Da’karin had been lucky enough to see many treasures in his lifetime. From the natural wonders tucked away in the farthest corners of Invoria, to ancient artifacts of unimaginable power, to some of the most influential and interesting individuals ever to live, the elf had witnessed a lot. He was grateful for his prestigious position and the opportunities he was given. Many would go through great lengths to sample half of the experiences he was afforded, yet nothing in his illustrious existence could compare to the prize he had just stumbled upon. It seemed ordinary enough. In fact, quite boring. A simple piece of paper. Or rather a set of papers. Seemingly unremarkable and similar to all of other documents stockpiled in the office. Such was the environment of an elder. Paperwork seemed drawn to anyone holding a political position and all were all too familiar with the world of documents. To most anyone, these particular papers would have gone unnoticed. They bore no official seal of royalty or important insignia that would stir the curiosity of any common folk. The words carefully scribed on the parchment left Da’karin wide-eyed and teeming with joy.
What was a routine task whenever he returned to the land of his people quickly turned into so much more. Da’karin was an incredibly sneaky individual. Some would call him a rat. He thought of himself as resourceful. Of course he never allowed himself to be caught. Tampering with and going through the personal items belonging to various elders and other political leaders was something that would most definitely be frowned upon. Da’karin could not have people frowning at him. He was a beloved ambassador and very well respected among his people. His family, his friends, and the other royals also held him in very high regard. Only a select few had the slightest inclination of his true nature. One, if not the only, person who may have had the slightest clue about his true nature was the withering old elf An’ziano. The well reputed Elder whose office Da’karin was currently in. The scheming ambassador often found information to use against his potential political rivals whether he needed blackmail or just better understand how to control them. He even dug up data on those considered friends. No one was safe for Da’karin’s intrusions and his immoral methods are what allowed him to stay on top. All of the haughty sword toting elves off throwing their lives away in the war could puff their chests and flex their muscles all they wanted. When it came to true danger and might, it was the one with the most knowledge that always claimed victory. Da’karin made sure he was always that person.
Currently, being that person was paying off quite handsomely. He had to reread the documents through multiple times before the full weight of the discovery truly sunk in. According to the papers he had found tucked away with An’ziano’s possessions likely never to be stumbled upon by a soul except the old sore himself, the Elder had a daughter. One that apparently he wished to keep out of the public light since he had kept it a secret for…approximately 525 years. Which happened to be the same amount of years that Jackalyn Whimera had been alive. The very same five star general in charge of the ethereal army. This little coincidence may have had something to do with the fact that apparently An’ziano was indeed the biological father of Jackalyn. This was too perfect. Absolutely elating. Da’karin had plans for the both of them, but now that he had discovered such a vital connection between the two, better yet a secret one, it was almost too much for him to handle. He had to stop himself from giggling with joy as he cemented this knowledge into his scheming mind. This was perfect. Jackalyn did not pose a threat to him, but he could certainly use this to control her stubborn prick of a father. How delightful. A dear ‘friend’ of his and highly important and powerful member of the Ethereals now qualified as the perfect tool to secure one of his greatest rival’s demise.
Da’karin took the time to perfectly replace everything exactly to its original place. His attention to detail and aptitude for memorization ensuring that it remained just as it had before he had intruded into An’ziano’s quarters. All of this was done with the most devilish of grins of course. Suddenly a low hum accompanied by a slight vibration of one of the rings on his fingers drew his attention. It was actually one of countless runes Da’karin had created using his mastery of the magic stones found in the land of his people. He never understood why so many elves focused on honing their skills with magic that healed and aided others. He found that nature was much more effective when it’s other attributes were explored. The proximity spell that was alerting him to an approaching person through one of his many magical items caused him to swiftly exit the office and begin walking down the beautifully carved hallways that made up the royal palace. The ring was vibrating with much more ferocity, meaning the person who had triggered his spell was getting closer to the point he designated. With a whisper the ring was stilled as he no longer needed the precaution. In fact, he was immediately made aware of the individual who had set off his subtle affect as soon as he rounded the corner.
“An’ziano. What a pleasure. My time at the palace is not as drawn out as it used to be, but I am glad to see when I do pay a visit that I am able to run into one of the greatest minds among the Elders. How are things going for you by the way? I feel like we have not had the opportunity to properly catch up in some time now.” Da’karin was excellent at feigning emotion. He always displayed exactly what he wanted a person to see and they were none the wiser to his true feelings. This time however, no skillful acting was required. The joyful tone in his voice and the pleasant smile were true displays of his innermost feelings at the moment. Da’karin was honestly giddy to be able to talk to the man who he had just developed a means to control as he saw fit. He knew An’ziano would not only be unhappy to see him, but likely be slightly uneasy about his presence away from his usual areas of the palace and near the Elder’s quarters. Da’karin’s happiness had an inverse relationship with the old fool’s though. The more An’ziano had to be unhappy about, the more pleased Da’karin was. And right now, An’ziano didn’t have a lot to look forward to.
For all the centuries between them, for all the love they shared, there was one thing that Ma’ria would never betray on his account, no matter how much she trusted him. It didn’t matter that the evidence was there – or rather, that it wasn’t, nothing tangible, but An’ziano was never wrong, spent too much time making sure he was right about these things before admitting defeat – but it was the one thing she spited and scorned him for ever telling her, for ever trying to make her believe. She believed in him in everything else; had faith in his character; in the man he had proven, time and again, to be. But when it came to Da’karin, her son, her one blood child, she screamed her rage; whipped him raw with her fury. Accused him, of course, of jealousy – of dishonorable and senseless hatred towards the child that wasn’t his. Wounded him with what he’d lost years ago when he turned back to war and climbed the hierarchy of the battlefield to become one of its great legends and leaders; reminded him that for all he’d done for his country, he never had what – or rather, who – he had wanted all along; told him, appalled and condemning, that those were the only grounds for his claims.
An’ziano Ma’leducato did not hate Da’karin Theolain, son of Ma’ria Theolain. He hated Da’karin, the snake, the traitor, the would-be usurper. He could sense, in those too-sickly, quicksilver smiles and fluid, sticky charms, a devil swathed and ready to drink his happiness from others’ miseries. And hate! No, not even that word: suspicious as the boy was, intrusive as his conduct might be, An’ziano did not know the extent of the ambassador’s ambition; didn’t realize that Da’karin was so hungry for power that he would ultimately ally with evil men – not just the political enemies of the ethereal, the potent powers on the Minervan battlefield, but the most ruthless and despicable of them. No, deprived of that crucial information, having at least so much faith in Da’karin that he wouldn’t jeopardize his own people in those political games, all he had was contempt.
It didn’t gain She’lara’s cunning cousin any points that he was, in fact, the most painful wedge between M’aria and An’ziano that they would ever experience; that he was privately close to Silas and an oily wooer of Jackalyn; that he had made no apparent progress with the Minervan frontier at all and seemed more interested in courting the members of parliament than negotiating peace with the enemy.
He was in a dark mood upon returning to his office, having freshly fought with Ma’ria and only just returned, weary, from his trek to Arbunet. Already in pressing sorts, taxed heavily by the science fiction tables of the battlefield, he anticipated little to greet him but a monstrous stack of seals and envelops – laws to sign, legal documents to mark and scrutinize, summons from the other councilors to once again complete parliament and govern the course of their people. A free people, while ultimately necessary in the scheme of their constitutional monarchy, seemed to have been selectively forgotten by the old fools as a prerequisite to their governing. Remote from the war, they behaved as though it didn’t exist and their power would be an instant remedy to it, had not She’lara’s obtrusive, feminine form obstructed their course. An’ziano did not relish the task of restoring their senses, either – not when the snake had been buttering the whole of them like roasted lambs when all the rest of his kin attended the blood-soaked fields of Invoria.
Speak of the serpent himself.
He stopped cold when the face he was considering came before him, his already icy frown chilling further at the familiar, dagger-bright glare of Ma’ria’s son. Contempt surged within him, making his heart slow as if time were doing the same, their meeting abrupt and Da’karin’s smiling face at once stirring suspicions. An’ziano had known, of course – and inquired about – the young man’s presence in the heart of Viridis, but here? This, the elder knew, was nowhere near one of the Marquis’s usual haunts: far from it, in fact. At once, his guard was incensed and his frown more pronounced. With clipped courtesy, he returned the greeting. "A surprise, Da'karin, to see you at this hour, in this particular place when you're so seldom in the capital! But then, you've been spending a great deal of time here, by what I hear..."
The trailing growl of An'ziano's voice was deliberately disapproving, the threat of discovery implied with frank certainty. He knew that this was the entirely wrong place for the young man to be - so what, exactly, would he be doing here...? His route at once sent up warning bells, but the councillor was uncertain as to how to interpret them. Instead, he inclined his head frankly, eyes sharp and needling for some hint as to what delighted Da'karin so. "Of course, it's been so long since I've seen you, now that you're not hiding behind your mother's skirts whenever I come to call. Does business bring you here, Da'karin...? I can't imagine what you would seek out in the councillors' bureaus. Is there anything I might do for you?"