Chpt. IV: Faerlavan

Rauron says:


“That painting’s about my journey to Faerlavan, the world of the Totems. Tell you more? Sure! Take a seat. I still have a while before I have to relieve Tarias of guard duty.

This all happened a couple of seasons ago. It was full spring and our regiment was going about its buisness as usual. I had picked up some talk of the others that something was amiss with the totems, but at the time that didn’t concern me much. My relationship with the totems has always been somewhat muddy. It wasn’t until one night I and all the other Anarquendor recieved a dream message from Yava’In and Sylvitharion when things heated up quickly. In this dream we recieved warning that both Yava’In and Sylvitharion were in grave danger. They had journeyd to Faerlavan and ushered us to do the same. All of us were needed to help them quell the unease in the totem world. We also recieved instructions on how to get to this other world. Upon waking, each of us found next to their bed a small icon of sorts, a piece of wood decorated with colourful strings, beads and feathers. Holding this token, we were to speak an incantation which would trigger some magic power and transport us to the totem realm. I admit, I hesitated for a moment. Had it been only a matter of spirits, I might have ignored the message all together. But I wasn’t about to leave Yava’In and Sylvitharion to some unknown danger. Like all the other Anarquendor, I used the token as described. I said the arcane words, everything around me seemed to shift, and just like that I found myself in Faerlavan with the others of the regiment.

Faerlavan is a world much like ours, with mountains, rivers and woods. It was in one of these forests that we appeared. The first order of buisness was to secure our surrounding. The Autherdir send out Idilwen and me to scout ahead, and soon enough we made contact. We quickly tracked down two humans, who, much to my surprise, were familiar faces. They were Faerun and Mojo, two young humans from the Pack of Tarek, a group of people we had met on the dragon world. As we would later learn, they and many other humans had like us been called to Faerlavan through similar dreams. But that wasn’t our immediate priority though. Faerun and Mojo had been out looking for help. They had found Yava’In and Sylvitharion, and they appeared dead. Hearing this, the Anarquendor quickly gathered and, escorted by the two boys, we hurried to where a large mass of humans were gathered around two lifeless bodies. At this point things became frantic. The Autherdir took charge of the situation, interogating the humans while Tarias, Lalaith and Idilwen applied all their skills to revive Yava’In and Sylvitharion. I was ordered to guard the perimiter, but I was barely paying any attention. The humans were all asking questions, clearly knowing even less than we did. What place was this? Why were we here? What had happened? As for myself, this place made me uncomfortable. Maybe it was my bias against the spirits in general, or perhaps this realm had this influence on everyone, but I disliked it. Fortunately, Yava’In and Sylvitharion were not in as bad a shape as we had feared. Soon enough they were on their unsteady feet. They said explanations would be given, but not here. The woods were unsafe, but they knew of a nearby place of refuge.

Following their directions, we arived at a small settlement; little more than a tavern with some tents placed around it. A resting place for shamans when they traveled to the spirit realm, so it was explained to us. Here we would be safe of the influence the confused totems might have on us. Yava’In then elaborated on why she had called everyone here. The totems were upset, and it was up to us, everyone gathered there, to calm them down and restore order. This would be done with a ritual that required everyone to participate. But before this could be done, Yava’In needed the help of three others; those three amongst us who were most in tune with their totem. Starting tomorrow, she would organized a few tests to determine who this would be. I registered all of this with a somewhat sadistic sense of pleasure. I have no love for the totems, and to hear of their struggles got little other than a smile out of me. Now that Yava’In and Sylvitharion were save, and having no totem of my own, I had little to contribute to this mission anyway. I slept easy that first night in Faerlavan.

The next day started of simple enough. I talked with all of our foreign friends, espescially a few members of the Pack I hadn’t met before. One of them was a human named Krom. He was a timid sort of character, clearly ill at ease. As we spoke, the topic turned to shapeshifting. We were discussing the cold nights, and as a matter of jest I opted having fur would easily solve that problem. He looked puzzled, and I learned he was no shapeshifter. This seemed odd to me, and sure enough, from the corner of my eye I caught the reaction of several other members of Tareks pack. Krom was indeed a shapeshifter, but he did not yet know it himself.
Alarmed by this, I spoke to Tarek about the secrets in his pack. By now I had learned enough of the pack to know many things were kept hidden from one another. I adressed this with Tarek, suggesting how many secrets might be kept from him. He dismissed the notion, trusting he’d be told if it was really important. I argued many things, like how the young and inexperienced couldn’t possibly judge what was important, and why they would feel the need to keep secrets in the first place. When eventually we spoke of Krom, I questioned his decision not to inform him about his shapeshifting. He probably wasn’t ready for it yet, he said. They had to wait for the time to be right. I called him out on that, claiming it was not only disrespectful, it was dangerous to keep such a secret from someone. It would be far better to tell it as soon as possible, reducing the chances of being too late, and giving him time to prepare for the inevtiable. He agreed with this much at least, and would give the task of presenting Krom the news to Seraphina, one of his pack who’s leadership Tarek was testing. Lastly I asked him why he’d been so absentminded. Since his arival last night up to that day, he’d mostly kept to himself, observing but never speaking his mind. It is the influence of Faerlavan, he explained, strengthening the influence of the spirits. Tarek has four totems, including the owl, being detached and observant. Two other of his totems have similar feats, so the moment he stepped into this world, the strong feelings he got from his totems urged him to keep his distance. At the time I probably laughed at this. Another problem for anyone medling with totems.

That is, until a little while later we were all called together. Yava’In was going to explain what needed doing for the rituel. But first, they needed to settle another matter. I was called to step forward. This obviously had me on my toes, but imagine my joy when it was made clear I was given my rite of passage! I was finaly deemed worthy to be considered an adult! A true warrior and hunter! Yava’In asked me to name those who’ve been most infuential on my path to adulthood. I named Tegingur, Sylvithation, Efferil, and finaly the Autherdir to represent the countless elves who could not be there. One by one they were asked if they would be willing to consider me an adult, and one by one they gave their aproval. Lastly came Tegingur, who aproved, then stepped up to me, grabbed my head and looked me in the eyes. Everything after that is a mixture of confused impressions and what I’ve been told afterwards. Things became hazey and chaotic in my mind. I heard Tegingûrs voice as it slithered through my thoughts, opnening my mind to the totem of the Serpent. This totem had finally accepted me, wher eas all the other totems had ran away in fear, wanting nothing to do with me. But first the serpent would test me. It would help me fight itself. That might sound strange, but in my head it made perfect sense. After that I fought. I faced of against the serpent spirit in all its might, and at the same time I felt how the same power of the snake flowed through me. This didn’t go of without a hitch though. I’m not quick to take help from anyone, and my feelings towards the totems were rough to begin with. So as I fought with my body, there was another struggle taking place in my mind, between the influence of the snake and the influence of my beast self. In the end I still emerged victorious, because my goal coincided with what the spirit would have of me. A fight for survival. But wether I won because or despite of the serpent, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Now, the ordeal wasn’t over yet. The fighting came to a halt when I heard Yava’In’s voice, and her features replaced the vision of the serpent I had been fighting. I had won the physical fight, yes, but could I survive the destructive poison of the snake? Would I be able to withstand the corruption of myself if I were to accept the influence of the serpent? What happened was Tegingûr poured a vial of some vile tasting liqued down my throath. To my tranced eyes it was still a battle with the serpent, but this time the snake was inside of me, tearing me appart from within. Even now I only vaguely remember the shouts and encouragments of those who stood gathered around me. In the end I pulled through and the pain of the venom subsided. When at last I could stand on my feet again, I stood as an adult and in the presence of my totem, the serpent.

After that ordeal I recoverd for a while, but there was little time for idle hands. The matter of the spirits still needed resolving. Yava’In presented us with the chalanges that would determin which one of us was most in tune with his totem. Participation was voluntary; I hand’t planned on trying my hands at this, nor did I think highly of my chances. But having just recieved my totem, I figured if nothing else these tests would show how well my newfound bond would hold up.
The tests consisted of several competitions, chalenging both body and mind in various ways that favoured certain spirits over others. The spirit of the horse would support those in a race, for example, or the spirit of the crane might help someone in a simple competition of balance. After each competition several people would be eliminated. My connection turned out stronger than I would have given it credit, or the serpent was more perceverant. In either case, I made it to the final round, together with Sylvitharion, Krom, Brandar and Moril. A few more tests were had, including a conversation with Yava’In. The next day Yava’In would announce the three who would help her lead the totem ritual.

We did not limit ourselfs to these tests. In between rounds there was plenty of time to explore the surrounding woodland and discover the influences Faerlavan had on our world. Apparantly the realm of spirits would often interact with our own world, often in mysterious ways. Throughout the woods we found shreds of parchment, worked pieces of leather depicting totems, little icons of gods, even entire scenes depicting events that had occured on our world that influenced the reality of Faerlavan. All these things we found related to events from everyone’s past; events that had something to do with the spirits. Tegingûr came up to me with a shred of leather on wich the image of a viper was depicted, stating it was apropriate I should have this now. He also handed me a little note which according to him read that a snake sheds its old skin to begin life anew. I accepted both thougthfully. Another bit of mystery I found in Faerlavan was a piece of leather on which was etched a crude depiction of my beastform and several symbols. More than anything I knew it was imperative I kept this close to me, and so I did. This feeling outweighed everything else so strongly it wouldn’t occur to me to investigate those symbols for another year!
The Autherdir also had something for me; A little icon of Rystill, larger and more elaborate than the other little plaques I’d seen scattered about. My opinion of the goddes Rystill dives even lower than my regard for the spirits, so I hadn’t given these much interest. This one was different though. At the bottom of the disk was written the name of my father. Apparently it was found by members of Tarek’s pack, who had picked it up at a shrine that had been destroyed. Of all the subtle references, this one had all the grace of a barbarian warhammer. Gûron knew where the pack had found this shrine and guided me there. I’m not sure what I had hoped to find. Even now I don’t know what I intended to do there. In the end I just stood there quietly for a moment, then left without looking back.

Nighttime brought peace and tranquility. Most stayed up late and plenty of time was spend talking about trifles. The mood was relaxed, and it was only in the gentle moonlight I realized how absurd this day had been. Not that it had offset me in any particular way, but I hadn’t defined how I felt about it either. The rite of adulthood, the recieving of a totem, the mentioning of my father. All of these were things I needed to do something with, I just hadn’t figured out what exactly that would be.
I had first call of the night shift guard duty, so I watched everyone else head to bed one by one. Hadingur, a human of the Calenar group, stayed up with me for most of the night. We spoke of many things, though when the topic turned to family history I opted to hear him tell his story rather than dwell on my own. He talked at lentgh about Mauvetien, the city Pelor, a tavern named The Drunken Pony and how it all related to his past. When eventually Sylvitharion, Faerun and Mojo returned from the forest, Hadingur took his leave as well and I had the night to myself.

Come the dawn everyone was up early. Today we would perform the ritual to calm the totems. Yava’In called everyone together and anounced who would be assisting her in leading the ritual. Out of the five who made it to the final selection she chose Sylvitharion, Krom and Moril, opting to leave out myself and Brandar. This suited me just fine. When I spoke to Yava’In the night before, I already stated I had little interest in helping out the totems in so direct a manner, even if I were capable. It seemed she had taken my sentiment in account, for which I was most grateful. I was still warming up to the idea of having a totem; to actively support them was a river I wasn’t ready to cross yet.
To prepare for the ritual at hand, everyone was called upon to make a shrine of sorts to honor their totem and strenghten their bond. Even this much was something I comitted to only halfhearted. If the spirits needed my help, they’d have to make due with whatever I was willing to offer them. Still, I pieced together a little something as per Yava’In’s instructions, though my efforts were laughable compared to the things others constructed with great care and dedication. Some went about carving detailed figurines in wood or using the spoils of the forest to build decorated pedestals to hold symbols of their totems. Others used colorful paints, feathers and beads to honor the bond they shared with their spirit.
When all of this was said and done, the actual ritual began. The three newly appointed totem ritualists, guided by Yava’In’s experienced hand, initiated the rite, calling on the elements to ward of dangers and summoning the totem animals to be witness to their efforts. The effect was near instant and extremely overwhelming. The totems manifested themselves all around us, bonding with their bearers and projecting their influence. I would have resisted if it hadn’t taken me so off guard. By the time I might have had a sense of what was going on, the serpent was already in my mind, and soon we were of one thought. We listened as Yava’In spoke, her words floating through an ethereal haze, resounding with arcane force. First we were to bring something back from our respective shrines and place it at the monolith which represented the core of Faerlavan. Then we were to give blood, the most potent and binding of all magic components –something I was not aware of, but wich would later be explained to me in great detail. After the donation of the blood, the ritualists spoke a few more words, and the rite came to an end. The influence of the totems subsided and Yava’In explained all had gone well. All was back in their natural order.

After the ritual everyone took their time to recover. Tarias, lalaith and Indilwen went about bandaging all the cuts everyone had taken when giving blood to the totem. Food and drinks were passed around and the mood was elated. Yava’In gave everyone a small silver pin, a little white tree, as a token of their contribution to this mission. The festivities continued past nightfall, when a great bonefire was lit and everyone gathered for talks and singing. Indilwen tried her hands at a firedance, wich she performed with skill and grace. The Autherdir and Yava’In spoke at this time, as the Autherdir needed to return to Weylin to prepare our next mission. She said quick goodbyes and departed with the help of the totemshaman’s magic.

However, the coming of night brought with it what I regarded the greatets challenge of this entire mission. It started of innocent enough. It was running late, with the moon out high. Faerun and Mojo appeared from the woods, requesting Sylvitharion, Yava’In, Efferilion and myself to participate in a rite of friendship. I had seen the Pack perform this rite many times on the drgon world, even participated in it severaol times, and so was not concerned. The boys led us into the woods were the pack had gathered in a big circle. They thanked us for joining them, eager to show us their respects, then began their rite. Already it was clear Yava’In was ill at ease. So was Sylvitharion, though I couldn’t pin his reasons. Efferilion was stoic, carefull not to show his thoughts. The rite continued. One part included the sharing and drinking of blood. I had done this before and never gave it much thought. The bowl passed me first, and seeing how ill at ease my fellow Anarquendor were, I opted not to give blood to show it was alright to refuse if they did not want to. They passed the bowl along without giving it a second glance. When the bowl passed a second time to drink I did in fact take a sip, much to Yava’In and Sylvitharion’s dismay. They again passed the bowl along with quick dismissal. Efferillion did take a sip, or so I thought. He later explained the blood never even touched his lips.
Next the pack wanted to offer a gift as a token of respect to Yava’In. This is where everything went belly up. Yava’In refused to accept any gift without talking it over with command. She had no authority to do so. She failed however to present the Pack with a course of action, leaving them with no idea how to proceed. Than, what were they to do with the gift? The situation grew decidadly uncomfortable, the Pack’s good intentions being met by unexpected hostility. I was dead out of the water here. Even I could see this was turning sour quickly, but I did not want to overrule our totemshaman! I carefully suggested perhaps I should get Condaghor Tegingûr, who could represent the Autherdir in this matter. Yava’In agreed, and I rushed back to the campsite, eager to have the Condaghor untangle the mess.

Now, I don’t know the Condagor’s reasoning or intent, and I won’t claim to understand whatever plans he or high command were setting in motion, but if anything he made the situation even worse. What had begon as a social inconvinience that needed sorting out turned into a diplomatic slaughterhouse. The Condaghor stated we didn’t want to accept the gift until we made sure it was safe to take with us, as we were fighting a war in Weylin. There were plenty of flaws in this reasoning alone, but it didn’t stop there. With the mentioning of the war the talk quickly escaleted to blood oathes en de consequences and demands of a horrible war. This then resulted in a debate about the atrocities of war and the necessities therof. The core of the issue became increasingly muddy. The talks had by this point dragged on long enough to draw attention from the campsite. Other Anarquendor were stalking the woods to keep an eye on us, setting the Pack on edge. The mood turned rancid even more. Yava’In by this point wanted nothing more to do with the entire situation. She wanted out of the conversation but Tegingûr rather had her present.

Some thoughts occurred to me. Perhaps it was the influence of the serpent, guiding my words and actions, or maybe it was my own discomfort finally urging me to throw caution to the wind. I suggested to the Condaghor I take the lead in these talks, representing the Anarquendor. This way, Yava’In could go back to camp and put the other Anarquendor at ease. After that I set about unraveling the horrible diplomatic mess about the talks of war. I explained the nescecities of our military actions and our need for assurences that, if we were to work with allies in our war, they would follow our orders blindly and without hesitation. Lastly I settled the matter of the gift the Pack had hoped to give us, explaining we might be able to accept their gift when next we met on the dragonworld, but only after we had spoken with our commanders. When all of this was said and done, and the general concesnus of ‘giving it some thought’ was reached, Tegingûr took his leave.

I was invited by the pack to join them in their tent to escape the chil of the night and share in drinks. Later Sylvitharion joined us again, now clearly better at ease. The talks ofcourse continued. The pack was startled and slightly offended by what they considered an overblown reaction to their gift. They didn’t want any fus, and were fearful of presenting any type of gift in the future.Sylvitharion and I tried to calm the waters, but the sense of unhappines about how things had evolved remained. Tarek at least stated to understand why we had not immediately accepted the gift and how we had meant no offense. After all of this I rejoined everyone gathered around the campfire outside.

The night’s trouble wasn’t over yet though. Yava’In confronted me about drinking the blood in the rite of the pack. I argued back fiercely, driven perhaps still by the serpent or by my displeasure at how the talks had gone before. Either way, my words came quick and easy. I had joined in this rite three times already over the course of the years. Had it been poisonous or harmfull, I’d sure be dead already! I would drink blood all the time after a hunt! This was not a matter of physical harm however, she argued, but rather an influencing of my mind. I had afterall shared their blood. I countered I could not possibly know this, not being a ritualist myself. I regarded the blood only as a symbolic aspect of the Pack’s rite. In the end Yava’In relented, stating to understand my reasons for drinking the blood. She would discuss the matter with the Autherdir and adress the issue later.

At long last peace returned and I enjoyed the remainder of the night sitting around the campfire with my friends. Come the morning we all packed our things and lastly used the icon that brought us to this world to return home.”