A deep breath of rage escaped as the vision ended. My heart and mind still filled with the incredulous rage that a society could forget, that any society might forget, that it was possible his society would forget. The Waypoint stood in a stark juxtaposition to itself merely moments before; the confused fatebound were the same, but it looked well used – not a picture of dusted abandonment. My words held like a vice in my mind, “I fought to end this ridiculousness before, and we should never have let it get to this point.” It’s been over three hundred years since the Equinox truce was signed, and just as I’d said in the vision – I’d fought to make it happen. I’m not a strong believer in fate; second born Nephilim are incredibly rare, and while no one has ever made it clear to me whether or not it’s supposed to be good or bad – my “fate” was given to me with my name. Fate is a bitch if you can’t see it, and it hinted in the form of a common question pushed just past the point of quiet acceptance. Tonight, that question was asked by Whisperwind, with a mixed tone of casual indifference and genuine curiosity, “Why do you file your horns, Cliffe?” Normally that question ends with my normal shrug, or a vague ‘it helps hide’. Tonight, the question pushed and, in retrospect, it was the foreshadow to the foreshadowing that is Imbolc.
As I shook the lingering emotion stirred up by that vision from my mind, the other fatebound milled around and the numerous relationships across the courts reassured each other that what they saw would never happen. They’ll always believe it – that their love is the love that can transcend the courts, that their love is the love that can transcend the very principles that make up our beings. The lovers always believe that, as if there weren’t thousands of tales of love in Tir Na Nog that span the courts, hundreds of thousands of tales of love that all want the war to end. And the end of the war is what this is all about – the Endless War of the deathless isle that we all tried to abandon, and that same war that we’d brought with us in the beginning. It was the war that I fought to stop, and as it turned out the only way to stop the war was to win a war.
The year was 1648, and it was the last day of what would become known as the 30 years war.
The wind was especially harsh that day. I’d found myself in charge of the forces guarding Old Town from the Swedes and, more importantly, Kingu Pyrochles – the Unseelie King. The forces under my control had barely been able to hold Prague Castle long enough for the Conclave to escape to Old Town, and now I have to hold Old Town until they can reach an agreement. The Conclave was the last real chance that Fatebound had to escape the Endless War. It was a conglomeration of a majority of the Unseelie and Seelie nobles; who had staked themselves as leaders. All monarchs in their own right, they’d come together to try and find terms that were agreeable to both courts, an arrangement that could satisfy the principles of all involved. And, across the river, was an army lead by fatebound who believed that no treaty was needed as the war could be won here. At the head of this group was Kingu Alam Pyrochles, the Unseelie King. The entirety of this war was orchestrated by the courts manipulating humans for power, and while many fatebound had lost their lives, human’s had been the main casualties. The dissenters of the conclave were not only Unseelie; but, the only ones willing to attack the conclave, were. The Seelie dissenters simply couldn’t afford to send any forces to the conclave to help fight the ‘rebel forces’. We were getting closer to winning, to getting a treaty into place, we’d already received word from Westphalia that the Human factions had signed their own treaties. The dissenters were on borrowed time – they needed to break through Old Town before word of the treaties officially reached them. However, I knew that the Unseelie wouldn’t agree to the treaty as long as the rebel faction held this much power. The power and influence of ‘Lord Pyrochles’ was too much to allow the other houses to reach an agreement. They’d never say it, but it was true.
The sound of cannon fire shook me from my reverie. The swedes were trying to take Charles Bridge again and it was my job to hold it. The bombardment would be followed by their troops, and without a change in tactics, they would send them across the river and across the bridge at the same time.
The battle raged for an hour before something changed. It wasn’t a change in numbers, but a change in the fervor with which the Swedes were fighting. It was an effect I’d become well accustomed to – the fervor of humans fighting for their kings of old. Kingu had finally decided to break Old Town himself. His form was unmistakable on the battlefield, he moved with the presence that only Glory posses, and a stature that only we Nephilim hold. He wore no armor, only carrying his massive weapon – the sword he called ‘Tale’s End’, a sword that could cut through a treasure’s story like wheat to chaff. As he took his first steps onto the bridge, I was struck by the astounding parallels to that fated day in Findias…It’d been the last time my forces had been the only thing between two warring ideals.
I didn’t know it then, but it was the day that my life would never be the same.
It was seventy years before the Siege of Prague, and I stood as a commander of the guards of Findias. Commander Alam Gal, a torch bearer whose sole purpose was the continued protection of the city. The attack came quickly and with little warning. An entire army had slipped past our outer formations, murdered our forward scouts with brutal efficiency, and made it within our torchlight before the alarm was raised. It was an impossible battle to hold the wall. Kaiju scaling the wall, dragons breathing hellfire from above, aether being used to decimate entire sections of our forces. There hadn’t been time to think that day, all of my commands were issued with the breath of instinct, and somehow, when reinforcements arrived from other areas of the city, an eternity later, it was only my unit left on the wall. That day a second born Nephilim had held the walls of one of the four cities against all odds, so that the stalemate could continue. It was in that day that I realized that I couldn’t fight in a war without end. It was in that day that I realized that the only outcome of any battle in the Endless War was agony. Every enemy that fell that day would live to fight again. Every friend I heard die, would rise eventually to celebrate our victory. While there was Glory in this war, it wasn’t mine. While there was honor in this war, it wasn’t mine. While there was beauty in this island, it was being destroyed. While there was love in this land, it was being torn apart. As the reinforcements swept the Unseelie forces from the wall that day, I’d resolved myself to find the Fae named Rumpelstiltskin. They who’d boasted that they were so close to finding a way to slip past the Oath that barred us from earth.
A year later I stood in the halls of House Redcrosse, regaled a hero. Days ago Redcrosse had personally awarded me an emblem of valor, a silver necklace depicting Yggdrasil, and had even offered me entry into his house. There was to be a great celebration. It isn’t common, even with an Endless War, for Fae to earn passage into the house of bravery. I stood in the halls of House Redcrosse, and across from me stood a shadow who called itself Rumpelstiltskin. With a voice of whispers, they spoke my salvation. “It is not an easy process, Alam, but you’ve paid me the price.” He explained what I must do as we first left the house, and then the city. It had been the act of holding my ground and saving the city a year before that had shown me the truth of the war, but now I was escaping. I resolved to keep the necklace, held clenched in my hand, as a reminder of what I was running from, and why.
The year is 1648 and it is the day the Equinox Truce is forged.
The battle was quickly turning into a rout. Where Kingu stepped, my forces parted like water. He strode with impunity across the bridge. As soon as a gap appeared in our forces, he at the center, I bellowed for our cannons to shoot him – believing that if they didn’t kill him, at least they would destroy the bridge and prevent his crossing the river. As the smoke cleared, bridge intact, he advanced forward unimpeded. The parallels to that fateful day in Findias were growing with each step he took and each person he cut with his sword.
If I don’t stop him, we will lose. It is a thought that sends me charging across the bridge, fellow fatebound at my side. My own troops have started to succumb to his presence and are turning against us; the flash of anger that burns through me isn’t limited to the inevitable betrayal of human soldiers against a nephilim, it is sown with seeds of jealousy that I lack the same ability. What I lack in Glory, however, I make up with the blood of the warriors that flows in my heritage – as I close the distance across the bridge I recognize I have almost two feet on him, and a portion of my brain acknowledges the reach advantage that will give me. I hurl my shield at him the second I’m in range. A treasure shield cannot stop a swing of his sword, and mine wasn’t a treasure. He cleaves the shield in two, before stepping through and engaging me. My armor snaps into being reflexively as I take the final step against him, terror enveloping the hearts of all in the battlefield. Our battle is swift, brutal, and bloody. My reach advantage nullified by the endless horde of humans who my unit can not keep at bay. I can’t block his sword, only dodge. I lose my helmet to a pommel strike. I cut down more of his retainers as I look for an opening – It comes in a flash of instinct as he swings high. I tuck my head and catch his sword with my horns as it goes for my heart; at the same time my spear is flying for his own. My left horn is cleaved off entirely, a fire erupts in my chest, but the horns have stopped the blade from piercing my heart. My aim held true, and my spear has pierced his chest entirely – the king is dead. My right horn hangs connected by only a filament. I tear it off as I retreat across Charles Bridge. With the fall of Kingu the Swedes have lost their fervor, and are frantically falling back to the castle.
Three days later I stood in the Hall of Prague castle, surrounded by a nobles of every house. A King and Queen of Prague have been named, and they describe the truce, and how domains will be founded in major cities across the world. A large parchment is brought forth, and it is called the Equinox Truce.
Leave the War in the past.
Do not enter the territory of another Fae without invitation.
Holy ground is sacrosanct. Cause no harm there.
Do not make a mess among mortals that you cannot clean up.
Make no bargains with Those Without.
When entering a new domain you must make yourself known.
None are above the price for breaking the law. An eye for an eye.
I am told that the head of each Fatebound house will each sign the treaty, along with a commoner of each court. Due to my heroic actions against the dissenters I am offered to be the Seelie commoner who signs. The Nobles of each court sign first, Unseelie, Seelie, Unseelie, Seelie, and I am the last fatebound to sign.
Days later as Fatebound return to the cities, towns, villages, or wilds that they came from, I walk away from Prague resolved to keep my horns filed – as a reminder that some causes are worth fighting for.
The Waypoint stood in a stark juxtaposition to itself merely moments before; the confused fatebound were the same, but it looked well used – not a picture of dusted abandonment. This was the one vision that I couldn’t allow to pass. As the confused fatebound reassured each other they wouldn’t allow this to happen, I finally made the decision to answer that question seriously. There is no use in knowing history if it is going to repeat itself.
Whisperwind turned as I approached her, my voice echoing as another vision started, “Do you want to hear a story?”