Neleh extended her senses out to try and find the humans the Eternal Empress had mentioned. It didn’t take long for her to find them, not because they were close but because there were a lot of them. Her senses didn’t really reveal what the problem was though. She started flying towards the place she sensed the humans, but even at her flying speed it took her two hours to reach them. When she did, a problem presented itself.
Neleh contacted the Eternal Empress through the bracelet, getting an immediate answer. “Well that was quick, did you miss me already?” The empress asked a little playfully.
Neleh decided to bluntly ignore the joke. “You said I was supposed to help some humans near the islands, right? Which humans?”
“Excuse me?” The empress asked confused.
“Well I’m pretty sure I found the humans you meant, the only problem is that it’s a battle between two human fleets. There’s almost a hundred ships here. So who exactly am I supposed to save? I could save all of us some trouble by sinking all of the ships, but I’m guessing that doesn’t exactly go along with your visions.” Neleh complained a little bitterly.
“The vision wasn’t really all that precise. I have the seer that had the vision here with me. Can you describe the ones doing battle?” The empress asked.
“Some of the ships are flying banners similar to the ones I crossed while flying here, so I’m guessing they belong to the navies of the human kingdoms of the islands. The other ships seem to be flying the regalia of the human empire, and then the separate ships have different flags depending on who’s on them. I’m seeing different flags ranging from a flower to a wolf. House insignia, is my guess.” She kept listing off the different banners. “The empire’s side seems to be losing. It seems their commanders aren’t stupid, but they seem to be trying to lead the battle like a general instead of an admiral. As a result, their fleet has been separated into fragments.”
The empress was quiet for a while, before answering. “The ship with the wolf symbol. That’s the one you need.” She finally replied.
“Of course it is.” Neleh said to herself with a sigh. “Why couldn’t you have picked one of the ships that aren’t surrounded on all sides?” She complained.
“Then they wouldn’t need much in the way of saving, now would they? You know what to do, now hop to it. I guarantee it will be worth the trouble. Depending on how you play your cards, the benefit from this can be even greater than the alliance with us. That’s the extreme case of course.” Neleh could hear the smile in the empress’ voice.
Neleh cut the connection and said to herself. “That’s a big promise. Hard to see how it could be. I suppose fire magic is mostly out for now. It would be very effective, but a problem if the fire spreads. There are a couple of ships on the side that I can torch, but what about the rest? Will I have to do this ship by ship?”
“How in the blazes did we get ambushed like this? It’s the bloody ocean! It’s not like the enemy can hide behind hills and trees!” Prince Sanguinius cursed. He was in the middle of fighting off several of the islander marines trying to reach Alexis, who in turn was cutting large swathes into the enemy ranks with his magic.
“Fog mostly. Their mages obstructed the vision of our lookouts. It also doesn’t help that you got a bit too cocky. I know you’re a brilliant general, but the battles between navies are different. I told you we should take an island hopping strategy instead of challenging them on the seas. They have fought on seas since they were old enough to serve on a ship, while this is the first time you’re commanding a naval battle and our men are soldiers not marines.” Alexis replied, while sending another burst of death magic into the ranks of the enemy.
“Less blaming and more thinking about solutions to get out of this. Besides, it would’ve worked if the other half of our fleet hadn’t gotten separated from us. The pincer attack was a good idea.” Sanguinius defended himself while stabbing another marine in the throat.
“Hey, I’m not the one who brought it up! You asked, I simply answered.” Alexis said with a chuckle and another blast of magic. “Besides, pincer attacks aren’t as simple on the ocean as they are on the land. The distances make timing difficult. You also can’t rush a fleet like you would an army. The wind and the currents make a huge difference in speed. Admit it, you just don’t have the necessary experience for naval combat yet.” Despite the ease at which the two were dispatching their foes, they were in real trouble. Although the two of them were not in great danger of losing to the less skilled enemies, the rest of the fleet was not doing as well, and even if the enemy had trouble taking them by sword and spell, they could always sink the ship from under them once they got more freedom from the rest of the imperial ships.
“That aside, what’s that thing in the sky? Flaming wings and all, looks a little like a celestial. Doesn’t look all that promising.” Sanguinius said, while pointing to the northern sky with a quick gesture.
Alexis looked the way his brother had pointed and saw the fiery being too. “That’s not a celestial. I’ve heard the celestial Chosen has red wings, but not wings made of fire. Especially not golden fire, I’ve never even heard of such a thing. We might be in real trouble now.”
“What do you mean? I can’t feel her strength at all. You would think we could feel it, if the being was really powerful.” Sanguinius asked a little confused.
“I’m thinking the exact opposite. It’s because of its power that it can hide it from us. Look, it’s coming this way!” They watched as the being of golden fire got closer, while blasting some weird looking green fire at a couple of nearby islander ships that were not entangled in close combat.
Those ships had been a real thorn in the side of the twins, as the ships contained many of the enemy mages who kept blasting spells at the imperial navy. They saw the islander mages try to counter the fire with water magic, as was usually the safest method in ship combat. Get the ships wet and they become harder to burn, in addition to putting out the fires. They watched in almost horrified fascination as the water not only didn’t work on the green flames but spear it around the ships even further. The water vaporized instantly, exploding into large pillars of flame. The ships went up like torches soaked in oil.
“It’s like liquid fire! The water only makes it worse.” Sanguinius said in horrified fascination.
“It’s a looks like a larger and more effective version of a grease fire from cooking. In case we face that, water is a no-no. Try suffocating the flames instead.” Alexis mused.
They watched in fascination as the beautiful being that looked like a cross between an elf and a celestial landed on their ship’s deck, and used her flaming red spear to efficiently dispatch the islander marines that closed on her. The marines had seen their mage’s ships going up in flames, and tried to take their rage out on the being. They didn’t meet with any success though, as the woman’s spear skills were immaculate, as she cut them down with effortless ease, as if dancing from one move to another.
“Brother dearest, I didn’t expect to ever say this, but she looks almost exactly like you while fighting. Except you’re an ugly horse’s arse and she’s…divine.” Alexis seemed completely charmed, and even forgot to cast any spells at the marines, though the marines were too busy jumping to their deaths at the woman’s spear.
Sanguinius grunted. “She’s not bad. I could beat her though.” Even as he said that, Sanguinius wasn’t sure if he really could. He really wanted to try though. After rivaling Nicholai’s skill, he hadn’t met an opponent able to truly challenge him. His competitive spirit was roaring.
After dispatching the closest enemies, the woman with a golden halo closed on them in a calm manner. “Are the two of you the leaders of this disaster?” She asked. Her voice had this melodious sound that made you want to listen more.
Before Sanguinius had a chance to say anything about the description of the situation, which he felt was a little unfair, Alexis replied in a fairly chipper voice. “Indeed we are. I am prince Alexis de Wolfe, and this is my incompetent brother Sanguinius. I blame him for this mess personally.”
Sanguinius snapped at his brother. “Oi! Don’t pin this on me alone! The plan was good, I tell you. It’s not my fault I didn’t receive training in naval warfare.”
“Hmm, I was wondering about that. I thought that the person in charge was a pretty decent general, but didn’t fight as an admiral would. That said, reasons are irrelevant and only results matter. I was lead to believe that if I were to help you out with your little mess, then you would be able to help me in return.” The woman replied with a small smile that gave a faint glimpse of perfect pearly white teeth among the alluring red lips.
“Well, we could certainly use the help and can’t be too picky. I would still like to hear what you want in return?” Alexis said, a little surprised but willing to listen to almost any request.
“I need someone gifted in spirit magic, preferably one with wide knowledge rather than someone with a lot of battle potential. I could especially use someone who is good with interpreting blessings.” The woman said a little vaguely.
Her request was a little odd, but not something they couldn’t handle. Spirit magic was the greatest strength of the humans, but even if the other races were to find out about its intricacies, it wouldn’t really matter since the other races didn’t have the spirits that the humans had been granted by Iarus. Theoretically some of the other gods might be able to grant a few spirits, but not in the same way as every human had thanks to their protector god being the God of Spirits and Death.
“That can be arranged.” Alexis answered simply.
“Before we start, I need to know what you are doing here with this many warships. It would be problematic if I helped someone who then took their ships to attack my lands. These islanders look like they’re fighting for their freedom as well.” The woman’s golden hair let out a burst of flames as if to emphasize her words.
Sanguinius wasn’t too keen on answering, but they did need help. “We are here to form a foothold to launch a naval attack on the beastman continent.” He finally grunted.
“Oh, so these guys really are fighting for their freedom?” She sounded a little surprised and a lot amused.
“Well, yes and no.” Alexis hedged. “We technically only need a staging ground, so a couple of their port cities would be enough. We just need a place to prepare the attack from, since we don’t especially have the desire to fight against the beastmen warships. They aren’t big on naval power, but it’s still better to go around instead. We need to open a second front in the war against the beastmen, to draw their forces away from the main front. Surely you are aware that we aren’t exactly winning the war.”
“Alright, that’s not a bad strategy. The beastmen are very mobile, but as a result they most likely left their homes lightly guarded.” The woman gave a weird look with her golden eyes. “You didn’t try asking the islanders did you? They might have just given you access to their ports and supplies, in return for guaranteeing their independence for a time.”
Sanguinius gave another grunt. It was a bit hard to explain that one of the major reasons they wanted to victoriously sweep the islands, was to get recognition from their father. Alexis only gave a small smile.
The three of them threw themselves into battle with the golden woman taking the front, her red spear claiming countless lives with brutal efficiency. The twins took care of her sides, and the trio cleaved through the enemy ranks with ease. The golden woman roused her voice in a song that carried over the whole battle. She weaved a web of power with her voice, and the effect on the men of the empire was the stuff legends were made of. All the passions of generals giving speeches on the eve of battle were rolled with the words of love from their lovers that drove the motivations of men. Together combined into her song that told of glory and gaining immortality in the annals of history. It beat on the hearts of the men of empire, forging them into machines of destruction. For the men of the islands, they felt waves of defeat and despair wash over them. It was a feeling of hopelessness and terror unlike anything they had felt before, and they desperately attempted to flee.
To the wounded her voice became a thing of hope, relief and healing. The men of the empire felt their wounds closing regardless of their severity. Their swords and arrows found their mark with uncanny accuracy, while for their enemies nothing seemed to work. The desperation the men of the empire had felt before was now gone, and they felt as if victory was theirs, they just had to reach forth and grab it. Their will to live and fight was reborn from the ashes, while the enemy could not flee fast enough.
The image of what later became known as the ‘Golden Goddess of War’ flanked by the valiant princes was seared into the minds of the men, and they would spread the legend of that sight once they reached the shore again. Although the princes knew better, the men who survived the battle could only see the divine being as a symbol of hope sent to lead them into a destined victory. This was aided by the powerful feelings induced by the battle hymn sung by her.
The effect of this battle would be much more important and far reaching than any of the trio could suspect. The ardent stories of the men would spread among the soldiers of the empire, and golden flame would become a symbol especially among those devoted to the victory of the human race. It would also help in defending against the corrupting influence of the Harbingers, as those devoted to the ‘Golden Goddess’ would chant her name while hunting down those that would bring corruption to them.
The three of them gathered on the deck of the ship carrying the wolf banner. They noticed the especially reverent looks of the men, but decided to ignore them for the time being. She had just led them to a victory after all, so it was not surprising to have gained the respect of the men.
“That was really something else. I really didn’t expect the battle to go that smoothly.” Alexis said in wonder.
Sanguinius on the other hand was worried. He had paid more close attention to the effects Neleh’s battle hymn had caused in the men, and was worried about what it might do in a battle between armies. Wouldn’t an army so empowered be invincible? And what if that army decided to march against the humans? That said, they were saved by it this time, so they should be grateful for now.
“Mmh, that went better than I thought. I was worried for a moment there, but it seems you’ve gained victory for now.” Neleh agreed. The two princes had been a great help. They really had great abilities and potential. The prince dressed in white and gold had a sword arm rivaling her own, and the darker dressed prince used his magic very effectively. She might even bother remembering their names later on.
“So about our side of the bargain?” Alexis prompted.
“Right, I can’t take anyone with me. You can put the person you’ve selected on a ship to the elven province of Jao’e’Tinukai. If you ask the naga of the port city of Bluepearl, they can guide you further.” Neleh was staring to float upwards before she continued. “Alternatively you can just ask for a person known as Neleh Khalidor. Most everyone in the elven continent can guide you with that name.” She then took off to the sky.
“Wasn’t that the name of the new elven Chosen?” Sanguinius asked.
“Now that you mention it, I think you’re right. She looked really young to be a Chosen.” Alexis replied in a quiet voice.
Neleh had just reached a sufficient flying height and was planning on how to proceed, when she felt Estelar reaching out for her with the ring she left him. “What is it?” Neleh asked.
“We’re in trouble. The bandits are attacking Jao’e’Tinukai in force.” Estelar’s alarmed voice came through.
“The city? They went straight for the capital of the duchy? What happened?” She asked surprised.
“They sent a decent sized force to approach a town on the other side of the duchy, drawing away both me and the reinforcements sent by the empress. They somehow managed to mask their approach towards the capitol until we spotted them two hours ago. I’m rushing towards the city as fast as I can, but I will not make it. I ordered the whole city evacuated through the arch to Nexus. I know you wanted to keep it a secret for now, but that’s the only way to get the people out and into the safety of the Order sanctuary. If we tried to have them evacuate over ground, the bandits would hunt them down. The city guards are ordered to stall with the best of their ability until the evacuation is complete, and then also leave the same way closing the arch behind them.” Estelar reported.
“I’m sorry my lady. I really failed you this time.” Him using a title for her showed that he really had blundered this time. He hated titles after all. The use of a title was a way to show his regret.
“I’m on my way. The problem is that I can’t make a doorway here. A doorway needs to be anchored somewhere, but I’m flying over the ocean. Can’t use water as an anchor point, as it’s constantly on the move. The same deal with the air. Even with my fastest speed, it will take almost two hours for me to reach land.” Neleh cursed. Even a ship deck wouldn’t work. He needed a stationary place to land and make the doorway.
“Try to hurry. The bandits will reach the city long before then.” Estelar replied.