The year was six hundred and fifty-one, and the city of Cau Buhnga had risen greater than ever before. The originally small port city had grown exponentially, but the declining population made the great city feel empty. While it was true that the city stretched from one end of the horizon to the other, less than half of the homes were in use. Many residents had left for greener pastures, the budding kingdom in the west.
Yet those who remained were not saddened by this loss. In fact, their spirits were high and their faces bright as they cleaned the streets. Sheawynn had recently ended, and the residents had to help clean up the streets to make way for the traffic that would once again be appearing.
From the Tower of Communication, news was spreading that the queen had troubled times were coming. The kingdoms of the east and west were unable to see eye to eye, and it seemed that the first true war of the elves was upon them. In fact, this war would have likely taken place sooner, had the Silent Generation not ended when it did. As the Goddess brought her voice down again, the kingdoms could not help but still their ambitions.
In the direct center of the city, the home which once belonged to the daughter of the Goddess herself had now become the palace of the city lord. Inside, he would always have a shaman acting daily to help foresee possible dangers to the land, be it invading monsters or terrible storms.
Today’s shaman was a mature elven woman. Her long red hair glistened as it fell down her back, while her almost glowing green eyes focused on the crystal orb before her. The same orb which had once been the power source of the city’s wards, now used to protect the city from future threats.
“This is strange, sire.” She spoke softly, yet her words were alarming to the man who stood not far away. Unlike the shaman, the city lord was an old man, likely near the end of his life. He had lived through the Silent Generation, and had even caught a glimpse of the Holy Daughter before her passing.
“What’s the matter, Uvona? Speak clearly.” He told her, his voice cracking with age. If not for the training in his youth, it was unlikely that this old man would even be able to support himself at his age.
“I see people approaching the city from the east.” When Uvona spoke, the city lord raised his eyebrows questioningly. “Far beyond the low tide. Eleven, no… twelve disturbances of nature working in harmony, druids working together. They are still too far away to see more clearly.”
This news was quite unusual indeed. Regardless of the direction that they were coming from, the western kingdom was landlocked on all sides, one of its natural barriers to protect against the creatures of the sea. They had no seafaring ships to speak of, especially none that could go beyond the fishing waters to circle the land. “When will they arrive?”
“Tonight, sire.” Unova answered confidently. “They come guided by the Traveler.”
Her last words shocked the man even more. There was always that possibility if they came from the eastern sea, but the Traveler held a special significance. If they came by the Dragon or the Snake, or even the Tide, the signs would point towards hostility.
But the lord was an old man, and he had seen many things. He had seen the child of the goddess walk the land, seen her power. And following her death, he watched as her mother had mourned for an entire generation. Now, merely a year since her return, and people journey from the eastern seas, sailing beneath the Traveler. If he did not take this as a sign, he did not deserve his position.
“Prepare a welcoming party.” He told the shaman, closing his clouded eyes. “Tell them that the Goddess sends people from a distant land. Have food and drink ready to nourish their bodies, and a bard to write their tale.”
As he spoke, he turned to leave, heading towards his own office. “And just in case, alert the guards. These are troubled times, and we must show caution. If the Traveler shall send us peace, we shall meet it with kindness. If it sends us war, then we must defend our home.”
Unova nodded her head unhesitantly, drawing a cloth over the crystal ball before leaving to deliver the message.
I could feel my body growing more and more weary from the travels by the day. Though the food managed to improve with practice, the toll of the journey was as hard on the spirit as it was on the flesh. If not for the constant updates from the Admin Room, letting me know how close we were, I would already have returned to take another break.
As it was, I knew that we would reach Cau Buhnga by sunrise. This belief was further reinforced when our scout shouted down from the basket above. “Captain! Land!”
This was by no means a shock to everyone, as we had gone out of our way to visit many islands over the last two months, ensuring that we had a chain of portals leading back to the island where we harvested. Yet, the scout’s next words shook most everyone to their cores. “And… I see buildings! And ships!”
The scout had grown even more impressive over the many months in the journey, and gained several levels. His eyes had been further strengthened, and he could make out details at the far end of the horizon. Given his elevated position, it was no wonder that he could make out the buildings of Cau Buhnga, and even some of their fishing ships.
A murmur broke out over the crew, while the other ships began to receive similar reports. Some were asking if we had circled the world, and arrived at the lands beyond the east of the beastkin. But those who had traveled knew better.
By now, the concept of time zones was not an unfamiliar thing to the world. With druids able to easily traverse from one side of a continent to another in a matter of minutes, it soon became clear that the sun did not rise and set at the same time everywhere. To those scholars, this allowed them to make a rough guess as to how big the world was, and how small their piece of it.
No doubt this was one of the driving factors behind the journey, the belief that they did not hold the only piece of land on such a vast world. The existence of countless islands only proved this point, and our journey had not been nearly long enough to cross the distance the scholars believed would be needed.
“Calm yerselves!” Emona shouted out, grinning to herself. “It looks like we be meeting some new friends! All fighters, rest and recuperate. This distance won’t be crossed in merely a few hours, and we need be ready in case these friends decide to not be so friendly. If they are, we’ll have a merry time! But if not, we’ll show them that we’re no pushovers!”
There was an uproar of laughter from the crew, several people immediately moving down below deck. Yet, it was unmistakable that everyone was equally excited. This would be their first time meeting another group of people in the history of beastkin, ever since the four tribes came together.
Udona likely didn’t tell Emona what was at the end of this journey, because it would ‘ruin the fun’, or something. All that the captain knew was that the course had been set by a higher power, but that alone was enough for her not to be surprised at the presence of a reported city on the horizon.
Soon, the only ones left above the deck were myself, Emona, and the scout high up in the basket. With the shallow waters we had been through lately, we had not encountered a beast needing the entire crew to fight for some time. In this region, the Kraken alone would be enough to defeat any seafaring monsters. Like those below deck, I took this time to relax and close my eyes, only focusing in the corner of my mind to keep the ship moving at a steady pace.
By the time my eyes opened, darkness had consumed the night sky. The city which had been seen only by the scout now stood in plain sight to everyone.
At a glance, the architecture was different compared to the beastkin. Where they used wood and bricks to build manually, the elves preferred shaping raw stone with the aid of their druids. This led to the buildings often being large and cylindrical, as opposed to the rectangular buildings of the beastkin. Even the tops of their buildings, while still having a curved edge that led downwards off the side to offer some shade and protection from the weather, were clearly just one single piece.
As we got closer to the shore, we could see dozens of magical lights hovering above the heads of various elves. By now, the rest of the crew had come out, some rested while others had been too excited to shut their eyes. Those who could see far enough were all wondering what type of creature the elves were, all staring in confusion.
Unlike the beastkin, there did not appear to be any animal resemblance among the elves. At least, no animal that the beastkin knew of. “Could they be serpent-kin?” One asked. “Just look at their ears and colorful hair, like the fins and scales of a mighty serpent.”
This theory gradually gained weight among the crew of the Jolly Dodger, though some rejected it. The elves simply did not have anything that they could spot such as a tail or scales. Their hair practically shone in the moonlight, and many near the port could be seen holding woven baskets.
Naturally, it did not take them long to spot the guards as well, two dozen standing along the shore carrying a number of weapons. If not for the fact that the weapons were sheathed and stowed, the crew may well have jumped into a fight.
“It seems they be welcoming us with gifts!” Emona laughed, which brought a smile to the crew. “Praise the sister goddesses! All ships, take docking positions!” At her words, the circular formation of the ships spread out, forming a two layered line of six ships each. Just from looking at the port, it was clearly unable to hold all twelve ships, and could at most accommodate four of them, leaving the remaining eight to anchor near the shore and swim.
“What are they?” Many people asked themselves as they watched the ships closing in. Like the crew, there were many among the elves with keen eyes, able to make out the features of those aboard the ships. “They have the ears and tails of beasts, yet walk as a man.”
The city lord nearby shook his head, though a small sigh escaped his lips. “It seems their group was larger than we thought…” When he had heard that there were twelve druids, he had expected either twelve small ships, or a lesser number of large ships. How could he have known that each druid was the strongest that they had to offer?
One thing that was unmistakable was the expressions that could be seen on the faces of these strange-bodied travelers. Their mouths curved upwards, their faces filled with happiness. Not a single face seen showed hostility. Even when they were long since within range to attack, not a spell or arrow was fired.
The first thing that arrived was the wind, which suddenly shifted to blow in from the sea, instead of out towards it. As the ships drew closer, the wind lessened, the sails falling limp until four ships glided seamlessly onto the docks. From there, they dropped large boulders tied to ropes off the sides of their ships, tying them down.
As for the eight that could not fit at the small fishing docks, they lined themselves a short distance from the shore before dropping similar loads. After which, the eight ships seemed to spill forth their crew, all laughing as they either dove into the water, or leaped so high that they arrived at the shoreline in a single bound.
Now that they were close, everyone could feel the subtle pressure that came when encountering the strong. Nearly all of the people coming from the ships were at the height of power, causing an invisible pressure to leak out towards the gathered elves.
The largest ship, one which had taken the first position at the docks, pushed out a long and wide board, letting one end fall to the dock. The first person to walk off the ship was a woman in black clothes, with dazzling silver hair. As everyone else had followed behind her, it was clear to anyone that she was their leader, and she smiled warmly at the gathered party. However, when her mouth opened, both sides suddenly realized a critical issue.
They couldn’t understand a single word that she was saying.