didn’t sense some eavesdropping little shit from the hallway behind me. I extended my wings and shielded the four of them to give them a little privacy. As I did so I sent a command to Legiana who is standing by under the city.

“There is someone intruding…” I said into the hive mind.

“Do you want me to track him?” Legiana replied.

“Yes, follow him… I will deal with that fool later…” I replied as Cecilia looked up at me questioningly.

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll handle it.” I said as I held out my hand and magically slammed the massive doors shut.

“Was someone...” Cecilia asked.

“I’ll handle it…” I said with a smile and she nodded gratefully.

I watched as Cecilia held her younger sister tight. 

“I missed you so much.” Celene said as she buried her head in Cecilia’s chest.

“Me too…” Cecilia said softly as she stroked her head.

“I missed your lullabies… I miss how they always bring me under… to the sweetest of dreams...” Celene muttered softly.

Cecilia smiled slightly as she began to sing…

 

Into sweet dreams we go

From Mother's hands we go

We'll be be sailing to the sun

Till your rest is done

Then we'll be sleeping in the warmth below

 

Sister... below, below...

We're going where the warm winds blow

We're all bound down

To warm hallowed ground

And you’ll be sleeping soundly below

Sleeping soundly below, below…

Sleeping soundly below...

 

There's a angel on high

With the demons in his eye

And a golden hand, I'm told...

 

He can’t hurt you, he can’t scare you

He won’t kick you or abuse you

When you're sleeping in the warmth below

 

So Sister sleep you

Grow up wise and true

I’ll lay you down

Under Grahanam Crowns

And you'll be sleeping in the warmth below, below

Sleeping in the warmth below…

 

So sleep well dear sis

Goodnight with a kiss

It's fast for the mist...

Till we're all sleeping in the warmth below...

 

So that's it, it's the end of the sort of first book/arc. I laid hints throughout the story so far on Cecilia's damaged psyche so hope this doesn't come out too far from leftfield. It's supposed to be a twist that you can see coming, but I'm not sure how well that worked out. So let me know what you think!

PS: Yes the song is supposed to be a little eerie.

 

Song/Adapation Attribution

Sleeping in the Cold Below by Alan Doyle & Keith Power

Alan Doyle & Keith Power (2021) Sleeping in the Cold Below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EtOAaK19bA

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