Chapter 4: Stepping Backwards
I pause at a stream halfway through Salavadis, the elven country, en route to Calador's southern border with the country. I bend down and start washing my hair clean of the tomato juice that was stuck in my hair, courtesy of that devil Alexander.
After a long five minutes of washing my hair, it finally comes out of my black hair. I pull a towel from my pack and quickly dry my hair, wanting to resume my travels as soon as possible. A small twig snaps, and I pretend to ignore it, while I slowly scan for the source.
A bush rustles, and a Valgarin charges me, but I already have my twin swords swinging, and I cut in him in two.
"Those creatures don't ever take a break," I grumble.
I clean my swords, and then sheath them and continue on my way. Traveling through dense forest and vast plains, I speed the progress of my journey with brief flights, only in the open plains. Soon the forest grows more sparse, and younger. I come to the edge of the wooded elven lands, and break out into a vast, endless plain. Fields of tall grasses ripple like waves as a gentle breeze blows across the plains of Calador.
Scattered far and near, the towns and cities of humanity are far different from the industrialized Fairywoodlands and the grace of the elves.
They appear as grey blots of stone from a great distance, and doesn't strike the eye as our own would.
I continue through the countryside, flying much more in my desire to reach the capital of Yashin's realm. I soon come in sights of a much greater, larger structure than the small, isolated ones. I come on the largest city and fortress of humanity, Solven'grand.
While no appealing to the eye of an average person, one who has the eye for strategic value would call the place a work of art. Built on a mesa that rises up from the rest of the plains, which is also ringed by a massive river carved canyon, the fortress would be virtually untouchable by rivals to Yashin's throne. Nature itself seems to provide a mighty counter to the city's enemies. Surrounding the canyon is a massive outer wall protecting a long ring of farmland which traverses the length of the fortress. The city's inner walls are several times thicker, and the inner city's design makes it perfect for archers to attack intruders.
Yashin truly built his seat of power to last. I can't help but marvel at the dedication to the protection of the throne. I gradually descend at the outer wall's south gate, where two heavily armed guards watch my approach with open distrust.
"Identify yourself," One calls out, his voice muffled sharply by the thick helmet he wears. Their armor is black with the marking of Yashin on the chest piece, a white eagle.
"My name is Danica Crown; I'm the princess of the Fairywoodlands. I wish to speak with Lord Yashin about an issue. Will you permit me to pass on through?" I ask politely, hoping they wouldn't give me a hard time. The two silently look at one another, as though not sure how to answer.
One of them eventually makes an effort to speak.
"Erm… umm… Well you see… Darn it Raulf, we'll have to send a messenger, I don't know if the lord would…"
His partner Raulf smacks him. "Man up will you? Oi! You there!" He yells at a passing messenger.
"Yes, is there something you need?"
"I need you to go to the king and ask what he wants to do about Danica Crown's request." Raulf barks sharply at him, and the messenger departs immediately towards the Inner City.
He turns to me. "Sorry for the inconvenience, but we are not allowed to let anyone of diplomatic status in without Lord Yashin's knowledge or approval. I hope you understand, Miss Danica- erm, Lady Danica."
I sigh, and then nod. "I understand, I can wait a little while."
After a few minutes of anxious waiting, to my greatest surprise Yashin himself comes down from the Inner City and comes right up to the gate.
"My lord! Why do you come yourself to…" Raulf gets interrupted by Yashin's gesture of silence.
"Danica Crown, what a surprise this is. I never imagined you would come all of this way to Calador. What business do you have here?" He looks at me with an unwavering expression I can't read, I can't tell what's on his mind or how he feels about my presence.
"I wanted to talk to you about the Dialadect, about working together. I was wondering if you would…"
He raises a hand, and his expression folds into a weary one.
"I see. I will hear you out once again, solely because you made an effort to come here to the dredges of Aladoria herself. Come with me, Danica."
He turns and heads back towards the Inner City, and onto a bridge connecting the two sides of the canyon. I follow him, and marvel at the depth of the canyon, its bottom veiled by the sheer distance. On crossing the immense bridge, I begin to wonder how we are going to get up to the Inner City. I look at the rise of the mesa, and realize there is a long winding stairway leading up to the Inner City. Besides that seems to be something under construction.
I point it out to Yashin. "What is that they're building over there?"
He glances over at it, and a brief smile of what looks like pride crosses his face.
"That is an elevator. Or rather, that's what we're aiming for. Humanity has spent so long arguing and fighting with one another, they've never stopped to try and advance their state of living. With our unification, I hope to kick start a revolution in our race. No longer will we be the dogs of the world."
An elevator may not sound like much to a fairy like me, but I can't imagine what progress it must be for someone like Yashin, whose race has had little progress in the past hundred years. We climb up the long staircase, and I look down at the outer city, comprised of farms. The area outside the mesa has better buildings, but if I had to guess, they aren't as good as the Inner City buildings.
After a long while, we finish climbing up the mesa stairway and pass through the Inner City gates. The streets are narrow and paved, with fine stone brick buildings carefully constructed to optimize space. In the center of the city lies the keep, certainly no grand castle, but knowing Yashin, he wasn't concerned about appearance.
As we approach the gates, they swing wide open for us, and we walk inside. I can't help but compare the differences in our societies, and our ways of life. I realize that humans have lived a rather unfulfilled life, compared to us. We fairies probably don't think of the lives of these people, who work hard just to put food on their tables. Not only that, they rely on one another to support each other. Such a short life they lead, and it is not a happy one. I can't help but feel sorry for them.
Yashin stops in the center of the hall, and turns to address me.
"I thank you for coming all this way. I would repay you with hospitality. I suggest you take some time to relax in the woman's quarters. You've had a long journey, you should do well to rest. We may talk later. I have private matters to deal with my generals." With that, he proceeds further down the main hall, to the far end. There, a double door swings open, leading to a council hall, which he enters and disappears behind the doors.
A servant walks up to me and bows, in ragged cloth.
"Come, this way to the quarters, my lady. I apologize for the unkempt state of the hold, for much of pleasures are sacrificed to secure our lord's protection. If you would kindly follow me."
So these are the kind of people Summer was born to... humans are so much more different in their ways of living then us… it's incredible to see such differences in culture…
The woman guides me to the bath housing located in the far back of the keep, and I quickly thank her for assisting me. She bows and departs, leaving me to enter alone.
To my surprise, the water is fairly warm, and rather fine soap waits on the side of the bath. As I soak in the water, a sickening feeling grows in my gut, and many images flash in my head. Two giant dragons locked in a grizzly, bloody battle to the death, biting and mauling one another, then a creepy Dialadect wearing a strange helm breaks through the first image, glowering with the look of victory in his eyes. Finally, my 'dark self' appears in my vision, taunting me with a smirk, calling me weak.
With great frustration, I smack myself and the images stop.
Of all of the evils mortals set upon themselves, perhaps the worst is their own consciousness.
After a long relaxing bath, I dry myself and put on new clothes from my pack and set out to the main hall, to have another chat with Yashin. And I don't care how stubborn he is, I'll get him to forget his stupid pride, because I have a strong feeling he will need my help.