Dust in the Wind

By Eponine

Falling, gently falling like a feather freed from the confines of a feather. Light and airy, the whole world swirling before her eyes. Reality was a hard crash, her knees jarring into hard packed snow, the winds tearing at her clothing. Queen Zeal was home again.

Kneeling in the white drifts, Zeal remained motionless, her mind reeling to collect the events that had transpired. The Black Omen was destroyed, and with it, she was returned to the Earth, her magic gone. Lavos' influence no longer controlled her, like fine shackles of the hardest iron releasing her at last. She hooted for joy, arms outstretched to the sky... to the kingdom that no longer floated.

She stared into the hazy depths of clouds and flurries, blinking. Her kingdom, her vast and beautiful kingdom was gone. Slowly, her arms lowered again as memory returned to her, her cruelties under Lavos' control, her neglect to her own children, her enslavement of those Lavos' taint never touched. She shivered and rubbed her arms for warmth, the chill of the wind finally registering through her thin cloak and queenly garments, but not nearly so much as the residue of Lavos' touch, the foul sensation and bitter revulsion it brought.

Finally, the tears came, hot and bitter, freezing with each 'plink' against the snow. Lowering her head, she barely noticed when the stately crown of Zeal slipped from her head, embedding itself into the drifts surrounding her. She remembered now, she remembered how it started, all with a Queen's desire to further her kingdom. To shun the sunstone and seek another power, and so she courted Lavos in her ignorance.

My pride brought us to this. Gaspar always said if it's not broken, there's no need to fix it. He was right, I should have listened. Oh... Gaspar. She recalled his fate, and that of Melchior and Balthazaar. And her son, Janus. Soon after, the names of the dead began to cross her mind, a list of those Earthbound she'd killed for the creation of the Black Omen, the Enlightened who'd died when her kingdom plummeted to the icy ocean, her own trusted advisors who had attempted to steer her from the power of Lavos and failed. Danill the Stoneworker, Melanna the Bookeeper, Lord Arafal, Princess Schala... Schala? My... my daughter?

The name halted the list as it paraded across her memory. Sweet Schala, so innocent and unprepared for the evil that overcame her mother. Zeal wailed in her grief, throwing herself down into the snow, her cloak flapping around her head with the force of the frosty winds. She hadn't tears enough for what she'd done, for what Lavos had forced her to do.

Mechanically, she forced herself to sit up again, the tears never ceasing their descent down her cheeks. The small blade she kept near the tip of her sleeve eased out and she flicked it between her fingers. Salvation shown a steel blue in the hazy light. Opening her wrists produced no more then a tingling sensation, the cold having numbed her to pain as effectively as her distant emotions.

Outstretching her arms to the sky where once her kingdom stood, in a last gesture of ritual, blood began to drip into the snow, crimson bright against the pristine whiteness. Steam rose in ribbons from the heat of her blood, escaping as if it were her soul preparing to depart. The knife slipped from her fingers, unable to hold it any longer, leaving a pattern in the snow as it sank deeply.

The world began to fuzz around her, her body slowly easing into the wintry grave. "Forgive me... forgive me... forgive..."

A bright light shown before her suddenly, as if it were the gates of heaven opening in front of her. The very gates she was sure would be denied to her. She thought she saw someone approaching, the figure vaguely resembling a woman, the light behind her left her as no more then a shadow.

"Mother, it's time to come home."

Author's Notes

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