Most Beautiful Things
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Stories are a thing of great power. What is history if not a type of story, told by those who prevailed? What power is there in knowing nothing of where your people began? Our memories are long, our history longer, our grudges longest. Relations with other races have been tumultuous, and many of them wish harm upon us. You must know where we came from to understand where we are, and where we may go. So I will tell you, children, of how it was that we came to be sequestered in this arboreal prison.

Perhaps it would be best to start at the beginning, with the Sister Queens.

Once upon a time, when the children of the woods were a wing-shroud that blanketed this and every world, there were two sisters. One sister was a queen of warmth and sunlight. Her gentle touch sprouted life from even the most desiccated soil, making spring out of even the deepest of snows. In her true form, she dwarfed the size of many mountains, her tree-strewn arms stretching out and enveloping them in cooling shade. The Summer Queen was a Titan, and it was this trait that became her Name.

The other was a cold, fearsome beauty with devastation in her footsteps. Where she walked, the ground became withered and parched. Her touch brought sweet oblivion to those who defied the laws, and no fire was warm enough to melt her frozen heart. The Winter Queen was a creature of ice and fell magic, fearsome and terrible and magnificent. We are forbidden to say her Name, as that basic right was stolen from us by the Ones-Who-Secure. She was the mother of none, though we once considered ourselves her Children.

When times were good, the queen whose name we cannot say provided us with a veritable circus of amusement. Her magical key, blue as the bluest cornflower, would open a door to hunting grounds thick with mist where we would hunt the purple brush-grinners to their lairs and bring home their carcasses to use in feasts or keep as trophies. The Moon-Named-Virgin was the greatest of hunters. It was she who brought to the Court of Summer a complete specimen with barely a scratch on its mauve hide and both golden sight-jewels intact. Her Queen made its bones as the mountains, her sister made its blood as ice, and it remained a trophy for many years.

Then came the darkness in the form of the Children of the Night; horrible little creatures, hairy and ragged, stalking around thinking they were our equals. When we found them they were little more than apes in the woods playing with their toys. Their “leave-vers” and “pull-ease” were adorable but quite impractical when compared to real power. We took them in, educated them, elevated them to the level of their betters, something for which they should have been grateful.

They approached another inferior race with a proposal: build a structure, a prison, and fill it with such creatures as they abhorred. What was it to us if a few of the hairy beasts fell prey to the false voices from the forest? It is known that death comes on swift feet to those who heed their calls, and only fools would goad it into chasing them. We cannot, will not, be held responsible for their mistakes.

Hm? Say again? Well, they overthrew us by cheating, of course. They couldn’t have done it fairly. Their justice was served, as one of our people, He-Who-Grew-Ten-Thousand-Flowers, was able to repay our annihilation with a trick of his own. We showed them how to use the tools, but it was the humans that did it. They took the credit, turned the weapons first on the Children then on themselves. They have long since forgotten, but not us, not the Children of She-Who-Once-Was-Named.

What’s that? No, it was a sensible question. You may try to say her Name. You may try to say our Name. You will fail. It was a monstrous act from the Children of the Sun that robbed her of that most basic identity. We tried to warn them of that which mass-produced nightmares, and were rewarded with the most terrible thing that can be done. The crimes committed by the Children of the Night, though beyond grave, were as childish pranks before this. Incarceration, in time, can be forgiven. Genocide, with more time, can be forgotten. The Names of the dead and missing still exist to mourn.

Stealing the Name of She-Who-Became-As-Vapor had an effect that even the most sagacious of us did not expect: when Those-Who-Must-Contain took her Name, they took our Name as well. The humans continue to mock us to this day, as they, who are not bound by our rules, are able to use the Name of our Queen with impunity. Thus, we became the Children of the Nameless Queen.

It is this that makes our interactions with They-Who-Swore-To-Protect of paramount importance. Names have power, and without them, we remain trapped in this gilded cage. A Name, any Name, even a borrowed one, means we will be whole enough to leave. This is why we must interact with those who drove us to this place, and why they must replace us here. We take their Names, and thereby take their place outside. Then, and only then, can we be free.

The woman in the red dress

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