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Dreaming Steel

Shataina, She Who Knows the Fair, Lady of Legends, tells the tale:

The greatest general of the Primordial War was unquestionably Aofe, also known as Scathach, the Golden Blade. A Dawn Caste Solar Exalt, her story has survived even to this day, although it has been somewhat "edited" by many Immaculates and, therefore, some modern sources claim that Lady Aofe was a Fire Aspect. Still, the bare bones of the truth of Aofe's legend can still be discovered in the oral traditions of some Eastern tribes. What is most generally unknown, in this day and age, is this: Lady Aofe herself did not lead the final battle against the Primordials. It is a shame that this tale has been ignored and suppressed, for it is one of the greatest and most tragic love stories of the First Age.

It begins with a skirmish known as the Discordant Jangle Engagement, which was the first attempt by the Fair Ones to battle their way into Creation. It came at an inconvenient time, for the Exalted were preoccupied with the fight against the Primordials; but still the Exalted defeated the invaders. As a reward, all Exalted above a certain rank were granted Fair slaves as their own. Lady Aofe, not yet Great Commander, had yet acquitted herself honourably, and for this she was granted the first pick of the Fair captives. Prideful (and perhaps her pride was justified), she chose Dreaming Steel, a beautiful cataphract who was himself Great Commander of the Fair armies.

Aofe treated Dreaming Steel abominably, even for a slave: she had him stripped and beaten for days at a time, she had his steel-blue hair shorn to the scalp, and she branded him with her symbol, all over his body, using hot iron -- an experience painful for a mortal, and indescribably so for one of the Fair. She bound him in orichalcum manacles, edged in iron so that he could barely move without burning himself, and forced him to parade himself about on an orichalcum leash. Still, Dreaming Steel bore his captivity with stoic resolution, and after a while Aofe regretted her cruelty and began to, reluctantly, respect his strength. Her respect increased as she realized that Dreaming Steel, born of Chaos and forged in the heat of real conflict, had a fighting acumen that was in many ways greater and more subtle than her own; and as she became more confident and proud, she began at last to order him to give her advice.

In short, the Golden Blade learned much from Dreaming Steel; and eventually, she fell deeply in love with him. It was sad, for she was unwilling to admit to the emotion, and disgusted at herself for entertaining such feelings for one such as he; she covered it with pretended indifference and sometimes, even more cruelty, and only her second-in-command, Untarnished Argent, knew how she truly felt.

She rose through the ranks easily, becoming Great Commander only a hundred years into the Primordial Wars. It seemed that every day she discovered a new and brilliant tactic to employ, a new idea to use in battle. And so the Exalted won fight after fight against the Primordials, who consistently underestimated them; and at last, there was only one more battle left to go.

The Golden Blade and Untarnished Argent were together in her command room that eve; Dreaming Steel, as always, sat submissively to one side, where his mistress had ordered him to stay. As they sat together, wary of demons and Primordials, they missed the scent of glamour (for they were unused to the Fair Ones); and Aofe had no chance to defend herself against the Fair assassin, Agony's Revocation, who came forth from a cloak of concealing magic, bound Untarnished Argent with a Thread of Puissance, and felled the Golden Blade with three quick stabs to the heart.

As Untarnished Argent watched in helpless fury, Agony's Revocation took the cruel manacles from Dreaming Steel's wrists and raised him to stand and look down at his dying mistress. Unfathomable, Dreaming Steel's dark and shining eyes went to Aofe, and then back to Agony's Revocation. Aofe's dying breaths shaped his name, the only sound in the silent room.

With one smooth movement, Dreaming Steel broke the slender neck of Agony's Revocation; then he knelt beside Aofe and held her to him as she died.

Untarnished Argent and Dreaming Steel both knew that the armies of Creation were devoted to Aofe. If she was known to be dead, it would sap their morale and be potentially deadly to the next day's final battle. And so Untarnished Argent and Dreaming Steel worked together, using glamour and sorcery, to mask Dreaming Steel as Aofe; and it was he who led the final charge the next day, and defeated the Primordials.

When Dreaming Steel's identity was revealed to the Exalts whose cause he had served, there was a long silence, then only the barest of applause. Though he had fought for them and won the day for them, very few of the Exalted or gods of the time liked or trusted him. Among those few was Untarnished Argent, who remained his close friend until the day he died, and tried to preserve his name in honour.

Dreaming Steel, unable to return to Chaos, lived in Creation peacefully, but none granted him his due. It is said that when the bearer of the white-hot Ashen Vengeance came and killed Dreaming Steel, there were ten Exalted witnesses, and not one of them raised a finger to aid him.

It seems that there was a tacit agreement among historians of the time: they did not record the glory of Dreaming Steel, and allowed the common folktales to carry the day -- the common folktales of those who had never been enlightened as to who truly led that final charge. And so most histories of our day will tell you that Aofe was the one who won the final battle; those few who know of Dreaming Steel and his love and loyalty do not speak of it, for, it seems, it is unfashionable to believe that the Fair could ever love truly, or come to the side of Creation in honour and glory.

(I know of stories which state that Ashen Vengeance has been taken by the Fair in recent times, and that previous to that it was in the hands of Blade of the Mountains; but its last confirmed location was as part of the burial finery of Chopakta of Rabishu, as noted in the Register of Enchanted Weapons.)


~ Shataina Umm ... I know this entry was, er, rather extreme in length. I'll try to temper my enthusiasm in the future. Also, thanks go to Morpheus for inspiration.

See also Shataina's other Lexicon entries