"I've been ready for this day all my life mother. Do I look perfect?"
She stepped away from her youngest son, jewellry clinking softly, and swept her gaze up and down his lean, liveried form. Out of all her children, he resembled her the most. His head was graced with her fine, silvery hair which he wore in a page boy cut, and his eyes were the same intense blue; but warmer not yet touched with the cynicism of a life lived for an epoch. It was strange, she mused, that her one elven child, the only one not of pure Faerie blood, should so resemble her. Her other children all looked to their fathers' blood for appearences. Her ice cold eyes softened when she looked upon herself in the youth before her. Not that she could recall anything precise about her youth; a millenia living had eroded most of her earlier memories, but she had a vague feeling she had been happy then. Lestile was too young in her mind to be challenging for a position in the Pride. He had just turned ten moons not too long ago. One hundred years, she sighed. But she was proud of his determination. If he failed she would make him regret going ahead of himself, Faerie had no use for the weak, if he passed, she would make sure every glory would be heaped upon hs head. She pushed his soft bangs out of his face.
"You look perfect my son, I expect no less from you." A soft rapping at the chamber door interupted them. Pushing past the servant whose only function was to open the door, Lestile flung the massive, carved door wide open and was enveloped in the strong arms of his eldest brother.
`What a difference different fathers make on my offspring.' Sarisonolia thought to herself. Her eldest son, of those residing in this realm, was massive for a Faerie and for most humans as well. He stood head and shoulders above Lestile and was nearly as wide as the bears he loved to live with. Respecting the mute appeal in her Eldest's eyes for privacy, she quietly withdrew and made her way towards the ceremony hall; joined by her ever present retinue.
"It has been so long since you have last visited the palace, I feared you had forgotten the way." A small pout started and quickly turned into a large smile when the larger Faerie produced a small fur-wrapped bundle and presented it to his younger brother. Lestile was breathless as the rare present was placed in his gloved hands. He reverently removed the wrapping. Gold and ruby flashed at him. Shocked he let the fur fall to the ground as he held up his brother's signet brooch. It was shaped like a spear head split longitudinally with a ruby cabochon set over the centre, a simple design but one that represented power throughout the Faerie worlds. All royal families had their own crest but they were all based on this design. Being an elf, or half Faerie, Lestile could never recieve his own brooch. Only a pure Faerie could make a claim to a ruling position.
"Brother, I don't... I can't.."
"I have no need of it Lestile. Should you ever need it, you may use it in my 'name'." Lestile knew that his Eldest Brother's craft had demanded he give up all things of permenence. Material possesions, claim to the throne, even his own name, but never had he thought really what that meant. To everyone he met he was a completely different person. Brother, son, lover, enemy. How could he have an identity? Lestile was glad he had no talent for flesh shaping, he doubted he could live such a life.
A cascade of bell peals echoed throughout the halls of the palace. The brothers exchanged tight smiles. Carefully tucking the brooch into his belt, Lestile preceded his brother through the door. The white palace halls, once filled with Faerie folk were now empty but for a few brightly clad stragglers, hurrrying to the ceremony hall. "As if they would miss the chance that I might fail." Lestile thought bitterly to himself. Many people were not pleased with the high position he enjoyed due to his lineage and mother's favour. Most Faerie were very hateful towards other races, and especially towards elves who were diluted Faerie stock. Lestile was very fortunate his father was in high standing or despite his mother's protection he would have 'vanished' long ago. He rubbed his hands down his front, trying to wipe away the sweat. His gloves, blue with silver tooling impeded his intention.
They arrived in the foyer just before the doors to the ceremony hall. His older sister Naitallion was waiting. Eldest brother walked past her and entered the hall. The ponderous doors shut ominously behind him. Just scant decades ago Naitallion had stood were Lestile stood now; facing a Pride novice. If a hopeful applicant had to challenge any member of higher standing than novice, there would never be any more new members. This time it so happened his sister had been the last applicant to pass the test, and the look in her pale lavendar eyes said she would delight in his failure.
Lestile regarded his only sister warily. They had never been close. Before he had been born she had been the favoured one. Her hair was the same shade as their mother's, and she had worn it in an identical style to her mother's. This had endeared her to Queen Sarisonolia until the birth of Lestile, whose features more closely resembled the Queen's. In protest Naitallion had cut her hair. Over the years it had been shortened until its present cut. Far too severe for her delicate features Lestile thought. He very much doubted she would be gentle with him.
Sometimes she wondered if she had suffered through the rigorous training required to be a Pride member just so at this precise moment she could utterly humiliate her younger brother. The swords hanging from either side of his slender waist were his only chance for a protected adult existence among the Faerie. If he failed, his father would withdraw his support and their mother would as well for embarassing her. He would fall prey to Naitallion and her allies. Naitallion smiled broadly, her tongue running the length of her upper lip in anticipation of the years ahead when Lestile would have no protection.
Lestile tried to swallow the hard knot of fear that constricted his throat as Naitallion reached for her sword; a sword forged from her own spirit. She had named it Qualdolandra; Bitter Butterfly. It was also the name of a rare, imported, poisonous insect which looked like the butterfly her hilt was styled to resembled. Only one of his swords was a spirit blade like hers. Tissina. The Truth.
She began just before the starting chimes, her arm snapping quick thrusts and slashes through his hastily erected defense. Mutiple small wounds appeared on his face and chest, staining his blue vest with patches of purple. She smiled at the sight of first blood and pressed her starting advantage. It was all he could do to keep her from his more vunerable areas.
Her lips began to move and he strained to catch the faint whisper of a spell. His next step brought him crashing to the ground as the floor beneath him developed a thin coating of grease. He rolled to the side, narrowly missing an overhand thrust and instinctively brought his swords up in a crossed 'x' to catch the next blow. His arms strained as she pressed her full wieght down on his blades.
"Foul play Naitallion." He hissed through clenched teeth.
"Fouler than you think Little Brother." She smirked as her booted foot found its mark between his legs.
Explosions of light obscured his vision and he had to fight to keep his swords, not his damaged parts, in his hands. He struggled to his feet. Blows rained down on him. His instinctive blocking stopped less than half. Warm blood ran freely down his front pooling on the marble floor at his feet. A booted foot caught him in his midsection expelling his breath in a single woosh. One of his swords, not Tissina, clattered to the floor as he gripped his abdomen.
Naitallion stepped back and relished the sight of her kneeling brother. It would take years to break him, and she would take delight in every drawn out minute. She watched as he struggled to his feet. This was her moment...
Suddenly impatient to have him fall she loosed a handful of magic missiles. She smiled as the force of them lifted Lestile's battered body from the floor and slammed him into an ornate pillar. Laughing with delight she watched him slide to the ground his spirit blade falling to the floor. She scooped it up and casually flung it over her shoulder to clatter against his other sword. She smiled as he flinched in response. His bond to the sword would be a useful tool in the tortures she would inflict on him. She laughed out loud, a silvery giggle. She couldn't remember the last time she had so much fun!
Lestile fought against the darkness that was threatening to overtake him. Stars filled his vision and his body seemed one big bruise. This was not the fighting his father had taught him. There was no honour in this fight. He felt overwhelmed by the vast unfairness of the duel, and began to surrender his conciousness. She would finish this quickly. He sucked in a breath as there was a sharp jab then a deep stab in his side. It's insistent pain drew him to his senses.
Naitallion was taking her time. She was between him and his swords, and he was injured. She was going to draw his defeat out as long as she could!
Fear gripped his heart, knowing some of the tortures popular to Naitallion's gangs. Fear, made him attempt the impossible. Going deep inside himself he relived the moment when he had forged Tissina. He had been desperate to prove he was no longer a child. He had been a scant six moons when he had stolen away to a dark cave to try the dangerous task of drawing a sword from his very essence. A sword, tempered by his desire to make others see the truth about himself. Tissina, the Truth. Sweat stood out on his forehead and a low moan escaped his tightly clenched jaw. Deep in his belly the burn began...
He soul cried out in agony as he felt the sweet pain of seperation again.
Naitallion warily approaced her still brother. She gave him an experimental poke with Qualdolandra. The tip sank into his arm, blood pooling around it's tip, but he didn't respond. He couldn't be dead already!
A faint glow began to illuminate his body, liquid light leaking out of his wounds. She backed up a couple of steps. Was this his father's blood? Was her godling brother more than he seemed? He painfully regained his feet, his head bowed down and his fine hair hanging to obscure his face. Was he preparing to surrender? Naitallion flicked her sword into a defensive stance and her lips began to mutter a spell.
A shudder passed through Lestile's left arm and the skin shifted as if something serpentine writhed beneath it. She watched with a fascinated dread. A sudden gout of blood erupted from the palm of his left hand and two feet of sword blade shot out, spraying his blood across the floor. Naitlallion's lavendar eyes widened, pupils going small in shock as fine droplets of blood kissed her face. All spells fled her mind before the impossible sword her brother held. A SECOND spirit blade? While the first still existed? It could not be!
It's blade was opulescent and unmarked by runes, unamed. She still had a chance! Before a blade was named was when it was the most vunerable. IF she could break it, she would break half of her brother's soul leaving him weak and in shock. She would win or she would die. It was the way of the Faerie, and she would not live in humilation should she fail.
She leapt forward, her blade clanging painfully off of his wooden defense. She struck again and again and again, but she was blocked every time. Suddenly a small smile appeared beneath his bangs and she had a glimpse of his blue eyes. Her heart went icy cold and she stumbled.
A flick, of his unamed sword and her Qualdolandra flew across the room. She clutched her injured hand to her bosom and gasped as she felt the tip of his sword touch her throat. She looked the length of it's blade to the clear blue eyes of her brother. "Lestile.." She whispered, her throat too dry to work. She did not want to die. His mouth twisted into a sarcastic smile.
"I could make you beg for your life, Naitallion." His voice was a whisper, but strong. "I won't though. My father taught me the difference between a warrior and a killer. Mercy. You showed me no mercy, sister. You are not worthy of the Pride, Naitalissa."
She flinched as he left off the '-lion' honorific from her name. Sparks began to shoot from the flat of the blade, illuminating the hilt, and travelled down the length of the blade to stop before Naitallion's pale face. When they faded, Runes were inscribed along the blade.
He presented her with a mock salute as she dropped to her knees, tears of humiliation burning her eyes. He scooped up Tissina, leaving the plain sword on the floor. There was that sharp pain again in his side and when he looked he found his brother's signet pin unclasped and digging into his flesh. A smile broke out across his face. Sheathing Tissina and Lecoran'an he limped to the door that led to the hall of ceremony and entered.
No more Lestile. He was now Lestillion Novice of the Pride.