Prologue - Year 1143
Thea was dressed all in black as she watched Caerthallan soldiers seal shut her mother’s tomb. It was a small tomb made from white marble with ivy growing around it. White lilies grew on top blowing in the slight breeze. Thea’s tomb stood to her right, already prepared for that day when the Black God would take her. Every nobleman and noblewoman attended her mother’s funeral. Queen Elaina had been a good person. She had been kind to her people and a just ruler. The common people stood outside the castle gates, waiting their chance to say their goodbyes. Elaina would only be a memory now, while Thea still lived on.
Thea leaned against her brother's shoulder. She refused to let the tears fall as the tomb closed her mother away. The Black God had her now. Everyone was looking at them. There was pity written on every single face. Thea wanted nothing more than to smack them. She wanted to inflict pain on them, if only so they would stop staring at her. Turning away she was the first to leave. She couldn’t stand to be there any longer. Thea wanted nothing more to do with the Caerthallan court.
So she left.
She walked away from the despair and pain. She blocked out everything that was threatening to eat her alive. Right behind her, was her brother. Always the guardian. Always protecting her from the worst. It was times like then, that she forgot she was the older one out of the two.
She had been born a year before her brother making her twenty one and him twenty. Thea looked exactly like their mother. She had her same platinum blonde hair and blue eyes. Except while their mother's eyes had been a dark blue, her's were more gray blue. Thea looked nothing like their father. She supposed that was because she was female. Genetics weren't her thing. She didn't really care. Her brother Sebastian, was a combination between their father, Orthain, and their mother, Elaina. He had Orthain's jet black hair and Elaina's dark blue eyes. When she had been younger, Thea had been jealous of his eyes.
They were a deep dark blue, almost black with flecks of a lighter blue mixed in. While hers were pale, as if they belonged to the dead. It was a trivial thing when she thought about it. There was nothing trivial about what was happening that day. On the first day of spring they burried Elaina Al'Tanin. She had been the greatest Queen of Caerthallan and Embassador between them and Heran-Nim. They would be riots in the streets if they couldn't provide an answer for her death. No one knew how it had happened. Elaina had been in her late thirties, by no means old. She had been in prime health and then one day she was gone.
Thea swept past the people walking around her. Most of them moved out of her way. Some tried to say something comforting to her. There were no words however that could help her. There was nothing to be said about what happened to her mother. Ignoring the soldiers, servants, stable hands, nobles, cooks, and anyone else that tried to send their condolences her way; Thea made it to the back of the palace grounds. Long ago, before Thea had been born, Orthain had instructed a forest to be built behind the palace. It had been a gift to Elaina when Orthain had been trying to woo her. He had whole trees shipped from across the world and brought to him.
Orthain had hired specialists when it came to plants and entire crews to replant these massive trees. Twenty odd years later the forest had flourished and it had become an escape for Thea and her mother. Together the two of them would often play in the forest. They would explore the depths of the trees, always finding something new. It was almost as if the trees were ever changing. That day, Thea needed the trees. She craved the darkness the leaves provided and the quiet the woods kept to themselves. It was her own personal heaven and somewhere she could once again be close to her mother. Sebastian still traced behind her, never leaving her side. He never would.
Finally getting to her destination, Thea stood still. There was a small pond marking the center of the forest with a giant willow tree next to it. The draping leaves formed a circle around the pond creating a wall of privacy. Thea ducked through the leaves and let the silence sink into her skin. She was tired of feeling emotions. She wanted nothing more than to shut off her feelings. Thea didn't want to hurt any longer. Sinking to the ground she wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees. The bottom of her black dress was ruined. Not that she particularly cared, but her hand maiden, Tara would throw a fit later when she saw it.
"We will find out who did this." Sebastian told her sitting on the ground next to her.
"What makes you so sure that someone did this?" Thea asked quietly. It was a question that she had been keeping to herself. Everyone assumed that Queen Elaina had been murdered. Thea wasn't so sure. There had been signs. Things that only Elaina had dared showed her daughter and no one else. Things that even Thea didn’t know about.
Sebastian looked at her sharply sensing the hidden question. It didn’t take much communication for the two of them to speak of private matters. It was as if they had a connection that enabled them to understand each other without words. "Do you know something that I do not?" he asked hesitantly. "Why did you and mother spend so much time alone in these woods?"
Thea just shrugged her dainty shoulders. "It was just a quiet place we could escape to. Sometimes she would speak of voices and that this was the only place she could go to in order to feel sane." Sebastian could only stare at his sister. There were no words that he could say at that moment and they both knew that.
Thea went back to watching the leaves of the willow tree sway in the small breeze. She often spent her time inside the wooden realm letting her thoughts wander. After Elaina had shown her the forest, it had become her peace as well. Whenever she wanted to escape of the ocean floating on land she would wander into her forest – for that was what she thought of it – and imagined herself in another world. Now it was a world where her mother was still alive. It was a time where everyone lived in peace and was happy. No one had to fear raids. No one had to sleep with a dagger under their pillows. One day she would bring about that world. She would make her dream come alive for the people of Caerthallan.
She wandered what it would be like to be a tree. Centuries old and without a worry in the world. It was said that the willow tree surrounding her was the oldest living thing in Caerthallan and many citizens believed that the Gods themselves had planted it there. Thea had never believe that. Her father had planted that tree.Thea also didn’t believe in Gods. She couldn’t believe that there was some higher power out there that pre-chose their destinies. She believed in choosing her own path. However, there was no denying the power that she felt in that forest. It was something that could not be explained. Perhaps it was the great magic that those of the past used to be able to wield. While those of Elementia had died out many years ago, or fled to Heran-Nim, they still existed. They were few in numbers, but perhaps the power she felt was some inkling from what they had left behind. Whatever it was, she knelt down in front of the tree and placed her hand in the middle.
Slight vibrations seemed to travel from the earth and into her body. Closing her eyes she imagined a time when her mother was still with her; when she had been strong and healthy. She opened her ice blue eyes to see the wolves sitting in their usual circle around the clearing. They weren’t really there. They were simply images that her imagination conjured up sometimes. It was one of those things that could not be explained. Her mother had told her that only the
women of the Al’Tanin line could see the wolves of their ancestors. She recognized the wolf that was her grandmother, the great An’Marie. She had a dark coat with gray mixed in. To the left of An’Marie was a small white wolf that was supposed to be her cousin Sabina. Thea had never met Sabina, but her mother had told her that she had passed on to the realm of the Black God when she was seven. Thea turned in a small circle looking each wolf in the eye.
Her mother had told her that the Al’Tanin line was an ancient line going as far back as the Unity. It had been a peaceful time. Caerthallan hadn’t existed as country all those years ago. It had been one large kingdom, prosperous because of the powers that the people could use. Her mother had called it Elementia and the Al’Tanin’s had been the strongest. That had been hundreds of years ago. Now Elementia was extinct, save for the exception of a few with minor abilities. Elaina had never gone into much detail about it with her and she had never really thought to ask. Orthain had always disliked talking about the great magic. Sebastian didn’t have the ability to see the wolves, so Thea had left it alone. Now more than anything she wished that she had asked more questions. She wished she had learned everything about her heritage.
It was too late now. She would never be able to learn about where her mother truly came from and her father refused to talk about it. Closing her eyes she swallowed back the tears and leaned back against her brother, knowing that Sebastian would be there to catch her. “Do you suppose that Elementia still exits?” she asked gazing at the canopy of trees.
She could feel Sebastian shrug under her, “I don’t know. I doubt it.” he replied. “It isn’t like we need that to worry about as well as the raids.”
Thea turned her head up to look at her brother. Her forehead creased with concentration as she tried to form the best way to phrase her next question. “What if mother had been one of the twelve?” Sebastian froze beneath her. It was as if the very life had left him. “Bash?”
“Why would you think that?” he finally responded after minutes of silence.
“I don’t know.” Thea told him truthfully. “I guess it was just a thought.” The brother and sister fell back into silence. The forest seemed to come back alive as birds whistled and squirrels disturbed leaves. She could never tell him. Thea had promised her mother. He could never know that she saw the wolves. They watched her even then. Almost as if they were waiting for something. It had been unnerving at first, but now she wouldn’t know what to do without them. “Just promise me that you will never leave me.” she told him gripping his hand.“I promise.” he kissed the top of her head. The pain became unbearable as she finally let everything go. Thea wrapped her arms around herself. She felt nothing. Emotions were no more as she curled into herself and scrunched into a ball on the ground.