Chpt. X: Return to Shanaehan

Rauron says:

Anar DF 2017 Springtime Mural

“Yeah, this is a shorter one. After everything that had happened in the previous drawing, I’m sure it’s easy to imagine I wasn’t feeling very artistic. It took me a while to find the time to make it. This story starts of immediately where I left the previous drawing, with the Anarquendor traveling back to the Weylin Woods.

It was the morning after the final battle and the closing ritual of the feast of dragons. The Black Camp had won, and our alliance had been victorious. Everyone in the Green camp had celebrated long and hard, so the early hours of dawn were particularly quiet as we packed our camp and silently made our way into the surrounding forest. Without any trouble we arrived at the grove from whence we would teleport. We gathered in a circle and waited for the druids in our homeland to initiate the natural magics that connect the lands. At the assigned moment the mystical forces began to take hold and everything went as it always had. The landscape blurred in a fantastic display of light, until suddenly something went wrong. In the confusion of the spell I was only dimly aware of the others standing near me, but when I opened my eyes I briefly made eye-contact with Efferil. I could see from the look on his face he felt it too. In the falling sensation of the teleportation, it was as if the two of us where suddenly yanked sideways, and I completely lost my footing. Suddenly I was tumbling through a magic torrent, sweeping me along like a rag doll in a stormwind. I caught flashes of Efferil suffering the same fate, but I saw none of the others. It lasted only seconds, but in the rush of confusion it might as well have been minutes before the two of us abruptly collided with solid ground.

As we gathered our bearings we quickly concluded we had indeed returned to our own world, but the spell had dropped us somewhere far to the south west of our destination. We had apparently appeared close to the human city Wyndham, bordering the Quicksilver River. It seemed only Eferil and I had been cast out in the wrong place. We took a moment speculating what had gone wrong, but with nothing to go on this was pointless conjecture. We were later told one of the druids had passed out from the heat, which seemed like a plausible explanation. It was indeed a very hot summer. I had some other theories, though I never voiced them. Since I had been touched by Chaos magic only two days earlier, it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to think that had something to do with it. Another option was that Sylvitharion and Autherdir Tegingûr had something to do with it. They were going to help me hide my transformation, but the druids would certainly note my appearance when I emerged from the teleportation spell. I figured it was very well possible they sabotaged the spell somehow, perhaps even knocking that one druid unconscious, to deliberatly sidetrack me and Eferil, allowing us to enter Weylin from an unseen direction.

Whatever the case, Efferil and I were still facing a sizeable challenge. The humans and us were in a tenuous peace, which meant there was no open warfare. That didn’t mean incidents didn’t occur regularly, and elves in human lands was still something of a touchy issue. What’s more, my appearance was likely to make things even trickier. Fortunately Efferil had spent much of his youth in human lands. He knew their language and, because of his history courting the wrong side of the law, knew how and where to make underhand dealings. I mostly kept myself hidden as he navigated us through the human lands, on board a ship bound upriver, towards the Weylin Woods. This journey gave me a first glimpse of live in the big human cities; an overwhelming experience, but I won’t bother you with that here.
The danger didn’t stop at the edges of the Weylin woods though. We jealously guard the borders of our forest realm, and while Efferil might easily make contact with the nearest patrol and excuse himself, I was unlikely to be received kindly. Autherdir Tegingûr had firmly imprinted on me his hatred for all things he deemed unnatural, and many of our kind share that sentiment with zeal. Even if I was allowed to explain myself, I’d certainly be taken into custody and subjugated to all manner of tests I had no intention of undergoing. So Efferil and I continued to travel stealthily into our homeland, avoiding patrols and outposts, until after a harrowing three weeks we finally made our rendez-vous with the rest of our regiment.

My own stay with the regiment was brief, which I did not regret. The actions of Tegingûr and Sylvitharion on the dragonworld had filled me with unease. Indilwen no longer stayed with the regiment. Officially she had been called away to further her training, but her disappearance would always remain suspicious to me. I never saw her again. As for me, I was to return to the city Shanaehan with all haste, to complete my mission for Autherdir Gawain. Of course, in my half-beast form it was impossible for me to appear anywhere near our capitol. As promised, Autherdir Tegingûr provided the answer. I did not like relying on him, but I had little choice. He had arranged for me to meet with a particularly skilled illusionist outside of Shanaehan. This mysterious figure placed a spell on me, which would disguise my appearance. The spellcaster warned me the spell was not fool-proof, and it would need to be replenished every month. Neither would it work outside of our realm, nor would it fool anyone who had already seen me in my beast form. With all these warnings in the back of my head I entered the capitol with a cold sweat on my back, sure that my cover would be blown within minutes. Everything seemed to go smoothly though. No one eyed me suspiciously, no guards rushed up to put me down. I forced myself to walk calmly up to the military quarter, where I presented Autherdir Gawain with the vial of blood of the Chaos Avatar, as well as the dagger with which I had stabbed him.

After that, strange to say, my stay in Shanaehan pretty much returned to normal. Even though I myself could still see the half-form I was trapped in, no one else seemed to notice, and all continued as it had before. I joined officer training again and attended lectures. Soon I made contact with Aithilin once more. We met again in one of the many gardens of Shanaehan. I was nervous, dreading that she might somehow see through the illusion, and when she first saw me it was easy to imagine she hesitated. But if she did, she recovered herself so quickly it was impossible to say if it had been real. If she had seen my true form she would have said something. Instead she joyously welcomed my safe return, and soon it was as if I had never left. I told her bits and pieces of what had transpired on the dragonworld and she told me of what had happened at court.
While I had no standing orders other than my training, the passing winter months were far from peaceful on my part. As the weeks progressed, I grew increasingly anxious about my half form. The monthly illusion held out fine, but it was only a temporary solution. At first I had not been worried, certain that eventually I’d master this shifting as I had mastered my beast form. But no matter how often I ventured into the secluded woods, meditated and focused, nothing changed. It was only when the form persisted that I began to realize the type of trouble I could be in. Fortunately I did not have to deal with the issue all by myself. Tîwion had requested leave from active duty to pursue his own research, delving into the arcane secrets of chaotic magic. He had taken up residence in Shanaehan, and now inhabited a well stocked workshop of sorts. He was very willing to help me any way he could, as this would help him in his studies as well. We met on several occasions, but it quickly became clear there could be no easy answer to this problem.
Eager to find a solution, I turned my attention to the tales of Dargas, an elven shapeshifter of the world of dragons. It was said he could assume many forms at will. Perhaps in those legends lay an answer to my predicament. But to learn more about him, I’d need to travel to the First Dragonworld; a mystical place pulled out of the stream of time. An opportunity presented itself when I briefly returned to the Anarquendor regiment in early spring. While there I had several meaningful conversations. Condaghor Yava’In, while she had appeared terrified by the ritual of Sylvitharion, now seemed content with the situation; a change of heart that I could not phantom, but it was not my place to question a superior officer. She did have an assignment for me, which required me to travel to the First Dragonworld, making my journey there an official matter. Obviously this suited me perfectly. Her instructions to find out more about the origin and workings of the dragons, could be combined easily with my own objectives. Eferil would join me on this mission as well, for which I was grateful. I could use all the help I could get. I was also assigned to attend Yava’In on her journey to Mauvetië.
I also spoke with Alyan. While the corruptive magic of chaos was not his area of expertise, his knowledge of the arcane and ritualistic in general is vast. At length we discussed my situation, and what could be done. He promised he’d look in to any means of increasing my resistance to the corruption, and maybe thereby undoing the damage.
Before I returned to Shanaehan, I also had a wonderful conversation with Lalaith. She had helped me out a lot on the last feast of the dragons, and even now after the change she was exceptionally supportive. We spoke of home and family, of friends and loved ones. She didn’t talk to me about how to deal with my situation, but rather she simply addressed me as a friend in desperate need of some idle conversation; anything to feel normal. Even though she could see how I looked, she was perfectly at ease and made me feel the same for the first time in months.

Upon my return to the capital things moved quickly. Our mission to the First Dragonworld was coming up fast and I had preparations to make. Tîwion provided me with an amulet that I was to wear. He would later analyze it to measure the arcane residue. I met with Aithilin, who returned the dagger with which I had attacked the Chaos Avatar. Aithilin informed me the courtlady deemed it proper the dagger should return to me, now that it had served its purpose. This was unexpected, but welcome all the same. There was still a dark curse on this dagger that I needed to get rid of. Having the dagger returned to me by Aithilin also confirmed a connection between Autherdir Gawain and the courtlady, though the details still eluded me.
Only days before I would meet up with Eferil a large fire destroyed a part of the library of Shanaehan. The damage was minmal; most of the writings lost in the fire were half forgotten texts of inconsequential figures, relevant only to overzealous historians. It still caused somewhat of a shock through the community, as fires are a very rare and much guarded occurrence. Still, it wouldn’t have caught my attention if I was not approached the very next day by an unusual character who seemed to know too much about me. He introduced himself as Miilaethorn and claimed to operate on behalve of a mutual friend of ours, though he refused to be more specific. He then hinted at my familiarity with Chaos magic, even implying he knew of my condition. This instantly put me on edge. While he showed no signs of aggression, I immediately braced myself for a fight, feeling for the dagger by my side. None of this alarmed him. He continued to explain he knew of my mission to another world, so at the least he had some military connections. Was he working for Autherdir Gawain? On this other world I might be able to find out more about an ancient elven spellcaster, who had been branded a heretic and had fled custody many centuries ago. He too had delved into the art of corrupting magics. His book could prove invaluable to someone like me. If I could return with this book, Miilaethorn promised he and his associates would help out in any way they could. Anything to help out someone who shared their interest in the forbidden, he said.

Caught of guard, I refrained from making a move then and there. I was at a terrible disadvantage, not knowing who I was dealing with. Nor could I risk having my cover blown. Miilaethorn and I parted quietly and I prepared for my mission as best I could. I would depart the next day, to rendez-vous with Eferil in a glade a couple of days traveling away from the city. Before I left I tried to contact Aithilin, to hear if the courtlady had anything to do with this bizarre encounter, but I could not find her. I’d have to go by instinct and hope for the best.
I met with Eferil at the designated time and place. We knew the First Dragonworld could only be reached at certain times, though the means of getting there were a bit vague. We knew it worked much like the summoning of the dragons on which our druids relied to transport us back and forth to the Feast of the Dragons, but other than that it was a wild guess. We made our camp and for a couple of days we settled down, opening ourselves to whatever arcane call we might perceive. Much to our surprise, it actually worked, but I’ll tell you that story some other time.”