It was the year 1862, in London, England. Times were hard for the people who didn’t have enough money and that went for a lot of the population in London. There were those who owned their businesses and lived well off, but for Grace Blackburne, this was not the case. Her parents, who like her, had no money and didn’t lead the best lives, but they were proud of their daughter. That was until the day she arrived home with the news that she was pregnant. From that day onward, Grace Blackburne was thrown out of the small home they had and practically disowned from the Blackburne family, her parents refusing to acknowledge her existence.
From that day onwards, Grace knew she would have to fend for herself and make herself a life from the little she owned. Her pregnancy hadn’t started to show, still being early on in the stages. Being at a young age of eighteen years old, Grace searched everywhere for a job and was close to giving up hope, her search leading her nowhere in finding a suitable job. The young Blackburne girl thought it was a miracle when she heard of an opening position in being a maid for the wealthy family, the Valcourts. Whilst Grace knew it wasn’t the best, it was a start, for both her and her little angel.
Grace’s first day at work was nothing like she’d expected it to be. All her life, she’d heard that maids lived the hardest lives and to some extent, that was true but with the Valcourts, it wasn’t one bit. The family of three treated the house staff as if they were close friends, giving them good meals and decent rooms to sleep in. Grace considered herself lucky to have come across them in her search for a job. It wasn’t long at all before Grace found herself confiding in the Lady Lailah Valcourt about her pregnancy, having grown closer to the woman and also her son at three years of age, Bartholomew.
Upon telling Lailah, Grace was expecting to be thrown out of the house like her own parents did but what happened was the complete opposite. Instead, the Valcourts took Grace in as one of their own and allowed her to live the life she’d seen so many other people live. They gave her dresses to wear and decent food to eat, as well as buying for the little angel that would join their lives soon enough as well. The Valcourts kindness was something Grace never took for granted, not wanting to ask for anything, seeing as they had already given her so much.
Before she knew it, 9 months had passed since Grace first found out about her pregnancy and her little angel was on the way. Going into labour was tough and it wasn’t easy on Grace or her body, leaving her exhausted and in pain. She knew deep down that she wasn’t going to make it, though she pushed that aside and kept hope that her baby would make it through this and would live to see the beauty of the world. As soon as Grace heard the cry of a baby in the room, she couldn’t help but cry herself as her little girl was brought over to her. Seeing her face was enough to bring Grace the happiness she had always hoped for throughout her life, naming her little angel Astoria as she held her daughter for the first, and what would be the last time.
Grace didn’t make it through the night, but she was at peace in her passing, knowing that she had given birth to a beautiful baby girl who would grow up in a loving family who taken Grace in when she needed it most. Her last instructions were to the Lady Lailah, who had become like an older sister to Grace, which was asking her to promise to look after Astoria, to protect her and allow her to live a life of love and happiness, to which Lailah agreed and promised she would, promising that Astoria would be treated as one of her own. It was then that Grace pointed to a package addressed to Astoria with a date on it, placed on a dressing table with a faint smile before passing, moving onto a better place where she could be at peace.
It was soon after a funeral had taken place for Grace Blackburne, that the Valcourts left London. They removed themselves wholly, from the place they had spent years calling their home to move to a foreign land. Lailah kept her promise close to her heart, doing everything she could to allow Astoria to grow up with a loving family who would do anything for her. She deserved it. The move would allow the Valcourts to do that, calling Astoria their own with no questioning the little one’s presence. So they set off, to America, where their new life began.
Years passed and the Valcourts had settled in to the lifestyle that America offered them. Young Astoria Grace Valcourt was about to turn three and as Lailah Valcourt promised the late Grace Blackburne, she was growing up as normally as she could, with no one suspecting a single thing. Astoria was a bright mind and she took to things fairly quickly. She was close with Bartholomew, both of them believing that they were actual siblings, seeing as Bartholomew was only three years older than his younger sister so he didn’t remember much of their life before the move.
When Astoria was old enough, she was given a tutor to teach her the basic things that a woman would need to know and whilst Astoria appreciated those lessons, she was desperate for adventure and learning about the unknown. She wanted to learn what Bartholomew was learning, mathematics and philosophy, fencing and all those interesting things. At the mention of it to her mother and father, the two knew there was nothing they could do to change Astoria’s mind. She was set on learning those things, so they agreed and soon enough, she was joining her older brother in his tutoring classes.
It took the young girl a while to find her feet in her new classes as well as taking on her previous ones too, but Astoria eventually managed and eventually, she was exceeding in all her subjects. She grew quickly to love fencing and in any spare time she had where she wasn’t doing work, Astoria and Bartholomew were having playful matches to see who was the better fencer. Most times, Astoria won and whilst she felt as though her older brother was purposefully letting her win, she didn’t object to it, knowing he was doing it out of love so his sister felt like she was achieving something.
As Astoria got older, she started going out more and roaming the streets of the small town she lived in. It was at the age of twelve, that Astoria met Elizabeth, who then introduced her to a group of her friends. Of this group of friends was a boy, who seemed to stand out against the rest of the small friendship group and drew Astoria in. At her questioning, Astoria come to find out that his name was Frederick and that whilst he was very kind, he was also very quiet. This intrigued the young Valcourt and she wanted to know more, which is what she planned to do. Wanting to know more about who he was.
Over the years, as Astoria got to know Frederick more and more, she also began to fall for his hidden charm as he began to let Astoria in and find out more about him. The same happened with Frederick, slowly falling for Astoria, who at first seemed eager but then as he got to know her, realised just how truly special she was. Neither realised it at first, but everyone around them did and knew that one day, they’d be together.
It was after her fifteenth birthday that Astoria began to experience some changes, though not just any usual changes. Her lower back began to burn and itch, only getting worse, no matter what she used to try stop the burning. It was clear to those around her that something was bothering her, but Astoria didn’t tell anyone, hoping that if she left it alone the best she could, it would disappear. As much as Astoria tried to ignore the pain, she couldn’t, especially with the fabric of her dresses that constantly brushed against her back. She knew she would have to tell someone sooner or later, though Astoria just hoped that nothing serious was wrong with her.
Astoria went about her days as usual, finding a way to push the pain away but one afternoon, a month after her birthday, she couldn’t bear the pain any longer as her back burned, pushing her to tears. She’d been with Frederick at the time, who coaxed Astoria to talk about what was happening to her, and once she did, he knew exactly what was going on. He’d managed to calm Astoria down, telling her to breath and focus on his eyes, to push through the pain. Astoria went along with him, calming her breathing and stopping the panic she’d been in, as the pain slowly faded away and the burning feeling on her skin eventually left. Astoria stayed in Frederick’s arms after that, feeling comfortable in his arms and somehow knowing that they had a lot to talk about.
The young Valcourt felt different after that, as though something had been awoken within her, though she had no clue what. It was with the help of Frederick, that Astoria began to understand exactly what had happened. He told her of a world of supernatural, about Vampires and Therianthropes, Fae and Necromancers, Phoenix and Initia. Astoria was unconvinced at first, not wanting to believe a word he was saying but when he made a flower appear in his hands that he had grown from the ground in front of him, Astoria had no choice but to believe him. Frederick told her that she was an Initia, someone who had the power to wield one of the four elements. Astoria slowly began getting used to the idea and with the help from Frederick, she knew she would be able to learn how to use whatever element she had.
There was just one thing she wanted to know. How did she get those powers? At the explanation that one of her parents must be an Initia, Astoria set off back home to question her parents, though she wasn’t ready for the response she was given by them. As soon as the question had left the young girl’s mouth, her parents gave each other a look before telling Astoria that her real mother had died after childbirth, never having recovered enough to be stable. Astoria was left in shock at the truth, though she stayed to hear the whole story from the people she now knew to be her adoptive parents.
When it came to telling Astoria, Lailah knew then that it was time to give her the package she had carted around all that time from Astoria’s biological mother. Once Astoria received the package, she looked at Lailah and George with uncertainty in her eyes, though slowly opened the package to reveal a letter and a small velvet box. The box was opened first to reveal a small pendant inside, one that opened up to reveal two pictures. One was of a young woman who Astoria guessed was her mother, her biological mother and the other of a small baby Astoria. The letter was opened next and reading through it made Astoria understand how her mother had felt, knowing that none of it could be blamed on her.
After reading the letter, Astoria left to be alone, needing to process everything she had found out that evening. It was hard on the new Initia. Finding out her true parentage and receiving her Initia powers all on the same day. As soon as she was alone, Astoria took the necklace out of the box and placed it around her neck, the charm sitting against her neck nicely. The only thing she had of her mother’s and Astoria was intent on keeping it on her at times, feeling like a part of her mother would always be with her.
It took weeks for Astoria to fully process everything she’d found out, but soon enough, she was almost back to her usual self. She invested herself into the lessons she took, practicing more with her fencing but also taking the time to spend time with Frederick. Since finding out the truth about him, Astoria was pleased she had someone to relate to and also someone that could help her in controlling her powers, which is exactly what he did. The two spent every waking moment together during the time Frederick was helping Astoria gain control of her element, which the two soon learned was control over the Earth. During their time together, Astoria only found herself falling more and more for the male, with the feeling being reciprocated by Frederick too.
At eighteen years old, Astoria and Frederick were pretty much inseparable. Astoria confided in him with everything. It came to her surprise when one sunny afternoon in late April, Frederick proposed and asked for Astoria’s hand in marriage. Astoria couldn’t have gotten any happier than what she was in that moment and knew that nothing would come between them. It wasn’t long after that the young couple was married and a year later, Astoria and Frederick were expecting a baby. Astoria’s parents, as well as Frederick’s couldn’t have been happier for the two, knowing they’d found a soulmate in each other.
Nine months quickly passed and before Astoria knew it, she was in labour. She kept her hopes up that everything would work out perfectly, having feared previously that a repeat of what happened to her mother would happen to her. Though thankfully, both Astoria and Grace made it out alive and healthy. Astoria was happy; happy with how her life had turned out, no matter how tragic the beginning of it was. Now she had her own little family, a husband who loved her and their precious newborn daughter who Astoria loved with all her heart.
There were many times after that where Astoria was overcome with happiness, just at the fact that she had people who loved her, a family to care for. She couldn’t have been anymore overjoyed at the fact but it didn’t last long. A year and a half after the birth of her daughter, a tragic incident occurred in the place that Astoria called home. There was an attack, from a group of Phoenix who were planning the deaths of the Initia who lived in the town and Astoria’s family were part of that group. Panic was initiated as the Phoenix flew down upon them, spreading fires and causing destruction, killing in their wake.
Astoria, who had been out of the house at the time rushed back home as quickly as she possibly could when she saw what was happening to the town she’d grown up in. All she wanted to do was grab her family and flee, run away from the horror and go to safety where they couldn’t be hurt by anyone, but Astoria was too late. She reached her home just in time to watch the Phoenix kill her husband, a gleeful look filling his eyes as the unknown Phoenix looked up to Astoria, who was struck by heartbreak and distress. All she felt was pain as Astoria screamed out for Frederick, screaming for him to be okay, to live for her, for their daughter. But it was too late and he sent her a loving smile before being burnt by the Phoenix.
Pain. Heartbreak. Agony. Astoria felt it all. Her heart felt empty, broken and smashed to a million pieces, never to be fixed again. She felt empty. Just a shell of a person who used to be there. Astoria didn’t know how she did it. She managed to find Grace after seeing the murder of her husband, her soulmate and fled the scene. She took what she needed and left, needing to get away from the horror that would forever be stuck in her mind, of what she witnessed, to go somewhere safe, somewhere where Grace would be safe. So Astoria left the town and headed to her parents, where she knew Grace could be hidden well enough seeing as they’d done the same with Astoria for her mother.
Reaching her adoptive parents house was hard for Astoria. She had a feeling deep down that if she went through with everything she needed to do, then Astoria wouldn’t see Grace again for a long time, if ever again at all. But Astoria also knew that she couldn’t raise her child in the state she was in. She felt empty and broken, like her soul had been ripped from her body and hidden away so she could never feel normal again. Though she understood why. Frederick was dead. Her one true love, the man she had loved from a young age, was gone and there was nothing Astoria could have done about it.
Astoria spent the remainder of the night with Grace, watching the sun set below the horizon as they watched the stars appear in the sky. Astoria told Grace one last story, of a young beautiful girl who fell in and lived happily ever after with no horrific things happening to her. She hoped Grace would have that life. That if Astoria never saw her again, that Grace would grow up to live happily and find her own true love, that they would have children and grow old together. That was all Astoria wanted for her little angel, the only light left in her life.
As soon as Grace was asleep in her arms, Astoria did the hardest thing she would ever to do which was handing her over to her adoptive mother, Lailah who promised she would care for Grace, just how she cared for Astoria like she promised her mother she would. The last thing Astoria did before leaving, was taking the necklace she had been given by her mother and wrapping it up for Grace, a letter waiting with it for when the right day would come so everything could be explained. The day Grace awoke to her Initia powers, just like Astoria did. And then she left.
Astoria had no clue as to what her plan of action was, but there was one thing she was certain off and that was getting revenge for her husband on the Phoenix who had killed him. She didn’t know how it would go down, or how long it would take her but there was one thing that Astoria knew, and that was knowing that all she wanted was the world to be a better place for her daughter to grow up in.
It took month after month of devising a plan before Astoria even started scouring the globe for the Phoenix who had ruined her life and taken her love away from her. Astoria knew the possibilities of the Phoenix having had re-birthed during that time, but she felt it was worth it. At least she was doing something to avenge Frederick’s death and not doing nothing, sitting empty and broken whilst their daughter had to suffer through that. The main thing was that Grace grew up right, surrounded by love and although that love wasn’t from her mother, Astoria knew that one day, Grace would know that Astoria loved her with all her heart.
Boat after boat, city after city, country after country and Astoria was beginning to give up hope. She’d spent years trying to find the Phoenix who ruined the happy life she had with no leads as to where he was. She was so close to turning around and returning home, when the most unexpected thing happened. Astoria had been in London, England at the time when she was walking through the city before bumping into a male who had alcohol in one hand and a young struggling woman in the other. One look at the man and Astoria knew she had found the Phoenix who had murdered her beloved Frederick and any other poor soul he’d killed.
Astoria pushed him to let go of the girl, taunting him and aggravating him to get angry so he would leave the girl alone and go for her instead, which he did. That was when a side unknown to Astoria was unleashed. She’d had training in fencing, as well as various styles of the martial arts so overtaking the male Phoenix had turned out to be easy. It was when the Phoenix realised who she was that his drunken manner faded and a wicked smirk appeared on face, pushing Astoria over the edge.
The usual soft skin of her hands and arms had been burnt, her skin turning up red and blistered as she glared into the man’s eyes. “You…” Astoria started, all the pent up anger slowly being released from where she’d buried it down over the years ever since Frederick’s death. “You did this...you ruined my life.” She told him, pushing harder against the throat of the Phoenix, watching as his eyes grew at the lack of oxygen. Astoria knew it wouldn’t kill him. She’d done plenty of research beforehand, making sure she was ready for the moment she’d get her revenge.
“Your life was damned from the moment you were born.” The Phoenix managed to mutter, his face going red as he spoke from the oxygen he was using. “I only sped up the process by killing your beloved husband. What was his name? Fred? Ahh, Frederick.” He snarled, cackling. This only resulted in Astoria pushing harder as she reached back and pulled out the one thing that could kill a Phoenix; a gold dagger, in which Astoria had searched high and low for before handing over everything she had to the seller.
“Shut up! You don’t have the privilege to talk about him.” Astoria exclaimed, glaring down at him as she held the dagger up for him to see. “This, I gave everything for this little dagger, but if it does what I want it too, then that won’t matter one bit.” She muttered, positioning the golden dagger right over the Phoenix’s heart, tightening her hold on the object as her hand began to tremble.
“You won’t do it. You don’t have the guts to, do you little Astoria?” He stated, noticing how her hand trembled. “You can’t kill me. Even though I killed your husband. I enjoyed doing it really. The feeling of his life in my hands. How his light faded away at my doing.” The Phoenix told her slowly, his statements only causing her anger to grow more.
But then Astoria realised the most important thing.
All that time where she’d been tracking him down to make him pay for what he did, would eventually mean nothing. Even if she did kill him, it wouldn’t stop the Phoenix from killing any other families of Initia who’d done nothing. It wouldn’t do a single thing to move towards peace. Months and months of planning and travelling to find him and it meant nothing. It would do nothing to keep her daughter safe, if anything, it would ruin her chances.
Shaking her head, Astoria looked at the Phoenix. “No. I won’t kill you. Not because I don’t have the guts too, but because I realise now that it won’t do anything for future causes.” Astoria said, tearing her eyes away from his. “I’m better than you are. I don’t go killing people for fun or because of what species they are. I realise that now. You aren’t worth my cause, because there is a better one to aim for.” She added on, looking down at him one more time before doing one thing that would make her feel better for what he did. She pulled back the blade before pushing it down, right into the Phoenix’s stomach, knowing it would slow him down and the injury would be there for a while. “That is for Frederick and all the others you’ve killed.”
Astoria showed mercy. She knew what the cost of life was, and she wasn’t prepared to kill someone for revenge, because there was a better goal she could aim for. Peace. Peace between the species that occupied the world alongside the humans and that was what Astoria wanted. It took her a while, but eventually Astoria found what she was looking for. An ancient organisation that was made up of the Ailward Aspects and their Guards. Their goal was exactly what Astoria wanted to take up as her own. To protect, to progress and to restore balance.
After the discovery of the Ailwards, it took a while longer for Astoria to find the correct information that would lead her to the home of the Aspects and soon enough, she did. Her research took Astoria to an isle, specifically the Isle of Skye where a protective barrier surrounded the isle from those with impure hearts and intentions. Though upon finding the isle, Astoria passed through with no problems, proving to not only the Ailwards that she had pure intentions, but to herself as well.
Soon after, Astoria had been told the information she needed before deciding that she would swear to the Ailwards oath and join the Ailward Guard. Astoria knew that doing this she would have to leave behind everything, her family and those she loved, but deep down, she knew it would be worth it for the end goal that they hoped to achieve. She also knew that Grace would be alright without her, she had Lailah and George to protect her and guide her in life, and although she was without her true mother, Grace would know Astoria loved her with all her heart and that was what mattered most.
Over the years, Astoria grew to be a trusted member of the Guard, completing missions with success and also over time, gaining the Ailwards more Guards to help with their general mission. She pushed herself in training, learning different styles of fighting and advancing on what she already knew. Astoria continued to practice her fencing, knowing it would come in handy if she ever got into a sword fight or a fight involving daggers. The more she pushed herself to train in the time when she wasn’t needed, the better she became and that helped out when it was needed.
The 1900’s passed by and being on the Isle of Skye meant that Astoria, nor any of the other Guards aged. She stayed 25 and whilst there were the benefits of it, Astoria did at times miss her old life. She couldn’t help herself at times where her mind wandered off and she questioned what life had been like for Grace. It was no doubt that by now her grandchildren would be having kids of their own and Grace herself, probably dead. Though Astoria could never bring herself to question it or take herself back to their home to see. That was where the Ailward Guard helped keep her distracted.
Time passed and soon enough, the Ailwards had decided they would interject with what had been happening in Evermore City. Phoenix vs Initia, dragging the rest of the city into the war that was brewing. Astoria knew the feeling all too well, though didn’t pass up the opportunity for the mission she was given. Survey the Initia, grow close to them and their leader. Find out what was happening. It’d been a while since Astoria had been around just Initia, and whilst she felt at home, she never forgot where her true home was, with the Ailwards on the Isle of Skye.
During her time in Evermore City, Astoria grew close to Sierra Reigns, the Ambassador of the Initia faction. Whilst at first it was only a part of the mission to grow close to them all, Astoria eventually couldn’t deny that she had found a true friend in the Initia leader. There were others she was close to, but Sierra was more of a friend then the rest were. Astoria fit right in and soon enough, it felt like she’d been there for years, even though only a few months had passed. Every now and then, she returned to the Isle of Skye to debrief the Aspects on what she’d found out about the impending war that was soon to happen.
It wasn’t long after that the Ailwards officially made the move to Evermore City to interject in whatever was to happen and after time, a peace treaty was formed and signed by the Ambassadors of the City of all species, as well as the Aspects and the Guard also. There was a time of peace, where nobody spoke of a war that would doom them all and then the worst happened. To Astoria, the end of the Isle of Skye hit hard. Not only had people who had become her family been lost, but her home had been destroyed too. The one place that had become a sanctuary to the Initia, was completely gone and it was down to one faction of people.
Astoria put the blame on them for the destruction of Skye. They were the reason why so many Guards died that night, the reason as to why their home had been destroyed. It was all down to the Celestials and their leader, the Wayfinder, Ophelia Dreyvalian. Whilst Astoria understood her reasoning with wanting to save her people, what she didn’t understand was why it had to be done with death and destruction. Beforehand, Astoria hadn’t understood why the Aspects were so keen to keep the Celestials locked away and out of sight from the world, but after that, Astoria knew the reasons for it. They caused trouble. They were trouble in themselves.
After the Isle of Skye incident and losing her home, Astoria kept to herself, only occasionally leaving the Ailward Manor and the new home she had to live in. It was so unusual to her and she often found herself questioning when her life had changed so much and what would have happened if she had killed the Phoenix all those years ago. How her life would be so much different if one little decision had been changed to something else.
Astoria mourned. She mourned the loss of everyone she had ever loved. All the feelings she had pushed to the side over time, came flooding out. She cried. She screamed. She raged. She took all the anger out that had been building. Everything that had been building up since the death of Frederick and the time she had to leave Grace. She let it all out and then she did the one thing she never thought she would do. Astoria went back to her home. The home she built all those years ago with the one she loved. She learnt about what happened to her daughter, and her children and their children. How their lives had turned out and Astoria at the end of it, couldn’t have been more glad that she had found out. To find out that Grace lived her life to the fullest, got married and had children.
Upon her return to Evermore City, Astoria prepared herself for anything that could happen to them whilst living in the city. She trained daily, keeping herself occupied with various different things, either reading or walking, or even with the Initia and getting to know the city more. Then what Astoria thought was very unexpected came to happen. The Commander of the Guard passed on the position to Astoria. Through her time, she was loyal and worked hard, which is why the role was passed onto her when the previous Commander left. Astoria was shocked that she was the one who was chosen, knowing there were better people to choose than herself but nevertheless, she took the role with great pride, having earned the title of Commander.
The new Commander did all she could to do the Ailwards proud. Working harder than ever to prove she was the right choice which paid off over time, even though there was much to catch up on. Though Astoria pushed to succeed, knowing that whilst there was a settlement in Evermore regarding peace, it wouldn’t last forever, no matter how much they tried for it to.