Chapter 1: Silverglade
North of the Maugrim Woods, where the vast forest tapered off as the trees began to intermingle with the vast, snowy mountains, traveled a single individual on horseback; his name, Tassarion. Tassarion looked as if he were 100 years old, thanks to his long beard, as white as the snowy mountains, stretching down to his chest. The pure, white hair fell even further down his back, as long white locks covered his face and draped behind his shoulders. Wrinkles covered his forehead and crept onto his cheeks. However, within Tassarion’s appearance was a contradiction. Although his hair was snowy white, and his face wrinkled like a raison, his shoulders were broad and his back straight. It was as if his face and head were 100 years old, and his body was that of a strapping 40-year-old man. In truth, Tassarion was 237 years old, for he was not a man, but an elf.
His mother was an elf, but his father, a great Mystic. Tassarion was their only child, a perfect reflection on the two of them. Clearly, he inherited his ears from his mother; they were long, as pointy as the tip of an arrow and easy to distinguish, even from a distance. His strong, athletic figure was a classic elven build, as you’d be hard-pressed for find an obese elf, they just didn’t grow that way. The rough features on his face, the wrinkles with sharp, pointy cheeks, and his large, strong hands mirrored that of his father.
Although half-breeds are vastly common among the kingdoms (even among the elves), Tassarion’s parents chose to move far North to raise him in the Glacial Peaks, for it was easier to raise an elf in the peaks than a Mystic among the elves. The Peaks offered a greater community of Mystics, allowing Tassarion’s magical powers to flourish. However, as great as his magical powers became, Tassarion was always thinking about others and how he could help them grow their magic, just as the many mentors of his past had done for him. Because of his elven lifespan, Tassarion had outlived many wise Mystics, learning as much as he could from each one. Now, at 237 years old Tassarion found himself as the oldest, wisest Mystic in all the lands. He hadn’t planned it that way, he loved to learn and sorely missed the days when he was shadowing wise and knowing Mystics, soaking in their knowledge like a washcloth gathers water. He missed the days of learning but he also loved to teach, for which he had plenty of opportunities. Human, dwarves, elves, wargare and even monsters—creatures of all kinds solicited Tassarion’s aged, wise instruction. He loved to travel, so rather than forcing his mentees to traverse through the brutal weather of rough terrain of the Glacial Peaks, they would send him word of inquiry and Tassarion would respond by saddling up his gelding, outfitting his accompanying pack horse and set off to distant lands in order to deliver his response in-person.
On this day Tassarion was on a similar mission, only this journey was closer to his heart than the others. He was traveling home, to Krystara, where he would find the Silverglade, his birthplace and home to the mighty, ageless elves.
For many years Tassarion didn’t plan to marry, let along sire children of his own, but one day, as he was speaking with Benwade, a prudent little dwarf that he’d found living in the Khazdorin mountains, he revealed his plan to remain celibate the judicious little man said that would be a shame. When asked why Benware responded:
“Is there no better way to understand love than to give yourself fully to another? To become one with another, even when you possess so many differences? You, me, your parents, my parents, their parents—we’re all different, no one the same. To completely become one with another is a seemingly impossible task, the very attempt can trigger a level of devotion that cannot be experienced otherwise; it’s almost… spiritual. As for children, you will never own something as valuable as a child. The depths of hell itself could burst open upon this earth, yet Lucifer and all his demons could not separate you from your child. Children can cause you to experience the greatest levels of pride, fear, disappointment, and most importantly: joy. It’d be a shame to never have known all of those things, can’t seem to fathom one choosing to miss out on them.”
With that Tassarion’s opinion was changed. Within ten years he married a brilliant and beautiful Mystic named Stryana. Over time Tassarion learned that the wise old dwarf was right, marriage was like nothing he had ever experienced. It was unique, wonderful, sometimes not so wonderful, challenging and rewarding at the same time. While there was no one better to share his life with than Stryana, later Tassarion came to realize why his father had married and elf rather than a fellow Mystic. Like most creatures on this earth, Stryana aged, however Tassarion’s elven blood caused him to grow stronger with time. After 42 wonderful years together, Stryana passed. Being an immortal being, Tassarion had seen his fair share of aging and death, but no passing had ever affected him like Stryana’s; he felt as if he had waged war with the indomitable Keeper of Souls, losing half of his soul in the process. However Stryana didn’t leave Tassarion alone, before her death she bore a child, a girl named Missala.
Missala was sweet and sensible, not quite as clever as her mother but she made up for it with kindness. As she grew in age so grew her beauty. She had long, flowing hair that fall all the way down to her buttocks, her hair was just as white as her father’s, it poured out around her, long strands blew around her it the wind, yet it didn’t look chaotic, no, the many loose locks of hair were a wonder to behold, it was as if her hair knew how beautiful it was and it demanded to be seen. Unlike her father, Missala’s skin was perfect. There wasn’t a wrinkle on her whole body and her olive-colored skin shone like fresh ink shines on parchment. Just like her father she had the trademark pointy elven ears, only hers weren’t ridged like an arrowhead, they were dainty and lightly swayed and curved to a point, like the head of a paintbrush. She had wide hips and a small waist, her breasts a little larger than that most women her size. As her mentor and father Tassarion quickly saw in Missala a natural ability of enchantment. Enchantment stirs an attraction in others, however it isn’t a typical type of attraction; it isn’t sexual. It’s a connection, something within and enchantress will penetrate the soul, aligning it with the heart. The effect is so strong that it can actually have the same effect as consuming the nector of the gems. Missala was not yet as wise as her father and nearly as powerful a Mystic, but she was still young, especially for an elf, she would continue her learning and one day she might be considered the oldest, wisest Mystic of them all. In the meantime she lived in the Silverglade with the elves, using her abilities and wisdom to help the elven people, to whom she partially belonged.
On this day Tassarion was traveling to Silverglade but not just to see his beloved daughter (that would be the highlight of his trip), vastly important decisions needed to be made, for which Tassarion’s wise counsel was much needed. Various circumstances caused unrest throughout all the lands, several issues were like a giant cauldron of boiling oil, left unattended; the longer it went unaddressed, the more violent the issue, and the close it progressed toward disaster. To make matters worse, King Agron and Queen Lysa, leaders of the elven Krystara realm, were unavailable, having traveled far to the East, beyond Maugrim Woods, Kharziel, and even Stormheim, in search of the eldest of elves, those that no longer lived amongst the elven people in Krystara, choosing to spend their final centuries in isolation. King Agron and Queen Lysa made their Eastward trek to find the ancient elven people to seek their counsel and make inquiries of similar past events. It was well-known that history often repeats itself and while the elves had access to more ancient history than nearly any other creature, they knew the ancient elves would know many histories that was too old to have even been recorded. In the absence of the king and queen, Krystara was ruled by their daughter: Elspeth.
In a land full of ageless elves, Elspeth represented one of the youth. Although she was just sixteen years old her body was remarkably developed, and her beauty was stunning, the Western lands providing her no rivals in that regard. Her royal stature was easily apparent. Her slender body boasted long, smooth legs that peeked out of her gowns through high slits on the sides that almost reached up to her hip. Her waist and arms were slim and skinny, but not so much so that it was unattractive, instead she had a perfect femininity to her; vulnerable but not weak, small but not tiny. Her back slightly arched as her shoulders held regally high, pressing forward her breasts, which she loved to display through her revealing gowns. Her mouth looked small, her nose pointy and petite. Her hair draped down, white like most elves, only it had a hint of purple, emitting a gorgeous lavender color that was complemented by expensive lavender perfumes. Elspeth parents tried to teach her that less is more, however their little girl seemed to want more with each day, whether it be a new perfume, an outlandishly expensive gown or even a new pet, of which she already had many. King Agron and Queen Lysa knew their daughter was not ready to rule but they had no choice but to leave the kingdom in her charge, if they waited much longer it might be too late; maybe it was already too late. Besides, she did have the royal counsel, and they knew that if things got too bad then wise old Tassarion would there, offering as much guidance as would be accepted. This was exactly the case as Tassarion made his descent from the mountain, into the wooded area that led towards the famed Silverglade.
It was a beautiful day. To Tassarion it seemed as if it was always beautiful in Krystara. Maybe it was because he was always in a good mood, knowing he would soon see his daughter, or maybe it was because he has just traveled several days in the snowy mountains. Krystara was a heavily-wooded land, yet it was a bright place, almost as if it had a glow. Tassarion navigated his large gray gelding through the dense trees, his pack horse, a reliable brown bay, trailed along dutifully. Without warning a voice sounded from a tree Tassarion had just passed.
“I knew you would be coming, although I thought we would be here sooner.”
Tassarion half-turned, but he already knew who it was that had addressed him.
“Warden. I’ve come to expect your surprise entrances.”
The Glade Warden slid out from behind the large tree and strode next to the gray gelding. Of all the elven kingdoms there were only two Glade Wardens. One belonged to the Forest of Thorns, and the other patrolled Krystara. The Wardens were charged with protecting the elven forests. They monitored the wildlife, rooting out any predators that were too threatening to other species, and they served as the advanced scout, noting anyone or anything that entered the forest, taking appropriate action towards anything that was deemed a threat. The Warden spoke as he removed the hood attached to his long, green cloak that camouflaged him in the woods.
“Princess Elspeth will want to see you right away, but I’m sure you’re tired from your journey. I imagine you have a few minutes to get settled in your quarters before you have to meet with the princess and her counsel.”
Tassarion shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. He was tired, but up until that point he hadn’t realized it.
“I will go directly to the princess.” Replied the old Mystic. “It’s best not to keep your authorities waiting.”
The Warden responded with a smirk. He wondered if Tassarion had always been perfect, and if not, what age it was when he began continually making the right decisions. The wisdom of the old elf made the Warden uncomfortable, as if he was being judged, but Tassarion wasn’t judging him, which only built upon the feeling that Tassarion was too perfect; this inner conflict plagued the Warden every time they met, so he always did his best to keep the conversations short while getting Tassarion to the palace in Silverglade as soon as possible.
They didn’t have to wait long. Soon the thick, green trees and brush opened up to a large, dome-like area in which there was a small rock cliff; perched upon it was the awe-inspiring Silverglade palace. The palace was cradled by trees, yet the dome-like opening above it allowed bright beams of light to shine down, giving the palace a glowing appearance. The clearing that brought the palace into sight was one of Tassarion’s favorite moments. It was like opening a priceless gift time and again; always reliving the rush of excitement as the prize first comes into view. The Warden led Tassarion through a large brush area at the base of the palace-adorning cliff. The other side of the brush revealed a massive wooden lift, supported by scores of ropes. Up until that people the Warden and a few stray deer were the only creatures in view, but all at once they were surrounded by swordsmen who guarded every inch of the palace.
As Tassarion entered the lift the Warden bade a short farewell, and in an instant he disappeared into the brush, as if he was never there. The old Mystic reflected on the Warden in that moment; “He’s not the friendliest creature,” thought Tassarion, “But he’s good at his job, and in due time he may warm up to me.”
Tassarion had a swordsman at each shoulder as the lift raised them straight up, directly in front of the main steps leading up to the palace entrance. There the Swordmaster was waiting for him. The Swordmaster was young, at least for an elf, in his early thirties. However he had studied under the best saber instructors amongst Krystara and the surrounding areas and for his efforts he was now the chief protector of the Princess. The title of ‘Swordmaster’ was so coveted that those who held the title were no longer called by their given names, they simply became the Swordmaster.
“Swordmaster,” said Tassarion, “It’s good to see you again.”
“I’m glad to see you had a safe journey,” replied the Swordmaster, neutrally, “The princess is waiting for you, I must bring you before here right away.”
“Lead on…” said Tassarion, although they had already begun ascending the stairs by the time he had made his reply.
After climbing 75 stairs they reached the first landing; to Tassarion’s joyful surprised he was greeted there by his daughter. Missala.
“Father! You arrived safely! I’m so glad!” Gushed Missala as she rushed up and draped her arms around her father. “I don’t know why I always worry, but I’m ever so glad when each of your journeys come to an end. It’s so good to see you!”
“My heart overflows with joy every time I see you, my daughter.” Said Tassarion, smiling while hugging his only child.
“Well I shouldn’t keep you,” said Missala, prying herself off of her father, “mustn’t leave the princess waiting!”
“Yes, yes you’re right.” Said Tassarion has he affectionately squeezed his daughters hand before moving towards the next flight of stairs. Before he continued his ascent he stopped, turned back towards Missala and said,
“You know I’m very proud of you, my daughter.”
Tassarion made it a point to say these things because they were not only true but he also missed out on experiencing that kind of affection from his own father. It’s not that his father wasn’t loving, he simply did not intentionally verbalize it. Tassarion was destined to be the same until one day when he was traveling through Khaziel and he saw a little dwarf boy rushing to get ready for school. As he ran out the little door both his parents peeked their heads out and shouted, “Have a good day, son! We’re proud of you!” At first Tassarion wondered what the boy had done to make his parents so proud, but the more he thought about it the more it made sense. He thought of his daughter, Missala, who was just 5 at that time, yet he was filled with a sense of pride just seeing her perform day-to-day activities, increasing vocabulary, growing bigger and excelling in school. He was extremely proud of her. From that day forward he made a conscious effect every day that he saw her to tell her he was proud of her.
When Tassarion and the Swordmaster reached the final landing the guards led them to the large, beautiful throne room doors. They were white as snow, displaying and intricate pattern of carved ivory infused into the light sandstone. The doors swung open and Tassarion was ushered in. Princess Elspeth wasn’t at the throne; rather she was at a table off to the side, surrounded but her aides and advisors.
“There you are!” Called Elspeth, shooting up to her feet. “We’ve been waiting. What took you so long?”
“I apologize, your grace.” Said Tassarion, giving a the princess a slight, respectful bow. “I’m afraid I’m not as quick in the foot as I used to be.”
“No matter.” The princess quickly replied as she stared across the large room, already appearing distracted. “Fill him in Lord Braden.”
Lord Braden, an old and esteemed member of the elven counsel, stood and addressed Tassarion.
“We just finished reporting to her highness on the growing shortage of gems. Sufficient amounts of green gems can still be found amongst our forest vegetation, but all other colors are becoming harder to uncover. Just last week a harvest crew followed the coastline to just outside of Ghulvania to find purple gems. Yesterday evening one of our harvest ships returned; the captain reported that they nearly had to enter the far dark before blue gems were found in the waters.”
‘The dark’ was a place that no sailor dared enter. The seas are dangerous enough with predatory creatures like Krakens, sharks and killer whales, but those that have been foolish enough to venture into ‘the dark’ never come back. Some say the distant black seas are home to impenetrable creatures like the Leviathan of the Timingila; others say the darkness provides cover for the end of the world, where ships sail into the blackness only to drop off of the end of the world to their untimely deaths.
“We need to construct a plan to guild us through the shortage or else we will run out and be thrown into a panic.” Concluded Lord Braden.
“I don’t understand why we don’t just buy more gems.” Wondered the young princess, confused. “Anything else that we cannot procure for ourselves but we have a need for we… well we buy it!”
As simple as the suggestion was, she wasn’t all that wrong. The Royal Treasury of Silverglade was legendary for its size with “old treasures” that were frugally kept and built upon over thousands of years by the timeless elven people.
Tassarion joined the conversation: “Krystara isn’t the only place experience a gem shortage, many other lands—dare I say most—are experiencing the same issue. Others are less willing to sell their gems when they’re experiencing a shortage of their own.”
“Everyone has a price.” Replied the princess, coolly. All at once she saw Daisy, one of her many pet cats, and she called out, “Daisy! Come here! Here girl!!”
The cat looked up at her owner from across the room, then it stared at the princess as it slowly and deliberately continued walking until it was out of the throne room.
Tassarion was frustrated with the princess’ lack of focus. Some of the older elves would frequently lament that the new generation of elves were too immature and selfish. But it had always been this way. He supposed that the world was cursed with an eternity of younger generations acting, well, young; and older generations looking down on them for it. It was a sad realization, but curious to ponder. The old Mystic tried using an analogy to regain Princess Elspeth’s attention.
“The owner of a brothel would sell even a thriving business if owning meant he himself could not partake.”
“Ugh, don’t speak of brothels, that’s so disgusting!” Elspeth exclaimed.
“I apologize, your highness, I was trying to make a point.” Said Tassarion, calmly.
“Well then make it.” Spat the princess.
“The less gems there are,” explained Tassarion, “the less will be available in the market. Paying more for a depleting supply is merely a temporary solution, we must work towards something more sustainable.”
Suddenly Princess Elspeth became excided as she shared a revelation: “If everyone is spending all their money on gems then gowns will be cheaper, right? I can redo my whole wardrobe!”
“On the contrary,” interjected Lord Braden, “the cost of everything will go up because a lack of gems means less trading and bartering, instead everything will be sold for gold only and at cost.”
“Oh no!” Elspeth exclaimed, “This is terrible!”
Tassarion spoke slowly and without an accusing tone so as not to offend the princess. “Your highness, I wonder if you discern the gravity of this situation.”
Princess Elspeth sighed, showing frustration and defeat in her face.
“No… I understand. Truly, I do. I’m just… scared. I don’t know how to handle this. I wish mother and father were here; I don’t think I’m ready to rule like this.”
Tassarion marveled at how quickly Elspeth seemed to transform from a distracted little girl to a serious, concerned young lady.
“You will do a fine job,” he told her, “and we’re here for you. Even your parents utilize the counsel in every major decision.”
“What do we do now?” Elspeth asked, now fully engaged.
“We should schedule a meeting with the harvest crew planners.” Replied Tassarion, “We will need to let them know exactly how far they can go to retrieve more gems, and tell them what is absolutely off limits. We should also meet with the military commanders.”
“The military?” Elspeth asked, confused. “For what purpose?”
“I do not wish to further trouble you, your grace,” replied Tassarion, “but conflicts of this magnitude usually result in bloodshed. As stores of gems decrease tensions will increase. No doubt creatures from many lands will be at odds as they contest for remaining resources. We need to be prepared for anything.”
The princess was wide-eyed and nervous. “We already have so much to deal with, would we be able to sustain a war on top of that?”
“We’re just remaining prepared.” Assured Tassarion. “Besides, you’re the Triandal, and the knights have pledged to defend you.”
The Triandal was an epiphany discovered by the ancient elves. Like many others they learned that history frequently repeats itself, only they found that the repetition is remarkably consistent. Every three generations the elven people have had a major conflict to overcome. Princess Elspeth, like her great-great-grandparents, falls upon the third generation, thus they call her a Triandal. Some lands believe in the Triandal, some do not, and some don’t care one bit either way. The most firm believers in the Triandal are brotherhood of the Knights. In order to support Princess Elspeth in her future conflicts the knights have pledged their completely loyalty. All Elspeth has to do is summon them and they we immediately appear, no questions asked. Just thinking about the knights made her feel safe. There were many knights spread all across the lands; fierce warriors like the Emporer Korvash, the Knight Coronet and Herald of Chaos, they were undefeated in battle and their devotion to the princess made her seemingly untouchable.
“Please make the arrangements for the meetings and have my servants inform me on the times.” Requested the Princess. “I’m going to retire to my chambers for a nap, all of these serious issues have made me tired.”
“As you wish, your highness.” Said Tassarion, bowing. He felt supremely encouraged by what had just been the most serious and productive conversation he had ever witnessed Princess Elspeth take part in. “She will be a good leader.” He thought; “A good leader is essential because we approaching dark times.”