Heavily Armed Visitors
They had been told that there was a land that no tradeship had gone to, stories of the dead who seige the shore and ships. They could not expect trade ships mostly crewed by foreigners to brave such waters to meet the people who would repel the dead. The warship named “A Coward’s Death” slipped its way through the misty waters near the Anaetyr docks. The deck was filled with fighters, armored marines and men at arms. Lesser people might have been afraid, but the Helian’s bristled with excitement.
The ship slipped around a large temple island, the large white marble structures putting them in a moment of awe, but the moment passed as the walls of the city came into view fully. Far taller than any wall in Helios and likely far thicker, but they were not a culture used to siege.
“Lord Tallia, should we anchor off shore or do you wish to dock?” The Captain spoke to the lord who was standing near the wheel staring at the walls and the portal island, thinking himself through their options. Lord Tallia was young, perhaps in his early twenties, short blonde hair and a boyish face. His armor was new, blazoned with the symbols of the newly minted house of Tallia. He was still not used to being a nobleman, he had been a squire before but now noble he was forced away from the path of knighthood as there were none other in Tallia old enough to go on such a journey.
“We will wait here, if they intend to have us dock, we will do so. But let them see us first...and let us see them first. Perhaps their walls were for naught, and this is a land of the dead. I would not see our ship overrun by however many foul things could reside within that.” He gestured to the wall. He marched from the captain. “I go to speak with the Valiant, I would hear his counsel on this as well. Get us close to the docks but do not pull in, have your men ready at the oars should we need to retreat at speed.”
“Yes Lord.” The captain said as he watched the young noble descend into the heart of the ship. The captain was not fond of the new noble and his young attitude, or the fact that he had to play host to a Knight Valiant and his retinue. As much as any Helian was grateful to the Valiant for ushering them into the modern age, horror and calamity followed where they stepped.
On the docks, a dozen elven soldiers stood behind their new Vaesilkoh, and two of her advisers. The elven guards had spotted the foreign ship sailing towards the city from the walls, and alerted their leaders immediately. It had been months since any foreign vessel had approached Aeredos, and never in living memory had a ship come from the west. One of the guards commented on that to their neighbor under his breath, but Ilhara heard and retorted “Yes, it has been a while since outsiders came here, but it's hard to blame them, until recently it was only safe to approach during the day and the sea cares not for your schedule. Nor do most merchants want to dock and then leave in the same day.”
She then turned to Achaeron Indorhil, her newly appointed foreign adviser, “Do we know anything about the ship style or the colors it flies?”
“We do not, Vaesilokh, the only realm we know that lies to the west is Caledor, and those traitors would not dare sail here, dead or no dead.”
“Very well. Summon more soldiers, and hail the ship to dock, we shall see what these outsiders have come for.”
As one of the soldiers ran off to gather others, Ilhara turned back to face into the sea, the smell of the salt mixing with the stench coming from the massive funeral pyres beyond the docks, where the remains of the defeated horde from earlier this month.
Flags were waved, general consensus met and the ship pulled into dock. The alert level did not fall even as they were towed into the port by a line from the far dock. Efficient and skilled hands moved about the deck and the docks themselves all under the watchful eye of the men on the ships edge. Up close it was clear the ship was meant for war, thick wide hull, ballista on the flanks, and in the very front, practically built into the structure of the ship was a massive ballista with a spear point on it that looks to be meant for much more than other ships.
The plank was extended and leading the way was a small collection of armored guards, and then Lord Tallia, still in his splendid silvered armor and red cloth adornments. Behind him, two men in blue robes, much older than the lord and each had ornate symbols painted on their faces in a blue that seemed almost pearlescent. Behind them a woman in white and gold, perhaps more exposed than what many cultures felt was decent, but she moved with a grace that was as if she were walking above the ground. Floating around her head was a halo of sigils that gave a faint glow.
The party of people was followed then by three attendants.
Notable was the Knight Valiant who remained on the ship, towering above the rest of the men at over seven feet, but he had the same proportions as the rest, broad and strong. He was fully armored, even with a helm which made him look more like some kind of giant automaton rather than a man of flesh and blood.
They stood on the dock with Lord Tallia firmly in the front and middle. He felt small with the walls practically touching the sky before them, but his demeanor didn’t show it. Indicative of the Helian people, there was little variation in the height and build of the people, roughly six feet all around, and broad shoulders even among the women. He didn’t know who was the leader of their greeting party but waited for them to speak, he didn’t even know if they could understand each other or even had a shared language at all.
The party that greeted the Helians at the dock was a solid square of soldiers. Ten ranks wide by ten ranks deep, they stood at about the same height as the foreigners that came from the ship, but they were not broad shoulders like them. Their armor consisted of silvery chain, with golden plates on important locations, and purple tabards, coming from behind the chest plate rather than over it, emblazoned with a sun with a crescent moon inside of it. Their helmets were curved and flanged, enameled with purple and gold and had face plates to hide all but their eyes. Swords hung at their hips, and they were holding leaf-bladed spears and shields. They stood perfectly still for several moments after the visitors had disembarked.
A single word came out from the center of their formation, and the square split in two, each soldier stepping to the side, to reveal four figures that had been in the center,
The first was dressed in armor much like the soldiers, but there were more plates, and it was far more ornate. They held a spear much like the others, but it was longer and the blade was golden rather than steel. A sword was gripped in their other hand, held at an angle to the ground. This warrior’s helm had no face plate, and their angular features did nothing to confirm their gender either way to the Helians.
They stepped forward, out of the formation and to the side, allowing the other three to move forward. The next two were dressed in leather vests and pants over colored shirts, though one of them was far more embroidered than the other. The fancier one had on a grey shirt, and their clothes were sewn through with golden and silver thread. Runes were carved around the seams of the vest, and in their right hand they held a long, ashen wooden staff, topped with a silvery crystal orb, that pulsed with an internal light. The other had on a purple shirt, and their clothes seemed heavier, perhaps backed with chain, and they had on bracers and several other extra pieces designed to help protect them. Two swords hung on their hips, a bow protruded from their back, and the handles of several daggers were visible in their boots and bracers. Both of them had long black hair, worn in braids that were tucked over their shoulders and reached down to their stomach. With their hair tied back like this, their pointed ears were visible, marking them as likely to be some kind of elven race. They both stepped to the other side, allowing the last person to stand in the middle of the three of them, and look directly at who they assumed led the visiting party.
This elf was wearing armor, though not as heavy as the soldiers, the chain was golden and the plates were made of a purple metal that seemed to reflect the sunlight more than metal typically would. In their right hand they held the haft of a spear, with a grey shaft and a leaf shaped blade made of the same violet metal as their armor. They had no helmet, and their blonde hair was loose and hung down to their waist. Unlike the other elves, who mostly had silver or golden eyes, this one had purple eyes that glowed with their own light. As they took their place in the line, it became apparent to the Helians that they couldn’t easily guess at the age of any of them.
After a moment of silence, the elf in the center raised their hand, palm facing upwards and fingers outstretched. They turned to the one with the stave and nodded slightly, after which they titled their staff down so the silvery orb was resting right above the outstretched hand. Three words were spoken, and a dome of grey energy extended from the sphere, engulfing the elves and Helians alike. The staff was raised, but it left behind a faint outline of the orb floating above the hand of the center elf.
This elf nodded once more at the others, and then stepped forwards and spoke directly to the Helian in front, this time in a language that everyone in the dome understood, but was not any tongue they recognized.
“I am Ilhara Aevirath, Vaesilokh of Anaetyr. Whilst we stand in the influence of this sphere, we will understand each others words.”
They hesitated a moment, as if trying to decide what to say, before continuing on with,
“Who are you, and why have you come to my lands?”
At first, no one moved at the display of magic, there was no reason given it was something that seemed to blanket them all. It was only when Ilhara spoke that the two priests in blue began to whisper to each other. Fascinated by the nature of the spell, and unsure it’s mechanisms.
Lord Tallia stepped forward some to regard the man who greeted them. He had been prepared to muddle through a dozen translations for a month but this was far more expedient. “I am Lord Jordan Tallia, 3rd of the House of Tallia, Lesser House of House Vansen. We come as a diplomatic party from our homeland of Helios, far to the west. We had heard of a land beset by the dead...we came accordingly.” He gestured to his men, although in reality they likely would have come to most any port with the same level of arms and armor.
“It is a pleasure to meet you Lord Aevirath, and I hope we can continue to speak if you will have us.”
Ilhara smiled at the Helians, though it did not reach her eyes.
“You are welcome to stay and speak if you mean my people no ill will, Lord Tallia, but if you came here hoping to fight the damned you are almost a month too late.”
With a motion of Ilhara’s hand, the Anaetyne soldiers turned and marches to the side.
“You and your soldiers are welcome to follow me, I will show you what you came for.”
Ilhara turned and started walking away, followed by her entourage and the Helians. They walked south along the docks, past the rows of weathered merchant buildings and warehouses, and came out into the massive plain on the south side of town.
The stench of burning flesh, which had been hard to detect on the sea air on the dock, was now overpowering. Arranged in a giant grid were funeral pyres, burning piles of wood and flesh. Some were topped with skeletons and rotten corpses, some with giant monsters fused from multiple bodies and emaciated, pale and twisted creatures. Still others were arranged more carefully, with the bodies of elven soldiers. Some of the pyres were not lit yet, but there were elves walking around with lit torches alighting those that were not already burning.
Ilhara allowed the sight to sink in for a moment before turning and speaking to Lord Tallia again.
“Just under a month ago, a massive throng of the dead rose to attack our city at night. It was far larger than any assault in living memory, and with it came horrifying creatures we had never seen before, and at the center was a dark altar, chained with the living corpse of one of my ancestors. Above the horde came one of the Nurmkyr, the dark masters of our unliving enemies. We fought through the night, but we were only victorious when my predecessor, Erastil, managed to reclaim my Veon’s sacred spear, Anaerath, and slay the Nurmkyr. Unfortunately, the act cost Erastil their life.” Ilhara said all this in a monotone, matter of fact way, as if they were just rattling off facts that meant little to them personally, but there was sadness in their eyes that betrayed their true feelings on what happened to Erastil. When Ilhara mentioned Erastil, the other elves all bowed their heads and place their right arm above their heart for a moment, before returning to their previous stances.
“Since the battle, the dead have not come out of the sea, a blessed reprieve from the near nightly assaults we had been facing before hand. The forest of Elathilien, east across the Sea of Mists, is still crawling with the undead, but the rest of the Nurmkyr appear to have no desire to try their luck attacking our city for the time being. They might be scared that now we know how to kill them, or maybe they didn’t know they could be killed themselves. Either way, I plan to make the most of this respite.”
They had continued to walk, and now Ilhara stopped them outside a massive gate set into the south side of the wall, presumably one of the main entrances into the city itself. The portcullis, made of thick wooden logs bound in steel, was raised enough for foot traffic to enter, but anyone on horseback would have difficulty getting in or out.
“I want to expand the reach of my realm, take back land that was ours and has fallen to ruin. I want to connect with the other realms that are scattered around this world. I want to bring my people to prosperity and peace. For that, I need allies. Trade partners, introductions to others, anything to take us from a city surrounded by corpses back to the powerful nation we were a thousand years ago. We have gold, and we have other goods to trade, but it has to start somewhere. Of course, if you only wish to fight some monsters, Elathilen is full of them, but if you think that Helios and Anaetyr can help each other, let’s get down to business.”
Ilhara held offered their hand to Lord Tallia and waited for the human’s response.
Lord Tallia listened attentively as they walked, he made a point not to interrupt with much more than nods and acceptive sounds. It wasn’t until they stopped by the wall.
“Lord Ilhara, I think that we will be able to work together.”
He reached out and took the elves hand and gave it a firm shake. While he had a soft youthful look his hands were rough specifically where one might hold a weapon. He let his hand slip from the others and put his palms on his hips.
“We will need to speak with my advisers for specifics on trade, but I think I can offer a help to your expansion even now. There is a man on my ship, a Knight Valiant, their order is responsible for freeing my homeland from the grips of horrors. He is a specialist in the undead, if you will have us, he would depart as soon as you would let him.”
He smiled finally and it lit his youthful features. “I think this is a blessed meeting, and together I think we shall see both of our lands prosper.”