'Humans are not of this realm, and they will be purged.'
No matter how many times the people of Elsgarde heard this, they would not let it deter them.
The continent of Paracelsus, as dubbed by the humans, was a harsh and equally enchanting realm; where the human population lived was in fact the only solitary constant. Simple, livable, sustainable lands in an entire dimension of primal energies. And the humans who had come to reside in this place were only but a small percentage, stubbornly making refuge in this realm for five generations already.
They have not abandoned hope that they will find a way back to the mainland, away from this primal dimension. For surrounding the human lands were powerful nexus points, which in turn led to the source of this primal realm: the four Elemental Planes. This had incited war between humans and the varied denizens on the continent. The Elementals had sought to erase humanity from their lands, and the humans fought to make a name and a home in this foreign land.
For the the longest time that humans have settled in this waypoint of the Elemental Planes, they have fought with the native elements. Regardless of losses on all sides, the humans of the Elsgarde Empire have decided to finally make some sort of political leeway with some of the elementals, to acquire some respite from the constant fighting.
A mutual 'coming of terms...'
"So much seared land... it is truly a shameful, appalling sight..."
An escorted carriage had started its journey a full day ago, departing from the strongest human bastion on the continent, the Elsgarde Empire. As the carriage made its journey towards the nexus-point of flames, the surrounding plains reflected the standings of the denizens within. What were once verdant fields have been reduced to charred outcroppings of soot and razed earth.
"Are you certain you wish to go through with this, Your Majesty? W-we could have very easily slipped a double in your place--"
"Th-these primal beings think our empire only having a princess, unaware of our royal court. Since I have not shown myself to their eyes, they will only know that I am the sole child, the princess and heir of our empire. And if they have any love for their kin as to not see them extinguished, they will surely comply..."
The Crown Prince looked down at his stately royal attire of silky and billowy blues and whites, looking very much the role of a stately princess. Meager orbs glanced from the window towards the aura-infused gate that would take the carriage from the human territories to the Elemental Plane of Fire. It was a mildly uncomfortable sensation for these wayfarers, but when they emerged on the other side, experiencing the immediate temperature shift of the Fire Realm, they made a quick regret that they could not feel the nexus point's uncomfortable aura again.
Lithe fingers tapped the metal arms of the throne.
A Prince with a cold stare sat next to his father, where a council had been gathered to discuss the arrival of the Princess of the Elsgarde Empire. Forcing strangers to marry was not the Prince of Flame's idea of peace. And what was worse? They didn't know their prince to be female. But such was the nature of an androgynous species, after all.
"What do you think, sire?" A councilman asked the Prince. The question was only met with complete silence, the Prince's gaze unmoving. "Sire?"
His father waved his hand in dismissal, "The lad's not even paying attention. Go on."
As the councilmen droned, and before the Prince was nearly bored to death, trumpets sounded the arrival of the royal carriage.
"Seems I should make myself ready, as they're early."
The Prince excused himself to his room to put on a more royal ensemble.
He had glanced to a couple of his guards and nodded in a curt way to signify his salute to them. While on guard duty, the patrollers would be in their pure, uncontrolled form, as masses of blackened magma protected by low burning flames. Hardly as powerful as the most primal of Elementals, but hardly pushovers either. They wore not armor, for any metal touching against them would melt. It usually took the power of a water elemental working in tandem with humans to defeat those of fire.
As the horns continued to trumpet, welcoming the princess, Prince Rowan stood in his room naked and looking at his clothes that lay upon his bed. Rowan was female, yes, but she did not consider herself so. Her breasts were smaller, her shoulders were broader, and her voice fell between that of a man and a woman. Hardly fitting for a Princess of any court...
Finally, he began to dress. Undershirt, vest, coat. Pants that tucked into knee high boots. His fiery red hair was shorter and spikey on top, a trait of royalty, and it was allowed to grow down to his rear end. He checked himself in his floor length mirror. He was attractive as ever, especially with his nice slim waist and long legs.
As the carriage arrived, many guardsmen in human form lined up in two neat rows in the front courtyard. All was silent aside from the horses clopping down the lavastone lane and a large ornate fountain spewing water. The king stood with his special guardsmen, each armed with a deadly polearm. The king looked around, face in a frown. Where was his son?
When the carriage opened, out stepped the scant few human servants that had been permitted to travel with royalty, and then finally, the princess herself. 'Princess' Eva stepped out of the carriage, with dainty feet in white heeled shoes, the legs clad in white hosiery, and the rest of the body clad in a flatteringly billowing white and blue dress. Along her forehead, a silver circlet was adorned with a vibrant sapphire, outlined by her flowing head of silken blond hair.
She steeled herself mentally, trying to ignore the intimidating heat of the environment. Unfortunately for her, the Elemental Plane of Fire was an almost complete desert of an environment. This kindgom of fire elementals lived in the only oasis for a few hundred miles. So if she had any dreams of running away, the result would surely be death. She glanced around the fiery courtyard briefly. Despite the structure being made of flames, it all seemed solid and sturdy.
The two lines of soldiers opened, making a path up to the king, who greeted her with a smile. "Princess, how good of you to finally join us." he said in a warm greeting. "I pray your journey here was not too unbearable?"
"For the price of peace, no distance is too great." Eva said firmly in a deep feminine tone, practically practiced and yet slightly dry due to the humidity. "I believe I speak for both of us when I say that we do not wish to see any more seared corpses or extinguished cores on either of our lands..."
"Of course we do not want such things, Princess." He offered an arm and led her into the castle. It was actually cooler inside, the torches lit with blue flames that emitted no heat. It had a cavernous feeling overall. "I do hope you find the accommodations fit for your... human self. We've not had any outsiders before." He said this but with a smile; he was really trying to show off his true pleasant self, and not the warmonger he was made out to be.
"Well, immediately I've noted that the inner sanctum is more pleasing than the arid air outside... with no disrespect, of course." Eva said simply as she walked behind the king. For being so fiery and vicious on the battlefield, according to soldiers she had tended to, they were being very hospitable to her in turn. The blue flames, almost akin to will o' wisps she helped to heal from her comrades in the illness ward before, were quite entrancing to look at. She breathed in the cool air, feeling already cooled compared to the heat from outside.
As they would reach the main hall, there were two sets of stairs, one from each wall, curving downward. Eva glanced up at that moment to see the prince standing atop the right hand staircase. The prince whom she had heard was practically the war leader, if the words her soldiers uttered bared any truth.
And he did not look pleased.
He walked quickly down the steps, so light on his feet that there was barely a sound. Servants near the bottom of the staircase quickly moved away, keeping their heads down. Rowan joined the two, and was naturally much taller than the Princess, with the top of Eva's head meeting his chest. He gave her a look over, not even the slightest bit impressed by what he saw, before walking ahead, going into the throne room.
Rowan stopped for only a split second, not expecting to see three thrones on the dais. His father's was black metal with deep red cushions, Rowan's was black metal with lush purple paddings, and the one made for the Princess... white-painted wood with light pink cushions. In Rowan's eyes, it was an absolutely hideous contrast, and he was so tempted to just touch it so it would burn in front of his eyes.
"A-a-a throne... for me?" Eva was honestly, genuinely surprised to see the sight as she and the king followed Rowan. "I had not assumed you would be so indulgent in such a way." She had blushed slightly, clearing her throat before glancing up at the king who had taken his place upon the red throne. "O-Only because we had only begun talks, Your Majesty." She nuzzled her legs together beneath her billowing skirt of her dress, her toes feeling slightly trapped at the end of her heels.
The king nodded curtly, motioning for Eva to join them upon the thrones. "It has already been decided upon, and briefed with Prince Rowan that within the month, you will be married. I've spoken by raven with parents, the Emperor and Empress, and they have come to full agreement. This is not a visit, your Honor, but your short courtship with my son."
Rowan sat in his throne in the meanwhile, fingers grating impatiently on the armrest, glancing sideways to the hideous wooden kindling-to-be next to him. It was so bright in this darkened throne room, an abomination to his eyes. If it would not have meant a war to end all wars, he would have slaughtered her here and now.
Eva blushed even brighter though, breathing calmly, casting a meek eye at the Prince again, before taking her steps closer. "I will confess, Your Primal Majesties; though I had agreed with these events, I had thought that our... c-courtship would be slightly more lengthy and interspersed." She stepped up to her throne, before turning around, slipping the back of her dress close, and sat on her throne as well, beside the Prince. "Not that I am baring any complaints, Your Majesty; perhaps much like His Majesty the Prince, I-I am not yet adjusted to the sudden change of events."
"Yes, well if you think I'm happy about this, I am not." Rowan's gaze now turned on his own father, his hands clenching into fists. He could tell she didn't want to be here either, not wanting to marry someone not human. Though, it was too bad for the pair of them.
His father scowled. "Rowan, we will NOT have this argument now."
An icy stare was all that greeted the King.
"Well, I shall have you two... get acquainted with one another." He waved his hand, shooing the two of them. Rowan got up hastily, causing the throne to scoot back a couple of inches. He stomped towards the large glass doors at the far side, which opened into an immense enclosed garden.
Eva gulped uneasily again, looking around the tense environment left over from the prince storming out. A firm gulp and she too left her throne, giving the Flame King a practiced curtsy, before following after the prince into the stately garden.
It was so impressive, that amidst the flames and the burning keep, there was a palatial and beautiful garden, so verdant and green with life; the kind of garden one would see in the Earthen lands or even the sky sanctuaries in the Realms of Air. The garden they were in was encased in a massive glass dome that was held together by thin black metal. All the flowers were bright in contrast of the glassy sanded desert. A stream ran through, going to several small fountains, a very large one dominating the middle, and a large space was empty save for silver benches. Currently the Prince sat on one of these benches.
"Are you following me now, human?" he asked in his cool tone.
Eva stopped in place the moment he spoke, but had gathered her bearings and continued to walk a little closer, looking at the local flora. "Perhaps, but not for ill intentions, Your Majesty." She glanced his way. "Like you, I too do not find any immediate satisfaction in committing to such a surprising turn of events. But do you not agree that you too are exhausted of the constant death of your subjects and soldiers?"
"Considering I have never been close to anyone, including my father, I do not feel much, if anything, for anyone." He still did not look at her, his eyes finding immediate preference to the white marble by his feet. "Our race does not view death and sacrifice in the same way you humans do. There is nothing wrong with a good death. We even view it as honorable..." His voice trailed off, like he was sad about something.
Her head tilted a slight from the way he talked about his people in such a detached notion. "Such is the same as animals in a way. They lose members of their family, their clan, their group; they simply continue on with their lives. Something that humans cannot ascertain." She shook her head in a defiant way though. "But tending to the wounds of the men and women who fight, I cannot help but feel for them, even though I am forbidden to entering the battlefield myself... I cannot save them all, but I want to do what I must to end the needless bloodshed."
Rowan gave a shrug of his shoulders; he was forced into this whether he wanted to or not. For all it mattered to him, their races could fight for eternity. "Perhaps one day, I will care for my people as my father does, but that will not be soon." He finally looked at her from the corner of his eye. There was no feeling there, only emptiness; someone who tired from a life of little excitement.
"It may not be immediate, but if you truly feel for your people, however small, that time will come." Eva looked back at the Prince. She couldn't lie; Prince Rowan was a very elegant man, sharply dressed and complete with a fiery mane of flowing crimson hair; a handsome, beautiful man. Yet he didn't seem to act much like the fiery warriors that she had heard her soldiers talk about.
"If I may speak, Your Majesty, you seem very subdued and collected, unlike what I heard your people act as."
He narrowed his eyes at her, then looked away, letting out a small huff. "You know it wasn't my people who started this war, right?" He said matter-of-factly, then looked back to her, "We are elements, born of this realm, and for centuries' worth of mortal lives, we have lived here. But then that fateful day came. Humans were here, infesting the Elemental Plains." He gestured with his hands in an arc, a small puff of smoke and fire formed then disappeared. Rowan quickly stood in what appeared to be a single fluid movement, facing the princess, a fire dancing behind his eyes. "Your people, your race, didn't want us here. So they thought they'd just get rid of us. In, OUR, WORLD." While talking he had closed the gap between them, coming to a stop before her and leaning down in a menacing way.
"Be that as it may, the people of Elsgarde are isolated." She stood her ground even with the fire emanating from the Prince, his heat more than intimidating. "I am not a historian, Prince Rowan. I do not know how long we have been here, separated from our kin in these lands for five generations. But like your people and the other creatures and elementals, we are here; we were given an unjust hand, but we have fought purely for survival, for the right to live in this realm as much as any being deserves to." Eva glanced away, past the glass to the scorching outsides. "The Elsgarde Empire is the bastion in which all of humanity can return to. We may have 'infested', as you so roughly worded it, the four Realms. But all other attempts to contact other human kingdoms outside of this continent have ended in disaster. If our roles were changed, surely you would see our desire to live as much as yours, Your Majesty."
He stood back up straight, the same dead look returning to his eyes. "Like I said, I don't care about anyone, especially you humans. Trapped in your soft flesh bodies..." A look of disgust was plastered on his face. Even though he currently looked human in appearance, a touch would reveal his higher body temperature and skin that seemed as heated rock. He had almost threatened her by saying he'd wipe all humans from their realms, but held his tongue.
"Well, I apologize that we cannot ascend our flesh to elemental heights, unlike the majority of sentients in the Elemental Planes." Eva bit her tongue, becoming more infuriated herself with his bland, biting attitude despite his inner temperatures. Even standing this close to Rowan, she could feel his heat. "But if the majority of Elementals shared your flame, humanity would certainly be seared, drowned, suffocated, crushed... extinct." She smirked simply to him before walking towards a garden of flowers, gingerly touching one of them. "Mayhaps I may learn something here..."
He clenched his fists and ground his teeth, not letting into his anger, lest he say something that would truly ruin any hope of their union. As much as he didn't want this, he had no choice in the matter; it HAD to happen. He instead chose not to bother with a reply and the clacking of his low heeled shoes could be heard as he walked back towards the castle.
Rowan went back to his room with a boiling temper that he couldn't control. Oh, how she infuriated him! Silently yelling, he threw around a volley of fireballs around his room, obliterating everything within, save for his bed. A true temper tantrum.
Once he was finished, the pristine walls were marred with black scorches, and his curtains, tapestries and clothes fluttered, their ends singed and burning.
With no other method of relief at the moment, she remained standing in place, casting aside all pretense of her human guise, letting a different form overcome her regal fineries: a shapely horned female with literal coal-black skin, immense horns, and limbs all kissed with flames and magma and fury, left to smolder and rage within her chambers, filling the room with intense heat.
"Damn... that... HUMAN...!"
This form of the Flame Prince could only smolder and rage all around her. Her chambers could barely withstand the intensity of the heat emitted from her true and primal form, barely fearing for the welfare and foundation of the castle itself.
All around the Flame Prince was charred effects, blackened walls, and her fiery anger. She dare not move another inch, as she would become inclined to unleash her true, primal self, and incinerate half the castle to brimstone and ash.
Eva sighed inwardly to herself before looking back at the garden. "A miracle that anything so beautiful can grow in such an inferno." She stood up and dusted the front of her dress off with a svelte hand, fingertips delicately running along her own collarbone. "It will not surprise me if I die here one day. But for the sake of my people..."
She shuddered uneasily; if this was how he reacted to her initially, how would he react to the discovery that the princess had some extra 'equipment'...?
"'Scuse me ma'am?" A heavily accented voice called out to her.
"AH~" She was startled by the sound, before she turned to see the owner of the voice. A dainty and shapely little woman, no taller then a child, smiled at her. She was a fire elemental, very obviously, with her hair a cascade of jade-toned flames.
"Ma'am, your affects 'ave been taken to your room. I'm here to take ya' there."
"Ah, o-of course. Lead on, then." She would then follow the little Elemental woman out of the garden, wondering where her own servants were escorted to.
The little woman practically bounced beside the Princess and kept looking up at her with a smile. Eva had caught her, but had responded with a nervous, sheepish smile.
"Sorry, ma'am. You're the first 'uman I've seen! 'Triguing, indeed!"
She led the Princess up the same staircase the Prince had descended earlier, and down a long and rather dark hall with only 3 doors. They however, stopped at the first door, which was still a ways from the opening of the hall. "This room is yours. The middle door," she pointed, "leads ya ta the royal bath, and the last door is the Prince's." The servant caught notice of Eva crinkling her nostrils uneasily, as they could see definite smoke and heat radiating from the far end of the room.
She smiled assuredly at Eva, with several fanged teeth flashing. "Why don't you go 'ead and get ready for the night meal? Someone will be by to fetch you."
"Ah, I see. Very well then. Thank you kindly, miss." She nodded and bowed to the servant, before stepping inside the admittedly nice bedroom. It was warm, spacious, and had what most women would kill for; all the room in the world for their attires, outfits, and belongings.
Eva finally breathed a faint sigh of relief; a moment all to herself, before she slipped out of her heels and walked on hosed feet towards the armoire, filled with many sorts of dresses and other stately articles of regal ladyhood.
Fingers began peeling off her dress, careful of the paddings worn against her chest and hips that presented herself with the illusion of a more prominent feminine shape, cooled of sweat due to the earlier high temperatures of the outer environments. The 'Princess' would slip out of her dress, hose, and undergarments to take on a new gown for tonight...