Chapter 43- Parley
The forest seemed so quiet after the continuous communal hubbub of Earth Mothers Den. It was soothing, but also very unsettling as well. I enjoyed listening to the various sounds of the forest. The wind in the trees. The buzzing of various insecta-alfari. The far-off songs of aves-alfari. If there were any other animals lurking in the shadows of the boughs of the trees, then they were silent and unmoving so that I didn see them, hear them, or smell them.
Leaving behind Gaias Lake and Jordmodirbaer, Earthmothers Den, we traveled northeast back around the range of mountains that would lead first to Shahads old hive, then to the wolf dens before turning south and returning to the Golden Tear. From there we would continue south towards Tunglljosbaer, Moonlight Burrow. The distance wasn far as the avian fly. However, our party had grown considerably and now we also had infants. All of it made me nervous. I kept looking around, listening and sniffing the air for ambushes or followers.
Coella, as a point of pride, continued to scout ahead even though her armaments were severely diminished. Her spear and swords were shattered in the conflict with the army of the undead, and all that was left to her now were two sinuously curved long knives. Still, she had her speed, and truly, that was of more value to me than her martial skills, good as they were.
After Coella came Tampa and Orsa, then Bartlett and Maha, then Hlina and Glenna quietly conversing with each other, Usagi and Tsukino quietly followed Glenna wherever she led, and Huxian walked hand in hand with me. Bringing up the rear was Shahad, watching out for followers and covering over our back trail.
Up ahead Tampa walked with a long staff while Orsa left her hands free to use her strange chi-based earth magic. Additionally, they both carried two infants in slings draped over their shoulders while Hlina and Glenna each carried one infant on their backs leaving Huxian free to recuperate.
Aside from their small charges, Hlina wore only a small loincloth while her weapon was a longbow given to her by Chief Fyrsil. Interestingly, she proved to be quite adept at shooting the weapon. Glenna still wore her invisible cloak over her Habits of the Moonlit Battlemaiden. Also, Glenna still possessed all of her enchanted rings, her Bracers of Shielding on her primary arms and her Bracers of Giant Strength on her secondary arms. In her secondary hands, she wielded her sword Moonfire and her maul Selines Justice. That left her primary hands to tend to the babies and swap them out between herself, Hlina, and Orsa so that they might suckle on her enormously milk-engorged breasts as soon as they cried. She even wrapped a second sling around her chest so that she could nurse two at once.
Orsa, Tampa, Coella, Shahad, and Hlina were all very considerate, giving Huxian some time with me. Huxian was not abashed in taking them up on their generosity. As we walked she snuggled in close so that her broad hip pressed against mine while her breasts were squished against my shoulder and arm.
"Husband," Huxian whispered tentatively as if trying the word out for the very first time, and indeed she was, she usually called me her mate. However, Glenna had taken all of the women aside and explained that I was their husband, "Have you noticed that our children are different from normal vulpes-alfari?"
"They are?" I replied, also in a whisper.
"Yes," Huxian said as she nodded, "They are more alfari. All foxes are born with fur. Most animalae-alfari are."
"Coella isn ," I pointed out, "She has no fur on her body. Only her arms, legs, tail, and ears."
"Rabbits and hares excluded," Huxian amended, "And, a few other species. They are very often born with minimal fur."
"Is there a problem with our children not having fur?" I asked.
Huxian nodded, "There is. An animalae-alfari being born hairless is not common. However, every animalae-alfari species can have occasional anomalies. These anomalies are seen as birth defects among animal society as a whole, and the children born with these birth defects are kept from breeding."
"Have there ever been children born that look more animal than alfari," I asked?
"Yes," Huxian answered as a chill ran down her spine, "They are branded monsters or abominations, and are killed soon after birth. In both cases, the parents of such anomalies are watched to see if they have any more anomalous births. If they do, then they are sterilized."
e worried for our children?" I asked.
"The customs will change," I promised as I squeezed her hand in reassurance, "Our children are not like the anomalies. They are from the union of an alfar and a vulpes-alfari. This changes matters."
"Yes," Huxian agreed, "It makes it even more dangerous for all of us."
"True," I admitted and fell quiet as I thought over the problem. Huxian wasn the only one that had expressed concern over the fact that I was able to breed with animalae-alfari.
Distracted as I was by my thoughts, I didn register that the Forest had fallen completely still. Not until a small tungl-fa
hyn flew down out of a nearby tree and alighted on my shoulder while a second fa
hyn flittered about in front of Glenna.
"Everyone stop!" Glenna hissed loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to be heard very far away.
Huxian gasped when she saw the little fa
hyn on my shoulder.
hyn!" Huxian whispered.
"A tungl fa
hyn," Glenna corrected as she and Hlina turned back to Huxian and me, "Moon spirits!"
"Theres a difference?" Huxian asked.
"There is," Glenna replied.
The two diminutive heterocera-alfari stood no taller than two inches tall. They both had bright rusty-orange wings with a bit of red on the forewings and large black dots on the hindwings. The one now resting on Glennas shoulder was male while the one resting on my shoulder was female. Both of their bodies were the same rusty orange as their wings. However, where the males body seemed to be covered in a soft fur that covered his insect abdomen, the females body was completely smooth except for her insect abdomen.
Both of them had two arms and four legs, though I watched in amazement as their four legs combined to appear much more humanoid. Like Shahad, these two fa
hyns arms and legs appeared very humanoid from hips to knees and shoulders to elbows, but from that point on their legs and arms were completely insectoid.
I wondered idly if I could transform into one of these tiny creatures but then was struck by a very peculiar problem. In order to transform into one of them I would have to mate with a female, but at my current size that was impossible. It was a problem for another day.
When the two fa
hyn started to communicate, at first, it sounded like hissing scratching sounds or the whisper of two pieces of paper being rubbed against each other. As they continued I started to hear a faint melody in the scratching hisses and was amazed.
"They say that there are many, many people ahead of us," Glenna whispered.
"How many," Orsa asked, having stopped at Glennas command and approached in order to hear why.
Glenna asked in a soft hissing whisper. The two fa
hyns responded and Glenna translated, "They don understand the concept of numbers. They just know that the people ahead are very, very many."
Right at that moment, Coella came back from her scouting. When her one pink eye met my eyes I could see her concern.
"There are about a thousand svartalf just ahead of us," Coella announced as she approached.
"A thousand!" Orsa gasped.
"That is too many," Tampa said, her tone more than a little worried, "And, we have cubs."
"Maybe we should retreat to Earthmothers Den," Orsa offered, "Surely we are mightier among the numbers of my tribe."
"Truly, this party seems a bit small to be the danger to the Valelands Seline warned me about," Glenna mused as she rested her chin in her hand, and one finger played with her bottom lip as she thought.
"It could be a flanking party of a much greater force," I offered.
"Yes," Glenna agreed after a minute of thought, "Yes, I could see them doing just that. Either way, Seline quested us to stop them and let them take us captive back to their homeland. So, that is what we shall do. Retreating to Earthmothers Den would only put more people in harms way. Let us approach this army of svartalf and see if we can parley."
Everyone nodded and we resumed our course. Glenna thanked the two little fa
hyn and the male flew away. The little female stayed though. When Glenna asked why the tiny creature simply stated, "Mate."
Glenna chuckled and then asked why, to which the fa
hyn replied, "Smells good."
All the women chuckled then and nodded, leaving me to feel more than a little embarrassed until Huxian leaned in and whispered, "Shes right, you do smell good."
Once we resumed our journey, this time with Glenna and I leading the way while the rest trailed several yards behind. At a gesture, and a suggestion from Glenna, the little fa
hyn flew from my shoulder and landed on Shahads where the two of them conversed. We were near Golden Tear and Shahads old hive when we overtook the svartalf army. Or rather, I should say, they overtook us.
The forest was silent. Nothing stirred, and then, suddenly, a thousand svartalf stepped out from behind the trees, weapons in hand. Their numbers disappeared into the horizon of trees and earth. Upon seeing them I noticed that only half were male while the other half were female.
"Priestesses of Arachne," Glenna whispered as she turned back and forth, her hooves stamping the ground and her tail whipping in agitation.
Handing the two slings, each with a babe which had been suckling only moments before to Huxian, Glenna prepared herself as she summoned two great shields of white moonlight from her Bracers of Shielding on her primary forearms, and then she hefted her sword and maul in her secondary hands. Bartlett hefted his great axe and Maha held her staff out in front of her like a quarterstaff. Coella bounced on her toes and flourished her long knives. Hlinas bow was in her hands with an arrow knocked and half drawn before anyone noticed. Usagi and Tsukino hefted their spears, and Orsa, Huxian, and Tampa stood inside the meager circle of protection we made around them and prepared themselves while holding the infants protectively.
"Okay, here we go," I mumbled before stepping forward. Raising my hands and arms, now armored with the Claws of the King, I called out loudly, "parley! We seek to parley with the leader of this group!"
"Why would we desire to parley with a surface alf out with his harem of slave girls," Wergthal sneered, "when we can simply kill you, or take you as a slave yourself? You and you slave girls!"
"Beware, Wergthal Phorl," Gruda Opallain whispered at his side, "I sense that both that villralfar male and his female companions are very powerful. The woman that appears to be a succubus is a priestess, possibly even an avatar of her goddess. The other female too. Also, the male himself is blessed by a goddess. I…" Gruda paused and swallowed as she tried to process what she was feeling before continuing, "…find him to be attractive beyond reasoning. I find myself… desiring…"
"Enough," Wergthal hissed as he stared hatefully at me and growled, "You have the honor of being spoils of our raid on the surface world." Then he shouted, "For House Faline! For Matron Forelain Faline!"
With a roar, Wergthal raised his arm, sword in hand, and signaled his men. There was a loud "thrap" as a hundred crossbows fired, and then, almost simultaneously, came a sound like a huge bell tolling as one hundred bolts thunked into Glennas magic moonlight shield wall before falling to the ground. Suddenly, both groups saw tall white shields fitted tightly together two shields in height encircling our entire party. Then, everything was happening at once. I started transforming into my deadly hybrid-bee-form that was so effective in dispatching so many of the army of the undead. Glenna turned to me with worry on her expression.
"I used up all of the life-force you gave me yesterday healing Maha," She whimpered, "I can not use any spells without sacrificing my life-essence or the child in my belly!"
"You may not be able to do something about this, but I can," Hlina growled as she raised her hand toward Wergthal!
Tree roots suddenly shot out of the ground and snared Wergthal. Hlina turned in a quick circle as more crossbow bolts thudded against the moonlight shieldwall and she raised both hands this time. Roots swiftly wrapped around feet, legs, body, and arms of every svartalf warrior, all the way up to their shoulders before starting to squeeze the life out of them and drag them down. The earth opened up like a many mouthed monster and screams rang out through the forest as they were swallowed all the way to their necks.
The svartalf priestesses started chanting spells, some for offense, some to try and disrupt the magic shields surrounding our group, others spells were to free their warriors. Then there was a thunderous shout, "Halt! Halt! Halt!"
I wasn even halfway through my own transformation; everything had happened so quickly. I let go of the magic and reverted back to my alfari-form. Quebracho chuckled quietly right behind my shoulder as she moved the vines making up my Barkskin Armor so that it felt like she was wrapping her arms around my chest. I sent her a mental caress and she responded by whispering, "Don worry, I got you."
There was a short silence as we all watched the procession move through and around the svartalf army ranks before Quebracho purred, "I wonder how long it will be before you are mixed up in another marriage sex orgy?"
"Mmm, hopefully not for a while," I thought back to her, "I have my hands full with what I have so far."
"Even a little fa
hyn," Quebracho chuckled, "How do you plan to breed her, I wonder?"
"One problem at a time," I mentally hissed at her.
She chuckled sensually then retreated and watched.
"Please!" The foremost svartalf priestess begged as she suddenly threw herself to the ground in front of us, "Please do not kill Wergthal. Please! He… He is… my husband!"
There was a sound of confirmation as many other priestesses nodded their heads, collapsed to prostrate themselves before Glenna and Hlina, and begged for their mens lives.
"Yes," A young proud looking svartalf male said from the head of the procession.
He led an older looking, middle aged by her appearance, very pregnant, svartalf female on his arm. As he brought his harem to a halt he looked over us in an intellegent, measured stare before he finally said, "Please, if you would be so kind, release my men, and then, we may parley as you requested before."
Beside the newcomer svartalf male, on the opposite side from the pregnant woman that I was beginning to assume was his mother, was another even more stunningly beautiful svartalf female. She was easily the same age as me, Hlina, and the svartalf male standing across from me. She had ebony skin, there was an ornamental veil covering her eyes, and her long curly hair was a fiery red that was not natural to the svartalf people that were present before me. Unlike the pregnant woman, this fiery redhead was very buxom, exotically slim in the waist though thick only in comparison to her companion svartalf females, and she abounded in thickly sensual curves in hips, buttocks, and thighs.
Pulling my eyes from the woman I noticed the rest of the entourage. Two more slim svartal females, and all of them priestesses.
"Be cautious," Glenna whispered, "The redhead is dressed in the Habits of the Spider Goddess, but she is not one of them. She is something else. Something new."
I nodded that I understood.
Following the svartalf male and his harem was also a group of nine guardswomen dressed in maids uniforms.
"Release them, Hlina," I said as my eyes came back to the male that was so obviously in charge.
Hlina complied and raised her hands up into the air and the earth listened to her, pushing the svartalf male and female warriors out of the soil only to collapse to the ground. Gruda along with four hundred and fifty other priestesses rushed to their fallen men and quickly cast spells of healing upon them.
"What is your name?" I asked the male svartalf.
The swarthy young svartalf smiled disarmingly as he answered, "My name is Sinaan Abendroth of House Abendroth, and this is my wife, Matron Forelain Faline." He continued as he gestured to the very pregnant woman on his arm then went about introducing the other three starting with the redhead, "This is Sulabha Abendroth, and RaShaal Abendroth, and Fjallindae Abendroth."
"Well met," I replied with a nod of my head to Sinaan and his three companions before starting my own introductions, "I am Viridian Vale, heir to the Valelands, and Champion of the goddesses Seline and Gaia."
Gesturing to Glenna I continued, "Let me present my wife and mother, Glen
athel Moonlilly, Oracle of Seline."
Turning slightly to gesture to Hlina, I continued, "And, this is my wife…"
Hlinas mouth fell open and she stared openly at me as I explained, "A gift from Gaia herself as a reward for saving her Oracle, Hlina Alvasdottir."
Finished introducing my alfari wives, I continued, and though I doubted that the svartalf would care, I wanted to honor my animalae-alfari wives as well, "And finally, acting as my honor guard are my… concubines… Huxian the Vixen, Coella the Hare, Queen Shahad of Golden Tear, Orsa the Bear, and Tampa the Bos aurine. Additionally, we are accompanied by Tampas parents Bartlett and Maha Longhorn."
"Well met," Sinaan greeted with a gracious nod to myself and the others. To Glenna and Hlina however, he as well as all of the priestesses bowed and curtsied respectfully recognizing that Glenna and Hlina were direct representatives of their goddesses if not avatars and very powerful indeed.
"So, Viridian Vale of the Valeland, since you are from the territory in which we have been sent to raze and pillage, I assume you wish to parley for the lives of you and your peoples," Sinaan stated matter of factly.
"I do," I replied with a nod, "To our mutual benefit, but also, I am here to negotiate for the lives of the svartalf people as well."
Sinaans eyes widened in surprise and his expression was more than a little arrogant as he responded, "That seems… a bit… presumptuous."
"The Moon Goddess," Glenna spoke up suddenly for the first time, stepping forward as she addressed the Matron, "Sent messengers with visions and dreams, and under the full moons light anointed me and changed me into her Oracle. Then she commissioned me, her Oracle, and Viridian, her Champion, to stop the svartalf attack on the Valelands."
Glennas eyes never wavered from Forelains as she continued in a soft whisper, "Matron Forelain of House Faline, you more than any other priestess should understand the significance of a goddess begotten quest, and ours is nothing less than to search for the Oracle of Arachne and investigate the church for those that would subvert the will of the gods!"
Forelain found herself taken aback by Glennas words, but more than that, she found her heart being drawn to the pair, Oracle and Champion alike. However, the Champion clouded her thoughts with nothing but base, animalistic desire. Shaking her head to clear the fog she tried to focus on the woman, Glen
The Champion was wedded to not only one avatar of a goddess but two. This was not a chance meeting to be taken lightly. Forelain took a moment and examined the whole party before her once again, Viridian Vale, his two wives blessed with the honor of being avatars of their goddesses, and then she surveyed the Champions animal companions. Finally, she saw the slings slung over several of the female animals shoulders and recognized them for what they were. Uncoiling her hand from her young husbands arm, Forelain signed.
Sinaan watched, and then gave voice to his Matrons command, "Matron Forelain Faline suggests that we retire to our camp so that we may parley under better conditions. The Champion and Oracles of the goddesses Seline and Gaia are not to me molested in any way, nor their property namely their animals."
Wergthal, chagrined at his utter humiliation, snapped a salute towards Matron Forelain and started giving quick commands to his warriors. The svartalf army started to disappear into the forest and before Wergthal and Gruda left, he gave me and Hlina a murderous glare.
Coella led the way again, but this time we were all in a tight group with svartalf soldiers set as a ring of guards around us. The trek northeast was not far before we were led into a small but bustling army camp. There were nearly a hundred crafters and traders going about their work, and each trader or crafter had at least one or more slaves, all of them animals. The majority of the animals were svyndahl, but some of the wealthier traders owned orcs, several different types of canines, cats, and mice.
One thing that was noteworthy was that all of the crafters and traders were women. Another thing was that there was also a large roped off area and within was a small number of dokkalfar and half-dokkalfar women chained to pegs driven into the ground. There were also a few orcs, mostly females, and a few wolves also all female except for the children.
It was just as they were passing by the captives when Hlina saw the female wolves and gasped in horror, "Oh, no! Chenoa!"
Suddenly, Hlina was rushing away, pushing her way through the svartalf guard, leaping over the rope line, and running towards a silver furred she-wolf. The scartalf guards gasped in shock at the sudden outburst and cursed as Hlina rushed past them. Several raised their weapons and turned in pursuit but Sinaan and his lady Matron Forelain and entourage had traveled nearby so as to make conversation during the hike back to their camp, and so, it was a raised hand from Sinaan that halted the guards.
Sinaan gave me a curious, questioning look to which I responded with a I don know whats going on either expression as I shrugged my shoulders. Turning to Glenna and the others I said, "Stay here, everything will be fine."
Glenna nodded, and then I left and carefully pushed through the Svartalf guards. Once through I made my way to rope lines fencing in the dokkalfar and animal captives. I lifted the rope and knelt to slip beneath it. From there I walked over to Hlina who was hugging and being hugged by the she-wolf and a group of six other adult she-wolves. They all wept and they all tried to talk as one as they shared their stories. As I approached an older she-wolf, thick and broad with age but no less attractive in her blue fur, turned to regard me and shushed the females about her. The old she-wolf regarded me from bright intelligent golden eyes for a long minute before Hlina came out from the group of she-wolves, her hand clasped with Chenoas.
"Thank you, Prime," The old she-wolf said as she gestured toward Hlina.
"For what," I asked.
"For freeing this one from the curse of the darkness that took her and our men that went with her," The old she-wolf answered.
"It was my honor and quest given to me by Gaia herself," I replied, then looking at Hlina I asked, "Hlina, who is this female to you that you almost brought violence upon you and the rest of us?"
Though I was looking at my mother, I didn see her as such in this new dokkalfar woman before me. I knew she was my mother, but at the same time she was just a woman. My woman, and a young girl that had just foolishly put everyones lives at risk. And I wanted to know why!
"Daniel…" Hlina started to say as she gestured towards the silver she-wolf, "This is Chenoa…"
Raising a hand I interrupted with a hiss, "Hlina! Mother! Do not call me that! Daniel Reas is dead. Helena Reas is dead. I am Viridian Vale, and you are Hlina Reas Avasdottir... and besides, that is information we should keep secret!"
Hlinas eyes widened in shock, she shook her head in denial what she had done, and then deflated as she said, "Yes, of course, Im sorry. I wasn thinking."
Looking at Chenoa I held out my hand as I greeted her, "Hello Chenoa, I am Viridian Vale. It is an honor to meet you."
Looking back to Hlina I asked again, "So, who is she to you?"
"She is… was… my sister-wive," Hlina answered. Rocking back on my heels in shock Hlina continued quickly, "We haven had time to talk about my past. In a nutshell my father tried to kill me as a toddler. My mother killed him and then we lived in the mountains for years as exiles in hiding. My mother was out alone bathing when men from our village found Alvas. They raped, and then killed her. Later that night I tracked them down and killed them. After that, I lived by myself until I couldn take the loneliness anymore, then I left my cave and searched for others until I found the Howling Forde Lupus Den. Wanageeska and Espowyes caught me spying on them. Espowyes took me as his captive and then as his wife. Later, he won Chenoas heart and hand as a mate."
"What happened," I asked as my head reeled, for so many reasons, from Hlinas story.
Hlinas shoulders seemed to slump even further as she recounted the last days she was with her clan, "I was contacted and anointed by Gaia, but even before that I was receiving dreams. Dark and terrible dreams…"
"She came to us, the elder she-wolves, for advise about her dreams," The old blue she-wolf interjected, "We advised her to follow her dreams and confront the darkness. We couldn know that it would be the doom of us all in her doing so."
Hlina nodded as she continued, "Wanageeska, Espowyes, Enyeto, and Ahote accompanied me on my quest to confront the darkness lurking in my dreams. We found its cave. Wanageeska, Espowyes, Enyeto, and Ahote went into the cave first to scout it out and never came back. After a while I went in too. I don remember anything after that except blurry nightmares."
"The four dark guardians that protected you," I mumbled as the fight just the day before played in my memory. As the fog of remembrance lifted I looked at Hlina and Chenoa and apologized, "I am so sorry for your loss. It was I that killed Wanageeska, Espowyes, Enyeto, and Ahote the same day that I saved you, Hlina, from that dark entity that diseased and enslaved you."
Several of the other she-wolves collapse to the ground with infant children in their arms and cried the mournful wails of grief for the dead. Chenoa also sniffled and turned to Hlina and wept. It was the old blue she-wolf that spoke up, "Thank you, Prime, for freeing our men from the clutches of the evil that ensnared them. In fact the were dead long before you put them to rest. It is good to know though that they have found rest now."
With that the old she-wolf turned back to the remnant of her tribe and tried to comfort them as she could.
"Come, Hlina," I beckoned with a wave of my hand as I looked back at the Glenna and then at Sinaan and Matron Forelain, "We still must parley with our enemy… if we can."
"Daniel…" Hlina started, still clutching Chenoa as if she intended to never let her go, "I mean… Virdy. Please, we can leave Chenoa here! Like this. With them. A captive!"
I sighed. I could see the pain in Hlinas eyes. In truth, I felt it too. I hated what I was seeing. I ached to change this world, but there was only so much I could do, and what I needed to do had to be done in order. I thought of the forefathers of the United States of America. All those men that had a part in writing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Many of them were slave owners. They hated it. They wanted to free those men and women from their enslavement, but alas they were also bound by their own current laws. They couldn bind the colonies together and take on such a divisive issue, and so they did the best they could to leave a way open so that the issue could be addressed later after the nation was united. At least, that was my thinking on the subject. And now, here I am, wanting to right the wrongs I see in front of me, but knowing that if I do I may completely destroy any hope of uniting the Kingdoms of Annwyn, Folkvangr, and Thrudheim into one united nation capable of opposing the Council of Five.
Staring into Hlinas dark brown eyes, I took a step forward and gently but firmly removed Hlinas hands from Chenoas. Her eyes widened in shock, horror, disappointment, and it stung me to my heart. Leaning in I whispered, "There is nothing I can do right now, but I promised I will address this with Sinaan and Matron Forelain. I will free them all if I can. I will try to free Chenoa at the least. But, you must come with me now!"
Finally, Hlina looked past me towards the audience that was watching us. She looked back to me, and then her expression softened as she said, "Okay. Fine. Thank you, Daniel."
I shared another meaningful stare with her, and then I nodded. I took her hand, and we returned to our group within the ring of svartalf guards. Hlinas hand was a vice gripping my hand. Sinaan looked curiously at the captured dokkalfar and animals for a moment longer, and then after a squeeze of her arm from Matron Forlain he continued the procession to a large tent. The tent was the largest in camp but still it was not large enough for Sinaan and Matron Forelain, her honor guard and all of my party as well. In the end we all gathered just outside the tent.
A chair was pulled out for the very pregnant Matron Forelain to sit in. Sinaan stood at her side. Opposite her, another chair was presented for me to sit in. Instead, I offered it to Glenna, and then asked for another chair for Hlina, the two Oracles of Seline and Gaia, and then I stood between them. With a slight bow to Forelain I explained, "Glen
athel Moonlilly, Oracle of Seline, wife of Summerset and Viridian Vale, will negotiate in our behalf."
Matron Forelain made a quick hand gesture and Sinaan interpreted, "Matron Forelain, High Seat of House Faline, eighth House of Idavollr and in line to the Governorship of Annwyn, sixteenth House of Svartalfheim and in line to the throne, bids you welcome to our war camp, Glen
athel Moonlilly, Oracle of Seline, and to you Hlina Alvasdottir, Oracle of Gaia."
"Thank you for the invitation to join you in your camp," Glenna returned in a honeyed yet very neutral and diplomatic voice, "and thank you again for agreeing to parley with us."
Forelain nodded her head accepting our thanks, then she signed and Sinaan translated, "I must be blunt. I do not see a road around the impasse, not even a small trail. It was given to us by our Queen and our High Priestess as a holy duty to plunder and raze Valeheim. This order is indisputable, from the goddess Arachne herself. However, now, you come before me, the living embodiments of two goddesses, and say that our mission is a fraud! What am I to believe?"
Hlina had no idea what was transpiring, so she reclined back in her chair and watched Glenna. The moonlight white womans overly bountiful breasts bounced and jiggled on full display for everyone, and yet, it didn perturb her in the least. Of course, Hlinas breasts, in fact most of her body was fully naked. She wasn uneasy exactly, but then, she didn have so many penetrating eyes staring at her like Glenna did. How the woman summoned such confidence with her breasts and sexual parts on full display Hlina didn know.
Glenna pursed her lips as she thought over Matron Forelains words, then she responded, "You should believe us. Think about it. How many hands have your orders passed through? Whos to say the orders you received are in fact the orders given by Arachne? However, in front of you now are the Oracles, the living embodiments of Seline and Gaia."
Forelain appeared to contemplate Glenna words, and then she responded, "Okay, should I accept the circumstances of this meeting and believe you are who you say you are, what is it you desire to accomplish here and where is the benefit to us?"
"You should believe us," Glenna replied, firmly confident, "For, if you do not believe us then the next personages you must contend with will be two wrathful goddesses. As for advantage or profit, all I can offer you and the other Svartalf military force is your lives. As you saw earlier by Hlinas display of earth magic, we are very capable of defending ourselves and destroying your army if we wished to. But, that is not what we want nor why we were sent to intercept you."
"Threats are never a good way to begin negotiations," Forelain signed in lightning fast hand movements illustrating her anger though her face remained calm.
Glenna nodded, acknowledging the truth of Forelains statement before she replied, "Agreed, though I did not mean my last statement as a threat, I understand your feelings. However, your entire military force is a threat to me and my people. You come to our lands seeking hostilities, therefore I speak of our ability to defend ourselves, our land, and our property not as a threat but as a statement of fact. We will defend ourselves."
Forelain sat there across from us with one hand idly rubbing her belly as she mulled over Glennas words. The silence stretched out uncomfortably until finally she signed, "You are confident in your power just as we are confident in our numbers and skill. However, pursuing hostilities will only move us toward a conclusion that is costly and final. I am more interested in what you alluded to earlier. The missing Oracle of Arachne, and this investigation into the church for a subversive element? Tell me more about this."
Glenna nodded and then began to explain everything she knew which wasn much. That there was a subversive element within the temples, of not only those that worship Seline, but within all of the temples of all of the gods, and at the highest levels, and that Glenna was tasked with finding these groups and proving their subversion. However, her first step in the investigation was to stop the svartalf army from attacking the Valelands. From there, she was to allow herself to be taken back to the home of the svartalf army so that she may find the Oracle of Arachne.
"So the Oracle of Arachne is in Idavollr," Sinaan intoned in response to Forelain signing.
"Of that, I am not certain," Glenna replied with a shake of her head, "I was only directed to start in Idavollr."
The area fell silent as everyone absorbed the implications of Glennas words. Finally, after what felt like an excruciatingly long silence Forelain began to waggle her fingers in response.
"I will lend my support to your cause, meager though it might be," Sinaan translated, "Truly, my support may prove to be a hindrance as betrayal from within my own house has led to rebellion against the general of this army that comes against you."
Forelain paused in her signing to allow for a response. It was in this silence that Sinaan added, "The general is my elder sister Aalyn Abendroth. She is a good soldier, and yet, she is no fool. If we aid you, the greatest obstacle will be keeping Aalyn from attacking all of us before we are able to explain the circumstances of the mutiny. Then, there is convincing Aalyn that the grand campaign we were sent on was a lie… a subversion of the will of the goddess. Im afraid the latter will be even harder than the former."
I nodded, accepting the reality of the challenge before us. Turning my head to look at Hlina she looked like she had no idea what was going on. Swiveling my head, I turned to Glenna who was nodding her understanding of the circumstances. I had left negotiations to Glenna, so I remained silent and waited patiently for her response.
"Time and unforeseen events befall us all," Glenna replied stoically, "The measure of our character is not by the adversities we overcome, but rather, in how we overcome them."
"Well said," Forelain signed and was translated by Sinaan. Then, Forelain sighed and continued. Sinaan interpreted, "Unfortunately, my House armsmen have taken wives for themselves from the priestesses of Arachne, from the camp followers, and most unfortunately I think some are defeated arms-women from other Houses. That being the case, I am loath to having them march against Aalyn."
"What do you intend to do then," Glenna asked?
Forelains expression firmed before she answered, "I will be sending my armsmen back to Idavollr directly. I was too late to stop the mutiny. All of my armsmen will be wanted. I can not let them die for my sons arrogant stupidity. Given the circumstances, if I confront Aalyn with a military force at my back, she will attack. Better that we approach her as a delegation."
Glenna nodded but Hlina hissed in dismay and this reminded everyone of her earlier dismay at seeing the captives. Especially the wolves. Glenna examined Hlina for a long silent moment and then she turned back to Forelain and asked, "What is to happen to the captives?"
Forelain contemplated Glenna, then Hlina, then she regarded me. Her expression was unreadable. Likely, she saw our interest, but more surprising to her was our concern. Primes were not supposed to be concerned about mere animals. They were livestock, domestic or wild, but nothing more. Forelain wasn surprised though, at least, that is, she didn express any of she was. Hlinas spectacle upon seeing Chenoa had no doubt prepared Forelain and had her wondering when the topic of the captive animals was going to come up. Now it was here.
"Do… to recent events within my house," Forelain began cautiously, "The captives will be taken with us. Be at ease, they will be well cared for."
"No!" Hlina shrieked.
"What of the dokkalfar? Surely you don mean to…" Glenna asked in surprise.
"Yes," Forelain signed in a quick angry gesture while glaring directly at Hlina before swiveling her head to take in Glenna too, "I do mean to."
"Then," Glenna replied, her expression grim, "We require reparations. We were the first to request parley. Your armsmen attacked. We could have dispatched your entire army, but we did not. Partly it was because of your timely arrival and asking to parley, but more importantly it was because we do not want war. We want peace and prosperity for both our peoples. Therefore, as restitution for your attack we ask for the canis-alfari Chenoa and her offspring."
Forelains expression was at first shocked, and then it changed to indignation, and by the end of Glennas request she was smoldering contemplation. She turned hard glares towards me, and then finally settled on Hlina before she responded, "This thing you request is a hard thing to do. It threatens our peace and cooperation, and still you would insist upon this… reparation?"
Hlinas glare was as hot as Forelains, but it was Glenna that responded, "Yes. It shouldn be so controversial. It is only an animal after all."
"Why," Sinaan asked in response to Forelains hand gestures, "Help me understand before I make my decision. Why would you jeopardize peace and alliance for an… animal?"
"Because she is my family!" Hlina sputtered heatedly, "I grew up separated from my people. I was alone. Chenoa. The Howling Forde Lupus Pack. Those animals! Took me in. They sheltered me. They gave me a family when I had none!"
Forelains eyes were wide open. Obviously she wasn used to being spoken to so adamantly. She didn respond immediately. She searched Hlinas eyes and face, and then she examined me and Glenna. I was beginning to think the worst. That this parley was going to dissolve into conflict. I took the moment to search Forelains eyes and expression, then I looked to Sinaan, to Sulabha, RaShaal, and Fjallindae. They all looked stoic. Resigned to whatever their Matrons decision was going to be.
"Be ready," I sent mentally to Quebracho.
My fingers dug into Glenna and Hlinas shoulders, and I could feel them tense. I hoped they understood what I was trying to convey.
Looking within, I fell inward into my inner world. Darkness greeted me. Three massive globes of power hug above me illuminating my world. My Wells of Spirit, Power, and Soul. One glowed red, one blue, and one green. Above them was the earth and moon. The earth slowly spinning on its tilted axis, and around the earth orbited the moon. That was new. The last time I visited the earth and moon were side by side. More like a standard player character sheet. My power was growing with every wife and concubine I… acquired. And, as my power grew my inner world changed and refined.
Below my Wells stood three lecterns, each with an open tome on top of it. I turned toward the last lectern, the one furthest most to my right, and approached. It was already open to the last page, the last form, I was going to change into. Apidae-alfari. Shahads hybrid-bee-form. I placed my hand on the page. It was the form that I had dispatched so many of the walking dead just the day before. It was a very powerful form. Then, I began slowly turning the pages back toward the front of the book.
It was not in alphabetical order. The pages were being filled in order of acquisition. I looked at the pictures of my wives and concubines. Shahad. Glenna. Leandra. Burza. Sequoia.
Beside Sequoia was a new figure, a new representation, and I knew her instantly. Quebracho. I traced my fingers across Quebrachos face and then Sequoias. I knew I could transform into my hybrid-bee-form and dispatch most of this svartalf force before they knew what happened, but that wasn what I was here to do. We were here to make peace, if possible, not war.
Turning back the other way through the book, I searched for Hlinas page. Hope swelled in my heart. I had received a blessed form from Seline for consummating that Glenna was my wife. Maybe, just maybe Gaia had given me a blessed form too, and hopefully it would be helpful in this conflict!
I found the page and there she was, my mother! Long strawberry-blonde hair. Piercing blue eyes. The face I had grown up looking into and loving. A full-lipped, open mouth smile. Hugely buxom breasts. A slim waist. Broad, well rounded hips, and a curvaceous bottom. And long shapely legs. She was dressed in her work uniform. What I had seen her most often in. Tired but smiling and usually found in the kitchen preparing dinner for the both of us.
Below mom and to the left was another drawing of her now, as she was in this world. Tall and willowy. Dark earthy brown skin. Voluminously bountiful curly black hair that fell to her ankles. Long pointed ears that hung out over her shoulders almost like long straight horns. Moms face was almost exactly the same, just with a slightly broader nose and a wide, overly plump mouth. Her shoulders were slim, her chest small, her breasts barely handfuls. Her waist was long and elegant until her curves swept out to incredibly broad hip-flares, then hips before swooping back in at her legs. Even the picture couldn hide the fact that her buttocks were as large and shapely as her hips and her legs were long and thick and beautiful.
On the opposite side of the page, the right side was me. I looked exactly the same as I usually do but my skin was a dark earthy brown and my hair was bleached out to an almost white golden wheat color. There was no information other than the pictures.
Moving quickly to the second lectern, I turned the pages of the Tome of Statistics and Abilities. I found the page I was looking for and read, then I was running back to the lectern holding the Tome of the Moonbeast. I chose the form I wanted.
My hair and skin started to change, myskin growing darker. To a dark earthy brown and my hair grew lighter. Fading out to a platinum white with a sheen of golden wheat to it. But, just as my transformation began, once again, Sinaan spoke up. This time speeding for Forelain.
"I have decided," Forelain began as she stood up and dipped in a low curtsy for both Glenna and Hlina. Using one hand off to her side where Sinaan could see, she continued, "that good will from the goddesses Seline and Gaia are of much higher value than a few mere slaves."
Rising from her curtsy, Forelain met Glenna and Hlinas eyes as she continued, "Therefore, I, Forelain, Matron of House Faline, offer tribute to the goddesses Gaia and Seline. Please accept these dokkalfar and animal captives."
For a second time I released my transformation, hopefully before anyone noticed. Looking around, my eyes met Sinaans. His pink eyes seemed to twinkle as he gave me a knowing smirk. My eyes widened in surprise, but then Glenna and Hlina both rose from their seats. Glenna smirked, but Hlina was smiling happily. Following Glennas cues, Hlina followed Glenna and they both took Forelains hands in thanks.
The accord was struck. Now, all we had to do was stop the main army!