The Emerald Empire
Crinwalry - 3 days after the battle of Fort Cher
The northern coastline of the bay of lights was tranquil that night, the sea lapped gently against the edge of the forests that grow along its shore. To the east the warm glow of the human city of Crinwaley could be seen, a sea of candlelight slowly dimming as its inhabitants said their goodnights. Deeper in the forest faint lights of cold gold could be seen, the magical lights of the Dreaming Forest, made by both deliberate light fixtures and as a byproduct of the magic being performed within. While the children who prepared for war, while their progenitors twisted nature to their own ends, their machinations dulled by the woods in which they worked. In the sky above the moon hung, blessing the land with its pale light, while to the south, beneath the waves, five pools of glowing lights of blood red surrounding a greater center that mirrored the celestial majesty above.
As the last lights dimmed in the city a disturbance arose at the water's edge and from the deep blue emerged figures, cloaked in darkness. They did not look like they belonged there, but their bodies, ment for life within the sea, propelled them forwards with unnatural grace nonetheless. A dozen or so of these creatures emerged from the water together and ascended a small hill just beyond the coastline. Some of the climbers used partisans or staves, to lightly assist them in the ascent. Other carried short swords who’s blades pointed forwards from their handles rather than up.
The small party reached the top of the hill that looked over the surrounding area and was topped with a large stone tree, a monument of remembrance to the Tree’s fallen kin who gave the region known as the Grave of the Pioneers its name. The sea creatures ignored the monument, turning instead their attention towards the Grove in the forests beyond. One figure moved ahead of the rest and placed their staff to the grass, grasping it with both hands before beginning to chant softly and unintelligibly, power flowing into the implement, which after a few moments flared to life, focused on a gemstone suspended at the top held by two claw like extensions. A beam of blue burst out of the gem, shooting into the forest beyond.
The light of the magical implement revealed the seafolk to be Rayneids, merfolk native to the bay of lights. Somewhat akin to mermaids or the morkt, they were humanoid in apperance up until the waist, at which point their bodies seamlessly transitioned to that of an eel or sea snake, a long serpentine tail that could propel them through the water or allow them to snake across the land. Those with armament wore sleek form fitting bronze armor on their upper halves, the heavy plate padded on the inside with kelp pods to provide buoyancy. These were sacred guards, sworn to defend the priestly moon kissed daughters, who were garbed in scale hugging robes made of shark skin leather dyed crimson. All present wore either visored helmets or masks made in the image of their Primordial mother who’s resting place their kind were sworn to protect.
The burning light was a signal rather than a weapon, part of a setup made to allow the two ancestors of the primordials a way of meeting without either having to risk the dangers of the other’s realm. The Bay of light’s depths and the hearts of the Dreaming Groves where both equally perilous to those who did not belong there, each guarded with a paranoid zeal. The light called to the Trees to send envoys out from their mist to come meet their neighbours. Soon after the signal was sent one appeared, a small collection of dryads accompanied by a singular ent emerged from the woods and ascended the hill to meet the Rayneids. One among the group was Selzona the cold, recently arrived from the north baring the mysterious staff that had been deposited on her doorstep. The one who stepped forwards however was a local Dryad man, dressed in ironbark armor and wearing a wolf skin across his shoulders, its head settled on a shoulder pad.
“Greetings. I am Harkfen the Pack-master. To what do we owe the pleasure of this meeting?”
One of the priestesses slithered forwards, a different one form the signal sender who herself was visibly tired and supporting herself on her staff. This priestess wore crimson leather robes decorated with silver stripes on the shoulder pads. Her mask was white and featured three red ovolide eyes forming an arc above her own which where shielded by red stained glass. Four ten centimeter long blade like teeth from some carnivorous seacreture were embedded at the edge of the mask in-between the eyes, forming either a crown or set of horns.
“I am Akara, daughter of the burning moon and representative of the Cetera-Matris.” The use of Cetera-Matris raised some eyebrows among the assembled treekin, it was a name they had only heard the Rayneids use to refer to themselves on two prior occasions, and the were unaware of its significance. “We have come to grace your presence with our piety because of your message. We found it odd that you would bother us with the trivialities of the pointless powerstrugles of mortal races”
Akara had been instructed to remain quiet about their knowledge on the continental conflict, at least initially, by daughter Alexix, so as to not fowl their second source of information with the influence of the first. Alexix herself was too busy with talks with other allies to come personally and also did not want to make the Morj suspicious of her absence should they pay another visit.
There was silence as Harken debated with the Trees and Dryads in the area how much military information to divulge to their neighbours. They were without Yaval, the great tree far too preoccupied with the business of war to interject at that time, more than happy to leave the local affair to local management. After a consensus was hurriedly met before the pause became an insult Harkfen responded.
“As mentioned there will be an increase in shipping over the following weeks. While we have agreed to let your infrequent attacks on human vessels slide we insist that this activity cease for the time being so that it does not target flesh and blood allies of ours as they come to our aid.”
The Rayneids reaction to this demand was hidden by her mask. After a few moments of consideration she replied “These vessels would be military vessels correct? The agreement was that we do not strike those. This state of affairs still stands, your allies are free to pass above our domain as you are. Was that all
you needed to talk to us about?”
“Not quite. We believe the nature of the invasion may be of some concern to you. Andromach, slayer of Lucrore, the primordial of rebirth, marches against us with her Matathran army in an attempt to seize the port town of dreich port” theis managed to get a reaction from the Rayneids, some visibly recoiling.
“Slayer of... Preposterous, no mortal can harm a god”
“So the story goes. What we do know for a fact is that she is incredibly dangerous in combat and that her people despise the primordials with a passion.” the dryad maintained a calm disposition even as the Rayneid retorted with righteous fury.
“You can not taunt us into abandoning our sacred duty with such blasphemous stoires! How dare you...”
Realising he had pushed her too far, Harkfen quickly interjected to placate the furious Raynid.
“We don’t mean to involve you, it is simply a warning to stay clear of the port until matters are settled. We aren't entirely sure what their plans for the port are or how fast they will enact them, nor can we hope to assemble a force guaranteed to block them from reaching the coast in the first place. Rest assured that when they take the town they will not be allowed to hold it for long, nor shall any ships constructed be allowed to leave port. All that we need from you is patience while we deal with this matter, that you do not put yourselves at risk by accidentaly arousing Andromach’s wrath.”
There was a tense silence during which the only sound was the distant lapping of the waves against the shore, and the slow calming of the Sisters breathing. Finally she spoke, calmly.
“You concern is noted. But know that we do not require your, or anyones, protection. We are perfectly capable of handling our own affairs”
“It is, of course, but a suggestion and a warning. We would not presume to dictate to a presence and order as ancient as your own. But I hope that you consider our council on the threat that Matathran poses, a threat we would not wish you to risk the security of the Burning Moon in involving yourselves in. we can handle it. Alone.”
“And yet you have allies incoming across the sea”
“Ah. yes. Those we have paid for and others who wish to restrict the spread of Matathran’s influence. They will ensure our victory is not a pyrrhic one.”
“Hmm. I see.”
The dryad waited a few moments to see if there was anything else the masked sister would add, but with little forthcoming he decided to wrap things up.
“So. In appreciation for your time and cooperation, we would like to give you a gift” as was tradition. Harkfen motioned too two dryads among the group, who bought forwards a chest containing a number of weapons, tools and armor pieces all made out of bronze to the specifications of the Rayneid bodies and needs. These had been prepare well in advance for if such a meeting would occur and the chest had been gathering dust in the local grove for some time now. The sister indicated for two of her guards to retrieve the chest, but instead of ordering or personally retrieving a gift in return, as was expected, she instead entered a brief, hushed, discussion with the other priestess and two select guards before turning back to the dryad.
“We appreciate your generosity of your forges. Rather than trinkets that you cannot use or arms that we cannot afford to give, I give instead knowledge you desperately require. You face not only Matathrna and shenra but also the Morj of the northern deapths.”
Harkfen was unfamiliar with their name, but Selzona was not, having dealt with their raids on the northern provinces before. The ice witch quickly pushed her way past her kin to join the diplomats.
“What are those tentacled slaver doing here? How do you know?”
“Earlier today we received an unexpected guest, the queen of the Morj...”
The priestess then recounted to them the Morj plan, or as much as they knew of it at least, and the nature of the deal they had had little choice but to accept. Not that the queen had been anything but polite and accommodating, but the threat that she represented, real or imagined, had been there hanging over the negotiations the entire time.
“We were already rather unhappy with the situation, but if what you say about Matatrhan is true…” she finished ”We are either made oathbreakers or accomplices to heresy. Not a decision we are prepared to make without lengthy consideration of the consequences.”
“Even if the murder is a fabrication, we assure you their hatred is real. We appreciate you telling us this and your resisting their attempts to cajole you into joining their war effort directly. Know that our pact is still in-place, there will still be peace between us.” Harkfen spoke truly for the Emerald Empire when he said that, for Yaval was now watching, listening, guiding. Plans were already being made incase the Rayneids spoke the truth. While there was little reason to believe they were lying the possibility did not escape them, they would need to make investigations to verify the claim.
“We can't do anything overt to assist you, even this meeting risks, but if what you say about the Matathrans is true, something we will verify through another source, then there may be ways we can assist you indirectly without drawing the wrath of the Morj. I cannot speak of them now however as I must return to Alpha to commune with my sisters and The Burning Moon on any further course of action. May your kind live to see the end of days Harkfen, for when the moon burn with crimson flame and the sun freeze over our mother will rise and rapture shall be upon us all. Your cooperation and respect for our vigil will be remembered upon that day.”
“Your dedication is an inspiration to us all, Daughters of the Burning Moon.”
“If the invaders allow it, and your words hold true, we may meet again. Farewell Harkfen.”
With that the delegation turned as one and slither back down the hill, disappearing into first the night and then the dark watters, baring the chest of bronze with them. The Dreaming Forest watched them go. Once they were out of sight Harkfen turned to Selzona.
“How bad is this”
“I don’t know. The extent of their interactions with us has been primarily raiding, either by bands of their own kind against ships or by bands of enslaved humanoid warriors, bound by collars similar to the ones we use exclusively on animals, against land targets. What the true extent of their might is, that I do not know, and neither it seems do the Rayneids. Any idea what this other source of information they have is?”
“No. we had no idea they even talked to anyone else. We are the only ones that realy use the bay”
“And the Morj are the only oceanic power in the region.”
“I wonder who they are talking about then? A question for after the war I suppose. For now, there is work to do. Work that staff you found certainly is helping in immensely.”
“I suppose. But who sent it is another question for after the war. There seems to be many such questions arising as of late.”
But they were, as stated, questions for later. For now, the delegation returned to the faintly glowing forest, back to the experiments.