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A/N: The plots are afoot! I hope you enjoy this one.

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It surprised none of the people gathered when King Aelrindel stormed out of the palace. His attempts had failed in a spectacular fashion, and he had embarrassed himself in front of all the gathered nobles. By his own words, he had also lost his position as king. In many other circumstances this could just end as an embarrassment to him, but he had made his promise in front of the empress and the gathered nobility. Now it became a problem where the empress had to enforce the result of that promise, or it would be a loss of authority to her as well. However, it was obvious that Aelrindel wouldn’t just take the loss of his position without putting up resistance.

To the gathered nobles, this was a large issue that threatened to break the already strained relationship between clans, and maybe even result in another civil war. However, Nimue, Yunalesca and Lysanthir all noticed how Neleh had a light smile on her lips, and didn’t seem at all stressed by the situation. She obviously knew something they didn’t. As such, the four of them gathered in another room to discuss that problem as well as several other issues.

“You seem rather calm. You do realize that Aelrindel is racing towards Solaris to gather armies for a civil war? He won’t give up his position willingly.” Yunalesca asked with a raised eye-brow.

Before Neleh could answer, Nimue interjected her own view. “Even if that is the case, I’m still glad this happened. This has been in the works for a long time. Ever since I became the empress instead of him, Aelrindel has been going more and more out of control. We were all aware of his hostility towards Neleh and everything she’s accomplished. Sooner or later it would’ve come to a situation where only one of them walked out. This simply became the perfect excuse. Maybe with him being on the obviously wrong side of things, we might be able to limit the damage.”

Again, before Neleh had the chance to say anything, Lysanthir took over. “Agreed. The man has shown himself to be unsuitable for the position as we all feared long ago. While the Sun Elves don’t generally ascribe to the wild rumors surrounding Neleh, they would still hesitate to go against the will of Elune in such a clear fashion. He might get some support, but not much.”

Neleh clapped her hands to draw attention. “I’m glad you all approve, but you’re really worried about something that will not come to pass. Did you really think I would do something as flashy as this without a plan in place? And do you really think that plan didn’t include answers for Aelrindel’s reaction?” She asked a little miffed. The lack of confidence in her was quite disappointing.

All three of them looked at her, suddenly coming to a realization. “Aelrindel isn’t going to make it back to Solaris, is he?” Yunalesca asked, dreading the answer a little.

“No he will not, and even if he did, there’s already a new monarch taking over his position. I sent the word as soon as he left.” Neleh answered simply.

“Don’t you think it will cause quite a bit of backlash once the Sun Elves find out you had their king killed, even if he did lose his position in name at least? They’re kind of jumpy about matters like that after what happened to the Sun Palace.” Lysanthir asked a little pointedly.

“Not to mention that it is still a crime to have one of the monarchs of the clans killed. We are still supposed to enforce the laws, you know?” Yunalesca pointed out.

“That would all be very interesting and important if I was the one who killed him, but I’m not. The Sun Elves are going to do it all by themselves without any help from me. Even a coup sanctioned by the empress would be a rather poor one if they didn’t get rid of the old monarch. I’m simply not stopping it from happening.” Neleh replied with a small smile.

“The guards!” Lysanthir suddenly blurted out. “I knew there was something off with Aelrindel’s royal guards, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Those weren’t his own guards. I wouldn’t have even noticed if I wasn’t used to paying attention to such things.”

“Even he should notice if the guards around him were complete strangers.” Nimue said a little unconvinced. Now that she thought about it, there were enough members of the Legion of Phoenix that she wouldn’t even notice if some would change.

“He might if they were complete strangers, though I doubt he actually pays attention. The thing is, those were still royal guards of their family, just not his. You’re a bit wrong, though. It would be too much to ask for royal guards to completely abandon their duty and kill their charge. That would go against everything they stand for. However, they won’t be completely familiar with his habits either as they aren’t used to guarding him. There will be gaps. And because of those gaps, dear Aelrindel will become ill during the journey. Unfortunately the illness will turn out to be something a normal priestess is unable to heal. He will suffer a tragic, but very natural death while traveling home.” Neleh explained calmly.

“For someone who’s supposedly not behind the whole thing, you seem awfully familiar with the details.” Lysanthir said a little accusingly.

“Let’s just say that the Sun Elf nobility aren’t bright enough to come up with the entire plan on their own. They might have overheard a certain young female elf and a friend of hers plan the death of her ‘husband’ in a tavern. My sources tell me that they consider the plan to be a very good one, and somehow a vial of certain toxin was sold to the nobles in question a short time ago. I have absolutely no idea what they might be planning on doing with that vial, and I certainly am not aware of any of the Sun Elf royal family encouraging them to do it, to save their clan from a civil war, which would’ve been completely impossible to predict few weeks ago.” Neleh said with feigned seriousness.

“Shiori has been busy.” Nimue scoffed. “Are you sure they will succeed?”

“Well, Aelrindel didn’t pick his entourage on looks alone. I have to say that the one thing he is good at is surrounding himself with talent. Although I make it seem like I’m holding their hand through the whole process, they actually didn’t require much in the way of encouragement. They could make the connections themselves. They know they’re being manipulated, but they can’t say for sure by whom, and they certainly won’t confess to colluding regicide. I made very sure that all the signs pointed to the Sun Elves doing the whole thing by themselves, which isn’t too far from the truth. They know that they can’t fight the changes I represent, and most of them don’t even want to. I simply made sure they have a better chance to succeed. There’s also a plan B in place, in the event they fail or get cold feet.” Neleh explained dropping some of the acting.

“The power of tradition has always stood in the way of change. For a good reason, as change isn’t always good. The changes you bring are rather radical, even if they are mostly good, so it’s no wonder some struggle against them. I’m guessing that even if Aelrindel did make it home, he would find no support among his people?” Yunalesca asked with a small sigh.

“Correct. I’ve made sure most of the Sun Elf nobility understand the consequences of this civil war. Our display against the Caledorians should’ve been a good enough demonstration anyway. I’ve also made sure that just because they might not be the ones fighting the war, that doesn’t mean they are safe at home. They will personally face the consequences, and not just the people doing the fighting.” Neleh’s face was a little grim as she said that but brightened as she continued. “On the other hand, I also made sure that there was a carrot involved in this approach and not just stick. The Sun Elves will find their economic situation improving if they go along with my plans.”

Nimue gave a small laugh. “You seem to have this figured out. However, did you consider the consequences of dismissing one of the elven monarchs in such a public fashion? Now it’s obvious who really holds the power in our empire. I’m the empress in name only. I thought the plan was to have me stick with the position for at least a decade still? Now we might as well get you voted into the position since the electors aside from the Sun Elf monarch have gathered. From what you tell me, the new monarch can also be here in few weeks. Stalling any longer will only cause problems.”

Neleh gave a small sigh. “I was pretty much prepared when I put things in motion. Sometimes plans change, and at the very least this will give me more time to prepare our race for the storm.”

“Never thought that we’d see an empress this young during my lifetime.” Yunalesca mumbled to herself.

“Speaking of the coming storm, I have a request.” Lysanthir suddenly said.

“I think I know where this is going.” Neleh said with a grimace.

“The Templars are supposed to be a bulwark against external threats, and for that we need to be as strong as possible. Currently that seems to be in doubt when I look at the members of your Order. What would it take for the Templars to go through your training?” He asked.

“We can easily arrange for the Templars’ training, and they are already in a much better condition than most of our recruits so the training would be faster. However, there will be consequences that I’m not sure you’ve considered. We break the recruits during the training, both physically and mentally. Your men would no longer be Templars after they finished that training. They would be members of the Order.” Neleh replied.

“I have more faith in the allegiance of our people that that. They aren’t so easy to change.” Lysanthir said a little defensively.

“You don’t understand. There’s a reason why there are no traitors among the Order, despite us taking in all those willing, no matter their background or race. Those that go through the training are thoroughly broken and rebuilt. Only someone who has gone through it can understand. That’s why they won’t follow anyone not part of the Order either. If you wanted to remain the Grandmaster of the people that go through the training, the only way that can work is if you go through it as well. They will not follow you otherwise.” Neleh said a little exasperated.

It was hard to explain the type of conditioning that the training instilled. That training turned the brothers as sisters into one, into a family. A large but a very important family. There was a reason they divided people into those that belonged to the Order or outsiders. They didn’t look down on the outsiders, and didn’t’ think any less of them, but they knew there was a difference between them. Those that were on the outside couldn’t quite understand the kind of bonds that tied the Order together.

“They follow you.” Lysanthir replied pensively.

“They do. But only because they know I have and will continue to go through even worse. They know I was the one who designed that training. They know only someone who understands what they are going through would be able to design it that way. And they also know that if they do get uppity, I can make things much, much worse. I’m one of them.” Neleh replied with a small smile. He would understand. He would hesitate, wonder if he should go through with it, but in the end he would do it. The imperative to protect was too strong in the man’s character to do otherwise.

“I’ll have to consider.” Lysanthir said a little hoarse.

“There is no time limit on our offer. Whenever you’re ready.” She was so certain that he would approve, that she had originally designed the third Order with the Templars in mind.

Yunalesca interrupted the silence. “So who’s the new monarch of the Sun Elves? I’m guessing it’s still going to stay in the family?”

“You will soon see.” Neleh replied with a grin.

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The council of Electors gathered once again when the new Queen of Sun Elves had taken her position. None of the Electors was entirely sure of the reason why they had gathered, as they watched the woman with a flaming red hair take her position at the table. She wasn’t familiar to most of the others, even if they had heard the rumors. Aelrindel’s passing had left a sort of confusion about the next monarch, but the power vacuum had been filled almost before Aelrindel’s body was cold, precluding any internal struggles among the Sun Elves. It made sense though. Even if she was the illegitimate daughter of the old sun king, her parentage was one of the worst kept secrets in the elven history, so there were no other claimants. All those gathered could see the warrior nature and the internal strength of the new queen.

“Queen Solana.” Neleh greeted with a smile, and a small nod. She could see that Solana had gone through a lot of internal growth since their separation. She no longer seemed lost, like she had before. Now she seemed like a woman with purpose, and she also seemed to find her own inner strength with the peace that purpose provided.

“Chosen Neleh.” Solana replied with a smile of her own. She had missed Neleh terribly since their separation. That said, she could hardly recognize the woman in front of her. Before, Neleh had been a girl wise beyond her years with secret power and charm. Now she was majestic. Solana could see how the rumors about Neleh being the embodiment of Elune had started, as she now radiated power and gravitas. She had really blossomed.

After things calmed down, Nimue announced her resignation as the empress. She cited that she was always meant by Elune to be a transitional ruler, to help their kind through the turbulent times after the civil war. Now the elves deserved a real ruler, someone that would lead them to greatness and glory. It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that Nimue seemed to have a specific candidate in mind to become her successor. At least Nimue was subtle enough to not mention Neleh’s name.

The vote to have Neleh elected as the new empress was record braking in speed. Even if some of the electors had other ideas, they knew it would be pointless as any other empress would just face the same problem of being overshadowed by Neleh. As a result, the whole process only took a couple of minutes. It was a little hard for some of the nobility to swallow that their empress was changed in less than an hour, but there was very little they could do, and it’s not like that had not seen this coming.

“Long live Empress Neleh!” The announcement went through the room, and out into the city.

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The electors along with Nimue were gathered in a private room to discuss the future plans. Nimue was planning on becoming a normal priestess in a temple in Nan Yanoi, as a sort of retirement, but they all knew that was never going to happen. Neleh already plans for her old mentor. Their main point was to organize the coronation ceremonies that would this time be done with a proper amount of celebration and pomp, since last time the ceremonies were shadowed by the civil war that had just ended. Neleh wouldn’t officially start doing her duties until after the ceremony, so Nimue wasn’t off the hook on that part either.

“Seeing as we have nothing prepared yet, the celebration can take place in a month or so, I assume?” Queen Amaranthae asked.

“I actually started planning the event as soon as I heard about Nimue stepping down. We can have the whole event start once the dignitaries from other races arrive. We already sent word to them. All the races are planning to attend.” Neleh replied lightly.

“I haven’t noticed any preparations. What’s going on?” Yunalesca asked a little worried. As the leader of the Inquisition, missing large scale plans like this were a shock to her.

“Oh don’t worry; your informants should be getting a word to you any day now. The reason you haven’t heard anything yet, is because the coronation will take place in Nan Yanoi. The city had replaced Rhi’a’non as the heart of the empire anyway, so I’m planning on moving the imperial palace there, and making Nan Yanoi into the new imperial capital. Rhi’a’non can remain as the seat of the Eldarinwe kingdom.” Neleh had a smile of someone playing a prank when she looked at Yunalesca.

“Not to be rude, but you’re staying either inside Nexus or the central tower of Nan Yanoi. Where will you hold the event? I think I would’ve already gotten a word if you were building a palace rivaling the imperial palace.” Yunalesca wondered, her mind working a little slower than usual. Many of the others already realized what was coming and were grinning.

“You weren’t paying attention. I said I’m planning on moving the imperial palace. Why would I build a new one when we already have a perfectly good palace with all its inbuilt defenses?” Neleh replied playing innocent.

“Moving the palace? Are you saying that you just plan to float the palace into Nan Yanoi and plop it down there?” Yunalesca’s eyes looked a little wild.

“I never said I would plop it down. I knew the spells required to make a floating island similar to the celestials a long time ago, I just didn’t have the necessary power to keep it afloat. The celestials had their cities lifted by their god, and they’re held aloft by every celestial donating power to the spell every few weeks. Now that we have the magical item called the Source, we can use several of those to keep the palace aloft. Should be much safer that way. We can have permanent gate connection between the ground and the palace to facilitate people moving in and out of the palace.” Neleh tapped her finger on her jaw while thinking.

“I should be able to move the palace by the time the other races arrive, and it should make for a suitable spectacle. I think we should take the facilities belonging to the Legion of Phoenix with us as well.” She finally said.

Lysanthir cleared his throat a bit. “Isn’t there a risk of someone trying to make the palace fall onto the city?”

“I was planning on extending the city shield to cover the palace as well, so anyone attempting such a feat would need to get through that first. Also I was planning on having the palace above the river and the lake, with a backup spell to ensure a soft landing in an emergency.” Neleh replied with a smile. She was quite amused by her own idea. A feat like this would cement in everyone’s mind the fact that things were changing.

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Vihyungrang

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