Fyora stiffened. "My name is not Uriele any longer," she murmured. She had stopped crying by now, and they were seated across from each other on the floor. Fyora had brewed tea for them both, but so far neither of them had touched their cups.
"I did not call you Uriele," replied Nereza, a little more sharply than she had intended.
"Well, my name isn't 'Ellie,' then, either," Fyora retorted. "I am different now. I am better this way. This is who I truly am."
Nereza's eyes took in the sight once more, of her sister's purple-pink hair and eyes, and how eerily well they matched the orb of the staff lying across Fyora's lap. She hadn't let go of it, even while they had embraced and while she had made tea.
"I suppose it suits you," said Nereza stiffly.
There was a strained silence, and then finally it became too much. "What gave you the right to do this?" demanded the dark faerie. Her voice was raised in passion.
Fyora bristled defensively, though she was more than a little afraid. "The right to do what?"
"Everything! Accepting yourself as fyora without me, leaving me to an unknown fate, usurping the Light Queen, causing a senseless war, and, above all, changing your name to Fyora."
"There is nothing wrong with my name change," declared Fyora. "It suits me."
"The hubris!" cried Nereza vehemently. "You betrayed me. This is an insult too far. You and I were supposed to be fyora together, and now that is your name? How much clearer could your message be, Uriele?"
Fyora's eyes narrowed. "My message? What message?"
"Your hatred for me."
Fyora was visibly startled, and in so loosened the grip on her staff. Nereza swiped it from her in the blink of an eye, and was on her feet. She had somehow grown larger, and her shadow seemed to fill the entire room, which Fyora noted was suddenly colder.
"This should have been ours!" boomed the voice, sharp as knives and cold as ice. "Our duty, and our life. Together, as one. You betrayed me, and you hate me. You are no sister of mine."
As much as Fyora willed herself to anger, she could not be, so overwhelmed was she by fear. "Wha… what are you, N-Nezzie?"
Nereza's red eyes blazed in the darkness. "I am your sister," said the shadow. "I am your twin. We are family. There is no stronger bond. Yet you have chosen to sever that bond, and it is the highest betrayal."
"I admit that I betrayed you!" cried the Light Queen, tears streaming down her face. "I admit that I am arrogant, and that I believe myself to be better than you. I admit this! But I beg your forgiveness. I need your help, and so I beg of you, forgive me!"
"You desire my forgiveness at this time only because it will benefit you. That is not true repentance. You seek my help? You wish for my mercy? You have done me a great injustice. Why should I help you, Betrayer?"
Fyora looked upon her sister imploringly. "I want to end the war, but I don't know how. Don't forgive me, then, if you shan't. But help me to help my people—our people."
Hesitation flashed in Nereza's eyes, which Fyora did not miss. She went on:
"You want justice for my betrayal, and I understand that. I do not hate you, Nereza; I've never hated you. Don't you remember how I screamed your name when Morwen took me away from you? I may have stolen the staff, stolen the position, and shunned you all these years… but I see clearly now. My mistakes have been laid before me, and I see myself for the fool I am. Our people are suffering… the world is suffering… and you and I, together, have the power to fix this… to fix the mess that I made."
She could swear Nereza was becoming smaller. Already it felt much warmer.
"I don't know if it will truly be justice for you… but if you and I were to unite the Six Kingdoms… and rule together, both of us, as Queens… why, we could rid the world of wraiths and bring about an age of prosperity. We could make the world a safer place, where families need no longer be torn apart, nor terrorized by the shadows that hunt us."
Her own words surprised her, but Fyora knew, deep inside, that this was what needed to be done. She did not know if she truly felt sorry for betraying her sister; sometimes she did, and sometimes she didn't. But she did know that she was tired of feeling afraid and like she was going insane. She did not enjoy feeling like she was doing harm. Honestly, she didn't know how much she knew of herself.
But seeing Nereza come down to size, the shadows fading and the temperatures rising, for the first time in her life, Fyora believed in wraiths. And the faeries needed to band together to defeat them once and for all. The wraiths had been little trouble in the years past, but reports had come in of their presence as the war raged on. The faeries' magic was strongest in numbers, it seemed, yet discord and hate seemed to empower them despite it. Before now, she had disregarded all reports as lies. But now… she could deny it no longer.
As Nereza became herself again and asked, eyes wide with hope, in a voice that could almost be described as meek, "Do… you mean that?" Fyora realized with a knot in her stomach what she had gotten herself into. Still, she set her jaw and nodded once, sealing her fate. She would unite the Six Kingdoms and rule with Nereza, for all of time.
And if you betray her a second time… what will become of you? she asked herself, a single bead of sweat sliding down her cheek. What will become of her?
It was odd, Sithira thought, how readily Nereza accepted Fyora's proposal. She did not know if Fyora had let her sister enter the Light Kingdom and subsequently her tower, or if that had been something of Nereza's own doing. She suspected it was probably a bit of both. The ease with which this all settled together, however, left Sithira feeling both apprehensive and uneasy.
Still, when Fyora made her declaration, and Nereza had returned to the Dark Kingdom with the news of the war's end, Sithira couldn't help but feel relieved. It was over, and she could be with her own sister again. She had tired of queendom, and had suggested to Nereza, only half in jest, that they switch places so that Sithira was now her advisor. Nereza had taken the suggestion very seriously, and apologized profusely for her usurpation and blatant betrayal of Sithira's trust. The former Dark Queen told her there was no wrong done, as she had meant for Nereza to take the dark throne upon return anyway. Even so, Sithira could tell that Nereza was not wholly bothered by her supposed 'usurpation and betrayal.' She did not know how to feel about that.
"It will not be easy," she warned Nereza. "Uniting the kingdoms, I mean. There will be as much opposition as there will be support."
"I am aware," Nereza replied. "Had we done this before the war, it would have been far less trouble; now, there is bad blood between the types, and even within. There will be much to do… but it must be done, and so it shall."
Morwen looked on ruefully in her bowl of rose petals. This was not how it was supposed to be, she knew. This was not how it would turn out in the end. The types could band together, certainly… but not with dark faeries. It could never be done with dark faeries. Certainly no one would accept a dark faerie as their queen, were they not dark faeries as well. She opened her large, faded tome forcefully, and the thud it made resounded throughout her dwelling.
She was disgusted with her creations, and with herself for failing with them so. How could she have let things get so out of hand? She had no idea that when she stole the ancient faerie's soul and fused it in a crucible with a wraith that she would make two people so separate from each other. She had never intended for there to be two people at all. The result was supposed to be one faerie, the most powerful faerie of all, created by the brightest light and the darkest shadow. But it had not gone as planned, and she could not leave her work to waste, so she dumped the pair where she knew that soft-hearted fool Demelza would find them. The twin sisters never even knew the air faerie was not their mother; that they had no mother.
All was not for naught, however. A bit of the ancient survived in Nereza, who could give names, and a bit of the wraith in Uriele, who could take them away. They would become the most powerful faeries in the world.
Uriele, she knew, would succeed in her plans and become the Queen of Faeries… but what would become of Nereza? Morwen had seen the future, but had hardly needed to; she knew the sisters would find that there was not room enough for them both at the top. One of them would fall, and it would not be Fyora. Not while Morwen had anything to say about it. She would die before letting a dark wraith-faerie ruin everything.
As the old, wicked light faerie scribbled away in her tome, the rain and darkness began to against her shelter, as if with a vengeance.
And far away, in a wood long abandoned by the faeries, stood the Scorchio Uriele had turned to stone once upon a time. It was weather-worn, chipped in places, and covered in foliage, but its look of horror and movement to run away remained. And there it would stand, for centuries to come, serving as a reminder of the day that Uriele and Nereza had become forever separate.
With the light on the horizon, and a new dawn quickly approaching, the two sisters began their plans to set the world in motion. There would be a new age, and they would reign together, in a world free of the wraiths and their evil. Yet all was not at peace on this misty morn, this day of history's beginning.
A fell wind was blowing.