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STENELLIAN ASCENDANCY | Empress Xue'Daio Nox | "The Edge of the Abyss" Pt II

Posted on 241901.21 @ 21:53 by Xue'Daio Nox

Mission: Lacuna

Approaching the throne, rose twelve men and women. They were older than most, far older than the Empress, and more importantly they walked as if in unison with veils concealing their faces - providing little by way of features Xue could attach names to. However, by blood alone their identities were nearly gilded - they must have been of importance to be allowed to stand so distinguishably close in proximity to the Empress or to hold such an esteemed position within the Ascendancy - but that was the way things were… Truly impartial to the cause and call with no way for the general public to influence parliament or procedure. At long last with a hush falling over the grand court, the central figure appeared. She was tall for a female and walked with a halting gait that spoke of time tested by battle and service spent protecting the Ascendancy. When at last she came to rest mere feet from the raised throne, she swooped down low into an elegant curtsey, her archaic body arched as her back curved and her arms swayed out as her head bowed low in sincere respect. “Your Majesty.” Her voice was airy yet preserved an intriguing vibrancy, though she kept her gaze low and forefended.

“You may rise.” The Empress spoke in tones of simplicity. Xue’s eyes followed as the senator’s flicked up first followed by her unfurling body as it rose upright. Her hands joined together, held low across her body, and she nodded once their eyes connected from where the Empress sat four high steps above her.

The older woman took up her piece once again though her eyes never once left their alignment with the albino’s. “I, we,” her wrinkled and gnarled hand extended in motion towards the eleven resting just behind her, “welcome you home, Empress.” The Senator spoke with a richness and ease that seemed entirely too fitting for the procession of would-be knights surrounding her. Xue could practically see their minds ticking away with every uttered word, “We’ve awaited your return, and in honor of your arrival, a feast shall be thrown this evening. However, before than can be done there are certain matters that we simply must attend to.”

“Thank you, Senator, for the warm welcome you offer. The honor of sitting before you once again has made my journey all the more worthy.” Xue replied in practiced respect, her father seemingly glowing with approval of her daughter’s dignified oration. “Now, pray tell why we have assembled with such little warning. I’m sure you’re aware that negotiations with Starfleet are still underway and Commodore Ivanova is still in Justifall.” She added, politely folding her hands in her lap. While Xue held such a grand distaste for tradition, it was obvious that she wouldn’t dare cross her people’s ire by rebuking the Senate outright and publicly. What the Senator, nor her consorts, could never have known was the way the Empress truly felt a certain tightness her in tidings of thanks. The words she spoke aloud came from a vacant place within her affection; empty words of artificial gratitude – empty – but necessary. While she truly loved her people, the Senate needed to be squashed like a bug… And promptly.

“Of course. Be that as it may, your Grace, you more than some must feel the absence of the Emperor. It’s obvious that you have…” The thin veil over the Senator’s face twitched with expressive emotion in a way that Xue could only perceive was a smile while her voice drawled and faded in dramatic pause and search for another word. She watched as a hand came up, boney and heavily spotted by age to gesture in her general direction, “sought, and found, other company, but the Ascendancy is been at a great disservice with the absence of your husband. With no mention of him, no sign that he still exists in many months, it is time that we realize the reality that he may have defected back to the Romulan Star Empire and that would be a great crisis given the sensitive nature of his knowledge and dealings within the Ascendency’s holds.”

A lesser being would have flinched or curled their lip, outwardly shown some hint of emotion at the barb thrown in her direction both about her pregnancy - with what the Senate no doubt considered to be a bastard child - and the accusation of treason on behalf of her husband. Xue could hear the shocked murmurings of the court, the whispers of concern and wonder as to just how their Queen would react to such brutal words and violent accusations. A small, cynical sort of smile tugged at the corners of her pouty mouth, and her head softly tilted as she took in the sight of the Senator in much the same manner one would study a particularly venomous insect they’d trapped beneath a glass in the moments before it met its gruesome end. “My mother produced two children out of wedlock. One, that you see sat before you as your Empress, the other a son that rises within the ranks of the Makta, protecting our borders from enemies both foreign and domestic,” The smile, sardonic, seemed to broaden, “I do not believe that matters of my womb concern you, Senator, nor should my choice in bed fellows. You never once raised concern about my mother’s habits… So why start now?” The fine tilt of her head righted itself and the brilliant rose hue of her eyes deepened to a true smoky garnet.

“Because your mother never stooped so low to share her bed with outsiders.” All around the court broke into guffaws and coughs of shock and surprise, and the Senator raised both of her hands palms up towards the sky, “You gave us an heir that is not pure, but we received her because she is of you and the Emperor but now… This? This is an insult. Should Princess S’anra’Daio perish, we are left with the bastard of a Federation no body from genes no one knows of and a people none of our likes, or theirs, have ever seen. He knows not who he is, where he hails from, but you felt it pertinent to bed him. For what gain, Majesty?”

Cold. The tide was turning… Not the water surging towards the shore in violent undulations, but the metaphorical one that resided within the strangely stoic white Queen. It threatened to consume and drown the repugnant Senator, to grab them and drag them far out to a sea made turbulent by emotional chaos and a combined knowledge that should have never been born. Maec would have swiftly ended her life for speaking out of turn - be it by disruptor or by his own hand. Xue could feel him, his essence, his emotion stepping in alongside those of Evan’s and her own. It coursed through her psyche in an aurora of colors, twisting and turning in ways the young Stenellis had given up her attempts to repress and had acquiesced to its demands that she recognize and honor whatever link had been forged between them. In many ways the ‘why?’ didn’t matter nearly as much as the ‘how?’ – but even then she knew there simply would never be an easy answer.

It was a tide of revolution tainted by the way they had come to evolve, and she; the warm-blooded incarnation of the moon and stars, had been torn asunder by what shouldn’t have ever been. It was… treasonous, venomous, impious, and a thousand other ‘ous’es that could and would easily define what was and what would be. None of them stopped her as she felt her shivering body lift from her seat, rising in the same elegant fashion of a cresting swell, to bring her body to its full height - however unimpressive it, in all reality, was.

“You will hold your xenophobic tongue, Senator. Last I checked the Princess was well and happy, untroubled unless you are speaking of a threat against her crown? Against her person?” The Empress’s hands slid in place at her sides, though her shoulders remained square and perhaps even a touch tense as she spoke and those magnificent russet eyes narrowed but a touch. “You speak of treason, Senator, are outspoken enough to accuse your Emperor of it… I feel that you should explain yourself and quickly.”

The Senator’s consorts had taken a shuffled step backwards, distancing themselves from their speaker as if to break allegiance. It was movement that had not gone unnoticed. Not by the Senator and not by the Empress, and where the later felt the ice cold tines of anger trickling into her delicate fingertips, the other began to feel the ice cold tines of fear coiling within the pit of their belly. “Maec tr’Verelan is a Romulan, Empress. No Romulan can be fully trusted, not even one you’ve taken as Emperor.” She spoke boldly, cutting the flesh of her ancient hand through the heavy air in emphasis of her words, “Vrith tr’Bak has proven as mu--”

“You will not compare the Emperor to the likes of that filth!” Stoic no more, Xue’s anger rose to the forefront and threatened to consume her. The strong welling of such emotion tugged at her psyche, begging her to remember the first time she’d ever truly touched the man in question. Not when he’d nearly broken her wrist in a childish game of chicken. Not when she’d panicked within his grasp and nearly ended his life, allowing a hefty jolt of sheer electricity to pulse along his copper filled veins. Back to the moment she’d stood on a jetty not far from the very place she stood as a pillar of unwavering ice. It had been the wee hours of the morning, the world black as pitch and illuminated only by the light of the celestial bodies above in a wild prelude to a savage summer storm approaching from over the sea.
She shivered beneath half-lidded eyes as the memories came to her with sound of water booming against the jetty giving way to the resounding hiss of foam and water as it raced up and over the sharp, black rocks to reach the brave souls perilously perched atop them. While her skin prickled at the sensation of the sea’s frigid, briny fingers reaching through the thin fabric of her dress to wrap themselves around her ankles, she’d dared not move from the spot she’d claimed as hers before the Romulan. For so long she’d heard only that the rest of the universe was inferior, dank, and daft. So often the Romulan race had been portrayed as scavenging jackals; lost, ignorant, violent, and primitive – and yet there before her stood a creature that was anything but. He was ruthless, cunning, even, but tempered by a measure of intelligence and reason that seemed to defy all logic, rhyme, and reason. She could see if burning in the dark embers of his eyes, hear it in the steady hammering of his infernal heart as it beat a tattoo in his chest and she had done the unthinkable, she’d lifted herself to precarious tip toe to bring her lips to those of the Romulan in a kiss so whisper soft it nearly failed to exist altogether.

But it did.

And in return he’d saved her, breathed life back into her, and slayed the dragon that was Psy’Daio Nox - freeing her from the binds of a mother, an Empress, bent on the destruction of so many things. He’d saved them all, and this… Such bitter hatred and cruel words… Was the thankfulness he received.

It wouldn’t do and she wouldn’t allow it. Not as Empress and certainly not as his wife no matter how strained her faith had become during his prolonged absence.

Xue’s fingers coiled, bringing her nails to dig into the tender flesh of her palms and her head shook gently, her jaw tense and throat flashing with like tension as she drew breath to speak once more, “Maec i-Ahaefvthe tr’Verelan is many things, but a traitor is not one of them.” Her voice had softened, darkened with a degree of smoke and colored by rough, crude emotion as she spoke, “He is your Emperor and he is missing. You will honor and cherish him for as long as there is hope that he is alive.”

“Empress, I--”

“You will hold your tongue lest you wish to lose it.” Such punishment hadn’t been doled out in well over a hundred years, deemed barbaric even by Psy’Daio’s standards. The stalwart little Queen couldn’t have cared less, the bitter price to pay for treason, or trying to insight it, was death. “I will not tolerate words id descension within this court or within the Senate. Not when dealing with something as precarious and personal as the potential death of a regent and certainly not when we are negotiating with the Federation in a bid to join them after having that chance nearly ruined by my mother… You are only standing here because of him and the fact that horrible Romulan chose to stand beside me when it came time to ratify the Ascendency after such a critical blow…”

Xue swallowed hard, shaking her head. The court was painfully silent, so much so that were it not for the sound of their hearts hammering in their chests it would have hurt her sensitive ears. “My mother would have had your head,” She breathed, stepping slowly down from her place before her throne. She could hear Kiv’Watt stirring behind and beside her, but a single nearly imperceptible movement of her hand stilled him and left her free to pursue whatever course of action she’d already set in. “Lucky for you, Senator, I am not my mother. Unlucky for you, however,” She paused, coming to rest less than half a foot from the slightly taller and vastly older woman, “There are worse things than death.”

“Empress, I--”

“I said hold your tongue!” Electricity crackled and bristled along the elegant length of the albino’s fingers, shining bright with blue and white energy as she lifted a hand to silence the Senator with a voice far less placid and far more strong than it had been. The arcing current sizzled for a moment longer, radiating and dancing as the Empress studied the flash of it with mild fascination, “You will be stripped of your powers and duties within the Senate, and you will turn yourself over to the Makta to be placed under watch within your own home while the rest of the Senate chooses your fate and brings me their findings.”

The former Senator said nothing more, the veil leaving their face void of expression though the imaginations of those present no doubt ran wild as sea birds with perceived images of just how her face twisted and contorted with the myriad of emotions that oozed from her. The Makta seemed less inclined to play pretend, nor worried about what their new charge felt as several came forth to escort the woman from the hall, leaving it in virtual silence while eleven men and women bowed their heads and threaded their hands into the sleeves of their robes, acknowledging the Empress and her words as truth and law. To them, collectively, they’d already left their voice box hung out to dry and taken the time to separate themselves from her lone divisiveness. What was unclear was whether or not they had taken the time to discuss her verbal dissidence among themselves before pitching her to the proverbial wolves. Given the moment, the Empress chose not to linger on the subject or to throw an accusatory litany in their direction… Not just yet. They could, feel, and see the way the young regent finalized her orders with the graceful pivot of her body as she turned and once more made her way back to the throne.

Xue stood poised upon the last step, Kiv’Watt having offered her his hand to help her should she require it, when one of the eleven - this time male - came forth to take the disgraced Senator’s place, “Your Grace, the absence of the Emperor still requires your attention… Our attention… As a people.” His voice cut worse than any blade, not that he could ever have known such. Though, it was entirely possible given the way the Empress froze in her procession, stiffening as if she’d been shot from behind. Maybe it was possible that he, and the rest of the court, noticed the way she shivered and the way the shine of her dimmed.

“Tell me, Senator,” She spoke, barely looking over her shoulder from the corner of one rufescent eye, “What is that you would have me do?”

He shifted his weight, settling it evenly with his feet but a shoulder’s width apart. Makta… He was unmistakably Makta, but even with a background in bloodshed, he knew just how precarious and delicate the very nature of such a discussion was. His chin lowered, his shoulders losing some of their strength, “I believe it would be wise to consider the prospect that he has passed, your Grace, and that we have lost him.”

“We have no evidence to support this.”

“Majesty…” He spoke again, his voice thick with understanding and emotion as he addressed the crowned woman before him, “While we may not have a body, nor word of wreckage, we have his silence and the knowledge that he would not abandon you, Princess S’anra’Daio or the people of the Ascendancy after all that he has accomplished at your side.” From over her shoulder he could see the curve of her ear and the bright silver of her lashes, acknowledgment that she was indeed listening to what he had to say. “Let us honor him. Let us lay his memory to rest.”

Xue’s eyes closed and her heart hammered in her chest. Death… Cruel, cold, and permanent, would be the only way to sever the binds that knit him to her in ways she’d begun considering more of a haunting than some pervasive infringement on her troubled and savage psyche. She was ready to speak, or so she thought, when a stronger gust of frigid sea air blasted through the open doors the Senator had been lead from and brushed against her delicately sculpted face and she gasped as she was thrown from her own thoughts and firmly rooted back in the obfuscating reality of that moment in time – back to that pivotal moment where she’d first allowed him close enough to bury her should he so desire. “Voi?”(why?) she asked the simple question in his native tongue, certain that the zephyrs and distance would carry it away long before it could reach his ears.

“Majesty?” The male Senator asked, taking a worried step forward only to be met with Kiv’Watt’s damning and piercing gaze. It was enough to root him to the marble floor, still several paces off from where the Empress still remained frozen upon the throne pedestal stairs. Now he was certain he could see her shivering, the light reflecting off of her was simply dancing from the way she vibrated.

Her eyes, once re-opened, fell upon Maec’s empty chair as if willing him to materialize and grant them one of his more smug smiles. ‘You doubted me? For shame, Senator. Time to disband this little party and get back to work on more important things.’ he’d say and take her hand, leading her away from the three ring circus that had ensued prior to his miraculously well timed re-appearance. No matter how many times she blinked, or how hard she wished on the stars hiding above, no such magic moment transpired. His seat remained vacant and cold, laughing at her for her weakness and slipped faith.

“Arhem ssaed p'tned-pra'krsh daevire riud khoi drolae ssiun hwio.” (I will never forget or stop searching for you) The Rhiannsu words pooled from her quivering lips as she propelled herself up that final step and allowed her hand to fall on the cooled arm of his rightful seat. Xue knew she simply couldn’t walk away, leaving the Senator unanswered. They would come again no matter how many times she claimed she needed to rest or how often her physicians claimed that her pregnancy with an ‘unknown’ was to be considered high risk and she left be. She knew that in so many ways this matter couldn’t be left open and she could feel the dozens of pairs of eyes boring into her back, rapt with attention and begging for a chance to see and hear her decision made.

Swallowing the large knot in her throat, she cast her gaze to Kiv’Watt who stayed ever near, lending his support through silent channels and a kindness in his eyes reserved for her and her alone. While her fingers tightened on the arm of that chair, she felt her head begin to nod her consent and she could taste the vile words that came up and began to run over her tongue as if they didn’t even begin to belong to her, “We will honor him… Make the arrangements and inform the people, and our alliances, that we are in mourning. Emperor Maec i-Ahaefvthe tr’Verelan, King Consort of Apsha, King of Aleine… Has been lost and we are never to forget him.” In a fog, she drifted from the thrones, her fingers trailing along the arm of his seat until they fell away with distance steadily being put between her and the Senate, the court, the gawking eyes. She could barely register them shouting, in unison, 'The King is dead, long live the Queen'.

May the Gods prove them wrong. May the stars guide him home.

Kiv’Watt would stay behind, silencing those who gasped their pity and awe, ensuring that his Empress, his daughter, would have the chance to travel to her chambers unimpeded.

---

Xue'Daio Nox
Empress of the Stenellian Ascendancy
Queen Regnant of Apsha
Queen of Aliene

 

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