Airabella's Last Stand

The princess sat on her throne, a look of deep contemplation resting on her face. She was so lost in thought, the scurrying steps of her forward scout completely evaded her attention. "M'lady, it grows closer." The lithe young man said nervously.

Princess Airabella placed a hand gently on the man's shoulder, "I know Bernard... I know... Thank you for relaying your report, you are dismissed for today. Go try to relax for the night, okay?" A soft smile broke through her otherwise troubled expression. Bernard nodded, bowed, and left.

As the large double doors slid closed, Airabella sunk in her seat. She knew all too well that it was close. She could feel its dark hold grasping onto the threads of time. The Detached would not stop until it controlled reality itself, and she was the only one who could stop it. Yet, more important to her, was her queendom. What is a ruler that cannot protect her people? She would find a way to fell this otherworldy entity, no matter the cost.

Pushing herself out of her throne, the fair elven woman jumped a bit at the sound of her tea cup smashing into the ground. "Am I really so distracted as to forget a cup sitting in my lap?.." With a twirl of her hand she pulled at the incorporeal threads of time, threads only she could see. Reality reversed. As it neared her lap once more, she gripped it by the handle and released the threads. Time resumed its normal flow, the rest of the world completely unaware of the interruption. With cup in hand, the princess made toward her war room.

At the head of a large wooden table laden with maps stood Tenevar. The rugged she-elf had lead their army for the past 387 years. In that time not a single battle was lost, and she had no intention of seeing that change. Yet now she faced a foe that could not be conquered with mere sword or bow. Not even their magicians could put a dent in the Detached. They would need something more, but what that "something" was continued to elude Tenevar.

"How are the preparations coming along? Is an evacuation route ready, in the case of the worst?" Airabella spoke with a cool tone, not letting on that deep down, she was afraid.

Tenevar either didn't notice her princess's tone, or knew better than to point it out, "The route is ready. I fear our people will be slow to rally, though. We have lived in relative peace for centuries, they have all grown complacent. Are you sure I cannot run a drill?"

Airabella shook her head firmly, "No, no drills. I will not incite panic into my people. There may yet be a way to avoid this calamity, and if there is even a shred of hope, I wish to hold onto it for as long as possible."

The general gave a quick nod, "As you wish, your majesty. In that case, I have done all I can for the time being." Tenevar paused for a moment. After a deep breath, she continued, "If I may be so bold as to ask, have you discovered if you can best the Detached yet? If your magic can-"

"No." It was a simple statement, but it said all that needed to be said. Airabella straightened out her back, standing at her full height with her head held high. She would not allow her concern to show. Her people needed a leader now more than ever.

As the princess turned to leave, Tenevar spoke again, "I must be honest with you, my lady. Our people have existed for thousands of years, always able to overcome whatever obstacles we faced. In that time, there have been at least a dozen generals. Each endure in our history books as a legend in their own time. They all managed to achieve something, something memorable." Her next words were emphasized with a dagger digging into the table before her, "It terrifies me to think my legacy will be standing by uselessly as my people are destroyed."

Airabella didn't turn around. She didn't want Tenevar to see the tears forming in her eyes. Instead, she waived a hand in the air, once again pulling at the invisible threads. The dagger lifted and placed itself back in the general's sheath. "I swear to you Tenevar, your legacy will endure. And it will be beautiful." Without another word, she left.

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Airabella left the castle. As she roamed the streets, her people smiled and bowed to her. She was beloved in her queendom. Would that love hold if the Detached won? Would her people trust her to rebuild if they were thrown from their land? "That's assuming enough of us survive to rebuild..." Such thoughts had been haunting her for months. She had tried to force them out, but nothing worked. At one point she even tried to erase a particularly horrible nightmare by reverting time to a point before she slept, but it simply came back the next night.

"Princess! Oh princess, please do visit my shop!" A young woman tending a jewlery cart called out to Airabella. Burying her troubled thoughts, the princess decided it was time to bring some hope back into her people's lives.

She strode over majestically to the cart. "Ingalid, isn't it?" The girl behind the cart beamed as the princess said her name. "What did you want to show me?"

The girl exictedly pulled out an ornate necklace. Rather than rely on a copious amount of precious gems, this necklace was hand crafted with intricate patterns of gold. It was clear that the girl had spent a great deal of time on it. "I-I made this for you. I've been hoping you would come through this area again so I could give it to you."

Airabella was taken aback. "Surely this must have taken a great deal of your own livelihood to make, I can't simply take it. Let me pay you, how does-"

Her words were cut off as the girl pushed the necklace toward her, "No, no! Please, it's meant to be a gift! It would make me so happy just to see you wear it, even if just for a day. That would be payment enough."

It was a shakey hand that reached out to take the necklace. At times, Airabella forgot just how much impact she could have on her people's lives. It amazed her. Such a simple act could change everything for them. Her fingers closed around the necklace gently. She blinked back tears, and when she opened her eyes, what she saw confused her. The girl again gestured toward her, as if she'd never come over.

As she tried to make sense of what was happening, she blinked again. As her eyes opened once more, she found the cart before her empty. The girl was gone, and the necklace with her. "Ingalid? Ingalid?!" Airabella looked around frantically. Nothing seemed right. It was as if... "Why, I've gone back to the night before!" She exclaimed. That was when reality struck her like a blacksmith's hammer.

Airabella's eyes once more panned over to Ingalid's cart. Except now she focused on the area before her with her power. And now, with her mind trained on the threads of reality, she saw them. The threads of time were there, yet they weren't as they should have been. They were broken. "No... No am I too late?!"

The princess tore her eyes from place to place, spying broken threads everywhere she looked. Yet all was not lost. The threads were frayed, but they still existed. With time, she could mend them. But first, she needed to stop the Detached from getting any closer. She ran back to her castle, no longer worried about trying to maintain appearances. The doors to the war room crashed open just in time for her to see Tenevar's horrified gaze fading.

"Tenevar!" Airabella cried out, reaching for the general's hand. Tenevar was clearly straining against the Detached's touch, fighting to maintain her very reality. Yet it was a losing battle. Pieces of her were fading with each passing moment. The princess spoke to her desperately, "Don't give up Tenevar! I promised you a beautiful legacy, and you will get it, damnit! I won't let this, this, thing take that away from you!"

As the light began to fade from Tenevar's eyes, Airabella tore away from her. Tears fell from her eyes like wellsprings. She poured all of her concentration, every ounce of focus, on her queendom. She pictured the faces of her people, of the lives that deserved to carry on. She focused on a future where Tenevar would have a statue erected in her honor. Where Ingalid would place that necklace around her neck, so she could wear it proudly for all to see. A future where nothing, not even time itself, could threaten her people.

An explosion of light erupted from around Airabella in a large, expanding sphere. It quickly engulfed her entire queendom. Just as suddenly as it appeared, it left, leaving nothing but black. The princess felt herself being pulled. It felt just like the way she pulled on the threads of time. She didn't have long to consider the feeling, as she soon passed out.

Airabella's eyelids felt like lead. It took every bit of strength she could muster to force them open. That being a feat in and of itself, it would be another full minute before she could start pushing herself up. Her head spun, and she couldn't form any coherent thoughts. As her eyes began to adjust to the light, she took a look around. Nothing looked familiar. "Where... Where am I?.." Memories flooded into her mind in an instant. She sat somberly in quiet contemplation for what felt like forever. Finally, she changed her question, "When, am I?.."

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