Blessed are the fields of the Nesseraum, ripe with harvest’s bounty twice a year; fertile the orchards, with branches bent by fruit tantalizing; everpresent the nature in its streets. Where a common city usually inflicts severe damage upon its surroundings, Nessai grows into them seamlessly.
If we were to set our souls into a bird flying high, we would see why it is called the Emerald eye, for, set near the serene waters of the Vernan Gulf, it is a walled metropolis surrounding several square miles of ancient forest. Near its midst, a citadel stands atop an outcropping of stone, its walls ancient and overgrown with wild roses. If we were to fly with the said bird through one of its windows, we might meet her whose will is law in Nessai, Seheth Vianna Sai-Shahi, the Everqueen.
"Welcome, stranger, to my humble home. I see the powers of life are strong in you; your ardor earnest. What do you hope to find here?"
Nobody recalls a time when this enigmatic figure has not ruled the city, yet her appearance is the same as ever - flowing, seemingly uncropped ruddy gold hair that seems to have a will of its own adorns the tall figure of a healthy woman, certainly not tender, rather sinewy and somewhat muscular, the skin bearing a gold tan even in deep winter. Her features are angular and distinctive, sharply cut and regal. Always concealed are Seheth’s eyes, pure green in color, translucent widows for an inner radiance; a blindfold keeps them hidden, for most mortals are too overwhelmed by their energy, losing coherent thought and falling into a swooning state of bliss and lethargy; other, more pronounced effects of the lady’s gaze are the stuff of legend: these tell of the sick being cured, or the vile transformed into wood.
For gown, the lady will wear beige, ochre or tan robes, adorned with emerald and gold on official occasions. The lady weaves them herself, from silk gifted by the forest’s spiders, caterpillars and primal fae.
Seheth’s voice carries clear and true, being audible even over the clamor of a crowd, her articulation unmistakably clear, likewise the meaning, as if it was conveyed from spirit to spirit, and not from mouth to ear.
Perhaps most peculiar is the sovereign’s way of moving - usually, when she wishes to meet someone, he happens to stumble upon her waiting somewhere; when she is expected, someone notices she’s already present despite having been absent the second before.
What completes her attire are the birds - from humble sparrows to birds of paradise, she is always accompanied by a few, feeding and petting them absent-mindedly.
"Kingfisher - what sense is there to the common folks’ need to see nobility everywhere? True, this one used to be a king. I shall not speak his name though: his misdeeds and failures are best forgotten."
The little bird that carried us so far would be unable to relate the beginning of the story, so we shall ask the spirit of one of its ancestors, who lived nine hundred and seventy summers ago. It was a tomtit, picking up flies near a pond deep, beneath a forest giant, gnarled and covered in moss and ivy; its nest was in the tree’s arching boughs.
Due to this fortunate coincidence, it was the first witness to a deep humming as the spirit of the forest trembled with energy, gathering it near its heart at that pool, and along came a strange light, a vibrant turquoise much unlike the moon’s pale glow.
Will became life, and power matter, intent turned to spirit and a child was born, soon to be taken away by a flower-clad fey.
"Of a thousand shapes, yet we are one."
While the tiny bird understood little of the forest-spirit’s musings, it overheard them as he rested near the pond, his bear head arguing with his stag head while his fox head smiled and wolf head slept. He had heard from his brother Gomcathlos in the east of the humans, who came with fire and steel, an he knew they would deem his shape monstrous, and not listen to his wise words; the wolves had told him so.
Of his vis was born a female, resemblant of mankind, to be his voice and envoy, to keep his domain safe.
Seheth had grown into a young woman when the first settlers finally reached the edge of the forest; the tomtit knew, for she called the fattest flies for it to feast upon, and let it rest on her shoulder. The fey had prepared a gown for Seheth, and sent her out to speak to the sons of man.
While she could calm bear, cougar and wolf all the same, she could do little to soothe the spirit of the humans, who chased her away, and proceeded to lay ax to the root of her trees. That day, she rallied the denizens of the forest, to wage war. The next hundred years were much alike, with diplomacy forgotten.
"The fool that fails to listen to the voice of life must still heed the voice of death."
It was believed to be a day heralding victory when all the human nobles rallied behind Keren, and made him their king to lead them to the heart of the wood, to slay what rested within. Instead, he came across the forest witch; luckily, he was too weak to raise a sword, thanks to a stag’s antler lodged in his bowels, and surrendered without resistance. For the first time in the history of the conflict, a son of man was willing to listen, to strike a deal.
Seheth’s gaze healed him, and they made peace upon the soft moss pillows of the forest.
Keren crowned her in oak leaves, and led forth form the forest as his queen. The forest lost its dread, no more fangs and claws lurked in the shadows, and the queen guided the peasantry as to which tree to fell, or how much game to hunt. The fields’ harvest was blessed, and man was sated.
The Songbirds’ Court was their citadel called, and it watched over a prosperous realm. With the passing of the years, Seheth became even more interested in mankind, and matters beyond the borders of the woods.
Even back then, she was known as the Everqueen, for even as Keren grew old, Seheth remained as healthy as her forest, as fresh as a lily blossom. Then, he passed away, and his wife proceeded to reign as queen. She gave him a sole heir, a son named Garron; despite law stating that in the case of a king’s death, his wife should reign until the son comes of age, the nobility was discontent, for being commanded by a forest witch that showed no sign of being willing to die or go away was an ugly stain on their visions of grandeur and dreams of power.
"Law has to have but one face."
Under the veil of the night, the first assassin snuck into the citadel, his purpose the theft of the queen’s
life. Yet, he was met by a greater stalker, as a panther claimed his life. Rats fell upon another, gnawing him apart; a third succeeded at reaching his target, yet his arrow pierced but the queen’s son before her gaze fell upon him, and he set root, his hair leaves and skin smooth bark.
Open rebellion followed subterfuge, with the nobles’ hosts besieging the citadel at the wood’s edge. The queen’s faithful manned the walls against the usurpers, yet soon, allies from without rushed to relieve the siege: bears, stampeding beasts, packs of wolves, flocks of birds and swarms of insects descended upon the faithless. A raven’s wings shall we ride into this grim tale, fly over an army caught between hammer an anvil, feel the black messenger’s anticipation of a feast, hear the clatter of steel and screams below.
The cacophony of battle died away; the land was littered with armored bodies and furred carcasses. Our raven, he was too bloated to fly. Thus, we shall be carried by a stray dove. Its beak is still stained with blood, as is its white countenance.
"Bite the hand that bleeds you."
Approaching a group of kneeling captives and their wardens, we se the queen, wrath written into her face, her pose stern and regal, her loyals in a wide circle around the leaders of the rebellion.
And she speaks: "You dared to raise your greedy fists against your benefactors, disdained wisdom that was offered to you free of charge; you led to death youths and slew the young of the forest. How do you plead?"
Mavar the Paunch, one of the dukes, squealed in terror: "Please, milady, we were fools! Grant us life!" And she nodded, speaking: "You shall have life, more life than you can bear" and her eyes flared. From the rebels’ throats and nostrils saplings shot forth towards the sun, their bellies swelled and burst open, revealing herbs, trees and flowers in abundance, and their bones became birds and butterflies.
"From this day onward" she spoke, "let no mortal agency conspire against this new order; let no traitor spread distrust among us, no fool sow poison, no enemy dare to siege, for know this: we shall win through, no matter the cost."
A myriad birds carries us, from a smith’s porch, to a mason’s lunch box, an architect’s window, t’wards a general’s tent, through the ages, and we see her city grow, walls and man’s abode’s raised around the forest’s heart, which remains untouched, the forest spirit dozing within while his daughter runs with the human pack.
Having lived with them for centuries, the Everqueen understands her flock well, and leaves much to their discretion - trade, art, the trades - but all know that the politics of Nesseraum are her will only, as is any military action.
Likewise, she is the head of the church and high priestess of the Green Lady. Several faiths, especially more primal ones, have found a niche in her city, whereas some of the more modern are outlawed - the lady deems them counterproductive. Next to her innate powers, Seheth has studied druidic magicks and sorcery extensively, and
instructs the acolytes herself; these are her handmaidens, and relate her will in her absence. Amongst them, there are several of her daughters - Seheth is a social person, keeping several active relationships with both gentlemen and ladyfolk; her life-giving aura is so strong indeed that the later often do come down with child after prolonged intimate contact with her. Couples do ask for the Lady’s blessing when they wish for a child.
Strangely, since Keren, no one has sired a son in her.
"Forget your name for now… I shall call you Passion instead."
What has been denied her is a child that would share her gift - while some of them do possess talent for magic, none has the intimate understanding of nature’s power that is her birthright. Seheth let forests be planted at other cities of the alliance of city-states she has forged, but none of them gave birth to any major forest spirit - yet.
A tomtit, different from the one that was our carrier in the beginning, sits on Seheth’s shoulder, bathing in her salubrious emanations; the proximity lets us examine her in detail, how she lives and acts.
The most striking thing about her is the fascination she evokes, pure charisma. People tend to listen to her words intensely, her retainers are usually highly loyal, and her rivals in a discussion will find it hard to come up with a good retort. This is a gift she has honed with age; often does she wish she had possessed it earlier, to prevent all the bloodshed.
Her aura does have other powers too - people used to it are revitalized, needing less sleep, they heal faster and avoid sickness. Children in her city are usually born healthy, as well, and all tend to live longer. True, her energetic influence has a feral touch to it, and Nessian men are known for brawling often and enthusiastically. Indeed, Seheth delights in this, and holds games every three years, where the victor will not only receive honors and a fortune, but she will be his queen for a month.
That vital and feral streak is of course present in pure form in Seheth: she is passionate, yet dangerous. While she understands and likes humans, she is certainly not ‘tamed’ in any sense of that word. She does not bow to anyone; for a time, she is willing to bend, only to lash back.
Of diplomacy capable she is, yet prefers to win someone over to her point of view, rather than compromise. She will respect a capable and strong subordinate, as long as he remembers who the alpha bitch is. Her advisors and retainers are well aware of this, never questioning her when someone might overhear, and phrasing their advice carefully. A foreigner insulting her will find her stare and whole presence focused on him while the room falls still; this is a situation known to relax the sphincters.
Despite her flaws, Seheth is always willing to accept responsibility for her own deeds and failings, and her subjects know they will be judged fairly for theirs. Both in peace and in war, she takes the most important matters into her hands, going as far as riding at the front of the army; then, she will don garb made of fur and horn and hardened wood, and ride a gigantic six-legged predator from times long past that dwells deep in her forest, while huge wolves, bears and tigers aid her troops, and even let them ride them.
"It’s good that you oppose me: my pack was growing hungry."
Luckily, rarely do the armies of Nesseraum go to war - while some surrounding monarchs may hate the ‘Queen Bitch’ with a passion, and orcish hordes salivate at the thought of her bountiful herds and rich coffers, they do know better. After all, in several hundred years, no one managed to take her on and live. This suits Seheth fine, for at heart, she is a creator and keeper, albeit a violent one at times.
One wishing to get along with Seheth will learn that she is fond of both ‘cute’ as well as strong and characterful people. For gifts, she prefers plants and animals from distant lands, and well-made food. She also has a weakness for amber. The most important thing is to never doubt that she is the boss, not necessarily your boss, but a boss nonetheless, and certainly no one’s pawn. She can sense whether you are serious, so be earnest. She is most difficult in winter, while in spring, there are too many tempting people around, and Seheth is satisfied and surprisingly mellow.
The Queen’s talents are many, foremost of them a vast influence over beasts, and to a lesser degree, men.
Indeed, it is futile to send cavalry into a battle against her, and crocodile or rancor pits hold no terror for her.
Her unveiled gaze can heal the wounded, overwhelm with sensation and emotion, or cause transformation or lethal growth.
Other than this, she is a capable sorceress on many fields, having had more than enough time to study and learn.
Unless slain instantly, she will heal within seconds; if it suits your plot, she may even be restored in the place of her birth after a purely physical death.
A capable shapeshifter, she can take both single shapes as well as that of a swarm: a favourite trick of hers is to burst into a flock of birds just before a foe strikes her.
The Silvani - the sub that sparked this idea.