How did Nevra, the Witch Queen, come to power all those many years ago? Needless to say, there are none now living who remember it. But I have heard this rumor, and with the Witch Queen permitting it to circulate, I believe it to be at least partly true. They say that long ago, before the dead husks of the cast-out gods began to plummet as meteors from the heavens, our realm was ruled by petty nobles as many are. The emperor–whose realm then could scarcely have been called an empire, despite his hubris–was obsessed with continuing his line. To that end, he arranged for his barren empress to be cast aside, and sought out a younger second wife.

Nevra had just arrived at that point, as fresh and young and tender as morning dew, and she attracted the emperor’s attention instantly. We know not where she came from, only that she was of tender years and very fair. The emperor, smitten, married her soon after as his empress. Her one condition to the match was that he furnish a school of magic, to be supported by the city and added to the palace. Mindful of the usefulness of mages and the wishes of his bride, the emperor is said to have agreed on one condition: he did not want his fragile bloom damaged in magical study. So she was forbidden to partake of the knowledge therein, and expected to confine herself to the role of a walking womb for the hoped-for son.

Naturally, you can imagine, the emperor did not get his wish.

True to her word, Nevra did not attend any classes or indulge in any studies at the magic school. But she did associate with the students, and before long she had many friends among them. When the emperor found himself confronted by a circle of mages intent on his overthrow, he found that there was little difference between a queen who was a witch, and a queen who commanded them. It was only after his head was on a pike that Nevra turned to the study of magic, and within six months her powers had exceeded that of even her brightest students.

The emperor never did get his son, for the Witch Queen has never borne a child. There is also a rumor that the Witch Queen was, in fact, the old empress who had long studied sorcery in secret and who had renewed her aged body to gain revenge on her deceitful spouse. I would not bring that theory up with the Witch Queen if I were you, my friend, but it does lend the story a pleasing circularity. Even if it is, as I suspect, a lie.

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