Past the walls of Sanavil, Gavis had expected towering buildings, paved roads, and bustling peasants, reminiscent of Skalag. Instead, the towering wall only encloses more farmland and the rutted road turns into a gravel track. In the middle distance, he sees the old city of Sanavil surrounded by a large military encampment.
“This is… unique,” he shares his thoughts with Scarlet. The redhead woman grunts with a slight blush to her face.
“As you say, Sir Gavis,” she begins. “Sanavil is undergoing an expansion. We’ve only finished the construction of the wall recently, so there is
still much to be done.”
He nods slowly. “That’s quite the aspiration,” he comments, mind whirling as the scale of Sanavil’s ambition sinks in.
“It needs to be. Sanavil’s population more than quadrupled last year, and it’s growing even faster now as people immigrate. We’re hoping to have most of the population living in permanent residences within a year,” Scarlet explains. She licks her lips and glances at the distant tents. “Though, that might not be feasible anymore with all the new [Soldiers].”
Gavis follows her gaze to the military encampment. He sees hundreds of [Soldiers] bearing insignia from Mundus or Acerous milling around the temporary shelters.
It takes him a moment to realize what Scarlet implies. “You plan to build homes for prisoners of war?” he asks in surprise.
“Of course,” she answers briskly, “If they are going to risk their lives going to war against Sanavil’s enemies, then they should be compensated with land. It is only right.”
“That seems unwise,” he comments. The thought of giving land to conscripted enemy [Soldiers] seems like a horrible idea.
“It does,” she agrees, “but [King] Quasi has left detailed orders on how to grow our army, and [Queen] Nighmora plans to follow them in exact detail.”
Gavis perks up. “He left orders? Is your [King] not present?”
Scarlet nods. “Yes, he’s been missing for some time now. Nobody knows where he is. They only know that he is still alive.”
Gavis frowns and looks back at Ammeris’s carriage. The [Noble] has her window open and is probably seeing the sights. She will be disheartened to know that the [King] is not currently present. Speaking of which,
“Sorry if this might sound odd to ask, but I’ve noticed that Sanavil has some unique species. Could you educate me on them?”
“Oh! Of course.” She blushes. “I forgot to give you the pamphlet.” She reaches into a bag on her saddle and hands him a folded scroll. “You’d normally get that when entering the city. Since I rushed you through, the [Guards] probably forgot. Sorry about that.”
“Welcome to Sanavil,” states the cover in large, cheerful calligraphy. Beneath the greeting, printed in bold font are the words “Don’t Panic!”
Gavin raises an eyebrow. He unfolds the paper and discovers detailed illustrations of three different demi-human species, their names, a short description of their characteristics, and how to not commit a faux-pas. On the back, he finds a cryptic warning about green soup and a garish yellow symbol. A warning?
According to the picture, the horse-humans from the reports are Centaurs. Two other species are also introduced: The Minotaurs, humans crossed with bovines and then scaled up, and the Gejan, scaly, velociraptor-ish things with somewhat more upright posture and opposable thumbs.
“Where did they come from?” he asks the big question.
The armored woman shrugs. “From the mists,” she answers cryptically.
Curious, Gavis opens his mouth to pry, but he’s interrupted by an echoing roar that fills the sky. All eyes look upward as a flying beast soars overhead.
“Wyvern!” he yells while unlatching his lance and smoothly equipping his shield. The [Knights] behind him do the same as they all prepare for combat.
“No! Stand down! That's not an enemy. The wyverns are trained,” Scarlet interrupts while waving her hands in the air.
Before Scarlet can answer, the delighted shrieks and giggles of girls grab their attention as the cobalt blue wyvern dives steeply and then snaps its wings open, stopping its descent. It glides slowly up to Scarlet and lands heavily. The [Knights’] horses shift and stamp, agitated by the large beast, while Scarlet's own mare snorts in superiority; as it should! A [General]’s horse wouldn’t feel threatened by a mere wyvern.
“Scarly!!!!” a Gejan child calls out in a voice from the beast's back. “We’re here to help,” she announces while the human girl studies the caravan with a critical eye.
Scarlet ignores the warry looks of the [Knights] and instead reaches out towards the wyvern. She rubs the overgrown pterosaur’s head and gives it a kiss. “Aisha! Izabella!” she shouts up at the girls. “Did Volpe give you permission to leave?”
“Of course!” Aisha pronounces, but Scarlet ignores the blind budding [Mage] and instead looks at Izabella.
“Miss Volpe needs to finish up the wall enchantment, so she gave us leave, Miss Scar-”
“Ahem,” Scarlet loudly clears her throat as she stares at the young [Noble]
“Mom,” Izabella quickly corrects with a growing blush.
Scarlet nods. “Well, that's good, but I have to do some serious work.” She waves at the procession of [Knights] half-ready to fight. “So it might be better if you girls found someone else.”
“But we want to help!” Aisha whines, as she usually does.
Scarlet frowns, then immediately perks up. “Actually, I might need your help. Could you go find [Lady] Rose and ask her to have some rooms made available for our guests?”
The girls nod. “We can do that,” Aisha quickly replies. With a slight tap on the side of her mount, Frosty the wyvern turns around and sprints before hopping and flapping into the air, the girls giggling in delight once again.
As she watches the girls leave, Scarlet then turns to Gavis with a smile, “Sorry about that. Where were we again?” she asks innocently.
Gavis, shield raised and spear still in hand, is staring at the wyvern flying away. A monstrous beast capable of slaughtering [Knights] with ease… is being ridden by little girls.
“I…“ he struggles to find the words. He eventually settles on an eloquent, “What?”
A year ago, an envoy from [King] Henceforth would have left Rose panicking. She would have done everything in her power to make sure that whoever came would be shown the highest level of hospitality that Rose could offer. Though Henceforth is not a man of war, he is still very influential, if not the most influential leader in the entirety of the South. A single word from him could completely strangle Sanival’s trade with all of the wealthiest kingdoms in the South.
And, if recent information is to be believed, his military strength and financial power have grown exponentially over the past two years. He is, in essence, an all around powerhouse who even the infamous Dominus struggles to deal with.
“Considering the timing, my [Lady], I believe [King] Henceforth is trying to form favorable relations with Sanavil thanks to our [General]’s recent successes,” David speculates. He studies a book in one hand and holds a pencil in his other.
Paper and pencil, two objects introduced by the centaurs that have revolutionized the ability to record data. Paper is a flexible, foldable writing material made from compressed wood, and the pencil is a writing stick made of plumbago baked with clay and cased in wood. Both objects can be manufactured for a fraction the cost of their papyrus and pen counterparts and suffer none of the mess of ink. Truly, technology is amazing.
“I believe he fears Sanavil, or at the very least, [General] Rathos, and wants to head off any potential conflicts with Sanavil if at all possible,” David continues speaking while Rose strides out to her balcony to stare out at the hustle and bustle of the growing city. In the midst of the main street, a large caravan protected by mounted [Knights] carries on towards her home. At the front, Rose spots Scarlet and a [Noble], who Rose guesses is the leader of the [Knights].
“Henceforth doesn’t fear our [General], though he’s cautious of him.” She cracks her muscular neck. “But caution alone wouldn't make Henceforth send an envoy,” she points towards the convoy, “especially not one defended by no less than eight [Knights].”
“What do you mean?” David asks as he walks to the edge. “A [King] was slain and two cities were conquered within a week. I would think that would instill some worry.”
Rose shifts her eyes away from the approaching caravan and instead looks down at the castle entrance. A large statue of metal can be seen imitating her form; forged steel that accentuates her muscular curves. It’s a gift by a certain lovestruck dwarf. She has to admit, it’s quite impressive work and may have actually made her blush when she saw it, unlike the gauntlets.
“Mundus and Acerous are two cities that have besieged Sanavil, so our retaliation is acceptable, almost a given really. If we had waged war with another city that hasn’t attacked us, then caution would have turned to fear.” She narrows her eyes. “Henceforth is planning something. Something political or conniving.”
“Any ideas?” David asks.
Rose shrugs and starts heading inside. “Nothing concrete yet, but we will find out soon enough. Are all the preparations ready? Have you contacted everyone for the meeting?”
David flicks to a page in his book, “Yes, rooms have been prepared for the convoy and [Queen] Nighmora has sent missives to all of Sanavils elites to prepare for tonight's meeting.”
“Good,” she answers. Rose walks to her closet and opens it up. With movement far more fluid than would be expected by a giant woman, Rose removes her current dress and replaces it with a set of form-fitting basilisk-skin armor. Basilisk’s skin is known to be durable, but more importantly, stretchy. It is a universal trait of the monstrous snakes which are known to consume full-grown wyverns whole.
“Are you sure it is wise to go to the meeting in armor?” David asks while Roses stretches.
Rose snorts at the question and leans down. She opens up a chest to reveal a set of pure Adamantine gauntlets, each one weighing over fifty pounds. With ease, she lifts the gauntlets and slides them on her hands. She smiles at the roses etched into gauntlets’ surface, a lovely touch by the dwarf, especially the thorns. She really likes the thorns.
“They are expecting a formal meeting with the leadership of Sanavil. They expect [Noble] women in dresses and [Noble] men in suits. They expect [Lords] and [Ladies] looking rich and proper,” she moves to the wall size window of her room and then stretches. The armor hugs her curves in a most licentious fashion. “But,” she turns back to the curious rat, “can you think of any of our current leaders who will meet that expectation?”
David frowns and thinks. His tongue clicks and he scrunches up his face as realization sets in. “Ah,” is the appropriate noise he makes before he runs out to halt the oncoming clusterfuck.
“I don't like this,” Rathos complains as he stands in front of a large mirror. “This will be a formal gathering. Why must I wear armor?” he shifts his body slightly, the midnight black, enchanted, spiky, carapace armor. The demonic looking armor is a gift from Nighmora for his timely conquests of Mundus and Acerous.
“The summons requested that you wear the armor. As a [General], it’s important that you look the part,” Scarlet says with a grin. She moves around Rathos with a bottle of polish and a rag. Carefully, while avoiding the numerous spikes, she shines the metal-like carapace.
He sighs, annoyed by the armor's unprofessional look. He should be wearing nice ceremonial armor and not something that makes him look like he is going to rip somebody apart. “Just hand me the helmet, already,” he says in a disgruntled tone.
Scarlet giggles as she moves to the bed and picks up the helmet. The helmet is a full helm, covering the entirety of the head except for two eye sockets. At the top of the helmet are two horns that extend out from the sides and sweep forwards. The front looks like the face of a monstrous beast ready to devour flesh and bone.
Scarlet picks up the heavy helmet and hands it to Rathos. He takes one look at the thing and grumbles with dissatisfaction. He lifts the helmet and places it on his head. With the last piece in place, he feels the armor come to life as the interlocking enchantments activate. He feels his body strengthen while the armor becomes lighter. At the same time, the headpiece becomes transparent to his eyes, giving him full vision of his surroundings.
Then, the other enchantments activate. The armor's eye sockets glow blood red and red light seems to emanate from behind the breast plate. From the torso, the red light traces along his arms and legs, illuminating them like veins. A cape of bloodred smoke grows from his shoulders and swirls down his back, waving and fuming to an invisible breeze.
“I dislike this,” Rathos comments. His voice comes out guttural and harsh, changed to elicit fear and pain to all those who dare hear him speak, every sepulchral syllable a promise of death and destruction, of the world ending in pain and blood.
Scarlet wheezes at his reaction, struggling to hold back her laughter.
Rathos moves his hand. From the joint of his arm, a shot of pitch-black lightning travels out and down his armor with a threatening crackle.
The [General] sighs and Scarlet falls on the floor with a hand around her stomach, laughing uncontrollably.