Chpt. III: Third Journey

Rauron says:

Anar DF 2013 Mural new

“This one’s about my third journey to the world of the dragons. Sure, I’d be glad to tell you the whole story. Let’s find a spot near the firepit. I think Eferilion just got a fire started.

I’m not sure when exactly we received our orders to once again travel to the dragonworld, but all of us had been anticipating it for a while. As was becoming something of a yearly routine, our company made its way to one of the sacred magical groves that dot the deepest regions of the Weylin Woods. In these places, where the natural magics saturate everything and the gap between worlds is slimmest, Gilthir performed the magical rites required to awaken the ancient mystical powers. The natural arcane torrents that flow through the trees responded swiftly to the incantations, seeping from the leaves, roots and branches like tendrils of light, enveloping our gathered group. While we remained stationary, the world around us seemed to shift. And just like that, with nothing to mark the passage safe a brief outward gust of wind, we found ourselves in an entirely different yet somewhat familiar forest.

The starting ritual was still days away, so we had plenty of time to prepare our stay within the confines of the Green Camp. It was grueling hot, similar to our stay last year, and more then once I wondered if perhaps it was perpetually this warm in the world of the dragons. Perhaps it was this heat that caused my nights of restless dreams, or perhaps it was simply the anticipation of the battles to come. Whichever the case, I dreamt often of my shapeshifting in those first days, though it had been a few weeks since last I had succumbed to the transformation. Other Anarquendor appeared in those dreams occasionally. Perhaps there were clues to be found in those dreambound encounters, though I could not decipher any.
Regrettably, with any real action still days away, I had plenty of time to contemplate. There were things going on throughout the camp, of course, but I had little to do with them. The Autherdir reestablished contact with our allies throughout the green camp and we were visited by many acquaintances, the Calennar prime amongst them. Dull politics were again the primal aspect of these days. Partalan, Finn and others came to discuss matters like the Kriegsrat, though I paid those talks little attention. By nightfall Hadingur came by with several friends to share drinks and spin tales. There was lots of merrymaking going on, but I preferred the solitude of guard duty. After a while, Sylvitharion came to join me, and we talked long into the night, I bringing up my dream and him speaking of his past. It was a good conversation. Perhaps that’s why I slept easier that night.

The following day, after the daily routines of camplife, Sylvitarion and I met up with Aruk and Faruk, two orcs whom Sylvitarion had befriended on his previous stay in the dragon world. We ventured into the woods, partially to escape the buzz of the crowded camp and to escape the oppressing sun beating down upon the open plains. Within the seclusion of the tall trees, Aruk en Sylvitarion took a moment apart to exchange words and letters. Meanwhile I spoke to Faruk, eager for the chance to chat with an orc. In turn she was all to happy to tell me her history, and how she earned status as a warrior by beating her peers and her own father to death with the massive hammer she carried about. Women in her tribe were traditionally not allowed to fight, but by killing her father and the other younglings, she had proven she was strong enough. I did not press the matter.

Back in camp, things hadn’t moved much. Hadingur came by, apparently having some issues with his group, but again it was little of my concern. I think I took a nap or something at this point, because I can’t remember much of what happened next. Throughout the day the Autherdir had attended some political meetings, and I know the election of the kriegsrat occurred. I later heard Simon –a human with whom the Autherdir had run-ins in the past- won, though I don’t recall the voting. I do remember a massive downpour, sending everyone in to hiding within the large communal tent. My first clear memory is of everyone sharing drinks as we awaited the calming of the storm.
After the rain, everything returned to its steady pace in waiting for the opening ritual later that night. I took the time to speak with Condaghor Lyavana about the dreams I’d been having. Being a skilled Seer, I hoped she might provide more answers as to the nature of those nightly visions. As we talked, she questioned whether I’d really be able to bear the loss of my shapeshifting, something I’d been questing for a long time. It was her belief my hunger for the beastform would outweigh my fear of mastering my shapeshifting. Of course I didn’t agree, but she had planted enough doubt for me to second-guess myself. With no specific tasks or orders keeping me occupied, I went to visit the Pack of Tarek, a collective of shapeshifters who I had begun to consider friends. I sought out the bear-shaman Karuvenna to see if she could provide me with wisdom and insight, and perhaps give me some guidance. She agreed with Lyavana that to sacrifice my shapeshifting could likely hurt me more than mastering the beastform might.

Returning to the Anarquendor camp, I noticed Sylvitarion speaking with Aruk and Faruk. With each passing moment, Sylvi’s behavior grew more erratic and wild, eager for a hunt. I wasn’t the only one to have noticed, because soon other Anarquendor were interfering to get him to calm down. Eventually Lyavana resorted to her skills as a Seer to calm his mind, after which Yava’In spoke to him in private. I exchanged a few words with the two orcs who said their goodbyes. After a short while Yava’In and Sylvitarion reappeared, the latter clearly distressed. Yava’In had judged his totem to be too powerful, and had severed Sylvitarion’s connection. This clearly left him in shambles, unable to cope with the loss. Pitying him, and in a way relating to his feeling of powerlessness, I joined him and Yava’In. For a long while we discussed his situation while many of the others went to see the opening ceremony that marked the beginning of the War of the Dragons. Eventually he calmed down, consigning he’d have to learn to live without his Totem, which had proven too overpowering for him to master.

Later throughout the evening three things were happening at once. The legendweaver, mistress to the Red Avatar and friend to our own avatar, came to honor the green camp with songs of Targas, the Green Avatar’s lost son who had been killed after having grown too wild. Several of the Anarquendor attended this meeting, including Alveën, the scribe newly assigned to our regiment. At the same time a ritual was taking place in our camp’s circle of power. The exact purpose of this ritual was beyond me, but a good few Anarquendor took part in this rite, so it was vital all went well. Also taking place a t that time was a meeting of forces at the clearing in front of the gate, where Simon was mustering an army to capture the flag of the Chaos faction. Several Anarquendor would be attending that as well. Lastly a few more Anarquendor had decided to stay within our own encampment. I myself at that time was trying to keep up to date everywhere and running messages back and forth.
I received the first sign of trouble when Gûrron came up to me, spreading the order that all Anarquendor were to return to our camp. I arrived to the sound of Yava’In and Idilwen’s tormented cries emanating from the communal tent. The spirit shaman and her apprentice were being attacked by the totem of the rooster, who was clearly putting up a fierce fight. We were prohibited from entering the tent though, not that I could have helped in any case. Sylvitharion was in there with them, helping them tame the ferocious totem spirit. While this was going on, I and Alveën were tasked with finding the Autherdir, who was unaccounted for. We quickly concluded that she must have gone with the army besieging camp Chaos. We arrived just in time to see our forces claim the gatehouse and pull down the Chaos flag. Sure enough, amongst the victors we found the Autherdir as well as Ivrelith and Sigil.
By the time all the Anarquendor were gathered, the situation with the rogue totem had been resolved. Sylvitharion had apparently overcome the rooster spirit, saving both Yava’In and Indilwen from permanent harm. Gûrron was unimpressed and ordered a camp meeting, pulling rank by virtue of this being a safety issue. He questioned not only the chain of command, but also the general internal working of the Anarquendor as a whole. He made accusations of incompetence if not downright blatant disregard of proper military conduct. Before he could carry on we were blessedly interrupted by what later would prove to be a false alarm of an undead attack. When I returned from the rampart most of the Anarquendor had turned in for the night, so I followed suit.

Gûrron’s outburst was to have some heavy consequences though. Early next morning during the general meeting, command decided he’d overstepped his authority. The punishment was ten lashes, which he received at the hands of his fellow Order member Arandur. I was impressed by both of them. While I could not see his face, Gûrron accepted the punishment and endured the lashes with barely a grunt. Arandur was equally stoic, showing few emotions as he inflicted wound after wound on his childhood friend. He performed his task with cold efficiency, dutiful above all else.
The remainder of the morning passed by without much happening, safe a brief skirmish outside our gates. The Champion’s Fight was pretty tense though, as is almost always assured when Sigil gets into a fight. He opposed several of the camps greatest warriors, including Hadingur of the Calennar and made it all the way to the finals. That’s when things got murky. The barbarian he was supposed to face was replaced by a companion. This meant that Sigil, having just fought three duels, now had to face a fresh and rested opponent. Sigil valiantly accepted the switch, but lost all the same.
Following the Champion’s Fight, a gathering was had in our encampment to receive a guest from the Yoshida clan. Last year this human had fought Idril in the Champion’s Fight. Idril later turned out to be with child, a youngling that was part elf and part human. The only explanation was that, both Idril and this human having been under the influence of Satyr’s cheese at the time, the physical contact had proved enough to conceive a child. Tegingûr told us the baby was an abomination that did not belong into eh Weylin Woods. I suppose it was a measure of mercy that, rather then kill the child, it was handed over to this human. I felt bad for the child, the human and Idril. It seemed there could be no winners in that mess.

To clear my head and enjoy some tranquility, I joined Ivrelith and Gilthir for a walk in the woods. Gilthir wished to commune with the natural magic of the forest, while Ivrelith had need of some herbs. Gilthir soon separated from us, occupied with his arcane crafts. Ivrelith and I continued alone. As I followed her around, my thoughts turned to my shapeshifting and everything I had discussed with Sylvitarion, Lyavana and Karuvenna. Everyone pushed me to master my shapeshifting, while I just wanted to be rid of it. I was told I’d feel worse without my ability to shift into the beastform, but was this true? Which would be the greater curse? To change forms, or never to be able to shift again? Was I only rejecting this mastery to spite whom I assumed had place this curse on me? Ivrelith’s laugh distracted me from my deep pondering. She jested about my troubled frowning and distant stares and handed me some medicinal roots. “Here,” she said, “this ought to calm your mind.” I accepted with a sheepish smile and began chewing. Now enjoying the sweet taste of the roots, we continued our walk. Soon enough I was mulling over my thoughts again though. Did I hate being in my beastform? No, not really. In fact, I usually welcomed it eagerly. The strength of my muscles, the sharpness of my senses, the deadliness of my claws and teeth. To survive on nothing but instinct. The speed of the chase while hunting. Or to come upon my unsuspecting prey, jumping them from ambush. The roar of battle, the strike of my claws, the shriek of the creature as it realized its death was at hand. And finally, the blood…

I snapped from my idle daydreaming, wincing at a sharp pain emanating from my arm. I felt numb, everything registering as if through a haze. I raised the hurting arm and distantly noted it was shaking heavily. There was a large wound running from elbow almost up to my wrist; a clean cut, bleeding only softly. Still, there was a lot of blood on my hands, my arms, on the forest floor at my feet. Far more than could have come from this one injury. Slowly I turned my gaze up ahead to see Ivrelith lying there, horridly pale, three vicious gashes marring her abdomen. Her blood was everywhere, spilling freely from the triple wounds, flowing down to the forest floor, satiating the soil into an ominous black. For a moment I could do nothing but stare, shaking with terror and disbelief. Then I rushed over, picked her in to my arms and sprinted as fast as my trembling legs would cary us. I ran back to our camp, shouting for the Anarquendor, for Lalaith or Idrenion, anyone with even a shred of healing. Sigil met me halfway down the sandy path, taking Ivrelith in his arms and carrying her away. Others took me apart and sat me down on the grass in the shade of one of our tents. They spoke to me but I barely heard their words. They asked what had happened, but I did not know. They wouldn’t let me see Ivrelith, even when I heard her crying. She had regained consciousness, and with it a return to pain. Estolador pinned me down, which was probably for the best. I was growing anxious and panicky, ready to hit every elf keeping me from seeing what was going on with Ivren. Lyavana eventually walked up to me, grabbed my head and unleashed her Seer powers. For a brief moment I relived the moment wherein I had been daydreaming about my shapeshifting, but before I could again experience the wonderful memory of the shift, the Seer severed the connection. The last thing I remember before passing out was here saying “This isn’t your fault.”

This isn’t your fault. Several people came by to tell me this when I regained consciousness, still lying in the same spot in the shade. Lyavana told me so. Command agreed I could not have known. Estolador and others came by for support. Karuvenna, Tarek and Mourir of the Pack urged me not to dwell. Still, it was hard. Indilwen stayed with me for a long time. She even made me smile, speaking of her stupid plans. Eventually I was left to my own fretting. The Anarquendor had another important event to prepare for. By nightfall our mages and ritualists, combined with those of the Pack, would perform a grand rite, shaping the element Fire to their will. I did not attend the ritual though. It was deemed safer I stayed away, unsure how my shapeshifting might react to the arcane powers of the Great Ritual Circle of the dragon world. I wholeheartedly agreed and stayed in camp. I heard the stories afterward though, and it was… a disaster. Midway through the ritual, an orc army trashed the ritual, uncaring for its noble cause or the lives they took in their mindless slaying. Many Anarquendor and Pack members might have died, did in fact die, except for the intervention of the Judge, the keeper of the Circle, who stayed the hand of Death and ensured no-one would suffer the embrace of the afterlife. Shaken by this failure the Anarquendor closed camp and refused any visitors that night. A few of us went by the Pack to see how they were coping, and afterwards we hung out by the firepit till the skies grayed again. We caught rumors of a murder, and some of us went to investigate, but I went for a nice soft bed instead.

I awoke with little sleep had, but the rithm of war didn’t much care for my complaints. Red had besieged camp Grey early that morning, and Warleader Simon was quickly rallying troops to march to their defense. The Red were indeed driven away from the gates of Grey, but entirely too late. They had already captured the Grey flag, and were already redrawing. In front of the Red gates however they wheeled about and faced our forces again. At that point we were rear-flanked by an army of Black. Our forces hesitated, unsure of how to respond to this new threat. The hesitation proved fatal though. We had no organized lines, no shieldwalls or bodies of infantry to stem the advance of the enemy. The Black charged and our troops wavered, edged back, buckled and eventually entered a full on rout, fleeing to the gates of the Blue camp. In the chaos that followed I spotted Finn of the Calennar, clearly stunned and… badly wounded. Lalaith and I got him to the safety of the Blue camp, where Lalaith patched the unfortunate human up again.

After our battered army had made its way back to our own camp, Condaghor Lyavana approached me. Apparently command had decided I could be entrusted with a solo-mission. Needles to say I was overjoyed. A chance to prove myself and to go about it however I liked! The goal of the mission was to plant an arcane staff in the ritual circle within the Black camp. So I was to sneak in somehow, get to the ritual circle smack in the middle of the Black camp, blatantly in view of every passageway, surrounded by hostiles, and subtly plant a staff that was impossible to hide conveniently within the folds of my clothing. All that actually proved easy enough. I talked my way past the guards at the gate and they left me without escort. So all I had to do was wait for a proper time to pull out the staff and plant it in the circle. All in all it was a tense waiting game that eventually went of without a hitch, safe for a brief run-in with the Black Avatar.

I returned home triumphantly and eagerly reported my success. Upon my return I noted the aftermath of a ritual of sorts that had taken place in our encampment. The way it was described to me, Hadingur of the Calennar had suffered some trouble with his Totem spirit of the Lynx. Yava’In and Indilwen together with other Anarquendor and members of the Calennar had all joined in a ritual in which this totem would be physically removed from Hadingur, the spiritual gap thus left by the extraction of the spirit to be filled with the friendship of his companions. Since Hadingur was standing by the time I came back I can only assume this endeavor had been successful.
After a while everything settled down again. The heat still ran amok, especially at this time of the day, so most of us kept to the cool shades of our tents. When I heard Sylvitarion request Condaghor Lyavana if he could go see Aruk at the Calennar, I suggested I’d join him. Condaghor Tegingûr promptly said he’d come with, having things to discuss. Aruk was not available though. After a while we returned to camp to join in the preparations of our mobilizing armies. The green were to participate in a large scale battle that would see the Green, Silver, Grey and Blue armies work tpgether to tear down the gates of the Red camp, to recover all the flags captured by the Red and their alliance. The entire operation was orchestrated by the warlord of the Grey camp, coordinated together with all the other warlords. The plan was simple enough. The Grey would besiege the Red camp, located in the middle of what was known as ‘the tunnel’, whilst the other armies would block of the entryways of all of Red’s allies. This worked generally as anticipated. Red’s allies arrived one after the other, unable to coordinate their attacks because their lines of communication were blocked. Each army was then slaughter in piecemeal by vastly superior numbers. Only rarely did I get the chance to wet my blade and enjoy some carnage. I stayed well clear of the Red gates though. The sight of them stirred dark feelings I didn’t much care for. After what seemed like hours, the siege of Red finally succeeded and our alliance was victorious. Green would eventually be the owner of a solid five flags. Our own, the Blue flag, given as part of the alliance, the Black flag, taken from the walls of the Red who kept it as part of their alliance, the Flag of Chaos which we took on our first day, and lastly the Copper flag which was given to us by Grey.

The remainder of the day was spend preparing for nightfall. Tonight our ritualists would again attempt to perform the ritual the orcs had so cruelly interrupted. Using arcane rites, the intent was to ward the Tree of Life against the devastation of fire. Don’t ask me any details; I wouldn’t know. All I could tell you is that this tree is imperative to the whole of nature on the Dragon World, and that it had been destroyed by flames once before. It was since revived, and our seer Lyavana now guarded a seed of that mystical tree. That seed would now be used to ensure its genitor could never be felled by fire again. While this time I was not prohibited from being present at the ritual, I still kept a safe distance. Still, it was plenty close enough to witness the glory of the mystic esoteric powers at work. Eerie otherworldly music accompanied the manifestations of multicolored smoke and powerful gusts of flame. The raging element was tempered by the powers of the ritualists, the Seer Lyavana the lodestone of the enchantments, while Gilthir’s voice echoed across the hill, laden with occult force. When the elemental fire was tamed it was then woven into function, its currents drawn into an intricate dance to mark its proper form. When all was said and done, the flames died down, the element returned to its state of slumber. The combined army of Green, who had stood witness to the ritual, cheered their approval.

The aftermath of the ritual proved dire though. Lyavana, subject to the full spiritual impact of the elemental force, had sorely overestimated her capacity to withstand the mental scourge this would inflict. Only moments after stepping out of the ritual, she collapsed in agony. We quickly hurried her back to our camp, where she was taken to the privacy of our tents. Several people set about resolving the problem while the rest of us waited in silence. After a long while we were all called together for a meeting. Command told us what had happened, and how Lyavana had endangered all of us by misjudging her own strength. For that reason they stripped her of her rank as Condaghor…

Next morning. The day of the Final Battle. Things started of messy enough. Apparently someone had snuck into our encampment and burned several documents, including Alveën’s book of notes. He stayed admirably calm under the circumstances. “It’s just notes” he said discarding when I asked about them, “My notebook is not to store information; it’s only to store drafts.” I heard him discuss the matter with Condaghor Tegingûr, to who he suggested it must have been the work of camp Chaos. When I asked if he really thought so he gave me a blank look, stating “So I’ve said to Condaghor Tegingûr.” I decided not to dwell on the matter, assuming Alveën knew what he was doing. We didn’t get along much anyway.

During the morning briefing, Command told me to step forward. I obliged, a quizical look on my face. Next thing I knew, the Autherdir handed me an insignia. I was to stunned to respond. I just stood there, grinning like an idiot. She presented the little badge, a silver spearpoint, intricately detailed, stating I’d earned it for my excellent performance infiltrating the Black camp and planting the magic staff. To further boost my pride, she said I’d earned a Rite of Adulthood. You’ll understand if I say I was on a high for a while afterwards.

I had gifts of my own to share with others, so I went to see our friends in the Pack. I had prepared some minor things to thank them for their support. I asked Ivrelith along, as she had previously stated she’d love to join me to give her own thanks. It also seemed to me it’d be a good way to clear the air between us after what had happened. We’d rarely spoken since the incident two days past. But when I asked her along she refused. Neither would she explain why. She just didn’t want to come with me. Not knowing how to deal with the situation just yet, I let it lie and went to the Pack by myself. There I spoke with Karuvenna, Tarek, Mojo, Elias and Farun. I’d made them each a small leather token, inscribe with a little image I figured befitted their personality. They took the gifts with gratitude and invited me stay a while to share drinks, dice games and the cool recluse of their tarps. The day was hot and oppressive, so I gladly accepted. A few other Anarquendor soon joined us and we remained there for a while, enjoying the good motherly cares of a hobit, the stout barefooted woman named Robin Redfoot.

But again, the tides of war wait for no one, so eventually we were summoned to the Final Battle. The Anarquendor had no invested value in this battle though, so not all Anarquendor were called upon to participate. A few of our numbers form a squad together with elements of the Pack and the Rûfschutz, led by our raven-shaman Gilthir. We positioned behind the main lines of the Green army, our task to be a support skirmish group wherever we judged the lines needed an extra push. We began our position atop the western hills, facing east. Our allies of the grey, blue and silver were stationed at our rightern flank. The red and black stood to our left, facing south. Gold, Copper and Orc stood facing us head on. Because our squad of light skirmishers moved around a lot I didn’t get a very clear feel of the flow of battle. We were fighting mostly down the center battlefield, pivoting left towards the Red and Black. The orcs and mercenary companies supported our allies in defeating Copper and gold, after which we had a swift path to victory, overwhelming all resistance. Ultimately the Final Battle was short lived. I got to bloody my sword on but a few occasions, and suffered little injury in return. Silver and Green were the final victors of the fight, the Green Avatar striding into the Ritual circle first, granting the spoils of war to camp Silver.

Following the Final Battle, the Anarquendor and the Yoshida had another matter to settle. Apparently there was a duel to be fought between the human father of Idril’s child, and Indilwen. The reason for this fight was unclear to me. It had something to do with the Yoshida sense of honor or some such. We of the Anarquendor stood in a semi-circle prepared to witness the fight. The duel began as planned, except suddenly the Yoshida came running up, wanting to interrupt the fighting. Indilwen was attacked, we retaliated, things escalated and before long we had battlelines being drawn. After a lot of shouting, growling and baring of teeth, the situation cooled and everyone parted ways.

With the arival of dusk most of us went to see the Closing Ritual, in which the War of the Dragon would come to a close and the winner of that year would be announced. The count was tense, and our alliance seemed to be faring well. To our dismay however, it was Black who stole the victory, only one egg ahead of Silver. Evidently this was a disappointment, but we weren’t all that upset. Our alliances had fought hard and fierce, so there were few regrets.
I soon joined the Pack in the nightly celebrations, other Anarquendor coming and going. We laughed and jested, discussed serious matters like the wars in our homeworlds. Tarek and Karuvenna again expressed their willingness to aid us in our endeavors, dismissing my doubts when I mentioned the young age of many of their members. As the night deepened more and more drinking was done. Sylvitarion and I stayed late to enjoy plenty of there mead. In the deep of night a terrifying storm began to build at the horizon, drawing closer with the rumble of thunder and the flashes of lightning. The festivities were eventually concluded to prepare the tents against the impending deluge. Sylvi and I had the momentary notion of going in to the city and find some more mead. But with the storm rapidly closing in we instead made for our own tents to help everyone prepare.

The storm hit with fierce onslaught. Was it nature rejecting the rule of the Black Dragon? Was it the influence of the Black Dragon itself, wrapping everything in a fearful gale to announce its rise to dominance? Whichever the case, the downpour lasted quite a while, so I went to bed to the sound of rain splattering on the canvas of the tents.

The following morning was marked by quick goodbyes, the rapid dismantling of our tent, and a swift return to the Weylin Woods. While I would certainly miss my friends on the Dragon World, there was a lot of new things I had to contemplate and discover back in the Weylin Woods.”