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Seven children are destined to save Pruul and shake the traditions of the territory to their very core. In response, factions have broken the peace of a previously unified territory and violence has erupted across the dessert. It is a battle between the past and the future, the young and the old, and blood won’t stop seeping into the sand.
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Author Topic: When things come together  (Read 583 times)

Description: Attn: Elenor

Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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When things come together
« on: Dec 08, 18, 07:14:46 PM »
Sarina stared down at the remains of her breakfast,  not seeing it. A part of the young Queen was still was still basking in the euphoria of the previous night - and she felt like she was at once both a new person and still the same within her skin.

An increasingly larger part of Sarina's consciousness was occupied with another issue altogether. The young woman had lately been plagued by a sense of urgency.  She had honestly thought it was because of those books Lady Elenor had loaned her and how they made Sarina feel…and how they made her notice the people around her in a way she never had before… She had thought that - once her Virgin Night was complete - the urgency would be replaced with either a sense of relief or a sense of longing for something she still didn't have; namely a person she cared for who wanted her, just her.

That, however, was decidedly not the case. No,  instead Sarina felt an even greater sense of urgency now. She was being driven by some instinct to do…something.  She just had to figure out what that something was.

Absently Sarina started to dig into the back of her hand with her fork, but she caught herself before the fork had done more than barely touch her skin. With great deliberation, the young Queen set her fork down on the table and covered it with her fork in the hopes of removing temptation. She rested her hands palm up on the table in what had become  her I-will-not-harm-myself pose.

Abruptly she pushed back from the table, beginning to pace with a nervous energy she couldn't contain.  “I know what I need to do.” She said this out loud to her empty room because that made it more real, more final.

On a psychic thread she called to the now familiar mind of her Bonded *Danyal? Can you please find out if I can speak with Lady Sabbah as soon as possible?*

As she  waited, she continued to pace restlessly,  each lap of her room bringing with it a heightened need for action. When the response came that Lady Elenor was on her way, Sarina finally stopped pacing and set about clearing her breakfast away and making sure her room was as neat as it could be. She spared a moment to make sure she herself was equally presentable,  before turning to watch the door.

When the knock came, followed by Lady Elenor's entrance,  the younger Queen didn't even stop to properly greet her mentor. Instead, she stepped forward and gripped Lady Elenor's hands in entreaty. “I have to make Offering today Lady Sabbah, I can't wait any longer.”




Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #1 on: Dec 11, 18, 05:25:48 PM »
Elenor had just spent an hour trying not to hyperventilate as more and more reports came in of Sabbah defecting to Shira's faction left and right leaving gaps in their patrols and defenses when Danyal showed up with a request to meet Sarina for breakfast. She didn't really have the time to talk to her Ward but Sarina was one of the people Elenor needed to find the time for. If she failed the future of their Clan would be in Sarina's young hands and that meant that she came before... almost everything.

Besides, last night had been her Virgin Night ceremony and given how nervous she had been before it, Elenor really did want to know how it had gone other that the quick 'all went well' message Danyal had sent her early this morning.

Setting down the stack of reports, Elenor straightened her blouse and walked with Danyal across the compound to the suite Sarina occupied in the Ward's wing. As they walked he caught her up on what he had planned to protect the two young Queens if anything went wrong and Elenor was once more rendered both happy and sad that his care and dedication was no longer hers to command. It was good that he was able to pour his heart and soul into the service and protection of his Heartbonded Queen but Mother Night, she could use more hands on deck when dealing with the larger mess of this Clan.

At the door, Danyal bowed and opened it for Elenor then stepped aside to stand guard so the two Queens could speak in private. Elenor expected some sort of greeting but instead the moment she walked in the door Sarina was right there, giving off the sort of excited, anxious, almost manic energy she usually got from Luc or Bashir, not the Opal Birthright Queen.

“I have to make Offering today Lady Sabbah, I can't wait any longer.”

Well... that was... ok... she could roll with this. After all, hadn't she been the one to request that Sarina think about an early Offering? Complaining now would be rather pointless.

"Ah... alright. Are you sure? What made you decide? We can call on Adel and use the little sanctuary in the Residence if you would like. Are you certain you don't want to wait a day or two, though? You already had a big night last night and it might be good to give your body a little rest. Offerings are an ordeal even at the Lighter ranks and you... won't be coming out of this with a Light Jewel, Sarina."

Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #2 on: Dec 11, 18, 09:06:20 PM »
Sarina was wound so tightly after her pacing and contemplation that she barely heard Lady Elenor's words as she guided her mentor to a seat on her small couch. She sat next to the older Queen, but at Elenor's last question she sprang to her feet and began pacing again.

As she paced, the young Queen shook her head as she spoke quickly, almost too quickly to be understood clearly. “It - I - its got to be today, I would ask to do it right now  if I thought I could.”

Sarina stopped pacing so she could turn to face Lady Elenor directly, chewing nervously on her lower lip and bouncing on the balls of her feet . “I've felt a need to do something, to change something for a while now. It's almost been like an itch.” She blushed lightly.  “I thought it was a desire to do… things… that I needed my Virgin Night for because I would keep looking at people and wondering what it would be like to - well - um” she broke off in embarrassment before coughing to clear her throat. “Anyway, I definitely needed that, but the… itch… to change is only worse now.”

Fearing that perhaps Lady Elenor wasn't going to take her seriously if she didn't act more like a responsible adult,  Sarina forced herself to stand still and take a deep breath, visibly calming herself.

“Lady Sabbah, last night was definitely a big night,” she blushed again, but she managed to keep speaking calmly. “But Lady Sabbah - I have never felt so energized in my life.”

Sarina sat back down with Elenor, but couldn't keep herself from perching on the edge of her seat. “I trust Lady Adel very much and would be happy to have her help me with this. As to the Sanctuary here in the Residence - ” she nodded decisivly. “That is the closest,  so it would be soonest and that makes it perfect.”

She leaned in closer to Lady Elenor, her face earnest and full of entreaty, “Please Lady Sabbah, I need this. Please say I can do this today.”




Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #3 on: Dec 14, 18, 04:03:54 PM »
Elenor considered Sarina's request for a full minute, thinking over everything she knew both of the situation and of the young woman before her. She could try to talk Sarina out of it but honestly... Elenor didn't want to. There was a purpose and resolve in the girl's eyes unlike anything she had seen there before so after several long moments of silence Elenor simply said, "Alright, let's do this."

The next few hours were busy ones. Elenor had to change around her schedule and Adel's, talked to several Dark Jeweled members of the Court to be available in case Sarina needed help or guidance and ensured the younger Queen had a full dinner before walking with her to the doors to the Sanctuary nestled deep in the Sabbah Residence. The sun was starting to set somewhere outside and within Adel waited, though the role of a Priestess was somehow less intrinsic to this process than that of a Birthright. Elenor stopped at the door and pulled Sarina in close for a hug. It was a bit of deja-vu in that from the night before but she pushed it away, squeezing the girl who was stepping suddenly into adulthood today tight to her chest.

"Remember, there's no right or wrong way to make an Offering, and whatever Jewel you return with will be the one meant for you. I'm not usually the fondest of Mother Night but this isn't about her, not really. This isn't a Birthright while you wait to see what she has in store for you but an Offering. You'll face yourself in there and Sarina, don't be afraid of the woman you find. You're stronger than you know and so much braver and more honorable than I ever gave you credit for." She pulled back and pushed a strand of dark hair behind the other Queen's ear, then pressed her lips to Sarina's brow. "I'll wait here for you until you return. It might feel like mere hours or like years for you but I promise I'll be here."

She stepped back and Danyal took her place, embracing his Queen with the sort of gentle, fatherly affection that she had never seen him give to anyone else. She was close enough to hear him whisper, "I am so proud of you, my Lady. May the Darkness watch over your journey into the Abyss."


Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #4 on: Dec 17, 18, 04:41:55 PM »
Alright, let's do this.

Sarina’s relief at hearing those words was so great that it was an effort to keep her knees from buckling.

“Thank you, Lady. You have no idea how important this is to me.”

The rest of the day before Lady Elenor returned to escort her to the Residency Sanctuary passed in a blur to Sarina. She napped, and snacked, and napped again - at the insistence of... well pretty much everyone who spoke to her. Then, after dinner, Lady Elenor was there and Sarina was walking with her mentor and Danyal.

When Lady Elenor embraced her, Sarina returned the hug eagerly. There was no nervousness in the girl, so she wasn’t seeking reassurance; rather the young Queen was filled with a sense of purpose and she offered affection and reassurance to her mentor. As Danyal also embraced her and whispered his words of encouragement, Sarina felt her heart swell as she held him tightly, enjoying his presence and his strength.

Before opening the doors, Sarina turned to the two and smiled eagerly. “Thank you, both of you. It means a lot to me that you are here for me as I do this thing I have to do.”

With that, the young woman entered the Sanctuary and greeted her friend Adel, thanking the Priestess for helping to make this happen. As Adel offered prayers on Sarina’s behalf the Queen sought to quiet her mind. It wasn’t an easy task - Sarina still felt that overwhelming need pushing her and that had her thoughts racing.

At last, however, Sarina was alone. She sat, legs crossed in front of her, on the carpeted floor.  "What am I doing?" Sarina suddenly spoke aloud as she had a sudden realization that she was eighteen years old and about to make her Offering almost two years early despite tradition and common sense. Still, Lady Elenor was correct - Sarina needed to have all the protection she could give herself. Lady Shira was much older than Sarina, much more experienced, much more practiced in her caste...and Lady Shira was a fanatic which alone would make her dangerous.

Since her thoughts were still yet racing, she decided to try to direct them and see if that led to a quiet state of being.

Whenever she had thought on this day, this moment, this milestone of her life before now, this was not what she had pictured herself feeling. Back before, when she still considered herself a child, it was something she looked forward to with eagerness at first, until she realized the darkness of her Birthright Jewel and potential Jewel of rank made her more of a commodity to the elders of her Tribe than a person. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also after the death of her parents and the other close members of her family - people who would have been proud of her as she made her Offering no matter what. Then it became something to look forward to with indifference.

Sarina shifted position as she considered how much had changed virtually overnight it had seemed. Shira al-Sabbah had entered her life and Sarina was being used to fuel a civil war in her new Clan. She could resist descending to her full potential so as to be less of potent weapon. Or she could strive for as dark a depth as she was capable in the hopes of escaping the chains that bound her…and risk being forced to do untold damage.

That wasn’t the last time Sarina’s life - and her thoughts on the matter of her Offering - were to turn upside down. No, suddenly Sarina was a Ward of Lady Sabbah’s Court - Lady Sabbah for whom she herself was little more than an unwelcomed rival. They would delay her Offering as long as possible, she thought, to keep her a child, to keep her less of a threat. Sarina felt that was a mistake; as long as she had not made her Offering, she was the greatest potential threat because she still had the potential to Descend to the Red. The young Queen had considered coming to Adel and asking for help to make her Offering early and in secret. She thought she would descend to her Opal, look for a moment at where she could go to, and turn around, leaving with only the Opal she already had. That would make her the least threat to Lady Sabbah that she could be while still alive (and not so incidentally she would be of the least use to the True Sabbah without being dead). She wasn't sure enough of her friend though, to know if she could ask Adel to take that risk.

Sarina sighed as she rubbed at an itch on the side of her face. Life certainly had a funny way of turning things on its head. Lady Elenor had asked her Ward to consider making her Offering even though it was earlier than traditional because of the danger facing her - danger that faced them all. At the time, Sarina had protested, thinking that she wasn’t ready, that she didn’t know what to do even though she also thought that doing it early could certainly reduce her potential threat to the Clan Queen. But she was ready, before she had even realized it. She also knew what she needed. She knew what she was meant to be.

Lady Elenor had asked Sarina to take care of their people if the older Queen failed. She had given Sarina a task. Sarina knew, now, what she had to do to fulfill that task asked of her. She had to come out of her Offering with the Red - she would need all the strength possibly available to her to protect their people and to fight being used by Lady Shira and the rest of the True Sabbah. She would also need it for herself if she were to survive even relatively unscathed.

She was nervous that she might stunt her Descent, but Sarina was determined. She would have a Red Jewel. If it were somehow possible for her to descend further than the Red, she would do whatever it took to make that happen - but she knew that wasn't possible so she would settle for Red.

Nothing less would be accepted now.

Sarina knew this, but still she wondered. Would she be best served by being known to wear the Red? Would it be possible to hide her Jewel? To let others believe that she hadn’t Descended at all? If they believed her to be weak, would they not underestimate her? She would have to have help hiding her psychic scent. Who would she ask? Lady Shadya? Lady Kiarian? Lady Elenor?

Sarina shook her head. Could she keep that kind of thing a secret from her males? Should she keep it a secret from them, and from other people who were her allies? Who would she - could she trust? Adel was her friend, maybe something more. Darkness but Sarina wanted more than almost anything to trust Adel with anything and everything, but if she did this thing, this subterfuge, would she dare trust someone related to Shira al-Sabbah?

At the same time, if she kept it a secret from someone like Lady Shadya, would the Voice of the Sabbah believe her weak? If Lady Shadya thought Sarina was weak, might she not refuse to aid Sarina when she needed it the most? Sarina just didn’t know. What of Danyal and Rasheed? Sarina had already hurt them more than she had ever wanted to - keeping this kind of secret might destroy them. But if she told anyone other than whomever she asked for help hiding the secret, then she risked it becoming common knowledge.

Over and over the young woman’s thoughts circled and ran: would she, could she, should she? Sarina didn’t know how long she sat there, the same litany of questions cycling through her mind, but she was suddenly startled from her thoughts by the spasm in her leg; she yelped at the unexpected pain. She felt a weight in her hands that hadn’t been there before, and looked down to stare at the Red Jewel resting there. The young Queen smiled wryly; evidently Mother Night didn’t care if she decided to hide it or not - Sarina had her Red.

She continued staring at her new Jewel, trying not to think of anything at all. At last the young woman decided that no, she would not try to keep this a secret. It would be better all around if people could look at her and hopefully decide she wasn’t worth messing with, wasn’t worth angering.

That decision made, Sarina slowly and carefully got to her feet, wincing slightly at muscles that had gone unused for the past few...minutes?...hours?...an eternity? Sarina didn’t know how long she’d been here, but her muscles were cramping so it had probably been quite some time. The Queen spent a few minutes stretching, easing the aches before smoothing wrinkles from her skirt and leaving in search of Lady Elenor and Danyal whom she hoped were still waiting for her.

She pushed open the doors, searching for and finding the desired familiar faces. “It’s done.”

As she spoke, the young Queen’s legs gave out just as the first rays of the sun touched the sky.




Offline Danyal al-Hague

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #5 on: Dec 30, 18, 12:27:35 AM »
Sunset to Sunrise.

That was how long Offerings took and yet as the wait seemed to much more interminable this time, more so than at any other Offering he had stood vigil for. This time, it was Danyal's Queen who he could distantly feel sinking through the Darkness of the Abyss while he and Lady Elenor waited. They passed a flask back and forth a few times in the early hours of the night, talking of nothing serious but in an unguarded fashion that they had not been able to since Sarina had entered their lives.

Lady Elenor looked tired, worn to that unhealthy place where not working became as stressful as working and sleep provided little in the way of rest. He felt bad for his part in that, for denying her one more level of protection but in a way Danyal also felt his decision was for the best. There was a sweetness in the way she spoke of her Triangle now, as if all the pieces of her Court were in the places they always should have held even if the rest of her world was in tatters.

As more hours passed they fell into silence, simply sitting and waiting. Light crept along one intricately painted wall, then the tiles of the floor began to glow and as the sun rose above the horizon Danyal felt a prickle across his skin and in the Abyss. He let his own consciousness sink down into his Jewel of rank and smiled the private smile of a man let it on a wonderful secret not his to tell yet.

There was a new presence in Onn at the level of the Red.

It took some time yet before she emerged. Elenor had fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder but he shook the Queen awake moments before the doors of the sanctuary opened and the light of his life emerged, looking worn but calm and clutching a cut Red Jewel between her fingers.

The sun emerged over the closest rooftops and Danyal stepped forward, catching Sarina just as her legs gave way. With strength that his age had only tarnished a small bit the Warlord swept his Queen up into his arms and carried her away. Lady Elenor walked beside them, opening doors and shooing away Residence staff until they made it to Sarina's room where Danyal set her down on her covers as if she were made of fragile glass instead of flesh.

Her eyes fluttered and he bent down to kiss her brow. "Congratulations, little one. You truly are blessed by the Darkness and a gift to us all."

Dan glanced over at Elenor who had sat on the other side of the bed. "Do you need a moment alone with your Ward- with Lady Sarina?" His Queen had only had a few months in that protection. Now, officially, that apprenticeship had ended though both Danyal and Elenor knew that Sarina had a place here, in the wings of this Court, for as long as she needed it.

"Yes, thank you, Danyal. It will just be a moment. Do you think you could wait just beyond the door? I won't keep your Lady long, she certainly needs her rest."

Dan bowed and gave Sarina's hand one last squeeze, then stepped back from the bed. He didn't turn, though. He wanted as long as he could to look at her before reaching the door and closing it behind him.

Offline Sarina al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #6 on: Dec 30, 18, 07:34:11 PM »
Sarina would have smiled at her Danyal when he caught her if she hadn’t been halfway to senselessness. The newly Red Queen would have thanked him, and Lady Elenor too for still being there, waiting for her, if she weren’t fighting off sleep and a sudden bone deep exhaustion.Sarina hoped she would have the chance to show the older woman how much she inspired Sarina’s efforts, would be able to make Lady Elenor understand her place in Sarina’s heart. As her Bonded Warlord carried the tired Queen through the halls escorted by the equally tired Clan Queen, Sarina did not fight the desire to burrow her face into Danyal’s shoulder and just surrender to the sensation of safety his scent gave her while his strong arms craddled her so tenderly as if she were something precious instead of just a tired young woman. Perhaps it was childish and maybe weak of her to not walk on her own feet in this moment that was the first of her adulthood, she considered drowsily, but it really was too early for adulthood and she rather thought she deserved one more moment of the childhood that had been ripped away years before this morning - she deserved it and she would grasp it with all the strength newly given to her for just a little while until she had to turn that strength towards protecting all the others.

She felt herself being settled down on what she knew to be her own bed because she recognized the texture of the covers under her and she felt Danyal’s lips on her forehead as she struggled to focus, the kiss and his words warming her to her soul. She clutched at his hand even as Danyal straightened, “Thank you” she whispered, “Will you teach me later, please?” She wasn’t sure she’d actually said the words out loud, as out of touch with reality as she was feeling still, the purpose, determination and alertness that had gotten her through the night having fled along with the strength in her limbs to be replaced with the fatigue and not a small amount of dizziness. “Can you sit with me for a time while I sleep, please Danyal?” The young Queen really hoped she’d managed to make that request out loud, but she knew her Warlord was busy so if he couldn’t, or hadn’t heard her, it would be okay.

She distantly heard Lady Elenor agree with Danyal that she needed to speak with Sarina. With a sense of discontent, the younger woman watched as her Warlord back away, his eyes on hers until he disappeared through the doorway, his absence leaving an ache in the young woman. With an obvious physical effort, Sarina turned her heavy head towards her mentor who was coming to sit with her, smiling tiredly at Elenor, worry filtering through the fatigue. “I wonder if you’re proud of me,” Sarina whispered, not realizing she was speaking her thoughts aloud now. “I’ll protect them all, I swear it.” She tried to lift a hand to touch Lady Elenor’s face, but it fell before it got halfway there.




Offline Elenor al-Sabbah

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Re: When things come together
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 19, 11:28:57 AM »
Elenor knelt by the bed where the other Queen lay, exhausted, and reached out to take her hands. They were soft, but not so much as they had been months ago when she had come here. She had worked hard, this young woman, both in the task of tending to the gardens which Elenor had asked of her, and in learning and growing into someone who many of Elenor's plans hindged on.

Her hand reached out and clasped Sarina’s gently, then brought her knuckles to Elenor’s lips. “Of course I’m proud of you. You did well. I’m sure that it can’t have been easy to descend that far. I know what it’s like to make an Offering knowing that you need every drop of power you can get to survive. I would have been proud of you no matter what, but I’m glad for your sake and for the Sabbah that your will is so strong.”

Elenor squeezed Sarina’s fingers, a slow, sad smile playing on her lips even as a tear slid down her cheek at the sleepy promise to protect their people. “I know you will. Even in the face of adversity, you have found a path of honor and followed it courageously. You came to me and faced my anger while making enemies of the True Sabbae. You faced the work I gave, people who hate you, and yet still I think you worry about not being enough.”

With another squeeze, Elenor let go of Sarina’s hand and pulled out a small box, about the size of her hand. “When I came here, to the Sabbah, I wasn’t one of them, no more than you, I believe, think yourself. It took me a year to learn their ways and face my Trials, but in that year, I was taught by several people. Lady Hague was one of these, and I’m sad she returned to the Darkness during the Worm attack, because I think you would have liked her, and she you. She told me a fable one night by the fire, one that I’d like to tell to you. It’s not long, I promise.”

She set the box down on the bedcovers but did not hand it to Sarina yet. Instead, Elenor began, “Once, long ago before there were Clans or Tribes or even names of places, there were three sisters, Queens all. One was very tall and she could see far, far away, further than anyone else her people had ever met. With the information she saw, the Tall Queen was able to plan ahead. This, her people decided, made her wise, and they asked her to lead them because who would not want a wise Queen. Well, one day, the people woke up to see that locusts had chewed through their grain and they went hungry. The spokesperson of the group went to the Tall Queen and asked, ‘Lady, why didn’t you warn us’ and she replied, ‘I was looking towards the horizon, not at my feet. How should I have seen such little thing?’

“The people gathered that night and said, ‘what use is a Queen who is so busy seeing far away that she can’t look down at her own two feet? That is not wisdom but folly. We must choose another.’ So the Tall Queen was sent far, far away in disgrace and they turned to the second sister. Now, this sister was not tall or far-seeing like the first. She wore heavy glasses and loved all things of earth and sand. She knew every plant and bug and path and danger of the desert. The people went to her and said, ‘we want you to be our Queen because you know more than all of us combined, and who would not want a Queen who knows things. That’s so much better than a Queen who is wise but cannot warn of danger.’

“Well, at first all was well. The second sister taught the people to eat the locusts and took them on safe paths between the dunes. She spent all day, every day, bent over, studying each new thing she found. All these discoveries she brought to her people and for a time they were happy. Then, one day, there were clouds in the sky. The people went to the Queen and said, ‘Lady, should we not plant grain so it may germinate when it rains?’ and the Queen replied, ‘No. Do you not see the sand is dry and nothing will grow? We should continue walking on.’

“When the rains came, then, the people were unprepared. There were no water collectors out, not mountain fields to feed them through their long treks and the people, once more, met together in secret. ‘Well, this one won’t do either,’ the people said of the second Queen and that night they left and did not wake her.

“Worried and scared, the people once again looked for a new Queen and studied the third sister carefully before going to her. She was the youngest of them all, neither wise nor knowledgeable having no great height or thirst for answers. What she did have was boundless compassion and a desire to serve. Those were qualities everyone agreed would do the trick, and were exactly what they needed. After all, she would not ignore council like the second sister or be so focused on the far off future like the first.

“For many years all was well. Near or far, the third Queen ruled well, always listening to those around her and heeding their every advice. She was beloved and loved in return, but one day they reached a fork in the road. The Queen asked her people their opinion: left or right. Half said left and half said right, and they all looked to her for a decision but the third sister had never made a choice alone before. She waited and waited, hoping to find some clarity as she stared at the two paths, frightened to choose wrong because neither felt right. When she returned to her people, still undecided, she found many dead. The two sides had come to blows and her indecision had turned brother against brother.

“‘It is your fault!’ the remaining people shouted. ‘You are worse than either of the other two, for at least they knew themselves and were wise and knowledgeable. You listen to us all but cannot even choose a path, how can you lead us to our future?’

“The third Queen fled from them and came once more to the turn in the road, where she happened upon, by chance, her sisters. ‘Why do you weep?’ The tall one asked. ‘Where are the people?’ the second one asked.

“I did not know which way to go,’ replied the third, still cying tears of grief for the fallen. The tall sister hugged her and said, ‘let me climb on this rock and tell you what I see down each of these paths, then you will be able to decide.’ and up she went.

“The third sister stood by the fork in the road and looked up when her eldest sister shouted down, ‘the path to the left is rocky and steep, and many of your young and old will not fare well. The path to you right is smooth and level, but leads into a beautiful oasis.’

“The choice seemed easy, then. Or at least until the second sister said, ‘Ah, but sister, there is something you don’t see up there with all your height. Do you not see the footprints and camel droppings on the rightmost path? Another people have come here before and now our people are diminished thrice. Once the locust flying low, once the rain falling from on high, once the sword at height of heart. They cannot win a fight right now for we have lead them to disaster.’

“All three sisters were silent then for those words rang true, then, after a long, long time, the youngest sister asked, “what if together we find our way. You can look far and see what’s coming to keep us safe; you can look near and see what is already here to take advantage of; I can look into the hearts of our people and heed their advice. Together, we can help them find the safest path, one of wisdom, knowledge, and compassion that none could find alone. If we are strong together, every path is a good one.’

“And so they did. Together they took the leftward path. The wise Queen helped lower the children to the arms of their parents. The knowledgeable Queen scoured the ground for the safest path for the elderly. The compassionate Queen kept their hopes alive until the road came to an end and lo and behold there was an oasis so much larger than the last and all their own. They who had braved the path no others could take and that on one woman could navigate alone were rewarded with the freshest of water and fruit to fill their bellies once, again, and a hundred times more.

“So since that day, every Queen always rules with a Wise Master of the Guard to see danger coming from afar, a knowledgeable Steward to turn the will of the Queen into fact, and a Compassionate  First Escort or Consort to listen to both the people and the Queen and Triangle. That is the moral that most take away, but I think there is something more to be learned from this, and it’s the reason I tell it to you now, Sarina, and why she told it to me then.”


Elenor pulled the lid of the box off and showed the young woman two thin silver cuffs inside. Sarina already wore a pair, of course, since she was technically Sabbah, but they were unornamented. These were still simple, but while the outside was plain, but for some embossed olive leaves, the inside were not so simple.

“To me, that story teaches us that all Queens make mistakes, that we all have flaws, and that we cannot get it all right. To be a ruler is, in the end, to be responsible for one’s own failings. Those who follow us, they will see our strengths, but it is up to us to find the places we are weakest and seek the help of others. None of us is perfect, and if a people wait around for perfection, they will either fall to time or convince themselves that their chosen leader is the exception to this rule.”

Elenor gently pulled Sarina’s hands to her and carefully removed the cuffs given to her by those who would use her as a tool. “I was scared, then, to face my Trials and form a Court because I felt like I would never be enough. How could I ask people to follow and heed my words if I didn’t know all there was to know? How could I rule if I could not tell what was wise and what foolish? What right did I have to lead when I didn’t always intuit which path to take?”

Carefully, Elenor turned the new pair of cuffs over, and inside, engraved in neat letters, were embossed the words, Within fear, Courage encircling a five-petaled flower. With great care, Elenor placed each cuff around Sarina’s thin wrists and once more brought each of her knuckles to her lips.

“She said to me: this fear of yours, that is what makes me sure you are ready, for your fear shows me that you care more for those you wish to lead than for your own comfort. You will make mistakes, you will never be perfect, but that is true of every Queen at every time. We, all of us, are in our deepest hearts afraid that our best will not suffice but a good Queen, a good leader, isn’t always the wisest, the most knowledgeable, or the most compassionate: it is she who can face her own failings and ask for help. It is she who does the work that must be done, no matter the cost.”

Elenor met Sarina’s eyes and smiled. “Welcome, sister, and thank you.”

 

 

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