How does one prepare to meet a Conqueror?
Solea wasn’t sure. When she was a little girl, sometimes her father would tell her stories at night about the Conquerors and all the stories seemed awful.
The first Conqueror had started innocently enough. This Conqueror had been born a mere mortal to a pair of White Swans, and she felt the horror of mortality. Her parents too had trouble grasping this as well. And so, in a desperate bid to gain immortality, she begged the Black Swans — her uncles and aunts — to allow her to have some of their blood so that she could somehow become immortal through the magic in their blood. Most of them refused her. But one of the Conqueror’s uncles pitied her and gave her some of his blood. His blood gave her immortality, but it poisoned her and made her mad with bloodlust. She possessed that uncle using his blood and used him to collect the blood from his Black Swan brothers and sisters, until they were all under her control.
The White Swans at the time could not believe that such a thing could happen. They tried to ignore it and pretend that this was merely a phase that would soon pass with time. They hid from the Conqueror, hoping that she would soon die, not understanding that she had achieved immortality and had turned mad in the process.
The blood turned the Conqueror so mad that finally she hunted down Diamea using the twelve Black Swans, intending to bleed him and possess him, just like she had the other Black Swans. Diamea allowed her to bleed him, pleading with her throughout that she should stop and remember who she was, but the Conqueror only laughed at him.
But Diamea tricked her. When she bled him, he chose to die instead, cursing her for eternity. Shortly after, the Conqueror’s body was destroyed. The White Swan, Eurodities, found the secret pool of water which the Conqueror used as a bath and poisoned the water with such toxic poisons that the Conqueror’s body completely melted away and she was destroyed.
And that was how the first Conqueror lost everything and simply became a lost soul who wandered the world as a voice on the wind. There, she was doomed to share her memories to her children and the children of her children, hoping that one day they might be restored to glory, and watching them succumb to madness and death instead.
As for the Black Swan who had helped her rise to power? He had been acting as a bodyguard to the Conqueror when she was destroyed. And so when the Conqueror begged him to drag her out of the water, the Black Swan — possessed, of course — could not refuse the Conqueror’s request. So as he tried to fish out the Conqueror, much of his body was destroyed in the process until he became completely dumb and deformed. But he, however, could not die. And so, after she was destroyed, he was cursed to wander the world forever, deformed and dumb, trying desperately to make amends somehow for bringing the Conqueror to so much power.
Solea always loved those stories because they terrified her so much that couldn’t sleep. Then she would wake up her father and make him rock her on the rocking chair. As he rocked half-asleep, he would hum and sing songs in the Swans’ language about the wind and water that sounded so wild that she would press her face close to his chest and listen to his heartbeat thudding in her ears. And there, she would imagine a storm coming past until finally, exhausted, she would fall asleep, tangled in his arms.
Of course, Solea hadn’t realized then that her father was the Black Swan who helped the first Conqueror rise to power. Growing up, she always considered the uncle stupid for trusting the Conqueror, and she thought that his punishment of being stricken dumb and deformed was a just punishment for his crimes. After all, didn’t he know that the Conqueror was evil incarnate? Once she asked her father why the uncle had trusted the Conqueror. But her father only shrugged and said that perhaps the uncle just didn’t know at the time how evil she would become. It seemed like a silly answer to her then.
Solea found out that the teacher had been decided upon a couple of days later when Alainna came, bearing a letter from Archondid that was addressed to them both.
“The idiots chose the Conqueror,” Alainna said, furious. “Listen to what Archondid wrote.”
To my Lady and my goddaughter:
The teacher has been decided upon. Sergius and I will be attending every class to make sure that the instruction is adequate. Please ignore me while I am in class and pretend that I am not there, as I will need to devote my full attention to the teacher and I absolutely cannot be distracted. If you need anything from someone other than the teacher, you can speak with Sergius. We hope that you will learn our language quickly.
Uclepidies begs you both to wear the gifts that he gave you to the class.
Solea frowned. “I understand the necklace, but the old cloak? Why should I wear that?”
Alainna smiled bitterly. “I suppose we’ll find out when the Conqueror attacks us.” She flopped down on the bed angrily. “So Uclepidies finally caved, the coward! Though, I suppose we shouldn’t have expected him to stand against the Conqueror for long. Not with his history. No, he recognized the threat, gave us a couple of little trinkets so that we would recognize our doom, and then abandoned us in the end. The coward!”
“It wasn’t just him that made the decision,” Solea said, though her face fell.
“No, they all did, and they should all be ashamed!" Alainna snapped. "They should know better! They’ve had to face the Conquerors before. Besides, even the youngest child knows that you never trust a Conqueror. Never! And yet, here they are, allowing a Conqueror to come close to me, the Lady, before I’ve even had a chance to meet Diamea. Worse, they are allowing the Conqueror to come close to you, a Black Swan’s daughter! The first Conqueror has already possessed your father, and his blood runs through their veins. What if this new Conqueror wants to add you into her collection?”
“So we are doomed?” Solea asked.
“Not if I have any say about it,” Alainna declared. “If they think they can just lead me to my death, they have another thing coming.”
“So what do we do?”
“We’ll force the Conqueror to reveal herself, of course,” Alainna said. “Then, once she reveals herself, everyone will imprison her until I find Diamea.”
Alainna grinned. “By annoying her, of course.” When Solea looked shocked, she added, “If I can enrage Uclepidies and cause him to attack me, even though he has every reason not to attack me, just by annoying him, can you just imagine how much more annoying I can be when I actually want to be?”
Solea stared at her incredulously. “You want to annoy our new teacher so much she attacks you?”
“And once she does, she will be quickly imprisoned for attacking me, until Diamea comes,” Alainna said firmly. “Then Diamea can deal with her and we'll all live happily ever after.”
Solea frowned. “This sounds like a very bad idea. Uclepidies hurt you, but at least he stopped and restrained himself when your mother intervened. Who will stop this Conqueror when you push her over the edge?”
Alainna shrugged. “What else are we supposed to do? Let the Conqueror do whatever she wants to do until she goes mad and starts terrorizing us?”
And Solea didn’t know what to say to that.