A bier of curved arches rises silently over a silent city. This is the capital of Celene, a land that has been known by its arrogance and hatred of the races that are not elven (or as they say, olven). A delicately carved swan poses above the balcony, its wings outspread, welcoming the dawn.
On top this lonely perch sits a council of three. First among them is a tall elf dressed in red clothing. He bends, brooding, forward on his chair, a glass of fine elven wine deftly perched on his right hand. His left hand, enclosed by a pale red glove, clenches and releases in turn.
The Queen Yolande is dressed in a near transparent gown of white. Her features are fierce, haughty, and at the same time a flicker of fear burns in one of her eyes. Her back is straight, however. No dreadful tidings may ever change that steel-made determination from her. Her drink sits on the wood-wrought table before her, untouched.
The Prince Melf sits tall in his chair also, his eyes burnished with pride. The symbol of Luna sits easily on his chest, strong and unrent by that many, many battles the proud prince has been forced to overcome. A soft smile sits lightly on lips used to such a friendly embrace of joy.
The red one speaks. His voice is soft, and full of conviction. This is a man who inspires loyalty in even the most unlikely of places. He is the attribute of character personified, a master of gentle persuasion. The sword on his belt looks out of place, and always will; no matter how often it is used in the harsh conflicts that abound on Oerth.
He speaks; “I thank you for your support Yolande. I think that the whole of Oerth will one day, as well.
She responds; “Jand, I have considered the views of my brother for years beyond measure. I do not choose to act for him now, on a whim. I act because Celene would fall if I do not.” Pointedly, she ignores the proud prince, her eyes only on the Red Elf.
The prince smiles on, despite this stark slight. “My queen, no matter your motive, you have saved Celene from the conflict that will soon rage all around, and inside, our borders.”
The queen shifts her gaze to him, cold, immeasurable. Then she smiles, a frosty diplomat’s smile that all rulers learn before they take their first breath. “Celene will survive, that is true. No matter the cost.”
Jand, The Red Elf, frowns heavily. Then he begins to speak, the first of many words. “It begins tonight…”
The sun is at high noon in the west, banishing shadows and gloom. Harsh sunlight scatters off sails aplenty, bearing the symbols of Lendore and Varnaith, floating on the still, sunlit sea. Anfaren stands calmly on a jutting spar of his ship, the /Sunchaser/. His right hand holds lightly onto a rope that curls about the main mast, his left holds a compass to his eye. A soft nimbus of light surrounds him. Whether it is the sun playing tricks or some other power, an observer could not say.
“Well well.” He mutters in the clear voice of a ship’s captain, a profession that requires near-perfect lungs during the darkest of storms, when the wind howls like an elven Banshee roused from her lair.
The deck of the /Sunchaser/ is clear, on war footing, free from disrupting chaos. This will be the first battle undertaken by the ship, and not a small one. The /Sunchaser/ has three ballista decks; each crewed by forty elves who have been born and raised on water. The lower two decks are armed with Bore Shot, heavy ballista bolts meant to punch holes under the waterline of any opposing ships. The top deck is loaded with Chain Shot, a ballista that releases a flurry of snapping links that rip and tear at an enemy’s sails, snarling ropes and bringing the fastest ship to a dead halt in the water. An elven mage sits at the mage-seat of each craft, a location amidships least vulnerable to outside attacks, allowing the launch of fireballs and lightning bolts at will. Each wizard also has fog spells memorized, and gusts of wind to snatch enemy bolts out of the air.
The elven crews are experienced, having fought pirates and wars time and time again. The Lendores are not idle when it comes to waterborne conflict, as any ships they face would ultimately realize, to a sinking doom.
And when it comes to land conflict, well, Varnaith has never been a slouch at asserting its power in that regard. The elven battalions are trained forces, if rigid in their command structures. Few forces can stand against the unsheathing of all their bright swords at once.
“Well, well. If the Yuan-ti are wise, they will give up their southern lands immedietly. If not, then a reckoning is to be paid, at long last."
He smiles, one eye still on the spyglass.
The oriental kingdoms are not idle. But it is the rare spy indeed that can slip into empires as closed and monitored as the Orients unnoticed.
And no spy could ever slip OUT.
All is unseen in the west.
“It would come to this, wouldn’t it?” Says one mage to another.
“We must act.”
So they do.