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◇Catarina Stornello
The Iron Queen
There are none living among us now that remember life on Terra -- old Earth -- save myself. I left before the waters rose at the urging of my Aunt Isabella. Her children came with me, and together we have forged an iron empire out amongst the stars.
Libri Apocalyptia PB: Charlize Theron
"There are only two kinds of people in the world; the eaters and the eaten. " - Japanese Bushido Proverb

How true the sentiment is, even so many light years away from Terra as we are. Once, I would have been one of the eaten, but that was before my aunt’s tutelage, and before I became la regina di ferro ~ the Iron Queen.

I had to. It was a matter of survival, not just for me, but for my people.

This planet, o’Lordeálion, is our adopted home. Many lifetimes ago, the waters of Terra began to rise even as the skies began to burn from humanity’s misguided stewardship of the planet. Then the Cosmic Wanderer ~ called Oumuamua by the Terrans ~ came and eyes began looking skyward again. Ever navigators and opportunists, my family, through their own research and the efforts of their alliances, were able to take to the heavens.

It was a harrowing journey, but one that ended in success.

We came as ~ not refuges, nor quite colonisers ~ explorers, then. The native populations, called Sylphs by us (our vocal cords cannot produce some of the needed sounds of their language), were accommodating in the beginning. They are aetherial creatures, lighter than us, preferring the airy heights more than the ground and water of the planet. At first, we were not threatened by them, for they seemed frail of body, but what they lack in muscle, they more than make up for with mental powers.

The Night-walkers came first, sowing terror in our dreams. At first, we thought it delayed space sickness from the long warp trip. The sylphs closest to us taught us that was wrong ~ for not all sylphs enjoyed tormenting others. Some were, and still are, helpful to us, and we to them. We learned that even though our terror was great, the Night-walkers could decimate the sylphs they attacked. For we have what they do not ~ iron in our blood.

o’Lordeálion has many beautiful resources; abundant woods, pristine rivers, fruitful seas, but of iron, there is little. On the surface. Once we (re)discovered the knowledge that iron would give us the advantage over those unfriendly to us, we began to search for it. Naturally, the sylphs were unable and unwilling to aid us, as iron is anathema to them. With a smile on our lips, we accepted their apologies and observed. They showed us where the cooling cuore di ferro ~ the iron heart~ was by the places they avoided going.

The cuore di ferro is housed in an enormous grotto entered into by a small opening in a rust-red cliff. It is, that we know of, the only entrance to the cooling heart of the planet. The grotto is populated with pillars of ferrous sandstone that we have carved out into workshops, foundries, and for some, homes. The work of extracting the pure iron is exhausting, demanding work. The secret of it is known to a handful ~ the guild-masters and myself ~ but every one of my people carries a coin of pure, cold iron.

That it was a declaration of war is accepted by us. It is a long, slow war with periods of great peace between us… but neither side forgets that it is eat or be eaten.

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