She is the Sun and He is the Moon
A castle is carved into the face of Mount Maria. It is rather old, though not nearly as old as the stone itself, nor the race of birds who live at its peak. The phoenixes are said to be the first beings to pull themselves from the volcanic oceans rampant when the world was still young. They do not bear eggs, instead dying in spark and flame to be reborn in the ash of their death. It is said every Lord of Phoenixwing becomes a bird of fire after his mortal life.
The Phoenixwing castle is made entirely of igneous rock. The rooms stamp deep into the heart of the mountain. One room in particular, the room placed closest to the peak of the mountain, with smooth walls and floors, housed the Lord of Phoenixwing, dying in his bedchamber.
His children, dead and alive, stood around his bed waiting. His dead sons made no sound. Even noiseless, the living could feel the weight of their presence. No one more than Lord Shadis himself.
The Lord knew his children were better than himself. They had watched their brothers fall in battle, killed before them, and could not do the same to the living. Unlike what happened to the uncles and their father before them, they could not kill the ones they loved.
Having three heirs complicated things.
"Erwin, Mike, Levi…" The Lord of Phoenixwing said, voice misgiving of his sickness. "My sons, my son-in-law… Come closer." The companion phoenix of the Lord winked as the sons stepped closer. Whether it was the Lord's father or grandfather or a phoenix from the first age was unknown. He too was old, nearly blind and ready to die. He looked passed the living and strained to see the dead behind them. Erd and Gunther were stiff, regal, both with angry slashes across their neck from being beheaded. Auruo gazed downwards, mouth and chest bloody from coughing up liquids before being crushed by a warhorse. Nile held where his heart was gorged out, a hole in his chest, blood seeped down his body. They waited patiently.
"Father," Erwin said in his deep voice that echoed upon the walls. "We are here. What do you want with us?"
The Lord of Phoenixwing sighed a chilled, shuttering breath. His eyes bore frightening, dark circles around them. His phoenix ruffled his feathers.
"I am dying. Soon my time will be done and you must take my bodily remains to the burial hall of our ancestors less you all be cursed and the kingdom fall."
A shiver greeted the living sons.
"Now, the matter of succession… One of you shall be the Lord of Phoenixwing."
Mike and Erwin looked towards Levi in surprise. Even the dead brothers began to whisper amongst themselves although none could hear them. The man appeared unaffected, poise the same, eyes remaining vigilant.
Mike leaned towards his father and spoke lowly. "Father, are you sure that is what you want?"
"Yes." Lord Shadis said. "I do. Levi has proven to be worthy, long before he married your sister. He is a solider, loyal to Phoenixwing, slayer of the necromancer army, and deserving to be accepted as my son. He shall have a fair chance."
Levi nodded his head in gratitude.
The phoenix brushed his beak against the Lord, as if saying something without words. The Lord of Phoenixwing grunted in agreement.
"Erwin, go to the window."
Obediently, the son went to the gape in the rock. He peered out momentarily.
"What do you see?"
"Nothing except the sky above us and clouds below us, Father."
The old man nodded and motioned Erwin away. "Mike, go to the window. What do you see?"
The man sniffed at the air outside the window. "The grey clouds, the navy sky… It seems the cooks are baking bread. Rye."
The phoenix appeared to smile.
"Levi, go to the window."
The man joined the others, scanning the sky and clouds, seeing for himself.
"And you? What do you see?"
The cold wind snapped at his face, whipping his dark hair around. A light in the heavens flashed at him.
"I see a star. I see many stars."
"Hum…" the Lord hummed richly. "Take me to the window."
The three sons hoisted him to the opening. He stood nearly on his own, leaning slightly on one of his sons. The dead gathered around. The phoenix perched on the windowsill.
Suddenly, the old man ripped the royal topaz from his neck. The phoenix gazed at the symbol of power. He knew that whoever possessed the blood of Phoenixwing and the stone would rule with the blessing of the birds of fire and rule long and well, such as the gift from the phoenixes to the mountain kings. The dead wondered who would get the stone to live as a phoenix after death. The phoenix already knew.
The Lord advanced to the window then, moving away from his sons to stand alone. His arms crossed the small of his back as he stood proudly. He was the lord who protected his people from necromancers, a general who led his troops expertly, a father with four dead children, a man not near his death.
The living sons waited anxiously.
The man said four ancient and singing words to the topaz.
And he threw it.
A collective gasp consumed the room. The stone flew through the air, rising and rising to impossible heights, never faltering, until it was out of sight.
"To him who retrieves the stone shall be the Lord of Phoenixwing and all its lands. I give the finder my blessing."
The brothers dead and alive stared in curiosity out the window.
"And are we to have the phoenixes take us to the heavens?" Erwin questioned hotly.
The Lord said nothing.
Behind him, a single star fell. It trailed sparks and fire as it tumbled to earth.
Mike sniffed uncomfortably.
"There," the Lord of Phoenixwing said. His phoenix sat upon his shoulder as he walked back to his bed. With a squawk, the Lord and phoenix fell together, one in a burst of flames and another without breath.
Even the living were silent.
A distant melody began, one of shrill notes and deep humming that traveled from the mountain peak.
It was a sad song, a phoenix song, a song of death and rebirth.
The pile of ashes atop the bedcovers shifted quietly.
Two phoenix chicks gazed at the living and dead.
A cottage resided in Faerie. Where it was one could not tell you, as it changed daily, such as the nature of Faerie. One day it might be next to a grove of fir trees, another day near a group of mulberries, and sometimes in another place entirely. Such as the way of Faerie, a very large place made of a many number of domains that overlap.
The cottage had pealing paint and a thatched wood roof. That day it rested in thick woods with brambles as the underbrush. The cottage had one room with rafters that hung dried produce and meats. A fire burned, making the three beds smell like smoke and the windows foggy. Everything was rather dusty and uncared for.
A bright mirror consumed one wall. People of every age and origin and shape you could think of were reflected in the mirror, some sitting, and some walking. None looked happy with the black void the mirror provided them.
Three people shared the house. All were rather youthful in appearance. The first was a vertically gifted man with olive skin and drooping hazel eyes, and he was a nervous sort of person. His called himself Bertholdt. The second was a man with thick muscle and a brotherly nature. He called himself Reiner. The third was an apathetic woman with glacial blue eyes and light blond hair. Her nose was prominent on her face. She called herself Annie. All were necromancers. And it showed.
Death magic is an evil art. The souls of the dead are captured, taken, and their life force used to craft spells. The users are nearly immortal, the only weakness is to behead the necromancer. Age does not touch them even as their skin sheds to reveal their muscles. They begin to look like corpses.
The trio once ruled a kingdom together, long ago, in a place now covered by ocean. They took as they pleased when they pleased and were in ill favor of their subjects. A shadow lady, an empress of death, took them from power, forced them into hiding. She was a fearsome necromancer, cooperating with the dead instead of stealing from them. She laughed with skeletons like they were old friends. They were terrified of her even after so many years, after most of their brethren were disposed of by the warriors of Phoenixwing. They who were once known as the Diviners- spirits of the night, royalty of death- remained hidden.
"Bertholdt, Reiner," the lady necromancer said, buckskin bag in her hand, "come hither and lets cast lots."
The tallest of the trio descended from stretching upwards, garlic knotted to a string in his grasp. The skin along his hairline was cracked and flaking, showing a rich red underneath. He dropped the globes and hurried over.
"To decided who is to find it?" He whispered weakly.
The other man joined them. The lower area of his jaw was without skin. His bright yellow eyes narrowed on the bag.
The woman produced two dice of red clay. "Bertholdt, you go first."
The man jittery with sweat took the dice and tossed them on the ground. "Seven."
He threw the dice as well. "Five."
The woman fumbled the cubes around in her fist, releasing them to roll. "Nine."
One man sighed and one man scowled as she smiled.
"How will you travel?" Reiner asked.
"With the old chariot and whatever I find to pull it."
"You will need to heal."
She scratched at her pealing neck. "Yes, that would be nice."
Bertholdt returned with an iron box. Three ribbons enclosed the chest, and each person undid there own.
A golden light flushed Bertholdt's tan face.
The woman inspected the bottom of the box. "There is not much left."
"Then it is good we found another." Reiner huffed with crossed arms.
Annie was not fazed by him. She scooped an object from the box, the thing trying in desperation to fight the movement. She gripped it well and pressed it to her chest.
A deep sigh relaxed the house as the heart welcomed the glowing object with vigor.
A wind brushed the cottage as a shift shuddered the world.
Annie rubbed the fresh, new skin at her throat. "Not bad."
The men gazed enviously as she burrowed through a chest, discovering a crystal blue dress and green cloak. She wrapped them around herself.
"There shall be healing for us all when I return with his heart," Annie said, addressing the hungry stares. She slipped a silver ring in the image of a snake with its tail between its jaws on her finger.
"Indeed," the she-witch said. "The first in two centuries. And I shall get it for us." She raised the hood over her head.
"A fallen star."
Whether an animal from Faerie you see is truly that being or a person who had an unfortunate run-in with magic one cannot say. People disappeared for such reason all the time. Most cannot speak human tongue.
The glade with some such animals was dark. An owl who at one point might have been a noblewoman swooped downwards, hunting, eyes bright and searching. Frogs croaked in the brook, mice ran about, a fox crept through the underbrush. The owl landed and hooted to the night.
Leaves whispered, water riled, and an illumination filed the glade, growing in intensity, grand and bright as the sun. The animals watched the exploding light in horrified awe, some scampering off to another part of the forest in fear.
The light that had become an earthen sun flared larger than ever before, trees and animals alike shaking with its incredible power. Squeals and shrieks echoed in the glade.
And, as soon as it had come, the light died.
A clear, painful snap sang into the air and darkness fell again.
A soft glow continued from the underbrush.
"Fuck," a voice said, no louder than the crickets who had gone silent. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
The owner of the voice threw an arm over his eyes, covering the tears building.
He said nothing more.
And silence ghosted the glade.