Nations on the Brink (storyline)/Chapter 1 Finale (vignette)

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Nations on the Brink

High Lady Kynsella A'Vatale paced back and forth pensively, the Torren courier standing off to one side waiting patiently. Finally, the lady stopped pacing and threw herself down at her desk, rapidly pulling out a quill, ink, and paper.

She wrote for several minutes, read and re-read it, and then nodded. Using the official seal on her signet ring, she sealed up her missive and handed it to the courier.

"This gets delivered directly into the hands of my mother, the Viscountess," Kynsella stated, "Or to the Count himself." The courier curtsied with deep extravagance and left to fulfill her duties.

Left alone in her quarters, Kynsella sighed sadly. The news of these two deaths, one East and one West, both with significant pull in both human and elven courts, was bound to have ramifications beyond mere funerals. She had met each of the women briefly at different times, and she held both in high esteem based on both their reputations and those short encounters, but their deaths were bigger than themselves.

Kynsella glanced again at the letter in her hand. Its officiality was not lost on her. No mere exchange between relatives this; it was a notice from her Count. While no orders came forth yet, Kynsella was sure that her time wandering Elanith would be hampered if not entirely cut short. It was time to at least get back within the borders of Torre. The visiting of friends across the Dragonspine was at an end; she would head to River's Rest and be within close call of Fairport.

Duty and sadness pressed side by side against her heart, but also, an odd resolve and responsibility filled her with purpose. Home then, she thought, to Torre.


We should have commissioned the Rising Swan, Kimrella found herself saying for probably the third or fourth time that morning.  It would have been faster, stopped on a silver, and been lower in the ground.  She paced through the tower cell, recounting the events.

If someone was a traitor on her vessel, then she'd hang them personally.  But she couldn't believe that was the case, she couldn't believe that the men and women she'd fought alongside so many times would betray Vornavis.  No, something else was afoot here.  Someone was playing a dangerous game.

She had known before they had made port last night that the chances of the elven woman surviving were nothing short of miraculous.  Two hours in winter waters?  Bloodied? She'd need some kind of magic. Some kind of enchanted means and magic gives off light.  No, if she were to be saved it would have been in those first moments.

And yet, the pirates. Proud, angry people, how could they have forgotten?  And it wasn't as if he had defiantly decided not to answer, he didn't seem to know. Fleetingly, she wondered if Gurbah would have any luck.

Movement caught her eye, causing her to swiftly move toward the bed.

"Easy friend," she said to the Giantess.

"You have a nasty wound that the healers have tended to three times.  They anticipate more.  Lay down, rest.  You are safe..." Under her breath, she finished, "... for the moment."


Odelgarde watched the scene play out like some kind of macabre dance that she couldn't escape.  She felt sick.  She hadn't really understood the fascination with Gurbah that seemed to be the buzz of the court, she tended to prefer better curves, and after watching him work over the greasy pirate with the aid of an empath, she seriously doubted she'd ever feel more than revulsion when she looked at him.

They were in a cleaning cycle.  The piteous whimpers slowly giving way to spittle-filled murmurings.

Salnim entered the chamber and scanned it with his sad eyes.  They locked gazes for a brief moment, but she turned away.  It was too much.

"Enough." He said with conviction.  "This isn't what I intended and it isn't who we are."

Gurbah and the healer turned to him, though the Captain of the Guard refused to meet the Malwind's gaze. It was as if he took the burden of both woman's deaths on himself.

"Beating that man senseless will not bring either of them back."

Gurbah slammed the door as he left.  The sound was almost a blessing.  Almost.


Sitting at her desk, Athalia gazed at the parchments before her as she absently traced the lines of her lips.  The fatigue she felt before seemed a pale promise to what she was feeling now.  She was cold, though not from the temperature of the room.  She recounted the events of the past few weeks, thinking of each time the elderly healer had been with her father.

Had she been different? Had something been amiss? Mistress Grenhal was eternally in the keep.  There since Athalia's youth, there when her mother was gone.  She imagined the woman was like what others would have called an "old auntie."  How could she have done this?  How could she have betrayed them?

She sucked a ragged breath into her lungs, her thoughts going to Jarnaixa's wound and her father's infected lungs.  What had the woman been doing?

Salnim should go to Aurmont, she suddenly thought.  They can share in their grief, they can work together to find a solution, a means to keep Kasendra's dream alive, a way to keep this from breaking into war.

Her gaze fell upon the white Elanthian rose in the simple glass vase that sat on her desk.

She knew she was going to have to put aside her grief; there was a Barony to run.  She knew she was going to have to keep her head high; her brother was in pain.  She knew she would have to believe in all of the encouragement that she gave to those around her not a month and a half ago; her father depended on her.  She knew, ultimately, she would have to take responsibility; it was the chivalrous thing to do.  And though she was not a knight, not a dame, she had a responsibility to the people and those that looked to Vornavis as an example.

Squaring her shoulders, she picked up a pen and began to write.


Hands properly folded before her, Leisette listened to the Seneschal and the Argent Mirror speak and watched every corner, every curtain, and every shadow within the well-appointed chamber.  They were discussing how best to handle the inquiry and who to use.

As if touched by the faintest of kisses, she felt a tingling at the edges of her hearing and, in an absent gesture, she flipped her azurite pendant.

It happened, the thought came to her as soon as the pendant was flipped.

When? she instantly inquired back.

Last night.

Did you catch sight of her face?

No, the captain was more thorough than we anticipated, and I wasn't able to slip in with the group until it had happened.

What can you tell me?

Orchid and amber, just as your informant had predicted.  Sayilla was thrown from the boat, perhaps stabbed beforehand.  Her bodyguard was poisoned and not by anything we have in our stores.  This is something new.  Your mystery woman disguised herself as the Vornavian's old wetnurse.  She's very good at it.  No one actually saw her as she was, so we still don't have a face.

Distracted, Leisette replied out loud, "Yes, your Reflection, whatever you need." Yet, inwardly she tried to process the news without giving any outward sign to the Mirror.

She thought back, "Where is the wetnurse now?"

We don't know.  Presumably dead and likely for months.  You were right.  The Baron's illness is certainly not natural.

Are you safe where you are?

I will be, we have boats in the water searching the coastlines and a few contacts on the southern side of the bay.  We might yet find her.

What of the other? How goes the training?

Well. The training will begin soon and it will be a boon in the days ahead.

Keep careful.  Keep out of sight.  I'll continue here.

When the night closes in...

Leisette finished the thought as the voice in her mind faded.  "... let the stars illuminate the way."  Flipping her pendant over, she continued to listen to the Illistimi pair though her mind was racing.


"Hello...!" she called out with her melodic lilt, her voice lifting in hopes that someone would respond. With only silence as an answer, she tried the door again, still finding it locked. Rolling her eyes, she stomped her way back to the edge of her bed and turned to glare at the door before plopping down.

It wasn't so long ago that Orelwen herself fell victim to an attack from an unknown assailant, but the world didn’t come to a complete stop when that happened. It should have, all things considered. It was the first step in this momentous stage of diplomacy, which means along with those eager for the treaty signing, there were those equally opposed. Yet no one was confined to their location, their quarters.

So here she was, having been a victim once before, and now a suspect in the demise of another involved in these changes. Kasendra... Orelwen had tried to be welcoming, offering suggestions for court appeal and attempting to be friendly. The more the human got closer to the Mirror and their relationship grew, however, the more Orelwen could see her place starting to fade. Diplomacy is great and all, but that can’t be the only thing necessary to be in the Argent Mirror’s favor.

Balling her fists, she got up and walked to the door once more, this time pounding her fists until a voice responded back.

"Lady Greyvael, please. We realize this is an unusual circumstance, but please be patient while things are investigated. We’re sure you’ll be fine once everything has calmed and you are cleared. It will just take time."

With barely hidden irritation, Orelwen huffs out a request. "If I am to stay locked away, can I at least get something to keep me busy... wine... cheesecake... even a bit of mousse?"


Growling in frustration, she returned to her seat on the bed, complaining quietly and with a somewhat mocking tone, "I bet if the human was in the same place as me right now, they’d be bending over backwards to ensure she had her requests fulfilled."


A small sigh escaped Naevys' lips as she gazed into her now-empty teacup. It was followed by a slightly louder murmur of discontent as she discovered the also empty teapot. She began to shuffle the correspondence on her desk, pointedly ignoring the offending vessel. She balanced the sketches from Lord Lithvair, the letters from Lord Yfane and Lady Oirisu, and a few hastily written missives from home in one hand.

Laden with the precariously balanced stacks of vellum and parchment, reached into the drawer of the writing desk and procured a cut-crystal bottle. With one hand, she upended the honey-colored liquid into the teacup, stood, stretched her legs, and gazed through the well-bolted windows of her chamber.

She watched as a trio of children run across the courtyard, chasing one another as they approached the rose-framed gate of the green. Their voices were merry despite their somber-looking attire.

What a fleet of ships I would offer if the only games we played were as simple and carefree as those of children.

Naevys leaned against the reinforced bars, gazing thoughtfully at the courtyard below, sipping her liquor before the subtle sound of paper on stone broke her reverie.

A well-penned envelope slipped through the gap beneath the door, the wax seal fresh and the ink raised across the parchment. She strode towards the letter, raising it to the light before breaking the seal.

"Gods be damned," she swore beneath her breath as she returned to the writing desk. Refilling her teacup, she gathered another stack of fresh vellum. Calligraphy quickly filled the page in a matter of moments. She gently fanned the ink, willing it to dry, and then folded it in half. Adding it to an envelope, she meticulously addressed it to Queen Rhosyn Nalfein.

The sound of joyous laughter echoes from the courtyard below.

If only.


Curled up in a tall chair covered in cerulean blue velvet, a slender elven woman lays her hands on a windowsill, her head resting against the cool panes, and her grey eyes gazing out at the city below.

"I long for the days when we would walk in the garden and plan our future and the future of our people. Caylio, if only we had known then what we know now," she sighs before continuing. "Those poor women, so much stolen from them."

Standing, she walks to a large mistwood desk and sits down. Taking a clean parchment, she picks up a quill and begins writing.

People of Ta'Illistim, our heart is saddened and angered by the recent events here and in the west. We mourn for those two strong women who we called friends. The world is a colder place without their lights. We will find those responsible and hold them accountable. We declare a time of mourning for them and encourage all to remember their lives with warmth and respect.


Hurried footsteps echoed throughout the Keep as attendants and visitors moved quickly to extricate themselves from the view of the elves that arrived at the keep's landing.

Calm eyes gazed out from beneath the shadows of deeply hooded robes, their forms concealed beneath the layers of wool.

One elf reached into her case and gathered a rolled stack of parchment. Unfurling it, she studied the list of names written in meticulous penmanship, each one followed by a small list of known locations, associates, and various affiliations.

"Soon..." she murmurs to her compatriots. "The inquiries will begin."


So ends Chapter 1 of Nations on the Brink.