Little is known of the Sylvan of the Mistwood, for they rarely leave their highland jungles to consort with the rest of Teleria. Most assume the worst of them for it – that the Sylvan Elves are cruel, haughty, or arrogant, and that they have no interest in the lesser peoples of the world. The truth, however, is different. For them, to be separated from their homeland is to suffer a feeling of isolation that outsiders can scarcely understand. For when they are among their own kind, the Sylvan are in touch with magic that binds them together, cascading their emotions and sensations to any other Sylvan in reach who cares to listen. They call this magic the Rhythm, and if they leave their home, the lack of it is a deafening silence. And so they rarely leave.
Without the Rhythm, most Sylvan have great difficulty communicating with those around them, as they are accustomed to reading the emotions of their interlocutors directly. This is why, especially in the days before the creation of the Nyresan Union, the Sylvan Elves relied upon specially-trained ambassadors to speak with outsiders. These ambassadors were educated in the ways of facial expressions, inference, deception, and empathy – methods of communication that other Telerians find normal. Such training was difficult to master, however, and it did little to replace the Rhythm for most of the ambassadors who would be leaving their homeland. One of their numbers, however, proved exceptionally talented… but she would also prove the dangers of consorting with outsiders.
Saerlaith departed for the great mage city of Ireth, hoping to attend its legendary Academy. Most Sylvan ambassadors were sent to establish ties of trade or alliances, but Saerlaith had an altogether more important – and more dangerous – mission: she was to use the resources of Ireth to study the nature of the Rhythm itself, hoping that she could find a way to replicate its magic beyond the confines of the Mistwood.
But the Sylvan feared that unscrupulous mages could use whatever was discovered against them – the Rhythm had already been turned against the Sylvan Elves and Fae in ages past when Siroth had corrupted the Heart Tree that produced the magic and used it to control large swathes of the population. If the Sylvan were to investigate this most holy of magics with the aid of Irethi mages, they would have to do so discreetly. In trying to determine who among the Sylvan would be most suitable for this mission, Saerlaith was the first choice. She was coy, adept at magic, and had a narcissistic streak that left her resilient to the crushing depression of living without the Rhythm. She was eager to begin.
Saerlaith hid her true goals from the powers of Ireth, but the limitation proved more calamitous than expected. Acting with discretion prevented her from piquing the interest of the more academic mages of the academy, who might have been interested in her mission for its own sake. With only her mystique and her origins to inspire others to help her, she was left with only those looking for the prestige of winning the beautiful Sylvan ambassador’s attention – it was not long before she found herself in the path of Arion and Valkanen.
Arion and Valkanen were the most brilliant and promising young mages in all of Ireth, and they hated each other. Exceedingly arrogant, the posturing in their competition to be the greatest mage in the academy bordered on unbearable to anyone close to them. When the two men discovered Saerlaith – her talent, her beauty, her influence in the Mistwood – she became the latest and most important object of their contest. This, unfortunately for Saerlaith, also played upon her own vanity. She could not bring herself to discourage either party. She told herself that she was encouraging them in order to further her plans, for they were so powerful. In a way, she told herself, she was still fulfilling her duties to her people – even if she might have enjoyed it more than was proper.
But the escalating tension between the three of them refused to plateau. Saerlaith, for all her empathy, misjudged her suitors. She believed they were honourable enough to limit their ambitions. She believed they saw themselves as bound by laws and reason. She believed they would not exchange their humanity for more power. She believed that she was safe.
She was wrong.