Chpt. V: Fourth Journey

Rauron says:

Anar DF 2014 Mural new

“Indeed, that painting’s about my fourth time to the dragon world. If you’re not tired of hearing me talk yet, sure, I’ll tell you the whole story. Let’s find a spot in the shade first. I believe Alyan just finished setting up a tarp.

Like the year before, our regiment received orders to journey to the dragonworld. And equally the same we would journey there by means of druid magic. We traveled quickly, arriving early to the site of the Green army. With practiced swiftness we claimed a place for our own and set up our camp. I should probably mention our company were considerably fewer in numbers compared to the previous year. The war at home had taken several strange twists, and many of our regiment were reassigned to other companies or to other duties in the army. Lyavana, Gilthir and estolador all parted ways with the Anarquendor. Arandur and Ivrelith returned to the Order. Runhir and Idril were… well, that’s another story I’ll tell you about later. Sulein retired from military service, and Alveën, the scribe, returned to Shanaehan to deliver his report and probably to write a dull book about it. It wasn’t all departures though. One of the new members of the Anarquendor was Limethion. Limethion is a priest of Angharad, and he was a lich hunter during the Undead War. He was assigned to the Anarquendor to investigate the Limbus on the dragonworld, and how it related to Kalithé, the god of eternal life. Considering my own experience with the Limbus, I had my doubts about his attitude and intentions towards me. Not that I had time to dwell on them, as our first night on the dragonworld immediately proved to be an eventful one.

The evening started of pleasantly, several of our warriors receiving medals for their services in the undead war, while others received medals for the roles they played in the diplomatic negotiations with the kingdom of Adare. I never participated in the Undead War, and I hadn’t joined the anarquendor yet when the peace with Adare was concluded, so this had little relation to me. After this, we relaxed around the campfire and talk of idle things. Parthalan and Fin of the Calenar came by to visit and discuss the return of a human with whom the Anarquendor had a large quarrel in the past. Suddenly the night took a morbid turn. Something came flying into the firelight and someone shouted some words in the human tongue. A few Anarquendor leapt to their feet and rushed out of our encampment. To my embarrassment it took me long seconds to realize what had been thrown was a severed head, brutally mutilated, but clearly elven. I rushed out after the others, but by this time the perpetrators had vanished. I cursed my slow wit, but at the same time felt a sort of elation. The hostility and danger, the prospect of violence, it tugged at me. “Why are you smiling?” Condhagor Tegingûr suddenly asked me. He looked the least bit amused, neither had I realized I had been smiling. “Excitement, Condhagor.” I replied truthfully.
The Autherdir went to have a talk with Robert Gryffin, the human who had been responsible for the Green army’s intrenal affairs last year, to discuss the matter and demand satisfaction, but without a proper lead there was little more to be done at that time. Rain brought the night to a close, and as I had first watch, I was the last to go to bed.

The dreary weather persisted well into the next day. Dawn brought more rain and mist, accentuated with the occasional downpour. This day, when nightfall would mark the opening ritual, is traditionally a day of politics, both within the army itself as between the other armies. Elections would be held, to form the council that would govern the Green army this year. The poor weather caused these elections to be postponed for hours. I and most others of the Anarquendor took the opportunity to tend to our armor and weapons, or simply to unwind with games and conversations. Eferil had taught me some simple leather-crafting, which I was eager to try. Eventually the sky cleared and the camp was called to gather at the gate, where the elections would be held. As always I followed the lead of the Autherdir, and the candidates we support also were the victors of the elections. Juna Tunichtgut, a kender whom we approved of, was to govern the Green’s diplomatic affairs. Ch’Kar, an orc, was to be the army’s military leader. Somehow I figured Sylvitharion had a hand in this, but I always seem to relate orcs to Sylvitharion.
Politics out of the way, we returned to camp. The remainder of the afternoon proved mostly uneventful. Save for some conversations. I spoke to the Autherdir, the Condaghor, and Yava’In about the poor diplomatic proficiency command had shown the last night we stayed at Faerlavan. Whether my words made any impression I can’t say. The Autherdir had discarded the amulet she had recieved as a gift from the pack several years ago, and now the Condaghor ordered me to plant it in their camp as a sign that the bonds between the Anarquendor and the Pack were severed. It certainly didn’t seem likely the relations would be mended any time soon. My own relations with the Pack, and some of its members in particular, proved unblemished at any rate, as Karuvena and Mouril came by to visit a little while later. Mouril had assumed her beast form, which to me was a wonderful display of bravery. I clearly recalled my own trepidation when I showed myself to the Anarquendor in my beastform for the first time, and felt proud on Mouril’s behalf. The three of us spoke freely and comfortably for some time until eventually they had to take their leave. Karuvenna would participate in the consecration ritual of our army’s Circle of Power, something I learned she did almost every year.
I myself had a call to make in the Grey camp. I’d learned Gilthir resided there, and I much desired to speak with him. It was little more than a social call. Gilthir had no more ties with the Weylin military, and I had little use for Gilthir’s arcane knowledge, so our talks limited themselves to pleasantries. In my traveling to the grey camp I had a chance encounter with Hadingur just as he and a band of comrades got into a large brawl with some Chaos worshipers. I jumped in to help, eager to draw some blood. Soon enough the skirmish was over with few injuries on our end. It was a minor fight, but a welcome distraction all the same.

Back at home, preparations were being made for a large ritual Yava’In and Sylvitharion would be hosting. More humans and elves would be granted their totems. Last time when they performed this ritual on the world of dragons I’d not been allowed to attend on account of my bad relation with the totems. But all that was in the past now, having even received a totem of my own, so I’d be able to behold the splendor in full. Of our human friends, Kartos would recieve the Crane, Kartan the Ram, and Liri would recieve the rooster, like Sylvitharion. Of the elves, Limethion would be granted the raven. It surprised me he’d only now would take a totem, given how old he looked.
We had many guests attending from many different groups within the army, making this a grand affair. The ritual was a true spectacle, the shamans taking on the aspects of the totems one after the other, challenging the aspirants. Everyone made it through the ritual one way or the other, and there was much rejoicing. Afterwards I went to check on Sylvitharion, who had quietly redrawn after the ritual. I was shocked how drained and sick he looked. Opening himself to four totems in a row had all but depleted him, and it occurred to me shamans of greater renown had sometimes died confronting just one totem.

Night came and went, and with the new dawn began the game of dragons in full. Last night saw the end to the ‘Peace of the Dragons’, an accord between the armies to maintain peace until the game would start in earnest. With the peace over, armies were in full swing to conquer flags. We of the Anarquendor had taken on guard duty this morning, and witnessed this year’s first large scale battles from atop the ramparts of our army camp. It was a bloody tuck-o-war, in which Red had besieged and conquered Chaos. Our army marched from our gates but was repelled. A second sally drove the Red into their gates. There we besieged them and claimed the Chaos flag from their walls.
But our warriors had tasted blood and hungered for more. The army quickly prepared to march on Copper next, and now the Anarquendor would attend as well. By my own folly, which I don’t care to elaborate on, I was late to the fight, but still partook eagerly in the skirmishes that occurred in the rearguard as our army marched home victoriously, the copper banner in tow. Perhaps I was too eager, as I ended up with some nasty cuts and bruises, but I lived to tell the tale.

High noon put an end to all hostilities, a fierce burning sun driving everyone to find shelter and water. For a long while everyone relaxed, saving their strength. There’d be plenty opportunities to spend our energy yet. The first such opportunity arrived soon enough. Yuna, the kender, had located a dragon egg in a place called ‘the temple of hidden knowledge’. To collect this egg, an escort of warriors was arranged to protect the reliquary in which the dragon eggs could be transported. Of the Anarquendor, Autherdir Beriadanwen, Guron, Lalaith, Idilwen and I joined this escort. Idilwen and I, together with two humans, were tasked with carrying the reliquary. An important and honorable task, but equally frustrating, as the enchantments of the reliquary prohibited anyone who carried it from fighting or being attacked. An enervating experience, as the journey to the temple and back home was an arduous one.
We traveled to the temple, which was very near the entrance to the realm of Limbus. This alone was enough to make my hair stand on end. I cared not for that place, a dormant disquietude taking hold of me as I was reminded of the shadow of death. The temple itself was little better, reeking of dark damp earth. Some of the Anarquendor went indisde, but I was blessedly ordered to stay outside with the reliquary. The journey alas proved futile, as the egg was ‘protected by knowledge’. Getting back home proved a greater challenge. Various armies were on the move, and our escorted reliquary would prove an easy and tempting target. So we made our way to the Tribes first. After some bargaining, this collection of smaller groups that were pledged to no dragon of their own, had agreed to shelter us for a little while. As we waited I had some brief but humorous interactions with some of its members. When word came the red army was preoccupied sieging the Orc camp, we struck out for the home push. It was still a treacherous affair, as we’d have to pass between the deployed but distracted Red army and the still mustering Silver army, both enemies of ours. We made our move and passed mostly unharmed, though it had all the dangerous tension of wolves growling at each other. The rearguard drew some blood, but a full on pitched battle was averted. By the time we reached home, Idilwen and I, who had been unable to do anything while holding the reliquary, were decidedly high-strung. Perhaps this is what led me to my foolishness that night.

When darkness had fallen I visited the pack again, hoping for a good chat to vent some frustrations. As providence would have it, Karuvenna, Tarek and Mouril had received a request by an orc shaman in the Orc camp to help with a private matter. They had more or less decided not to go, but I convinced them otherwise, and to let me join them. Why? I honestly couldn’t tell you. It was a mortally dangerous and thickheaded idea, but maybe that’s exactly what I was looking for. A pretext to get into a big fight. In the end we traveled to the Orc camp, where we were informed that the shaman in question had already retired for the night. Much to my disappointment, we went back home without anything happening, that is, until we were ambushed in the field by a large group of chaos worshipers. I was overjoyed to finally have my brawl! I cleaved away with my sword as Tarek unleashed fierce magic and Karuvenna called upon spirit powers to raise mystical barriers. We fought our way clear and were already several paces away, when a dreadful realization struck me. Mouril was gone! I was mortified. My dimwitted idea had gotten her in trouble, possibly even killed! Even if she escaped from the horrors of Limbus, she’d find herself waking up in the graveyard all alone, terribly weakened by the ordeal. Driven by guilt I offered to go to the graveyard and wait in case her spirit would resurrect there. In the meantime Tarek and Karuvenna would hurry back to the Green camp and gather the Pack to mount a rescue. That’s how I found myself on the graveyard I so feared, in the dead of night, huddled in a corner and fighting a creeping and rising terror. When enough time had passed where I deemed she would have resurrected if it was going to happen at al, I left that harrowing place and hurried back home. There I learned Mouril was already returned. She had not been killed, but had been taken hostage to be tortured by some worshipers of Chaos who had a personal vendetta with the Pack. She was then set free to deliver a message. While she was definitely shaken, after the skills of several healers she eventually was no worse for wear. It being late at night, we all parted ways. I too searched the comfort of my bed, but I was a long time catching sleep.

I woke up late next morning. Fortune had it I wasn’t rostered till well after breakfast, so the slip in discipline wasn’t noticed. The Autherdir had assigned me a meeting with a human named Talius, from the Black camp. Through circumstance, the Blacks were our allies this year and Silver was the enemy, where last year it had been the other way around. Talius represented the Black infiltrators and stealth fighters, and the plan was to coordinate a Black and Green night mission. We discussed our options, but I was little impressed by what they had to offer. In the end I could only offer to relay his messages to my Autherdir, and bid him good day. As I departed, I noticed the Green reliquary had also just arrived in the Black camp, presumably to collect some eggs from our Black ally. I joined our army on the way home, expecting hostilities on the field. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The well defended reliquary was attacked by Red on its way back home, but the Green army would have none of it. We protected our cargo fiercely, driving the reds back into their camp. When everything seemed under control, Silver made a sally from its gates, charging our flanks. We wheeled our army around and fought of the attack, routing their army. At this point our army split up, positioning themselves in two blocks before the gates of the Red and Silver camp. Sometimes emissaries would come across and talk, sometimes small sallies were held and skirmishes were fought. The Anarquendor were field with the light infantry, fending of harrying attacks in the rear and flanks. I had little idea of what was happening, but Autherdir Beriadanwen seemed confident all was going to plan as she communed with Ch’Kar, the army general. It was only when I spotted the Black Reliquary passing behind our army on its way to the Green camp I understood our army’s deployment was only a ruse and diversion.
When the reliquary had made its run, our armies returned home, enjoying brief respite. The Red and Silver did not suffer their defeat kindly though. Soon both their armies marched on our gates, setting up for a lengthy siege. The Green army had vast numbers on their side however. I watched from the ramparts as several detachments of our army, that had hid over a nearby hill, quickly dispersed the Silver army with a surprise charge in the rear. After that the Red were also forced back. It was only when Golden army reinforced the Red and Silver that the battle turned and our gate fell, granting victory and banners to the winning armies.
While the Anarquendor had fought eagerly on the open field, we had been of little use in the compacted shield line fighting during the siege. As such I had felt of little use as the gate was battered down and the enemy armies poured in. After the battle whit the Autherdir’s permission, I spend the remainder of the day helping the humans repair the gate, for the first time in a long while putting my woodworking skills to good use. It was a notably calming sensation, this simple and natural use of my experience as a craftsmen, in a way much akin to my hunting in beastform. Time flew by and the evening was setting in by the time I and the humans finished our repairs and shared a drink.

I returned to our camp to find everyone preparing for the Grand Ritual of the Hunt. This ritual had been some time in the making, and was of major significance to the Green Army. As our forces assembled around the great Circle of Power, Yava’In and Sylvitharion called upon the spirits and the powers of nature to bring forth an ancient spirit of the hunt, Alcanas. Alcanas was one of the sons of the Green avatar, who had died many centuries ago. Now his spirit would be called again and imbue the body of Karthan, a strong and imposing human and mellon-an-Anarquendor. To prove the worthiness of Karthan, and the Green camp in general, Karthan and five other hunters competed in a brutal survival of the strongest, fighting each other without remorse. Karthan came out on top, and received Alcanas’ blessing. After the successful completion of this great spectacle, everyone returned home, exhausted but satisfied.

Feeling elated, Sylvitharion and I went to visit the Hairulf for some drinks and laughter. They received other guests as well, and I learned many names. Bjorn Vasgardson, Asger, Olaf the Brave, Ajumen, Nork, Zuruk, Iva, Alona… We wasted much of the night there, only briefly interrupted by alarm at the gate. While most of the humans had taken to heavy drinking, I was till mostly sober. I quickly borrowed a sword from Olaf and helped push out some warriors from the Copper army, who had hoped to breach our defenses in the death of night. The crisis averted, I returned to party at Hairulf, where I remained with Sylvitharion until the sky began to lighten. I Intended to go to bed then, but before I could reach our campsite I ran into Tarias and Idilwen. Spies had managed to slip into the camp during the attack on the gate, and the hunt was on. I joined the two of them, and we quickly found and subdued one of the infiltrators. This second crisis resolved, the three of us set out to find our beds, only to be told an egg had been stolen. We considered our duties done for the night however, and at the first light of day, I finally crawled into bed.

Despite the lateness of my retiring, I managed to be up for duties in a reasonably timely fashion. Being the last day of the war of the dragons, today would see little action prior to the Final Battle. All the armies were preparing, rites and ceremonies were held, prayers were said. I was invited to a talk at the Pack of Tarek. The amulat that signified the bond between the Pack and the Anraquendor, which I had planted in their camp several days ago, had finally been found. Tarek understood the implications, and told me he fully respected the opinion of any being five-hundred years older than him. He regretted the severing of the ties, and hoped amity was still an option.
Another bond severely tested was between the Anarquendor and the Green Avatar. Tension had been building several years now, the command of the Anarquendor deeming the Green Avatar too softhearted to truly represent the ways of nature. Yava’In and Sylvitharion had even more reasons to be offended by the Green Avatar, feeling she had little appreciation for the effort the two shamans put in to the rituals they performed on behest of the Green Camp. This amounted to a confrontation, when the two of them marched up to the Avatar, threw a scrambled egg at her feet, and declared this to be a representation of her worth as an avatar of nature. They got away with it again, the Avatar’s lack of character prohibiting retaliation.

The remainder of that morning was spend on preparing for war. The final battle proved to be a brutal and inelegant affair. Both alliances spend the better part of an hour wheeling, pivoting and grouping together, until two massive battle-lines had formed. The result was a bloody pitched battle with little maneuvering, just dumb brute force. In this the Green alliance with Blue and Black was the superior, having the numbers to simply overwhelm its opposition. As always, the Anarquendor held to the back, fighting as light infantry, strengthening thinning lines or beating of flank maneuvers. Ever driven to the bloodshed, I eventually found myself in the front lines, where I engaged in the most brutal parts of the fighting. After a long winded battle, the Silver flag was surrounded and captured, its alliance scattered and beaten. Green took the victory.

After the battle all hostilities between armies was brought to an end. No more wars would be fought. All that was left to do was await the final count of the dragon eggs, which would tell us what dragon would rule the coming year. The Anarquendor relaxed with food and drink, tending to our minor wounds and letting go of the anxieties of war. We received some guests, most notable of which was the kender Yuna. Her devotion to a Green victory this year had been fanatical, for which she had many personal reasons, and because we knew the count would be tight, she was wrecked by nerves till nightfall. Eventually all the camps gathered for the closing ritual, and waited with bated breath. The count was indeed close, twenty-three to twenty-four eggs, in favor of the silver army. It was a disaster! The Silver, who had sworn to be our allies and help us win this year, had betrayed us and taken the victory for themselves. The hostility this bred would linger for years.
The mood in the Green camp was morbid that night. As we sat around the low burning campfire, yuna sang several songs, proving her great skill as a minstrel, but her heart was nowhere in it. She was downtrodden and distracted, feeling betrayed and miserable. Karuvena also showed up, later joined by Mouril. They too were heartbroken. The Pack would break up, torn apart by internal turmoil. Tarek would lay down his claim as Alpha of the pack. Karuvena felt lost. In a spur of emotion she requested to join us to the Weylin Woods. My heart sank as she asked this, as I knew how command would respond to this. I admit to some cowardice as I said I’d ask and took her message to command. Autherdir Beriadanwen and Condaghor Tegingûr spoke to her for several minutes explaining why this was a poor course of action. Karuvena seemed to take the refusal kindly enough. She and Mouril said their goodbyes.
I spend a few more hours around the camp, hoping to drown that night’s misery, but to little avail.

When morning came, the Anarquendor cleaned camp quickly and efficiently. For once I was eager to leave this place behind.”