Chapter 1: Soul: The Veil of Warmth
The Main Stage was completely made of crystal and built over a river that stretched all the way to the Western end of the island. On a Summer’s day, dolphins, merpeople and other wonderful creatures would swim up close to the stage – some even swam directly underneath it. They could be seen splashing under the crystalline light as the Queen took to the stage. But not today. Today was not a Summer’s day. Instead, frozen blades of ice cascaded from the sky, one by one. They would fall with great power and speed, as they were larger than icicles in physical realms like Earth. In order to avoid any harm coming to the people of her nation, the Queen had cast a Veil of Warmth over her lands to reduce the icicles down to nothing but droplets of harmless water.
The Queen walked along, as the Main Stage drew closer and closer to her. Her people were clustered around it, standing and sitting all over the place, desperate to get a better view. She glided through them like a faery and they were all too awestruck to speak to her. She was, after all, the Queen. Queen Fubuki. Of course, even if they had tried to speak to her, or even approach her, they would have had to get past her Four Guardians. They had chosen for themselves the names of “Strength”, “Endurance”, “Agility” and “Defence”. Each of these four deadly warriors stayed close to her whenever the Queen requested them to do so. Not that she needed them. The Queen was one of the most powerful, gracious and magickal beings in Macha Land. She could cast an array of different spells and her people loved her for it.
She closed in on the Main Stage and began to walk up the crystal steps as the crowd fell silent. Her Songshows were frequent, but they nevertheless captured the people’s attention like nothing else. Great magic, wonderful music and merriment for all. The Queen truly knew how to put on a show. She would even try to ensure that the less fortunate of the nation were fed and watered with a conjuring spell. Whilst she could not provide for all, she did what she could. One evening she managed to conjure fourteen whole barrels of ale and the nearby villagers broke out into one of her songs in celebration.
The Queen ruled over what was known as Macha Land, and had done so for many, many years. She was a fair Queen who cared deeply for her people, and her knowledge of the arcane helped her to protect them. When her magickal energies were at their peak, she could summon fire and red lightning from nothing, or move tides and winds around her. She could also transform herself into the Phoenix. In this astral world, things were not bound by the laws of physics. Instead, life itself was flexible and malleable. That was why the realm was hers to rule as she saw fit.
She had sleek black hair, with two shorter cuts for her fringe that hugged her oval shaped face. Half of her hair was done up in a bun and the rest cascaded effortlessly down. The bun was held together by two silver needles, decorated with chains and bells that sang in the night.
Her people’s favourite outfit was her pure white robe. At her neck, it cut into what looked like the lapels of a suit jacket, but folded into itself like a Yukata. The sleeves were long and flowed down from her hands to her knees. The dress continued down in a simple white fountain of fabric. It was held together with a thick red ribbon, which matched the rubies that she wore. The ribbon was simple at the front of the dress, but behind was folded into a wonderful bow. Depending on her mood and the occasion, the Queen would carry either her golden staff, or her three swords. Today she chose her swords – two large ones and one small. The two larger swords were a metre and a half long, one black and one white, with metal so sharp it could fly through stone, like a breeze cutting through the trees. The smaller dagger was the size of her forearm, curved and also exceedingly sharp. It was sheathed in a crimson, metal case. It lay by her right hip – rarely to be used. The Queen, of course, had no intention of using either these swords or her Four Guardians, but they helped encourage cheers from her nation.
As the Queen ascended to the stage, and walked elegantly to the centre of the gloriously wide crystal floor, she looked out over her realm. Macha Land was made up of three islands. The largest of which was where the Queen resided. It stretched over the surface of the planet from North to South, and had formed as one large mass of land. The Queen could see, from atop the crystal stage, the Windy Planes to the West of the island, and the large river that ran through the capital. North of the capital was Queen Fubuki’s Palace, made entirely of crystal, like the Main Stage.
She could see almost as far as the Southern Beaches. In the season of Summer, the Southern region of the island was known as the Southern Desert, because the heat caused the sands to reach for miles and miles. However, it was Winter, so the Southern Desert had reduced down to become the Southern Beaches, and only spread for a few miles. When Summer returned, so did the vast wastelands of sand. Each year saw the repetition of this natural phenomenon. Fubuki felt the cold winds coming from the grand Ice Mountain that stood to the East of the stage. In Summer it melted down to be nothing more than the Lake. The merpeople of Macha Land swam North to the Lake when it was warmer in Summer, and could be seen splashing about their charms and pearls by local fishing villagers. When the cruel, harsh winds of Winter began to take over, the entire clan would swim South to the Southern Beaches, to enjoy whatever heat remained in the realm.
The other two islands were so small and lifeless that the Queen declared herself ruler over those as well. Naturally, she had no one to challenge her on this. The second largest island was South West and consisted merely of dust and sand. It was utterly uninhabitable. The last island was so small, that you would believe yourself capable of sailing around it in no more than a half-day. It was known as the Volcano Island and it was in the Western reaches of the planet.
When the crowd saw their Queen, they began to call out her name.
“Queen Fubuki!” one cheered. Then another. Suddenly, hundreds of her people were shouting her name.
“Queen Fubuki! Queen Fubuki! Our Queen!” The shouting continued.
She smiled, and threw her arms outwards as she began spinning on the stage. Her gown lifted from the ground and her sleeves flickered in the winds. The weighty swords flew off into the sky like shooting stars and exploded into a thousand sparks of light as they reached the Veil of Warmth. Her people gazed at the sky above her in awe. As Queen Fubuki began her Songshow, the waves beneath her started to stir, and small droplets of water floated upwards slowly towards the Queen. Her magickal energy was as strong as it could be. It was as if she had her own gravitational field. Blue spheres of water started to swirl around her as she slowly continued to spin on the spot. Her feet danced around each other and her hair blew effortlessly in the wind. The crowds went wild for her.
Her Guardians took their places. They spread out around the edge of the circular stage. Her gown had been transformed into a shorter, sexier outfit that allowed her to walk, run and dance. She would sing to her heart’s content, and dance along with the wonderful music.
As the music continued, the Queen glided along the stage, singing to her people. She twisted and twirled, and her hair flowed softly behind her. The droplets of melted icicles rained down on her. She performed songs about freedom and love. Her voice was powerful and deep. Yet, it was soft enough to melt the hearts of the people. With every electric word, her fans were hypnotised. Magick carried her music across the vast fields that surrounded the Main Stage. In these fields, were the benches, tents and small camps from where her people watched the Songshow. Some came days beforehand to ensure a good place before the Main Stage.
Some of the richer villagers sailed there directly from the dock in the West, and anchored as close as they were able. The merpeople listened from the South. Forest faeries left the South Eastern woods in order to be there. While she sang, the rest of Macha land fell silent. The calm took over as every living creature listened to her peaceful voice.
She danced, and red sparks of lightning flashed underneath her feet. The white robe flowed behind her as she jumped in the air. She was at her happiest when she was dancing and singing. Her power was at its strongest. She felt untouchable. Invincible. Glorious.
Unfortunately, she was wrong. As she danced and sang, she saw people crowding around something at one of the furthest tents to the East. She could barely see what was happening, but she could instantly feel that something wasn’t right. The music and the singing stopped as she lost her focus. She stared fearfully at the crowd in the distance. What was happening? Was someone… hurt?
“Queen Fubuki! Come!” She heard one of the villagers shout out. It didn’t look like anyone was fighting. Whatever could it be? At once she hurried to the edge of the Main Stage. The crowd was still too far for her to jump down to. She had to fly there. The surrounding creatures of the realm watched on helplessly. An odd scream of fear could be heard in the background. Her heart sank. Where were her Four Guardians? Where was her Prince?
She didn’t have time to look for them. In a heartbeat, she leapt from the Main Stage. The crowd gasped as she jumped into the air. Her hair fell out of its bun, and her white robe flapped behind her as she flew in the direction of the commotion. Just as it looked like she would plummet to the floor, the air around her filled with energy and she gently drifted down back onto her feet. She started to walk quickly to the scene. As she got closer, her nose was hit with a smell so terrible that she couldn’t help but gag.
“My Queen! He is here. Please, help him!” An elderly woman sobbed at her. Her cries and tears muffled her words.
“What happened here?” Queen Fubuki asked. Her voice was calm.
“I don’t know, my Queen. We were watching the Songshow, and then suddenly he was… he was… screaming. Violently. He couldn’t take in air. And then the smell…” The woman became virtually incomprehensible. Queen Fubuki waved someone over to calm her down.
“Be still, my lady, I am here now.” Queen Fubuki’s nerves were starting to get the better of her.
She approached the dying man. He was shrouded by a mist of black. It was death. Death in a form she had not seen before. It was unnatural, forced and manipulated.
“Winds of healing, cast your light, cure this man on this cold night.” Queen Fubuki’s words were simple, but filled with a strong magickal energy. She was still empowered from the Songshow. She would not let an innocent villager die in front of her. And yet, her words resulted in nothing. The man continued to writhe and vomit.
“Be cured!” She tried again. White light glowed from her hands, and those around her looked away as it was too bright. “He will be cured!” She was almost screaming. As she did, a black puff of smoke in the shape of a man’s face floated up from the man’s body. It absorbed her light, and then burst into a violent spray of warm water. The water hit Queen Fubuki’s skin, and she screamed in disgust. The man was dead. She could see his lifeless body on the floor.
The woman wailed behind her. It took three men to hold her back. Queen Fubuki was frozen still in fear. Never before had she failed to save one of her people. The realm of Macha Land had been at peace for as long as she could remember. All for nothing.
“Who did this?” Queen Fubuki bellowed into the air. “Who!?” She screamed with all her might. The voice echoed so loudly that the Ice Mountain in the distance bounced her words back at her. The echo filled the skies and carried on to the Southern Beaches. Queen Fubuki turned back to face her people. They all watched her silently. The vast area of tents and benches was still and quiet. She looked at the mourning woman.
“The Coven of Rosemary will take care of you and your kin. I will have them bring you anything you need that may ease your pain.” She looked towards the corpse. “I will give this poor soul the end he deserves. A clean burial. Then, with all the powers I possess, I will avenge him. I will find whatever killed him and end its life in payment for his. I could not heal him and I cannot bring him back. Vengeance is all I can give to you.”
With that, Queen Fubuki caught the eyes of her Prince in the distance. He was trying desperately to get to her, but he was too late. She walked over slowly to the already rotting corpse, and lifted it into her arms. The heat built within her. She was about to use her most powerful spell. She was about to become the Phoenix.
Orange and red flames spread from her feet and legs and within seconds she was aflame. Bright fiery strips of yellow and deep reds burned around her. They reached out to form her wings. She lowered her head and let the transformation take place. She let go of her human form, and turned into a magnificent bird. Her feet became claws, and her mouth a beak. She burned brightly. The fire was warming and radiant. In her claws, she kept the corpse held tight, and in a flap of flaming wings she launched herself into the air. Puffs of smoke followed behind her as she reached high up into the sky. The Main Stage was below her, as were her people. Prince Hikaru watched on, still in turmoil that he hadn’t been able to reach her.
In a burst of crimson, the body exploded in the sky. She had cleansed it with fire, and destroyed whatever unnatural toxin had taken it. It burned away, and ash fell gently to the floor. As the beautiful red Phoenix floated in the air, she could see a strange figure in the distance, far in the East, by the Ice Mountain. She could see a shady black figure standing upon one of the flat cliffs on the side of the mountain. Was it a beast? Was it a shadow? Was it nothing at all? She did not know. What she did know, was that it filled her heart with an overwhelming feeling that this was not over. It had only just begun.