“Zern, a week ago you brought to us the news of darkness appearing far to the east. You also said that it is your betrothed who brought you such news by way of Star-Whispering. Such skills are revered by the extremely talented elves, as even amongst them it is rare. We decided to entertain the possibility of you telling the truth, because both it would be beneficial to have one amongst our ranks and it is you who brings us such rumor.”
“Yes, as elder Karmak said, such a rare arcane art cannot be overlooked because of improbability of it being true, so we contacted the elves and they sent one of their own Star-Whisperers. As of today, it has been confirmed that your betrothed is indeed a Star-Whisperer. I mean no offense when I say it, but it is a shame that it is you who will be marrying her with your pitiful aptitude for magic. If a powerful Mage were to father her children, we would almost guarantee to have a bloodline of Star-Whisperers amongst the people of Val. It is known to be a hereditary trait.”
“Esteemed elder Katara, I hear your words and I promise you, if any of our children have talent for magic, especially for Whispering, I will do everything in my power to cultivate such talents.”
“Thank you for your words. Now we must tell you that from now own, Aedim will be training under an elven Star-Whisperer.”
The elder makes a gesture motioning somebody to come forward. A woman, in her late thirties comes into view. She has an unusually well-rounded body, different from normal slender elven forms. She had long and pointed ears, almost going above the top of her head, which show her great aptitude for magic. She has a very mature aura for an elf, she must have lived a long time, and her elegance and grace are unparalleled. Clearly, she is experienced in many ways, some of which I am not meant to know. If I didn’t get regular teasing from Lilith, I could fall for her charms. As she parts her lips, a soft, pleasant voice with depth hidden within is heard.
“Greetings, I am Star-Whisperer Amaruelle, the keeper of the art that has been passed amongst only us elves. We were surprised to hear of a human, who attained such height in magic to hear the feint whispers in the heavens. I have personally tested her and I am pleasantly surprised by her progress. I must inform you now, that in a few days we will be leaving for elven territory. Your bride has to be initiated into our order and given proper training.”
“Lady Amaruelle, may I know for how long will my beloved Aedim be away from her family?”
“The initiation does not take long. But we estimate that she will be away for six months. She will learn the basics of the practices of magic. This includes arts other than Whispering.”
At those words Aedim lit up like a candle. She often pestered me to bestow some of my otherworldly knowledge on her. This is exactly what she wanted. I only have to hope there is no ulterior motive for such long separation. I know that Aedim wants to take this chance, I have no right to deny her this opportunity.
I let out a defeated sign. Six months would be the longest separation ever since our birthday ceremony at the age of four.
“Zern, you must know that you will be separated from Aedim and in fact from all of your fated for longer than that.”
Dumbfounded, I can’t help but stare at the elder man named Karmak.
“This is the second reason you have been brought here. We have investigated the rumors you brought forth before the council. What we learned is disturbing.”
“Thanks to your fianc?e Leah and her information network, as well as some other sources, we confirmed that there indeed is a disturbance to the Far East.” Another elder by the name of Baewulf interjects. “The population of the monster races is rapidly increasing. Usually it is kept at the constant level, but something seems to be driving them to stop their inner conflicts.”
From what I know, monster races are in a perpetual state of war amongst one another. Between the constant killing, the cannibalism and a lacking interest in mating except for certain periods of the year, their numbers are kept low. Something had to overcome all those issues to make a noticeable change in their population.
“Yes, I understand how what esteemed elder Baewulf says may prove to be a problem.”
“The human kingdom never posed a serious threat to us. Even if we had to fight them alone, we could keep casualties to the acceptable levels. However, if monster races would come together under a single ruler, in a few years nothing short of world-alliance would be able to fight them. Their numbers have already grown a lot, within a year there would be twice as many monsters as last year. And the growth would only accelerate as more and more of them mature.”
“As you should know, dwarves hide beneath their mountains are rarely fight. We can’t expect them to provide anything more than basic equipment and supplies. Snow elves are content with their situation on the other side of the world. They practice their necromancy and ice magic hoping to achieve true immortality. Those fools wouldn’t even think about helping us fight.”
“Merfolk would provide little assistance on land. We could sand a convoy to the Naga Empire, but most messengers return separated from their heads. They dislike intruders in their territory. Human empire is unlikely to come out of their revolt any time soon.”
“The only forces we can hope to amass together are mages and archers of the Elves and the Demon military. And that is if we can prove to them the necessity of union.”
Elders take their turns describing just how dire our situation is. The picture they paint is not pretty. If there is indeed a force driving monster races together, if nothing is done soon, we may not have any chance to survive the massacre that would unfold.
“Zern, you are young, but we all know of your exploits and your capabilities. Your influence drives people forward. Now your next Rite is not for another eleven months. You have no official duty other than to get strong. Your training can be done on the road, there is nobody who can be your sparring partner.”
I seem to grasp their intention for me by now.
“From what we know about you, it would take you two months running at full speed to reach their territory. About the same to get back on time. It leaves you with seven months to infiltrate, identify and take action against the threat. We will leave decision-making to you.”
Thinking about this whole situation doesn’t take a long time. It makes sense and it is probably a right decision right now. Other Val tribesmen have fewer options than me. I would be the most efficient in this task. I could also disguise myself with my beast form. As if reading my mind elder Baewulf continues.
“We believe your unique ability will allow you to disguise yourself and if need arises, change disguises on the go. Werewolves and drakes,
albeit rare, are considered monster races and sometimes have been sighted in those lands. Seeing your bear form should not arouse much suspicion either, new monsters appear all the time.”
“Great elders, I understand my mission and its importance. However, there is one issue.”
I make a gesture at Aedim.
“Absolutely not. You are absolutely not allowed bring anybody with you. They will be a liability and a weakness to be exploited. You WILL go alone.”
“Actually that was not what I meant. You can overrule the decision of the three to whom I am not bound to yet. Aedim will go to the elven kingdom and Elaya I can influence through words. It is Meriden I am worried about…” Faces of the most people present visibly distort. Meriden was headstrong and narrow minded. Making her change her decision would take nothing short of a miracle and it is well known how she goes wherever I go. “Elders trying to force a princess of Val’Hoona tribe may not be received well by others, as well as she can just outright ignore your order. Unless you talk to her woman to woman, there is nothing I can do. I have no say by default, she is a matriarch…”
“Not now Karmak.” Elder Katara interrupts and continues “I will personally talk with Meriden. Hopefully she will hear the voice of reason. Meanwhile you have a week to prepare for your journey. Take anything you need.”
I readily depart to begin preparing. What can be said, next day I had to prepare a saddle. I couldn’t get through to her, neither could elder Katara. Meriden listened to nobody, she gathered her gear, her sword, twin daggers and a bow. My saddle would get a quiver, so she wouldn’t have to carry the extra weight. It was a burden I was willing to bear.
We also got plenty of supplies. One important thing we needed was slave collar for Meriden. Humans were unwelcome in monster territories, so only slaved humans were tolerated. She was against it, but once I told her it was the necessary condition she complied. At the end of the week, two of us departed.