Without bidding anyone farewell, Rowan took her own horse and traveled the long, arduous four-day journey back to the Elemental Plane of Fire. Immediately passing through the Nexus-point brought relief to the Prince. And the closer she got, the better she felt, the dry winds and cleaner air feeling wonderful to her, finally able to shed her cloak.
Once in the courtyard, she dismounted and left the horse to the bewildered servants. She quickly made her way inside the palace. Rowan's low heeled boots clacked loudly on the black marble floor.
"Father!!" She loudly burst into the throne room, her tone vehement.
Crimson eyes darted away from some strategists regarding advice, before the stately royal looked to his daughter, the Flame Prince, coming in, the other subjects bowing away to allow her to approach her father.
"Ah, Rowan my lad. So good to see you are well!" He stepped down from the throne, before immediately noting that something was wrong with his child. "Well? How fared the festivities in the human lands? And what of your bride?"
"Bride?" Rowan stopped herself, thinking briefly for a moment. It had been almost two months at least since Evan had been Eva. "Oh yes, about that; I had discovered that Eva is actually male, father. Fitting, I'm sure."
The King of Kasairona immediately drank in this new information, a matching grin on his prominent cheeks. "Oh really now??" It truly meant that there wouldn't be any difficulties with ensuring an heir after the children of the Crown. "It is most fitting indeed! Eva, that little deviant--"
"BUT, my reason for being here is two-fold. It is a matter of importance I wish to discuss with you."
The moment Rowan gave the 'stink' eye to the other fire elementals in the throne room, her father knew immediately the severity of this, especially as his daughter was so straight-to-the-point. With a simple snap of his fingers, everyone in attendance immediately made tracks to give the two their privacy.
"Now, what troubles you, Rowan?"
He gave a partial smile to his father. "First of all, the human Prince, my bride, Evan... 'Resplen' was it? Evan Resplen Elsgarde has performed a great boon to our Kingdom and to my being. And for his surprising bravery, I wish to bestow upon him one of our fiery steeds as a fitting reward."
The fact that his child was actually bestowing a semblance of generosity and elation, brought a delighted grin to King Kasairona's features. "Of course~ It shall be done immediately! By what act of bravery is this gift rewarded for, Rowan?"
"For saving my life, Father. I was attacked by air elementals, which we have long thought to be in hiding." The King's jubilation was immediately cut short. "They openly attacked me, away from the Imperial grounds, and had dragged me into the forest. Though I am unharmed, Prince Evan risked his life to save me, all the while nearly bleeding to death and undergoing a slow recovery at this moment. If it were not for him, they would've snuffed my fire and stolen away with my Core."
The King said nothing, his body firm and stony, his eyes looking darkly to him now. "So... they have already begun their assaults indeed..." He turned his back and walked towards one of the windows overlooking the oasis. "Scouts from the Elemental Plane of Air have been encroaching upon some of our western territories since three days ago. Elus has been overtaken, but reinforcements from Sulfuras and Gehennes are turning the tide on them as we speak."
"And how do you feel knowing they tried to kill your only child...?!" Rowan's voice took on a hard edge. "Oh! Wait, that's right, Im NOT your only child, am I?! Someone named... Velius, Father? I belive the humans called him Velius, father!?" She walked over and glared harshly to him. "Tell me! Tell me about my brother and why I have no memory of one!"
The King was silent for many seconds, the air between them tense and unbearable.
"...You were never to know of Velius, Rowan."
He looked to her now. "Velius was the first born of your Mother and I, but as he grew and received training, he took an almost unholy delight in battle. So entranced with it, he renounced his royal name, prefering to run our military, ascending to the rank of General to our men.
"When he heard of your birth, he requested me to name you the sole heir of Kasairona, while he proceeded with his campaigns to the Earthen and Aquatic Planes. Shortly after, during your unveiling as the Prince, We had heard word of his death from his campaign against the Water Plane. Even when he renounced his title, he was still my son, so I had mourned his loss in private."
Rowan closed his eyes, mulling over this information on why he never knew about her brother.
"How did he die??" Rowan felt a little sad, only discovering now that she had a sibling with which she could never meet with now. "I-I refuse to believe he could have truly died!"
"You would be correct on this notion, Rowan." He caught his child's incredulous eyes on him. "His own troopers had recovered his essence... but not his core. He was slain in combat, but extremists of our nation sought to revive him, regardless of his missing core. They had succeeded in reconstituting his physical form, and when I had seen my first born once more, he had become... someone different. Someone VERY different.
"An ember faintly burning; a fire that smoldered long after the ashes dissipated. My own son had become a Revenant. His eyes and cold words continued to swear loyalty to Kasairona, but without his core, he was emotionless, darkened, without a soul." He shuddered from the bitter memory.
"No sooner that he returned to life did he immediately return to the battlefield, swearing to me that he would finish the campaigns he swore to uphold. And before I knew it, he had completed his long-sought goal of 'allying' the Earth and Water Planes to us... through violent and destructive means. Those that did not surrender to him willingly, were immediately vanquished without mercy."
Rowan's eyes widened, the heat in her heart core seeming to ache now. "Father... is THIS the reason we are on good terms with the Earth and Water realms?! Not out of a genuine trust, but out of fear and subjugation?!"
"When I had heard the news myself from my scouts, I was as distraught as you are now; not because of the atrocities he committed, but also of the news that after he had completed his mission, he left his armies behind, and vanished mysteriously. Velius forced their hands into joining us, but I and my dignitaries had done everything in our power to smooth the tensions between us all--"
Rowan's flames blazed all along her feet, a furious gaze across her features. "B-By the Flare Matron, Father!! Th-then that means they were right!! Those damned Air assassins--it was all his doing?!" He seethed bitterly, wearing a molten imprint into the floor with his anger. "And after they had bragged about wanting to pluck my Core as a trophy, like they had Velius's--"
"WHAT?!" The flames in the throne room all seemed to flicker and flash in an instant by the King's surprise. "...The Air Elementals, they... have his Core?" He shook his head, a hand cupping it in place. "This is not a good omen. A Revenant is driven only by the duties they once had when they were alive; once completed, they become nothing more than stagnant, motionless beings."
"But anyone who holds the Core of a Revenant can bend the being to their will... which means that that damnable harlot, the Air Queen, could very well have our Velius under her thrall, planning him for who knows what sort of atrocities to commit!"
Rowan crossed her arms, looking out to the distance, her eyes seeming to burn brightly. "...Perhaps he simply needs a hero."
"Father, I wish to seek him out! I need to see him with my own eyes!"
"NO! I FORBID YOU FROM MEETING VELIUS!!" His voice flared with a deep boom, a few ornaments in the throne room far away from them combusting immediately from the intensity of his voice. "If the Air Queen has his Core, then any encounter with him will surely bring disaster. Especially as the Air Elementals have made attempts on your life, Rowan; who's to say that they will not simply send him to you!! You will never be in any condition to meet Velius!"
"Father, this is out of the question!! I do not care how long I must wait for it to happen, or whatever fateful event precedes us, I WILL see this brother of mine!!"
"You will NOT stage a suicidal campaign, and risk the well-being of your people, solely to see him!" His eyes clashed with Rowan's, and while the Prince's burned with intensity, the King's eyes raged as long-lived molten lava. "YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES are to your people, and to peace with the Humans. Nothing. MORE."
With a loud cry, Rowan literally erupted into her primal state of living lava, flames and molten energy searing and burning the more delicate and weaker affects in the throne room, before surging out of the throne room in a wave of burning hatred.
The King remained unphased by his child's tantrum, breathing uneasily before looking to a portrait hung above the throne, framed in impervious carbon and diamond. A portrait of the King, of his late wife the Queen, otherwise known as the 'Flare Matron', and of a decorated youth all dressed in armor of red and coal-black.
Within the dark confines of the Air Kingdom's fortress, a strong-formed man stomped his way towards the throne room. He was clad in blackened steel from neck to toe, had ashen coal-toned skin, and black sockets where there should be eyes, instead having pale wisps of flame occupying its sockets.
The armored man came stomping into the Air Queen's throne room, an expansive and very dark domain. As a ruler herself, she was often referred to as the 'Queen of Whispers and Darkness', mostly by her own people. The room had but two fires, one large by her throne, which doubled as a lounging sectional, and the other by the exit. Beyond those two puddles of light, all was black.
He dropped to one knee and lowered his head, his blackened hair pooled onto the floor. "Queen Aerora, I have news from one of your scouting parties."
"Oh~?" Her airy whispers seemed to come out after her ruby-red lips motioned the word, her majestic figure lounging comfortably in her throne. A pair of horns jutted out of her platinum blonde head of hair, and her shining white dress contrasted the darkness of both her throne and title, hugging much of her outlined hermaphroditic being. "And what do my darling revolutionaries bring, Velius darling~?"
Velius lifted his head, his eyes were rather devoid of life. "Only one of your scouts that spied on the Human lands have returned alive, but with good cause. They have discovered that the Prince of Kasairona is staying in the Human Emire. They acted foolishly, however, aiming to kill her, rather than capture her."
"Ooohhh~ I believe I know the scout you're speaking of~" She yawned lazily, lifting her leg up seductively, her dress remaining draped along her skin, exposing very little skin. "So, I am to assume the Fire Prince disposed of him?"
"No. From what he reported, it was the human Prince who aided in the Fire Prince's rescue, whilst single-handedly destroying the core of the scout's comrade. Though the other survived, he suffered great wounds." He searched his Queen's face to judge her reaction.
She moaned softly. "Fascinating~ I had heard from the winds of the Human Prince; a healer is already bothersome enough~ But I hadn't the knowledge that he would have an edge~" Despite her demeanor, she giggled with a cruel and dark edge to it. "These Humans... if only there were a harmless method to shoo them back to their OWN Realm, we wouldn't need to snuff out their lives... I do hope the scout who lived to tell of this news is being treated well~ He IS the first I gifted with the... mmmmmm~ delightful art of Asphyxiation~" She cooed again, fingers running down the curvy outline of her shoulder and slender arms.
"He is recuperating within the Hold, My Queen."
She smiled indifferently. "Good. Tell the ventilists that after his recovery, he is to stay and begin training the initiates as soon as possible~"
She yawned playfully, watching an invisible breeze of a servant drift past Velius before leaving the throne room. Sitting up now, her lazy eyes opened to their full attention on Velius.
"Now, entertain me, Velius darling~ What is this news regarding the Fire Prince in the Human's domain?"
"It is a curious undertaking, My Queen." He closed the distance between them, kneeling at her feet and laying his head on her knee. "Kasairona had decided to wed their Crown child to the Human Prince. And they have yet to consumamte the marriage, as the humans also demand they marry in their Empire to ensure it is a mutual joining." He sighed disinterestingly. "I think they hope to end the war. Air is the only unaligned plane now." Velius looked up to her, his eyes showing utter and blind trust.
"Oh??" She giggled cutely, wondering why they would wed together, while she caressed her glowing pearl brooch, a fiery shine glowing from around her chest and neck. "Do they intend a deeper generational hold between them? Could a fleshy meat-vessel even produce an heir with an elemental? Such a delightful notion~" She chortled wickedly.
His neutral lips, however, shared no humor in it. "I would go to war with the world and kill them all for you, My Queen." Had he his core, he would not be in the same room with this woman, nevermind resting his head against her as if he was a child looking for comfort.
"Patience, Velius dear; patience." His word of immediate destruction ruined her reverie. She still smiled, caressing his ash-toned cheek. "If we went to war now, then Fire, Human, and all the subjugated Water and Earth under their sway would fall on our fair dominion. We must return equality to the Elements, before dealing with the wicked humans who have your Core."
"Anything you wish, My Queen. I am but your tool. Use me as you see fit." He practically fawned over her in his own way; what he lacked in emotional repsonse, he made up for with pretty words and flattery. He hadn't gotten the slightest clue as to when he pledged his loyalty to the Air Queen, but in his dead mind, he only knew that this was the right way. "I wish to be the one to cut down these Princes, both the fire and human."
She cooed warmly for him, loving the dull heat he emitted against her. "Carve the human heir however you'd like~ But I'm more surprised you would express desire to cut down your own sister, the Flame Prince~" She giggled darkly. "How arrogant and hateful must someone be to deny their birth gender, Velius?"
"Quite arrogant, Aerora." He spoke weakly, eyes looking up to her. "You freed me from my pride, My Queen. And the only thing I am guilty of boasting is my eternal loyalty to you."
She smiled wickedly to him, leaning her upper body in to plant a soft kiss on his lips, so chaste and light, before pulling back. "And when the day comes to meet your sister again, dear Velius, will you..." She ran a delicate and fully-nailed finger to her neck, mocking a throat-slit gesture to him. "FREE HER of her pride as well?"
"...Yes. I will."