Reia and Fayde held each other for a time in silence. Neither of them wanted to disturb the temporary peace they had found in each other’s arms. They knew their time together would soon be interrupted.
Allein had returned after a while and quietly watched the two from the entrance to the tent.
I hadn’t intended to share him, but it seems events have swirled a bit out of my control. I will have to accept this, it’s fine. Once he becomes Khan, it will be expected for him to have multiple wives. This is just a small deviation.
Allein was deep in thought as she watched the two without approaching. Despite her logical train of thought, she was incapable of entirely suppressing her emotions. A bit of anger seeped into her heart as well as a hint of jealousy. This only confused her and she couldn’t bring herself to admit to these feelings.
Impossible, there is no way. She tried her best to shake those thoughts. Though she professed that Fayde belonged to her, she never intended to have actual feelings for him. She was a princess, and a child of the former King of all Demihumans, it didn’t matter that this was something from long ago. To her, it was still fresh in her mind and it still seemed as if it were just yesterday when she last spoke with her father.
He had left her with an important mission. There was no room for emotions. Yet, no matter how she tried, she continued to look at him, a Human. She was disgusted and yet, her heart fluttered.
All she could do was bear it in silence.
“So, I see the two of you have settled things?” Reia’s father entered his tent and saw his daughter embracing Fayde.
Normally, a father might feel uncomfortable seeing his own daughter embrace a man in front of him, but he felt no such way. He was truly happy for his daughter who he knew had always felt as if she didn’t belong anywhere in this world.
Reia and Fayde finally ended their embrace and they both looked somewhat embarrassed. The Chief chuckled at the sight and sat down across from them.
“Then would it be safe to say that the two of you have decided to become engaged?”
They both looked at each other for a brief moment, a bit of uncertainty in their eyes.
“Father, do we have your blessing?” Reia asked, her voice shaky.
“Hahaha, of course! Well, Fayde is a Human, but something like that has never bothered me! We will worry about those details later, hahaha.”
Reia appeared relieved at her father’s words and smiled. The Chief could only shake his head in wonder. He never thought that his daughter would ever find someone who could make her smile in such a way.
“Reia, my daughter. Now that the two of you are officially engaged, I can safely step down and let the two of you handle things.”
Both Reia and Fayde were surprised at his words. They weren’t expecting that the Chief would say this, but this had been his intention from the beginning. He was old, and no longer possessed the power he once had. He could not lead the warriors of their tribe, but he could not step down as Chief while his daughter remained single.
“But, father, what do you mean?”
“It’s exactly as I said. I will step down and the two of you will lead our tribe. This is for the best.”
The Chief threw up his hands as if it were already a done deal.
“Chief, err, no, father-in-law? Yeah, I guess it would be best to call you that now. Are you sure about this? Will the tribe really listen to me, a Human?”
Fayde’s concern was reasonable. This was not something that was a small matter. However, his tribe was not like the others. They had long been exiled from their people and sought refuge among Humankind and even though relations were bad currently, they had enjoyed a relatively long period of peace within the Human kingdom.
“My tribe are all my family. They long ago gave all their loyalty and devotion to me, otherwise they never would have come into exile with me. They will follow you now, don’t worry.”
The Chief was tired and in fact he was happy to hand the mantle to his daughter, even if just for a short while. If they were to return to the Plains of Sorrow and challenge his brother for leadership of all Foxkin, then Fayde would eventually become Khan. That would mean he would have to become a Chief again, at least until his younger daughter married. His kind lived long lives, so it wasn’t too much of a concern.
“I… well.” Fayde looked over to Reia as he spoke and she nodded her head with determination.
“Okay, I will make sure the Foxkin make it out of this situation alive.”
The Chief smiled, he liked the determination he saw in Fayde’s eyes. He couldn’t have asked for a better partner for his daughter.
“Then, what will be our plan….”
The three spent some time discussing what they would do once the soldiers of the Kingdom arrived. They had to come up with a plan to keep the soldiers occupied while their non-combatants evacuated to the Plains of Sorrow.
“I don’t know how much time we have, but I think that they won’t send too large of a force. They know there aren’t many Foxkin warriors in the forest. They will only send as many as they think they will need to fully subjugate the tribe. The forest is dense too, so it is a perfect environment for us. I have seen the Foxkin fight in the forest a few times now and they fought very effectively. If we had to fight out in the open plain, it might be a different matter, but I think we should have no difficulty defeating them here.”
Fayde enthusiastically explained his plan which left the Chief pleasantly surprised. He had heard a bit about him from his daughter, and while she had mentioned his leadership qualities, he was surprised to see that he was in fact capable.
“Reia has told me of the different magic affinities present in the tribe. I think we should lay a trap here in the village. We will dig pits, lure the enemy into the village with illusions and then burn the village to the ground. We can also launch ambushes and hit and run attacks on their forces from the treetops. Since many of the Foxkin warriors can cast various elemental attacks and move freely through the trees, I don’t think we will suffer many casualties if any. With the low visibility in the forest and the Foxkin enhanced senses, we can strike anywhere and everywhere without them being able to effectively respond. I doubt they will be able to bring many magic casters themselves, so we should focus on taking them out first if possible. If we can split their forces, it would go even better…..”
Their strategy session went on for a while and they hammered out an effective plan and swiftly went about putting their plans into motion.
Three hundred and fifty soldiers stood in formation waiting for their orders outside the Serandal forest. It was a mixed force of soldiers from the royal army as well as soldiers of the local lord.
There were fifty heavy infantry clad in Iron plate and equipped with ‘Mirror shields’. They would form the vanguard of the army and keep them safe from magic attacks. In addition, there were fifty cavalrymen, fifty archers, and two hundred light infantry.
The man leading the force was a minor lord who served the lord of Enrain. Accompanying him, was Shar, a minister of the kingdom.
“Lord Marball, won’t you reconsider? At least let me try to talk to them first. Showing up with a large force like this will only lead to bloodshed.” Shar pleaded with the lord, hoping that he would listen to reason, although Shar knew reason had already left this kingdom.
Lord Marball sniffed his nose up at Shar, “What are you concerned about Shar? These beasts only understand one thing, force. This will be over quickly.”
He seemed very confident in this outcome, but Shar was certain it would not go the way he thought.
“Even still, won’t you let me attempt to speak with them? I will even go alone, so you have nothing to lose.”
Lord Marball thought for a moment, that might not be a bad idea. If the talks go well, then the credit would go to me, and if they go badly, I can just blame Shar, or better yet, they might kill him.
Lord Marball saw this as an opportunity to increase his standing, an easy opportunity, since he felt nothing could go wrong. If he could discredit Shar or if Shar were to die negotiating with the beasts, then that would only improve his standing more!
The nobles were looking for a means of which to rid the kingdom of his influence. Shar was popular among the people of the kingdom so even the king couldn’t just get rid of him without just cause.
“Fine, then I will permit you to speak with them! However, keep in mind, that there is no room for negotiation. They are to serve their kingdom as we all do! This is by command of the king, is that understood?”
Shar nodded his understanding, he only hoped the Foxkin would listen to reason. He would try to convince them somehow to avoid any bloodshed. He knew he had almost no chance of accomplishing that, but he had to try. Shar dismounted from his horse and walked into the forest alone, his horse would be useless in the dense forest.
Shar knew that if he continued to walk into the forest, he would eventually meet the Foxkin who were most likely already aware of the presence of the kingdom’s soldiers. He even thought he felt the eyes of someone watching him right at that moment, but they didn’t make themselves known. He walked for a good thirty minutes before he finally encountered someone, but he was shocked to see that it was a human and not a member of the Foxkin tribe.
“You seem to be lost, do you need help leaving the forest?” The man standing before Shar said this in a nonchalant way.
Shar didn’t know what to make of this man. He looked as if he could be an adventurer and he had that air about him. He was wearing leather armor and he had a sword sheathed at his waist. He rested one hand on the pommel of the sword and was studying Shar with a curious look.
“Uh.. Well, I wasn’t expecting to find a human in the forest. I do not need help, but thank you for the offer. I will be on my way then!” Shar said that as politely as he could and was about to continue on his way but the man stood in front of him.
“That would not be wise, the Foxkin warriors have this entire area surrounded, they will kill you if you move from there.”
While what the man said was of great concern to Shar, he found the man to be quite peculiar. Why was he so calm under these circumstances? He knew that the area was surrounded by Demihumans and yet he didn’t fear for his own life? Was his life not in danger too?
Shar looked to the trees, but could not see anyone in them, but he knew it must be true. He called out to them, “My name is Shar, I am a minister of the Kingdom of La’gun and I have come to speak with your Chief. We do not wish to harm you, we only wish to negotiate.”
No one responded to his call, and he remained alone with the adventurer.
“Well, then, speak.” It was the human who had spoken to him.
Was there something wrong with this man? Shar thought to himself.
“Sorry, friend, but I am here to speak with the Foxkin tribe Chief.”
“Yes, you just informed the forest of that. Anyway, you are speaking to him now.”
“What!?” Shar spit that out much louder than he intended due to the shock of what the man said.
“Did I hear you right?”
The man didn’t seem surprised by Shar’s reaction, if anything, he expected it.
“You heard me right, Shar, I am the current acting Chief of the Foxkin tribe and I already know of you. I have heard many good things about you from the people of the kingdom. My name is Fayde, Fayde of the Void.”
Shar didn’t quite know how to respond to this, this was entirely out of his expectations. For now, he would play along.
“Can you prove this? It is rather unbelievable, I hope you will forgive my suspicious nature.”
The man who called himself Fayde, smiled, and put his fingers to his lips and whistled.
A Foxkin woman approached from somewhere behind a tree, she had been waiting there, most likely for the signal Fayde just gave.
Shar studied her and realized she bore a strong resemblance to the Foxkin adventurer he had heard about in the town of Enrain. He had been looking for her, but when he arrived at the town, she had been away on a Guild mission. He had not been able to meet her.
Shar no longer doubted the man’s words, but he still had a difficult time comprehending the situation.
“I am Reia of the Foxkin tribe, daughter to the former Chief of the Foxkin and this man is my fiancée.”
Well that would explain it, how curious though. A Foxkin woman marrying a human? Shar could finally comprehend the situation, it was similar to a political marriage.
This was extremely common among the nobility, but the fact that it was a Demihuman marrying a Human was very much unexpected. A Human marrying a Demihuman was extremely rare, so rare to be almost nonexistent. For a Human to marry a Demihuman would most certainly lead to a life of great difficulty. They would never be accepted by both species and would be forced to travel the world alone, a dangerous lifestyle. A Human marrying the daughter of a Chief was completely unheard of, it had never happened to Shar’s knowledge.
[Then allow me to officially give my greetings as an emissary of the Kingdom of La’gun.” Shar made sure to bow as was proper when meeting with emissaries from another kingdom.
Of course, that was technically not the case here, but Shar wished to show them respect in the hopes that they would be more willing to listen to his plea.
“There is no need for formalities here, Shar, we are not nobles from your kingdom. Please, raise your head.”
That was surprising to Shar. It was true they were not nobles, but they would be considered to have a similar rank, even if they were Demihumans. Shar had always been a man who had followed protocol to the letter, so it was uncomfortable for him to do otherwise. He did his best to comply, though, and it was in its own way refreshing. However, what the man said next really surprised him.
“Instead, let me bow my head to you. I have heard of all your great contributions to your kingdom, it seems they do not value you properly. They sent such an influential and important man such as yourself into the forest to negotiate without any guards or protection? Do they not value your life at all?”
Shar was not used to such praise and the man seemed sincere, it wasn’t just flattery. Shar was quite taken aback by this, he had become used to the scorn and disdain he had to deal with on a daily basis.
“Your words are kind, but I am a humble man and am not deserving of such praise. Also, it was my own idea to come into the forest on my own.”
Shar was slightly nervous and felt himself brushing off imaginary dust on his clothing. He didn’t feel they would kill him after speaking of him as such, but he was still nervous knowing he was surrounded by the Foxkin.
“You underestimate yourself, clearly, and if they truly valued you, they would never have let you go without protection. I do not wish to argue about this, though. Please tell me why you have come.”
Shar straightened himself and gathered his thoughts, ready to begin a battle of words. He had some confidence in his ability to convince others and he was known as an eloquent speaker.
“As you may already know, the Kingdom of La’gun will soon war with the Kingdom of Jaspel and the king himself has asked that I come to request the aid of the powerful Foxkin tribe who are renowned for their magical abilities! We…..”
“Shar, enough.” Fayde interrupted Shar’s prepared pitch with a wave of his hand. This left Shar slightly flustered.
“I know exactly why you have come, and the answer is no. It doesn’t matter what you say, but we will not be joining the kingdom in their war. The Foxkin have already abandoned the village and all those who can’t fight are already on their way to the Plains of Sorrow. All of the children, women and the old have already evacuated. Those left here are warriors only, and we have no intention of letting the kingdom have its way. You will only meet misfortune here.”
Shar didn’t know what to say to that, so this was pointless then huh? He shook his head frustrated.
“You can’t hope to defeat the kingdom with just a handful of warriors no matter how powerful your magic is.. Isn’t that just suicide? Why would you condemn yourselves to death?”
“I can understand why you might think that, but by the time the kingdom hears of this, the tribe will be long gone. Your kingdom won’t be able to do a thing.”
Shar didn’t think this man Fayde truly understood the predicament he was in. While it was true that they probably would not be able to catch the fleeing Foxkin tribe who had already evacuated if they fought a battle with the warriors here, the warriors would end up losing their lives and it would be difficult for the Foxkin tribe to survive on the Plains of Sorrow without their warriors.
“We have three hundred and fifty soldiers waiting for my return outside the forest. They are ready to use force even if it means killing all of you. I came here in hopes of stopping the bloodshed, I don’t want to see the Foxkin or kingdom soldiers die, please, won’t you rethink this?”
The man called Fayde only smiled at Shar, it was a sinister smile that sent shivers down his body. He had never seen a man smile in such a way when being told he was about to die.
“Shar, you misunderstand something. You see, you won’t be returning to your men, and once your soldiers enter this forest, they won’t be returning alive either.”
That sinister smile remained on the man’s face, and Shar couldn’t help think, that what the man said, might become reality.