“I’m not pro-apocalypse, just so we’re clear,” said The Exalted, with a gesture, “but try to see it from my point of view.”
That was a little joke. Very little. Aerus the Elven Griffin-Rider and Xorp, the Goblin Bard, exchanged sideways glances. In the past, these two would have been deadly foes, but the state of the Land and a mutual love of Orc-Ball had made them fast friends. (Orc-Ball is the most popular game in the Land but for reasons unknown, is called Sockem in Human lands.)
Back to the little joke. They stood on the highest tower in the Plateau Domain, and the view was indeed magnificent. Below them spread out the Exalted’s palace, then the city of Sky Haven, and beyond that, verdant lands filled with crops, lakes teeming with fish, and large herds of sheep, goats, and cattle. The Domain was many, many leagues wide and deep.
“’Tis a lovely place ya ‘ave ‘ere, no mistake,” said Xorp, “Be a shame if dat got ruined.”
Shifting his rather considerable bulk, The Exulted fixed his visitors with narrowed eyes and asked, “Is that a threat?”
“Nay Exalted,” interjected Aerus, “my companion is merely observing that trouble has a way of arriving uninvited.”
“Much like you two showed up,” observed The Exalted with a smirk.
“Apologies, but our task is of the utmost urgency. The Land itself is grave peril.”
As if on ironic cue, a servant wheeled out a large platter of pastries.
“Ooo! Treat o’clock!” squealed The Exalted, “Please help yourselves.”
Both of the emissaries tried the baked goods. They were distractingly delicious.
“’Du dees ‘ave almonds in dem?”
“Marzipan!” said The Exalted as he brushed crumbs from his intricately embroidered robes.
“These are the finest pastries I have ever eaten,” murmured Aerus.
“I’m delighted you’re both enjoying them! So you can see why I cannot join this alliance of yours,” agreed The Exalted.
Another sidelong glance followed.
“Oy’m not sure oy grasp yer wisdom, yer grace,” said Xorp.
“Let me show you.”
Clapping his hands, the ruler of the Plateau Domain summoned eight beefy warriors, all in gleaming golden armor, who lifted his bejeweled palanquin and brought him to the edge of the tower.
“What do you see?” asked the royal.
“Your domain, your grace,” said Aerus.
“Yes! And while that is literally what is before you, so you are technically correct, let me tell you what I see. I see a land that has never known war, famine, or strife. When my ancestor, the Prime Exalted, founded this domain, he did so in order that people might live in harmony and know no suffering. With no false modesty, I can say that dream has been a reality for many, many, MANY years. Allowing my subjects the freedom to pursue their greatest joys! Are you aware we have a very vibrant theater scene? Well, we do. I have tickets for tonight in fact.”
“Dats roight admirable, yer grace. Oy thinks yer got paradoice ‘ere.”
“Why thank you, my little green friend!”
“However, many are not so fortunate as you,” pointed out the Griffin-Rider, “If the Abominations cannot be stopped, I fear that your people will also suffer.”
The Exalted tittered at this and replied, “We are safe here. Nothing can touch us amongst the clouds.”
“Der are flyin’ monstahs,” pointed out Xorp.
“Look we have ballistae along our walls, a very fit standing army, and even war wizard brigade. I cannot say I am worried.”
Aerus, who was in an amateur theater group and liked doing speeches began one as Xorp played his lute to enhance it
“Surely when the tale is told of this upcoming conflict, you will want your name recorded with the other worthies who have sworn to fight against this, the most unnatural of foes. Those who do so will not disappear into the fog of time. NO! They will be held up as the bravest and wisest of all the Land, immortal, and an inspiration to the generations that follow. I implore you, your grace, to join us and become the great hero I know you are!”
For a beat, all that could be heard was the soft sigh of the wind. Aerus and Xorp waited for what could only be a yes.
“No. So sorry, but I’m going to have to take a hard pass on your very generous offer.”
“But my speech…” whispered Aerus.
“But da Land is in great peril!” stated Xorp even as he knew that they had covered that part before.
“And that is very sad, but I do have to put the needs of the Plateau Domain first.”
“With all due respect, I don’t believe you are, your grace,” said Aerus.
“Listen, we’ve live on top of the highest and most fortified plateau in the Land. We’ll be fine.”
“Oy ‘ope yer roight, yer grace,” said Xorp sadly.
“Now don’t be glum! While I cannot supply you with troops or let your little alliance use our domain as any kind of base, I am not going to send you away empty-handed!”
The Exalted clapped again and two servants brought out a large oak and iron chest.
“Please take this as a contribution to your war or whatever it is.”
Griffin-Rider and Bard opened the chest. It was filled to the brim. With carefully wrapped pastries.
“Make sure to share them with your friends!” added The Exalted.
Guards strapped the chest to the Griffin they arrived on. The Griffin, whose name was Windfire. Windfire not happy about that but no more so than Aerus and Xorp. As they flew on to their next potential ally, Aerus spoke.
“While I worry about the fate of the Land, I am most pleased that you and I have become fast friends.”
“But something troubles me.”
“Am I a terrible person, that some small part of me wishes that unpleasantness will visit The Exalted?”
Xopr thought on this for a brief moment and replied, “Well, iffin’ it makes ya feel any better, ya’ll never be as ‘orrible as ‘im.”