Steven R. Burke

The Broken Council

CHAPTER 1

Divided

The early morning sun was streaming through the golden leaves from the surrounding black oak trees found in the ancient Renshaw Forest. The morning fog was beginning to dissipate as the inhabitants of the enchanted woodland made their presence known. Sitting at the edge of a plush green meadow taking in the serenity of the moment was Kishi, an elven princess. She was sitting on the grass with her legs crossed and her eyes closed breathing in her surroundings. She always came to this same spot to meditate and to escape the pressures of being the eldest daughter of the great elven king, Ciel Tiranidrol. As she closed her mind to the drama that had consumed her life recently, her thoughts strayed to the trivial meeting she was required to attend in a few hours. Inwardly she groaned at the thought of participating in elven politics, which her father insisted was crucial in order to keep the kingdom united.

She had lived for six centuries in the beautiful, enchanted Black Forest where she had been able to avoid the pressures of political life until recently. She did not enjoy the restrictive nature of being royalty, which was something that she had no control over. However, today she was more troubled by the secret plan of her twin sis ter, Kira, than her preoccupation with her own fractious existence. Her sister was highly favored by their father and the people because of her pleasant nature and her desire to please others. This bothered Kishi because she was the eldest daughter and was the one the kingdom rightfully belonged to after their father's reign. She did not think the people would allow rule to pass to someone who was obstinately disinterested in the good of the people. Why do I even care? I do not need them, and they do not want me.

Her eyes flew open at these troubling thoughts. While she cleared her mind again, her gaze was drawn to a dragonfly zooming through the grass. She was mesmerized by the insect's fluid movements, and struggled to meditate again. The sun shone brightly over the ancient black oaks, which illuminated her stationary figure with its warm rays. The light outlined her beautiful black hair and slender body as she eased back into a tranquil state.

Her slight figure hid her physical prowess and agility. Her real power came from her innate and learned magical abilities. She had mirthless eyes that had a chilling effect on anyone who dared to look into them. She had trained for many years with the revered warlock Diikker who had taught her everything about the arcane arts. He had taught her that the source of her power was founded in the spark of magic that every living thing possessed. She had learned that magic did not require incantations except in cases where one had to focus their energies with external sources that exceeded the caster's capacity to control. Her dark mentor had also taught her how to steal the energy of sentient beings, something forbidden by the sacred laws of magic. This was something that her sister never bothered to listen to when these lessons were given. She was the only other elf aside from her mentor who learned such powerful magic.

She had also learned to discipline her mind to not only resist magical intrusion, but to reverse the effect to penetrate an attacker or even an unsuspecting opponent. Most learned the elementary version of mental barriers where the defender mimics an animal's thoughts, which happen to be centered on basic needs. This seldom gave away any insight into what they are thinking at that moment and when an intruder is sensed, they can focus their energy to expel the foreign entity. Kishi had learned the difficult process of constantly warding her mind against infiltration by using the mirror effect. This basically reflects the mind of the aggressor for a few moments and immediately warns her of the attempt. The energy required to main this is something that is rather insignificant due to her exceptional capacity. She was almost equal to her mentor's abilities in most respects.

The princess had developed serious trust issues over the years as she grew in power. Her father had always been wary of what he perceived to be unnatural abilities and even suspected that his eldest daughter dabbled in forbidden magic. This distrust was not hidden from the king's subjects. This only added to the distrust the elves held for Kishi. This was the primary reason she had decided to aid her sister with her secret plan for the upcoming meeting.

The tranquil morning was quickly ebbing away when the sounds of forest life abruptly ceased. Kishi's father and his guard appeared at the edge of the clearing opposite her. She, of course, had already sensed their presence with the magical web she had set up around the clearing to detect the approach of anyone or anything that could pose a threat. She accomplished this by invoking her will on non-sentient beings to send her warning of the approach of any sentient creatures. Kishi's eyes snapped open and locked onto her father across the meadow. It was clear that he had not seen her quite yet as they looked around. King Ciel never went anywhere without his guards these days because of the schisms that threatened to tear the elves apart. Their unity had endured for nearly a thousand years under his reign and was now in serious jeopardy thanks, in part, to his youngest daughter. She had violated one of the most sacred elven laws, which was the source of the division amongst the people.

The king finally spotted his eldest daughter meditating within the shadow of a particularly large black oak at the opposite end of the meadow. After he caught Kishi's eye, he nodded and made his way over to her.

'Enjoying another sunrise, daughter?' King Ciel asked as he smoothed the front of his silk robes. He would not look her in the eye knowing he would see hatred in those gray, depthless eyes. It was no secret that she did not trust him or even care for him. At this point, he was beginning to feel the same way due to her lack of empathy for the elves and their plight.

'I was enjoying the quiet tranquility of this serene morning when you and your guard so rudely interrupted,' she said disdainfully.

This contemptuous remark angered her father, and he was unable to hide his displeasure from his daughter. She could feel his ire toward her growing with each passing moment. So he is already upset, and the meeting has not even started yet. How delightful. This thought brought a quick smirk to her beautiful face.

As her father came to a halt in front of her, she felt the pit of her stomach knot and turn as revulsion swept through her at his proximity. She knew by the look on his face that he was extremely disappointed with her aversion to side with him or to carry out her royal duties. King Ciel had been the ruler of the elves for millennia and had had peace during his reign until recently. The elves had made the enchanted woodland of Renshaw their home for the past four thousand years and had prospered considerably under his rule in particular. The people adored him and loved his temperate leadership. His singular ability to say what people wanted to hear had only increased their devotion. Kishi respected his powers of persuasion but hated him for the uses to which he applied his gift.

The king was a powerfully built elf that towered over the slight figure of his eldest daughter as she sat on the lush grass. He was a proven master with the sword, though he was known better for his abilities as a leader. His primarily used his magic to read and manipulate unprotected minds whenever it suited his needs. His daughters had learned how to protect themselves from his unwanted intrusions. Kishi was particularly difficult for him to read. However, his gift had made him a superior orator and negotiator among his people and a leader the other races of Tuwa respected and looked to for advice.

'I hope that you will be in attendance today at the elven High Council. We must continue our discussion about your brother-inlaw and Kira's treachery,' King Ciel said in an even tone.

'Why? So, you can publicly condemn her for following her heart? Do you honestly believe that punishing her will do any good?' she asked angrily. 'You merely want to prove to the people that you will uphold the law no matter what! We share the same blood … silinde turgon elanesse aldarion!' Her eyes flared as though flames were about to shoot out of them.

Kishi felt all the painful emotions she had been building walls against since the marriage of her sister pushing for a release. While she vehemently disagreed with Kira's marital choice, she distained their father's chosen response. She was torn as to which side she would take while in the council meeting. She, of course, blamed her father for this predicament because of his need for order and propriety. Maybe I should let Kira and father fight this out. Maybe it is about time I left Renshaw. As long as I stay here, I will not have peace and I will never be accepted.

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