Chpt. I: First Journey

Rauron says:

Anar DF 2011 Mural newer

“You want to hear about this painting? It’s about my first time at the Drachenfest. I made it so I could have something to help me remember. The full story, you ask? Well, sure, but I’m no storyteller like Lalaith.

This all occurred two or three seasons after I first joined the Anarquendor. My experience as a warrior and a member of the army was minimal. That I was allowed to join the experienced Anarquendor regiment was a matter of circumstance, rather than skill. I was still getting to know everyone and getting a feel for my fellow soldiers, when the order came that we would be journeying to the ‘world of the dragons’. The way I understood it, the Green Dragon, an aspect of Rystil, had send out a request to a multitude of worlds. He besieged anyone loyal to the ways of nature to support him in the ‘game of dragons’. Our majesty, queen Shanaehan, wanting to honor this appeal of an aspect of our goddess, agreed to send a regiment as representatives in this game. This is where we came in.

I honestly don’t recall how exactly we got to the dragon world. The memory is fuzzy at best. Arevalo tells me it might be a side effect of the wild nature magic he and the other druids used to get us there. But we got there safely, which was all I cared for, truth be told. The moment we arrived the first order of business was to set up camp. The actual war of the dragon wouldn’t commence for two more days, so we had plenty of time to prepare. We located the meeting grounds of those loyal to the Green Dragon and found shelter behind the already erected palisades. Behind the relative safety of these wooden walls we were submerged in a chaotic mess of humans and other bizarre creatures. What few other elves we met seemed strange in their behavior. Still, most people proved forthcoming, and the Autherdir swiftly made alliances with several other factions within the Green camp.

The first faction I heard we made a pact with was the Dark Green. It would be some time still before I got to know a bit about these humans, but the Autherdir seemed to get along nicely with them. We also met a group of Vikings, if I recall correctly, whom we later joined for practice. We trained formations and fighting in groups. We also had some sparring matches, one of which I fought against a member of these Vikings. I was able to take him down using some fairly easy tricks, but he nicked me a few times. My blocking skills are, well, les than they should be. With still a day to go before the war of the dragon would be in effect and all camps were permitted by the dragons to initiate open war, there were still plenty of things that needed to be done. A major part of this meeting in the dragon world is politics, a foe so unearthly I can’t get my head around it. The camp needed to elect a council for internal affairs, one for external affairs and a war council. The election was done by having the entire Green camp gathered on the central meeting ground and presenting the candidates. Then, each candidate would go stand outside the gates and everyone else would march out the gate and join whomever they wished elected. This took a ridiculous amount of time and needed repeating three times. But it was all very important. Or so I gathered. I honestly wasn’t paying attention. I just did as the Autherdir and Condaghor told me and went where they pointed. The only thing to realy register for me was getting a first glimpse of the green Avatar. This woman was the incarnation of the Green Dragon on this world, and she would be its spokesman. Through her the Green dragon would make his will known. I admit to have been in awe back then, to think what power must have lain hidden in this one person.

Far more exciting than politics was the champions fight, a series of sparrign matches to determine the greatest warrior of the Green Camp. Sigil participated in this fight to represent the Anarquendor. It was fantastic to see him go at it. He weaved and ducked, slashed and cut. He switched weapons from blade to spear and back, keeping his foes of guard and taking them by surprise. He swiftly fought his way to the finals, where he was opposed by a man unlike any I had seen so far. He was massive in bulk, with arms thick and muscled enough to crush boulders. His every footstep could near well make the earth groan. On his shoulder he bore a hammer equally gargantuan, with a stone head that could flatten anyone of lesser girth. When he and Sigil collided, it was beyond description. Sigil changed weapons five times, but when the giant had weathered them all, Sigil went at him with his bare fists. It was impressive to witness, but the shear strength of the human eventually earned him the upper hand, and he managed to knock Sigil out.

Eventually night came, and all the camps gathered to witness the opening ritual of the Game of the Dragons. The crowd that amassed to witness this event was incredible. I stood far to the back behind row after row of heavily armored and helmeted figures. The only reason I caught glimpses of what was going on was because Alaron would lift me up over the crowd every now and then. In this ceremony, all the Avatars of the different camps were presented. There were twelve Avatars in total, each with their own color, each representing a different aspect of universal concepts like war, nature, honor, ending, freedom or life. Everything seemed to go smoothly and everyone cheered fervently for their side. But after the twelfth Avatar had made his entrance the mood suddenly changed. The light turned dim and ominous, and the atmosphere became sinister. From the portal at the center of the grand ritual circle erupted a mass of chained figures, flailing and clawing at their own flesh, each other and everything around them. They screamed and stumbled, as if in perpetual agony. With their coming was announced a thirteenth Avatar; a being that would herald the death of all other Avatars. At that instant, the enormous crowd began to break up, many rushing back to their camps to relay the news or to avoid the soon erupting skirmishers left and right. So to did the Anarquendor, making for the safety of the walled camp, where we spend the evening discussing what should be done with this news. Everything remained calm for the remainder of the night though.

The next morning started of rough. Now that the battle had officially started it didn’t take long before the camps entered all out war. We had only just finished the delicious breakfast Sulein had prepared for us when the call came of an approaching army of the Red. Their intentions were clear as they brought their siege weapons to bear. Before long the skies darkened with arrows and the sounds of battle rage all across the palisades. I took to the walls together with the other archers of the regiment, returning fire as best we could. I’m nowhere near the best archer of our regiment, but in the thick huddled masses battering at the gates of our camp every arrow found a target one way or the other. Still, I was glad to note my training with the Anarquendor in the last few months had paid off. Each of my arrows truck perfectly on target, even amidst the walls of armor that formed the bulk of the Red army. But no amount of arrows could deter the approach of their battering rams. Our gate eventually splintered, and we got locked in a horrifying melee on the main square of our camp. We dropped our bows and arrows, reaching for shields, swords and spears to confront our enemies. The clash was brutal and unrelenting, and it was here for the first time ever that I found myself in the heat of actual war. The screams, blood and pandemonium was overwhelming. I held on to my shield for dear life, taking a stand in the wall of shields that would break the crashing waves of violence pouring in through our mangled gates. The green lacked nothing in bravery and we held on long, but we were pushed back mercilessly by the vast numbers of our opponents. Soon they had the main square secured, and as per the rules of the War of the Dragons, they tore down our flag; a trophy for the slaughter they had wrought. It was a harsh lesson in the reality of this world.

The battle fought and lost, we tended to our wounds. With our flag stolen, our camp was in no imminent danger of being attacked again anytime soon. The corpse picked clean, the scavangers had nothing further to gain from bashing down our gates. In this relative tranquility, we were given the space to explore the finer workings of this world, and to get to know everyone better. I myself had another task to fulfill though. Soon after joining the Anarquendor several months earlier it became clear to them I was prone to uncontrolled shapeshifting. The Autherdir allowed me to remain in the regiment all the same, but if I was to become a trusted member of this close knit group of warriors I had to show complete honesty. Therefore she ordered me to openly discuss the matter with every other Anarquendor. I did so with reluctance, as it was something I had always kept to myself. Everyone reacted as could have been expected. They all proved accepting and tolerant, even kind and encouraging. In return I learned a lot of their own stories, their own plights and believes. I was glad I had this chance to talk with all of them. Another prerequisite was for me to talk to our forestmaster Arevalo and beastmaster Alaron. They would teach me to control the shapeshifting. I obeyed, speaking at length with both of them about the nature of this ‘gift’, as they called it, but it were discussions I did not much cared for. Of course, the day was spent on more than chatter, important though I found them. We had missions to complete and strategic value to contribute. One such mission, led by Condaghor Lyavana, gave me a chance to see the rich vibrant woodlands surrounding our campsite. The woods of this world are ancient and the canopy is lush with life. The smell of the fresh and moist forest soil was refreshing after days spent with humans and other such beings all cramped together.

By nightfall Condaghor Tegingûr came to us with a plan to steal back the flag that had been stolen from us. Rather than face the Red in a battle where they could bring to full effect their armor and shield walls, we would strike them from the shadows like a pack of wolves. A dozen of our numbers laid in waiting on the fields outside the Red camp, using the cover of night as hiding. Autherdir Beriadanwen and Isilanno then walked up to the gate and used a ruse to get one of the guards to accept an item from Issilano. Issilano had enchanted this scroll to magically befriend whomever took it willingly. The confusion that followed was complete when Autherdir Beriadanwen lunged foreward with a dagger in hand, forcing the guards to step back from the gate, leaving an opening for the rest of us to charge in. I jumped up with the rest of the unit, charging madly for the gate and rushing in to push back what few defenders were awake at this late hour. Before the alarm would summon too many more guards we took down our flag, which was put atop the gate of the Red camp. To cover our retreat, Ivrellith and Rhunir had concocted some bizarre potions that produced bright colored smoke. While we took the flag through a hidden forets path, the two sibling alchemists produced a trail of billowing clouds across the grassy plains. The Red took the bait, pursuing the two figures through the night while the rest of us safely returned the flag to the Green camp.

While we neared the camp my heart sank. A sudden and familiar sensation rushed over me. An invisible force tugged at my mind as I looked yearningly back at the forest we had just exited. I turned to Himdir, standing nearest to me, and told him I needed to go. I looked at me quizically, but didn’t stick around to see if he understood. Neither did I ask him to relay the message. I had done as the Autherdir had ordered me, so I was free to leave. I rushed back into the woods, making as much distance as I could before the strange magics would render me unconscious. By the time my feet became unsteady and I felt the worst of the curse take effect I sat down, experience having taught me the easiest way to endure the shift. I didn’t wake till well past sunrise the next day. The first thing I recalled was the sound of a distant battle, and realization swiftly returned. I rose to my lumbering paws, taking a few unsteady paces to familiarize myself again with the unique sensation of this form.

As I made my way back to the Green camp I heard the clashing of weapons and the shouts of men grow louder. From the border of the woods I witnessed a great battle taking place in wich the Green played a part. I saw the Green flag being moved across the grassy fields. Amidst the fighting throng I saw the Autherdir and Condaghor shouting at elves and men, gesturing wildly, clearly taking command. I would later learn the Dragons themselves had deemed the recapture of the Green flag to have taken place unfairly. The Green flag had been returned to the Red, but for their valorous effort the Anarquendor had been rewarded a dragon’s egg. The battle I saw taking place before me had been a joined effort by various camps to reclaim several flags of the Red, including the Green flag, this time through sheer force. Unsure if or how I could contribute to the fighting I kept my distance. Instead I slowly made my way to the Green camp through the forest’s edge. I would arrive there long after the army itself had returned. It wasn’t the journey that took me this long, but rather the gathering of courage to show myself again. Long before I neared the gates of the camp I had been spotted by plenty of people. They were hesitant to approach me, and I heard the occasional alarmed cry, but eventually I managed to make it clear I meant no harm. The few that had started to gather around me escorted me to the gates, were they ushered those on the walls to quickly open up. Once inside a small crowd was beginning to form, giving rise to the uncomfortable amount of eyes set on me. Eventually the Avater herself approached, personally welcoming me to her camp. While the gesture was flattering, it was the Anarquendor I was more interested in. When they saw me they quickly recognized me for who I was, and fortunately guided me away from the amassed herd of staring figures.

The remainder of that day I kept to myself, uncomfortable about what part I should play in the workings of the regiment. I was glad to note both Arevalo and Alaron could understand me through the workings of their magic, but I found most comfort in the words and presence of Sairahiniel. While the druids were mostly bent on comprehending the magic that caused my changes, she seemed content to simply listen to how I felt about it. This encouraged me, though it was frightening to be this exposed all the same.

The autherdir kept me away from the missions of the Anarquendor, for which I was gratefull. It might have been a tactical consideration, but I’m willing to believe it was a well meant consensus. A few more battles took place that day, one of which saw the Anarquendor take three prisoners of the Red. they were fed and healed, their armor repaired and leather mended. By nightfall they were handed a letter and escorted to the gate. Then the Anarquendor hunted them, an experience I heard tell was appreciated by all who witnessed it.

As the hour grew late the transformation persevered, as it would sometimes do for days. Growing tired I found myself a comfortable corner to lie down and rest. It was otherworldly, to sleep in this form amongst friends. But it was nothing compared to what the next day would bring me. Condaghor Tegingûr approached me, explaining that the Avatar had requested to ride me on the field of war. Obviously this had me dumbstruck. I had never tried to do battle in this form, let alone entrust another to ride me in to one. The Condaghor eased my worries however, explaining the Avatar would not actively participate in the war. Instead she would redraw from the field, but hoped to do so riding atop a mighty woodland creature. Condaghor Tegingûr convinced me I should agree to the request, mostly out of political consideration. I nodded my head in agreement, though my thoughts were ablaze with nerves. Again it was Sairahiniel who calmed my mind and helped me through the ordeal. She walked next to me as I bore the Avatar on my back and calmed me as I marched through the columns of Green warriors.

When finally the Avatar took her place in the Grand Ritual Circle I could find myself a spot atop a nearby hill, overlooking the valley in which the Final Battle would take place. This battle was the last chance for all the camps to earn dragon eggs. The culmination of these eggs would at the end of the day determine which dragon had won, and thus who would rule until the next Feast of the Dragons. At first the armies stood there, motionless, orderly awaiting some unheard call. Then the first regiments began to march towards eachother, calm, almost casually. As they neared each other they picked up speed, and as the met the clash was violent and bloody. As if this was the sign everyone waited for all other armies came in to motion, marching, running, weeling to get the better position. They clashed, shieldwall to shieldwall, skirmishers in the flanks and rears, arrows and spears flying overhead. Monstrous beasts and arcane constructs bashed in to one another. I stood uncomfortably on my hilltop, conflicted between relief and frustration. The sight of this massive war was daunting. I had never seen such large scale slaughter before. The thought of being in the midst of it all was terrifying. On the other hand I felt I should have been there, to fight beside the Anarquendor I knew had to be down there somewhere, risking their very lives.

Hours passed, and I had long lost track of which camp was fighting were. Everything had turned in an unsightly mass of carnage. My only clues were the flags of the various camps, dropping one by one. In the end only the Red and the Gold flag stood on the field of battle, and they cheered in concert. Their alliance had won the day. Knowing the battle was over I returned to the Green camp, awaiting the return of my friends. I was exhilarated to learn none of them had suffered permanent injuries. Rhunir had taken the worst blow, but he would recover soon. We lit the campfire and gathered around it. The warriors eased their aching muscles and I listened as everyone exchanged their tales of the past few days. The final battle was fought so now we had leave to relax and find distraction in the stories we had gathered. Later that night I would hear the Golden Dragon had officially won the Drachenfest, and would rule undisputed for one year. But our minds were already set on the journey back home. We packed early the next day and left silently and swiftly, as befitted a woodelf. Next year we would return and continue our mission in this new world of dragons.”