Fabelle's Trial - Pelagia Xista and Gwenyth Fabelle Oct 7, 2017 2:21:44 GMT -7
Post by Pelagia Xista on Oct 7, 2017 2:21:44 GMT -7
|Early Morning on the 2nd|
The Winter Storm, 5152
Aynieria, The Royal Temple
Sitting before Gwenyth Fabelle, stared down by her and her entourage of advisers and guards, was a thing that would probably be incredibly intimidating for most. Even for someone like Pelagia, who feared no one and was confident in her ability to contend with any who dared attack her, it would have normally been something of a nervous affair. The guards in this room were trained in the very same place Pelagia had been. And though Pelagia was stronger than any of them - and had proven it to gain her current position - there were still more of them than there was of her. And they had a very upset Queen in the room with them, who could at any moment give them the order to strike her down. Pelagia fancied that if it came to that, there was at least a chance that she'd lose.
But no, even in this situation, Pelagia found herself at ease. Because Pelagia had information now that she had not possessed even hours ago. Because now, Pelagia had everything short of absolute assurance that she had already won her bid for power. This meeting was going to be a simple thing. So she sat with poise, collected and yet appearing quite serious, her expression looking as though she fully understood the gravity of this situation. She betrayed none of her joy.
"Pelagia, my dearest soldier," Gwenyth spoke, her voice heavy with anger but also sadness. The queen was truly a bleeding heart, and Pelagia was certain she must have felt so betrayed right now. "You know why you are here. And all I can ask you is how? How could you have done this thing to me?"
Pelagia met her queen's eyes with her own solemn gaze. She had to look up to do it, for Gwenyth sat upon a raised throne in a half-circle of seats that surrounded Pelagia, advisers occupying the others silently at slightly lesser points of elevation, while Pelagia sat alone in the middle of them all, her chair closest to the ground. She rather hated it. No one was meant to look down upon her. But that matter could slide for now.
"Your Majesty," Pelagia replied, heaving a deep sigh. "The matter of how is simply that it had to be done." This was not a lie. As far as Pelagia was concerned, it did indeed have to be done. "It is what Ayniea demanded of me. I could not remain silent." These statements, too, were true. Pelagia had yet to utter a single direct lie, for she had not specifically named Gwenyth's fabricated act of ignoring the Attonian natives yet.
She knew Gwenyth had advisers in the room who were minor diviners, trying to see through her words for falsehoods. She would need to try and skirt around directly false statements until she could clear the room.
"But I did not do this thing you have claimed!" Gwenyth answered her, her low and silky voice raising in volume, a flash of the indignation she felt. "I have never had any knowledge of natives in Atton, not aside from the rumors churned out by those from the lowerlands. It was you who even confirmed as much when I asked about it."
Pelagia furrowed her brow at Fabelle, looking quite confused. "Your Majesty..." she began, trailing off as though unsure what words to say next. The silence spoke as though to say that the queen's statement was simply untrue. The advisers were still scrutinizing, their eyes passing between Pelagia and Gwenyth, watching for anything. Pelagia could not allow even them to doubt her, not yet. Aurcaele's crown must be won fairly, in recognition of all its people, after all.
"I fear, perhaps, that communication between us has been clouded," Pelagia finally finished. Another expertly chosen statement which was not false.
Gwenyth's fingers gripped at her chair as though restraining frustration, but her eyes held a sad glint as she searched for what to say to Pelagia. Up until yesterday, Pelagia had more or less done an excellent job of being the pinnacle servant to Gwenyth. Devoted. Loyal. Faithful. Kind. The two had once taken a leisurely stroll together in the shadow of Ayniea's willow. Pelagia was a friend. What could have happened, the queen must have been wondering.
"Has there been some sort of grave misunderstanding?" Gwenyth asked, and Pelagia knew that for as determined as she was, it was the Queen's kindness that was her undoing here. Too loving. Too sympathetic. Too likely to overlook and forgive a sleight if she could see some sort of reason to why it was committed. She'd also just spoken the words that Pelagia needed to have said, without making Pelagia say them herself. "Explain it to me, Pelagia. How have you come to believe the things you have told the whole world about? How could you believe I was forcing you to continue in spite of the Attonian natives, when I had no knowledge of them? What has transpired to result in this?"
Oh, Deities All, the desperation fraying at the very edge of her voice was pathetic. Gwenyth wanted to believe so badly that Pelagia would never do such a thing as deliberate treason. That she would never sully the good name of Gwenyth Fabelle.
Pelagia had her opportunity.
"My Queen, this may seem a brazen request given the circumstances..." she stated, hanging her head in deference. "But might we have the room? If I am to explain myself as you ask, I believe you'll wish for these words to be exchanged only between us."
Once more, she had spoken no lie in that statement; she did believe Gwenyth would want no one around to hear what Pelagia was about to say to her. She could see how the advisers scrunched their brows in apparent frustration, their minor divination clearly being insufficient to see through her statements. But that didn't prevent one of them from speaking.
"Out of the question," she said, an aged woman who was likely the offspring of some retired Steer from the past. "To presume that we would allow the Queen to be left alone with someone who has already made such treasonous statements against her? You have already shown your colors, Xista."
"Indeed," stated another, a man with a long, pointed beard and a receding hairline. "That is as audacious a request as you could make."
"I don't believe she made her request to either of you," Gwenyth said now, looking at them both sternly.
The woman looked bewildered, and yet somehow dignified in it. "Your Majesty, you cannot seriously wish to entertain the notion? She could simply be looking for an opportunity to attack you outright, now that she's spoken poisonous lies about you to the public. I've never understood your willingness to pardon her for the crimes her family committed, crimes she likely played accessory to, and now you would even-"
"Mathilda!" Gwenyth stated more loudly this time, silencing the woman. "I believe I have stated, many times, that Pelagia bears no guilt in those crimes. I, and Ayniea herself, have found her guiltless of those allegations. And she has since proven herself to be an indispensable tool for The Goddess. I will not hear of you dragging her name through mud once more. Even if it seems she has done the same to me, The Fabelles have never been about stooping to the levels of others."
Mathilda had nothing to say in response to this, it seemed, staring down at her lap instead.
"Furthermore," Gwenyth continued, looking down at Pelagia appraisingly. "The job of an adviser is to advise. You do not, however, determine my decisions for me. You have been scrutinizing Pelagia's every word thus far, and yet neither of you have spoken up to warn me of any lies. Am I not correct?"
"You are, your Majesty..." replied the man, as though he wanted to add a but, but chose not to.
Pelagia looked directly at him and Mathilda, and past them at the Guards who stood at attention. "I will not lay a finger on her majesty. She will come under no harm."
She knew they would find no lies in that statement. Pelagia had no intention of hurting the Queen.
Well. Not physically.
When it was evident that neither adviser was going to call the statement a lie, Gwenyth nodded. "Very well then, Pelagia. You clearly have words for my ears only. The rest of you, do as she asks and leave us the room."
There was a clear hesitation in everyone present, the guards especially, but Gwenyth did not look at any of them. She remained poised in her seat, her expression hard, as she stared only at Pelagia. She wanted to trust her still. She was willing to do this thing because she wanted the explanation that badly, and believed that her relationship with Pelagia could possibly be salvaged if only she received it. She likely hoped that they'd clear this all up, and that Pelagia would amend her public statement and wipe her Queen free of guilt.
Even if Gwenyth did distrust Pelagia on some level, that last point was likely still vital. She couldn't very well just silence Pelagia. Couldn't simply make a public denial of her claims when the army would back Pelagia's statements. Without Pelagia herself to take the words back, Gwenyth's public image could be irreparably damaged among her people. And that was one thing Pelagia knew Gwenyth would never allow.
Finally, they left. The doors to the private chamber were opened, and one by one the residents filed out. When the doors were closed, only Pelagia and Gwenyth remained.
"Now, Pelagia," Gwenyth began once a few moments had passed, once she was sure the barrier of silence on the doors was back in place. "Explain yourself to me. What do you have to say that only I can hear?"
Pelagia looked up at her ruler, and her solemn expression finally melted away. Her eyes relaxed, and her mouth began to curl into a small smile. She stood.
The word, the name, was all that left her lips at that moment, and it caused Gwenyth to still. Pelagia could see almost instantly how the wheels in her head were likely turning. The sheer implication of uttering that name while they were alone, with no one to hear them.
Pelagia's smile grew. "Now that I have your attention. Did you know, My Queen, that knowledge is truly a terrible weapon? I'm sure I hardly need to tell you; you're a queen, surely you know as well as any how information can be used to terrible, disastrous ends. People could find themselves freed of so much if they merely lived openly, and yet do they cling to secrets... secrets they foster by scrambling for things that are greater than they are. Why, I seem to recall a tale of a certain young lady who was unable to birth child. This was, of course, unacceptable in the family she had happened to be born into. A child was necessary, if she wanted the power to rule. And so she did everything she could to get that child. No matter how unsavory."
Pelagia had spent a bit of time pacing as she spoke, appraising the empty chairs that had been filled a short while ago. Admiring the murals on the walls of the Queen's private meeting chambers. Gwenyth remained stock still in her seat.
"Unsavory is exactly what was necessary to produce the results she needed," Pelagia continued, meeting Gwenyth's eyes once more, a pleasant look on her features. "And it was lauded as a miracle when she produced that child of hers. And meanwhile, its demonic origins were expertly concealed. Sure, there were disturbing tales about the child's activities, but what public figure hasn't had worse spoken of them? It's not as though anyone had ever dared to suggest the girl was a demon. Merely rumors of her being a killer. But my, can you imagine if they knew?"
Gwenyth stood. "If you mean to imply that--"
"Oh shut up, Gwenyth. Spare me your denials. I imply nothing. I know your dirty little secret. And I can expose it any time I wish."
Partially a bluff. Pelagia had no proof, certainly. But in accordance with their contract, her demonic friend Ichabod had given her this information. And Pelagia knew enough about demonic contracts to know that once struck, the exchange had to be given exactly as promised. Ichabod had fed her no lie, nor would he have cause to if he truly wished for her to ascend. And so if Pelagia required some proof for her claims, should Gwenyth force that hand, she was sure the demon could likely produce such proof.
But Gwenyth didn't need to know that Pelagia didn't actually have the proof yet. She simply needed to think she did. And based on her expression, the look of paranoid fear on her features now, Pelagia could tell she believed. No one had ever guessed that Gwenllian was a demon before, and Pelagia spoke with a level of certainty that could convince even the likes of Markus Woodrow. Gwenyth knew better than to doubt her.
"Why haven't you, then?" the queen asked, her voice barely controlled. "You sling all manner of lies about me, claiming I forced you to press in on the Attonian natives whom I knew nothing of, whom you told me were a myth, and yet this is what you choose not to tell the world?"
Pelagia shrugged at her, seeming almost careless. Her sister Aasimar's wings were bristled in agitation, but Pelagia's own were soft and relaxed. "Well that would be because I still have a use for you, Gwenyth. You are Queen, after all, and I desire for there to be some... changes in this land. There is no one better to affect that change than you. I could simply expose you, certainly... but I like to think our friendship demands better than that."
Gwenyth collapsed into her seat, and Pelagia would guess that she looked almost like she wanted to cry. "It's been a lie, all of it, from the beginning. Hasn't it?"
Pelagia shook her head in mock sympathy, tsking as she ascended the dais and sat herself in the seat to Gwenyth's right. "Oh, Gwenyth, Gwenyth, Gwenyth..." She patted at the woman's arm, and Gwenyth recoiled from the touch. Pelagia leaned forward. "All of it. From the beginning. A queen should never be a bleeding heart, my 'sister'."
Gwenyth looked at her like she was seeing a different person for the first time. No, not a person... more like a monster. Her expression was one of such colored disbelief that Pelagia almost laughed out loud. For so long she had longed to see the looks on people's faces when all her facades would be allowed to fall away, and now, she was finally getting a taste of that. What's more, Gwenyth looked at her not just with shock, but fear.
Pelagia stood again.
"As I said, there are going to be changes here. The people are already upset with you over my little fibs. They want to see an apology, and they want to see change. We're going to start by instating the SSPB into Aurcaele. Revise some laws. The details are all written out in a contract; I'll make sure you receive a copy to read," she explained flippantly, reveling in the powerless-looking slump the Queen sat in. "You, of course, are in no position to decline. Not with the world's eyes on you, judging you for your..." Pelagia's long fingers idly fiddled with a small figurine that was displayed on one of the marble stands in the room. "indiscretions.
"And of course, if you try to fight it anyway, or make a move against me, or even call me a liar... believe me, My Queen. I will be ready to expose your secret at a moment's notice. Then we'll see who the people believe."
When Gwenyth's eyes lifted, they were moist. Her face was set in a deep frown. "You are no holy weapon. A holy weapon would have smote me the moment she learned of my sins. She would have exposed it without a second thought, for it is the right thing to do. But you use this to connive, to plot, and to undermine. You're no better than the demon I never should have listened to."
Pelagia approached again, towering over the seated queen with a wicked smile. "But you see, my dear Queen, that is where you are wrong. Every action I take is guided by Ayniea's hand. You merely desired a crown, and the demon who made you his whore merely desired a pawn. I desire something much more grand than those petty things. Ayniea has willed it. And the difference between you and I? You have spent your life pretending you knew her will, or perhaps convincing yourself that you did. I have spent my life knowing."
Pelagia stooped forward now, her face drawing close. Gwenyth leaned back, fear evident as the taller woman closed in, but Pelagia kept to her word; she would not harm the Queen. Her lips merely ghosted her ear as she whispered.
"Have you heard the Goddess's voice, sister? Because you should know: you are not a part of her plan." As she leaned back, staring down at the dumbfounded Queen who looked more afraid now than ever before, she felt triumph. This was her moment of victory. Whether it was Pelagia's words, so capable of drilling her truth into people's minds, or the will of Ayniea herself, Gwenyth believed her. And that belief terrified her. "But fortunately for you, Gwenyth, you may yet be a part of mine."
Pelagia stepped down the dais. She returned to her seat. She looked up her "queen".
"You will install the SSPB here and adhere to the requirements I have agreed to for them. You will also hear my other demands in the coming weeks. And you will continue to act as Queen, in exactly the manner I tell you. Also, you will call your entourage back into this room once you have regained control of yourself, and you will tell them that there was indeed a grave misunderstanding; you have certainly ordered that Aurcaele persist in war even in the face of the natives, because you foolishly misread a past missive of mine, and made an erroneous order in response. I'll not tell you what to claim the missive said; I'm sure you're creative enough to cook up a story that will fit within the frame of your life. Either way, you will assume the blame I have lauded at you, mistaken or not. And you will do everything in your power to see to it that you "apologize" to the public for it. Is all of this understood, Gwenyth?"
Gwenyth Fabelle, Queen of Aurcaele, and known Devout of Ayniea, looked to Pelagia as the woman listed her demands, and for a moment, she wondered. She wondered if it would be so bad if her secret was discovered. She wondered if it would truly be worth it; perhaps it would be best if the sin she was hiding came to light at last after all. Perhaps it would be best for Aurcaele to find a truly suitable queen, and be spared the monster that was Pelagia Parvata Xista. For if Gwenyth exposed herself, then at least she could also expose Pelagia. She could still save this land.
But as she looked at Pelagia, seated there down below with a posture as regal as any Queen, she saw something which she could not explain. A radiance. An aura. An illusion. A dream? Her eyes told her it wasn't there. Her mind perceived it clearly. It must have only been for a flash, and yet it felt like she stared for hours. The shape of another woman, bathed in light, with six shining wings, overlaid upon Pelagia's own form. A shape which matched Pelagia almost exactly.
Gwenyth blinked and the image was gone, and only Pelagia remained, still smiling confidently at her, and Gwenyth... Gwenyth felt the fear of god.
She would agree to Pelagia's terms.
And when she had collected herself enough to recall her guards and advisers, she did exactly as bidden. Pelagia was correct. Gwenyth had made a grave error in a past exchange. Aurcaele's actions in the war were her fault. And Pelagia was right to have called attention to it, having only believed she was doing what was right. And Gwenyth ended her night wondering for the first time in her life... not if Ayniea was an all-loving deity as scripture said, nor if Ayniea was an absentee diety who had abandoned her children as some claimed.
No. Gwenyth wondered if Ayniea was a wrathful deity, whom the whole world need fear.