The Chimeras use the Elves to learn about the outside world and how it has been changing, and begin to speak of an alliance.
As soon as we heard movement from the guardians, Valla put her book away in her bag and put a blanket over it.
“Let’s go downstairs. I don’t want anyone to get too worried about us,” she whispered. I nodded, and we went down the uneven stairs. However, I quickly stopped when I heard Sentinel’s voice in the porch, and I put my arm up to stop Valla.
“Sentinel’s here,” I said. Valla shifted nervously.
“Is the guy from earlier here too…?”
“Doubt it. He knows better than to try to talk to my mom against this soon. Still want to go down there…?”
Valla hesitated. “If Harold is still there then it should be fine…”
I nodded, and kept walking. She followed me. I could hear the conversation before we entered the porch.
“I’m a little surprised that Akalai would send someone outside their royal family as the main ambassador, to be honest. Especially when they do have a member of their royal family with their group.” Sentinel was the one speaking, and I could hear some suspicion in his voice. Valla and I lingered just outside of the porch.
“I can’t say I understand our king’s reasoning either. Valla is a responsible princess, and a gift to her family.”
“I wish,” Valla muttered. I felt the sudden bitterness in her voice and put my hand on her upper arm briefly, before pushing the cloth dangling in the entrance to the side and looking in.
“Can Valla and I come in?” I asked. Our mom, Sentinel, and Harold were all standing together and talking, and turned to look at me in surprise. But Sentinel quickly nodded.
“Of course. Come in.”
Valla followed me in, keeping her arms crossed across her belly and seeming to glance anywhere but at Sentinel and Harold. Sentinel glanced at Harold briefly, and seemed to notice that he was worried about Valla. But he didn’t directly say anything about it. Instead, he turned to my mother.
“I also feel it necessary to apologize for my brother’s earlier actions and words, Shadowforth.” She waved off his apology.
“I know you don’t share his opinion of me.”
“I’m glad. And I also don’t share his view of nobility or royalty, though a level of skepticism has served me well in the past. But I’m getting distracted from what I came here to ask.”
“Is it about the attack on the coast?” Storm asked. I glanced over to where he and Rune were. Rune was sitting up, and Anna was sitting on his other side. Storm had an amused look on his face when he looked at me and realized I hadn’t been paying attention to him, and started walking to sit down next to him. Valla hesitated, but Storm motioned for her to follow me, and she did.
“Not precisely, though the aid of the elves would prove invaluable in taking back our farms and land. I came here because I heard that at some point, Akalai fought against Lassania in a war.”
“We still are fighting them, actually,” Harold corrected.
Sentinel raised his eyebrows. “Really? How long ago did it start?”
“At least 300 years ago.”
My mom and Sentinel exchanged a surprised look, and some of the color seemed to leave my mother’s face. But Sentinel turned back to Harold again before anyone could comment on it. “And, can you tell us about that war? How did it start? How has it been progressing?”
“I can, do you already know anything about it, though? I don’t want to waste time by saying anything you all already know.”
“Don’t worry about that. Just tell us about it.”
Harold took a deep breath. “Well, I wasn’t even alive when it started; I’m an older elf, but there are others who saw more of it than I did. None of them came with us. But most people in Akalai, and lands we trade with frequently, know the story of how it started: the queen of Akalai at the time- Valla’s great grandmother, actually- visited Lassania. At the time, our countries traded- we didn’t really approve of the way they treated women and they didn’t approve of the power we gave women, but that wasn’t why the war started. We weren’t going to go to war against them until the king started trying to court our queen in front of his wife, for reasons we still don’t know.”
My mother sighed, and glanced at Sentinel, who gave Harold a nod. “That sounds like a somewhat flimsy reason to start a war, honestly.”
“It would have been if that were the end,” Harold explained quickly. “Our queen made it clear that she was not interested, and that she felt it was highly inappropriate and cruel for him to openly flirt and complain about his wife in front of her. He kept getting more and more insistent, however, and eventually… well, he told our queen that if she didn’t submit to him, he would force her to. She immediately made plans to leave, and went back to Akalai, and within a week he began to invade our territory. At which point… well, we learned that he had somehow obtained an elemental artifact that does not belong to Lassania.” Harold hesitated. “Are you familiar with the elemental artifacts?”
“Somewhat,” Sentinel said. He glanced at Storm, Rune, and I. “I doubt that those born in the Dungeon are familiar with them, however, so perhaps you should explain them.”
Harold nodded. “They are ancient weapons and objects that are alive and powerful, and extremely rare. There are only a few artifacts in existence associated with each element. In Akalai, our royal family owns two: the Staff of Light, and the Shield of Light, though only the staff is ever in use at this point- by Lucia, the heiress to the throne.” Valla sank to the ground next to me and Storm with a silent sigh, earning a look of irritation and disgust from Anna. “Meanwhile, Lassania now owns three, if you count the one they stole. The Sword of Dark is the one their king stole, and tried to use it to summon night beasts to attack our kingdom. Somehow, it failed, and while they did attack us, they also turned on him. But they also own both the shield and the tome of Lightning, and it is not safe to assume that they will fail him as the sword did.”
“What are Night beasts? I’ve heard of them before,” Rune asked. I glanced at him. He still looked like he was in pain, but seemed to at least be feeling a little better, since he was able to pay attention to the conversation.
“Creatures that barely exist in our world,” our mom said, turning quickly back to Sentinel. “That is about how I remember it happening, Sentinel. I think we can trust them, now.”
Harold seemed shocked by my mother’s statement. “You were alive when the war started?” My mother hesitantly nodded. “Do you Chimeras not age, then?”
“Not so far,” Sentinel said. “At least, most don’t. I was the exception, for a little while.” He smiled at Harold. “It seems that Akalai may be interested in having some help, then, if the war has truly been going on for that long without stop. What do you feel your country would say to an alliance?”
Valla seemed surprised and nervous, and her fingers tightened around mine. I tried to tighten my fingers around hers too, to comfort her just a little. However, Harold looked away for a tense moment, before looking back at Sentinel.
“Sir, I already know that my country would be interested. However, I feel it would be beneficial to your country for you to consider what that would mean more carefully. I say this not as Akalai’s ambassador, but as a man who doesn’t want to see anything more happen to your people.”
Sentinel and my mother didn’t seem too surprised, but I could sense Valla’s disappointment… though I got the feeling she both understood why he was saying it, and was, in a way, glad that he was willing to do so.
“And why might that be?” Sentinel was testing Harold at that point; seeing whether he was truly a friend to us Chimeras. That I was sure of.
“An alliance at this point would be very beneficial to Akalai. It would take the heat of the war off of our own lands, and put it in what Lassania likely considers their territory. However, Lassania would not let that happen for long. If they knew that we were allying with your people, they would pull out everything they have to wipe out your people and make sure that they would still only be fighting one country rather than two. So while Akalai would love an alliance, I don’t feel that I’d truly be able to say we’re friends unless your country were also able to benefit from the alliance.”
“I see. And would Akalai be willing to station soldiers here to help us defend our land while still considering us a separate country?”
“That I can discuss with the King. That way you would be able to benefit more. However, I do feel it would be very beneficial to contact Akalai in order to confirm with him that would be acceptable.”
“I see. Would that mean you would need to return to Akalai?”
Harold hesitated, and stared at Valla for a second. Valla then looked up at Sentinel for the first time. “I know a way we could contact them through my magic. But it would take a lot of time, and freedom that I really don’t think we have at the moment, considering, well… everything…”
Sentinel nodded. “That makes sense. We should focus on the battle at hand. Harold, I’ve heard that your warriors may be willing to help us fight?”
“Yes. Just tell them where to go and the three warriors guarding us will be willing to help you all as Gray, Storm, Scout, and other Chimeras have helped us.”
Sentinel turned and looked at me and Storm. “Gray, Storm. In a day’s time, every warrior who can fight is encouraged to go to the Guard house to get ready to drive Lassania back. Would you two be willing to help guide the elven warriors there?”
I didn’t even hesitate. “Yes.”
“Good.” Sentinel nodded. “Rest up then, and tell them to do the same.”
As he left, I felt Valla’s grip on my hand tighten, and I looked at her face, and slowly realized how scared she was, even though she wasn’t going into battle.
She didn’t want to lose the opportunity to get to know me and love without shame before it had truly been given to her.