The human delegation stood in silence; three royal colors before the Throne of Thorns. The fair and beautiful elf queen was adorned in green silks with floral accents but watched with a gaze older than time and colder than the icy winds of the Veil. They were accompanied by the personal guard of the queen; royal greens and silvers that streaked down their armor. Here, the only sound the princes of men could hear were the faint hymns of fairy folk, distant and ominous, and the slow breathing of the gargantuan tree before them.
“I, Anuvariel, Queen-Who-Walks-With-Flowers, sit upon the root of Korinthal, a seed of the Elder Tree that flourished into what is known to your humans as the Harshland Woods. We have kept our wars from you, left your fields, and remained on the Horizon far from your conflicts and worries. And yet you persist, seeking to ruin our harmony, compel us to war.” Her voice rang through the open cathedral, which blossomed with bluebells, pythorns, and dream lilies; together as a beautiful grove, and together glaring at the intruders of nature.
The tallest man- an upright, stern human with raven black hair and eyes older than his years- stood between a young, reed-thin prince and a huge, hardened soldier. Each boasted a royal crest: a hawk, a serpent, and a bear, respectively. All eyes focused on the queen, and her eyes focused on the center prince. The queen addressed the man in the middle.
“You walk without your king, Magnus Ruduval. Does he lack the gall to come himself, sending his son to speak for him?”
Magnus met the elf queen’s grey-green eyes. She smiled, but it was a cold and mirthless one that seemed to turn inward, regarding the prince as if Magnus was the subject of some kind of unvoiced joke.
“My father does not know we are here” he said evenly.
The elf queen’s gaze lingered on Magnus for a moment, then moved over the other members of the delegation.
“And you, Lord Signus? Lord Demolun? Your fathers approve of this council?”
The soldier, bear helm at his side, straightened his posture. “Our fathers are traditional, m’lady. They and the other two kings don’t believe in a remedy. I come, representing Demolia and all of its people that are falling, to ask for your aid.”
“And I for Sigland,” piped in the young prince. “My father has done little to none as the dwarves have pillaged and killed my countryside. I will not stand idle.”
“Yet from what I have heard you returned the favor, fair Signus.” Gray-green eyes flicked back to Magnus. “Pillaging and burning the dwarves’ cultural capital of Hammerhold. Your first victory, and quite a massacre it was.”
“It is less than they deserve.” Signus scowled. “Those rock-biters should-“
A quick motion from Magnus cut Signus short. The young prince reddened, and his gaze met the floor.
“I am afraid my father thinks the same as you, Queen-Who-Walks-With-Flowers,” said Magnus, “but he is mistaken.”
“He believes he has crushed the dwarves’ spirits, but the ashes of Hammerhold have only catalyzed the dwarves’ resolve. There have been rumors of a fulfilled prophecy, and now the Zvartbewakers march with a fanatical zeal. A crusade has begun. Our combined armies could barely fight off one clan, I doubt they can withstand six.”
The queen recessed into her throne, which sank with her movement. “And so you come to the fair folk for aid. How quaint.” A cold fire seemed to burn behind the queen’s eyes.
“Your ancestors hunted my brothers and sisters without remorse, pushing us out of our own land. You then pillage our ancestral graves and steal our relics as trophies. It is an insult to me for you to expect my aid. You are more than foolish. I wish, for your sake, that you have something that will stop me from returning your bodies to the earth.”
More than a couple of the queen’s Horizon Guard leaned forward with their hands on their weapons. They seemed coiled and taut, ready to spring.
Magnus motioned to his servants, who carried between them a long, almost coffin-shaped box plated in gold. Embossed designs of trees gave the impression of a golden forest spreading across the box’s lid. Magnus bowed before the elf queen.
“The Host of Hawks has done wrong in the past, especially to your people. I offer the lands of the woods back to your kingdom, with the humblest of apologies for all of my ancestors’ actions.”
A laugh rang out, echoing through the roots of the Korinthal. “You offer mere settlements of scarred land? No. I will not be swayed, not until the ancient sword of Gilgond is returned.”
A smirk appeared on Magnus’ face. “Which is why I have brought it.”
The servants unclasped the box and threw back the lid. Inside rested a huge silver blade resting on a cushion of velvet. The blade was about as long as a man is tall. Elvish runes ran down the blade to the hilt, where a glowing blue crystal rested on the pommel. The carvings glowed with blue light the same color as the gem.
A gasp ran through the elven court, and the Horizon Guard gazed at their queen expectantly.
The queen peered down, looked over the sword, and leaned forward on her throne. She wove together her fingers, propped her elbows on her knees, and flashed a genuine smile.
“I am listening.”
Art credit: The Green Throne by Kekai Kotaki – http://www.kekaiart.com/personal.html