For the Butterfly Heir

We tried another Descended from the Queen game this week on StorySynth, For the Heir by Lynette, in which we are the companions to the latest in a long line of claimants to the Lost Throne. The Lost Throne has sat empty for many an age, and the empire ruled from it has long collapsed into various warring and disparate duchies. Our Heir is a gender ambiguous shape-shifter of apparent noble birth, blessed with a corona of fire. We companions are: Varsa, a ne’er-do-well who nevertheless fights viciously with his pole-arm; Sashi, master of the Mirror Blade who may be easily distracted but is indomitable when focused; Arman, horned fae who serves as magic teacher to the Heir; and Harna, a practical herbalist with potions for all occasions.

Varsa met the Heir after losing a dice game to the wrong people and making bets he lacked the coin to cover. The Heir arrived in all their phoenix-fire glory, which held the brutes in awe until they could spirit the two of them away. Arman is very close to the Heir because his connection to the Faerie Realm is essential to recovering the Lost Throne. Arman believes the rest of us are jealous of that closeness, but Sashi just wants to know what they do when they go off together and keeps butting in. Sashi was recruited on the quest because she is the Master of the Mirror Blade, known as the Fae-touched mirror, whose magic can cut through illusions and reveal the truth. Harna was the last to join the Heir’s quest, and remains the most skeptical. Her father was killed in a magical battle between the Heir and a rival when they met, and she can’t see how seating an Emperor can be worth the high price she has already had to pay.

Varsa once showed the Heir a thing of great beauty, the rare bioluminescent butterflies who emerge after the rain in this lone forest that we passed through. Seizing the moment, Varsa extracts a promise from the Heir to declare these woods off-limits, a preserve for the the butterflies alone. Harna is concerned about our apparent lack of direction; we seem to be wandering aimlessly, not knowing where to go or how to find the throne. When she asks Varna about it, he says not to worry because we’re all making it up as we go along. As we travel on, Sashi eventually wanders off the path, tempted by some shimmering or other in the forest. After we’ve gone on a mini-quest to rescue her, she admits that she’s easily distracted and asks us to help keep her on task. Despite Arman continuing to push the Heir to their limit with magic lessons, the Heir is grateful and uses what he’s taught them to conjure an especially rare set of blossoms as a gift for the flower fairy.

As we travel from town to town, Sashi has taken to jokingly calling herself the Heir’s adopted knight, but she’s said it so often that people have begun to wonder whether this story conceals a bigger secret, that Sashi is the Heir’s younger sister. There is no truth to these rumors, but Sashi can’t tamp them down. Another rumor that won’t go away is that Varsa used his staff to hypnotize the Heir and demand the creation of the preserve, but the Heir needed no such prodding once they’d seen the butterflies beauty for themselves. In a quiet moment, when Harna is discussing her potions with the Heir and mentions something she learned from her father, the Heir admits to barely knowing their parents, and Harna sees a bit of the vulnerability and humanity beneath the Heir’s outward calm. We all believe the Heir’s true form is the one we see every day, the one to which they return after transforming for a fight, the one with the fiery halo. But only Arman has seen their true form, when the Heir first came to Faerie asking to be made ready for their task. Arman’s initial lesson was how to conceal their true form, for glamours can protect them while seeking the throne.

When at least we reach the Lost Throne and our Heir moves to be anointed the true heir, they are attacked by rival claimants who’ve followed us here. We each act to protect our Heir. Varsa leaps at the attackers and takes the fight directly to them. Arman uses his illusions to confuse the attackers. Harna quaffs a potion that grows her to twenty feet tall and blocks them from following the Heir. Sashi accompanies the Heir, guarding their flank and send them on alone to the Throne while she addresses the final challenge, a challenge she meets but not without being permanently scarred.

After the battle, when the Heir has become the new Emperor, Sashi becomes a true knight and serves the Emperor until her retirement decades hence. Varsa holds the Emperor to their promise and the preserve is created, but then moves on, continuing to let his mouth get him into and out of trouble until the end. Harna asks to be made the Guardian of the butterfly preserve and lives on the edge of the luminescent forest. Arman returns to the Faerie Realms, not simply going home, but serving as ambassador between the two realms, confident the Emperor will allow human and fae folk to mingle once again.

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