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D&D Campaigns => Threshold => In Character Discussions => Topic started by: Johan on March 05, 2013, 01:39:00 PM

Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on March 05, 2013, 01:39:00 PM
Qwydeon Albyr SYNCATH VY 237 (June 3rd)

No matter from what direction one enters, the vast forest is dense with deciduous and conifers. It is a healthy forest that stretches from the edge of the Tortured Lands, skirting the Wasteland of Archea, to roll to the northern sea and west all the way to the Dale of Wolves, stopping within a score of leagues of the Ghoul Swamp in the north.

This vast tract of unnamed wilderness is home to the Dale Gnomes, the Wildlanders, the City State of Kurr, the Citadel of Gholan, and uncountable tribes of various gargun. It holds the memories of scores of ancient peoples and conflicts. It further supports outlaying lands such as Rhohannus and D’Flewn, and across Feather Gap is the imposing Fortress of Durhain, which sits upon the waters of the northern sea, halfway between Rhohannus and New Jarla.

Although many believe that the venerable forest, having been home to so many for eons, is a well known geography, she holds secrets still from the masses.

One of these secrets is deep within the thickest part of the forest, in an area where great sycamores and sequoias squeeze in close to giant cypress and enormous pines as if to better enjoy each other’s company.

This part of the mighty forest is under a perpetual cloud; it rains daily here, often in such a deluge the likes of which would scatter lesser trees. But these giants drink greedily of the rain waters, and if man could penetrate this place, he would see that the ground is always dry, even while the rain yet falls. But man cannot penetrate here; this primal place has many defenses against the intrusion of man, from the dense trees themselves, many of whom are sentient and some of whom are apt to walk about, to a thick, thorny undergrowth, and the land herself, which is never calm and even, but seems to have birthed this place in a fit of upheaval.

Scree-strewn hills jut up abruptly and fall away just as suddenly leaving broad chasms to be crossed. Sharp, rocky teeth wait at the bottom of these chasms to chew any so unfortunate as to fall from the few spans of height…sufficient to kill anyone foolish enough to seek entry. And there are the magics that in subtle ways turn away the particularly obstinate.

If the rains were to relent, and the winds abate, a crow could fly over this denser-than-dense part of the northern wood in less time than it takes for Kossuth to mount the sky. Such an opportunity rarely presents itself to any crow, but at times the sun shines down upon the canopy of trees managing to barely penetrate unto the forest floor.

When these crows traverse this inhospitable wood, they might espy near its center a small mote of grassy meadow, half a score acres at most. At the center of these few acres is a splendid ring of resilient soft-needled white pine. These pleasant pine trees sit in a perfect circle that is about a bow-shot in diameter, and have sat thus since before humans entered the greater forest. Their soft needles have over the centuries carpeted the little circle across which that they stare at each other, and no sentient foot has ever trod upon them without Mahiya’s blessing, for it is only such as these as can navigate the uninviting wood that surrounds this place, and it is only such as these that the wood knows, and allows entry.

This is the Grove of Needles, and on this day every year meets the council of Gnarcheon to plot the north woods’ annual celebration of Long Summer’s Day.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on March 17, 2013, 10:59:02 AM
She looked out over the grey, ash laden wasteland. Nothing grew here. Nothing lived here. Nothing except the children of The Nameless Void and it’s first born, Zyxu Archeon. The edge of the wasteland of Archea was rimmed with black skeletal remains of trees and the twisted and gnarled tendrils of bushes. She could sense their thirst for life as they futilely reached for her. They reached not to enjoy life but rather to drink it in offer to the Void. The once beautiful and lush forest that prospered here had been mostly consumed but what little had remained was changed into perverse, life-hungry shells of what they once were. They were aberrations and insults to all she held dear. They mocked Mahiya and the natural world. Cailyder looked across the expanse trying to see the Three Towers of Zyxu but her vision could not penetrate the dust.

Gripping her sickles tight she breathed deep and crinkled her brow in an angry sadness. A snort of derision blew out of her boar, Grubar. Never one to be overshadowed, Koth, her wolverine, growled in ominous warning. “Be still my children.” The vigilant hybsil replied, “Our time of retribution will come. The Blood Tear has arrived and soon we will vanquish the enemies of Mahiya.”

The light and familiar voice of one of her “fronds” as she liked to call them asked from behind her, “Grenvardaien, are you ready for the journey to the meeting?” Cailyder glanced back and nodded. “Are you, my frond Sharrewn?” she asked knowing the answer. She pulled five berries of her Vallenbrush from her belt admiring their significance. “Our time of retribution will come.” she whispered.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on March 18, 2013, 01:58:59 PM
It was true, Eswarth realized once again, that nothing happened truly by coincidence. The centaur had been a follower of Mahiya since he was very young, and being a Divine Soldier was what gave his life meaning, gave his bow range, and gave his great sword its vengeful wrath. Nerlander, his erstwhile companion, was similarly blessed and bore the symbol of mahiya in his deep, intelligent eyes.

Eswarth and Nerlander had received Shankaria’s rabbit only a day before they had  planned to start their leisurely journey  to the Grove of Needles, and a good thing too. Had not the Torquanic sent the bounding messenger, then Eswarth and Nerlander would have arrived at the Grove of Needles without their Vallenbrush berries.

And it was their path towards the Vallenbrush that had spontaneously placed them in the path of the necromancer Quetztochal.

The necromancer himself had been their most formidable foe this day. In many seasons, in fact. Eswarth and Nerlander had known at the outset that this was no ordinary cabal of ghouls and such. It was too near the Tower of the Damned, and at the same time too near Redstone to be anything but an army manufactory. A place to manufacture a legion of undead, and that was something that Eswarth and Nerlander could not allow.

Neither of Mahiya’s crusaders emerged from this fray unscathed; they had contrived to divide the targets such that Nerlander would engage the foul necromancer Quetztochal while Eswarth held the attention of what by that time remained of the small undead army.

Eswarth, for his part, now bore heavy, deep lacerations about his hindquarters, having been cut near to ribbons by the unnaturally sharp and poisoned talons of the harpies, they themselves made undead by the foul powers of the now-late necromancer Quetztochal.

Stealthy Nerlander managed to ambush Quetztochal himself, and had split the foul death priest in parts. The dire cougar’s great maw was more than adequate once he had gotten to the priest. Nerlander’s fur was now laden with hoar frost, and were it not for Mahiya’s blessings upon her two warrior priests – Her Ghrunvedling – the two companions would now member among the ranks of the undead themselves.

But this was not the first time that the two friends had done battle against the denizens of the Ghoul Swamp, and neither would it be the last. A prayer to Istisha brought loving healing first to Nerlander and then to Eswarth, and a fervent prayer to Kossuth brought a great mystical bonfire into being in the swamp. Such fire was the best way to ensure that the undead went back to being dead, and that any secret phylactery of the necromancer’s went unused. Eswarth and Nerlander remained vigilant until the last of Quetztochal’s ashes were airborne and harmless. They then burned thoroughly the remains of the undead harpies, ghouls, skeletons, and vampire lieutenants. None escaped the fire.

Satisfied with their work – work which had taken them days to accomplish – Eswarth and Nerlander turned their mind and feet southerly. It would take them the better part of the remaining days to get to the Grove of Needles, and this year it was far more important than it had been in years past that they not be either late or missing entirely. They were at current late, however. It could not have been prevented, as it would simply not do to leave Quetztochal to build his army in the tail of the blood tear, as it were. Still, centaur and dire cougar would be running to their utmost to arrive at the Grove of Needles before the Gnarcheon were departing and the Chankathur might start their own meeting. They had but two days ahead of them; sleep would wait.

And after, a thorough search for any magics that might bring Quetztochal or his armies back again.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on March 19, 2013, 01:12:20 PM
Mirriam flitted along through the forest in seeming capricious fashion while Flitter, his colorful kestrel friend, flew along with him: a bit above and a bit behind the sprite. The two were on a mission of utmost criticality before they swifted along to the Grove of Needles for the Long Night celebration.

They came along to the mushroom field, in the middle of which was a small cave – a tiny cave by most standards – that they disappeared into. Flitter only entered the little cave, and she had to hop along into the mouth of the cave, as flying was not an option for her.

Mirriam was a far more agile flyer, though, and his wings weren’t as demanding as Flitter’s were. The sprite flew deep along the narrow passage of the cave, down to the subterranean mushroom grove that Kaltya had supplied for him, much as she had for the field above. They were mystical mushrooms here, and served several purposes, from deflecting curious investigators to proofing the small grove from attempts to magically locate it. In truth, this was not the first line of defense for the small Vallenbrush that Mirriam was warden over (Chankathur was a high honor bestowed upon the lively sprite in addition to his status as Sho-Atraliar…Mahiya’s child).

He set himself down amid the mushrooms, some of which puffed a magical spore for him and him alone. This spore was an activator that, when mixed with his Song, would open the portal and afford him access to the little Vallenbrush to which he was bonded. The brush had long since been hidden away from the rest of the world as a matter of necessity.

The atmosphere started to become heavy with the magical spore, and Mirriam began to sing. Low (as Sprites go) at first, then joined by a music that he generated by rubbing his diaphanous wings together. His music tripped and lilted as he sang the ancient song of the Brownies – the Song of the Hidden.

Although the music filled the small grove, it did not resonate along the entry tunnel, nor did it reach the forest above. But inside, the mushrooms awoke and came to sentience and joined in the song, adding a soft luminescence and the occasional puff of colored spores at just the right time.

It was not long before the portal opened and Mirriam was allowed access to the Vallenbrush. When the portal opened, the Brush that was hidden there lent its ancient part to the song that filled the grove. Mirriam was always left with tears in his eyes when the Vallenbrush joined his songs. The brush’s voice was the foundation of life for him; it was ancient, and wise, penetrating and enveloping. It was love, guidance, mentorship, and affection all together. And it was so much more.

Wings rubbing, voice trebling, eyes welling, Mirriam greeted the Vallenbrush and told in his song the need for berries. The Vallenbrush already knew, of course…it always already knew.

Mirriam reached through the portal and five tiny, perfect, red berries were deposited gently in his small hands. The five filled his hands completely; he was glad to have Flitter’s help to bear them to the Grove of Needles.

Their task complete, Mirriam’s heart embraced the soul of the hiding Vallenbrush, and he withdrew, knowing a mother’s complete love for her child. He stopped his song, and slowly the mushrooms stopped their puffing and glowing and the portal slowly closed as it had so many times these past decades. Presently the grove was nothing more than a grove once again.

He and Flitter needed to be getting along to the Grove of Needles. This would be no ordinary celebration.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on March 26, 2013, 04:32:18 PM
The humans called them Druid. The savage gnomes to the west: Gnarcheon. To the wee fey they were Sho-Atraliar, and the Centaurs called them Ghrunvedling. In Kaltya’s dialect of the sylvan tongue she was Fra Shathor: a child and soldier of Mahiya. This was the greatest calling and honor for Kaltya, but in addition she was the Lady of the Spore, and while not Chankathur herself, she had close ties to those honored soldiers and she knew that something was different this year as the celebration at the Grove of Needles drew near.

In the three days prior to the day of the festival, each of the Chankathur had spoken with their respective Vallenbrush plants and had each of them received the gift of five berries – one for Mahiya Herself, and one for each of Her divine children.

It was a truth for Kaltya that what one mushroom knows, all mushrooms know. And she, the Lady of the Spore, would come to know what the mushrooms knew. And as her mushrooms were part of the defenses of each of the Vallenbrush plants, they whispered to her over these last days as the berries had been bestowed upon the Chankathur.

Why this had come to pass, she could only guess, but given that the Blood Tear had stained the sky, Kaltya knew that momentous stirrings were afoot.

Now, in the pre-dawn of the morning of the Festival, as she lay not-quite-sleeping on her bed of mushrooms they whispered her to full awake: “The first one comes.”

She smiled at the knowledge: one of her brethren had entered the thick northern forest en route to the Grove of Needles. She wondered who, exactly, the early comer would be this year.

She stretched a satisfying stretch and melted into her fungal bed. The dryad’s union with the fungal world allowed her to move instantly between clusters of mushrooms, and this gift she used to travel to the Grove of Needles to greet this morning, as she did every year.

She would busy herself in greeting the celebrants and in setting up the bonfires that would light the festival. One to each point of the compass within the Ring, and one in the middle; all in perfect balance, as Mahiya herself was. The fires that would be lit tonight would reflect each of the divinities: Istisha’s fire would burn green while Akadi’s would burn blue. Grumbar enjoyed a fire that burned a fluid sort of light brown while Kossuth’s blaze, like the great orb at sunrise and sunset burned a deep orange fringed with yellow and red. Mahiya’s fire, central to the concentric rings of forest, white pine, and divine fires, burned white with tongues that flickered in the colors of her children.

And she would wonder which of her Fra Shathor family would be first to show.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on March 30, 2013, 01:59:57 PM
“Why must we go?” asked the acolyte, Yarlia. The question sounded harsh to Varshya’s ears. It wasn’t the actual inquiry that soured her but rather, the pronunciation of the words. They were in the ancient tongue, the language of the druids, what was known among the elves as the Avaranae, the maker speech. The acolyte’s implementation of the words was clumsy and unrefined to her ears. It always took time to master the art of the speech and that could only be done with practice. Varshya wished that Yarlia was a quicker learner.

The Vallenbrush steward continued to carefully pack her essential belongings for what was her lengthy annual journey. “We go because it is our responsibility. We go to meet with those we count among our family of Tra’Baellyan.” answered the venerable druid and water arcanist purposely in her native elven tongue. She wanted to avoid hearing any further mispronunciations of the sacred language.

“This will be my first journey beyond Karyn’Zyth. I think it will be exciting!” Yarlia exclaimed searching for something to talk about with her honored Tra’Baellyan. She sensed that her mentor was not overjoyed to be leaving. “That remains to be seen. It is always a blessed event, the meeting of this druid coven, but I suspect that your excitement extends beyond your inquiries to our devotions.” Varshya replied confidently while she packed the necessary trappings- which were few.

“I want to see the world outside of our forest. I want to see the large dewy meadows and human towns.” With her back to her student, Varshya’s eyes closed upon hearing about Yarlia’s interest in the human settlements. She breathed deep and stopped moving for a moment. Yarlia furrowed her brow and wondered if she crossed into forbidden territory with her instructor.

“This trip is not about satisfying some whimsical curiosity, Yarlia.” Varshya quipped turning around to look her student in the eyes. “Keep your mind on the task at hand and your curiosity on how better to serve our Life Mother-Father. You’ll find little good in other settled places.” Varshya said with a bit of venom in her voice. She regretted being so callous with the youngling in her charge. Neither did she like harboring anger as it so often led to irrational actions.

She smiled at her humbled student and nodded her head acknowledging that her inquisitive nature was testimony to her young innocence and wonder of the world. “There are many great things to see beyond our borders Yarlia- that much is true. See them you should. As the deer at a water pool, be cautious. That is what I mean by my words. Go now and fetch the others to be ready. The Grove of Needles waits for us.”

Varshya felt the delicate leather pouch that hung around her neck and rest against her chest. There were five distinct Vallenbrush berries contained within the pouch. They were five berries that were the first of their kind to travel beyond the borders of Kaaryn’Zyth in centuries. It was indeed an important meeting this year. Varshya looked up at the Blood Tear while she waited for her enclave to assemble.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on April 09, 2013, 08:45:09 PM
He loosed his arrow and quickly ducked behind the thicket of newly leafed bushes. He was as silent as the passing of the moons. He needed to keep the oafs off balance and guessing where he was. He could have easily dispatched them with a few of Mahiya’s blessings but he enjoyed the hunt- lived for the hunt. He would keep at least one alive to bring back the tale of the “forest ghost”.

With the speed of a rabbit he dashed towards the next tree but not before letting fly a volley of arrows all of which hit their mark. The howls the brutes made were answered by the call of his falcon, Spiritwind- which seemed more as a laugh- that circled above. He knew they would either frenzy and try to find him or they would flee. Their patience for this cat-and-mouse game would only go so far. Little did they know that they were actually the mice.

Maragarn stepped from behind his tree waiting for the confused pair of ogres and squad of orcs to notice him. He smirked his sly satyr smirk and measured the sharpness of one of his horns by playfully tapping the end of it. His mischievous nature would not let him stand idle for very long. He pulled his two sickles from his sides and fitted them over his shoulders. Then he pulled out his flute and whispered to himself, “How I wish I had my little harp. This flute is so…cliché.” From the flute came a melodious tune that sounded like wind and water blending together. The notes were of perfect pitch and the falcon above would call out in praise.

The group of confused ogres and orcs all stopped and looked at the devious satyr gleefully playing his sonorous flute. Maragarn lowered his instrument and grabbed his sickles. “Gentlmen, let us dance!” yelled Maragarn and off he rushed to meet them all.

Maragarn teased them, all of them, through the fight. He would feint, duck, parry, and appear as though he was far weaker. It was all a ruse. For in those moments of overconfidence were an enemies undoing. Now he would strike. His focus immediately switched from playful to deadly. Strike, move, strike move was his tactic. The orcs could barely follow him much less the ogres. Soon it was that the two ogres were lying dead as bloody heaps and only five orcs remained standing and now fleeing. Maragarn quickly pulled up his bow and set two arrows. Away they went both hitting their targets tumbling the orcs into the grass. The satyr was on the move after the other three.

As he pursued them he noticed that they quickly changed course and that they did so not expecting to. What did they see? What are they avoiding? He thought. Torn between his own curiosity and seeing another two orcs to their fate, Maragarn chose to satisfy his own curiosity. Spiritwind landed on his shoulder and let out a curious and questioning coo. “So there will be an extra two to tell the tale this day” he answered. “Worry not. They will eventually meet their fate as most do. My questions lay ahead.”

Cautiously and silently Maragarn crept forward. Ahead he could see hazy light gleaming through the trees. ‘There was no clearing here to my recollection’ he thought. He could feel a sadness emanating from the trees around him and a queer energy getting stronger as he approached the clearing. Something was wrong.

Spiritwind seemed to growl a warning to his partner. It wasn’t a growl of fear but of anger. Maragarn gently swept a branch aside with his sickle to reveal the cause of the orcs fear and the falcons ire. It was a circle of black and grey ash. Not from a fire but from something sinister- and it reeked of the foulness of anti-life.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on July 21, 2013, 09:14:22 AM
In the first hours of the festival – while Kossuth yet kissed the sky – Shankaria roamed the grounds of the Grove of Needles in a delightful state of euphoria. Gearmund’s touch seemed still to warm her hand, and the remembrance of his gentle kiss could still be felt upon her cheek, though hands of time had passed since they parted earlier that day.

It had been good so see her tindaren – her husband – again. It was also good to know that he was yet so close to the Great Hunter and all were aware of the tumultuous times ahead. She would love for him to visit the Grove with her, but he was not allowed. Mahiya suffered only Gnarcheon in this place. Also, Gearmund had his work to do, and Shankaria had hers. Thus, while she had come to the Grove of Needles, the Master had sent Gearmund to Horn Dale by way of Shir Shyrak...some mystery to be explained there, though what exactly none knew as yet.

And now she was surrounded by her brothers and sisters. The first couple of hands of the festival were regularly the same: meeting and greeting, solidifying old friendships and making new acquaintances, introducing new acolytes or apprentices. She knew that while all Gnarcheon would of course have seen the Blood Tear and knew the magnitude of its portent, none knew all. Not even Shankaria knew all that it meant; that knowledge wasn’t even in the palm of Mahiya, Shankaria thought.

Still, even with the specter of troubled times ahead, there was joy at the Festival at the Grove of Needles. In fact, Shankaria noted, some of the more expressive Gnarcheon were already exploring each other’s bodies as part of their individual observances to the Great Cycle. Such was common on this night, but more usually towards mid-of-night. Some, however, just hated to wait. Shankaria smiled and moved on.

The five great bonfires were now completely set up and ready for their lighting. The fires would be lit as Kossuth bade farewell to the celebrants in little more than a hand.

Shankaria made her way towards the “kitchens”. Various Gnarcheon brought with them to the festival foods that might only be found in their native parts of the forest and beyond. These variably delectable morsels were brought to the Festival to share with others who might not have them on a regular basis. Their kitchen, where the sharing would be done, moved about from year to year, but Shanrkaria thought that she could smell an apple cider mulling with spices to the west end of the Grove, so west she went.

Varshya would no doubt have brought some of her elven jams and perhaps some Fey Honey from distant Karyn’Zyth and Gearmund, knowing where Shankaria was bound, had prepared for her to take to the festival a pack full of Big Horn from the far side of the grasslands of the Dale. This meat he had seasoned with his special spices that grow only in those mountains.
The Master had sent Gearmund there for His work, and Gearmund had taken the thoughtful opportunity to spice the meats for Shankaria.

She smiled again at her tindaren’s presence in her mind. Her stomach growled a bit in anticipation.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 07, 2013, 02:38:24 PM
Ashe was both giddy and anxious. Never before had he been to this meeting. There were many secretive meetings of druids concerning all manner of things in the vast world of Mahiya. While Ashe was the son of Zachary Clearwater- he who carried the mantle of Zebulon- and an accomplished Hierophant in his own right, it did not afford him special privilege to be involved in all of that which was occurring in all of the circles. He often admitted that condition was best and likewise a relief. “Let the fire burn and the water soak” he thought. It was an old saying among druids. It was a reminder that one individual can’t, nor should, do everything; that each thing has a specific purpose. Perhaps that was why he was here at this meeting. He smiled at his epiphany and a tingling comfort came over him as though Mahiya itself had spoken to him.

Across the grove apart from the ripening festivities Ashe spied among the pine boughs an individual that could only be interpreted as a centaur. He could not see any details as the shade of the trees surrounding the grove were shielding the waning light of Kossuth. The silhouette was unmistakable. It had to be the Vallenbrush steward Eswarth from the Tumbling Plains. That was the limit of Ashe’s knowledge on him. It seemed a good time to diminish his ignorance and introduce himself.

As he drew closer he could see the great sword strapped to Eswarth’s back. He found it odd that he had not seen it when he first noticed him but that may have been a trick of the light. Ashe kept a respectful distance from Eswarth so as to not offer surprise upon introduction. He was a tall and imposing figure and it seemed to Ashe that he also had a majestic integrity about him.

“My greetings to you…Eswarth...?” Ashe stated and asked all at once. He instantly realized how bumbling and clumsy he sounded and could not help but cringe ever so slightly at his foolishness. Naturally his very act of cringing gave him the sense that Eswarth too took him for a fool and may have even been insulted. “Let me start over if you will.” And Ashe cleared his throat. “Eswarth I presume?”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 10, 2013, 09:30:00 AM
Eswarth had only just arrived at the Grove of Needles when he was approached by a brother whom he had never met, though the stranger seemed to know Eswarth, at least by sight and name. As eager as he was to find Shankaria, he turned to regard this human; the truth of the matter was that Eswarth had less of a chance in finding the tiny Torqaniq among the throng of Gnarcheon than he had of finding a specific pine needle in the Grove. As always, it would be for Shankaria to find him.

He looked down at the human and replied as kindly as he could: "You have me at a disadvantage, Revered Brother." He said, his voice rumbling in a deep baritone. "I am Eswarth, called Slayer of the Dead. Who are you?" He held out a huge hand in the manner of the humans he knew.

Think Worf when you think Eswarth
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 10, 2013, 08:37:36 PM
Ashe was relieved to know that his guess had not led him astray to full embarrassment. He took the centaur’s broad hand with his right and covered the embrace with his left. To Ashe this was always a warmer greeting as it offered a trusted vulnerability to the other.

“I am Ashe Clearwater of Threshold.” Ashe said with pride as he looked to Eswarth’s eyes and then completed his sentence with a nod of his head. He wanted to add a title to his name so Eswarth might have more definition of Ashe’s role in the circle. Having lived a very long time and done much he wasn’t exactly sure how he would define himself. Was he a guardian of Threshold? Yes, as were a few- namely the Protectorate. Was he a teacher? It seemed he was but he felt he was more than that. Perhaps a name and current origin were all that was necessary in this instance and that Eswarth may know of him just the same. At this point a title didn’t much matter as the time for stating such had passed. To speak of one now would only serve to be awkward.

“I trust your journey was filled with pleasing sights and little hassle?” Ashe asked him. “To my recollection the Tumbling Plains are in full bloom this time of year. An inspiring sight to be sure.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 11, 2013, 09:10:37 AM
At the mention of Ashe's given name, Eswarth's eyes narrowed as if in suspicion, and he looked askance at the human. "Clearwater?" He echoed. Eswarth knew from his dealings with the various humans of the wild lands, not to mention of Redstone, that a human's truth was not always the same as THE truth.

On this day, in this place, and with this man's bearing, Eswarth knew immediately the truth of Ashe's claim. Ashe was not a typical celebrant at the Grove of Needles, but given the Blood Tear and Shankaria's call for the Vallenbrush berries, this year was anything but typical.

"Times of great moment, indeed." He rumbled as a slight smile crept into his otherwise serious face. "It is an honor to meet you; I've heard much of your doings though you've been quiet for some years now." He clasped Ashe's hands in the manner that Ashe grasped his; perhaps that was how it was done in Threshold.

"Do you stay through the night?" Eswarth asked, cryptically questioning whether Ashe would be attending the Chankathur's meeting, which would commence after the other celebrants had dispersed. Whether or not Ashe  appreciated that unspoken meaning would be telling to Eswarth: either Ashe's presence here was for the discussion of the Blood Tear and to renew ties, or it was for the deeper currents that now carried the Soldiers of Zebulon forward.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 11, 2013, 08:43:35 PM
When Eswarth took Ashe’s hands in greeting Ashe understood just how truly massive this Slayer of the Dead really was (and was relieved that he was not among the ranks of the undead being in the presence of the mighty centaur). His hands disappeared under the thick fingers of his new friend. He quietly chuckled at his recollection of Maccabeus’s hands being subjected to a similar situation when Ashe’s took the young Dale Gnome’s hands in his own greeting. He smiled thinking about a greeting between Maccabeus and Eswarth! Would they even be able to shake hands? It seemed that one of Eswarth’s fingers would suffice just fine were they to shake hands upon meeting.

As Ashe listened to Eswarth speak it conjured up a fleeting feeling of dread within the aged druid. While Eswarth was honored to meet him and spoke kindly of his deeds- and Ashe had no reason to doubt his intergrity in saying so- Ashe was regretful of some of the things that he had actually done in the past. He had always been regretful of them but in meeting a member of the circle he wished that some history was unavailable to be known. Ashe had never been proud of the blood on his hands regardless of the circumstances by which it came. Did the noble centaur know such things of him?

“I will be among you through the night good Eswarth” Ashe replied to his question. “I bring news both lifeless and verdant from Threshold in the mouth of the Valley.” Ashe was less than subtle in his intimation of the news to come. “And it’s news all of the Vallenbrush wardens will need to know.”

Ashe’s thoughts went to Maccabeus and the others heading into the Valley of Mist. He desperately wanted to know how Whisper was doing and he considered tapping into his Seer capabilities. He regretfully refrained from such action as it would leave him open for the temporary madness to creep in and he needed to be as sharp as he’s ever been for this night. Whisper was quite strong and had survived so far and she had Istian, his dire bear, with her. Still time was melting away and her life and the life of the Goldleaf Grove was in the balance. He mused at how hot her temper would be the next time something tried to defile he trees. The Abyss has no fury like a dryad defending her trees.

“Where are my manners? Are you thirsty Eswarth? Shall we share in the delight of a drink? Perhaps some food?” Ashe said trying to be pleasant after his personal thoughts.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 11, 2013, 09:23:59 PM
It seemed clear to Eswarth that Ashe must know a bit more than most Gnarcheon. He wondered fleetingly who might have informed the elder, but it was only fleetingly; it was not for him to question such things.

At the mention of food, Eswarth realized that he hadn't eaten since before dawn that morning. He was therefore famished and thirsty as well.

"I could eat a whole gazelle." He said. "And a fair sized ale would soothe my parched throat as well." He adjusted his great sword and enormous bow as he moved towards the few small fires that marked the "kitchen".

Eswarth was no fan of small talk, but it occurred to him that he might be able to indirectly glean something from Ashe with a simple quesiton: "Are you looking for anyone in particular tonight?" He scanned over the crowd and noted a number of people he knew, some better than others. "From this height I might be able to find a person or two who you can't see from down there."
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 12, 2013, 08:35:16 PM
As they followed the smell of food both could hear the musical pipes, the beating of drums, and the plucking of strings playing together to form an undeniably intoxicating aria. Silhouettes danced in front of the fire and laughter echoed among the trees. On the outskirts of the grove among the tall pines, fireflies twinkled amidst the underbrush. This was a scene that only the fey folk were truly capable of creating and Ashe felt blessed to be among them this night and in this moment.

“I…um…” Ashe stammered trying to break his gaze from the enchanting dance. “Yes…rather…no. I wasn’t looking for anyone in particular.” Ashe replied to his tall companion. “Now that you mention it though, I wonder if my friend Maragarn was privileged to join this festivity. He also dwells in the mouth of the Valley of Mist.” Ashe looked up at Eswarth, playfully jealous of his height at this moment, and asked, “Do you see a jovial Satyr dancing with a ring of feykind?”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 12, 2013, 09:20:39 PM
"I know Maragarn well." Eswarth answered as he craned his neck. "He is most typically found at the Fertility Circle, especially so early in the night." He said. There was not enough of Kossuth's light remaining in the sky for one to see clearly across the Grove to where Eswarth believed the Fertility Circle to be. However, the fires had been lit and they cast sufficient illumination for the sharp-eyed Slayer to discern many of the participants.

"I do not see Maragarn there, though he may be...blocked from my view. Fear not though: he will be here. He has not missed a Festival in all the years that I've known him."
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 12, 2013, 09:57:35 PM
“It wouldn’t surprise me if he was busy in the circle. He always was to sort to partake in the fertility ‘dance’” Ashe stated guessing that Eswarth knew well the reputation that Satyrs had. A smirk crept across his face at thinking of the meaning and pleasure of such an event.

There was another natural pleasure that inspired the various folk across all parts: food! The cook fires were surrounded in a cloud of delightful aromas and made Ashe’s belly grumble with hunger. There were a variety of forest animals being roasted and all manner of forest gatherings from the multitude of plants available. Mahiyas bounty was truly magnificent! Gathered apart from the general feast were the signature profferings of food from each of the societies that came to the feast. It was a sign of binding community between them to share their culinary dishes and few were ever shy about trying new things.

Of course, no fey celebration would be complete without ales and wines. Apart from the cook fires was a ring of various barrels, skins, and jugs of beverages harboring Feywine to Pine Brandy to Acorn Bitters to Tinglewater and more. Ashe had no doubt that all of the vessels would be drained by morning. He silently wished he had brought some Dizzysap made from the Goldleaf Trees as it would no doubt be coveted by all that drank it.

“So my friend, where do you suggest we begin our feasting?” Ashe inquired. He suddenly realized that Eswarth may have dealings with others here and may be anxious to seek them out. “My apologies Good Eswarth. I presume too much. If you need to find others here it will not insult me if you choose to depart my company.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 13, 2013, 09:36:33 AM
"I do in fact have certain people that I'm eager to see." Eswarth rumbled. "But it is typically for them to find me." His human-like torso pivoted towards Ashe and one eyebrow climbed his forehead. "I stand out a bit more in a crowd than they do."

"In the meantime, we eat, and meet!" he continued with a more assertive voice, which carried considerably through the noise of the Gnarcheon about the cook fires. "My fellow soldiers, we have a stranger in our midst! What might this brother, long a resident of Threshold, not have eaten of late, if ever?"

Eswarth certainly had a way of drawing attention. A multitude of voices rose at once in greeting, first of Eswarth and then of his companion.

"Eswarth!" Some voices called.
"Welcome, brothers!" Came from others.
"How is the Slaying of the dead, worthy Ghrunvedling?" Was heard among the calls, as was, "Who is this stranger in our midst? How came he to the Festival?"

All voices were raised nearly in unison; it was uncommon that the Brethren's Cant was heard in so many accents in so small a place and time.

One tiny voice was heard, not above the others, but in an opportune moment between the others: "He is no stranger!" The little voice called out with a lilt of joy and a note of laughter. "He is my guest here, for I invited him!"

From under the belly of a great mastiff came Shankaria, ducking only slightly to get under the huge beast. She stood her full height and smiled up at Eswarth and Ashe. "I'm so glad to see you, Eswarth, and thank you so much for guiding my new friend here!"

Eswarth bowed low...VERY low...to touch foreheads with Shankaria in greeting. Shankaria, for her part, grabbed hold of Eswarth's thick neck so as to ride up to the centaur's height when Eswarth rose again.

He took gentle hold of her affectionately, as a parent holds a toddler. "It is good to see you, little sister." He said. "Though I was already on my leisurely way here when your rabbit sent me in the wrong direction...I've only just arrived, and only by great effort." He playfully admonished Shankaria. "Nerlander is behind me by a day or so. He took down an elk last night, after two days and nights of constant running. I'm sure that he's full now, but he'll be delayed."

He then lifted his voice again, saying, "And in answer to your question, Bal-Jhor, only this week Nerlander and I destroyed a necromancer and his small army of dead up in the Ghoul Swamp! The Slaying continues unabated, to be sure!"

This loud announcement was met with an all-around cheer. The killing of undead was always worthy of celebration; the killing of those who created undead even more so.

"Ah!" Called a deep, gravelly voice back to Eswarth. "Then ye've earned this pitcher!" A goliath rose up from his seated position near the barrels. He was chest-and-head taller than any other Gnarcheon present, excepting Eswarth, who was a head again taller than Bal-Jhor. The goliath held high a sizable pitcher to Eswarth, and Eswarth smiled: not broad, but genuine. The throng had quieted for a moment and Eswarth grabbed a deer leg from one of the tables there.

"Ah, yes, Bal-Jhor." He said gratefully. "You know what thirsty work is the Slaying of the Dead, eh?" He lowered Shankaria to the ground and moved towards Bal-Jhor amidst a new wave of laughter. The Gnarcheon moved aside for Eswarth and the two great Gnarcheon met in a thunderous embrace.

Shankaria had a tear of joy on her cheek as she watched the two Gnarcheon reunite. "It's good to see the boys together again." She said to Ashe.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 23, 2013, 08:23:19 PM
Ashe knew well the joy of seeing kin reunite. He had others in his life that were, to him, as brothers and sisters and yet others that were actually his children. It was a joy and comfort that only family (blood related or not) could know. Though it was obvious that Eswarth and Bal-Jhor were not blood related nor even of the same race they respected each other as true brothers.

Ashe looked down to see Shankaria’s blissful smile stretched across her little face. She was exactly where she wanted to be, he thought. Despite the turbulence surrounding his life, Ashe was where he needed to be. The moment was a living metaphor and a Vallenwood whisper of wisdom in it’s ancient prose. It spoke that even in a raging ocean of chaos there are islands of joy and serenity to be found. There is no map to find them and very often when you seek them they are then most elusive. Oh, the moments do creep upon you! If you let them they shall cradle you when you need them the most.

As soon as Ashe sensed a new presence he heard a melodic and flowing voice in an accent he’d not heard in decades. “And what of the sisters my sister?”

Ashe turned to see a creature similar to Eswarth but much shorter. Rather than a body comparable (for centaurs loathed being called half horse or man horse) to a horse it was not unlike a deer. She was a hybsil. Ashe knew well of the struggle her kind endured. The Wasteland of Archea consumed the dense forest that they had long ago claimed as their homeland. He always admired their tenacity at trying to reclaim their legacy.

In his bold examination of the new arrival it struck Ashe as being out of place that this female hybsil would have antlers. Then again, he thought, they weren’t half deer they were hybsils! As such they didn’t grow like deer nor were they bound by the gender distinction of antlers. Gender distinction came in other, rather obvious, ways.

Cailyder giggled at Ashe’s intrigued expression and she continued, “Will it be good to see your sisters again my love?” she asked as she analyzed the aged (and still remarkably handsome) human before her.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 24, 2013, 01:09:29 PM
Eswarth and Bal-Jhor began to play one of their traditional strength-testing games to the roaring laughter of the collected Gnarcheon. In this game, they each tried to wrest the first drink from the pitcher of ale, but not spill any on the ground.

This one started with Eswarth offering the deer leg to Bal-Jhor, using the gift as a ruse to immediately gain the upper hand. Bal-Jhor only smiled at the gift and refused to release the pitcher. Eswarth grinned a slight, knowing grin and dropped the leg to the side.

The huge hands of each combatant gripped the ewer tightly and tried to bring it to their own lips - it was not allowed to bring one's lips to the drink initially - while trying to ensure that the other did not succeed in the same.

Eswarth's legs spread wide as he twisted his great trunk to try to place his elbow between Bal-Jhor's face and the drink, which threatened to spill continuously. Bal-Jhor, for his part worked his great sinews with surprising effectiveness against Eswarth's greater size and stability; the goliath planted his shoulder into Eswarth's chest and twisting, worked his head in between the ale and Eswarth's mouth. Now the game became one where Eswarth worked the pitcher away, preventing it's spilling while Bal-Jhor strained to pull it closer for a drink. Eswarth lifted the pitcher, but Bal-Jhor held tight and was summarily lifted off his feet, which he purposely entangled in Eswarth's legs to regain some leverage against his Chosen Brother.

Those watching began to place quick wagers on the outcome of this honored contest, which most all of them had witnessed numerous times before.

Cailyder's soothing voice brought Shankaria's attention away from the struggling titans and she turned happily to the hybsil. "Cailyder!" She cried and rushed in for a hug of her own. "I'm sure you can imagine how glad I am to see you!" She greeted her sister. The little Torqaniq's feet danced while the two embraced. "It's so lovely to see your beauty once again!"

Ashe was perhaps the only other Soldier present to hear the whispered question that Shankaria put to Cailyder: "Did you get my rabbit?" She asked with quiet intensity.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on September 27, 2013, 08:51:56 PM
Cailyder murmured back to the venerable druid, “I did. I was quite pleased to see your little messenger.” She stood upright from the cozy hug (for while Cailyder was no match for Eswarth’s height, Shankaria was shorter still) and smiled. Speaking at a near whisper she continued, “It pleased me well to pick the berries. It offered my fronds hope that our woods, our home, is not beyond a verdant salvation.” Ashe could sense and feel a tired desperation laced with unwavering faith in the hybsil. The years of conflict and relentless loss to the ever growing Wasteland would have been more than many could endure. Yet it seemed, to Ashe, that Cailyder would maintain her composure and grace if only to offer her kin the strength of her own belief.

Ashe’s awareness came around from his cursory psionic analysis of Cailyder upon hearing shouts and cheering from the circle of eager witnesses to the test that Eswarth and Bal-Jhor continued to press each other with. Again the gentle voice bewitched him.

“And who is our human friend that honors us with his…illumination?” Cailyder asked with a charming almost flirting manner. Her pleasant demeanor was counter to the pair of notched sickles, well worn patched leather armor, and ivy covered longbow. It was the bow that caught Ashe’s attention. The ivy wasn’t just covering the bow but was actually growing from the bow! He wondered what that was about and secretly wished to see it in action. He suspected that not only was it a gift from Mahiya but that it aided her greatly in her conquest to keep the Wasteland at bay. Ashe wisely calculated that Cailyder was not one to get into a rough and tumble with.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on September 30, 2013, 09:26:59 AM
A great cheer announced that the first game of strength was over: Eswarth had succeed in lifting the pitcher - and Bal-Jhor - high overhead and tipping it for a drink. But Bal-Jhor, with surprising agility for one so large, grabbed Eswarth's forearms and lifted himself in between Eswarth and the ale, deftly intercepting the ale before it got to Eswarth's mouth. It didn't all get into Bal-Jhor's mouth, but some did, and that was enough.

Eswarth emptied the contents of the pitcher on his Chosen Brother, then dropped the pitcher so that it bounced off of Bal-Jhor's head. Bal-Jhor only laughed...he had won this year. The goliath loosed Eswarth's forearms and dropped to the ground, triumphant.

"Another pitcher for my worthy adversary!" Bal-Jhor called. One was already being presented to the centaur, along with the deer leg he had discarded at the start of the contest. Now was time for feasting, and the two Soldiers fell to it while the other gnarcheon who had gambled upon the outcome of the match argued in friendly fashion: some said the bet was off, because Bal-Jhor didn't win by strength, but by guile. Other said Bal-Jhor got the drink first, and that was what the contest was about. Ultimately, there was nothing riding on any of the bets, though, so it was nothing so much as a spirited conversation between the various Soldiers. A conversation to which the two main foci paid no attention whatever...they only ate and drank now.

"Ach!" Exclaimed Shankaria chuckling at the end of the game that Eswarth and Bal-Jhor played. "It's never a win by strength with those two. It's usually guile that decides the winner, and Bal-Jhor has the advantage of vitality this year...poor Eswarth is too spent from his journey here." She turned a wink towards Cailyder. "My rabbit sent him the wrong way a little too late." She said to her sister. "Nerlander even had to take a break and may not be here until the After Meeting."

"We all do what we must for Mahiya." Cailyder observed.

"Ah-norya" Shankaria agreed. The little gnome then turned a somewhat more serious face upon Ashe. Adopting her northwoods language suddenly, she said, "Don' stand there like a statue, Brother." She playfully admonished Ashe. "M' dairnick asked who ye be!" She reached up with her ancient staff and gave Ashe a light rap on the forearm for emphasis.

How comfortable she had become with Ashe in so little time...
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on October 09, 2013, 07:33:28 PM
Cailyder playfully blushed at Ashe’s enchantment of her. So busy was she defending her home that there was little time for any social life or even family life. She took it as a compliment that despite her subtle scars and wear that her natural beauty was still captivating. Her many lessons in the ways of Mahiya taught her that there is beauty in everything even if it’s outward look did not show it. Still, the doe in her- that primal instinct that was just Cailyder and nothing more- loved the attention that she could garnish on her looks. It allowed her to be away from her daily battles and think of herself.

Ashe was completely taken in by the hybsils exquisiteness. It was a silly thing part of him thought. Cailyder was no more or less enchanting than Whisper. Maybe it was the scene about them or the natural energy the grove had. Maybe it was the various wines and spirits that were in his head. He didn’t know and didn’t much care either! That is, until a wee voice, or what he perceived as a wee voice, echoed beyond and he felt a tapping on his arm.

“Oh! I…ah…Me? Yes, my name is Ashe Clearwater.” he stammered. He took a great bow then offered his hand in greeting. “And your name is Cailyder. I am honored to finally meet you. My father knew your kin well many years ago and I’m saddened that I’ve not met you until this day.”

Cailyder took his hand and rather than shaking it in a typical human fashion for a greeting kissed the palm of his hand. “That is how my clan greets. For us it honors the work the other does in the clan. Your father was in many ways a father to all of us. We owe him a great debt. The thought that we owed him anything would be an insult to him.”

He felt the tradition of shaking hands quite inferior at that moment. The shaking of hands, as Ashe came to know it, was rooted in showing the other that you had no weapons or tricks literally up your sleeve. A display of  trust born of distrust. Honoring the work of another seemed a far more friendly acknowledgment…at least among those familiar with each other. He wasn’t sure how a greeting such as that would pass in the larger cities especially when knowing what one has up their sleeve is a good thing in a place filled with deceit.

Cailyder turned to Shankaria, who she suspected enjoyed the whole exchange that occurred, and asked, “Have any of the other Grenvardaien* arrived aside from yourself and Eswarth, Shankaria?”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on October 09, 2013, 09:04:48 PM
"Mirriam is singing at Akadi's fire." Shankaria answered. "But I haven't seen either Varshya or Maragarn yet." The little Torqanic answered. Cailyder could see that Shankaria was concerned a bit in connection with her answer; the beautiful hybsil gently prodded the little dale gnome with a raise of an elegant eyebrow.

Shankaria shifted slightly at the unspoken question, and shook her head slightly. "I don't know." She said, somewhat dejectedly. "But Kaltya said that something is wrong...in Margaran's forest." She looked up sadly at her sister. "And Margaran is never late." She finished.

A big sigh shook Shankaria's slight frame. "Ach, well." She said. "He'll be a' th' After Meetin' ta be sure. We'll jus' haf ta wait 'till then ta see wha's goin' on down theah."
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Dray on October 18, 2013, 01:00:37 PM
/thoroughly enjoyed to this point. Thank you!
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on October 18, 2013, 01:39:33 PM
Glad you like it! I also recommend Darkening Shawdows as it's a tale of intrigue, decepetion, and routing out villany in the underworld of Kurr...Laren style.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on October 18, 2013, 02:40:01 PM
Dread washed over Ashe. Maragarn’s forest was near Threshold. It was also a surprise to him that Maragarn was guardian of a Vallenbrush. In all the conversations he’d had with the jovial satyr never once did he mention it. Of course if he had his ability to guard it would be in question.

This revelation concerned Ashe a great deal. He had seen the ash rings with Maccabeus and Kym not too long ago. If the minions of Zyxu had discovered the Vallenbrush it could well devastate it, possibly beyond redemption if it was still alive.

Ashe wondered to himself if he should send Istian to see the satyr tribe and offer any protection. The great bear was guarding the dryad Whisper and the Goldleaf Grove from any further harm. If he did send his companion it would leave the dryad vulnerable. He couldn’t risk it. The Vallenbrush was sacred but so too were the Goldleaf Trees. The Goldleaf trees were also sick with a pestilence that only a Vallenwood could cure- a mission that Maccabeus and others had embraced. He wondered how Maccabeus, Wolf, Bastion, Hafaveral, and Dale fared on their quest. He hoped their journey was peaceful and saw no harm. Then he realized that their quest would take them past where Maragarn’s tribe is…or was.

In his distress, Ashe hands wanted to begin their jerky dance. He successfully stifled the shakes and ticks of his hand- a residual affect from his days as a seer, one that would never go away. He cursed the evaporation of his pleasant mood from his fascination of Cailyder.

“Shankaria? Maccabeus may be in danger.” He said with notable anxiety. “It’s too early to tell based on our information but not too long ago it was discovered that there was an ash ring not too far from Threshold [Wildfire’s Note: See Wolves on the Hunt Page 6 http://griznuq.com/index.php?topic=6853.50]. It could well be that the source of the trouble for Maragarn is the creators of that ring…and the defilement of the Ring of Mists before it was saved. They are currently in that area of Maragarn’s kin.”

Cailyder’s eyes closed and she whispered a prayer to Mahiya “Blessed Mother-Father, may your everlasting life and wisdom protect our brother and child. May your earth offer strength, your waters healing, your wind clarity, and your fire comfort.” Cailyder knew only too well that if Ashe’s fears were fact then Maragarn would need a sister such as her. No one else would understand his anguish in the same way.

Ashe nodded to Cailyder, “Shankaria, it’s rare that I want to be so wrong as I do now.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on October 18, 2013, 03:50:40 PM
Shankaria deflated a bit as Ashe spoke; she added her own reverence to Cailyder’s prayer, and after the hybsil finished she scanned the Gnarcheon in the grove. As if sensing her discomfort, a long-eared rabbit hopped over to her and pushed her forehead into Shankaria’s knee.

The little Trqanic knelt and whispered in the rabbit’s ear and the rabbit then hopped away dutifully. Wistfully, she watched the rabbit go and said, they’ll find Maragarn…if he’s here.” She then looked up at Cailyder again. “When they find him, he’ll need you.” She knew that Cailyder already knew that, of course.

“Stands to reason that the only real threat to Maragarn or his brush would be the Ash Lords.” She said ruefully. Then, slipping back into her northwoods brogue she added, “Bu’ le’s na get ‘head o’ us. Th’ rascal’s bin in danger since he wuz whelped…on’y, he dinnae know it back then. Now he knows it…he’ll ha’ it Her way.” She reiterated her assertion that Ashe had heard the week before when they both visited her Vallenbrush. Her conviction was undeniable, though she was certainly no prophet.

“Cailyder, dear,” she said, adopting once again the ancient cant. “See to it that Eswarth is off to Grumbar’s fire, and send Bal-Jhor to find Varshya so that she’ll attend Istisha’s fire, and when she’s settled in he’ll call the meeting to order. You have Kossuth’s fire.” She wasn’t having a pleasant conversation now, she was now Shankaria, Druid of the Deep Secrets, and in the North Woods, she was Torqanic as well. It was time now for leadership at the Grove of Needles, and the Gnarcheon present – Chankathur or not – would follow.

Cailyder bounded off while Shankaria turned her attention to Ashe. “You and I, revered Brother, shall attend Mahiya’s fire and await Bal-Jhor’s drone.” She said, bidding Ashe to follow across the span of the Grove of Needles.

As they walked, she said to him,  “Ah know ye’ll take no of’nse if I tell ye tha’ I hope yer wrong too.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on October 22, 2013, 08:56:15 PM
Maragarn sat on a fallen tree outside of the Grove of Needles. He could hear the reverie but had absolutely no desire to participate-an unusual thing for his usual celebratory manner. He was content to stay beyond with his falcon companion Akaria- which in the Druid tongue meant Spiritwind.

The vibrant scent of the late Sythus forest that he would normally take deep joyous breaths of had no interest for him. He had also lost his appetite days before and had not eaten during his entire journey to the Grove. He was numb to life. It was an insurmountable feeling that overwhelmed him such that the full emptiness he felt consumed his every thought. Every part of him hurt and his soul ached. It felt as though the feeling would never diminish no matter how much time passed. He closed his eyes and took a necessary breath.

He heard a whispering rustle of the brush to his left. He hoped it was Mahiya come to claim him. Rather it was a rabbit that seemed to have a particular intent. It came right to him and gently crawled upon his wooly goat-like leg. It looked at him expectantly with it’s long ears perked up and it’s whiskers twitching. Maragarn of course could not ignore the rabbit and shooing it away was unthinkable. Still, his demeanor was not in such a way that he wanted to entertain the purpose of this rabbit’s visit. Akaria made no motion to predate on the vulnerable rabbit and that certainly was remarkable.

Unexpectedly the rabbit squeaked and thumped it’s foot on Maragarn leg. It’s ears flattened out and it squeaked even more. It jumped from Maragarn and ran in a circle then stopped in the middle and stood on it’s hind feet, looking at him with whiskers still twitching.

“Akaria, I do believe that Shankaria is requesting our presence. Though I wish to be alone…” the falcon cried out in protest, “…with you…” he continued with a slight smile “…we have our obligations. The others must know regardless of how they’ll feel.” Reluctantly Maragarn stood and followed the rabbit to the festival leaving his fallen tree behind.

____________________________________________________

Cailyder had little trouble finding Bal-Jhor and Eswarth. They were surrounded by a crowd of cheering onlookers at yet another test of strength. In this challenge they stood side by side facing opposite directions with their hands locked. Each was trying to force the others arm back past the half down position. Eswarth had clear advantage of height in this contest though Bal-Jhor was never one to submit so easily.

With a firm but inoffensive hand Cailyder parted the crowd and entered the contest circle with a musing look on her face that was shadowed with seriousness. Bal-Jhor glanced over to see who had come so close the arm wrestling behemoths and that’s when Eswarth made his finishing maneuver to pin Bal-Jhor.

“Aye Cailyder you cost me victory over noble Eswarth here! Ha-ha! Good match my brother.” He said slapping the centaur on the arm that beat him. Such a slap would have sent a human or even half-orc sprawling, but to Eswarth, from his chosen brother, it was only enough to make the centaur reposition a rear leg. “What brings you to the circle my sister? Do you wish to try to win over Eswarth in a match?” the goliath asked her.

“Me? I would never challenge Eswarth for fear of embarrassing my brother in what would surely be a humiliating defeat for him.” She teased playfully and winked at Eswarth who smiled slightly with the knowledge that in the manner of some combat skills she would indeed humiliate him. It was widely known that few could best Cailyder with a bow. In other tests, though, he would do no less to her.

"I thank you for your kindness, dear one." Eswarth said formally, inclining his shaggy head to his little cousin. She inclined her graceful head in kind.

“Shankaria bids you to Grumbar’s Fire so that we may begin the reverie and the joining of the five." She said to the centaur, then turned to the goliath. "Bal-Jhor, Shankaria asks that you find Varshya so that she can conduct Istisha’s fire. After we're ready, you are to begin the Drone.” Bal-Jhor placed both palms on his chest and bowed to Cailyder, accepting his charge happily.

Looking out to the crowd Cailyder then spoke in a forceful voice, “the rest of you, gather around for the Grove of Needles meeting of Gnarcheon!”

As soon as she finished calling them to order Cailyder immediately scampered off to find Maragarn. She looked to the groves edge and called for her two faithful partners, Grubar - her boar - and Koth - her wolverine. She dispatched them to search the perimeter to find her friend and brother.

Far to her right in the glow of one of the cook fires she saw a rabbit scurry out from the underbrush into the clearing. She immediately ran in that direction. Just after the rabbit emerged so did Maragarn who instantly spotted Cailyder. They stopped just before embracing and looked at each other. They looked to each others eyes both with tears welling up. All he could do was close his and lower his head.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on October 28, 2013, 10:25:12 AM
This year was Da’khaire’s third visit to the festival at the Grove of Needles. The first, when Inh introduced him to his new brethren, was indelibly printed on his mind and yet was also nearly void of specific memory for him. There were so many sights, sounds, animals, and people that the entire meeting was nothing more than a jumbled set of individual visions. In his second visit he had spent just about the entire night at the Veneration of the Life Cycle, “meeting” sister after sister. His young mind was riveted to that particular fire, and he had spent much of his journey here looking forward to paying his homage to the Cycle again.

This was the first year that he had made the journey alone; he hadn’t seen Inh since before Sythus had laid her blanket of snow upon the wildlands and so he had no choice but to try to feel his way to the Grove. As he was a young Gnarcheon, he had not yet learned the deeper mysteries of Mahiya and so could not call upon any animal forms to help him navigate the thick forest that for tens – perhaps scores – of leagues surrounded the Grove of Needles. But as he made the trek, accompanied by Gray Cloud, his lynx friend,  it had seemed that Mahiya herself had guided their step, and the trees opened for them a path to the Grove. Not an easy path, but a path nonetheless. Vine bridgeways had spanned the deeper chasms for them to cross; the shallower ones they were forced to climb first down and then up. Clean water had appeared when they needed it, but the journey was arduous, continuous up and down through dense forest until at last, almost too late, they arrived safely at the Grove of Needles, to the scene of two enormous hulks arm wrestling in the midst of a throng of Gnarcheon.

Da’khaire felt that his mind and eyes must been playing tricks on him. The smaller contender stood half again as tall as Da’khaire did: he was a massive mountain of a brother whose skin was blotchy patches of light and dark gray. Indeed, he looked very much like a larger-than-life statue.

The other contender, however, was so big as to cause Da’khaire to blink in disbelief. He was an enormous black-maned centaur that stood another head above his opponent. If the horse portions of this centaur were an actual horse, Da’khaire would have been unable to easily mount the beast as it would have stood at the shoulder taller than Da’khaire himself was.

If the human portion of the centaur were an actual human, he would be the largest human that Da’khaire might ever encounter. Even among Da’khaire’s wildlander tribes, there were none that would be so large or intimidating a specimen as either of these two.

As Da’khaire watched this contest that neither participant seemed likely to win, a small lovely woman entered the circle. Through the crowd it looked to Da’khaire that she must have been riding a small, thin horse, but he could not see clearly.

What he could see, however, was that the smaller of the two contestants recognized in this lady the beauty that Da’khaire himself could, even from this distance through the fire-lit night. In a moment of distraction the centaur forced his opponent’s hand back; he apparently won the contest.

The woman rode closer to the two giants and they held what appeared to Da’khaire to be a familiar conversation, the two towering wrestlers regarding the diminutive sister with great respect. The woman struck Da’khaire as the embodiment of all that was feminine: beautiful and elegant, perfect of form and confident. He guessed that she must have been a very small human, or perhaps a halfling mounted upon a pony of some sort. He wondered whether she would be paying any homage to the Cycle this year.

While he let his thoughts wander on that possibility, she rather abruptly turned from the two giants and addressed the crowd of on-lookers, saying, “The rest of you, gather around for the Grove of Needles meeting of Gnarcheon!” She then bounded off northward and only then did Da’khaire realize that this sister was in fact an hybsil – much like a centaur, but having hind quarters like those of a deer. He watched her in fascination as she hurried off, seemingly with a purpose.

Da’khaire’s mind seemed to stop, wrestling with these realizations much as the two giants had wrestled with each other.

“Get along, youngling.” A gravelly voice awoke him from his reverie. “You’ve been called to order.” The centaur was speaking to him in a deep, rumbling voice. Da’khaire looked up into the centaur’s dark, menacing eyes while the centaur in turn scowled at Da’khaire. Gray Cloud hunched low and began to slink away, more aware than Da’khaire of the correct response.

Apparently the two wrestlers had come to where Da’khaire was standing dumbly; they had come in order to reclaim their gear: a huge great-sword and a tree-like bow for the centaur, and a sizeable satchel for the other, along with an ancient staff seemingly made from a species of ironwood for the other.

When Da’kahaire did not move, but only started at the two, the centaur spoke more harshly. “Get moving and join the others.” He commanded, slinging his great-sword into place along his horse quarters. This was not a brother that Da’khaire would like to irritate; the young druid stammered a few inarticulate sounds as he bowed low and moved to disappear into the crowd of gnarcheon who were moving as a body. Da’khaire didn’t particularly care where they were going; the crowd no doubt knew where to be right then, and he was pretty hopeful of becoming just a face in the crowd at that moment.

Behind him, he heard a different deep voice saying, “You oughtn’t treat the children so roughly, brother.” This was only responded to by a snort from the centaur. The other voice rejoined, “I’ll head off to Istisha’s fire in search of Varshya. We’ll enjoy more of the food later, eh?” This time, the snort that returned sounded almost in an affirmative, but Da’khaire was hopefully out of the view of the two. He melted as much as he could in amidst the other brothers and sisters; he would have liked just then to speak to Inh, if only for some direction. But in times like this, the thing to do was to be a fish, and swim with the current.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on November 03, 2013, 02:28:16 PM
Varshya sat back under the boughs of the tall pine trees away from the celebration. Since her early years it felt awkward to her to celebrate. Her young life was overshadowed with war and the destruction of her home city of Crusindiar during the Shadow War. The Shadow War had been a war between The Kingdom of Vychia and the Empire of Xanthakos with the elven homeland of Kaaryn’ Zyth as a large part of the battlefield. The elves suffered numerous losses and many settlements has been destroyed. Since then Varshya had been distrustful of nearly all races- especially humans- though other fey were offered a modicum of kindness. Her suspicion of all those that were not elves always tinted her outlook and attitude in all of her relations. She often admitted to herself that it wasn’t fair or just but nevertheless it was there. It was a perspective she wanted to let go of and somehow could not. She felt that perhaps she had grown too comfortable with her anger and found that she didn’t know how to release it.

She took solace in Mahiya. The ways of the Mother-Father made sense when so much didn’t. There were no pretentions, no opinions, no ulterior motives, no good or bad with Mahiya. There was only the purity of life and the cycle of it. To her that was the most sacred thing of all. She took the passing of knowledge to her acolytes quite seriously as it was though she was rearing her children though she had none of her own. She worshipped life yet to celebrate it with overt joy was not in her nature. She smiled at the irony of that.

Yarlia approached Varshya with a plain, dark green, ceramic goblet. “Master? I’ve some Dalewine her for you if you’d like some.” Varshya had watched her acolytes partaking in the festival. They danced and frolicked as though it was their last night alive. Yarlia was certainly no exception. On more than one occasion Yarlia had expressed nervous anticipation at contributing to the Veneration of the Life Cycle. She had never before been to the Grove of Needles and despite the stories told to her, didn’t know what to expect. A few possible consorts had caught her eye but still the night was young.

Varshya nodded and accepted the goblet. “Thank you Yarlia. I see you’re having fun. “Tis good. Keep with it for Mahiya smiles upon those that honor life with joy.” she said. She felt nakedly hypocritical at that moment for she could not celebrate in that way. She felt envious too.

“Won’t you join us? Oh please come dance with us! You can’t always be the reserved master.” Yarlia pleaded.

“I celebrate in my own manner Yarlia” Varshya stated firmly. She had this conversation many times in the past and she was not enthusiastic about trying to justify her stance on the matter yet again. “Now please, be off and keep a watchful eye, always. Soon we will hear the droning and the fires will be lit. Tell all of your brothers and sisters to be mindful as well.” Varshya felt that of all of her acolytes Yarlia would most likely be the warden of the Vallenbrush. She showed great promise even in her young years. “Oh and Yarlia” Varshya said with a wink “Do enjoy the Veneration…but don’t appear too eager. Patience offers greater rewards.”

Yarlia was always seeking approval from her master and truly appreciated it when she got it. With a wide smile Yarlia bounded out to fire and quickly became another wispy dressed silhouette against the fire.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on November 05, 2013, 10:36:50 AM
Before Bal-Jhor began to understand the mysteries of Mahiya, before he began to appreciate Her better, he had been conversing with spirits for many seasons in the mountains that were then his home. North and west of the Dale of Wolves, in the high craggy peaks of the Yarnal mountains he had served his people by providing them guidance that came directly to them through him from The Ancestors, or from the ancestors of the animals that lived in those same peaks.

As he left the wrestling ring and his Chosen-Brother behind, his ears and nose were conscious of all the life that was now concentrated in the Grove of Needles. Brothers and Sisters from all races mixing together, all speaking in the Ancient Cant; most of these brothers and sisters bore close friendships with one animal or another, and all were present in a great cacophony of speech, music, song, laughter, and the smells of life.

But unlike many of his Brethren here, Bal-Jhor was also aware of other participants at the Grove of Needles. Unknown to most, in a place just beyond the ken of those less attuned, the spirits of those Brothers and Sisters who came and went before were also there. As Bal-Jhor strode across the Grove, these spirits whirled and danced as much as did those living in his own material world. They whispered in his ear and brought him a comfort unlike that of being a Gnarcheon in the service of Mahiya.

Bal-Jhor was very much a Gnarcheon, and he very much loved Mahiya and the Divinities. But he was unique among the Gnarcheon in that he was also Grhumtilde – one who walked with the spirits. On this night, the spirits of Gnarcheon past walked the Grove with him, celebrating the long day every bit as much as did those living in this world today.

As expected, Bal-Jhor found Varshya at Istisha’s fire. Varshya’s affinity for the water divinity had made that fire a logical choice for where to find the elf. The green cast of the fire put a particular sort of sheen upon the attendants there, but Bal-Jhor was able to pick Varshya out from the others who were also nearby easily: Varshya was the only one holding herself apart from the celebration, almost aloof.

Bal-Jhor sometimes felt sorry for Varshya: she allowed her elven prejudices to keep her apart from a vast population of Brothers and Sisters, and in fact alienated many of them from her. In so doing, though she did not know it, he felt sure, she also drove the spirits away from her place.

Spirits were a generally joyful lot, and they eschewed areas and people of undue gravity. Thus, people of Varshya’s bent did not benefit from the buoyancy of the spirits, who were attracted to community and joy, magnifying such comforts for the living. While Varshya did indeed have a community here, she carried too little joy in her heart, and thus the spirits by and large left her to her own.

It was an awful loop: she carried too little joy, and so the spirits that might lift her heart stayed away from her, deepening her melancholy, causing more difficulty for spirits to help her. It was her choice, however, and Bal-Jhor recognized that only she could separate her from her anger, her disappointment, and her solitude. He felt confident that sooner or later she would do just that. He noted that some of her acolytes partook of the festival’s mood; it might well be that one of them would carry Varshya forward with their youth.

Approaching her, he nestled his staff in the crook of his elbow so that he could pay respects to her in the way of his people: crossing his wrists he lay his palms upon his chest and bowed formally to his sister.

“Greetings, revered sister,” He addressed her. “I’ve come to bid you be ready. Our Torquanic has given me leave to commence the Drone.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on November 05, 2013, 02:12:53 PM
Varshya could see the mottled Goliath approaching her from the distance. She had only a cursory knowledge of his kind as they usually held to the mountains and her kind to the forest. Their races did not often pass across each other. She wondered what brought him down from his peaks and how he ever was brought into the fold of Mahiya. It seemed to her that his culture would more likely to worship Grumbar or Akadi and that Bal-Jhor must be somewhat of an anomaly. Perhaps that is why he was here in the Grove of Needles and not among his primitive people she thought.

He had earned her respect though even if by proxy. He was no doubt talented in his own way and his friendship with Eswarth commanded deep regard. Also, he was here in the grove- not just anyone was allowed to enter the sacred shrine. Mahiya must have seen something in the goliath.

“Bal-Jhor” she said nodding to him “Seems the past year has been kind to you as you’re looking well.” She studied his natural skin designs to see if there were any patterns to be seen. Not wanting to be misconstrued as having other intentions she looked up at his eyes almost immediately.

“Ah yes…the calling drone.” She said in recognition of the tradition but more to cover her academic interest in his markings. She stood up and began to proceed to the Istisha Fire. Varshya at full height was still a Halfling height shorter than the behemoth next to her. “I trust your journey here offered wisdom and safe travels?”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on November 05, 2013, 03:19:06 PM
"Indeed little sister." Bal-Jhor replied, remaining formal with Varshya. "A day where you find no wisdom is a day lost." He quoted to her. "How about yourself? No issues on your pilgrimage?"
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on November 05, 2013, 04:02:45 PM
“Nothing I’ve not seen before.”she stated flatly and with a hint of derision. “Traversing the borders of the Tortured Lands and then the Wasteland of Archea is always trickey. Staying close to the mountains offers some relief from both of those wretched places if you can believe that. Usually it’s the mountains that travelers avoid for fear of the beasts that inhabit them.”
Varshya thought of her words after she said them and hoped that Bal-Jhor would take them not as an insult but as a matter of fact. With a lighter voice she continued, “However, that all pales in comparison to the eagerness of my acolytes at coming to the festival. The whole journey I was barraged with questions! In a good way mind you. They thirst for more and I can barely keep up with the brandy of knowledge.” She looked ahead as she spoke watching her young students. Their dance around the fire brought to Varshya thoughts of what her kin have been doing for millennia.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on November 05, 2013, 04:32:44 PM
Bal-Jhor tried to remain formal with Varshya, despite his natural tendency toward near-joking good humor. Nevertheless, he did manage to temper his response, saying as if to himself, "Imagine wanting to avoid the mountains!"

He smiled what he hoped would be a good natured smile and gazed upon Varshya's acolytes. "They are of great spirit." He observed wondering whether Varshya could appreciate his use of the term. She would when she was ready, of course, but he wondered when she might be ready.

"I have a modicum of advantage, not needing to shepherd any of our Brothers or Sisters. But more of my journey is under the trees than in the mountains; we must all be in places away from our comfort in order that we might grow, eh?"

He breathed deep the festival air. "Do you mind, sister, if we start the drone here at Istisha's fire?" He asked her, knowing that doing so would mean that Varshya would be attending her part of the ritual for longer than the Chankathur at the other fires, but he also knew what role in the Drone the spirits would play, and mayhap they would lift Varshya a bit by their proximity.

Mayhap.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on November 05, 2013, 08:42:58 PM
She espied her sisters and brothers dancing in the green glow of the water fire. Such abandon they had; such carelessness. “They are moved by the spirit of instinct Bal-Jhor…their primal reverie. Mahiya smiles upon them.” She explained despite knowing that Bal-Jhor knew well why and that he sought no explanation. “New experiences beyond the boundaries of comfort are indeed good for the soul- exhilarating even- which is why I take comfort seeing my disciples as they are at the fire. They all show great promise.” Varshya detailed. “I suspect that we shall all be pushed to our limits in the coming seasons. Then will the true nature of us all will be seen.” She warned ominously.

They arrived at the emerald fire and Varshya held her hands to it feeling it’s healing warmth. She looked up to Bal-Jhor who in the fire light seemed as a large green ghost and answered “I would be honored, as would Istisha, for you to begin the drone here. Life begins in the water and so to do we return to it to heal and cleanse our soul.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on November 06, 2013, 12:37:47 PM
Bal-Jhor reflected on Varshya’s ironic use of the word ‘spirit’. He wondered if perhaps she were aware of the spirits dancing around them, or was she perhaps only using the colloquial. He made a mental note to pursue that at a later time. She was such a sad person, really, striving to live vicariously through her acolytes, but completely unaware of the heights to which she herself could soar if she’d just embrace herself and the spirit world.

He smiled a bit grimly in the green firelight: these thoughts would feed his philosophical side well in the weeks that he would travel the forest on his way home.

He began to turn his mind and his thryng-pah – his spiritual self – to the starting of the Drone. He remembered the Drone and how it had been conducted when he was a new Gnarcheon…when others led the commencement magics. In that time, the Drone was awesome. One would lose themselves in the Drone and connect with all the Gnarcheon present in a spectacular presence of life.

But when Bal-Jhor assumed that mantle, the Drone reached new heights. Although to his knowledge none present understood why that was, they all agreed that Bal-Jhor brought some ineffable energy to the Drone. An energy that connected all the Gnarcheon there with not only each other, but with the trees and grasses of the Grove itself, and with the living stone beneath their feet and the winds that embraced each and every one present.

In part this was because Bal-Jhor was a goliath by birth, and as such he was particularly attuned to Grumbar – to the stones that created the mantle of earth upon which they all walked. He brought with his heritage the very rhythm of the stones. But it was more than that as well.

It was also because Bal-Jhor, as Grhumtilde, reached out not only to the Gnarcheon in the Grove, but also to the spirits who were present, and connecting in his own special way with Grumbar – with the very earth upon which he strode – called forth the devotion of the Ancestors and combined that devotion with not only the voices and spirits of the living in the Grove but also with the living and mystical power of the grove itself, giving the drone a dimension that it could not otherwise have. All life energies present were entwined, and each could feel the other on a visceral level below their conscious selves.

In this way, the Drone carried the energy of the present Gnarcheon, the past Gnarcheon, all the animals, the plants, and the very elements present, bringing the Drone and its participants that much closer to the eternal Divinities and to Mahiya.

It was now time to start that sacred journey.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on November 13, 2013, 07:36:01 PM
They walked towards the grove’s inner fires. Cailyder didn’t know what to say to assuage Maragarn’s despair. She wanted to take the burden of his pain onto herself. Over the years she had become resilient to loss since she witnessed it nearly every day. Losing a Vallenbrush she thought must be soul crushing. She empathized with him by imagining her Vallenbrush being taken. The very idea sickened her. As tragic as it was for her to see her homeland diminish to almost nothing, the emptiness of losing what essentially amounted to a child and parent must have felt all the worse. She wanted to burden herself with Maragarn’s pain but feared now that it would be too much to bear.

“The others are here?” he asked her.

“Aye, they are. Including an unexpected guest. A long time friend of yours I’m told- Ashe Clearwater.” She replied with an uplifting tone.

Maragarn snorted with a fond smile. “That old fox finally managed to wiggle his way into the festival, eh? If anyone could, it would be him.” He mused. “Although with all of the strange things going on I’m actually not fully surprised he’s here. Threshold has been a hub of activity lately.” Any conversation he had to take his mind away was good. He needed the distraction from the numbness and the growing anger inside of him. “Where is Shankaria? I want to see her before the drone begins.”

Cailyder pointed towards the central Mahiya fire. “They’ll both be attending Mahiya’s fire this year. Of course Shankaria wouldn’t have it any other way with the likes of Ashe being here.”

“The likes of Ashe…” he repeated. Maragarn glanced sidelong at Cailyder with a quizzical expression and asked “Had you ever met him before?”

“Well no…I hadn’t actually…” The hybsil replied. “…but something in me has known him for a long time.”

They came to the crimson fire of Kossuth. “I must stay here for the ritual. I’m leading the Kossuth Fire this year.” Cailyder informed him. He looked to her with a dependence in his eyes. “Whenever you need to, love.” She said with a sisterly affection. “I’ll be here for you.”

He nodded with appreciation and continued to walk towards Shankaria and Ashe. He wished the emptiness would be filled. He knew it may never be.

______________________________________________________________

He strode towards a destination. Branches snapped at his passing and leaves hissed under his step. He did not know where to or why for but on he went with compelling intent. He had gained confidence in the journey the further he went as though he was going home. If he were to be caught by his former brothers and sisters he’d be executed on sight. That notion did not bother him- and that bothered him. He was embarking on a journey literally and figuratively- striding towards redemption.

He felt he was in hostile territory though the only ones he would actually be hostile to were those that he once called family. How strange that he felt stronger now here alone running blindly through the forested wild than he had when he was surrounded with soldiers at his command. He was compelled- by what he did not know. What he did know was that he carried five berries in his belt pouch and that he would protect them at all costs.

He breathed deep and continued on under the canopy of leaves and pine needles.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on November 22, 2013, 12:41:12 PM
Bareglar knew when he first saw that goliath that Bal-Jhor (as he had heard the elf woman address him) was different from the other people who were in that grove. It was clear from the goliath’s trappings – his satchel and the mystical fetishes on his heavy staff – that Bal-Jhor was a spirit-talker.

Bareglar had thought that such gifted were only among the orcish clans of his father, where Bareglar had lived for some years as he grew. In those orc clans, being a spirit-talker was not always a good thing to be, unless you were also high-born within the clan, and while Bareglar had been so gifted, if only feebly so, he was a half-breed and low-born besides. When the elder spirit-talker had learned that Bareglar had the trifle of the gift that he did, the elder condemned the young half-breed to death, and Bareglar’s own father moved to deliver it.

Needless to say, Bareglar had escaped, but only after losing his left hand to his father’s rage. Alone in the wildlands, Bareglar had been rescued by an ageing wolf who cared for Bareglar as the half-orc recovered from his wound. The wolf brought food to Bareglar and kept him warm through the wild winter nights, and by the time that Bareglar was once again whole enough to hunt for himself, the wolf rather abruptly died. It was that wolf’s hide that continued to keep Bareglar warm to this date, and it was that wolf’s spirit, Bareglar felt sure, that had guided the half-orc as he had these past seasons learned Mahiya’s ways and that had also eventually guided the half-orc to this festival.

There had been no fear for Bareglar upon his arrival here, despite the many celebrants who were there already. In fact, it had taken Bareglar a hand or two to learn that this was in fact an annual celebration of the Children of Mahiya. When he learned that, he knew that this was a good place for him to be. He knew that here he should be able to find some acceptance.

Thus, when Bareglar saw this mystical goliath striding across the grove, he had followed. The goliath’s carriage told that he was one of import; he was a leader among these celebrants. And then, by his conversation with the elf woman, it became clear that this Bal-Jhor was influential indeed, and wise besides. Bareglar decided then and there that he must talk with the goliath: Bal-Jhor would be of help to the lonely half-orc.

But Bal-Jhor had offered no such opportunity. No sooner had the goliath terminated his conversation with the elf woman than did he fall to one knee, seeming to pull himself together for this Drone of which the two had spoken.

The fire where the goliath had knelt burned a green light, and was attended not only by the lonely elf woman, but by a number of what were clearly her acolytes, and many others besides. No one gave Bareglar a second look; they all seemed to accept the half-orc in their midst, and some even greeted him in friendly fashion.

Many of those collected there continued to whisper to each other while Bal-Jhor, on one knee and palms to the ground, began to glow. The blotchy patterns that were an ear-mark of his kin began to blur and vibrate in place on his skin, and he glowed a ruddy sort of light. No one else in attendance seemed to note these things, however. They all seemed completely oblivious to what Bal-Jhor was doing and stared at him expectantly. Bareglar even heard one human ask when Bal-Jhor was going to begin.

Then, Bareglar’s breath caught audibly in his chest as he sensed many spirits about himself, pulling the fear from his pacht – his soul – and causing him to feel such joy that tears dropped unbidden and suddenly from his cheek. The human who seemed to wait impatiently for Bal-Jhor to begin asked if Bareglar was ok…Bareglar could only sob that he was. He had never felt such beauty touch the depths of his being.

Through his tears he looked at Bal-Jhor only to find the goliath looking from the corners of his eyes and scrutinizing Bareglar, the green light of the fire making the goliath’s eyes seem supernatural.
Bareglar thought he saw a cryptic smile on the goliath’s face as Bal-Jhor closed his eyes and turned his attention once more to the ground.

Then, Bareglar felt a deep but subtle tremor in the ground beneath his feet, followed by a moan so low that he felt it in his chest. He realized that Bal-Jhor was making both of these things happen. The one by his racial closeness to grumbar, and the other by his powerful voice. The goliath was emitting a low drone that carried literally into all those present.

One by one, the celebrants who stood near to Bal-Jhor took up this drone, joy upon their faces, and the drone grew. All around him, Bareglar realized that everyone present was picking up the drone. He did likewise, adding his voice to the collective sound. Overall, while each individual might have to pause to refill their lungs, the collective drone was constant, and grew louder and louder, and filled the bodies of all those present more and more completely.

Bareglar then heard the elf woman reciting a ritual of some sort. He continued to drone with the rest of the participants, and as he did he felt happy. Genuinely happy to be there at that time, with those people. He felt…connected. Connected to all the celebrants around him, and to the trees, the earth, the fire, everything. He felt as though he were part of a family, which was something that Bareglar had never before truly been.

As the elf woman chanted her own particular part of this ritual, the green fire pulsed along with her. Tendrils of light leapt high into the night sky, as though they were fingers searching for something. They continued to grow, but instead of going higher, they branched out, searching towards the left and right, as well as towards the center of the grove.

And the drone continued to grow ahead of the green filaments of light. More voices in the grove took up the drone as they heard it. And Bareglar felt euphoric.

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

Shankaria felt a mixture of great relief and awful sadness when she spotted Maragarn approach. It was clear from the satyr’s scowl – normally so foreign an emotion for Maragarn – and his gait that their worst fears might have been realized. Something wicked had clearly been afoot in Maragarn’s forest.

Food for the after meeting. She thought. She sighed and cast a commiserating look of fondness at her friend. Shankaria could see that Varshya had begun her ritual, although where she was, at Mahiya’s fire, she was as yet unable to hear the Drone.

“Come, child.” She said to Maragarn. “Yours will be the ritual here for Mahiya’s fire.” She told him. She needed to give him an intrinsic role to the commencement. Perhaps Bal-Jhor’s drone, when it truly got here, would raise the satyr’s spirits. She thought she could feel the deep vibrations of the drone now, although it was still beyond her hearing.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on December 21, 2013, 08:38:29 PM
Varshya could feel Bal-Jhor’s drone before she heard it. It came about as a tingle in her bare toes. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the ritual drone. Memories flooded her mind and passed through as birds flying among trees. So many came and went. They were memories of joyous times, saddening ones, angry ones, regretful ones. They blended together as colorful leaves in Rynnyx; blended together until they were one white light. Then nothing. It was just her and the warm feeling in the heart of her mind and mind of her heart. Her soul was touched at this moment and she had no sense of herself. She could feel the ritual taking her.

Her eyes slowly opened and she rose from her resting place. She moved with a posture of  fluid strength toward the green fire and loosened her clothes as she went. She was a steward of Istisha and shedding her clothes was symbolic of birth and rebirth. She whispered, “As from the water was I born, to the water shall I sing.” Her body was consumed in green light and quietly she began to sing in the brethren cant:

Mahiya is the life, Mahiya is the breath
Mahiya is our knowledge, Mahiya is our death
We rise above, we sink below
We unite as one, as one we know
Istisha we drink, Istisha will mend
Istisha is peace to our hearts will it send

The song started much as the drone did, quietly at first but picking up in volume as well as tempo until it found it’s own rhythm and pace. It was a beautiful but stark contrast between the two voices: Bal-Jhor’s masculine bass complimented by Varshya’s feminine soprano. Varshya alone sang the hymn and despite the drone being carried by the surrounding onlookers, it did not drown her voice. She stood at Istisha’s fire free from everything and lost in the ritual.

Yarlia in her training thus far had never seen Varshya so open. Her master had unashamedly shed her clothing in front of all of these people and was singing at a fire for all to hear. At that moment she felt inspired by her master’s unification of all that she was with all that was Istisha. She saw Varshya not just as a living spirit of her race but of Istisha itself. It was such an inspiring sight to her that Yarlia, while partaking in the drone, shed tears of revelation. She would never be the same after that moment.

Bal-Jhor could sense the peace that Varshya had found in the ritual and saw well the multitude of spirits that had surrounded her.

Across the camp at Mahiya’s fire Maragarn listened to Shankaria’s direction. He wanted to protest and refuse his part in the ritual. He hadn’t earned the honor this year. He wanted an alternative. He knew right well that Shankaria would hear none of it. The only way out for him was through. He realized that may have been Shankaria’s unspoken wisdom- one of many in her decision.

He nodded his acknowledgement of his part in the ritual. With sad eyes he looked to Shankaria for some release of the void within him. He wanted that emptiness to fill with something…anything to mitigate the ache of his loss. Time was too slow.

He could sense the wispy threads of darkness that began to tickle his thoughts like a snake’s tongue as he walked to the fire. Ashe watched as the satyr approached. He knew the path that Maragarn was going to take before anyone else did- including Maragarn. Ashe was once a legendary Swamp Seer and could sense such things. Maragarn would either be liberated or destroyed by his choice. There was no middle ground.

The drone continued to carry across the camp.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on December 26, 2013, 07:02:28 PM
There were two surprises for Bal-Jhor this year...perhaps there were more yet to come.

Year after year it was clear that no other Gnarcheon in the grove truly understood what was happening during the Drone. This year was different. This year there was a half-orc that Bal-Jhor had never seen before, who understood. While every other Gnarcheon there was uplifted and happy when the Drone started, this half-orc was truly moved, and Bal-Jhor didn't need to see the wolf spirit at the half-orc's shoulder to know that the half-orc was a spirit friend. But the half-orc was clumsy with Mahiya's tongue...he had not been taught Her ways by anyone, and yet was here in the Grove where only Her servants were allowed. Bal-Jhor knew that the half-orc was no threat; he would bear watching.

His second surprise was Varshya who, in her role in the ritual was transformed from her lonely elf into a beautiful embodiment of Istisha. Perhaps, the goliath thought, Varshya wasn't quite so isolated as she seemed. Of course, outside of the ritual, even the spirits spoke a different story.

The Drone continued to fill the grove, taken up by joyous voices. It moved northerly towards Akadi's fire, and it moved southerly towards Grumbar's, leaving a bubble of sorts in the middle of the grove, where Mahiya's fire burned brightly. That middle ground would be filled only when all of Mahiya's children's fires were reaching to the sky, like Istisha's was. Istisha's green tendrils lifted on the energy of the Drone and Varshya's song like a green current following the path of a river, both lights and voices searched for Akadi's fire and Grumbar's fire.

At Akadi's fire, while voices joined the drone, Mirriam set tipper to bodhran and beat a rhythm full of life, adding dimension to Varshya's song while to the south, Eswarth reared high and brought his feet down impossibly loud upon the earth at Grumar's fire. Eswarth's enormous forehoofs began to stomp in a slow, methodic rhythm that complimented Mirriam's more rapid one, the both of them carried along with Varshya's song, the three continuing easterly to where Cailyder awaited the coming of the Drone and the currents of the three rituals for her to add her own to.

Blue fingers reached up from Akadi's fire to mingle and join with Istisha's green, the two dancing as though alive, intermingling before moving towards the orange fire that was Kossuth's. To the south, the ruddy fingers of Grumbars fire pulsed into the sky with Eswarth's stomping. Leaping up those ruddy fingers of light grabbed hold of Istisha's blue currents and lent the strength of Grumbar. The two searched onward towards Kossuth's beacon.

Shankaria felt the drone vibrating in her little body and watched the lights grace the sky one by one, all the while keeping an eye that saw, but did not fully understand, upon the sad satyr that stood beside her.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on January 22, 2014, 08:45:53 PM
Cailyder found it hard to concentrate. Her thoughts were with Maragarn and what she knew in her heart was a significant loss though Maragarn had not said as much. Rather, more telling, he said nothing. She heard the drone, could feel the ritual and its power coursing through the crowd but she was not in the moment of reverie. Although she found her distraction troublesome to her responsibilities as a fire warden and found difficulty in setting it aside, she knew she must. The great cycle can appear to be cruel Cailyder thought but she also knew there were no accidents. Maragarn, she believed, was chosen for a special purpose. He had more to learn. They all did.

She watched the path of the chromatic fires arcing over the grove begin to reach for her end of the grove. It was her charge to bring them to the Kossuth fire and complete The Circle. The Circle had so much meaning it was hard to fully grasp its ubiquity and meaning. It was a truth of reality that could overwhelm, inspire, frighten, and comfort one all at the same time. Cailyder felt honored this year, more than usual, to bring the circle to a close.

She pulled two fire clubs from her sides and approached Kossuth. Across the way she saw Varshya singing her hymn. To her left and right she saw Eswarth and Mirriam keeping the method of the rhythms. Joining everyone in common purpose was Bal-Jhor’s pervasive drone. Before her at Mahiya’s bonfire was Shankaria, Ashe, and Maragarn. She decided that while her part in this ritual was to honor Mahiya, this year it would be dedicated to her forest brother.

Cailyder looked at both clubs admiring their craft in beauty while she slipped the haftloops around her center fingers so they could freely spin. They were bronzewood clubs crowned with heads that took the dancing shape of fire itself. They had been used in this ritual for many years and she was honored to have been given them. She lit them in Kossuth and as she did her four deer-like hoofs began to tap. She tapped to the meter of Eswarth and Mirriam. Cailyder then began to swing the fiery clubs to the progression of Varshya’s song. It was time for Cailyder to bring it to a full circle.

The clubs flared out as bright, red hued torches and she slipped into the moment. Her hoofs forged their own “song” to blend perfectly with other parts of the ritual. If Eswarth and Mirriam were the rhythms then Varshya and Cailyder were the harmony and rhapsody. Cailyder spun the beacons around her weaving a web of fire. It was as though red wisps were dancing in joyous rapture around Cailyder. It was hard for even the most astute to follow the motions of her hands and arms as she spun the torches about her. It seemed at times that even the fire had difficulty in keeping up with the dance.

Her hoofs continued to keep their song and her torches their fiery orbits. As she spun the fire she twisted and turned her lithe form. At times she would jump into the air (which was slightly above Eswarth head) swinging the clubs underneath her to flip them back into the hand from whence they came. It was a magnificent display of passion and also the true skill of the revered hybsil.

The fire stream of Kossuth flowed as water from the bonfire and reached its red, flowing fingers to the fire streams of Grumbar and Akadi. Kossuth was pleased this day.

Cailyder though danced for Maragarn.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan on February 10, 2014, 04:32:04 PM
To the west of the Dale of Wolves stand the glacier-tipped Dragonteeth mountains. Some of the run-off from those glaciers create two great rivers that careen down the mountain slopes and come together to flow as one under the Tower of Zebulon, thereafter falling four hundred feet to carve a great gorge in the valley below. It is said that in that place, Istisha makes love to Grumbar.

Standing near the falls in the valley below, one is deafened and shaken by the vibration of the water smashing into the ground. You do not have to be in the water proper for the falls to fully envelop you…it carries its power to you. Through you, more aptly put.

Shankaria couldn’t help but think of Zebulon’s Falls when Bal-Jhor’s drone filled the Grove of Needles. The mist and fog that was so persistent at Zebulon’s Falls were here replaced by the chromatic ghostly fingers from the four fires, and the Falls’ thunderous voice was replaced by the Drone of the assembled Gnarcheon. But the drone filled her body as much as the halo of ghostly lights filled her eyes.

When the Drone had been lifted on the voices of all Gnarchon around the perimeter of the Grove of Needles, then did Shankaria take it up, as did Kaltya and the few others who were at Mahiya’s fire.

The tendrils of light from the four childrens’ fires reached towards the center, as if attracted by the Drone that was taken up there, and the light that was a flowing halo constricted to become more of a dome. Shankaria looked to Maragarn. It was time for him to complete the Ritual.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire on February 10, 2014, 07:33:35 PM
Maragarn looked at Shankaria’s soothing and matronly smile. He took comfort in knowing that she was there to lean on in a time of need. He liked to think he didn’t need anything, he was, after all, a revered Vallenbrush warden. What more could he need? He needed his Vallenbrush. He needed to be among friends. He needed to be here. He needed Mahiya.

He removed his flute from his belt and looked at it. It was so common among his kin and it was what everyone expected to see a satyr with. At this moment it gave him courage. He looked overhead to see the colorful light tendrils reaching for the center fire. He needed to bring them full circle. He spied the Blood Tear through the needles and branches of the grove. There it was, a sign of portents, a sign of change.

By now the drone had embraced everyone in the grove. Varshya sang in full glory, Eswarth and Mirriam kept one beat over the over, and Cailyder spun her fire sticks around with dizzying abandon. They were all ready and waiting for him. Maragarn began to play his flute. It was low and whispering at first. Barely audible even to him. Like the drone, he could feel it. He wanted to play a lamenting dirge but in this moment he could not. The flute’s volume began to rise and did so in time with all of the other fire stewards ritual offerings. Maragarn sunk into his place of peace. He could feel himself being moved by something within him and without him. His mind drifted away to wonder and intuition. It was here that he knew who he was and what his place in the world meant.

The chromatic streams of light finally connected to the center fire and flared up and out in a swirling, blazing twist of elemental divinity. The four fire streams made one and the one made four. It was a union of all things to make precious life.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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!
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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.”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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.
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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."
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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.

Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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.  
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Wildfire 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!”
Title: Gnarcheon's Festival at the Grove of Needles
Post by: Johan 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.