Fate Turns On
“So what you’re saying is that we should let our enemies into our lands freely? Have you no sense in that thick skull of yours?”
“I said nothing of the sort. I only presented facts, and it is indeed a fact that if we continue to isolate ourselves in this manner, we will ultimately perish when the humans eventually find this place.”
In spear form, lazing on my stand, I listened to an intense debate unfurling between the representatives of the two major factions in the Council of Kirtvel. The topic at hand: the proposal to send a messenger to the Empire to open a line of communication, to arrange for peace talks and to attempt to negotiate some kind of cultural or technological exchange after nearly a century of isolation.
The two speakers were relatively young, likely in their early twenties. The one representing the progressives – those pushing to reopen communication with humanity – was an elf. His opponent, representing the conservatives, was a catkin. I never bothered to learn their names. I lazily wondered how long it would take before it would not be considered rude for me to walk out of this Council – politics bored me.
“And your brilliant solution is to therefore tell them exactly where we are, so that they can enslave us now rather than later?”
“I never said to tell them where we are – just that we should consider sending a messenger, to see the response and to adjust our plans accordingly, and, if necessary, lay the groundwork for future discussion.”
“And by sending them a messenger, we’d be willingly forfeiting the secrecy we’ve built and kept over the last century – you would have us go ahead and just show them that we are still here.”
“The humans are not fools! They know we are out here. They just don’t know where. By sending them a messenger, we wouldn’t be telling them anything they didn’t already know, in exchange for possibly opening a path to peace.”
“Do we not already have peace? The humans don’t know where we are. The humans don’t know how to find us. I see no reason why we should have to treat with them and disturb the peace that our forefathers fought to earn.”
“Because this peace will not last forever, you fool! The humans are constantly developing and researching, making new discoveries, developing new ways to wage war. Meanwhile, what of us? We have lived a life of base subsistence – and we have stagnated as a result. We are using the same hunting and farming techniques as our forebears who created this city. We have not made a single breakthrough in the field of science. Our military tactics are outdated. Our military equipment is outdated. When – not if, but when – the humans finally decide to come after us, we will be outmatched and outnumbered. We will be trampled underfoot by their armies. That is the inevitable future that awaits us if we continue to sequester ourself in our wooden fortresses. I am not saying that we must immediately become friendly with them, but if we do not at least demonstrate the goodwill of reaching out to them, naught but destruction awaits us.”
If my current form had hands, I would have clapped for the boy. It was a passionate speech, and more importantly, it was an accurate one. He had pointed out what Ely and I considered to be the most worrying thing about Kirtvel’s current situation. The people of Kirtvel lived in relative peace, enjoying self-sustainable lifestyles. Most of the people spent their days farming or lazing about. Very few people were interested in doing research of any kind, and even if they were, the lack of access to relevant resources meant that the level of research they could perform was woefully limited. If the situation went on as it was, the humans would rapidly outpace Kirtvel’s development, and it was only a matter of time before the town fell.
I had tuned out of the conversation to give the young elf my mental praise, and had missed most of the conservative’s response as a result. I now tuned back in to hear the tail end of his opponent’s (likely unreasonable) rebuttal.
“…In the first place, your worry about the humans destroying us is moot. There is nothing they can do in the face of Aethry’s power. As long as we have that spear, the humans can’t touch us.”
What an unpleasant sentence to come back to. A young boy of less than thirty, calling me without my title? How rude. In the back of the room, in the seat of the Council Head, Dyros’ eyes narrowed and he glared at the offender. The catkin did not seem to notice. Thankfully, I did not need to say anything – the elf boy grew indignant on my behalf.
“Show respect to Lady Aethry! She is our saviour and benefactor, and you would treat her as a simple weapon to be used?”
I silently thanked the progressive elf boy. It was good to know that some of the younger generation still knew how to show their elders the proper respect. Well, I could overlook this transgression. I was never a stickler for formalities, anyway, and it was just something said in the heat of the moment, after all. No doubt Dyros would give him a stern talking-to later.
And then the catkin boy decided to open his mouth again.
“I see no error in what I have said. Is she not a weapon? Are weapons not tools made to be used?”
Dyros slammed his fist on the table and stood up, his face overtaken by rage. But he was a step too slow. I was already in human form, clasping the boy’s neck in my fist, lifting him above the ground. His eyes widened as he took in the situation. One minute he was acting proud and insolent, the next he was suffocating. It was undoubtedly a confusing change. I sighed without relaxing my grip.
“You’re right. I am a weapon. I was made to be used by my master. It is my sole purpose and joy in life to be of use to my master.”
The boy’s face was pale, awash with fright. He struggled in vain against my vice grip. He turned to Dyros and shouted.
“Uncle! Order her to let me go! Hurry!”
Eh? He was Dyros’ nephew? Seriously? What a surprise. Well, not like it mattered. He had made one mistake that I was intent on correcting. I tightened my grip. He began to sputter, unable to breathe, let alone speak.
“Dyros cannot order me to do anything. You cannot order me to do anything. I serve but one Owner, and that Owner is not you, nor Dyros, nor Kirtvel. The only reason I have not left this country to its own devices is out of respect for my dear friend Kyrin. But my patience and tolerance are finite, and both are wearing thin. So I’d advise you to check your tongue before I decide that I no longer like this place, because trust me when I say that any obligation I had towards Kyrin has long been fulfilled.”
Without waiting for a response or a reaction, I lifted the boy and flung him at Dyros. Without looking at Dyros, I gave him an order.
“Discipline your nephew properly. I will not tolerate a second offense.”
Without looking back, I willed myself to return to my Owner’s side.
I came across Ely in the midst of a plowed field, wearing thick gloves and humming while she worked to plant a variety of seeds. Without looking up from her work, she greeted me.
“Welcome back, Eury. How was the Council?”
I sighed and hugged my sister from behind. She leaned her head back into my chest to look upwards at my face.
“Not very well, I see. You look angry.”
“Nothing to worry about. I just hate dealing with children.”
“You were a child, once.”
“I probably wasn’t as annoying as that brat, at least.”
“Eh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that…”
“Wait, seriously? Was I a bad child?”
“The worst. There was once when I bought you an ice cream cone during summer. You refused to eat it because it was half-melted. So I offered to bring you to the ice cream store two blocks away so you could eat it right away, but you complained that you were tired and didn’t want to walk. I ended up carrying you on piggyback to the shop, only for it to not have any flavours you wanted. We tried 4 stores this way before you were satisfied. Truly a bad child.”
“EH?! I did that?! Seriously?! I don’t remember that at all!”
“Well, of course you don’t remember,” Ely shot me a mischievous grin. “I just made it up.”
The two of us burst into laughter, sharing in a giggle. A feeling of warmth blossomed within me.
Sharing a laugh with my sister – I missed this more than anything when I was still carrying out my role as Empress. I never realised how much my sister truly meant to me, not until she went away. Not until I pushed her away. But thankfully, in this second life, I was able to meet her again. I was able to meet with her and make amends. And this time I would stay by her side, all the way to the end. There were plenty more shared laughs to be had in the future, and that thought made me giddy with joy.
My introspection was rudely interrupted by a feeling of discomfort. An alarm went off in my mind as a screen appeared in my mind’s eye, showing me an image – an intruder. Moreover, an intruder that was inside my barrier. I froze up. It was impossible. Only one other person had ever breached the interior of my barrier, and that was Ely. Who was this intruder?!
Ely noticed my shocked expression, and her face instantly turned serious.
“What is it, Eury? What’s wrong?”
“No, this is… it should be impossible. There shouldn’t be anyone else able to breach the barrier other than you, who have no magic…”
Ely’s eyes narrowed. She sat upright, the vestiges of her recent laughter gone. Her face assumed a serious expression.
“What does the intruder look like? Describe them to me.”
“Eh? Uh…” I focused on the intrusion, and pulled up a picture of the intruder in my mind’s eye. “Human, male. Probably about early or mid-twenties? Fair skin, red hair, and what looks like a butler… outfit… wait, you don’t mean-”
Ely didn’t wait for me to finish before breaking into a wide grin.
“They did it. They actually did it.”
I stared at Ely. It had taken a while to sink in, but the appearance of the intruder did match her description of one of her allies.
“Is there any way to confirm that it’s him, Ely?”
“His face. Is he stupidly handsome? Face of a ladykiller? Eyes that look sleepy but have a subtle sharpness?”
I focused on the intruder’s face again.
“Well, his face is handsome, that’s for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a perfect specimen of a pretty boy.”
“Yup, that’s definitely Glint. If he’s here, that means that something big’s happening in the Empire.”
Ely stood up and cast her gardening gloves to the floor. She brushed the soil off her clothes and reached out her hand to me.
“Can you bring me to him? The world’s going to change soon, and I want you to be with me when it does.”
Silently, I nodded and took Ely’s hand. I had no intention of ever letting go.