'I was under the impression that this was supposed to be an introductory meeting only,' Saenni said and leaned back in her chair.
'We are quite busy, so we will often have to mix and condense our meetings, I'm afraid. But I don't see why we would waste an opportunity to have a proper discussion in the presence of the Great Dragon,' the king said kindly.
'I'm afraid I only agreed to meet with you, not to aid in the discussions,' Saenni said and turned to look at Linette. 'Were you aware that this is where this meeting would go?'
'Of course she was,' the queen said. 'She's the one who suggested it.'
'Please understand that this is extremely important to the future of the world,' Linette said quickly.
'Important enough for you to step over other people?' Saenni asked. 'That you feel entitled enough to force others into a position they have no wish to be in, in order to achieve your own goals?'
Linette frowned and crossed her arms. 'I'm only doing what I have to in order to fulfil the prophecy and establish peace in the world again.'
'And to achieve that you'd do anything?'
'To create a better world, yes.'
'Even if you run the risk of hurting more people while you do it?'
'What are you trying to say?' Linette sighed in the end.
'Do you think you're any better than the magi if you do the same thing he is? He doesn't give people a choice, according to you. Yet, here you are, outright lying to me in order to not give me a choice about showing you my support or not. You are no better than the magi,' Saenni said and stood.
'Where are you going?' Meriall asked as she mirrored her action.
'I don't see why I should stay.' Saenni paused and turned to the royals who had remained silent. 'I do apologise to you, since this is not your fault or that you had any part in Linette's attempt to deceive me. I need to go on a trip, alone, which means I will not remain here. Meriall,' she said and motioned to the shorter woman, 'will be my proxy here. Treat her as if she is me. When I return to speak with her again, I'll hear what she has to say about the proceedings and what has been decided upon.'
'Where are you going?' Linette asked. 'We need to-'
'No. We don't need to do anything. This is on you,' Saenni said sharply. 'I gave you a chance to give me a proper answer and convince me, but instead, you chose to try and trick me into showing the royals the support you need in order to establish the support you need from them.'
'I didn't mean-'
'Yes, you did. You knew perfectly well what you were doing and that it was wrong, otherwise you wouldn't have tried to lie. Own your choices, Linette, and stand for them. I'll return at some point, probably, but until then,' she trailed off and nodded towards Meriall.
'Where will you go?' Meriall asked.
Saenni paused for a moment. 'I think I'll head up north and see if this magi is as bad as you say he is.'
'You can't,' Linette gasped. 'He's-'
'I can do what I want. You've had your chance and you decided to go down this route. Now, I'm going to go and hear what he has to say,' she said and stepped out onto the small balcony overlooking the lake.
She pulled the magic back as she took off the shirt, unfurling her wings carefully as she did. She handed the shirt to Meriall and gave her a comforting smile. 'You take care of yourself and I'll see you later,' Saenni said before she moved her wings, and unceremoniously jumped off the balcony.
The air rushed around her as she dove towards the ground, deafening everything else. She spread her wings and caught the current, and soared out over the water. The surface was calm enough for her to see her own reflection stare back at her. The black scales covering her and the wide black wings stretched to their fullest, carrying her effortlessly. A slight angling of her wings and she rose towards the clear sky.
Much like the nights, the day was just as beautiful and peaceful far above the clouds. She soared above Normery for a long time, simply following the currents up and down and around. Then she took a deep breath and changed her angle towards the north, paying little heed to the changing scenery beneath her as she rode the strongest flow.
Some five hours later, Saenni neared the northern-most edges of Trouver. The air shimmered with protection magic, and she hovered in front of it for a minute as she analysed its properties. Glancing down, she saw the large city of Dramir, easily recognised from Armant's descriptions, and several of the smaller outposts along the barrier towards the east. She reached out and touched the surface. It crackled under her fingers, sending jolts up her arm. Pulling back, she moulded her magic around herself and flew through the barrier with little resistance.
The air on the other side of the barrier was thick with magic and pressed against her person heavily, but a slight adjustment of her magic pushed the annoyance to the back of her mind. She headed for the mountains in the distance. Somewhere behind them was the origin of the light she had seen during her first flight, and she set her sights on it as she pressed on.
Before she reached the source, she spotted a massive structure spanning over three mountain tops. It had spires reaching for the sky and sections of the base curving around the mountainsides, and a strong magical presence at the centre. She soared downwards towards it. The closer she got, the clearer the magic in the building became. Where the houses in Crasa were extravagant in their dance with subtlety, this structure had nothing to hold back. There were no edges or cuts to be seen-it was simply one large structure.
Saenni located the source of the presence in what appeared to be the main courtyard, waiting for her. She landed gracefully and folded her wings against her back as she faced the man. He was dressed in discreet dark blue clothes, with a single golden sash over his hips, and short jet black hair combed to perfection. Looking around, she spotted several other people dressed in a similar fashion, with varying colours, spread out around them.
'Welcome, Great Dragon,' the man said with a bow of his head.
'Saenni is enough. You are Jaque?'
'I'm honoured you've heard of me. I suppose that little girl managed to summon you.'
'It would indeed seem so. They say you are the main evil of this world,' Saenni said and looked over the garden, nodding in appreciation at the high potent magical plants cultivated there. 'How do you respond to that?'
'Small-minded people will always view reality in a narrow-minded way,' he replied easily. He motioned towards the door behind him. 'Will you join me for something to drink?'
She followed him inside in silence, taking in the way the architecture curved into impossible folds above their heads and hallways that disappeared and appeared between steps. He opened a door that wasn't there and they stepped into an office-like room that was at the top of one of the spires, overlooking the large valley spreading out between the mountains.
Glass windows curved along the walls and part of the floors, and the ceiling was made out of a faded blue crystal, dispersing the sunlight over the room gently. A desk with plush armchairs stood towards the other end of the circular room, and curtains moved in a breeze that wasn't there. He sat down and indicated the chair opposite him. He waved his hand over the surface and two steaming cups appeared, filling the room with a subtle herbal scent.
'How long has it been since you arrived?' he asked.
'Some weeks, I'm not entirely sure. I've been told you want to conquer the world.'
'I suppose that's accurate enough. My goal is to unify the land, as is my destiny. If they wish to see it as a conquest, that is their right, even if they are incorrect.'
She sipped the hot beverage as she hummed at his words. 'Linette said something similar, about it being her destiny. Chosen one implies that one of you are wrong.'
'If the girl wants to play around, I won't stop her. It's of no consequence to me or my work, but there is no question about me being the one to unify the land.'
'You weren't the one to summon me.'
He smirked and leaned back in his seat, the cup cradled in his hands. 'The prophecy doesn't state that I have to be the one to summon you. In actuality, anyone could summon you if they had the right tools and knowledge. That has nothing to do with the chosen one. I do commend her for succeeding, however, no matter how futile her endeavour is.'
'How do you plan on achieving your goal?'
'Much like I have so far. We are preparing our strategies on how to subdue the other nations with as little resistance as possible.'
'And if you encounter resistance?'
'I expect we will, but they will have to be removed, for the sake of peace.'
Saenni nodded slowly. 'Can you see any other ways to go about this?'
'No. People are too set in their ways to truly accept the level of cooperation and understanding needed for a lasting peace without someone having to guide them. The people whose first reaction is to oppose change will never truly accept it. For the sake of the unifying of the land, they will have to be removed.'
'Do you not think that will enrage the rest?'
'Some, perhaps,' he said with a nonchalant shrug. 'But that's the wonderful thing about these regular humans, if you distract them enough they will forget.'
'You're human as well.'
'I am magi, not a regular human. We have magic, we are superior thanks to that,' he said and stood. He left the cup on the desk and stepped over to one of the large windows overlooking the valley. 'It's not their fault, of course. We can't control how we're born, but it is the truth nevertheless. You see that glowing tree over there?'
It was the source of the light she had seen. During the day, it was not quite as bright but the magic was potent–more so than she had seen or felt anywhere else. The tree dwarfed the smaller nearby mountains, its crown casting part of the valley in shadow. The magical energy was so strong that the trunk appeared to be glowing, casting a golden light all around even in bright sunlight.
'That is the source of magic in this land and it is entirely under our control. We are the authority on magic and we make sure it can't be abused by rouge people who don't adhere to our strict standards.'
'What about the elves? They have magic as well.'
'The elves are a truly peaceful people, unlike us humans,' he said easily. 'I am not ashamed to admit that. I am human and magi, and that's a balance I have to struggle with every day. The elves have known magic far longer than we have, but they don't involve themselves in human disputes. When our ancestors wanted to learn how to control magic, they helped and guided us, but they didn't get involved with what we then did with the skills.' He returned to his seat. 'There has only been one time that the elves have showed a display of power against humans, and that was when we were foolish enough to try to invade their lands. After that, as long as they are left to their own device, the elves don't get involved.'
'How are you planning on unifying the land if they don't cooperate?'
'They will. They are logical people, and since peace is the only goal, they will have no reason to go against it. Will you stay with us? Learn more about us. I'm sure what you have been told don't do us justice.'
Saenni sighed but nodded. 'I am sure you are right. I will stay, for now.'
He gave her a dashing smile and snapped his fingers, the sound enhanced with magic. The door opened and a woman dressed in a green robe entered. 'Yaniwa, please show our honourable guest to her room. I will personally give you a tour tomorrow, but for now, I have some business I need to deal with.'
'This way, please,' the woman said, and Saenni followed her out the door.