Staying Lost on our Way Home

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lady Sabine, Jul 18, 2013.

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  1. The Elven community has always been diverse and quick to fracture- from the original Old Elves sprang the High Elves, magic-loving and fickle. From them sprung half a dozen other races, possible only through the deep connection between Elves and the magic they wield. Every spell, every enchantment, every summoning, molds an Elf to its image. When a cult sprang up worshiping a spider deity, it was to no one's surprise that within a generation they were transformed by their faith. Dark of skin and soul, they stood out among their brethren from the first.
    They became known as Drow, and attracted thousands to their ranks as they grew and expanded, carving a cancerous kingdom of their own into the High Elven Dominion- and further, into the realms of Men and Dwarves and all other manner of races, conquering for century after century before their foes formed an alliance.
    Defeated but not destroyed, the surviving Drow fled to the Underdark, a system of caves where they found safety, and there they stayed for three thousand years, and became just stories passed down by the great-great-great-grandparents of even the oldest of Elves. To the shorter-lived races, they were relegated to myth and legend.
    Until recently. After three and a half millenia of a single dynasty, there has finally been an upheaval in the Drow matriarchy. A new Empress from a new family has been crowned, and Teyacapan the First sits uneasily on her bloody throne. She has sent delegates to most of the major kingdoms, looking to bring her people back to the surface.
    There is only one kingdom power hungry enough to answer her call for war. The king is a warrior at heart, eager to expand his kingdom through conquest, and seeing the Drow army, and the empress herself, as the key to victory.
    A political wedding is arranged just a fortnight after initial contact is made, and just three more weeks later, the couple meet and are wed on the same day. Unfortunately, in all this haste, certain arrangements were not made. You see, the Drow are a matriarchal society, where it is the women who rule, and Empress Teyacapan I assumes her power will remain absolute.
    Much the same could be said for her husband.
    First of Her Name, Empress of the Drow Empire, Mistress of all She Surveys
    Age: 240, give or take a few years. Drow don't celebrate birthdays and generally only give their age to the nearest decade.​
    Eyes: pale lavender, not a terribly uncommon shade for her people.​
    Hair: white- Drow are born with dark hair and pale skin, but the colors reverse before long, and Teya displays only a few remnant dark hairs.​
    Skin: black in most lights, though direct enough sunlight reveals it to be a very deep shade between purple and maroon​
    Not terribly skilled in magic or athleticism, Teya's strengths lay in beauty and cunning, two traits highly valued in her society. She's ruthless, stunning, and endlessly ambitious. Her sexuality is a tool used to display her superiority, and she dresses to impress, leaving just enough flawless ebony skin to tease. She's an excellent manipulator when she chooses to be that subtle, and seems to have a nearly endless amount of wealth and favors when she needs something done.​
    Like all Drow, she can see in near pitch dark with her large eyes, having an impressive amount of Tapetum lucidum. However, this is to the detriment of her daytime vision, as she must filter the light if she doesn't wish to be blinded on sunny days. In spite of her dark skin sunburn is also a chief concern, along with the sicknesses that her kind have not been exposed to for generations. These few weaknesses aside Drow are a strong and capable race, and she is no exception.​
  3. Name: Frederick Johnson the Conqueror
    Titles: Ruler of Olbian, Son of John the Merciless, Lord of the Slaughter
    Age: 28

    Frederick is a tall, well-built man, and towers over most in his court. His muscular build, honed through years of training and battle, only adds to his ability to intimidate, as do his broad, powerful shoulders. Given the amount of sun that actually reaches the country he lives in, it's no surprise that his skin is a little pale. However, it does not appear to be unhealthy, merely on the lighter side of what is considered normal.
    Frederick keeps his auburn hair combed back, and - quite unusually - it is a fair few inches in length. however, one would not suspect this, given that he keeps his hair combed back, save for a few hairs that flop down onto his forehead. His eyes match his hair, to an extent, being a dark shade of brown inn colour. However, they fit his personality even more - as good as he is at lying, when he feels especially strongly about something, his true emotions will shine through in his eyes.
    When he isn't wearing robes - robes which he finds tacky and impractical - Frederick will often wear his signature dragonhide armour. While at first glance it appears to just be standard brown leather clothing, closer inspection reveals that it is indeed a dragon's hide, made into a shirt and trousers. In the right craftsman's hands, the hide can be as tough as steel, while being many times lighter.

    Over the years, Frederick has become known for his sheer lack of mercy, his ruthlessness, and his tendency to manipulate the wills of those around him. He isn't just a musclebound brute in a throne - he's all too well-versed in the shadier side of politics. While some may rely on their bodies and their wealth, Frederick prefers a different approach. He will bribe, talk, and if necessary, force his way into and out of things. While the traits are not exactly desirable, to survive in the king's court, you either break the rules, or be broken.
  4. Since oldest living memory, the gates to the Underdark had been sealed tightly shut, barred from inside and out, with the passage leading to them filled with rubble just to make sure. It was symbolic as much as anything, a sign that the Drow did not need the overland, did not need the people in it, and would forever consign themselves to the dark, both literally and metaphorically.
    It was a lovely sentiment, and one that Teyacapan had taken great pleasure in smashing to bits, both literally and metaphorically.
    The Underdark, as she put it, simply wasn't enough anymore. In the safety of their home the population had risen from a scarce twelve thousand to over two illion souls. Generations of tunneling had resulted in hundreds of leagues of warrens, but space was at a premium and food was scarce. There were hundreds of species of edible mushrooms, yes, and the cavern lakes did swim richly with bizarre eyeless fish and transparent shrimps and crabs, but even supplemented with whatever bats and rats and lost travelers they could find, the Drow had reached a population crisis some five years ago.
    Starvation. Riots. Unrest.

    Out of this Teyacapan had risen, and out of this she would bring her people. She was cold and ruthless and brutal, but she was not in this for herself. She was in this for a nation that had a choice between expanding and dying. As the members of the Senate of Matriarchs had discovered, those who opposed expansion often wound up meeting death a little too early. It wasn't as though she was unopposed, but she had cowed most of her opposition into submission, which was almost as good.
    Half of the Senate, all those she trusted most and least, had been brought with her from the Underdark. She didn't trust them not to shut those doors behind her otherwise. It was an enormous step she took, crossing over the border into the overland. No Empress had done so since the fall of the First Empire some three thousand years earlier.
    She made that step in style. In their exploration her kind had uncovered an impossible wealth of metal and jewels, and it took twelve powerful Orcish slaves to carry her palanquin, coated with silver and jewels as it was. She arrived at midnight to prevent the light from blinding her, but all the glitter from her sedan chair nearly did just so.

    When she finally stopped squinting against the glare, even the haughty, jaded queen had to gasp in wonder. The overworld was... beautiful. The sky, studded with stars, made her dizzy to look at. There was a breeze nothing like the drafts of the caverns, a breeze that smelled of greenery and animals and everything else she had never smelled before.
    The sensory overload threatened to overwhelm her, but she managed to pull her senses together after a minute and focused her attention on the welcoming party. Her husband-to-be she recognized quickly from the portrait, and a handful of others from her emissary's descriptions. She herself was unmistakable. Wrapped in a diamond-studded sheer gown that became only mostly opaque over her most private regions, her near-flawless figure was displayed in full glory, topped with a towering tiara of white mithril and moonstones. She was beautiful as only Elf-women could be, and cold as only a Drow.
    When she stepped off the palanquin and felt grass beneath her feet for the first time, she irreverently kicked off her delicate silk slippers and dug her toes into the Earth, smiling in a predatory way. "I know what I shall demand as a wedding gift, dear betrothed," She called to Frederick, laughing gaily. "I want the world."
  5. Normally, you wouldn’t expect a tiny, backwater island like Olbian to be one of the most threatening nations the overworld knew. True, back in the day, it was nothing more than some third-rate power, only notable for its disproportionately large export of wool, when compared to what others sent out. But that was before John the Conqueror ascended to the throne, by right of slaying his predecessor in combat. He had struck the idle king from his throne, and it was his skull that adorned a table next to the king’s bed. A constant reminder that death comes for the incompetent.

    The land had mostly been divided into small parts, each ruled over by a tribe, the territories shifting this way and that, as savages waged war on each other. The monarchs before had united small groups, but the sway they held was minimal at best. The troops were ferocious, but their discipline was atrocious. They needed to be reined in. And that was where John had come in. The ruler of a small, fortified group of warriors, he began to take over the surrounding tribes, his most trusted generals expanding his reach in other directions. Soon, the entire country knew – beware the standard baring the dragon’s skull.

    Through remarkable use of slave labour and rapid industrialisation, the country had become more than just sufficient. They had become a world power. Possessing a fearsome navy, soldiers with the ferocity of tribal savages and the discipline of professionals, and a ruler capable of squashing insurrection by his speeches alone, the country of Olbian quickly became a nation to be feared. While they were not quite at the level of the Dwarves, when it came to technology, their advances had trumped many other human settlements’. They had even been experimenting with an exploding black dust from the eastern countries – one that decimated the toughest of armour, and was capable of blowing the legs clean off of a giant.

    And, after many years of what some would call tyranny, and what others would call necessary sacrifice, modern-day Olbian was born. A country of commerce and military might, constantly expanding its reaches, whether by “diplomatic negotiations,” or by the old tried-and-tested method – taking over an area, and slaughtering anyone who disagrees. But John was growing old – he could not maintain such vast territory, even with the assistance of his advisors and generals. Luckily, he had taught his son well. He had taught him everything he knew about politics, about warfare, who to trust, who not to, and how to prove himself to his subjects. And, though Frederick was young, he was prepared.

    Upon arriving for the first meeting, Frederick was questioned about his lack of weaponry. While he was suspicious of his advisor just wanting the Drow to slaughter him, Frederick decided to humour the man. He reasoned that he was not there to make war – he was to negotiate the terms of a treaty, and to expand his territory even further. He knew the Drow’s ruler would not be easy to subjugate, woman or not – a slick tongue would only go so far. He needed to lure her in, make her feel comfortable. Killing her was not an option – after all, the last thing he needed was a war with the elves. They were but legends before, but there’s no smoke without fire.

    Clad in his signature dragonhide armour, Frederick chuckled, adopting an expression of mild amusement. Merely a pleasantry, however, one he would be glad to be rid of. In truth, he just wanted to see the Empress on her knees, while he inspected her throne. Oh, it wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

    “My dear, the world is practically ours for the taking. Already, my navy is ready to sail for Tristain, and aboard it are my soldiers – fearless, professional, and with the savagery of the tribes of old. Tell me, my queen-to-be – how do you plan to contribute to my future empire?”
  6. She tossed her hair haughtily, shaking her head. "You bring me soldiers, savagery, and ships," Teyacapan stated, speaking more to the crowd than to him. "It is only fair that I bring a threefold gift, in honor of the goddess triumvirate. As she exists in threes, so may my contribution to conquest." A conquest she did not truly intend to share, but nevertheless, for the sake of appearances it was best to pretend an equal partnership was what either of them had in mind. In all truth, she was hoping he would be stupid enough to lead the troops and get himself killed, but if all else failed humans were such short-lived creatures he would not hold his own against her for long. She had every intention of living to a thousand if it meant she would get to rule the entire time, though one of her daughters would likely be ruthless enough to do away with her centuries earlier.

    Ready for the show to begin, she motioned towards the great doors behind her. "First, the gift of the Underdark. We have tunnelled and quarried and mined out way further than you could imagine. These doors are wide enough to march twenty men through, a highway this size will take them all the way beneath the channel to Tristain. When the ships land they will bring the bulk of the force to the shore, where they will be easy for the underground troops to ambush. Borders can be watched, but they cannot anticipate where we will tunnel to next."

    Turning slightly, she motioned forwards another series of strapping porters. The first carried with them bars of gold and silver and mithril, which they sat on the ground with exaggerated care. "The gift of wealth I bring to you next," the young empress announced, standing atop one of the piles of ingots. "Metal and gems untold have been excavated from the Underdark for the past past thirty five hundred years, and flow like blood beneath the surface. With this we will buy what we do not care to bother taking by force, though with mithril our troops will be unstoppable."

    With that done, twelve soldiers marched out in perfect formation. Clad in black mithril-alloy armor from head to toe, they glistened like beetles, ominous and relentless, each clutching the trademark double-ended scythe of the Drow imperial army. "These are twelve men, highly trained and eager for first blood," Their leader announced, grinning like a madwoman. "They are one percent of one thousandth of the force I have at my disposal. A dozen hundred thousand men. One and one-fifth a hundred thousand, all fully armed, all ready to march at a moment's notice."

    She stepped towards him then, confident in her position's security. "Feed us, give us a springboard, and we shall rise to dominate the very stars themselves, the second Drow empire to eclipse the first with our dear partner, the Kingdom of Olbian. Glory, wealth, prestige- my empire, perhaps, should see evidence of your contribution?"
  7. While he noted his future wife’s smarts, Frederick hoped that her prideful nature would make her overlook his own cunning and lack of respect for the elven people, and variations thereupon. He had done his research into the Drow, and retellings of their strengths and weaknesses. He knew for a fact that iron – a metal long associated with man – was capable of nullifying the powers of, and even going so far as to harm, many variations of Fae. However, he was yet to test this weakness on the subterranean elves, but was far more eager to try than could be considered healthy.

    First, the gift of the Underdark. While most would have seen it as a golden opportunity, Frederick was vastly uneasy about it. Not only was it unfamiliar territory, but it was the territory of an enmy he had only just met. Were he to send troops through there, he suspected an ambush – not from the forces of Tristain, but by the Dark Elves themselves. Or maybe there would be an unfortunate accident, in which the tunnels collapsed, due to some sort of negligence. Nevertheless, he pretended to accept the gift with gratitude, wishing to appear polite, even if he was a snake at heart.

    Second, came the gift of metal. This came as no surprise to him – a race with free reign of the Earth’s lower levels would naturally have access to numerous metals. The Dwarves were a prime example of this, though they seemed to not even have come close to the level that the Drow had achieved. Gold and silver were all well and good, to Frederick – riches corrupted the weak of mind. The stronger-willed would know what to do with it, and when. But the clincher came in the Mithril, a metal that even had had a difficult time acquiring. He had heard tales of Dwarven warriors facing a dragon’s breath head-on with armour of it, but man had been unsuccessful in repeating this.

    Until now, however.

    The third “gift,” Frederick was even more uneasy about than the first. It was well-known for an animal to make a display of strength, in order to achieve power, or to win the affection of other members of its group. He was fairly certain that this was essentially the same thing – Teyacapan making a display of her troops, stating their numbers, in an attempt to intimidate him. And, if there was one thing even Frederick could not handle, it was being overwhelmed by sheer force of numbers. If it came down to that, he would have to make certain that he dealt with the Drow – and quickly.

    Frederick raised an eyebrow at Teyacapan’s question, as if interpreting it as a challenge. Of course, he had come prepared – he did, after all, need more than words and tone to make a point.
    “You wish to see evidence? Then allow me to oblige. Men! To me!”

    Upon his command, a group of five soldiers marched forwards having previously been standing back, awaiting orders. Immediately, and wordlessly, they formed a line behind Frederick, their movement ceased, but the fire burning in their eyes unmistakable. But it wasn’t just that – far from it. Though unarmed, the armour they were wearing showed how powerful they were.

    “This is but a sample of my standard foot soldiers. Each one, trained until their feet sprouted blisters, until their hands were raw, until their very souls became moulded to my expectations. They are unarmed, but I assure you, they are more than capable of murdering efficiently without weaponry.”

    Not to mention the fact that they were wearing full armour, bar shields, made of notoriously heavy steel. And yet, they had marched to Frederick as if they were wearing woolen clothing, and stood without showing any signs of fatigue. Even if they weren’t as long-lived as other races, the physical standards that a human could be trained to was astounding, and shown prominently in those men.

    "I assure you, my kingdom prospers in many areas other than its military. But I need every available man at arms - Tristain is just as likely to attack as I am. I could not afford to have valuable soldiers wasted guarding my carriages."
  8. It was not an uncommon mistake to lump Elfkind with the Fae. In no small way, they were superficially similar- delicate features, long lives, mysterious practices, intimate knowledge of magic... the list went on and on. In all truth, though, Fae were a different sort entirely. Orcs, humans, Elves, Dwarves, even Naga, Icarii, and Beastmen, could interbreed and thrive. Alone of the sapient beings, true Fae could not interbreed with any other race- genetically dissimilar and more ancient than all the other peoples combined, the Fair Folk were remnants of a past age. It was said among most of Elfkind that through the land of normalcy ran a river that was chaos. The land was for life and the river was for magic, and the two were forever separate. Mages and enchanters and sorcerers could dip their hands and feet into the river, but could no mortal could swim without drowning. Staring back from within the river were Fae, who spent their entire lives underwater and only reached up a hand or a foot or a head above the surface to briefly observe the mortal world before they dove back into chaos.

    Dark Elves, like all of Elfkind, did not share the iron intolerance of true Fae. In truth, the only major downfall of the Elves was also their great strength. Being so intertwined with their magic gave them great ability, but also great opportunity for failure. Every spell of destruction that was cast, every negative enchantment, every rite of death chanted- it affected them. Every bit of death they sent out came back to them. Healers remained hale and hearty their entire lives; battlemages died violent deaths at young ages.

    Of course, the Drow had a few unique weak spots. Vulnerability to light was chief among them; sensitivity to noise and smell a close second, having lived in an area without many loud noises or sharp odors for so long. And having been trapped only with what contagions they brought in with them, the Drow army was untried against the fluxes and coughs and sores that every normal army experienced regularly. Strong on the surface, the Drow were untried and untested and had very little idea what they were doing in all truth. They were the descendants of conquerors, not conquerors themselves.

    Still, the blood of their ancestors flowed strong, and the ability was there, if not the experience. Teyacapan herself was a prime example of that. "Your soldiers can march," She stated, somewhat underimpressed with the display. "In armor thrice as heavy as it ought to be, even. And I am sure killing without weapons is an impressive talent- but I am sure your enemies do use blades, do they not? I might not be an expert but it seems to me a fool's errand to send armored men against armed men."
  9. It was not particularly surprising that iron had been misinterpreted as something the Drow would be weak to. Contact with elves was scarce within the species itself – a “lowly human” coming into contact with them was virtually unheard of. Even the pact that had been made to defeat the Drow was only done out of necessity. Not that the other races seemed to mind – elves seemed to leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths without even trying. True, some had attempted to integrate – some had succeeded. But hey were the exception, a drop in the frighteningly racist bucket of what should have been an otherwise prosperous land.

    It wasn’t hard to see why the Dwarves were looked down upon, given their table manners, and their appearances. True, their capability at the anvil and at the workbench was astounding, but that didn’t excuse how they acted in a vaguely civilised area. Then again, it wasn’t hard to see why humans were looked down upon by the elves as well. Fragile, petty, and without any particular talents of their own, humans seemed to be centuries behind other races. While elves were commanding oceans and Dwarves were harnessing col’s potential, humans had just finished stabbing each other half to death with sharp sticks.

    But, their tenacity was something to be admired. No matter what hit them, humans seemed to just get up and bite back even harder. True, they were weak, but they were numerous. And numbers could overwhelm. And that was not to mention that humans just didn’t seem to be able to die True, compared to other races, their lives were short-lived. But No matter what disaster befell them – plague, war, the occasional attempted genocide, the even rarer successful one, the human race just didn’t seem to die off. And, no matter how others looked at it, that was a fairly impressive trait.

    Taken aback slightly by not realising why the men were unarmed – and why he himself was not carrying his own blade – Frederick’s expression changed to one of surprise, but not long – or hard – enough to convey anything significant.
    “Oh, I know that all too well. But I am here to discuss an alliance, not to make war on your people. I come here bearing gifts, and opportunity – not our blades, dulled by battle, or our bows, worn by their trials.”

    However, Frederick was a careful man – and slightly paranoid, if you talked to the right people. He wouldn’t come unprepared, if he had the time to gather resources.

    Though his men carried no visible weapons, under their armour, they had concealed daggers. They were not particularly special ones, mind, but they would be sufficient in protecting Frederick for a while, in the event that he needed to escape. It was also worth mentioning that the servant currently attending to Frederick was his court wizard’s apprentice – taken along for a short-distance teleport spell he had learnt to use. Useful for an escape, and Frederick always thought that he could never have too many human shields. He’d feel bad letting such a brain go to waste, but he needed a magic user by his side, and he couldn’t afford to lose his best one.
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