Hers was not a name I had encountered among any of the royalty, male or female, for it meant truth. Not one who serves the virtue of truth in the Gods’ names, not one who speaks truth in wisdom, not truth allied with nobility or faith or trustworthiness: but simply, Truth, in all its harshness, with all its raw power and potential to cut and chafe. It was a name given to her by desperate parents, who saw the naming of her thus as one of the only weapons they could give her in a world that would surely be hostile to her from the moment of her birth. They had not the time to teach her to subject the power of truth to faith, or temper it with virtue, or cultivate it with wisdom or grace or even, it must be said, to nurture the instinct for self preservation that is necessary in those who who live by truth. It was a powerful name, and no light burden for any child to have thrust upon her. She bore it well.

Yet, as fate would have it, Vara’s name was not the only weapon afforded to her by the accident of her birth. She was marked by the webbed pattern of nightshade on one side of her face, from jaw to brow, disfiguring what might otherwise have been a face that elders liked to look upon, to fondly call loveable or pleasing to the eye. A face that would have been perfectly inoffensive, even praised to beauty by would- be flatterers, were it not for the mark. Neither was it a delicate pattern that it may be covered up or overlooked, and she had the misfortune of bearing it on her face rather than on her arms or legs or back where none but maids or lovers may know of its existence. It spanned the length of her face like some ghastly blue vine, its tendrils spiking and knotting across each other unlike any vein in the human body. It did not even spare her right eye, so that the eyeball that should have been white was a deep blue, and against this unnatural indigo a dark eye watched, wary, keenly aware of all the light that it took in. With this eye she pierced all Illusions and perceived the truth of the material world in inescapable detail. With the other, she preserved her sanity.

Vara was becoming the only thing a creature such as her could. It was a haltering, stumbling, unstable canter towards strength, but whose journey towards survival isn’t? What pup or cub hasn’t teetered on the brink of death before learning the movements of life? At least, that’s how it goes for wild things, and the Princess Vara was always one of them. In her father’s court and in the feasts and balls of the royals, she was a fish out of water, who could not find water who, in fact, did not know of the existence of water until the brother that pulled her into this world gave her the vial that would shape her life’s purpose: faerium.

And how she cherished the metal most suited to Illusionism, and the runes it was so inclined to. She loved the arts of Illusioning as only one painfully aware of artifice could. If there was one thing to be said of Vara, it was that she understood instinctively the value of dreaming, the difference between a fantasy and a lie, between illusion and delusion. Without ever needing to be taught, she understood the ill use to which the powers of imagining were put to in a world besieged by truths that people would rather not confront. She never had any interest in espionage, but that, it seemed, is what her purpose in this world would be. She would take on her father’s blade and her mother’s mantle, not having known much of either of them in life. She would walk the long, moonlit path among shadows, in the hope that it might lead at last, if not to light, then far from the darkness into which she had been born.

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