“Once upon a time there lived the beautiful princess Medora, in a kingdom far, far away. Her mother had died when she was born, and her father, the good king Eldric, raised her. When she was sixteen, the sorcerer Talisker came to their lands, and he took the princess to his keep, to make her his eternal bride, his beautiful swan maiden. The young princess would easily have succumbed to his evil charms eventually, had not King Eldric announced throughout the lands that the one who could rescue the fair princess from the evil sorcerer would be given her hand in marriage, and half the kingdom.
The valiant prince Targenor heard the king’s announcement, and he stormed to the keep of the evil sorcerer, fighting against all the monsters that protected it, to the central chamber where the beautiful princess was kept a prisoner, but there he met his match, the sorcerer who was as skilled in swordplay as he was magic. The valiant prince Targenor died of his wounds, and the sorcerer laughed, telling Medora that she would succumb to him, or she would perish.
She refused him, again and again, but no mortal woman could resist the charms of the sorcerer Talisker, and finally she begged him to take her and make her his.”
Or, well. That is how the Luminary Raksha Talisker planned things. None of the involved know how long it took, but he found mortals to make into his puppets to play out the fairy tale, finding a beautiful girl, who’s name is no longer one that is remembered, for the role of Medora.
Up until the valiant prince Targenor came to the keep of the evil sorcerer everything went as it was supposed to. Medora was very beautiful, and Talisker congratulated himself, watching his bound bride hanging on the wall. The prince, too, fought valiantly, but of course in vain. How could even a godblood compete with a raksha? He, then, approached Medora, giving her the choice of becoming his, or perish. The fair, gentle maiden chose to turn herself into a beautiful swan rather than succumb to his advances, forever to grieve the loss… no, wait. That’s not quite how it happened.
“Medora” doesn’t remember her own name. She has vague memories of having learned how to fight, and of a bearded person who she believes is her father, but mortals do have little to set against one of the cruel fair folk. For her, the revolution started earlier than Talisker realised. It started seeing the children that were abused and used as a mix of pets and walking food sources. It started seeing the servants who no longer had semblance of rational thought. It started seeing the guild merchants selling more slaves to be used in Talisker’s story. And it finished seeing the attractive Targenor struck down for nothing more than the amusement of the raksha.
Talisker approached her, and he told her that either she would become his, or she would perish. She snarled and tore the chains off the wall, as if it had been nothing more than spiderweb, using the fair folk’s story against him as she grew into the shape of a beastman swan, striking him hard, using the chains she’d torn out of the wall to beat him and his entourage up. The poor hobgoblins were no match to the furious full moon, and even the Luminary had to flee. He threw his cloak around himself, stunting his escape, leaving her with the words: “I will return, my love, once you have calmed down. I am sure we can work things out!”
Grumbling over the raksha, Medora then moved to check on Targenor, who was alive, but unconscious. She was still bound by the chains, and trying to tear them apart didn’t do much, so she had no other choice than to lift up Targenor into her arms and carrying him out, bringing the various children and servants who were still alive enough to be saved out of the keep. Those who were not she gave what help she could. Her “father” was overjoyed to see his daughter safe and sound, and it was a rag-tag band of 20 who followed the newly exalted Lunar out of the freehold, the few raksha left fleeing from the fury of the enraged Swan Maiden.
As night fell, they camped underneath the full moon. Medora had managed to slip out of her bonds by shifting into a swan, but she could feel pieces of herself getting lost with every shift. She could not sleep at all, the moon calling her out. She let her gaze flicker over the area, when her gaze fell on a huntress whose features glittered in silver. As the eyes of the Swan Maiden and the Bloody Huntress met, the goddess raised her bow in greeting towards her newest child, before she turned into a silver beam.
They continued through the wyld. After they had gotten into the bordermarches, they saw a heart-wrenching sight. It was a caravan of guilders, travelling through the wyld, most likely heading for the freehold they’d just left, or possibly another freehold. They saw the slaves, and then the Swan Maiden saw red. The former slaves weren’t fighters, and the caravan’s guards were powerful. She would’ve lost all of them, had not a group of four Lunars joined into the fray, helping her and the freed slaves to fight back. As the Swan Maiden met the eye of the merchant, she suddenly went cold. A flashback to him and her. She saw what he’d done to her before turning her over to the Raksha, and she lunged. When she saw clearly again, he was bludgeoned to death, the slight repaid in blood. As it may be, it as likely that the victim of her attack was a brother, son, grandson or related even farther away, as the Swan Maiden may have been a prisoner for as few as a two or three years, or as much as up to hundred, maybe even more.
Targenor was one of the few who hadn’t been brainwashed into joining the story, but was a god-blood, an offshoot of… Well, neither he nor his mother ever knew. He had been foolish enough to want to play the hero when he heard about the threats of the sorcerer against the peaceful kingdom, and hadn’t realised how much in over his head he was until he came to the kingdom and realised how staged it was. At that time, however, he felt that he had to do something. He couldn’t just sit back and let the Raksha do its’ thing, so he continued to play the role that had been suggested to him, hoping against the odds he could find a way to save them. At first, he’d been slightly bitter that he had been such a complete failure that the princess had to save him, but in the end he came around, and they both enjoyed each other’s company as they travelled.
The pack that had been sent to retrieve her consisted of two full moons, a no moon, and a teasing changing moon, all of which she got along fairly well with. The last bit of the way, she had to leave the slaves and Targenor, but promised she would return to them. He, in turn, promised that he’d look after them. Eldric wasn’t her father, they both knew that, but they still felt like family, so she hugged him closely before leaving, promising him, too, that she would return. They were all the family most of them had, after all.
The no moon, Wind Beneath Wings, was a crane totem, not that much of an elder, but old enough. He gave the Swan Maiden an appreciative look as she came in with the pack, and of course she was still stunning. Through the trip from the freehold, she had not had a chance to replace her outfit, and gossamer was very sturdy, leaving her in the incredibly beautiful white gown that Talisker had put her in, matched with a cloak. Say what you want about Raksha, but they know how to make things last. Wind Beneath Wings glanced over at the full moon who’d led the pack, thanking them for having gotten her to him safely, noting that the pact appeared to have gotten a new changing moon. This would have gone over quite smoothly, had not the changing moon of the rescue pack decided to be a tease, leaning in to murmur to the Swan Maiden that the no moon had suggested that she couldn’t fight. That she was just a pretty face. And then the changing moon sat back to watch the ensuing chaos. After all, it had been quite funny (per his packmates) watching her go after him for the same mistake.
The Swan Maiden, of course, was no match to the No Moon. Full Moon or not, she did not have the experience needed to beat him up, though he noted that she had a very good arm on her. He knocked her out, and when she woke up they talked instead, and came to an agreement. He agreed that he’d been a bit premature with setting her caste and would go into the trials with an open mind, she agreed that attacking another member of the pact, especially the elder trying to keep you out of becoming a chimera, was not wise.
The rest of the trials were fairly standard. One of them was to pick animals to fulfill certain roles, and as she was in the north she picked a wolf to hunt with, a raven to sneak with and also to be able to pass through cities unseen, and a hare for when she needed to travel in high speeds along the ground. With her massive Beast-form she could fight, and with her Spirit Shape she could fly. Another was to find a particular Raksha and take from him the sword he carried, which she did by luring him into a false sense of safety with her grace and beauty, before she attacked. A third was strange to her: to retrieve an urn of a pool of silver in the wyld. Moonsilver, she was told, once she came back.
Every night he would talk to her while working on the painful tattoos, finding out more about her, incorporating who she was – or what she remembered – into her tattoos. Finally he finished them but for two things: What name she should use as her deed-name, and what would she be the steward of? She chose the name of Shimmer-Iced Mirage, evoking the silver tattoos and the view of Luna, almost unreal, and the stewardship was obvious: The Wyld.
Then came a time of tutelage. She travelled with the pack that had rescued her, coming to know them very well. The leader was a bull totem called Steady Charge, his next-in-command was the raiton no moon Sails on Obsidian Skies. The omega of the pack, if such a thing, was the coyote changing moon Teasing Laughter, and the final member of the pack was the eagle Brilliant Flight. They were all of the Swords of Luna, which seemed fitting. Teasing Laughter and Grace became on-again, off-again lovers, and always rivals. At the end of her tutelage, having been with them little over a year, Wind Beneath Wings sent a message for them. He explained that it was now time she went out on her own. As a parting present he gave her a beautiful moonsilver chain daiklaive, which told the story of a Swan Princess who freed herself from the shackles of the fair folk, who fought her way into possession of the Sword of an Anarch, the shackles and Sword having been both used to create it. She smiled, a beautiful smile on beautiful features, and when asked what she would name it, the answer was simple. “This is my fairy tale.”
The small village had blossomed, once she returned to it. Some of the people had made new lives for themselves, starting to trade with their neighbours, but a few were restless. She stayed for three months, and they crowned her ruler of their village. When she left, it was with Targenor by her side, as well as twenty of the more adventurous former slaves. Eldric stayed back, ruling in her stead, all of them having sworn loyalty to Medora, their Swan Maiden, Graceful Retribution…
Together they travelled through the countryside, scavenging what they could, hankering on. Mirage would hunt and they’d sell the pelts, and sometimes they were guards to caravans, but never the guild, and never slave caravans. One day she was out swimming in a river when she felt the pull of essence. She swum down, finding a manse at the bottom of the river, a small pagoda among the seaweed, filled with raging water swirling. It was not easy to attune to it, but she pulled it off in the end, being just slightly singed. The hearthstone she set in her Chain Daiklaive, before moving on.
They settled in two areas: Inside Whitewall to have a safe haven, if necessary, and a small camp closer to the mountains, so that they would be ready, should the fair ones threaten the city or villages nearby.