Butterfly Fallen

I found art posted for me for an art exchange… and this picture was so dynamic and intriguing that it inspired me to write a whole little story on the spot.

This is sort of an AU for Crimson Coronation. I’ve given a lot of thought to Aria’s eventual death, but haven’t officially decided how it will happen, so this is probably only the first of several possible deaths for her.

“If I’d known he was so close, I’d have made more haste.” This, along with a blatantly mocking bow, was Teravor’s greeting to Princess Aria as he emerged onto the balcony where she sat, closing the great glass doors behind him to keep out the rain.

“You would not,” she said simply, regarding him with her customary blank expression. Having known her for forty years, however, Teravor felt he could detect traces of an underlying sadness and weariness behind the calm, something that would not fade with time.

Accepting the contradiction with a gracefully helpless gesture, he seated himself on the bench beside her. The silvery torrent that beat down on them both made her white hair — whiter even than his these days — appear to glow, but she did not even seem to notice it.

“I am sorry not to have said goodbye to him,” Teravor admitted companionably. “He was such an interesting man.”

She nodded slowly. All her movements were slow, he noticed; it was something he noticed eventually about most non-magical folk. The thinness, the creaking joints, the weakness… they were just so… mortal. And yet he had a fondness for this one in particular, as he did of anyone from those days.

“I’m tired,” Aria said at last. “And I don’t feel alive anymore.”

“Not surprising,” nodded Teravor.

“I haven’t slept in thirty-seven years,” she went on placidly. “You put me to sleep once; can you do it again?”

“If you wish,” replied the enchanter. “How?”

Slowly she looked up into the sky, and in a sudden flash of lightning appeared even more pale and fragile than ever. “The way he wanted to go. You can do it, can’t you?”

“I believe so.” In fact, Teravor had been so intrigued by the request that had brought him here that he’d spent most of the journey concocting a potion he believed would preserve him through the dangerous spell.

“Then do it,” she commanded, standing abruptly. She took two steps to the balcony’s railing, put her back to it, and, spreading her arms in a gesture of finality, fixed glowing golden eyes on him.

Teravor raised a brow. “Now?”

“Now,” she confirmed.

He stood. “Ién isn’t going to banish me for this?” His tone was flippant, but she would undoubtedly know that he presented a legitimate concern — not about actual banishment, but about hurting one of the other few people in the world he vaguely cared about.

“She knows.” At last he’d managed to wring from her that hint of a smile he remembered from days gone by. “I had intended to go with him.”

Teravor nodded. “Take my hand when I reach out, then.”

She mimicked the gesture. “Goodbye, my friend. Thank you.”

He smiled at her, a genuine smile without malice or sarcasm, and withdrew from the pocket of his cloak the protective potion. Having drunk it, he began his spell.

The power gathering around him was intense, and only growing with each passing instant. He felt open to the sky, to mighty nature’s full force of destruction and creation at once, and only the magic of the potion kept him from being torn apart by it. In the first few moments he seemed all-powerful; in the next, something beyond even that. He honestly didn’t know if he was capable of maintaining this state without being destroyed — most enchanters died this way: reaching too far, trying too much too early — but the risk was part of the interest of the experiment. Still, he would not have done this for just anyone.

As more and more of the unstoppable energy from the clouds above them streamed down into his upraised hand, Teravor felt a growing heat surrounding him, a crackling blue aura hazing across his vision and coloring everything with its deadly light. Sharp shadows streaked backward from every object on the balcony, and Aria’s face and figure, still perfectly calm through the maelstrom, were thrown into high relief.

He held out his hand to her. She reached out and took it.

She stiffened, and then there was a rush of fire before him, an explosion of thunder in his very ears, the smell of charred flesh, the sound of cracking stone, and her hand was gone from his. Blown away on the wind, washed away by the rain, the ash that had been Princess Aria’s body was gone in an instant, and Teravor found himself stepping hastily backward as the spot where she had been crumbled into the courtyard below.

Staring in bemusement and wonder, his ears ringing, the enchanter stood still in the pouring rain for quite some time.

This had been like nothing he’d ever experienced before. The lightning had leaped in that same instant back whence it had come, but it was still there, ready to be called upon again. The purity of the energy, the sheer power he’d been able to channel with a single spell, was galvanizing on more than one level. Nobody had ever experimented with lightning before — at least not successfully, and therefore not that he’d ever heard of. He was probably the only enchanter in the world capable of designing and brewing the necessary protective draft, and therefore he would be the first to learn all the properties of the storm and harness it for some interesting purpose. An entirely new road had suddenly opened in front of him, and he felt nothing but enthusiasm at the prospect.

Turning away and moving to leave the blackened, broken balcony, “Thank you, royalling,” he said sincerely, bidding his friend her final goodbye.

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