Celeste Tier1 Splash



by SugarVenom

“Tell me we didn’t throw this party for nothing,” said Vox, tapping his foot.

Celeste leaned over the spar deck of The Audacity, peering down through Vox’s brass telescope at the Storm Queen’s uniformed soldiers positioned behind the fortified gate of Mont Lille. Celeste’s airship navy hovered in formation around them. Her hodgepodge army, made up of the unified fighting people of a half dozen of the Storm Queen’s occupied cities, waited on the road outside the gate.

A handful of Gythians, heavy in their polished armor, blades sharpened, eyes grim, made a half-circle behind Celeste. “It is time, your highness. You must give the command to fire,” said the war mage in his grand, old world accent.

“Look at the front lines,” she said, handing the telescope to Vox.

He held it to his eye and adjusted the focus. His shoulders slumped. “Kids,” he said.

“The Storm Queen’s child army.”

The Gythian struggled to control his tone. “You knew that the Storm Queen takes children at young ages to be trained for war.”

“That was to be our fate,” said Celeste. “I did not know she would go so far as to put them in the front lines of battle.”

“The queen is a pragmatist. She thinks you will not attack children.”

“That’s messed up,” said Vox.

“She is right,” murmured Celeste.

“We have come too far to turn back,” pleaded the war mage. “This plan has been in place since you were born. If you do not take Mont Lille while the queen is away…”

I am the queen. Mont Lille is my city. These are my people. Shall I begin my reign by killing my own soldiers? By incinerating children? Does Gythia’s stake in this plan fall away at sunrise?” Celeste held the Gythian’s gaze until he backed away, then took the telescope back and squinted through it. “Vox? How loud can you make my voice?”

Vox laughed. “You wanna know if I can make noise?” He made a microphone with his fist and held it in front of her mouth.

Celeste’s mouth opened, then closed. She pushed down Vox’s hand and whispered, “Do good queens know the right thing to say?”

Vox grinned and put his hands back. “Good queens tell the truth.”

She looked over the mountainside city, every twinkling light representing a soul frightened by the enemy at its gate. The Storm Queen’s army buzzed and sparked with magic.

“My loving people!” she cried, and her voice carried over the gate, over the ground troops and the airships, over the city where her mother was born. “To fill the coffers of a dictator, you have engaged in a generation of war. You have sacrificed your liberty. You have surrendered your children to die in battle. I challenge you tonight to end this oppression. I have come to Mont Lille not to conquer, but to live and die as the rightful descendent to the throne, the Star Queen. My honor and my blood belongs to this land and to you all. I am here to fight, not against you, but alongside you against fear! No more fear!”

In the silence that followed, Vox draped an arm around his sister’s shoulder and they both stared down.

Then, there was a solitary shout from behind the gate. The voice of an adolescent boy.

“No more fear!”

“No more fear!” called another voice, and then another, and more, all of them the voices of child soldiers.

“No more fear!” The adults picked up the chant, and then the ragtag army on the ground with nothing in common but a hatred of the Storm Queen took it up, and then even Vox’s goblin crew burbled the words the best they could just to fit in. The handful of Gythians who had prepared for a bloody battle looked at one another, bewildered.

“The woman will overtake a capital city without a drop of blood spilled,” said the war mage, but the propellers picked up speed so that no one heard him. Vox steered The Audacity over the gate and landed in the city square, and the throngs surrounded the airship to welcome the Star Queen home.

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