by Grant Smuts
The Princess of Fire
Rerum Calna – City of Embers
As the chaos slowly spread across Gehara, Lady Cendrillon, heir to the Lord of Fire, assembled the kingdom’s finest mages and, wielding the Royal Flame, marched out to stave off the tide of darkness that threatened to consume their lands. With her father’s sacrifice creating the Living Flame that encircled and protected the capital, she attempted to drive a wedge through the madness caused by Sedrafax’s obsession. Many lives were lost as they attempted to tame the power of the primeval essence of the world. Time and time again, Cendrillon retreated to the capital, which was renamed Rerum Calna – The City in Embers.
But despite continual failures, Cendrillon never yielded. Her drive to succeed and save her people won her the support of everyone, and all were in awe at how the Royal Flame swathed her entire body when she marched against the Chaos.
From the advancing walls of chaos came many monsters, beasts birthed from the raw pandemonium of formless void. Cendrillon and a few other champions managed to best them as they emerged, noting also that as they did so, the Chaos retreated… and revealed that it had changed the landscape its wake. The Gehara of old – the once booming jewel of civilization, the bulwark against the old Lysinium empire, was no more. In its place was a barren, alien wasteland, with ruins twisted into grotesque shapes that seemed to create even more monsters when night fell.
Sedrafax, the Twisted Moth
In time, Cendrillon, mastering the many arts of the Royal Flame – and inventing her own variation of it, dubbed the ‘Princess Flame’, managed to drive the Chaos back to its very heart. There, at the core of bedlam itself, was Sedrafax, the Immortal who sought the Chaos Flame but found only madness and darkness. The battle that ensued has only been guessed at, with Cendrillon wielding her Princess Flame as a whip, striking the great moth-beast repeatedly, while Sedrafax himself spewed a darkness and vitriol that devoured everything. They collided again and again, and the unleashing of ancient powers – the Royal Flame and the Darkness Manifest rent time apart. It was there that Cendrillon saw that the battle she waged with Sedrafax had happened before, had happened a dozen times already – and she saw too, how it ended. Sedrafax drove her to the heart of the fallen palace – her own palace – Rerum Calna displaced in time and space, where the beating heart of chaos exhaled its furore into Gehara.
There Cendrillon received a vision, of a sword, plunging through an endless abyss – a sword stained with the blood of an immortal.
She saw too, how her city fell, consumed by chaos, but not the mad, elemental fury that she had fought before. She saw the coming of the great beasts that marked the end of an era, and saw how her people fell to fear and despair.
She saw the inevitability of broken thrones and lost nations. And she saw too, how Gehara might rise again, after a period of destruction and exile. She saw the end, and the rebirth of her entire world, saw the death and resurrection of the Royal Flame, at the hands of those who walked into the heart of darkness. And she knew that for a time, her fire needed to be extinguished, lost in stillness and eternity.
In her vision, in a split second between her and death, she saw how darkness covered everything. But at the heart of that darkness, a pale light lingered. Not the warmth of fire, but the cold and distant light of a star. And a voice echoed out of the Abyss, whispering a word that held the fate of both mortal and immortal beings.
And understanding how it ended – but not how it began – Cendrillon lashed the Immortal and plunged into the heart – into the vortex of all endings and beginnings.
To be continued…