As you’ve guessed, I’ve got another snippet post for you guys! So, we’re just going to dive right into it. I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think in the comments! It would be nice to know if I should make it into a full-blown story. Anyway, that’s enough from me, let’s get down to business.
The forest of Neetha was quiet as usual. There were no signs of disturbance anywhere, and as the dappled light from the sun swayed across the floor, not a single animal had a care. The rabbits chased each other around the giant pillars of trees. The foxes darted in and out, looking for their next meal. The mice scurried from the forest floor, and into nearby bushes, hoping not to be someone’s lunch. Everything was as it should be. Everything, except the clearing. A small lake sat in the centre, as hushed whispers travelled all the way around it. More than fifty creatures, of all shapes and sizes, gathered around the lake, speaking to one another, some with great curiosity, others with apprehension. Centaurs bent down to listen to what the nymphs had to say. Dryads nodded their heads as the satyrs vehemently made their points. The atmosphere here was sombre, to say the least. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something. Cautious glances turned towards the lake, every now and then, as the still waters danced with the gentle breeze.
It wasn’t long before one of the ten dwarves finally spoke up, “How much longer are we going to have to wait!” This dwarf was rather stout. In one hand, he held a mining axe, which lay against his shoulder for support. His twinkling grey eyes held just a hint of impatience, and shone in the midday light, like his long silver beard, “My wife is expecting me home in an hour. I swear, it would have been better if I had just picked herbs for her tea.”
“Hush Naskus. The Empress knows what she’s doing,” came the reply from a centaur. His features were unlike the dwarf’s. His human half was dark, like tanned leather, and his goatee was as black as coal. The eyes that bore into the dwarf stood out amongst his features like a star in the night sky. Glowing amber orbs roamed the clearing, watching every creature as they moved, “We ought to count ourselves lucky. Her presence in these parts are few and far between.”
This time, a nymph stood forward. Her long, shining hair of cobalt swayed against her back, and her pale face set in an innocent frown, “Why should she. We’re at the edge of her empire, Kinna. She has no time for us or our kinds.”
“On the contrary, dear Finniah, I would much prefer to be amongst your kinds than with those in the city.” With her eyes trained on the centaur, the little nymph failed to notice the rest of her company sink to one knee, nor the gentle rippling of the water as a figure emerged from its depths. It was the Empress who spoke. The waters of the lake fell from her head and shoulders like tiny waterfalls. Her face and her hair, however, remained dry, as if she’d not been in the water at all. The gentle breeze that fluttered throughout the forest caressed her long silver locks. Her usually gentle emerald eyes were hardened like the jewel, but the nymph knew that the dark look was not aimed at her. Even still, she lowered herself to the floor, just as everyone else had done.
“Forgive me, Your Eminence, I didn’t mean…” she couldn’t finish her sentence as she watched the waters start to lap more vigorously at the bank.
The Empress inhaled deeply, before replying, “I know what you meant, and all is forgiven, but that is not why I have called you all here.” She began to glide atop the lake’s surface, examining each creature in turn. When she completed a full circuit of the lake, she stood before Kinna, the centaur and waited for him to rise. As his eyes rose to meet hers, she asked, “What do you see?”
The centaur paused for a moment, before his eyes glazed over. He stood as still as a boulder, his eyes cast to some distant place, only he could see. After long minutes ticked by, he finally returned and his jaw ticked, “They are preparing for battle, as we speak.”
The Empress nodded absently as she turned away, “Then we don’t have much time.” She returned to the centre of the lake, and cast another glance around the enclosure, before speaking once more, “My friends, the Emperor has found a consort that will destroy us all.”
A wave of murmurs arose. Impatient, the Empress raised an arm, and waited for everyone’s attention, “I have done all I can, but her madness has consumed him. Neither I, nor our child is safe in this Empire any longer, and I’m afraid I cannot stay. Many in the city believe I have abandoned them, but it is essential that the child within me remain as far away from her father as possible.” More murmurs broke out, and the Empress continued on without waiting, “He would destroy her before she could save him. That is why I need your help.”
She turned to the dwarves and gave them a gentle smile, as her expression softened, “Dwarves, you know the passages under the earth, I will need you to lead me through them. A gate lies deep in one of your mines.” Several of the dwarves turned to each other, their meaningful glances told the Empress that they knew what she was talking about, “Will you take me there?”
After a few seconds of silent deliberation one of the dwarves nodded and Naskus stepped forward, “Aye, we’ll show you the way, Your Eminence.”
The Empress nodded her gratitude, “Thank you.”
Next, she turned to the nymphs, “My husband will need a distraction. Will you help me?” She turned towards Finniah, knowing the gravity of the situation finally dawned on the little nymph, “I will need all of you to distract him.”
Finniah raised her eyes, cautiously and quickly darted them away, when she knew the Empress was watching her. Her mind raced as she tried to find a way out, “I’ve not been initiated, Your Eminence, I cannot do what you ask.”
The Empress glided towards her, and bent down to raise the little nymph’s face, “I do not ask you to do as your sisters do. I ask you to do as you would do.” Her voice was no louder than a whisper, and her emerald eyes shone with earnestness.
Seeing the desperation beneath those glittering jewels, Finniah couldn’t deny she wasn’t as weak willed as some of her kind and she sighed, before nodding her assent, “As you wish, Your Majesty.”
The Empress smiled once more and caressed the little nymph’s pale face, “Thank you, Finniah.”
Returning her attention to the rest of the party, she addressed the last creatures that surrounded her, “The final request I have for all of you is your protection. I cannot trust my guards, some have been turned by my husband, and I know my plans would be easily relayed to him, were I to trust them. I ask for the rest of you to come with me, be my eyes and ears, as we travel from this realm.”
Once more uncertain eyes and whispered concerns arose from the gathering. Seeing the fading willingness of her subjects, the Empress continued, “I only ask, for the good of this Empire, and the races that are guarded by the High See. The fates be with us, we will all survive.” Her plea gathered their attention to her once more, and she used that momentum to drive her desperation further into their closed minds, “The Emperor cannot have the power our child has. He would use it to send all of creation into oblivion. We would not survive. Please, I ask as a mother, as your queen and as your friend, help me.”
Silence reigned in the little clearing for a few, long, tense minutes, until finally a young satyr stepped forward, “I will help you, Your Majesty.” The Empress smiled, relieved at the brave young soul’s declaration.
It didn’t take long for others to join him, as one by one all fifty creatures declared their service to her. When everyone stood as tall as they could, the Empress took one last look at her unlikely escorts and nodded with satisfaction, “Good. Then let us begin.”
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