Author's Notes: Disclaimer in Part One.
Charlie the muse would like to thank the ever lovely (and patient) Alamo Girl and the ever fantabulous (and patient) Meredith Paris, for being awesome to unfathomable levels. He would also like to publicly declare his undying love for Bee, because "Paper Flowers" is OMGFLAILTHUDSQUEE!! good. (Doc is going to be devastated.) He would also like to note that he's been trying to convince his human to put the "fluff" in "flangsty", and will eventually beat her into submission. So never fear, gentle readers, one day you will see a happy ending. One day. :)
Charlie would also like to sincerely thank all you lovely readers and commenters for your support and insight.
She'd never admitted it to anyone, but she would have chosen the older Gale sister over the younger one in the end anyway.
Yes, the younger one had first heard the call to darkness, as the prophecy had stated, but the moment Azkadellia had stepped into her prison, she'd felt the pull of the older girl's well honed magical ability calling out to her as she had called out for freedom over so many centuries. It was a beacon through the darkness of her tomb and her soul, drawing her in and making her drunk from the endless possibilities.
She'd never admitted that she'd noticed it, but she could tell by the way Azkadellia held tightly to DG's hand, crushing the younger girl's fingers in a vice-like grip, that the older Gale knew her sister was a flight risk from the moment they entered the cave. She'd noticed how Azkadellia had dug her heels into the rocky bottom of the floor, trying to force DG to stay with her when the younger child turned to flee. It was this scrutiny that told her Azkadellia had been forced to play second mother to her sister, and that the older princess was dutiful and submissive to stronger authorities, where her sister was willfully disobedient and unpredictable. She needed a host and a power that she could harness, not one that could easily backfire as the host fought back, ultimately killing them both. DG obviously had little knowledge about her magic, for had she known and stayed, there was no doubt the girls could have combined their strength to defeat her, just as their ancestors had. For her plan to work, she needed an endless supply of power, potency and tenacity. The only place she'd find that was Azkadellia, and she readily made her choice, forcing the girl to her knees literally, as she would spend the next annuals doing figuratively.
She'd never understood why those who surrounded the Gale girls believed DG was the stronger of the two sisters. Without Azkadellia's help, DG was as useless as her Slipper of a father when it came to magic. Azkadellia was bred of the same cloth as her mother and their ancestors—persistent, unwavering, unfalteringly resilient. She was a Gale in the truest sense of the term, which made her possession all the more sweet in the end. She'd finally bested her nemeses by taking away the one thing that could save them all; it was especially rewarding when the fools didn't even realize just how influential she'd ended up being in regard to the O.Z., living on in spite of their efforts. They'd tried their damndest to lock her away and make the world forget she'd ever existed, and now, they'd never forget just how much she'd lived.
She'd never admitted that there were some days she felt badly for Azkadellia, especially when the girl's parents all but turned their backs on her after the day in the cave. Ultimately, it had helped foster the relationship between both entities, altering the link from parasite and host to two halves of the same soul; she'd been able to tell Azkadellia just how alike they were. There were times when she remembered back to her own childhood, and could not control the flashes of memory as they flowed seamlessly from her mind to Azkadellia's. She'd understood the girl feeling dark and abandoned, forced to be alone with only the equivalent of a monster, an inhuman animal, for company. She'd understood how painful it was for the girl to be a prisoner of her own mind; she'd been a prisoner for far too long. She'd never admitted just how similar they were, and that those links only further strengthened the connection between them.
She'd never admitted that she felt momentarily guilty when she sensed Azkadellia's jealousy of her sister, and decided to exploit it to the fullest extent, and used their combined strength to kill the younger girl. But the guilt had disappeared with the extension of her hands through the air to DG's throat; that was the day Azkadellia had truly surrendered unto her, and it was the most alive they'd felt in centuries. She'd never admitted the pride she felt when Azkadellia didn't cry over her sister's death or her father's subsequent abandonment. She'd never admitted just how like a proud parent she felt, watching the girl grow into a strong, powerful woman, in every sense of the descriptors.
She'd never admitted how surprised she was when the true Azkadellia finally fought back after fifteen annuals and actually broke free. The lapses were momentary, of course, borne of her surprise rather than the girl's magical ability, but she'd had to fight much harder than she'd ever anticipated to remind the girl who was in charge of keeping their connection alive. She'd shown herself in the mirror after Azkadellia dreamed of her sister in the days before the Eclipse, an admittedly dangerous choice, considering the number of people guarding her just outside the door, but ultimately a necessary one, needed to reestablish order. But Azkadellia had continued to break through time and again, blocking her attempts to acknowledge "Glitch" as Ambrose, someone she thought she'd sentenced to death ages before. She'd been shocked at the intensity Azkadellia showed in keeping Ambrose's identity a secret, letting him help the girl they'd both long thought dead.
She'd never admitted that she once worried that the girls being in the same space might have lessened her hold on the eldest princess. DG, for whatever ridiculous reason, had not yet fully realized the strength of her magical ties to the O.Z., even as the symbol of the House of Gale was readily seen on her palm. Azkadellia had sensed her hesitation, and had taken advantage again, telling a mundane story about apples and exploring the woods, trying to pull her sister back to her side as she could not so many annuals before. As the girl fought to say something further to alert her sister to the possession, she'd finally managed to take over again. She used her control over Azkadellia's mind to remind the girl that this ridiculous Slipper standing in front of them was alive because her mother had fought to save one daughter over the other. She used her control to remind the girl that she was the reason Az was still alive, that she'd never abandoned her, even in the darkest times. When Azkadellia finally hesitated, she'd used all the harnessed power she had to force the girl back into the locked recesses of their mind, and had turned DG over to Zero, hoping the link to the Gale magic would overwhelm both her and the Viewer, singeing them both from the inside out.
She'd never admitted it to any of her underlings, but darkening the skies during the double Eclipse was just the first part of her plan. The Eclipse was merely part of the whole, a cog in a well-planned machine. She'd had plenty of time to create the phases of her plan while she was imprisoned, and she thought anyone who didn't realize that her strength could have carried to the Other Side, ultimately reintegrating it with the O.Z. under her control, rather stupid. She'd planned to call on her ancestors, just as the Gales had called on theirs to protect the stone, and right the many wrongs that had been inflicted upon them once the reclamation was complete.
She'd never admitted that when she threw DG off the balcony during the power surge, she hadn't expected the girl to come back fighting. She'd succumbed so easily before, running in the face of darkness, shriveling to nothing when the "light" became blinded by the darkness. She hadn't expected the girl to be as unwavering as her sister's magic had been for so many annuals. She hadn't expected the stone to remain with the House of Gale. She was supposed to be the only one and one alone in the scenario, not either of the princesses.
She'd never admit it was her hubris, not the Emerald being taken away, or the reversal of the beam, that was her downfall. She'd never admit that as she disintegrated like sand beneath a wave, that her final thought was of her former host, the only thing akin to a friend she'd had in centuries, hoping the girl—along with the rest of the O.Z.— never forgot her.
She'd never admitted any of it, because some things were better left unsaid.