Katolis City--capital of the largest human kingdom, Katolis--was a large city nestled by a river, and, predominantly, powered by steam. Technological advancements had occurred increasingly more frequently over the last century, though, admittedly, not as quickly as the advancements of Xadia.
Xadia, of course, had magic. The primal sources were, naturally, what powered their technological advancements. And while humans did have dark magic, it was a pale comparison to Xadia’s rich and natural magical resources. Xadian magic worked better with technology--although that never stopped High Mage of Katolis, Lord Viren, from trying.
But the human realms made do--mostly with the help of steam power. And while their own technology was decades behind Xadia’s, it was still, for all extensive purposes, a well oiled machine.
While Katolis City was large--the city centre was quite small comparatively to the outskirts of the city, and the palace where the royal family lived and matters of state occurred was on a cliff edge, in the midst of the city centre.
Prince Callum stood on a bridge that connected the palace of Katolis City with the east of City Centre, and Sarrai Public Gardens, renamed thirteen years ago in honor of Callum’s mother, Queen of Katolis.
He paused, looking down over the ledge of the bridge at the river thousands of feet below him. The private bridge was small--too small for any automobiles to travel across, being only a foot bridge. It was for use by the royal family and officials of state only--and heavily guarded on either end. The river below was almost invisible in the fog and steam that rose from it--all along the river for miles were machines and mechanisms to use the water to power factories to even the electricity of Katolis City.
Callum smiled, before hoisting his bag higher on his shoulder and hurrying across the bridge, his guards following from a comfortable, but safe distance.
Comfortable for them, perhaps--he thought wryly. He hated having guards--his stepfather insisted they follow him everywhere outside the palace--but they were an unfortunate necessity in being a prince.
Step-prince, as the Captain of the King’s Guard would remind him. Step-prince.
It was true, but the term always left an aching feeling in Callum’s chest.
He was eighteen--a man, now, he supposed, and his little brother, Crown Prince Ezran, would be turning fourteen in four days--a joyous occasion for the whole city.
Callum tugged his scarf snugger around his neck. The mid-March air was chilly--especially exposed like this over the bridge. As he reached the other side, he began to descend the steps, forgoing the elevator. If he took the elevator, he would have to ride down with the guards assigned to him, and Callum was rather hoping for an opportunity to lose said guards.
For today, even as he descended the steps, an embassy from Xadia was arriving. The peace treaty agreement happened to fall around Ezran’s birthday--and while no one was pleased that the family would have to forgo a peaceful, intimate celebration in favor of a grand welcoming for the Xadian ambassadors, Callum was eager to see these strange and foreign guests.
He had never, in recent memory, seen an elf before--not up close, anyway.
And most importantly, he was eager to see some real Xadian technology.
He hopped over the railing of the steps, landing softly and bypassing the guard station. He heard shouts as his guards realized what he had done--but he had already slipped into the crowd as he hurried forward towards the large green field of Sarrai Public Gardens, to watch the great Xadian airship make its landing.
Rayla stood at attention as her commander, Runaan, gazed out the windows of their compartment with a sour look on his face. “Look at all those humans,” he muttered. “They’re too close. Don’t the human guards know anything about the landing safety procedures?”
“The humans don’t have aircrafts--so I doubt they consider the safety procedures much,” Ethari noted, from where he was seated at a table, polishing some trinkets he had created as a birthday present for the king of Katolis’ son, who apparently was having a birthday this week.
He lifted up the trinket to look at it more closely. “Think he’ll like it?” he asked Rayla, hopefully.
Rayla frowned, before nodding slowly. She turned back to Runaan, who looked even more sour than before. “Look at them,” he was muttering to himself. “So much for the peace negotiations if we happen to squash a few dozen of them…”
“Runaan,” she began, “Permission to check on the other ambassadors before we land?”
He waved a hand, dismissing her, still fixated on the humans apparently endangering themselves by standing too close to their descended airship. Rayla hurried off, slipping out of their compartment and hurrying through a hallway, down a ladder, before she finally arrived at the parlor for the ambassadors.
She straightened her back, before opening the door, and stepping through.
General Janai was pacing the floor, looking uncharacteristically out of sorts. Rayla had little time to contemplate the reason, before the reason was evident. Lounging in a chair was the head of their little embassy--Lord Aavaros, and he looked positively giddy.
“How can you say that?” General Janai asked, spinning around to fix Aavaros with a deep glare. “We haven’t even arrived yet!” Her thick, Lux Aurean accent seemed to be accentuated by her anger, and when she spoke again she practically spat her next words. “We have no idea what the humans are thinking we are coming to negotiate, but I am sure it is not a marriage.”
Rayla blinked, before glancing between Aavaros and Janai. Marriage? Between whom? Not Janai and Aavaros--surely. But then, who?
Janai pointed, and Rayla was surprised into losing her strict, military posture when Janai pointed at her . “She is only nineteen!”
Rayla blinked a few more times. What did her being nineteen have to do with a marriage?
“I doubt the human prince will care about her age,” Aavaros said, shrugging.
Janai sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and her forefinger. “Prince Ezran is too young to marry by human and elf standards.”
“Then the other prince, Callart, his name was?” Aavaros asked, smirking slightly as if he was enjoying every moment of riling up Janai.
Rayla realized, with a horrible, sinking feeling deep in her gut, just what they were talking about. Aavaros wanted her to marry one of the human princes. “Why me?” she asked suddenly, startled into forgetting her manners.
Janai sighed, waiving a hand in disgust. “Your parents are high members of the Dragon Council--and you are the closest-in-age high ranking elf in the Xadian-Human alliance.”
The sinking feeling in Rayla’s gut practically hit the floor. Married? To a human?
She almost swayed, but steeled herself and turned to look at Aavaros with a disgusted look. “Surely you're joking,” she said. “I’m not marrying the prince of Katolis.”
“Oh?” Aavaros asked, amused. “I suppose you don’t want peace between Xadia and Katolis then, do you?”
“It’s not that,” Rayla said, a bit flustered at his unfair accusation. “I just don’t want to get married! Yet,” she added under her breath. And not to a human, at the very least!
“I concur,” Janai said. “Her parents are not even here to give their blessing. Not to mention, she should have a say in such matters--the Moonshadow elves do not condone arranged marriages.”
“No,” Rayla said, feeling encouraged by Janai’s defence, “And besides, we don’t know whether or not the humans would be open to marriage with an elf.”
“ Exactly ,” Janai said, nodding.
Aavaros waved a hand dismissively. “The High Mage of Katolis seemed quite eager to make the match.”
“I thought I was marrying Prince Callum?” Rayla asked, “Now I’m marrying the High Mage of Katolis?”
Aavaros laughed, and Rayla wanted to hit him because he sounded so mocking . Her fists clenched at her sides, and she willed herself to have the self control to not punch him into oblivion.
“No,” Aavaros said, standing up in a fluid motion and walking to the windows. He stood with his back to them. “Lord Viren is interested in marrying you to Prince Callum because it would negate Callum as a threat.”
Rayla paused, wracking her brain to try to come up with an explanation, before it hit her. “Prince Callum is the older step-prince of King Harrow,” she said, slowly. “If Prince Callum marries me, an elf, he will no longer be, in any way, eligible to take the throne…”
“Yes,” Aavaros said. “He is, after all, an outsider, in Lord Viren’s own words. And since he is now an adult by human standards, he poses a threat to everything Lord Viren and King Harrow have worked for.”
Rayla glanced at Janai, who looked annoyed beyond belief. “We have no reason,” Janai said, fervently, “To believe that this...Prince Callum is in any way interested in taking the throne.” she said. “And even if he is, what right or interest is it of ours to interfere with human politics?”
“Oh, there’s a good chance he isn’t interested in being king,” Aavaros said, cheerfully. “But that is not my intention with this arrangement.”
“What is your intention?” Rayla asked, a little hesitant yet impatient for Aavaros to finally get to the point.
He turned to look at her, before winking. “I’m curious how cute a baby between a human and elf would be,” he said.
Janai and Rayla glanced at each other, both knowing this was not Aavaros’ true intention. “I’m not marrying him,” she said, finally.
“I stand with Captain Rayla,” Janai said. “Rayla should not have to be sacrificed for some...human politics.”
Aavaros shrugged, before returning to his seat.
Rayla growled with annoyance, before turning on her heels and leaving the room, hurrying back to Runaan and Ethari’s chambers, where hopefully, they would help her find a way out of this sticky situation.
To be continued…?
Hello! I know I know, I owe y’all a chapter (or two) on some other fics, but here’s chapter 1 of a steampunk-ish rayllum fic I started writing for funsies :)
It was supposed to be a comic, and then an illustrated fic, but then I got an idea for a different Rayllum comic, so I decided to just keep this as a fic.
Anyway, it is a steampunk/semi-modern-ish (like, 1910’s-1920’s)/arranged marriage rayllum fic and I really enjoyed writing this :)
Let me know if you’d be interested in me writing more for this fic!