by Madeline Dougherty
‘Mages! Fica! We have done it! Only the cowardly Elite leaders remain of the Tenebrum army. Today you have fought hard and we have lost many valuable members. Some of you have sacrificed family members, lovers, friends, children. We appreciate the efforts and pain you have endured today and it will be remembered as a day of victory and gratitude for many years to come.’ At this, the army erupted into cheers, jumping and whooping with relief and joy. But Eva still had a job to do and a decision to make. She glanced down nervously at Serpentia, who stared back, hard and intently. With a slight nod, her angular face broke into her typical smirk.
‘I know many of you are expecting me to make an important decision. To dictate to you all whether the Fica will be given ultimate power or whether it will be restored to the Mages.’ This one garnered cheers and boos, which Eva quelled with a placating hand. ‘I want to tell you all a story. A story of young love and unity. Some of you knew my parents; all of you have heard of them. What you might not know, though, is that before all this, before me, before we fought today, my father fell for a beautiful and brilliant woman. He met her at a farmer’s market, under the balmy summer sun, amidst the joy and vibrancy of the season, and was immediately taken by her intelligence and tenacity. He wrote her poems, brought her flowers; he courted her according to his culture, knowing full well that she was a Fica. She didn’t know he was a Mage, only that suddenly there was the perfect life partner presented to her, someone she thought she would never find, who could make her believe in love.
When she learned his secret, she tried to cut things off, but he had already shown her the power of true love, and she couldn’t bear to lose him any more than he could bear to leave her. They entered into a partnership built on their differences, celebrating the things that made them unique, learning how the weaknesses of one were the strengths of the other, ultimately learning that unity provided more opportunities than segregation ever could. Their love allowed for an anomaly to be created – me.
I am proof that coming together will make us stronger. Today, we fought side by side and the Tenebrum never stood a chance. Today, we showed them that the Fica and the Mages are united as one, and when we’re united, we’re unstoppable. I propose that we lead together. We take this battle and make it the starting point of a new New World. A world built on equity and understanding, a world built not on dividing, but uniting.’
Throughout her speech, her troops were at a hard standstill, faces blank, making Eva’s palms sweat. She waited for a moment, about to open her mouth to continue on when a slow clapping began from the enemy side of the mountain.
‘Very well done, Contrarium; you’ve certainly shown what you can do. Such a shame it just isn’t enough.’ The voice was booming and came from a man that was slowly walking up the hill towards Eva. He was toned and clean-cut, wearing a suit that looked like it cost more than Eva’s college education, but he was also easily the size of two normal humans, towering at least thirteen feet tall. His shoes clipped as though he were walking on marble and not bloodied dirt, and his warm brown eyes seemed to twinkle with the promise of a brilliant future. ‘Do you really think these heathens will listen to you? Your parents were educated; these swarming masses are not. Join us and we can give you the pathway to ensure their compliance. You may speak of unity, but I saw you fighting. You, Contrarium, crave power. The way you electrocuted enemies on the field? I saw the glint in your eye. You like it. With us, we’ll allow you to feel that power all the time, nurse it, strengthen it; we’ll make you into the powerful prophecy you’re meant to be.’
The man was in the middle of the field now, his long legs allowing for larger steps. The soldiers moved out of his way like he was parting an ocean, each one seemingly so transfixed that no one dared touch him or say anything. Eva could feel herself starting to float down to the ground unconsciously, the only one on the field who was drawn toward the man, unrepelled. His perfectly manicured warm brown hair barely moved in the slight breeze, his overall pristine appearance clearly contrasting with the ugly chaos around him.
‘These creatures could never lead. You said you had a decision to make, but you’re incorrect that it was between the Fica and the Mages. Of course not. The value in your bloodline comes from your father, not your aviary mother. The real decision is between the Mages and the Tenebrum, and we’re clearly more your speed. The violence with which you moved through my best beast? That wasn’t the passion of a Mage; that was the fiery hatred of the Tenebrum.’ He stepped closer and reached up to Eva, even his nails perfectly kempt. ‘Come, Eva, join us.’
‘Never.’ She whispered, her voice faint, barely reaching the man, much less the warriors around her. His face twisted into a scowl, his mouth contorting into something inhuman and vicious.
‘Come, Contrarium! These weaklings are beneath you!’ He roared as his teeth grew sharper and a forked tongue snaked out of his mouth. Eva was frozen in shock and confusion, somehow still wrapped up in the charisma of this stranger. Out of the corner of her eye, she tracked movement, something that started as a slight fidget and then became more purposeful.
‘Hey!’ A foreign high-pitched voice sang out from the crowd. Eva and the man’s necks snapped in the direction to find a petite woman walking forward with the confidence of a lion. ‘We aren’t weak. We beat you! Eva isn’t weak either; she fought with us, she made sure we knew she was willing to put her own life at risk. The Elite are the weak ones —’
‘Silence!’ The man roared, lunging towards the woman. Without any verbal coordination, three hulking Fica men stood in his way and two Mages threw up barriers between him and the woman. The Elite man was frozen in shock, eyebrows twisting and rising into his hairline in outraged disbelief.
‘The Elite are the weak ones! Where were you during the battle?’ the woman demanded, walking forward under the protection of her comrades. ‘You’re the ignorant one, sitting in your big house atop the hill, unaware of what the people around you are experiencing. Eva has lived it. That’s where her passion comes from.’
Eva stared hard at the woman, trying to determine whether she knew her; why was this apparent stranger willing to risk her life? As she looked, she began to recognise the slope of the nose and sent out feelers she was still learning how to use to confirm her suspicions.
It was Dr Arthi: not Fica, not Mage, but just a short human woman standing up against a force more powerful than she could possibly fathom.
The man was fuming, trying to attack Dr Arthi, but the Mages’ barriers were holding strong.
‘She’s right!’ A cry came from within the crowd and soon other voices were joining in. The apparent guile of the man had been broken by the woman’s bravery and the warriors slowly began to move and speak out. Before long, the man was surrounded by dozens of angry Fica and Mages.
‘We’ve done this much together; why stop now?’ someone shouted, and the others yelled in agreement. ‘Let’s dismantle this Elite piece of shit!’
Eva floated above the ground in stunned amazement as the crowd collapsed around the man, weapons once again barred, beating back the increasingly demon-like creature in the suit. They attacked as one, just as they had on the field, until the man was broken and still, the symbol of the rich and powerful torn down by the power of the many.
Eva landed just outside of the crowd as voices continued to build on one another, calling for equality, proposing new systems, arguing against the opposition, but still working as one unit to find solutions. She wasn’t needed there anymore, and, as soon as her feet touched the ground, Eva felt her shoulders slump and the exhaustion of the battle finally caught up to her. As she stumbled to sit, she found Serpentia already happily sitting with crossed legs.
‘You did it, Birdie. You did better than any of us could have asked for.’ She said, smiling serenely despite sitting on the mangled ribs of some unknown monster.
‘So you aren’t mad?’ Eva slurred, eyes already drooping shut. Serpentia scoffed.
‘At what? Oh no, equality? That sounds terrible.’ Serpentia rolled her eyes. ‘Besides, you did bring me back from the dead, so I don’t think I’m allowed to be very upset with you right now.’
Eva smiled loopily back, laying her head in Serpentia’s lap. Serpentia bent over and gently kissed Eva’s sweat-slicked forehead.
‘I love you, Birdie.’
This is an excerpt from the unpublished novel The Prophecy of the Contrarium.