Monday, November 28, 2011

Prologue One - Elven Odyssey: The War Prayer

"Did you find what you expected?"

Ashadah passed through the outer door to his apartments, and before answering his question, she turned and spoke an arcane Word to seal the portal behind her. Her Ar-Tel'Quessir eyes slowly began to adjust to the dimness he kept. One small lamp burned across the room from where she supposed he sat, and it did nothing to illuminate the darkness, as it glowed from within a haze of pipeweed smoke.

Now, she turned and approached his table, where he liked to sit in the great, throne-like leather chair, and lay out maps, charts, scrolls, tomes, and sometimes a gridded map of two-colored squares upon which he set out small figurines of ivory and onyx, which resembled nobles, armed knights, and towers.

This evening, it was different. Instead of the ordered grid, there was something a sunburst? It was difficult to see in the dark, with the windows behind his chair closed, shuttered, and the draperies drawn shut.

"Igni!"  With a burst of flame, like a corona of fire surrounding his head, the Word he'd spoken brought forth fire...and...lit his pipe. If she had not been used to it, she might have jumped, like most did when they first met him. "At least that spell still works, Weave or no Weave...", he grumbled between his teeth, which were clenched on the pipe.

The fire shed light upon the shape before him on the table, revealing it to be a flat board inscribed with a thick-threaded spider web? It had the semblance of a game board, but something about it seemed a bit more sinister than his preferred grid.

As if sensing her question, he offered, "It's called saava. It's a dhaerow game."

"The Drow have games?" she asked, using the more common racial name for the elves of the Underdark, instead of the old name which he'd used--the old name which meant simply, "betrayer".

"Yes, they do. It's always good to understand the strategy games of your enemy. It can teach you to think like they think, and illustrates patterns in their otherwise mysterious maneuvers. However, I don't think I should be the one explaining...dangerous games."

She gestured with one slender hand towards the magically sealed portal. "I brought someone with me to meet you, a half-elven sorceror with inclinations towards storm magic...and a fear of the same. I have the hope that you might focus his abilities towards control, and teach him to be one, to tune into the power of those elements. His name is Turrath."

"Turrath... he can wait. I have a long, stern lecture to give him anyway, to make sure he doesn't go down the path of another storm-controlling druid we knew..."

Ashadah breathed deeply, then shook her head, as if to clear a memory. Her long, golden cascade of hair swayed back and forth as she did. "That...was a long time ago. He is not like Thunderstaff."

He narrowed his dangerous eyes, still clear and sharp, even after many years. They were green, as green as the verdant forests around Evereska, and they shone with an inner light of much experience, much wisdom. Those eyes had seen many things, many wars, and still measured everyone they fell upon. Ashadah was probably overall the greater mage, but his power of destructive magic would trump her spells. "You didn't come here to reflect on the past, nor to learn saava, nor to bring that boy. Did you summon it?"

"Yes, I used the boy. He carried one of the tel'kiira gems, and I used it, through his gift, to pool a storm upon which I could draw. It seemed like a strong element in a pattern to call forth a primal, natural spirit."

"Ha!", he snorted. "That is perhaps the first time a Vyshaan mage admits to 'using' people. And, those are not tel'kiira gems...they were not crafted immersed in the Weave. Neither do they belong to the Vyshaan."

"I longer...." she began, in gentle, urgent protest.

"Bullshit" he countered, before she could finish, using the word in the Common human tongue. "Isn't your son...?"

Now, it was her turn to cut him off. "This is not about my son. This is about the Spirit of the Gathering. The ancient traditions are upheld."

"It's also an 'ancient tradition' to tell the Coronal and the Armanthors that you are doing such a thing, but I guess that line of the old scrolls slipped past you." His voice held a soft sarcasm, but his eyes never wavered. "So, where did you ask it to abide? In a shadowtop tree? In a fresh, clear spring, guarded by dryads and nymphs?"

She squared her shoulders, met his eyes, and told him.

"What?!" he shouted, and bolted upright with a speed that revealed how well he kept in practice of his skills, even after all the years. "Galad'evaele!" he commanded by Art, and the room became bright as a open glade at Midsummer, shining with gold- and silver-hued radiance. All the lamps, candlesticks, and even the fireplace ignited. She could feel the power he drew upon, as intense as his emotions.

If Turrath had been within the chamber, he might have become more fearful of the sun at noon, or the fullest moon, and seen the storm incarnate within them.

"Tell it to depart. Send it on to something...natural. Bury that thing back in the heart of a mountain, but whatever you do, get rid of it! I thought we agreed this would never come to pass! Not even the Olin Gisiae know where to find such things, but you--you!--had to go and dig it up!"

"You agreed. I did not. I never rejected the knowledge of my heritage, and I thought it better for it to be on our side, instead of..." She paused, as if unsure how to continue. Then, she shook her head again, and took a different approach. "It does not remember, and as for the summoned spirit, perhaps I should have asked the priests of Rillifane or the druids to assist. High Magic, worked alone..."

"High Magic?" It was less a question than an inflected comment. "High Magic, worked alone, always leads to catastrophe! By the very nature of it, that Art was meant to be woven in circles, with a Center, and...and..." He blew out a long, frustrated breath, and sat back down, this time remaining on the edge of the cushion, leaning forward over the polished wooden table. "Send the spirit back to the aether of nature, dismiss it, and haul the construct here, without many seeing it."

"You remind me of another Ar-Tel'Quessir I knew, always giving orders. I served him, but I was never bound to obey...not him, not you. It is bound to the artifice, and has already chosen a new name for itself."

He arched an eyebrow, and gasped. "A construct cannot name itself, and the spirit would not need a new name, because it holds an ancient one, already. What did it choose?" Some instinct, honed from years of dealing with threats mundane and mystical, made him steel himself for the answer.

"Kor," she replied, with heavy emphasis on the first consonant.

He raised his right hand, opening it, glancing back and forth from her, to the rune inscribed in metallic silver and gold upon it. Upon his palm, as Ashadah had seen before, was one of the foundation-runes of modern Elven language, and also ancient Seldruin. The rune, "Cor-", which was the centerpoint of "Corellon" the lord of the Seldarine, "Coronal" the kings of the Tel'Quessir, and the great forest empire of "Cormanthyr", among many other terms.

"Cor?" he whispered. "Ashadah... what have you done?"

Great tapestries begin with simple threads being woven together.

The meeting of Tahl'ranir, Goliad, and Turrath came from the invitation of the Gold Eladrin mage Ashadah. Helping the elven communities of the forest patrol for a group of unknown poachers, the three companions carried pale, smoothly polished blue stones, almost like semi-precious gems, given to them by the mage. Also, knowing the upcoming festival was approaching to celebrate a Gathering--an Elven Court--and then to come together with the humans of the Dalelands, to rededicate the Standing Stone, to celebrate the elven liberation of Myth Drannor, and then the elven alliance with humans to free Shadowdale... so many years ago was the Stone despoiled by the Daemonfey--demon blooded elves--and now it will be repaired, restored, healed... and with it, the Dales Compact between elves and men will be back in place, agreed upon by all. It has been over 100 years since it was broken...

Finding hobgoblin raiders, camped in the crook formed by the gargantuan roots of fallen shadowtop tree of immense size and age, the companions fought without Ashadah, yet found one of her blue gemstones capable of healing Tahl as he fell in battle...although the stone seemed to explode in a healing burst of arcane power, then blacken and crack. Also, awakening the weather-worn and moss-covered circle of plinths, they found healing and strengthening gifted to those of fey blood, including Tahl, who is a Shadar-Kai of elven stock.

Ashadah appears, and with a fragile sheet of antique parchment, calls down the power of a harnessed thundercloud, drives lightning into the earth, and raises a large mass of soil, which holds within it, a long-buried form, like a full suit of armor, inscribed with tracery suggesting elven craftsmanship. With one of the blue gems, touched to its head, and incanting words of Art like thunderclaps, Ashadah draws primal energy and an animate spirit into the construct... and it awakens.

Meanwhile, Tahl & Goliad find and free a magnificent silver-white wolf, with deep intelligent eyes, from an arcane locked and runed cage. The wolf wears a seamless collar of silver or mithral, and small ankle bracelets of the same metal on all four legs. Ashadah gives the now-awaken construct into the care of two of the companions, and suggests they take it, and the wolf, to a nearby forest wood elf community, while she and Turrath depart, so that she can continue preparations for the Gathering and festivals.

The construct, forged for war, proclaims itself a servant and protector of nature, and names itself "Kor", since it was drawn from the core of the roots of the tree and deep within the ground.