The Alpha and the Omega: Rebirth
Arcturus Morgana was an old man when his body finally failed him, but in truth had died long ago. His warrior mate Aelina was no victim of a raid gone wrong, but of her own crushing guilt. The woman blamed herself for failing to give Arcturus a child, blamed herself for their exile and life as estranged outlaws. The warrior mates could escape the dour Matriarch, but the woman herself couldn’t escape her failure. She didn’t even blame Arcturus when the first of his bastards entered the world, the arrival of such the final confirmation that the fault was at her feet and not his.
He found her in their bed, covered in the blood of numerous self-inflicted wounds. She had ravaged her own body, plunging a dagger into her barren womb time and again, her every stroke a reflection of her self-hatred and failure. She died with his name on her lips, asking the gods and her warrior mate for their forgiveness until they met again in the aftervoid.
From that day forward Arcturus was a broken man, though his pain manifested itself not in mourning but cruelty. Hatred became his new mistress, hatred for the scheming priestesses who whispered poison into his mother’s ear. Hatred for whatever cruel twist of fate had left Aelina barren. Hatred for his exile. Hatred for his powerlessness.
Yet the strongest hate that flowed through Arcturus’s veins was for Sola, his own mother. Slowly he began to plot against her, striking indirectly at first- for his crew were also of the clan, and would have mutinied if ordered to shed their own people’s blood. Yet years turned into decades, and the identities of those who followed him were slowly shaped into something else, Morganas yet not. The realm of Sola stagnated and withered, and Arcturus’s grew ever deadlier and more dynamic.
The Quirium crisis gave Arcturus the opportunity he needed to make his move. He watched as the clans revolted against his mother’s rule, biding his time as potential enemies slaughtered each other in the great struggle that ensued. Finally he struck, ostensibly saving his people and his mother from certain doom but in reality seizing the reigns of power for himself. Sola now owed her life to him, and she knew it. Mother and son were by now both old and wily, with not a shred of familial affection left between them.
Planning the mass betrayal of the vassal clans had taken years, but everything had gone perfectly. It was no coincidence that all but the royal ships of Cadfael and Auron’s fleets had been destroyed. It had been no coincidence that Arcturus’s timing was so perfect. The battle and its aftermath were purges, ways for various clan heads to scour the opposition within their own ranks, innocently blaming the vicissitudes of war for the losses. None but those ships and warriors loyal to Arcturus were meant to survive the battle, and none did.
The funeral procession was real, but within the bowels of Arcturus’s ship was no royal corpse. Sola lay in a stasis capsule, bound and helpless, forced from her Matriarchal chamber by the hands of her own children. In Cadfael and Auron Arcturus had found willing accomplices, the two younger children as eager to end the tyranny of their mother’s reign as the eldest. In secret they had conspired, and as one they had made their move. Sola stammered and pleaded, her mind destroyed by the betrayal as the capsule snapped shut around her. There she could do naught but wait, wait until fate revealed the full breadth of her childrens’ deception. No dignified burial at Dinas Wrach awaited her- Arcturus had prepared her final resting spot well in advance, and had found in his siblings willing accomplices.
Amid flowing lava and a toxic air Sola was forcefully shoved into her tomb, none but her own children privy to her true fate. It was a proper mausoleum, one stocked with tokens of her rule. Arcturus had even managed to liberate the wedding blade from her union with Cassian, resting on its own display with a sentimental line etched upon it.
One obsidian stone was placed atop the other, both her time and her light running out. Her nugget of Quirium, so sacred to her, was ripped from her neck, Arcturus laughing as he flung it into the swirling morass. It took all of Sola’s remaining wits to scream why, why would her own children betray her so? With the final stone in his hand Arcturus answered.
“You were right, mother. Power is something to be seized. For my father. And for Aelina. May you live forever.”
With that, the final ray of primordial light was extinguished, leaving an old woman alone and terrified, with no one but the Crone to keep her company. Yet she could claim no foul dealings from her patron deity. Her children had all grown to emulate her example, and she would die- as promised- on a throne of fire and darkness.
Read the complete chapter here!