Little boats (swords in the summer sun)

[size=200]LITTLE BOATS[/size]

*The Semmerlak has always been a little more unpredictable than it should be as a lake - prone to storms and odd tides. Islands appear and disappear from time to time. Seabirds avoid crossing it from north to south or east to west. There are several stories of fat fish pulled from the depths that speak in human tongues, promising riches or hidden secrets; stories of poached salmon that when cut open are discovered to contain magical rings or odd metal coins.

The Varushkans on the northern shore do not trust it; they say that something dwells in the depths that lures sailors to their cold and choking graves. The Dawnish tend to laugh at them - there is magic in their lake, of course, but it is the magic of Summer spirits and fey spirits more likely to seduce one ot a night of passion than to drag anyone down into the deeps. Both nations claim it as part of their territory.

Then there’s the Druj to consider - they claim the eastern shores and the waters thereof as part of the Mallum. If they have an opinion of the magic beneath the waters of the immense freshwater lake, they keep them to themselves. Not since the attack against Weirwater during the reign of Empress Varkula have the Druj attacked in force across the Semmerlak … and there have been no significant raids for twenty years. Still, both Dawnish yeoman and Varushkan fisherfolk know to avoid the rocky shores where the sun rises.

Three days past, as the sun rose above the mountains, yeomen at work on the shores east of Lacre spotted three little boats approaching across the waves, out of the Summer mists. Crude in construction with bile-yellow sails they were with a bank of oars on either side. Banners flutter on each boat, tossed by the early wind that tears the mist apart like fragile lace. In the prow of each stands an orc.

A Druj orc.

Just outside bowshot, the sails are furled and the orcs strain against the oars to keep the little boats stationary. One after the other, the three orcs raise curving bone horns to their lips and blow a single discordant note that echoes across the water. Once, twice, a third time. Then they wait.

The yeomen discuss the matter quickly. Perhaps a speculative arrow is fired. The swiftest are dispatched to Lacre to raise the town. In less than an hour the fist nobles arrive. As if at a signal, one of the orcs leaps from their boat and swims determinedly towards the shore. Bows are readied but … what threat is a single orc to the people of Dawn? A spyglass trained on the little boats shows each bears no more than a dozen orcs, and that most are clearly sailors not warriors. Thirty orcs? Against the might of Dawn?

The swimmer pulls himself erect in the shallows, the water coming up to his thighs, reaches behind him slowly and pulls forth a length of wood with something wrapped around it. With exagurated gestures, he unties the thongs around it, a little unsteady in the cold, fresh water. A pale flag unfurls, marked with the rune of Lann crudely stitched in green thread. He holds it up above his head and calls to the men and women on the shore.

“We come in peace!” he croaks. He clears his throat, hoicks a gobbet of phlegm into the water.

“We come in peace, under flag of truce!” he shouts, with more confidence. “Under flag of truce, we come. We wish to speak to your Senate.”

He waits a moment, wades a few steps closer to shore.

“We come in peace! We wish to speak to your Seante! We wish to discuss … peace.”

Nobody says anything. The only sound is the wind, and the calling of the fulls, and the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore.

Last year, a delegation came from Reikos to talk to the Senate and it did not go … well.

This year it appears the Druj are trying again. Three little boats cross the Semmerlak from the Mallum. Once they have unloaded a small band of Druj “diplomats” two of them turn to the shore and one remains at anchor well outside bowshot, sails furled, waiting. it resists all efforts to communicate with it but makes no show of hosility. The yeomen of Lacre watch it carefully, day and night.

The diplomats have invoked the Law of Delegate Protection; they come under a flag of truce, and they are making their way towards Anvil. Their leader has expressed a desire to be treated as guests of Dawn - has praised the “honour and reliability of the people of the rising sun.” Has asked them to protect the law of the Empire and keep the Druj diplomats safe so they may discuss terms for an end to hostilities and the dawn of a new age of peace between the Mallum and the lands of the west.

It is likely they will arrive on the second day of the solstice, some time after noon. Their escort intends send runners to alert the people of Dawn when the Druj diplomats are close to Anvil.

Told you that law of Delegate Protection would be mentioned again. Druj from the east, from the Druj territories across the Semmerlak. Come through Dawn, asking for the protection of the Dawnish, and claiming to wish to discuss terms for peace? What could go wrong …

#diplomacysummer, #crossroads, #plentymoretcme

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