It was a plain door, made of light wood with a simple brass handle. Nothing about it was intimidating, nothing to indicate the power that sat behind. Ayrella stood still before it, her heart beating madly. She could feel the power pressing from behind those simple doors, amazed at the strength of the simple wood to hold it all in. A moments breath, allowing Henrich’s calming assurances to whisper their way from her memory through her mind, before she reached slowly for the handle and pushed open the door into the great room.
Through it was a sight she knew very well, it still overwhelmed her. Inside those solid brick walls was a vast openness. Nothing below but the distant waters, nothing above but the open blue sky. Seats were formed out clouds for those present, circled around the edges of the room. There were many seats around either side of the room, with a break for the doorway and for the two seats set slightly apart directly across the room. Ayrella stepped out into the openness, the air supporting her as she stood alone, the focus of everyone in the room. There was no seat for her, no throne in which she could rest. She stood the focus of the room once more.
The first time she had stood, the center of their attention, had been a time of great joy. The last had been full of sadness and anger as she made her decision to leave them all to be with Henrich. And now… now the memory of both those times flooded through her and all she could think of was her uncertainty. And a strange, sudden awareness of the simplicity of her mortal clothes, as the others looked down at her with scrutiny. She simply stood and waited, trying to calm her fluttering heart, and keep those nerves from reflecting in her face and body.
“You dare return.” A deep voice bellowed from across the room. Ayrella did not need to look to know it was Ikthar. His anger rang clear, and though she had a ready retort, Ayrella knew better than to answer for herself. Not yet, at least.
“You should fall right through the skies,” Thipar said by way of agreement, always the closest friend and supporter of Ikthar, though not always able to understand what was truly in Ikthar’s heart.
“She could not have come if she had not been summoned.” Tyal reminded them all in her own calm and soothing manner.
“Even we do not know all that is at work here,” Kisha agreed. Ayrella could hear the smile coming through her words, “If she has returned, then that clearly has been deemed to be the way of things.”
“It is not our place,” Siron put in with a pointed look towards Ikthar, “to dissuade or argue the will of the Skies.”
This was met with silence, as the wind swirled around, lifting Ayrella slightly higher. She looked around her, now clearly seeing the faces of her friends and family, detractors and supporters alike. Those who had encouraged her freedom to make the decision she did and those who had seen her actions as betrayal, or a mistake. Those she had hurt.
“Dear brother.” She looked to Ikthar now, speaking directly to him as though no others were present. Her voice calm though her head spun with fear, “you know better than anyone how frightened I must be. To have been summoned here….” She waited, but not a word was said, his face set with anger. She held the floor, and would have to say much more to budge him. There were others, certainly, but it was him that she felt she owed the most.
“Henrich, my mortal husband, was taken from me in just the recent month. I had heard the stirrings of the world, and knew that things were not at peace, but it was not my matter. I had given up the right to have a place in those concerns. I had resigned myself to live a mortal life, a widow until the day when I too would have to perish from the world. But the Skies have a different plan, it would seem.” She paused, taking a breath and trying to find the certainty inside herself that she was managing to project through her voice.
“There is an unrest in the Realms. I know that you have all felt it too. To different degrees something is stirring. I felt it in the land where I lived, and I am sure that you have seen it in the Realms that you tend to. I do not know how I, a humble being even before my mortal life, can be of any aid. But, I have been bid to return. You, my dear brother Ikthar, have always been the strength of our family. You hold the seat of power, you judge fairly.” She saw just the slightest shift in Ikthar’s face, a twitch at the very edge of his mouth, a slight softening of his eyes. It was quickly suppressed, but Ayrella saw it there and knew that she had made some headway.
“You, my dearest sister Kisha, have always been the heart of our family. You tend to the spirits of mortals and gods alike.” Kisha responded to this with a gentle smile, a slight nod, reassuring Ayrella without needing to say a word.
“Our friends,” Ayrella waved her hand around to the others gathered in the room, “all have been chosen carefully for their power and place. All belong, a power to bring to the table. Necessary forces.” She could see nods among the crowd. Though some still refused to engage her attention she found many willing to connect with her gaze.
“I believed my path was to live amongst the mortals. To follow a journey reverse the one so many of you have followed. But —” she paused, blinking back a moment of tears as a sudden wave of memories pushed through her mind, “it would seem that this is not the case. I plead of you, please, simply allow me to return to take my place. Whatever that place may be, in the change this is that is happening to our Realms.”
The silence felt like a weight on her shoulders. She was certain that this was where she was meant to be, certain that this was what had been bid of her, though she had no certainty about what her place was to be in it.
A stirring began, the winds sweeping around her gently, as though to give her some comfort. Slowly, with no words or noise, another chair formed from the clouds alongside Ikthar and Kisha’s, and Ayrella found herself gently being lifted towards it.
“The Sky has spoken,” Ikthar said flatly, no emotion making its way through his words, “you are to take your seat, once more, among us.”