The distance between Rhi’a’non and Solaris was long enough that Neleh and Solana had to stop to camp for a night. If she was really forced to, Neleh could’ve managed to fly the whole distance, but she would’ve fainted immediately on arrival, and would have been useless in any sort of combat situation. The duo reminisced on their relationship while camping, and had a decent time, although their incoming separation weighed on them. Aside from heavy hearts, the trip was rather uneventful.
On the second day they landed a decent distance from the city. Just in case they landed on the opposite side from where any potential ambushers would be expecting them. Neleh circled around the city in a wide arc to avoid being noticed, but they did see the devastation of the Sun Palace from their height. The rest of the city seemed to be fine though, which was good news. When they landed, Neleh immediately changed into her travel clothes to avoid drawing too much attention.
The guards at the gate didn’t even give them a second look, despite Neleh hiding her face. They didn’t expect trouble from that direction, and it showed in the demeanor of the guards, although they did pay attention to the terrain beyond the gate. A spy might be able to get in easily, but an army or a monster would not. The guard’s uniform and the city itself were covered in red and gold colors. If Rhi’a’non was all white, Solaris was almost completely red and gold, with tall spires and towers. While Rhi’a’non was built wide, aside from a few spires, the Sun Elves had built their capital tall, reaching for the sun.
The fascination of the elven clans with certain colors interested Neleh. It was obvious the red and gold of the Sun Elves stood for the sun, and the dark blue and silver of Moon Elves represented the night sky. What did the white of the Eldarinwe stand for? Or was it just to show that they could make a huge city out of nothing but white materials? Neleh entertained herself with these idle thoughts while they walked towards the Sun Palace, or what was left of it anyway.
They weren’t actually sure if they should be going towards the Sun Palace, or if the king-to-be was holding court somewhere else while the palace was being rebuilt. They didn’t actually manage to make it all the way to the palace before they were stopped by a group of Sun Elf guards who had recognized Solana. The guards very politely escorted the two of them to a large mansion near the palace ruins. Neleh had decided that it was wise for once for her to wear her Inquisitor’s insignia visibly on her finger. That allowed both the guards that recognized them, as well as the guards at the mansion to quickly ascertain her identity as the one who had escorted Solana here.
They didn’t have to wait long until they were escorted into a fairly large room with four people, three of whom Neleh recognized. One of them was prince Aelrindel of course, who had aged significantly since they last met. The prince had gained maturity and seriousness, both of which had been lacking previously. The second person was the Duchess Viansola. It had only been a few days since Neleh had seen her in Ilyanden, so she must have been escorted to the capitol in a real hurry, most likely with magical means being involved. Neleh wasn’t all that surprised to see her, since she was a relative of the royal family, and such relatives had been ushered to safety with all the possible speed. Three was a third person, a male Sun Elf warrior carrying the hair knot of a Great Silver, standing between the two, and the fourth person. The man was apparently a bodyguard of sorts, whose presence was explained by the fourth person in attendance.
It was the fourth person who surprised Neleh with his presence. He was the man known as the Right Fist of the emperor, the emperor’s advisor and also a Great Silver. Estelar had left his sword outside the room, but he was still a dangerous man, hence the presence of a bodyguard of similar rank. The dark haired man turned towards the door when Neleh and Solana entered, and a small smile came to his lips when he saw the insignia on Neleh’s hand.
“Solana! Welcome back home!” The prince had been frowning when they entered, but now he was all smiles when he quickly moved to embrace the sister he had not seen in years. “I did not expect you so soon. I sent the request for you to be brought here only two days ago.”
Aelrindel turned towards Neleh, also noticing the insignia. “I did not realize the Inquisition had Solana this close to Solaris. I must thank you for escorting my sister safely.” The prince gave a small bow of thanks.
Duchess Viansola gave a small humorless laugh. “Oh I’m pretty sure they weren’t. Or at least this particular Inquisitor wasn’t. She’s the one who uncovered the misdeeds of my husband. Last I saw her, she was leaving for Rhi’a’non to save Solana. Hello again Inquisitor Neleh.” The duchess gave a slight bow.
Both the prince and Estelar gave Neleh an appraising look. Neleh decided it was very impolite to remain masked in this company, and they had all seen her before anyway, removed her mask and hood. “Hello again duchess. I hope the last days have not been treating you too badly. You move around fast.”
Estelar gave a small laugh. “Not as fast as you apparently. I know for a fact that Solana was in Rhi’a’non two days ago. Hello again miss Neleh. With how fast you move around, I’m quite sad you turned down our offer of sponsorship, although with the situation as it is, I can’t say you made a bad choice. And it also seems you really didn’t need our assistance.”
Neleh gave a small warrior’s greeting to both Estelar and the prince. “Hello again Estelar. Prince Aelrindel, the Inquisitor Neleh has hereby completed her mission to escort the one known as lady Solana safely to Solaris. The Inquisition thanks you for your understanding, and officially wishes the best for your reign. Unofficially, we think you have a hard road ahead of you, and we truly hope you won’t end up as our customer in the other sense.” Neleh said seriously, although with a small smile.
The tone got a wide smile from the prince. “I hope so as well. I heard a little about what happened to Viansola’s husband, and I really hope to avoid making an enemy out of you.” The prince took a longer look at Neleh. “Say, didn’t I propose to you a little over a year ago?” That little statement brought a huge laugh out of everyone except Solana who groaned instead.
“I believe you were about to, but I pre-empted it due to my youth.” Neleh said with a grin.
“The job of a queen is still open, in case you’ve reconsidered.” The prince asked hopefully. He had noticed the increased sex appeal of Neleh, who still didn’t quite realize the effect she was having around her. Estelar and Viansola looked at the prince surprised, while Solana was mortified, unable to say anything.
Neleh gave a little thought. “There are some problems with that plan. First of all, I’m fairly sure everyone here knows that there’s a civil war about to hit. I’m a little surprised it hasn’t happened already.”
Estelar grunted, while the prince answered. “The word about what happened at the palace doesn’t travel as fast as you do Inquisitor. As soon as the word has spread, the Sun Elves will march for war. I’m afraid Lord Estelar is here for nothing. Even if I wanted to stop the war, I could not. The resentment has piled for too long, and this latest travesty will be the last spark. Still do continue on, I’m not yet seeing your point.”
“Well, let’s assume the best case scenario for you. You and the Moon Court will join forces and defeat the current emperor.” Another grunt from Estelar. “The empire will need a new ruler. Who are the most likely candidates?”
The prince answered immediately. “Currently either me as the emperor, or the queen of the Moon Elves as the empress.”
“Now, let’s assume you take the job, what is the most likely demand that the Moon Court will present to retain the balance between your two clans?” Neleh continued to question.
Estelar suddenly realized what Neleh was aiming at and gave the young Inquisitor more respect than even before. He answered instead of the prince. “They will demand that he marry a member of their royal family, and their child, whether a Sun Elf or a Moon Elf, will take the throne afterwards. They will most likely also demand a joint rule with him and the Moon Elf princess chosen.”
“And there you have it. I’m not interested in becoming a mistress, even for the emperor. And that’s the best case scenario.” Neleh finished. She gave a playful look at Solana. “Also, it might get a bit uncomfortable when you consider I just returned my previous lover to her brother.” She finished with a chuckle.
It took a moment for the prince to register Neleh’s meaning, and he blushed quite heavily when he did. Estelar on the other hand was busy laughing his ass off, while Viansola was shaking her head in frustration. Solana was blushing furiously.
The prince turned to Solana. “Something that you want to tell me sister?” He asked holding a perfectly blank face.
“Private matters I’m afraid.” Solana answered embarrassed beyond belief.
“Not so private anymore.” Estelar mumbled. He continued. “I think it’s about time me, and the Inquisitor full of surprises, left and gave you some family time. I agree that my being here is probably useless, and it looks to me our lovebirds have said their goodbyes already. Come inquisitor, let’s leave them alone.” They both moved towards the door.
Neleh gave Solana one last look, and gave a deep warrior’s salute as a goodbye. Solana had been her spear fighting teacher after all, and they had said their emotional farewells on the grand temple hospital bed.
As they exited the mansion Estelar spoke to Neleh playfully. “You know, there’s a good chance the Moon Elves would actually ok you as the prince’s wife, if they knew of your position as a Chosen.” Of course he knew. There was no way to keep a secret that big from the Right Fist of the emperor.
Neleh gave a snort of laughter. “Did it look like I was interested in sharing that information? I’ll probably have to turn him down a third time when all is said and done, even if he knows about me and Solana. It’s just too perfect of a thought to have the prince of a royal family wronged, married to the young Chosen who saved the princess of said family, and who has had no role in building the hate between the clans.”
Estelar gave Neleh a glance. “So you think they will win?”
Neleh gave another snort. “Oh you know better than to even ask. It’s two against one, while their forces are highly motivated and yours don’t want to fight against their own kind. Unless you’re hiding an ace somewhere, I think you’re pretty much done.”
“An ace like a Chosen with the favor of Elune perhaps?” Estelar asked with a small smile. “Someone, who would make a good symbol for peace the people could rally behind?”
“Good luck with that. I don’t think you’ll have much luck with Shalheira. She doesn’t seem to be interested in joining you, and she’s a moon elf.” Neleh played dumb with Estelar’s hint, while also making her stance clear. Neleh was after all a Moon Elf too, and her meaning was pretty obvious.
“Well, I was hoping you’d travel back to Rhi’a’non with me, so I could try my luck at changing your mind. I’m not ready to give up just yet.” Estelar was fairly persistent. He knew as well as Neleh did, that the Eldarinwe would not be winning the civil war without a helping hand, and Neleh was in a position to offer that helping hand. There was no point in trying to force her though.
“I suppose I could travel with you. I’m not exactly in a hurry anymore, and lone girls tend to make for tempting targets for ambushes. Even if I can beat those ambushes, I’d rather save the trouble.” Neleh said thoughtfully. She didn’t cherish the idea of Estelar trying to convince her, but she really wasn’t in a hurry to return, especially since it would be weird for her to go back to the academy while the rest of the Ilyanden expedition was still out.
If nothing else, she could use the time to work on a spell she had been planning for months. The only real downside of the world she was on was the lack of access to decent music. She could play some of it herself, but that wasn’t the same thing. Now using air magic to produce the sound waves necessary on the other hand…
Anauel was preparing to depart towards the faerie continent, when a messenger from the Fateweavers caught up with her. She didn’t even need to hear the message to know what it was about. Fateweavers were the group of celestials that were able to see the future, and as far as the celestials knew they were the only race able to do so. The Fateweavers were part of the reason the celestials had been so successful in preventing large disasters and wars before now. Anauel had been receiving messages of an impending disaster for a while now, although she had trouble seeing how things could get much worse.
Most of the races were at war, and the celestials had just gotten word that the Sun Elves and Moon Elves had joined forces and were now marching on the Eldarinwe. There had already been fights where the army units made up either of the other clans had turned and attacked the army units of Eldarinwe. The situation was about to get much worse in the elven lands. The war between demons and faeries was even worse. The faeries had somehow managed to use their illusion magic to enslave a large number of the great wyrms, and those wyrms were now tearing the demon armies apart.
The great wyrms were not intelligent enough to be considered a lesser race, but smarter than monsters. They had no magic, but their enormous scaled bodies were the epitome of war. Worst part was that the damn things had such huge amounts of touki, that they were almost immune to lesser ranked magic. Anyone below the rank of Great Silver was useless against them. The demons had more strong individuals like that than any other race, but they couldn’t be everywhere, and the demons were suffering horrendous losses before they managed to kill the wyrms. The celestials and specifically Anauel was about to travel to the faerie lands to try and broker a peace, now that the balance of war had shifted so heavily.
Now though she was called in by the Fateweavers, and had to hope the others would manage to broker the peace. She would not have been called now if the need wasn’t urgent. She flew to the Tower of Visions, a large spire of obsidian in the middle of the celestial capital. The spire was the second tallest building in the city, only shadowed by the great silver palace, the seat of power of all celestials. There was a servant waiting for her arrival, who led her inside the tower. She was rather shocked to see that her two advisors as well as five other high ranking celestials were already gathered. The celestials standing here were the most powerful members of their race, and did not always get along.
She was just about to speak when the doors leading to the back opened and a pair of white winged Fateweavers entered, one of them being their leader. For some reason Fateweavers were always white winged. Their leader had had a name before becoming a Fateweaver, but they gave up their names as a sign of their dedication, and as a sign that they have left their own needs and desires behind. The leader spoke to them.
“As you might be able to guess, you have been summoned here because your presence is required for a mission. The most important mission any of you have any taken part in.” He said in a quiet and serious voice.
“A mission for all eight of us?” One of the other celestials asked.
“Does this have anything to do with the disaster you have been telling me about for a while now?” Anauel asked.
“The answer to both questions is yes. All eight of you will go to the elven lands to a certain battlefield and shield the rest of the world from disaster.” The Fateweaver said.
“The rest of the world? What could possibly happen in the elven lands that could threaten the rest of the world? And something that requires the presence of the eight strongest celestials to stop? The only one I can imagine is the dragon eldest and she hasn’t moved for millennia. What could possibly rouse her?” Another celestial asked, not happy at all for being ordered around.
The Fateweaver sighed sadly. “The threat is much worse than the dragon eldest, and the eight of you will not be enough. When you get there, and form the sealing formation, you will get help. Help that you will need. The next part is very important. In return for the help, you are not to harm the cause of this danger in any way. You will be saving the world twice that day. Once by stopping the immediate danger, and the second time by keeping the cause of the danger safe. Pay attention. If one or more of you will have to give their lives in order to save the cause of this threat, you will do so and gladly pay the price. It’s better that all of you die, than harm come to the one you are protecting.”
The man’s solemn proclamation caused a real stir among the gathered celestials. No matter how much good they did for the other races, or maybe even as a result of that, celestials had a very inflated image of their own self-worth. That it was possible for them to be sacrificed to protect someone who even seemed like a threat to them seemed absurd.
The Fateweaver continued. “Know this. The need for your presence on the battlefield, and the possible need for you to lay down your lives is the result of your own decisions. This could have been prevented, but some among you chose not to because of their petty worries and fears. Now everyone is paying the price of those choices. If there was no battlefield where you are going, then there would be no need for you to stand on that battlefield.” He looked straight at Anauel when he said this, a look that was missed by all except one of the celestials.
Anauel knew the man was talking to her and her two advisors. They could’ve done something to prevent the dragon attack on the Sun Palace, but had chosen not to. If they had, then the Sun Elves would not be marching to war. Sometimes inaction is worse than taking a misguided action. She had to ask something though. “What should we be expecting on this battlefield? I’m assuming we're not going there to stop the battle?”
“No. This battle has too much momentum behind it to stop. You will know when to act, it will be obvious. As for what you will find there, a flame from the past. The empress of fire will make a brief but possibly disastrous re-appearance.”