Felicia rode hard. Her destrier barely noticed, not a drop of sweat showing on its black and grey skin. The Night Queen was enveloped by her billowing cape, a shifting blackness dotted with sparkling stars. Beneath her dark blue helmet, her face was set. Her eyes were only for the horizon. No one else rode with her, and those she came to quickly got out of the way. Timing was everything, and she had to be within sight of the Citadel of Day by Sundown.
It was a day like any other—bright, but unnaturally so. In the distance, every now and then, one of the giant mirrors her brother had installed would sparkle like a sun. Only for a moment though, as Felicia moved swiftly across ﬁelds of green and gold. The clouds moved as she did, so at times it felt as if she were running in one spot. And then, as she peaked a hill, the Citadel came into sight. It was a supernova, a great bonﬁre on the land. Its walls, parapets, buildings and streets were different levels of gold, some genuine, some gilded, some merely paint. It was impressive, and after so long even Felicia’s breath was halted. She reined in Shadow, and waited a moment on the hilltop.
A great parade of peasants moved in and out of the city gate, along the road that led to other towns and villages of the state. Their plebeian outfits muddied the beauty of the Citadel, but not as much as her brother had, thought Felicia. It was twenty years since she had left this place, when she had been seventeen years of age. Her childhood memories were of decadence and luxury, but the last two decades had been as harsh as a Queen should have to live.
It would all be over soon, she mused. Twenty years living on the edge of a world that she should have ruled over, could have ruled over with her brother, had he seen the light. The only place in the state she could live in balance was the Edge–though it had been more of a perpetual twilight. Felicia spat. It was time to end this.
King Sean, Lord of Light and Guardian of the Sun, sat on his throne. His face was sour, his eyes sunken, his black hair rufﬂed. Court was in session; trouble was imminent.
“My Lord, the Dark Resistance comes at us on two fronts,” said his Lord Commander, Rufus. “From the sea, their galleons sail to encircle our port, though our own navy has set up a cordon. From the East, a vast host marches, having gathered a swell of your own subjects–subjects that have rebelled, and are thus enemies of the State.”
Sean nodded. “And of my sister?” Rufus swallowed, eyes lowering.
“Nothing as yet. She does not appear to be leading either host. Of course, she would be wise to remain hidden, as she is wont to do.”
It was inevitable that his sister would be here, leading this foolish charge to bring him down. It had all begun ﬁve months ago, when a sudden surge of ﬁghting had sprung up from the Far East. Reports had been hazy at ﬁrst, but it was quickly realised that the Night Queen had returned. His sister, Felicia. He had barely slept since.
“See to it that when she is found, she is captured alive. It has been far too long since a family reunion.”
Twenty years. Twenty years he had ruled by himself, bringing light and prosperity to the State. There had been no wars, no ﬁghting in all that time. He thought his people content. Light was the only way–how could they not see this?
“Saul, what of the Citadel? Is there any unrest, any murmurings within our walls?”
Saul was his advisor, and had been advisor to his father, the previous Guardian of the Sun. He was a willowy man, his grey combover and half-moon spectacles giving him the look of a librarian. He knew as much, but had far more power.
“No, your Brightness, the people of the Citadel remain happy, conﬁdent that this uprising will be quashed. Labour and trade continue as normal.”
That was a start. The last thing he needed was trouble from within. If everything continued as normal he was almost satisfied.
“Triple the guard around the Temple of Dreams, it is vital it remains as it is. Rufus, send word to our armies and navy—we march. Now”
Rufus and the rest of his court gave a single, deep nod, gave the Sign of the Sun, and marched out. Saul hesitated to stay, but Sean wanted to be alone for a moment. He shook his head, and Saul fell into the shadows.
Walking to the grand arched window that overlooked the Citadel, Sean took in the Golden City, and the green pastures that surrounded it. His sister was coming, bringing Darkness with her. What could she achieve? His forces were mightier, and the prosperity he offered could not be challenged. He grimaced as he watched his subjects. When he had come to power, he had deemed himself the Life Bringer. Since the rebellion, a new title had whispered from the East. Life’s Tyrant. Sean would not tolerate gossip and deceit.
“Where are you, little sister…”
* * *
The Ray Inn was the last stop before the Citadel, and Felicia trotted up to the stables. She dismounted Shadow, removing her helm as she marched towards the inn. Golden locks fell out from the head piece, free after many days of hard travel. It was almost Sundown, the three hour period the gracious Lord of Light allowed his servants to sleep. Twice a day, the Mirrors would turn to allow for rest. It never truly went dark—light instead struck from weird angles, highlighting the horizon and dappling the world’s canopy.