Chpt. II: Second Journey

Rauron says:Anar DF 2012 Mural new

“This painting? It’s about my second time at the drachenfest. Sure, I’d love to tell you more, but we’ll need some snacks and drinks from Sulein’s kitchen first. It’s a long story, so make yourself comfortable.

As had happened the previous year, the order came for the Anarquendor to move out to the world of the dragons. The green dragon had reached out to all those loyal to nature to represent him in the battle of the dragons. Queen Shanaehan, having been briefed on our efforts last year, had deemed us fit to once again answer the call. By her order we journeyed to a secluded place in the Weylin Woods, to a hidden grove ripe with natural magic. Our druids went about their task, using the mystical arts to prepare our passage to the world of the dragons. The wild natural energies the druids use can play tricks on your mind and even now the scene remains blurry in my memories. Still, I recall more than I did the first time we were teleported through the trees. I remember the chanted incantations and the magic being focused into the roots, the branches and the leaves, a bright light emanating from the bark. The next thing I knew we had arrived and I squinted at the blinding sun.

Weylin was going through an exceptionally warm and dry season. I had somehow imagined the heat would prove more bearable in the world of the dragons, but alas it seemed the sun ruled equally in all worlds. The more trained and disciplined members of the regiment shrugged off the heat with barely a grunt, swiftly claiming a strategic local for our tents within the green camp. I helped, of course, though I didn’t match the stoical and serene diligence of my more veteran regiment brethren and sisters. Soon enough our tents stood and perimeter traps were laid. Gílthir, the raven druid, had even summoned a small spring within our camp were we could rest our feet in delightfully cooling water. Such occasions were limited though, as there was still much that needed doing. Most important for me was my talk with Yava’In, the spirit mother. She was new to the Anarquendor, though at the time I had not yet asked why she was assigned to our regiment. I did not like her. She was fierce in her pursuit for answers regarding my shapeshifting, were Arevalo and Alaron seemed content to tutor me based simply on what I was willing to share. She concluded that she would speak with the totem spirits regarding my condition, though her words placed the fault of the matter on me. She bore the approval of the Autherdir however, so I reluctantly complied with her will. A council needed electing, though again the politics were lost on me and again I simply followed my Autherdir’s lead. Public speeches were held and gifts were exchanged by various groups as all of the green camp stood gathered on the gathering grounds near the main gate of the camp. Important stuff, I’m sure, but all I could think of was the blistering sun bearing down on us. Fortunately our gift to the Avatar –a newly made battle dress, made of the fines cloth and leather- was to be handed to her in the privacy and shade of our own encampment.

Far more thrilling was the Champion’s Fight to determine who would represent the Green Army in the Arena of Champions. Sigil joined in again and it looked like this time he’d have an excellent shot at becoming the champion of the green. Even Idril participated, fighting like a thing possessed, using blade, teeth and claws to overcome every opponent. She only found her match in a human guest from another camp, a Boshida, if I recall correctly, with whom the Anarquendor were familiar. The battles were cut short however, when one combatant got grievously wounded and needed to be taken away for treatment. Soon night was setting in and we prepared for our first mission of this year’s drachenfest. The grand ritual that would mark the beginning of the four day battle was about to take place. All the camps gather at this ritual, and at its conclusion the guards of each camp pay very little attention to the throngs returning to their tents. We would take advantage of this to sneak into the Black Camp, using other groups as cover. This went off without a hitch, and soon we found ourselves snooping around the camp of the black army, looking for anything and everything of relevance to be stolen. Finding little that looked of note, I decided to try my luck at bluffing, pulled my hood far over my elven ears and walked up to a gathering of mages. Pretending to be a mage myself, I asked them what the plans for the night were, and they happily obliged. I was introduced to a human by the name of Anima, who explained to me the inner workings of the mages within the black camp. Soon enough I had gathered enough information to report back to the Autherdir and I had made some new contacts within the Black Camp.

The mission was considered a success, but the softness of our beds was far of still. I together with several others joined Tegingûr on a diplomatic mission to speak with the Sendbotin. She is the companion of the avatar of the golden dragon, and Tegingûr has had many of exchanges with her. What these dealings entail I wouldn’t know and I’m pretty sure I don’t need to ask either. Tegingûr tends to make a memorable impression when he’s meddling in politics. Suffice it to say, some people in the golden camp recalled him as the elf who tried to murder them. Regardless, we were graciously received by the Sendbotin, and she gladly accepted Tegingûr’s invitation to come by our encampment the following day. We soon parted ways and headed for the blue camp, were Tegingûr hoped to speak with some knew allies had had not heard of before. The hour proved to late though, as they had gone to bed, so we set out on the long trek back to the green camp, being located as far away from the blue camp as the battlegrounds permitted. barely halfway across the vast fields we were forced of our intended path. With the war officialy begun the orcs were out and about, killing everyone they could find. Hopelesly outnumbered we opted to run and took shelter in the grey camp. No sooner had they shut the gate behind us, when we heard the battering of rusty weapons on the other side. With nothing to do but wait them out, we sat ourselves in a secluded corner of the grey camp. At this point Tegingûr spoke of his disapproval of the green avatar, going as far as to suggest the Anarquendor should support another camp. Tegingûr… frightened me for various reasons, so I dared not speak against him. I listened and held my tongue, though it felt like we were discussing treason. It was a relief when the orcs left and we could return to our camp, cutting the conversation short.

The following morning brought war as I remembered from the previous drachenfest. The red had marched out to besiege our camp, but this time we would not be taken. The green army proved formidable this year, not only strong in numbers but tactics as well. Rather than await the siege within our walls, where our skirmishers were of no use, we marched out and met the enemy head on. The red clearly had not anticipated this, as they proved reluctant to engage us. We took the initiative, striking first and hard, scattering their soldiers and winning the battle. More battle soon followed as we prepared to besiege the gold who were previously assisted by the copper army before they to were defeated. At some point the army of chaos made a deft sally in our rear, taunting us by stealing our battering ram. This was quickly rectified when the green brought its full numbers down on the laughably small fortification of the chaos camp. With every engagement won, we further emblazoned the dominance of the green army in the field, disheartening other armies and ensuring future victories.

While battle was the primal aspect of the war of the dragons, it was hardly the thing most on my mind. It seemed to me Yava’in was still striving towards me accepting and harnessing my transformation, opposing my desire to simply be utterly rid of it. I spoke of this with the green avatar as I encountered her atop the palisades of the green camp. I explained to her my fears and doubts, and while she made clear she hoped I would embrace the animal, she said to support my endeavor, no matter the path I decided to take. For her part she spoke of her son, a fierce and uncontrollable predator who had been corrupted by his desire to hunt. Eventually he died at the hands of the red; something that had maddened her at the time, but she had grown to see the need. She also spoke of the woman we had seen at the side of the red avatar. Apparently this woman was a fatespinner, someone who had played an important role in the preservation of the knowledge of the now destroyed first world of the dragons. She also spoke of the daughter of the red avatar, a fierce warrior who had led the red army in several battles throughout the day. She posed a formidable presence on the battlefield. I’m sure several Anarquendor had an unspoken challenge to be the first to slay her. My time standing guard on the palisades –an assignement we agreed upon with the camp council to garner some goodwill- also gave me the chance to visit the black camp again. With Arevalo’s approval I set out to speak with Anima again, telling him I had used deceit the previous night because I feared the rumored hatred of elves the black supposedly had. I appealed to the balck’s reputed mastery of magic and explained my shapeshifting to him. He proved helpful in my quest to dispel this curse, though he was no master on the matter. He offered me a magic token; a scroll imbued with magic sigils that might help me retain a clear mind. Furthermore he referred me to other casters of the black camp who might know more of the matter. Alas, none of them had ever heard of the type of shapeshifting I described, and I found myself again at a dead end.

This feeling grew even worse when later that evening, as the sun set low, Yava’in walked up to me and declared I could not be present at the grand totem ritual that was to take place that night. In this ritual, five elves and humans were to be bonded with their totem. It was to be a rare and unique experience, a privilege to be witnessed by anyone on this mystical world. But the spirit mother did not care. The spirits had said to fear my presence and didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I was furious.

Later that night, in the auspicious twilight between day and nighttime, two elves and three humans received their totems. The spirits answered the calls of the chanting and dancing druids, manifesting themselves in all their magnificent glory, testing those who would claim their bond. Otherworldly music would herald their coming and eventual departure, and all were in awe. From atop the palisades of the green camp, I could only just make out the distant mystifying light of the ritual.

It turned dark by the time the others came back. Everyone was happy and excited about what had happened. The totems had accepted all the chosen ones and jubilation was thick in the air. I didn’t care to be with any of them at that time. The mood soon changed though. The Autherdir and condaghors had been talking in private and finally addressed all the Anarquendor. They had received dire information which they could not divulge just yet. They gave only one order. We were to split up in small groups and assess the other groups of camp green, to find out their alliances, agendas, believes. We had enemies in the camp and we were to find them. Most did not take kindly to this break to the celebrative mood, but I cherished it. I didn’t want to dwell on the spirits’ rejection. I was grouped with Himdir and Idril. We eventually ended our information gathering in the encampment of the Dark Green, where we stayed up talking till late in the night. Irdil eventually ordered us to return to our tents.

The following morning I was determined to speak with the mages of the black camp as soon as possible. I vaguely proposed to the Autherdir that I had contacts within the black camp, and that I might gather some additional information. She agreed, though I was to bring Indilwen and Estolador as back up. Perhaps she suspected something, but it mattered little. The mages of the black camp had little more to offer and they were distracted by a summons of the black avatar, who wished to address her full army. We had a small run-in with this avatar, as she seemed to believe we were a part of her army, and therefore should have been present when she gave her speech. The situation was soon defused as the mages mediated on our behalf. Still being riled by yesterday’s events I was very eager to pursue the confrontation, but Indilwen and Estolador proved wiser and more level headed, dragging me away from the avatar.

In the camp we had more important things at hand. Our allies of the blue camp were being besieged by the red, and our army was to relief them. Gílthir played a vital role in the preparations for this battle, running back and forth across the battlegrounds to inform the army leaders about enemy movement. When eventually the green and the red clashed it was a magnificent sight. One half of our army was locked in battle with the red, together with the blue and the mercenary armies. The other half took on the copper, black and gold armies in piecemeal, surrounding and slaughtering their forces one at a time. As their last ally fell, the red retreated into their fortress and dug in to weather the siege. Throughout the battle I had proven of little use, breaking my shield arm and arousing the wrath of the Autherdir by moving out of position once too often. The siege was my chance to vent my rage and anger that had been building since the ritual the previous day. I allowed the throng of humans to push me towards the massive gates of the red camp, towards the mayhem and slaughter. As I neared the gates though, doubt began to replace anger. Up ahead through the gates I could only hear screams of pain, the fierce clash of weapons, the desperate cries that only comes from something caught in a trap. The red were well prepared to weather any siege.

I don’t recall much after passing the doors of the gates. My memories are dark and blurry. I remember the sensation of a deep emptiness; a final reluctant acceptance of a mystery that cannot be solved. I remember thick swirling fog clouding my vision as I drifted in an unnamed void. I saw an unlit lantern, awkwardly distinct in an otherwise featureless space. As the lantern faded from view, my awareness returned to reality, and I found myself lying on the cemetery grounds near the battlefields. Parthalan was there as well, though he could offer few answers. I stumbled back towards the green camp, strangely exhausted as if having journeyed a thousand miles. The camp offered me no solace though. Everyone was in an uproar. In my absence the Anarquendor had confronted Joona, submitting him to the laws of nature and survival of the fittest. Though some humans called it unjust and treacherous, it should have come as no surprise. The Anarquendor had voiced their disagreement before. It’s the wise wolf that knows when the pack grows unruly, and prepares to defend his position. Joona was not a wise wolf. The consequences resonated fiercely throughout the green camp. Weapons were drawn and teeth were bared as tension grew high. Some supported us, some saw us as traitors. A grand meeting was had in the presence of the Avatar after which she summoned everyone to the gathering grounds. A vote was held, putting the Anarquendor in the right and abolishing us of any perceived crimes. The avatar had a few choice words though, and the end of her speech marked the eruption of a thunderous storm that had been building for the last hour. Nature itself had given form to the rising pressure within our camp, thick boiling clouds gathering above, heralding their wrath with deep rumbling booms. When the storm broke free, it was an unforgiving deluge that washed over our tents. When the Autherdir finally gave the all clear, we hid in our communal tent and awaited the calm. To Idril, the tension within the camp and the loud anger of the storm grew too much. Even the strongest warrior -and Idril can certainly be considered one- may grow to need comfort and reassurance once in a while. All I could do was to offer her my shoulder.

By the time the storm seized, night was setting in. A whole new atmosphere was taking a hold of the camp as the moist of the rain, combined with the day’s barley diminished heat, produced a fog unlike any I had ever witnessed. Our camp was completely enveloped by an impossibly thick shroud of mist, snuffing al sights and sounds beyond a bare few feet. I admit having felt uncomfortable at the time, disoriented and oppressed. All the things that had flooded my senses back at the cemetery rushed up to me and reminded me of that unimaginably endless void. Fortunately I was distracted when the Autherdir and condaghor Tegingûr introduced me to Tarek, a shapeshifter and leader of his own pack. I was immediately fascinated by this man and all the knowledge he had to offer. But our initial talk was to be brief and introductory. Before we parted ways, he promised he’d introduce me to his shaman, who might be able to tell me more of the magics that were at work inside of me. The night drew to a close uneventfully. No army dared mobilizing in this thick fog, so our gates were safe. Rumors reached us of orcs hiding in the fog, moving about in packs of ten or more to kill anyone who ventured out into the mist. As it happened, we had some visitors of the silver camp staying with us at that time. Unable to go outside, they bided their time, staying with us till well past the deep of night. These nomads again more allies of the Autherdir, and they came to us on behalf of their avatar. Apparently they were tasked with the creation of a new ‘judge’ of the war of the dragons. This endeavor required the assistance of both the silver avatar of life, as well as the green avatar of the cycle of creation. Both the nomads and the Anarquendor would work together in a ritual that would see this ‘judge’ brought into being, though at no point did it become clear to me what exact purpose this creation would be fulfilling. Plenty of talk was had on magic and ritualistic matters, but these were things I knew nothing of. Soon thereafter I sought the comfort of sleep.

The rising sun announced the day of the final battle. Last night’s storm had mercifully diminished the heat, though it was still plenty warm. Our first order of business was the ritual the nomads and Anarquendor had prepared. We of the Anarquendor, together with our avatar, met up with the nomads and the silver avatar in their camp, closer to the ritual circle. The tithes and components of the ritual, most of a savage and bloody nature, as befit the birth of a new creation, were prepared. Soon we took to the grand ritual circkle were our druids and shaman, together with the nomad ritualists, performed their arcane arts. We drew much unwanted attention, and skirmishers were fought at the borders of the circle. One of our own got wounded in the process, but the presence of two avatars insured none of us felt the sting of the afterlife. Soon the ritualists had completed their task and the new judge was given form and life.

Then the time came to prepare for the final battle. My nerves ran high with anticipation. The previous year I had been in my other form when this battle took place. Because I had no fighting experience in that form, it was opted to exclude me from the Anarquendor tactics. This year however, I would be standing in the throng of the fight, side by side with my fellow Anarquendor, risking not only my life, but that of my friends as well if I did not heed my orders as I had done the day before. Our army deployed, our allies of the Dark Green, the Pack of Tarek and several other friends from the camp near to our position. Other armies appeared, some allied to our cause such as the blue and the silver, others opposing us fiercely, like the red, the gold and the black. The masses deployed across the battlefield, everyone awaiting the deep thunderous boom that announced the end of this temporary peace while the armies prepared. Then it came, and an expectant silence followed. The orcs and the copper were the first to engage atop the hillside opposing our army. Then the red began to move on our flank, and we wheeled to face them. Our flank collided with the remnants of copper and chaos, as the black, red and gold met our troops head on. Our right flank caved for a moment, until part of the massive blue army crushed into the red and broke their advance. Their flank caved and our Righ flank began to push again. Soon the remnants of the enemy alliance was driven atop the hill. From the left flank, by a sonorous and eerie seafaring chant, the blue drove a steady but unrelenting wedge straight towards the red flag, breaking and crushing the last resistance. Our alliance had won. Later that night, in the closing ritual, the blue avatar would claim rule for one year on behalf of this alliance, and the armies of the green, silver and blue cheered as one.

After the battle we returned to our camp to rest, exhausted but pleased. Himdir, whom we feared was mortally wounded in the battle, seemed to have recover thanks to the magics that permeate the dragon world, so we suffered no losses. I settled for a comfortable place in the sun, where I promptly fell asleep and dreamed of the weirdest things, as if the whole world had gone crazy. Absurd sieges, people running around with camp flags everywhere, Avatars chasing Fin as they laughed and cheered.

We had organized a celebratory feast within our encampment, inviting all our allies from within the green camp to gather, eat, tell tales and sing. At nighfall we all gathered around the lit fires and exchanged stories and gifts. I got to speak with the pack of Tarek, meeting his shaman, Karhuvenna, for the first time. She impressed me with her strong presence, and she sang a beautiful chant named ‘Min Modir’, a testament to the earth-mother. Afterwards she gifted me with a leather parchment, beautifully and intricately inscribed with the lyrics of this song. The pack went to great lengths to help me feel welcome amongst them, inviting me to drink with them and be present as one of their younger members was granted a new rank. The hour was late by the time we parted ways again and I returned to my own warrior family, having been given much to think about before I would meet with the pack again.

At the coming of first dawn, the Anarquendor leveled their tents and packed their gear. As we had come, so did we depart again, using the strong natural magics of the trees to bridge the void between this world and ours. We had much to discuss and contemplate, and Tegingûr and the others of the Order had much to report to our queen. I myself was looking forward to returning to the dragon world again four seasons later.