Illustration by Brett Cain
“The snow has been exceptionally heavy this year, it’s true. I don’t think we’ve had a single day in the last ten without some snowfall.” The old high elf man nudged his dinner plate away from him, picked up his wine glass, and stood. He wore a tight-fitting white coat over his shirt, and a long, perfectly folded drape. “Fortunately, we have been able draw up more heat from the caverns and keep most of the roads mostly clear.”
“We have in the upper city, in your district, but there are many levels down below where they have not.” An elven lady spoke, tipping her head with a lift of her eyebrow as she reached for her own glass. “Thank you for the delicious meal, by the way, Councilman.” The man standing acknowledged the compliment with a nod.
Tonklyn set down his own fork and knife with a gentle clink on the plate. He also reached for his glass. He looked at the others across the beautifully spread table of fine crystal, delicate porcelain, immaculate linens, and a deliciously roasted bird. He’d not had so grand a feast in the few weeks since Winterfest, certainly not one so intimate as this, and with such influential elves as these.
The first councilman stepped behind Tonklyn’s seat and moved away from the table toward a circle of large comfortable chairs. He seemed to Tonklyn to be the leader, the senior, of this faction of the Emberfire High Council to the King.
Another councilman, who looked a bit younger, stood with his glass and held out his hand to the lady beside him. He wore dark wide trousers instead of a more traditional drape, and no jacket. “In addition, there are often issues of drainage channels freezing up in the lower levels. That is causing a lot of troubles.”
The lady accepted his hand and stood, adding, “but these are things that we can address another day. Tonight,” she and her companion also stepped toward the chairs, “we are to hear an entreaty from our guest, correct?” She gestured at Tonklyn.
Tonklyn stood and nodded. “Yes, thank you very much.” He followed them to the seating area of the spacious chamber.
As they all settled into chairs and set their glasses down on the small ornate tables beside each one, the councilwoman spoke first. “Tell us again who you are. This is not a formal council meeting, so we can speak more openly. In all candor, I’m not sure why you reached out to me.”
Tonklyn relaxed into the soft cushions of the lush black velvet chair back and sipped his wine. “Mmm. High elven wines are truly legendary.” He smoothed out his dark ministerial robes and sash and flicked off a few imaginary particles of dust. “I am Sir Tonklyn Chancellor, Primary Minister to His Majesty Kirraxal the First, of Graemal, and I come to you today by way of greeting and as an emissary.”
The councilwoman frowned, then interjected with paper-thin politeness. “I beg your pardon for my ignorance. I mean no disrespect, but I’m not aware of that Kingdom.” The shaking heads of the other two indicated that they were also unaware. Tonklyn had counted on this.
“My liege lord has taken up the crown and mantle left behind centuries ago by his predecessor King Maxinn the Third,” Tonklyn paused, observing the raised eyes and confused gazes of his hosts, “and I’m here to share some valuable information.”
The taller councilman, the host, asked in a reserved, cautious tone, “What sort of information?”
Tonklyn sipped his wine again. “Recent events in Twynne Rivers have significantly changed the political face of the Kingdom of House Twynnham there. Those changes are now rippling outward like the splash of a huge stone dropped into a pond.” He set his glass down and set his hand on his lap with regal dignity. “If one is wise, one would be able to manage the resulting waves, or even to ride them to advantage.”
The councilman in dark pants scoffed. “Our King has already responded to this. Our border patrols are tightened, and our magical defenses increased. The internal troubles of the humans are of little impact and no interest to us here in Emberfire.” He dismissed Tonklyn’s suggestion with a haughty wave.
Tonklyn shrugged. “On the contrary, they should be of great interest. Allow me to clarify for you. After the destruction of the chapels, and the dismantling of the Wizard’s Guild, many of the lesser guilds and factions have taken courage and are now surging up to try and assert dominance in the power void left. King Twynnham had long relied on the balancing of their various rivalries to maintain stability in his own authority. That’s been gravely upset, now. As a result, most of his forces, militias, guards, etc., are now chasing their tails trying to maintain order in their own streets.”
“Again,” the councilwoman responded, “we’re not clear just how this affects us here in the mountains. Let them kill themselves sorting it out. We don’t care.”
“Except,” Tonklyn raised pointing fingers to interrupt, “That since their armies are now committed to their own stability, they are in no position to honor their allegiance, weak as it always was, with the wood elves of Umbrawood. This leaves them in a very vulnerable position. The splash, though far away, makes waves.” He slid his hands away from him in the air, making rippling wave motions with his fingertips. He immediately saw interest and intrigue in their raised eyebrows.
The shorter councilman turned his head and looked at Tonklyn across his nose. “What… are you suggesting?”
Tonklyn smiled and settled his hands. “I’m suggesting nothing. I know that you, as members of your council, have been vocal about your desire for– what do you call it?– reunification? I merely share information that has come to my Liege Lord in the hopes that it might be of use to you in that effort, and that you might think of our Kingdom favorably,” He took his glass again, “in the long run.”
The councilmembers glanced quickly, nervously, back and forth between themselves. “An invasion? Would the Council approve?”
“The wood elves know their lands and forests well.”
“True. An attack through the forest would be costly.”
“But without reinforcements, or help from Twynnham…”
“Many would die.”
“Oh, please,” Tonklyn sighed and rolled his eyes. “You have dragons. Dozens of them. I’ve seen them. They’re not just for spectacular displays on festival nights. Use them! The wood elves live in trees. They’re terrified of fire!”
“He’s got a point…”
“If an attack from the air were accompanied with a ground occupation force…”
“The wood elves would sue for peace in a heartbeat!”
“The elves would be united again.”
Tonklyn reinforced their thoughts, “Historically, elves and dragons have each ruled this land at one time or another. Both eras were times of great prosperity and peace.” The two councilmen nodded agreement.
The councilwoman shook her head. “I fear the council would never approve such a move. His Majesty might agree, but not without the cooperation of all the generals at the table. And Lord F’hallath at the very least would be opposed, as more could be, too.”
The others nodded at this realization. “Doesn’t F’hallath import fine wood elven teas? He would have a vested interest in stability.”
“Interesting.” Tonklyn hummed and tapped his fingers on his wine glass. “Teas, eh? If that’s true, I might be able to help… persuade him.”