[i " Gather around young ones! I have a story for all whom wish to hear it. Come! Sit sit! You see, this world of ours used to have more beauty, until the Demon War. You see, it was a nasty one, it was. 400 years ago all manners of demons and monsters flooded our lands, slaying and pillaging all they saw. It was a hundred years of fighting before we all but completed wiped those nasty bastards out. We've all but completely recovered since then, but still have to contend with those demons, as in time they've become craftier and deadlier. Gone are the days where nearly every demon and monster was a dumb sack of fangs, teeth and matter. Rather, most of them are smarter than all of you, and some even me! But have no fear, little ones! For we have brave, wonderful adventurers and guilds whom enjoy hunting them down to keep them away from us all. And brave they are, indeed... "]
400 years ago Sera was besieged by the Demon War, where countless hordes of all manners of demons and monsters appeared; pushing Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Lizardmen and countless other species to the brink of extinction. After 100 years of warfare and intense cooperation, the balance of power shifted back in favor of the original inhabitants of Sera, whom succeeded and driving the demons and monsters back to the northern fringes of mountain ranges they seemed to poor out of. 300 years later, practically all aspects of the respective societies have recovered, with scholars still failing to find answers to what caused the Demon War.
These days, demon and monster hunts and investigations are oversaw by adventurers and their respective guilds to ensure the safety of Sera. For as peaceful as it seems, attacks in the southern parts of Sera have begun to arise, forcing the adventurer guilds to split attentions between the two poles of the world.
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Zosk grunted and reached under his chin with his right-hand, his claws gently yet pointedly scratching away to cure himself of an awkward itch that had arisen as he considered the Elf woman's words. As much as it would shame him to admit to, in his travels he had never been able to learn to read the Elven language without help of a translator. He also considered the Fairy and their new role in all of this. It was most curious to him indeed, and so he would have to make time to ask questions, but not this moment.
[b " Shamefully, I must admit I know very little of the Fae kind, despite my immense curiosity. "]
The question about aging past Humans brought a temporary pause out of Zosk as he considered what was said. It wasn't that he didn't know how to answer the statement, but rather he tried to remember exactly how long they could live. 350 years? 400? At least the longest living recorded Raptorian had reached 400 years. Zosk grunted again, giving his neck one final scratch before replying.
[b " That we do. I myself am only about 187 years old. Our oldest recorded age reached was about 407 years old, if memory serves right? The record holder was the Chieftain that had perished during the last war. He was a fine Chieftain, and a finer warrior. "]
Mirriad watched Zosk and nodded, somewhat honoured to be offered such a thing.
“I believe my people have brought our historical book with us. Of course I would grant you permission to read through. My father told me stories but never the military side of things.” She said to the raptorian. The fairy took her off guard as she watched and listened, intently.
She’s never really imagined fairies having rules but she did know that even though they were sweet looking, they could be quite terrible in their punishments. She’s never crossed a fairy before, she’d been very sheltered living in her forest with her father.
[b “They’re like Merrfolk. Men tell grand tales of how beautiful they are but they can be as cruel as the orc folk.”] Theodoras has appeared at Mirriad’s side once more. He wasn’t keen on Mirriad going to Zosk’s homeland but he doubted he would have much of a choice in the matter.
Mirriad looked to Theodoras and nodded before looking to Zosk.
“Your people live a longer time then men, I assume.” She said. She really didn’t know much about other races. Eleven folk could live thousands of years if kept in good health. Her father had been 2310 when he passed. She was only a few hundred years old, so still very much young.
During the meeting, there were many small rifts open, as the fairies made sure that all those important bear witness to what unfolded. There was one rather large rift, so that the two Queens could be in attendance. They were not allowed to leave the realm they rule.
Standing side by side, hand in hand, the two polar opposites of royalty watched. Their faces shrouded by veils, one of gold, the other of white. They were larger than any fairy that had graced the mortal realm, imposing not just with height but with presence. They were centuries old, but not as old as the magic that flowed through them.
Aurora stood on the left. As it was her seasons, she had the voice and the glow that signified that she was in charge. Her hair was like spun sunlight, braided to fall over one shoulder and to mix into the same gold that matched her veil. Her dress was long and flowy, it moved and whispered as if there was a constant breeze.
When the Elf and the Raptorian spoke, others had their piece and the two queens continued to look on. No one expected them to speak. Yet Aurora did, towards the end of the meeting.
[#FFA500 "We will grant you guides through our realm, to reach destinations faster and more reliably. All we ask is that you allow us to send messengers to all your people, in every corner of your world, not only to warn them of the threat you are trying to defeat, but of the rules that govern our realm. If you do not follow them, you cannot declare us enemies because you lost one of your own."] The way she spoke was not out loud, her lips never moved, but her voice was directly inside everyone's mind, and felt like a soft summer breeze that filled someone with warm.
[#FFA500 "The rules are thus: [list
Never accept a Fairy Gift.
Do not eat or drink in our realm.
Do not follow our music or step into our rings unless you have permission from our guides.
Do not give us your full name.
Do not step off the pathway in our realm.
Do not take anything from our realm, be it a flower or a pebble.
] This is for your safety. You should have already known about these warnings, but we will not have a war started because you forgot our customs. We will leave you with our emissaries, send word when you have reached a decision. ]
It was punctuated with the feeling of a hotter summer's day, where the heat could be so intense it was incapacitating. The major rift closed, so it was enough for the Queens to hear the rest of the proceedings. There really wasn't much.
Several fairies and pixies remained and one of them was Absinthe. She was reeling that her suggestion was actually considered by the royals. She began to glow with such pride as she sat by her window sill. She was to remain in case anyone wished to take the offer of the fairies.
Zosk's throat produced a low, rumbled note as she asked her question about the last war, and he scratched just short of his chin as he gave it proper thought. What was left of his people recorded the events, but the resulting infighting afterwards before the unifications resulted in many of the records being destroyed, much to Zosk's displeasure when he had finally asked about them. Knowledge about that war was something that he craved above all others, but sadly it seemed that fate would not allow him that luxury. It would, however, become one should they all survive and prevail in this new war that was coming.
[b " Records, we have of the last war. Many records have been lost, sadly, to the infighting before we unified. I don't remember much off the top of my head, sadly. But if you like, you are welcome to come to the Raptorian village, and see for yourself. As the records are so important, I do not allow them to leave the village. Must preserve, you understand. "]
When was the last time he had invited anyone to the village? It had been a long time, and his memory was not what it was. Stress perhaps, from all that was going on. He had not slept well, either, which worried his people. But alas, he continued about his duties without fail. To him, that was part of what it was to be a leader; to make certain sacrifices for the good of the tribe. Inviting an Elf to the village though? He couldn't say if it had ever been done, but he would make himself the first, then. Whilst in his travels he had met so many different from him, his people had much less experience with other species, including the Elves. Zosk was not overly concerned, however, for his people always knew to treat the guests with respect; especially if he was inviting them personally.
Zosk was kinder than perhaps his demaour let on and he was much more battle ready than the young Elf.
“It’s no secret I am my fathers daughter. He taught me well enough, Zosk. But I don’t think anyone could be prepared for something this big.” The magnitude of the war they faced was unbelievable. If they failed then all light would die. Without light, the elven folk would die, their forests shrivelling to dust around them.
“It falls to me to make sure we are prepared and I have no shame in telling you that I know very little about your people. I would be humbled if you explained. Do you remember anything of the last time? What we might be up against?”
Of course Mirriad never knew. It had been a long time ago when she was too young to ride to battle. She had heard stories and they were never pleasant, they were usually full of misery, blood and death. Mirriad has rarely listened as a child, it had become the tales of nightmares when she was a mere child. Her father had grown dark eyed when he spoke of it. Mirriad has always seen Theodoras grow angry and upset at the mention of it.
[b " Of course, you Elves like to stay in your forests, venturing out very little. Have no fear, Takien. I will teach you all that I know. "]
Zosk was impressed that the Elf woman was so quick to sit by his side and begin to discuss their plans. Had he foreseen any of this? He had not, but he also did not mind the situation. She was trying not just for herself, but for her people, and Zosk respected that. She was undoubtedly green, but in her she had the desire to grow and learn and fill whatever shoes she had to fill. The Raptorian knew that emotion very well, and so he would be happy to indulge that desire and share his knowledge with her. He shifted his view from the Elf to his kin to direct them, his voice carrying the weight of authority and consideration at the same time.
[b " My kin, please see the supply quartermasters. Make sure our requests are being seen to before we depart. Thank you. "]
The Raptorian's Lizardmen kin bowed before exiting the room, heading off to where they needed to go. When the Elf woman commented on her people being excited to meet his, a throaty chuckle rumbled in his throat. Among the council's species, the Elves and the Lizardmen were almost entirely on opposite sides of the spectrum, thus her comment was most amusing. That said, this opened up the opportunity for Zosk to learn things from the Elves. He was always looking to learn things, after all.
[b " I'm sure of it. I'm sure we can learn much from eachother over time. "]
Mirriad listened to Jarrod close the council meeting down and she looked to Theo who seemed less than impressed with how things had gone but she wasn’t seeking his approval, he had agreed to support her and that was all that was needed. She looked to Zosk and drew a deep breath. It was an intimidating thing to go before such creatures and that of status. She was new and young to such things but she knew she would need to face them sooner or later. She stood and looked to Theodoras,
“See to it our people are told of our new comrades in the Vanguard.” She murmured to him quietly,
“I will be fine.” She assured at his open mouth, filled with protest of leaving her alone. He obliged and left the scene, reluctantly. She gathered herself so she looked stronger than she was, determined to not let the facade slip in front of others. She could not be weak or afraid or let others know she was still at a loss on how to command an army.
“You will forgive me, Zosk, but I am new to war.” Zosk probably would have guessed that she was green in the ways of combat and as much as she was aiding him with the vanguard issue, she would also need his help when it came to commanding and the intricate ways of war. Her father probably expected her married and for Theodoras to be in charge of such things by now, but it seemed Mirri preferred to do things herself. She took a seat beside the raptorian. The species were huge, even for a full sized Elf. Mirri being slightly smaller than most Elven folk made them substantial creatures. She wouldn’t like to be on the other side of the battlefield. She wondered if Raptorians made music, if they danced, if they socialised the same as her people did. She did not know much about his people, she intended to use this alliance to her advantage to find out more about them.
“I’m sure my people are excited to meet yours.” She commented to him as she looked around as other council members broke off into their own groups to discuss matters between them and she looked back to Zosk. Some of her people would be excited, some would be admittedly terrified of the Raptorians and Lizardmen and some would be indifferent and look at it for what it was, a strong alliance. At that moment, Mirri was all three of those.
Jarod watched with a stoic expression on his face, but underneath it he was surprised. To begin with, he was surprised that the Lizardmen had requested assistance with the Vanguard, and even more surprised to see the Elves step up and offer to join them on the frontlines. Of all the surprises that could've occurred today, this one could certainly take the cake. He watched the Lizardmen, especially the Raptorian in particular; whom took only a few seconds to consider the offer before performing the standard salute the Lizardmen shared; Closed right fist laying upon left side of torso accompanied by a slight bow and nod. Not only that, but all the Lizardmen conducted the salute in unison as a unified acceptance of the offer. Once everyone had seated and the exchanges finished, Jarod took point again and stood from his seat, once again garnering attention.
[b " Right, well done everyone. Unless anyone else has anything to say, information to share or otherwise, I believe I can say this council is adjourned. I'm sure everyone here has already put in for equipment and other necessities needed for their efforts, but if anyone has missed that please see the Requisitions office afterwards. As for the Vanguard, I believe you guys know to sit down and hash out the details. You're welcome to use this area here to discuss if you wish. If nobody has anything else? Council adjourned. "]
As expected, everyone had finished and so, began to rise and exit the room. Whilst the entire situation seemed tenuous at best, Jarod couldn't deny that there was potential here. Especially between the Elves and the Lizardmen, of all the races. However, Jarod knew two things that seemed to influence this Vanguard alliance; That one; The Elven command was fresh to leadership and combat. Jarod knew that much about that Elven woman. And two; That Raptorian while young, had proven himself to his tribe and his kin as a leader and fighter. And that with their past combat experience they had much to offer. Honestly, he wanted to see exactly what could come of it, so he plopped back down into his seat in the room and waited to see if they would discuss here or not.
Mirriad looked to theodoras as Zosk spoke and she understood his losses, she was sure everyone understood just how much had been lost. She also realised it must have been difficult to ask for help. She looked around the table in silence before speaking,
“The High Dlves will join you under the vanguard.” She said to him with a gracious bow of her head. Raptorians were very powerful allies and everyone had to unite or else they would all lose this war. She hoped Zosk found her an agreeable ally to have. Her army was strong and elves were known for their quick steps and maybe it would be a great balance.
Theodoras looked less than happy but didn’t speak. He glanced to Mirriad when she spoke and sighed. She was trying too hard to get along and she wasn’t thinking. Of course she should have asked his opinion on some matters. They did not know the Raptorians or their ways.
“We would be glad to and honoured.” Mirriad finished before sitting once again. She did not know much about Raptorians but she did know they could be quite volatile and she did not want to disrespect any of them, only to offer a joint alliance for the war. After the war she would not bother them if that’s what they wanted. Zosk was wiser than her and had already offered guidance, and it was something she needed. She needed some help because she felt like she was drowning in this ole right then.
Zosk was very pleased when meals were presented to all whom had attended the council meeting, for he had not eaten well since arriving in Huatli. He was quick to dig in, using his hands and claws to rip and tear as needed instead of using the utensils provided, which brought attention from the other representatives around him. He didn't care however, and continued to eat as he pleased. By the time the meals were over, he had carefully cleaned his hands and face with the hand towels provided, and gave Fenix his full attention as the man spoke. This time, however, Zosk decided he would not be the first to speak on intentions and decided to watch quietly.
Almost surprisingly, the elf woman from before, Talkien was it? It seemed that she decided that she would be the first to speak today. She expressed a commitment to the fight, and had boldly implored others to commit aswell, just as he had to her. Had she learned from him? It was most unique in the sense, but the Raptorian said nothing. Many others stood and expressed commitment to the fight, with others expressing their desire to support the main army instead. Zosk and his Lizardmen kin were the last to speak this time, and thus they all stood at once. Naturally, Zosk towered above everyone else in the room as he stood, silencing all side murmurs and conversations.
[b " The Raptorians and Lizardmen, will unite once again under Vanguard banner. But, we cannot be all of the Vanguard this time. We will need help this time under Vanguard. "]
With that being said, the Raptorian Chieftain had made known what most people probably already knew; that the remaining Dinosaurians and Lizardmen and not recovered even after all this time, and that they would need assistance in the Vanguard for this war. Was such an admittance shameful? Zosk didn't know shame, or rather he never acknowledged it. Even when he was younger, he had no fear for asking for help when it was needed. Now, one of those times had arrived once again, for asking for help. Whether the request would be answered, would be another matter.
Mirriad has greeted the army and let them settled outside the walls of the city in great tents. Theodoras has stayed close to her, carefully placed to make sure his presence was known. But now they sat before the other great leaders from all four corners. It was intimidating to say the least, especially for Mirriad seeing as she was just new and didn’t know many of the leaders, if any. She looked to Jarod as he spoke and stayed silent for a few moments, thinking carefully before standing and glancing to Theodoras who was sat beside her.
[b “As many as you have most likely guessed, the High Elves will fight in the upcoming battles and no doubt war. It is imminent these forces will rise against us. I would will anyone at this table thinking of not joining in the fight, to think about what devastation this new enemy will cause.”] She said before sitting down once more.
She had not eaten much at the feast that had been organised, her appetite was fleeting in these stressful times. Her eyes looked around the table, almost warily. If some of the larger armies did not join them, it could have a knock on effect, causing the others to go to a losing fight. She would fight regardless because the light of the Elven folk could not be extinguished. That light she wore close to her heart, dangling from a chain around her neck, hidden behind her dress and cloak.
Theodoras watched quietly. He had become a silent body guard to Mirriad. He was there only to protect her, to make sure no harm came to her. And yes, perhaps to one day marry her as had been instructed and was expected of him. He was still unsure if their standing on such things. He watched her speak and could see her father’s strength within her, mixed with her mother’s grace. Theo knee the likelihood of her needing protection was small, but there may come a day he needed to sacrifice everything for her. And he would, in a heartbeat.
He glanced to her as she sat again and gave her a small nod before looking to the others. Some here would have fought with her father, perhaps even his brother and father in the Great War, depending on the species. He was still apprehensive about the battles and knew that it would not be clean or pretty. The forces of evil did not show mercy. And neither would he. He watched to see if anyone else had anything to say regarding the upcoming war.
[b The Following Day..]
It was barely even midday and Jarod was already exhausted, but today was yet another necessary day that needed to be tended to. Today was more of a council meeting than anything, where all the major players; Generals, Top scholars, Guild leaders and representatives sat down to to discuss and lay out their given thoughts, plans, otherwise. For this purpose, overnight the Guild dining hall had been renovated to accommodate such a large gathering. At the head of all the tables, Jarod as positioned so that he could be heard and seen by all. His presence held more importance than he liked to admit to; yesterday had proven that. Once everyone had entered and settled, he had allowed everyone some time to enjoy the light feast he had requested be prepared overnight. After sometime and light banter, Jarod stood from his seat.
[b " Now that everyone has arrived, eaten some fill and gotten comfortable. It is time for the council to begin. If anyone has anything they'd like to say right off the cuff, please stand and do so. "]
The thundering ricochet of sound that resulted from sword hitting metal was loud enough to bring all to attention and to wake one passed out fairy. Shaking her head to try and remove the still pounding headache, her eyes followed the masses to land upon one human man. An announcement was to happen. With a wave of her hand, she opened a rift to the Fae Realm so all her species could witness. Her green eyes saw many other tiny rifts, several other fairies were in attendance. They knew their faults, so they sent multiple emissaries so at least one would remember why they came.
During the whole speech, many emotions consumed her. The orb was scary, wondrous, terrible and a curiosity. His words filled her with dread, sadness, anger, determination and soon she was so overwhelmed, she felt nothing at all. Most of the fairies seemed to dull a little, a sign they were overloaded.
Once the speech was done, all the rifts closed, many of the fairies heading back to hear the courts. Deciding that it would be far too much noise, she remained. Coincidentally, the uproar of emotions and noise was here too and she almost regretted her decision.
Looking around, her eyes fell upon the Raptorian and the elf, but being so overloaded, he was no longer exciting. Blinking rapidly, the fairy decided to help some of those who already started. Flying over to those who started drinking, she began creating her namesake in bottles, allowing those who wanted to, to forget what they just heard, even for a moment.
She then finally sat on the window sill, looking out at the world. Many of the people outside this room have no idea the terrible news that was just given. Many will find out soon as preparations were made, but there will be a few tiny communities that will never know. Maybe someone should tell them.. She opened a rift and summoned a butterfly messenger to relay her idea to have the ones like her, the smaller fairies, to notify all the communities when the time comes. No one should be unprepared.
Opening her own tiny bottle of her namesake, she took a sip. Contrary to others, drinking this brew rejuvenated her and soon her headache disappeared.. for now.
Mirriad watched Zosk and she was in total agreement with his words. Their trees would fall, their forest would die and so would they. If she was to die anyway, she would sooner die in battle trying to push away dark forces. Their light would burn out, but if there was any chance of survival then she would take it. She watched Zosk leave and sighed. She would have to face Theodoras sooner or later. She got to her feet, striding with as much confidence as she could manage. How does anyone tell their loved one that they have to go against everything? She placed a hand on Theodoras’ shoulder as she approached him from behind, stepping beside him and letting them finish their song before speaking.
[b “I do not ask you to agree with me, but I would ask that you stand at my side this one last time.”] She said softly to him, watching Theodoras turn and face her. There was pain in his blue eyes,
[b “Please. If you do this, for me, I will free you from bondage’s of enagagement to me. I need your support, Theodoras.”] Althoigh the words were painful to spit out, because her heart belonged to him, she knew he did not feel the same. At least not right then. She looked around at the crowds that were dispersing and she knew her people would need to be summoned for battle if this was happening, they would leave their forest and come to the city outskirts to prepare for impending battles.
Theodoras watched Mirriad’s features as he heard her words. He did not wish to break engagement with her, but he did find it difficult to feel anything for her right then. Did she really believe he felt nothing for her? He nodded.
[b “I will stand beside you.”] he said finally, seeing her look relieved.
[b “But I cannot watch you die in battle, Mirriad.”] He spoke quietly and gestures for her to sit at the table nearby.
[b “I would die to make sure you make it home.”] He said to her, eyes level and he glanced over to where Zosk was.
[b “The Raptorians will fight, I would say. They are formidable foes. They have never shied away from any fight.”] He murmured and looked to Mirriad who handed him her bow with a glittering narrow.
[b “Very well.”] He said and stood, letting loose the arrow into skies, which were darkening. A piercing white trail lit the skies and that was the signal for the Elves that they had been summoned and was coming. He sat and watched the bright arrow in the skies fizzle out after some minutes. They had signed the death sentence for so many of their people.
[b “I will meet with you, with the council tomorrow.”] He said to her.
Mirriad nodded to him,
[b “We will meet with all leaders of different kingdoms. There will be no secrets, Theodoras.”] She said to him.
[b “We go to war.”]
[i " He lost a lot, during the last war. "]
Zosk huffed irritatingly at those words. Lost a lot, did he? What about everyone else? What about the Lizardmen, his kin? What about the Dinosaurians? The Dinosaurians alone were nearly wiped out during the last war. So many tribes wiped out or in tatters, with so many species completely eliminated from the world. What an annoying notion, for wanting to bow out while the rest of the world burned. Zosk growled for just a moment, then seized to answer the Elf woman's question.
[b " We. Will. Fight. Your comrade forgets the losses we endured during the last war. Lizardmen and Dinosaurian alike were first to be hit. So many tribes lost. Many species gone from the world now. We lost so much, rallying to be the vanguard. Even after all this time, many of us still haven't recovered our numbers. We cannot be the whole vanguard once again, but we will fight. Know this, Talkien. Tell your comrade also. Your trees will not save you. Your forest will not last. Your light will be smothered by the dark. If you hide? You will only die last. Those who fight together, survive together. "]
Zosk's tone had strengthened during his speech, his status as a Chieftain becoming ever the more apparent. Whilst he was young for being a Chieftain, he did not acquire his position by accident. When his tribe befell a plague, he sought out Human help to cure it from his tribe, and succeeded. From there, he was first recognized amongst his people as a genius and an innovator, but the first attempt to give him the title was refused. Zosk traveled for years amongst the Humans, learning the language, cultures, politics and other relevant information. After spending years learning as much as he could he returned to his tribe and shared his knowledge with them all, especially in regards to the farming, smithing, crafting and otherwise. The Raptorian tribe not only increased its quality of life, but its strength and numbers aswell. Before long, Zosk accepted the mantle of Chieftain and continued to raise his tribe to greatness.
For now his talk with the Elf woman was finished, thus Zosk raised to his bipedal stance and gently knocked his chest with his left hand enclosed into a fist; a sign of respect amongst Lizardmen. Having done this, he turned away from her and made his way through the crowd. His eyes picked up a few representatives from the larger Lizardmen tribes, and thus it was important that he speak with them to prepare for what was coming. It was his duty after all, as Chieftain of his tribe to protect them at all costs.
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