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The Unbranding of Queen Maeve of the Fae

Darkness fell across the Ethereal Plane. When the Silver Goddess, alarmed by the change, arrived to tend to the land She loves, all seemed normal: the Queen of the Fae sat, as always, on her throne, her Consort by her side, and the fae of the Faethorn Court went about their daily activities. As far as She could tell, nothing was abnormal — only the impenetrable darkness that flooded the skies like ink spreading across vellum.

“What do you want?” came the Maeve’s voice, as she snapped her fingers for the Goddess to step forward.

More alarmed still, Lisaera acknowledged the Queen of the Fae’s tone with equal venom.

“Mind your tongue, fae. The number of your divine supporters is regrettably low, and I guard this Plane with My every breath. What has become of you?”

The cruel, flippant responses continued. “You guard us? You are nothing. You and Your Cousins do little to assist our world.”

A small gathering of mortals from both communes bore witness to this exchange, which continued well into the following day. The Maeve shot verbal barbs at a Goddess whom she loved, and the Empyreal Mother remained unnerved, but began responding with more and more patience. She realized quickly that something was amiss with the Queen of the Fae. It was then that She noticed the brand.

“My Maeve, your neck — does it pain you?” inquired the Goddess, every breath the gentle caress of a concerned mother.

“Our — our — what? Our what? What do You mean? What? Our what? Our what? We cannot hear you, no, no, we cannot hear you — “

The Queen of the Fae unraveled mentally then, her erratic words matching the confusion in her eyes. She shouted her rage and cried tears of terror, all the while squeezing Laeroc’s arm until her nails drew welts of blood. He stayed by her side, silent and terrified, as the Faethorn Realm shook under the Maeve’s power, sending the fae of the Court into a blind panic. At last, the Silver Goddess wove a spell of sleep around the Queen, which soothed her into a deep slumber. It was then that Lisaera realized the root of the darkness.

Before the gathered mortals, the Silver Goddess vowed to heal the Maeve. She would gather the combined power of the Nature Pantheons and devise a plan, and all She needed was information about the brand’s origins. The mortals bowed and voiced their understanding of the long, hard tasks ahead, and the gathering dispersed. After a moment of contemplation and a kiss upon the Maeve’s brow, the Silver Goddess also departed.

Years passed. Mortals brought the Silver Goddess and the Lady of the Thorns information about the brand, but nothing revealed the keys They needed to break the spell. The Maeve’s torments grew stronger and stronger, and the fae began to react accordingly. Maidens were seen carrying abandoned — or stolen — children into the trees, pixies and nymphs were found tearing one another to bloody shreds, and banshees wailed overhead, their voices stirring the air into violent storms. The Silver Goddess visited the Queen of the Fae often, but every exchange was similar to the first: the Maeve shouted her rage, cried her confusion, and wept her sadness, all the while her exhausted Consort stood guard, his tired eyes filled with the tears of a man who cannot help his lover.

Finally, Laeroc’s composure broke and he begged the Elder Gods of Nature to bless him with Their faith. As One, They acknowledged the Consort’s efforts and stepped aside, allowing him to rally the communes himself with a new plan. Because the Maeve’s mind is failing, he reasoned, it would behoove the mortals who care about her to give her their own memories. The only thing that could save the Queen of the Fae, Laeroc believed, was the combined efforts of Serenwilde and Glomdoring. The Queen of the Fae was gravely ill by then. Despite the soothing music, sung by bards from both communes, despite the power pouring into her from Lisaera’s tireless spellwork, the Maeve fell deeper into her confusion, until she sat immobile, eyes glazed with delirium.

“We will build some sort of apparatus,” muttered Laeroc. He paced the throne room of his Queen, his hands trembling like a madman’s. “We — we will grow a tree. We will use its roots…the Queen will know what we know…”

And so the work began. The communes set aside their endless cycle of death to gather the Consort’s only supplies — two nuts each from the Moonhart Mother Tree and the Master Ravenwood Tree. When the time came that the tree would be planted, Laeroc commanded Serenwilde and Glomdoring to secretly nourish the sapling with essence from their respective lands until at last, it bloomed with power.

The Consort took his place amid the gathering and called upon the countless lives of the Faethorn Court, pouring all of their combined power into his own hands. He murmured prayers to the spirits of nature and reopened the bloody wounds that fed the sapling. One by one, the Elder Gods of Nature manifested, Their expressions grim as They watched Laeroc plead for the Maeve’s forgiveness. As the Tree of Memories grew around him, he knelt before the Lady of the Thorns, his eyes streaming with tears, and shuddered as the Silver Goddess summoned a howling storm in the sky above the Faethorn Court. The Oak Whacher summoned vines to restrain the prone body of Laeroc, and with a simple swipe of Her scythe, the Lady of the Thorns severed the Consort’s head.

Silence.

Then chaos.

The Faethorn Court erupted with the howls of the fae, who all felt the Consort’s death. The Silver Goddess wept openly and held the prone body of the Consort in Her arms as his spirit was taken into the sky by a beam of moonlight. As the blood soaked into the roots, the Tree of Memories flexed its limbs and reached for the heavens, unveiling broad moonhart leaves and oily raven feathers.

Months after, the magic of the Tree of Memories swelled and the restoration of the Maeve was at hand. Silver light and shadow flared throughout the bark and boughs of the tree, sweeping the Queen into the ethereal skies above. Caught in rapture, the Maeve surrendered to its power: her sanity healing, her body restored. Indeed, shards of scarlet lifted from her skin – the very same brand of the Weeping Amaranth that tortured her for eons – broke away from her skin. Faethorn and the fae cheered; however, this happiness was cut off as the brand disappeared in a flurry of motes that winked out as quickly as manifested. The presence of the Elder Gods hovered over the proceedings, and they were disquieted in the manner in which the brand disappeared. Though many wondered what had happened, their concerns and fears were abated by the joy of the Queen’s rejuvenation. Both the Serenwilde and Glomdoring attended to the tired queen, who weakly called out to her Laeroc. Saddened at the thought, they bid her to recall his sacrifice, and the Maeve turned mourning.

Slowly, the assembled mortals departed and a new kind of darkness fell across the Faethorn Court.

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