The Maeve, still saddened by the untimely death of her Consort, sat on her throne as she always did, stoically and with the dignified air of a queen in mourning. The world around her slowly returned to normal and the Faethorn Court, once teeming with confusion and despair, became a quiet reflection of its monarch’s regal poise. All around the Ethereal Realm, the fae tended to their rightful roles, and the mortals who cared for them did the same.
Until the earth shook and an otherworldly glow lit up the sky.
Avechna’s Peak bloomed with a brilliant light that ignited the heavens. The ground quaked and the sinister glow burning in the sky stretched outward until it engulfed the horizon entirely. Practitioners of the Wiccan arts felt their craft fade away, as if their knowledge of the fae was erased entirely, and Dreamweavers felt their connection with reality waver. This went on for several long moments before the Maeve, desperate and harried, called upon the followers of nature to join her in her throne room.
Mortals arrived to chaos. Queen Maeve displayed how the brand had returned, as a ghostly spectre of itself, and it was clear that her slow descent into a state of dull confusion was returning. Addled and barely coherent, the Fae Queen rushed about, her mind periodically wracked with pain that transferred partally to Wiccans. Something was seriously wrong, she admitted, but she could not fathom what. It was then that the gathered mortals began to notice the emerging patterns of these goings-on.
The lights in the sky, they deduced, came from the seals that began to burn with a corona of strange light.
The phantom brand did not outwardly harm Queen Maeve, but it resembled her former scar.
The fae reacted with a different kind of aggression.
The disconnect between the knowledge of Dreamweaving and Wicca happened only when the strange glow appeared in the sky.
It was not long before the gathered mortals concluded that these separate events were, quite obviously, connected, but even more concerning was the theory that the dreams never ended. That, perhaps, the world was still hidden behind a veil…
Days later, Queen Maeve grew frustrated. She summoned her Court, including the mortals of both nature communes, to the throne room to announce that she would attempt to contact with Laeroc, her recently deceased Consort. Her mind was failing faster, she explained, and the fae were resisting her control. Only her Consort was of any comfort in this, and she longed for his advice. With finality in her voice, she declared her plans sound and strode toward the Tree of Memories.
Calling upon her ancient power, she attempted to bend the Tree of Memories to her will, using it as a means to reaching Laeroc. As she reached forward to touch the tree, her mind reeled with pain, and she fell backwards against the ground. Stunned, she asked the gathered mortals to touch the trunk that had so recently tossed her about like a child’s play thing, and they hesitantly obliged.
Although the tree always reminded passersby of Laeroc’s brave sacrifice, it now showed a much darker — and sickening — image of the fae’s demise. Horrified by the vision, the Maeve withdrew into her throne room once more, leaving the mortals to discover another dark secret: the memories held within the tree’s sacred leaves were warped and changed, and now reflected the terrible thoughts of another being. It was then that Dame Maeve made her first appearance, as a nightmare forced upon the world through the Tree of Memories’s connection to the Dreaming.
As the sun’s rays burned through the days, bringing the cloak of night across the land, the struggles of the fae worsened. Nymphs rode pookas through the Faethorn Court, as if in battle, pixies tormented mortals on the Prime Material Plan, maidens claimed the children of despairing mothers — on and on, the fae acted more irrationally than ever, despite Queen Maeve’s weak, but still firmly resolute, grip on her sanity. For all intents and purposes, the fae should remain under her reign, she explained, but it was almost as if they were taking orders from another. Discussion of Dame Maeve erupted, and eventually, the ethereal monarch explained a way to potentially thwart Dame Maeve’s plans.
Memories. If these are truly the imposter queen’s thoughts imprinted within the Tree of Memories, then, Queen Maeve explained, it stands to reason that the mortals could instill new thoughts within the demon’s mind of their own making. Perhaps then, the imposter would strive to break through the veil herself to confront the opposing power, thus preventing her from carrying out her nefarious deeds. After begrudgingly asking for help from the cities, as well, Queen Maeve warned that it is yet unclear what would happen when the veil weakened. She shared a spell that would wrest the Tree of Memories from the control of Dame Maeve’s darkness, allowing mortals to once again add their memories to the sacred bough’s leaves.
It was right she gave warning. Shortly after Queen Maeve’s declaration, Everiine Silvermoon placed the first memory — a lengthy, impassioned reminder of the past and a tale rife with the challenging road to victory. Then, the true test of the Basin’s ability to confront its nightmares came to pass in the form of a twisted, demonic fae-like creature as it crawled out from between the thin line between Reality and the Dreaming.
Again and again, this happened. Each time a new memory was placed within the tree, a nightmare fae would materialize, as if sent by Dame Maeve herself. As if sent to bring harm to the operation, fearless members of Magnagora stormed the relatively peaceful gathering of commune members to flood the Tree of Memories with new offerings, thus causing dozens of nightmare fae to appear. After suffering a few fatalities, the communes beat back the plague of darkness and continued onward with its mission.
Until, instead of nightmare fae, Laeroc, the Dame’s Oblation, lurched through the veil.
He stepped forward with disjointed footsteps and a menacing issuing from the stump where his head should have been and issued sinister admonitions to the gathering. To add insult to injury, Queen Maeve felt the presence of her consort and called out to him, and then realized swiftly that this, too, was an imposter. Although she attempted to pay him no mind, the zombified Laeroc made his way to the Maeve’s throne room and hurled foul abuses at her. Each time he opened his mouth to hurl a barrage of vitriol at the Fae Queen, she responded, meekly, with a reminder that he was not real. Finally, the demon Laeroc wore down Queen Maeve by telling her that she was alone, her purpose finished, and that the Elders Who created her had moved on, leaving her to rot in the Faethorn Realm.
Defiantly, Queen Maeve called upon her subjects from both communes to rise up against Laeroc, declaring that she was not alone after all. Laeroc laughed as the gathered mortals seemed to ignore her commands, pointing out that no one would dare lift a finger against their precious Laeroc; that no one would come to the Fae Queen’s rescue. Bandeon Ladyn of the Serenwilde stepped forward and, after stating “Actually, I will,” led the charge against the demon. The mortals made short work of the Dame’s Oblation and returned to the original task at hand, but only after consoling a deeply wounded and almost comatose Queen Maeve. It seemed seeing her Consort so twisted and tortured broke her completely, and the mortals shyly left her to prepare for the coming fight.
The veil was thinning rapidly now. Flashes of Dame Maeve’s clawed hand tearing through the veil appeared after each offered memory, and it was only a matter of time before the veil fell completely. Like glass shattering, the thin membrane that separated the Dreaming fell away, allowing the Basin’s nightmares to pour through like a black cloud of despair, anguish, torture, and pain. Mortals all across the Basin of Life faced their worst fears over and over again until they were condensed into a terrible prolonged second, which only broke when Dame Maeve herself stepped forward through the veil, her black eyes wide and staring.
Without hesitation, the gathered mortals tore into her. They fought and won, and then realized her wounds healed instantly. They fought some more, only to see the same demonic flesh stitch itself back together over and over again. Finally, her voice booming through the din, Queen Maeve stepped forward and challenged Dame Maeve herself. A poisonous laughter filled the air as the Dame cemented the terms of the duel: if she won, then the fae — and the rest of the natural world — would be hers. She also mocked that Queen Maeve would never strike first, that she would never hit Dame Maeve, for she knew it was futile.
Borrowing from Bandeon’s words of courage, Queen Maeve uttered, “Actually, we will,” and, in a single radiant blast of power, destroyed Dame Maeve completely. All that remained of her was the brand, the Weeping Amaranth that hung suspended in the air, spinning faster and faster. The same otherworldly glow ignited in the heavens and grew more brilliant with each passing second, like a bonfire left unattended. Soon, it was clear that the Seals of Nature and Beauty were the focus of Dame Maeve’s insidious plan to claim their power as her own, and the brand, left unchecked by the Dame’s control, carried out its new purpose well — until the Seals broke completely.
The world lurched and then stopped completely. Reality froze and then sped up, until finally, thousands of hungry eyes leered at the Basin of Life and a thundering roar echoed from the air itself. Estarra the Eternal appeared in the sky and warned mortals that the Seals had been compromised and that it was once again time for mortals to enter the Trials of Ascension.
When the pandemonium eased somewhat, Queen Maeve reached forward, claimed the brand that plagued her for centuries, and, with all the power of the Faethorn Court behind her, ripped it apart, petal by petal, and banished its dark magic for good. As the Weeping Amaranth dissolved into the air, the Queen of the Fae smiled, knowing that she could finally know peace again.