Black and white. Light and dark. Mortal and immortal. Two sides of the same coin; one cannot exist without the other. This, Ryenna knew. Yet, she also knew life was not so simple. Between mortality and immortality, there was life. Between light and dark, there was dusk and dawn. Between black and white, there were colors. Colors of varying shades and vivid hues. Colors that made up the entirety of the world in a way that none could describe. It was something that could only be witnessed; experienced. And from that, one could learn and grow. From those colors, one could define their opinions and choices, their ideas and values. One could shape their life. Fate was theirs to chase, to hold on to, to mold. Their story was their own.
This was a truth. This was a truth despite all Ryenna had been told. Like the humans of Praecanto, Ryenna never knew of a world inhabited by witches and wizards. It was a truth only her ancestors had known; the Cæli were those who had created the lands, but were not mere Gods. A truth that was lost on most of humankind over the last thousand years. There she remained, the last surviving witch of Praecanto, tasked only to see to the safety of the thriving human world. A world, as she was told, that was far better off than the world her ancestors had created. The human race, without the resources of magic at their disposal, were far kinder to their world than the witches had been.
But that was only one side of the coin. As the Cæli had learned, their creations did not come without a cost. The witches and wizards that were once blessed with life on the lands of Praecanto soon came to abuse their given privileges. The magic granted to them eventually brought chaos and destruction upon the world, destroying everything the Cæli had created. As punishment for their abuse, the magical beings of the land were banished, doomed to live forever in the Inbetween – a vast, empty void where only shadows remained of the land they once called home.
And so, the Cæli tried again, this time, with the creation of humankind; a mortal race without the power of magic. A race that would surely be kind and forgiving to the land they were blessed with.
However, they were not so quick to assume that their mortal creations would not be without fault. The future was clouded with darkness, but what they could see confirmed their suspicions; the mortal beings would find themselves in grave danger, due to no fault of their own. So they created another being; a spirit much like themselves that would manifest itself in the world when it would be needed most.
But the destruction left behind in the wake of the witches left a darkness upon the land which tainted the purity of the spirit. Wretched with the despair the witches had felt after their banishment, the spirit split into two, singular orbs, one of gold, and one of silver. The two orbs promptly vanished, leaving Ryenna's ancestors with only the hope that they would still manifest themselves in Praecanto when the need was greatest.
Ryenna carried this truth with her. Truths that had only turned to legends before soon being forgotten completely. The human race had thrived for a thousand years, and it seemed likely that they would continue to thrive for a thousand more without any foreseen destruction.
But Ryenna was no fool. As the years went on, her vision of the future became more and more clouded, tainted by the darkness that threatened the world of Praecanto. Though she kept her troubles to herself, the legends were not lost on the kingdom of Re'iam as they were with the rest of the world. Even her trusted advisor – her dearest friend – could see the darkness that clouded the future of Praecanto.
It came to Ryenna as a relief when Arandel finally approached her, her vision just clear enough to warn Ryenna of the destruction that was about to unfold.
Arandel bowed her head low to her queen. The tall, pale skinned witch queen with the white-blonde hair smiled down at her advisor, speaking in a warm, comforting voice.
“Arandel, what has you so tense?”
“Your Grace,” Arandel started. “The time has come. The Aethereya have risen.”
Ryenna narrowed her eyes on her advisor, her breath caught in her throat for a moment. She pulled her shoulders back slightly and raised her chin as she spoke. “And what of the Aethereya?”
“The prophecies seem to hold true,” Arandel continued. “I have seen it myself. It will only be a matter of time before the two Aethereya reveal themselves. One will take the form of a young witch.”
“A witch,” Ryenna whispered to herself. Witches had not existed in Praecanto for over a thousand years. “That cannot be.”
“I cannot see how it is so,” Arandel said. “Which can only mean that a dark power is involved.”
“And what of the Silver Aethereya?”
Arandel hesitated. “I have suspicions that it has already manifested itself, but I cannot be sure where it is.”
This did not come as a surprise to Ryenna. Dark magic always clouded her vision of the future, and the future had been clouded for some time. It only made sense that a dark magic was involved, but Ryenna could not explain how the darkness came to be in the first place. The witches had been sealed away all those years ago. “Is there a break in the Inbetween?”
Arandel shook her head. “The seal remains intact. I can only assume a witch has escaped your ancestor’s curse and remains hidden in the world.” She paused a moment, then met the queen’s gaze. “They will try to kill her,” she continued. “Without her, the world you’ve built will fall. She must be protected.”
Ryenna grew wary. Something about the two Aethereya didn’t add up. It didn’t make sense that the future of one was much clearer than the other. Which could only mean that the Silver Aethereya was tainted by a dark power. Two sides of the same coin. Light and dark. Good and evil. Ryenna knew that the split of the spirit would only mean a great war between them. “When will the Golden Aethereya manifest?”
“Soon,” Arandel said. “And in three years time, she will be found in the kingdom of Librona. Allies will be broken and trust will be lost. War is on the horizon. With no one left in line, the kingdom of Asmar will be a nation without a leader. Kingdoms will fall. The world of Praecanto will crumble.”
“This war is between the Aethereya,” Queen Ryenna said. “I will not see the six kingdoms destroy themselves over the Golden Aethereya, or this world will already be lost before the real war can even begin.”
“King Sloan holds his own secrets,” she continued. “I believe we can use this to our advantage. A love child, born unbeknownst to him, who will take the throne in Asmar and end the war between the kingdoms before it goes too far. I will go to Librona myself and reveal this to King Sloan.”
“You will lie to him?”
“If Asmar remains without a king, they will destroy themselves as a nation. They will pose a threat to the Golden Aethereya. She will be killed.”
“She must survive,” Ryenna said fiercely. “Do whatever it takes to make it so.”
“I must admit, Your Grace, that I cannot see the future of our world,” Arandel continued. “Even if the Golden Aethereya is spared by Asmar, the dark powers at hand continue to cloud my vision.”
Queen Ryenna hesitated. Though she couldn’t say for certain, she feared that despite all their efforts, the Golden Aethereya would fall. In the war between the Aethereya, darkness would prevail and the witches of the Inbetween would return, ending life as the mortals knew it.
“What will you do, Your Grace?”
Queen Ryenna turned her back to her advisor, her gaze on the long banners that draped the throne room walls. Each banner bore the mark of her ancestors, the creators of the world of Praecanto. She could not see that world fall after all her ancestors had done to keep it safe.
“I will do the only thing that can be done,” she said softly. “I will be sure that the Golden Aethereya will live to protect this world.”