“I love you, little flower.” The King smiled, and vanished.
“I love you, little flower.” The King smiled, and vanished.
Rhae left Macil’s quarters to return to where the Niirai were staying. Still grinning widely at Macil’s cute nicknames for her, but her smile began to fade ever so slightly as she neared her destination. She was nervous again, very nervous, and by the time she reached their rooms, she was almost frowning.
She stepped through the door, and as the other elves sprung to their feet when they noticed her frown, it turned in to a modest smile, she was blushing again. The lot of the Niirai were very confused, and then she broke it to them.
The response of the Niirai was rather mute, especially where Que-Yu was concerned, while two of her companions did congratulate her. The others accepted it for what it was, as they doubted it would negatively affect their mission. She did not tell them weather or not she would come back to Xia with them, even though it was one of Que-Yu’s questions, to which she simply replied with ‘‘We haven’t decided yet.’’
Malvor and his father were playing at chess when Macil found them. Magor was sitting on a bunk, a scowl his face gazing down at the pieces on the checkered board. There were far more of his son’s pieces still remaining on the field than his own meagre forces. Upon the king’s arrival, he looked up.
”Oh hello brother, good of you to join us just in time to witness my defeat.” Malvor laughed at his parent’s words and took another piece, moving his rook into a position.
”Gah.” Magor moved the board aside with an expression of disgust. ”So? When do we move out?”
”I am unclear on that as of yet, we are too weakened to attack. But. I have another job for you.” Macil replied. ”I wish for you to escort Rhae and her companions home, and then guard her on the return journey.”
His brother frowned. ”Why by Olosse’s frost covered axe would she want to come back here? Her kind hate the cold.”
”…Because I intend to marry her.”
There was a brief silence.
”YES!” Magor shouted so loud that the Niirai heard a rumble far below them. ”About damn time too! Though you woo’ed her short enough, I’ll grant you.”
”You’re not surprised?” Macil was puzzled.
Father and son laughed. ”My king, you’ve been…quite taken with her ever since her arrival here.” said Malvor. Magor nodded. ”Aye, I’ll escort her. I owe her a debt besides. Malvor can keep an eye on things while I’m gone.”
Macil breathed a sigh of relief. Things would have gone very bad if this conversation had taken a different turn. ”Thank you. However, there is yet a slight problem."
His brother raised his bushy eyebrows. “Oh?”
“How deadly are the warmer lands?”
“All they say and more, but I know how to travel them.”|
Once again Macil breathed in relief. “That is most welcome news. I would not have you both perish.” He turned to go. “I will notify the council of this new…development.” His smile returned. The other two laughed.
“Go! By all means, with our good will.” Magor called after him, as the King left the room, searching once again for Rhae.
Rhae was in her room with one of her Niirai aides, she was sat on her bed as she had the aide run around and tend to her. Rhae had reacted to the revelation of Macil’s and her likeness for each other in a very typical way Niirai women behave at the early stages of a crush. She had the aide comb her hair, perfect her eyelashes, then she had a million questions for her about how she should behave, how she should speak, in what tone she should speak, and she had her correct a million other physical imperfections she herself would invent, where there was nothing wrong.
For what seemed the hundredth time, there was a knock on the door, from a large gloved hand. The King was outside, wearing his full regalia, armor, cloak and crown, and from his belt hung the warhammer he carried into battle. Four soldiers in white and blue stood behind him, bearing spears of grey with blue points.
Que-Yu opened the door, he peeked outside, and his eyes widened, his mouth gawked.
”Suilad, warrior of the south.” said Macil. This time he did not bow. ”I request that Rhae accompany me to gathering of the high council.”
‘‘I… uuhh… yeah, she’s… come in.’’ he babbled out nervously as the King showed up at their door with his full figure of authority and an escort. The door swung open, and Rhae, still sat on the bed while her aide was finishing up on her eyebrows, abruptly stood up as Macil stepped in. A hopeful look on her face as she admired his majesty in uniform.
“Would you be so kind as to accompany me to a meeting of my council? I think it best if you were present.” said the King, his face a mask that briefly flickered with emotion.
‘‘Of course.’’ she said as she approached him, ‘‘Is something wrong?’’
“Not at all. But if I am to wear the robe of a king, I must needs act like one. And in Helegeron, this means a show of strength.” He held out an arm, and smiled. “But not always.”
She replied with her own soft smile, and took him by the hand. Ready to accompany him.
The King led her down the sloping corridor and through a short myriad of tunnels with which Rhae was beginning to become accustomed, and into the enormous, hollowed out column with which the Sorni traveled up and down their massive mountain fortress. As they swung away along one of the platformers pulled by pulleys, Rhae could see several hundred elves gazing curiously at the strange woman whom they were beginning to hear about, and their King. As they passed a section of miners, a shout went up as they saw their King pass by. “Tera! Tera! Tera-Macil!” Macil saluted them, and then the platform moved on.
Instead of traveling all the way to the bottom of the vast hall below, the platform this time stopped several hundred feet above the floor, at the head of a walkway which led onto a thin bridge in between two of the mighty pillars which upheld the roof. Inside the second pillar was a circular staircase, that wound up briefly and then halted opened into a antechamber, with two large double doors at one end, with guards on either side. They saluted as their monarch arrived, and opened the doors.
Passing through, Rhae found herself in a long hall, stone pillars twice the height of a man running down either side. Torches were placed in brackets, but the main source of light was emanating from the end of the hall. Soldiers lined the sides of the room, and some twenty elves were discussing various matters in their rippling tongue in various groups around the hall.
The source of the light rapidly became clear, for drawing nearer to the end of the hall, Rhae spied a dais. Ten stone chairs faced the dais in a semicricle, with a divide through which five elves could walk abreast in the center. Elves old and young were waiting there, sitting quietly in their seats. On the dais, was a throne.
It was made from some strange metal, that while shimmered like steel was blue. It formed twists and patterns throughout the substance which coated it, which revealed itself to be ice, running in frozen rivulets off the seat of kingship. While beneath the blue-green coating could be seen remnants of a once more humble chair, it had been so thoroughly drenched in ice that it gave it an almost otherworldly hue, that reflected the light of the torches the entire length of the hall.
“Wait here for a moment.” murmured Macil before reaching the circle of chairs before the throne. Leaving her, he stepped through the gap and seated himself upon the throne, placing his warhammer across his knees.
“Suilad, Tera-Macil.” said one of the watching elves. It was Yaran. “It is long since we last spoke.”
“Too long.” replied Macil. “I will not dally with words. I intend to take a woman of the Niirai to wife.”
All the councilors aside from Yaran blinked. He looked both triumphant and extremely pleased with himself. “Who is this woman?” asked one of the elves.
“She is behind you. Her name is Rhae-Ming, and I will marry her.”
The councilors turned around to look, while Macil stood up from his seat and stepped off the dais, holding out a hand to Rhae.
As the entire council turned to eye her, her face flared with a blush. Struggling to summon up the courage to step forth, she began making slow gentle strides towards her beloved before the throne, slowly yet elegantly passing the lot of the councillors, too shy to turn her head or eyes to look at any of them. She came to Macil, and took him by the hand, she grinned, again feeling comfortable just by being near him.
Turning her around by the hand to face the council, Macil smiled at them. “So you see, you got your wish, all of you. Your King has found a Queen.”
Most of the councilors smiled. One of them, a grizzled warrior with a short beard and restless hands built for war, chuckled slightly. “That you have, Tera-Macil. Took you long enough, I will say. Been waiting for you to mention this for one and a half score years now.”
Macil breathed his final sigh of relief. “That is good to hear. Rhae must return to her own country, briefly, to conclude the task which she has been set. I am sending Magor with her, as an escort on her return journey. Tarvel, you’ll be taking his place with the cavalry for the time being.”
The warrior from before nodded approvingly. “Very good.”
Macil looked around the council, a smile on his face. “This war will not last for ever friends. Thank you for your time.” With a short bow, he led Rhae back out down the hall.
“That went better than I expected, I will grant you.” he said, stooping beneath the mantle of the door. “They took that easier than I had predicted.”
Rhae’s tension finally faded when they were alone again. She did not enjoy standing before crowds, no matter how large or small. ‘‘They had expected you to have been wed already. Is it normal for your people to marry young?’’ she asked.
“Always. The land is so violent that often a chieftain may marry at 17, his wife will bear a son, and then the chieftain falls in battle. The clan will only survive if they have a figure to rally behind. Considering that I am currently at war, my clan has been most anxious at my lack of a bride.”* Macil’s grim face beneath the black spikes of his crown eased into a wide smile. “For sometime I had thought I would have to marry without love, simply to ease their minds. I count myself extremely fortunate, considering the circumstances.”
‘‘Then i am glad i came along at the most opportune time of your life to ease your spirits, my king.’’ she winked.
As they descended the spiral staircase, Macil looked down at Rhae again. ”When do you wish to depart?” he asked. ”Your companions long for home, that is plain to see, but I do not know what your thoughts on the matter are.”
‘‘I want to get this over with, as soon as possible.’’ she told him, ‘‘But there is another matter, you see. Where i come from, it is custom for a daughter to seek her father’s blessing before she weds.’’