© Copyright 2009 - Darqside - Used by permission
Storycodes: M/ffff; latex; encase; hist; cons; X
Part 1: The Four Winds
In ancient days, before the world's edges were known, and the land was young, there was a great and powerful King. He was a man who bore his strength for the very mountains to bear witness. He united his peoples and made alliances with many lands. He conquered no man, save those who ruled unjustly, he hated no man, save those who would bear arms at him. He was known throughout the known world as King Azmondias, the Guard. For his sense of justice compounded with his unearthly wisdom caused many pilgrims to journey to his kingdom to seek resolution to any problem they might have.
The King's Army was as wide as the number of allies he'd made. Those he met but once pledged loyalty to him…not out of fear or of greed for power and influence, but out of a sense of duty. Any man with but a fleeting look in to his eyes knew they could trust the King.
During his reign, peace was present throughout all the world, and prosperity, he saw to it that those who were poor obtained the very goods needed to make for themselves a home in which to live.
It was not until the King sought for himself a Queen that the world shook and trembled with fear. The schemers schemed, the meddlers meddled, and all the world wondered if the King would choose his wife wisely or be forced to conquer a great kingdom somewhere off in the unknown lands just to pursue his love.
The King, as it happened, had discovered a young woman playing in the ancient lake pools in the wilds that surrounded his kingdom. Despite her nudity, he was compelled to look upon her, first with curious fascination, then obsession. Her beauty it is said could make a single quiet bird cry out in joy and song. Her voice the very song of the winds, her hair was perplexing in that it shimmered as moonlight at night and as the sun during the day, and on days when the sun was just in the right position…her hair glowed as it were a rainbow.
Not only was the King taken by this woman, but he was fascinated by where she had come from. No other had he seen before or since that could compare with her beauty. Gazed he upon her, as one who had seen a spirit and been possessed by it.
He called out to her to cover herself, and requested that he speak with her. He had expected her to take flight at his words, but to his surprise she was not afraid. When she looked upon him it was as if she herself had become enchanted. She said but only a few words to him after this.
"I am humbled that I am called beautiful before you, mighty King, but I am vexed before you, as it was the gods have cursed me."
Was it a curse? To say that the gods had vexed such a wondrous woman was astounding. Was there such evidence? None revealing, for no mark was placed upon this woman. When asked what sort of curse it was, she simply replied thus: "I am eternally forbidden to give birth to any heir. No son shall come from my loins; as such no man has accepted me."
It was then that the King took her up in his strong arms and decreed thus: "Far be it that such a maiden be lonely due to her inabilities, even a King must take heed to a woman's fate! I call you beloved among women, my one, my own, my Queen!"
The woman's name was Fionia, and she accepted his love from that day forward and for the remainder of their days as King and Queen. The kingdom rejoiced that disquiet had been removed from the King and loneliness had taken its leave from the land. Many were the feasts the day of the King's return with his Queen, and many more the dancing and drinking, such that the whole week was filled with festivity. No greater love was found in or outside the kingdom that compared to the love shared between Azmondias and Fionia. Lovers who loved, learned by the King and Queen's example, and even greater loves were formed due to this one as history would tell. But the peace would soon be shaken as the Queen's day of birthing soon drew nigh.
To state she was pregnant was to state in the minimal, for she was larger than any woman the King himself had ever seen. It appeared as though she would be having twin or more. The doctors and wise-men could not foresee what would issue forth from her. She had told the kingdom of her curse, and they worried to an extent, but this was quieted by the King himself. He had no fear of it, and went so far as to say he would accept any daughter as an heir to his throne.
The day came and what a busy day it was, nursemaids ran to and fro throughout the house, busying themselves in preparation for the arrival. The King sat as perplexed as ever he had been, his wisdom being great, he had no knowledge of being a father. Then the cries issued forth that the task was completed. A total of four baby girls were born, each within one second after the other. The mother, in her exhaustion, was allowed to sleep in quiet and solitude.
The task was given to the King to name his children. And so, in his wisdom, he named them as the Four Winds of the earth. Nartha, of the furthest reaches and eldest of four, Soutana, of the great frozen island, Astara, whose paths led to the astral plane, and Wessa the youngest and link to the new world. King Azmondias and his Queen were now in a perplexing situation, not one but four capable heirs had been given to him. And they were not sons. It was vexing to the point the Queen bowed her noble head.
The King uplifted his Queen, and said thus: "I did not choose for me a wife so that she could humble herself before the gods…these four winds bear the face of their mother, and a mother you shall be…worry not, as I chose you and have no regret in my choice, I choose among my daughters the heir of this great land I have sired. Only the times in which they live and grow shall give me my answer."
And so it was that the King and Queen had their hands quite full in raising their four daughters. Each it seemed excelled in a great many things. And their disposition was astounding in that they never quarreled or disputed, even outside the King's observation. Each daughter was humble and kind, to her people and her family.
Nartha, the oldest by 4 seconds, was suspected by the elders of the kingdom to have the most potential to become the heir, but these suspicions were set aside when she expressed one day, that her desire was to explore the world, just as her father had. She loved to climb the great mountains, and her strength began to rival even that of her own father's. She was kind-hearted and very humble for a princess, even if her strength astounded and confounded many a suitor. Soldiers and knights throughout the land bowed before her strength and skill with a sword.
Soutana, the second born of 2 seconds, might have been just as great a competitor for the throne had she herself not expressed her desire to leave it in her other sister's capable hands. She, just as her older sister, desired to explore things, but more of the cerebral and knowledge of the world. She could navigate the stars faster than any map maker before her and her knowledge of elixirs, machines, and chemicals rivaled the greatest wise men of the time. It is said her eyes could foretell the future, and that her wisdom rivaled the King's.
Astara, third born of 3 seconds, was almost directly handed the task of ruling the kingdom, during a time when the King had been felled by a strange sickness. It was a frightening time for the people and the Queen herself, who wondered if such a strange illness would take the King from them. It was then that Astara decided to seek out the methods and teaching of the great elders of medicine and find a cure for her father's illness. Of all the daughters, it is said that Astara loved the King the most. It was then she sought a cure, and a cure she did find, that changed her decision to take the King's place as ruler. She realized then after his health was restored that she had been given a duty to heal those who had fallen by illness. And just as Nartha had left the kingdom, seeking adventure, Astara sought knowledge on the greatest medicines in the world. On her return to the King, it is said she gained the knowledge of the Sages, and been blessed with the ability to heal fatal wounds with but a touch from her hands.
Wessa, the youngest, was not concerned with things of the world, but was the one most suspected to become true heir. She was always concerned for the status of her people. Stately order and the day to day dealings of the King were her primary interest. She learned politics under his guide and became quite knowledgeable on how a kingdom should be run. It was by her guidance and influence that several new kingdoms on the outskirts of the King's land were able to ally themselves with him. It is said that a single glance from her gaze can turn a stone-hearted man into a kind-hearted being.
And so, the day came when the King asked the audience of his four daughters to present themselves before the King and Queen. This day was to be the day he made his decision as to who would rule the land in his stead. He looked upon all they had done with pride and absolute love. His daughters had grown into beautiful women, superior in fact, to the Queen herself. It was understood that most kingdoms chose a male heir to rule their lands, due to the strength of breeding and concepts of duty and tradition. But due to the Queen's curse, it was expected that a woman would take the throne as the new Queen. The quandary that many discussed then was…who would it be? Of the four daughters who would he choose? Who would he favor?
Instead, the King bowed his head. He asked his four daughters to put their four hands face up together in a circle. Taking his crown, he placed it in all four of their hands.
"My four winds have gifts beyond measure, and each would deem to rule in my place via their own means but…I will that each is best suited to a certain aspect of my kingdom."
The four were surprised and shocked of course, as was the rest of the kingdom, murmurs and whispers spread abroad. But the King silenced them all.
"Talents and skills are given in great amounts to a select few, and it is only expected that some would excel in one great thing over others…my four daughters have been given fragments of my kingdom and shall rule it as such."
"To my daughter Nartha, whose strength is beyond my own and whose sword arm would seek to rend the heavens…I give rule of my armies, to conquer the unjust, to protect the weak, it is yours."
"To my daughter Soutana, whose creativity would will that man should fly to the heavens, I give the wisdom of the greatest soothsayers this kingdom has gained over the ages, and she shall be as judge over the arts and technologies of this kingdom."
"To my daughter Astara, who in her love for me gave me back the life I nearly lost…I give the knowledge of this kingdom's sages, she will be this kingdom's lead physician and health consultant, watch over our people, and keep them safe from the ills of this world."
"To my youngest daughter Wessa, whose tongue is sharper than her eldest sister's sword, I give the rule over the day to day affairs of my people. Your love of them is eternal, and so you shall guide them into the new era as advisor and ambassador of the kingdom."
"To the four of you, I give my kingdom, do not squander it or quarrel for it, for you each have been equally given of it based on the gifts you've displayed to me. If there should come a time that one of you could not rule, lean on your sisters' strength, for the four of you together are a pillar that holds this crown on high."
And so it was that the four daughters held the crown and raised it on high, together as the four Queens of the land.
All would be maintained as order, or so it seemed, as each Queen ruled her aspect of the kingdom wisely and justly. The four daughters acted together in all things, and together they became as an even greater King than Azmondias himself was. But the peace this kingdom so enjoyed did not last, as it seemed as though the true curse of the former Queen had come to light. Former Queen Fionia, it was stated, was incapable of having sons, and thus no heir by traditional means…while this was solved by the King well enough, there was an undiscovered aspect of the curse that would reveal itself on her own daughters.
That curse revealed itself in the form of beauty. The four daughters bore the face of their mother, but no beauty before or since compared. And so it was that many suitors, seeking fame, fortune, or simply to claim a wife of their own, sought the hand of one of these four lovely maidens.
Nartha was the first to receive suitors in her young age, but due to her obstinacy, she rejected every single one that came, and several came to be notorious for seeking her favors, or simply trying to find favor from her sisters if she was not in the mood. It became quite troublesome when several suitors came to the kingdom in attempt to marry all four Queens at once.
To state they were flustered was quite the understatement; these suitors were beginning to get in the way of daily and foreign affairs. It was not until two princes from neighboring kingdoms began to quarrel over them that things began to get out of hand. These two kingdoms had shared a long established peace with one another, but it was soon broken over their decision to marry one of the daughters of Azmondias. A war soon broke out between these kingdoms, leaving the four Queens to deal with any sort of aftermath from their absurd skirmishes. Both kingdoms decided that Nartha's army was not allowed to get involved, and that the kingdom of Azmondias was to simply bear witness to this war of love. And that the winner would take the four Queens in marriage.
Nartha, refusing to be kept on the sidelines, interrupted their battles and forced them to negotiate, with Soutana acting as mediator. But when the subject immediately went to who Soutana favored for a husband, war erupted between the two kingdoms yet again. In fact, it was discovered that the Four Daughters of Azmondias were not truly interested in marriage, as their responsibility to the kingdom took priority in their hearts. But the lust of men over such beauty would not be swayed over the wills and desires of women.
It was during another futile negotiation that Soutana was captured by one of the princes of the western kingdom, in his attempt to desperately force marriage upon her. The King himself had no choice but to reclaim his crown for a time and step in to the skirmish. Using Nartha's army, the King in his old age single-handedly recaptured and virtually destroyed the kingdom of the west that had kidnapped Soutana. Rescuing her, he returned her to the castle, disheartened and sad at this event.
"That I in my age, should wage war against a kingdom in the name of peace, it is a sad day, for the soldiers who fought in the west over my daughters, their wives and families must be weeping this day. I cannot, no, I shall not allow the kings and princes of other lands to battle and throw their lives away for the sake of my four daughters…It was the blessing of the gods that allowed the world to look on their beauty, even if that beauty stemmed from a curse. If all men lay claim to the virginity of my four daughters, then no man shall claim them, for it is the better way of things. They are the Queens of this land, and I would that they stand steadfast and watch this place than be taken elsewhere, forced to make this pillar crumble."
It was then that the King decreed that his four daughters be sealed up, so as not to prove a temptation to men, until such time as a worthy suitor come, whom the four Queens could claim to be the rightful heir of the kingdom.
It was through tears, wisdom, and sadness that Soutana, the wisest of the sisters asked her father, "What means do you seek to seal us away? We cannot be forever away from the kingdom, for it was you, yourself who gave to us the duty of ruling it."
The King Azmondias, in his great wisdom replied, "I seal up not your mind and heart from the kingdom, but your bodies, for that is what men desire, what men lust after."
It was then decreed by the King the means by which the sealing would be done. His four daughters were to present themselves before the people, in naked splendor, so that the memory of their beauty would be etched into the minds of the people. And then they were to be placed in a special sealing chamber, where a special liquid made from rubber plant would coat their bodies in solid black, the material was meant to come off but one way, through means of a sacred key that was broken into four fragments, each held in secret by each daughter.
The result was heartbreaking for the people. For they saw the four become as transformed from beauty to stoic black rubber. Each daughter would wear a black rubber dress of great weight as a reminder of their duty to the kingdom. Each dress would bear a symbol on it that represented that duty.
For Nartha, a symbol of a sword was molded onto the rubber dress across her breasts, her suit was as thick as black armor, yet the most mobile, for it was her duty to fight and defend her people, her face hidden behind a mask of rubber at all times. The back of the dress contained many chambers for knives and swords of all kinds. All that could be seen was the tail of her silvery hair that reflected the sun.
For Soutana, a great lengthy robe of rubber she wore, with the symbols of the stars as a map upon it. Her silver hair was hidden behind a cowl made of black rubber as well. All that was free were her eyes, so that she could see in her wisdom the ways of the world.
For Astara, a thick Queen's dress of black rubber with the symbol of a cross etched upon it was worn. Her suit was filled with hidden chambers and pockets with which she could hold her most precious healing herbs and medicines; Her hands all that could be seen, as she had need of them for healing her people. But even so, a great pocket chamber was created to hide her hands within as a means of protecting them.
For Wessa, the youngest, the heaviest dress was given, for it bore the symbol of the crown upon it. All that could be seen were her lips and ears through a dark rubber mask, so she could hear the cries of her kingdom, and speak to the people. As this rubber dress was so heavy, it was expected she would sit upon her throne the most of the four daughters, the weight of the kingdom bearing most heavily upon her heart.
Each daughter wore these suits willingly, and with pride and love at their father's wisdom. The days ahead would be most difficult for the people of Azmondia, but the four daughters would bear the burdens equally and responsibly as he had decreed.
Some time had passed, and the four Queens of Azmondia continued their duties with as much fervor as ever they had. The kingdom and its surrounding kingdoms enjoyed a relative peace, in an almost mourning silence over the virtual disappearance of the faces of the Four Queens.
Days would come and go, and the faces of the Four Queens almost felt forgotten by the people. Simply catching sight of a fleeting glance at Soutana's eyes, or being healed by the wondrous hands of Astara were enough for the people. The soldiers found comfort and repose in the midst of border war when watching as Nartha's hair could be seen leading them to battle. The lips of Wessa decreed many things, and the prosperity of the people continued in silence for a time.
It was a time of great sadness when the King Asmondias the Guard, lie on his bed, tired and ancient in his days, Astara's hands were unable to help him in this time, but still his strength could be seen in his arms and his wisdom in his eyes; the former Queen, Fionia herself watching her beloved husband and daughters nearby, her ageless beauty a strange contrast in the room, as she had remained unhidden throughout the years.
The King asked of his daughters if they had found each of them someone worthy of opening the seal. No daughter could answer of their heart, as their duty was to their father, the King. Since no daughter could answer to his satisfaction, the King replied:
"I am not bound for this world forever, and even though the crown belongs to you four now, you must decide for yourselves who is worthy to bear this kingdom alongside you. Just as a man must not live alone in this world, neither should a woman. My daughters, you are blessed with the youth and vitality of your mother, so do not worry about your countenance that has been sealed, it is both a blessing and a curse you share with your mother. "
"This curse prevents you, my daughters, from ever producing a male heir, no matter who you marry, and that is, in part, why I sealed you away. For I wish it not upon those kingdoms who seek power above all else to understand the worth of a woman. It is for this reason I, on the bed and eve of my demise, decree the destiny of this kingdom, now and forevermore: Each daughter produced of this King's Line shall, when she comes of age, be sealed away from the people, based on her life of learning and acts and deeds until such time as a man, regardless of class, status, home, or kingdom, should come and prove himself to her people, her mind, and her heart. He is to be a man of responsibility, of courage, of strength, of wisdom, of kindness and dignity, and of integrity. Should this man meet these requirements and fall in love with any daughter produced in this King's Line, he shall be given her in marriage, the seal on her body broken and revealed, and he shall become King. The daughters of this King's Line must never pursue such a man unless he pursues them, and only out of love. Until such time, the daughters of this King's Line will rule as Queens over this land."
It would soon after be that the King's demise was announced, and the four Queens once again ruled the Kingdom of Azmondia. Never before had such a kingdom existed where a Queen would rule sealed until such time as a man of renowned and upstanding worth would come claim her. Regardless, it was the King's command before he died, and so it was the duty of the four Queens to carry out his decree.