The sun had yet to rise when Uluantha climbed out of bed, hurrying to get ready for the Assembly Gathering later that day. Most delegates stayed overnight at the Grand Complex before a vote as important as the one on the docket today, but Uluantha preferred to be at home, with her Clan and the comfort of her routines. Her muscular form carried her swiftly down the spiraling stairs from her home in the treetops, 100 meters up near the canopy.
She could have woven a spell to carry her to the shallows below, but the run to the water was part of the fun of living near the canopy for her. She passed other homes, either built around the ancient trunks like hers, or floating in the space between, and waved congenially as she passed the few other early risers like herself. The sounds of morning songbirds thinned with her descent, transitioning to trills and buzzing as insects whirled to life.
For Many hundreds of years the Clans of the people of O’ooryu have been organized through the Assembly, and most had prospered from the cooperation it fostered. But, a bias favoring Enchanters above all other magical practitioners had bred resentments that threatened the stability of generations of lasting peace. Today, the restructuring Uluantha had proposed to fix this inequality was up for vote, and the hopes of millions rested on the results. She pulled her mind back to the present as she reached the end of the stairs.
The forest floor was covered in shallow pools with plant life swaying throughout. One particular bit of vegetation formed broad flat pads that looked like green polka dots scattered randomly across the water’s surface. Woody stalks burst forth, sprouting bundles of colorful leaves and flowers. Uluantha didn’t slow her pace, stepping from one flat pad to another, calling up lifespring to reinforce each one to take her weight without harm.
Soon the plants gave way to a wide open space where they formed a shaggy border around a deep, clear pool. With a smooth continuation of motion, Uluantha leaped into a graceful dive and rolled around under the water like a creature returning home. Her large, golden eyes glowed with joy under the water as she pushed deeper into the pool with her slightly webbed feet.
She spent about half an hour in the water, harvesting some crustaceans that lined the walls of the pool for breakfast. Once she saw others making their way to the water, she knew it was time to get back home and onward to the Assembly. People waved and called out morning greetings as she passed, her Clan wishing her luck for today’s Gathering.
At the winding stairs Uluantha drew up lifespring again to cast a quick spell on herself, bounding up them in great leaps, as if gravity were optional. Back inside the house, she spoke a brief incantation and waved her hand over a large nautilus shell resting in a stand on a side table. The fiery orange surface glowed in response, while the room filled with the sound of tinkling wind chimes.
Uluantha was in the process of changing from her wet tunic to a flowing silken gown of iridescent green and pink, when the chimes gave way for a familiar voice, “Good morning, Sear Uluantha,” her aid said.
“Hi, Kalian, where do we stand today, any changes from last night?” Uluantha stood in front of the mirror positioning a leather girdle over her gown. It had her symbol of office as a Conservator of the Assembly richly embroidered in pearls and precious stones imbued with enchantments to protect her.
The answer was crisp with a hint of excitement, “Nothing that we didn’t expect. Sear Delwyn continues to argue against you, and Sear Kapa’onu reveals nothing about their preference. It will be close, but I think you may have swayed the Assembly that all three branches of magic must have equal voices within the Hall.”
Uluantha grinned, rubbed some oil onto her hands, and began combing them through her fleshy plumage to smooth it out and make it shine. She didn’t have “hair” like the visitors from the Initiative. Her people sprouted thick strands in a wide array of vibrant colors, vaguely similar in appearance to feathers, that extended from the head in a manner akin to cetara on some ocean creatures. Her pale pearlescent skin transitioned into plumage,streaked with bright pink.
She began positioning a beaded diadem high on her forehead as she answered, “I’m almost ready to fly, and if we’ve done our jobs right, we may see the biggest peaceful shift of power since the Assembly was first formed. A much needed change.”
“Agreed, may the Ocean’s grace be upon you and keep you safe.”
“Kalian, keep a close eye on Kapa’onu, they will be approached by the old guard with offers of special favor, and I’ll need to know where those offers come from and how friendly the exchange was.”
“Yes, Conservator. See you soon”, and the room was silent once again.
With one last look in the mirror, Uluantha added her neck rings and a set of silver bracers, then ran out the door towards the broad platform where her flyer rested. The vehicle used a giant turritella shell as a base, with double sets of slender wooden wings poking out from each side. Uluantha lifted the glass dome that covered the two seats and settled in front. Latching the cover, she then placed her hand over the central control crystal and four lifespring batteries came to life with a gentle blue glow emanating along each side.
The flyer floated up from the platform and sprang forward through a cleared path, quickly leaving the lush canopy of her Clan territory behind. Uluantha loved to fly, and the day was perfect for it. She dove down to skim the surface of the great ocean below, but as she tilted the pointed cone upward again, movement under the water caught her eye.
Two flyers burst up from under the water to match her speed, parallelling her to either side. “What in the ocean’s deep?!” she exclaimed in confusion. She’d never seen flyers quite like these.
Their wings were somehow made to lay flat against their bodies while submerged, they extended as the vehicles lurched up at her. Some Clan had developed an underwater version in utter secrecy, and the sight of them filled Uluantha with a sense of dread. Before she could reinforce the magical shielding around her, the attacks began.