~:Chapter One: Exotic Envoys:~

~:Chapter One: Exotic Envoys:~

A Chapter by Greystone

A familiar cry of diplomatic fanfare disturbed Queen Ceminara’s breakfast. Seven important-looking soldiers, dressed in a strange, exotic looking orange strode meaningfully into the great hall.
 

“We offer our humblest greetings to her most illustrious majesty Queen Ceminara, lady of the crimson city and noble ruler of Dîyar.” The richness of the soldier’s tones caused an awed silence. Though his skin was of a far lighter brown than those in Dîyar, his voice was rich and deep. He bowed in a magnificently sweeping gesture, turning a mere formality into a weapon of social enterprise.


Upon seeing Prince Thodred, he added, “May I also offer our deepest salutations to his Royal Highness Thodred, being from the noblest house in all kingdoms. I pray to the Gods that he and his line be blessed with long life and prosperity during their rule.” The messenger gave another deep bow. Ceminara stood, and nodded once, abandoning her mead with grace.


“We accept such valiant greetings with thanks,” she began in her strong, beautifully dark voice; “our royal welcome to this envoy and the lineage you serve so loyally.” Speaking in eloquence is something that the court and peasants of Dîyar expected of their Queen, but the unfortunate envoy found himself completely taken aback: Not only by her words, but her appearance as well.


Ceminara had skin the colour of the darkest Indian wood, with full red lips to offset her dark golden eyes. Long trestles of curly, midnight-black hair reached her slim waist. A dark red dress showed her full bosom and slender figure, her long arms littered with gold bangles to show her countries’ wealth. A thin golden tiara set with a glistening ruby sat as a statement upon her regal head. She gazed down from her great hall’s platform with a single raised eyebrow.


As a result, Thodred noted with amusement, the Queen had to stare coolly for a good four minutes before—finally—leaving civility behind and stating, “Proceed, envoy.” Flushing at realizing his long moment of silence, the soldier continued:


“I arrive here baring grave tidings from my lord, Saluc.” Here a group of disproving murmurs came from the Queen’s council, but Ceminara held her composure and remained still.


“These tidings of yours must be grim indeed if a Nesparian king finds himself acting civilly,” replied Lord Melandar, with an amused passion behind his voice— the voice that did not at all betray his fifty-seven years—“the business of Nespaire is certainly no concern of Dîyar.” Thodred snickered, and several of the council members flashed Melandar approving smiles. A stern glare from Ceminara quickly silenced them all.


“My apologies for such a rude return to your elegance,” remarked the queen, “even so, my lord Melandar holds an excellent point. Why should we go to the aid of those who caused my children pain?”

This was dangerous ground, the envoy knew, so, with a gulp; he proceeded, “My lord Saluc realizes our nations ties are weak,” the nameless soldier admitted sheepishly (no doubt afraid of another verbal thrashing from Lord Melandar), “my lord and majesty Saluc expresses regret at this unfortunate loss of tradition and—although he is well aware that you have no reason to do so—he humbly to forget our wounded prides in favour of old ties.”


 As he went and finished his lord’s message, he bowed (yet again) and hovered, awaiting Ceminara’s reply. Thodred noticed how awestruck she was, and he knew why--this envoy was, at best, unorthodox. The situation must have been dire indeed for Saluc to call on the country of Dîyar, and, by default, Queen Ceminara, for aid. The two countries had been fighting against each other for control of the Empire ever since the Azarians fell. It was, to Thodred at least, miraculous this group of over ambitious soldiers had even managed to cross the border, and it would be more miraculous still if Thodred’s mother accepted the proposal.


“Proceed,” she decided finally, and returned to her mead. Surprise flitted across the soldier’s face, and then he began:


“A new rising power forms in the dark shadows of the south. No reports have yet heard of who or what it may be” —here Thodred rolled his eyes— "for no warrior, mage, peasant or otherwise has yet survived an attack. This nameless evil sweeps across the land like a plague, killing all within its path. It burns villages, killing even the women and children, and doing…unspeakable… things to the dead when they are finished with them.”


Here, he stopped for a breath, and Ceminara imposed, “So this invading army must be of great size and discipline, but you have no idea who.” The soldier nodded.


“Correct. At least, we had no idea who would attack us. True, our country has had its battles, but as of late we have done nothing to deserve such an invasion. Jaume and Gaetan know what would happen if they attempted conquest of Nesparian land.”

The soldier’s eyes gleamed with a promise that was desperate to be fulfilled, “Until an envoy came to my Lord’s Palace and demanded our surrender. He was  a...a...an unusual man. His terms...." Here, the messenger's voice shook with some inner fury, some unspeakable abhoration.

It caught Ceminara's attention.

"His terms?" She pressed.

"He offered two choices," he said, "Continue to be ravaged by this nameless evil, or end his line." 

Thodred leaned forward, digusted.  No decent envoy would have even made such an offer, he thought. Every person from this end of the world to the other knows that Saluc's line is rumoured to have the ancient magic lost since the golden age of the Azarian Empire. It was a see-through diversion. His people will know now, once they realize what's going on, that Saluc refused to make the sacrifices any King would make...that my father would have made....

"Furious at the lack of civility in the terms and behaviour from the envoy, the Princess Shahira smote him where he stood. Scholars have since examined the corpse, and we believe it to be from Azar itself.” A stunned silence followed this remark. Even valiant Ceminara had an expression of utmost surprise, but, as usual, she quickly regained typical expression of apathy for the messenger's benefit.
 

“And how do your countries’ scholars believe these renegade Azarians survived our combined efforts toward their annihilation?”
 

“Gaetan and Jaume may not have the maliciousness to attack us alone, but with encouragement, they could easily be sent against us—the reigning powers of the Agamid Sea. They have both been too silent since we destroyed our dominating power, would not your ladyship say?”
 

“My majesty desires to view the slain Azarian. Bring him to me,” said the queen, obviously intending to forestall the issue, but the soldier called a few words in a lilting foreign tongue; and a gold plated box was brought up to the floor before the platform on which the queen and her nobility sat.
 

“With your permission, Queen Ceminara,” said the soldier.
 

“At your leisure,” there came the bemused reply. The envoy withdrew a head that matched the soldier’s description. Several of the aristocracy grew pale, but Ceminara stood her ground, evidently unmoved. After a moment, her statement came, “The evidence for your claims remains sufficient. I offer you rested Dîarian horses with food and drink. I will send a messenger after I confer with my council, but this I say now: I will do what I can for Saluc. No child‘s blood will be spilled from his line while I remain on the throne of Dîyar.”
 

“King Saluc,” corrected an orange-clad soldier automatically, speaking loudly because he was so far behind the envoy. Lord Melandar leapt from his chair, crying, “You should be whipped for your impudence!” The queen’s beautiful eyes narrowed at the horrified looking soldier, and an expression of anger spread over her face. Radiating an aura of regal power, she replied:


“My royal salutations to Saluc, and might I remind him that civility is due when pleading on bended knee for his country‘s salvation by my cavalry! Dismissed!” The envoy’s mouth had dropped at this breech in protocol. The group exited, and they bowed out of the great hall, muttering apologies all the way.
 

***
 

A soldier ambled into the tearoom of Zarobi, bowed hastily, and then asked, “Queen Zarobi, your king summons you and your royal children.” The queen raised an eyebrow.
 

“Wayna is swimming in the lake, and Nadir is conquering fiercely in the sword ring. Junayd has insisted on following Shahira around, sure she needs protecting.” she shook her head amusedly. Queen Zarobi had light blue hair, which reached her slender waist. Dark violet eyes peeked out from behind light brown skin, with lips as dark a red of blood. Today she was clad in a sleeveless golden dress, with a maroon sash around her waist.
 

A small knife was tucked into that sash, reminding anyone who cared to look of Zarobi’s barbaric origin.
 

“Then you must go, milady,” he said apathetically, “King Saluc insisted it was a matter of utmost urgency.” The queen sighed. “Thank you, Limerick;” she said firmly, “You may go now. Find the others; I will meet my husband so--"

“What business of urgency would be enough that father could not wait to summon us until supper?” Junayd’s strong voice made Zarobi gasp and the soldier jumped; both of them surprised they had not heard Junayd and Shahira enter the chamber.

“The king has said that Queen Ceminara and her son, Prince Thodred, will be arriving by this evening for dinner.”

Junayd’s blood red eyes narrowed. Like his father and mother, he had the sun-drenched brown skin. From his father he had received the strong physique, the aura of royalty, and the strong pointed nose. From his mother, his genes had thieved the unerring grace. A long scimitar hung from a belt around his waist. A dark orange shirt baring the seal of Nespaire covered his muscles, with simple black pants to match.
 

“Thodred?” murmured Shahira, her stormy grey eyes turning toward the soldier, “And Ceminara? Surely we have done nothing to deserve such an honour.”

Shahira had skin a shade darker than her parents’, most likely from spending so much time in the sun. She had hair dark as ink; it reached her shoulders in beautiful curls. She was clad in a midnight-blue dress, with silver hoops hanging from her ears. A small dagger hung from a silver-coloured belt on her waist.

The soldier shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “That is no business of mine, Princess.” He said, focusing on his dark red shoes, “You should take the matter up with the king.” He was rescued by a loud thumping up the stairs.

“So good of you two to join us, Wayna,” remarked the queen sarcastically, “You too Nadir! Good to see you, darlings“--Here the queen ran her eyes over the pair--”Nadir, what on EARTH have you been doing to yourself!?” Nadir and Wayna had the same dark red eyes as Junayd, which was a genetic trait unique to the male princes of Saluc’s line. Both of them had dark black hair that was tied in a ponytail.

While Nadir wore the red battle armour of a knight-in-training, Wayna had the simple, dark-green robes of a shaman. A wand was stuck in his closed hand, one of dark wood with a ruby as its source of power. Nadir had a broadsword strapped to his back, and the soldier asked himself why all the royal family had been carrying weapons.

“Come,” Limerick said simply, “the king will see you now.” Shahira felt shivers run down her spine. Why were Thodred and Ceminara coming? With a chill in her heart, the Princess felt a sense of foreboding:
Something terrible indeed was happening if her father ignored his pride.

***

Thodred was still furious with his mother for this. His father would never have agreed to a treaty to Saluc, and the council had said exactly that. His mother had insisted on at least traveling to Nespaire to see what the trouble was about, and so, the prince and a region of troops followed the Queen and her blasted curiosity toward the Palace. Dully, Prince Thodred realized that the only good thing about this journey was their amazing pace. They were over halfway there. Mentally, he went over his recount of the past few days:


Over the hot desert sands, the raging sun glared emptily down at the humans and their steeds. The journey through the desert was long and hard, but by nightfall they had reached the forest. By the following evening, they had made it to the Azarian border. At this point Queen Ceminara had sent a messenger to inform King Saluc and his merry band of idiots that they would be arriving by the following evening. Worst of all, he would have to be polite and civil to that self-righteous Shahira, and her princeling brothers.

He was not looking forward to this.

***

“Welcome!” Boomed King Saluc, in his impressively strong voice making the palace rumble, “All hail, Queen Ceminara and Prince Thodred!” He raised his goblet of white whine, and the people who dined in the palace cried, “Hail!”

Then he completed his toast. Ceminara walked in, handing her maroon traveling cloak to a servant. She was clad in a dark green that made her golden eyes glimmer with power. Thodred was still in his traveling clothes. He reeked of the desert and forest, of the broad wilderness and had not washed, but out of politeness no one said a word. Dinner was being served. Delicious smells were washing over the weary group of Dîarians.

“Eat and drink,” said the king gently, “we do not want any dead here. It will ruin the banquet.”

King Saluc was incredibly handsome. He had black hair that reached his chin. Light brown skin covered his strong muscles and thick arms. A thin band of gold revealed his royalty. He was clad in a blue dress tunic, but Thodred saw there was a sword buckled to his waist.

His beautiful wife sat in a chair to his left, quiet and humble as Ceminara was loud and demanding. His three sons sat in a smaller table, but Princess Shahira was missing.
 
After the guests from Dîyar had been seated, and the first course served, the king decreed that Shahira would sing for them. A servant brought in a solid gold harp, inlaid with precious gems, and a small wooden stool. Shahira strode out from a hall to the left, sat down, and, her fingers stringing a simple melody, she began to sing:....


Reach for the sun
And climb with the stardust,
Dance along the clouds;
Until you come home.

Fly free with birds,
Far in the north now,
Angels will sing,
Please carry me home.

Waves are breaking,
There along the shore,
Dark bells ring,
Please will you come home?

Waiting for someone,
Anyone to notice me,
The sun won’t shine,
Until you come home.


Thodred had never before heard such a radiant voice. His full attention was on the rapture that was spread over Princess Shahira’s face as she sang--how she was slowly captivating the group from Dîyar. As her hand struck the final chord, they burst into applause, and even Ceminara murmured something about great talent.

The final course was a mountain of desert: Rose water, and rich chocolate cake, there were date cakes with almonds and honey, white truffles and champagne. King Saluc stood and said,
“It seems we have been a bit more distracted by our excellent feast than I had originally thought. I retire now, and I offer my friends from Dîyar our finest rooms, baths, and a warm feather bed. Our business will wait until morning.”

***

Dawn crept slowly over the palace of Nespaire, and almost at once the immense heat settled over the morning air. 

Thodred knocked three times on the door, and checked his reflection in the looking glass hung on the wall to make sure he was presentable. The Prince had dark hair he kept in an upside-down triangle-shaped ponytail down his back. His strong cheekbones presented the look of a slightly older man, rather than the eighteen-year-old boy he was. He was tall, easily as tall as Ceminara.

His skin was darker than his mother’s, however, and his strong chin most certainly had not come from her.   Thodred had inherited his father’s stormy blue-green eyes, which peeked out from behind his long lashes. His pointed ears, too, he supposed, must have come from King Korari.  Realizing his head was in the clouds for the umpteenth time; Thodred frowned, extended his hand, and beat upon the door once more.

And again, there was no answer.

Cautiously, his dark hand pushed open the heavy sandalwood door. “Princess Shahira?” He inquired, to the apparently empty chamber. As there was no reply, he took a step inside. Worry began to spread itself over his strategically trained mind, and for good reason. Ceminara’s ties with Nespaire were, at best, wafer-thin.

If anything were to have happened over one of those humid Arabian nights to Princess Shahira, he and his mother would immediately seem suspect. Therefore, drawing his sword and putting on his proudest prince face, he demanded, “Princess Shahira!” The feel of cold bronze, presumably of a Nesparian blade, put him back in his place.

“Who are you?” A foreign voice hissed into his ear. Prince Thodred growled at the stranger.

“I might ask you the same thing,” he snapped at the intruder. A tinkle of musical laughter spread over the doorway, and Thodred heard the bronze sword return to its scabbard.

“Oh, but I asked you first, Prince Thodred.” A pause and then, “I am Princess Shahira.” The strangely intimidating princess strode determinedly into the room. “My apologies for frightening you there,” she continued, her voice so obviously amused that Prince Thodred could pick it out from the immensely rich accent with which she spoke his tongue, “Do you do this sort of thing often?”   

“Princes of Dîyar are never frightened!” Replied the prince, annoyed, “and what sort of thing do you mean?”

“Rare is the man that strides confidently into my chamber and screams my name at the break of dawn,” remarked the princess with a smile.

“Oh,” said Thodred, surprised, “I am sorry about that, Princes—“

“Shahira, if you please sir.”

“What?”

“We are allies now, Thodred. Surely friends can dissuade formality?”

“I see… Shahira, I really am sorry about that, King Saluc—May he live forever! —And Queen Ceminara insisted I fetch you, the both of us being heirs to our own lines, to the council chamber. A meeting is being held there.”

“Leave it to my father to summon business even before the moon has said good reign to her brother,” answered Shahira sadly.

“Forgive me… ‘Good reign’?” She looked up in surprise.

“His highness has not had the pleasure of hearing Nesparian legends?”

“No, I cannot say I have.”

“Nesparian women worship the moon, and their strong husbands worship the gleaming silver sun. We believe it fulfills both halves of our race: The wise and the strong, the beautiful and the gruff. All balance is represented through the unity of marriage.

“That’s all fascinating, but what does it have to do wit—“

“The moon, Luexa, and her brother, Agreagrious, were the first to make such a union.” Thodred stared after her in amazement.

“You mean to say that you worship the moon?” He asked, shocked.

“Well, naturally,” she said smugly, “What else is so beautiful and perfect?”

“Then how do you explain the phases of the moon?” She blinked.

“Why do you think there are so many stars?” Shahira answered, “Poor Luexa cannot be perfect all the time, you know, particularly not after Agreagrious had has his way.” 

“I still think the whole thing seems fishy.” She rolled her stormy grey eyes.

“If we are so imperfect, then what do you worship?” She asked passionately, staring at the barely visible moon.

Thodred smiled radiantly. “Fire,” he answered. There was a moment of silence.

Men,” she murmured, and marched out of the chamber.



© 2009 Greystone


Author's Note

Greystone
I'm working on setting description and not ''moronizing'' my characters as much. Those two things are coming in later.

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Que
Heya dear, glad you got a Writer's Cafe account! Now I have a friend whom I know to bother here!

As for you're story, superbly done. When you describe beauty, handsomeness or anything else I can truely see it, or at least insofar as one can see what words conjure.

In the beginning, I, as the reader, know nothing of the history of the countries you've created, but you easily set up enough of a history without confusing the reader with too much pointless information. I applaude this ability of yours!

~Que

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




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Finished the first half and will comment more when complete.

Your eye for detail is sublime; nothing that is touched upon is done so hurriedly. Very thorough and compelling chapter.

Further comments to come, but the lead in to the dialogue is truly stellar.

S

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Can't waite to read more!

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

[send message][befriend] Subscribe
Que
Heya dear, glad you got a Writer's Cafe account! Now I have a friend whom I know to bother here!

As for you're story, superbly done. When you describe beauty, handsomeness or anything else I can truely see it, or at least insofar as one can see what words conjure.

In the beginning, I, as the reader, know nothing of the history of the countries you've created, but you easily set up enough of a history without confusing the reader with too much pointless information. I applaude this ability of yours!

~Que

Posted 13 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on December 14, 2008
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Author

Greystone
Greystone

Fort Atkinson, WI



About
I've been writing for about five years. Mostly, I focus on fantasy, although to be honest I've dabbled horribly in Romance, Science Fiction, and modern-day roleplays. I enjoy drawing, painting, wood c.. more..

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