Nephelle, the young Queen of Mordan, gazed out of the open palace windows. She breathed in the crisp, pine-scented air, steeling herself for the day to come. Walking down the halls of her home, she paused before a mirror, examining herself one last time. She had carefully selected her finest attire for the meeting today.
She wore a long, flowing gown, in blurred shades of white and pale gray, like a snowdrift. She had swept her long, ebony curls over one shoulder, pinning them to the side with an opal comb. As a finishing touch, she’d lined her eyes with thin streaks of kohl, her only touch of makeup. Her eyes were heterochromatic, and the darkness of the kohl highlighted the boldness of the sapphire in her upper left eye, while sharply contrasting with the paleness of her skin and the dominant smoky-gray shade of her eyes. After adorning herself with jewels and placing her silvery crown atop her head, she’d deemed her outfit complete and suitable for today’s activities.
Nephelle’s wife had already left for the meeting, so she knew there was no use in waiting, yet she was still reluctant to leave. She hated meeting days. With one last sigh and glance out the windows at her snow-covered kingdom, she decided to leave. Nephelle used her magic, dissolving into the wind and speeding on her way.
Moments later, Nephelle reached the southernmost tip of her kingdom, the mountain where all four kingdoms meet. Four cave entrances stood among the base of the small mountain, one in each kingdom. As Nephelle approached her cave entrance, she found her wife standing there. “Finally,” the young woman declared, “what took you so long?”
“Sorry, love. I was procrastinating, as always. You look lovely as ever, though,” Nephelle smiled at her beautiful wife. The young queen was adorned in a swirling, ice blue gown that perfectly matched her eyes. Silvery bracelets jingled on her snowy-pale wrists, matching the silver crown entwined in her white-blond hair, the twin to Nephelle’s own crown. “As do you,” the blue-eyed queen replied, holding out her arm to Nephelle, “Shall we?”
The Queens of Mordan entered the cave, which led them to a grand meeting hall in the hollowed-out mountain. Unsurprisingly, with Nephelle’s tardiness, they were the last to arrive. Upon their entry, a man with dark hair and caramel-colored skin stood, “As Consort to the King of Cassgan, I have been asked to initiate the Meeting of Kingdoms today. Rise, Nolan, Heir and King of Cassgan, the Kingdom of Eternal Summer.” The king rose, muscles rippling beneath his ebony skin, and bowed his head.
“Rise, Oleander, Heir and King of Faneer, the Kingdom of Eternal Spring. Rise, Aurelia, Queen of Faneer.” The young couple rose, and Nephelle bit back a laugh as Aurelia frowned and attempted to calm her husband’s hair, which stood up in the back like the soft brown tail of a young fawn. “Rise, Renelyn, Queen of Rholas, the Kingdom of Eternal Autumn.” Nephelle smiled at her best friend as the vivacious young queen rose. Mordan’s relations had always been best with Autumn, though they got on well with Spring ever since Nephelle’s wife had befriended the Queen of Faneer a decade ago.
Finally, King Nolan’s consort called, “Rise, Iliana, Heir and Queen of Mordan, the Kingdom of Eternal Winter. Rise, Nephelle, Queen of Mordan.” Nephelle and her wife rose, bowing their heads with respect, as the others had done. “Very well, then. I, Quinn, Consort of Cassgan, hereby declare this meeting in order.” With that, the tedious meeting began, and Nephelle inwardly groaned.
Nephelle despised these meetings. It wasn’t the people that bothered her, but the topics of discussion. Most of them were dreadfully boring. Taxation, agriculture, infrastructure, construction, inter-kingdom affairs. Honestly, how was any of that interesting? As the general of Mordan’s armies, Nephelle typically only had input for military discussions. Politics were more Iliana’s thing. However, this time Nephelle started to notice a change in the meeting’s atmosphere. She glanced at Nolan, sensing his agitation. Anger had begun to blaze in his chocolate-brown eyes at whatever it was they were discussing. Now Nephelle was beginning to wish she hadn’t zoned out of the conversation, as Nolan was known for his odd temper.
“THAT’S IT!”, King Nolan finally roared, “I’M THROUGH WITH THIS! YOU ALVES THINK YOU’RE SO MUCH BETTER THAN US PUNY HUMANS, DON’T YOU? JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE MAGIC AND WE DON’T DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO RULE! I WON’T LET YOU STOMP ON US ANY MORE!”
The room fell into stunned silence at Nolan’s outburst. Nephelle’s eyes subconsciously shifted to everyone’s ears. Nolan and Quinn were the only ones at the meeting with rounded ears. The rest’s were delicately pointed, the most prominent markings of the magic-wielding alf race.
“What do you mean?” Queen Aurelia finally asked, “When have the alves ever treated humans as inferior?” Nolan glared at her, “When? You sit here discussing the aid you send each other, far more than you ever send to me. You have three kingdoms while we humans only get one. You discuss sharing resources amongst yourselves so that your people live in luxury, while you’re content to let mine starve. My kingdom is overpopulated and foundering, yet up in Winter they have free space and prosperity. All of this, and you have the nerve to ask me when.”
At the mention of the Winter Kingdom, Nephelle stiffened, “Our nerve? What of yours? How dare you make such accusations?! Our kingdoms are not without poverty, either. If you wish to help your people, maybe you should cut back on your personal expenses. We offer equal aid to every kingdom, it just doesn’t go as far in yours since your kingdom is admittedly the most populated and a quarter of the funds go into your own pocket. When have you ever offered us even half of the aid we’ve given you? Do not expect us to starve our own people to feed yours.”
“And what of land?” Nolan argued, “None of your excuses explain how it is just for the alves to still hold three quarters of the land, especially when I’ve heard half of your own land in Mordan is uninhabited.”
This time, Iliana spoke up, “You know as well as I do that the alves are far more numerous than humans. We would open Mordan’s borders to others if we could, but you should also know that that is not possible. A human would freeze to death in our kingdom within a few hours. Even most alves cannot last in Mordan for more than a few days, only Winter natives can bear the cold. Besides, your lands are hardly overpopulated. Heavily populated, yes, but it’s manageable with the right leadership.”
“Enough of your paltry excuses! You wolves in sheepskin do not fool me. Unless 30,000 gold denarii are given to my people and my borders are expanded within the next three days, I shall declare war on your kingdoms.” On that note, King Nolan and his consort left the mountain, leaving the alves behind in shock. Nephelle had always known the king was greedy and power hungry, but this? The man was out of his mind! What he was asking for was completely unreasonable. There was no way they could give him what he wanted, and it was insulting that he would even demand such a thing!
Renelyn was the first to come out of her shock at Nolan’s threat, “We cannot give in to his demands. I don’t know what funds you may have hidden, but Rholas doesn’t have that kind of money to spare. Assuming Nolan’s threats carried any weight, we must prepare for war.”
Iliana frowned in contemplation, “I do not doubt that he intends to back up his words. He has little reason to declare war on us, aside from his own petty grudges against the alves. His complaints moments ago had little substance, they were mere excuses. He has been spoiling for war for quite some time. It would not surprise me if his armies are already prepared to march, regardless of what we do. War is indeed upon us, of that much I am certain.”
“The real question is: what do we do now? Where do we go from here? How must we go about this war? We have them outnumbered, three armies versus one, and we have the advantage of magic. However, we mustn’t underestimate Nolan, he is undoubtedly better prepared. We must take careful consideration in our planning.” Aurelia leaned forward, lacing her fingers as she propped her elbows up on the meeting table.
Oleander placed a reassuring hand on his wife’s back, “What are your thoughts, Nephelle? You are undoubtedly the greatest war general at our disposal, your skills in battle are unrivaled. I would like to hear your opinion. In fact, I nominate you as our primary military leader in this war, unless anyone has any objections.”
Renelyn smiled at her friend, “I do not object. As long as I still get to fight on the front lines with my people.” Aurelia bowed her head in agreement, “I believe your leadership would be a wise choice. Nephelle turned to Iliana, who smiled at her sadly, “I know my wife will be in the thick of battle regardless, leading our own forces, and I do not question her ability in the field. It would indeed be the wisest choice.”
Nephelle gave her wife a reassuring smile, “I guess we’re all in agreement then. I would be honored to lead our allied legions to war, may the gods be with us. As our enemies are in Cassgan, it’s clear that the attack will take place along the southern borders of Faneer and Rholas. My own kingdom should remain untouched, unless Nolan attempts to sneak his troops through this mountain. To do so would be foolish, since we’ll be sure to put guards at our entrance to the mountain and they’d be massacred in such an attempt. It would be beneficial if you evacuate the towns along Cassgan’s border and move them toward our border, where they’ll be safe.” Oleander’s face settled into a look of determination, “Faneer will begin evacuations by nightfall” Renelyn nodded, “as will Rholas.”
“Good. Mordan’s aerial legions are our strongest units, and they will be able to offer aid over land or sea. We will send half to Faneer and half to Rholas, to reinforce your own aerial legions, as I know neither of yours are nearly as large. I’m aware that Faneer’s Navy is strong, as two thirds of your southern border is along the Cassgan-Faneer Sea.” A nod from Oleander and Aurelia in confirmation. “Send your navy out to meet Cassgan’s as soon as you can, their navy is strong as well. Send the bulk of your ground troops to the third of your borders that do not line the seas, we’ll send some of our own to back you up. The rest of Mordan’s ground troops will go to Rholas. Like Mordan, Rholas has no navy, but your ground troops are impressive. They will have no problem holding their own.”
“Any troops you can spare should guard any possible northern targets. Today is the last day of the light week. The first few days of the night week should pass before the fighting begins, but we must be prepared to conduct the first days of battle in the dark. Hopefully, we can take down Cassgan’s forces over the following light week, before the next night begins.”
After hours of war council, they finally left the mountain, to return to their own kingdoms and prepare their people for war. The following few days were spent in Chaos. Iliana spent her time gathering troops and supplies, preparing for the move south, towards battle.