26. Gunnhildr IIPage 2/2
The last potentate to be ordained as such─the last Queen Gunnhildr in history─was born Nevembya Votyasch, ancient ancestor of Misija.
The bloodline of the Votyasch tribe has given rise to generation after generation of seers, and thus when a seven-year-old Nevembya showed signs of great promise, she was taken to study at the shrine. She learned to read the stars and the winds, and divined secrets in numbers; she immersed herself in prayer, spiritualism, and the performance of sacred dance. The reward for her devotions was a place amongst the twelve shrinemaidens, the personal servants of Queen Gunnhildr.
This shining era came to an abrupt end, however, when the hubris of the Allagan Empire brought about the Fourth Umbral Calamity. Bozja was plunged into chaos as great earthquakes caused the land to buckle and shift, the ragged rents in the ground spewing forth plumes of flame. In a desperate bid for self-preservation, the ruling class agreed that the power of Save the Queen should be invoked, and a champion summoned forth to deliver Bozja from destruction. But Queen Gunnhildr, knowing her essence and identity would be consumed by the ritual, refused their entreaties. Thus stymied, the statesmen raised Nevembya to the throne with unprecedented haste, imbuing their “disposable” figurehead with the authority to wield the sacred blade.
Meaning “pure and selfless” in the old tongue, Nevembya was true to her name─though unaware of the reason behind her rapid ascension, she dutifully took up the sword and poured her life energies into the weapon. In answer to her sacrifice, a mighty entity was made manifest, and Bozja─and her people─were saved.
What the instigators of this miracle did not anticipate was that the humble shrinemaiden would survive the rite, and return to her mundane form. In Nevembya flowed the blood of seers, and with her heritage came the power of the Echo. Though she had received no formal training in the art, she would often see visions of the past of others─a talent she never questioned as aught more than her birthright. But it was this very blessing which sheltered her soul from the dominating presence of the entity, and allowed her to wield its might as she saw fit.
This revelation filled the statesmen with abject terror. They plotted to murder their young queen with Gunnhildr's sword, and struck when she was most vulnerable. Believing the act to be righteous, that none could hold such tremendous power and remain uncorrupted, the commonfolk did nothing to defend her. And even as she lay dying, watching her lifeblood seep out across the floor, Nevembya did not curse her assassins. She knew her aetherial strength was unnatural, unpredictable─it had to be contained lest Bozja suffer further devastation. She would die secure in the knowledge that her people were safe. That was enough.
In that instant, a blinding light issued forth from the blade. Nevembya had, for one brief moment, wished to live just a little while longer, and as her soul slipped away from her body, both her fervent desire and a small portion of her aether were drawn into the sacred sword.
The first sight the last of Bozja's queens beheld upon her resurrection was a circle of Gunnhildr's Blades. Am I to be slain once more, then...? Towering waves of rage, grief, and rancor such as she had never felt before surged within her. Why!? Why must my life be forfeit!? Consumed by emotion, raw and unchecked, Nevembya unleashed her will. They shall kneel before me in worship. I am Gunnhildr. I am queen!
But another Nevembya watched the scene unfold in horror, her unheard voice screaming out in protest. This is wrong! This cannot be! Trapped within her own mind was the Nevembya from the days before she was crowned, the Nevembya who would do anything to protect her beloved Bozja. She understood that to take life, even that of the villainous, was to forge a chain of vengeance. And that chain would stretch on and on until all were strangled within its links...