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Power and Magic

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It’s late when you leave Se’risa. Your entire army sleeps, resting well before marching in two days time. Even the guards you let rest so no one at the gate can see you walk, not ride, but walk up the frozen path back to the Palace.

The stars above would answer if you asked, the guidance you seek they’d happily give. But the stars know you are a stubborn child, and for you to understand, you must see.

So you visit The Watcher.

“Lord Heimdall.” You bow lower than his rank requires and he notices, he notices everything.

“You are too kind and too formal Princess. To what do I owe the honor?” When he is kind his voice sounds like what a hug feels. It reminds you of your father but you quickly try to forget the association.

“The honor is mine. Se’risa enjoys your daughter’s company. I’ve come to thank you for allowing them a friendship.”

Heimdall doesn’t need his Sight to know you’re lying. Shame you never picked up the skill from your Prince.

“You are not. Such sentiments can be expressed in writing, nor would they be expressed at such an hour of day.”

“Lord Heimdall--You misunderstand.”

“I know why you’re here. And know that what you seek is forbidden.”

He sees every twitch of muscle in your face as sadness creeps into it. He sees every crease in your mouth and wrinkle at your eyes and cheeks fold and furrow. Heimdall sees everything, right down to the war in your heart that has neatly torn it in two.

He feels no guilt for the role he’s played in your suffering. He is a soldier who has followed his Lord’s orders unquestioningly. Nor is it his place to gainsay or judge that Lord.

Odin does as Odin wills and Heimdall is but a tool for it.

But tools chafe.

“Yet I will grant it. But you must ask.”

Heimdall sees those folds and furrows tighten, sees light suffuse your skin that’s a only half a shade lighter than his, but you brighten like starlight when you smile. Heimdall sees all, he sees this too, and sees why his Lord’s second son fell so hard for you.

For you could make even the coldest frost giants crumble at the power of your smile.

“Lord Heimdall, I would ask you turn your eyes on my land and see if the people are happy.”

He remains still, unmoving, gold gaze firm upon you waiting for the rest. “I am sworn to keep watch for Asgard’s enemies and nothing else. You will tell me all of why I am about to forsake my oath.”

“I need to see.”

“What child?”

“My home.”

“Why?”

You ball your fists, pricking pain into the meat of your palms to either give you a reason for tears or to stop them.

“To see if it’s still mine.”

Heimdall heaves a great sigh. “This is dangerous. The Sight affects different minds differently. Some see nothing. Some see too much and it drives them mad.”

You shake your head. “I need to know. Please.”

The Watcher nods. “Then prepare yourself girl, this will hurt.”

His eyes flash white and as they do, he places his fingers in the center of your forehead. Your vision whitens but you dare not blink for fear of severing the connection between Heimdall’s Sight and yours. The white you see blurs and shifts then turns grey. That grey fades to deep blue which bleeds into green. You see shapes now, rectangles and squares that stack on top of one another. Red and orange on top of gold. They’re trees you realize. Then those trees give way to vast swaths of yellow gold, the open fields of your homeland where the horses run and graze, even now so late in the season with winter here.

Your home is south, deep south, the winter that grips Asgard will only lightly chill your home. There are people in the fields, you see now, they wreathe their horses with fall flowers and fallen leaves. Feed them the last of the sweetgrass and newly harvested carrots and apples.

First you could only see them, but now as the blurry edges of your vision sharpen, you can hear them. The music, the drums. It's loud enough to hurt but only just, yet they sing in your language--tones and inflections that beat in your ears like heart song, the pain becomes irrelevant.

The pain is your pleasure, your joy. Papa had a voice you remember, he jokes it's how he won your mother. You listen for it knowing you won't hear his baritone but you do hear pieces of it here and there in fathers singing to their children, their parents, their lovers, and themselves.

Don't blink! You don't know if the vision will stop, but you can't risk it. You hold your eyes open with all the will you have, even when pain begins to prick at your temples and spread like blood dripped in clear water.

Tears stream from your eyes and the vision changes to your heartwood palace, hewn from trees older and more beautiful than Ygdrassil as your Sages say. The trees surrounding your home are dressed in fall’s finery, leaves drip from branches, raining gold on the ground.

You follow the flight of a single leaf, Heimdall’s sight conferring on you the ability to see every vein and depression and pore in it. It floats, twists, and tumbles with every puff of wind that rustles the branches. It falls onto a head crowned in a hammered gold circlet, black hair shorn down to the scalp and dusted with grey.

“Princess.” This man says and you startle thinking you haven't been gifted with far sight but teleported instead. It's only when another voice answers ‘Yes Father?’ you understand you weren't the one addressed and that someone has stolen your name.

Fa’Dan and Fa’Rey. The King and Princess of your land, wearing stolen crowns and stolen furs sitting on stolen thrones.

The great hall is filled, with bodies and laughter and joy unaware you mean to destroy it all. Revelers dance, lovers kiss, Father hugs Daughter and all is right in the world.

Fa’Dan roots your mother’s Crescent Halberd on it’s end affixing it to the floor, its red tassel swaying like a taunt in the breeze. That weapon, crafted from a fallen star and wielded by the First Princess means more to your people than a crown or blood ever could. That Fa’Dan wields it uncontested tells you enough.

“Shoot!” He calls and the feasters cheer. There is a contest, to win you must strike the tassel of the halberd with an arrow from an almost impossible distance. Already people are lining up to take the chance.

Suitors will use the competition to earn Fa’Rey’s attention, the victor winning possibly her affections an item of their choice crafted by Master Farrit’s hand. His family crafted the saddles and whips of nearly every folk hero your country has, to own one is to be counted among them. The leatherworks become heirlooms, sometimes held more dear than living relatives.

Your father is the only person in a generation to make that shot. His reward: the dagger that once rested on Prince Loki’s hip. Fa’rey nocks her arrow and it flies wide. Her father's much the same. The great Hall vibrates with laughter and mirth. You watch a handful of your lieutenants in the Cavalry attempt the shot and fail. They drunkenly lean on each other and Fa’rey, encouraging her to try again.

Their joy tells you enough.

But you could hold onto the last bits of your pride, add oil to your rage that burns when someone calls Fa’Rey by the title she stole from you.

You could abandon love completely, leave Se’risa here to satisfy your duty to her and march your army through your land right up to the palace gates and slaughter everyone who would oppose you. Since Princess is stolen from you, you’ll take a new title: tyrant.

But you turn your eyes and see the lands outside the palace. Your gaze turns to the villages, where black leather strips hang on every fifth door, signifying a house bereaved of their sons, daughters, mothers, or fathers lost in your mother’s last battle and the coup thereafter.

Had you your way. No door would be without them.

Your eyes burn but your vision never blurs. You turn back to the palace and notice the final detail.

The mausoleum.

She has a vault there, strung in black and as well kept as father’s is right next to her. She rests. She is at peace. Her brother has seen to it.

But you.

You are forgotten.

Your room is empty of your furniture. You don’t hear your name, not even in passing. You aren’t dead so there’s no one to mourn you, no vault with your name on it.

You are erased.

As though you never were.

You no longer fight the urge, you blink hoping to take the vision from you. You blink again. But the vision is behind your eyes, seen still even when they are closed. You squeeze them shut and dig your thumbs into your eyes to make it stop but the vision presses harder, etches itself like a tattoo on your irises.

You press against your eyes so hard it hurts.

You scream.

But no one hears you.