Sneag Cogadh Lan, 1 Jan 825

In the higher levels of an elven city called Cathair Cothrom, there is an awe-inspiring fortress with flying red-and-black pennants. From the high towers, the guards see everything which transpires in the streets close by. The heart of the imposing building is much more interesting, though – including the throne room filled with statues of past heroes made of obsidian and black marble.

A youthful elfwoman sat on the black throne, seemingly too small for the place she occupied. Her hair was bloodred and her eyes were green. Her temples bore a black crown studded with rubies, signifying that she was the Banrion, the house's leader. The woman shifted to be more comfortable, arranging her dress in the color of green. Her arm bore the red-and-black ribbon, a sign of House Cogadh Lan.

Sneag Cogadh Lan was only two decades of age, but she was the Banrion of Cogadh Lan since her own birth. The very same night when she was born, her mother Ceanag, the previous Banrion, died in suspicious circumstances. To this time, Sneag did not know who had saved her… nor who could have wished Ceanag Cogadh Lan dead.

Young Sneag was raised by the faithful servants of the Cogadh Lan in the closed fortress of the house. As a child, she saw her home city, Cathair Cothrom, only through the windows of the homestead or from a well-guarded litter.

Cathair Cothrom was Sneag's pride – just as it was for about every other elf. The name meant the City of Levels, for it was made of hundreds if not thousands of levels, climbing upwards for many kilometers.

Today was the day Sneag first sat on her mother's throne and could first represent House Cogadh Lan beyond the walls of the compound. According to the laws of the descendants of the War Queen, she was an adult at the age of twenty-five – even though the elves preferred to count the ages in decades rather than years.

A servant entered the throne room, bent double in a bow. He had common, dark hair – not a sign of the blood red which marked the descendants of the War Queen. He wore simple clothing, with the coat of arms of the Cogadh Lan – two swords on a field of red-and-black - sewn onto the tunic. The servant gave his mistress a cup and a chamberlain followed, announcing:

- Lady Morag Mian Lan!

Sneag furrowed her brows. House Mian Lan was not counted among the traditional allies of the Cogadh Lan – quite the opposite, they were closer to the Uasal Lan, the traditional enemies of her clan. It was said the enmity between the Cogadhs and the Uasals reflects the enmity between their patron goddesses, the War Queen and the Noble Queen.

Morag Mian Lan was the younger daughter of the current Banrion – whose name escaped the youthful Banrion just about now. In the noblewoman's veins, the blood of the outsiders – the creatures from another world. It was said that the father of Morag – and her two brothers – was a demon.

The girl who entered was practically Sneag's equal in terms of age. She had pure white hair, a perfect face and red eyes – a sign of foreign blood in her veins. Many-colored robes suggested, as was the truth, that her patron goddess was the Life-Giver. Sneag could easily guess just in which matter Morag venerated her goddess – after all, the Mian Lan were known for their hedonism and the love of the carnal.

Morag Mian Lan made a perfect bow in front of the Banrion Cogadh Lan before she spoke.

'My mother, the Banrion Aimil, wishes to speak… officially… with Banrion Sneag. She suggests the meeting take place in the House Mian Lan, for Banrion Sneag to learn a different lifestyle than the one of the children of the War Queen'

Sneag furrowed her brows, playing absentmindedly with a lock of her blood red hair. She stared at the silver-and-gold ribbon on the arm of Morag mac Aimil, while collecting her thoughts. She was no longer a child and could rely only on herself – and the fate of the house depended on her decisions. The house which left the shade in which it had been for hundreds of years, thanks to her mother Banrion Ceanag. She would not waste the work of Ceanag Cogadh Lan.

'I can see no problem' she said, wondering how plain her voice sounds in contrast to Morag's melodious voice. Was beauty the Life-Giver's boon to the Mian Lan?

'Banrion Aimil suggests the meeting take place tomorrow' Morag replied.

Sneag smiled. It seemed a good game that her peer in age was calling her a Banrion… yey still was a little afraid of meeting an older and much more experienced elfwoman. Is Aimil Mian Lan as beautiful as her daughter is? – she wondered for a moment.

When the very next day a red-and-black litter brought her to the fortress of the Mian Lan, with silver-and-gold pennants flying overhead, Sneag Cogadh Lan did not know what to expect. She watched the soldiers and the servants of the house carefully, but could discern nothing different in their looks or behavior. The fortress of the Mian Lan could not have been more different than her home, though – it was more of an ornament than a redoubt, while the Cogadh Lan priced the defenses above everything and were concerned little with ornamenting their home in past centuries.

Morag Mian Lan and her older sister Ceanag led the young Banrion to the throne room. It was covered in soft carpets and the walls were protected by rich tapestries – mostly displaying elven couples in various stages of familiarity. Were she not a Banrion, she probably would have stood staring at one of them, showing a youthful man with brown eyes… but alas, she had to concentrate on what she came here for.

'I received your invitation, Banrion Aimil' Sneag said.

She felt safe as long as she was flanked by her personal guard consisting of the best soldiers of the Cogadh Lan. Aimil Mian Lan – who looked like a pale shadow next to her younger daughter – did not reveal her feelings in any way.

'I believe that a Banrion should fully know an elf's life. Therefore, House Mian Lan extends an invitation of several months to Banrion Cogadh Lan, so that she could learn a different lifestyle than the one of the descendants of the War Queen'

The younger Banrion just nodded, not speaking – she felt that she was in a situation without solution. How could she refute the offer of powerful Aimil Mian Lan? Suddenly an idea came to her mind.

'I shall ask for advice before I make my decision, but it is my belief that a Banrion should be educated in different fields' she said slowly.

One of the soldiers bearing red-and-black saluted quickly and left the room. He was back after around ten minutes, leading two elves with him. Morag showed the guests to a small chamber and closed the door, granting them enough privacy to discuss the matter in peace.

Sneag was back in a quarter of an hour, and the advisors were gone.

'I will take your noble offer, Banrion Aimil'

Aimil Mian Lan allowed herself a small smile when she saw how quickly Sneag mac Ceanag gave up. She could see how much the girl was lacking in terms of education and upbringing…

'Morag, take good care of our guest and make sure she is not wanting for anything. I have already sent for your brothers and Solamh'