Once, there was only darkness. Nothing existed in the inky black of eternal night, for all souls were sleeping. The first spark of light came from the opening eyes of the oldest god: Summrbrynde, the Summer King. When he saw the darkness he saw nothing, and so, devised to create the world.
His people were filled with the light of summer; they were beautiful, with pure intentions. They were the Summer People, and they built great cities and kingdoms and prospered. There was another people however, born by mistake from the space where the light was carved from; a dark place, and so, a dark people. These people were ugly, and their hearts were ugly and the Summer People cast them away from their great selves to live forever in the Mystlands, away from the Summer King’s light.
This was the story told, and so it is to this very day: Sumenna, the summer lands, and Cyndara, the lands of the myst are divided, and the people are separate and so it will forever be. The summer people made sure that the land of mysts was forbidden, and any creature that came out of it into the land of light was punished most severely.
Ha! What a load of fish tripe! Of course, the Cyndarans have a version of the story that is quite different than anything a spoiled, vain Sumennan would tell:
In the beginning there was darkness, but of it there was not one being sleeping in the dark, there were two. Summrbrynde was the older brother, and he was harsh, and he was arrogant, and his sister Cyndabrynde was sweet, and she was gentle. She was the Mother of Spring. Summrbrynde thought his sister weak for her compassion and her mercy, so he made a world scorched by harsh light, in which Cynda had no wish to go. Cynda made a world for her children, the creatures of the myst away from the burning eye of her brother. Where his people grew spoiled and quarrelsome, Cynda’s people embraced the tranquility of the mysts and grew harmonious. They did not prize physical beauty as the summer people did, but beauty of the heart, and so the two peoples learned to distrust one another and divided themselves.
This is a story about prejudice, about vanity and about humility. It is about two peoples, one who thought themselves the highest of all beings, the other wishing only for peace away from the land of light. The people of Sumenna are elegant, beautiful, they are the light fairies, the high elves, the humans, perfect in their forms and perfect in their magics. The Cyndarans are thought to always be ugly, they are the imperfects, the satyrs, dark faeries, the wood elves, trolls, orcs, ogres and skin changers, but are the two peoples really so different? Do they not both have hearts? Dreams? Cannot both fall to vices? Or else rise to love?
A Sumennan scholar, alone in the oldest archives of her people stumbled across and ancient scroll: The scroll contained a cryptic prophecy, predicting a great war between the people of night, and those of day. Frightened by this discovery she told the eight houses, who put their bickering aside and came together to discuss strategies for averting this disaster, or else gaining the upper hand so the Sumennans would be the victors. They decided to send some of their people into the mystlands, to brave the ‘savage and hideous’ creatures of the night and to uncover proof that the Cyndarans meant to invade. The people of the mysts however know nothing of the prophecy, or of the infiltrators about to trespass on their land…
“The portents are clear.” The voice of the representative of house Evereach rang like a bell in the high-ceilinged hall. Sunlight poured through windows stretching up to the buttressed roof, spilling onto the floor in puddles of liquid gold. Sitting in gilded chairs cushioned with fine velvet the seven remaining lords, each speaking for their own house sat, their faces grim.
“Just because your scholars found an old scroll in the archives, bearing Summrbryde’s mark…” One of the lords spoke, Dwerstand’s man. “…that does not mean anything in it is truth.”
The high elf turned on him, his eyes cold and sharp as steel. “If only it were signs, my lord.” He gestured with one hand, and a pair of men in gleaming silver armour turned to open the tall doors. Three more soldiers were dragging something behind them, bound with ropes and fighting every step. The lords leaned out of their chairs to see what was being brought. With one final jerk of the bonds the figure fell between his captors, hitting the floor with a grunt to the gasps of the entire chamber.
The orc rose to his knees, bearing his teeth and turning a hateful glare on the glittering nobles before him. He was big, with a tusk freshly broken during his struggle. His green skin glowed in the light of the sun, but not so brightly as the burning anger in his eyes.
“This creature was caught not a day’s ride from Brynson! My lords…we must act. Now.”
“So there I was! Surrounded by three terrible Sumennans!” Crispin raised his hands above his head, attempting a guttural snarl, which didn’t come out half as intimidating as he’d hoped. Still the children listening were caught up in rapt fascination as he spun his tale, the shadows from the fire dancing across their eager faces.
“Then one of them raised his arm and his palm just burst into flames! Poof! But the flames didn’t hurt him, oh no, so with one mighty swing, he hurled the fireball straight at my head!” the elf swung his hand to act the throwing of fire and the children squealed as they ducked away from it. “I ran like the wind, but the flames caught in my hair! I barely escaped with my life…and that’s, why they call me Crispy.”
Desrick stood. He’d been mending his axe sheath nearby and replaced his blade in it, testing the patchwork. “Stop telling lies to the children.” He smiled as he said it, his voice a deep rumble compared to his elven brother. He cuffed Crispin playfully on the head as he walked past where they were gathered. Crispin smoothed back his auburn curls indignantly. “How do you know I didn’t meet Sumennans?”
Desrick shouldered his pack, tossing Crispin’s to him, “because you set your hair on fire trying to catch candle toads for a prank. That’s why we call you Crispy.”
Crispin laughed with the children then, happy for mirth, even at his own expense. He rose and followed Desrick to the outskirts of the small village that had been their last rest stop before the border. “And if you’d have helped it would have been the most glorious prank Delan had ever seen!” He sounded wistful as he matched pace with the orc.
They were travelling out to the furthest tribe, the one Desrick had not heard from in far too long. He had made no secret of his worry and had pushed them hard to get here so fast. Mist coiled about their feet, carpeting the trail. The white wall that was the border of their lands was visible a little way off; the dim glow from it a testament to the Half-Sun Hills just beyond. The orc had sent a message to his Dovahro friend Caerwyn (Chione
) to meet them by the village. With the dragon folk now vanishing as well, Caer had rightly thought to combine their efforts.
“They’re probably fiiine.” Crispin reassured him as the eighth watermark on the trail came and went. They tracked their progress by special symbols cut into the trees. “Maybe they just got moody again and decided that they were going to stop contact for good…it’s happened before.” It was clear Crispin didn’t have much time for orc stubbornness, Desrick was the only exception.
Both of them stopped short however as they came through the bone gate of the village and the scene before them revealed itself: Houses were ransacked, tools and provisions lay scattered across the leafy ground. There wasn’t a soul living in the entire place.
Desrick’s heart constricted as he caught sight of a shape on the ground, motionless, green skin dull and dirt-covered from a struggle.
“Go scout the perimeter," Desrick growled. "Send a bird if you find anything.”
Crispin gave his brother a frightened look, but went, taking to the trees with a few skilled leaps.
The light was only a dull glow on the horizon behind them now. The wall of mist loomed up before them, silhouettes of skeletal trees clawing at the banks of rolling fog. The guide had nearly bolted in terror six times in the past half mark, and his horse wasn’t faring much better. He’d been paid a king’s ransom to take them to Cyndara’s border, but it was clear he now thought it hadn’t been enough. The dark was unnatural. The dark…was evil.
“This is as far as I’m going.” He said to the company at last, turning his mount. “I wish you the best of luck…and…I do hope you come back.”
He left them there, in the company of the trees, dark and unfriendly. Something screeched in the mist ahead, and the tree just beside them ran oozing red sap that looked unsettlingly like blood. A long, vertical knot bore thorns that from the right angle, looked like fangs in a slender mouth.
There were three bodies. A warrior Desrick knew, and his wife and child, all killed quickly, and without mercy. The warrior had an arrow in his back, he’d been taken unawares. His family’s throats had been slashed, likely just after he had fallen. Desrick gritted his teeth against the wave of grief and anger that flooded into him. Killing a child was unheard of in a tribe skirmish. It was the most disgusting act of cowardice. The warriors would fight and die, but the parents and children were never harmed. Desrick knew then that no orc was behind these murders. The arrow shaft was fletched in strange white feathers, that shimmered with iridescence in the dim light. He had never seen feathers like those before. After covering the bodies of the wife and child, Desrick broke the shaft and took the fletching with him before giving the warrior the orcish rights to his eternal sleep. He sat a while in silence, brow furrowed deeply as he tried to wrestle his anger into something usable. A flurry of wings brought him up from his brooding as a messenger bird swooped down and landed on his shoulder. Crispin’s voice poured from the animal’s beak, it sounded half-mad with terror:
“D-Desrick! There are people at the border…I…I think they’re Sumennan! They...they mean to cross over, I’m sure of it! W-what do I do?”
Desrick frowned, this didn’t add up. The orc growled his own message back to the bird.
“Sound an alarm, and then get out of here, go back to Delan quick as you can and tell the acolytes and the chief.” He let the bird go and waited as it flapped off into the silence. Soon after the shrieks of the bird began echoing through the fog, alerting every Cyndaran close by…not that there would be many, but hopefully word would spread. Something didn’t make sense however, if these Sumennans had been responsible…why where they coming back? Desrick didn’t know, but he resolved then to find out. He shouldered his axe, and stalked into the fog to meet them.
The young Llewellyn volunteered as soon as there was a call for investigation across the border, a healer would be a boon in any given situation and she had worked it to her advantage for once. Gathering up her things in a hurry, accompanied by the three leather journals of her late father, Eir set out to rendezvous with the selected group. It wasn't too impressive, where one had imagined grand Knights in shining armour it seemed ... mundane. Nevertheless, it wasn't her place to be calling others mundane set by looks alone. White and pastel-yellow robes trailed each movement in surprising grace as she drew up her headscarf to cover the volume of wavy, autumn locks, giving respite to her porcelain complexion; leaning against her staff clasped and glancing between the group of men.
Passing through the Half-Sun Hills was the most magical thing she had experienced till they were left at the border of the Cyndara. She clapped her hands together and cleared her throat to break the ominous, foreboding silence between them. "It can't be that bad! I think it has a charm about it." Eir put a hand on her hip and nodded in a determination of her optimism. "I suppose it might take some getting used to though." Her head tilted toward the tree beside them, but not before she tested the ground ahead by pressing into it using the tip of her toes, tugging up her skirts to ensure they weren't muddied. "I grant you one thing, I'm not sure wearing white was the best choice for adventuring. I wonder if Cyndara has any seamstresses, I know my mother would love to have an idea of Cyndaran patterns,"
Slowly walking on the border, mist curling about her ankles with tendrils that resembled haggard fingers; there was a moment until Eirian made a small jump and waited silently to have her life ended by some dark mystical force. It never came. In celebration of her not-death, Llewellyn did an odd little dance from side to side, making a beeline for the odd-looking tree. Much like a toddler heading for a pair of scissors. She dipped the tip of her finger into the sap oozing, sticking her fingers together experimentally. "This is certainly new, I wonder if it does anything--" Clearly she had been seconds away from tasting it, but had thought better of it when her more responsible side prevailed amongst the overwhelming temptation.
Eirianwen wasn't the most observing to natural dangers, after all, they had all but tamed the wilderness in the Summerlands. Nothing could eat you, the flowers were for show and the buzzing of honey-laden bumblebees that dipped and wobbled, drunk with nectar. The real danger was men holding swords and running at each other, or particularly nasty sicknesses that could oft wipe out half a village. Threats that were predictable, for everything had a plan somewhere. Cyndara, by contrast, didn't seem quite the same. Still, since when did one learn lessons if they didn't make mistakes? Hopefully, may them be mistakes that didn't cost her life or anyone else's.
There was something, however, that stirred in her chest when she crossed into the dim-lit forest of Cyndara. A tug and pull, as if the gentle tides of some far off ocean. Comfortingly familiar, like a bairn being rocked to sleep in the arms of their mother. A thread reconnected. But that didn't matter as she closed in on the odd looking tree.
Her slender hand reached for the thorns, mesmerised. Breath caught in her throat -- she'd seemingly forgotten why she was there at that tree again. Alas, the healer couldn't stop herself, fingertip now stained red with sap as there was quiet movement behind of the rest of their small, motley crew. Eirianwen frowned, "--Wait,--"
Ciaran crouched silently in the undergrowth, melting into the darkness like the mist that hid him from his quarry. The beast was only a short distance away, grazing peacefully but occasionally flicking its ears uneasily. It could smell him, he suspected, but his quiet movement around the clearing had left his scent in several areas and now it was keeping an eye on a patch of shrubbery directly opposite him. The angle wasn’t perfect, but if he got a good shot, he would have fresh meat for the next few meals. That was a rare luxury this close to the Hills; sensible beasts kept their distance from the glaring light that stabbed its way through the mists in those regions. But Ciaran was not sensible, and he was hungry.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, the young fairy lifted his bow to line up a shot and was about to release when the sound of a shrieking bird shattered the silence. He ducked in alarm, sending an arrow shooting wide of his target, which had had enough of the uncomfortable clearing and leapt away from the source of the noise, sailing straight over Ciaran’s head. He ducked again, folding his arms over his head to protect himself from the creature’s sharp hooves, and muttered irritable curses. Looking back towards where the creature had bounded away, he considered trailing after it but decided it would be too jumpy to risk another shot. Unless he dropped it almost where it fell, there was no telling how far it could run or whether he would be able to find it again. Sighing as he searched for his errant arrow, he resigned himself to dried fruits and foraged berries again.
But even if his diet was growing rather dull, this new event changed his routine entirely. This was no ordinary bird; he could tell that much. Some of the elves used birds to communicate with others across distances, so perhaps it came from them? Ciaran liked the elves. Or, rather, he liked messing with the elves, especially when he could convince one or two of them to join in on his fun. They were much more entertaining than the dour Guardians, at least. Great dancers too, though he preferred his own skipping and leaping to the more stately dances he’d seen. He’d been travelling alone for a while; he could really use the company, and he couldn’t resist trying to find out why they were sounding horns this close to the hills. Didn’t they know the Sumerans might hear them? Also, there was a chance they might have some proper food! Ciaran brightened as this prospect, reasoning that they owed him at least a bite after scaring away his lunch, and set off in the direction of the sound eager to see what he could find.
As it turned out, however, the bird's screech had covered a greater distance than he’d expected and the terrain had been difficult even for his experience. It was as though the forest, fearing the encroachment of the cruel beings of the west, had thrown up all its thorns and barriers to keep them from coming near. Ciaran couldn’t blame the forest, but it was making his life more difficult. Sitting down on a mossy rock to rest, he listened idly to the whispers far above his head. It was said that the trees could speak, if you listened closely enough, but he’d never had much interest in their speech. It always took a very long time, and he was more interested in the beasts that lived inside them. When it came time for his testing, he’d bribed one of the squirrels with juicy red fruits to tell him what the trees were saying. Listening to their uneasy stirring now, though, he wished he’d paid more attention.
Following the direction of their restless movements, Ciaran found himself approaching the Halfsun Hills. He wasn’t supposed to be there; the elders had been very clear about that, but his need to return home was greater than his fear of those who ruled it. He wavered in the half-dark light, curiosity battling with common sense, until strange voices floated towards him from further in. Curiosity won out, and he cautiously approached a small group of tall strangers standing on the edge of the hills. As their forms took shape, he saw that they were surely no inhabitants of Cyndara, but foreigners from across the glaring fields. His lips curled into the beginnings of a snarl, then fell into a small, petulant pout. He got into trouble when he wandered around the hills, so why were they allowed to be there? What were they doing anyway? One of them was about to get herself hurt, reaching out to grab those thorns like that.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” he told her from behind one of the trees, shifting his form to disappear into the mist.
“You don’t know what you’re doing, summer creature…” he continued from somewhere else, deepening his tone a bit.
“What are you doing here?” This time, he was right at the woman’s shoulder, hissing darkly into her ear. He quickly moved away and took a position in the center of the group, carefully avoiding the places where light shafts pierced the mist.
“Who… are… you?”
Listen, Caerwyn wasn't lost or anything. Definitely not. He just decided to... take the more scenic route. Yes, that's it. The Cyndaran cringed at the sound of the haunting groan that escaped from the gaping mouth of a tree. Alright, alright, fine. Maybe he was lost - just a little. In his defence, he didn't keep track of all the orc settlements and obviously Desrick hadn't explained the directions clearly enough. Though knowing how thorough his orc friend was, Caer doubted that was the case and it was most likely a fault of his own as his mind tended to wander by itself. Well... he'd find it. Eventually. To say that he was on edge was an understatement. Caerwyn had once thought that he knew these forests like the back of his hand, but apparently he didn't know his hands well enough. He'd never strayed this far from Dovahro territory before and the whole experience was jarring to say the least. He knew about the dangers that lurked within these forests of course, but would he know how to respond in time if danger ever arose? Once again, Caer was reminded of how much his clan had stifled him, denying him the freedom to experience things like other Cyndarans could. There was a pang of guilt when he thought about his clan. He had left in the middle of the night without notifying anyone. A part of him wondered how much they would really care if they thought he'd been kidnapped too but quickly dismissed those thoughts with a firm shake of his head. No. They would care. No matter how 'useless' he was in their society, he was still one of them, he was still worth worrying over. The disappearance of his little brother was enough to show for that, remembering the concerned hushed whispers and that general atmosphere of unrest just waiting to bubble up and explode.
Thinking about Aowyn steeled his resolve and Caerwyn continued on his path with fiery determination. Besides, he knew what his fellow clanmates would say about this risky plan. They wouldn't think he was capable enough to go out alone and the Elders would've forbade him from going, hell-bent on coddling him like a child rather than treat him like the grown man he was; and if they'd known about his communications with Desrick... Caer dreaded to think. The young Dovahro dragged his hand along the tree trunks as he walked, the bark knotted and gnarled beneath his palm, the rythmic thunk of his sword's scabbard hitting the back of his calf being the only sound to pierce the eerie silence. Caer's keen eyes picked up on the sea of mist gradually getting thicker and thicker as he drew closer to the Half-Sun Hills. The horrific shriek of a messenger bird shattered the uneasy stillness, and Caerwyn realised that could only mean one thing. Advancing danger. The Dovahro charged forward, his light-footedness enabling him to miss getting caught in monstrous, tangled tree roots, everything a blur as he raced ahead.
Caerwyn fell flat on his arse, the wind knocked out of him as he ran face first into a stone wall... or at least, what felt like a stone wall. Dazed, he looked up to find the towering figure of an orc. Desrick.
"Holy Hemlock, I think you just gave me a concussion." Caer groaned as he clumsily got back on his feet, rubbing the back of his head. "What's going on, Des? That bloody bird gave me half a fright."
[div=border: 1px double black; background-color:rgba(255,255,255, 0.7); padding: 10px; height: 485px; overflow: auto;]For those who feel the call of a ageless soul bond a faint call would compel you past the setting light, through twilight to the shadow kissed realm and towards a hidden tunnel of the Darkfrost Peaks. Pushing past the mound of packed snow hiding the entrance, there lies a small cavern. Leading dow the deep incline the walls cascades and coils around itself as if once alive. A pattern of protruding rock on the ceiling and walls seem almost skeletal as you traverse further down toward the cavern's end and it's prisoner. A prisoner resting deep in her slumber, peaceful yet encased in stone and sorrow, dreaming of a lost love that is nevermore. Once living now rests as a stature the entirety of what held her in place crumbled and worn with the years as the statue looks up the look of defeat and pain struck eternally on the girl's face. Yet underneath was a fairy encased in darkness, calm and the pure silence of an eternal slumber, one never to be broken.
One soul felt the bond, one soul traveled the mist lands, one soul passed the mound of snow and deep deep into a well made out of loss. Reaching out a soft light pulsed from their hand and touched the statue encasing the fairy. Slowly the remaining pieces heated, fractured and began to fall as the fairy slowly awoke. The first thing to touch her skin what the sharp pain of the cold. Her clothing decaying long ago to nothing more than scraps and dirt could not protect her fair ivory skin from the temperatures of the Darkfrost Peaks. The only thing still intact was the stone armor smooth yet covered in cracks and scrapes of battle that laid on her upper body. As the stone fell from her arms and skin her arms twitched with life as her bones creaked and trembled from years of being stationary. The mask of pain on her face cracked and crumbled to the ground as her weary eyes opened after years of being closed. The sharp intake as she took her first breath in eight hundred and thirty years of slumber. The cold air pierced her lungs as she let out a soft whimper on her exhale and her whole body slumped down to the remains of the earth that once encompassed her. The only thing holding her upright was the heavy hand that wrapped around her small frame now pulsating with her mana once more.
With a few more steady breaths the fairy was lost, still trapped in the confines of her pain and failure. Her soul crushed along with her heart she felt nothing in this world could pull her from the brink. Then a foot shifted beside her and she slowly turned her head to the soul who'd so rudely broken the prison she made for herself. Her vision blurry, her eyes quickly widened as she couldn't believe them. Heart racing, her body cracked as she tried to move under the weight of the hand holding her. The figure began to turn and walk away as the fairy, Lenore, tried to cough out the one word she thought she'd never utter again. "...a..ah...Ra...v...en..." Her eyes still adjusting to it all fogged and as she blinked the figure was gone, the blood rushed through her as worry and need overtook her as she tried to move her legs. Wincing from the pain she tried to call out to the figure again, "w-w-w...ai...t." Closing her eyes she used the pool of magic she was born of and let it slip back into the hand that held her close. The tigers twitched and pulsed against her skin as it's grip tightened and slowly rocked across the floor. She was weaker than before, all that time encased in stone had damaged her body and her magic. Finally toppling to the ground Lenore was able to look up the tunnel she made and could see the feet of her awakener as they made their way up out of the tunnel. Calling out again, "p-p-pl..eas..e...s-s-st..op..."
However her plead fell on deaf ears as the feet soon vanished as the awakener continued upwards out of Lenore's sight. Unable to cry Lenore looked up at the tunnel and saw something that lit the spark back into her cold soul. The flash of flames brightened the dark and cold tunnel, and a warmth that was so familiar to her brought her back from the confines of her hopelessness. Her weary violet eyes shined from looking onward at the light as her body eased and relaxed. Nodding softly she pulled her mana back into herself and let out her first steady breath. Yes...I will...I won't give up this time, she thought before her heavy eyelids closed and she rested.
After a few weeks her body had regained its strength, her recovery fueled by her newfound hope and passion. Sliding her arm out she slowly pushed herself up and let the hand that held her crumble to dust as she moved. Reaching out to a stalagmite for support she shakily made it to her feet. With heavy breaths she took the first few steps of her new life. Hand firmly against the earth she once made she took her trail one step at a time. The earthy floor soon moist with melted snow as she reached the entrance of her cavern she smiled as her heart filled and pulsed with hope. Looking out the stream of cold escaped her lips as she breathed steadily the cold air and looked out towards the direction of her home. It was strangely brighter than when she left it. Stepping away from the cavern she slowly made her way back to the Noend Forest and back to her heart.
Traveling the long trek through the Noend Forest she slowly began to regain a semblance of what her power once was. Moving slowly she found some wayward clothing and used it to make her own, with a help of some magic. Time passed she moved through the forest and she saw the vast change in the world around her as she saw tribes and societies that were so strange and unfamiliar along with how strangely bright the world looked, even in the darkest of places. The mana she felt through the earth of the forest was shifting and changing there are more Sumennan having passed through this forest in her long slumber. The shift in the earth told her that she'd been asleep for nearly eight hundred and thirty years. Knowing how much time passed damaged her spirit, but she knew what she saw. She refused to give up hope just because time has passed.
Walking through the forests she continued months on end till she came close to the border of Cyndara border. Hearing shouts coming from around the bend, her curiosity peaked she turned from her path and walked into a clearing where a Orc and a scaled boy talking quite loudly. Tilting her head the rocks that she had rested along her head like horns pulsed with her power. They seem to be friendly with one another, maybe they can help me before I traverse somewhere dangerous. Taking a deep breath she gave a bashful smile as she stepped forward. Her voice steady and kind she called out, "Pardon me, brothers. I was wondering if you seen any Sumennans that have been traveling through Cyndara? I'd greatly appreciate any insight you may have." SilverFlightChione
Lohrithe Adaeith was no stranger to the surface lands of Cyndara, but that did not stop him from being mesmerized each time he left the hand-carved caverns of his people. The stars that Cyndabrynde had sprinkled across the sky were beautiful, and the sounds of the forest - the chirping and rustling - were different from the hollow echoes of footsteps. Even his own footsteps made a cushioned sort of crunch over broken twigs. He sometimes went out of his way to step on a crunchy leaf just to enjoy the sound. The dark elf had been chosen to investigate the rumours of trouble at the Cyndaran border, and he had been delighted to take the opportunity to take an extended breath of fresh air. Not only that, but he silently hoped that his old friend, Desrick, would be on the case, too. The orc was always traveling between clans, checking up on them, keeping the peace as best he could. Lohrithe owed his life to him.
The dark elf traveled west for some time, passing through villages here and there. The kind people of Cyndara graciously shared their food with him, and he left them with small carvings and many thanks. Once, he even helped a family patch their roof. Though the drow were shorter than most high elves of Sumenna, they were still tall for Cyndarans. Lohrithe was bulky for his kind, having trained with the orcs, and he often felt uncomfortable with his size.
The call of the messenger bird sounded abruptly. He was close to where it had come from, and when he looked upwards he saw the creature flying past. He was close to something, for sure. Lohrithe picked up a run, dodging the red-sapped trees and thorny bushes of the borderlands, until he nearly fell face first over a green-skinned corpse. Horror masked his features. He glanced around wildly, wielding his sword, until he caught sight of a woman and two men, one of whom he was familiar with. Seeing their inaction, he sheathed his weapon and approached them, stepping around the body. "Desrick... What happened, here?"
Of all the people they could have sent into the black forests of Cyndara, on a mission where they would most likely end up boiling in a cauldron, they decide to cull the weak by sending him. The cripple. The one who couldn't hope to fight off the wildlife in his sorry state. Perhaps the more important folk were too busy signing autographs.
No matter. He would prove his worth. And when he'd return home with the head of a demon in hand, maybe he'd finally have a shred of the respect he once had. Clad in steel, using his faithful pole-axe as a walking stick, holy materials in tow, he set out with his party to the moonlit land. Every limp clanged his plate and chainmail together, noisier than if he were to walk normally. Perfect bait for a dark-beast, he thought. At least he had other warriors to fight beside should something be amiss.
It seemed that the comforting light of Summrbrynde grew less intense with each step, as if the party were becoming less and less safe. Despite this disturbing detail, there was a magical quality to crossing the Half-sun Hills. Reynauld had patrolled out near the hills before, yet never had he wandered so close to the darkness. It felt as if he were exploring truly uncharted territory in the name of his country.
Though there was too a sinister quality, like he were trudging into the gaping jaws of the abyss. The sun lurked ominously on the horizon, painting the sky in alien colors. And when they had finally passed the boundary into this brave new world, the foliage took on a dark quality; it had never been graced with the sun's presence, and it showed. The grass poked up like fangs, waiting to devour the fallen. The bushes looked prepared to unveil terrors of the night. Worst of all were the trees, which appeared eerily animate, as if waiting to grab passers-by whilst nobody watched, gluttonous faces etched into their bark, and oozing wounds carved deep within. The entire land seemed ready to pounce. He clutched the holy icon of Summrbrynde and chanted quietly to himself.
And yet this half-elven girl was completely oblivious.
He listened to her spew her nonsense as he grimaced under his helm. A charm to it? By Bryn. How could anyone say such things about a place as foul as this? He held his tongue, however. Beautiful, but oblivious.
...something was amiss.
He was at the back of the group (naturally, due to his leg) when a voice spoke from behind the trees and mist. A first encounter with the foul creatures of Cyndara. Reynauld lowered his visor and shambled over to the front, and then quickened his pace as soon as he saw a shadowy figure appear behind the healer, nearly tripping over the tangles of thorns in the process. The hairy figure had quickly positioned itself at the center of the group, leaving Reynauld room to move in front of the half-elf and level his pole-axe at the creature of shadow, clearly having not forgotten his chivalry.
"I'm surprised a demon is intelligent enough to speak our tongue," he said angrily, disgusted by the creature he misidentified.
"Out of my sight before I send you to Summrbrynde himself."
As the healer moved closer to the tree an eerie breeze began to flow around the trunk, emanating from the gash-like knot. The mist writhed like a nest of serpents on the ground, masking a subtle movement from underneath the earth. Ciaran's voice cut the silence like a knife, and for a few moments, everything remained still. Then, those moments ended. The ground convulsed and burst apart behind Eirianwen, spraying clods of wet earth in every direction. The roots that surged forth were also spined, jagged, hooked thorns in rows upon rows down the length of the limbs, made for grabbing onto things and hauling them back to the trunk of the tree, where now the knot gaped wide, revealing a bloody opening to the monster's gullet. The roots attacked Eir in a heartbeat, falling about her, trying to catch hold of a limb and block her escape at the same time. More tendrils of the tree reached thirty feet from its base, reeling about blindly in search of more victims.
((You can now control the monster tree, please don't defeat it yet. :3))
Desrick started as he heard the footsteps approach, but before he could react something collided with him. The orc had axe at the ready and at the offender's throat in a flash.
"Caerwyn!" He exclaimed, sheathing the blade immediately and giving a short laugh for his relief.
"'I gave you a concussion'? I could have been a tree for all you were watching. " Desrick helped his friend stand. His face turned grim again as he looked ahead of them down the misty trail.
"There is a band of Summerlanders at the border," he growled, "and I found an entire village ransacked. Orcs dead." The anger in his voice betrayed him. "I don't know what's going on. But intercepting them is out best shot at finding answers."
The second figure to arrive was someone Desrick had never seen before: a fairy, and she was looking for summerlanders.
"Not through Cyndara...not yet," he answered her, "but there is a band just up ahead. Do you...know them?"
That seemed unlikely, but of course, so did Sumennans trying to cross the mist.
Another set of footsteps approached. The bird had done its work well. Desrick brightened when he recognized the figure fading into the clearing through the white shroud of fog.
"Lohrithe?! Goddess it is you!" Desrick wished that previous events had left him in a better mood to receive his old friend. He clapped the dark elf on the shoulder as he came to a halt beside them.
"Caerwyn this is Lohrithe, he spent time training with my clan. He's trustworthy, and a good friend, and this..." he trailed off when he turned back to the fairy.
"I'm not sure." The admission was sheepish.
"I'm Desrick." He told the fairy woman, inclining his head politely.
"There have been foul things done here." The orc's low voice rumbled quietly, addressing all of them. "But the most pressing matter is ahead of us: we need to stop the summerlanders, find out what they want, if they're involved with the deaths of my people...of Cyndarans."
A low rumble shook the ground. Anyone who had spent time in Cyndara could recognize it and Desrick let out a frustrated breath. "...They've woken a blood oak."
Carnivorous plants were not uncommon in the mystlands, but there weren't many capable of taking people. The blood oak was the worst of them; growing mostly in places that had seen much bloodshed they were fast with their roots and voracious predators. Calming them down from a frenzy was more than difficult.
"I need information. We can't let them get eaten." Desrick said, starting at a jog down the path.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Eirianwen felt herself freeze, gaze locked on the tree as the seemingly disembodied voice continued its warnings. The healer only managed to pull her attention away when the fae had appeared over her shoulder; fear causing her chest to tighten, breath quicken, locking up in place. It asked a question, yet this one she couldn't make-out beyond the thundering pulse in her ears. One of the group, a holy man of sorts, hurried over with his distinguishing limp to block the oak and in turn point his pole-axe to the creature -- his armoured dress was familiar, a military man. A paladin even? She'd seen them in the aftermath of battle many a time. Llewellyn remained as quiet as a church mouse, at last turning her head to view the furred faery in the moments before roots erupted from the earth.
Her scream was accompanied by placing her arms up above her head to shield from the clods of grass and soil, the healer's staff dropping with a clatter. Men she could deal with. Living carnivorous plants? Not so much. Having the writhing tendrils of thorned plant matter now make for an attack, Eir grabbed at Reynauld and attempted to pull the priest towards a partial opening. Leaping over the limbs of the tree, it was half-way in midair that the other swept out beneath her legs and snatched one to wrench backwards. Eirianwen's cry was in pain, accompanied by a look of pure unadulterated fear which widened her eyes and dilated the pupils. Thorns had hooked themselves into her calf, a deep red bloom staining the white of the robes up from the hem as she held tight to the armoured male's hand.
This wasn't how she wanted to die. The thought flashed at the forefront of her mind as Llewellyn's palm slipped. Her fingers pale with the exertion of clinging to Rey, mind in a panicked haze of things she hadn't done yet. Things she had wanted to do. Places she had yet to be and Eirian would be damned if she died on the border of exploration thanks to some wildlife which had thought she was an appetiser. "Don't let go." The words were half expelled in fright, tears gathering in the corners of her autumnal eyes. Summrbrynde himself couldn't let her perish at the hands of something like this, could he? What would happen otherwise? She had come to Cyndara for a reason, a self-appointed mission and all for what?
Eirian let out a half-sob as she stretched now with her other hand. He wouldn't be able to anchor her for long, even she knew that. If the healer wasn't careful it'd be the both of them getting eaten. Self-preservation was a cruel thing. A harsh jolt, at last, disengaged Llewellyn from Reynauld flying backwards if not for a survivors desperation. She grabbed at the roots overhead, pretty face now a grimace as she pulled herself forward in an adrenaline-fuelled scramble. Entangling with the volume of wavy, syrupy locks of hair and ever closer to the mouth of the beast. "NO,--" A shout torn from her lungs, filthy and gathering inflicted, albeit light, lacerations.
Any fleeting form of a plan had dissolved into an uncoordinated struggle of bawled shrieking, hitting and kicking out smacking with her fists. She didn't have magic for this, not even in the slightest! Palms, slick with mud and a familiar crimson stain slipped and searched for her whittler's knife, only the size of a thumb but of better use than healing the thing trying to kill her. Snatching it from her waist, shaking now, Eir brought it down into the root as many times as she could muster. Red sap now oozing from the wounds, and across her linen attire.
The dark elf grinned at his old friend - though it looked nearly like a smirk, or a sneer; it wasn't his fault his people generally came across as bad people - and bowed his head graciously to the other two. But before the faerie woman could provide her name, the earth rumbled with a most terrifying crunch and snap of roots. Desrick started at a jog. While it was amusing to see a great green beast taking a nice jog in the woods, Lohrithe did not waste time lollygaging; he ran after his friend, and passed him, whipping through the deadly forest. Running was something he was good at. Especially from orcs.
The scene he came upon was... well, it was a scene. A young woman was stabbing at a live root with what seemed to be a whittling knife as it dragged her across the muddy forest floor towards the tree's gaping maw. One of them, anyway. Her party seemed to be standing around, either unable or unwilling to help her. Lohrithe dropped his pack off to the side and dove into the tangled mess of blood oak roots. He grappled with the root that held her, grimacing at the cuts he would surely be tending to later, and pulled the woman with wavy hair the colour of... he didn't know, out of danger. He rolled them away from the tree and its lashing roots until he lay beneath her, panting.
It had been literal centuries since she'd spoken to another living person and Lenore was quietly impressed with how easily it was to communicate with these new Cyndarans. After all her time asleep she was glad that the close family her people held for one another still stood the test of time. Listening to the orc as he replied Lenore's soft features slightly crinkled in confusion as she knew that Sumennans have passed through here, or at least one. However, she knew how vast their home was, to think that the one who awoke her would take only one of many paths was silly of her, she assumed too easily. Though the addition of a yet worried her a bit, looking into his eyes she could see anger in there mixed with the powerful passion that her orc brethren were known for. Something was wrong, or so she guessed.
"Oh, I swore...that..." Her worried look changed to a surprised one as she heard that there were Sumernnans close by. To think that this was happening right now was so strangely fortunate that she knew it must be fate. Shifting her weight she replied cautiously. "Really? So close? That's unusual, right?" She shook her head slowly thinking back to her past. "No I don't believe I would know them." She was about to add something else, but the sound of rushing footsteps turned her attention toward whoever was coming close.
Watching as a larger frame dark elf arriving, who seemed to be called Lohrithe. Even in her time it was rare to see a dark elf wandering around but seeing what he had tripped over was something she wished she hadn't seen. The dark elf had tripped over one of the bodies and uncovered the sheet that was hiding them. Looking down, Lenore took in a quick gasp before quickly covering her mouth. Her heart broke as she saw the bodies, seeing how large the orc body was she looked over to the two smaller ones and could only guess it was a woman and child. Who would do such a thing?She asked herself, but knew that there was an answer she certainly didn't want to be true. She refused to believe it to be true. Taking a soft step back she steadied her stance and looked back to the orc and the two elven men. Her eyes trailed from the bodies and up the orc's body as she met his eyes, despair glistening in her eyes as he began to introduce themselves. Lenore gave a soft smile at the sheepish orc, called Desrick. "I am Lenore." She bowed politely before straightening up and glancing back at the bodies. Listening to the orc she spoke softly, "I wish to help you. This...this cannot go unresolved."
Nodding softly as Des mention the summerlanders she felt the vibrations in the earth alongside the others. Using the stones on her body she floated up a foot off the ground and looked over in the direction of where the plant had awoken. "Right." Lenore said in agreement and followed behind Des weaving through the foilage with some dificulty, but after a while gathered a good pace through the shifted foliage. Even the trees had changed in her eight hundred year slumber. Arriving after the nimble dark elf Lenore reached her hand out and a large greasword made of stone sharpened to a hairsplitting edge.
Seeing as Lohrithe pulled the woman out of danger Lenore shot towards the sharpened roots of the oak. Her blade crashing down on three of the writhing tendrils chopping the roots in half. Seeing the second of an opening she took a second swing her blade cutting the trunk. The slash not deep enough to cleave the oak in half but enough to get the oak's attention. Her blade crumbled in her hands as the stone lost it's mana and returned back to it's dull earthy colors. Shocked by the loss of her weapon Lenore pushed back and began to float above the ground looking around for the next root to attack her. "If you can take it down now while it's distracted!"
The tree lashed out, raking the ground with its thorns and slamming huge limbs down in frustration as its meal was snatched away. Then its trunk was gashed almost in two by the earth fairy's full-force attack. It reeled as the knot-mouth uttered an unholy hiss. Limbs flew in Lenore's (The Suspicious Eye
) direction, aiming to swat her like a fly.
From the blood it tasted on the thorns that had held Eir and grazed Lohr the tree drew power. It convulsed once and tiny tendrils of it began to close the wound opened in its trunk.
Desrick pounded down the trail after them, not as agile or quick as the elf and fairy he arrived only after the others. Axe at the ready and using one writhing root to push off from he came into the battle with a massive downward swing that cleaved one of the larger roots clean off.
"It draws strength from blood!" He called into the fray.
Desrick found Lohrithe quickly, he had pulled a summerlander out of the tree's voracious clutches, but they weren't yet clear of the flailing roots. Desrick slid to a halt before them, deflecting another root with the flat of his axe.
"Good save. Are you all right?" He glanced back down at them. "Try and get clear!"
In the moment he looked away the root came back, swinging around to catch Desrick full in the chest. He was sent into the churned earth beside them with a pained grunt.
Desrick spat dirt and tried to wipe more from his cheek "Hmm...strong one."
Luckily his vest had protected him from most of the thorns, but an angry red gash now drew it's way across the green of his throat. He bared his teeth and rose. Jumping back into battle with renewed energy.
She had barely noted the elf who dragged her from the vines clutches, still screaming and kicking until they hit the ground. Lohrithe cushioned the fall, Eirianwen shaking and whimpering now in shock. Her hands gripping his forearms tightly enough that her nails must've left indents in the skin, nose tipped pink besides the tops of her cheeks which were flushed with red. Plump tears seemingly unending as one dripped off her chin, another would take its place. Llewellyn's breathing was ragged, interrupted by hitched hiccups. But glancing up at the voice from nearby, she let out a secondary shriek at the unusual face, then at the face of the man who rescued her -- promptly rolling off him and crawling toward a spot in the foliage where she could recuperate in hiding.
Llewellyn dried her eyes partially, glancing at the damage to her leg. She'd be fine for now. The spells she did have would be best used to healing the others in this mess. Thankfully her shoulder-bag had survived the struggle, which contained everything she had to her name on this journey. Warily, the healer watched the orc and then the dark elf till her mind cleared enough she understood what was happening. These people may've been Cyndarian but they had actively saved her and in the acknowledgement -- Eirian knew it had been her mistake to reach out to the tree. If anything they deserved the help she could give; her father wouldn't approve of a healer to hide away during battle.
Eir struggled to her feet, sore and limping disastrously in the direction of Desrick till her fingers brushed his back during the fray of attacks. The healer's eyes became a white, bright light, spreading from pupils to the whites as she uttered the words of magic. They were heavy, the air cracking and vibrating as a thin, shimmering film of interlaced threads now encompassed the orc. Reinforcing his armour and offering more protection to the flesh, retreating again to Lohr. Gaze fading from the golden suns which had temporarily replaced her orbs.
She didn't know these men, however, and hesitated at doing anything more. What would happen if the tree was defeated, and then they were captured or otherwise? Eirianwen looked away. She would see about the wounds of everyone and who had the most severe before she began working with the life forces of others.
Lohrithe held the girl gently as she came to realize she was no longer being dragged to her doom. Her tears were big as pearls, and they dripped from her chin to his chest. He had no idea what to do, besides make a face at the rock digging into his bare back. Desrick arrived in time to block a root from whipping at them. "Just great," the dark elf answered. "Is there a way to-" Desrick the orc was promptly thrown back, landing on his ass next to his friend. The Sumennan shrieked and ran off, presumably to hide, and Lohrithe let out a heavy sigh, shaking his head, rubbing his ear as he stood. Taking Desrick's place, he fended off the wild roots with his sword, wielding it with both hands.
A gentle hand touched his back, and with it came the warmth of healing magic. Distracted, he looked behind him and found the wavy-haired woman looking both wary and determined to help. He gave her a quick smile of thanks and resumed the task of defending them.
Having thoroughly aggravated the blood oak Lenore knew what was coming next. She hadn't been in combat for quite some time and was extremely rusty when it came to movement. Doing her best she tried to maneuver around the cyclone of limbs shooting towards her, lenore couldn't evade fast enough. Small cuts eased against the cloth slowly growing deeper until flesh began to be scraped away. Wincing from the flurry of pain stinging her legs, arms and shoulders Lenore began to slow only adding to her pain. Glancing over for a second she saw the orc as he cleaved a root and called out to her. The instant of the distraction caused a wringing tendril to slash toward her face cutting her cheek as she did her best to evade. Small droplets of blood drained out along with a gentle violet light of her own mana. Relived that she bled more in the terms of magic than blood she knew she couldn't keep up, so she tried another tactic. Her light and small frame floating lower to the ground to keep herself from being completely flanked, she began to focus on the earth below. Reaching down deep into the depths of the ground she extended her mana below her.
While above her a darker shadow encompassed her vision as she looked up to see a large limb cascading down upon her. Raising her arms up the earth around her wrapped around her arms and created a sturdy set of braces, before the limb crashed down upon her. As the limb slammed deep into the earth so did Lenore her magic opening a small hole in the earth for her to slide into to avoid the entire impact of the attack. Heart racing at the thought of becoming a fairy sandwich from that last attack she tried to concentrate on her power. She knew it was all there, but with years of deep slumber she could not tap into it all, and yet she dug deeper forcing herself into the pool of magic that she was born of. This needed time and as she waited in the burrowing division of the earth she made for herself it would give her some time and protection from the onslaught of limbs and spiked bark that scraped against the earth towards her. She hoped that the others could hold their own while she tried to gather more power.
Ciaran tilted his head to one side as the armored man shambled up between him and the elf-woman he’d been speaking to, caught halfway between annoyance at his blustering and curiosity about the new stranger. They still hadn’t answered his questions, apparently not deigning to speak back when spoken too. Rude beings, he thought. Typical. He was about to comment as much when the man pointed a weapon at his chest, sending a cold pain searing through his heart. His outline wavered for a moment, showing his form more clearly, before he withdrew with a hiss far enough away from the cursed metal to no longer feel its effects and disappeared again into the mist. For a moment, he toyed with the idea of growing until he towered over the arrogant man, imagining his surprise when he suddenly saw the horned form take shape out of the darkness, but reluctantly tossed it aside. He still hadn’t eaten and didn’t have enough strength to fuel that kind of shift. His intimidation attempt would fail if he promptly passed out afterwards. So, he settled for only allowing his eyes and face to appear, eyes glaring and teeth flashing against the remaining streaks of light.
“Your tongue?” he enquired through gritted teeth “And what, may I ask, makes you believe it is yours?”
But before the conversation could continue further, great thorned roots erupted from the ground with a horrendous noise. Ciaran ducked as a clod of earth sailed towards his head and scrambled onto a thrashing root, where he hung on tight as it swung over the strangers’ heads.
“Told you so!” he cried out with glee as he rode back and forth through the air, enjoying the excitement and surprise below. Cackling madly, he was preparing to spring away and return back to the forest when another root swung at him from behind, knocking him into a series of somersaults as he tumbled to the ground.
“Hey, I was on your side!” he called out, wincing as he rubbed the back of his head. When he withdrew his hand, there was a streak of dark blood and he stared at the tree with wide-eyed horror. Oh no…
Churning up leaves, the fairy began to scramble to his feet and try to leg it as far away as he could, but was snatched up by the ankle as soon as he stood, knocking him on his face and dragging him back into the group of madly thrashing bodies and flailing limbs. As the root lifted him into the air again, he caught much the same view as he had just moments before, but now felt extreme terror instead of exhilaration.
This had probably been a bad idea.
As he hung ignominiously from one foot, plainly visible now that his concentration was on the tree instead of his shifting, Ciaran felt a hot flash of embarrassment at his ridiculous position. If Bannic had been there, he would have mocked his little brother with the familiar adage about the pitfalls of pride but would have still helped him out of whatever situation his recklessness had gotten him into this time. Not only would these Sumernnans mock him, but would certainly leave him to die even if they managed to escape the oak’s maw, which he seriously doubted. They would all die together - spirited fairy, curious elf, and belligerent suit of armor.
But not without a fight. With a grunt of exertion, Ciaran strained his body upwards and flailed awkwardly at the tree root with his staff. When that failed and it dangled him over what looked like it should be its mouth, he switched tactics and instead struck it there, where he could get a strong angle. Also, he didn’t want it to decide to drop him on his head while he was hanging there. Better to make it decide that there were other, less irritating meals to consider. He succeeded - in making the tree angrier. It snapped around the end of the blackthorn staff and a crushing noise could be heard from inside.
“That’s mine, you stick of torch wood!” he cried angrily “Get your own! The metal man has a staff you can have!”
Desrick was blocking and slashing, trying to cut his way forward to the trunk, but the tree was properly riled now and it was hard to make any headway. Suddenly he felt the brush of a small hand and looked round, only to freeze in shock when he traced the hand to it's owner. It was the summerlander (vexed
) they had rescued from the gnarled grasp of the blood oak.
Desrick had a quick thought that she meant to set him on fire and suddenly Crispin's tall tales didn't seem quite so tall. He was ready to bolt when she cast the spell, the tree seeming a preferable option to the spells of a Sumennan mage. The anticipated pain never came however and instead he felt the magic weave itself into his garb. It was an armour spell. He looked in utter shock down at the young woman, unable to force out a word of thanks before she retreated.
He turned back to his target. He would thank her by ridding them of the threat.
A swift glance up made him do a double take as another fairy appeared (AlbaGuBrath
) , dangling from one leg in the clutches of a rather fat, brutish limb. The tree was making a good effort to drop its prey into it's gaping mouth but couldn't quite manage it yet. Desrick hadn't seen the fate of the wooden staff, however with Eir's protective spell he weathered blow after blow and didn't falter as he pushed his way through thorn and bow to the center of the tree. Desrick found the base of the trunk and the root that held the fairy in the air, he pulled his axe back and swung it with all his might into the root. With a wet 'thunk' the axe bit deep and the tree squealed, its grip on the fairy loosening.
"Try and get free!" He called up to the boy, then he turned his attention back to the raging mouth. Desrick had only enough time to collect a small leather pouch from the supplies on his belt before a thorned root grabbed him. It coiled itself tightly about his waist, and Desrick stood, letting it ensnare him. Carefully he began to whisper the spell he knew, but this was dangerous work. Now he was completely at the mercy of the tree. The root tightened further, pulling at him, trying to drag him toward the angry slash that was its mouth. The sap dripping around it mixed with the blood of previous victims. Desrick kept speaking, weaving the magic slowly into the bark of the old tree. He had done this before, he knew what would happen; the tree would try to consume him, but before that occurred the spell would be complete, he would calm it, but something happened then that he did not count on.
The tree, being so enraged by the attacks paused in dragging him, bringing one of its largest roots over his head. Desrick realized too late that the tree didn't mean to eat him at all. It wanted death. His eyes widened in horror as its meaning became clear, the spell was ready, but he was too late. The blood oak was going to kill him.
[div class=Title]Caerwyn Aodhfionn[/div]
[div class=Mentions] Character Sheet
[br][/br] Location: Fighting a crazy Blood Oak
[br][/br] Interactions: Lenore, Lohrithe, Desrick
[div class=Content] Many things happened at a pace that Caerwyn struggled to keep up with, his brain trying to process what was happening at a dizzying speed, but the information was fragmented and disjointed. He had listened to Desrick’s every word as the orc explained the dire issue at hand – the fiery Summerland Demons, as they were called in Dovahro. He didn’t suppress his repulsed shiver. Whilst danger lurked at every corner in Cyndara, soaked into the soil that he stood on and permeating the air that he breathed, it was nothing compared to the land beyond the Half-Sun Hills. There, Summrbrynde’s scornful glare would turn any poor, unfortunate soul into ash and his toxic presence contaminated the minds of his people, their hearts filled with savage greed. They were vicious people, as stories retold, people that attacked their own to fulfil their own selfish desires. He could remember the horror stories as a child, ones where a fellow Cyndarian was ensnared by their unearthly beauty only to be ruthlessly murdered in cold blood. Caerwyn wasn’t the type of person who liked to judge others without facts, but even he couldn’t withstand the propaganda that had been drilled into him since before he could talk, holding the Sumennans in complete distaste.
Then, further information hit him hard. A ransacked village? Dead orcs? Caerwyn could feel the disgust and sorrow bubble up and churn inside him. Vile things were at work here, and if the Summerland Demons had been caught lurking about then surely it was no coincidence. Then, someone new made their presence known, a fairy. He gave her a polite nod, letting Desrick do the talking as he observed her curiously having not seen many in his lifetime before, the generally peaceful species tending to stay far away from Dovahro territory; probably for the best. Caerwyn blinked when an elf joined them, a person who seemed to be well-acquainted with the orc since their actions were ones of familiarity. Once the appropriate introductions had been made, Caerwyn offered Lohrithe a light smile. A friend of Desrick’s was a friend of his and the elf was clearly someone who Des respected.
The tremor in the earth crumbled the relative stillness of the wilderness as birds took flight, scattering in their terror. He recognised it, as any true Cyndaran would. Of course, those demons would be the ones to wake it. Caerwyn was all for letting them be devoured by the carnivorous tree, but apparently, Desrick wanted to question them, so with a disappointed sigh, he followed suit. He had admittedly lagged behind, lingering in the shadows as the sheer chaos unfolded. The entire fight was an absolute mess. The thick roots of the blood oak were flinging here and there, writhing around as it searched for its prey; catching some in fact before its grip was hacked away and the person saved. The air was alive and humming with magic, resonating throughout the area as opposing forces somehow managed to mesh and work well together. Really, with how fast everything was moving he could barely tell who was who. In this maddening rush and panic, everyone – Cyndaran and Sumennan alike – had united to face the threat. Caerwyn’s entire body itched, wanting to jump into the fray and help, but something held him back. Self-preservation. If he went in now, the chances of him getting hurt – possibly killed – were high. He hesitated, brows furrowed as he warred with himself but then his eyes focused on his orc friend, watching as a thorny root bit into him as it coiled itself around his muscled frame. No. No way was he going to let his friend die.
Caerwyn powered into the struggle, nimbly dodging and twisting around people and killer roots, completely zeroed in on the orc. Where time had once been moving unreasonably fast, everything now seemed to slow down as to his horror, the blood oak rose one of its largest roots over Desrick’s head. Without even thinking, Caerwyn had leapt in and caught the thick limb of the tree with his bare hands, bearing the brunt of its power. His legs almost gave out under the weight but the beastman stood strong but was unable to properly wrap his hands around the root due to its size. It was times like these that Caerwyn really hated not being able to use magic. If he could, then he wouldn’t be straining like this. A low growl rumbled through his chest, pupils contracting into slits, as his arms began to shake with the effort of holding the root up. It was still pressing down heavily, and he wondered how long he’d be able to keep this up for, already feeling an agonizing burn spread along his shoulders and arms like a wildfire. He’s almost certain that he heard something crack when the root made contact with his hands but so far, the adrenaline pumping through his veins had numbed the pain for now.
"Desrick.” Caerwyn’s tone was guttural and sharp, forced through gritted teeth, a desperate warning for his friend to do something.
Aurum Soleil Whatever their reasons were, this small band of strangers were the ones who had chosen to venture off into unknown territory. The lands in the east were blanketed in a darkness that was rumored to be evil incarnate. Nevertheless, Aurum had boldly volunteered for the mission; for his own ends of course. It was unusual for the head of, House Soleil to leave their castle, which is why many suspected the High-Elf of ulterior motives. Their suspicions did not deter, Aurum however. Dressed in a pair of grey leather pants, a white shirt with gold stitching, and a pair of black boots, Aurum was a comfortable as he could be. Their journey to the, Half-Sun Hills was an easier trip than he had expected, but the people he traveled with left him feeling worried for the success of his plans. As always, Aurum kept to himself and allowed the others to speak amongst themselves during their crossing of the great divide. Overheard conversations and mumbling hinted at who these strangers truly were. However, it was the actions of their healer that set in motion events that would show everyones’ true colors.
“They responded quickly.” The elf’s eyes shifted around the area as the foreign creature bounced about and spoke randomly. His warning had come to late it seemed as the plantlife sprang into action and started its attack. Aurum’s heart skipped beat beneath his rather expensive shirt and he watched the battlefield fill with unknown creatures. Slowly, his head turned and watched things unfold in ways he had no time predicted or expected. Long strands of white hair danced about around, Aurum’s head as the tree continued its rampage. Direct combat was not, Aurum’s preferred way of fighting so he stayed at the back of the group. On the edge of the commotion, Aurum parried tendrils that came his and never tried to wound the tree.
“These beasts...they’re not senseless at all.” Quick observations of the fight proved that the creatures of the night were capable fighters if nothing else.
An epic battle was developing before Gwyn's eyes and at its center stood a nightmarish creature that lashed out with thorned tendrils. When the devilish oak had first awoken to snare the careless halfling girl(vexed
), the Brynson soldier had moved several paces back. It would serve him no purpose to jump carelessly into combat against a beast which he knew nothing about. On top of that, his body was still adjusting to the new terrain that now surrounded him. The cool damp atmosphere of Cyndara penetrated Gywn's skin and filled his body with an eerie discomfort. His eyes struggled to adjust to the lack of Summrbryde's glorious light and his senses were dulled by the ever-present myst that always seemed to hang inches away from his face no matter which way he turned. It was obvious that while he was exploring these dark and desolate lands, maximum caution would be needed. At least it was obvious to Gwyn who watched as the twisted creatures of the mystlands threw caution to the wind and rushed into mortal combat with the oaken devil. "Looks like this lot are in dire need of a hero," Gwyn whispered to himself. The steady beat of the soldier's heart grew quicker with every passing moment. Gwyn lowered his hand to his left side and drew his silver saber from its leather oil filled scabbard. He continued to watch the battle unfold as he waited for an opening.
Mere moments in time seemed to drag on for eternities, and the pace of the struggle had only become more brutal. Strange creatures from seemingly every direction joined that fray against the towering mass of throned tendrils. They seemed to move smoothly through the peerless night and were uninhibited by the myst. Gwyn continued to keep his distance and observe the creature's movements, however, there was no rhyme or reason to the frenzy of lashes. The soldier moved in closer to the monstrosity every time one of the mystland creatures removed one of its damned tendrils. Suddenly the scene slowed as Gwyn saw his golden opportunity. The beastly tree had become enraged and focused on restricting the largest of the Cyndarian creatures, a hulking green skin brute(SilverFlight
). The soldier held his breath for a moment and then without further hesitation sprung into action. With several of the tree's roots either severed or occupied Gwyn dashed forward with minimal opposition. As he zoned in on the trunk of the beast two of the shorter roots spot forward to intercept him. The roots were thick, far too thick for Gwyn's saber to slice through so instead he dropped to the ground sliding beneath the two roots and between the gap they had formed. Clumps of dirt hung to his clothes as he stood to his feet. The devilish beast stood tall before him. "Die you damned creature of darkness," Gwyn snared as he drove his blade into the black wood of the tree. Dark liquids sloshed and oozed as he pushed harder and cut deeper, then with a spark of magic his hand combusted into blue flames and ignited his oil covered saber. "Aha! Burn until you are nothing but ashes!" Gwyn exclaimed believing his attacked had felled the creature. The soldier examined the black oak as it seemed to wither in the flames, but after further examination, he realized that this was not the case. A bloodcurdling growl filled the air as a thick flaming root cut through the air with blinding speed and caught Gwyn in the mid-drift sending him soaring high overhead. Not creature was now not only fully engaged but engulfed in a shroud of ominous blue flame. Gwyn's body began tumbling back to the earth. His vision was blurring, his body ached, and his mind was on the cusp of consciousness.
Desrick waited for the blow to fall, closing his eyes, but the movement before him forced him to look again. Caer (Chione
) stood by him, his strength the only thing preventing the root from crushing them both. It was then one of the Sumennans (Brendanfp
) decided to go on full offensive. He used an opening to plunge his sword into the thick of the trunk, setting it and the tree ablaze. Desrick looked away from the blast of heat and light. The tree screamed as flaming limbs writhed. Desrick twisted in the loosening root holding him, reaching back with the hand that held the small pouch. He ran his palm on the edge of his blade, cutting deep, opening the leather and his skin with it.
Blood mixed with the pouch's contents: a fine, herbal powder, and he reached forward to the tree's mouth. A few drops was all it took, the magic he had woven interlacing with the blood and the herbs.
Slowly, the tree began to still. Roots slipped quietly to the ground, limbs lifted back into the air. It burned now, seemingly unaware and unperturbed by the fire. It was as if the monster within it had gone dormant, leaving behind just a gruesome-looking tree.
Desrick disentangled himself from the root about him, stepping away as he cradled his bleeding hand. Other than that, he could only boast a few scratches. Eir's magic had done it's work well and protected him from harm.
A bit shaken, Desrick cast about for his friends. He caught Caer's arm and helped pull him from the tangle of roots about the trunk. "You saved my life." He said, the gratitude clear in his voice.
Making sure the Cydarans were intact and no worse for wear he quietly turned his questioning gaze onto the 'visitors' that had begun the trouble.
"You are far from home." He said in a calm, low voice. "Why?"
As he struggled with the tree, a new movement caught Ciaran’s eye. Apparently the sound of the blood oak had attracted the attention of several nearby Cyndarans, including a great orc with an axe, who were now streaming in to deal with the danger that threatened all of them. Hanging upside down, the fairy craned his head around to get a better look at him. He seemed familiar, but he didn’t know where from. He shrugged and put the thought away; Cyndara was a sparsely populated place, so meeting any stranger was a memorable occasion. It wasn’t important right now.
With a thunk, the orc’s axe crashed into the root and Ciaran felt its grip relax.
“Don’t have to tell me twice!” he called to the orc’s order, pushing against the root with his other foot. Once he got free, he fell to the ground in a pile of limbs, living and wooden, as his staff landed nearby after the tree’s screech released it. He scrambled over to retrieve it, then thwacked the tree with the end again for good measure, careful to avoid its mouth. Returning his attention to the battle, he hesitated. He wouldn’t consider it any shame to just leave now. It wasn’t his fight, wasn’t his fault. They were the trespassers. They were the ones that woke this monster up.
But now there were Cyndarans here. Not his own people, of course, but the closest he had. After his exile, if they weren’t his people, then who were? It would be shameful to abandon them, even if they were indulging in foolish heroics. The Sumnerans certainly wouldn’t have returned the favor, he thought. They could still attack their rescuers as soon as the immediate danger had passed.
“Aggh, alright…” he sighed in frustration, then returned to the struggle he’d only just escaped from.
Not that he really knew what to do about it. Stay away from blood oaks was one of the few admonitions he’d actually paid serious attention to. There was nothing funny or rebellious about tangling with one of those; it was a death wish. Which was exactly what the orc seemed to have, allowing himself to be dragged towards the monster. Ciaran stared at him, frozen for a moment, before seeing the deadly root rise above his head, only to be caught by one of the Cyndarans. Taking the opportunity, he darted underneath and began trying to help tug away the roots that held the orc captive, to little avail. It was a ridiculous notion, he thought, the little fairy trying to rescue the hulking orc. He probably was scarcely even visible in the chaos. But he had to try.
It wasn’t working. As he took a step back to consider his options, a flash of blue flame consumed the tree and Ciaran fell back from the heat of the blast. The flames danced in his eyes as he stared at it with greater horror even than seeing the monstrous tree alive. Indeed, as terrifying as the beasts of Cyndara could be, this was the worst of all. For all their knowledge, magic, and power, it was a beast that could not be tamed. In the face of flames, there were only two things to do. Flee, or die. After a brief hesitation about leaving the others to their fate, survival trumped heroism and Ciaran chose the former. Only after he was certain the fires were out would he return. SilverFlightChioneBrendanfp
The battle had unravelled between the actions of bravery and those of duty. The orc who she had given one of her reinforcement spells to appeared to further require it as he entered the fray, although in another situation she would've laughed at the expression his features undertook upon first casting it. Her heart leapt into her throat with ferocious rhythm, thundering swifter than a steed whilst watching Desrick and others be caught within the roots grasp which continued their onslaught against the mixed band. Yet few kept themselves from the fight, for one reason or another she didn't know nor would like to ask. The beastly plant was calmed, at the expense of injury as figures went flying and thudding into the damp ground beside a burst of flame. Llewellyn, sitting back upon a moss-covered rock, began winding bandage around her bleeding calf before limping off to where she'd last seen her staff. Scooping it up after a short search the healer brushed it of sap and filth, hobbling toward the group.
Light lacerations peppered her face, slicing across the bridge of her nose and drawing back the illusion of a porcelain complexion. Breath heavy, Eirianwen pushed the volumes of wavy hair from her eyes and began taking the wounded as a priority. As the orc spoke, she grappled Lohr by the face and arms, practically manhandling the elf before deeming the injuries worth a small expenditure of mana. Palms glowing a familiar warm light -- she pressed one unto his brow and let the magic take its course. A majority of the deeper cuts were sewn together with the arcane trick, leaving behind a few bruises albeit mostly returned to a normal state. Moving on to Desrick, seemingly abandoning all social cue, the halfling girl looked up to meet his vibrant gaze and smiled. "I suppose saying hello to our neighbours isn't a good excuse?" Llewellyn arched her brow, palms retaining a soft luminescence until again placed against the bearded warrior's forehead -- a minute longer than his drow friend due to the depth of the gashes. "There we are, pretty as anything." The Summerlander patted his cheek and hitched up the side of her now, rag-tag skirts.
Then, at a hurried pace, Eir headed to the crumpled body of Gwyn who had fallen from up on high. With difficulty she knelt, rearranging the order of his limbs to put a hand on the centre of his chest and the other hovering above his fine, silver hair. Her autumnal eyes turned a shade brighter, albeit lacked the glow of her reinforcement casting as she turned from the discussion to an unbreakable focus. Under her breath, quiet now, came a silken language far different from those lands of fire and warmth. It sounded akin to the babbling of a brook, cool and soothing, echoing an age of wisdom now passed. Alas, she was practically inaudible, save for the occasional higher syllable.
After Desrick had worked his wondrous magic on the tree, there was a noticeable sluggishness to the blood oak’s movement, but Caerwyn was still holding the weight of the root and each second seemed to pass achingly slow. With a loud exhale of relief, the monstrous limb ripped itself from his grasp and instead the young Dovahro was caught in a tangle of roots at the trunk of the tree. He moved to try and disentangle himself from its hold but Des caught his arm and pulled him out, and it was then that the dull ache in the bones of his arm was becoming increasingly sharper to point that Caer had to clench his jaw to stop himself from hissing. After all, he couldn’t appear weak in front of the enemy. He gingerly eased himself out of Desrick’s firm grasp, holding it close to his body in an attempt of a casual manner. Caerwyn flashed a toothy grin at his friend.
“No problem, Des. I know you’d do the same for me.”
The pure gratitude in the orc’s tone spoke to something within the beastman, a warm feeling of accomplishment hugging him in a gentle embrace. Was this what it was like to help people? To get involved? If it felt like this then he knew that he would definitely do it all over again if he had to. It was this kind of feeling that his people were missing out on but he knew for a fact that it’d be difficult to sway their stance on the Dovahro isolation, especially when it was one of the roots of their culture.
The young man then swept his golden eyes over the intruders, a harsh stare that was edged with ice but was slightly softened by a hint of wariness. Honestly, he was waiting for them to attack them or something doubly evil – especially since they’d just saved their sorry arses. A half-elf woman was floating around as the two groups stood in tense silence, a thorough appraisal that oozed judgement. She was pretty, Caerwyn noted, but he knew that behind that pretty face lay something cold and lethal, just like the demons that they were. She was definitely not to be underestimated, never mind the fact that her magic had a familiar hum that he just couldn't place.
He narrowed his eyes suspiciously when she edged nearer towards Desrick… and then the unthinkable happened. Caer’s jaw literally dropped as he froze, shell-shocked. Sweet Cyndabryne, she touched him! His whipped his head round so fast that it was a surprise that he hadn’t snapped his neck, he himself taking no notice of Desrick’s personal space as he peered up worryingly at the orc’s face.
“The Summerland Demon – she touched you! Does it hurt? Did she burn you?” He rose up slightly on the tips of his toes to get a better look at Des’s forehead. “What did she d- wait, where have those scratches gone?” Caerwyn stepped back, the confusion clearly etched on his face as his gaze flicked from the demon lady who was tending to someone else and his orc friend. There was an uncomfortable feeling tickling the back of his mind as he began connecting the dots. No. Surely… surely those people didn’t have the healing touch? Their hands were not suited for that kind of delicate work, not when they were always stained with the blood of the innocents, the blood of their own.