Once Upon a Nightmare
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Surviving to fight
In the end, it had ended the way she thought.
For Morgana's tastes, Malificent had simply tried to take on too many foes at once. The gods themselves were bad enough, but she had angered the fae, the humans... One could not always stand against the whole world. It had been a decent strategem. In the end, thanks to the total destructiveness of the Blight, it had almost worked, assuming she had been able to rein the Blight in and rebuild afterward.
Even so, it had been missing something. Missing a reason for anyone to join her. Vengeance and destruction were all well and good, certainly, but one could only cow so many in the world with fear. There were always some who stood up against such things. That was why if you truly wanted to rule the world, there needed to be carrot, as well as stick. The popular saying about flies and vinegar was wrong of course, but humans? Humans certainly prefered honey.
The sorceress stood atop a pile of rubble, collapsed remains of part of the royal castle of Xehacora, and looked out over the landscape. It had been a beautiful sight before the war. Malificent's magic had kept it so safe from the Blight that it was one of the only beautiful places left in the world. The scars the battling gods had left took away somewhat from the lush natural beauty, but Morgana preferred it. There were forests all over... rare was it that someone's mistakes were catastrophic enough to leave marks that would last on the world for centuries.
"Farewell, Maleficent." Morgana murmured to the wind, dipping into a curtsey in the direction of the final battle's site. "It was a riveting chapter, truly." She lifted a hand, tucking a stray lock of hair behind her ear, and turned away from the landscape toward the collapsed stone that surrounded the once great library. Morgana was almost dressed for court - her dresses were fine, impeccably made, but always tastefully understated. Absent the frills and lace most noble women favored, she preferred a sort of austere elegance, accented only by the touches of gold and gems Melusina sometimes insisted on. The sorceress saw nothing wrong with indulging the dragoness, after all.
Most were still too afraid to approach the palace since the war, and not wrongly so. There was lingering magic from myriad defensive wards and curses, but Morgana had mapped their structure months ago, even before the Queen's fall. She lifted a hand and placed it against one of the massive bricks, scratching her nails lightly across the stone before it began to dissolve, allowing her to walk through the cloud of dust that was soon all that remained. The eroding rock swirled around her but never quite touched the half fae, leaving her a clear path to the intact portion of the library, where she walked along the shelves, tracing her fingertips lightly across the spines of the books.
She had always loved to read. She never tired of new information. It was so often the better-informed, after all, who survived the game. And there was some knowldege she was loathe to abandon to those who raided this place in the coming months.
It had been beautiful. It still was, in it's own way--but the fae, who loved the sight of ruins and forsaken structures--felt only anger, seeing the destruction that had taken his queen's castle. He had a hard time seeing this place without bitterness taking over. He had banked a lot on the queen, and had lost--though he had to admit, she'd accomplished a lot--enough that his anger was only directed still, towards those he hated--the Gods. The humans. Maleficent was safe in his good graces--and probably always would be, his loyalty born out of vengeance far stronger than typical, flighty, mercantilic attitude towards every other venture he embarked on.
Today, though--something more than simple resentment had encouraged the piper to visit the ruins. There was something to be said for looting, after all, or if not that--for simply...observing. He was only now finding it...easier, to tread among the rubble and look on what had been fought out here. Of course, he'd expected solitude. The fae didn't often see another go so close to the palace--the place of magic that now had the citizens so utterly terrified, and hateful. As they should be--whimpering, helpless creatures that needed their Gods to protect them--but funnily enough, they even seemed to be rejecting their protectors, alongside fae such as himself. Easier targets. So long as that...cult didn't continue to grow in strength, they'd remain easier targets.
But as it was--Aeshma was not alone, and his eyes narrowed sharply, glad for the glamour that concealed his yellow eyes, his pipe--and anything else that might be used to identify him to the pesky human ilk as a fae, or even to those who knew him more specifically. The man had been following her through to the library--seeing the erosion she'd caused, untouched--gave him some pause, and then a smirk flew across his features. She was no human. Aeshma cleared his throat, standing now just inside the 'doorway' of crumbled rock to alert her, as his steps seemed to make no sound on the floor. "Have you been here, before?" He inquired, a light, pleasant tone to his voice, though no smile reached his eyes. "An impressive collection--but not...quite what it once was."
Surviving to fight
Morgana caught a flicker of something before the man made himself known - just a little. He was using a glamour, and it was the magic that tickled at her senses. She had always been deeply sensitive to such things, but after what she'd been 'gifted' by her father during his death, she was still adjusting to the deepening of those same senses. It would undoubtedly prove useful in the future - for the moment at least though, she intended to take it slow. She had survived as long as she had, as many schemes as she had, because she endeavored to be more patient than most others. After all, she had a long life ahead of her to accomplish certain of her goals.
She smiled to herself at the thought, though she waited to turn until the man cleared his throat to spin gracrefully on a heel and look back to him, widening her smile. "Well hello." His own lack of a smile didn't faze her own, and she laughed quietly at his question.
"Oh yes, many times. Before the time of the most recent Queen, actually, and now after." She played ignorant of the fact that Malificent was nearly as old as the world itself - to most, after all, she had only come to Xehacora a few decades prior. No sense letting on too much right away, though at this point there was no concealing the fact that she herself was something more than human. That was alright. She was known to enough humans as a sorceress that there would be no scandal to anyone outing her as such. Curious though, this newcomer. She was, if nothing else, interested.
"It is the nature of things to reach a height, and then to decline. But I think it would be a shame if too much of this were to be lost forever, don't you? I've always had a great affection for books. Most ignore the scribes, you know, but even when you get beyond the years of scholarly research each of these represents, there are the weeks and months put in by the scribe, to compile each into something that will last the years. All that may change one day, but some of these are the product of more love and care than most children."
She selected one of them, placing a finger on the spine, which she used to tilt the book off the shelf and allow it to fall to the ground. "Of course, like children, some of them are utterly worthless. But a few are certainly worth preserving."
Her eyes had stayed on the shelf while the book fell, and she continued to ignore it as she turned her gaze back to the man. Her expression never changed - neutrally pleasant, though with a smile that failed to reach her eyes. Eyes that betrayed her icy regard for the world and most, if not quite all within it. "My name is Morgana. What of you? Are you a fellow bibliophile, or might you be here for another reason?"
The piper took his time, taking in her appearance--or more accurately, her mannerisms. That little laugh, her calm voice. She seemed to be an intelligent woman, and by his standards--that already pointed to inhuman. Perhaps he was simply judgmental--but as she went on--having been here before Maleficent, hm? He cocked his head, frowning slightly. Unlike the humans of this world--she was not well known to him, and as such her identity certainly was one he determined to uncover. He was transfixed it seemed, on her words, a brow raised and a slight smirk of surprise on his lips--not many would be so quick to disregard human life--especially a child's life--though his gaze did flicker to the fallen book with some...curiosity, he turned back to her. Morgana. The name was familiar, but only just. Perhaps he'd heard it spoken in whispers, or by way of news in Xehacora--or farther off, during his travels. Still, he was being more cautious than he often would, and so his glamour stayed up. "I'm certainly not bibliophobic," He responded softly, giving a shrug. "But I think I would say...my reasons for being here are simply more of a nostalgic venture than anything else." He gestured to the shelves around them. "I spent a lot of time in here. And...not too long ago."
Surviving to fight
Morgana took note of his interest, though she was more interested by its nature. He didn't look at her the way so many men did... if anything it was a hunger of curiosity, she thought, which was more akin to hers. It would complicate matters, if only a little. Desire was an easy lever to manipulate. But then, curiosity had its angles of advantage, too.
"That's a shame... There is much here to love." she demurred, turning her gaze to the books for another few seconds. She stepped partly out of view, walking along the shelves, occasionally tipping a book off its shelf and to the floor. Though at what he said next she smiled, appearing in the space between a few shelves, leaning her shoulder against one of them. His implication wasn't terribly subtle, but she could appreciate that he hadn't simply come out and staked his claim in too vulgar a fashion.
"Nostalgia often implies a regret, a loss. Is that what draws you? I can imagine that someone might very well feel there was business here that was left unfinished." She glanced to the wall - there was a perfect cut in the stone, inexplicable by any mundane means, something had cut clean through the wall and the load-bearing stone within, something that had no doubt contributed to the collapse of part of the building. She was impressed with it - it would have been impossible for her to simply erase matter in so precise a fashion. Unlike the passageway she'd carved herself, there wasn't even dust left in the spell's wake.
It must have been Lasciel... Interesting. That would have been a battle she'd have liked to observe.
But she had another avenue of study for now. She glanced back to the man. "Is it the Queen you miss? Or her mission?"