Mahou’s eyes closed tight against the rays of sunlight that snuck through the thick canopy of the forest. A groan was given as she rolled over pulling an arm up to cover her eyes in hopes of getting more sleep. The night had been so peaceful and it felt as if to open her eyes now she might wash away the warm fuzzy feeling that had lingered the whole night through.
Long lengths of tangled auburn hair tickled down the side of her arm followed by a cold wet nose being pressed to her armpit. Mahou batted at the intruding nose groaning again and rolling away. The assaulting nose turned into thick padded feet as Gemi crawled over her, careful to place his paws in just the right place as to cause annoying pain filled pressure on her body. Gemi grunted and slide over her side tell he was again infront of her, his little nose digging up under her jaw line as a sign that it was time for her to get up.
Mahou batted again at the thick black fur around Gemi’s face as it brushed over her chest. “Away with you Gemi, the sun is still low in the sky, the bird’s have not called the morning loud enough yet.” Mahou protested as she tried to turn again. Agley Gemi followed up and over Mahou’s body place in himself in front of her, grunting and hissing his dislike for her sleepiness. “Alright, alright already!” Mahou grumbled opening her eyes she pushed her hair from her face only to be met squarely nose to nose with the wolverine’s hungry eyes. “you’d think you could not be lazy and hunt for yourself.” Mahou teased as she fetched a bit of dried meat from her bag. With one hand she gave Gemi the bit of food as the other combed her hair into place behind her curled horns.
Pushing herself up from the soft underbrush bed, Mahou at once looked after the others, who all seemed to be awake before her and headed into the forest. Mahou’s large eyes meet with the elf and she smiled again, this site was surely to say that they had not dreamed everything before. She’d only wished that she had been able to tell that tale she promised before she seemed to lose herself in the moment. As the others moved in Mahou slowed scanning over everyone’s faces. Gemi skittered to a halt at her heels seemingly keeping clear of the Kender, in his mouth he still carried the bit of meet. As soon as all four paws had planted on the ground Gemi sat and began to finish eating the prize Mahou had given him. Mahou felt a pit grow in her stumic as she counted heads, and her eyes turned back to the elfs.
“Where is Damien, has he made it through the night? Will you take us to see him now?” Mahou still felt guilty for her actions in the last battle, an unmistakeable feeling that wore brightly on her face at this moment.
Vilyamar, his questions satisfied to the full extent of what he expected from the elves, sat back and watched the remainder of the feast with an open mind. He dearly wished to engage in conversation with some of the elves, learn of their past and their ways of life. But somehow he felt it intrusive and improper to probe so deeply into their lives, as he would feel uncomfortable with them doing so to him. Content with watching his companions converse (or in the Kender's situation, thieve), the monk picked out tidbits of each one's behaviour by their actions.
Soon the others decided to sleep, as rest was well needed by all. Vilyamar looked about and watched as the elves dispersed into the long grasses on the outer edge of the dining grove. Still slightly embarrased about their need to almostliterally beg for assistance, Vilyamar followed the party's suit and moved to a section of grass slightly apart from the others. Lying down amongst the tall fronds, darkness overtook him and a the monk succumbed to a deep sleep.
Dawn woke before the half-elf this morning and he stretched out in the grass where he lay. Rising to his feet, he brushed some of the morning dew from his cloak and stretched his muscles a little more. A morning fog hung about the grove, but Vil was used to such conditions and easily found his way to the edge of the clearing. He stood there, off to the side and awaited the elves.
Soon a figure came into view. It was Riadros, the elf with which Teros and Derak were speaking with the night before. They had been introduced but never thoroughly conversed during the sup.
“I pray you slept comfortably.” He said with that same joy that Teros had noted about him the night before. “Today we go to Celeval, our city in the boughs of our elders.” Starting for one of the tables, he pulled from a silver, silken sack that had been draped over his back, several pieces strange, green fruit, and a flask. The contents tasted of the same, refreshing flavour that the drink of the night before had. “Eat quickly. We must leave. Tonight will be the night of your test.”
Vilyamar picked up one of the fruits and bit into it, enjoying the flavour. He had never this type of fruit at his home, but it was like some of his village's fruits, which were filling even in small amounts. He assumed they made excellent trail rations when dried as well. Or perhaps they needn't be dried at all, which would make them invaluable to a traveller.
"Indeed, I believe we all a restful night, Riadros," said Vilyamar, bowing slightly in a gesture of greeting and respect. "I pray you as well, are well rested this morn. You say we are off to Celeval? How far is that, just to satisfy my curiosty? And are many of your people accompanying us their?"
The night before was pleasant indeed, the feast proved appetizing and the shut eye was rather much appericiated.
A new day was born, the smell of grass lingered in the air as the soft soil sunk in where Derek had fallen asleep. Derak rose to his feet rustling grass in his wake. He rubbed his head trying to force some of the numb sleeplyness from his head. Derak streched his massive arms causeing his back to crack in the stretch.
"ahhhh, i'm hungry" Derak said in a sigh, digging deep into his pockets retreiving a slice of dried meat. His jaw slowly knawed away at the breakfast until only tiny splinters off meat were lodged inbetween his teeth. "ya kno' wut they say....(takes a moment to savor the taste of the foods flavor)....brekfast is the most important meal of the day" He took a few steps when he realized that a burden of his had been absent. Damien's limp body, he had carried the previous days and almost had grown used to it. "eh! where'd that bard fella go?!" Derak says scanning the area with strict eyes.
"hey!" derak yells slumped over with his hands at his waist and a baffled look on his face "where'd that whole goddamn tree fort go?!" Derak says scatching his head messing up even more of his untended hair.
Derak scanned the area yet again and had to double take on a figure at the mouth of the path. It was an elf in a green robe. It was Riadros from the night before. He was a rather generous fella, Derak replied to himself. Derak slid his large bastard sword from it's home on his back. He watched the new born sun beams gleam off of the sword. "ahh jus' another day in the world jilly."
Submissively, the weakened bard let the elf guide him from the strange building and onto the forest path, where he was told that his companions would soon be on their way, and to wait for them. Finding a mossy log to serve his weakened legs with rest, Damien soon found himself captivated by the beauty of the forest. Huge trunks rose like ancient pillars, swabbed in deep moss. Vines wove through the branches, adorned with flowers the color of stars that hung dripping with the cool mornings dew. A carpet of ferns uncurled their delicate fingers in the glimmering sunlight. The air was cool and sweet, laced with the music of countless songbirds. After about a half hour of waiting, the goldenhaired elf at his side tapped his shoulder, and pointed down the trail. Letting his gaze follow the slender finger, he found his company, led by an elf with copper red hair, braided and woven with the very essances of nature. The elf at his side waved. his gesture was returned by the red haired one, and soon, the party had met up with Damien.
Riadros accepted the kenders hug, his bright smile never tarnishing, and led the party to the table, where they would eat before Heading to Celeval. As they ate, Riadros stood, listening to the questions of Vilyamar and Mahuo. "Do not worry about your friend." He soothed Mahuo "I am taking you to see him immediately. He's on the way, not 15 minutes up the path! And as for the trip to Celeval. That is an entire days journey into the heart of our forest, and into the boughs of the trees. I will be the only one who accompanies you."
When the party had finished their meal, they packed up, and followed the elf onto a path, and into the forest, away from the beautiful grove. Indeed he had spoken truthfully. They hadn't traveled long, passing by rows upon rows of ancient, moss clung pillar, through the cool morning, when suddenly, Riadros began waving to someone ahead. Squinting into the distance, they saw two figures, once sitting, now standing. One was the tall, elegant figure of a robed elf. The other, the black form of Damien Leblaque.
(First, I appologize for the delay....Ive not had internet access for about a week. Second, I appologize for the poor quality of my post. At least you are together again. SO, you can reunite, and continue on the path. Please, just continue to post constantly,and we will soon get to the action!"
Elandor walked along with the rest of the group, not paying attention to where he placed his feet. His head was directed towards the trees and the diversity of colors they displayed.
Oh yes, he had been in forests before, he had seen a lot of them, but this one struck him with awe.
Something in the way the light played with the forms of the leaves and the light breeze that made the brushes whisper made him believe that this was a playground for celestial beings.
Perhaps that idea sprouted from his brain because of the presence of the elf that guided the party, perhaps it was really so. Elandor couldn't care less and lost himself in the magic of the moment, his imagination running freely.
Then, after a short while they reached a spot where another elf was waiting for them. By the side of the elf sat Damien. Elandor blinked several times and pinched himself on the arm to be certain that he wasn't dreaming this time. When he was sure that no dreams were tricking him he ran towards the bard and gave him the hug he had planned earlier on the day.
"Good to see you back, Damien." he said after he let go of the bard's leg.
(this will be short, i have limited time on the net right now... *as i do not have it at my house for the time being. but i WILL get it back someday!)
Mahou listened to the elf's explination of the days events. they would be going to see Damien on their way to Celeval. The thought of seeing the dark bard again, brought mixede feelings to her. the elf had not mentioned to damien's well being and beings as she'd not seen him since the night, she worried slightly if the elf's great magic could heal the horrible thing that had happened to the pool soul.
Finishing her breakfast quickly offering bits and pieces to Gemi, whom had sat in her lap at the table, taking food weather it was really offered to him or not. Gemi's grubby little paws stuffed a large peice of meat into his tiny mouth as Mahou slipped him from her lap onto the ground. standing rather gracefully for her strange form, Mahou dug her hooves into the ground spinning on one foot to follow after the elf and her companions.
the sight of the forest was refreashing to her, the early morning sun was just peaking though the thick cannopy that loomed over the furtal ground. with Gemi at her heels, and everyone else before her, Mahou couldn't help but feel a song spring to her lips. just a soft hum and mutter of a few words as she tried to pick out the lyrics that would someday tell of her meeting the elves.
It wasn't tell the group slowed at the sight of two people on the path that Mahou stopped her lulling tone. as the two figgures came into view a large smile creap upon Mahou's tanned face. Damien, talking, standing up right, no sign of fever in his skin. it was truely a merical. Mahou broke into a trout passing up the rest of the group. her joy that their friend, her fellow bard was safe and alive over came her as she moves. Skidding ot a stop almost knocking Damien over in the procces Mahou at once looked him over her hands grabbing at his cloths as if she searched for where the elfs had hidden the sickness.
"you're well!" she exclaimed her head bobbing from side to side. before Damien could get a word in edge wise Mahou pulled him to her in a tight hug. her long curved horns nairly missing Damien's pale face as she did so. Pulling back and letting him go mahou couldn't help but smile.
"i feared the worst, our journy here was long, and ic ould almost feal your spiret leaving your body...by the grace of the gods your life has been spared." a pause for breath stopped Mahou as she pulled away from Damien fully, her keen eyes still looking him over. "I feared that our game of magic might of been the cause of all this. i'm sorry to have put you in harms way, it shall not happen again." Mahou's words where calmer now, and her face took on the look as if she owed something to the man standing before her. or was it that she felt guilty her own talents where not enought o heal him when they had been enough to get him sick in the first place. Turning to the elf standing next to damien mahou raised a brow
"please, i must know, what sickness did that monster place upon him?" Mahou searched the elfs face for some betrayal of the truth. she waited silently for a reply.
Teros walked down the beautiful road with his companions. His mind was on other things as they moved farther and farther away. He had been in this land for a short while, but he had seen nothing so green before. It rivaled the beautiful deserts back home.
Suddenly people began to move around him. He popped back into reality to see Damien up ahead on the road. He gave a fake smile that quickly faded. He rather liked not having that man around, with his sour outlook on life. Still he walked on slowly with the group as if nothing had happened. His mind returning to his thoughts, blocking out all sounds.
The deprivation of strength the bard used to know and appreciate prevented him from being able to stand on his own. Even the walk, with the assistance of the elf, had sapped what was left of his reserves, and, spotting a moss-covered log, took a seat. He drew deep breaths into his tired lungs, taking the opportunity to gaze at the beautiful forest around him. Such a magnificant place, tainted by his presence. The whole aspect of it churned his stomach, but he made the attempt to hide his disappointment.
They healed me, but I do not wish to bring an aura of impurity into such a sacred place as this. This is the home of the elves, not the home of men. I do not belong here... he thought with contempt, wanting to get up and leave, but his body was too weak. Besides, he did not know the way out, and he strongly suspected the elves of making an attempt to strike him down, should he try to flee. Sighing, he wrapped his cloak around his body and lowered his head, shutting his eyes as his long black hair fell about his pale face.
The bard’s attention was pulled upwards at the sound of fast-paced steps on the ground. The origin of these steps, the satyr, Mahou. She was moving at a quick trot, closing in on him. At first, Damien thought she meant to do him harm, but quickly saw that she meant otherwise as she slowled to a very hard stop before him, checking over his clothes quickly for a meaning he could not identify. Before he could protest, she wrapped her arms about his body, pulling him to his feet and into a tight, constricting hug from which he could not escape.
His body weak, he could not easily take the force of this show of friendship, and the air was pushed from his lungs. His face, normally set with a grim expression, contorted to one of great unease and pain. He could not summon breath to force words from his pale lips as Mahou spoke on and on in an enthusiastic tone of voice, evidently excited to see the bard once again. Though it truly amazed him that they had made such efforts to ensure that he was alright, it filtered through his mind as he struggled to breathe. He could not even pull his hands up to try to push the satyr away from him.
Stopping at long last, Mahou released Damien from her crushing grip, and, pulling deep breaths into his emptied lungs, the bard fell limply to the ground, landing softly in the dirt and moss. Looking upwards at the satyr, Damien’s expression turned from bewilderment to one of outrage. His hair, strewn wildly about his face, only partially covered this look.
“What the hell would compell you to do that, satyr?” He snarled, trying to push himself to a sitting position, but failing miseribly, his strength depleted. “You, of all, should be aware of what has happened to me! Do you think that such an act was a wise one? You very nearly sent me spinning back into the dark abyss of unconsciousness!”
As the party reunited themselves, both elves drifted towards the path edge, and observed. The Bard didn't seem to notice Elandor in the least as the small kender wrapped his lithe arms around his black clothed legs in greeting. Riadros raised a thin, copper eyebrow. The ability to ignore a kender is indeed an ability to be cherished.
Mahuo, in her amazed excitement to once be seeing Damien alive and well again, sprinted for him just as Elandor was releasing his grip. The embrace she gave was far more intense than that of the kenders, and the few sentances she spoke were bursting with joy, guilt, and excitement. It would have brought a smile to the observing elves, had Damiens reaction not been so unexpectedly drastic, and, in Riadros' opinion, unnecessary.
The elf was surprised to see the bard slip from her arms into a crumple on the path. It seemed a bit mellodramatic. What surprised him moreso was the anger that the bards words bit at Mahuo with. They were as violent as blows, and the elf could sense the pattern that hung over Valnor Forest like a delicate web ripple with an imbalance.
Stepping forward and slipping between the two, Riadros looked down at the fallen bard. “There is no need to get angry.” He said in a voice void of emotion. “I would not expect her to know any more about what you have experienced than the kender does.” Turning to Mahuo, he spoke in a voice directed towards all. “The spells of the shaman folk are mysterious and dark. Even the elves must peer through a veil of distortion when trying to discover their tribal secrets. Our records are old, however; and if their is anyone to turn to when seeking aid against the primal arts, it is us. Damien was not struck with an ailment. He was never hit with a spell, for that matter. No. I’m afraid it was a summoning.” Riadros pauses, biting his delicate lips. His emerald eyes flicked towards his golden haired companion. “It is a long and difficult to explain, so I will not. As best as I can say it, he was....possessed. But not by a spirit, like one would think. No. The Shaman masters can detach their minds from the physical plane, and ascend across the realms. Your friend was possessed by a small piece of hell itself. As strange as that seems, it is true. Damien has spent the last several days experiencing a mere sample of the Nine Hells. It’s easily dealt with, if one has the proper connections with the celestial plane. We had no trouble ridding him of it.”
The party moved along the path, Vilyamar walking silently behind Riadros. He was in deep thought about just what the elves wanted of them. And a test?? This was more than was bargained for, and the monk was beginning to suspect that there had been more to that old adventurer than had been seen at first glance. He silently cursed himself for not realizing it before.
Soon, though, the group reached a bend in the road and at its end stood their missing party member. Vilyamar glanced around at all of the mixed feelings that showed themselves at the reintroduction of the somber and gaunt face that no more greeted them than cursed them.
"Your blame is misplaced, mellonamin," whispered Vilyamar under his breath, shaking his head slightly at the harsh words. He nodded slightly as Riadros somewhat explained the ailment. Though the monk had had no prior first-hand experience with such magics of these shamans, he had heard of the terrible things that old magicks could bring about in the stories that he had been told. Riadros mentioned the celestial plane, and Vilyamar's eyes widened somewhat at the mention of it. Though it didn't take too great a power to summon celestial creatures to one's aid, to have connections there was a feat in itself. He knew none that could so aimably say they knew creatures of the outer planes that well, though with these elves, almost anything would be possible.
"Glad we are to have you back, Damien. But now, should we not be on our way to Celeval? Forgive my anxiousness, but my own thoughts have intruiged me and I wish to collect answers to the many questions burning in my mind. I think now, though, we can all appreciate how long indeed it takes to get answers from elves," Vilyamar said with a chuckle, stepping forward. "I mean no disrespect to our peoples, Riadros, but elves do tend to be quite dodgy when it comes to answers."
Teros uneasily watched the exchange that went down between Mahou and the bard whos name, in his mind, didn't need to be mentioned anymore, as it only brought anger, confusion, or sorrow. He watched as the bard simply screemed insults at the woman who had shown happiness at his well being. It was disgusting, and his face showed it too. He walked forward, reaching the scene. Where Raidros was now stopped at.
"Lets get a move on! There is not point in stopping here." He looked down at the bard and simply shook his head, his face showing disgust as he bit back words of hate. Instead he went to one of the few places the sun filtered through and felt its heat. He sat down and felt its warmth through his turban. He looked at the ground, not wanting to look at the bard or at the party who was sure to be as confused by his response as he was.
Teros fingered the designs of the sun goddess in the dirt in front of him, and whispered prayers to help him with his anger and help them in the trials they faced ahead. Soon the area in front of him was filled with the design of the goddess and he was forced to stop, but his lisps still moved, saying the prayers under his breath as he waited for them to move.
His lips unmoving, his body shaking slightly from the painful breaths pulled into emptied lungs, Damien lay where he had fallen, glaring upwards at those around him. His gaze, however, shifted from Mahou to Riadros. He had overreacted with the satyr. Of course she would not have known what he had experienced. The entire ordeal had taken an immense toll upon his body, leaving him in a most foul mood. He needed to rest, and had so far been given very little chance to do so.
The bard listened to what Riadros was saying, his grey eyes locked on the elf’s face as he spoke. Each and every word, melodic in tone, seeped into the man’s brain, setting themselves into his thoughts.
A possession? Faugh! What good would come of taking control of my body? All that you would recieve by such an action would be a tome of tortured memories and haunting melodies. he thought bitterly to himself as he continued to stare at the elf.
It was a few moments before the black-clad bard turned his gaze away again, returning it to Mahou. His twin grey orbs locked onto the eyes of the satyr, and the bard drew in quick breath. “Forgive me for my outburst,” He spoke in tone resembling resentment, though his anger had faded quickly.
They did not know. You should not expect them to know. his conscious told him, and he accepted the words with grim reluctance. There is no need to hold grudges. They are the only companions you have. Once you complete this task...find the leaf...you can abandon them, just like you abandoned everybody else.
A harsh scowl appeared on his thin lips, his pale face contorting.
I didn’t abandon anybody! I hurt people when I’m with them. I leave to prevent hurting anybody else. That is why I wander... he retorted.
Damien LeBlaque, the traitor, the deciever.
Closing his eyes tightly, he snapped his head to the side and shut out the painful thoughts. He no longer recieved the haunting words drifting in from deep within his own mind, ones that constantly plagued the man.
After a moment passed, he slowly opened his eyes and looked up to Riadros once more. “Where are you taking us, elf? I would like to know...” He asked, his voice lacking strength. He was exhausted, there was no sense in trying to deny or hide this. Right now, his main concern was rest, but since he had a difficult time seeing that coming to him anytime soon, he tried to focus on what was next to come.
So it was that as the sun lifted its golden head from behind the ancient crags to the east, and the peaks of the trees surfaced from the silver sea of mist that had engulfed the forest, the party found that it was reunited with Damien LeBlaque.
The bard had stood weakly at the side of a tall elf, whose hair seemed to have been spun from the very rays of the sun itself. Upon recognizing Damien for who he was, Elandor whooped in glee and bound for him, throwing his arms around his black clothed legs in a grip that would be useless to try and pry apart. The bard appeared to veiled in his own thoughts, and didn’t seem to notice the kender.
Elandor didn’t appear to be the only one so grateful to see Damien alive, however; and the kender had only just released his grip when Mahuo collided with the bard in an embrace, accompanied by words heavy in both joy and relief. The elves had moved to the outskirts of the group, where they stood like two trees with their hands folded within their green and grey robes. They watched the reunion with stoic faces.
However. When Mahuo released the bard from her grip, he collapsed onto the path where he lay clutching his ribs, wheezing and glaring at the satyr in what could only be accounted for as rage. Riadros’ thin eyebrows rose. They remained furrowed as Damien’s hoarse voice tore the peaceful blanket of the forest, glancing off the pillars of trees, and erupting clusters of morning birds in a cloud of rain bowed wings from the branches.
The golden-haired elf let his hand slide to the hilt of his katana, but Riadros raised his hand, and stepped between the fallen bard and the satyr, where he proceeded to explain her innocence and at the same time, study the soul of Damien.
The bard had unknowingly committed a crime. The air itself beneath the boughs of the majestic trees of the elves forests is sacred.
Never before had it been rattled with such rash words of anger. Yet, in place of punishment, the elves dealt only explanation. Why?
In three days, Damien had experienced enough torment to rival even that of the age long sufferers of the nine hells. In three days he had been shown, taught, and taught again, the true meaning of torture. Who could claim the seat of judgment, to say how a person should act after such an event? A wound had been gashed deep into his emotions. A wound that, though it bore its lessons, would not soon heal. Perhaps the elves understood this, and granted him pardon.
Damien lay, staring at a ceiling of swaying emerald, rippling with sapphire. He clutched at his breast, and his breath rattled his ribs. However, he was struggling not only on the surface. Deep within his own, scar laden soul there was a conflict of its own nature. Perhaps he was wrong, or at least had overreacted. How could Mahuo have known what he had experienced? But then, he should apologize. The tender, green fingers of a fern stroked gently at his pale cheek. His grey eyes rose to Riadros, who stood above him like some celestial king. He had offended the elves, and yet they forgave him… Why? Why was he even allowed to let the holy shade of this forest lap at his skin? Damien couldn’t understand it. He was, at every angle that he peered through, wretched.
Nonetheless, he realized what he must do, and, with a rickety sigh, the bard apologized. Silence settled over the group. Only the trees whispered. Finally, Vilyamar unfolded his slender hands from within the wide, moss green sleeves of his robes, and said
"Glad we are to have you back, Damien. But now, should we not be on our way to Celeval? Forgive my anxiousness, but my own thoughts have intruiged me and I wish to collect answers to the many questions burning in my mind. I think now, though, we can all appreciate how long indeed it takes to get answers from elves. I mean no disrespect to our peoples, Riadros, but elves do tend to be quite dodgy when it comes to answers."
Grunting in agreement, and shifting his long sword, Teros added impatiently
"Lets get a move on! There is not point in stopping here."
With that, he turned and strode towards a small clearing, where the sun hung like a glimmering, rosy veil.
These questions where new to Damien, who rose his grey eyes to Riadros, and added
“Where are you taking us, elf? I would like to know...”
With a laugh similar to that of songbirds, Riadros rose his hands in a miming gesture.
“I thought I had answered all of your questions! But alas, I cannot claim the title of a Soother of burning inquiries. We are going to Celeval, the city of the Valnon Elves, and we need to continue on our way, or we shall never arrive. Already we shan’t see it until the lanterns are hanging from the boughs of the Avilons.”
Riadros paused. His emerald eyes flashed knowingly at his golden haired companion.
“When we arrive, many, many of our questions will be answered. As for you…I know that the only question you possess is a simple curiosity to discover what our questions are. I assure you. Tonight, question will be planted in your minds, where it will remain, tended until it blossoms, and in turn, bears answer.”
Suddenly, Riadros’ words broke with laughter.
“Please forgive me. Your ears will be given their share of toil enough tonight. For now, yes, let us continue on our way.”
None had noticed, but as Riadros had finished his part of the conversation, his companion had slipped into the building off the path. He now returned bearing a flask, which he held out towards Damien.
His words were gentle, and yet sternly unbending. Reaching out a pallor hand, Damien studied the flask.
The flask itself was of soft leather the color of morning dew. Its stopper was a marble, carven from some dark, rare and rich wood. Woven from the stopper in a fashion only the elves could master, streams of silver ran, trickling down the flasks sloping sides, and pooling together at its base. A silver chain ran from the wooden stopper.
Pulling off the stopper, and peering inside, the bard discovered a liquid as golden as a summer afternoon. The taste was as cool and freshening as early dawn, and the taste was as strong and sweet as autumn. It ran down his throat like a mountain stream, and he could feel it pool in his stomach. Suddenly, like the branches of some plant, he could feel fingers of strength reaching from his stomach, throughout his body, to the tips of every limb. His breathing eased and strengthened. He could feel his limbs strengthen, and his mind clear.
Amazed, Damien pushed himself from the dirt, and stood before Riadros, still gripping the flask.
“The mead of the elves is a wonderful drink.”
The elf smiled and added
“We have been sure not to introduce it to the lands of other people.”
With that, he turned and started up the trail, motioning for the others to follow.
“Prepare yourselves. We will not stop until we have reached Celeval.”
Catching Elandor in his bright gaze, yet speaking in a voice directed at all, he added.
“A word of warning. Stay on the trail.”
With that, the party was on its way. Leaving the hut, and the gold haired elf, they followed the trail as it wove its way about the ancient feet of the forests pillars that stood, supporting a ceiling of wavering green. Vines ran along the trail, climbed trunks, and hung in curtains of green, set with the gleaming of countless, white, diamond blossoms. A sea of ferns lapped delicately at scattered boulders that rose like islands, capped by the twisted, engulfing roots of great oaks. Butterflies danced like shattered pieces of a living rainbow, and the voices of countless songbirds painted the listeners emotions with their music. Riadros seemed to glide along the trail on tireless, swift feet, speaking to the birds, and laying his hands upon the knotted trunks of the trees as he went. He had a connection with this forest that the others, save Mahuo, could only hint at.
The Satyr understood, at least a part of Riadros’ connection with this forest. After all, she had had her share of training in the Druid groves of her home forest. She knew the elves, above all creatures, had the closest tie with nature. They were infact, spirits born of its essence. Riadros swept through this forest like a water droplet through a stream. He was as much a part of the forest as each leaf. She could never be that, but she had won an understanding with nature. She loved it, and it embraced her. She listened to the trees as best she could, and she spoke to her as best they could. They were old, and wise. These trees had much to teach, if she had the time to listen. Sadly, at Riadros’ pace of walk, she did not have time to listen, or learn. Perhaps she could return here someday….. If the elves were willing.
The day went on, and as late afternoon began to strengthen, they began to notice some serious terrain differences. At first the ground grew uneven, almost ripply, as if the earth had tried to ripple and wave, before its own nature betrayed it. The land became more and more rugged, however, until, to the parties shock, they discovered that great roots ran along the path, and through the forest among the columns of trees, and seas of ferns. Roots that spread from a source not visible.
The path began to wind, picking its way along the roots who continued to thicken, and gnarl, and knot amongst one another. Trees, vines and brush rose from between their coils, or from upon their backs. Great loops, crowned in oak rose about them, or dropped beside them suddenly. It was a terrain unlike any they had ever seen before.
Halting, Riadros swept a hand before him. The party’s eyes followed, and their jaws dropped. Before them rose a forest of the biggest trees any of them had ever imagined in their wildest dreams. The history books of man never told them of trees like these. They rose, more like, wide, twisting, spiraling mountains than trees. If they had been of normal height, they would have appeared dwarfy, as their width was almost that of their height! Yet, they were so vast that they only brought awe.
Mahuo was nearly overwhelmed with the aura she felt rolling from these trees. They were as old as the mountains themselves, and bragged of being Inenhalla’s firstborn. They told tales of ages past, and immortality. Instantly, the satyr fell in love with the trees of Valnon.
“Behold. The Avilon trees.”
Even Riadros spoke in a voice thick with reverence.
“They are our fathers.”
He led them onward, and as they drew near the closest of these living mountains, the shadows began to creep, reaching for one another in embraces of darkness. Slowly, countless silver lights began to appear, clinging to the branches, and the split of the tree as if in testament that stars had been formed from dew. The trunk twisted in great convolutions, and at last the arrived at its base. A road, lined by silver lanterns ran up the trunk, like a path on some living mountain. Riadros led them up it. The path climbed gradually, twisting about the massive trunk with the convolutions as it spiraled higher and higher. Above, stars peeked through the branches of the massive Avilons. A full moon peeked from behind a cloud of leaves, casting its silver rays beneath their boughs, onto the twisting, smaller forest bellow. The Avilons seemed to reach for the stars as if in brotherhood.
Riadros led them onward, and onward. Soon they could see an aura of silver and gold. The lights of and elf city, resting upon the shoulders of there oldest father. On they went, and the trunk grew thinner and thinner as it reached near to where it branched off, into all its countless arms. Anticipation grew, until finally they climbed a final slope and stood on near level “ground” Great buildings loomed about them. Or where they buildings? Though they bore windows and lanterns that glowed with silver and gold, it was impossible to distinguish where the building ended and the tree began. Infact, it seemed that the tree grew the very buildings themselves. They rose in sloping domes and spiraling spires. Great, glowing balconies hung from their sides. Windows gleamed from the very arms of branches themselves, though it was impossible to tell where the branch was only a branch, and where it was a dwelling! It seemed as if the party had left Noldaria completely, and had transcended upon some altogether different realm.
There where no roads, or paths. Only buildings that rose from seemingly random points, or jutted from branches, or where branches themselves. One could easily get lost, and the party subconsciously found themselves close together, directly upon Riadros’ heels.
Elves walked along the city, singing or laughing, or simply chatting in voices as numerous as the stars. As the party passed, they would stop, and follow them with slanted, luminescent eyes. It was obvious they had been expected, but it was also obvious that until now, elves had been all that stood upon the Avilon’s shoulders.
Riadros spoke to no one. He led them hurredly, and with a purpose through the city, and to the doors of a large, domed structure, seemingly formed by the rising and twisting of branches for that sole purpose. No sign hung out front, (infact, you have seen no signs anywhere in this city) nor was there any carven upon the door. On either side of it, however, two massive Holly Trees grew…somehow. Their eves twining together just above the doorway in an intentional arc.
Stepping up to the doorway, and without hesitation, the elf pushed the door, which opened without the slightest creek. Stepping within, he nodded for the others to follow.
Stepping inside, they discovered that they stood within what was likely a tavern, though vastly different from what any of them had ever seen. Tables and booths lay, spread throughout the room. They seemed grown, rather than carven, just like the ones from the grove you had been at. A full, leafy ivy climbed up the walls and onto the domed ceiling, where they seemed to stream together at its center to form a strange, plantlike chandelier, adorned with the golden lanterns that lit the room. Strangely enough, the place was empty, save at one table, where a figure sat, leaning forward, peering at you from beneath his raggedy brown hood. In one hand he clutches a gnarled, wooden staff, and in the other, a mug that froths over the top. A long white beard flows down his chest, and humor gleams in sharp, blue eyes.
Stepping to a side, Riadros motions for you to sit before the old man, and says.
“The inn has been cleared for the purpose of your meeting. I will step outside now, and when the time is right, so shall you.”
Bowing slightly in the custom of the elves, with one hand upon his breast, the elf turns and leaves the building.
Hobbles, on the other hand, takes a sip from his mug, leaving a cloud of foam on his mustache. He continues to look at you, a smirk formed upon his lips. He obviously awaits for you to say something.
(You don’t need to think too hard on what to say. These posts shouldn’t be hard…I just felt I needed to put in a spot for you to post before continuing. Im trying to chop down this entire boring part as swiftly as possible. Just say what you feel is proper for this type of situation.”
The reunion with the Bard was rather disturbing at first thought. Derak readied his bastard sword as shouted in aggression at Mahou. However, the elf went into peaceful negotiations with the bard soothing his nerves enough to calm him into an apology.
With a suggestion from Teros the group continued onward with the elf leading the way. That mysterious drink that the elf had given Damien ate away at his conscience. He steadily walked beside the elf asking “eh….elf, you wouldn’t by any chance have any mo’ of that elf mead stuff would’ya?” Derak asked hoping that the elf would disregard that he didn’t want any outsiders to get a hold of it.
The elf guided the crew through the thick woods, with trees apparently as old as the planet itself. The trail winded through the trees like a snake slithers through the grass.
Derak was amazed at the elf village the Riadros had led them to. It was the most spectacular site that the fighter’s eyes had ever scene. It was an event that he would one day tell his kids. “The day he came across heaven on earth” as he would put it. And indeed it was. Trees that were formed perfectly without a flaw to the elves habitat. Riadros led them into one of the tree structures and led them to a old man named Hobbles.
Hobbles asked the group if they had any questions and without any hesitation or thought Derak said out loud just bellow a yell “where are we and what is this place?!”
Vilyamar's chuckling cut harshly with Riadros' laughter as the human in his voice clashed with the sweet sounds of the elf.
"Your words are indeed confusing, Riadros, and I am sure our answers and our questions will be found tonight."
With that the monk motioned for all the others to move in front of him, as he would take a place at the rear of the line, saying farewell and giving thanks to the blonde-haired elvish ranger who parted with them as they left. The trail moved deeper into the woods and though Riadros stopped at many trees to listen to them, the group made good pace as the elf was light and quick enough on his feet to go well faster than even the monk could hope to go through these woods. Vilyamar heeded well the elf's warning about the trail and kept an eye on the others making sure they, too, heeded it. Especially Elandor, who had a knack for exploring where he should not. His home had a good many natural defenses about it and he was sure that this forest had a fair few many that even very few of the elves knew about.
Luckily, no incidences occured on the paths, but as they went deeper and deeper into the forest, all of the party began to become more and more aware of the ancient power within the trees. Vilyamar felt it more than the humans and kender, though obviously his sense of the power of nature was not as great as Mahou's nor was it even a speck compared to how in tune Riadros was. He could feel the trees, and he knew that they could feel his heritage. They were
very faint feelings but he could feel them.
The day passed on, and they did not stop for rest. The monk dropped his head back to catch the last drop of water that was in the water skin he was carrying and nearly ran into the back of Teros. The entire group was standing and staring and Vilyamar felt a more powerful force coming from somewhere. He knew its power to be ancient and he knew it to be from within the forest, but from where it was emanating he could not tell. Before them lay the great Avilon trees, such a forest as old as the world itself.
“Behold. The Avilon trees.”
Even Riadros spoke in a voice thick with reverence.
“They are our fathers.”
Vilyamar could do naught but nod in recognition of the great trees. And so they moved onward, closer and closer to the great trees and obvioulsy closer and closer to the city of Celeval. The trunks were massive, larger than any of them could possibly have imagined. Riadros led them up a road on the side of the tree, up and up. Soon the 'road', as it were, leveled out and all around them were the dwellings of the elves. They seemed fused with the very trees, as if they were already there and the elves were owls hiding from the bright daylight. Many looks followed the group and Vilyamar caught himself moving closer to the group. He forced himself to keep moving as he knew if he stopped he would never wish to start again, being content with just sitting and watching the days pass by in this alter-ego of the world he knew.
They reached a large, domed structure and Riadros led them inside. The doors swung open into a vast area which resembled a tavern. It was quite different though, as the tables were obviously not carved and they seemed to have been grown into the positions that they were in. Strange as it was, Vilyamar found himself easily accepting such a possibility as he knew it was probably well within the capabilities of any of these elves here to work so closly with nature. All the tables were empty, all save one, at which a cloaked man holding a gnarled staff in one hand and a frothing mug in the other sat and watched them.
Riadros then took his leave, Vilyamar kindly thanking him as he walked by and out the door, shutting it behind himself. Vilyamar turned, and nearly winced as he heard Derak's loud, raspy voice slice through the air as painfully as if someone had shoved an axe into one of the Avilon trees. The monk glared at the back of Derak's head, but quickly returned his facial features to their neutral state and even smiling as he looked back at the old man sitting before them.
Vilyamar stepped level to Derak and said, "I believe we are in Celeval Derak, and this place seems to be an inn or tavern of the elves. My mother's kin had such buildings, though we had not grown our tables with such druidic craftsmanship." Looking back to the old man, the monk stepped forward and bowed in greetings.
"We meet again, good Hobbles. I trust you and your friend have been doing well, though I see him not about." Vilyamar said kindly, raising to look the man in the eye once more. I should have known there was something more to you, old man. In fact, we all should have been able to guess it. You run with a power that none but the elves are able to track, and I don't believe even they can do it so well as to know exactly who or what you are...
"I trust that you shall answer all our questions in good time and that you indeed have something of importance to tell us, for it would have to deal directly with the quest with which you had so lightly set before us back in the inn. But I know I am slightly weary from our trek and would appreciate a good drink such as the one you yourself has. Is there any way I may happen to acquire one?"