Author Topic: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles  (Read 7352 times)

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Offline Wildfire

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Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
« Reply #45 on: February 20, 2014, 07:55:30 PM »
He ran up the steep slope dodging large trees and on occasion toppling small ones. He sensed he was getting close to his destination. He had come all this way on an undeniable urge that drove him from the sacred bush. As he reached the top of the ridge his breath came to him with challenge. He needed to rest a while.

Finally cresting to the height of this leg of impressive foothills that, after climbing it, he felt should by all rights be named mountains he took a deep breath and tilted his head back to face the night sky. His broad, muscular chest heaved in its thirst for air. Sweat built up on his thick brow and cooled him with the breeze. He leaned upon a large rock outcrop that if he were of a mind would make decent shelter.

He took out his water skin and greedily drank it down. He had more so in his mind he wasn’t being too careless in his rationing. He casually walked around knowing this would help him catch his breath. He stopped occasionally and placed his enormous hands on his knees and bent over in a stretch. He felt alive! The consuming fulfillment of fatigue had never felt so good to him.

He looked out from the hill crest to take in the overland sight. At three different points in the sky he could see that Akadi, the deep blue moon, was near a waning half, Istisha, the emerald green moon, was near a waxing half, and Grumbar, the brown moon, was in a waning gibbous phase. The three of them cast an eerie glow upon the trees. To him it was as though he was seeing them for the first time with new eyes. His heart pounded in excitement despite his efforts to calm it down. There was a magic in those moons and it filled him with purpose. He gently felt his belt pouch to be sure the five berries were still in his protection. Satisfied that they were he took another sip from his water skin.

As he finished his gulp he felt an energy from deep within him and from outside of him all at once. It was a vibration as from a sound, a deep bass hum that seemed to come from the ground itself. He looked all about him checking to be sure it wasn’t his kin to come collect him. No, it was something else. He knelt down and touched the ground with both of his hands. He could feel the depth of the emotion tied with this drone. He looked ahead to see if he could see the source of this sonic fountain. Well ahead of him he saw a glow that he would have missed were he not actively seeking it as he was now. He could barely see it for its distance but it had distinct colors much the same as the moons in the sky above him. The pieces of his life and recent events began to take shape and make sense. He could feel his destiny and his purpose. He didn’t think about what it was he just knew it and it was almost in view.

His legs began to move him quickly and effortlessly down the hillside towards the glow.
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Offline Johan

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Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
« Reply #46 on: March 14, 2014, 04:28:58 PM »
The deep, constant vibration of the drone, delivered by the gathered gnarcheon, was felt in the bodies of all who were at the grove that night. Pine needles danced upon the floor of the forest in response to the drone, and lights from each of the four fires flowed through the night on the energy currents driven by the drone and seemingly guided by the four Chankathur who threw their wild spirits into the night.

Then Maragarn’s flute joined the voices of the Ritual, and the swirling halo that encircled the Grove of Needles reached in towards the center of the circle. Towards the white light that thrust up from Mahiya’s fire.

The physical world in the grove quivered with the power of the drone. The divine fires put forth their lights according to the will of the song that Varshya sang, Eswarth and Mirriam beat, Cailyder graced, and Maragarn knitted together. Every living thing in the grove was joined as one body for a brief moment.

Then, when the drone seemed set to break stones asunder, and the song of the Chankathur seemed set to shatter the lines that kept two from becoming one, the lights all mingled together in a flash of brilliant luminence that left a spectral image in one’s eyes and rained down upon the grove as from a Vallenwood. In that instant, when the fires’ lights all joined in one silent explosion, silence fell suddenly upon the Grove of Needles. The drone abruptly ended.

Most of the convened gnarcheon had participated in this ritual in the past and knew what to expect. Some who had not before participated had been briefed by their mentors and preceptors. Still there were others for whom this was a real experience; these few could only look on in wonder, somehow able to see with great clarity Mahiya’s fire and the few participants there. As though the distance that separated each gnarcheon with Mahiya’s fire was but a few strides.

They looked on in silence while a tiny figure stepped forward, somehow looking simultaneously directly into the eyes of everyone present, and she spoke softly though the power of the ritual brought her matronly voice throughout the Grove to all who were there, speaking to each in their native language…such was the power of the ritual: to bring all gnarcheon together as one, so that all understood each other.

“Welcome, children,” Shankaria said, “to the Grove of Needles. This year there is much to speak about, much to learn, much to share. We have come far, but there is more work before us than there is behind.”

Bareglar sobbed his joy, recognizing in an instant his true family.
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Offline Johan

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Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
« Reply #47 on: April 27, 2014, 03:53:29 PM »
The opening drone ended as it had the last two years: with a multi-chromatic rain of lights floating down from above the grove to settle into the pine needles that carpeted the ground.

Da’khaire watched and listened to the little druid who seemed to reign over the forest’s warders – the Gnarcheon, in her own tongue – as she spoke of those brothers and sisters who had died since the last festival. Da’khaire spent a great deal of time isolated from his brethren, however, as there were not many druids where he lived, west of Kurr and Lake Vallensun, so he didn’t recognize any of the names.

This, he was beginning to understand, was the boring part of the night.

He supposed that if he knew any of the names uttered by the little gnome, it might have a different meaning to him, but as it was this was nothing more than listening to a roster of names of people he had never met.

He was very curious therefore why the half-orc who stood just a stride or two to his right emoted so much at this roll call. It was possible, Da’khaire supposed, that the half-orc knew some, many, or even all of the names called out. But one might not expect quite the level of happiness that the half-orc showed during this funeral account. With every name uttered by the little gnome, the half-orc seemed to grow happier.

Da’khaire watched as the goliath that had earlier been wrestling – the very same who had led the drone – leaned into the half-orc and held a close and quiet conversation with him. After that conversation, the half-orc seemed to settle in and attend with the sort of sobriety that such a telling warranted.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bareglar attended happily while the little gnome spoke to him. She opened her conversation with a remembrance of those Brothers and Sisters who had returned to the Great Cycle over the last year. There were few more than a score of such departed, and as she uttered name after name Bareglar watched as one spectral spirit after another graced her presence at the center fire. There were a few feral gnomes, more than one human, a great antlered centaur, and Bareglar was amazed to see his own wolf friend in the front of the audience when the little gnome uttered the name “Sharchute”. The wolf started straight into Bareglar’s eyes and smiled.

In his weakened state through the cold moons, Bareglar had not had the mental acuity to understand that his wolf-savior had been of such intelligence. Thinking on it, he could not until now have told whether the wolf was a male or female, though the spirit-form was that of a she-wolf. He was also not until then aware that the she-wolf might carry an orcish name. ”Sharchute” in his father’s tongue meant “Delivering one”.

In this confusion, he looked about, and met Bal-Jhor’s eyes. The goliath was standing next to him, and leaned down to whisper to him. “I did not know Sharchute.” He said, “But I know her story and I will tell you tomorrow, if you wish. Know now, however, that she was no typical wolf. She was chosen by Her and through her life whelped many Wolf Lords. Some of her children are here tonight, others are in distant lands doing Her will.”

That thought brought great comfort to Bareglar. “Thank you.” He said. “I would be grateful to know more…tomorrow.” Bal-Jhor placed a huge and heavy, but comforting, hand on Bareglar’s shoulder and nodded earnestly.
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Offline Wildfire

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Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
« Reply #48 on: August 25, 2014, 08:48:29 PM »
Ashe looked out at the faces that were gathered at the symbolic fires and entwined circles. Many of the young faces were filled with hope and innocent wonder at what they had just witnessed. He imagined that he would have to now include himself in that list. While he was by no means young (he was man quite beyond his years) he felt like a child at seeing the dazzling display. It brought to him a warm kindredness in spirit with the others that were witness to and partook of the spectacular ceremony. He was reminded that it was so easy for one to get lost in the day to day business that the slog of melancholy can deafen them to true music of their soul. The recent events certainly focused his purpose but it was this ceremony that made him appreciate why.

The brush wardens gathered to the central fire as Shankaria spoke the names of those that had passed to the next cycle. Ashe knew some of the names- a hierophant of his stature would. He had made numerous contacts through his years just by who he was and the reputation he had gotten during that time. He was not sad to hear of their deaths. He had known quite well that their voices would be mingled and joined as one and heard through the Vallenwood’s everlasting melody. His voice, as would the voices of everyone here, one day would be part of that sacred song. He smiled thinking not of their absence but of their presence and the life they had. So often it was that grief, and occasionally deep despair, would take the ones who’s lives were touched by the one that died. It was a hard emotion to overcome. Ashe often thought that it was the naked realization that a piece of themselves had died that made the death of a loved one so difficult. He knew that if one allowed that seemingly insurmountable gloom to pass that it would ultimately lead to celebrating the life that was being mourned. If one could embrace the epiphany that a piece of that person, in fact, lives through them, they would feel a freedom like no other.

He knew it, but couldn’t always feel it.

The shadow hanging over his thoughts quickly left. This night was far too precious to him to yield to the past. He was in the present and what a blessed, shining gift that was!
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Offline Johan

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Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
« Reply #49 on: August 31, 2014, 12:16:33 AM »
As she-gnome elder spoke to Bareglar it was hard for the half-orc to not scrutinize the colorful filaments of light that in the wake of the ritual drone continuously rained down in the Grove of Needles. It was like standing amidst a shower of streamers of cloth that fell to the earth, but of light instead of cloth. Vibrantly colored light that continued to pulse in time to the rhythm that had carried the drone.

But the little gnome was speaking to Bareglar, and he did his best to attend her. He did not know her…he did not know anyone at the grove this night…but she had a remarkable presence that compelled Bareglar such that he could not pull his attention from her bright green eyes that seemed to look directly into him.

After the roll call of those who had returned to the Great Cycle, she allowed a few score of heartbeats to pass before she continued. Enough for anyone present to offer silent respects to the newly dead, should they need.

“Many of you have seen,” she started again at last, “the Blood Tear.” As she uttered these words, the raining lights swirled and coalesced, highlighting a portion of the night sky, low on the eastern horizon. Bareglar’s eyes followed the lightshow and landed – as intended, no doubt – on a comet of sorts that was so small that it might be completely missed by anyone who was not a stargazer. Although many of those collected nodded gravely and agreed that they had seen this heavenly body, at least some had not seen it. Bareglar was comforted to know that he was not alone in his ignorance.

“The Blood Tear”, the elder continued, ”in many parts of Elsenban is regarded as a symbol of doom. Of destruction. And it is feared as such. But we are aware that it is not a sign of fate, evil, death, or doom. Rather, it is a sign of change. Great change that is coming to the lands and her people. And we Children of Mahiya know that change is wrought often with pain.”

“There are tumultuous times ahead.” She said with conviction. “There will be change. There will be pain. There will be blood. Her face was serious now, as a parent that is delivering an important message. “There will be a return to the Great Cycle, possibly for many of us here in the grove this night.”

“Bear in mind that with the Blood Tear evident, the change has already begun. But by the same token, the Tear is yet low on the horizon, which tells that the change is still in its infancy. There is a long road of change ahead.”

“Let us first talk of the significant changes that have come upon us this cycle past.”
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Offline Wildfire

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« Reply #50 on: September 11, 2014, 08:21:17 PM »
Yarlia’s attention keened to a sharp edge upon hearing Shankaria speak of recent changes. Her world was one of constant study and that study did not concern the world beyond the borders of Karyn’Zyth, the elven homeland. For her to take a journey beyond the borders was to open her mind to the outside world. It was often spoken that all of nature is one. What affects one thing affects all things. Suddenly Yarlia felt that the self imposed isolationism of her people could be their undoing. Their withdrawal was understandable but was hardly sustainable. Perhaps the Blood Tear that the gnome elder spoke of would also be a sign of a change in her kin.

On the other hand, she had seen the destruction of many elven villages and even the now decrepit remnants of Crusindiar, once a city for all to meet and trade in peace. The overgrown and burned out shells of buildings and halls she saw was a nauseating reminder of the raw carnage that could be inflicted upon a community. It was difficult to shake those images from her memory. The hope and promise that was there and the laughter that no doubt echoed off of those stone walls haunted her. Yet it was those promises of hope that allowed her to believe that things could be different…that her mentor and, for all intents and purposes, her second mother, Varshya, could bury the searing animosity for outside races- specifically humans.

Yarlia intently watched Varshya enter the center fire circle where all of the high ranking druids convened and the others gathered around. She was once again dressed in her green and gold ceremonial robes that had been shed at the beginning of her song. The young apprentice witnessed Varshya scan the crowd until her eyes came upon the one elder human among the many gathered here. She knew her master well enough to know that when she twitched her eyebrow that it was an unfavorable judgment that she had cast upon the elder human. It did not seem to matter to Varshya that he was standing with all of the others. He was a human and that was enough.

In Varshya’s address to the crowd she spoke of The Shadow Riders (the unofficial agents of Xanthakos) being seen more frequently in the open plains between the city states, Xanthakos, and north of Kaaryn’Zyth. It was a lonely stretch of land that was claimed by nothing except the stench of war.

She also spoke of gargan (a general term used for common humanoid and giant enemies) attacks increasing in the elven forest homeland. This was quite an unusual turn of events since most of the gargan had been routed from the forest centuries ago. It was enough of a concern to worry Varshya which meant to Yarlia that it must be more significant than she ever would have guessed.

Yarlia heard concerned whispering from her elven kin behind her. One newly inducted disciple, Jerril, tapped Yarlia on the shoulder and she asked, “Yarlia, do you know of anything about this? How come we have not heard anything until now?” Yarlia wanted the question to wait until Varshya was finished with her telling but she needed to prevent a possible panic among the others. “The situation is being dealt with by those that deal with it. Rest assured that if it’s a concern to Varshya that many are out keeping ours safe.”

Jerril wasn’t entirely satisfied with Yarlia’s response. Not being told that her home was in danger seemed too secretive in her mind. It was her home after all so why shouldn’t she be told? Jerril leaned back toward Yarlia’s ear and pressed the point, “It seems wrong to keep that threat a secret. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Yarlia was quickly getting infuriated. She wanted to hear Varshya speak. “Do you think it wise that all tender information be known by everyone? I’m sure that would swiftly compromise the security of homeland. Do you think it wise that our folk needlessly panic? Have you ever known our kin to not take precautions to securing our forest? Someday you may be a keeper of secrets and know that not all information is for everyone. Some information is veiled for a reason. Now pay attention to Mistress Varshya.”

Varshya also spoke of a meeting that an elven scouting team had with a band of adventurers and a pack of Shadow Riders simultaneously. Each group had members of the Nightstar family-presumably brothers. The adventurers, who called themselves the Shadow Hunters, were quite clearly fighting the Shadow Riders. They were fighting over the sacred Elemental Eyes which is what initially drew the scouting team to the adventurers. The elven scouts aided the Shadow Hunters in beating back the Riders. It was apparently a fortuitous decision to help them because the Shadow Hunters were sent by Zebulon (whispers murmured through the crowd upon hearing the name) and not the petty fortune seekers they were thought to be.

Varshya finished her part in the address, “The ancient Nightstar Family still rules Xanthakos. They’ve sent one of their own to lead a campaign it would seem. I do not expect that they’ll abandon it so easily.”

Varshya’s words hit Yarlia like a hammer. Change was upon them indeed.
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Offline Johan

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« Reply #51 on: September 28, 2014, 01:24:20 PM »
Dakhaire watched as a tiny sprite flitted up toward the front of Mahiya’s fire to address the gathered brethren. His minute, spritely  stature was distractingly accentuated by his proximity to the giant centaur who had earlier admonished Dakhaire; the sprite barely stood as tall as the centaur’s ankle.

Although Dakhaire had only seen Miriiam twice before tonight…at Dakhaire’s previous visits to this festival…it always seemed to Dakhaire that Mirriam carried his own blueish glow about with him, much like the color of Akadi’s fire. That glow played with the iridescent light strands that rained down to canvass the Grove of Needles as a result of the communal ritual that all present had cast. Even more: Mirriam’s diaphanous wings caused the falling light to refract and eddy about his little person, making him seem so much more like a small air elemental.

Dakhaire was fortunate, in a sense, that Mirriam first spoke of the eastern-most part of the Great Forest, which was where Dakhaire spent most of the year. Mirriam picked up on Varshya’s narration of Shadow Riders in the plains east of the Great Forest. They didn’t stop there, he had said.

Mirriam was an orator at heart, and he had a powerful presence that lent emotion to his listeners, whether they wanted to listen or not. Shadow Riders, he said, along with their Shade Wolf mounts had come to their forest, and had even gained a foothold in the city of Kurr, just north of Lake Vallensun. This was Dakhaire’s homeland, and the gravity in Mirriam’s voice was easily internalized: the Great Forest was as war with Xankathos, even if she didn’t know it yet.

This explained the strange things that Dakhaire himself had been hearing and seeing in his homeland: wolf conversations in the night there were NOT wolves...these voices carried through the night on a malevolent air, and made Dakhaire’s spine crawl. Dakhaire had found huge, black, hooked claws at the scenes of numerous marauder attacks on caravans, travelers, and settlements. And the occasional dead outlander that no one seemed to be able to identify.

Mirriam went on to talk about war in the middle portion of the Great Forest too: Prince Ravenwood had declared war on the wildlander tribes there. Dire news, indeed. News that angered Dakhaire almost inexplicably. With Xanthakos pushing west, it would do no good to have the west at war with herself. Dakhaire wondered fleetingly whether the Rhohannus / Wildlander war wasn’t part of Xanthakos’ machinations.

But the Rhohannus / Wildlander war wasn’t as black-and-white as it might be. It seemed that Rhohannus herself had split allegiances. Not all the barons of the city-state of Rhohannus were sympathetic to Prince Ravenwood’s efforts to subjugate the wildlanders. The Barons Ashburn (of the Barony of Mharqual), and DeMorgyn (of the Barony of Naulgrath), along with the Baroness DeMorgynand (of the Barony of Verindoc) all aligned themselves with Prince Ravenwood. Meanwhile, the Barons Spearson (of the Barony of Spearson), Jalgraxa  (of the Barony of Travantias), and  the Baroness K’Aviak (of the Barony of Durthain) all had allied themselves with the Wildlanders. The two Wildlander nations – the Wildlanders and the Bavaan Scyth – were united due to this declaration of Prince Ravenwood’s, but overall these were bleak happenings.

By the time that Mirriam had completed his speech, Dakhaire didn’t know if he should be angry or sad…or both. He also wondered whether he was the only one to suspect that this Rhohannus / Wildlander war might be promulgated out of Xanthakos.
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Offline Wildfire

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« Reply #52 on: November 03, 2014, 07:42:14 PM »
Cailyder listened to Mirriam’s report with an unwavering intensity. Her province was also part of the Great Forest and the political events could, in some way affect her. After Mirriam told his tale of events there was a somber cloud hanging over the group of Mahiya’s children. Shankaria herself, a delightful soul, even seemed to take a reserved air.

Cailyder looked over the crowd illuminated by the glow of the chromatic fires. Their faces seemed almost ghostly in the primal light. These were the faces of the past and the future. Eventually some would return to the cycle and others would carry their knowledge. Each generation building on the last and hopefully not repeating their mistakes. She could count on the children of Mahiya to honor the wisdom of that course for the most part but the children of civilization she doubted would. So often they repeated their ancestors ways as was evident by Mirriam’s tale.

Cailyder then saw Eswarth, who was clearly taller than anyone embracing the fire, step forward. He had his part of recent events to tell his brothers and sisters. He began, in his bass voice, by telling the tale of a magnificent champion of Mahiya, a centaur of utmost devotion and conviction. His name was Teruss and he was the warden of a forest which is now in the northern city state of Maruchek. Though he was a child of Mahiya he was a devotee of Istisha. Through Istisha did he perform incredible acts of healing, healing the very forest itself.

Eswarth, the mighty centaur, continued with a notably regrettable tone. Cailyder, feeling this story perhaps better than most could, listened with unshakable attention. Terrus, Eswarth explained, fell into a foul melancholy. To this day it has never been understood why this happpend. Some speculated that he was corrupted by The Void and others say he became too protective of his forest and to prevent it from dying he grew closer to death. His melancholy grew into despair and then a burning hatred. It was rumored that Istisha, feeling that Teruss had lost his way, abandoned him. Others maintained that it was Teruss that abandoned Istisha. In either case, Terrus became that which he, at one time, would have most despised- a blighter…a fallen druid that destroyed rather than protected. Even his very form began to change, Eswarth explained. Once a proud, majestic centaur, Teruss twisted into what collectively was known as The White Demon. A corrupted version of what he once was. The Teruss that once protected the forest was now gone.

Eswarth looked at the ground and to Cailyder seemed to offer himself and Teruss some self reflection and a prayer. He was not ashamed of what his kin had done for he knew that there were no accidents. Rather he pondered the potential of what could have been. Perhaps everything was in the right and a plan was proceeding as it should have. Maybe, Teruss was chosen.

Eswarth’s demeanor changed as he told the story. He further explained that The white Demon had become obsessed with pain and death but wanted to procure those things that were life. In his pursuit he found Istisha’s Tear. Istisha’s Tear was one piece of three that formed the Eye of Istisha. The White Demon reveled in his perceived victory. In his greed for life, The White Demon, Eswarth explained, was now trapped in an obscure seaside cave. Since Teruss had chosen the way of death and brought death to the forest he once protected he would now suffer with protecting life. He would be the guardian of the Tear of Istisha.

The tall centaur looked to the stars as he told the rest of his story. It was as though he gave Istisha thanks, and more importantly, understanding as the final revelation of his telling. Eswarth explained that The White Demon had been defeated by those that would see the Eye of Istisha once again rejoined. He suspected it was the Shadowhunters that Varshya had spoken of. Cailyder never expected to see the mighty Eswarth nearly brought to tears when he explained that The White Demon, Teruss, had, in his death, been forgiven by Istisha for his transgression and was accepted in the healing embrace of the green moon. It was that embrace that caused Istisha, the green moon to briefly move out of place. It was Teruss returning home.

Eswarth looked up to the crowd as if waking from a trance. Bal-Jhor, Cailyder saw, brought his right hand to his chest as though to salute the proud centaur. Cailyder’s appreciation for the mysterious ways of the divinities grew wider after Eswath’s story.
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Offline Johan

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« Reply #53 on: May 23, 2015, 11:02:45 AM »
Most of those gathered at the Grove of Needles tonight understood that Kaltya was different from other soldiers. She had clearly been a dryad at birth, but to the eye, in contrast to the normal elegance that is the hallmark of those sylvan tribes, Kaltya was quite ugly to look at. While not misshapen, she did have numerous bulbous cysts about her body that were reminiscent of tree burls.

Also, there was a sheen to Kaltya’s grayish flesh that made her look like she was slightly wet. As long as Bal-Jhor had known her that sheen had always been there. Though, aware of her sylvan ancestry as he was, he was confident that she was born either very pale or slightly green as any other dryad he had ever encountered or heard about.

Those who were familiar with sylvan languages and dialects understood that Kaltya was ancient, even by sylvan standards. Fra Shathor is what Kaltya’s people’s tongue called the Gnarcheon, and that title, Bal-Jhor knew, had fallen out of use long before the birth of any currently living elf. For the past few thousand years, the most of the sylvan races favored terms such as the elves did: Tra’Baellyan, or that of the sprites: Sho-Atraliar as in the case of Varshya or Mirriam.

A small part of those gathered tonight also knew Kaltya as the Lady of the Spore. Kaltya had walked the Lichen Path, and now lived in a symbiotic relationship with the Fungal world. Few understood what the meant, exactly. Shankaria likely did, but it was far beyond the ken of Bal-Jhor.

But then, there was something that Bal-Jhor knew about Kalta that few others could…possibly not even Kaltya herself, and that was that Kalya’s spirit was completely tangled with that of the fungal world. She was inextricably one with the world of mushrooms, lichen, molds, and such. By the astonished look on the half-orc’s face, Bal-Jhor understood that this newcomer saw what Bal-Jhor saw as Kaltya moved to take the audience.

“Caterpillars.” She said in her leathern voice. After a pause, she added, “Tadpoles.” Then, after another pause she added, “Kossuth’s descent”. Pause. “An erupting volcanoe.” Pause. “Venric.” Pause. “Puberty.” Pause. “The Blood Tear.” Long pause.

Bal-Jhor was confused, and the brief murmur that spread through Grove of Needles told him that he was not alone. A lesson was coming, surely, but what lesson?

At length, Kaltya continued. “The lesson of the tadpole is the same as that of the erupting volcano. It is the same as that of the caterpillar or Kossuth's descent: change is at Mahiya’s foundation.” She let that sink in. “Change is not a thing that we should fear; it is everywhere about us and it is vital to life…without it, there is nothing. Stagnance, leading to withering, leading to oblivion…to the Void of Zxyxu.”

“The question in many minds is why do we fear the volcano, but not the tadpole? Why do we fear the Blood Tear but not the caterpillar?” Bal-Jhor felt very much like a new acolyte just then.

“The answer,” Kaltya said, “is because we lack the certainty of understanding. We know that the change that the caterpillar goes through will result in a butterfly. The tadpole will be a frog. But what of the volcano? What change will that create? We know that ultimately it will create new land, but what will be destroyed in the making? We can’t know.”

“What change will come on the heels of the Blood Tear?” She asked no one and everyone. “We can’t know. No one can, and so the Blood Tear sows fear.”

She paused even longer now. Looking directly at all the gathered assembly at once. Through the power of the ritual, she scrutinized all faces simultaneously. “Let us fear only the Void.” She said. “Let us not fear the Blood Tear. The change that is heralded is yet to be wrought…let us make it as we wish it to be…as we understand Her will for the change to be.”

“The only other lesson that I have for you tonight, children, is that of the leaf.” She held high an oak leaf in her hand. As to be expected this time of the year, it was large and green. “The lesson of the leaf is this: Do your work well, and age with grace and dignity.” In her up-stretched hand the leaf began to curl slightly, then it changed colors from its brilliant green into the splotchy but beautiful reddish-yellow of Rynnyx.

As it changed to deeper red and brown, Kaltya completed her lesson, saying, “…and be ready to depart when She shall call.” She let the browned leaf fall to the floor of the Grove. It drifted into the white pine needles.

Even the wind and the peepers were silent as Kaltya ceded the audience.

One of the great lessons the fall of the leaf teaches, is this: Do your work well and then be ready to depart when God shall call.
~Tyron Edwards
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Offline Johan

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« Reply #54 on: August 09, 2015, 08:08:38 PM »
Kaltya's lesson was well delivered, greatly needed, and made Shankaria more than happy. In fact, Kaltya had greatly alleviated Shankaria's burden, since the little feral gnome had been struggling with how she might deliver just such a message: change was not to be feared, but should be seen as an opportunity, and seized like a wild mount to be ridden according to your own bidding.

Shankaria lowered her face to the earth, hiding her smile lest the assembly mis-read her to be frivolous. She had always loved Kaltya, but in that moment, her affection for the Fra Shathor filled her nigh  to bursting.

She breathed deep, gathering her wits, and once again took the Grove.

"We have all been the beneficiaries of change." She said. "We have grown, learned, befriended, loved, birthed, and more."

"Granted, we have also been at times the victim of change. We have had loved ones die, we have perhaps been maimed, and we have perhaps lost our purpose at one time or another." She concentrated on not looking at Maragarn as she spoke. It was clear to her that some unwanted change had befallen her friend, and such a statement, while necessary, might just be incendiary to him.

"On this night," she continued, "we have remarkable change to consider, and on the forefront of that change is a most esteemed visitor." She turned and held her tiny arm wide in Ashe's direction, beckoning him forward.

"Ashe Clearwater." She announced. "Come. Speak to us of change."
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Offline Wildfire

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« Reply #55 on: February 01, 2016, 08:00:52 PM »
Ashe looked down at the diminutive Shankaria with an uneasy smile. He was there at the meeting in The Grove of Needles where no human had ever made a formal address until this night. Indeed change was unfolding before everyone’s eyes! That which had never been now…was.

Shankaria looked up at Ashe with her deep eyes telling him she knew precisely what he was thinking at that moment. They had only met recently but they had always been mysteriously connected in some way. Ashe could not appreciate that relation until the moment Shankaria gazed at him with complete confidence. She gave him a soft smile and a gentle nod- a nod that told him he was worthy of his immediate task. A smile that told him he belonged there no matter what precedent history had in place. Ashe came to understand that he wasn’t there speaking as a human, he was there speaking as a Gnarcheon…a Hierophant…a child of Mahiya.

Ashe looked out across the sea of eager faces and among them noticed Varshya’s stone cold stare. He was certain he would have to contend with her at a later point. Her ire with humans was well known and this breach of tradition would likely not soften her outlook. Every one in the crowd was showered by the colorful fires and anxious to hear him speak. He cleared his throat and stepped forward into the circle.

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Offline Wildfire

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« Reply #56 on: February 02, 2016, 10:28:02 PM »
“My sisters and brothers of Mahiya, I am Ashe Clearwater, son of Zachary Clearwater of the Valley Chosen and of Zebulon. My greetings to you.” A murmur washed over the crowd after his introduction. Everyone knew of the legendary ascension of Zachary Clearwater to Zebulon, the Champion of Mahiya. Zebulon had not manifested for scores of generations and the fact that Zachary Clearwater had, some years ago, been chosen to harbor that consciousness and battle Zyxu Archeon, the Champion of The Void, spoke to his purity of devotion and strength of character. Liam Clearwater was Ashe’s grandson and protégé and he also ascended to become Mahiya’s champion recently. Ashe was the son and sire of legends and one of the most powerful and respected Druids alive- a fact that was completely lost on Ashe.

Ashe continued his account, “As has been spoken, we are at the threshold of great change.” Ashe felt himself clever for his play on the word “threshold” and hoped someone would appreciate the joke and the deeper meaning. “I bring joyous news from the mouth of the Valley of Mist.” Ashe glanced at Maragarn hoping that he would find solace in the news he was about to impart. “The once lost Ring of Mists has been revealed.” The only sounds that cold be heard apart from Ashe were the occasional crackles of the fire and the creaking of top boughs in the wind. “The Ring was being defiled and taken by agents of Zyxu and with the reliable help of stalwart and trusted friends, Maccabeus of the Dale of Wolves, one of our own Gnarcheon and descendant of honored Shankaria, was victorious in its salvation. How the agents found the Ring of Mists I do not know but they did not prevail.” Ashe paused a moment to allow time for the information to be acknowledged. No one spoke during that moment. “Maccabeus is now the steward of the Ring of Mists and I am continuing Shankaria’s good work by ushering his knowledge in the ways of Mahiya…” Ashe thought a moment and added, “…well, me and another.”

So much had happened in the last few months that Ashe wondered if he could recount it all. Some of the slightest details could hold profound significance to someone and he didn’t want to overlook any of it. Detailed recollection through elegant oration was indeed an art form and Ashe always felt clumsy doing it. “I’m honored to tell you also that the wisdom of the Mother Tree has spread beyond the mountain walls of the Valley of Mist. A mighty Vallenwood now grows strong and majestic at the Ring of Mists. It is being nourished by elemental founts that reflect the Ring so that it drinks the liquid embodiment of Kossuth, Grumbar, Akadi, and Istisha. It is a Vallenwood the manner of which has likely never been seen by anyone alive today. Indeed, Mahiya is speaking directly to us through these events.” Ashe was no stranger to the diversity of the world. He had seen that others also cared for the sovereignty of Mahiya, especially when faced with something as seemingly small as a dry Brak (Summer) or something as devastating as the ash fields of Zyxu’s minions- The Archea, even if they weren’t druids. He knew that it wasn’t just the province of druids to counter the destruction but rather, the responsibility of everyone. “When I say, ‘us’ I mean everyone, not just Gnarcheon.” That revelation caused a quiet stir among many in the throng. Curiously, Ashe sought the face of Eswarth the noble centaur. Eswarth was standing next to Bal-Johr and both returned Ashe’s gaze with an approving nod.  
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Offline Wildfire

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« Reply #57 on: May 31, 2016, 08:18:15 PM »
“Mahiya, though, is not the only one sending messages. The mere fact that agents of Zyxu were defiling the Ring of Mists means also that The Void is speaking to it’s children.” Ashe felt the need to explain to his kindred that Zyxu Archeon was The Void’s champion just as Zebulon was Mahiya’s.

He thought better of it and left any explanations that were sought would quickly be answered. So he continued, “Maccabeus along with the help of a Wolfjaw daughter found an ash ring.” Again, Ashe let the weight of his words drop over the crowd like a hushed and eager blanket. Invoking the name of Wolfjaw was as though he was speaking of druid royalty. Orion Wolfjaw had attained a near deific status by communing so intimately with the natural world and more specifically, wolves, that he was blessed by Mahiya with the gift of “Kula’Myrthyn”. In the common tongue that meant “at one with”. “It was an ash ring that was wreathed with the impaled husks of what are believed to be Xanthakian Shadow Riders. As I said, change has arrived”.

Cailyder gently took Maragarn’s hand at the mention of the ash ring. While Maragarn had never so much as whispered that his Vallenbrush was taken by the defilement of the Archeans and their life eating magic, all of his mannerisms screamed of the tragedy. The typically jovial satyr was indeed shaken and Cailyder suspected that little would console him. She had to try.

“That is not the extent of the infection. It continues to grow. There is a fey friend of Threshold that wardens the Goldleaf Trees, a dryad named Whisper with whom I am very close.” Ashe’s tone became noticeably sullen and filled with worry. “She has become sick…as her trees have become sick. Whisper is a dryad and I need not tell you that her and her trees are one. She is the soul and essence of the trees and the trees are likewise to her. Her sickness was foisted upon her by twigjack nettles with a heart of defiling poison. They had attacked the Goldleaf Trees and fouled them with an ichor of The Void.” A sadness crept into Ashe as he realized how dearly he felt for ailing fairie. She had become more than his friend, she was his consort. She was his bastion of peace in his world of tragedy past- a past he tried to leave behind but never could. She had a way of making him forget the burden he often struggled with so he could just be a man with nature. He prayed Maccabeus would succeed.

“I sought Zebulon’s wisdom in this foul matter. The only way to save the grove and Whisper is to seek a seed that will spawn from a Vallenwood on the Day of Rejuvenation and plant it in the hallowed grove. Zebulon fears that the agents of Zyxu will also seek the seed to twist it to their nefarious ends…the devastation of which I dare not think on. Maccabeus, along with his stalwart friends, are in search of the seed and even now they rush to the Valley of Mist. Their task is not an easy one and the dangers are many even in the sacred Valley of Mist. I believe deep down in my roots that others we would call allies are in motion as we are in motion. We must be open to listening to Mahiya’s voice for the song rings from many…and from places we may not expect.” Ashe knew he was speaking though it seemed to him that he was not saying the words. His cadence came as a melody to all that heard him.

“Mahiya’s blood flows through us all and as such we are, all of us, connected. We are not connected simply to each other but to the very fabric of Mahiya. To the trees and the water they drink, to the mountains and the snow that caps them, to the flame and the air that it breathes are we connected. When you gaze into an animals eyes you are staring at yourself and all others. When The Void takes any of that, it does not return it to the Great Cycle but rather it feeds an endless, eternally hungry chasm. Many years ago Zebulon came forth and lead our kind to the defeat of Zyxu Archeon Champion of The Void. We are here now to answer that call once again!”
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Offline Johan

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« Reply #58 on: August 24, 2016, 12:43:56 PM »
Ach, m' wee lad. Was Shankaria's only thought at Ashe's narration of the turns that Maccabeus's life had taken since he left her those months ago.

Near to sobbing, she toddled up to Ashe as he completed his narration and hugged his leg affectionately. Then she addressed the Gnarcheon assembled.

"It should come as no surprise to you that my heart throbs to near-bursting with these tidings. In part, because Zyxu Archeon is directing his agents again, but more because of the actions of our allies, and particularly of the actions of our own progeny: Maccabeus and Wolf."

Her eyes narrowed a bit as she spoke meaningfully words that most had heard before, but none had appreciated more than right then: "They'll have it Her way." Many voices in the Grove arose in a northwoods grunt of agreement.

"An' we'll do our part as well!" She called out, this met with a louder assent from the Grove. "To do otherwise is to let Zyxu Archeon - the Foul Bull - win this war, and if that happens, there'll be nuthin' left."

"Th' change is on us, an' on our Hammarahn allies. They are as much children of Mahiya as we are, and we need to engage them in this war!" The single voice of all present shook the Grove in agreement.

"Tonight, we celebrate, we live, we love, for tomorrow, we are at war!"

The great cry of all collected in the Grove drowned out Shankaria's voice, even augmented as it was by the Drone magic. All had heard. All understood. Even though some didn't like what was coming, including the interacting with others, all were aware of the alternative, which was nothing. Oblivion.

The festival had a few more hands to go until dawn. It was now time to celebrate, and with a simple, almost negligent wave of her sacred staff, the Drone magic was dismissed, though the raised voices of Gnarcheon and familiars continued for many heartbeats.

To war, then.
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