Oh Emm Gee it's back on!
â€œWe absolutely refuse!â€ Storms-As-He-Walks, lord of the thunderbirds and chief servant of the Wind Master Black Grinning Bear, slammed his fist down on the heavy stone table, leaving a small crack in the glazed surface. â€œThe Amarinthine Manse was rightfully ceded to my master as reparations for the damages done to his first home, and we will not return it to a gang of malfeasant droplets!â€
â€œThe Manse was stolen by intimidation, after my master responded to the unwarranted aggression of the so-called West Wind!â€ Whistling River, leader of the sea nymphs of the Ocean Dragon Yulenti, glared across the table at the thunderbird. â€œIts return is not a negotiable aspect of these discussions, and any attempt to retain will be seen as the continued bullying of your arrogant lord!â€
â€œListen here, you foam-brained harlot.â€ The wind in the chamber picked up as Storms spoke, lightning crackling along his arm. â€œYour ability to jiggle your breasts and pimp yourself out to degenerate Dynasts doesn't impress me! I know your so-called talents, and...â€
â€œOh, you would know more than I about degenerate Dynasts, now, wouldn't you?â€ Whistling River's skin coursed with Essence as water began to coat it. â€œIf you cared half as much about your duties as you do about that little mortal sexpot...â€
Thunder crashed. â€œTAKE THAT BACK!â€ Storms-As-He-Walks leapt over the table, the wind roaring its fury around him. Whistling River brought her arms up to block, the water gathering in front of her.
And a blast of wind came between the two, cutting them off from one another just long enough to check Storm's attack.
Tandar Kieran rubbed the bridge of his nose, taking a moment to brush back his hair. He reflected that it was starting to get too long, if the winds coursing around the chamber were able to muss it so dramatically from its usual position. He nodded his thanks to the fourth person in the room, and she smiled tightly. Ollir Elena, his foster mother, had spent the past year refining the elemental gifts that Seven Winds Dancing had granted to her to save her life, and her help had been invaluable over the last two months.
â€œAlright, that's enough.â€ Kieran fixed each of the elemental leaders in turn with a baleful gaze, using a drop of Essence to make sure they calmed down. Each one had the grace to look slightly embarassed, although they remained just this side of murderous. Early in the negotiations, both sides had required an honour guard, but after the disasterous brawl of a few weeks' back, they had taken to meeting alone, with the Solar and god-blood serving as intermediaries to prevent violence from breaking out.
It had seemed so straight-forwards when Blue Skulking Bear had approached Kieran. The Elemental Courts of Air and Water had been at war for centuries, but with the demonic Conduits appearing in every corner of the world, and the gods unable to intervene, elemental armies might be the only powerful weapon that the people of Creation could muster. Skulking Bear hoped that Kieran, already respected by the Air Courts, and kind enough to see the side of the Water Courts, might be able to negotiate that compromise. And to date, it had worked... fairly well. The Northern and Southern Wind Courts had already worked out some level of co-operation with the Water Courts that, Kieran hoped, would calm any fighting, and the Eastern Court's existing truces had been re-inforced. It was the last two Wind Masters that were proving problematic - especially Black Grinning Bear, master of the West Wind, who had the most to lose if the Water Courts gained actual power and influence.
â€œAlright, River, that remark about Tepet Sarita was uncalled for. Storms, your opinions about Whistling River were equally unfair. Yes?â€ There was a pause, and the two muttered out something that might have qualified as apologies. Kieran sighed again. â€œRight. Why don't we take a short break, and you two can discuss the Amarinthine Manse with your respective leaders.â€
â€œVery well.â€ Storms-As-He-Walks nodded stiffly, turning without a word and walking out. Whistling River paused, smiling sadly to Kieran.
â€œI fear that your help will not, in the end, be enough, Master Kieran.â€
â€œI'm not giving up yet.â€ Kieran bowed to Whistling River, who bowed back to him before walking out. Kieran glanced over to Elena, who smiled at him. â€œI don't know, Elena. Maybe she's right.â€
â€œKieran, honey, in three months you've resolved centuries-old hatreds across half the world. Give it another three months, and you'll have the Courts singing songs together.â€ Elena smiled, walking over to Kieran and ruffling his hair. He chuckled half-heartedly, before frowning again.
â€œWe might not have another three months.â€ Kieran sighed heavily. â€œAlmost every major nation in the world is at war, now. The Lap is almost in ruins from the fighting between Paragon and the Lion, and there's word that An-Teng is mustering an army to invade. An-Teng!â€ He walked towards the door glumly. â€œWe're running out of time.â€
â€œI know. But it'll work out.â€ Elena smiled sadly, putting a hand over Kieran's shoulder. â€œTrust me, kid. You're doing great.â€
Kieran looked up at her, half-smiling, when there was a knock at the doorway. He glanced over to see Thamus, one of the Splinters of Mokrelus who helped to maintain the Custodian's island Manse. â€œThamus - what's up?â€
Thamus bowed low. â€œGreetings, Master Kieran. Mokrelus requests your presence in the study when you are first able to arrive.â€
â€œWell, we're in a break period right now. I'll come down. What's going on?â€
â€œHope.â€ With that cryptic comment, Thamus turned and left, and Kieran sighed.
â€œI swear, Nia's habit of keeping secrets got into all of them.â€
â€œYou're assuming they weren't like that before.â€ Elena chuckled. â€œCome on, let's see what's up.â€
â€œSounds like fun.â€ Kieran grinned, and the two walked down the passageways.